by MaryJane Butters & r & & r & Moscow's own guru of greener farm-style living, MaryJane Butters, is sharing some of her secrets in this year's Summer Guide. Not only does Butters run a real farm outside Moscow, but she's also the author of MaryJane's Ideabook/Cookbook/Lifebook, which has been selling very well since being published in May 2005. You can visit MaryJane's Farm on July 1-2, for food, music and games. (Call 208-882-6819 for details.)
Zucc Warriors & lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & here's just no excuse, no reason why you'd deprive yourself again this summer. I know. You haven't space for a garden. You haven't time. It's too expensive. It's already June. It's too late.
Trouble is, you're missing out on some important therapy -- the "let the world go by, I've got a place I escape to" kind of therapy.
Maybe it's the overwhelming nature of it. Perhaps you're a perfectionist and until you can do it right, why bother?
And the last time you looked at a seed catalog, you wanted all of it -- everything from popcorn to poppies.
I propose just one little seed, one little start. Borrowing from the book One Straw Revolution, by natural farming pioneer Masanobu Fukuoka, I'm thinking about a One Zucchini Revolution. Remember those photos in National Geographic with a nearly naked bare-footed Zulu Warrior standing guard, spear in hand? Well, how about a Zucc Warrior standing guard, hoe in hand? With Mr. Fukuoka's method, biointensive farmers plant densely, never till the soil or use chemicals. Essentially they build a perennial garden. But it takes time -- as in years, maybe even decades!
If you join the growing ranks of Zucc Warriors who grow just one plant, either in the middle of their lawn or in a container on a deck, you've accomplished all of it -- an endless supply of nutritious food. (If you've ever grown a zucchini plant, you know what I mean.)
I slice my zucchini real thin, season the slices with salt, then dry them until they're deliciously brittle but perfectly capable of holding a huge hunk of dip or salsa. Now there's a no-guilt chip! Eat to your heart's content.
My husband's mainstay is a frying pan full of quarter-inch sliced zuccs along with onions, garlic and some spicy sausage. Just when everything is tender and bubbly, he smothers it in sour cream, then eats it right from the pan.
I've never heard of anyone who's allergic to zucchini. Steamed until it's mushy, it's the perfect first solid food for baby. And for the gourmet, a few of the blossoms dipped into a batter and sauteed in olive oil is "presentation" at its best.
Speaking of presentation, cut a zucc in half lengthwise. Chop the insides into tiny cubes, then stir them into your favorite salsa. Dump the concoction into the zucc "serving dish" you just sculpted, put that on a large platter and surround it with corn chips, maybe even some of your dried zucc chips!
Remember, you don't know who your friends are until you try to give away zucchini. For forging life-long friendships, hand out zucchini recipes every time you grace your friend's car seat with one or your neighbor's back porch swing. Our neighbors came over once and put them in the pockets of our laundry hanging on the line. In the end, you'll have earned your "green thumber" status with very little effort.
A Ceiling of Stars & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & remember one winter when life was getting me down. I was a single mom with two little kids. What lofty dreams I did have seemed permanently on hold while I attended to a series of low-paying jobs, broken cars and skinned knees. I must have been at loose ends, because my ends weren't meeting.
It was in the middle of the night when it first grabbed me. Like that Willie Nelson song about walls closing in on you, I had the uncontrollable urge to be outside. It just couldn't wait until morning. I grabbed a pillow, a down sleeping bag (leaving my sleeping children safe in their beds) and went into my backyard.
I made myself a bed on one of those silly plastic chaise lounges and settled in. Once the magical warmth of down feathers kicked in and I quit shivering, I noticed my new ceiling -- millions upon millions of stars. The whole universe! Almost immediately, my chatter started shifting gears. I remember how beautiful the moon looked, "Good grief," I laughed at myself, "my problems aren't more important than the moon!"
As our lives become more and more hectic and modern, we spend less and less time outdoors. It's almost impossible to find the time. But given that we must sleep, sleeping outside (or at least next to an open window) helps us accomplish our needed dose of nature every day. (And no, what I'm talking about can't be added like Vitamin D, the essential sunshine vitamin, to grocery-store milk.)
For us multi-taskers, it's the perfect solution, taking a good dose of the outdoors while sleeping. Because outside is a lifeline -- it just is. Our evolutionary molecules crave it. Children especially need it, and problem-solving adults can certainly benefit from it. It's a simple solution to some of what ails us. So tonight, gather up your dreams and head out ... to the wilds of your own backyard. All that's awaiting you is the vast expanse of the universe.
Habitat for Happiness & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & F & lt;/span & or me, a singing bird is the happiest sound on earth. Consequently, I'm keen on birdhouses. I have about 40 of them placed strategically around my farm. It's my idea of "surround sound." Built from junk, some of them even have old hard-covered books for roofs. That's easy enough. Just open the book up, screw or nail it to a wooden box and then shellac the whole thing to waterproof it. Or drape an old leather glove over the top. Or find an old piece of tin, a discarded license plate or a flattened juice can. It's a blast to get creative. Anymore, I see a potential birdhouse in everything!
My inspiration for building birdhouses from farm junk came from a nearby farmgal named Kathy Proctor. She sells her unique birdhouses in the Main Street Antique Mall in Moscow. It's worth a trip downtown to pick up one of her birdhouses for your deck or front yard.
That rusty old bucket you're about to toss or that gallon can? Turn it upside down, punch a hole in it about one and one quarter inches wide near the top, adorn it with an old garden spade or wooden-handled toilet bowl brush screwed on horizontally, and voila! You'll make a new little friend in no time.
Put Your Life on the Line & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & M & lt;/span & y religion is laundry. No, I don't make a living at it, and I don't "take in laundry" like my grandmother used to. Instead, I take it out, as in outside -- and this morning, I had a happy little house wren (perched only a foot away) sing me a song. I also caught a whiff of some roses in bloom. And the cup of coffee I sat down with afterwards tasted even better because it took the chill from my hands, stiff from handling two baskets of wet garments.
So that's the religion part of it. Cheerful birds, happy flowers, warm hands. Hanging laundry outside in all kinds of weather is a better way to start the day than stuffing clothes into a dark, noisy dryer somewhere in a back room or a basement, removed from light and air.
The covenant part of doing laundry dryer-free is this: You can count on it giving you more than clean clothes. Shaking wet laundry and hanging it to dry is all about sky and wind and lack of gravity. It's the work of bend, lift, snap and pin. It offers a kind of resurrection, something to bank your faith on, a renewal that doesn't have to wait until Sunday.
As for the satisfaction of a job well done, I've learned to take a moment and look back once I'm done. My garments, the bedding I've chosen to use, the towels that comfort me, the blankets I spend half my life curled up under are all fibers that I've chosen simply because I like them. I like the way they look and the way they feel. So putting them on display like Tibetan prayer flags pulls me together. It's a snapshot of who I am ... all clean and ready to go again. No wonder political flags fluttering in a breeze can unite entire nations.