Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Maple Hill Hop 77

Maple Hill Hop

Welcome to 
The Maple Hill Hop.
This is a hop for folks who love the outdoors.
Feel free to post about anything that's going on
in your neck of the woods,
no matter the season.
(Please share only outdoor posts.)
*Please link back to Maple Hill 101.*

Tomorrow is Earth Day.
We strive to make everyday Earth Day 
by reducing our use of packaging,
reusing items around the homestead
and recycling everything we can.
We also believe in growing organically
and using only non-GMO seeds.
These little conscious elections
make a difference.

In order to honor our Mother Earth,
we're hosting a giveaway.
We found out about a seed company
that supports our intentions,
Sow True Seeds,
based in Asheville, North Carolina.

 sowtrue sunflower

This is from their website:
"We are trying to create the world we want to live in.  A world in which farmers and gardeners have access to the seeds that are best adapted to where they live, without fear of corporate ownership of those seeds and the food they produce.  A world in which corporations care about the products they produce, the people who produce them, and the people who buy and use them.  A world in which profit never takes precedence over stewardship of the land and the environment that feeds us all."
How can  you resist getting behind that?

They were good enough to offer up an adorable seed gift packet.
Just look at this darling tin!

This gift set contains an array of sunflowers,
ready for planting now.

These sunflowers not only grace your garden with lovely blooms all summer,
they provide food for birds once the heads are dried.
They also foster a wonderful opportunity for pollinators 
to perform their magic in your garden.

The kit comes with a planting guide as well.
Notice the recycled packaging inside the tin 
that acts as a cushion for the seed packets.
Just leave a comment below to enter the giveaway.
We'll announce the recipient on next week's Hop.

As a rule, I'm not interested in adding to the commercialization of our culture, 
so advertisements are not displayed on the blog.
It is important, however, to promote and share knowledge about folks who are diligently working 
at making the planet a better place.
In honoring gratitude, we keep the good stuff moving. 
This company gets it.
I hope you'll enthusiastically patronize them, 
and pass their information along to other gardeners.
Tell 'em daisy sent ya!

 "Sow True Seed sells only open pollinated (non-hybrid and non-GMO) varieties of vegetable, herb, and flower seeds that will grow true to type when saved properly and replanted. We believe that the roots of independence and self-sufficiency derive from the ability to save seed. Open-pollinated varieties are more genetically diverse and are able to adapt faster to their growing region and specific climate variances. Each open-pollinated variety remains protected in the public domain as the common property of everyone."


GMO Cross Out Logo

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Singer Sewing Score!

A while back I talked about teaching myself to hand stitch.
It's still something I'm working on,
but not as often as I probably should.
Another thing I've been working on 
is saving for a vintage sewing machine.
I made some feed sack totes for our family,
and enjoyed it so much, I thought I could make a few more
and give them to friends or sell them. 
(A machine had been borrowed to complete the job.)

I've been scrimping, saving and selling a few items
to create the sewing machine fund.
Well, it took me a few months,
but I finally had enough to start looking.
The first place I usually look for things is Craig's List,
because so many used items need a home,
and I love the idea of older items being passed down to someone who will use them.

I met a lovely lady who actually refurbishes old sewing machines.
We took a drive to Springhill, FL,
about 2 hours from our home.
It was well worth the trek.

Ms. Linda not only repairs and resells these lovely machines,
she also has quite the collection herself.
Here are some of the beauties she shared with me.
This is a hand-crank model.
Can you imagine having to crank the handle
(where the wheel is on the right),
and sew at the same time?
What a workout!

She favors the treadle machines,
and showed me this model.
Just the table and foot pedal alone are enough to make a gal swoon.

Here's what it looks like without the cover.
So simple, yet elegant.

I can't remember the details about them all,
it was just amazing to see the variety.
They were all in such splendid condition.

This was another beautiful cabinet 
with a fold-out work surface.
Amazing ingenuity!

The cabinets were made so well
because they were used as a piece of furniture
when the machine was tucked away.
I guess back then, folks didn't have a separate room
designated for sewing, so it had to fit in with the decor 
of the main living room or parlor.

Here's what I brought home.
The carrying case is a little worn,
but I think it adds to the charm.

Here she is in all her glory.
There were a few accessories included,
though at this point I can't imagine being able to use them.
All in all, she's in great shape.

My gardening coach, Lynn, used to work for Singer.
He's actually the one who put the bug in my head about buying a vintage machine.
His take on it is that since they are all metal,
they're impossible to break,
(which is quite comforting to me), 
and I'll never need to buy another machine. 
I can get behind that.

He knows everything there is to know about these beauties,
so his advice is valued.
He gave her the once over, and deemed her solid and ready to go to work.
He's gonna show me how to properly maintain her,
(cleaning, oiling, etc.)
so that she'll be running fine for a good, long while.

I started perusing the manual,
but I've got a lot to learn.
It's all good.
Now, on to those feed sacks!

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Maple Hill Hop 76

Maple Hill Hop

Welcome to 
The Maple Hill Hop.
This is a hop for folks who love the outdoors.
Feel free to post about anything that's going on
in your neck of the woods,
no matter the season.
(Please share only outdoor posts.)
*Please link back to Maple Hill 101.*

Last week we talked about the task of creating three new veggie beds.
We've been exploring the edible landscaping idea,
intermingling food crops with ornamentals.
We decided to focus on the food,
and just use a few ornamentals around the beds.
We were able to tweak the second bed last week.

Here's what it looked like before.
It was a mess mixture of food and Florida-friendly plants.
The lantana and African Iris were relocated
to other ornamental beds.

The first thing I wanted to do was relocate the beautyberry (on the right),
so that the footpath could be moved over.
There's a big fir on the left,
and between the two of them,
the path was being obstructed.

Ah, room to breathe!
You can see some broccoli planted along the bed,
so I just edged the bricks a bit closer to it.

The beautyberry now resides next to the house,
so it too, will have room to branch out.
Once the berries start comin', the birds will be snackin' away!

The recycled teepee has been placed in the center of the bed,
where beans have been planted in front of it.
The eggplant was moved to the left,
lining another footpath.
The broccoli  now acts as a border on the front and right side.
I haven't yet decided if the liriope and parsley are going to stay put.
We plant parsley, not only for us, 
but for caterpillars to enjoy as well.

Next to the broccoli, I planted some cherry tomatoes.
They were long and gangly,
so I used the trench method of planting them,
laying them down horizontally and covering the stem with soil.

As you can see, they are ready to do their thing!

What a pleasant surprise to see Romas growing!
There is only one plant in another part of the garden,
but I'll take what I can get.
This was a seedling plant that was gifted me by my garden mentor, Lynn.
You can read all about him in our Farm School Series.

I also bordered the first bed we put in with baby kale.
I've been eating these in my daily salads
and they are even tastier than the full-grown version!

Oh, and, we've had visitors.
Many, many visitors.
The monarchs are coming back in droves.
We are an official Monarch Way Station,
which means that we provide a beneficial habitat for these amazing critters.
We also host gulf fritillaries, black swallowtails,
zebra swallowtails and others.

Welcome back, sweet ones.

Well, that's what's going on around here.
What's happening where you are?
HOP on!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Blueberry Cobbler

Our friends, Faye and Lynn gifted us with blueberries.
They've got some great connections!
So, we got to work using them up.
We made a gluten-free blueberry spice cake, 
which I've made before.

And gluten-free corn muffins with blueberries added to the mix.

This was the first time I made a cobbler.
I like that it was so simple and had very little sugar in the recipe.
I imagine you could even use a butter substitute or coconut oil to make it vegan.
We didn't have any cornstarch in the house, so I used extra flour.
I'll bet it would be absolutely dreamy
with a scoop of French vanilla ice cream on top.
 I hope you'll give this a try.

Get your berries on!

Blueberry Cobbler
3/4 C unbleached flour
1 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1/4-1/2 C almond milk
1/4 C unsalted butter (cold)

3 C blueberries
1/4 C sugar
1/8 C cornstarch
1/4 t cinnamon

Combine flour, powder and salt.
Add diced butter and knead with a pastry cutter or your fingers,
until the flour mixture resembles a coarse meal.
Transfer to a large bowl and add almond milk until dough comes together.
Preheat oven to 375.

In a medium bowl, combine berries, sugar, cornstarch (we used flour) and cinnamon
and mix just until incorporated.
Transfer berries to 8" square baking dish (we used a ceramic pie plate).
Top with dough mixture.
Bake 55 minutes, let cool 30 minutes on wire cooling rack.



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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Maple Hill Hop 75

Maple Hill Hop

Welcome to 
The Maple Hill Hop.
This is a hop for folks who love the outdoors.
Feel free to post about anything that's going on
in your neck of the woods,
no matter the season.
(Please share only outdoor posts.)
*Please link back to Maple Hill 101.*

Even though our house is for sale,
I feel the need to keep my dreams moving forward.
That includes continuing to garden for as long as we're here.
 With readying the inside of the house and painting the exterior in order to list it, 
the garden is a bit behind.
This past weekend, I was able to finally install a couple of veggie beds.

This is a bed on the southernmost part of our backyard.  
I am transitioning some of our ornamentals closer to the house,
and planting the veggies in this area.
This is one of three new beds I plan to put in throughout the next 2 weeks.

This part of the bed had some lettuce and peppers planted
right alongside some society garlic and citronella.
The peppers got nudged over just a bit,
and I relocated the citronella closer to the patio,
as it is supposed to help with mosquito control.
I've been experimenting lately with edible landscaping,
mixing ornamentals with veg, so I may just leave some of it as is.

 The first step in the process of creating my new bed was to remove the old mulch.
We use pine straw in the backyard and really love the natural look.

The cleared mulch is placed to the side 
until we level out the spot.

A double layer of newspaper is added to the area,

and then the old mulch is replaced back on top.
This allows us to reuse the mulch that has been broken down over months,
while adding nutrients to the soil.

Our rich, hand-cranked soil is added next.
Faye, Lynn and I made this about a week ago,
using his method for soil production.
We used some store-bought veggie and fruit tree mix,
along with some perlite and a bit of Lynn's Envirosoil.
It's some mighty sweet stuff.

The new, luscious loam is spread across the paper and mulch
and leveled.
I'm excited to see how using the improved soil affects my crop production.

The transplanted peppers were placed close together
in the middle of the bed.
These are sweet banana peppers.

The "sweet millions" tomatoes (that were long overdue for transplanting),
now have room to spread out a bit.
The last step is to cover with new pine straw
(which I need to purchase)
or whatever mulch you like.
This area gets partial shade in the afternoon,
which we need this time of year to grow tomatoes.
Even this variety of cherry tomato appreciates some cover.
It's just too hot to grow them in full sun.
With temps expected in the mid to upper 80's all week,
these will most likely be watered daily until they are stronger.

I hope to get to this next bed this week.
Right now it has a smattering of ornamentals and veg,
including daisies, lantana, liriope and a pot of native petunia, zinnias and portulaca 
coming up along with a few broccoli and eggplants in there.
We will transition it to a veggie bed containing
eggplant, green beans, carrots, parsley, baby kale
and brandywine tomatoes.
I'm thinking maybe I should just use the enriched soil where crops will be planted, 
akin to the method used by Old World Garden Farms,
instead of using it throughout the bed.
Maybe we'll do an experiment and see if we can tell any difference in crop production.
Well, that's the status report on our Central Florida garden.  

What's happening where you are?
HOP on!