Pesto

Our WWOOF volunteer Lauren helping to plant the last of the winter squash

Our latest WWOOF volunteer( What’s WWOOF? Check it out here) enjoys foraging for wild edibles.This week while weeding the iris bed, she brought in the harvested (weeded) dandelion greens and made a yummy pesto. Along with our nightly side of cultivated greens from the garden, we mixed the dandelion pesto into some fresh spinach tortellini. Delish! Dandelion greens are loaded with vitamins (vitamin C, A, B1, B2, B6 and abundant in vitamin k) and minerals ( calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium). They are a great antioxidant and help to stimulate good kidney and liver function.
Here’s how Lauren ( our WWOOF volunteer) made her pesto:

2 cups of fresh and cleaned dandelion greens
2 1/2 cups of fresh spinach
3-4 cloves of garlic
juice from 1 lemon ( I’d use some grated lemon rind as well!)
1- 1/2 cups of toasted almond slivers
1/2 cup of olive oil
2 Tbls. nutritional yeast

This was all put into the food processor and blended together. It made two 1 pint jars of pesto, which is already gone! We’ve also been smearing dandelion pesto on our mid-day grilled cheese….sharp cheddar, home-made sourdough, our own bread and butter pickles, and sliced avocado. These we put under the broiler until the cheese is bubbling and gooey. I can only say, I sure hope those dandelion weeds that Lauren eradicated bounce back quickly…we’re out of pesto!!
Try some and let us know what you think.

Tatsoi

One of our favorite early greens to grow is tatsoi. We sow seeds in the greenhouse in March and when the seedlings are ready, the first batch is planted in the hoop house. Another flat of seed is sown for an outdoor planting late in the spring. Tatsoi is classified as a Brassica and is a variety of Chinese cabbage and commonly known as spoon mustard or spinach mustard. It is a small low-growing plant that forms a rosette of petite, dark green, spoon-shaped leaves. It is super cold hardy, withstanding a temperature as low as 15 degrees F. We can count on having a bounty of tatsoi by mid-April and it does just the trick for satisfying our craving of fresh greens. Tatsoi has a mild taste, much like spinach. Being a plant that likes cooler temperatures ( perfect for here in Maine, yes?), it will become a bit more bitter tasting if allowed to bolt and flower.
We’ll often eat it raw in a salad or on sandwiches, but mostly we use it in a stir-fry or in an omelet. My favorite way to use Tatsoi is quite simple : Saute a medium size onion in a little olive oil, add a lot of minced garlic ( 4-5 cloves), chop the tatsoi (stems include) and toss that in ( we sometimes add shitake mushrooms), sprinkle in a few red pepper flakes, season with tamari and black pepper. We pile this onto some cooked brown rice and top it off with some crumbled feta cheese. Food for the soul! Often during our busy season here at the nursery, this is just what we’ll eat for lunch.Tatsoi is a good source of vitamins A, C, and K, carotenoids, folate, calcium and potassium. So good, so nourishing, I highly recommend adding it to your garden repertoire.

On Mother’s Day

We had lots of visitors at the nursery on Mother’s Day and although it was rainy and cold, the spirit of the day, the celebration of honoring a mom, was fully present. There were smiles between the raindrops (or downpours as it was!) and despite layers of clothing and raingear visitors were willing to brave the elements and find something for their gardens.
Being a mom of two grown children, I am a blessed recipient of their Mother’s Day efforts. One is far away, so a midday call with lots of sappy ‘love you, love you, love you’ chat was offered up to melt my heart. The older of the two showed up early with gifts…an antique wine box because she knows of my infatuation with old wooden boxes and then a little set of enamel cups and saucers because she also knows I like to have a collection of metalware when we head out for an adventure or picnic. That girl! And of course, there was dinner…. grilled burgers with wild mushrooms and a caramelized onion cheddar, a pesto pasta salad, grilled corn, home-made french bread and fresh bruschetta, and a sweet selection of fancy cupcakes. So glad I spent the time in the kitchen with her as a child, it’s really paying off for me now!!
We do hope everyone had a lovely weekend and that the rain didn’t dampen the hopes and intentions of getting into the garden. 80 degrees here in Maine on Thursday I hear, the extremes of spring in the northeast! Happy day everyone!

Easter


This beautiful warm Easter day here at Fernwwod? I’ll make yeast rolls, roast the lamb, saute the asparagus, and I’ll assemble a salad. Oh, and also roast the turnip and the potatoes with plenty of garlic. Dessert will show up with guests. And in between pot stirring and dough kneading?, I’ll go out and scan every inch of the gardens for beauties like these ( which we have propagated in the greenhouse). Happy, happy day to everyone!

Anemonella thalictroides

More Tea!

picture-3950February is often our coldest month here in the northeast. It’s also when we get our heaviest snowfall. By afternoon, usually having spent a good part of the day outdoors, we’re ready for some tea (and scones!!). I have been rummaging through the pantry pulling out many of the herbs I dried this past summer…. rosehips, lavender, chamomile, and raspberry leaf to name a few. This morning I combined these with some dried lycii berries, hibiscus flowers, and some dried orange peel. We love this combination, and with a little Maine maple syrup, it is purely delicious. Of course with all the lovely health benefits of the plant material, it’s really good for you as well! We offered a tea making class here at the nursery last summer, we’ll surely offer it again this year (we’ll post this on the blog once we set the dates). In addition to blending your own tea to take home, it’s a great opportunity to learn a little about drying herbs, flowers, and berries for winter storage, as well as learning about the medicinal benefits of certain plants. There are days I look into the pantry and feel such comfort from the foods that are either canned, dried, or tinctured. They sit waiting to be called into action…to feed our bellies, to be steeped into teas, or used to combat an oncoming cold. Fruits of our labor (or our wanderings through the meadows and forest), an ongoing task toward self-sufficiency that I am truly grateful for.

Now Is The Time

picture-3923Now is the time we begin putting seed orders together for the vegetable gardens. Now is the time we look at our list of plants in stock for the nursery and we check our notes on all the plants we’ve propagated this past Fall. Yes, we still have some winter out in front of us. All of February, and depending on what kind of season it will be, the month of March as well. However, as we turn the page on the calendar (soon), we really do have the upcoming growing season on our minds. Rick has been very busy sourcing and also propagating some real goodies for the nursery. New plants that are sure to excite customers! I’m excited!

Now is also the time a tiny feeling of panic sets in. Winter never seems quite long enough to get all the things that I’ve wanted to do completed. I need more time for walking in the woods, some more time ice fishing, of course way more time knitting and spinning (and dyeing and felting), and working on that pesky quilt that remains unfinished but in progress, as well as a list of household projects… and if we’d only get a good dumping of snow, more snowshoeing and sledding. Slow down winter! I need more time!picture-3911
The last few days, we’ve all had a nasty cold, but this wasn’t going to keep me from progress. It is impossible for me to lay around without noting some accomplishment at the end of the day. Don’t ask me why this is a problem because I really don’t know the answer. I wasn’t quite up to splitting wood or reshingling the back of the house, but I did organize the cellar, put some time into a pair of socks I’m knitting and made bread. This, along with several cups of ginger tea, made my down days seem less down.picture-3918 Now we all feel better and are expecting a group of friends over tonight for game playing. An evening of sitting around the table with friends, a collection of goodies and drink to keep our spirits up, and a good game, is yet another winter indulgence that we’ll have no time for come summer. Yeah Winter…stay with us! What do you do during these winter months? Do you have some winter indulgences or do you wish it to hurry up and be over? To tell. picture-3925

Mucking Out

picture-3916Out went our Christmas tree today. Amazing how much more light comes through the big windows without a shade tree blocking the way. Now it can stand out beside the trellis for the remainder of the winter and the birds can enjoy it.
The sun was bright this afternoon and it was warm enough to muck out the chicken coop and sheep pens. No frozen poop to chisel! That’s nice. All the bedding gets tossed into a big sled and then dragged over to be emptied into the compost piles. Soil food!! See, even though we enjoy our winter hibernation we still have gardening in our thoughts.
After a fine day of working mostly outdoors, it was time to come in, stoke the fires, and make some dinner. Dinner? Remember that salmon we caught ice fishing? Filleted, dredged in flour, salt, and pepper, then sauteed in butter…..the best!picture-3921

In The Making….

picture-3847Our household has always been big on handmade gifts. This year I have been busy in the kitchen and the studio creating a number of home crafted items…salted caramel sauce, loaves of cranberry bread and Christmas stollen, several pairs of knitted socks, and an assortment of salves, facial creams, and lip balms.Some members of the family like to wait until the last few days before Christmas before beginning their gift projects. Our son, Noah, is one of these people. He makes up for his ‘wait until the last minute’ approach however with his talent in woodworking. He pulled down some of the beautiful walnut boards we have been storing in the barn loft to make some pretty sharp looking cutting boards. They are beautiful! I am so glad this tradition of making gifts has been passed forward. Pleased that something offered to a friend or loved one does not require a day of shopping. A gift from the heart, time spent with others, laughter, and love, ….these are the things we cherish and pause for.
Happy Holidays everyone, hope they are filled with wonder and delight!

“Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas”. Calvin Coolidge

The Last Of The Leftovers

picture-3813 We are finally at the tail end of the Thanksgiving leftovers. A couple of pieces of pumpkin pie, a smidgen of stuffing, and enough turkey for one last sandwich. Then there is that bit of baked winter squash, an ample helping that no one seemed to be diving into. What do you do with a couple of cups of mashed winter squash? Bake bread!
Here’s a recipe you can follow for using up some cooked squash or pumpkin to make a delicious and healthy yeast bread:picture-3815

Dissolve 1 TBLS. of yeast in 1 cup of water. Let this sit in a warm spot for 10 minutes, until frothy. In a large bowl, mix 5 cups of flour, 1 1/2 cups of cornmeal, 1TBLS. salt. In another smaller bowl mix 1/3 cup molasses, 1 TBLS. olive oil, 1 cup of buttermilk at room temperature, 1/2 cup of mashed squashed. Add wet ingredients to dry, add yeast mixture. Stir well, then knead for about 7 minutes. put kneaded dough into a large oiled bowl and let sit in a warm spot until double in bulk….about 2 hrs. Punch down, form dough into two round loaves and place into bread baskets or into 2 large oiled glass bowls. Cover lightly and put into a warm resting spot until dough has risen. Gently invert dough onto baking sheet (sprinkle a bit of cornmeal onto the baking sheet), Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes.
Enjoy!

Home

picture-3771Home now from my trip away, though Ireland is still very fresh in my mind. The good friends I have made, the rolling green pastures, and the snow capped mountains are all still very present. Then, of course, there’s my time with donkeys, enough tea to float a 25-pound turkey (today is Thanksgiving!), and the great fun I have with Sally traipsing through farms and cow pastures, through gorse and over stone walls, like two wild children who have escaped school for the day. If we were children, I am certain we’d have a secret hideout built with found objects and discarded lumber, a place to tie our ponies and go off exploring the fields and woods, looking for treasures. Of course, we’d have a picnic basket full of goodies, just like the one we never leave without, to keep us well fed while ‘adventuring’. When we are together, my friend and I, although we are mid-life in age, we revert to our Huckleberry Finn/ Pippy Longstocking personalities. I’m so glad for that.
Now home and as I settle back into my familiar stomping grounds, I will join with loved ones to celebrate Thanksgiving. Family and friends will gather for a meal, some will come in from a long morning of hunting ready to fill their bellies with stuffing and cranberry sauce, others will have enjoyed a lazy morning preparing a side dish to bring over. I hope they stayed in their P.J’s while stirring pots. The house will be full of chatter, laughter, and hugs. I’ll be glad to be home. I am glad to be home. I love the landscape and the community that is felt in both places….Maine and Ireland. I love going to Ireland and feeling the acceptance of the people there, who are all so generous and welcoming. Jo Noonan, who I learn so much from. Cathy and Frank who invite me for dinner and share stories of their past. Charlie, of course, Charlie!, who one might like to tuck into their pocket to bring home….a long ride for my 91-year-old friend who has never stepped foot out of Ireland. I also love coming home to my tribe here, my friends and family, who really are the essence of home to me.
So much happening in the world, lots to be concerned about, work ahead of us all, but today I will focus on cooking a meal, listening to loved ones, and being grateful. Happy Thanksgiving, all.