The first green gleanings from the garden go into this savory soup!
Spring's green things are surging up in the gardens around the Cottage. Good things. Healthful things. And things I want to eat! So I went a-gathering and this is what I came up with.
Recipe: Spring Gleanings Green Soup (serves 4)
2 cups fresh nettles, chopped
1 cup fresh dandelion leaves, chopped
1/2 cup chopped leeks, sliced
6 cups water, chicken, or vegetable broth
4 potatoes, washed, peeled, and diced (if the potatoes are organic you may wish to leave the skins on)
1/2 cup onion greens, sliced
1/8 cup garlic greens, sliced
Salt & pepper to taste
Dash of red pepper flakes, if desired
Drizzle of olive oil, pat of butter, or a bit of coconut oil, optional
Pour the water or broth into a large sauce pan. Add the diced potatoes and sliced leeks. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
Add the chopped nettles, dandelion leaves, green onions, and garlic greens.
Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Simmer soup until potatoes are tender. Using a hand held potato masher, mash the soup until about half the potatoes are mashed, leaving some in chunks. Serve the soup hot with a drizzle of olive oil, butter, or a teaspoon or two of coconut oil. The hot soup will melt the coconut oil.
This soup is hearty, savory, satisfying, and just right after a winter of frozen, canned, and dehydrated foods. It's a tonic soup that's filled with healthful greens from the garden.
I grow two kinds of perennial "scallions". One type is a true scallion sometimes called a "bunching" onion. The other type is the Egyptian topsetting onion which is a scallion-like green onion that grows small clusters of onion bulbs at the tops of its greens .Both types are quick to emerge from dormancy early in Spring.
The garlic planted last Fall is just now sending up its green, strappy leaves. I snipped some of the leaves for the soup.
Dandelion leaves were snipped from plants in the front gardens. While I gathered the dandelions the Chicken Girls were hopping up and down at the gate dancing for some dandelions.
Taking pity on the Girls, I gathered them some too, and tossed them over the gate. They skirmished madly for their share.
Once upon a time, I had dandelions growing in the back garden but the Girls have eaten them all over the past several years. Chickens love young, tender dandelion leaves which are good for them and make their eggs extra nutritious.
Then, I went into the kitchen garden for some stinging nettles planted there. Spring nettle greens, newly emerged from their Winter mulch of leaves, are tasty, healthy, and full of green goodness, vitamins, and minerals. These calcium-rich greens are a welcome addition to spring soups, casseroles, pasta dishes, and teas. Spring nettles don't pack as much of a sting as they will later in the season.
Gather the nettles by grasping their leaf tips and snipping the tops with scissors. The stems are more likely to sting than the tender top leaves. Later in the season wearing gloves prevents getting stung. However, if the nettles are approached with respect and care they can be easily gathered without gloves.
The sting of nettles becomes less frightening the more one works with them. I believe that the fear of the sting is worse than the actual sensation which to me feels more like a buzzing than a stinging. The sensation can last for several hours and can be allieviated with aloe vera gel if it seems troublesome.
Steaming, boiling, sauteing, and steeping the nettle leaves and tender young stems removes the sting. As soon as the leaves and stems wilt down the sting is gone. Nettles make a great, green tea...or a nice healthful addition to green or herbal teas, as well.
The leeks I used for the soup were harvested last Fall, sliced and frozen. The potatoes were purchased from the market as I've run out of potatoes harvested from last Fall's garden.
I make this soup every spring several times. It's mineral- and vitamin-rich, tasty, and satisfying. I look forward to it all Winter! And finally, finally, after a long Winter, it's time to make and enjoy it!
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Things are coming out of Winter dormancy!
On this side of the front garden walkway iris, tansy, daffodils, muscari, centranthus, yarrow, native grasses, and more are re-emerging from their Winter dormancy. Within just a few weeks the gardens will be lush and blooming!
Just a couple of weeks ago the gardens were deadheaded and weeded. Things looked pretty barren, but now there is green popping up all over the place!
In the Fall a bit of deadheading and garden clean up is done. Most of the clean up, however, is left until early Spring to allow limbs and leaves to protect and insulate dormant plants against Winter's snow and cold. It's in the Springtime that the major garden cleaning up occurs.
Winter-killed foliage and leaves are trimmed down to the ground, chopped, and left around the bases of plants as a mulch to nourish plants as it decays, and to help hold in moisture by protecting the soil from evaporation. Free mulch. From your own plants. A good, green, frugal idea!
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While bubble bath is relatively inexpensive - I really love luxury soaps.
Those scented, triple-milled, creamy, foamy...expensive soaps, are my weakness. My nirvana. My personal luxury. For me, they are worth making my own laundry soap and household cleaners (inexpensive...and fewer icky, noxious chemicals); re-purposing, re-cycling, re-using - almost everything; re-covering my own furniture; buying many things gently used; growing my own food (cheaper, healthier, organic, etc.); shopping for bargains, and more!
To me, a well-appointed bath - fluffy, white Egyptian cotton towels, luxury soaps, are a personal ambience that is important, essential, needful to my well-being.
I love a glass or two of good champagne, once in awhile. While I don't spend money on really expensive champagne (there was once a time when I did!) I buy and enjoy moderately good champagne. Never, the cheap stuff. I've had good, really good champagne! So, I know that price is not the only indicator of a great champagne. There are excellent moderately-priced champagnes out there that rival the expensive stuff. I won't name names...as preferences are a matter of personal taste!
I like it - Brut. Lots of tiny bubbles. Ice cold in a hot bath or sitting in the garden. Or, sitting in front of the fireplace. Or...just sitting!
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A habit of acquisition can lead to too much stuff and credit card debt. Over time I conquered my habit of acquisition and, as an added bonus...credit card debt. By embracing Elective Frugality both these problems have been alleviated. It was a long road home to a more balanced and debt-free lifestyle, but it was worth it.
I gradually sank into credit card debt when I retired on 38% of my salary...and my spending habits remained the same.
Three credit cards all with high limits and I had used all three lavishly and often. I realized that I already had every thing (!) I needed to be happy and comfortable, and therefore had no good reason to be in so much debt. In fact, I had too many things!
The problem was my longtime habit of acquisition built up and liberally and unceasingly fed for several decades - a habit I had not altered although my circumstances had changed when I retired.
Realizing that my spending habit was needless and getting me deeper in trouble, I decided to do something about it. Immediately!
Looking up the interest rates on my credit cards, I selected the one that had the highest rate...around 29%. Ridiculously, scandalously, criminally high - yet legal! Right?
I was essentially contributing to a corporation's wealth at the risk of my own! I started making extra payments on the high interest card while continuing to make the minimum payments on the other two. It took time, several years, in fact, to pay off that first card.
Then, the next card, with about 19% interest was on the chopping block. This card paid down quicker by making extra payments along with the approximate minimum payment I'd been making on it. Finally, the last card - about 13% interest - and this one was paid off in a little over a year. Between five and six years to pay off these cards! And, I'm glad I did, too. It was freeing on a number of levels. Peace of mind being one.
I've heard that canceling a credit card account negatively affects your credit score, better to simply cut the card up so you won't be tempted use it, but maintain the account. Also, it helps to not use the credit cards while you pay them off!
I have kept only one of those original three cards for active use that earns discounts for on-line purchases I make...used only occasionally.
My absolutely unbreakable rule, now, is to never, never, ever charge more on either card than I can easily and comfortably pay off, in total, at the end of the month in which the item/s were charged. I don't pay interest on anything to anyone! Ever.
Collecting interest on savings accounts, investments, etc., now that's a different story! Ever notice that the interest you pay a corporation is vastly higher than interest you earn from corporations? This is no accident!
I now embrace the concept of "elective frugality". I buy what I truly need when I need it. And, I've re-evaluated what constitutes a need.
Food. Shelter. Security. Comfort. These are needs. Everything else is elective on a graduated scale. Excess stuff. Stuff I don't use. Won't use. Or, that has an "emotional" appeal is no longer in the "need" category.
Re-cycling. Re-purposing. Re-using. These are my new rules for acquisition the majority of the time.
The concept of Elective Frugality is that I restrain my spending in most areas so that I can afford to buy the few things I really love (these will be shared in the next post).
It's wonderful to be able to purchase a few really special things. Luxuries.
We all need a little luxury from time to time lest life begin to feel...impoverished, grinding, harsh. This bit of luxury is the "elective" part of frugality. The problem arises when we lavish ourselves with luxury - needlessly, thoughtlessly - going into debt (danger) to do so.
Luxury, when selectively, thoughtfully, indulged in feels...just right. And, we maintain our financial freedom from debt! And that feels right, too!
To purchase a luxury without going into credit card debt and the worry and guilt such debt entails makes a luxury item all the more enjoyable.
There is freedom from credit card debt! The road back to financial freedom from the bondage of credit card debt is hard and takes commitment. But, it's well worth the journey.
Each time you make an extra payment toward a debt-free future - and finally, finally pay down that last credit card - is a celebration, a move toward financial peace, personal plenty, and real security.
The real luxury, that leads to other luxuries, is freedom from credit card debt!
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Each Fall, when the Red Rome Beauty apples are ripe and red, I save a few from the harvest to make homemade apple brandy. The brandy steeps for about six weeks, then is drained off the apples and bottled.
The brandy infused apples are then canned for making tarts, pies, galettes, and cakes. The Brandy may also be made at Winter's end when stored apples are beginning to soften up a bit.
The apple brandy tastes like liquid apple pie. With a kick! It's warming on cold, snowy or rainy days. Warmed slightly it is soothing if you have a cold. Add a pat of butter to the warmed brandy to help soothe a sore throat, too.
Recipe: Apple Brandy (makes approximately 1-1/2 pints)
2 cups brandy
1 cup granulated sugar
1 quart chopped, cored, unpeeled apples
1 or two cinnamon sticks
Gently heat one cup of the brandy - don't boil - and the one cup of sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Meanwhile, prepare your apples and place them into a one-quart canning jar along with the cinnamon stick. Pour the unsweetened cup of brandy over the apples followed by the cup of sweetened brandy. Put on a lid and set it in a cool, dark cupboard for six weeks.
After six weeks drain the brandy off the apples. You may run the brandy through a coffee filter or several layers of cheesecloth. This will help clarify it. Pour the brandy into a decorative container. It's ready to drink or give as a gift.
Don't throw those brandy-infused apples away! Make a light syrup (2-1/4 cups sugar to 5-1/4 cups water). Place the syrup in a medium saucepan and heat to a boil. While the syrup comes to a boil have a sterile canning jar, lid and band ready. Place the brandied apples into the jar. Pour the hot syrup over the apples leaving about 1/4-inch headroom. Apply the lid and band firmly, but not too tight.
Process in a hot water bath (pints or quarts) for 20 minutes, adding one additional minute for each 1,000 feet above sea level for your location.
When cool, wipe the jars with a damp cloth, label and store in a cupboard or pantry, until needed.
Recipe: Brandied Apple Galette: (Serves 4 to 8)
Preheat oven to 425-degrees.
One quart jar of canned, brandied apples
One pastry crust, your favorite or ready made
1/2 cup sugar
2-1/2 TBS flour
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup juice/syrup from the canned apples
1 TBS butter
1/2 tsp turbinado or granulated sugar as a garnish
Drain the apples and set aside in a medium mixing bowl, reserving 1/3 cup of their liquid. Place the liquid in a small sauce pan with the 1/2 cup sugar and the 2-1/2 TBS flour and the cinnamon. Whisk to mix well and bring to a boil, cooking and gently stirring, until thickened. Set the thickened mixture aside and allow it to cool slightly while you prepare the pastry.
Roll out the pastry into a round and place it on a rimmed cookie sheet or pizza pan.
Gently stir the thickened liquid into the apples and spoon this mixture onto the center of the pastry. Dot the apples with butter.
Fold the edges of the pastry part way over the apples so you have a pastry rim about 1-1/2 inches folded over. Sprinkle with the sugar garnish.
Place the pan with the galette into the oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the pastry is golden.
When done, remove the galette from the oven and allow it to cool on its pan. When cooled the galette may be slid onto a serving plate.
Serve with a small glass of apple brandy!
The brandied apples are apple-pie delicious, with a mellow brandy flavor.
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Yesterday's big snow storm - Winter's last gasp (?) - melted away this morning and left these behind!
Yesterday was, officially, the last day of Winter. We had gray skies, snow and more snow. And, all through it, bright daffodils held Spring's promise in the garden, their wee, sunny heads bowed low by several inches of cold snow. Last night a heavy snow storm blanketed the gardens and Cottage in white. Winter trying to maintain its control, I think.
A couple of weeks ago I saw my first robin. That is a sure sign that Spring is coming. Yesterday, through a thickening veil of snow, as I made an egg delivery to the Zenger's farm, I heard a sure sign that Spring is here - the melody of the Meadow Lark.
When I hear the lark's song I know that the season has turned. The juxtaposition of snow, lark song, wind, and bright daffodils. Spring is surely a time of opposites and rapid change.
This morning dawned bright and sunny. Blue skies prevailed and by noon most of the snow had melted away. It left behind, in a small pocket of the front garden, a patch of white crocus, blooming. With their bright yellow stamens they remind me of fluffy, fried eggs. A gift of yesterday's snow? A celebration of Spring? That, and much more!
Today is the first day of Spring. The Spring Equinox. The long Winter is over. We'll still have the occasional snow storms into April and even beyond. Sometimes. Yet, a corner has been turned and there's no going back. Snow may come but it won't stay long.
Even the chickens whose toes ventured into snow this morning as they left their coop are strutting in a snowless back garden this afternoon. The chickens seem particularly cocky today. Do they know that Winter's grip has loosened?
The lawn is greening up, as is the alfalfa in the field across the road! Tansy, iris, catmint, flax, and day lilies are re-emerging in the gardens. Brown and dormant are turing to green and alive! Even the moss on the front walk is...green! Yesterday's snow has melted clear back to the mountains beyond.
The Meadow Lark sings of Spring! I breathe a sigh of relief. We've made it through another Winter.
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On this gray, snow-threatened day, clumps of bright daffodils filled this narrow garden next to the porch with jaunty sunshine. Snow came and went all day long, melting even as it fell.
Later, while upstairs, I could hear it the snow plonking on the rooftop...but wait, isn't snowfall silent?
Not if it's popcorn snow!
Popcorn snow is not icy like hail. But it is round! Yet it is soft, sticky - sort of styrofoamy, even - and it bounces when it hits the ground. Or a rooftop.
In the photo above, the air is "foggy" with tiny balls of popcorn snow. The chickens have taken refuge in the block barn where they are safe and dry.
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When I was a kid I never thought I had enough stuff. In reality, I did. Then as a young adult I set about fulfilling the responsibility of acquisition. I got a good job and soon acquired a new car (my first brand new, not used car!). A home was the next achieved goal, along with furnishings. Then, I began to imbue my life with the outer emblems of success - good wine, food, nice clothes - lots and lots of shoes! Purses and handbags to match. Jewelry. Luxury vacations. An RV. A desert vacation property. More stuff. And, then even more stuff!
This went on for years. Soon I was renting a storage space to house the excess stuff that didn't fit in my home or garage! I had developed and nurtured the habit of acquisition.
Some years ago I re-evaluated my acquisition habit and got rid of enough stuff to close the storage unit. Over the years I've continued to clutter-clear and still I find new layers of stuff to get rid of. Stuff I no longer need or want.
And, presently I'm currently involved in another major clutter-clearing operation. I've been a clutter-buster for some years now, but this time I'm plunging into layers of stuff whose presence in my home I've never questioned. Most has to do with items from my past. Things I've mindlessly dragged from home to home. Items that once defined who I was, but don't do so anymore. Items that are simply taking up space in drawers and closets. Items reeking of nostalgia that are simply gathering dust. Artifacts. Things that at my age, are entering the realm of...well, antiques! A scary thought...
Too, as I've become older I'm realizing that my life is not defined by what I own, what brand name it carries, it's cost, or even by how much stuff I have or can flaunt. I've become more comfortable in my own persona. And, I'm definitely happier with less to store, dust, clean, move, stumble over, insure, etc. While, I can't claim to be a minimalist, or ever aspire to becoming one, I am inspired by the concept of minimalism.
Now, if I see a must-have decorating or garden item in a magazine or catalogue - instead of whipping out my credit card or some cash - I put on my thinking cap and mentally text my Muse to see how I might be able to achieve a similar look by reusing or re-purposing what I already have, or recycling something I've found or been given. If you don't have something on hand, thrift stores or constructing it yourself are always great, creative budget-minded options.
This plan won't work with everything, such as the solar lights I just bought for the back garden. However, I did get them on sale!
I find too, that I enjoy being creative, as well as the products of my creativity, far more than if I'd simply bought the item. Creating something yourself invests it with emotional energy and a kind of "life". Don't we all love the unique, the homemade, the one-of-a-kind?
The act of creation allows us to channel our inner artist and do-it-yourselfer!
Ask yourself these questions - I do - when the urge to charge something on a credit card arises...or to purchase that "something" I don't really need.
Why do I want it? This is a biggy! I'm constantly surprised by the real reasons why I want something! Often it has very little to do with actual need!
Do I have room for it? Can I get rid of something to make room for it? Will I need to rent ($) additional storage to make room for it or the item/s it displaces? Paying to store...stuff...especially unused stuff just isn't anything I want to do anymore.
Do I really need it? (Very important question!)
How is the acquisition of this thing (especially if it's expensive) going to improve my life? Allow me to live debt free? Make me a better person? Allow me to work fewer hours? Spend more time with loved ones?
In acquiring this thing, am I doing so to impress others? (Why must we spend money to impress others, anyway, and do they really notice or care?)
Can I acquire the item without incurring credit card debt? (Very important!)
Can I acquire the look without spending a lot, or any, money? (It's very likely that you can).
I have adopted a few rules to replace my former habit of acquisition...
If I must buy something I make a point to choose quality. The very best quality my budget allows. Your budget may allow you to choose something nicer. Do so.
Always choose lasting quality over temporary fads.
Never pay interest to anyone on anything, for any reason except in an emergency...like your fridge has a melt down and it's Saturday and you can't get to the bank to take the money out of savings!!! PS...then pay off the loan the following Monday!
Always, always have money saved for a rainy day. It will eventually rain, you know.
Carefully, evaluate all expenditures...and desires to spend. The momentary "high" of acquisition can become the long "groan" of credit card debt. (I learned this firsthand and escaped it)!
Acquire only what you need. Form and function, a sublime partnership.
Surround yourself with beauty. On a budget. Nature can help out...for free!
Savor every moment, and when you forget to do so, pointedly remind yourself to do it. Savoring will soon become a habit!
Nurture yourself. This is as important as nurturing your loved ones.
One last recommendation...enrich yourself. Corporations are doing just fine without your...or my...contributions. And, you won't need to pay for extra storage for all that stuff they're telling us we need!
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