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Raised in a Barn…

Day-to-Day Life of a Country Mama

Basil Tea

I still have a lot of dried basil. I love using it to season many dishes I make, but I’ve still only made a small dent in it with this use. More substantially, I have been enjoying it as a hot tea, either by itself or with another herb or too. Add a touch of honey and it’s perfect. I have heard people say they drink it for its benefits, not its taste; I like the taste too so I drink it for both.

Now just the occasion of having a hot cup of herbal tea can be calming, but some herbs aid that and basil is one of them. It can help with emotional stability, easing depression and anxiety (though maybe not as effectively as the powerhouse – holy basil). It can also aid digestion. Of course in my case, digestion troubles have frequently been tied to anxiety so the help is twofold.

Even if you don’t need these benefits, try a cup if you like basil. It’ll add another way you can use your fall harvest of the herb.

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Raspberry Patch

I decided to open up some space around my raspberry canes and turn them into a patch. My two best sections were almost square to each other. I adjusted their posts out a little to make the area. Then I dig up my third that I wasn’t sure would survive either way and planted it in the middle.

I layered straw on to protect the transplant from the cold and kill out the weeds and grass in the patch. Then I was able to reuse the wire I’d had around them individually to fence the patch. With the straw being some that came off the garden, I wasn’t out any supplies in this switch.

Usually these patches should probably be made east to west for the best sun exposure. I made the exception here because I didn’t want to possibly compromise more canes shifting it. Also I have seen these wild raspberries produce well in partial shade before so I’m willing to take my chances.

Spring Planting Plan

This year, I am going to direct-sow my garden. I have talked before about how starting seeds inside doesn’t work well for me since none of our windows receive direct sunlight. Even though I know this, the last two years, I have been suckered in by spring fever and the desire to do something garden related. This year I am holding strong.

Now most seed packets work against me because a large number of my varieties can be started inside to have a jump start. Their planting instructions use this with no mention of when would be a good time to plant the seeds outside. Luckily I have a booklet to fall back on.

That Garden Answers booklet (a Garden Way Publishing Bulletin) my friend gave be has a chart for planting according to the last average frost date and ground temperatures. Plant varieties are broken down to roughly four varieties with time frames that all fall in a little over a month of each other.

I think this will keep things a lot more simple for me. I can simply concentrate on having all of my ground worked and ready for the seeds until planting time.

Winter Surprise

I could believe my eyes! I was out working in the garden and glanced in the tanks. I found cilantro and parsley growing where they had been last year. I don’t know if these are naturally seeded starts from my unharvested plants; I don’t see how they could be since I cut most of the plants off to preserve. Or they could be small off-shoots that have survived in the warm pocket of the tank. Either way, I am curious and hoping they survive the wave of cold weather we are having this month.

Relocated Flower Bed

I put a small flower bed in the edge of the garden when I was given a bag of iris and day lilies a friend cleared out. I wasn’t sure where I wanted to put them. I just needed a spot for them short term. I am expanding the garden this year so I needed to decide on a permanent location for them. This isn’t the best time of year to relocate them, but I’m hoping they adapt well.

I made a small creek-rock-edged flowerbed at the back of my bench in the garden. I planted the iris closest to the bench with the day lilies in front. I was worried about the cold weather we had coming. I figured the loose ground would allow the roots to be more susceptible to the cold. To help with this worry, I added a thick layer of straw leftover in the garden over the top of the bed.

They most likely won’t bloom this spring, but I hope they handle the transplant well. I’m looking forward to adding several more varieties of flowers to my little pollinators’ corner come spring. I’ll be sure to share photos as it takes shape.

More Apple Vinegar

Six weeks have passed and I bottled my last jar of apple vinegar. I did learn something so this round is a little different from my first bottle.

With the very first bottle, I strained the mother out while bottling as suggested in the directions I followed for fruit vinegar. As I was showing it off to my folks, I got to talking with Papa about the health benefits of apple vinegar. One thing led to another and soon we were reading up on filtered verses unfiltered, the only apparent difference between apple cider vinegar and apple vinegar.

Unfiltered (leaving the mother in) is supposed to be more beneficial than filtered. I am still reading on the ins and outs; I won’t go into the specifics because I don’t feel I grasp the information well enough to add my two cents. However, I wanted to explain why on this round I decided to not filter part of the vinegar as I bottled it.

This round of vinegar acidified longer than the first batch. The mother grew very large and sank, possibly while I was moving it or naturally. I’m assuming the longer time caused it to grow darker; the light bottle is the first round. (Please comment if you know some other reason for the color difference!) The middle bottle is filtered and the left is unfiltered. It had some flaky particles that I think are dried edges of the mother before it sank.

Now I can experiment with each version in recipes. I’ll be sure to pass along details as I move forward.

Repurposed Playhouse

We were offered a new chicken coup from friends that decided they wouldn’t have time to keep chickens. We accepted, thinking we’d start keeping a few for eggs. We planned on fencing in an addition to the yard on the south side for a large chicken run.

When I started reading about all we would have to do to make the area good for chickens, I realized that our hillside is a little harsh for them. A set area for them wouldn’t work without major adjustments. We also have a blue healer that is crazy about birds and chases them everywhere so letting them range wouldn’t work.

This all added up to us deciding to continue buying eggs off our neighbors and friends that have chickens. We decided to still keep the coup for a playhouse for the girls. We have set it up in a corner easily seen and protected while they are playing there.

We have it set on it’s foundation now and I can start adding a couple improvements for them (which I will share after I finish them). I think it’ll turn out great when I’m done. We aren’t telling them until it is ready so it’ll be a great surprise come spring.

Couch Cover Update

I spurred the project forward last Sunday. It had gotten shuffled to the side due to a busy schedule and other concerns. Then it hit me that if I didn’t get a move on, I’d soon be swamped with fruit trees and spring planting, leaving it to sit until next winter.

I finished the panels across and will move on to navigating the sides. The inside arm will be the most challenging. I have one idea to try, but I may have to try and rule out a couple ideas before I find the one that works. As it is, I’m glad to have this much done and with only a few lines not meeting square in the corners.

I’m hoping to stay after it and finish before long. We have another cool down next week; maybe I can use it to finish up the cover!

Expanding in Fruit

I am absolutely bouncing-off-walls excited! We have been wanting to expand into having more fruit bearers and this year we are focusing on that. We have placed an order from Stark Brothers Nursery. It will be delivered next month!!

It’s a little overwhelming deciding what varieties to get. Mine is a little on the ambitious side, but I wanted to make the step forward with a well rounded variety. I picked out simple, well spoken of ones and found a couple package deals that would save us money in the long run.

That is how I ended up with two trees each of red and golden delicious apple trees. I also ordered two Arkansas black trees because I love them after growing up with them. All the apple trees are semi dwarf. I picked out two dwarf pear trees (Bartlett and Moonglow) and two blueberry bushes (Duke and Darrow). I stumbled upon a package deal for four grapevines, each of a different variety. And finally, I found another deal on strawberry plants in bulk.

Needless to say, I’ll be quite busy in the coming month and a half. I’ll be preparing ground for planting them all and building a bed for the strawberries. I have a rough plan where I’m going to put it all; I just have to get it all ready. I’ll keep y’all updated on how it goes.

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