Rosey the Riveter

Friday, March 30, 2012

Violet Jelly

The other day as I was out for a jog (if you can even call it that!) I noticed that there were a bunch of violets on the side of the road.  So this morning, I went back with my youngest and we collected 2 cups worth of blossoms. 

The method for making Violet Jelly is the same as for making Rose Petal Jelly.

First, rinse well and send them for a ride in the salad spinner.

Boil 2 1/4 cups of water and poured it over the blossoms. 

It's hard to see in this picture but the water turns blue almost immediately.  Cover, and let sit on the counter overnight.

When it's time to can them up,  drain the liquid.  Squeeze the violets to get every last drop.  You want 2 cups of liquid. 
To this, add 1/4 cup lemon juice and admire how bright the juice becomes.

Add a box of pectin and bring to a boil in a sauce pan.  Then, add 4 cups of sugar and return to a hard boil.  Continue boiling for 1 minute. 

Remove from heat, fill your jars, process in a BWB for 10 minutes.

I got 4 jelly jars out of the deal.  It's got a light taste that's hard to describe.  It's good, but I think I prefer the Rose Petal.  However, this method works for any herb, so I hope to be trying several more jellies once the garden gets going!

Saturday, March 24, 2012


The Nuc Box is done and waiting for our bees to be ready to bring home.  One sheet of 3/4" plywood, a few cuts, and some screws... easy peasy!  We used the plans from

Hubby also surprised me with a compost sifter!  He used the wooden frame that came in the dishwasher box and some 1/2" wire/screen/whatever it's called.  Can't wait to get out there and get me some black gold!

As if these finished projects weren't enough, Mother Nature also surprised me:
Blueberry blossoms!!!  All that tulle is going to come in handy!

Friday, March 23, 2012


Mr. Fed Ex man dropped off my 50 yard roll of 108" tulle today.  It was so easy to put up and I love love love that it's see through!

I didn't know how intelligent the cabbage butterflies were, so I hemmed and hawed about how well to close up the bottom.  Would the butterflies try really hard to get in once they saw the plants, or would they just fly to the OTHER bed where I have a couple other broccoli plants?

Just as I was putting the last clip on, a cabbage butterfly landed on the tulle.  And she would fly and go to another spot and land on the tulle.  This happened a couple of times, and I was spewing forth evil laughter because I WON THE WAR and she couldn't get in!  Finally, she did indeed fly over to an uncovered plant (which will soon be sprayed with hot pepper/garlic spray).  Picture me jumping up and down victoriously.

Enter husband, who was mowing the lawn.  He stops and deadpans "Who's smarter than a butterfly?"


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Hoop House!

(photo from

A few days ago, while we were eating dinner on the deck, I noticed little yellow dots on my cabbage seedlings.  Immediately, I knew what they were.  Imported Cabbage Worm Eggs.

(photo from

I've been seeing the butterflies for a few days, so I shouldn't have been surprised.  But these seedlings were little, so I wasn't expecting the butterflies would even find them.  How are they so smart?

I immediately hopped up and went to the garden to check the cabbage and broccoli seedlings I'd already transplanted.  Sure enough, almost every one had at least 2 eggs!  I battled the worms in the fall and decided to declare an early war.

I knew that at some point, I wanted to build a hoop house for next winter.  This was an extraordinarily mild winter, and I would have planted lettuce and carrots and even more broccoli and cabbage had I known how warm it was going to be.  Then it occurred to me that I *COULD* harvest these crops during the winter if I built a hoop house using greenhouse plastic.

So, back to the cabbage butterflies...  I figured it was a good time to put the hoops in and cover with tulle so that the rain and sun can reach the plants, but the butterflies can't.  The 50 yard bolt of 108" tulle is on it's way.  In the mean time, I have the generic remay cloth.

I bought one 10 foot length of 1/2" PVC pipe and had hubby cut it into 6 pieces.  He also cut three 3/4" pipes to 8 feet (the tulle is 9 feet, so this gives me 6" extra on each side to hold it down.)  Each of these pipes were about $1.50 each.

I hammered the short pieces into my raised bed and inserted the 3/4" pipe over it to form a half circle.  Then I attached the remay cloth with jumbo paperclips (12 for $6 at the office supply store.)
For now, this is what it looks like.  I'll fix it better once the tulle comes.  I love being in the garden and seeing the plants grow, so even though light does get through this cloth, it would never work for me.  The tulle will let me see everything that's going on.  The plants you see on the left are scallions, onions, and garlic.  Then there are 2 squares of peas and a couple of broccoli I just transplanted.

I am really excited about my hoop house, as it will be used for all 4 seasons.  Tulle in warm weather to keep out the birds (who like my bean seeds) and the cabbage butterflies, remay in the fall and late winter to protect against frost, and greenhouse plastic in the winter.  The clips make it very easy to open/close and change the covering.

UPDATE:  Click HERE to see what the hoop house looks like now that the tulle has arrived.

Here are my green beans enjoying it under their covering.

And here's my first tomato (Roma) that I couldn't resist planting, along with 3 sunflowers that were winter-sown and are really doing well.  (Two large rosemary bushes in the background.)

Radishes, peas, lettuce, and carrots are starting to really take off with the nice weather we've been having.
The garlic chives and chives are flourishing, as well!

This is what remains of the monster sage plant I cut way back in the fall, as well as a new thyme cutting from the old, woody plant I took out.  Both look much healthier than the overgrown heap they were in!

This week I'll be planting some more seeds and also potting up some of my winter-sown extra seedlings for a swap I have on the 31st.  There are several plant sales in April I'm looking forward to, as well.  I REALLY want a chocolate mint!!!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Three Surprises!

This morning as we were out waiting for Joanna's bus, I spotted something different in the lawn.  I'm used to seeing the purple of the henbit and deadnettles (weeds, yes, but good for the bees.  I've stopped pulling them up!) but this was a darker color, almost blue.  They looked like little hyacinths, but I guessed they were bluebells.

I was right on both accounts.  According to google, they are also called "grape hyacinth".  Needless to say, I quickly dug them up to save them from being mowed.  Haven't decided where to put them yet, but apparently they spread well, so I'm thinking may be under the holly bushes in the front of the house.  (I HATE the holly.  The leaves are pointy and sharp.)

Another surprise was this little RED jalapeno!  This is the plant that over wintered in the diningroom and has been SLOWLY producing peppers all winter (I've yet to pick any, that's how slow it's been!)

And I have an opened lemon blossom!  Smells delicious!

The leaves on the rosebushes seem to have appeared overnight, and the buds on the trees will be open soon, too.  I think I can safely say that it's spring here in Hampton Roads.

Which just means we'll be getting a cold snap at any time now!

Monday, March 12, 2012


We've had our fair share of rainy days here lately and I've been forced inside.  Housework beacons.  As I was clearing off a bookcase shelf overflowing with last years seed catalogs, I couldn't bear to part with the 2011 Comstock Ferre.  The illustrations were gorgeous, and this New England girl loves that the folks at Baker Creek saved the old company.

I decided to upcycle the beautiful artwork into notecards, and I love the results!  These are only about half of them... the rest are mostly vegetables and will be perfect for sending to fellow gardeners.  I wish I was feeling witty and could come up with some humorous sentiments for the insides ("My heart beets for you"... "I've bean thinking about you"  Or how about "You're like a radish... you get hotter with age.  Happy Birthday!").

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Strawberry Shortcake

Normally, I buy organic strawberries.  And in about 5 weeks, I'll be able to actually go to a farm and pick them myself.  But lately I've been in a fruit funk... I try to buy seasonal and I'm so tired of apples and pears and oranges.  Part of the problem is that last summer, in the middle of a move, I couldn't 'put up' anything.  No peaches or blueberries or plums or raspberries or any other flavor of summer.

So today when I saw strawberries on sale buy one get one, I stopped.  And I looked.  They were Florida strawberries, not California like they usually are.  (I absolutely will NOT buy them from CA since they passed that law allowing the use of a really nasty chemical for strawberries.)  They actually looked good.  I thought about the heavy cream I had in the fridge, and the Baking Mix I had in the cupboard, and I knew we had to have Strawberry Shortcakes for dessert tonight.

I followed the same biscuit recipe... 2 1/4 c Baking Mix and 3/4 c buttermilk, but I also added 1/4 c sugar to make the biscuits a little sweeter to go with the strawberries.  Bake at 425 for 13-15 minutes, and serve with macerated strawberries and fresh whipped cream. Mmmmmm!!!  May be it was the fact we haven't had berries in months and months... but both hubby and I couldn't get over how tasty these were!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Grandpa Lepper's Quiche

This is such an easy quiche to make, and you can personalize it with whatever mix-ins you want.

3 eggs
1 1/2 c milk
1/2 c Baking Mix
1/2 c butter, melted (I've used as little as 1/4c and it's fine)
salt and pepper to taste
Whatever toppings you prefer

Blend all ingredients in blender or food processor until frothy.  Pour into ungreased pie plate.  Add toppings such as cooked bacon, ham, cheese, onions, etc etc.  Bake 45 minutes at 450.

Here, I used ham, cheese, and fresh garden chives.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Homemade Garlic Cheddar Biscuits

If you are a fan of the biscuits served at Red Lobster, these are for you!

2 1/4 cups of Baking Mix (see yesterday's post)
3/4 c buttermilk
shredded cheese
garlic powder

Preheat oven to 425.  Mix together the baking mix and buttermilk.  Add cheese to taste (a handful or so) and some garlic powder, too.  Roll into a log and slice into 8 pieces.  Bake for 13-15 minutes or until light brown.  Brush with butter and sprinkle with more garlic powder if you want.
For run-of-the-mill but still delicious plain biscuits, just leave out the cheese and garlic.  No reason to buy the biscuits in the cardboard cylinders anymore!  They are really yummy with butter or homemade jam or with ham and eggs!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Homemade Baking Mix

I used to use a lot of Bisquick.  Until I realized that it contained trans fats.  And was ridiculously easy to make, not to mention much cheaper.  I make a big batch of it about every other month or so.  It mixes up in no time at all.  If you are just beginning to phase out packaged products, this is a great place to start.

Homemade Baking Mix

6 cups flour
3 Tbl baking powder
3 Tbl sugar
1 Tbl salt
1 c shortening, butter, or shortening substitute, cut in small pieces

Place the first 4 ingredients in a food processor and pulse to mix.  Add in the shortening and pulse until it looks like cornmeal.  Store in an air-tight container... if you use shortening or shelf-stable substitute, in the cupboard is fine.  If you use butter or a substitute that requires refrigeration, keep in in the fridge.

Stay tuned for some great recipes using this Baking Mix!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Homemade Wheat Thins

I've made wheat crackers before and we've all loved the texture and taste.  However, they were very hard to roll thin enough to get really crispy, and I gave up.

Until this morning, when Abby announced she wanted me to make some for her to take to school for snack and lunch.  This time, I went to King Arthur and I was not disappointed.  I could not believe how easy it was to roll this dough thin.

I have had the KA 'Whole Grain Baking' cookbook for awhile.  I don't use it nearly enough.  Now, KA has a TON of great recipes on their website.  But unfortunately, these crackers aren't there.  However, some lovely bloggers have already taken the time to type it up, so I'm not going to.  You can find the recipe HERE or HERE.

I strongly recommend making this in a food processor.  It will save you time cutting in the butter and the dough will come together a lot faster.  I used white whole wheat flour, simply because I'm trying to use up our supply so I can start grinding my own.

After rolling, I used a dough scraper to cut (and transfer to the baking sheet) but a pizza cutter would work, too.

Please don't forget to sprinkle with salt, and watch them carefully so you don't burn them. 

Here's the final product, in all their wheat-crispy-salty goodness:

Way cheaper than buying them, no packaging, and no preservatives.  Win-win.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Spring has sprung!

The Daffodils that I planted last fall are out, and the tulips won't be far behind. 
They are such a delightful sight.

Max would say the same about all the birds that are hopping in the bushes and singing their hearts out.  This is his favorite position, even when the windows aren't open.

We're supposed to hit 77 today!  The seedlings should love that.  I transplanted some cabbage and broccoli the other day from their milk jugs and they handled it well.  Everything has now sprouted except for the peppers and basil.  It's still too cold for them.  The peas and radishes and carrots and lettuce are growing well (they got planted directly into the beds).  Our last 'average' frost date is 3 weeks away, but given the warm winter we've had, I wouldn't be surprised if it was sooner than that!  Yay for spring!