Rosey the Riveter

Friday, April 27, 2012

Strawberries... and Rhubarb! Oh, My!

I went back to Brookdale to pick berries TWICE on Tuesday.  Once in the morning with my youngest, before she went to school, and once in the afternoon with both kids after they got out of school.

We picked about 16 pounds of berries in total.  That translated into 9 trays of berries in the dehydrator, a batch of Strawberry Rhubarb Jam, some fruit roll-ups, a couple trays in the freezer, and tonight's dessert:  Strawberry Rhubarb Crunch.  It came from a Taste of Home issue back in '97.

For the 'crust' and the topping, mix together

1 c flour
1 c brown sugar
3/4 c oats
1 tsp cinnamon

and cut in 1/2 c butter.  Press half into a greased 9" pan.

Dice 4 cups of rhubarb and 2 cups of strawberries.  And throw in the mandarin oranges you might have in the fridge.  Ignore my inaccurate measuring.  It's what I do.

Spoon over crust.
In a sauce pan, combine

1 c sugar
2 Tbl cornstarch
1 c water
1 tsp vanilla

and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Stir for two minutes.

Drizzle over fruit, then crumble the remaining topping over the top.
Bake at 350 for an hour.  You may want to put it on a cookie sheet because it will probably run over and make a mess.
This is one of those desserts that really should be served with vanilla ice cream.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Last week, after seeing this Black Swallowtail laying,  I found a few eggs on the monster parsley.  

And a couple of caterpillars on the carrots.  Look close (or click the picture to enlarge), and you can see the black and white cats.

I read somewhere that only 1% of eggs laid will make it to butterfly, so I promptly took them inside and made them a new home in the Butterfly Keepers that Santa brought the girls for Christmas.  It took almost a week, but the little eggs hatched within a few hours of each other.  It was VERY exciting!

They don't need water, just some parsley or dill or carrots or rue.  And a stick to hang off of once it's time for them to become a Chrysalis.  See the black flecks at the bottom?  Caterpillar poop.

I have since found more caterpillars on the parsley... and even the rue, which they completely ignored last year.  We are now up to 15, and it's absolutely amazing to see how quickly they grow and change.  I couldn't believe the difference in the two largest when I came home from the Women's Wellness Weekend!  Stay tuned... in a few weeks we should have butterflies!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Weekend Retreat

I spent this weekend at First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach.  It was a wonderful time spent with 75 other women from VA, MD, OH, DE and probably several other states.  I camped in the back of the van.  I attended lots of neat classes.  I took an early morning walk on the beach and collected shells for the girls.  I ate some REALLY good food.  I taught a class on "Reducing Your Foodprint".  If you're here because of the Women's Wellness Weekend, welcome!  If you scroll down the right side of the blog, you will see a special label I created for WWW.  Click on that, and many posts will pop up that I hope you will find helpful.

Friday evening, we had a Seafood Buffet and a crab-eating demonstration.

Saturday morning I had a basketmaking class.  We started with a pile of grapevine, honeysuckle, and Virginia Creeper.

After a brief demonstration on how to proceed, we each wove our own basket.

This is the bottom of mine, which we started using commercial round reed.

In under two hours, I was finished!  Here's my basket.  I kind of love it.

In the afternoon, I went to a Colonial Medicine class which kind of reinforced the herb knowledge I've been slowly acquiring.  One of the instructors was a reinactor, and the Jamestown history he shared was quite interesting.  Being from Massachusetts, I got a thorough Plymouth education.  The Jamestown and Lost Colony parts weren't exactly stressed.

Then, I taught the "Reducing Your Foodprint" class... buying local and unprocessed and how to replace convenience items with homemade.  I had fun.  I hope the students did, too.  We talked about this HOMEMADE OATMEAL MIX.  It's sweet, so cut the sugar.  I also mentioned THESE CONTAINERS which are great for making homemade gogurts out of leftover smoothies.  I am pretty sure I paid more for them, so get them while the price is low!  We made homemade Sticky Chicky and Taco mixes.  We chatted.  It was fun.

I miss teaching.  I forget how much until I get the chance to do it again.

We had a great BBQ dinner on Saturday night.  Here's the four of us from the Virginia Urban Homesteaders League.  Cat taught "Greening your Home", Micki taught Knitting, and Jen taught "Canning and Preserving".

I headed back to the campsite afterwards.  There were storms and heavy rain predicted, so I crawled into the van and curled up with a book and a flashlight.  It was quiet and heavenly.  The rain started over night, and I loved waking up to the pitter-patter of it on the van roof.  There were no bickery children.

Today's class was Knitting, which I am happy to say I finally got the hang of.  It took me awhile (I am a hopeless crochet-er) but Micki was patient and I am now on my way to making a cotton dishcloth.  Which is all I ever really wanted to knit, so it was a perfect project for me!

After a lovely brunch (perhaps the best quiche I've eaten!) it was time to head home.  Some women had hours of traveling.  I had 35 minutes.  I stopped off at the Commissary and they had HUGE Naval Oranges for .25 each.  I bought 16 of them.  They also had 3-lbs bags of smaller ones for a buck, so I bought 3 bags.  Now I just need to figure out what to do with them.  I'd make marmalade, but I don't want to use the skins because they aren't organic.  Stay tuned.


The other day, we moved our bees from their little Nuc box into their actual hive.  They were going crazy drawing out comb.  Unfortunately, it was underneath the frames and not ON the frames.  So, we had to take it off in order to fit them in the hive box.

We couldn't find the queen, but we know she's there.  There were lots of eggs and larvae so we know she's laying.
I took the Nuc box home and put it in a tree in hopes of catching a swarm.  I think my chances aren't as good now as they were a few weeks ago, but you never know.  I had lemongrass essential oil, so I put some on a q-tip and put that in the Nuc.  It mimics the pheromones from the queen and will attract scout bees to the box.  Ideally, I would put a piece of comb in there, too, but I need to treat it first to prevent wax moths from moving in.

If I were a bee, I'd want to live there.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

More Strawberry Goodness

I am absolutely loving the Strawberry Vanilla Jam I made.  It's from Ball's Big Book of Canning and so easy... just a matter of adding a split vanilla bean while heating up the strawberries for traditional jam.

I also attempted a batch of Strawberry Lemonade Concentrate.  Sounds delightful, doesn't it?  And it would be, if it weren't for the fact that I had to juice 25 lemons in order to get the 4 cups of fresh lemon juice required.  Thankfully, I have a juicer attachment for my Kitchen Aid, but it still wasn't 'quick' and my wrist still hurt when all was said and done.

Another gadget that has been very helpful is this mushroom slicer that I won last year from www.dehydrate2store.

It saved me a lot of time slicing berries and filling up all 9 trays of the dehydrator.

I don't have a ton of freezer space available (we haven't made a dent in our 1/4 side of beef and we've got a 1/2 hog coming in a few months) so I plan to dehydrate a lot more this season.  But I did freeze a few quarts, because we love smoothies around here.  I also made a batch of strawberry ice cream.

For now, I am all caught up on the 22+lbs of berries I picked.  I'm taking a few days off, but then I'll go pick more.  I still have several jam recipes to try and then I definitely want to make more Strawberry-Vanilla!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Strawberry Kiwi Jam

We are lucky enough to have a strawberry field 3 minutes down the road from us.  So the other morning I dragged my youngest there at 9am when they opened (we had to pick and get back to get her on the bus!)  In no time flat, we had 4 pounds worth of berries.  Not much, but enough for me to make a couple batches of jam and strawberry shortcakes for dessert.

I still have some of the kiwis that I bought last winter, but I am down to the last few.  I was so hoping they'd hold out for strawberry season, and they did!  So the first batch of jam had to be strawberry-kiwi!

It was very easy.  I used the recipe from the Ball Blue Book.  I am not going to reprint it here because if you are canning, you need your own copy.  Go spend the 8 or 10 bucks, it's worth every penny.

First, I crushed the strawberries and diced the kiwi and added some homemade crystallized ginger.

Then I added the pectin and brought it to a boil.

Pour in the sugar, return to a rolling boil for 1 minute and process it up.

Easy Peasy.
From vine to jar in under an hour.  Pure Delicious!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Kitchen Projects

I've lived with the pink fake-marble laminate counters for 6 months.  We knew when we bought the house they would have to go (along with the white tile backsplash.)  Several months ago, hubby started removing the tiles.  It was tough going.  He took a long break and eventually decided that the easiest way would be to cut the drywall right off.

It makes me nervous.  I can't even be in the kitchen without feeling sick to my stomach.  I spent all day today outside, just so I wouldn't throw up.  The bonus is that while he took the old hood down, it was a perfect opportunity to spend the $40 to get one that actually matches the stove.

And we finally picked out a slab of granite!  I have nothing against laminate (except when it's PINK fake marble) but we got a great price and found a fabricator who will do the job right.  All the other places wanted to put a seam in the 10' stretch of counter where the sink is.  This one told me to go pick out a slab big enough so they wouldn't have to. 

The guy came to make up the template, so in about 2 weeks, we'll have new counters (and new walls, since hubby needs to finish them before they come to install the granite.)

I am hoping this is the only semi-major improvement we will have to make on the house.  I know we'll end up getting most of our money back when we eventually sell it, but most of the other work was just peeling wallpaper and painting... after the kitchen, it'll just be the ugly, textured wallpaper in the master bath that needs to go.  I can't wait for it all to be done so we can enjoy the upgrades and I can have my kitchen back!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


The kids are finally back in school.  It was great having them home for a week, and great to have hubby home on vacation, too.  But it's strawberry season and I'm anxious to get picking and preserving!

As I mentioned previously, we did get several projects started.  This one was really easy and is going to end up being one of my favorites, I think.  I had a half gallon of white exterior paint left over from the hives, so I slapped some on the old, rickety fence.  What a difference it made!  Of course I ran out before I could finish, and of course it's been too hot to finish now after I got another gallon... but this is a good shot of the before/after.

I love my white picket fence!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Monster Scallions

Last fall, I planted the bottoms of a couple of scallions I bought at the store.  They've been growing steadily, as I had no clue when I should pick them.  Well, let's just say I waited too long.  These things were huge.  They looked like leeks!  This is the smallest one:

I sliced them up and dehydrated them for later use.
You can see from the rings how large they were.  Not bad for something that most people would have thrown away!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

More Bees

The Beekeepers Guild had a potluck event today and we got to get in the hives.  Joanna was so excited that her jacket came in!  She was a natural, and not at all afraid of the bees.

Abby surprised me, too.  She put on a veil and got in to watch the action for a few minutes.  But then she was done!

I love these events, as it's always so interesting to talk to the veteran beekeepers.  They are very willing to help and share and I can see that it's very easy to get sucked in!  

I came home and planted up some of the tomatoes I bought at a plant sale early this morning.  I got a Cherokee Purple, an Arkansas Traveler, and an Eva Purple.  They are all indeterminates, so now I have to figure out how I am going to trellis them.  All the other trellis areas have been taken by the melons and Old Virginia Tomatoes I got in a swap with my Homesteaders League.  I also planted two Romas.  This is my first attempt at tomatoes, so we'll see how it goes.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Spring Break

It's been too long since I've posted.  Things have been a little crazy here.  The kids are on spring break.  The husband took the week off.  We had a large to-do list and I didn't get enough accomplished, but that's ok.  After a lifetime of wishing, I finally made it to Colonial Williamsburg for a couple of days.  I can't wait to go back!  The gardens were beautiful, but it was impossible to see everything in a day.

I haven't planted anything lately, but the radishes are coming in like mad and the peas are just starting, too.  Carrots won't be far behind.  I am heading to a plant sale tomorrow in hopes of scoring some heirloom tomatoes.  I'm especially hoping for Cherokee Purple.

In other exciting news, I am officially a bee-keeper!  Last week I got a swarm call from my mentor and jumped at the chance to go get it!  It was definitely one of the most thrilling things I've done in a long time, even though it was a very easy catch.  It was a damp, cold day so they were just hanging out on this pole about 5' off the ground.  The bees have been drawing comb in their Nuc box, but sometime in the next few days we'll open them up and check for the queen, and may be even move them into the actual hive. 

And, it's strawberry season... about 2 weeks early.  I haven't gone to pick yet because I'm waiting for the warm temps predicted early next week to sweeten up the berries.  In the mean time, I'm working on a canning plan and assembling all the preserving recipes I want to make this summer and fall.  I need to make sure I have enough jars and ingredients, etc.  First up is Strawberry Anise Hyssop Jam, since my rhubarb isn't going to be producing anything this year!  Fortunately, my Anise Hyssop is thriving.

Stay tuned for more posts about the projects that DID get done this week!