Monday, September 29, 2008

Silk Purse from Sow's Ear (part 3 of 3)

And now for part 3 of 3 of "Silk Purse from Sow's Ear". If you missed parts 1 and 2, here they are:

Part 1

Part 2

At the end of part 2, I had my backing board and my 8 pegs ready to assemble together. How to do that? I eye-balled how it would look and then...

...chose an appropriately-sized drill bit (a spade bit in this case).

I angled the hole somewhat so that the pegs would stick up from center a bit.

I'm known for my fine, precision work!


I used a utility knife to get the fit closer.

And a sandpaper block to fine-tune.

The peg holes were a bit rough so I...

...cleaned them up a bit with some sandpaper.

"Close enough for government work", as they say.

A bit of glue.

Lined it up.

Tapped it in.

Wiped off excess glue with a damp cloth.

It was just that simple.

Now all I had to do was lay out the rest of the pegs...

...and repeat the process for them all.


Post-finished (stain/poly combo).

We were quite excited to hang up our new peg wall hanger and populate it with Jennifer's rock necklace creations!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

More Garden Harvesting, Lentil Soup & Herbed Butter Rolls

The end of September is here and our garden is still chugging along quite nicely. We have a rather unconventional garden with it positioned in our front yard and planted in "ribbons" rather than a large square patch. Steve came up with the ribbon idea as we considered our sunlight and read Teaming with Microbes: A Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis. Our thinking was to maximize our garden sunlight amongst our many trees and to disturb the soil as little as possible. (Read the book for more information on the latter part of our last comment.) This entailed lots of sod digging by hand and no tilling, but we accomplished our goal (albeit with some help from this lady) and are very pleased with the results. We very rarely need to do any sort of work in the garden other than harvesting and enjoying its beauty.

A photo of our garden from our roof earlier this summer...

And some recent photos from the ground...

There are still many many apples on our latest fruiting apple tree and we are picking and using as many as we can. If you are in the neighborhood, don't mind some worm holes and have a hankering for some super crunchy delicious apples let us know and we will help you pick some.

We are also currently harvesting lots of basil, fennel, calendula, tomatoes, beets, turnips and onions. A few days ago (during the midst of our painting frenzy) we picked the last of our summer squash and used some of our stored foods to make lentil soup. This soup is great everytime and can be adjusted to accommodate whatever vegetables you have.

Lentil Soup Recipe
2 cups dried lentils
6 cups water (adjust as needed)
2.5 tablespoons Better Than Bouillon

Put your lentils, water and Better Than Bouillon (see photo below for more information on this super delicious soup flavoring - we buy ours from our local natural foods coop) in a large stock pot, bring to a boil over high heat and then turn to medium or medium low to simmer. Brown lentils (what we used) take about 20-30 minutes to cook.

Once your lentils start to soften, add your vegetables. We used roasted tomatoes, onions, potatoes, red peppers and zucchini, but you really can use whatever you have on hand. You can also saute instead of roast or use whatever your preferred method of softening vegetables is. (If you don't soften your vegetables at all prior to addition to the lentil soup, your lentils will more than likely fall apart, but should still taste wonderful.) See here for more details on roasting. Remember that adding tomatoes will add lots more liquid to your soup as you cook down. Simmer till heated through, and to your desired consistency and tenderness of your vegetables. Here's a peak into our pot.

This recipe makes about 3 quarts of soup (depending on how many vegetables you add) so you get lots and lots for leftovers. As is the case with many soups, this one is even better a day or two after you make it.

We here at Coffeetree Bottoms are big, big fans of bread and make our own on a regular basis. For this meal, Steve requested Herbed Butter Rolls. (We retrieved this recipe off the internet along time ago, but are not sure of its origin. If you are reading this blog and it is your recipe, let us know and we will gladly give you credit.) This is a very easy and quick recipe.

Herbed Butter Rolls Recipe
1 tbsp active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
~1 1/2 tsp herbs of choice
2 tbsp sugar or honey
1 tsp salt
1 egg*
2 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/4 cup unbleached white flour
1 cup wheat flour

*We usually never have eggs on hand and so make our own egg substitute. You can find this recipe and others here.

Egg Substitute: 1 tbsp ground flaxseed meal + 3 tbsp water + 1 tbsp mild cooking oil + 1 tsp baking powder + 1 tsp cornstarch or arrowroot powder. Combine all ingredients using a whisk in a bowl to allow some room for the ingredients to expand. Allow mixture to stand five minutes, whisk again and then add to the recipe.

1. In a large mixing bowl dissolve yeast in warm water. Add your herbs (to this batch we added a tsp or so of thyme and some ground coriander; rosemary, sage and basil are also excellent additions), sugar or honey, salt, egg, butter and 1 cup of flour. Using a wire whisk, beat until smooth. Stir in remaining 1 1/4 cups flour with a wooden spoon and beat until smooth. Scrape batter from sides of the bowl, cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes or until doubled in volume.

2. Deflate batter by stirring with a wooden spoon. Use your wooden spoon to drop dough onto a lightly greased cookie sheet. Set aside in a warm place and let rise for about 15-20 minutes or until doubled. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

3. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden. Serve warm.

These rolls make your house smell wonderful!

A parting fall picture for you all - a hoverfly nectaring on New England Aster, in our opinions, one of Indiana's most brilliant fall native wildflowers.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Project Progress

So we have a backlog of blogs to write because we've been busy! Busy painting that is - our living room is the largest room of our house and hence has the densest concentration of paneling. Fine for some, of course, but a bit too dark for us. These past few days we've worked nonstop to get this room a little brighter and much more cheery.

Here's a short photo tour of our project that is not quite done, but getting close...

And the painted room - such an improvement don't you agree?!

During our work time we took lots of quick jaunts outside to feel the sun and enjoy this most amazing weather we are having here in NE Indiana. We found a number of caterpillars over these past few days on these quick jaunts outdoors. This beautiful little gal is a Gold Moth caterpillar. She feeds on wingstem - that pretty yellow plant we talked about here.

Steve noticed lots of these little guys chomping away on the dogbane behind our house. Consulting our Princeton Field Guide- Caterpillars of Eastern North America, we determined that these little gray caterpillars are Delicate Cycnias.

And finally our friend - the Black Swallowtail caterpillar. This little one is a few days old and gaining weight readily on our fennel. One of our other black swallowtail caterpillars we showcased here a few weeks ago met her demise in the mouth of a northern leopard frog. We were sad to see her life end short, but were glad to know the leopard frog consumed about 3 weeks worth of essential sun/plant energy stored in that caterpillar's body and ensured himself a longer life.

Expect more blogging action in the next few days - we have lots to share...a Harvest Fest tale, garden harvesting at Coffeetree Bottoms, and of our course Part 3 of Steve's latest project.

Happy belated Fall Equinox too!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Silk Purse from Sow's Ear (part 2 of 3)

In part 1 of this series I fashioned the backing board for an evolving peg wall hanger (see below). I then needed to find some material to make the pegs. So, of course, I investigated.........

....the brush pile beside our house.

I chose some fine honeysuckle branches and cut off the gnarly sections.

Next I used a handy utility knife to strip the branches of their bark (it came off easily since the branches were quite dry).

A bit of sanding with 80 grit sandpaper left me with a smooth surface and.........

........a nice mottled color pattern.

I decided on 8 pegs from which to hang Jennifer's rock creations and cut them (with my table saw) at 4 inches each. I could then round off one end of each peg using the 80 grit sandpaper.

A nice rounded end. Not perfect, just smooth.

I now had my backing board and my 8 pegs done and just needed to find a way to bring it all together. But that's a subject for part 3.................

Saturday, September 20, 2008

There's More Than Corn in Indiana

Hope you enjoy the following collages created from some of the photos taken this summer on nature preserves in NE Indiana lake country. Steve's work on these preserves is now over but the memories are permanent. We are extremely grateful for having experienced, enjoyed and helped protect these remnants of the natural wonders that were much more extensive prior to "settlement".