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This is my third year of starting seeds indoors. There are a few things I have learned.

1. It’s pretty hit or miss. Germination is a funny thing. It only happens under the right circumstances and some seeds are going to be duds. Even with brand new seeds there are bound to be some duds. So I’ve stopped getting discouraged when there are some in my batch that don’t germinate. I just plant another seed.

2. There are stages to planting. Most seed packets will say to plant the seeds indoors 4 to 6 weeds before the last frost. Well what does that mean exactly? Since in Illinois the last frost is going to be sometime probably in April or even early May then that would mean the seeds should be started in March right? Well not exactly. There are crops like broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, onions, and leeks that like cold weather. So in order to have them in the Spring and early Summer, they need to be started indoors in January or in late July-ish to have a Fall/Winter crop. I am getting ready to plant herbs and strawberries now so they will be ready by the early Summer for planting outdoors. Then once my early Sping seeds are germinated and sitting in the sun I plant the mid to late Summer seeds, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and ground cherries.Such crops take less time to grow big enough to be transplanted outside so I start them last in late February.

Seeds started for the Spring3. Lastly, I will admit I still haven’t quite figured out what needs water when and how often. To me this is the most difficult part of growing plants. I find that some seeds are find just coming up in mildly damp soil with no covering, but then other seeds even of the same plant type will need to be covered in a humid tent to come up. I’ve taken to planting all the seeds putting them in the window with a heat mat and seeing what will come up into the open air. Then after about a week and a half, I put all the germinated little seedlings in a really sunny spot and I wet down all the still not germinated seeds and cover them with a clear lid and then I get some more seedlings.

I guess some seeds just need more babying that others

Most of all: OBSERVE. There are patterns in nature and we are trying to cheat it by getting a headstart. If we pay close enough attention we can mimick those patterns which will lead to better gardens!

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A few months ago a coworker dropped a humungous jade tree off on my front porch, saying something about how it probably needed repotted. I scratched my head in puzzlement how I would accomplish such a feat. Honestly, this thing was HUGE. I should have taken pictures of it. It seemed to be fine in it’s current pot so after much deliberation I hauled the thing upstairs to keep it out of the direct sun.

A few months later the poor guy seems to be dying from the outside in. I thought, crap now I’m going to have to figure out how to repot this. I had a large pot on reserve for whatever needed it so I did some research and ordered a couple of bags of bonsai soil.

In the meantime the tree’s health rapidly declined. Half of it was dead. The inside of the branches was a slimy and brown instead of crisp and green. This was quickly becoming an emergency room situation. I found myself begging the tree to hold on just a few more days.

Then last night the soil arrived!

Bonsai Soil LabelBonsai Soil Texture

It has a very course texture made up of volcanic rock and tree barks so it has good drainage. I began repotting by pulling the dead side of the tree out of the pot. It broke right off at the root and the roots were all dried out. I know I watered this thing.

On the dead side, I found some living jade so I planted them in their own little pots.

Baby Jade Plants

The Babiest of the Jade Babies

Succulents like jade are awesome because you can break a piece off, put in some moist dirt, and it will root.

While I was digging around in the pot trying to get the good side of the jade out safely, I found all sorts of clumps of clay and other debris suggesting my coworker simply dug soil out of her garden to repot this tree. I’m not sure that was such a good idea. Succulents (and all potted plants) need good drainage. This garden soil was all compacted in the pot making it hard for the moisture to escape. I think this is what was happening and causing the roots to rot and then shrivel.

Anyway I pulled the good side out in tact and repotted it with the bonsai soil and a bit of potting soil to give it a nutrients boost. And here he is! I’m going to keep a close eye on him and all the babies for a long while.

Repotted Jade

Salvaged PieceThis is another salvaged piece of the dead side. t was still green and has tiny leaves growing from the top. I’m hoping I can coerce it into become a tree. It’s planted in the clay pot to my VitaClay slow cooker that cracked. An example of reusing something that most people might throw away.

As I continually get more and more frustrated with the day to day humdrum of my “day jobs” –Yes plural jobs— the necessity for change becomes all the more clear. So I ask myself, what do I want? I want to garden. I want to become sustainable. I want to help others do the same. So working six days a week is not conducive to this goal. I must find a way to make Ellipsis successful enough online to be rid of at least one job. The search for possibilities is on.

I have been making progress of sorts. In December Ellipsis made a nice bit of money on Etsy. A lot of it is going to have to go into buying more supplies and labels however. A physical business is a necessity, business real estate in Galena is up in the 5 – 600,000’s however. Hmmmmm . . .

As for the gardening, I’m ordering tons of heirloom seeds from Seed Savers Exchange, based out of Decorah, Iowa. This summer I will have some very unique varieties and we are planning to greatly increase the size of our yields. Hopefully enough to have an excess to sell at Farmer’s Market along with jellies, pickles, and maybe some baked goods. Mostly I’ve been reading about soil types, compost, heirlooms, and seed saving. Also I’m trying to come up with the best things to start with in the greenhouse and how to best utilize our outdoor space.

Chamomile Apple Cinnamon JellyFinally I made a completely 100% natural pectin jelly! The Chamomile Apple Cinnamon is now totally natural. Apples contain strong natural pectin. Apple pectin is full of benefits including radiation cleansing properties. The jelly is awesome! So tasty with butter on whole wheat toast. Now I will be attempting to adjust all my recipes to work with apple juice heavy in pectin, it will be a complex procedure in which I waste a lot of ingredients!

I’ve also been blending some new herbal teas. January is Hot Tea Month and I’ve been Sage Teaexperimenting with different combinations. It’s so much fun to play with herbs I’ve harvested and dried from my own garden. I have a lot of ideas in mind, but my most recent to go up for sale is a sage blend. Pineapple sage and culinary sage blended is lovely and smooth with just a bit of fruity-ness. Sage is found most useful when combating anxiety and depression. You can read about the benefits of sage here. This is a whole leaf tea of course. When the leaves are crushed, they tend to loose a lot of their natural oils. Left whole they retain their flavors and benefits better.

Soon I will be posting some special Valentine’s Day jellies and more books of course. Currently I have a catalog of over 200 books posted on Alibris and quite a few very nice editions on Etsy, including a second edition Lord of the Rings Boxed set and a first edition of Louisa May Alcott’s “Jo’s Boys.” I also have a beautiful set of Pooh’s Library, on the very early printings – 1965. And of course I have some very interesting vintage offerings in my $2 and $5 bins!

Thank you again for your support!

Since it’s now 2012, I thought this would be a good time to write a blog. It’s time to collect my thoughts on the last year and put down my abstract ideas for the future into words. Over the last year I think I made more changes in my life than any since perhaps the year after I graduated high school ( a year in which I traveled to Kazakhstan, moved from Pensylvania to Orlando, Florida, attended college, and met the love of my life : ) )

In 2011, I celebrated my daughter’s first birthday, settled into our first house, learned to make jelly, started selling used books, planted a garden, worked in a restaurant, an ice cream parlor, and a bookstore, tried managing a restaurant only to discover I really don’t want to work in the restaurant industry at all, I learned what the word “terrior” means, I received a certificate in Web Design and started the advanced certificate, I made salsa from green tomatoes and how to cook celeriac, I traveled to Fairfield, IA and learned that the way I want to live is possible, and perhaps most monumentally I registered Ellipsis Books and More as a business, making me a small business owner!

Yes, it is still all online, but it’s doing so well! I am so happy with all my progress. The year 2011 was such an important year in my life because I figured out what I want to be and what I want to do and I am honestly on a path that could lead me to a place where I feel successful.

So with 2012 now upon us, what will I do? Well I will set up the greenhouse and make it into a little paradise of orchids, spices, and a dwarf citrus tree. I will plant a garden full of heirloom seeds and nearly extinct varieties. Using vertical techniques and forest gardening, I will create a biologically diverse and extremely productive micro-ecosystem in my backyard. My kitchen will become a testing ground for food preservation and organic cooking. Ellipsis will grow into the physical realm, through consignment. And I will take a vacation! A real vacation to somewhere exotic.

Bring on the new year! I am ready and willing and I will blog all the way through.

 

So it’s the end of the season and you have a garden full of green tomatoes that you could allow to sit on your counter and redden. It will take a couple of weeks, but it will happen eventually. Or if you’re like me and ended up with dozens and dozens of little green cherry tomatoes, what do you do with them? Well there are quite a few things you could do. If you are also finding yourself with a load of cabbage, you could do chow chow, which is delish. Or you could do a relish, or some other kind of pickled green tomato thing. Or you could do what I did and make a salsa. I happened to have a lot of peppers and onions as well as tomatoes. It is very good! And it’s relatively easy, once you get everything chopped. This was quite a chore for me since I have dozens of little, tiny tomatoes.

This is the recipe I used:

5 lbs green tomatoes, chopped small (as you prefer for salsa)
6 yellow onions, chopped (4 cups)
3 jalapenos, chopped with seeds (1/2 cup)
4 large red bell peppers, chopped (2 cups)
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 cup lime juice1/2 cup vinegar1 tablespoon salt1/2 tablespoon cumin1 tablespoon dried oregano leaves2 teaspoons pepper1/4 teaspoon cayenne (optional, to taste)
1 -2 teaspoon sugar

Combine everything in a large pot, mixing well. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cook for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. To continue canning, bring salsa to a boil.
Ladle salsa into hot sterile jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe lids and jar edges clean before finger tightening lids and placing them back in the boiling canning pot.Process (boil) jars for 15 minutes. Remove carefully and let sit for 24 hours. Check lids for seal, and refrigerate any unsealed jars
I wish I would have added more peppers or more spice. It really didn’t turn out spicy enough for me, but it is still really good. I just spice it up right before using it.
Queen Anne's Lace Jelly

Queen Anne's Lace Jelly

On another note, Ellipsis Books and More is on Etsy with jams, jellies, teas, and antiquarian books. Vintage and handmade tea ware are coming soon! We will be doing gift baskets for Christmas. This is really, really exciting and I’m so happy to finally have this part of Ellipsis realized. Hopefully someday I will selling out of my very own physical store and farming sustainably on a large scale.

I’m reading this fantastic book called “Vertical Farming” by Dr. Dickson Polmmier. It is unbelievable what ideas are floating around right now. This man is purposing taking the farm directly to the cities by way of skyscrapers that use hydroponic techniques to produce food all year round. How cool is that? I would love to do that on a smaller scale in a smaller town also involving a small geodesic dome. When people start putting these plans into practice, them everyone else will realize that it’s not too late.

In order to preserve Summer’s bounty, I do many things. I can, freeze, and dry my way to a wonderful winter full of locally gathered and sourced ingredients.

Applesauce cooking

Making some applesauce!

Summer's Bounty

A small portion of my preserved food!

Another thing I do, that is probably the thing that most preserves the flavors of summer this.

Frozen Thai Basil

This is Thai Basil in the perfect state to throw into a curry later this winter. I love making these and freezing them. Mostly I do this with basils, parsley, cilantro, and fennel greens.

Blending
First I take all my fresh herbs from the garden (leaves only) and put them in my food processor. Then I put some water in and whiz it up, spoon it into an ice cube tray and put it in the freezer. Once it’s frozen pop out those delicious little cubes and put them in a freezer bag labeled as what they are.

This is a great way to preserve herbs. I throw them in soups and sauces for extra fresh flavor.

 

Just plugging along as of late. After a couple of catastrophic canning attempts, I decided to take a break for a bit. There are still plans for Queen Anne’s Lace Jelly. I did make a test jar and it’s very good. I didn’t know at all what to expect, but it has a honey lemon taste to it. Very pleasant. I will be making a large batch. The borage mint jelly also turned out very good. The cherry jam on the other hand I overcooked. So it did not work out. Neither did my first attempt at Jardiniere, but not to fret. I figured what what I did wrong and will try again. I have about 4 1/2 pounds of Southern Illinois peaches that are awesome and will make a spectacular peach butter.

Also drying lots and lots of herbs for tea. I’m been procrastinating about making labels for the jars and tea tins. I’m just not entirely sure how I’m going to go about it. I’ve priced out a lot of online options and found that labels are expensive bordering on ludicrous. So I may be printing them from my own printer. I have to figure out which is more cost effective. I’ve also been compiling nutrition information. Quite an odious task.

The garden is doing fabulous. I believe I’m going to have more cucumbers than I know what do with. There is a lemon pickles recipe I found that sounds good . . .

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Some pictures of our progress. You might recognize the pot the ginger plant is in, but I bet you don’t recognize the plant! It’s grown so much in the damp humidity we’ve been getting. Also you’ll see one of our cucumbers and a cantaloupe. Cantaloupes are green before they grow the netting and become brown. And of course our little corn field. I’m pretty impressed with it, myself. It keeps falling over in the rains though. I’m trying to figure out a way to prop them up better and stimulate more root growth. They are growing ears! So they must be fine. I’ll just keep helping them stand back up after a storm I guess.

Oh my, life does move on with our without us, doesn’t it? Sometimes it’s hard to keep up, Keep calm and carry on, it’s the only thing that makes sense.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. I’ve been hard at work remaking the Ellipsis logo to embody the mission statement, drying herbs, canning jelly and jam, and experimenting with baked goods.  The most exciting thing I’ve canned up is lavender jelly. It’s a beautiful pink color. There is something magical about jelly. I paired it with clotted cream and vanilla bean scones. Add a cup of tea and it’s perfection. The photo below shows the pink lavender jelly and the dark purple black raspberry jam on the vanilla bean scones with clotted cream.

Homeade Jelly and Scones

I still have plans for a borage mint jelly, a cherry jam, and a Queen Anne’s Lace jelly recipe I found that looks very intriguing. Also I dried some mint to make a mint tea and I’m coming up with a summer blend that I think will be a delicious iced tea. So far I’ve been able to grow everything myself or acquire it locally. It’s a good feeling to support local businesses while being as self sustaining as possible.  Soon I will have to figure out exactly what I’m doing for labels. The new logo is finished, but I’ve decided not to reveal it online until everything is ready to launch. There is also the issue of business licensing when selling food. I’m doing research on what Illinois requires.

How are all of you working to live sustainable lives? I would love to hear about it.

LED PhotogarphyAlso I’ve recently started selling my photography on Etsy to raise money toward Ellipsis. If you have any money to spare (the prints are $15 and $18) please help. The link to the Etsy shop is here.

LED Photography will not be my only fundraiser. I’m also working on and Indie Go Go campaign that should be very exciting! Keep an eye out for different ways to help. I know money is tight for everyone, but I really appreciate any support. This business idea means the world to me.

Another great way you could help me out is if you have any books you no longer want/need. I need to increase my stock by  . . . a lot. If you have any unwanted/unneeded books please let me know. A donation of books would be wonderful, but I will also buy them from you if you would like.

And a third way is to give me access to your gardens. I need herbs, fruits, and vegetables to make my teas, jams, and baked goods. And of course I need guinea pigs to try these things!

And spread the word! I don’t know where we are going to end up at this point, but I’m only giving the job search two more months before I just make a decision and start this thing. If you know anyone who would have any interest in this type of business in any way, please let them know I am working to get it started and all support is appreciated.

Thank you so much for the support I’ve already been given in all sorts of ways! Enjoy your day! Summer is fleeting . . .

Summer

Things are going well I think. I only wish the proper direction would reveal itself. I have been researching ways to raise money to start a physical Ellipsis as well as the best and least expensive ways to create sustainable ways of operating a business. Here in Galena there are possibilities of renting a store front. The biggest obstacle is how to grow enough Camelia to make enough tea. The answer I think, is to build a geodesic dome. It’s a pretty amazing concept. Essentially a greenhouse, it is a dome built from triangles. The idea of them is that they are entirely self-sustaining, meaning everything from the heating to the water flow is all created within once introduced. And since they are built of wood and polycarbonate panels with UV glazing, it can withstand very severe weather conditions. All this; however, is a very big undertaking and would require either the use of or purchase of property.  Where as if the move to California happens I could grow a whole field of Camelia right in the open.

I am fascinated with the idea of building a structure that could grow fresh food all year round. It would be like creating a paradise with the perfect temperature all year round. A little oasis. According to growing spaces, a company out of Colorado that manufactures geodesic dome kits, a dome that is 22 feet in diameter can produce food for 4 to 5 people all year round. Imagine if every community had a large geodesic dome to grow food. Our food would be entirely in our hands. Radish Relish and Black Raspberry Jam

Anyroad, I made some delicious black raspberry jam yesterday. I did not use pectin and it turned out lovely. A little softer than typical jam, but delicious none the less. And also a batch of radish relish. I love how pink it is. The radish mix and watermelon radishes I planted really made for a pretty relish. It’s good on crackers or a sandwich like regular relish. I will share the recipe for the relish with you.

Radish Relish

3 cups stemmed radishes
2 large ribs celery
1 large red onion
2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1 tbls mustard seed
2 tsp dill seed
1/2 tsp celery seed
1 cup vinegar
2 tbls prepared horseradish

Put the radishes, celery and onion through the coarse blade of a grinder, or chop them finely. Mix with remaining ingredients and allow to stand three hours. Bring to a boil in a large pan and cook ten minutes. Pour into hot jars, leaving half-inch head space. Adjust lids and process 1/2 pints and pints in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes.

Watermelon RadishThe watermelon radishes are so pretty. I have to thank Rachel for these seeds.

Ellipsis really is getting closer and closer to full conception all the time. Wouldn’t you love to sit in a cozy used book store sipping a cup of locally grown artisan tea, eating a scone with some homemade black raspberry jam? And to top it off, the business is as sustainable as it feasibly can be at that given moment and it is working to make your community a better place to live and work. This is something I must make happen, wherever the future takes Ellipsis Books and More.

There is a lot of progress happening here at Ellipsis! Take a look at the radishes. I planted a mix of them including a “watermelon radish” variety that are white on the outside and red on the inside. Can’t wait to make some radish relish with them.

Radishes in the Ground

Also an eggplant is almost ready to pick. Not sure what to do with this yet.

Eggplant

In other news, the greenhouse is up! I haven’t put anything in it yet, but I have big plans for camelia sinensis plants in my near future. Tea here I come!

Greenhouse

I’m still working out what the sort of near future holds for Ellipsis. Books are continually being added to the Alibris site at ellipsis.alibrisstore.com and working on a business plan, but it’s hard when I’m not sure where I’m going to be even months from now.

But I will continue to keep calm and carry on doing what I can as I go.

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