Friday, June 23, 2017
 

Gardening

Housewifery

Yesterday I wrote a second part to my writing about Farmers Cheese. Well, my email machine got stuck when I was sending it out. So I had to unplug it and I lost my writing. So I am going to write about Farmers Cheese again.

Farmers cheese is a homestead cheese to make at home. Other cheeses are hard to make at home. But Cottage cheese and Farmers Cheese traditionally were made at home in the old days. These cheeses got their names from the words home. Cottage meaning home or Farmers cheese meaning on the farm and not made in a factory. And most cheese starts out as cottage cheese or Farmers cheese. I mean you could make Colby cheese and Swiss cheese and all at home. But traditionally most folks didn’t, as they were too hard to make. I have never tried to make any kind except the easier kinds.

You can make cheese from cows milk or goat milk. After you make your cottage cheese, you just drain it and put it in a colander or potato strainer lined with a white thin dish towel. Then pour the cottage cheese in. And if you want an herbed cheese, then put the salt and herbs in when it is still cottage cheese. Then take the towel and swoop it up around the cheese, making a sack out of it. Squeeze the water out of it by wringing the top and squeezing the cottage cheese to get the liquid or whey out. Squeeze it out good. And then, if it is a cool day, you can clamp your sack of cheese with a big safety pin or a small rope. Make it tight and secure. Then go out and hang the sack on the clothes line for the day. If ya got cool weather, just leave it out there a few days. Not freezing weather but just a bit warmer. Then bring it in and, if it is still kinda wet, then put it back in the colander and lay a clean brick on the top for overnight in the fridge. This will squeeze the rest of the water out and it will drain good. Be sure to keep this cheese cool as you are waiting to get the water out.

I made a cheese once that nearly killed me. But I didn’t keep it cool. I left it hanging in my kitchen a few weeks. Oh! My gosh, I am alive to tell it? It tasted like kerosene cheese?

Well, anyway, this Farmers Cheese will get hard and you can slice it. You can even make a rind for it out of paraffin. Just pour the warm paraffin over the cheese and it will make a rind and it will last longer. If you had a lot of milk and wanted to make a lot of cheese that wouldn’t be eaten right away, I would do the paraffin thing to keep it sealed and fresh. Still keep it in a cool place. But if you are just making one batch for the family, then I wouldn’t use the paraffin.

Now there are, I am sure, websites that will tell you how to make Cottage Cheese and Farmers Cheese. I would tell you how I make cottage cheese but you wouldn’t believe me, anyway. The recipes out there are way to complicated for my blood. They put in buttermilk and do this and that. And they cut the curd in nice squares and all. I don’t do any of that.

But ya know, now is the time to gather knowledge and experiment with making cheeses. I always, as a young wife, just wanted to know how to do all of this stuff. I wanted to make cheese enough to be able to say I knew how. And I sure learned how NOT to make it. I think we need confidence as Christian Homemakers. That if our family was to fall on hard times, we would have the confidence to know we could make it, anyway.

One thing I would sure recommend for this spring is to make a perennial garden. This means to plant stuff that will come up each year without you planting it. About half of my garden is for perennials. I have rhubarb and horseradish. A strawberry patch and raspberry bushes. All of this comes up every year right on time. We also have a wild plum tree that I make jam with and other things too. Well, the Christmas Cordial. We have 2 dwarf apple trees, too. This spring, Jim and the boys will plant some grape vines.

Also I want to get some asparagus to plant and this comes up every year, too.

It’s nice to get some perennials, as they are no work hardly at all. I mean you have to thin out the berry bushes and all, but ya know, that ain’t much work. And also if you know of someone who has a big garden with the perennials, they will be thinning them out and just ask them if you can have some. I know I hate to throw my plants away. And if I had a neighbor who needed them, I would give it to her. Ya know, this is how the Country Mothers always got their perennial gardens started. One neighbor would be thinning out the strawberry patch and would save some of the roots to give away.

I also plant a lot of flower bulbs like lilies. These come up every year and you don’t have to plant them. Black Eyed Susans are fun to have. I want to plant them this year. Do they come back each year? I think they do. And, of course, all of my herbs are perennials except the basil and a few others. But like tomatoes and all the peppers, you have to plant them each year.

I am looking forward this spring to teaching John and Christine about all of the herbs in my yard and what they are used for. How to make teas out of them, etc. My little yard is like a wild life preserve. Not with animals, I hope. But I let the herbs grow wild where they please.

I especially love the herbs. I guess one of my favorites is basil. And there are many kinds of basil and I like to grow as many kinds as I can afford.

I love my roses, too, and they come up each year. My favorite is the old fashioned 7 Sister roses that bloom just outside this window I am writing by. Then after them, I guess my second favorite is my Rose Hip Bushes right outside my side door that is behind me as I write.

I love my old black screen door. I told Jim that I would never move from here. Our home is a landmark of faith. It continues to be as the devil tries to run me off from it. “Give up on your family,” he tells me. But I am stayin’ here. This old house has a story to tell and I am gonna tell it on this two bit e-machine.

As Jim and me sat in discouragement yesterday, I told Wild Man, “Ya know, years ago, as I rocked our babies in that rockin’ chair, I said, ‘Lord, are ya sure this is all I am to do?’ And He said, ‘Yes, Connie, just rock the baby and don’t go anywhere. I will publish you and tell your story all over the world.’ I said, ‘You mean the city, right?'” I never knew he really meant the world. So, yeah, I am still stayin’ here. I guess He will take care of me as He always has. And my fine brood of kids.

Oh, those kids. Lord help me. But the Lord has taken care of us even if we are stinkers.

And I want to tell this story on A. before I go — hope I have room. Oh, boy, was she a stinker when we started this group. As I said before, the ladies would email me privately or call me long distance crying that A. took ’em off the Response group for not writing. Oh, ho, they would get so insulted. I got mad at them and, for spite, gave the whole group to A. to let her run it as she pleased. And she has done a Bang up good job, too. I couldn’t have made it this far or gone as far as I have without her. And B., too, and each of you regulars play such a part in keeping this circus running. I am only a writer. Not an organizer at all. Not computer minded at all. And I know out of this group is coming some very fine writers and teachers. My girls are the best. And one of these days, Mary and Christian Joy will be helping me run this thing. The Lord is good and knows what He is doin’. All is well.

Honest Tea is the Best Policy

Good Morning.

It got really cold last night here in Iowa. I bet it got to about 30 degrees. So I am glad I didn’t get my tomato plants in yet. This is unusual, to be this cold this late into May. It will warm up, though, hopefully soon, and I can’t wait to plant my tomatoes.

Jim plants the big garden way down in the back yard. Then I have a smaller kitchen garden right outside my dining room door. In this garden, I will just have things I can run out and pick for summer meals. But out of Jim’s garden, I will can tomatoes. For my kitchen garden, I will have green peppers and hot peppers. Then the beef steak tomatoes for slicing and a couple cucumber plants.

I will plant my basil in pots. But basil will not grow in cold weather. It will just sit and wait for warm weather. So I don’t have this planted yet. I have the lettuce leaf basil, the lemon and the purple basil to plant. Then I will be buying my favorite … the sweet basil. Now, the sweet basil you can get in the 10¢ seeds and they are the best seeds, I think. I plant my basil in pots … in case the weather gets bad, I can bring the pots in on the porch. And then, too, when fall comes, I bring all the basil in and use it until about Christmas and then it’s about done, or too scraggly to use anymore.

Well, I could never have a summer without basil. It’s my favorite herb. In the summer, I slice up my tomatoes on a plate and use the basil as a garnish. One salad I make goes like this. I just take a quart canning jar and fill it with chunks of tomatoes, onions and green peppers. Then I add basil, rosemary and chives. You could even add mint, too. Then I put in about a fourth cup of vinegar … about a fourth cup of sugar … and let it all set for a while in the fridge and it is so delicious. I add salt, also, and black pepper.

Also we plant zinnias everywhere and marigolds. I make many bouquets with my flowers and I add long stems of basil and other herbs.

I have a lot of dill. I let it grow everywhere, as I love it. And I often stick this in with my bouquet of flowers. I enjoy seeing the long stemmed herbs mixed with the flowers. I use my dill for cooking before it gets tall and dry. I don’t like using the seeds of it. I just use it when it first starts to grow … before the heads start to develop.

Also in my kitchen garden I have the Seven Sister Rose bush, and lots of comfrey and other herbs. Also horseradish.

I can hardly wait to get these tomatoes and peppers in.

Another favorite herb that I like to use fresh for my iced tea in the summer is the lemon balm. I just pick this and wad it up to bruise it as I wash it good in cold water. Then I just plop it in my iced tea. You don’t have to boil it … just pick a long stem and wad it up and throw it in your tea. So I run around all summer with weeds (Jim calls them) in my glass of tea. Jim always tells me “I want just plain iced tea.”

The Colonial Mothers called the herb teas Liberty Tea when they no longer bought their tea from England. “Honest Tea is the Best Policy.”

PLANT LIL GROCERY STORES

I don’t have the perfect garden. Land sakes, no! And the siding on our house is doin’ some serious falling off. And the roof leaks still like a sieve when it rains. We have had the hole in the kitchen ceiling fixed at least twenty times. It will be fixed for a few years and then it leaks again. And the foundation of our house is awful, too. But the Lord tells me, “Connie, you just make your garden and take care of Rose and don’t worry about it. Jim will take care of it.”

And ya know, this is how it used to be in the old days. Many times, a man would buy a piece of land he felt that he could work to feed his family on. The family would live off the land … then they wanted to have a cash crop, too. But the husband never looked at the house. He just looked at the land. The wife and mother was to make a home out of whatever house she got.

And Mama would get busy in the spring and plant tiger lilies around the foundation of the house to hide the crumbling foundation. She would scurry about in the spring and plant all kinds of flower gardens to make bouquets for the family table. In the winter she dried flowers upside down to give color to her little winter home. Then she was expected to plant things that come up each year. She called rhubarb plants, pie plants. She would trade seeds with the other country mothers. It was her job to plant the herb garden.As one mother was thinning out her raspberry plants, she would give the other country mothers some raspberry starts.

Mother was expected to make a house a home. To take control of her home and land and make it work. Usually the husband was too busy making a living to worry about the house fallin’ in on one side.

My friend Jill and her husband moved into an old farm house about ten years ago. The back side of the house was sinking so bad, they couldn’t close the back kitchen door. So they hoisted it up with rocks and then the back door closed.

The old time Mothers just made a home out of whatever they had to work with. The home wasn’t made perfectly for them? They had to make it. And the Mothers would plant many perennials … plants that come up each year. They would plant strawberries and horseradish and rhubarb and asparagus. They would start their grape arbor and plant as many fruit trees as they could. They would also plant walnut trees and other trees that bore nuts. All of these I just mentioned will come up each year.

Then, of course, they would plant their herb gardens. Herbs for cooking and for medicine. Mother planted ginger root to spice her ginger breads and cakes and to make ginger tea. She knew the names of all of the flowers and herbs and taught this to her own daughters.

Mother would forage in the woods to find wild lettuce, onions and other wild greens in the spring. See, our country used to be a lot different and the land produced many herbs and wild foods. Now, with the poisons put on our land to kill weeds, many of the wild herbs are dead. And it is not good to use this stuff, as it kills many of the health giving herbs and wild foods, like the little wild strawberries and other wild berry plants. Then the poisons sink into the ground and hurt your water supply.

We need to say the hell with the perfect yard and plant lil grocery stores in our yards. Yes, the mint will spread and take over the yard. Well, so what? Who wants grass? I would rather have a yard full of mint to mow. Think of how good it would smell to mow mint instead of grass. Mint and other herbs popping up in the grass is a good thing. It is medicine growing in your yards … don’t kill it.

During the 1930s many families lost their homes and were forced to live in the country in abandoned farm homes. Had the Mothers not known how to make a home out of nothing, the families would not have survived. In our present generation we mothers need to learn to work and prepare while the sun shines.

MAKING HAY WHILE THE SUN SHINES

This spring Papa planted a cherry bush called “sugar cherry.” Also a dwarf peach tree. We have several dwarf apple trees and a plum tree. All of these plants come up each year. Then plants like tomatoes and peppers and other garden vegetables just last for the season. You have to plant them each year.

But ya know, dear Mothers, the old saying is “Make hay while the sun shines.” In other words, you can’t bale hay to store for the winter when it’s raining. Wet hay will rot and won’t store well. And we need to seriously consider our ways in these troubled times. Things are hard now but, Darlin’, they are gonna get harder yet. We need to put some of our money into buying fruit trees and food plants that will come up each year.

Many of you know nothing about the herbs or how to use them. Now is the time to go to the library and get books and store up knowledge. Go to book sales and buy books to have at home for a Mother’s Home Library. Books on gardening and herbs and home remedies. So many people are afraid of herbs but not of the harmful drugs from the doctor. The medical profession is in serious trouble. It’s time to break loose from them and find your own ways through the wisdom of God. If you need a certain herb, then learn to grow it and use it, if it is possible.

Gather canning jars this summer while the garage sales are plentiful. Buy some big pans with lids to do some serious home canning this fall.

Gather wisdom and confidence that you can make it. That if push comes to shove, you could make your own soap for laundry and baths.

The more knowledge you can store up and the more you can learn now, the better. If you have wisdom and know-how, then you don’t need to be afraid of the coming hard times. Dear hearts, build your confidence now. Learn the many survival skills of housewifery. Come back to the land now and learn all you can.

My yard isn’t huge but is big enough to have two gardens, four dwarf fruit trees, and many perennials. If you are in an apartment, you can store up knowledge through books for when you can move to where you have some land. You can start some tomato plants or green peppers in the big five gallon buckets. But do something to store up knowledge for the hard times that will surely come. Especially the families who plan to have many children. Of course Papa and I just have Rose now. But I want to be an example to my older children and their families. Our son Johnny (age 29 and married with our first grandson) told me while he was here visiting a few years ago, “Mom, your whole yard is a garden.”

Mothers, I would just encourage you to do what you can this spring and summer to learn what you can. Maybe you can only work on making a Mother’s Home Garden Library. But just do what you can and give some priority to storing knowledge and survival skills.

Gardening with Baby

Good Morning.

Yesterday I had to be all day helping my Mother at the hospital. Baby had to go to a babysitter that her dad and mom didn’t know very well. I was very concerned … we all were. Baby’s mom, Tiff, called the sitter six times throughout the day to make sure all was well. I talked to Tiff last night on the phone and she said that Baby didn’t nap all day. I pray to God this never happens again. I don’t want her with strangers that we don’t know. I couldn’t take her with me to the hospital. But the next time, if this happens, I will take her, no matter what.

Well, thank the Lord, this morning her folks will bring her here for me to take care of. I have to work outside sometime today … maybe this morning. Ya know, the old time mothers used to take their babies outside to work in their gardens. I have read stories about Mother putting her little baby in a basket and setting her under a tree while she worked. Or they would lay the baby between the rows of the garden on a blanket as they worked from one row to the next. Often they had mosquito net that they put over the top of their “basket of baby.”

Today I have to cut up rhubarb to store and freeze. I have a big table outside that I can work on. I have a place for Baby to play and she is good about staying around Grandma outside. We have a sandbox for her and other toys to play with outside. I will just take out a big pan of water and my cutting board and cut rhubarb under the plum tree. My rhubarb patch is nearby and I can just pull it and bring it to the table pretty easy.

Baby will help me, I am sure. She will want Peggy Sue to come out, too, but I don’t need Peggy outside. Anyway, I have to plant tomatoes, too, in my kitchen garden. I wouldn’t think it will take me more than two hours. Then we will come in for lunch and naps.

But ya know it’s nice, if you have a lot of garden produce to chop up, if you can work outside. That way if the leaves and dirt fall on the ground, it isn’t like it’s falling on the floor. I try to always have a table to work on right outside my door here in the dining room. I have an old folding table out there now and I will just put a plastic cloth on it today to work on. Early morning is a good time to work outside in the summer. The bugs aren’t as awake then and they don’t bother ya as they would later in the day. Also it’s the cooler part of the day. The table gives the little ones sort of a station to pivot from … kind of a place to direct them to … a place to maybe lay a few of their toys. Of course, make sure you hide your knife so they won’t get to it.

I just pull my rhubarb out. I don’t cut it off at the roots. This way it will grow back.Then I just take my knife and whack off the big leaves. I save the leaves and spread them around the strawberry plants close by to use like a mulch. If I have a pan of flower seeds just planted, I will spread rhubarb leaves over the pot until the seeds sprout, then take the leaves off. (When I say a pan of flowers, I mean it. I find old cooking pots to use for flower pots. That’s the way the hillbillies do it, ya know.)

Anyway, I will just pull my rhubarb and bring it up to the table under the tree and cut it up in one-inch pieces and put it in my big pan of water. When I get all that done, then I will just bring the pan in the house. Later on I will just put the rhubarb in zip lock bags with sugar in it and store it in the freezer.

We love rhubarb pies and cobblers in the cold months of fall and winter. I pull my rhubarb in the early summer, then it grows back and I can use it in the middle of the summer. Then it will grow back again and I use it again in the fall, just before a freeze comes and winter sets in.

We eat rhubarb sauce just like applesauce, too. I have tried making rhubarb wine, too, but I don’t like the taste of it. I mix rhubarb with apples for pies and that way, not so much sugar.

Mother’s Gardens

I am up in the night doing the wash. Just as Papa and I were going to sleep last night, I said to him, “Honey, do I have a clean work shirt for you to wear tomorrow?”

And Jim says, “No, but I can wear the same one. It isnt dirty.” Why do men always say that stuff?

I said, “No, I will get up early and wash your shirt.” So I am up in the night doin’ the wash.

My Mom was having tests at the hospital yesterday so I was there most of the day. I was really tired when I got home.

It was so cold yesterday. I wanted to fix Jim a nice supper and I know Annie will laugh when I say what I made. Annie says I like to throw milk and eggs on anything. Well, I had this potato cheese boxed mix? Jim loves potatoes, even those kind. Anyway, the box has these dried potatoes and the cheese mix and you are to just add a tablespoon of butter and 3 cups of milk. Well, this is what I did to make it a Super Deluxe Meal. I put in more milk and butter and about a fourth cup of flour. A half pound of cooked hamburger, eggs, a can of drained green beans, and a bunch of dried herbs. It was really good.

Jim doesn’t eat all day and waits to get home from work to eat, so I like to have something nice and hearty for him. A few days ago, I had to be on the phone with Mom at the hospital when wild man got home from work. He will come in the door and wave a silent wave and get right to the kitchen to look in the stove to see “whats cookin’.”

Last night it was to get down to freezing but I sure hope it didn’t get that cold, as we won’t have any fruit on our trees if it froze. The fruit trees are blooming and, if the frost hits the blooms, then they can’t set and grow fruit. It’s dark outside right now but as soon as its light, I will be lookin’ out the window to see if the frost hit the trees. The house doesn’t seem very cold, so maybe the temperature didn’t fall that low last night. I hope not!!!

Our big garden at the back of the yard, I hope to make a perennial garden out of this. That’s a garden I would never have to plant again, as it will be full of plants that come up each year. So far down in this garden, we have rhubarb, red raspberries, and horseradish. We planted strawberries down there just lately. And my friend Jill C. wants give me some more strawberry plants from her garden, as she cleaned hers out. A Mother’s Garden could never have too many strawberries, ya know. Soon I hope to plant asparagas, too, and it will come up each year.

And, ya know, a lot of folks don’t like rhubarb but it is one of our favorite fruits. Danny’s favorite is Strawberry Rhubarb Jam. Our children used to go through a whole batch of that jam in about a month. They ate it on bread, pancakes and biscuits. We love to eat rhubarb sauce, too. Just cut up the rhubarb in a pan and cook it up with sugar.

Often, in the old days in the spring, the cupboards at my house would get very bare. One year, I was without fruit for the children just as the rhubarb started to grow. I was so happy to have the fresh rhubarb to feed the children. I made a sauce out of it and fixed it in little bowls for the table for breakfast. Then I made the pies and jam with it.

Rhubarb is so easy to freeze. Just wash it and cut it up and put it in a ziplock bag with about a half cup of sugar to preserve it. Rhubarb takes a lot of sugar. That’s the only problem with this fruit. One thing I used to do, so I didn’t have to use quite so much sugar, is I would make pies with it using half apples. Or you could use peaches, too. Just some sort of a more bland fruit or berries.

My herb garden is doing well, it seems. I have many herbs in it, but one herb that I am especially interested in is gingerroot. I think it must take a lot of patience to grow this herb. You have to be careful not to dig it up to use it too quick. My ginger is a year old now but I think I need to let it alone for another year.

MOTHER’S HERB MEDICINES

Well, I just put wild man’s shirt in the dryer. God only knows where he put his shirt he wore yesterday … the dirty one? He probably has it in the bedroom and I can’t get in there and stir about or I will wake him up. God knows I keep that man awake enough in the night, anyway.

Ya know, when I first planted my red raspberry plants, I wasn’t wanting the fruit as much as the raspberry leaves. The leaves made into tea are a wonderful remedy for menstral cramps. Also to use for when you are pregnant to keep your uterus firm and in place.

When I was young and having my time of the month, I would drink this tea all day, cup after cup of it, as I did my housework. It really works. I would take a quart glass canning jar and make tea in it and just sip it all day. I would drink at least a quart or more. With any natural remedy like this, you have to use a lot of it. Herbs from your garden aren’t like from the health store. Your fresh garden herbs are more gentle but work good, too.

I used to dry the raspberry leaves also for the winter. I would just cut long branches from the bush and put them in a tall paper grocery bag and let them dry. After the leaves dry on the branches, you can just scrape the leaves off into the sack and put leaves in a dry jar to use for winter teas.

You can grow valerian, too, if ya need something to calm ya down. I grew some one year but used it too quick and the plant died. Some of these herbs take a few years to get going and ladies like me use them too quick and the plant dies.

Also with feverfew, you can get a good plant goin’ if ya leave it alone for a few years. Feverfew works good for headaches. I used to chew the leaves in with a stick of spearmint gum. I need to get busy and grow some more of that and valerian, too.

I guess you can grow St. John’s wort, too. I mean, some folks can. Jim has bought me several plants of this and I always manage to kill it.

With any of these herbs, you can just make teas out of the leaves. With the valerain you are to use the roots, I know, but I used the leaves and this worked well for tea. Actually, I drank more valerian tea then I should have and Papa came home form work to a very strange wife. Stranger than usual?

Yarrow is another good herb to use for colds or viruses. I have a lot of yarrow. It is a beautiful flowered herb. Mine is purple and comes up each year. But you are more woman than me if you can stand to drink yarrow tea! Well, I guess with enough honey, anything is possible. But once you drink some, you don’t want another cup for at least five years. I grow a blue flowering catnip beside the purple yarrow and it is very pretty as they grow together.

I am not good at growing lavender.

One of my favorite herbs, also, is my bushes of rose hips. Rose Hip Tea has more vitamin C than orange juice. It is a valuable herb to have. The hips come on after the roses have bloomed and fallen off. The berries or rose hips are easly dried for winter use. I just cut off branches and put them in baskets. They dry over time and look pretty while they do so.

Of course, I don’t use any poison sprays in my yard to kill weeds. Most of the weeds that folks kill are herbs. That little fern like stuff in your sidewalk crack may be chamomile. It has a little yellow bud on it and when you sqeeze it, it smells apple like. You can make chamomile tea out of this. My chamomile used to grow in the drive-way. My children knew when they had gotten to me, as they said I would make “Driveway Tea” to settle down.

But ya know, it’s just plain good “horse sense”to learn the art of using herbs for cooking and medicine. You may never have to use your herbs but then again, maybe you will.

PAPA’S ROSE OF SHARON

As I have written in the night about herbs for healing, it’s as though I can smell the fragrance of fresh herbs as I write.

I have been a little sick lately and I sense the Lord’s presence to heal me as I write about natural healing. His fragrance is so sweet … like wild purple violets in the spring. He is present to heal me and to give me joy as I write about the herbs. About Nature’s Medicine and the fragrance of Christ.

Papa … oh, Papa keeps planting for me each year the Rose of Sharon. About 10 years ago, Papa planted about seven bushes of wine colored roses of Sharon down by the back garden. They were tall bushes and so breathtaking as they bloomed in the summer. Papa knows I want to be secluded n our back yard to hang up the clothes on the clothes line and to do my garden duties. But as the years went on, the tall branches died because of the hard Iowa winters. The bushes weren’t secluded enough. So last year, Papa got some more Rose of Sharon bushes and planted them by the side of the house. They will have white blooms and will bloom this year.

Oh my dear old Darling … he never gives up. Sometimes I want to give up but I see Papa planting again and again, no matter what dies he never gives up. And he plants trees and gardens as though we will live forever here … Jim at 64 and me at 58. It seems that we don’t know how to roll over and play dead. We would like to but we always sense a newness in the spring. A time to get back up after a hard winter and start planting again. We are such gamblers and will keep planting, even though life looks hopeless sometimes.

Last week, when we went to the Amish villiage, Jim bought me some hay for my gardern. As Papa and me went a-riding down a country road to home, the hay smelled so bad we had to open all the windows in the car. I wanted old hay, as it’s better for the garden. I looked at Papa and thanked him for the hay. I had a smile on my face that couldn’t be taken off with a chisel. I said, “Papa, honestly, I would rather have three bales of hay then a new outfit or new shoes or anything.” I said I wished that folks would just give me hay for Christmas instead of all those gift certificates. And Papa understood me and he is the only one who would.

And I know I sound crazy, wanting hay for Christmas. But I had looked and looked for it around the garden shops and couldn’t find any, except the really expensive kind. If I have hay for my garden, I can grow wonderful things. Hay organizes me in my garden. And I can throw kitchen waste under it and recycle it. As the summer goes on, I will add grass clippings to the hay. All of this replenishes the soil.

I have just a small kitchen garden up by the house. My little 7 Sister Roses grow in the back of my kitchen garden. Papa offered to lay my hay down on my garden but I said, "No, I want to do it." I have some special herbs back there that I wont want covered. And I want to make sure my Sister Roses are all tucked in good, as they will be starting to bud soon.

Well, ya know, I better get back to bed. Papa’s shirt is washed and dried and laying on his chair for morning.

This writing tells such a story of hope and to not give up, but just keep planting seeds of faith and hope. And even though the cold winter winds blow and kill some of your plants … spring always comes again. “We can always plant again, right Papa?”

And if we don’t give up, we will see His glory.

Rose Hip Tea and Lemon Balm

As I write, I am drinking a cup of Rose Hip Tea. I have the most lovely bushes of rose hips growing only about 10 feet from me outside my door. My old wooden black door here in my dining room is screened in for the summer. My e-machine is on the cupboard close by. I can turn around from my typing and see the lovely branches. They are so pretty right now as Autumn is coming.

I just went out and picked a handful of rose hips … they look like berries. I put them in my blender and ground them up with a cup of water. Then I boiled this cup of water and ground hips. Then you steep it. Just put a plate on the top of the tea and let it set for a minute or so, better longer. Then you have to strain the rose hips out with a little tea strainer or a drainer of some kind. And then the tea is ready to drink.

This tea is excellent for vitamin C. Rose hips have far more vitamin C in them than oranges. So the rose hips are wonderful to grow beside your house and harvest for the winter in case of sickness. To harvest the berries, just pick them and put them in a jar and leave in the refrigerator.

Also, you can add lemon balm to your tea or any of the mints. I just added lemon balm to mine for my second cup this morning. My lemon balm doesn’t come up when my other mints and catmints (or catnips) come up. But it is up now and it is a favorite of mine. You can even wad it up fresh and drop it in your iced tea or lemon-aid. I do this with many of my mints in the summer time. Even if I am drinking a glass of iced water, I will pick some mint or lemon balm and bruise it and add it to my water. This is delicious … a real thirst quencher.

Yesterday I picked a bouquet of lemon balm and put it on my table. Then I can use it for a few days for teas or whatever. I just use it fresh like this. I used to dry a lot of the mints, etc. But I think this year I may freeze them in ziplock bags. To me, when you dry herbs for tea, it takes out a lot of the oils. And I like the taste of the oils. Actually, just before a frost, you could just pick a lot of the lemon balm and put it in the fridge to use fresh for a while, anyway.

Ya know, the mothers who came from England to the New England states grew their own teas. For one reason, they couldn’t get the tea from England anymore because they were at war. So the herb teas were called Liberty Teas. Because the Colonists were trying to gain liberty from England and start their own free states. (Now, this is how I understand it. Correct me if I am wrong.) But today, if we housewives will grow our own teas and our vegetables for winter, we will also be “Liberty Mothers.”

We as homemakers have an adventure, too, in front of us. As we live on one income and are chastened by the world because of our beliefs, we can be free, too. We can also make things with our hands and work to make a home that works for us, instead of against us. We have so much more to work with than our mothers of the faith in the past … if we have a kitchen and a roof over our heads we can make it, too.

We can learn to plant gardens and harvest and dry our foods. We can learn to plant herbs and use them for medicine and for cooking. We don’t have to depend on the store for everything we eat. We need to be zealous of good works, dutiful and faithful wives. Mete for the Master’s use.

You may say, “Well, I don’t want to read Connie’s writings today, as it it is just about recipes.” No. No. A million times no. It’s about survival, Darlin’. Spiritual suvival, as well as the physical survival. If you don’t keep busy doin’ the Lord’s work in your homes, the devil will give you plenty else to do. Choose carefully your battles. Do you want to be occupied with the works of your hands as wise women … or will you be chasing off and out of the coverings of your homes to fight battles that are none of your business? You will never be rewarded by God for fighting wrong battles.

Good Morning

Yesterday, I had some cucumbers that I cut up to soak in cold salt water. (Today, I will make pickles.) Then I made a fruit cobbler with some of the apples Jim had picked from our tree. Also, I had a few peaches I put in, too. The cobbler was delicious. I knew I was having Baby in the afternoon, so I had to hurry and fix supper early before she got here. I made baked chicken and then put potatoes and carrots in the pan and baked it all in the oven.

It’s been pretty cool around here lately compared to the Iowa summers we are used to. Anyway, I had to pull out a lot of my herbs, just for the summer, as they were getting scraggly. And then I just put fresh dirt down where the mints were, and I plant zinniahs and marigolds for a Fall garden. The mints will get to dryin’ up and go to seed. So I just tear them out and it all returns the next spring. My basils are just in their glory right now. I plant basil each year … it doesn’t come back each year. (It doesn’t for me anyway, as our Iowa winters are too cold for some plants.) I have lemon basil and some other kinds, too. But they are so fragrant right now.

Our tomatoes are green yet but will turn soon. I wil make some wonderful herb salads. I just take a jar and fill it with cut up onions, peppers and mostly tomatoes. Then I put in about a fourth cup of vinegar and the same of sugar. I put in some salt and black pepper and plenty of leafy basil. I have garlic chives I could put in, too. But the star of this show is the basil and tomatoes. The more this salad sets, the better it is. Also, when I slice tomatoes for the table I always decorate the plate with basil.

I have to have plenty of basil in the summer, as it is my favorite. Sometimes I will set a bouquet of basil on the table, mixed with lemon balm and some wild flowers.

The tall zinniahs and marigolds are my favorite fall flowers. They will last for the rest of the summer here, and well into the fall. They look pretty in a fall display, dried and propped around the fall pumpkins and mulitcolored gourds and squashes. A light frost will kill a lot of flowers but it brings out the vibrant orange of the marigolds.

Sunflowers and Herbs

I always plant sunflowers and then the birds eat the seeds and drop them hither and yon in the yard. I just let them come up wherever they wanna. One thing I do in the fall is I cut some of the big seed heads off and nail it to a tree outside my window. This way, the birds will come and eat and you can see them. Some folks take all the seeds out and dry them and put them in sacks. But I don’t — I just leave the seed pods whole.

The sunflowers attract a lot of birds. I have some sunflowers in the front yard by my country mailbox … it’s up on a post. I can see the goldfinches eating out of the sunflowers out my front screened in door.

I also have blue bachelor buttons that come up each year and I think the butterflies are attracted to these. I have many monarch butterflies that dance and play up and down my walkway up to my door. I don’t know if it is the bachelor buttons they like, or some of my other flowers.

I also plant herbs in with the tall wildflowers. Dill, yarrow, two kinds of chives, garden mint. And catnitp, too, grows everywhere up my walk and all over my yard.

I have an herb garden across the front middle of the side yard. I have just chicken wire in back of it, and wood posts to hold it up. On the post, I have a grapevine wreath. In the herb garden, I have ginger root, two kinds of basil, sage, lavender, garlic, chives, a mint that Jim got me — and a pumpkin plant to grow on the fence for color and fun. Also growing on the fence is a hops vine. What a conversation piece this is! At the side of this garden, I have an old white chair and a plant sitting on this. It looks really old fashioned. This chair is one that was wood with an old leather bottomed seat.

Then, back behind the fence I have an old windmill. I have pole beans planted around this and, eventually, the pole beans will grow all over this windmill and hide it by fall. Also, I have the sugar pod peas planted on one side of it, but they will come on and be done long before the beans really get going. Then, in an old pot by the windmill is leaf lettuce. A pot full is all I need, and it will grow up and I will use it and let it keep growing all summer. Then I have a pot of herbs by there, too.

Mary bought me four packages of seeds for Mothers Day. I have them growing in there … can’t remember what they are now, but will know once they get here. They are all coming up good. I know one is basil.

Basil is my favorite herb of all. I love all the kinds. Probably my favorite is holy basil. I used to use the stems for Bible markers. This herb is very fragrant. In the summer I use sweet basil a lot as a garnish for a plateful of sliced tomatoes. I use it in every salad in the summertime. I even put this in with arrangements of flowers for the table. Another favorite is the curly purple basil. Also, the mammoth basil that is about the size of a lettuce leaf. Basil is just for one year, here in Iowa, as the harsh winter kills it each fall. So I have to plant it each year, and I can’t get all the kinds I like, always.

Then, back by my dining room, I have a kitchen garden. This garden is small with tomato plants and peppers, sweet and hot. Also, I have many herbs back here, and horseradish. Plus I have my Seven Sisters Rose bush. This is my pride and joy; I love these little roses and I make many things with these. Also, back here is the old kind of catnip and comfrey.

Then, way back in my yard is the canning garden. This is a big garden where I have my rhubarb and red raspberry bushes. It’s here we will plant more tomatoes and peppers and cucumbers, I think … I don’t know yet. It has been too wet to plow that big garden up. And, man, this weather has been very hard on our gardens … it’s very wet.

Wilderness Wisdom

I just wrote a whole thing on herbs and lost it. Mary (19) wanted a copy and, by faith, I tried to work my printer. I unplugged my e-machine accidentally and lost the whole writing. So I am beginning again. I taught Mary, when she was little, about all the herbs, and she loves the herbs and gardening. Anyway, here I go again.

We have many wild herbs in our yard that I don’t tear out, and they have been here for the 30 years we have lived here. They are:

  • wild chamomile
  • plaintain
  • white clover and some purple
  • shepherd’s purse
  • milkweed
  • bloodroot

Then I have planted many herbs that come up each year. They are:

  • bushes of rosehips
  • 2 kinds of chives
  • dill
  • bushes of purple yarrow
  • comfrey
  • hops
  • wild onions,
  • many different kinds of mints
  • 2 kinds of catnip
  • lemon balm
  • camphor
  • thyme
  • oregano

I have tried to plant the ginger root but I get too impatient and dig it up too early … same with the garlic bulbs. I also planted red raspberries to use the leaves for tea. Then I plant herbs that will only last the summer … mostly the different basils and hot peppers.

The hops is taking over a lot of the other herbs. Boy, does that stuff grow! I am tearing some of that out.

I use my herbs mostly to make teas. Just bruise the leaves and steep in hot water. Bring the water to a boil first, and then put the herb in a cup and pour the hot water over it. Put a little plate over it to keep the steam in and let it steep for about 10 minutes. In the summer, I make a glass of iced tea and then I will wad up a handful of mint and put this in my iced tea … or I use lemon balm or catnip. As you wad up the leaves, the oil will come out into the tea. Very delicious!!!

Of course, with the hops, you harvest the buds at the end of the summer.

The rosehips, you don’t pick until the same time.

The chives, you use for a garnish, and shepherd’s purse, too.

Milkweed we used to get rid of warts, etc.

We used alot of the comfrey for rabbit food, but it can be used for a tea, too. Also, the comfrey roots are a good medicine.

Wisdom’s Luxuries

Our huge bridal bush just bloomed beside the corner of the house, it seems for Mary’s graduation. At the side of the yard are the big purple iris blossoms. They smell just like grape bubblegum and they can fragrance a whole room. Mary made bouquets with the irises and the white flowers from the bridal bush.

Also, we grow the big feathery ferns to put in flower arrangements. And then I have rose hip bushes. The leaves on it are a dark brownish purple. Mary put these leaves in her arrangements, too. The pink bleeding hearts were in bloom and she put them in her vase. They were just lovely bouquets.

I have the pinkish purple yarrow that is about to bloom here pretty soon. It is mixed in with catnip that has a blue flower on it. I have these planted by the step coming up my walk. Yarrow is very easy to grow and the blooms stay out at least a month. Yarrow is a wonderful healing herb and I dry this herb for tea. (If you hang your blossoms upside down, they will keep their colors when you go to dry them for the winter.) Also this year, I planted the yellow yarrow on the opposite side of the step as the pink. Yarrow is so hardy and comes up every year and spreads easily. And to me, the more flowers the better.

I also have herbs growing along the front walk. I have mint that is getting out of hand and I love it when it does. I would rather have a mint cover for the yard than grass. “Grass,” I tell Jim, “is so boring.”

I used to have moon flowers up by my door, but someone I know thought they were weeds just before they bloomed and accidently pulled them out. So Papa went and bought me another package of moon flower seeds and I will plant them today. Moon flowers come out in the evening and stay out all night and part of the next morning. They are as big as pie plates and white and absolutely gorgeous. When I first had mine and they bloomed one evening, I got so excited I went and gathered up my neighbors to come and see them.

Papa is not quite the free spirit that I am and, well, when he accidently pulled out my starts to my moon flowers last year, he thought he was pulling out my giant sunflower starts. He doesn’t appreciate my sunflowers in the front yard. But I love them, as the goldfinches come and eat of the seeds in the fall.

I do have a sin to confess. I could murder Jim when he pulls out my flowers that come up on their own, like the volunteers. I mean that makes me livid … just so mad. I have to pray about this. I often tell him “Do not get near my gardens.” Well, he don’t appreciate my herbs like dill growing everywhere. I have those onions that grow every year, winter onions, and they are liable to grow up in the middle of the yard sometimes. Papa don’t appreciate it. I should be more sensible than I am, but I just can’t help it. I am a free spirit. I guess I will have to curb my free spirit, though, huh?

The hops I planted a few years ago is taking over, too. Now that I do thin out, the kids tease me so much about it and show it to all their friends. “Thats hops. My mother will make beer with it.” I really won’t. I got it to make herb pillows. I need something to put me to sleep. ZZZzzz.

Speaking of which, Papa is about to get up for work.

My Garden

Well, today I got most of my garden planted.

Then I put different kinds of peppers in two big pots, and I mixed sweet basil in the pots, too. One is a really old timey pan, not really a pot, with a bale handle on it. It is that gray marbley color? It was probably made in the 1920s. It had holes in the bottom, which was good for the water to drain through.

Papa is going out now to plant another pepper plant that I wanted in the garden, not in a pot. This will produce the huge green sweet peppers and the sweet red, too. (Papa had gotten a lemon tomato plant and he is planting that, also.) I think I can safely say that I have every kind of pepper planted now, just about every color and kind and shape. I just love to cook with peppers, and I love growing them.

I used the hay to put around my plants, and when I have potato peelings and all, I will hide them under the hay. Well, any peelings at all will do. I always feed my tomatoes and peppers like crazy.

Also, I have big bushes of comfrey. They are about five feet high. It comes up each year, but I will be cutting this down and using it to mulch the garden plants. We used to have rabbits and I would feed them the comfrey. I used to make alot of tea with comfrey. It is a cure all for most any kind of sickness, or used to be. Now they say, in the new herb books, it will kill ya. Well, it never killed me or my rabbits. My rabbits were the huge New Zealand Rabbits. I never had a sick rabbit; they were all as healthy as hogs. I guess in the old days folks used to feed comfrey to race horses. This herb has lots of vitamins and minerals. It has the large leaves and can be eaten in salads.

Also, up by the tomato and pepper plants is my Seven Sister Rose bush. It’s an heirloom brier rose. I adore it, and I love decorating the house with the long branches of roses. They are long branches with clusters of dark pink baby roses on them. I hang them across the door sills and windows to dry. And I also make a lot of potpouri with them and let them dry in loosely weaved old fashioned baskets. I also add cinnamon sticks and cloves from the store and, sometimes, orange peels and other herbs, too, if I think of it, like the mints or dill.

Well, any flower can be dried and is, here at the Hultquist Homestead.

I also grow the rosehip rose bushes. I have a lot of fruit on it by the fall. And I will throw some of the hips in my potpouri, too. Right now, the flowers aren’t even budding yet, but they will soon and then the rose hips come after the blossoms fall off.

I planted my moon flowers today, too. I will have to be sure I watch Papa, so he don’t think they are weeds and pull them out. I have teased enough about it that I think he will be more careful the next time.

I am happy this evening as an old mother hen. My flowers are blooming and my garden is planted. All is well in my nest.

I still will plant a few more things, like different greens … probably mustard greens and a few different lettuces. My garden theme is an Italian one. The romance of roses, and the sexy tomatoes for sauce, and the peppers to make spaghetti sauce. And oh! the basil, my luxury.

I must have several kinds of basil to plant everywhere. I have garlic planted, if Papa will leave it alone, and the onions he never leaves alone. He hates onions so calls them weeds and throws them out, long before they are big. Well, I wll try to get some again this year and plant them in a secret place.

But, oh, I could never have a summer garden without plenty of basil. I often put sprigs of basil in bouquets on the dinner table with roses mixed in. Well, and often mint, too, and catnip. Most of my herbs come up each year, but not the basil. You have to pretty much use that when it comes. I don’t really like it dried very well. I guess I just prefer it fresh. A plate of freshly sliced tomatoes with basil decorating it is Romantic.

 
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