SwissStock 2014

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In case you are wondering what a SwissStock is, well simply put, it is a gathering of all the Greater Swiss Mountain dogs and their families that are related in some way to our two Swissy’s, Dutch and Hauser.  A kind of family reunion.

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SwissStock came about last year after we hosted a small gathering at our house for Dutch and his siblings. You can read all about that reunion here if you’d like. One of the “Moms”(Marjie) called me and asked if we would be interested in hosting another Swissy event this time for ALL of the Aegis Swiss Mountain dogs and their families.  It would be for an entire weekend with everyone camping out in our big field, staying in the Bunkhouse, bunking in the big barn or even sleeping in their cars. A Swissy Woodstock, a weekend of peace, love and Swissy’s!

IMG_6657 Welcome to Camp Swissy!

 We set the date and started planning the events.  Marjie and I would be in charge of the food, which meant cooking for 35+ people for an entire weekend.  Lucky for me Marjie is an amazing cook and can chop vegetables faster then Yan can cook! (remember him?)

IMG_6640Marjie’s grilled veggies

IMG_6680My Buckeye Brownies

IMG_6650Cheese anyone?

IMG_6673Hungry yet?

IMG_6660Marjie and her son.  This women can cook! She made me my first ever fiddle heads and they were out of this world!

The party started early Saturday morning when a Van full of puppies arrived.  Dutch’s first “Momma” and trainer Kristen, came with a litter of  Old English Sheep dogs and a litter of Swissy’s.

IMG_6671Momma Kristen

 The cuteness was overwhelming.  All those sweet little puppies in one place!  One by one the Swissy’s and humans arrived and the festivities began.

Snowball Sheep Dog puppy!

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There was wagon pulling, swimming, running, jumping, chasing and lots of good food all around.  The weather was perfect, the company delightful, and the dogs, well they were the stars of the show.

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IMG_6721Keeper of the hot tub

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IMG_6722Come on in! The water is just right!

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3 generations L-R Dutch, his momma Nokie Pokie and his grandma Frida

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Look at that face!  This is Brody, Hauser’s uncle.

IMG_6726Swissy and children sweetness

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See you next year at SwissStock 2015!


Tater Tower

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I love to grow potatoes but I don’t like the space they take up in the garden.  Instead I grow them in a tower, or a cage.

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All you need to make one is some wire fencing, compost, straw and potatoes!  I first saw this on Pinterest (of course) from Growing Lots Urban Farm and I thought it looked pretty easy, my kind of project.  I was able to fill 2 towers in about 2 1/2 hours.  You can probably make yours much faster if you don’t have to keep stopping for a drink or a snack or a run to the ladies room.

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  1. Take a piece of wire fencing, 14 gauge works well for this, and cut out a section about 3 feet in diameter and 4 feet in height, to create a cylinder.  Fasten the ends together with zip ties or twisty ties.
  2. Create your layers using straw and compost.  First put a layer of straw on the bottom bringing it up the sides of the cage creating a well in the middle to hold the compost and keep it from spilling out.  Then shovel in your compost and make a nice even layer.  Make your first layer about 1 to 1 1/2 feet off the ground so the potatoes have room underneath to grow.
  3. Place your potatoes inside the cage around the outer edge spacing them about 5″ apart.  You don’t have to be exact here, just leave them a little bit of spreading room.  Make sure that the eye of the potato faces out and if you have more than one eye on it go ahead and cut it up.  You may want to cut your potato the day before so it has time to heal over before you plant it but I never do and I haven’t had any problems.
  4. Now water your first layer in well and then repeat steps 2 and 3, adding layer after layer of straw (just up the sides leaving the inside filled with the compost), compost, potatoes and water spacing them about 8-10 inches apart.  Continue this way until the whole cage is full.
  5. For the top layer I place the potatoes inside the middle as well because they will just grow up right out the top.  You can plant other vegetables in the middle if you would like or even flowers.  Cover the top with compost and a nice thick layer of straw.

IMG_3563First layer…. keep going, you have a few more to do!

IMG_3564The eye of the potato faces out

IMG_3570Kinda like a layer cake!

Now stand back and admire your handy work!  The important thing is to keep your tater tower well watered from the top all the way down to the bottom.  I just run the hose through a section in the top of the cage and set it on a slow flow while I’m busy weeding or working in the garden.  I leave it like that for about 20 minutes or so once or twice a week depending on how much rain we’ve had or how dry it is.  In about 2 weeks you will see your first little sprouts coming out through the sides of the cage, and in about a month you will barely even see the cage!

In the early fall when the vines have all started to die back you will know it is time to harvest your potatoes.  Simply tip over the cage and give it a good roll around the garden.  You will see all those beautiful spuds inside ready for the taking.  No shovels or digging necessary!  4 pounds of potatoes should get you close to 25 pounds of potatoes depending on the variety.  I use seed potatoes that I buy from my local Agway store but you could probably use organic potatoes from the store in a pinch or if you can’t get seed potatoes. Just make sure they aren’t treated with anything.

IMG_3561Nasty looking creatures aren’t they?


Dandelion Jelly

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When I was growing up dandelions were very popular.  Every house had them.  Our house was no exception.

IMG_3546 dandelions

I remember picking them by the handfuls for my mother and she would keep them in a jelly jar on the kitchen window.  I would tell my younger sister to smell how sweet they were only to pop the top off as she came close.  I would make chains out of the stems or put them into cold water and watch as they curled up onto themselves. I would wear them around my neck or in a crown on my head. How many wishes had I made by blowing away the seeds?  By the end of summer all my clothes had the tell-tale signs of my love for dandelions, the little round circle that never come out  in the wash.  I wore it proudly.

Over the years my beloved dandelions became the enemy and the hubs and I waged war on them.  They weren’t popular anymore.  Nobody had dandelions.  Entire neighborhoods and not one to be seen. We spent a small fortune every year on a lawn service.  They sprayed and fertilized, killing every last one.  We fought a long hard battle, our lawn perfectly groomed and green.  It looked like a golf course and we took great pride in it.

Well I’ve grown up.  I now understand how harmful it was not only to myself, my children, my animals, but also to our honey bees and the many other insects that have been destroyed because of our need to keep up with the neighbors.  But that really isn’t what I intended to tell you about.  I got off track.  What I want to share with you is one of the many wonderful ways I enjoy dandelions now that I’m older (and smarter).

IMG_3549jelly Dandelion Jelly!!

 If you have never had it you are in for a real surprise.  It is sweet and mellow.  Almost like honey only lighter.  It is a burst of sunshine in your mouth, warming your tongue like a summer day.  Really, I’m not kidding!  If you don’t have dandelions growing in your yard for some god awful reason, then you are going to need to plant some.  Do it for yourself, your family, your taste buds.  Do it for the honey bees.

Dandelion Jelly

  • 2 to 2 1/2 cups of dandelion petals
  • 4 1/2 cups of water
  • 3 cups of sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 box or 3 Tablespoons of  Sure-Jell no sugar needed pectin

Gather enough dandelion flowers to equal 2 to 2 1/2 cups of petals.  Try not to get too much of the green part because that is where the bitter taste is.  And please, don’t pick where they may have been sprayed!

IMG_6257 dandelion petalsOne hour of work right there.  Not really work on a warm sunny day.  More like relaxation. Oh and so worth it!

 Put them into a pot with water and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat, cover and let sit for 10 minutes.  Strain and add lemon juice.  Measure 2 3/4 cups of sugar into a bowl.  Add pectin to the remaining 1/4 cup sugar.  Stir the sugar pectin mixture into the strained dandelion and lemon juice and bring to a hard boil over high heat stirring constantly.  When it reaches the hard boil add the remaining sugar and boil for another minute.

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Remove from heat and ladle into prepared jars leaving about 1/8″ head space.  Wipe any spills from jar, cover and process in a hot water bath for 5 minutes.  Remove and let cool for 24 hours.  You will soon hear the signature “POP” that tells you your jars have sealed.

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Dutch and Hauser wrestling on the lawn and rolling in the dandelions!  I think they love them as much as I do.

 


Fabric Covered Clay Pots

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I was up the other night checking out Pinterest.  That is a dangerous thing for me because everything I see I have to make. It was around 11pm when I came across fabric covered clay pots here and …..

 

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I fell in love.  I had fabric, I had clay pots, I had to try it.  I’m not going to tell you it is really easy.  As a matter of fact it is really kind of stressful.  And messy.  Well sticky is more like it.  It is very sticky.

The supplies you need are minimal.  Clay pot, fabric and Mod Podge.  They have a Mod Podge made specifically for fabric but I think any kind would work well.

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First lay your clay pot on your fabric of choice and cut it to size leaving enough room on the top and bottom to cover it, about a good 2 inches.  Next, working in small sections at a time cover the pot first in Mod Podge and then in fabric.

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Continue working your way around the pot until the whole thing is covered, smoothing out any wrinkles as you go.    I found the best way to get rid of the wrinkles is to cut off small sections, fit the material together and just keep smoothing it down as best you can.  Try to use material with a pattern that does not need to be lined up.  Stripes, checks, anything in a row and you will be pulling your hair out.  Once you have the whole pot covered  (don’t forget to fold some over to do the inside and the bottom) let it dry for a couple of hours.  Once the pot is dry you need to seal it.  Simply cover the whole thing in a thick coat of Mod Podge made for outdoors.  Let it dry, trim any excess material and it’s good to go.

I don’t know yet how these will stand up to being outside so I will probably be keeping mine on my covered porch or on my table covered by the umbrella.  I think that they would be really cute in different sizes to hold your utensils or napkins for picnics.  Or they would make a nice gift for Mother’s Day filled with a few packages of seeds and garden gloves.  They don’t have to be just for flowers!