Monday, 28 May 2012

Let The Canning Begin!

Well friends, the spring chickens have all been butchered and put in the freezer, the summer garden is in and starting to grow quickly and now it's time for canning season. I almost always start off my canning season with strawberry jam and this year is no exception. Although, this year the batch is smaller than normal because the strawberries came on so early that there wasn't time to get to them.

Only about 4 cups of smooshed berries this year.

Still makes for a lot of hot pots on the stove! (I never realized just how black and silver my kitchen is until I looked at this picture!)

I forgot how yummy the berry mixture smells when it's cooking.

And of course here's the finished product. It may be a small batch, but it will be mighty tasty!

Of course, I think with all of the herb jellies I'm planning on this year we will be just fine! I've made a list below of what I'm hoping to get put up this season. It's pretty ambitious so I'm not sure I will be able to tackle it all, but I will be posting updates throughout the summer as I mark things off the list.

If you are new to canning and want a really great reference guide let me suggest The Complete Book of Home Preserving. During the summer canning season it's always close at hand when I'm in the kitchen.

I would also suggest buying a magnetic wand. I forget about this every year until canning season rolls around and I end up burning my fingers, but then I never remember to buy one when I'm not in the middle of canning.

Of course my birthday is next week...and it is on my Amazon Wishlist...hint...hint...

Finally, if you are an old hand at canning, or even a newbie looking for a challenge, keep an eye on this blog because later in the week I will be posting information on a canning contest! Stay tuned!

My Canning Season To Do List
Early Season Canning
Crab Apple Jelly
Mint Jelly
Herb Jelly
Spiced Crab Apples
Strawberry Jam
Chicken Soup
Chicken Stock
Lemon Sage Wine Mustard

Tomato & Mid Season Canning
Cocktail Sauce
Spaghetti Sauce
Mustard Pickles
Dill Pickles
Green Beans
Cucumber Relish
Veggie Soup

Late Season Canning - After Labor Day
Salsa Verde
Apple Sauce
Apple Butter
Green Tomato Relish
Green Tomato Chutney

Friday, 25 May 2012

Tea Gardens

If you've been following along with this blog you will know that our family is a huge fan of tea time. We are also herb gardeners and enthusiasts. So, I figured, now that our herbs are in full swing due to the warm weather I would post about a few of them and their uses.

Bergamot (Monarda didyma)
Not to be confused with the Bergamot orange plant this wonderful herb is a favorite in our garden. It's name is derived from the fact that it smells and tastes very similar to the Bergamot orange which serves as the flavoring for Earl Grey tea. It is also known as Bee Balm or Oswego Tea. It's very easy to grow and is really an enjoyable tea plant to have in the garden. 

Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)
Hyssop is known as the "holy herb" and has been much loved for it's cleansing properties since ancient times. It is mentioned several times in the bible, but most famously in a passage from Psalms, "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean". It makes an agreeable tasting green tea and is sometimes used often in conjunction with the next herb I'm going to talk about.

Horehound (Marrubium vulgare)
Most people are familiar with good old fashioned horehound candy and this is the plant it is derived from. It has a high mucilage content which makes it a great soothing drink. As mentioned above it is sometimes used with hyssop. However, before you go brew yourself a cup of straight horehound tea, please be advised that it is a very bitter herb! You will need to add some kind of sweeter and maybe even temper the flavor with other herbs. Mint is always a good choice for this.

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
Such a wonderful summer time tea plant. The lemon balm plant is great in both hot tea and iced tea. As the name implies it has a lemony flavor that's very refreshing. We make it mixed with a few other cooling herbs as an iced tea for our family summer solstice celebration. It can also be used in place of lemon in recipes. Just make sure you taste it frequently so you know how much you're putting in. I've also heard of it being used in sorbet, but have not tried it yet. So, if anyone does try it, let me know what you think!

Catnip (Nepeta cataria)
Cats love it and you will too! This herb makes a beautiful light green tea with a mild flavor. We often mix it with some mint at our house for soothing before bed drink. Easy to grow and very prolific. Once it's in the garden though it's not easy to get rid of.

Spearmint (Mentha spicata)
First, let me issue you a warning if you try to grow mints! They spread like wildfire and are nearly impossible to kill. They will be around partying with all of the processed sweet treats, that we hear don't ever decay, and the cockroaches after the end of the world! That said, they are an amazing tea plant and one that everyone should have in their tea garden. You just want to make sure it is contained in an area where you don't want anything else to grow or better yet grow it in a pot. And if tea isn't you're thing then you can always make the leaves into mojitos or mint juleps! 

Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis)
The leaves, roots and flowers of the Marshmallow plant can all be use for making a fabulously mild and soothing tea. The Marshmallow plant has a high mucilage content which makes it a great choice for a tea that is calming to the mouth, throat and stomach.

This is only a small taste of what we have in our gardens that can be made into tea. There are so many more herbs that make amazing tea plants that you wouldn't even think of. Sage tea, for one, is a favorite at our house. Lavender is another one that, while usually thought of only in perfumery, can make an amazing tea or even a flavored sugar for hot tea.

I will very soon have these very plants up for sale at our Poppy Swap store. They are all naturally grown with no pesticides, so if you're in the market for some dried herbs please think of us! And if you're here local and are interested in fresh herbs send me an email and I'll let you know what's in season!

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Green Bean Delivery

I am so in love with Green Bean Delivery that I just have to tell you about it! We've been getting our produce from them for about a year and a half now and they have been such a great service to have available.

They provide produce, meat, dairy and other groceries from many local producers and other items as well that have pretty much our trips to the grocery store few and far between. I check my meal plan on Monday morning, figure out my ingredients, put in my order and we receive our delivery on Tuesday. It has been a huge time saver for us and is a great way to ensure we are eating as much as we can from local producers.

They are also amazing at resolving any problems with your order! This past Tuesday they forgot to include our goat cheese in our box and I failed to send them an email about it because I've been so busy. On Thursday I came home to a big green box on our doorstep! Without even having even been notified they went to the trouble of bringing out a 4oz log of goat cheese! Pretty amazing customer service if you ask me!

And now you can get in on the Green Bean action, too! From now until June 17th Green Bean is holding a new member drive. If you sign up between now and then you will get $15 off your first order! Just go to their website at:

They provide deliveries to the Louisville, Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, Indianapolis and Ft Wayne areas. 

And if you'd like please include my name Chelsea Niehaus in Louisville as your referral and I get a discount too!

Happy Green Beaning!

Sunday, 13 May 2012


The season of birthdays begins this week at our house! Starting with Will's, which was on the 10th, Jacob's which was on the 11th and then me and my family in June. After much deliberation Will has decided that for his 3rd birthday he would like a cake with a spider on it. Red velvet to be specific.

So, while we planned to have a homemade cake today I wanted to make some cupcakes so that Will would have something on his actual birthday. I ended up buying a boxed cake mix and we set to making cupcakes. Will helped put the cupcake liners in the pan.

But alas, I was reminded quickly why our family does most of our baking from scratch. The boxed mix cupcakes tasted terrible! The chickens ended up having dessert that night. The laying hens are not particular about their meals and gobbled them down. Then meat chickens were not so sure and they were still there the next morning when I went to do the chicken chores. Note to self: No more boxed mixes. 

Thankfully I was able to redeem myself in the baking department today with Will's spider cake. While I am a pretty good cook and baker, I am not a cake decorator so I did the best I could do and all in all I think it turned out okay. It sure tasted a whole lot better than the cupcake disaster!

I had high hopes of also making a Happy Birthday bunting and name stars that we can keep up for a while to celebrate everyone's birthdays. We are having our cake and family celebration today, but it's still not done. Maybe it will end up being my birthday bunting!

I finally finished the doll that I've been working on for him since before Christmas. I really love this pattern and Will already seems to be fond of him. This wonderful and easy pattern can be found at Wee Folk Art Knitted in the Round 12" Doll Pattern.

Here he is with just a body and arm and some wool for stuffing. 

And now the finished product.

I really love the way he turned out. He's made of all natural materials including  Lion Brand Fisherman's Wool yarn which is a staple of my knitting. It's natural and inexpensive and it takes dye well. In fact the doll's hair was dyed from the same skein of yarn as the body using tansy from last year's garden. It came out the perfect color to represent Will's hair. I also used some of the wool I washed and carded a couple years ago as stuffing. I may make another soon so Will has a whole family to play with.

So, Happy Birthday to both of my boys! Hooray for summer and our family birthday season!

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Mountain Rose Tea

Bulk organic herbs, spices and essential oils. Sin

As a frequent Mountain Rose Herbs customer and avid tea drinker I was so excited to learn about their new tea packaging. So, with my most recent purchase I decided to add a couple of boxes on to my order.  


I settled on Fairytale Tea for our family tea time and Persephone's Tea which I'm hoping will help me relax a bit and enjoy some quiet moments.

These are the descriptions of our chosen teas from the Mountain Rose website. Don't they both sound just magical?

Fairytale Tea 
A delicious drink for children and adults. A delightful and inspiring infusion blend full of flowers & fairy magic; perfect for bedtime stories.
Contains: organic Calendula flowers, organic Red Clover herb, organic Spearmint leaf, organic Lavender flowers, organic Lemon Balm, organic Catnip, organic Oatstraw, organic Lemon peel, organic Skullcap, organic Chamomile flowers, organic Thyme, and organic Stevia.

Persephone's Tea 
Going down to the underworld and rising up renewed. When you've been overworked, overindulging, or under stress remember ... Be kind to yourself and your liver. This is a blend for transitions, a drink to help support your hard-working liver.
Contains: organic Dandelion root, organic Eleuthero root, organic Burdock root, organic Milk Thistle seed, and organic Yellow Dock root.

I'm still waiting for them to get here along with some herb seeds, but in the meantime here's is some information from Mountain Rose about these beautiful new boxes.

It’s Sustainable:
-Cardboard Tea Box
- 100% post-consumer waste recycled newspaper
- Reusable
- Recyclable
- Biodegradable / Compostable
- Printed with soy ink and water-based varnish
- Recyclable labels

It’s Practical:
- Prevents color and nutrient leaching by light
- Offers better protection during shipping to prevent crushed and broken bags
- Local co-ops and health food stores will now be able to stock our tea in the tea aisle
- Allows us to include detailed brewing instructions and a “resources saved” report

It’s Beautiful:
- Beautifully designed to site on your kitchen shelf
- Perfect gift for tea lovers
- Embossed with full color photos of our tea printed using soy-inks and eco-friendly water based varnish

Our Tea:
- 100% Certified Organic Ingredients
- Earth Kosher Certified
- IMO Fair For Life ~ Fair Trade Certified varieties
- Time-tested formulas handcrafted by us for over 20
- 65 green, black, red, white and herbal blends to experience 

Inner Tea Bag
- Non-GMO tree cellulose, an industrial bi-product from the Pacific Northwest
- 100% Compostable
- Resealable with adhesive tab for freshness

So, if you are in the market for some new teas in pretty packaging click the link below to go to the Mountain Rose website and order yourself some tasty herbal tea goodness!

So fresh that smiles are guaranteed 
Disclaimer: The product links on this page are Mountain Rose Herbs affiliate links. 

Monday, 7 May 2012

Moments of Peace

Well, after two weeks of chaos I am happy to report that my weekend consisted waking up to this:
(And for the record, this is not my house, but instead a beautiful retreat that I'm lucky enough to have access to from time to time.)

And reading this: 

Just what I needed to recharge my batteries! I am absolutely in love with this book! It's a beautiful account of a much more agrarian existence and the traditional observance of the changing of the season!

Sunday, 6 May 2012

May Day

Our Kentucky Derby house guests arrived Wednesday night and they are so very nice! I'm really glad they got to come to Kentucky to see it in person. While I may not be originally from Kentucky, it has been my home for so long that I get a sense of pride in showing it off. We spent a lot of time getting the house ready and while I didn't get it quite as perfect as I wanted I think it was okay. Most of the incomplete tasks were out in the yard anyhow.

Now that our work for Derby is behind us it's time for a period of contraction to get us back into a routine. I think a May Day celebration to get us back in tune with the rhythms of the seasons and daily life was exactly what we needed!

So, Thursday evening, Will and I dug out some felt and yarn and made May Day crowns to use for a special May Day Morning Circle on Friday morning.

We started our morning circle with our usual opening verse and then we recited the verse below and sang a Maypole song that we found in the book Festivals, Family and Food.

Morning May Verse

Good morning, Mistress and Master,
I wish you a happy day;
Please to smell my garland
'Cause it is the first day of May.

A branch of May I have brought you
And at your door I stand;
It is but a sprout, but it's well budded out
The work of our Lord's hand.

In order to bring us back to center after our Maypole song we also read an excerpt from the series Lark Rise to Candleford. I've recently bought a print copy of this series and can't wait until I can get sometime to really sit down and read it. It looks like such a wonderful book and the reviews are fabulous!

Will was not feeling particularly in the mood for circle time so he mostly just sat on my lap while I sang and recited poems and stories, but it gave us a nice peaceful event to bring a bit more rhythm and awareness back to our lives.