Self-Reliance is a Virtue

Pallet Strawberry Bed

Pallet Strawberry Bed

Be crafty.  Be frugal.  Make hay while the sun shines.  The night is coming when the harvest must already be in the barns… Remember that pallet I made into a strawberry planter this Spring?  This is what it looks like now.  The plants are sending out all kinds of runners resulting in lots of happy baby plants.  We enjoy beating each other to the bed to help ourselves to the ripe berries which are beginning to come on strong.  They are ever-bearing so we will see what our eventual harvest is.  [Note:  Remember to close up the bottoms and gaps in the sides of your pallets with other pallet wood.  Lay the pallet on thick newspaper or cardboard to prevent weeds and grass from coming through the slats. Fill with loose potting soil and plant.] DON’T YOU JUST LOVE PALLETS!  Seems everyone does these days.  What’s not to like about free wood.  I asked my husband to save the 10 or so pallets on which his patio stone arrived.  Now that “save” is paying off. My daughter Kelly and I are having a COTTAGE SEPTEMBER SALE on September 19 at the Farm Grove Barn in Groveland.  Self-reliance includes using the gifts and talents we have to earn some extra income.  The time of the sale is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  Y’all Come! Back to pallets:  After flexing my muscles and removing the boards on the back of 4 more pallets, my hubby took over.  He cut off the top stringer and through the top row of boards, then used a template to mark arrow points on the board ends.  Using his handy-dandy electrical saw he cut the points.  Instant picket fence span!

Pallet Picket Fence

Pallet Picket Fence

Picket fence pieces are not just for gardens or animal enclosures.  Mount these on the wall for a rustic background.  Use as a frame for a collection of photographs or add hooks to make it into a mud room coat rack.  Just propping it up against the wall adds rustic chic’ to a room.  A few angled boards and hinges turns this picket into a country gate.  I added the scrap from this project to our growing firewood stacks for the future fire pit. MAKE HAY WHILE THE SUN SHINES.  THE NIGHT IS COMING WHEN THE HARVEST MUST ALREADY BE IN THE BARNS.

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Country Rain Barrel

My husband and I mused about having a rain barrel to catch the abundance of rain that has been pelting Central Illinois for the month of June.  In one of those serendipitous moments, I spied a large industrial barrel at a country auction.  It had not occurred to me that the fiberglass and metal black barrel might make an ideal rain barrel.  I nearly missed it. As the auctioneer called for bids, I snuck forward to peek inside.  Sure enough, it was 1/3 full of water as were all the other items up-for-bid that had any kind of opening; it had rained kitties and puppies the night before.  Now that I knew it would hold water, the $2 bid he was asking for was certainly do-able.  I waved my number and took it home.

FFTY-FIVE GALLON INDUSTRIAL BARREL

FIFTY-FIVE GALLON INDUSTRIAL BARREL

IM008259 Handy husband, Butch, set about using scrap lumber from the deck project he completed with our son Dirk to make a heavy covering for the barrel.  It is good treated lumber and certainly will not blow away as it weighs about 12 pounds. Sitting at the corner of our lower level porch roof, our rain barrel is already 2/3’s full.  He crafted a handle on the top of the lid to make it easy to remove when rain is forecast.

Finished Barrel

Finished Barrel

The simple design looks right at home on the old barn patio.  We will be dipping water out of the barrel by the bucket-full until he is able to put in a faucet.  He also has plans to make a pedestal for the barrel high enough to fill buckets from the bottom. Using scrap lumber, this project cost us all of $2.  Serendipitous indeed. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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Ditch Lilies–Not Just For Ditches

The name Ditch Lily is appropriate.  I acquired my stand by digging a clump from the side of Queenswood Road or old Deacon Street near our village of Groveland, IL.  The site was nostalgic as it was near the Deacon Street cemetery where an early 1800’s prairie church once stood.  I like to think that the lilies bloomed in June for them as well.  Because they were a free-roaming flower, they are often found near aging farm houses and add an authentic touch to our country garden.

Stand of Deacon Street Ditch Lilies

Stand of Deacon Street Ditch Lilies

IM008254 These simple wild lilies, also called Field Lilies or Tiger Lilies, bloom in spreading clusters from early June in Central Illinois.  In addition to bringing a mass of melon color to the garden, they are also edible.  The blooms can be stir fried just before opening or the flower petals can be added to salads. BEWARE however.  The more exotic Asian Lily is NOT edible.

Asian Lily Before the Bloom Opens

Asian Lily Before the Bloom Opens

Notice that the Asian Lily, above,  has leaves that jut out up and down the stalk whereas the Ditch Lily’s leaves all protrude from the base of the stalk.

Orange Asian Lily

Orange Asian Lily

The Asian Lily bloom is more waxy than the Ditch Lily and deeper in color.  I love them all but it fascinates me that something growing freely along country roads in an awesome display is a source of naturally foraged food.  Someone had a grand idea, didn’t He.

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Garden Snapshot

Rutgers Heirloom Tomatoes

Rutgers Heirloom Tomatoes

Tomatoes - Rutgers, 002

June has been one of the wettest I can remember.  In between showers I took my basket to the garden to cut blooms for drying.  Along the way I visited my 7 Rutgers tomato plants.  I am ridiculously proud of them, having raised them from a seed.  Heirlooms have the bonus attribute of being able to reproduce themselves.  The stand above is now second generation.  I am hoping the weather fronts provide enough sun to produce lots of red ripe fruit.

Even a short trip to my garden produced 3 bunches of Larkspur, 3 bunches of white yarrow and 2 bunches of Lambs Ear to hang for drying.  The beams of the great room ceiling are filling with colorful everlastings.  By September I will have enough of both blooms and fillers to create dried flower wreaths.

 

 

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Berry Season Pie

June launches berry season in our area of Central Illinois.  The strawberries are ripe and the cherries are ready to pick.  Although we left the cherry picking in the orchard too late to save some from the birds, we harvested enough for a couple of Three Berry Pies. 606053986a545910efd98ce568f032f4 Fruit catalogue   Try this wonderful ode to early summer by combining 3 kinds of your favorite berries for a lovely pie. THREE BERRY PIE

  • Combine 4 cups of berries in any combination:  cherries or strawberries, blueberries and blackberries.  I used about 1 1/2 cups cherries, 1 1/2 cups blueberries and 1 cup blackberries.
  • Drizzle the berries with 1/2 teaspoon almond extract.  Toss together.
  • Mix  1/3 cup flour, 1 2/3 cup sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and a good dash of salt.
  • Blend flour mixture into berries until incorporated.  Set aside while preparing the pastry for a double crust pie.
  • Fill the pie shell with the fruit.  Dot with butter.  Top the berries with the second crust; seal and flute.  Cut steam slits in the top crust.  Dust top crust with sugar.
  • Bake the pie in a 400 degree F. oven for 50 minutes.  Cover the pie with a piece of aluminum foil for the last 10 minutes to prevent over-browning of the crust.

Serve this berry-delicious pie with real whipped cream or ice cream.

The berries are set aside in the flour and sugar to release some of their juices while preparing the pastry.

The berries are set aside in the flour and sugar to release some of their juices while preparing the pastry.

IM008248 IM008249 IM008250 The secret to flaky pie crust is to cut the shortening into the flour well; then sprinkle the ice water a few tablespoons at a time onto the flour; fluff with the pastry blender but do not cut in.  Continue adding more of the ice water and fluffing until the particles begin to hold together.  Bring the ball together with your hands.  Add more water if the dough is not soft and moist.  It is better to have a softer dough than a dry dough.  The trick is to avoid over-mixing the dough. Roll dough out on floured waxed paper.  Dust top crust with sugar before baking.  This is a juicy pie; place a sheet of aluminum foil under your pie before baking to catch drips.  The pie is done when the juices are thickened and running out of the steam slits and the top is golden brown.  Cool the pie completely before cutting in order to allow the filling to set. HAPPY SUMMER EATING!

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Hand-painted Slip-on Canvas Shoes for Summer

IM008244IM008242

While on vacation in Florida, I watched artists hand-paint canvas Toms slip-ons.  Although I do not have a pair of Toms, I do have two pairs of casual and comfy summer slip-ons that I purchased on sale. [Keds and Grasshopper brands] They were pretty boring as shoes go but oh so comfortable.  Feeling whimsical, I decided to paint them.

For the denim set on the left I  traced star designs and filled in the outlines with white acrylic craft pain.  For the white set, I tried an all-over design of small cherries for a Door County theme.  To help set the design I sprayed both sets with a silicon water-proofing spray.  Summer fun!

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Drying A Harvest of Peonies

Red blooms open first.

Red blooms open first.

Among my favorite flowers is the spring peony.  We are fortunate to have four red bushes and an entire long row of pinks and whites, making a spectacular display in late June.  This year I am committing flower sacrilege by cutting most of the blooms as they first open to dry for wreaths.  When cut the very first day and air-dried, the petals hold well and they look like a dried rose.

As the reds started to fall, the pinks and whites opened in a long hedge of blooms.

As the reds started to fall, the pinks and whites opened in a long hedge of blooms.

Although I love to see the whole hedge blooming, peonies usually fracture and fall in a shower of petals after two or three days; with frequent rain showers, they last an even shorter period of time.  But when the fragrant blooms are dried in the open beams of my great room, they last for years as an everlasting  wreath.

Bushels of blooms!

Bushels of blooms!

A fringe benefit is the sweet fragrance of fresh peony that fills my home as they dry.  Bunch them in small bunches, preferably no more than three, using rubber  bands.  The blossoms will shrink by 2/3’s and only a rubber band will shrink with the stems.  Hang them upside/down from the ceiling in a very dry environment away from direct light.  Because dried blooms are fragile, allow them to remain hanging until they are glued into a wreath base of neutral everlastings.  Everlasting rose and peony wreaths will be available at our September 15, 2015, September Sale @ Farm Grove. 

A floral wreath is an elegant cottage gift that celebrates spring throughout the seasons.

HAPPY SPRING from the Farm Grove Barn

Groveland, Illinois

 

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