Saturday, March 30, 2013

Nettle Harvest

It's that time of year again!  As anyone who has been following this blog knows, nettle season is one of my favorite times of the year.  I love nettles.  They are just so incredibly delicious and nutritious.  And there is such a brief window of time in which they are at their peak for harvest and fresh eating.  Oh, how I really, really love nettles.... 
And, so it was that earlier this week our family set out into the woods with our rubber gloves, pruning shears and harvest baskets.  Thankfully, I am not alone in my nettle passion.  If I were, it would probably be a challenge to get my loves on board for risking a good sting or two in the pursuit of this delectable wild bounty.  

Steve was quite skilled and was the only one of us who managed to harvest without getting a single sting.  Cedar, Sequoia and I all fell prey to the painful defenses of this amazing plant.

For those of you who may not know about stinging nettles or have not encountered them, the stalks and leaves are lined with tiny little hairs, that when touched and broken act like a little hypodermic needle and inject a mixture of compounds that sting and irritate the skin.  However, once steamed or dried, the nettles no longer sting and can be eaten and enjoyed.

I find nettles to be the most amazing plant.  They are absolutely delicious (as I repeatedly gush), plus they are also useful in other ways.  They are a dynamic accumulator, which means that they use their roots to dig deep in the soil and gather minerals, macro and micronutrients and then transfer those nutrients to their leaves.  Nettles are particularly good at harvesting nitrogen, calcium, sulfur, magnesium, iron and sodium.  That is much of why they are so nutritious to us humans, but also why they are so good for the soil.  Nettles can be added to your compost for enhancement with those deeply mined goodies.  Plus, the stalks an be used as a fiber plant!  Nettles contain a bast fiber much like flax and hemp, so can be rendered and woven.  I had the wonderful opportunity several years ago to learn to soften and spin nettle fiber into cord.  It was awesome.  Aren't these plants incredible?! I'm seriously in love with this particular flora friend.

Our harvest day concluded with homemade pizzas topped with loads of nettles and shallots.  It was delicious to say the least!  Quite the springtime feast in honor of one of my favorite plants.  There is a plan in place to make a large batch of nettle raviolis to put in the freezer to keep the nettle enjoyment going all year.  (We just need to find the time to make them!  It's quite the process...) And loads are going into the dehydrator to have a large stash on hand for tea as well.  My favorite nettle tea blend can be found here.  But, I also drink just plain nettle tea pretty much every day.  It's so good.

Our favorite harvesting spot happens to also be along one of our favorite local trails.  So, in addition to the joy of the seasonal gathering, we get to revel in the beauty of a walk in woods along a gorgeous inlet of south Puget Sound.  And settle into the sounds, smells and wonder of being in the forest together with a simple agenda.

Even the smallest among us seemed to have a blast attempting to throw himself out of the carrier on my back!
I hope that wherever you are, you are enjoying your favorite springtime treats this weekend!   

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Heart on fire

This past weekend, our beloved family dog passed away.  He shared his life, loyalty and love with us for almost fifteen years.  I'm still at a loss for words and trying to figure out how life works without him.  I wait for his barks when someone pulls into the driveway.  I look for him out on the porch.  I swear I keep seeing him out of the corner of my eye, watching over us and the farm.  My heart swells with love and gratitude and burns with grief and loss as my mind attempts to learn new patterns of the day.

Thank you, Baraka.  Thank you for teaching me about unconditional love, for always being there, for protecting and loving us, for your wise and watchful eyes, for your ceaseless playful energy, and above all else for being a part of our lives and a beautiful member of our family.  You will be forever and always in our hearts and part of the pack.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Quiet Evening

About to settle into an evening of The Hobbit movie with my family.  They all saw it together when it was in the theater, but I did not.  The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings books have been popular and recurring stories in our household for several years now.  So the kids are very, very excited for me to see the movie... finally.  They are horrified that I did not see it on the big screen.  (However, movies in the theater are absolutely not my cup of tea.  Even if I could have gone to see it, it's highly unlikely I would have chosen to do so.)

This guy lost his nose and an arm during a big earthquake in 2001. He hangs out in the garden now and smiles at me and reminds me to smile even when things are crazy and enjoy the ride.

It will be a nice, quiet way to end the day after a crazy, hectic springtime frenzy kind of day. Let's just say it involved last-minute hay runs, sprinting back and forth through the pasture many times through sideways sheets of rain and snow, wrangling pesky turkeys, visits with out-of-town friends, and toddlers attempting to eat dinner with their feet on the table and their heads on their seats!  All with a very tired baby on my hip or back who was still feeling the effects of a late night with friends last night celebrating the arrival of spring. 

Now, said baby is tucked snugly in bed and I am flanked on either side by big kids anxiously awaiting family Hobbit night.  Ah yes, a quiet night does sound nice indeed.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Happy Spring!

Well, spring is most definitely in the air here in the Olympic rainforest.  It has been for several weeks now. I'm amazed to see folks still socked in with snow in other parts of the country.  (Not that we have regular snowfall here in my neck of the woods... as much as I wish we did!)  Here, we are dripping with springtime, quite literally!

Things are wet, wet, wet here on the homestead.  And the new-life energy is springing forth everywhere.  Bulbs are blooming, the almond tree is flowering, birdsong is always in the air, frogs are croaking in the pond in the evening calling for mates, the chickens are laying lots of eggs again, and my fingers are itching to get into the soil.  Yes, the tell-tale signs of spring are most definitely here.


Happy Spring!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


As I lay wide awake in the middle of the night last night unable to fall back to sleep, I made a list in my head of many, many simple things I am so grateful for in my life right now.  These are just a few....

:: The soft downy hair on the top of my sweet baby's head that I love to kiss until my lips tingle when I can't sleep at night.

:: Two big kids who make me so proud every day of the people they are and are becoming as they grow and mature before my eyes.

:: How lucky I am that my partner is willing to rub my achy feet at the end of a long day.

:: My chickens are finally back into the springtime laying routine and farm fresh omelets really are the best breakfast ever (and lunch, and dinner).

:: I'm so happy that the frogs are croaking in the pond again.

:: The pasture and new garden project is so close to completion... just a few more tasks that need to be done.  I can't wait to sow seed and watch it grow!

:: My first few skeins of balanced and beautiful two ply yarn- soon to be knit into something cozy for a little guy I know and love.

:: Our ever growing list of fruit trees, shrubs and ground covers from Burnt Ridge Nursery.

:: Learning to ride horses again after 25 years out of the saddle.

:: Occasional sunny days, and the crazy schizophrenic springtime weather of sunshine, sideways rain, hail, blustery winds and rainbows all in a matter of an hour.

:: Fourteen and a half wonderful years with the most wonderful, amazing and loyal dog I could have ever asked for.

May your day (and night) be filled with much gratitude and love....