Saturday, May 21, 2011

A cat and his Nip

I am allergic to cats.  Therefore, I never had one as a pet.  However, since we have lived out here at the farm, we have had 2 "outside" cats.  And, we have discovered what fascinating creatures they can be.  I have also discovered that I can tolerate them pretty well as long as I wash my hands after petting them.

The current cat is named Marmaduke.  He is a big old tom cat that patrols the place and keeps us entertained.  We had him neutered and take him to the vet each year to get his vaccinations.  Other than that, he is fairly "maintenance free".   We bought a self-feeder for him and Tom built a little house for him to sleep in when it is cold.  We put it up next to the house under the back patio cover.  Last winter we stuffed lots of old blankets in there and Marmaduke stayed toasty warm.

He comes and goes, but mostly stays close by.  You never know where you will find him.  Sometimes he seems to appear out of thin air.  This afternoon I caught him sleeping on top of one of our trash cans.

Since I had heard that cats like catnip, I bought a plant of it last year and set it out in my herb garden.  Here is a picture of it earlier this spring.  It is now twice this big!

Catnip is a perennial herb of the mint family. It is native to Europe and was imported to the United States.  It now grows wild and is sometimes considered a weed.

As it turns out Marmaduke is only mildly interested in it.  Here he is in February giving it a "smelling over".

So, I got to wondering why some cats are reported to go nuts over it and others don't.  Here is what I found out.  Catnip contains a chemical called nepetalactone that triggers the catnip response.  Some cats are sensitive to the chemical and exhibit the stereotypical reaction.  As it turns out, the catnip reaction is inherited, and some cats are totally unaffected by it.  Apparently, Marmaduke is one of these.  Large cats, like tigers, can be sensitive to it as well.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Farm Tour

Several weeks ago I was asked by Sustainable Stillwater if we would be willing to host a tour of our farm.   Sustainable Stillwater is an environmental organization in Stillwater which grew  out of the Stillwater Recycling Coalition in the fall of 2001.   You can read more about them on their web page at:

We love talking to people about what we grow and how we do it.  And, I've been on the Sustainable Stillwater email list for several years and enjoy getting their emails about the community garden,  workshops and other upcoming events.  So, I immediately said yes and then decided I'd better tell Tom what I had gotten us into.

It wasn't until I actually saw the notice about our farm tour come through their listserver that I began to panic.  The list coordinator said not to worry, they were a pretty laid back group and that she figured only a dozen or so people might come.  Whew!  I figured we could handle a dozen or so.   So, Tom and I have been hoeing, pulling weeds and edging for several days now getting things to where they looked presentable.  I even made a sign to put out by the road to show people where to turn and developed a "tour guide" to use to guide us around the farm and point out items of interest.

Then, last night the coordinator sent me an email with a final count of people who would be here . . . . .   20 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Yikes!  Thank goodness I didn't read the email until this morning or I might not have slept.  No, really, I was not THAT nervous and I have taught college classes before.  So, I wasn't that tense about speaking in front of a group.  I guess I was just worried that people would be disappointed in our small farm.

But, it turned out to be a delightful group.  A lot of questions were asked and everyone seemed very interested.   Here is a picture of Tom talking about our blackberries.  He is the one in the hat and gray sweatshirt who is pointing.

Notice there are a couple of children in the group.  It delighted me that people wanted to bring their children along to show them where food comes from and that it does not grow in the supermarket.   Next, is a picture of me talking about our hoophouse.

I'm the one in the hat and red shirt.

After the tour, we had sun tea and ice water flavored with mint leaves from my herb garden.   We even made some chamomile tea, like in my previous post.  It was a fun afternoon and I really enjoyed meeting the people that came out.  Maybe we'll do it again next year.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Chamomile Tea

No doubt at some time in your life you have probably tried chamomile tea.   Chamomile has a pleasant, slightly sweet flavor similar to apples.  It is legendary in herbal lore as being good for helping one relax and sleep.  I certainly believe this to be true!  There is nothing more relaxing than a warm cup of chamomile tea sweetened with honey at bedtime. 

You can buy chamomile tea bags at the grocery store, but it is easy to grow at home.  I grow it in large pots on the patio.  Here is this year's crop of chamomile.

Chamomile is a pretty bedding plant.  Notice the fern-like foliage and the tiny flowers.  It is the flowers that are used to make the tea.  You can pick them and dry them for later use.  Or, you can use them fresh.  It is this last method that I use most of the time. 

Just pick the flowers and put them in your cup.  Then pour boiling water over them.  Like this:

Let the tea steep for a few minutes.  Then, using a spoon, scoop out the flowers and throw them in your compost bucket.  Add some honey and enjoy.  Chamomile tea is a wonderful way to end your day.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Friday Afternoon Preparation

Friday afternoons are usually pretty busy getting things ready for the Market on Saturday.  At this time of year, we have a lot of cool season greens.  These take a lot more time to harvest and prepare for the Market, than most other produce.   So, during the spring, I often take off from work early to come home and help. Here is what it looked like on our back patio this past Friday afternoon.

Tom picks the greens and puts them in tubs of cool water.  We call this "hydro-cooling" and it helps keep them cool and fresh while they are waiting to be bagged.   It is by no means a substitute for washing the greens.  You should always wash greens once you get them home.

The greens are taken out of the water and allowed to "drip dry" on a  framed screen that Tom built out of 2X4s.  It is HEAVY.  I set it on large plastic containers that have been turned upside-down and dump the greens onto it.  In this picture, you see a pile of arugula that is draining on the screen, while a pan of Swiss chard and a pan of beet greens are waiting.

After the greens have drained for a while, I put them in plastic tubs that have towels in the bottom to catch the excess water.  Then, they are taken inside to be bagged or bundled.

Last weekend, my son and daughter-in-law from Dallas were here for Easter.  My little Chinese granddaughter helped me for a while by taking the greens out of the water and putting them on the screen.  Kids always like to play in water, so this was fun for her and helped me out too!

Isn't she adorable!