...Growing, Building, Cooking, Preserving, Crafting...

2006 began our urban homestead when I broke ground on a garden, which now includes perennial fruits, flowers, & many vegetable varieties. We dream of solar panels, keeping bees and hens. Until then we'll continue growing and preserving our own fruits and vegetables, building what we can for our home, cooking from scratch, and crafting most days.


Spring Inspiration

One of my homesteading goals is to develop my life skills.  This includes craft skills.  My friend, Karen, recently gave me a quick and dirty beading lesson during a playdate as we attempted to keep the kids (especially Vera who apparently LOVES jewelry) out of the bead organizer.  My goal is to use beads from old necklaces (or ones I find at thrift or antique stores...or the upcoming antique flea markets) and use them to string new necklaces.  Like I really need another hobby, but I think it will be fun.  And I'm always looking for more creative outlets.  Not to mention I can now repair my own broken necklaces instead of farming them out to Karen.  Especially since Vera likes to play in mommy's bracelet box and stretch things out till they bust (yeah, we won't be trying that as entertainment again!)  Here is my first necklace.  It was challenging to figure out what beads can go together, but I think it turned out alright.

We're enjoying the bounty of rhubarb coming from the garden right now.  Tonight, as the pork chops were finishing in the oven, I decided to whip up this cake.  I was going to make rhubarb muffins tomorrow, but thought I'd work with the oven now since it was already heated.  I love the sweet tartness of rhubarb and I think it has the most amazing scent as it's sliced. (As I'm sitting here blogging someone just crept into the kitchen to steal another piece...as if I wouldn't be able to tell.)

Rhubarb Cornmeal Cake
Serves 8-10
Adapted from Nigella Lawson's How to Be a Domestic Goddess
This is an amazingly moist cake.  You can substitute regular cornmeal for the polenta, but I like the "crunch" the coarser meal adds.

1 lb. 2 oz. rhubarb, washed and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 c. plus 2 T. polenta
2 large eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 c. unsalted butter, soft
1 c. plus 2 T. plain yogurt
9-inch springform pan, greased and lined with parchment paper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Put the sliced rhubarb into a medium bowl with 1/3 c. sugar and let sit while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.  (Don't let the rhubarb stand for more than 30 min. in the sugar or it will make too much liquid.)  Mix the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and polenta.  With a fork, beat the eggs with the vanilla in a measuring cup or small bowl.  In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar.  Gradually add the eggs and vanilla, beating while you do so.  Add the flour-cornmeal mixture alternately with the yogurt.  Mix until just combined.  Fold in the rhubarb with its sugary juices.  Do not overmix.  Pour into the pan and bake for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool before serving with fresh whipped cream or ice cream.

Today I transplanted some kale into the newest raised bed in the front yard.  I've temporarily run out of hardware cloth to protect my seedlings so I used some cloches (French word for "bells") to keep the critters out.  Cloches are mainly used to create a mini-greenhouse environment when you want to harden off a seedling--they let in the light and sun, but keep out the wind and cold.  I found some inexpensive pieces from old lights fixtures at the ReStore so they look more like the old-fashioned French covers.  I also used some plastic gallon jugs that I'd cut off and tried last year (keeping them out of the garbage at work).  The glass cloches look nicer, of course, but whatever you have access to will do.  This week I'm planning to order the bulk mulch to cover my pathways in the backyard garden and re-mulch the front cottage garden, which hasn't been mulched in a couple of seasons.  There's been a good bit of erosion so we're overdue.  It's all coming together.  It's been a mad dash to get it all done so I can then relax.  The more I think about that statement, I wonder if it makes sense.

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