...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.


Sewing Season

Warm(er) weather for me not only means time spent in the garden, but more time at my sewing machine--one of my favorite places in the house.  I put the finishing touches on a summery dress for Vera last night.  I must have cut out this pattern months ago and made my first stitches probably in March.  Needing a change of scenery this past week with some very cold spring weather still whipping away outside, Vera and I went down to the basement and she sat (or wiggled and squirmed, rather) on my lap and watched me sew.  Once I got back to this project I realized how simple it was; finishing up took just an hour or so.  As my husband will tell you, it seems like every craft project I surmount, whether knitting or sewing, I always run into some sort of challenge that temporarily makes me crazy.  Attaching the bias tape then top-stitching the armholes of this dress proved to be the sticky point.  I am not totally satisfied with how the armholes turned out, but it was nothing a little trim couldn't fix.  I've been known to cover--or detract from--a rough spot or mistake with a little rick rack (as you'll recall with this outfit I made for V last year.)  Once again this dress cost me next to nothing--the fabric was from the thrift store, the buttons from the antique flea market, the rick rack from a rummage, and the thread donated by my mom.  I did buy the pattern new, although I got it at a deep discount after watching the local sales fliers for months.  It can be worn by itself or with a top underneath.  I found this purple smocked-waist dress on a recent thrifting trip and have found that it makes a nice sort of petticoat to give the bottom a little fluff.  Vera seemed to approve of the final product this morning as she gave her usual "OO-ooh!"  And immediately glommed onto the shiny purple buttons.

I love this offer from the "vintage" rick rack package--if only every child sewed these days.
If you haven't noticed, the weather has been wild lately.  Those high winds last weekend ripped the floating row cover off my original raised bed a couple of times and the bush beans I snuck into the ground just a hair early suffered some damage.  I have managed to get more seeds in the ground this week.  I attached some wire ("pig-panel") trellises to the fence on Mother's Day weekend and planted pole beans and cucumbers at their bases this week.  Also had to reseed my snap peas which had been swiped out of the ground by the critters.  This time I pre-germinated them and covered them with hardware cloth.  The good news: the radish/turnip bed looks excellent and the umbelliferae bed is really coming along (I was surprised how quickly salsify can germinate.)  I'm hoping to get out this weekend to grab some ramps (wild leeks) from the woods before they're gone.  I am salivating over a recipe for bacon/onion preserves that I think would benefit from the sharper flavor of the ramps.  I'm also hoping to gather lots of dandelions to either make dandelion wine (my namesake great-grandmother used to make this though she herself was a teetotaler) or dandelion jelly (inspired by my friends at Cooking in the Garden Unit).  I guess I'd better get my canning kettle shined up.

In case you're wondering, I'm still strongly adhering to my "special diet."  People often ask me if I'm still avoiding the offending foods.  Although I'm lucky none of them are life-threatening allergies, I am still taking it very seriously because I know I feel so much better without dairy, gluten, soy, and eggs in my system right now.  I will admit that I occasionally get a craving for cheese.  I finally tried my hand at a vegan/gluten-free "mac 'n cheese" recipe.  Child and husband approved, it was a success.

Cashew Mac-n-Cheese
Serves 4-6

This recipe was inspired by The Spunky Coconut, one of the food blogs I follow.  Of course, I had to tweak it a bit based on my ingredients I had on hand.  I used Tinkyada gluten-free spinach spaghetti, which I think has the most amazing texture, but a smaller noodle would make it more like the original.

4 c. Tinkyada pasta
1 T. salt
Boiling water

1 c. plain cashews, soaked overnight to soften
1 c. water
1/2 vegetable broth
2 T. ghee
1 T. nutritional yeast
1/4 t. each dried basil and oregano
1 clove garlic, minced
1-2 t. onion powder
2 T. arame (seaweed)
1 t. lemon juice

Tips to steam for soup garnish
Cook the pasta for about 14 min. in highly salted water.  Drain and set aside.  In the meantime, make the sauce by blending all of the ingredients in the food processor until fairly smooth (the bits of cashew that don't blend actually remind me of Parmesan cheese in a noodle dish!)  Pour the sauce over the noodles and serve.

I made some asparagus soup on Monday night as well, but I will wait to give you a recipe as I was not totally pleased with the results and am still experimenting.  But it felt good to have some of the season's local flavors finally on our table.  Speaking of asparagus, the crowns I dug up last year to investigate their health did not, in fact, sprout this year so I'm guessing they're done.  I will have to replant next season and wait another three years for a decent crop.  Such is life on the homestead.  It teaches patience I guess.

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