Comforts of Home

I was looking forward to the rain today as an excuse to stay home and rest up from the frenzy of bed-prepping, tree-thinning, trellis-erecting, and planting that I’ve been engaged in all week.

It didn’t really rain that much–I probably could’ve gone out, but instead I focused on a little clean-up at home.  Trimmed back many of the perennials–anise hyssop, sedums, and globe thistle are all coming up under the leaves, and I’m a little concerned about the coming colder weather (27 the projected low next week) and its effect on the new growth.

So, I kept the leaf cover on for the most part–though I did rake off some of the thick layer of mulch on the new raised bed and pull it over to the part I haven’t filled with soil yet.  I’ve been dumping kitchen compost in that area all winter, and after pulling the decomposed leaf mulch over the top, I added more leaf mold from the bin out back.

Once the bin was mostly empty, I added more bagged leaves I got from my neighbors last fall (“What’re ya gonna do with all those leaves?” says I, and they says “Toss ’em,” and I says, “I’ll take ’em!”) and a new layer of kitchen scraps for what will be my new home compost bin.

Then I raked the leaves off the lawn part of my back yard down toward the rock wall in a continued attempt to level that area off and perhaps make it into a semi-shady garden bed someday.  Part of that semi-shady plan was also to judiciously trim and remove some of the smaller trees in that area.

I’d been feeling pretty ungenerous toward that scrubby little hackberry tree that’s growing back there, and I’d decided to take it down once the birds came and cleaned off the berries.  As of this morning, the berries were still completely covering all its branches, but this afternoon, a cloud of cedar waxwings paid a visit, and the tree is picked clean.

So now would be the time for taking that tree, right?  Except after seeing all the lovely yellow-banded birds cavorting amongst the berries, my tender feeling for the tree re-emerged, and I think I’ll have to keep it.  There are plenty of other saplings popping up in the backyard that can go, and the clump of mulberry trees can be thinned, too.

This afternoon I spent some time in the basement re-screening my worm compost (and found three more worms hiding in there!) and then mixing a new batch of seed-starting medium.  Then I spent some time cleaning peat dust out of my mucus membranes and off my skin.  It doesn’t even matter if you wear a regular dust-mask, that stuff is terrible!

Coming on the heels of that last admission, perhaps talking about the cooking is a little distasteful, but I was pretty well cleaned up when I started that pot of French onion soup.  I’d made a quick-and-dirty batch the other night for H because he’s suffering from a cold, but today’s batch is a thoughtful, well-caramelized delight.

French onion is one of the simplest soups–just four or five thinly-sliced yellow onions cooked low and slow in a couple tablespoons of butter they they turn to mush, then a little sugar and balsamic vinegar added to help caramelize them to a nice brown color.

I add a little white wine at this point (about half a cup) and I also add thyme or rosemary to the onions when they’re cooking.  Then simply add beef stock–(about two quarts) and heat through.  You can float a toasted slice of rye bread and some grated cheese on top and broil it before serving, or just eat it straight.

Dinner tonight will be the onion soup and the leftovers from some Italian sausages and beans–red kidney beans simmered in a spicy tomato sauce with sausage.  I actually used the Bluebird Locker German sausage, but if you add a good amount of mortar-and-pestled fennel seed to the sauce, the effect is about the same as Italian sausage–that is, really good.


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