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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Spring Snippets

We had a mild winter, but spring is feeling very, well, long. Now that The Wood Artist is home from the Bakken, we're going to do a garden again.  The rest was needed, but does it ever feel good to touch the potting soil, read the seed descriptions, and open up the 10-year journal once again.

The tomatoes are up and I'm excited to taste an old favorite, Paul Robeson, as well as two new varieties. 

Granny Cantrell  caught my eye when I was researching heirloom seeds for a WWII Victory Garden project for  Humanities classes I teach to 3rd and 4th graders. Here's the description from the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed catalog:

     "This meaty beefstake-type tomato is named after  Lettie Cantrell, who received seeds from a soldier returning from Germany during World War II. She grew this tomato in the hills of Eastern Kentucky for many years. This was her favorite tomato and the only one she grew. Each year she saved seeds from the largest tomatoes, some of which reached 2 1/2 lbs. Our growers find it quite productive. Ahh! What a flavor! This variety was named best tasting tomato of the year at the 2006 Heirloom Garden Show in our taste testing contest.

Indigo Cream Berries Tomato is a cherry type tomato that boasted a stunning photo in the Territorial Seed Catalog. It is supposed to be tasty and the beauty is simply breathtaking. I can't wait to include it in my summer salads.

Those are the only tomatoes I'm starting under my grow lights. I'll round out the garden with a paste tomato and my favorite orange cherry tomato from my local friends' nurseries.

My alliums are looking a bit too willowy. I hope they beef up before it is time to transplant. I usually buy onion plants from Territorial, but I decided to save money and try growing from seed. That means I had to give up some tried and true varieties (I'll really miss my Red Zepplins.)

Here's what I picked:

Southport White Globe:  Its a long-day onion, so should go well in my northern garden. I love cooking with white onions and was excited that it is among the best keepers of white onions.

Brunswick: A red/purple onion also supposed to keep well. Flattened a bit.

Noordhollandse Bloedrode: (Don't ask me to say that!) Here's what the Baker Creek seed packet says: "(Dutch Red) Long-day type - The name translates as North Holland Blood Red, and these beauties are indeed a lovely, shiny ox-blood red. Large, slightly flattened onion are very pungent, which makes them good keepers in spite of their rather thick neck. They can also be grown for scallions as they often are in Holland. A good variety for Northern gardeners." I think I'll try them for scallions and keepers.

I'm also growing Giant Musselburgh Leeks. I love growing leeks, but I'm a bit worried that I didn't start them in time to get a good harvest this summer. Amazingly, even in my brutal climate, I've had them overwinter a couple of times.

Totally new to me this year will be shallots. I've been experimenting with cooking with shallots a bit and really love the flavor. Zebrune Shallot is how I chose to jump into the experience. Listen to this crazy description from Baker Creek:

      "Gorgeous heirloom French eschalion or 'banana' type shallot yields plump, long, torpedo-shaped bulbs. Bulbs are tinged with pink. The flesh is very mild and sweet, and large yields may be had starting the first year from an early planting. Excellent keeping quality makes these gourmet shallots useful over a very long season!"

Good grief! How can you not be taken in with that kind of a description!

I wasn't going to do cabbage starts this year, but Baker Creek sends these crazy good "Free Gift" packets and, well, I couldn't let them go to waste.

I planted several hot pepper and sweet pepper varieties, but none of them have come up yet.  Maybe I'll do a post on them later. - Nanette

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Wagon Train, Part 4

I love this patriotic shot.
 When I first started this story, I said that I would do three parts. But, I couldn't bear to skip some of these.  I'll just breeze through some of these snapshots of fun and new friends. 
These horses are wearing a special netting to keep off the bugs.

On the buckboard one last time.


New friends

Believe it or not, the motion of the wagon lulls you to sleep!

Prairie Conversations

Two Friends, Two Horses, and a Corn Field

Laughing Water Directing a Play

Are These Teamsters Going to Get Their Lines Right?

Nothing Better than a Bunch of Friends on the Prairie

Good Conversation

Doesn't Get Better Than this for This Boy

Strangers One Day, Practical Jokes the Next

Laughing Water and Nanette with our Amazing Teamster, Mark

Wagon Train, Part 3

 My favorite place in our wagon was the buckboard.  I didn't get there often because we all had to share. It was cool and breezy and surprisingly relaxing.
Here, The Wood Artist and Mr. Blueberry Eyes consult with Uncle Russ on some important matter.
 This little spot made you feel like you were right on the shores of Silver Lake with Laura Ingalls. The breeze blew the tall prairie grass (and it truly came above my waist).
By the time the wagons stopped for the day, we were tired!  Here, Laughing Water rests her feet.
 What wagon train would be complete without a river fording? Granted, ours was not quite the scary adventure that it was for many of the people on the Oregon Trail, but it was a bit of water.
Here we are waiting our turn....
 Just about to go down.  I must say, I was a bit nervous.
I got several more picturess, but they are blurry from the jolting of the wagon wheels.
 One afternoon, we formed the circle early and pitched camp. Shortly after lunch a rain storm came through and we dashed for the dryness of our tents.  The soft rain lulled me to sleep and I slept for three hours. When I awoke, the camp was in full celebration mode.  We played old fashioned games like sack races and tug-of war.
Someone brought all the supplies and showed us how to make rag dolls.  We made home made ice cream and tossed Indian fry bread in a great vat of oil and then rolled them in cinnamon sugar.
 That night we had a trading post and traded little goodies we had made or brought from our home town.  Here, Mr. Blueberry Eyes trades some of his deer antler buttons for a British flag with Mrs. Bridgewater. (Yes, she did come all the way from England for the wagon train.)
People dressed in high prairie finery and a good time was had by all.

Wagon Train, Part 2

 It is taking too long to get these pictures up.  I'm starting to gear up for spring and summer and keep finding things I want to blog about, so I'm determined to finish up posting about our wagon train adventure last summer.

Every person on the wagon train had daily chores that were posted on the chuck wagon the night before.  Here, Mr. Blueberry  Eyes and his new found friend are helping with lunch duty.

Lunch always consisted of a sandwich line with thickly sliced bread, lunch meat or spread of some kind, carrot and celery sticks and fruit of some kind.  There was also plenty of clean water and lemon aid.

There was a wooden table that folded out from the back of the chuck wagon to lay the food out on.
Mr. Blueberry Eyes and The Wood Artist wait for the picket crew.
 Then there was the picket line.  If you were on picket crew for the day, you had to report immediately to set up the picket line at noon and at the evening's rest spot.  Only the trail horses were tied to the picket line.  The draft horses that pulled the wagons stayed with their particular wagon.
 Several times a rambunctious horse would toss his head a bit too hard and pull the line out.
 Breakfast and dinner were hot meals prepared over the fire.
 This coffee was the real cowboy deal, complete with a few grounds in your cup.
 This is how you make scrambled eggs for a hungry crowd on the trail.

 And then there was the Biffy.  This was just one of the things that made our adventure more pleasant than the real settlers would have experienced.  The Biffy was a little wooden house with four stalls that got pulled behind a pick-up truck.

There was a Biffy stop mid-morning and mid-afternoon, and woe to you if you had to go before the stop! (There aren't trees in North Dakota!)

Anyone on Biffy duty for the day had to be available at these stops. Everyone would line up for the pit stop and then, when everyone was done, the truck would pull ahead and the Biffy crew would go to work with shovels to bury...things.

The lunch and night stops had properly dug holes.
 Here are a few shots of the preparations that went into making our costumes.  The guys made these snazzy little buttons out of dear antlers and I sewed them onto the shirts that I made for them.
 All cowboy hats had to have ties to prevent them flying off in a wind and scaring the horses.  The guys' hats didn't come with ties, so we made our own out of leather.
Then we attached them with the tips of the antlers that were left over from button-making.
 I made these prairie shirts out of an old sheet for The Wood Artist and Mr. Blueberry Eyes.

 I wasn't thrilled with our skirt pattern, so I made the waistband wider and did a double-button closure. It was more comfortable and I felt made a better look.
 I'm afraid I'm a lot like Laura Ingalls.  I didn't enjoy having a bonnet on my head, so it stayed on my back a lot.  But I soon learned the virtue of bonnets.  One gets a sun burnt nose pretty quickly without one.
Finding a few peaceful moments in the wagon before the circle breaks for a day of travel....ahhhh!!!!