Monday, June 27, 2011

Minty Mint Tea

Once again the time is at hand to haul out my dear ol' dehydrator from the basement pantry and begin it's job for the harvest season! I have been gathering mint in the early mornings to dry for soothing cups of tea come winter time, and I still need to find time to put up a batch or two of Mint Jelly. Nothing soothes a sore throat or upset tummy around here, or offers simple comfort to a winter-weary soul, as does a cup (or two!) of Mint Tea and toast with Mint Jelly!

It is a good best to gather your mint early in the morning before the sun beats on the herb for too great a time... you want it as fresh- tasting and as full of it's essential components as possible. And as always, organically grown is preferable. This basketful of assorted mint produced almost a 1/2 gallon jar of dried Mint Tea leaves. So, gather your mint sprigs...

This is Apple Mint... my favorite for tea and jelly, and it grows in abundance (and spreads as heartily!) here on wildenblue Farm. It is sweet and has a subtle appley overtone to the mint flavor. I believe I purchased this years ago from Tinmouth Channel Herb Farm in Vermont, but alas, they are no longer in business.

This is common Peppermint, and it does not flourish as profusely as the Apple mint does here. Yet it provides me with enough to blend with the Apple Mint. It has a sharper, stronger flavor, as Peppermint does, when compared to the Apple Mint, and i wouldn't want it to overbear the flavor anyhow, so it all works well! I also throw in a bit of Spearmint when I can find it... some years are better than others! Remember, there is no rhyme or reason to exact measurements,,, use what you think tastes wonderfully to you! And you can also gather any number of other herbs that you prefer, such as Catnip, Rose Petals, Lemon Balm, Lemon Verbena, Bee Balm flower petals and leaves... you are limited only by your tastebuds! Just be certain that any of the herbs you use have not been sprayed or treated with any chemicals.

Once I've gathered what seems good, I thoroughly rinse the stems in fresh cool water to remove any dirt or bugs that may be attached to the plant material. Swish and spray well and often. I then pick up small sections of stems and take them out on the porch for a good shake to remove as much of the water as possible. Next, pluck the leaves from the stems, being alert to any unpalatable- looking foilage, which you can toss in the compost along with the stems (They tend to be bitter when brewed). When you are finished, you can place all the leaves in a layer on a clean dish towel and gently press off any remaining moisture, but this is not an absolutely necessary step.

Now place the leaves in a single layer on the dehydrator trays and dry til crisp. I turn my trays after about two hours and continue to dry til done. Once dry, I store the tea mixture in half-gallon canning jars with the metal lids; plastic containers will allow moisture and impart odd flavors to your tea, so do not use them. As I fill the jars with the dried mint, I compress and crumple the leaves GENTLY to compact it a bit.... but remember, you do not want powdered tea leaves!

To brew, simply fill both sides of a mesh tea ball or a stainless perforated tea-spoon with tea leaves and let sit in a cup of boiling water for 3 to 5 minutes. Sweeten with honey, sugar or stevia, and a bit of cream if desired. Enjoy!

Perhaps I should not mention this, but here goes (I can be a very frugal woman!) When I have brewed my cuppa, I set the tea spoon/ ball aside for my next cup and brew the same way, perhaps for a minute or two longer. Your second cup of tea will not be quite as strong as the first cup, but it will still be good.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Is anyone else having problems with Blogger?

For the life of me, I cannot get in to answer any of my dear readers comments. I have spent several days trying to reset passwords, change my settings, contact Blogger directly and anything else I can think of to resolve this problem, which has been going on for quite some time. Still nothing works.
I just want you all to know once again that I am not ignoring your comments... I have been trying to respond, but something is cursed. I don't know what else to do, but I'm determined to figure this out! Please bear with me! xox ~Laura

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

What Road Do You Choose?

I hope you don't mind me sharing a few photographs I took on my morning walk yesterday. I love walking out in the meadow or the woods. I purposely mowed a path through the grass all around the perimeter of the field, not to make walking easier, but because I am afraid I may trod upon some hidden creature. I will tell you that when I took the picture of the damselfly, I turned around to step back on the trail and was startled by a tiny "peep, peep" and fluttering of wings. Right in the spot where my next footstep would have been, a baby turkey scurried to the woodline, along with two or three siblings. This time of year, I stay on the path!

baby fawn

a few found treasures

red eft

wild pinks

common blue damselfly

pines near stone wall

garter snake

wild strawberries

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveller long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear,

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black,

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I...

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

~Robert Frost

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Water Kefir Recipe

My friend Alice R. stopped by a few weeks ago to pick up some plants for her garden. We had a wonderful visit... the kind friends have when a long time has passed in between, and we had some catching up to do! During our chat, she asked me if I'd ever made Water Kefir. Now, I had heard of and indulged in dairy kefir before, but this was new to me. It sounded a bit unpleasant, I must admit. She told me to Google it, and I was intrigued when she said it was a great and inexpensive source of probiotics, and that it was really easy to make. She offered me some water kefir grains if I wanted to try it, then we continued with what we were doing.
Just a few days after that, another friend stopped up for a visit. (We had some catching up to do, as well!) She asked me if I'd ever heard of water kefir, and I told her about Alice's visit. Needless to say, I figured I'd better pay attention to this one, so the next day, I picked up some kefir grains at Steff's and I've been making Water Kefir ever since!

Why drink Water Kefir? Here are a few links touting the health benefits of water kefir...

You were right, Alice... I LOVE it! And thank you Steff for the added nudge! It's simple enough for me, and I'm having a great time concocting various flavors. And I've been researching various bits of information, but... true to my nature, I've come up with what works well for me. As with all cooking and baking, I am not a measurer, and this hasn't seemed to affect the kefir's outcome, so I'll share my process as well as some links, and leave you to decide what works for you!

I must say that when I heard the term water kefir "grains", I was picturing something akin to rice. However, the grains are translucent and almost flake-like... I cannot help but think that they resemble (and please forgive me for saying this) the ultra-absorbent gel-like material on the inside of a baby diaper, except on a larger scale. (Sorry!) In the above picture, you can see the wet water kefir grains. When I received them, my friend had put some of hers into a pint Mason jar filled with sugar water. (I'll explain that further later.)

I let this sit on the counter overnight, and the next day, I strained the kefir grains from the water using a nylon strainer... you always reserve BOTH the fermented water (to drink) and the kefir grains (to begin another batch). Also, metal is apparently not good for the fermentation process, so avoid it and use glass and wooden utensils, and do not use chlorinated tap water.

Once I strained the kefir grains from the water, I began another batch. First, I took a clean half-gallon Mason jar and filled it with about a half-cup of warm distilled or well water, to which I stirred in 3-4 tablespoons of organic sugar, which feeds the kefir; the warm water helps the sugar dissolve quickly. Then I filled the jar with COLD water to the 3-Cup mark on the Mason jar, stirred it all well and then added about 3/4 cup of water kefir grains.

I covered the jar with a plastic mason jar top, not too tightly, and let it sit on the counter out of direct light for 24 to 48 hours. 24 hours produces a slight fizz, 48 hours is more fizzy, like soda.
When the desired effervescence is achieved, strain the kefir grains from the water, reserving both.

At this point, you can simply place the strained-off kefir water in the refrigerator and enjoy, and begin another batch following the steps above again.
Or you can flavor your kefir water, which is just what I like to do! I have tried lemon-mint and my favorite, grape. It's really simple...
Once you've strained off the kefir grains, pour the reserved fermented water back into a rinsed half-gallon mason jar. Add another tablespoon or two of sugar, and stir well. Then add about 1/2 cup of organic fruit juice... I prefer Knudsen's Just Concord Grape. Let this ferment for another 24 hours on the counter, then refrigerate and enjoy when cold.
I am in the process of experimenting with other flavors, not only using the other Knudsen flavors... pomegranite, blueberry, cranberry, but also lemon mint (using pure organic lemon juice and adding a fistful of crushed mint springs), and using fresh crushed fruit. Not sure how they'll all turn out, but I'm having fun.

Here are just of few of the many links I've found on making your own Water Kefir. I hope you are inclined to try it!

Friday, June 3, 2011


We had two days of very hot (90 degree) and humid weather which gave way to frost warnings overnight and temperatures in the 60’s and 70’s… cool, breezy and perfect for outdoor work. (What work isn’t outdoor-related this time of year any ways?!) Long days and lots of hard work, but the payoff is three-fold… great exercise, getting fresh air AND harvesting healthy organic food!

My dear mom helped me transplant (for the FINAL time!) over 1000 strawberry plants into the bed I had prepared last year. I had torn up a chunk of pasture and covered it with black plastic last spring, let it steep all summer and had hoped to have completed the transplanting of the strawberriy plants to the new bed by autumn last year. Needless to say, it was overgrown with weeds, which we had to pull first, and after that and the planting and the mulching, the plants are adjusting well and are setting out many berries. It was an awful chance to transplant them when we did, but I think we did it just at the right time, should get berries within the next few weeks. Whew!

We also got the main berry garden weeded completely, aside from the Johnny-Jump-Ups and Money Plants that seeded themselves throughout, and I moved several blueberry bushes over to make room for Sweet Corn and Pumpkins. All seems to be coming along well, and it is such a relief to have that particular garden in order at last. Yes, I know it will not stay this tidy, but it’s a good start! The only major chores to do out there now are to add more tie-ups to the raspberries and to mulch everything. The mulching happens a bit at a time… when I mow, the clippings go in between and all around. Not only does this keep the weeding to a minimum; it helps retain moisture and amend the soil at the same time. When the barn gets cleaned out in spring and fall, this combination of shavings and manure gets added as well.

I still have not gotten all my vegetables planted, but hope to get that accomplished this weekend and will finish up with the mowing tonight after the two grandbabies go home. Then I need to head out to the old stone wall in the woods to gather some flat stone to make a short border for the small kitchen garden I’m putting in near the porch closest to the kitchen! I am now telling myself that when these things are completed… there will be NO new projects/ gardens or other such brainstorms anymore. It is enough to maintain and work at what is here.

However, I have been thinking of building a small outbuilding for the ducks and geese and moving it and them out into the berry garden for the summer for bugging and weeding purposes. I have Cayuga, Muscovy and Runner Ducks, and they are all such great buggers and weeders, and they do not scratch and trample as ruthlessly as the chickens and guineas. (I always read where folks advise to put guineas in your vegetable garden to control pests… the writers all claim that guineas DO NOT scratch like chickens do, but this does not hold true). Mine have trampled and eaten spinach plants, rhubarb, catnip, kale and lettuces, andthey scratch terribly in the dirt; they’ve dug up plants and pecked out onions and leeks and just leave them to die. I find them just as destructive as chickens, if not more so. I would never consider letting guineas in my garden intentionally! Scoundrels!
Well, the kids are arising from naps, so I will close. It has been a long time since I’ve included a recipe, so the next post will include one or two. Til then, happy June! ~Laura of Wildenblue Farm