Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Go, Nanny, Go!!

Happy birthday to my maternal grandmother, Ruby Marie Ingram. "Nanny" turned a young 86 today! Huxley and I spent the day with she and my mom, enjoying a grand lunch at the Switzerland Cafe (Hubs and I usually pronounce the tiny town's name as 'Lil Switzerland, like it's a Dr. Dre production), shopping at Books & Beans next door, and then swinging back into Burnsville (where they both live, about an hour from me) for pecan pie at Mary Janes Bakery & Cafe.

Happy, happy day, Nanny. May I be as spry, sassy and sensational as you are now in 50 years!!!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

This Just In...

Short notice, I know, but I was asked just a little bit earlier today if I'd like to be on Martha Stewart's Sirius XM program "Morning Living" tomorrow. I'll be chatting about canning the end-of-summer bounty around 8:30 a.m.-ish.

Tune in and check it out!

*Even if you don't have a subscription to Sirius, you can listen to the show via a trial subscription. For details, go here.

The Canning Queen of the Desert

The Canning Queen of the Desert from Etsy on Vimeo.

Check out this video sent to me today by one of the producers of Etsy. It's on Classie Parker (AMAZING NAME, yes???!!!), an urban farmer and canning instructor toughing it out in the wilds of NYC.

She's a joy to watch. I especially love when she proclaims "Canning is sexy, baby!" Given that I've been sweating something fierce in my kitchen lately as I can plums, nectarines and peaches sent to me by the Washington State Fruit Commission (more on this to come...), I can only hope she's right!


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Mary Jane's Farm Food Day

It's coming up, folks! In just three weeks from today, I'll be in St. Paul, Minnesota, teaching a class on making, and canning, jam as part of Mary Jane's Farm Food Day at The Creative Connection Event.

Hope to see some of you there! Hubs and Huxley are coming, too. I've never been to Minnesota before, so if any of you have suggestions for places to visit or eat at for the fellas while I'm at the conference, I'd love to hear them!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Custom Canning Label Contest

Want to try your hand at winning some beautiful custom-printed labels to festoon your canned goods with? Well, then, head over to Felix Doolittle, a stationary purveyor in Massachusettes.

I received an email yesterday from Jena of the lovely blog Modish, giving me a head's up about the contest. The gist of it is, send Felix a jar of something sweet that you've canned and he, along with chef Michael Leviton of Newton, MA's Lumiere will chose a winner to receive custom, hand-painted labels made my Felix himself.

How cool is that? I'm thinking of sending in a jar of my Peach & Lavender butter. Or maybe my Cardamom Apple Butter. Or maybe Apricot Jam!

Guest Post: Nesting Ground

Happy Friday, everyone! East Coast friends, are you batting down the hatches, getting ready for Irene? Having witnessed several hurricanes firsthand, I speak from experience when I say: get stocked up on water (lots of it!), a radio-powered battery, food for all of your pets, canned foods for yourself and fill up the bath tub in order to have water for flushing the toilet. Oh, and don't try to drive through standing water. It never ends well!

I've got a treat for you today. Liesl and Myles of Nesting Ground are guest posting today. I adore their blog, as well as their regular "Small Farm Chronicles" on Mother Earth News. Here Liesl shares their adventures in urban homesteading in southern Alberta, Canada, with some incredible before and after yard photos and a delicious "Back Porch Sun Tea" recipe. Enjoy!

Relish the "Now"
Liesl Petersen

When we decided 7 years ago we wanted to buy a farm and grow our own food, we knew it would be a long journey to this goal-- and today, we're still not there. Land prices around here are out of reach for the average Joe, and our monthly bills aren't getting any smaller. When we were ready to purchase our first home two years ago, we just couldn't get enough money together for a farm. Instead of sprawling land, we moved into a sleepy little town in rural Alberta. But when we moved in, we relished in the fact that it was ours! Sure, our town lot is the size of a postage stamp; 125 by 50 ft to be exact. We immediately started talking about what was possible. We realized the potential in this space while we waited for the big dream.

And that's when we decided to try to do some of the things we would on our farm and do it here. And why not? Why not try while we wait? Many folks from around these parts said we were nuts and it was little more than a garden. The "back-to-the-land movement" is not quite as popular or pursued with such gusto as it is in larger Canadian cities, or in the States. Their scoffing drove us harder to push the limits.

Removing some "pretty" but water guzzling sod and replacing it with vegetables was the first step. Building a tiny greenhouse and cold frame, experimenting with easily fashioned hoop houses, preserving, baking bread and making cheese all came next! Hey, ya don't need land to do all that! We realized we could make do and enjoy what we had. Our pea-size kitchen is jungle-like all winter loaded with seedlings and grow lights--but come summer and fall, we transform it into a cannery!! After only two short years we can fill up our freezer and pantry with wholesome, homegrown food!

Sure there are a few things that aren't quite the same-- for bugs me that my town bylaw won't allow me to keep a couple of chickens for fresh eggs. But animal husbandry manuals (among with cheese making, bee keeping and living-off-the-land books) are right on the bed stand so we see them every morning and read 'em every night. For now we drive a couple of miles to our local Hutterite Colony and purchase eggs there. Finding ways to compensate for what you don't have and enjoying all that you do--that's living the good life. One thing my Mom taught me in life is resiliency and enjoying the now. It's a way to look at a situation and not just make the best of it, but really go all out.

Today I share her simple recipe for Sun Tea. No matter where you live, you can put this pitcher on a balcony, a back porch, front step, deck or even on a sunny windowsill. The heat of the sun slowly brews the tea. It's ridiculously cheap, simply delicious and the perfect refreshment. And besides, things that are slow brewed and slow cooked force you to slow down too and savor the moment.

Back Porch Sun Tea
What you need:
*Cold water
*2 tea bags {black or herbal}
*Pitcher, jug or large mason jar
*Cloth or lid to cover
*A nice sunny day

Fill up your pitcher with fresh cold water and add the tea bags. Cover the pitcher {here I use fabric remnants and an elastic band} as to keep creepy crawlers at bay. Set pitcher out in the sun. Allow to steep for several hours. You will know when it's ready because the water will be a beautiful golden hue. Discard tea bags to your composter. Pour sun-steeped tea over lots of ice and enjoy!
Delicious add in's: Try adding citrus, like lemon or orange slices, to the brew. Fresh herbs and cucumber slices are equally yummy!
To Sweeten Naturally: Skip refined white sugar and opt for a spoonful of honey added to your glass!

Thanks, Liesl. I love your approach to finding the joy in the here and now!

What about you? Got a topic you think would appeal to small measure readers? Shoot me an email at: ashleyadamsenglish(at)gmail(dot)com and let's chat about it!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wednesdays, With A.J.

Hi friends! I'm chatting with A.J. today over at the cheekily titled Hand Jobs For the Home.

Come for the interview, stick around for the great recipes, witty banter and helpful domestic tips (plus, A.J. sports some great specs and has fabulous personal style; we've become quite the emailing/blog-loving buddies!).


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Day In the Life

Today, many good things happened:

~Huxley had play time with his grandmother and great-grandmother.
~Hubs and I consumed delicious lattes, courtesy of Battle Cat.
~I checked on the hives and it would appear an extraction is imminent (I'm thinking the weekend after this one, as there's just a wee bit of uncapped honey still present).
~Much laundry was laundered, dried, folded and put away.
~Many emails were attended to (A.J., I'm almost done with your interview questions, from back in freaking April!!!).
~Yogurt made from cows belonging to the ever generous Valerie Graves was cultured (you can find the super easy recipe for homemade yogurt in my book).
~Hubs began building a new wooden rack for the firewood that will keep us roasty toasty in the wood stove all winter long.
~Some of the remaining otherworldly delicious peaches still on hand from my canning class were consumed with heady abandon.
~A chilly 55 degree morning was greeted with hoodies, warm socks and gratitude.
~The telltale smell of autumn made itself manifest.
~Doggie love was felt (that's our German Shepherd, Fly)
~Plans to put the fall garden in tomorrow were made.
~Some Joan Jett was sung along to.
~Multiple baby kisses were bestowed.
~A Weeping Willow Wit was consumed.
~My love of charcuterie was further cemented.
~Thankfulness for a "lady date" on Friday night with my editor and buddy Nicole at Curate was felt (she also festooned me with this exquisite specimen as a belated birthday gift).
~General love of life, family, location and situation was experienced.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Green Label (+ Giveaway!!!!)

I love serendipity. I really do. When space and time collide in a strangely parallel way, then I just beam, feeling that some sort of order really does exist in the cosmos. Like that time my sister, Devan, and I were on our way home from a week-long trip to Northern California. We had some time to kill before our flight out of SFO, so we drove out to Point Reyes to visit the lighthouse (I have a very, very special place in my heart for lighthouses).

Just as we were about to walk back up the 300-odd stairs to our rental car, I heard a voice say "Ashley?" I turned to see Jen and Jon, very, very dear friends of mine who had been working on organic farms and living in a plant sanctuary in India (where they built their own house out of thatch and bamboo, and had monkeys and snakes as house companions!!!). They had just flown in from Japan. I hadn't seen them in 1 1/2 years, and then, there they were.

Or all of the parallels that existed between Hubs and I when we met. I'd come out of a very lengthy, rocky relationship when we first encountered one another. I got very specific about what sort of partner I wanted in the future and Hubs just kept meeting each and every one of the criteria I'd laid out in my mind. I had to marry him, of course.

More recently, I got an email from my buddy, Aaron. He wrote that he was working with the organic clothing company, Green Label, and would like to send me a t-shirt to keep and another to offer in a small measure giveaway. I looked down at the shirt I was wearing at the time, while still skimming over his email. Yep. It was Green Label. I knew this giveaway was meant to be. It's kismet, you see.

And so, for the newest giveaway on this blog of mine, I'd like to offer one lucky reader a women's medium-sized "Support Local" t-shirt, pictured above (men folk-this doesn't mean you're out of the running; feel free to enter the giveaway and festoon a lucky lady with the shirt, or, hell, you could even try to squeeze your own torso into it!).

In order to enter, just leave a comment telling me what "support local" means to you. Do you do it? If so, how do you do it? Do you think it's important? A bunch of hype? If you object to the idea, tell me about that? I'm all ears. PLEASE leave a way for me to reach you, should you be the winner (I've unfortunately had many, many entries in the past that came up as the winner in the Random Widget with no means of contacting the commenter). That could be achieved via either a link back to your blog or with your email included in your entry comment. I'll leave the contest open until a week from today, August 26th, midnight EST.

Good luck, everyone, and may serendipity shine its magical light upon you!

Update: Comments are now closed (actually, they closed at midnight, EST, on Friday, but it's 4:00 p.m. on Sunday and I'm just now getting around to announcing the winner!). The Green Label t-shirt, as chosen by the Random Widget, will be going to Jasmine of Bunchberry Farm way out in Alaska! Thank you to all who entered!!!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Guest Post: Seattle Seedling

I used to be the sort of gal who planted whatever, wherever. If it was pretty, or it smelled good, that was enough for me. Now, whenever I'm at the garden center, or perusing a seed catalogue, I find myself thinking "yeah, it's gorgeous, and yes, it smells good, but can I eat it?" My green thumb wants to enjoy beauty and fragrance and wild pollinator attraction, as well as satisfy my palate and my belly. Is that too much to ask for?

Well, if you think like me, or even if you don't but need some growing inspiration, Stacy Brewer of Seattle Seedling has got just the thing to get you started. Her post today explores culinary uses for edible flowers. Considering that the property Hubs and I live on was an organic flower and herb farm in its previous life, this post truly hits close to home!

Edible Flowers - Think Outside the Flower Pot
Stacy Brewer

"I hosted a game night pot luck the other night and one of my friends made an amazing vegan fruit tart. She recounted that when she was making it, her soon-to-be-husband said, "Wow! You're making that tart for game night?" And she replied, "Yeah, you bring your A-game when you go to Stacy's." I'm not sure where along the way I gave my poor friends the impression that they have to get in touch with their inner-Martha when bringing something to my house. But I guess when you do things like garnish a salad with beautiful flowers, you send a message, whether you mean to or not, that when it comes to the kitchen, you mean business. What's really going on though is that I just know a thing or two about what I can eat around my yard.

My little urban farm is situated on a 4,000 square foot lot in the heart of Seattle. In the 2,700 square feet that's not taken up by my house, I grow as much food, organically as I can for myself, my chickens, and the neighborhood pollinators. So, since space is something I have to consider when I choose what to grow on my "farm", I like to choose plants that give me a lot of bang for my buck. And that's why edible flowers are so fantastic. They're lovely to look at, bees love them, and you can usually use them in more ways than one. Here are just a few ways you can use edible flowers in your kitchen:

Add dried lavender blossoms and buds to some organic cane sugar. Press down on the lavender a little when incorporating the buds into the sugar to release some of the oils (think mortar and pestle)
"Dress" your salad by adding nasturtium, violas (a.k.a. Johnny jump-ups), or calendula petals
Calendula petals can also be dried, ground and used in place of saffron
Add pretty little arugula flowers to salad for a peppery bite. You will be blown away by how much they taste like arugula!
Add bold, purple chive blossoms to salads or soups as an oniony garnish

For me, it all started with nasturtiums and really just because I love how they look. It delights me to no end watching big bumblebees totally immerse themselves inside the deep blossoms, like they're searching for buried treasure. Then, when I discovered I could put those beautiful red, orange and yellow blooms on a salad, it was over. I officially became an edible flower convert. Actually, every part of the nasturtium plant is edible - leaves, flowers, seeds. Aphids love to eat them too, which can be a nuisance since once they appear, they quickly take over the entire plant. Some gardeners plant nasturtiums as a decoy to protect other plants that aphids love. So before aphids take over your blooms, try these recipes so you can preserve your nasturtium harvest and enjoy it long after summer's past.

Nasturtium Vinegar
Put about a cup of loosely packed nasturtium flowers in a clean pint jar. Fill the jar all the way to the top with white wine vinegar. I used apple cider vinegar in another jar for a little variety. Make sure that all the blooms are completely covered with vinegar so they won't mold. Put the jars in a cool, dark place for three weeks. I flipped the jars over every couple of days, just to be sure that the blossoms were always covered and saturated. Strain and proceed to use in any recipe that calls for a bright tasting, orange tinted vinegar. Nasturtium vinaigrette anyone?

Super Simple Pickled Nasturtium Seeds (a.k.a. Fake capers)
I recently discovered that nasturtium seeds can be preserved and used as a substitute for capers! Once the nasturtium flowers fade, a green, wrinkly seed cluster will appear - they come in threes. Pick the seeds when they're young and green, leaving a little portion of the stem attached. Leave some of the seeds on the plant if you want it to reseed and come back again next season. Soak the seeds in salt water (about one tablespoon of salt for each pint of water) overnight. Drain the seeds, put them in a clean jar or container, and cover with vinegar that is heated to boiling point. Seal the jar tightly and store in the fridge for a few weeks before enjoying in any recipe calling for capers. Of course, you could make this recipe even more dolled up with your favorite pickling spices or recipes.

Nasturtiums are the gateway flower because they're super easy to grow and once you start eating those, you'll want to start adding even more edible flowers to your repertoire. So plant a few and use them for more than just for show. Just don't be surprised if as a result your guests start upping their game. "

Thank you, Stacy. This is so incredibly inspiring! What about you? Got a topic you think would make a great small measure guest post? Shoot me an email at: ashleyadamsenglish(at)gmail(dot)com and let's see what we can come up with!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Small Friends: Barefoot Books

Today I'd like to shine a spotlight on Barefoot Books. Back in May, after my guest post on Soulemama, I received an email from the children's book publisher. They had seen my post there and wanted to send Huxley some books.

I can't speak highly enough of Barefoot. Their selection of reads for babies and children is incredibly well curated. The illustrations are top tier and the subject matter is just the sort of diverse, inspiring material I look forward to sharing with Huxley as he ages.

In the meantime, he's seriously enjoying the Action Rhymes and Nursery Rhymes books pictured above. Mostly, he just gnaws on the corners, but every so often, I'll find he's pulled one of the books out of his toy basket and is gazing at the pages.

Do check out Barefoot. You'll be glad you did.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Let's Go To the Hop

Huxley and I will be attending what promises to be an incredible music show this Wednesday. Orlando-based Rabbit will be playing at The Hop on Merrimon Ave.. My imminently talented and exquisitely lovely friend Jen Altman worked hard to make this show happen, so, if you're free, let's convene, eat ice cream, get our music on, and show Rabbit some support!

P.S. Did I mention that the show is free? And that there's wickedly delicious ice cream there? And that it's early in the evening, so even kiddos like mine can attend? See you there!!!

We Put Lids On Things

The first canning class chez English went off without a hitch this past Saturday. Ten lovely ladies made the trek out here to watch me steam it up over a boiling water bath.

We took some of the finest, ripest, sweetest, juiciest peaches South Carolina has to offer and rendered them into spiced peach jam. To cool ourselves in my hot kitchen, we sipped on Hubs' delicious lemonade and water infused with cucumber slices from our garden.

Afterwards, we moved the party outdoors to the patio and noshed and chatted. We tried to use as much produce from our garden and goods from our pantry in the meal as possible. Here's what we offered the guests:

*Orecchiette pasta with homemade pesto, cremini mushrooms & types of summer squash
*Fresh mozzarella with heirloom tomato slices & fresh basil
*Mesclun greens with blueberries & fresh figs tossed with a homemade vinaigrette
*Herbed pickled asparagus spears wrapped with ham slices (the pickled asparagus recipe is from my book)
*Farm & Sparrow Market bread
*Pickled beets
*Pickled Chinese 5-spice cherries

And for dessert, my sisters that were visiting helped me whip up a Peach Crisp with candied lemon verbena (Hubs genius idea) and lemon verbena infused whipped cream (my most favorite means of enjoying lemon verbena ever).

It was a truly wonderful afternoon. Thank you to all who ventured out here. And a river of gratitude to Michelle and Heather for their blog posts about the event (Michelle's photo montage is seriously magazine worthy!).

Soon I'll be making a post about other upcoming classes, including: bread-making, home dairy, and chicken-keeping. Also, I'd love to know what you'd like to learn. Any bee in your bonnet you're itching to learn more about?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Pollination Station(s)

Sorry for the radio silence, folks! Between prepping for Saturday's t.v. segment (soon as I obtain a clip of the segment-which went really well!-I'll be sure to post it here), prepping for the 2nd photo shoot of the new book this past Monday, and then having family come into town on Tuesday, we've been busy, busy bees chez English.

Now we (we being Hubs, my two sisters, Huxley & myself) are gearing up for Saturday's canning class (by the way, we've had two cancellations, so, if any of you have a hankering to learn how to water bath can and will be around on Saturday, shoot me an email at ashleyadamsenglish(at)gmail(dot)com). Firstly, though, we're off today to the WNC Nature Center to hang out with the moms and babies in my mom/baby group that I haven't seen in ages and ogle the river otters and black bears!

Before heading out, I thought I'd share with this line-up of beautiful wild pollinator habitats that Hubs created (he did a great job, yes?). They're all up on posts in our garden, on the way to the chicken coop. To learn more about wild pollinators, check out this post I did on Design Sponge last year. We've got loads of them on our property, and we couldn't be happier. Between the two honeybee hives, all of the hummingbirds, butterflies, mason bees and other solitary bees, wasps, hornets, and other lovely winged beauties, we've got some great pollination happening out here.

Alright, I've got to get the baby dressed, get myself showered, and pack a picnic for noshing on. Have a great day, all!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Guest Post: Crafty Little Gnome

Hi friends. I've got another great guest post for you today. Adrienne, who lives in Bellingham, Washington and blogs at Crafty Little Gnome, is sharing tips for success with Vermicomposting. That's composting with worms, for the uninitiated, but I'll let Adrienne explain all of that to you. Check out the post and be sure to visit her blog, as well. There are many, many ideas that will undoubtedly appeal to small measure readers.

Adrienne Audrey

Vermicomposting is a fancy name for composting with worms. When red wrigglers are added to your compost pile, they eat your organic waste and convert it (via pooping!) into beautiful rich compost. Worms will breakdown your compost pile much faster than traditional compost methods. Whether you live on a sprawling farm or atop a city skyscraper anyone can learn how to vermicompost. The set up is easy, takes up little space and will produce compost year round.

The Set Up
There are two routes you can take, you can buy or DIY.

Worm bins such as the Worm Factory and the Worm Factory 360 are available to purchase. They are upward migration composting worm systems. Meaning, they have layered trays and the worms travel upwards through holes in the trays to eat fresh food. You rotate the trays as the food breaks down into compost. There is also a spigot at the bottom for collecting worm tea (more on marvelous worm tea later.)

Don’t like the hefty price tag that comes with pre-made worm bins? Make your own! Making a bin is actually quite simple and inexpensive. You can use Rubbermaid bins with holes drilled into the bottom to create a worm bin. I could get into the specifics but I would probably need to dedicate a whole post for the tutorial. Google, “how to make a worm composting bin” for about a million different DIY options.

Place your bin in a cool, dry easily accessible place where the temperature is between 40-80 degrees. The kitchen is usually a great place for your worm bin. If set up properly your bin won’t smell or leak. You’ll be amazed at how fast vermiposting becomes part of your daily routine.

Prepping the Bin
Once you have assembled the worm bin begin by adding your base material. Fill it with a mix of shredded materials like old newspaper and cardboard, leaves and peat moss . Then add in some food scraps and let it sit for about a week to start decomposing before adding your worms.

Where to Get Worms
Worms are likely available at your local garden center. You can also order them online. I actually got mine off Amazon (yes you really can buy everything off Amazon) Now before you go digging up some squirming worms from you backyard remember not all worms are created equal. Some species won’t want to eat your garbage. Also, they may carry disease. For the best quality worms it’s best to buy them from a source that specifically sells worms for vermicomposting. If you know someone with an established worm bin you could always ask if you can have some of their worms. In general you need about 1-2 pounds of worms to start with. When adding your worms for the first time keep the lights on in the room your bin is situated in. Worms don’t like light and will burrow themselves into the compost to hide from the light.
The worm population of your bin will self regulate. What this means is that they will only reproduce as long as there is enough space and food to accommodate themselves. Your worms won’t reproduce to the point where the number is out of control but they do multiply quickly. You’ll notice a lot of little baby worms in your compost from time to time. This is a good thing.

What Worms Like
*Food cut up into tiny pieces (easier for them to chew)
*Veggies and veggie scraps. Didn’t get around to eating that spinach and now it’s wilted and gross? Toss it in the bin.
*Starches: Potatoes, pasta, rice, crackers and stale bread. Mmm.. Carbs…
*Dead flowers
*Disease free plant trimmings
*Coffee filters
*And pretty much anything you would normally put in your regular compost

What Worms Dislike
*Coffee grounds. Yep, contrary to popular belief worms don’t like coffee nearly as much as we humans do. In fact if you have been adding grounds to your worm bin all the brown stuff you think is amazing worm castings are probably undigested coffee. A little coffee is okay but I prefer to keep it out of the worm bin and save it for my worm free compost and other gardening projects.
*Too much citrus. Try not to overload the bin with orange peels and lemon rinds. The worms don’t like the acidity.
*Inorganic matter. Don’t forget to peel the stickers off your fruit. Worms wont eat them and you’ll find random bits of plastic in your compost. Ditto with saran wrap and aluminum foil
*Dairy and meat.
*Too many garlic or onion scraps

The food mixture should be about 50% kitchen scraps and 50% fiber.
Sources of fiber:
*Shredded paper
*Dryer lint

1lb of worms will need about ½ pound of food per day. Your worm bin should never smell bad. If it stinks there is something wrong. We’ll get to the troubleshooting section shortly. Now, about that amazing worm tea I mentioned…

Worm Tea
As your worms get to work churning out the compost you’ll notice a collection of brown water in the bottom of you bin. This my friends is known as “worm tea” Worm tea has all the nutrients and benefits of compost but in liquid form. Your flowers and plants would love a cup or two of worm tea! You can use your worm tea as fertilizer for you plants. Water your house plants or garden with worm tea and watch them grow to new heights. This stuff seriously rocks.

How to Harvest
So a few months have passed since you welcomed your new worm friends into your home. You provided them with a safe, dark, temperature controlled home with plenty of food. They kept up their end of the bargain by eating your organic waste and providing you with dark rich compost. A collection of compost has built up but what do you do with it? Once you start gardening with compost you will find you can never have enough. You can add your compost to new or established garden beds or to potted plants. Anything growing in dirt can benefit from added compost. Before you harvest your compost bury a piece of food in one corner of the bin and the worms will migrate towards it. The next day carefully collect the compost and try to pick out worms and place them back in the bin.


Help! There are flies and bugs in my bin!
A few flies and bugs are normal. The worm bin is a complex eco system full of different bugs gobbling your decomposing food. If there are suddenly too many and they are a nuisance stop adding new scraps and bury the current decomposing scraps deeper.

Oh no! Some seeds have sprouted and there are little plants growing in the bin!
Not to worry. Little plants never hurt anyone. It’s quite common for seeds from veggies such as squash to sprout and grow in the bin. You can prevent this by zapping your seeds in the microwave for a minute before placing them in the bin.

Yikes, there is moldy fuzz growing on some of the food!
Help prevent mold by turning the compost every few days. If there is too much mold it may be a sign you are adding too much food to your bin too fast.

My bin is too dry. How do I add moisture?
Soak some newspaper in water and ring it out. Place it over the top of the compost. Your compost should be fairly moist but not dripping. The composting matter should have the moisture level equivalent to a damp sponge.

My Bin is too wet. How do I control the moisture?
Add some shredded paper. Worms need to be kept moist at all times but if it is too wet they may drown.

Sniff sniff what’s that smell?
If your compost is getting stinky stop adding new material and turn your compost. Try to bury uncomposted materials.

Once you get your bin set up the maintenance is quite easy. It’s amazing the amount of items you are able to compost and how quickly it will break down. Whether you purchase a premade worm bin or make one yourself you’ll find worm bins are not only a great way to create your own compost but also a fun project for the home and a unique way to get kids interested in gardening and science. Are you ready to have worms start eating your garbage?

About Adrienne
Adrienne lives in Washington with her wonderful husband on a farm full of crazy and loveable animals. She spends her time writing for her blog Crafty Little Gnome and designing jewelry for her online shop Adrienne Audrey Jewelry. Offline Adrienne can be found experimenting with vegan foods in the kitchen, out digging in the vegetable garden or working on new crafting projects.

Thank you so much for this, Adrienne! And what about you? Got a hot topic you think would appeal to small measure readers? Send me an email at ashleyadamsenglish(at)gmail(dot)com and let's chat!

Lights! Camera! Boil!

Local folks, tune into WLOS this coming Saturday morning, August 6th. Make your morning cuppa, switch on your television, and find me chatting about water bath canning with Megan Schiering at 7 a.m..

I know it's early, but I promise to put on a good show (disclaimer-I haven't been on t.v. since I was 17 years old, when I would record newsworthy tidbits from my high school at the local cable channel, which, incidentally, got me out of a traffic ticket once when I was hauling butt to get home by curfew and the police officer recognized-and liked-me)!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Breakfasts of Champions

We take breakfast pretty seriously, chez English. I've long been the kind of person that wakes up completely ravenous (I'm starting to think Huxley may have inherited this trait from me because dude wakes up really wanting to chow down, stat). Since Hubs needs a bit longer to rouse himself when the sun is making its climb in the sky (I'm the morning dove, he's the night owl), I typically let out the chickens and give them fresh feed and water, feed the cats, let the dogs do their thing in the yard, get Huxley out of his overnight diaper and playing in the kitchen with me, drink a glass of water, put the kettle on, grind some coffee beans (more often than not with a bit of fresh cardamom seeds), check my email quickly, and then eat some yogurt with berries and honey while feeding Huxley some plain yogurt with fresh fruit.

If I didn't start with that glass of water and that bowl of yogurt, I'd be a grouchy, cantankerous, curmudgeonly lady. I gotta eat, or I'm just no good. After Hubs wakes up, has his own glass of water (we drink water first thing to re-alkalinze, as the body does lots of restorative work overnight and renders the blood ph a bit acidic come morning), and a few sips of his coffee (I make his mug up just like he likes it and keep it ready and waiting for him), then we get down to the real business of making breakfast.

Pictured above are two breakfasts we had this past weekend. On top you'll see drop buttermilk biscuits smothered (because biscuits, you see, get "smothered", not "covered") in homemade herb sausage gravy, partnered up with a poached egg, and topped with fresh cilantro. The sausage was from nearby Hickory Nut Gap farm and is transcendent. The eggs were from our ladies. The cilantro (as well as the thyme and marjoram used in the gravy) are growing in our herb beds, and the tomatoes are from our kitchen garden.

The second photo shows a steak & egg sandwich. Again, we turned to the wonderful Hickory Nut Gap for our meat, our flock for the eggs, and our garden for the lettuces and tomatoes. The bread is locally made and was lightly toasted. I've yet to truly conqure bread-making, but it's on my life list and I'm hoping to get my skilled bread-making buddy Natalia-who is French and gorgeous and does things like make her own sauerkraut and render her own lard while homeschooling her three equally gorgeous daughters-to teach a class out here that I can learn from, too.

Both meals were crazy delicious and really pretty easy to make. I feel amazingly fortunate to both live in an area that provides such wonderful foods, and to have a spouse that gets into food and cooking as much as I do. Or maybe he just does so in order to stave off the morning hag...;^)

And the Winner of the "Dreamers Into Does" Giveaway Is...

Sharon, aka "Mama to Adam." I'll be in touch soon, Sharon, to get your mailing information.

Thanks to everyone who entered. I loved reading all of your responses. Canning sure is grand, isn't it? I put up 4 pints of 5-spice pickled cherries on Sunday and have got a mess of yellow plums in the fridge and lemon verbena growing in my herb bed that I'm thinking of making into this (big thanks to A.J. for tweeting about Amber's jam and illuminating its potential deliciousness to me!).

Stay on the lookout for more giveaways in the weeks to come. I'm hoping to post a giveaway every week until autumn makes its glorious arrival.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Dairy Duel Deal!

Want to win a copy of my "Home Dairy" book? Well then get yourself over to Lark Book's Facebook page, for a "cheese vs ice cream" throwdown!