Closing the Delray Post Office

Yesterday we witnessed the end of an era.  Not a big historic event affecting lots of people, but a significant event for our little community.

Post card to self, stamped on last day of business.

Post card to self, stamped on last day of business.

The United States Postal Service (USPS) decided that our darling little post office was no longer economically viable, and citing other concerns regarding the structure it was housed in, they stated it would be impossible to continue here.

Edna, the last Delray Post Master

Edna, the last Delray Post Master

We have had a box at this post office for fourteen years.  Since they would not deliver to our remote location (they still won’t) they forced us to pay annually for a box in order to receive our mail.  Instead of a P.O. box, they will be delivering to cluster boxes at the end of roads.   Similarly to the local school system, they are closing the buildings in the local communicites, and consolidating them into new (dare I say expensive) centralized buildings.  As we witness the expense of installation of the new cluster boxes throughout the area, we seriously doubt the USPS’s financial concerns.

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This adorable building that should be on post cards has been the heart of the community, the last business in a tiny town where you could have chance meetings with neighbors and catch up on each others’ lives.  Instead, we will be going at least another six miles in order to buy stamps and send packages.  USPS saves, we lose.

Sincere thanks to the wonderful people who ran the post office and were so kind, careful and helpful.  First to Debbie who ran the post office for decades.  She was followed by Edna, who was relieved on her days off by Darlene.  We are grateful to each of you :)

Side view with Portalet. The building had no running water!

Side view with Portalet. The building had no running water!

 

 

 

July Farm Life

A large pot of pasta sauce is simmering on the stove to be canned later.  Rows of jars of beans and other vegetables already line up on cellar shelves to be consumed during the winter months.   Two of the children have poison ivy – all signs of summer.

It’s only July – the middle of the summer, and we are already thinking about the cold months.  It seems strange to not stop and just enjoy the moment, but taking time to pause would be a luxury when there is so much work to do as the harvest starts pouring in!

 

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All the ingredients in the pasts sauce are from our garden – even the oregano, parsley and basil.  We use the book Putting Food By (PFB) as our reference for safe canning, but I confess I really call it the Paranoid Food Book, since its author wrote the entire book about canning while constantly talking about how dangerous it is.  Her favorite bit of advice seems to be to can a food exactly to her specifications and then throw it away…. :)

 

Indigo Cherry Tomoatoes beginning to ripen

Indigo Cherry Tomatoes beginning to ripen

As we harvest areas we replant for fall crops.   Hopefully, we will harvest beans from these plants until the weather cools.   Speaking of cooling weather, today will only be 73 degrees thanks to the second July polar vortex that is dropping cool Canadian air into our area.

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Our onion harvest has met challenges.  We laid them out on a table to dry and form their outer skin that protects them for storage.   Who knew that sheep love onions?  I didn’t, at least until I found them devouring the onions as if at a banquet.   We saved just enough for the next few batches of pasta sauce.

The garden expansion project continues.  We pulled a permit last week for the small tool shed I had proposed.  My husband has held contractor licenses in several states and has done projects in some of the most rigorous jurisdictions, including Alexandria, VA.  But, up until now he has never had to pull a permit for a tiny tool shed/agricultural building.  It is sad that Hampshire County has such excessive reach into the life of its residents.  He started the shed yesterday using a window and materials recycled from past jobs, and I look forward to sharing a picture of it when it is done.

I’m off to the kitchen.

 

How to Lay Pavers for a Patio

As part of our 2014 garden expansion, we added a pond with waterfall.  In order to enjoy the beautiful, serene koi and goldfish, we planned a small patio made with pavers so that we can sit and enjoy the surroundings.

Pond with assorted Koi and Goldfish

Pond with assorted Koi and Goldfish

We cleared an area at the lower end of the pond and have placed rocks at the edges to contain the dirt and “blue stone,” a type of crushed stone dust available at hardward stores.  Blue stone, or stone dust, can be leveled and compacted and makes a durable under-surface for pavers and stones.

Stones show future edges.  Also note tool called a tamper.

Stones show future edges. Also note tool called a tamper.

Start backfilling some dirt into the area that will be raised for the patio surface.  If you are making your patio  flush with the ground, omit this step.  If making it flush, you will have to dig down and make a level area.  Plan on about two inches of stone dust and add the thickness of your pavers or stones, and this will give the the depth to dig.  In our example above, we are building up the level to accommodate the natural slope in the garden.

Whether you have dug down or added, it is important to make sure that your surface is level.

Checking with a level.

Checking with a level.

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Now it’s time to add the blue stone or stone dust.  A small two by four can help spread the stone.

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Check again with a level.  A surface that appears level can still be off.

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Tamp your surface again firmly.

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We have now prepared a good surface to bedding the pavers.  The pavers are going to be set at a random pattern to imitate cobble stone streets in Europe.  Even the pavers are in assorted colors in order to give a more historic feel.

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If necessary, you can cut pavers with this tool, available to rent at many tool rental places.

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Once you have laid the final pavers, pour a bag of stone dust onto the surface of your pavers.  Take a stiff broom and push as much stone dust between the stones as possible.  This significantly firms up the surface and will stabilize your patio, in addition to giving it a finished look.  We do not recommend sand for this step as it will eventually wash out between the stone when it rains.

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Here is the finished patio.  Small, so that it does not take up valuable garden space, and perfect for intimate dinners and conversation over a glass of wine.

If you ‘d prefer to have one of these installed, please click on the Culver Design Build, Inc. link for more information!

Edible Weeds

I have been fortunate to meet special people, such as Eva Taylor of Ironwood farm who introduced me to permaculture.  Recently, I have gotten to know another amazing person, who has expanded my appreciation of nature and the garden, Leenie Hobbie.

Leenie and I share several mutual friends and I have often heard the statement, “you’ve got to meet Leenie Hobbie!”  She is a frequent guide for “Weed Walks” in our area, teaching people about the local flora and showing people how to identify edible plants. 

Fortunately, Leenie and I finally connected and we spent some time in my garden, which I admit is not entirely weed free.  Perhaps my German heritage makes me more fastidious about it than I need to be, but there were definitely  more than enough weed samples to be found.  I’ve always felt that their existence in my garden was a source of irritation, taking up precious space for my darling cultivated plants.  Until Leenie’s visit.

She quickly identified several edible varieties and even knew their nutrients and historic medicinal use.  She described how they could be used in cooking, and those loathsome plants suddenly turned into recipe potential!  Lambs quarters in quiche?  Sounds delicious!

Invader or Ingredient?

Invader or Ingredient?

Since her visit, we’ve gathered various types and even made “weed chips”  Collecting the leaves of a thorny vine called Greenbriar that Leenie showed me, we fried them in olive oil, producing a delightful crispy treat.  And I am willing to tolerate more weeds in my garden, and am even finding some favorite tasting ones, such as Purslane.

Leenie has a delightful and informational  blog, 3 Herb Mamas, that I encourage you to follow, and I am placing it on my list of favorite blog links.  She is also creating an Etsy store for her herb-based creams and salves, so stay posted for when that is launched!

Spring Harvest

I had a wonderful day yesterday, planting and foraging in the garden, and enjoying the first substantial harvests for the year.  Yes, we’ve picked things here and there, some salads and herbs, but we are finally seeing the fruits of all our March, April and May labors, providing a June feast! 

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You may remember our post about growing potatoes in stackable boxes…yesterday I pulled the forms and found early spring potatoes.  They are crunchier when harvested freshly and become softer and creamier when cooked.    Here they are lightly boiled and then fried in Spectrum Organics Palm Oil Shortening.

 

Red Norland Spring Potatoes

Red Norland Spring Potatoes

The children enjoyed juice from the first batch of Nanking Bush Cherries.  Since the berries are difficult to pit, we boil them in water to release their juices, add a little organic sugar and the children pour this over ice cubes for a refreshing drink.  The additional benefit of Nanking Bush Cherries is that they make a wonderful edible shrub or privacy hedge :)

Picking Nanking Bush Cherries

Picking Nanking Bush Cherries

While we’ve already been enjoying the butter head lettuce Four Seasons, yesterday I harvested our first white Radicchio and they two combined made a delightful and completely non-bitter salad.  Four Seasons is showing off with its brilliant  red accents.

White Radicchio and Lettuce of Four Seasons

White Radicchio and Lettuce of Four Seasons

The Chicken is a broiler raised here on our farm.  It spent over six hours on the smoker yesterday with fresh herbs – thyme, sage and oregano – placed under its skin and in the cavity.   It makes a tender supper and amazing chicken salad. 

Smoked Chicken with Herbs

Smoked Chicken with Herbs

I hope these will encourage those who haven’t yet given gardening at try! 

 

 

Sustainable Seed Company Code!

june row garden

 

Go to this post for the newest code!  2015 Code!

Spring arrived late for most of us on the Eastern sideboard of the U.S., and our gardens have not progressed very far yet. So it may come as a surprise that it’s almost time for fall planting!

In Eliot Coleman’s excellent book Four Season Harvest (in our amazon store), he provides extensive charts for varieties of vegetables that are winter hardy and ideal for extending your growing and harvesting season. Additional charts show planting times for each vegetable – and guess what? We are only two weeks away from the first planting times for our zone! Uh oh!

First, take a look at the handy map on page 208 which shows the last frost date for your area, give or take a few days. For us, it shows October 10, but being on a southern exposure we tend to be a bit warmer. Going to Table 16 Planting Dates for an Extended Harvest on page 206 we scan across to the October 10 column and find that beans, beets, cabbage, and all sort of other plants should be planted in June for an extended harvest. Referring to the tables on page 94 shows that planting cold frame crops for fall and winter consumption starts in June as well.

Fortunately, the nice people over at Sustainable Seed Company can help. Once again, they are providing a discount code for Meduseld readers. You can get your root parsley, lettuce and swiss chard, radicchio, mache’ and cabbages from a trusted organic source.  Use the discount code Meduseld0614 (no spaces) for a ten percent discount off any order over $20.00!  Code is good until June 14, 2014.

And according to Theo Bill at Sustainable Seed Co… “Do you have any followers who are bigger growers?  I.e., might order a 1/4 lb. or more of things?  If so, perhaps you might  include a link to our bulk page?  We have over 750 varieties available in larger sizes for the larger gardens.  Don’t know, but if that’s the case, the bulk page is here:  http://sustainableseedco.com/bulk-heirloom-seed/  Otherwise, just the homepage (http://sustainableseedco.com) is good for a link.”

 

Long Island Project Assist Autism Knit-a-Thon – Yarn on Sale!

Meduseld has donated yarn for the 6th Annual Long Island Project Assist Knit-a-thon.  Here is the description from The Village Knitter group on Ravelry.

Sunday, June 8th Knit-a-Thon! Long Island Project Assist will be sponsoring their Sixth Annual Knit-a-Thon at the shop to raise awareness and donations for the developmentally disabled and autistic population they service. Come join us or make a donation directly online. Long Island Project Assist supports the YAI Network and works hard to ensure that people with developmental and learning disabilities have access to the support and services that they need to live productive, independent and healthy lives.

In honor of the event, the two yarns Meduseld has donated will be on sale in the Meduseld store.  They are two of the sport weight Romney yarns in Monet’s Reflection  and  Monet’s Winter Sunset.  Normally $13.50 a skein, they are now only $10.00 each until June 10, 2014, or until stock runs out, whichever occurs first.

If you’d like to donate directly to the Knit-A-Thon, use this link.

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Meals at Meduseld – Rotisserie Chicken Recipe

This is a recipe for a very easy and flavorful chicken.

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The first step is to make a marinade.  Blend:

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup Balsamic Vinegar

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 heaping tablespoon Herbes de Provence

Opinion differs on the exact ingredients in an Herbes de Provence mix, but the one I use contains marjoram/oregano, lavender, rosemary, thyme and tarragon.

Place this mix in a large bowl, and marinate a large broiler chicken for several hours, turning and basting periodically so that all sides receive the marinade.

Truss the chicken with cotton string.  It is important to tie the wings and legs close to the body so that they do not move around on the rotisserie, causing it to go out of balance as it turns.

Place the chicken in the rotisserie and cook for 2-3 hours (depending on the size of your bird) at 400 degrees until done. 

I have a very basic West Bend model.  It does a superb job and even handles our large 6-7 lb chickens.

 

2014 Lambs for Sale

Meduseld had lovely lambs again this spring and we are making some of them available for those who would like to purchase diverse breeds with good fleeces.

Blue-eyed Friesian Cross

Blue-eyed Friesian Cross

Breeds represented include Romney and Romney crosses, Dorset Down Crosses, Friesian crosses, and Jacobs.  The Romney are known for their luxurious shiny wool.  The Dorset Downs are not to be confused with Dorset meat sheep.  The Dorset Downs produce an exceptionally soft wool.  The Friesian are dairy sheep with soft, shorter fleeces and they have contributed to the soft yarn made here.  Finally, the Jacobs and Jacob crosses show the characteristic spots as well as resistance to parasites.

Romney

Romney

Some of these are extremely tame bottle fed babies, and others have been raised here by their mothers.   White, black and spotted sheep are available.  All have been wormed.  Prices range from $100 to $350.

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Please call (304) 496-9502 to set up an appointment to see our lambs!