Friday, March 23, 2012

Back to Spring Lawn Care (or Why I don't "do" lawn care)

Ah...it appears that the nine days of record setting temperatures in the Madison area have abated.  No more highs in the 80s for awhile. When the frost and freezing temperatures return, and they will, the plants, trees, and all of us people are going to have a tough adjustment.  We still have all of April to get through and it's not unheard of for us to get snow into May.

Never before have I seen so many of my neighbors mowing lawns in March.  My lawn will be one of the last to green up-we don't use fertilizers (except compost) or herbicides.  It's not good for people, it's not good for animals, its not good for the water.  It's just not good.

I'm continually puzzled by our culture's obsession with the weed-free green lawn.  We spend countless hours treating our lawns with toxic chemicals to make it grow greener and faster and then we MOW the lawn.  Then if it's dry, we WATER the lawn so that we can mow it, AGAIN.  Then we treat the weeds that have shown up since the last application. And we put bird feeders in our chemically treated lawns so that these birds fly in and then are exposed to the chemicals.  And our kids roll around and run in our lawns barefoot.  Then these same children, wearing shoes, or barefoot, walk into our homes with trace amount of chemicals on their feet/shoes and deposit the poison into our homes.  Yay.

We cannot even eat this green grass, why on earth do we spend so much time and money and poison cultivating a plant that requires so much attention and costs so much?  I spend hours in my vegetable gardens during the growing season.  Hours. I also spend money on my gardens.  However, and this is the difference, there is something produced by my gardens.  Even the flower gardens serve a purpose: beneficial insects and birds come into my yard by the droves and eat the nasty destroyers.  I have dozens of monarchs in my yard every late summer and fall.  I do not own one bird feeder, but I have dozens of varieties that show up because I planted a variety of flowers,  shrubs, and trees. 

When I do fertilize my lawn, I use the compost from the three bins I have going in my yard.  I haven't noticed a difference yet, but the soil in my yard is so poor, that it can only help.  This year, we plan to broadcast clover seeds in the front yard.  I would love to dig up my entire front yard and landscape it, but we live in suburbia and my husband is not yet on board with going that far with the "green" landscape.  And I do want my neighbors to not hate my front yard because it looks too different.  So for now, the weedy grass in the front yard stays.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Hand Washing Clothes

My husband took a picture to document me losing my mind.
My washer died on Thursday.

I went downstairs to the laundry room and stepped in water.  An odd assortment of sounds came out of my mouth.  It's one thing to unexpectedly step in water in bare feet; it's quite another to do so wearing socks.  Yuck.  Turns out the 16 year old washer decided to be done washing those towels, or anything else, forever.

Friday, I  picked out an energy star, water efficient top loader.  Yes, front loaders are supposed to be better on your clothes, use less detergent, etc etc etc.  Let me just say, of all the folks I know who have had front loading washers, 90% of them HATE them.  Two friends had theirs completely break to the point of being unrepairable within 4 years.  My sister's leaks.  No thanks.  I'll stick with the top loader.  I don't use much detergent and I line dry my clothes.  That's why my clothes last longer.

The washer is being delivered on the 22nd.  BUMMER.  So until then it was laundromat, use my friend's washer or hand wash.  I tried out the handwashing.  I had the metal tub, why not?  Turns out it's not that labor intensive and rinsing with a bucket of hot water and wringing the clothes out is not such a big deal and not very different from when I wash clothes when we go camping.

We Americans are ridiculous with how clean we want everything to be.  Frankly, we're a bit too clean.  I don't want to wear crunchy clothes and smell like a middle school locker room, but every single germ does not need to be scrubbed off unless we're performing surgery. There is a happy medium to be found.  You can wear jeans and sweatshirts more than once.  It's OKAY, I promise. 

I will be using my friend's washer tomorrow and line drying the loads.  My oldest is coming home from college with her roommate on Friday and that means I have a lot of bedding to wash and if I can do it in a washer, I will, but it was nice to find out that, yes, I can get things clean, doing it by hand.  Added bonus: ALL of the water gets poured on my trees and plants. 


Friday, March 9, 2012

Oatmeal Whole Wheat Scones

I like to bake when I'm having a crappy day, like when my child gets orange juice concentrate on every surface of the kitchen and then proceeds to yell at me because I will be picking her up 5 minutes later than she wants and this all happens the morning after the washing machine has drained all over the floor and my husband is out of town, again, but I digress... I made scones.  They are delicious and they are made from whole grains.
Yes, there are only NINE.  I ate one already.  So sue me.

1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour (you could just use white, but why on earth would you?)
1/2 cup oats
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt (or 1/8 tsp for you anal bakers out there)
1 Tblsp. sugar (RELAX about the sugar already)
5 Tblsp. butter (it will NOT kill you)
2 eggs, beaten (and keep out some to brush on top of the scones-about a Tblsp anal folk)
1/3 cup milk
Sugar (seriously, breathe deeply and chill out, you won't use much)

Mix the flour, oats, baking powder, salt and sugar in a big bowl.  Cut in the butter with a pastry blender until the mixture looks like coarse, big ole crumbs.  Use a couple of forks if you don't have a pastry blender or know what one looks like. If you want to add raisins or berries or chocolate chips, this is the time.  About 1/4 cup.

In a small bowl, mix the remaining egg (bc you took out about a tablespoon, right?) with the milk and add this mixture to the dry ingredients.  Don't over mix.  You're making a quick bread, not a cake, don't beat it.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 15" by 3" rectangle.  You might have to actually touch the dough with your hands to help form it.  This is OKAY. I promise.

Now, cut the rectangle into five 3" squares.  Is it okay if one square is 4" or one is 2.5"? Yes, for crying out loud.  Now cut each square, diagonally.  You should have triangles.  Ten of them.

Grease a large cookie sheet and put the triangles onto it.  They only need about an inch of space around them.  Brush each one with some of the egg and then sprinkle a pinch of sugar on top of each one.

Bake in a 425 degree oven for 10-12 minutes.

I like to drizzle a glaze on top of mine when they're cooling.  Again, relax about the sugar.  Homemade scones are NOT why people need to watch their diets and exercise.

I don't have a recipe for the glaze other than, put some powdered sugar in a bowl and whisk in a small amount of milk.  Probably 1/3-1/2 cup of sugar and 1-2 Tblsp of milk for you anal folk.

Hopefully one of you will try making these.  They're delicious and healthy (even with the small amount of sugar).