Category Archives: Organic living

Spider

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This garden spider has built an elaborate web (two of them, actually) between a pair of shrubs in our front yard.

Isn’t it beautiful? The sun was behind it when I took the picture, and its body looked translucent in the light. I didn’t know garden spiders looked like that. Usually when I see them, they’re down low, with the light shining on top of them instead of through them. I like the zipper pattern they make in their webs. I’m not sure why they do it, but I like the way it looks. You can tell what kind of spider built the web even if the spider itself is hiding out somewhere else.

I’m not totally comfortable with spiders, but I’ve kind of made my peace with them the last few years, and this particular species is really good to have around, because it eats a lot of destructive insects. From what I can tell, garden spiders are not particularly shy, but they’re not particularly aggressive, either. This one must be a female, because it’s really big. I’ve never seen one with quite this color pattern before. Maybe it’s a different variety or something.

We had one on a pepper plant last summer. I just paid attention to where it was so I wouldn’t disturb it or mess up its web too much while I was harvesting peppers, and we got along fine. I had to leave a few fruits on the plant to keep from damaging the web, but I thought that was a small price to pay to have a little eight-legged exterminator protecting the rest of the crop from bug damage.

Emily

Plink! Plink!

I love the sound of canning-jar lids sealing themselves. 🙂

I finally got to put up salsa today. I’ve been waiting all summer for my tomatoes to produce enough fruit to do the job, and with monsoon season apparently behind us, the vines have perked up a little and the fruit is starting to ripen instead of just rotting on the vine. If I could keep the birds from taking bites out of my pretty Creoles, I think I’d get a fairly decent crop. I can’t really blame the birds, though. A ripe homegrown tomato is pretty hard to resist.

I put up a gallon of salsa in pint jars. One of the jars refused to seal, which means I need to pick up chips tomorrow. 🙂 My salsa recipe is here. I followed basically the same recipe tonight, except I left off the cucumbers because I didn’t need them.

While I was cleaning out the stove drawer yesterday, I discovered a plate that belongs to my friend Linda, who left it here after a Ya-Ya party two years ago. I kept meaning to return it to her, but I had an idea I might fill it up with something lovely, and I never got around to it. Then I misplaced the plate and forgot about it until yesterday. I made a batch of Gilded Lilies to put on her plate before I return it to her this week. (Recipe below.)

I had a really productive day. In addition to canning and baking, I bought lumber, built two sets of shelves, finished reorganizing three closets, took a carload of stuff to Goodwill, bought some new clothes, ran the dishwasher, did a load of laundry, and now I’m getting ready to fold the laundry that’s scattered all over my bed so I can put my feet up and read a magazine. I have to run five miles and change Gretchen’s oil tomorrow.

Here’s the recipe for Gilded Lilies. I call them that because I started out with a basic chocolate-chip cookie recipe and then realized we were low on butter, so I substituted peanut butter for some of the butter in the recipe. Then I remembered I had some black walnuts in the freezer and some dried cranberries in the cabinet. Putting peanut butter in a chocolate-chip cookie recipe is already gilding the lily a little bit, but adding cranberries and black walnuts is just over the top. They turned out pretty great, though. Make a batch and see for yourself:

Gilded Lilies

1 tsp. baking soda
1 stick of butter, softened
3/4 c. peanut butter (I used creamy, but crunchy would probably work just as well)
2 large eggs (I substituted three small ones ‘cos our girls are still too young to produce big eggs)
1 c. firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 c. granulated sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 bag Nestle semisweet mini-morsels
3/4 c. half-pulverized black walnuts
1 c. dried cranberries
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 375. Soften the butter in the microwave. Stir in the peanut butter. Add the soda, sugars, and vanilla, stirring after each addition. Add the chocolate chips, walnuts, and cranberries. Mix well. Stir in the flour, a little at a time. (I use either a pastry cutter or my hands to mix in the flour.)

Roll into 1 1/4-inch balls. At this point, if you’re not afraid of salmonella — which I obviously am not, because A.) germs and cooties are against my religion, and B.) I cook with ridiculously fresh eggs that come from feisty, beautiful, well-cared-for hens who have never been sick a day in their lives — you could declare these “no-bakes,” roll them in powdered sugar, and store them in Tupperware in the refrigerator.

If you feel the need to bake them, place the balls on greased cookie sheets, flatten gently with a fork, and bake for about 10 minutes. Makes about 50 cookies.

Fresh salsa from homegrown tomatoes and cayenne peppers and cookies made with black walnuts from my mom’s tree and eggs we brought in from the chicken tractor this morning. We are so spoiled around here. If I’d been thinking on my feet, I’d have used some of our girls’ honey in the cookies, too. Maybe next time….

Emily

The incredible, edible egg

I think I just totally dated myself with the title of this post.

In any case, by popular demand, here are pictures of one of our hens’ first eggs:

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Ron accidentally let the skillet get a little too hot, so the egg kind of bubbled up and burned around the edges as soon as it hit the surface … but you can still tell what a nice, bright yellow yolk it had.

The girls haven’t produced any more since they gave us those first two, but they’ve been acting fidgety lately, so hopefully we’ll have more soon.

Emily

Ask the Hippie, Vol. 2, Issue 4

Q. Is there an organic way to get rid of ants?

A. Yes.

I discovered an infestation of ants in our kitchen just before we left for Clinton a couple of weeks ago, but I didn’t have a chance to do anything about them before we went out of town. Of course my negligence gave them a chance to multiply, and by the time we got back, they were all over the counter and sink.

I sort of like ants. Like honeybees, they’re hard-working, single-minded little critters who understand the importance of sacrificing self-interest for the greater good. I appreciate the lessons they offer, and I’m loathe to kill a teacher, however small it might be.

That said, I didn’t want a colony of ants marching across my counters, tromping through my food, and stealing anything that wasn’t hermetically sealed, so I decided to let them know it was time to leave.

Ants hate the smell of peppermint. I think it messes up their sense of smell and makes it hard for them to detect the trails of formic acid that they lay down to help each other find food sources.

I had some peppermint essential oil and an empty spray bottle on hand, so I mixed about a teaspoon of the oil with about a quart of water and spritzed down the sink and countertop with it.

Two treatments, spaced a couple of hours apart, took care of the entire problem literally overnight.

Emily