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Warm Saltines Are An Ephiphany

Sometimes the smallest effort can lead to a serious food upgrade.

Every once in awhile I stumble on a grand idea. I realize others may have already discovered this very same thing but when I actually experience it, somehow it becomes more real. Isn’t that the way with almost anything? A physical experience writes knowledge on you in a way that reading about it cannot fully convey.

So read this article to get the idea, but then go do it for yourself. It is quick, easy and painless.

Unless you burn your fingers.

Continue reading “Warm Saltines Are An Ephiphany”

Spring Garlic—What Is It And How To Use It

Spring Garlic is similar to green onions in appearance, but with a mild garlic flavor. As a bonus, they are prolific growers, so you can have these year after year.

I’m always looking for a new food to try in the kitchen. It’s even better when I can experiement with a locally grown ingredient that is inexpensive and abundant.

Enter Spring Garlic

First what is it?

Some refer to this as wild garlic, although we grow a row on purpose. It comes back every year and in fact multiplies if we don’t keep it under control. This garlic does not produce large bulbs like you will find on cultivated garlic, but it is still quite delicious. There are several parts of this plant I use at different times of the year.

Parts to use

Spring garlic does not produce large root bulbs, so don’t expect to use this for cloves of garlic. Instead, in the early spring, it is used like green onions, except with the taste of garlic. Later, as it prepares to flower, the end of the flower stalk can be snapped off and cooked. These are referred to as scapes. (This post gives more information about using those.)

After a week or so of growth beyond the scape stage, you can harvest bulbils. These occur just before the bud begins to break open into a flower and provide another tasty option. Pick the flower bud, peel back the thin covering and separate the tiny bulbs. These give a delicious pop of garlic flavor in any dish.

Early stalk use

The rest of this post will describe how to use the early part that looks like a green onion.

Harvest when the bottom is just beginning to swell and the green shoots are about one to two feet tall. While you are harvesting for the table, you are also thinning out the crop to allow the remaining plants to grow and thrive. Trim the root ends and peel back the outer layer of more fibrous covering. Wash thoroughly to remove any remaining dirt particles.

Slice thinly just up to where the stalk begins to turn green. Send the remainder to the compost pile.

Use as you would in place of garlic. Beware, this will smell very strong but the flavor is quite light.

Sample Menu

For an entirely garlic themed meal, I used thinly sliced pieces in a lemon and olive oil sauce for pasta. Then, I minced the remaining pieces, mixed with butter and topped italian seasoned scones. Pair with a crisp green salad. Delicious.

For more cooking ideas like this, check out my cooking memoir Simply Delicious. Plus follow our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram social media for daily Five Feline Farm updates.

Creative Repurposing

Now that Spring is finally arriving, it’s time to work outside. We have been repurposing items around the farm to improve multiple areas at the same time.

The weather has finally given us a promise of Spring.

There is so much to clean up after winter and debris to clear in the dormant garden beds. But there are also many things we want to improve.

So even when there is still a chill in the air, we are outside working.

One of the most exciting things is when we can make improvements to the property with little to no monetary investment. Of course there are always things we will need to buy, such as mulch and bales of peat, but some of the changes involve just rearranging what currently exists.

Even better is when we can take care of two things with one task.

For example, we have a lot of wood scraps stored in the barn. And by stored, I don’t mean neatly stacked. I mean thrown into a pile from the doorway after tired muscles are exhausted at the end of a building project. All sizes and types of lumber pitched into an unruly heap. The slighest bump will send the precarious assemblage sliding into one’s shins.

At the same time these random bits need a new home, as fate would have it, the catdom also needs an upgrade.

First you may be interested in what a “catdom” might be. At Five Feline Farm, there is a fenced area stretching from the walk out basement into a grassy area which allows the cats to roam in the fresh air but be protected at the same time. The Purrfect Fence is specifically manufactured to contain and protect felines.

Over the years, some areas of the catdom have been overtaken by chocolate mint. It has even crawled under the edge of the greenhouse and threatened to topple it. After digging out as much mint as possible which included running into a hibernating snake, the ground was covered with black plastic to kill off any remaining mint or other vegetation.

Now a blank slate remained. Time to redesign the space.

This is a perfect time to put all those random bits of lumber in the barn to good use. With only a little imagination and a couple of hours, several borads were screwed together into squares and rectangles. The scraps are transformed into perfect planting beds.

Another area being re-invented is the old goldfish pond. We have a large number of rocks and stones that need to be moved out of this section. A few loads of those rocks placed over the plastic adds a nice decorative touch to the catdom.

In just one day, with a bit of re-imagining existing materials and some satisfying physical labor, the catdom has a new look, the pond area has fewer rocks and the barn is one step closer to organized.

As you remodel or revive areas of your property, before you buy new things, look around at anything you can repurpose. Try to imagine things in a new way, even a outside a conventional use. You might be surprised what you create.

Let us know what you find to repurpose around your house. You can also follow almost daily exploits and encouragement on our social media channels: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. As always our on-line Mercantile is open to meet your soap, balm and reading needs.

Decluttering Financial Records

If you have been listening to our podcast Farm Chatter over the past few weeks, you know we have been focused on ridding the house of clutter. (If you haven’t heard one yet, check out Episode 102-The Declutter Report.) One of those decluttering tasks was to purge old financial records.

Does anyone else have trouble throwing out bank statements?

Paid credit card statements?

Old utility bills?

How about the maintenance agreement on a product you no longer own? Ok, that one is easy.

But those old financial records are a different matter.

Set Up Your Own Rules

Use a rule that makes sense to you about your financial records.

Our general rule is to keep tax returns forever; paid bills, bank statements and tax supporting documents for 3 years. Other things like maintenance agreements, operating manuals, etc. are only necessary while we own the item.

Everything else found in the bottom of a box in the back of a closet can go.

Who knew so much paper could accumulate?

After the financial record purge, a 3 foot high mountain of paper was stacked in the floor. No one wants to just throw these in the landfill. What if a page with sensitive personal data blows across the road to someone’s house?

Out comes the shredder.

We discovered after about 20 minutes of constant use, the poor little cross cut shredder would overheat. It took about 3 days of on-again, off-again shredding to get through the pile. Now the 3 foot high mountain is a huge stack of trash bags full of teeny-tiny, itty-bitty pieces of paper.

Now what?

These could go to the landfill now without fear of personal data scattering to the winds. But we feel an obligation to recycle.

This paper is now getting a second life around the Farm. It can go directly into the compost pile but can also be used in other ways.

How about in the bottom of transplant pots for new little seedlings?

It can also be used as a soil additive in raised beds to help with water retention. A 2 foot by 8 foot raised bed may accommodate 2 or 3 gallons of shredded paper. Pro tip: add a little at a time and mix thoroughly through the soil. Wait a week, then add more if necessary.

What can you do?

—Even if you don’t have such a mountain of paper to shred, you can use what you have. You can always wad up newspaper in the bottom of a flower pot before adding soil and plants. This helps reduce the amount of soil needed, makes the pot lighter weight (especially useful when re-potting large plants) and assists with water retention.

—Always think about recycling whenever possible.

For more information or tips about things to do at your place, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.