Ward House

Cordials are brewing

Yesterday, Kathie inspired me with her cordial comments; so much so that before heading out to class I started two cordials, raspberry and one with lemon balm and lavender.  The lemon balm is only a half pint as the heat has caused the lavender blooms to turn brown (don’t think I’ve ever seen this happen before) and mint bugs have been munching on the lemon balm (planted next to).  No pix, sorry.  The recipes I am using can be found on the right side column under Must Remembers titled *Hic.

This morning, Ronnie harvested three cherry tomatoes from the garden – yippee!  This is a hybrid plant so there can be no seed saving – these little fruits are pretty.  And tasty.  Again, no pictures.  With classes consuming much of my time, garden time has been not as frequent as I would like.  The next semester, that begins the latter part of August, will have mostly at home studies thus allowing more time outside while the sun is shining and then study time inside when the sun sets.  Potatoes have not done much this year and we are not sure why – a load of manure, tilled under and allowed to sit over the winter, will correct many of our gardening challenges (or so I believe); dill is blooming, beans growing, grapes ripening, etc.

While on the cordial kick, JoyceAnn of Feather Spirits introduced this next website to me.  Her article about plantain reminded me that we have a slew of this herb growing in the yard and… I believe I can make some salve.  This recipe seems easy enough:

Healing salve: In large non-metallic pan place 1lb. of entire Plantain plant chopped, and 1 cup lard, cover, cook down on low heat till all is mushy and green. Strain while hot, cool and use for burns, insect bites, rashes, and all sores. Note: used as night cream for wrinkles.

Walmart carries lard; perhaps I can snag some this weekend.  Why not now, you ask?  Cause tomorrow we are headed out on the bike to ride; no particular destination, just ride and stop when we are ready.  Other bikes are joining us so it will not be quite as spontaneous as if Ronnie and I were going solo, still be a nice, cheap get-away.  We will return on Sunday, about the time when the girls are returning from spending a week with their dad.   I hope to have more soon, including my current knitting project.  Perhaps a delayed post for tomorrow or over the weekend.


July 15, 2010 Posted by | Cooking, Gardening, herbs, recipes | , , , , | 1 Comment

Pickled Burdock

Who doesn’t have this weed herb growing in the side or back yard?  Yes, some have maticulous gardens/yards – I am not one of those.  Growing weeds herbs outside is easy, it is when I bring them inside that the challenge begins.

Anyway, I was looking for ways to take advantage of this prolific herb and found this recipe for pickled burdock!  Pickling things is easy, assuming you can wait to open the jar.


Things You’ll Need:
  • 3 lbs. burdock root
  • 3/4 cup salt
  • 7 1/2 cups water
  • Saucepan
  • 3 cups vinegar
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 4 slices of ginger
  • Canning jars
  1. Collect your fresh burdock root by foraging for it in the wild. The root can also be found in health food stores or Asian markets.
  2. Use a sharp knife to remove the rough skin from the burdock. Slice the root at an angle into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Set the root pieces aside.
  3. Mix the salt and water in your pan over low heat. Let the salt dissolve, and then pour it over the burdock until it is completely covered.
  4. Let the burdock sit in the salted water for 24 hours.
  5. Drain and rinse the burdock under cold water.
  6. Sterilize jars by filling them half full with water and microwaving them long enough for the water to boil for one minute.
  7. Fill your jars with the burdock root.
  8. In the pan, slowly bring the vinegar, garlic, and ginger to a boil over low heat.
  9. Fill the jars with the brine until the burdock root is completely covered.
  10. Cover and store your pickled burdock in a dark, cool place for a month before opening the jar. Your pickled burdock can be stored for up to a year.

There are many recipes online for cooking burdock root.  If I can dig some up, I’ll show you what it looks like.  Have you used burdock root before?

July 11, 2010 Posted by | Cooking, Gardening, herbs, recipes, self sufficiency | , , , | 4 Comments

Fungus amongus

I thought this was caused by the dog pee’ing in the garden; that appears to be incorrect.  Surfing the web has brought to light my potato plants may have a fungus; a vascular wilt.  Fusarium to be exact.  Apparantly this organism can live in the soil, without a host (my potato plants) for several years.  Not encouraging.  The tops of these taters cannot go into the compost pile as they are infected and could infect parts of the garden that are currently ok.  Looks like more fodder for the burn pile.

vascular wiltBeans and corn were planted in this corner of the garden last year and I notice no problems so am curious how long this organism has been hanging out?  Potatoes were placed in this spot for this season so as to rotate. There are several articles online, about studies showing the effects of compost tea with disease control in plants – specifically potatoes.  The one article, to which I wanted to link, is no longer available.  =(

I dug up the wilting plants and found that the potatoes beneath were just fine, though not the same size one would find in the grocery.  Tasty nonetheless.  One of the seed potatoes was still intact and a slimy, stinking glob when dug from the ground.  huh?  What happened here?

Oh, and tomatoes are not immune to this type of cootie either.

What advise do more experienced potato growers have for me?

July 9, 2010 Posted by | Gardening | , , , , | Leave a comment

My name is slacker

Yes.  That is me.  A crisis of conscious has been upon me and it has been paralyzing.  So much needs to be done and yet I seem to get nothing done.  Part of this paralysis are classes on Mon/Wed; and the rest of the days?  Just slacking under the guise of being tired.  I, personally, can justify that guise every once in awhile; weeks at a time is just not normal.  Not for me.

In an attempt to not be so hard on myself, this is the plan.  Classes are over for the week and within the next few days I want to plant radishes, the 2nd wave of lettuce, squash (found my first shield bugs the other day) and sprouts.  Tonite Ronnie has commissioned me to help install the coop fence. In my absence, he installed the door and three hen boxes (flacking paint will be removed).

Included below are pictures from the weed/vegetable garden.  Yes, there are carrots mixed in with the onions.

IMG_1268 IMG_1271 IMG_1265 IMG_1267 IMG_1266 and no garden pictures would be complete without including a picture of Bella.

June 17, 2010 Posted by | Gardening | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

For the love of cluckers

We near completion of the shed and  I wanted to share some photos.


June 16, 2010 Posted by | Gardening, self sufficiency | , , | Leave a comment

A love of Lavender

There is just something about that scent.  Scent is powerful and can trigger a forgotten memory faster than anything; I do not remember this scent from my past.  The sight and smell draw me. 

Our lavender plants are extremely happy and have produced more than I remember seeing in prlavenderevious years; scented sachets or eye masks are in my future and to do that those buds need to be harvested then dried.  What’s a girl to do?

From what I’ve read, cut just above the leaves just as the buds are opening; use a rubber band to hang dry in a warm dark place.  Hmmm.  Warm is about anywhere in the house.  Dark would be, well, probably the garden shed or garage.  7-10 days should do the trick. 

Once dried, to separate the buds from the stems, place the dried stems in newspaper and roll into a tube.  Gently roll on a hard surface as if you were rolling out dough.  This will separate the buds without damaging them and allow the stems to be used to scent the wood cook stove.  =)

The past two weeks have not allowed me to harvest as the buds were opening so my stems are a bit more ‘mature’; still fragrant.  And perfect. 

This same method can be used for other herbs – Chiots Run talks about oregano (which we have) and I’ll add to the list sage, mint, lemon balm and catnip.  Typing this got me to thinking that setting these to dry in the van while I am at work would not only have the van smelling good but also dry these herbs up fairly quickly (black van + 8 hours sun = one HOT oven. Might be too hot actually.  Has anyone else tried this – drying herbs in a vehicle?


UPDATE:  Yes, these can be dried in the car – Frugal Upstate details here. 

June 2, 2010 Posted by | Gardening, herbs | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Frozen tomato plants

Earlier I posted about my half dead garden, the toddler plants struck down haphazardly.  In desperation I emailed Sadge of Firesign Farm (she still has snow this late in the season) to see how she handled the sporadic cold snap.  She had several great suggestions that she ended up posting hereQuick hoops, discussed by Eliot Coleman over at Mother Earth News may be the best way for me to go.

May 13, 2010 Posted by | Gardening | , , | 5 Comments

Don’t be too hard

Today I am posting over at Homemaker’s Who Work about not being too hard on ourselves when an unattainable standard is not met.

All is well at The Ward House: the garden continues to do well, there are tomato, green & sweet pepper, and strawberry plants that need to go into the garden.  Right now would be an excellent time to get these little babies into the ground; it is cool, cloudy, and scheduled to rain this afternoon. If the rain will hold off until I get home from work then it’ll be done.

Remember the ramps?  We gave some of these with Ronnie’s mom and she called last night to share an off-the-cuff recipe with me: saute sliced carrots, celery, onions, and ramps in a sauce pan with some butter.  She then added chicken broth, rice, and leftover chicken to the mix and covered ’til the rice was done.  Sounds tasty, yes?  Well, since the chicken was already in the oven, I sautéed the sliced carrots, celery, and ramps with butter, covered and let them cook while the chicken finished up.  Add some salt and bring on the yum!

April 23, 2010 Posted by | Gardening, recipes | , , | Leave a comment

Garden dirt and oven ashes

Great gardening today coupled with a short for exhilarating motorcycle ride.  In addition to the potatoes from last weekend, cabbage, yellow & purple onions, carrots, and lettuce are now planted/seeded.  I am very please with this years layout.  In addition to consulting Great Garden Companions, I found my copy of the The Garden Primer by Barbara Damrosch – two great books, imho.  *NOTE*  I am not being paid for mentioning these two books.

Coming into the house with garden dirt covering my feet and under my nails, it felt good to clean up and start up the cook stove.  From this stove the Broiled Perch with Lemon Mustard would be baked and carrots roasted.  Mmm, typing this out is making me drool!  Anyway, I was also searching for kefir recipes and found this post from Sondra over at Dairy Goat Info.

Here is the softest, yummiest bread. It keeps well on just the countertop wrapped in a plastic bag or tinfoil. It slices great and makes really good sandwiches:

Kefir Yeast Bread (compared to Buttermilk Yeast Bread)

4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 cups Kefir
2 cups whey or warm water
1 packet of quick dissolve yeast (SAF Instant)
1 tsp Rapadura sugar or regular sugar

Mix in large glass or porcelin bowl with wooden spoon. Cover top of bowl with cling wrap or a clean dish towel. Set in your oven and turn on the light. Leave until it bubbles, about 1-3 hours and the yeast and Kefir has a chance to activate.

Melt 1 stick of butter in small saucepan, cool. Remove bowl from oven, and add 1 Tbs sea salt. Stir with wood spoon. Pour almost all the butter into the dough (I pour in a corner, so if the butter is too hot, it won’t kill the yeasts, except maybe in the small corner). I stir slowly and gradually then quicker until all is incorporated, the butter.

Start adding, one cup at a time, more unbleached all purpose flour. At 4 cups, it’s thick enough to handle. I sprinkle about 1-2 cups more onto a clean counter top, and scrape dough onto top of this ‘bench flour’. I gently fold and turn the dough, until the counter top flour coats it…I gently knead this dough to absorb most of the flour, until it’s just managable and not too sticky. I shape into a ball, and let it rest while I clean up, 5-10 minutes.

Cut dough in to 4 portions. I lightly oil and sprinkle corn meal on two baking sheets. I shape each portion into a ‘log’ and place 2 logs side by side on each sheet, with some space in between. I cover them with a clean dish cloth and set in the oven again for about 30-40 minutes. I remove them from oven and preheat to 400 deg F. I brush the remainder of the butter gently over the tops of the loaves. I can fit both sheets into my oven, by placing one low, and the other shelf upper mid way. I rotate them at the half way baking point, and brush more butter if there is any left. Bake for ~28 minutes (adjust for your oven and altitude.)

If you cover the fresh baked loaves with a soft, clean cloth once baked, the crust is softer and more like store bought (good for kids). Use a serrated knife for slicing.

The dough mixed up so easily and it helped me to use some extra kefir – the girls are not eating as much of it as they used to so I must find creative, tastey ways to incorporate it into our diets.  Sondra includes recipes that use vanilla kefir; never heard of vanilla kefir before.  Do I just add vanilla extract?  For some reason I am thinking not.  Will let you know what I find.

The perch is ready to go into the oven – catcha soon!

April 3, 2010 Posted by | Cooking, Gardening | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Informational humor

Mom sent this to me and I just had to pass it along:

A cowboy named Bud was overseeing his herd in a remote mountainous pasture in Wyoming when suddenly a brand-new BMW advanced toward him out of a cloud of dust..

The driver, a young man in a Brioni suit, Gucci shoes, RayBan sunglasses and YSL tie, leaned out the window and asked the cowboy, “If I tell you exactly how many cows and calves you have in your herd, will you give me a calf?”

Bud looks at the man, obviously a yuppie, then looks at his peacefully grazing herd and calmly answers, “Sure, Why not?”

The yuppie parks his car, whips out his Dell notebook computer, connects it to his Cingular RAZR V3 cell phone, and surfs to a NASA page on the Internet, where he calls up a GPS satellite to get an exact fix on his location which he then feeds to another NASA satellite that scans the area in an ultra-high-resolution photo.

The young man then opens the digital photo in Adobe Photoshop and exports it to an image processing facility in Hamburg , Germany ..

Within seconds, he receives an email on his Palm Pilot that the image has been processed and the data stored. He then accesses an MS-SQL database through an ODBC connected Excel spreadsheet with email on his Blackberry and, after a few minutes, receives a response.

Finally, he prints out a full-color, 150-page report on his hi-tech, miniaturized HP LaserJet printer, turns to the cowboy and says, “You have exactly 1,586 cows and calves.”

“That’s right. Well, I guess you can take one of my calves,” says Bud.

He watches the young man select one of the animals and looks on with amusement as the young man stuffs it into the trunk of his car.

Then Bud says to the young man, “Hey, if I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give me back my calf?”

The young man thinks about it for a second and then says, “Okay, why not?”

“You’re a Congressman for the U.S. Government”, says Bud.

“Wow! That’s correct,” says the yuppie, “but how did you guess that?”

“No guessing required.” answered the cowboy. “You showed up here even though nobody called you; you want to get paid for an answer I already knew, to a question I never asked. You used millions of dollars worth of equipment trying to show me how much smarter than me you are; and you don’t know a thing about how working people make a living – or about cows, for that matter. This is a herd of sheep…

Now give me back my dog.


Having gained access to my old account, I have been catching up on reading everyone’s blogs.  This one caught my eye as Chiot’s Run will be growing Egyptian Walking Onions.  Well I snagged some of these during Howling Hills last seed exchange, planted them and then just forgot them.  They came through the winter wonderfully and are strong and green.  I wondered how to propagate them and, well, Chiot’s answered that question for me.

Egyptian Onions are described by Southern Exposure this way:
The onion to plant if you always want onions. Egyptian Walking Onions grow perennially in a bed. Hardy bulbs set bulblets on stalks. Air bound bulblets will sprout new smaller stalks, which fall over and replant themselves, hence the name “Walking”. Bulbs can be harvested over Fall and Winter. Green Onions can be harvested selectively as they grow. Plant them where you intend to have them for a long time, as they are quite hardy.

The office is closed tomorrow so the three day weekend will see all sorts of garden activity: the remaining potatoes will go into the ground along with yellow and purple onion sets, some cabbage, and. . . I know there is more, just cannot think of it at the moment.  Looks like a list is in the making!

April 2, 2010 Posted by | Gardening, humor, politics | , , , | Leave a comment