Out in the country, property lines are not always perfect rectangles or squares. For our property, I imagine that breaking a few acres off of farmland involved odd surveying from 150+ year old lines combined with when the town added a road that used to be a driveway 100 years ago. So when they cleaved this land it had to be plots legally switched to rural residential. The hard thing about that is a) what in the world do you do with a point, b) add in township easements for plowing and roads and it is a weirder thing, and c) nobody thinks your land is a point and that it must be attached to these farm fields.
I Am lucky that in that pint there are also elderberries in there, Wild blackberries, nettles, ground ivy, white vervain, pineapple weed, motherwort, and cleavers. So I feel protective of that little rocky pile.
So, one of our plans is to create a split fence on both sides of the farmer easement (he gets a 30’ wide slot to pass through our land to access fields), Install signs, and plant into that area native flowers that are clearly intentional.
A future plan also includes plant walks and classes here as well as selling nursery starts of medicinals, so creating an area people can park is important so they don’t block the road. I would also love to Install a yurt if airstream up front as a workshop classroom guest room - maybe with a gazebo and outdoor pizza oven. Wouldn’t that be amazing?
So who has a farm sign? I’m thinking a farm sign up on that split fence would be good - and we can attach our certified wildlife habitat sign to that, monarch way station sign to that, and if we ever hear back on the botanical sanctuary application, the botanical sanctuary sign to that. Who has a good sign company that you are happy with?
Easements, pass throughs, zoning, odd shapes, and 150 year old rock piles is pretty normal in the world of rural living. Navigating that in a way that respects the land and plants living on it is a part of the rural juggling act. Working on it.
Odd shaped plots also makes drawing plans a challenge - the point is so long it is hard to get it to fit on standard paper without shrinking the rest down too much. Here is a plan with only part of the point!
We are over 70 days into our lockdown here, to keep our high risk people safe. Nobody has gone into a store or even for curbside. We use what we can have delivered (rurally), and have a quarantine process so we don't bring anything into the house. We live in the country so we have had to adjust a bit to get the things we need - particularly the gf/df/non-allergy things for Aidan, but we are doing really well and we are not really feeling anything too different since we already worked from home, homeschooled, and must be hyper-careful to protect Aidan from viruses in the winter. The biggest change has been that we cannot go to the Children's Hospital during this time, and Aidan is in limbo.
The good is that we are getting ourselves prepared for wave 2 and forward, including expanding our gardens to grow more herbs and food, to grow more fruit, and to include other necessities such as more potatoes, grains, oats, seeds. We are stocking up on canning supplies, fermentation supplies, grains, pectin, and other items in case there are shortages some day in the future. We had a cold storage room finished off last fall, and it is perfect for the large 5 gallon buckets of flour and dehydrated foods. I also store all the dried herbs in there so they are cool and dark. It will still double as a perfectly wonderful tornado shelter, too!
All of this happened when I was starting seeds, so we have just started even more. I also anticipated a bit, and had pre-ordered all of my seeds, soil, fertilizers (kelp, fish meal), etc., back in January. Whew! I also pre-ordered a 7x15' initial greenhouse which we are setting up as a permaculture forest greenhouse, where it will be an enclosed raised bed growing things that like staying hot, and doubling for seed starting in the spring. We were waiting for the spring winds to be done, and will put up the greenhouse this weekend.
I had planned to have people here in late May to help with planting, learning about medicinal herb growing, endangered native medicinals, and to help kickoff the open source plant walk project. With uncertainty in the future, I am planning on making a series of educational videos including plant walks, planting medicinals, harvesting and drying medicinal herbs, growing native plants, backyard conservation, and more. The open source plant walk project will also kickoff here with infrastructure to start, and pre-populating some items with the initial info on a directory of plants. I have applied for a few small grants to help get this project rolling, and will continue working on it with Brice so it can be shared to the world. I have started working on content and information as well as the wiki, and I think it will be a wonderful tool to be used by all.
I hope you are all doing well and hanging in there. Here is to health and happy seedlings.
Part of a whole foods pantry is kitchen staples, spices, and seasonings. Many pre-made mixes these days contain gluten or starches as fillers, not to mention spices that were ground up who knows how long ago and have lost their oomph. By mixing and grinding your own, you can create flavors and aromas for your foods that take your dishes to a whole new level. Also, buying bulk of individual spices to create your own blends can give significant savings over time, and come in much more affordable than the tiny individual jars at the store. Here are a few seasoning blend recipes to get you started.
Make enough for yourself, or double/triple the quantity and make to give. A coffee grinder dedicated to spices is great for creating fine blends from woody herbs and spices. Just use one dedicated to spices. If you don’t have that, a pestle and mortar will work, as will pulsing with a food processor (just might require a combination of both to get it fine).
Whether you use these to make a primary flavour or to sprinkle over the top, your dishes will never be the same. Plus, many spices and herbs have other properties that boost nutrition, digestion, and are anti-inflammatory. All a plus.
Garam Masala is a blend of spices often found in Indian and South Asian cuisines. Each region has their own blend, but the basics are fairly similar. This is a flavorful blend made with spices that can be found in most grocers or spice shops. Everything is listed by tablespoon and teaspoon because it doesn’t have to be exact. Use this as a guide. Garam masala is so good in rice dishes; added to soups and stews, and sprinkled over anything you roast in the oven.
3 Tbsp coriander seeds
1 ½ Tbsp cumin seeds
1 Tbsp sweet cinnamon chips (or a soft woody cinnamon stick)
2 tsp cloves
3 bay leaves
1 tsp cardamom pods (green)
½ tsp peppercorn (I like a variety of peppercorn types)
1 tsp dried ginger
½ of a nutmeg
Optional: 1-2 juniper berries
Toast all of the spices together on a medium-high skillet, gently, stirring. Be sure not to burn but just toast to release the aroma. Once the spices are warm and toasted, pour them into your spice blender and whiz until you have a powder. Store in an airtight container.
This lemon pepper is more than just the generic salt from the store. This is a blend of salt, pepper, rosemary, lemon zest and peppercorns. It is very aromatic and is fantastic over meats before grilling or in a salad dressing.
Zest of 3-4 lemons (if tiny, use 4)
1/3 cup/80 mL of various peppercorns
5 large sprigs of fresh rosemary
½ cup/120 mL of celtic sea salt
Zest your lemons. Whiz your pepper, rosemary, and lemon zest in a food processor to crack the peppercorns and blend. Spread onto a parchment lined sheet and place into a 225ºF/100C (Gas Mark ¼) oven for 20-30 minutes until dry. Once the lemon zest and rosemary are fully dry, pour into a food processor or spice grinder and blend more finely before stirring into your ½ cup of sea salt. Store in an airtight container.
Dukka is an Egyptian mix of herbs, nuts, and spices. This version is nut free so it is safe for nut-free homes. This uses pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds instead of the nuts, giving the dukka a rich, deep, flavor. It is delicious as a crust for meats, as a dip with bread and olive oil, or simply sprinkled over vegetables, salads, or soups.
1 tsp sunflower seeds
¼ cup/60 mL white toasted sesame seeds
½ cup/120mL pumpkin seeds
2 Tbsp coriander seeds
1 Tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 bay leaf
In a dry skillet on medium-high, toast your coriander, peppercorns, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame, cumin seeds, and bay. Stir often, so they don’t burn. You are toasting to warm to release the aroma and oils. Pulse all of your toasted ingredients in a food processor or spice grinder with the smoked paprika. Pulse until you have the consistency you prefer. Coarse is great for dishes, more fine is wonderful for bread and olive oil appetizers. Store in an airtight container.
Making your own spice blends and pantry staples can be very easy and the reward is so much more flavorful than you can find in most grocery stores.
I am a certified aromatherapist, clinical herbalist, organic gardener, plant conservationist, photographer, writer, designer, artist, nature lover, whole foods maker, and mother of two unschooled boys in south central Wisconsin.