Sunday, February 23, 2014

February Thaw - on applesauce and overwintering herbs

I've been applying myself particularly hard over the past year, having decided to go back to graduate school. After trying to continue to do everything plus school for a year and failing badly, I have let a lot of things fall by the wayside so that I can focus on school and work. The chickens met their end in the late summer, as their numbers had dwindled and their egg production had declined -- we were ready to close out that chapter of our lives. My garden and my canning schedule were severely scaled back. Our neighborhood farm had a bumper crop of apples this year, so I did make enough applesauce to see us through the winter and give to all my coworkers and friends for Christmas.

Side note: Applesauce may be my new favorite homemade gift -- in addition to its delicious taste and simplicity to prepare, it does not run up against any of the special diet restrictions that many people have. Applesauce is vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, no sugar added, good-for-upset-tummies.

2014 is a challenging year thus far, but I'm trying to stay optimistic. This weekend, the temperature has risen above freezing and the glacier on top of our driveway is melting away. The Lane River looks like it is ready to shed its icy covering.
You can see the freeze-thaw circles in the ice.
On the garden front, the scale-back continues - no maple sugaring this year and no starting seeds indoors. While I feel a little sad that we won't be hosting a maple sugaring party this year, I feel a huge sense of relief to not be rushed and overwhelmed trying to keep a maple sugaring fire going all day long or to make sure that the house stays warm enough for the baby plants to germinate and grow.

Too bad Smell-o--vision never took off. This rosemary smells as vibrant as it looks.
While most of my free time these days is spent on the computer or reading books about fundraising or organizational behavior, there are some bits of green remaining in my life. Back in October, I brought my rosemary, stevia and celery plants indoors and they have remained alive and growing in the kitchen. The rosemary is particularly happy because it can handle low humidity well, although one of the two plants is thriving more than the other.

The stevia demands more water and is much more finicky - if you are growing stevia, keep it in a sunny spot where you will see it everyday and will notice when the leaves start to get wilty - keep it watered well! Stevia is a low-calorie sweetener (you can learn more about it here) and I like to use the dried leaves to add a little sweetness to iced tea.