...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.


The Day of Eostre

Unfurling Skunk Cabbage Leaf

Today is Easter Sunday.  The word easter was derived from the ancient was for spring, "eastre," and the Teutonic dawn goddess of fertility, "Eostre."  Though there are obvious religious, especially Christian, reasons for this spring holiday, we choose to celebrate it for its pagan roots.  There was no better day to get in the garden and start grooming and preparing things for the fertility I anticipate this season.  On Saturday I spread most of the compost from our tumbler with hopes to complete the task this week after acquiring a load of topsoil to cover it--I paused in my spreading as I realized if I left the mostly composted food scraps exposed, our curious little one would be picking up avocado skins and peach pits saying "what's that?" and scattering them around the backyard in mysterious places only for me to find later in the summer.  So if the weather cooperates this week, I would like to finish the job.  Today I also seeded some pole beans in our front windowboxes (and watered them with compost "tea") and continued the interrupted job of cutting down dead perennials from last fall.  I also worked on creating some ambience for our backyard eden as I transferred the string lights from the fence that supports our grapevines to the cherry tree with a few small branches that overhang our "patio."  The grapevines leafed out so much last year that the lights were lost and unappreciated.  At the top of an unsteady ladder I wrapped and wrapped and wrapped strands around the delicate branches of our sweet cherry tree in a manner not unlike that of those in downtown Chicago--pretty soon they'll be calling to offer me a seasonal gig (yeah right!)

Naturally dyed eggs
One of these days I will get organized enough with my blog to post holiday ideas well before the holiday so that readers can use the information for their own meals and crafts.  My sister-in-law brought this to my attention around Thanksgiving when she was checking my blog for recipes for the big meal only to come up empty-handed (so sorry Chrispy! I owe you one.)  So this information is belated, but as long as my blog is intended to be a "web log" of my journeys through our urban homestead, this will have to do.  Yesterday V and I spent about eight minutes coloring hard-boiled eggs with natural dyes.  Her attention span for crafts is very short these days, but we decorated the eggs nonetheless as I realized that it's quite a passive activity anyway, especially when using natural dyes in which the eggs have to sit for an hour or two in order to take up the pigment.  We chose beet juice (pink), celery seed (gold), dill seed (brownish gold), and turmeric (yellow)--for some reason I gravitated toward the warm tones like I do with decorating.  We had mild success--the only color that wasn't strong enough was the beet juice.  This morning we hid the eggs around the yard, V had fun hunting for them--with much prompting--and was lead to her basket at the end.

Prepping the dyes

Supplies are ready

Letting them soak

Hmmm, I wonder who ate one...Vera?
Skunk cabbage
Our Easter day plans were modest from the beginning--we thought we'd visit a nature center then have a quiet dinner just us three.  Mid-week we were ramped up to drive to Horicon National Wildlife Refuge.  By this morning, considering naptime, we downgraded (but only distance-wise) to driving much less to Schlitz Audubon Center  in Bayside then keyed it down (distance-wise) again to Havenwoods State Forest on Milwaukee's north side, and finally decided not to drive at all and simply enjoy the flora in our own "backyard" as we strolled to the Seminary Woods just blocks away.  I always intend to visit the same natural area at least once each season of the same year to observe the changes taking place with the wildflowers, trees, and fungi.  We took a Valentine's Day weekend walk along this very path so let's say we're two for four with examining the grounds at the same location in 2011.  We saw many signs of spring as we identified bloodroot in bloom, skunk cabbage along the stream, trout lilies establishing themselves throughout the woods, and thriving ramps (wild leeks) dotting the undergrowth.  I realized that a tricky part of wild foraging is that one must be dedicated to getting out at least a few times each week to check what's in bloom or ripe.  It's not like the backyard where a person can take just a few steps to see what's close or at peak ripeness...and with many fewer competitors waiting for the same food.  This summer will be much different from the last as naptimes are consolidated and nursing intervals are non-existent.  A walk through the woods always gets my blood pumping and mind rolling--today I was obviously pondering summer.  In the meantime, it was a cold day for a walk, but fantastic to breathe the fresh air and listen to the trickling water of the stream and the knocking of the downy woodpecker.

We even used the wedding china
Our garden sorrel
We capped off the evening (and Ben's week staycation) with a quiet yet delightful celebratory meal, all kosher for my needs (see, it would have been nice had I posted recipes last Tuesday):

Lamb Loin with Sorghum and Tarragon Glaze

Polenta with Mushrooms

Local Spinach and Sorrel Salad with Pickled Beets, Toasted Hazelnuts, and Apple Vinaigrette

Chocolate Coconut Cream Pie with Almond Crust   

 A sampling of my old stamp collection
Though we're sad to see Daddy go back to work tomorrow, we greatly appreciate his spring cleaning efforts this past week.  I think we're all feeling cleansed and rejuvenated with more room to breathe.  I shipped so many things out the door this week it felt GREAT!  Although I'm determined to clear the clutter, I was still unable to part with my stamp collection--yes, I was a geeked out philatelist from about third grade until junior high.  Looking back at my loosely "organized" collection (and by that I mean it's a bunch of loose stamps messily piled in an empty Animal Clipper box from the days my mom and I had a dog grooming business), I believe I was more into the stamps for the quality and variety of artwork they displayed.  Now I'm feeling inspired to somehow upcycle this collection--I can't bring myself to sell them (besides I wouldn't know where to begin pricing them) and I'm certainly not going to "Antiques Roadshow" them.  Stay tuned for more crafty ideas...and Happy Easter!

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