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My New Favorite Herb—Chives

Do you ever find yourself in a food rut? I used to all the time. I’d grab the same thing for breakfast every day and limited myself to a small list of options for lunch and dinner. I eat a paleo diet, and while most think that to be quite limiting, it’s honestly not. I was limiting. I did it out of boredom and convenience, plain and simple. When you are chasing after three kids, homeschooling and running your own business, it’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to make things easy.

I’ve was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, a thyroid auto-immune disease, two and a half years ago and with it brought a whole host of issues including a leaky gut (really that came first, I just didn’t know it) and food intolerances. And guess what causes food intolerances? Yup, you guessed it, limiting your diet.

Eating the same thing often is not only boring, it’s not healthy! For the past two months I’ve been doing an elimination rotation diet. What that means is I don’t eat anything that I had become intolerant to—through testing I discovered I have intolerances to gluten, eggs, dairy, all nuts and sweet potatoes—and I don’t eat anything twice in a four day time frame. No more eating the same breakfast every day or the same lunch just because it’s easy and convenient.

I was eating super healthy, just not with enough variety. I have found the best way to add variety to my diet is through the flavor palate. It’s easy to rotate through a different protein and couple of veggies every meal, but I began to crave new flavor combinations as well.

Chives are an herb that I have grown in the past, but never really enjoyed. Suddenly I love them!


I’m an avid albeit fairly novice gardener, so first off, the crop I planted of them last year winterized so it was like a gardening bonus this spring. Booyah! Turns out that they are a perennial bulb like others in the onion and garlic family. Duh, I should have thought of that when I first planted them, but the bulb is so small it’s easy to miss. I love a plant that will winterize since here in NY that can be tough.

Second, the flower is equally yummy as the typical leaf that you normally see. It’s big and purple much like a standard Allium, just not quite that large. It’s a beautiful herb and a nice visual addition to the garden.

Third, they are super easy to grow organically. Literally plant and water. They don’t need a heavy dose of fertilizer, they need very little  maintenance and pests leave them alone. Cut them about 1-2″ above the ground when you harvest (only cut what you need at that time and you can continue to have some all season) and once they flower you can cut the plant way down in preparation for next year, or do what I do and just continue to harvest until you put the garden to bed for the winter. They can be thinned at any time, and should be every 2-3 years, so they are easy to thin and share with other herb gardeners.

The flavor is milder than green onions in my opinion and excellent in stir fry dishes, on veggies, eggs, chicken, beef or pork, soups of all kinds,  and they make a great addition to pretty much any salad. I use my kitchen sheers, cut the long leaves up and shred the flower for my salads, along with some thai basil, cilantro and dill. Yum.

Chives have been around for about 5,000 years originating in China. Adding them to your foods can lower blood pressure and aid in digestion. They can be frozen or freeze dried, but they don’t dehydrate well. Bummer too since I love to use my dehydrator on my herbs.

So I highly recommend this herb as both a tasty and beautiful addition to your garden this year. And please leave a comment and let me know what herbs you are loving right now, I’m always on the hunt for more to add to our repertoire!




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Mothers Day – by Little Jenny Wren


Mothers Day for me , here in Tasmania was spent travelling to the south of the island to visit my two sons who attend University in the state’s capital Hobart


We travelled through the mists and autumn leaves and small villages


and arrived in Hobart to perfect, still, sunshiny autumn weather
we ate lunch at an outside cafe then strolled around the docks
to the ice cream parlour
Such a beautiful day with my beautiful family in such beautiful surroundings.
Hope you all had a Happy Mothers Day!
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New Raised Beds

Over spring break our family built new raised beds. It was such a fun project, and the whole family pitched in. Our old raised beds had rotted out after about 5 years of use. They were only 7 inches tall. We decided to make the new beds 10 inches higher. Must be the old woman in me – I really appreciate not having to bend down so far. Raised beds are great in that respect.

Building raised beds is a bit of a time and money commitment. But they are so rewarding when you consider how much more produce you get.  We are hoping that the plants will be able to grow even deeper roots in the taller boxes.


Nk rotted wood


In the photos you can see the boards of our old beds. They rotted because we used plain untreated wood.  I was a bit sad to see my old garden gate getting dismantled. But I am very happy about the new beds.  The new raised beds are made of redwood.

Of course, they are not treated with chemicals either, yet they are supposed to last a lifetime. The wood was a bit more expensive but hopefully we don’t have to rebuild again in five years.

We built a total of four boxes. It cost us about $300 (for planks of redwood, new fenceposts, and screws) and three days of labor. That includes the time it took to take out the old beds.


We covered one of the beds with old storm windows we found in our basement. Now the beds work like a miniature greenhouse. On warm days we take the windows off and let the sunshine warm the bed. During the last 3 winterstorms we closed the bed up to shield our small seedlings from the cold and ice.

Jonah with tools 2

NK raised beds


The children had fun using power tools to help build them. I am looking forward to the spinach, Swiss chard, and Kale already growing. Check out our first little seedlings! I can’t wait to plant more stuff.

garden fairy 2

I am getting ready to be in a local art show. It’s been a while since I exhibited my work at Madison& Main gallery. It’s a wonderful artist coop, and if you are in the vicinity make sure you check it out. I figured my little garden fairy would go nicely with this post. Maybe she can sprinkle some magic fairy dust to make our plants grow faster. If you would like to meet this  sweet Garden Fairy in person you will find her after May 1rst at Madison & Main. Unfortunately I’ll have to miss the grand opening of this show since I’ll be traveling in Germany by then.





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BirchLeaf Designs a Farm

Playsilks and Swords and Shields, OH MY! We recently came across a photo of a boy who was not afraid to play. His imagination was wondrous!

Boy who was not afraid to play.
Boy who was not afraid to play.

Wondrous and amazing…very much like this mosaic shield. Made from a blank shield from our shop and then sold at an auction to help raise funds for the Portland Waldorf School in Portland, Oregon.

Mosiac Shield. Photo courtesy Portland Waldorf School.
Mosiac Shield. Photo courtesy Portland Waldorf School.

The mosaic shield reminds me so much of our life…with the family in the center, the heart, the hearth, the fiery life-force. Then, branching off of the heart center are our many activities in which we are involved. Each day is filled with a bit of this and a bit of that…from eating healthy foods, to homeschooling, to farming, to making toys. These past few weeks have found us in the woods. Many blessings are upon us!

Maple Sap is flowing!

Pro Maple sap taster!
Pro Maple sap taster, Kiah.

Little baby chicks are healthy and here!

Baby chicks are a'peepin'.
Baby chicks are a’peepin’.

And little lambs have arrived!

Meet Patience.
Meet Patience.
Kiah and her lamb, Patience.
Kiah and her lamb, Patience.
Milo and his lamb, Temperance.
Milo and his lamb, Temperance.

It only gets livelier from here on out! Garden starts are ready to be planted. Piggies are due to arrive April 20th and bees shortly thereafter. Festivals and art shows are in the not so distant future…which brings us back to our shop…BirchLeaf Designs…Playsilks and Swords and Shields, OH MY…

Wendy, Mojo and their 2 children, Kiah and Milo live, homeschool, farm, and make toys off the grid near Marquette, Michigan. Please visit their shops at and

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Toys On A Walk

We brought some of our wooden toys for a walk in the woods!  The chicks were feeling adventurous and climbed a mossy tree.

Then they went exploring among the ivy.

Very bravely balancing across a log.  (It was just a tree branch, but they’re so tiny they thought it was a log!)

Next, they found some snails to talk to!

And finally, at the end of their quest, they found the rainbow they had been looking for!  I think they’re looking around for the pot of gold the unicorn told them about back home.

After this, the chicks went home to have some lunch of pickles and popcorn, and a long rest.

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Reford Gardens/Les Jardins de Métis

Please let me lead you into a little piece of heaven on Earth from my region. It’s a beautiful garden that became a prime touristic destination in the area. In the summer of 1926, Elsie Reford began transforming her fishing camp on the Metis River into a garden. Located 220 miles north-east of Quebec City, at 48.51º N. latitude, the gardens she created over the next thirty years were the northernmost in the eastern half of North America. Known to some as Les Jardins de Métis, to others as Reford Gardens, the gardens have become famous since they were opened to the public in 1962. It was our usual end-of-year trip at my primary school and a favourite place to go when we had family coming over the summer. Last June was it’s 50th anniversary and the entry price was only 50¢ (the price from 1962!) so I grabbed the occasion to show the garden to a friend that just moved into the region and I also grabbed my camera, hoping you’ll enjoy the photo tour!

Gardening was by no means Elsie Reford’s  first calling. From the early 1900s she had come to Grand-Metis to fish the pools on the river. She also rode, canoed and hunted. She continued fishing until 1926 when an operation for appendicitis intervened. Ordered to convalesce following surgery, her doctor suggested gardening as a genteel alternative to fishing. She was 54 years old. During the summer of 1926, she began laying out the gardens and supervised their construction. The gardens would take ten years to build. The construction would extend over more than twenty acres. When she began, with the exception of a flagpole, a cedar hedge and a tree-lined driveway, the property was barely landscaped at all. The hay was cut to provide feed for the horses. Flowerpots were arranged on the veranda. It was, after all, a fishing lodge.

Note from Elsie Reford, July 13, 1954:

“Lilacs were marvelous, azaleas very brilliant but I sometimes wonder if the sweeps of blue poppies are not the most satisfying, for apart from their great beauty they outlast everything else for length of time of flowering. They have now been giving much delight for almost a month.”

The Blue Poppy Glade was so named because it was where Elsie Reford displayed one of her rarest and most enchanting plants. The Himalayan blue poppy (Meconopsis betonicifolia) is one of the marvels of the plant world. Native to the Tsangpo Gorge in the southeast corner of Tibet, it grows at altitudes of 3,120 to 4,000 metres (10,200 to 13,100 feet). These blue poppies are the progeny of the first plants that Elsie Reford grew from seed in the 1930s. Intrigued by the enthusiasm it generated, she was among the first gardeners in North America to try the seeds, obtained from the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh, Scotland. Nestled between martagon lilies (Lilium martagon var. album) and maidenhair ferns (Adiantum pedatum), the blue poppies bloom from the middle of June through the end of July. Notoriously difficult to grow, part of our success is due to the climate of the Lower St.Lawrence, which provides the plants with the humidity and cool night air that the Meconopsis enjoy.

This flower became an icon of the region, and it really is beautiful to see! Hope you liked the visit, and if you ever come into the beautiful region of Mitis, you’ll find that the people are as charming as the landscape.

Information and facts taken from the Reford Gardens website. All pictures by me.

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A Year in the Garden — Part 7

Pests! This post is all about pests. I’m not big on bugs. Some I can tolerate, but others I hate!

As you know, things were humming along quite well in my garden. All of a sudden though, my tomatoes were turning up rotten. Blech. Just when they were close to ripe, they would be spotted and rotten in places. Low and behold, I found some bugs on them. They were sneaky buggers, but they became more and more prolific.

My beautiful tomatoes rotting on the plant
The Culprit!
The results of their carnage.

Turns out that there are stink bugs on my tomatos. Who knew there are several kinds of stink bugs? Not me! I’m used to seeing the big green ones, but had no idea there were also little brown ones. Apparently they like to inject an enzyme into the tomatoes that turns the tomato into liquid so they can then drink the fruit. So, the tomatoes rot on the vine. The cure–picking the little beasts off by hand and sending them to their demise in a bucket of soapy water. Daily washing of the tomatoes with water can also help keep them off the plants.

I’m hoping that I can get them under control so I can enjoy a late harvest of tomatoes. We have a lot on the plants still, so there is hope.

Another little pest kept me from enjoying any broccoli this year. No clue what did the plant in, although I suspect some type of worm or caterpillar. If anyone knows, do let me know, I’d like to prevent them next year. Broccoli is my gardening white whale.

My poor broccoli plant.

Some pests are great for the garden though. Plant marigolds to attract ladybugs. Ladybugs love aphids, and will keep those out of the garden for you. Also, consider hanging a carpenter bee house near your garden, like the one pictured. They will do wonders for pollination and by providing them a home of their own, they are less likely to play house in your deck or porch railings.

Carpenter Beehouse
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Waste not Want not…

It’s been a tough gardening year for our family. We have had one of the hottest summers on record in Colorado with nearly 3 months of temperatures in the 90s and 100s. With great sadness we watched wildfires grow out of control and homes and even lives being taken.  Luckily we don’t live in the mountains. But our lives were directly touched in so far that we had to watch our garden and backyard wilt away in the relentless summerheat.

We never buy tomatoes at the grocery store.  I just cannot abide the bland taste of a hothouse tomato. It doesn’t compare to a real tomato grown in your own garden. But this year has been a real challenge for us. Our tomato plants struggled all summer, despite our diligent watering and nuturing them. Only in the last week or so we have had enough tomatos to slice up for sandwiches or make a favorite fresh pasta dish.

Strangely enough our other garden, our community garden patch, has done a lot better than our garden by the house. We have been harvesting vegetables every week. The carrots have never been bigger and better. We ate so many beets and beet greens that the children are sick of them. We have had peppers in many shapes and sizes. Enough to share with friends and neighbors. One small row of green bean plants has been providing beans for two families over the last 4 weeks. Our butternut squash and potatoes are almost ready to be harvested and stored away for the winter.

But there is a great mystery when I look at the garden patches surrounding our two rented plots. I see tons of produce going unpicked and rotting on the vines. Why would somebody plant a garden, water and nurture it all summer, and then never pick the food? It just boggles the mind. I look at giant zucchinis that could feed a family of twelve, feeling sorely tempted to take one home to make a yummy zucchini chocolate cake.

I found this situation so frustrating that I contacted the director of the garden plots last week. Isn’t there any way we could donate this food to the local foodbank, I asked her? It just doesn’t seem right that when so many families are struggling in these hard economic times that food should go to waste like that.

The other day I read somewhere that 40% of food in the US is thrown out. I could not believe that number. It guess it seemed so incredible because our family is very conscious of what we prepare and using up all leftover food. Sure sometimes something goes bad. But when I look at the field of little garden plots I do believe the numbers. It fills me with great sadness to see pounds and pounds of tomatoes, peppers, beans, and many more vegetables rot.

How do you feel about these issues of food waste?


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A Year in the Garden — Part 6

All the talk in this series this year has focused on vegetable gardens. Our gardens have more than just vegetables in them though, as I’m sure do yours. One of the biggest features in our yard is our hydrangeas. With many different types, including some heirloom and climbing varieties, they are full of show and heavy with blooms all summer long.

The blooms are just now beginning to burst so they are at the perfect stage for picking. Did you know that if you pick them when the stamen has burst, they will dry perfectly? They won’t wither at all, they will stay just as you picked them, but will fade to a beautiful desaturated version of their summer glory. Something to brighten up your home all fall and winter long.

A few other interesting tid bits about this gorgeous plant—they bloom on third year wood, so when pruning simply cut off the stalks with dried blooms on them after the hard winter, and the plant will stay a well behaved size. If you want to let them grow unchecked, just pull off the spent blossoms after the winter and all the stalks will leaf out. Many varieties can change bloom color by changing the pH of the soil. Experiment with yours to get a wide range from deep blue to brilliant pink.

This year the blooms were so plentiful, they weighed down the bushes.
One of the more rare varieties in our yard, this one is always the best shade of pink.
Ready to pick and be dried.