Showing posts with label gardening. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gardening. Show all posts

My Summer (Not) Vacation

So what did I do this summer?  For those not following (or have properly blocked me on Facebook or Twitter).  Lots.

Running...Lots

Lance Eaton after his first 25K race.
There's the training and the running that I did for the 25K run.  That's been an aweome and inspiring project (for myself and hopefully, others out there).  To go in just over a year from being a complete non-runner to a runner doing impressive runs still feels crazy in my mind and brings a smile to my face in reflection.  It marks a major accomplishment in my own life.

Gardening

I also worked on and developed a garden with two dear friends.  From seeds and saplings to fully-grown fruit/vegetable-wielding plants and bushes, the garden has always offered me a delightful reflection on tasting the fruit of my labor.  From tilling the soil, to planting, to weeding to harvesting, the experience is rewarding.  From June to September, each day visiting the garden is full of anticipation.  What is here today that wasn't yesterday?  Has that squash gotten any bigger?  Are the peppers ready?  What am I going to do with all this kale...mmmm...kale chips!  Even when it comes to doing the work of weeding, fertilizing, and fixing/adjusting plants, it's rewarding work.  Since my days of being the "Swamp King" at daycamp at the YMCA, I've always enjoyed getting my hands dirty and doing the garden word was rewarding akin to that but also it connected me to the soil in which my food was growing.
Square method gardening.
I taught two summer courses.  American Literature 1 at North Shore Community College and The Horror Story at University of Massachusetts in Lowell.  Both were enjoyable, though challenging.  The summer classes are a tough bind since one has to do a lot more in a shorter period of time and students' expectations about classwork is even lower than it is during the semester.  Still, being in the classroom is always rewarding and helps me think further about what this thing called "teaching" is all about.  I had a course on comics in American culture that was supposed to run this fall, but it got cancelled.  However, I did spend time preparing for an American Literature 2 course at NSCC and an online course on American Popular Culture at Endicott College.  Of course, I also took a graduate course as I'm working on a third's Masters Degree at UMASS Boston.

A little travelling.

I had two weekends away.  A weekend in Portland, Maine, and a weekend in Hampstead, New Hampshire.  Both were nice and relaxing, getting me away from the usual routine for 3-4 days and spending good time with good people.  They were filled with good food, an easy pace and interesting things to do.

Blogging

I got back into regularly blogging.  I've found several different angles and ideas about what I want to write and discuss here and have a good amount of material that keeps me focused on this project.  Between writing about running, remembering, making, and making sense of the world today, I find myself finding it creating new ideas for different posts to the point that I have some 20 drafts that I'm working on.  It's exciting and that I'm back into regularly writing like I was in high school tells me something about where I am in life (and no, that doesn't mean I'm de-gressing).  I've just managed to find a way to make it part of my regular routines and hope that this opens up opportunities for me to push forward with publishing more.

Downtime

I had relaxing evenings of video games , time with friends, reading, writing, and watching movies.  I enjoyed the down time, letting myself do what I wanted rather than what I needed.  In hindsight, it's interesting to see how much I was carrying around in terms of stress and angst that is now leveled off and allows me to breathe lighter.

All the while, I worked full time too, which is a job I'm still grateful and happy to be at.  It was a full summer.  Filled with accomplishments, personal challenges, good times with friends and loved ones, and much more.  It is probably one of the better summers I've had in quite a long time.  That's not to say I've had bad summers, but it felt less chaotic and more rewarding; more relaxing and less stressful.  In reflecting here, I realize how much I did, but also recognize how much fun I had.

So what did you do this summer?




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Look What I Made: Tea

This post has been brought to you by Skillshare, Homestead Survival, and Frugal Sustainable.  And by that, I mean these sites regular updates and encouragement to make and to share got me to start trying it out.  And it's kinda fun!

So what am I'm making and sharing today?  Tea.  Really good tea too that doesn't really need anything added to it.  Tea is the major drink of choice throughout the world and has a long history with many different cultures throughout the world.  I was never really much of a tea drinker, unless you could the inundated sugary drinks that come in glass or plastic bottles.  

A year or two back, I was intrigued by the idea of an edible landscape discussed in the book, Made by Hand by Mark Frauenfelder.  I was equally intrigued by Dickson Despommier's The Vertical Farm.  Both of these had me thinking about the ways in which I could make the landscape that I live in, be both useful and aesthetically intriguing.  It would mean not just pouring in time and money to landscape the yard, but doing so in a way that produced rewards beyond aesthetics.  So I started tinkering with creating an edible landscape.  

I've got a way to go, but one project I've been working on is encouraging the growing of mint in some places, instead of grass or other things.   This has been nice and led me to go further and create a good size herb garden that I plan to develop further.  But all of it has led me to have a whole lot of mint available.  After talking with a few friends, the idea of making a tea out of it was hit upon, since I have the dehydrator.  Thus, I ventured into making tea and finding that I actually really like it.  What I've created is refreshing and tasty and pretty easy to make large amounts of.  

My ingredients include using sweet mint, peppermint, spearmint, chocolate mint, and stevia.  The mints are hardy perennials that once you plant, you can expect to come up year after year.  I recommend always picking the big leaves and doing this at least once a week.  It often delays the blossoming process (though I don't know if that has an effect on the quality of the leaves).
Sweet mint plant.
Sweet Mint

Chocolate mint plant.
Chocolate Mint (Plant
purchased at Home Depot) 


Stevia plant.
Stevia
Peppermint plant
Peppermint


Washing mint leaves.
Step 1:
Pick leaves and wash.
STEP 1:  So the first thing is to pick them.  This is the 2nd most tedious step in the process.  The higher the leaf is on the stem, the more careful you want to be and use 2 hands.  1 hand to stabilize the top of the stem, and the second to tear the leaf at the base.  Don't pull from the end of the leaf; you're likely to tear the leaf OR take the top of the plant off.  

Laying out mint leaves in the dehydrator.
Step 2:
Lay them out on the
Dehydrator
 STEP 2:  Lay them out on the dehydrator plates.  This is the most tedious part of the venture and I'd lie if I didn't say I sometimes don't lay them out so neatly.  More than picking, if you're careful about the layout, it is likely to be the most time-consuming process.  

Laying out mint leaves in the dehydrator.
Step 3:
Fill up each rack 
Step 3:  Even if you're going to not be as deliberate in the lay out, make sure you have spaced them out to some degree so that they dehydrate evenly.
   
Removing dried mint leaves from the dehydrator
Step 4:
Dehydrate until they are crisp
Step 4:  Dehydrate.  This can take from 3-6 hours depending on how high you put the setting, but you don't have to be present for this.  Just turn it on and go.   I check in usually around the 4 hour mark and see if they are crispy and crunchy to the touch.  If so, I take them out; otherwise, I let it keep going.


Removing dried mint leaves from the dehydrator
Step 5:
Remove the dried leaves



Step 5:  Once done, turn off the dehydrator and start collecting the leaves.  



Storing dehydrated mint leaves.
Step 6:
Place in airtight container
Step 6:  Empty all the leaves into a container that you can seal.  You can choose to crunch them up now or later, but it's best if you do crush them as some point.

Making mint tea with dehydrated leaves.
Step 7:
Add crushed leaves
and water into an
pitcher & shake.
Place in Fridge for
24+ hours.
Step 7:  When it's time to make the tea, figure out a formula (which takes time and testing.  I usually do about 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup of leaves per 2 liters.  But I'm still in the experimental stage.  Toss in the leaves, toss in the water.  Shake it up good and put in the fridge for at least 24 hours (I often go longer because I forget or am finishing the last batch).

Sifting tea leaves out of homemade tea.
Step 8:
Pour mix into other container
using strainer to catch leaves
Step 8:  When done, use a strainer and pour out the tea into another contained.  I would recommend straining at least 2 more times to try to get all the leaves, but that's a personal preference.

Storing homemade tea.
Step 9:
Strain at least 2X
Put drink in Fridge.
Step 9:  When done, pour yourself a cup and put the rest in the fridge.  I don't know about staying times, but my tea has been in the fridge for over a week and still tastes great.

Storing homemade tea.
Some leaves will remain.
It won't destroy the drink.
Note:  There will be residual tea leaves--too small for a strainer.  That's perfectly fine.  It's not harmful in any capacity.

Homemade tea.
Enjoy!



Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email. 

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.