Duvet Cover Wrestling

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I am sure I am not the only one that hates wrestling a duvet into its over-sized pillow case periodically.  Been doing it for years and always procrastinate about washing the cover just to avoid the impending wrestling match.

As I was mentally getting psyched up for the task I had a brain wave, a storm surge, an epiphany….whatever you call it, this GREAT idea popped into my head.

CLOTHESPINS!

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Why don’t I insert the duvet up to the top corners of the cover and using clothespins, pin them together to hold, then travel along the length of the top pinning as I go.

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THEN, you can grasp the top and wildly flap the whole dang thing around the room to shake the cover down over the duvet without it sliding back out. In the time it takes to say “Bob’s Your Uncle!”, the duvet is smoothly nestled into its cover with nary a sweat broken or curse word spoken.

Brilliant I am.

Hopefully nobody has thought of this idea before, ’cause if I find out it was already out there and nobody told me, I am going to be pretty upset.

Deborah

 

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First Garden Produce Of 2017

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Radishes are always fast producers as they prefer the early, cooler Spring days to germinate and grow.  I pulled these beauties out this morning and after a dip in a bucket of water to get the dirt off, I squirreled them off to the kitchen for further washing and get them tucked into the fridge.
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If left too long in the ground and once Mother Nature heats up, radishes will bolt (go into flowering mode) and the root will then get woody.  So best to harvest these ruby gems as soon as you see a large portion of the root sticking up above the soil.
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The remainder will be harvested over the next week which will then give the Tiny Tim tomatoes some room as you can hardly see them nestled between the rows of radishes.
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Meanwhile, the peppers that I planted last week are diggin’ their new digs so much that flowers are opening and I even have one teeny-tiny pepper starting!
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I finally learned the secret for planting happy peppers.  Start them a month earlier than I normally do.  Usually mid-March is seed planting time, but to give the slower growing peppers more time to mature before going in the ground, I started them mid-February.  Definitely my strategy is paying off this year.
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Looking forward to a fabulous harvest this year for not only radishes, peppers and tomatoes, but chard, beets, carrots, garlic and green onions too.  If I can scrounge up a little space after I harvest the garlic in early July I may just plant some more kale too.  You have to be careful with kale though, it grows rapidly and soon you are leaving baskets of kale on the neighbour’s porch whether they like it or not.
Like zucchini ….. a little goes a long way in the kale world.
Happy Gardening!
Deborah
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Quinoa with Butternut Squash, Mushrooms and Kale

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DSC06088I think last night was one of the best creative nights in the kitchen that I have had in a very long while.  I turned out a fabulous vegetarian dish packed full of vitamins and protein that can be used as a stand alone meal or be a great accompaniment to grilled chicken or salmon.  Sometimes I amaze myself with my ingenuity.  Believe me though, I have had major flops too, so I take this win as a small victory.

Looking in the fridge I knew I had a container of leftover roasted squash, not enough for soup, but enough to be added to….something.  So the chef hat went on as I gathered ingredients out of the fridge.  Mushrooms…yup, have to use those.  Kale, absolutely (I was bitten by the kale bug last week again, I always forget how much I like it). Then what to add as “filler” I pondered.  As I was staring into the pantry, there sat a jar of black quinoa – perfect!  A few other odds and sods pulled out of the pantry and fridge and a game plan was forming.

As I prepped the kale and chopped some onions, I wondered if quinoa could be cooked like a risotto? Short answer, no, but dinner did take a long time to cook as I discovered that fact (I will explain later), but since I was starving, it was time to get cooking!

Ingredients

1/2 dry black quinoa, rinsed
1 1/2 cups cooked squash (roasted and mashed)
1/4 cup white onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup button mushrooms, chopped
1 1/2 cups chopped kale (stems removed)
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
2 Tbsp good red wine (don’t buy “cooking wine”, use the good stuff!)
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat oil in a saucepan over med-high heat; add onions and cook until just starting to turn transluscent (about 3 minutes), add mushrooms, basil, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Cook until mushrooms are tender (3-5 minutes).

Add quinoa and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute.  Add broth and wine and bring to a boil.  Lower heat to med-low, cover and simmer until quinoa is cooked (about 15 – 20 minutes), remove lid and raise heat back to a boil.  Boil off any remaining liquid.

Turn heat to low again and add the squash, mix until combined.  Taste seasonings at this point and adjust to your liking.  Add kale, stirring to mix in, then cover and let the kale steam for 2-3 minutes until bright green.

Remove from heat and serve immediately.

Makes 2 servings as a meal alone or 4 servings as a side dish.

What I found with trying to cook quinoa as a risotto (seriously, don’t waste your time trying) is that the quinoa needs to sit in the liquid and cook at a lower heat or it won’t plump up.  After 30 minutes of adding liquid and stirring it was still rock hard.  Once I added more broth, lowered the heat and covered the pot, the quinoa cooked.  Lesson learned!

Meanwhile, I am having the remainder of this dish for lunch today, simply outstanding!

Deborah

Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 1 cup
Amount per Serving
Calories: 184
Calories from Fat 45.0
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 5g
7%
Saturated Fat 0.49g
2%
Cholesterol 0mg
0%
Sodium 99.65mg
4%
Total Carbohydrate 26.38g
13%
Dietary Fiber 8.46g
33%
Sugars 3.39g
 
Protein 5.31g
3%

Est. Percent of Calories from:

Fat
9%
Carbs
57%
Protein
11%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calories need.

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Chipotle Fish Tacos ala Deb!

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Yay!  I am finally getting my world-famous Fish Taco recipe on the interweb-thingie! You know, that thing that a certain Billionaire said wouldn’t catch on?  I wonder what he thinks about that statement now?

Anyway, back to fish tacos….yum..yum..yum! Ramona ~ This is for you, so go ahead and share away!

This recipe is great when you need to whip up a dinner fairly fast, the only part that needs time to percolate (love that old fashioned term) is the salsa, it’s basically being pickled to develop the favours.  It is also fairly waist friendly when the chipotle sauce * is used in moderation,  for an even lighter option, check out the * tip at the bottom of the page.

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Chipotle Fish Tacos ala Deb!

Ingredients

1 Haddock fish filet per person (or any firm, white fish), sliced into 1″ chunks
2 Cups shredded iceburg lettuce
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup diced red or green bell pepper
1/4 cup diced radishes or jicama
1 Tbsp finely diced jalapeño
1 Tbsp Cajun seasoning (recipe below to make your own)
Juice of 2 limes
3 Tbsp mayonnaise (Hellman’s)
1/4 tsp (or more to taste) of Chiptole Chile powder
3 Large whole wheat flour tortillas
Fresh cilantro leaves
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions

1. At least 4 hours before serving, prepare the salsa by combining the radish (or jicama)   , peppers, onions and the juice of 1 lime.  Stir to combine, cover and keep refrigerated until time to assemble.

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2. Thinly slice the lettuce into a bowl, cover and chill until needed.

3. Prepare the Chipotle Mayo by combining the mayonnaise, chipotle chile powder and 1/2 tsp of the fresh lime juice.  Stir to combine then refrigerate until needed.

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4. In a frying pan set over med-high heat, add 1 Tbsp of Olive oil and sprinkle half the cajun seasoning all over the bottom of the pan.  Add fish and liberally sprinkle the remaining seasoning on the top side of the fish.  Cook for 2-3 minutes until fish starts to brown on the bottom, flip fish and cook until the bottoms start to brown.  Add remaining lime juice to pan and cook for another 2 minutes or so until the juice cooks off and the fish flakes easily with a fork.  Remove from heat.

To assemble Tacos

1. Warm tortillas by zapping in the microwave for 15 seconds.
2. Spread a tsp of chipotle mayo in the middle of each tortilla.
3. Divide shredded lettuce evenly among the 3 tortillas
4. Divide the salsa evenly among the 3 tortillas.
5. Divide the fish pieces evenly among the 3 tortillas.
6. Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves.

We roll our tacos up burrito style, but these would also be good in hard corn tortilla shells but way messier!

Note ~ This makes 3 tacos ~ 1 for me and 2 for hubs,
so increase amounts for feeding more people.

* To lighten up the chipotle mayo, sub fat-free yogurt for the mayo.

Make your own Cajun Seasoning

In a mortar and pestle, combine the following ingredients (makes about 3/4 cup):

1 1/2 Tbsp Smoked Paprika
1 Tbsp Garlic Powder
1 Tbsp Onion Powder
1 Tbsp Dried Thyme
1 tsp fresh ground Black Pepper
1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1 tsp dried Basil
1 tsp dried Oregano

We have ours with a large side salad, but these would also be great with a side of Mexican rice. Enjoy!

Deborah

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Not So Rainy Day Blues

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As the skies opened to overdue and highly welcomed rains on Friday morning (we have been in a drought of late) and the rain forecast for well into Saturday, the outdoor gardening tasks were wiped off the whiteboard for the weekend to be replaced by indoor ones.

Hubs had a passle of work planned for us in the crawlspace, but the deluge of rain meant the inevitable rise in water down under and within a couple hours, there was an inch of standing water in the front portion of the crawlspace.  He still managed quite a bit of work down there, but it wasn’t the weekend results he wanted.

For me, I could only help so much, so with a  lot of free time with no garden chores to do in the pouring rain, I settled into a quiet rythym with my Spin-Well spinning wheel finishing up a gradient yarn project that turned out exactly as envisioned.

My lovely daughter had given me 3 coloured rovings from KnitPicks for Christmas and after mulling over what to do with them, a plan emerged to spin half of each colour with itself and the other half with the next colour in line, blending one shade into the next creating a visually appealing colour run from light to dark.

Studio_20160711_095028_medium2Here they are sectioned out, ready to go with the first colour already spun.  Studio_20160815_100536And these are the final skeins of yarn, looking even better spun and plied than their bare state counterparts.

I have been cruising various knitting websites looking for the perfect pattern, hopefully one jumps out at me soon, meanwhile, I think I will leave these on display, like a bouquet of flowers, and at least yarn doesn’t wilt after a few days.

Happy knitting!

Deborah

 

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Strawberries and Spring Water

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Here in Canada, June is a special month.  It is when our strawberries come into season.  The short, and I mean a very short season lasting barely 3 weeks, weather depending.  So when the berries are ripe, people come en masse to pick their own or buy ready picked baskets and gorge themselves until there are no more.IMG_20160630_084240

The local berry farm is about a 10 minute drive away, down a dusty dirt road made dustier by road reconstruction along the way.  Arriving at the farm, I pull into the gravel lane and head over the front lawn which serves as the farms parking lot and back the car into a spot, immediately taking notice of several deer flies cruising around the side mirrors.  The only draw back to berry season are the deer flies…the things we must endure to get luscious, ripe berries.

I grab my floppy hat, 3 empty baskets and my trusty bug zapper.  I never go anywhere without it, otherwise you will soon be needing a blood infusion and headed down the laneway towards the strawberry fields.  There is a “bus” to take folks to and fro, but I prefer to walk (and swat) for some exercise.

Once I find where everyone else is picking, I quickly get to work filling up the baskets before the heat intensifies as well as the deer flies swarming.  In and out in about 30 minutes with 3 baskets of fresh, ripe, tasty morsels of summer.

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I head back to the entrance, pay for my goodies and hop back into the car.  On to the next stop on today’s to-do list, filling up 5 x 20 litre jugs of Spring water.  The natural Spring is a few kilometers from the berry patch and down yet another very dusty gravel road (so much for the car wash yesterday while at the dealership getting a tire fixed).  There are no signs for the Spring, just a hose coming out of the thick bush which, so I am told, is a mile or so back in.  I have no idea who owns the land or operates it, but we have been using this water source for the past 30 years, learning of its existence from the locals when we started coming up to the area before we purchased the homestead property.

As I drive along the dusty road, I slow the car down while approaching a farm that was built a few years ago, and not just any farm either.  We (ok, me) had been keeping tabs on what the owner was doing as he cleared the land of bush and started to fence in what looked like pastures.  My first thought was cattle as there are quite a few cattle farms in the area, but was I surprised one day when I came around the bend and saw alpacas!  Kismet, fate, whatever you call it, this fibre geek was thrilled to see these cute as all get out critters living so close to me.  One of these days I still have to go up the driveway and introduce myself to the owner, and maybe smuggle an alpaca into the car while there, but I digress, as I rounded the corner and slowed the car, there they were, freshly shorn and stuffing their faces full of grass.  I stopped the car, got out and took my phone out for a picture.  I whistled at them, trying to get them to look up, nope, heads down, they kept stuffing their faces.  Perhaps they are used to people driving by and whistling at them.

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I hopped back in the car just as a horsefly whizzed by my ear.  Summer is wonderful, but I sure could use a little less of the biting insects.

I headed down the road, arriving at the watering hole with no one else around.  If you try to get water on the weekends, there are cars lined up waiting, better to come during the week while it is quiet.  I turned the car around and pull up just in front of where the hose is.  As I turn the car off, I look at the side mirrors to see more deer flies swarming.  I popped the trunk lid, put my jacket on (even though it was 20C and getting warmer by the minute) pulling the hood up over my head, then I jammed my floppy beach hat on.  I may look like a total goob, but I wasn’t looking forward to getting bit on the back of the head which is where they like to for whatever reason.

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I step out of the car with trusty zapper in hand and immediately started swinging, perfecting my backhand and forehand and loop-de-looping-hand.  I start filling jugs, all the while, swatting.  After eliminating 5 or 6 of them, it quieted down and I was able to fill a couple jugs in peace.  Then another car pulled up, rats, for some reason, deer flies know cars = people and follow them.  Soon I was madly swinging the racket again.

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The fella stayed in his car until I was done, he wasn’t a newbie that’s for sure.  Once the jugs were filled and hauled out of the ditch and put in the trunk, I hopped back in the car sweating like crazy from having so much stuff on, pulling off the hat and peeling off the jacket and tossing it on the passenger seat.  There, done, time to get out of dodge before the flies pick the car up and carry it away.

I headed back to the homestead with the trunk full of jugs of Spring water and the inside of the car smelling like strawberries.  With the off-site to-do list done, I can get on with the rest of the chores, but first I must enjoy a dish of freshly picked berries.

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Deborah

 

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Meet Alexandr McIntosh

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He is a handsome fellow, showing very few wrinkles for his age, considering he was born in 1867.  He is of slight build and heavy for his actual size, which would be the dense hardwood that makes up the bulk of his body.   Although he may be heavy, he is delicate at the same time.  Lovingly carved spokes on his drive wheel, curvacious turnings on the maidens and legs, remind me of Marilyn Monroe…perhaps “He” is a “She” after all.  Ah…there you go, I have found her new name.  Marilyn.

I discovered Marilyn when I was least expecting her.  I usually cruise the kijiji listings for spinning wheels just to see what is out there.  Mostly large CPW’s (Canadian Production Wheels) as well as European and Scandinavian models that are quite striking in form and function and liberally scattered throughout Ontario.  But a couple weeks ago, I stumbled across the McIntosh wheel which happened to be located in the city next door to me.  I answered the ad immediately and later that morning, picked her up so she could join the rest of the herd.

She now joins the stable with Beth, Blanch and The Grand Dame.  Unfortunately, when Marilyn entered the household, someone had to go.  Blanch was the logical choice as she was the most recent acquisition, but her large size was a hindrance in our downsized existence.  With a wee bit of sadness, I let Blanch go to a new home, to someone that will appreciate her quirks and put her through her paces to spin some fine yarn.

A brief history lesson on McIntosh wheels:  Alexandr McIntosh (not a typo, the “e” doesn’t appear on his maker’s mark) and his family, came to the East Coast of Canada in the 1700-1800′s.  Father and son (presumed son, information is sketchy about  the family lineage) made spinning wheels in Nova Scotia.  A lot of really good looking wheels of that era were made use of every day.  Prized for their well-built construction and small stature, they were very popular wheels along with F. Young, McDonald’s et al.  Seems a good amount of wheel makers came from Scotland seeking their fortunes in the New Land.  A lot of these wheels then moved from Nova Scotia to Ontario as they were easily transportable due to their size and the ease of which the drive wheel came off.  Hence, why there seems to be a good amount of them here.  This one came from a well known collector just outside Hamilton, and when he turned ill, his collection was sold off.  The woman who purchased this wheel had the intention of learning to spin, but upon realizing it wasn’t for her, she decided to sell the wheel.  My lucky day indeed!

20160404_112200_medium2Marilyn needed an intense spa session when she first came home.  After a good bath in Murphy’s Oil Soap followed up my 3 liberal coats of Howards Feed n’ Wax (marvelous stuff, can’t say enough about this product), she now shines and doesn’t look a day over 100.

DSC04364 DSC04369Hubby worked his magic in reaming out of the bobbin and cleaning up the pitted flyer rod, which he has had to do on all my wheels, he’s a definite keeper.  She now spins like the day she was born and its’ time to get down to business and see what gorgeous yarns come from this fine example of old Scottish workmanship.

Now, about cruising kijiji for spinning wheels, I think I can stop looking  ;)

Deborah

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I’m Not A Deer Hat & Scarf

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I thought I made a post last Fall about the hat that I knit for deer hunting season….but upon close inspection of past articles, nope, found nothing.

To back track a wee smidgeon, last Fall I went for a walk, around the first week of November, or whenever deer hunting season (with guns) starts in Ontario.  As I am walking down the road (my daily ritual), hunters in full gear on ATV’s whizzed by me with their guns strapped to the backracks.

Hmmm I thought, not a good place to be out walking with all these hunters around with nothing to differentiate me from the woodsy surroundings.  So when I got back to the Homestead, I opened my laptop and promptly placed an order from Knitpicks for their Swish yarn (super durable and excellent for hats/scarves and mittens) in their “Hot Tamale” colourway.  This ought to make my head a beacon as I walk in the wooded areas I thought.

After a week, my hat was done and I was safely able to continue my walks without fear of being mistaken for a deer in the bush.

20151113_074908_medium2Pretty bright there eh?

I had ordered 3 balls of the yarn with the intention of making either mitts or scarf out of the rest, but once hunting season ended and winter set in, the hat was set aside for a less toned down version and the remaining yarn set aside until the right project came along.

Enter my last post (Atomic Sunrise), after experimenting with food colouring and turning out a vibrant skein of yarn, the project leaped to the forefront of what to do with both the handspun/hand dyed yarn and the leftover hat yarn.

I scoured the Ravelry website for a pattern that would utilize the amount of yardage I had on hand as  I didn’t have enough for a full blown winter scarf, but plenty for a shorter, narrower “Fall” scarf that would be enough to cover the neck from chilly Fall air.

It took some time to locate one I liked out of literally hundreds and hundreds of patterns, and settled on one called “Dragon Skin“, because the pattern looks…well, like dragon skin!

I started with the part ball of leftovers, which was really about 85% of a ball, then used the handspun, followed up by the last full ball of the Hot Tamale and voila!

DSC04277 DSC04274A scarf that matches the colour intensity of the hat, albiet with a strong textural difference.  Sure, it may not be matching and symmetrical, but heck, I like to live dangerously.

I am looking forward to this coming Fall to be able to flaunt my hat and scarf to the hunters like a matador waving a red cape to a bull!

Deborah

 

 

 

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My New Planting Table

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I love my hubby.
He is resourceful.
He is creative.
He is a very good problem solver.
and he can build just about anything.

Now that we have downsized to condo life, planning and planting my seeds for this years garden came with a bit of a dilemma.  I had an enormous window sill in the living room at the house that pretty much handled all the plant pots and trays.  The condo…not so much.  I could use the floor I guess, but with the sectional couch in front of the window, it would be a pain to gain access to watering, etc.

So hubby, seeing said dilemma, stepped up and built this fabulously useful planting table that fits perfectly behind the couch in front of the large span of windows.

DSC04151Built with a depth wide enough to hold the standard plant trays and a length about the size of a football field (or thereabouts), I now have oodles of room for the many pots that will soon be gracing the raw beauty of the plywood top.  Simple to make from regular 2×4′s and plywood, it is sturdy and comes with a lower shelf to hold bags of soil and excess trays/pots.

DSC04153Right now I just have the bare minimum started.  Basil, Cilantro and Parsley and some perennial flower seeds (Arabis) that are to be started this time of year as well as some leftover green onions from the fridge.

I discovered last summer that green onions, after you have used the green part and before taking them too far down the white part, you can plant in the ground and they start to regrow.  The last couple years I have grown green onions from seeds, but by August, they are barely thicker than chives.  So I had a brain wave to stick them in the ground and see what happens.  From this point forward, I will not have to buy green onions from the store as these will continue to grow and I can snip off what I need, when I need it.

I love spur of the moment ideas, sometimes they work out, sometimes not.  In this case, happy results indeed!

Deborah

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It is that time of year again!

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Seed planting time!!!

I am all ready to roll, well, almost.  First I need all my little pots and seed starting mix which is up north currently, but we will be going to get them in a week or so, as well as my new plant table that hubby built for me.  Since we moved last Spring, I lost my big window sill in the living room that held all the plant trays in the warm sunshine.

So hubby put together a long, tall, narrow table made from 2 x 4′s and plywood (very elegant looking, just you wait and see) so I have a place to start all my little garden buddies in the condo.

Here is the array of seeds to be grown this year, some new pepper and tomato varieties as well as a couple new flowering plants to use for dye purposes.

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New this year will be trying my hand at growing Milkweed, yes, it is a common weed, but it is also the only plant that the larvae of the Monarch Butterfly feed upon.  Their population has been on a steady decline over recent years so I am doing my part to provide habitat (food) for the butterflies to raise their larvae on.  With any luck, I will have Monarch chrysalis’ hanging from the undersides of the leaves this summer!

More to come on the seed starting once I get the rest of my supplies here, but I am just so excited my seeds arrived that I just had to write about it now, and yes, little things like seeds make me deliriously happy, not unlike shopping for yarn….

Deborah

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