27 Feb 2012 Feast of St. Anne Lyne

1) St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle; be our defense against the wikedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all other evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

2) Got the hive box delivered to my backyard yesterday. The hive itself will be delivered in about a month. And then in a little over a year– honey! Mead! Beeswax! Mead! Well pollinated veggies! Mead!

3)

4) Interesting weekend on the seismic and solar fronts. Updates coming. The political world is so screwy I don’t even know where to begin. And, on the social front: So, I met this guy at Katsu, friended him on facebook, and now a friend of his, who is a priest, has friended me, and I’m terribly confused as to why. . .

National Preparedness Month

This is National Preparedness Month. Tomorrow is “Patriots Day”, which is calendar-speak for “The day the ‘Religion of Peace’ murdered 2996 Americans in cold blood

This being the time of year that it is, a short preparedness-related roundup is in order.

First, from Bill Quick (via Instapundit), we have a link to a Gay Libertarian Survivalist. Gotta love breaking stereotypes. That said, the commentary at Mr. Quick’s site is great, educational reading. Some useful links, as well.

You know I gotta link to the Survival Mom, because she’s got such a great perspective about prepping, and is such a gentle presence in a male-dominated field. My pick this time: The place of Roses in your Preps. Yes– too often, men look at feminine things and think they are friviolities, not realizing that roses are not just pretty and nice-smelling, but are real bastards to deal with, once those thorns come in. That said, apparently my maternal grandpa loved growing roses. I’m sure that has something to do with grandma loving them. . .

Not so much preparedness as 9/11 related: The Hillboyz would like you to pray for he soul of their friend Jane, who was murdered 9 years ago when the Twin Towers went down. Likewise, they have another intention as well. Some additional prayer requests in the comments.

The Washington Post had a nice article on canning in the Food Section this past Wednesday. I would have linked to it, but they want me to sign up and give info which I really don’t feel like giving. So I’m sure you can find it on your own. It was nice.

From the UK: Fear as food prices soar. What happens on that side of the Atlantic soon comes to this side.

Strawberry Festival

Today was the annual strawberry festival in these parts. The exact date changes from year to year, though always in late May or early June, whenever strawberries are at the peak of ripeness– much like the actual viewing of cherry blossoms in DC a month or two earlier. Usually, signs go up near the beginning of May, along roads and by churches and banks, announcing the impending festival, which always takes place in the parking lots and fields of a local Montessori school. One field has a collection of moonbounces for the kids, while another nearby field is managed by a Boy Scout troop that directs parking.

The upper parking lot gets filled with booths and tables of local craftspeople, businesses, and other organizations. One lady this year was selling tatted jewelery, including a nice collection with bat charms which I, naturally, had to spend money on. Likewise Tastefully Simple and Pampered Chef people, of which Okassan took advantage. There was a nearby Episcopalian church represented and there, down at the end, a group of young men with a table of pamphlets proclaiming that “Islam is Loyalty” or some such thing.

We didn’t really wander down that way because, quite frankly, Snape and I have a bit of an allergy to Islam– I tend to sneeze alot, and she breaks out in hives, the poor dear. And, to be honest, they stuck out because there were no females among them– and lets face it, a strawberry festival is a rather feminine place, where one expects to see hordes of grannies, moms, and little girls, husbands and sons pulled along with patient (or not so patient) faces. Not really the place for a pack of young fellas (at least, a pack not dressed up in Scout uniforms)– not without even a single Mom or Sister among them.

The backwards American Flag on one of their displays may also have something to do with our reluctance to drift much closer.  Maybe. Either way, both of us are quite happy with our current relationship with The Lord (though we’ll admit, it’s often the two of us being whiney brats that He, in His Mercy, has thus far refrained from smiting out of sheer irritation). They could have been from the local group of Muslims who got kicked out of Pakistan for being to pacifist. Or, they could have been from another, sorta (as far as we can tell) moderate-ish mosque or, they could have been representatives from the Islamic Society of Washington, D.C. Don’t know and, with them lacking any ladies, not really interested.

And before you get all PC, one word: Taqqiya.

After browsing the stalls, down we went to the lower parking lot, where the truck of strawberries had pulled in and a line was forming to purchase strawberries by the full or half flat. While waiting, Snape got into a conversation with a lady behind us on pie dough– and how to change the recipie to account for the recent change in how they make shortening. Really, so typical. We ended up with two flats, which was 16 pounds of strawberries at the peak of ripeness and freshness. 16 of these:

strawberries

16 of these-- yummy!

Then it was time to head home, routed through residential streets filled with yard sales– I found a rather nice oil lamp, and one jar to add to my canning collection. When we came home, we got right to work, hulling and slicing strawberries, and the rhubarb we’d gotten recently from the CSA, and made two Strawberry-Rhubarb Pies and one Strawberry-Rhubarb tart, of which one pie was baked, one frozen for later, and the tart baked and eaten for lunch. The crust was a Snape family recipie, made by her last night. Sooo good!

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie

Strawberry-Rhubarb pie is not the most photogenic of pies.

We then froze most of the rest of the rhubarb and strawberries (save for what we used the the Rhubarb-Peach Cobbler currently in the oven), though we did set aside one pound of strawberries to make these:

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Of course we'd have some chocolate dipped strawberries. . .

Which are, as most wizarding folk know, a perfect antidote to Dementor or Lethifold exposure (well, after your Patronus has chased the beasties off, of course). No, no Dementors or Lethifolds around here, just a couple of decadent Slytherins.

Weekend after next, we’ll likely be using some of the frozen berries and rhubarb to make Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam. Can’t wait!

Canning season is starting again!

The rhubarb and strawberries are coming in quickly, and as much as we’d like, we can’t possibly eat enough strawberry-rhubarb pie. So it’s time to fire up the canner and make a strawberry-rhubarb preserve.

Drooling at the mere thought– a way to get the strawberry-rhubarb awesomeness outsside of rhubarb season. Haven’t decided on a recipie yet, but when I pick one, I’ll post and let you know how it worked.

Mmmm, yummy!

In the Garden: Bay Laurel

Bay is well known to any student of Classsics, Mythology, or the culinary arts. An evergreen native to the Mediterranean, It is known to us in the west as one of the chief symbols of Apollo, ever since his pursuit of Daphne.

Illustration of Bay Laurel

Bay Laurel

Bay leaves adorned the heads of victors and Ceasars across the Roman Empire. In Biblical writings, Bay was symbolic of fame and prosperity, and in Christian symbolism, became symbolic of Christ’s Resurrection, and the resultant victory for all humanity.

Bay oil is often extracted and used for fragrance, but the common gardener will be familiar with it as the leaf they add to stews for flavoring, but do not eat. Bay is also often added to pickle jars for similar purpose. Gardeners are also fond of the plant because it is a fond host of the Eastern Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar, among other catapillars. That said, it’s hardy in USDA zones 8-10, so will mostly be found in the southern parts of the US.

Bay is rarely used medicinally– Pregnant women should avoid the berries as they will cause miscarriage. Oil of Bay can be used externally as a pain reliver, but taking Bay internally in any amounts greater than extracted into stews and pickles tends to make people sick.

[Info from Botanical. com and Wikipedia.]

Halser has Bay associated with the Sun and Moon. In addition, I seem to recall a kitchen witch once associating Bay with Jupiter. I think it was Patricia Telesco, in her book Goddess in my Pocket but, as I haven’t got that availible to me at this time, I can’t check to be sure. But the assocaitions with fame, prosperity, and victory would tend to float in a Jovian direction . . .

In the Garden: Basil

Basil (Ocimum basilicum) of the mint family is a tender, low-growing herb. It is featured in Italian cuisine, and also plays a major role in the Southeast Asian cuisines of Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Basil is originally native to Iran, India and other tropical regions of Asia, having been cultivated there for more than 5,000 years[

The word basil comes from the Greek βασιλεύς (basileus), meaning “king”, as it is believed to have grown above the spot where St. Constantine and Helen discovered the Holy Cross. The Oxford English Dictionary quotes speculations that basil may have been used in “some royal unguent, bath, or medicine”.

Basil is very sensitive to cold, with best growth in hot, dry conditions. It behaves as an annual if there is any chance of a frost. In Northern Europe, Canada, the northern states of the U.S., and the South Island of New Zealand it will grow best if sown under glass in a peat pot, then planted out in late spring/early summer (when there is little chance of a frost). It fares best in a well-drained sunny spot.

Although basil will grow best outdoors, it can be grown indoors in a pot and, like most herbs, will do best on an equator-facing windowsill. It should be kept away from extremely cold drafts, and grows best in strong sunlight, therefore a greenhouse or Row cover is ideal if available. They can, however, be grown even in a basement, under fluorescent lights.

If its leaves have wilted from lack of water, it will recover if watered thoroughly and placed in a sunny location. Yellow leaves towards the bottom of the plant are an indication that the plant needs more sunlight or less fertilizer.

In sunnier climates, basil will thrive when planted outside. It also thrives over the summertime in the central and northern United States, but dies out when temperatures reach freezing point. It will grow back the next year if allowed to go to seed.

Basil can also be propagated very reliably from cuttings, with the stems of short cuttings suspended for two weeks or so in water until roots develop.

If a stem successfully produces mature flowers, leaf production slows or stops on any stem which flowers, the stem becomes woody, and essential oil production declines. To prevent this, pinch off any flower stems before they are fully mature. Because only the blooming stem is so affected, some can be pinched for leaf production, while others are left to bloom for decoration or seeds.

Once the plant is allowed to flower, it may produce seed pods containing small black seeds which can be saved and planted the following year. Picking the leaves off the plant helps “promote growth”, largely because the plant responds by converting pairs of leaflets next to the topmost leaves into new stems.

There are many rituals and beliefs associated with basil. The French sometimes call basil “l’herbe royale“. Jewish folklore suggests it adds strength while fasting. It is a symbol of love in present-day Italy, but represented hatred in ancient Greece, and European lore sometimes claims that basil is a symbol of Satan. African legend claims that basil protects against scorpions, while the English botanist Culpeper cites one “Hilarius, a French physician” as affirming it as common knowledge that smelling basil too much would breed scorpions in the brain.

Holy Basil, also called ‘Tulsi’ , is highly revered in Hinduism and also has religious significance in the Greek Orthodox Church, where it is used to prepare holy water. It is said to have been found around Christ’s tomb after his resurrection. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Serbian Orthodox Church, Macedonian Orthodox Church and Romanian Orthodox Church use basil (Bulgarian and Macedonian: босилек; Romanian: busuioc, Serbian: босиљак) to prepare holy water and pots of basil are often placed below church altars.

In Europe, basil is placed in the hands of the dead to ensure a safe journey. In India, they place it in the mouth of the dying to ensure they reach God. The ancient Egyptians and ancient Greeks believed that it would open the gates of heaven for a person passing on.

(Info from Wikipedia)

Hasler notes Basil is associated with Mercury, Mars and Jupiter.

In the Garden: Bamboo and Barley

"Bamboo", by Xu Wei in the Ming Dynasty

We’re in the Bs! Yay!

Bamboo is a useful, lovely grass, but troublesome due to it’s often extremely aggressive way of spreading into all the places you don’t want it. It’s useful nature is renowned throughout the world, used for making musical instruments, weapons, fibers for textiles, and building materials. It’s beauty is especially prized in Asian cultures: In Asia it is known as one of the “Four Noble Ones”–these being bamboo, plum, orchid and chrysanthemum. In Japan, its evergreen nature has made it one of the “Three Friends in Winter”– Pine, Bamboo, and Plum. Bamboo forests often surround Shito Shrines to work as a barrier to evil.

Bamboo does form an effective barrier, but the problem is, it doesn’t stay where you put it– it spreads, and is near impossible to stop. Even containment methods tend to fail, as the underground rhizomes tend to burst through or worm around just about anything. Personally, as much as I appreciate the beauty of bamboo, I would recomment not growing it so as to block what little sun you neighbor gets, against the fence so that it grows into her berry bramble, and then cut all yours down to put in a two story storage shed that blocks all the light! Just sayin’ .  .  .

Likewise, as it tends to go out of control, if you do plant, keep to species native to your area. Please, the kudzu is bad enough. . .

All that aside, dried bamboo stalks make fabulous garden stakes– use for once season, and then break up and add to the compost pile. It may be the only way your neighbor forgives you for cluttering up her bramble. Young shoots are edible (well, unless you happen to be growing Giant Bamboo, in which case the shoots are chock full of cyanide. Other types are fine), and popular in Asian cuisines.

In sum, bamboo is very useful, but be sure to keep on top of it, lest it take over the entire yard.

Halser has Bamboo associated with Mercury and Mars.

Barley

Barley is a commonly grown grain for animal feed, malting for beer, whiskey, or vinegar, and human consumption. It’s not really something you can grow in a garden– unless you have a good amount of land, in which case it’s no longer “In the Garden” and more “On the Farm.” But it grows quickly and is rather drought resistant, so if one wants a grain, it might do.

There are two main types of Barley– Two Row and Six Row. Two row has less protein than Six row, thus more sugar for fermentation. Thus Six row is best for animal feed, two row for malting– though American Lagers tend to use Six row. Either can be used for grinding into flour, or pearling for other uses.

Hasler has Barley associated with The Moon, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn.

Two Row Barley and Lady Bug by T.Voekler

In the Garden: Aster and Avacado

Aster Amellus (Michaelmas Daisy)

Aster is a genus of plants, names for the shape of the flowers they bear (Aster comes from the Ancient Greek word for Star). There are a slew of varieties found throughout the world, and they grow in all hardiness zones. Their usefullness in the garden is that they are food for caterpillars of moths. In this way, they can attract some pollinators to your garden, and can also serve as trap plants for caterpillars that might otherwise terrorise the rest of your garden. Finally, by attracting moths, you could conceivably attract bats to your area– bats which eat all manner of pests, whose droppings are incredibly rich fertilizer, and are considered good luck by the Chinese. Yes, I’m fond of bats.

This year, I’ll be growing Michaelmas Daisies in my garden.

Avocados are a commercially valuable fruit and are cultivated in tropical climates throughout the world–and some temperate ones, such as California.

The avacado matures on the tree but ripens off the tree. Once picked, avocados ripen in a few days at room temperature . In some cases, avocados can be left on the tree for several months, which is good if one doesn’t wish to rush through a harvest. One can simply pick the fruit a few days before your party to have it ripe in time for guacamole. If the fruit remains unpicked for too long, however, it will fall to the ground, and start ripening on its own.

An avocado propagated by seed can bear fruit, but takes roughly 4–6 years to do so, and the offspring is unlikely to resemble the parent cultivar in fruit quality. Thus, commercial orchards are planted using grafted trees and rootstocks. Buying grafted stock from a reputable dealer is recommended—but stories abound of people who have grown their own trees from store-bought fruit, and now enjoy their own home-grown avocados.

Avocados are good for regulating cholesterol levels, and often used as a substitute for meat by vegetarians due to its high fat content. Mind you, it’s the “good fats”.

While not particularly popular, the avocado tree can be grown domestically and be used as a houseplant. Typically the pit will germinate in either normal soil conditions or, alternatively, partially submerged in a container of water. If the latter method is chosen by the grower, the pit will sprout in 4–6 weeks upon which time it is planted in fertile soil such as potting soil. The plant will generally grow and become large enough to be prunable, however it will not bear fruit unless it has both ample sunlight and a second plant with which it can cross-pollinate.

The problem is, there is documented evidence that animals such as cats, dogs, cattle, goats, rabbits, rats, birds, fish, and horses can be severely harmed or even killed when they consume the avocado leaves, bark, skin, or pit.  So anyone with house pets will want to avoid growing indoor avocado plants, unless they have a sunny room that they can keep the pets out of successfully. A greenhouse might work, so long as pets can’t get in.

Hasler lists both Aster and Avocado as Venus plants.

Info mostly from Wikipedia.

In the Garden: Asparagus and Asphodel

Asparagus

Asparagus is a delighful annual that, once planted, will delight growers every spring for as many as thirty years. For this reason, although they take time to establish, they should be considered a must for the garden, unless the grower absolutely cannot stand the plant.

Crowns are planted in winter, and are allowed to grow unmolested for at least one year before any harvest. If growing from seed, two to three years must be borne patiently allowing the roots to establish before harvesting. Since asparagus was originally grown near the sea, many growers sow a small amount of salt into their asparagus beads, enough to prevent weeds from growing, but not to exceed the salinity the plant can handle. However, this means that the asparagus dirt is no good for growing  companion plants, such as tomatos, that keep away asparagus worms.

To keep seed, gather the red berries that grow on the female ferns, and remove seeds from inside.

Hasler as Asparagus associated with Jupiter.

Asphodel

Well, when thinking of Asphodel, the first thing that comes to mind is the following encounter between the good professor and the nearly-as-good Boy-Who-Lived-To-Be-A-Pain-In-Voldie’s-Rear:

Ah, Cousin Draco always was such a suck-up. . .

Back the matter at hand: Asphodel. Generally, the root of the plant is what was used for food by peasants and other poor people of the countryside. The Greeks planted asphodel near graves, as it was considered the food of the dead. In Persia, the bulb was powdered and mixed with water to form a strong glue.

It grows naturally in the Mediterranean region and middle Europe, but is also cultivated for mostly ornametal purposes. It can be grown from seeds, but is often propagated by root division.

Hasler has Asphodel associated with Saturn.

[Info from Botanical.com]

Crushed like Grapes

So, I saw one of the re-airings of the Iron Chef Battle:  White House Garden. I love Iron Chef, I love Food Network, and I was vaguely curious as to what the WH Garden looked like, what they had growing, etc. . .

Now, from the ChiTrib (and reading via Michelle Malkin and Ace): The veggies picked weren’t the ones used in Kitchen Stadium. I understand that Kitchen Stadium is in NY, and so for freshness, they really needed fresher veggies. And, granted, they were the same veggies as those picked. But, the whole premise, was that they were cooking and eating the actual WH veggies. That the fennel picked in the garden was used in the salads.

I’m glad they donated the veggies to a local food pantry, so it wasn’t wasted. But it kinda undermines the point of the show, doesn’t it? The point, I thought, was: “See what you can do with your own backyard!”

Despite my general disapproval of most things this administration does, the message of growing one’s own food, of increasing one’s self-sufficiency is clearly one I support. Granted, the garden looked like it was cared for by professional round the clock gardeners. But to find out that they cooked with, essentially, store-bought food just turns the whole thing into Battle: Produce Aisle! Couldn’t Chairman-sama have set up a small, temporary Kitchen Stadium somewhere in DC? Was there no way to use the actual veggies? No way at all?

Understandable, I suppose, but essentially misleading. Everything used in that battle was essentially fake, except the chefs. And Alton Brown (because no matter his politics, he’s the sort of geek we like in the kitchen, or the potions lab). The only truly special thing was the selection of chefs– Two Iron Chefs (Batali and Flay), Emeril Lagasse and Exec. Chef Comerford.