March is a month of gentle renewal. Mother Nature has changed her brown winter frock into a delicate green gown and is showing it off in the fields that surround our home.
The daffodils and grape hyacinths that were given to me by a friend long ago, push through the earth and unfurl their yellow and purple flower buds at the same time every year, just like clockwork.
Yesterday, as I walked through the woods, I passed an ancient peach tree planted by a farmer who lived on our land many years ago. Peachy pink colored buds were budding out along its branches giving a glimpse, in miniature, of the fruit to come.
At night, the woods come alive with the sounds of spring peepers and barred owls calling out to their potential mates. I love to hear their chosen one, replying from a distance.
With the morning sun comes the birdsong. What a lovely way to awaken with the sounds of house wrens, mocking birds and song sparrows serenading you.
The squirrels are entertaining to watch as they scurry through the leaves, digging up hidden treasures of nuts that they stored away for themselves back in the fall.
Late March is a time for us to ready the garden spot once again at the homestead. This year, we are going to try something new, straw bale gardening. We are conditioning the bales right now with nitrogen and watering them daily. Instead of dirt, the nutrient rich straw will be our growing medium. In 12 more days, they will be ready to use. I think I will start them out by planting peas, carrots & broccoli. Later in the season, we will plant tomatoes, lettuce, watermelon and cucumbers. I do love the feel and smell of digging and planting in the dirt, but I am a lazy weed puller. Most years, by the time late June rolls around, I have a beautiful crop…of weeds. Supposedly, growing in the straw will help keep weeds at bay. I hope so. I’ll keep you posted.
Working outside for hours at a time makes one a bit thirsty. You need a tasty, nourishing and energizing drink to give you pep enough to see the job through. We have been making a very old (but new to us) concoction called a shrub. Shrubs are a drink made with vinegar and originated in 17th century England. James Swafford of The Chef’s Farmer taught me how to make one and it is delicious!
This recipe is one that James developed and he generously gave me permission to share it with you:
Moon Drop Shrub
1 gallon water
¼ cup fresh juniper berry
2 Tablespoons coriander seeds
1 cup fresh turmeric, grated
1 cup fresh ginger, grated
2 cups honey
1 cup apple cider vinegar.
Fill stock pot with cold water, in a dry pan, toast juniper and coriander seeds. Once spices become aromatic, add to stock pot and bring to a rolling boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add turmeric, ginger, honey and vinegar. Simmer and clarify for 30 to 45 minutes, skimming off any impurities off the top. After 30 to 45 minutes, remove from heat and strain through cheesecloth. Bottle and cool. Yields 1 gallon shrub concentrate. To drink, mix 2 oz concentrate to 8 ounces of still or sparkling water. Makes a tasty mixed drink too!