Sunday, November 30, 2008

Why Steinbeck is Great

Read a Steinbeck book and you get one great quote after another such as:

"Laughter comes later, like wisdom teeth, and laughter at yourself comes last of all in a mad race with death, and sometimes it isn't in time." - from East of Eden

Wow, best laugh at oneself ASAP !!:):)

Friday, November 28, 2008


In this season of family and gatherings and good food we also make time for exploration...for being outdoors and close to the world that sustains us. Hope you all enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving. Here's our Thanksgiving photo journey of Eagle Marsh...

"I have come to terms with the future. From this day onward I will walk easy on the earth. Plant trees...Live in harmony with all creatures. I will restore the earth where I am. Use no more resources than I need. And listen, listen to what it is telling me." -M.J. Slim Hooey

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Carrots in November too...

In late August or early September (I can't remember which), I sowed a second round of carrots which we just dug up. We call the carrots baby carrots because they are small (probably due to shortening days), but they are some of the most perfect carrots we've even seen. We plan on making some vegetarian pot pies for Thanksgiving with our homegrown squash & onions and some purchased rice (& who knows what else) and figure these little carrots will make a great addition!

We grew two types of carrots this summer: Nantes Coreless Carrot from Seeds of Change and Dragon Carrot from Seed Savers Exchange. The Dragon Carrots are this most amazing purple on the outside while the inside remains yellow-orange. So beautiful and delicious!

I am already dreaming of next summers garden and am anxiously awaiting the 2009 seed catalogs!


Monday, November 24, 2008

Easy, Nutritious and Delicious Wild Rice and Apple Butter Breakfast

In these times of financial crisis and plummeting fund-age, what are we to do for a quick breakfast? Sometimes it works to throw together all the miscellaneous items in the fridge - and this was one of those times. We had:

-prepared wild rice
-homemade apple butter
-sunflower seeds (raw, unsalted)

(for this recipe, I used 1 C rice, 1/2 C apple butter, 1 diced pear, 1/4 C sunflower seeds and 1/4 C water)

Combine all in a sauce pan and heat to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer until pears are soft but not too soft. I simmered for about 8-10 minutes.

Enjoy with a partner, friend or just your awakening hopefulness for the day!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Garden Tomatoes in November

At the beginning of October when we pulled all our tomatoes plant out, we saved the green firm tomatoes to try our hand at ripening off the vine. The first method we tried entailed nothing more than laying the tomatoes in a single layer on newspaper on our laundry room floor. The temperatures are relatively cool in there, but that seemed just fine with our ripe and ripening batch: (I've already pulled one large load of ripe tomatoes out of this batch for roasting.)

Next to our open tomatoes we placed a box for trying the second method of indoors ripening.

We wrapped the second batch of unripe tomatoes in newspaper, placed them in the box, stuck an apple in to help with ripening and closed the box up.

Opening the newspapers revealed this:

These tomatoes do not taste like the succulent vine-ripened tomatoes we all love, but they are just as good as store bought or canned tomatoes and so will serve us well for soups and sauces.

Quite a few tomatoes are still ripening so we expect a few more harvests from our indoor tomato patch. We are really glad we saved these!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Strength in Numbers (and in Diversity)

Some inspiring news out of Mississippi:

According to a National Wildlife Federation story, a 50 year battle has been won in Mississippi: a U.S. Army Corp of Engineers project that would have drained 200,000 acres of wetlands has been shelved.

Perhaps the most inspiring thing about this event was well-put by George Sorvalis (NWF) when speaking of the people who fought and won the battle: "Faith-based, civic, community and youth organizations came together with environmental groups to change the course of history in the Mississippi Delta.".

Maybe the divisiveness among divergent groups is melting away as we all begin to realize that strength is in numbers? Maybe these groups are not as divergent as was once thought, considering national long-term challenges and common needs and goals?

Click here for info. on the decision.

Click here for general info. of COE watchdog efforts.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Avian Nesting Box Installation Part 2: Where It's Dry

In the post, "Avian Nesting Box Installation Part 2: Where It's Wet", we witnessed a slick duck box installation in a pond setting. The same friend who requested that info. also wanted to know how to install nest box post on uplands (higher ground). While we are not experts like this guy:

...we've sunk a thing or two into the ground:

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: never dig, bore or drive holes into the ground unless you are certain that no underground utilities are present. If you are uncertain, don't do it. If you want to find out about underground utilities contact your local utility locate service. It's normally free and then the liability is transferred to somebody with attorneys on retainer.

So, going back to this guy...

...note that he simply used a steel fencepost and drove it into the ground using a section of heavy steel pipe with one end welded shut. You can see that post hole driver on the ground to his right. Then he bolted the box onto the post taking care to position it the proper height from the ground and facing the proper direction. Steel fence posts and drivers are available at farm stores such as Tractor Supply and Quality Farm & Fleet or any local store of that sort.

Other options for installing nest box posts on uplands include 4 inch x 4 inch wood posts or heavy duty steel highway sign posts. In either of these cases, it can work well to bore a hole with an auger:

...or post-hole digger:

You can then line the hole with a cardboard liner, drop in your post, and fill up with cement.

We used this method for putting up a huge sign but it would work the same for nest box posts on uplands.
One thing we have learned about installing conservation projects such as the above or bird nesting boxes is that it's very easy to get help. Lots of folks like to help with hands-on projects that have tangible results. One (of many) under-the-radar resource for help with your nest box post installations is your local soil scientist. Most states have professional soil scientists who make their living observing and documenting soils and are, therefore, quite familiar with the business end of an auger. Soil scientists rarely pass up an opportunity to investigate a new site and most are conservation advocates. In Indiana, check here. In Pennsylvania, check here. All other states, check here.

There is surely a wealth of additional information out there on the web so take our experience for what is was - it worked well for us in our scenarios - and integrate it into you own ideas, experience and research.

And don't forget to take some kids along because the only way we are going to have less of this:

...and more of this: if we have a lot more of this:

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookies

I apologize for the lateness of this post...I realize zucchini is not exactly in season in our area of the country right now, but if you are like me and froze some during the summer abundance you are in luck. (If not, tuck this recipe away till next summer - somewhere you won't forget about it.) These cookies are super moist and super delicious. I obtained the original recipe a few years ago while working at a summer camp and a friend and I modified it this summer to make it more healthy.

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup Sugar In The Raw
1 egg or egg replacement
1 cup grated zucchini
1 cup unbleached white flour
1/2 cup wheat flour
1/2 cup flax seed meal
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 cup chocolate chips or raisins

1 - In medium bowl, cream together the butter & sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg then stir in the zucchini. Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon & cloves; stir into zucchini mixture. Mix in choc. chips or raisins. Cover dough and chill for at least 1 hour or overnight.

2 - Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto the prepared cookie sheet. Space 2 inches apart.

3 - Bake for 8-10 minutes in the preheated oven until set. Allow cookies to cool slightly on the cookie sheets before removing to wire racks to cool completely.

Monday, November 17, 2008

What's Next?

"What's Next?"

Such a short question but with an infinity of potential answers!

Recently, a group of Orion Magazine contributors, staff and supporters gathered at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico to ask of themselves and each other: "What's Next?"

One person in particular, (Theron Horton of, spoke some very humble yet eloquent words:

"The recognition that those of us who aspire to speak, must learn also to listen...must learn to listen very deeply...and that would be our authorization to begin to speak."

We all aspire to speak - whatever the language of our passions (and whether we know it yet or not). So let's listen - to ourselves and to each other - and especially to those who we have become accustomed to ignore. Despite the recent deluge of negative media coverage of an array of negative happenings, it seems that collective good is afoot and coalescing. 'bout darn time!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Lingering Bounty of Gardening

The gardening season is pretty much over here in NE Indiana, other than cold-hardy crops such as mustards, kale, etc. (or covered crops which we do not have) but a few of our plants are still hanging on and are providing nectar sources for some of the still lingering pollinators.

A few dandelions bloomed recently and there is always some sort of pollinator taking in their nectar; good reason to let these little plants grow...not to mention the vitamins contained in the tasty greens or the delicious wine the blooms produce.

We've not turned our compost pile in a while for a number of reasons, but by not doing so we've watched closely the insects as they glean vitamins and minerals from the decomposing fruit and vegetables and were able to capture this cricket chewing on and hence helping to decompose a napkin.

This fly looks like perhaps he does not know when to stop eating...

The calendula is still flowering randomly and is now the most sought-after nectar source. It was not a preferred source in the peak bloom of summer. Here cucumber beetles and tarnished plant bugs forage...

more cucumber beetles...

and a honeybee!
The last find of the day startled me and obviously startled the ladybug even more. The bug (yes, a true bug) featured in the last three photographs is a Wheel Bug, a member of the Assassin Bug family. These are large bugs (1 1/2 inches!) that predate on other insects...good ones for your garden though in this case, the ladybug is a good one too. Our fennel, the plant that readily supported black swallowtail caterpillars this summer, is now decomposing and must be a good source of vitamins and minerals because lots and lots of arthropods are consuming its foliage. This wheel bug found a good area to hunt. Wheel bugs can inflict a painful stab on human fingers so we respected this guy with a bit of distance.

Wow, what a unique creature! Would we have had a hospitable place for him/her if we'd turned our lingering plants under?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Sense of Wonder

It's raining here today, but a few days ago the sun shined brightly and my sister, her step-daughter and I went for a hike. My varying jobs over the past 8 years have two things in common - nature and kids. I never quite knew the answer to the question "what do I want to be when I grow up?", but I always did know I want to be outdoors and that I love sharing nature with children. I am not working directly in environmental education right now, but our hike reminded me of just how grand it is to be outdoors and see a youngster's eyes light up at an insect, or seeds or even a pile of scat... to experience fully in another individual a sense of wonder.

Here Lo and Mallory extract seeds from gray-headed coneflower...

a close look at the seeds; next time you find some - smell them, it's delightful!

Gathering more seeds - for spreading around of course.

Prairie grasses grow tall creating fun tunnels for kids...

Oh yes - a pile of scat. It seems a coyote loves to walk this path and leave his markings every so often. We discovered lots of hair and bones in the scat (using a stick) and saw some deer tracks close by.

A log is a perfect pretend train, is it not?!

Some of you may recognize the title of this blog as the title of Rachel Carson's book - The Sense of Wonder. It's a wonderful read with inspiring photographs. Here's a quote taken from that book:

"If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder...he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in."

Kudos to all of you who share this with your children or children that pass through you life.