Homemade Witch Hazel

Sometimes I buy plants because I want to try my hand at using them for the mainstream product associated with the plant name. Well, maybe just one time I did that? I don't know how long ago I bought a witch hazel tree (H. vernalis), but I put it in a big pot when I got home and never got around to making the skin astringent I'd intended.

I {finally} put that sucker in the ground (it outgrew the pot a looong time ago--oops) and decided I should prune it a little. Since I had a branch I might as well make witch hazel, right?

After a few hours on the internet (over-research much?) I settled on the second set of instructions in this post.

Wildflowers in the kitchen

When I heard the slightest whisper from spring the inspiration to play came on full force. The violets peeked their pretty little faces toward the sunshine and I gathered a cupful for kitchen experiments.

Violet petals in sugar with a hint of lemon zest made the prettiest lavender sugar!

Egg white wash over whole violets, sprinkled with sugar makes for candied violets. I'm dreaming of cupcakes fit for a fairy party!

And because  the violet sugar was so fun, I tried the same with dandelions. I don't know if the color will keep, but I'm already thinking of what other flowers I can try!

Remembering Molly Hen

A couple weeks ago (Was it last week? Now I can't remember) I found one of our favorite hens huddled up next to the water bucket. The feathers on the top of her head were gone, her crown was bleeding a bit, and she couldn't walk. I took her inside, cleaned her up, and gave her some plain yogurt, fresh water, and apple cider vinegar.

The first 2 days she seemed to be improving but still wouldn't walk. We kept her inside, hand fed her, and changed poopy chicken towels daily. She'd stand for a minute at a time, but that was about it for leg use. The next day it was worse, and the following day she seemed to have had a stroke and the entire left side of her body was paralyzed.

She was a chicken that only had use of 1/4 of her body.

We were faced with a choice of taking her to the vet to be put down or putting her down ourselves. We were also faced with a 3 year old who has taken ownership of the chickens and is far more attached to them than even we, the ones who spent days hand feeding the sweet Rhodie Molly, were.

The next morning Mabel wanted to know why her hen was no longer in the cage in the kitchen. We talked about it and I briefly tried to cover it up by saying she went somewhere nicer and wasn't coming back. M had far too many questions for me to keep up the guise. Instead I decided maybe coloring was the answer. I drew a red hen, Mabel and I colored and talked. We thought about Molly and reflected on what a sweet pet she was. I'm still not sure how to explain that sort of loss to a pre-schooler, but Mabel took it fairly well and we have a sweet way to honor and remember our favorite red hen. 

A few more garden critters

We're finding a lot of critters in the few minutes we spend outside each week. It's so hot I have a hard time motivating Mabel to play out there and should admit that I'm pretty happy to sink into the couch for a while each afternoon, too.

We found another batch of swallowtail caterpillars, both of which are now chrysalis. Saturday night I made a sorrel tart. The sorrel, straight from the garden to the kitchen, had lots and lots of little snails which I collected in a jar. I told M we weren't going to keep them, but they're still in the jar on her work table (aka the den coffee table). I'm thinking we could become Matthews, NC's first escargot farmers.  

The pitter patter of progress

Look! Just for you I created a fun survey where you can tell me which type of column you'd like to see on our house.(Woo hoo! Lucky you!!)

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Though I'm not sure this picture says a lot, compare and contrast with this one and see all the work we've done.

Mabel went to Nana's and Paw Paw's so I thought we'd spend the weekend solely working on the columns, getting the project finished. There are, with us at least, certain methods to our DIY madness and sometimes we have to be honest with ourselves about these projects. Money is limited, and it is the facet we most often have to remember.

Despite my hope for a big unveil this morning, we had a budget set aside of less than $80. Most of that ended up going into reciprocating saw blades. We bought a $20 one meant for cutting iron which turned out to be overkill; a $3 blade for thick metal was actually the blade we needed. When you're talking about an $80 project, $23 takes a big cut (no pun intended). It didn't leave us enough to get the wood for the facade of the columns, and we decided to wait to get that wood anyway. For a nominally larger cost, we can get a higher grade board from a local lumber yard rather than from the big box store. A higher grade board will mean less knots and mars, making the finished column smoother and much prettier.

This coming weekend we'll both have paychecks to dole out for the finishing wood and trim, so until then our yard will remain (as one friend deftly put it) one trampoline shy of redneck gold. All of that is to give a glimpse inside how our renovations work: with time, ingenuity, and a little bit of spending money. Oh, and a generous Nana to keep the little one distracted and happy all weekend--essential to success.

It took an entire day to get the iron work down and the 4 x 4 (actually 2 2x4s laminated and screwed together) cores for the new columns up. That "entire workday" happened on Saturday, after I spent 6 hours volunteering at the community garden. My body still hurts.

On Sunday Charlie mended the fence while I built a small retaining wall from some 4 x 4s we had on hand. Having the dogs in the fenced area most of the time, they've created paths where they run laps around the perimeter of the space. That path, even on a gently sloping hill, has created an erosion problem which, in turn, created soil build up around the fence at the bottom of the hill. The soil build up pushed the fence every which way, making it lean and wobble. Once again the fence is perpendicular to the ground and we're already seeing and hearing the pitter patter of progress.