Thursday, March 31, 2011

Reaching For Spring

I have begun the small duties of spring that seem to bridge the gap between the weariness of the cold and the outside chores in the warm sunshine.  A few days ago I started my tomato seeds.  I have been saving my seeds for several years; ever since my neighbor gave me the largest Roma tomato I have ever seen!  I would like to start seeds for other garden vegetables and flowers, but I have not the space for it currently.
I now save seeds for that same Roma and a variety of Beefsteak that are huge and rarely crack.  The flavor of both are amazing.  I am very relaxed about the purity of the next year's prodigy.  In fact, last year I grew Roma's that had apparently crossed with some Green Zebra Tomatoes.

They were beautiful, but had little flavor.  Needless to say, I did not save their seeds.

I was startled to note that my tomato seeds have already sprouted!  With the cilantro, rosemary, and basil that I started from an herb kit my husband gave me at Christmas, it is looking very spring-like in my kitchen and laundry room.

I've also taken the opportunity to divide an African violet that was obviously already dividing itself in the container it was housed.  After that, my cactus looked so pathetic and unhappy, he too received a new pot and nutrient rich soil; suitable for a cactus of course!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


I am so excited!  I sold my first piece of artwork!  In fact, it was my first collage called "Proverbs".  One of the gals at the bank where some of my work is currently displayed fell in love with it and bought it.  (Basha, if you are reading this, take heart.  I have not forsaken your request!) 

I still have not made that giant leap into Etsy yet.  I need to be able to nail down how to figure postage costs.  I will have to commit to get this completed this week.  If the weather turns, I KNOW where my priorities will be...outside!

Finished and framed

Before framing and a bit of a yellow hue.  My lighting must have been off.

Right detail of "Proverbs"

Left detail of "Proverbs"

Homemade Applesauce

We tried a new variety of apples last week that went over like a lead Frisbee.  What to do with a bowl of beautiful, crispy but bland apples?  Add lemon juice and make applesauce!  I figure if the lemon doesn't add enough tang to liven up the taste, I can at least use it in my baking as a substitute for oil!

The applesauce turned out quite tasty.  It's so easy to make, I regret not getting a bushel or two of apples last fall. It seems by October and November I am burnt out from all the previous canning.

To make the applesauce, I just peeled and cored the apples I had on hand and put them in a thick bottomed stock pot to simmer with about a half cup of water (just to prevent scorching).  I also added the juice from one lemon.  Then I just let it simmer for a couple of hours.  Since our family loves chunky applesauce, I only mashed about half of the soft apples down to sauce consistency.  You can stop there, but sometimes I add apple pie spice or cinnamon candy red hots.  This time I added a few packets of Stevia as I prefer not to add sugar and called it good.  And it is!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Garden Journal

I generally keep a garden journal that I start each spring and continue through the seasons. It always seems to evolve, however, into a wildlife sighting pad, diet and exercise register, and prayer journal as well! It doesn't matter, I use it frequently to document successes in the garden, and the dates different birds return home for the spring. I can't seem to throw these little buggers out when they are full! Some of my favorite Bible verses and bird sketches are within the bent and well worn pages. In a way, they are like scrapbooks that were quietly finished and sit unnoticed in a drawer. Here is one of my favorites from 2006...                                                                                                                          

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Can it ever truly be spring without chicks?

This morning was an unusual morning to say the least.  I woke and remained awake at 3:30 a.m.  Finally at 5:00 a.m., I shoved the covers away determined to make the most of my extra long day.  After working out on the treadmill and at Curves, I came home and was determined to clean out the hen house.  Mike got right on board.  As I shoveled, swept, bleached, and refilled fresh pine bedding, he replaced a pane of glass that had been broken over the winter.  My heart sang as we removed the wadded up towel that had been a makeshift draft preventer.  A few well placed staples from the trusty staple gun and the loose chicken wire reinforcing the door was back in place.  I love spring!  Even the cleanup is inspiring.  I think my hens really appreciated all the sprucing up as well.

We were so inspired by our industriousness, that we decided to clean out all the bluebird houses on our 18 acres of conservation land.  I have been watching pairs of bluebirds check out potential nest boxes for the last two weeks.  Now they are ready for occupancy.

Since by now it was lunch time and we were starving, we headed into Dundee for lunch and a quick trip to our favorite Tractor Supply Store.  I was sooo good.  Really, I was.  I walked past the adorable little chicks not even attempting to talk my husband into another clutch of fuzzy black cuteness.  However, the sales person must have tuned into some kind of hidden desire of mine.  She walked up to Mike and I and said, these are the last ones and they're half off!  I looked at the sign and ohhhhh!  they were Auracaunas!  Those wonderful, stern looking hens that lay beautiful blue and green eggs!

Half off!  Really?  They were...but they were not Auracaunas.  Turns out they were a breed (can't recall which exactly) that were excellent egg layers AND meat chickens.  Well, that got Mike's attention.  Meat?  Yup.  Box them up.

So we came home, and I spent the next hour shoveling, sweeping, bleaching, refilling bedding in the old goose house!  After adding the necessary heat lamp and draft blocks, the chicks were nestled into their new home.  You'd think this was the end of the story but when we got into the house there was a message on the answering machine from a woman whom I spoke with over a year ago.  She was wondering if I still wanted a pair of Sebastapol geese.

I think I'll clean out the old duck house tomorrow!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Old Fashioned Comfort Food and New Fashioned Reactions

I have a friend in the hospital after undergoing major back surgery and I have a Pastor who gives of himself more than there seem to be hours in the day.  I also have a daughter in a pre-calculus class that celebrates Pi day on March 14, of course!  Well, it was a good day to make some home grown comfort food; chicken noodle soup and two deep dish apple pies.

I love to hear about and see the reactions of the recipients.  Sometimes I wonder if anyone cooks from scratch anymore?  Shelby was sharing the fascination one boy in her class had with the tiny apple cutouts all over the pie. Apparently, he peeled the mini apples off the top to savor later.  I asked her if anyone else made a pie.  She said nope, the rest came from the grocery store.

Lynette's reaction to the soup was even funnier.  I got to her room just as her lunch arrived.  Dick, her husband, asked the nurse to bring an empty bowl.  Before the nurse had time to even leave the room, Lynette had the cap and ring off the canning jar and was spooning mouthfuls straight out of the jar!

My Pastor, after discovering the other pie in his office, called me to ask if he should cut a slice or wait until his wife came home from work, and even if he didn't wait he wasn't sure he could cut something so pretty... People sure are amusing!

If you are interested in the recipes, I usually get them from  In the case of the chicken noodle soup, the only change I made was adding whole wheat egg noodles instead of white.  We just don't bring anything into our home that isn't whole grain.  The apple pie is here.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Today is day number two of mid 50 degrees.  Everyone knows that this is heaven in Michigan in March for all who live here.  So far no problem, right?  Wrong!

I sit here looking longingly out the window as the warm sun beckons while piles of data, copies of tax forms, college financial aid reports, and fafsa notifications taunt me.  Why can't it ever be raining when I am at deadline?

Ok, maybe I am being a bit dramatic (it runs in the family).  My taxes are finished.  The FAFSA report has been completed for both Lauren and Shelby.  I even completed the required PROFILE Report that U of M requires for students applying for financial aid.  Here is my real rant: How is it that U of M requires an additional financial report that takes 2 days to research, find and retrieve all necessary documentation including the last TWO years of tax returns, AND charges me $25.00 to do all this?!  Why isn't the government FAFSA Report good enough for them?  Oh yeah, that's right, they're U of M...

Ranting is now finished.   As am I!  The only thing left to do is to sign all the copies of the tax returns; Lauren's and ours and get them over to the college either by snail mail or by foot; meaning Lauren of course!

Now I can go see the surprises spring always brings...

Thursday, March 10, 2011

My friend, Carl

As I was checking over a recent post of a Santa Fe artist I admired, it occurred to me to check online to see if the website of a very dear artist friend of mine was up and running yet.  To my delight it is!  Carl Schuman and I have been friends since he was my manager at the Dick Blick Art Store in Dearborn, Michigan about 22 years ago plus or minus.  He has been living his dream for quite a while out in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  I have been out there numerous times to visit and soak in the wonder of the place; hiking, 4 wheeling, hearing God...

I own a few of his pieces.  The way he describes his visions of each is amazing to me.  It seems to be a spiritual process that is like a cup running over, never emptying of ideas and inspiration.  If you'd like to see more of his work go here.

What I love most about this piece is how each part moves independently from the others causing the light and mood to continually evolve.