The weather is heating up here, which is fine but the heat and crushing humidity make it hard to work for long periods in the garden. I will admit that I am a fan of cold weather. I know that it’s barely summer, but I am already looking forward to crisp fall days curled up with a cup of steaming coffee, a good book and one of the crazy cats on my lap. What I will miss though is the garden work. I had a rough night at work a couple of nights ago and by the time the sun came up and I drove home, I was drained emotionally. Often it’s the bureaucratic nonsense that saps my soul of all good feeling. My shoulders slump, my head hangs and my mouth fixes itself into an umbrella of negativity. I pulled into my driveway after said soul-sucking shift, turned the car off and sat with my hands on the wheel. I looked out over the yard and noticed all the work that needed doing; the yard needs to be mowed, the daisies need to be deadheaded so we can keep the blooms coming and the jungle needs some tending. As I felt a massive sigh begin to build in my chest, my gaze fell on our little garden. 18′ x 24′ of blood, sweat and tears. And gorgeous plants. I was in the garden in my scrubs and work shoes before my brain even registered that I had gotten out of the car. I was just looking, trying to see what work needed doing this week when my days off rolled around. There’s always weeding that can be done; the onions especially were desperate for some TLC. And as I stood in the dirt, admiring our gorgeous little patch, I saw them. Green beans were ready to be picked. I didn’t have a bowl or a bucket. It didn’t matter. My heart did a little skip when I saw all the beans that needed to be plucked from their mother plants. So I started gathering green beans. I was putting them in all my cargo pockets of my scrubs. I finally managed to wander into the house, pockets bursting with the beans and my heart bursting with contentment. They say gardening is cheaper than therapy and you get tomatoes. There’s some truth to that. The weight of that shift lifted right off my shoulders with the first bean picked. Now to just get the weeding caught up.
One of the greatest nemeses in my world is my neighbor. He is pretty much our polar opposite in terms of gardening and property management. We learned this almost immediately after moving in, when he rode his tractor over to let us know that he would be happy to mow our field for us in exchange for the diesel fuel. Well, we don’t really care if the field is mowed or not. In fact, we find that the wildflowers and natural cover help insects and critters do their thing. But he was persistent so we finally agreed. That was our first mistake. He mowed it; he also came into the yard and proceeded, on two different occasions, to mow down blackberry bushes we had planted, in addition to other non-food bushes and flowers that we planted because we like them. On multiple occasions we have emphatically asked that he not mow in the yard.
When we first tilled our new garden, first one in our relationship, literally breaking new ground for us, we went out after we had planted a bunch of seeds, and had put in some pepper and tomato plants to just gaze at our beautiful little patch of ground. Made more beautiful because it is ours and we did the work. We walked about halfway out to the garden, and my husband pointed- there, inside the garden fence were three wild rabbits. They weren’t eating our plants. Instead they were rolling in the newly tilled dirt, and racing each other back and forth across the dirt. They were jumping and frolicking and in general having what seemed like a really good time. They weren’t too worried about us getting close. I tell you that story to add to the neighbor saga. We like our little bunnies. We like them a lot. We like the birds that land on the feeders and chirp and chit at us that they are empty. We also have a huge pile of limbs and branches that the neighbor helped the former owner pile up in the field. Birds love it; rabbits love it; we don’t mind it.
Recently Nemesis Neighbor told my husband that we could set it on fire and sit in lawn chairs with shotguns and cap the bunnies that run out. To which my husband said no, thanks. We like the pile of sticks just fine.
He has offered to bulldoze our apple tree and pear trees. He has offered to mow down the line of saplings between the properties that obscure him from our view. He has offered to burn down the corkscrew willow for us. In short, the man wants us to have 3 acres of lawn. And anything that grows in it, he is more than willing to come hose down with poison.
After many, many, (endless) attempts to talk rationally to this man and explain that we like trees (speaking a foreign language there), that we like the bunnies, that we like the scrappy, scrubby, natural look of the property, we had to resort to insulting them on social media and not speaking to them. So far, that has worked. But we may also have identified a mental health issue with the man. We were weeding the garden and mowing our almost knee high back yard when we noticed he got on his riding mower and started mowing his yard. It is so short, it just kicked up dust. The next day, he had his grandson mow the exact same spot, kicking up more dust. We had to wonder if this was a manifestation of some “keeping up with the Jones’” mentality. If we mowed for 20 minutes, he had to mow for 45. If we weeded our garden, he had to spray his entire property. But it hasn’t been retroactive; the more we disregard the tall grass out back, the more he mows his yard and our field.
We have decided to fence the property. Not the most original idea, but as the saying goes, “fences make good neighbors”. Until next time…
I got a text from my mom a couple of days ago asking if my new husband and I had a good day. I replied that we had, in fact, not only had a good day, but a productive day as well. I had made homemade laundry detergent, Hubs had made homemade chicken bouillon that we will freeze and use in the place of store bought cubes and I made homemade French vanilla coffee creamer. She replied with are you going crazy? While I laughed a little at that, it was a little strange for her to ask me that question. I grew up with her and my father always doing as much in terms of self-sufficiency as they were able. We always had a garden, chickens and rabbits as long as I can remember, and in the more recent past, we have raised a couple of pigs a year to supply us with meat. So when she wondered via text whether I had lost all my marbles by taking this to its next logical step, I was a little confused. I explained that the laundry soap was so much cheaper to make, and all the ingredients came in cardboard boxes rather than plastic jugs. The cream has very little sugar in it, and I can control where I get the milk and whipping cream from. In the future, I want to find a local dairy farmer who will sell me gallons of whole unprocessed milk so I can make my own cheese and butter, and I will be using the frothy creamy layer to also make coffee creamer. As for the bouillon, well it just so happens to have a fraction of the salt that the store bought does, so it is already healthier for us. But we also use our own chicken bones and meat to make it, so we also know where the chicken component came from and how it was raised.
Once I explained it to her and we showed her what we were up to, she seemed less skeptical and more likely to try the things we are doing. Our mission at our home is to have as little of a negative impact on the earth as we can. We also choose to raise our own meat so that we know the animals we eat got to see the sunshine, and roll in the dirt and eat vegetables from the garden. We make sure they have a great life so that we can in turn have a great life.
We know that the way we do things doesn’t always appeal to everyone. I have lived in cities as well as in the country, and I can’t even count the times I have heard someone say they just couldn’t look at their dinner’s face. It is my firm belief that knowing where your food comes from and being connected to it, at least on some level, helps raise your appreciation for it. We love our pigs, and really do spoil them. They get garden veggies, they get sprayed with the water hose when it’s hot, they get brushed with the horse brushes and they get to play hide and seek with the people. We name them, we talk to them, and we love on them. Does that make it hard to say goodbye knowing they are about to be killed? Of course it does. But I know they lived a good life, and got to experience so many pleasant things. The meat from the grocery store is mostly from pigs or cows or chickens who spend their lives in cages or feed lots. They don’t get to do and experience all of the aforementioned pleasures in life. And they also die. And they also get eaten. We make sure that the person butchering for us does it humanely as possible. If we think that the animals we take to someone might die scared or hurt, we never go back. We are working towards having the capabilities at our own farm to do the processing ourselves to ensure that they are happy and comfortable to the last.
Anyway, enough of me on my soapbox. I would like to share a couple of the recipes that I have used that I really like.
First, and in my opinion, most important, the coffee creamer! If you can find it, by all means use local, hormone free milk.
French Vanilla Creamer:
2 cups whole milk
1 ½ cups either half and half or whipping cream, depending on how rich you want it
5 Tablespoons sugar
5 teaspoons pure vanilla extract- we prefer the real thing since it has less of a chemical aftertaste
I put mine in a large quart canning jar, screw on the lid and shake for a few minutes vigorously. If you have a favorite song, put it on, make sure the lid is tight and shake your jar and your booty for the duration of the song. I think it tastes better when it is shaken to music.
Laundry soap/detergent (whatever you want to call it)
2 cups Borax
1 cup washing powder
1 cup baking soda
1 bar Fels Naptha soap, grated finely
I just combine all of these ingredients in a bucket with a lid. I prefer the Fels Naptha because it has a lemony fragrance, but my mom, who is sensitive to too much scent, prefers Kirk’s Castille soap. Any soap will work, in the amount of about 4-5.5 oz per this size batch. I do not ever use antibacterial soap. Most of those soaps contain triclosan as its main antibacterial ingredient, but this is a hormone disrupter and there are studies that suggest it may contribute to health problems. A recent article I read suggested that triclosan may also actually encourage antibacterial resistant organisms to grow and reproduce instead of reducing their numbers. To be on the safe side, we don’t use anything with triclosan in it. Before you go accusing me of being a crazy conspiracy nut who wears aluminum hats, I should tell you I am a nurse in a hospital. Two, actually, because I am also a workaholic. But the articles I read are peer reviewed in medical journals. Again on the soap box. Sorry, it’s been a crazy couple of weeks.
I hope you enjoy these recipes. Just a quick note- the creamer is not overly sweet or sugary. We use it to greatly reduce the sugar in our diet, as the coffee consumption is our main source. That being said, feel free to add more sugar if you would like. Thanks for reading my long-winded blog. I hope you come back.
Thanks for checking out my blog site!! A little about me: I am a critical care nurse who is not only an adrenaline junkie, but also a little but of a workaholic. I also come from a long line of gardeners and self sufficiency advocates. I moved away from home to explore the world and came back with a desire to get back to the land a little bit. My brand-spanking new husband (as of this publication we have been married for 12 days) and I bought a house last year, and we are having fun fixing it up. We also put in our first garden together this year, and have started obsessively trying new things. This coming year will be an experiment for us and I hope you tag along as we learn new things, mostly the hard way. 🙂
So welcome to my site. Leave me feedback, questions, comments or curse words as we like to say.