A Beekman Bird Mansion

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A Beekman Bird Mansion

A Beekman Bird Mansion

This all started with a box of doll house parts my husband brought home from a yard sale…But let me back up.

My friends Brent and Josh the Fabulous Beekman Boys  are the most creative people I know, which makes them very busy of late. Between launching new products in their store Beekman 1802, traveling for book signings, and attending larger than life meetings with Bloomingdale’s and Target to forge new business partnerships. I have been missing them, and their beautiful house. I met Brent and Josh in the spring of 2011 at an earth day event in upstate New York  I was invited to their home the Beekman mansion for their 2013 wedding where I got to meet Martha Stewart and more of their wonderful friends. I wanted to give them something special for Christmas this year, something made with my own hands..But what do you give two guys who have everything? I mean they won the amazing race, (a million bucks) and are surrounded by talented artisans who work with metal, wood, cloth, pottery, antiquities and even gourmet food. What to do?

The famous Beekman home was built over the course of two years, from 1802 to 1804, for the family of William Beekman. The mansion is a Georgian Federal style. The Beekman Mansion’s original signature architectural accent is its large front palladian window, and its fourteen foot wide center hallways. It was a stop on the underground railroad and is well known for its ghosts and its gardens.

Gardens of antiquity need a place for the birds to go so I thought of a small Beekman mansion for the birds to live in, enter my pack rat husband and his box of doll parts he brought home for bird houses, shh people are getting them for Christmas. I saw what looked like their palladium window and from there the idea of the Beekman mansion birdhouse was born. We repurposed a lot of wood out of a house in Woods Hole MA that was going to be torn down so we had plenty to work with. Using pencil and drawing on the wood we came up with a design that would allow for a birdseed  tray and a lid that could be removed for easy cleaning.

I love everything about birdhouses, they have been part of Western culture for hundreds of years in both North America and Europe. In Turkey, I saw birdhouses for sparrows and swallows, built into the facade of the buildings and blended in beautifully with the architecture surrounding them. These homes were built before the Ottoman period, they were made of bricks, tiles, wood, stone and mortar. I wanted this to be something that would blend in with their farm and expansive gardens. Spread seed around the deck of the house and watch for the birds to come.

Birds are always on the look out for nesting spaces to carefully craft their spaces to have their babies, so we designed our bird mansion to either be mounted on a barn wall or rest on a surface, such as a table or their rock wall.  We made it heavy and weather resistant so that it could be used.

First we made a box, then the lid, then the railings. I painted it with white primer, my husband says I’m cursed with painting. I always track it around the house. I didn’t fail to impress this yet again on this project. We bickered about the lines and how to add the depth in the replica with out making it flimsy. My husband drove me to Michaels in the snow for popcicle sticks to make the porch railing. He is a good man. We are not master carpenters, we did our best. Here is the photos I took during the process.

This really snowballed into a big project, a really really big one..

MERRY CHRISTMAS BRENT AND JOSH WE LOVE YOU!

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The model that we worked off of. The beautiful Beekman mansion circa 1802

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My pencil sketch of the the model we would make. If you lift the lid to the birdhouse you will see it, I didn’t paint the inside.

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We decided to give the roof an angle one way so the house could be mounted against their barn wall if desired.

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With the box assembled we designed the front and how I saw the placement of doors and windows.

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We are not master carpenters. We will be taking a class this summer on tongue and groove and angles. Plus our algebra sucks. But we made it work as not to waste too much wood during the trial and error. We were measuring 6 times and making two to three cuts. We are much better now then when we started with angles.

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Fitting the wrap around roof line at the base of what will be the palladium window. We also made a pitch on the roof so that if they want to put bird seed around it like a tray it would drain and dry easy if it rained.

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We wanted it to be sturdy and the wrap around porch to be represented.

I am a mess, since its so cold outside I am wearing one of my daughters jackets from when she was 9. I look hilarious and my husband wants to beat me for getting paint all over the garage.

I am a mess, since its so cold outside I am wearing one of my daughters jackets from when she was 9. I look hilarious and my husband wants to beat me for getting paint all over the garage.

 

 

 

The back.

The back.

Almost Done!

Almost Done!

Painting the parts

Painting the parts

The back.

The back.

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I heard somewhere if you shoot something from this angle it looks bigger. Um it doesn’t need any help its about 2 1/2 feet wide.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So what do you think?

Simple Platform Bird Feeder From Recycled Lumber

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A platform bird feeder is a beautiful way to attract our birdie friends to the yard. Just like humans birds like to eat all kinds of different things, the summer brings a variety of worms, grubs and bugs to feast on, that the protein side covered, but offer them an invitation to your yard with fruits, nuts and seeds and they will want to stay. You see the birds will want to nest where there is a wide variety of food options. (I like that way of thinking) If you give them feeders that are spaced well, you can give them what they need and then you can sit back and watch with enjoyment. There are lots of types of feeders out there, but tray or platform feeders give them space to feed. These feeders have a bottom lip to prevent the seed from spilling over. In addition they allow larger birds easy access to food.

When we had the flood in our house we had some extra stair risers that needed repurposing so we used that as the lumber. You can you old barn wood for a rustic feel, or colored rope. You can paint, stain them or leave them plain. (Be sure it’s non toxic)

What you need:

1/2″ by 6″ lumber or repurposed wood. (Cut into two 11″ lengths)

1/2″ by 2″ lumber or repurposed wood. (Cut into two 9″ lengths)

1″ nails or screws

Hammer or drill

4 screw eyes

12 pieces of hemp twine at least 3 yards long.

Brass hanging hook with eye

Suet/Bird seed/Nuts

Hanger or hook from overhang

First place the two 1/2 x 6 x 11″ pieces of lumber side by side on a work bench. Leave a small crack between the boards to allow any water to drain out. Working with the more attractive side of the wood facing out. To join the two pieces of lumber, lay the two 1/2 x 6 x 9″ side up crosswise on top of the 11″ long pieces drill or hammer in place to make a one piece “Table” Turn the table right side up.

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To create the lip around the bird feeder, place the 2 inch side of a 1/2 x 2 x 11″ board up against one edge of the table-top so that the bottom edge is level with the bottom of the 1/2 x 2 x 9″ pieces (extending 1/2 below the table top) Forming a 1″ lip Nail the 2 x 11″ piece in place and repeat this process around the remaining three sides. If you want to add a waterproof stain at this point feel free but please make sure that its non toxic. We left ours alone with the materials we found so that they would become a bit weathered. They will bring them inside in the winter.

Screw the hooks into the sides of the four corners outwards, you can create starter holes with the hammer or the drill if the wood is too hard.

Cut the twine into the 12 lengths, and tie three strands each to the hooks. Braid the hemp twine with a simple three weave braid and knot at the top. Attach the center brass or metal hook, hanging it through the hemp twine all four braids brought to the center like a pyramid.

Add birdseed to the platform including a variety of suet and nuts. Hang where you like and enjoy.

Amy Wexler

imageimage (2)The design was modified from an old article found in a DIY magazine from 1999.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How Bikram Yoga Saved My Life

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483442_613988125282631_1067269894_nA little under a year ago I was as broken as broken could be. Sitting at home with nothing to do but write a survival blog with great ideas was good and all, but I wasn’t getting out into the world and facing my problems and pain. I worked only part time, mostly due to my health. Many years ago I was the victim of a blunt force trauma through service, and I also suffered many scars from surgery to repair my organs and abdomen. Gastrointestinal problems manifested, I lost a gallbladder, then a kidney, some of my intestinal tract and a lot of dignity..

I developed lower intestinal crohn’s disease, and unresponsive anemia. The treatment being, frequent blood transfusions and IV iron. I was on three different anti-depressants, a medicine for anxiety or PTSD another for sleep, and steroids for inflammation. One for blood pressure and one for ulcers. I didn’t think for one second that yoga could fix all of those problems, but it did..

Back track to October 2012, while getting onto the highway to take my daughter and her friend to a haunted carnival I was hit from behind by a man going about 45 in a 25 getting onto the highway. Traffic stopped, I stopped. He didn’t. My seat belt cut into the IV port in my arm for treatment and my back ached really bad, turned out my coxis bone was completely out of alignment. I went to the ER and saw a chiropractor for well over 9 months with no real positive improvement. My husband kept telling me I needed to stretch, that I needed to go find a yoga class, he had been saying it for years, but for some reason I never wanted to listen. Then around my daughters 12th birthday I was so tired of sleeping all day and being in constant chronic pain, I googled yoga. I looked up the different styles and I couldn’t come to a conclusion, about one being better than the other. Then an ad popped up for Groupon and Bikram yoga in Westboro MA. I don’t remember what the groupon was, 30 days for 30 dollars maybe? The price was right but it was a bit far away, I still decided it would be worth it to try it.

So on July 11, 2013 I went to my first Bikram yoga class. Oh my god what had I gotten myself into? At 105 degrees and 50% humidity to me initially, it was like Saudi Arabia, Death Valley, Africa hot, it smelled funny, I was breathing like an angry boar through my mouth. I refused to listen to the teacher. I think, I probably fled the room a half-dozen times, I scowled at the teacher in her perky leggings. I guzzled water, I prayed to god that it would end quickly, but it didn’t.. 60 minutes went by and holy crap we’re not done yet? How much more of this abuse is left? I have a meatball grinder after this with my name on it. Just focus on some god damn meatballs and you can survive this..

I cried the whole way home, a cathartic cleansing cry. I couldn’t stop, it was like a waterfall, after a dam that had been broken. I sucked at living life, I couldn’t even get through a simple yoga class without bitching and pissing and moaning. I didn’t go back for 6 days. I sat at home brooding about that groupon and decided that I didn’t give it a proper chance, that I was being wasteful, whatever, something told me that I needed to go back and try harder.

On day six I came back and mid way through class, I cried on my mat in dead body pose facing the wrong direction, I was unknowingly being disrespectful. Not about the crying, no not at all, its okay to cry. It’s great to cry in yoga, because you need it. You need to get something out, I learned later that it’s common, and even ok to cry in yoga, your flexing not only your muscles but your nervous system, it effectively cleanses your mind whether you know it or not. The disrespectful was putting your feet towards the instructor, in some Indian cultures where this yoga’s origin is, you don’t put your feet in their direction, they’re dirty, they’re your feet. Makes sense right? Well after that second class I felt better, actually pretty good, then the next day I came back and tried harder and I felt even better.

So now I decide that its worth it to make an investment in some yoga gear. I bop on down to Barnes and Noble where they actually have a decent selection of yoga crap, mats, various doo dads and socks. Socks?!? Hmm I thought, “it’s really hard to get traction and grab yourself doing this.” “Maybe if I buy these cool grippy yoga socks I can get better at this.” Nope. Oh my god you should have seen the look on my instructors face when I came in sporting those dignity stealers. She looked at them and said, “You going to take those off? Right?” “You don’t need them, if you want to get better at this yoga and get stronger you have to learn to grab yourself, sweat and all, and hang on.” I argued, “But they really help me?” The next day another completely different instructor said the same thing about the socks. I only wore them three times in total, and then ditched them. I figured there is a right way and a wrong way to do things, you need to check your luggage and your ego, whatever is festering in your core, at the door and freaking listen to what they have to say, they are helping you get better.

So then after attending a total of about four classes a week for two weeks, I would have to say that 50% of my back pain was gone and I knew that I wanted more. I googled Bikram Yoga, and read and read from everything about the man, to the sequences and their benefits. I came across an article in Oprah magazine, about one of her interns, that decided to do a 90 day challenge. Now most challenges are 30 to 60 days, but a 90 day challenge is what Bikram said in his own words would create the most change, and oh my god did I need a change. I read how this intern went for 60 days (Sort of abandoning the last 30 days), and it was hard, but she lost weight and felt great, I read of other challenges as well, I thought I could do better and make it the full 90, it sounded like it was totally worth it, and it was. I gave my yoga instructors my sob story and they took me in and supported me, because trust me if you make a commitment to 90 days of Bikram yoga, you’re going to need a lot of help, and a lot of support. On days I couldn’t get to the studio I practiced in a hot bathroom, using a space heater and shower steam. Being led with an old CD version of the Bikram script read by the man himself, in between the postures he sings and hums, it’s sort of charming to hear the man who designed the posture sequence, lead you through the practice, alone in the john..

After 90 days, the pain was gone, the medications as described above were gone, I didn’t need them. I wasn’t depressed or having anxiety attacks, my blood pressure regulated and the back spasms completely stopped. I lost 45 pounds and I kid you not I grew an inch. My whole life I was yelled at to stand up straight, and suddenly after 3 months I was. By the end of October a year from the accident, I was comfortable practicing about 4 to 5 days a week, taking a break every three days to give my body a day of rest. Everything was going great, I began to work more often as a lifeguard for fitness center swimming pools, I was becoming more active and getting out there. Then one morning in November, I woke up and my scar tissue changed from pink to a dark purple and actually seemed to take on a different shape. By the end of the week the loose skin from my weight loss became infected, and I had a low grade fever of 99.7 that wouldn’t go away. The scar tissue festered and I was referred to a surgeon. He recommended a scar revision and skin removal. It took awhile for insurance approval and to get into the ER, I had the low grade fever for well over two months. I kept going to yoga though, and I can’t explain it but my fever would go down for the time I was in the hot room and then come back later in the evening.

Eventually, the first week of January, I went in for my surgery. Call it bad luck, Murphy’s law whatever. Everything that can go wrong, did go wrong. The surgeon accidentally nicked an artery during the surgery and when they got me up to walk, I began to bleed internally. This began a spiral. I lost three pints of blood in under 15 minutes. I was still awake when they were intubating me for the second surgery to repair the bleed. I was flat on my back on bed rest when I contracted pneumonia, while coughing they gave me transfusions. Then eventually, sent me home but I wasn’t healing. Two weeks later still coughing the wound opened up and became necrotic. My 4 weeks away from my yoga became 9 weeks, after two more surgeries to fix the necrosis and IV iron. I was just visualizing the yoga in my head because going back seemed even more challenging and far away.  Then at one of my final appointments came the epiphany, the surgeon plainly stated, “Your scar tissue just simply wanted out.” Then it hit me! In class they teach that whether you recognize it or not, old injuries affect you. Bikram yoga works through the tourniquet effect of compression and release. As you practice yoga, circulation reaches these parts of your body and works like a pressure washer to clean out scar tissue and damage that has been done, restoring your body to it’s natural state. So for me everything toxic came to the surface and then as soon my body was satisfied it was out, it began to heal, then my stomach and swelling flattened out, the pain diminished and I was cleared to go back. I would however like to be clear about my surgery, this wasn’t a tummy tuck, I didn’t need one. My stomach was flat and firm to begin with, it simply had a ton of scar tissue and skin over it, and it was the yoga that made it flat, there was no need to perform any muscle tightening, it was all the yoga. It seemed like forever, but I came back to class slowly in mid March easing into the postures using pregnancy modifications. In less than three weeks, I was almost completely back to my normal practice. Now its even better, or at least I have been told. Currently I have an active job as a lifeguard instructor, and I could never do this physically demanding job, if not for the yoga.

Words of thanks.. I don’t have enough. This has become my lifestyle, my medicine, therapy, inside and out. The scars from the surgeries during this winter are almost gone, they are pink fading to white, and its only the end of June. It’s almost been a year since I began going to Bikram yoga, and someday I hope to become a teacher. The tuition is pretty steep at well over $15K to become an instructor, but hopefully if I keep my focus and get better, maybe someday I can obtain a scholarship or a door will open.

After all of the round about prattle I took to get here, the point I would really like to impress is, that you just can’t quit on life. It’s not over, you can heal yourself. Just get out there and do something, anything. Even if Bikram is not for you, no yoga is bad yoga. Get out there and stretch and make yourself better. Don’t rely 100% on allopathic medicine, it won’t make you better. It just masks symptoms and lines the pockets of big pharma, who honestly don’t give a hoot whether we live or die. On this journey (so cheesy I know) I have discovered that Yoga is a path to self-realization, seriously! Our potential is limitless. We are 100% responsible for our bodies and doing what is best for them. Acceptance of this is liberating and can bring health and calm to your life.

It did for me at least..

- Amy Wexler

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Bugsy watches half moon pose backbend.

 

 

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Sr. Bikram teacher Terry Warburton helps me into Standing Separate Leg Stretching Pose Dandayamana-Bibhaktapada-Paschimotthanasana (Sanskrit)

 

 

 

 

How Do You Kill Squashzilla? With Cinnamon Maple Squash Butter

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SQUASHZILLA

Have you ever had a vegetable or fruit grow in your garden and it simply took over? The result, veggie like zucchini or squash so large that it could feed you as well as the French Foreign Legion. You’ve won that blue ribbon, you don’t want to tackle eating it, now what do you do? Well I realize this recipe is a bit out of season but I was figuring that something like this may have happened to you. The harvest is over, and the biggest items remain in your root cellar throughout the winter until it expires, and you have to throw it away, or do you vow to do something with it? Anything at all, just don’t let it go to waste.

Recently I had to take on a 45 pound squash beast, species unknown… It’s skin was reminiscent of the gourd we carve at Halloween. It had wavy scale’s, orange and lumpy, mostly pumpkinesque, but with much longer teeth, reaching north and south. Taking up tons of space, it had to be eaten. The squashes expiration in the root cellar was imminent, and about to destroy Tokyo, or my kitchen as fate would have it.

So, how do you approach Squashzilla? Barely fitting on my counter it was as long as my table, I think I contracted carpal tunnel due to it taking me several minutes to piece it apart. 5 pans later to bake it went, bowing the racks in my oven.

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Husband asks me nicely, to try not to break the oven.

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My kitchen isn’t big enough for the both of us…

About 20 minutes into the baking my husband asked me, “What’s burning?” One of the pans a vintage Pyrex that had been owned by my mother, paid the price of doing battle with Squashzilla, it broke in two under its’ weight. Sorry mom. I should have lined the pan with foil…The sweet syrup of the squash dripped to the bottom of my oven, turning the smell in my house from pie to disappointment. Still I pressed on.

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This is why you need to line your baking pans with foil..
Sorry mom!

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Puree until it is as smooth as you can get it.

When the squash was nicely roasted, I peeled the skin and pureed it in the food processor.

I set half of the baked squash aside to give to a neighbor (there was seriously a ton) and I placed about 10 cups of puree in a large pot and added the ingredients, and cooked it, and cooked it and dang it! I cooked it!

Since the squash mixture was high in liquid it was bubbling over. Every-freaking-where, like a volcanic science fair experiment. So I covered the pot and put it on low stirring every 15 minutes for about 6 hours. During the last hour I removed the lid and cooked away the remaining liquid through the steam, and watched it carefully until it was very thick, and stood up on its own. I’m pretty sure everyone’s cooking time will vary depending upon the pot and the type of squash you use with the recipe. Just make sure the liquid is gone and you can see the bottom of the pan when you move the spoon across the surface.

The result me :10  Squashzilla :3

Yippee! I won because it came out FANTASTIC!

When it's nice and thick it's done.

When it’s nice and thick it’s done.

It’s a thick rich copper colored spread, that is just sweet enough, full of spice and rich flavors. It would make a perfect pie filling or glaze for pork. Right away my daughter wanted a sandwich with it and marshmallow fluff.

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NOM!

The USDA doesn’t want you to can any pureed squash product because they cant guarantee any heat penetration, so canning is at your own discretion. Just refrigerate in a tight jar and use within two to three weeks. When you give the butter as a gift instruct the recipients to do so as well.

I put nice labels on the jars and will gift them to my mother and neighbors. It made about 4 quarts of butter.

Enjoy the recipe… I will be busy for quite a while, cleaning the squash off my kitchen ceiling.

Perfect on a sandwich with fluff. The 11 year old approves.

Perfect on a sandwich with fluff. The 11-year-old approves.

Ingredients:

10 cups of roasted squash pureed (any kind)

1 cup of packed brown sugar

1-cup pure maple syrup

½ cup molasses

1½ tablespoons of cinnamon

½ tablespoon of salt

½ tablespoon of ground nutmeg

½ tablespoon of ground cloves

1 tablespoon of vanilla paste or extract

Preheat the oven to 425F.

Halve the squash and remove the seeds and stringy flesh.

Line a baking pan with aluminum foil.

Place the squash cut-side-down in the pan and roast at 425F. for 40 minutes, until the flesh of the squash has softened completely.

Let cool.  (You can even do this part in advance, and keep the roasted squash in the fridge until you are ready to use it).

Using a food processor blend the squash until smooth.  Add the squash along with the remaining ingredients to a large heavy pot.

Over medium heat, bring the squash mixture to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low, cover and cook on low for 4 to 6 hours, depending upon the breed of squash and your pot. Be careful it will want to pop and bubble everywhere like Mt. Vesuvius.

Stir every 5 to 15 minutes, then in the final cooking stage the puree will have reduced to half in size and will be steaming.

Watch it closely it will be done when you can run your spoon across the bottom of the pot, and it parts like the red sea.

Decorate the jars with nice labels, a ribbon and give to a neighbor.

Decorate the jars with nice labels, a ribbon and give to a neighbor.

Enjoy! ~ Amy Wexler

A 40 Year Old Murder In Cape Cod. The Phone. The House. The Priest

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It was late one night in November 1972 when Stephen Anglesy made a quest to the cottage on the water in Woods Hole Massachusetts, he was a 15 year old boy full of rage and vendetta, ashamed he wanted closure to the way he was feeling. The rumor is that he had been violated mentally possibly even physically, we will never know, the story died with him.

Father Mason Leonard sat next to the wood-burning stove and kept warm, the snow was coming that night and it was to be the first of the season. The cottage perched in the cove of the wealthy Cape Cod community allowed for an excellent view of the boats and ferries comings and goings several times per day. It was a two-room cottage with austere furnishings with only a crucifix adorning the wall. A simple dresser sat in the corner with a black rotary dial phone perched atop. This served as the priest’s only communication to the outside world, the closest neighbor was a half mile away.

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The priest was the caretaker of the grander home 100 yards behind his cottage; he had been residing there for almost 13 years. The properties previous owner had died in the 1920’s, leaving no heirs and a battle for ownership of the grand 10 acres with an ocean view. The estate remained consistently chattered about in this wealthy community with constant fodder. It had been tied up for generations of red tape, involving banks, lawyers, family and the Catholic Church. Even the scientific community had some unseen entitlement to the property.

When the glass of Father Leonard’s front window shattered. A piece of granite tossed through the pane gave Stephen enough space to jump through the frame with ease. In the 1970’s three taps on the clear plastic receiver buttons brought the local operator on the line. When the connection was made the sleepy operator working from a switchboard in her home, heard the screams of Father Leonard, a smash and sound of a bell, a shot, then silence…

When it was over the priest was dead, as was his assailant with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, Father Leonard had been hit with his own telephone and then stabbed over forty times. Leaving others only to speculate. Why?

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After the murder everyone walked away from the house, no one wanted it, not the church because of whatever mysteries were abound, it was better that they wash their hands of the situation. The community roared and mourned for two generations, with gossip and rumors spoken in whispers and urban legends. The actual truth for the majority concerned was lost to time, eventually fading into the present.

When we got the call that the house was coming down from our friends who own a salvage business, we jumped on it. Even in the sad state falling down and melting into the sea, the formerly grand home and property sold for 9 million. Unlived in and unloved for a little under a 100 years we had the opportunity to repurpose the mahogany stairs, we need them because at Christmas time our house was involved in a flood.

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Upon arrival in Woods Hole it was as if time stood still. Vines and trees grew through the floor, the ivy creeping from the grey gardens up banisters and into the sheet rock that crumbled at our touch. Bird dung specifically geese and pigeon required us to adorn protective equipment and lead stain and asbestos presented challenges as well, yet we were on a mission to salvage what we could from the old home, because the wrecking ball was coming the next day.

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We were told two stipulations upon entering the house do not touch the stones or landscaping, and do not touch the priest’s cottage, they are the landmarks the conservation teams will be preserving. We were however invited to see the small cottage where the priest died, and along the way heard the grisly tale.

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Although a majority of the furnishings were gone, the floor where the priest was murdered had been painted red, in the corner lay the black rotary phone, the weapon used to disable the priest still was plugged into the wall. His only method of communication failed him in his last moments. The irony is that all of these photos were taken with my iPhone. Would having one of these saved his life? Too many questions and variables to answer.

As I wandered through the property I kept returning to where the telephone lay as if it could answer the mysteries to the property in my mind. Questions that will remain unanswered as the ocean breeze stood silent not giving up any of her secrets. I slowly picked up the receiver, feeling the heavy plastic and not so ergonomic cradle, I bravely said hello. No, there was no one there, no ghostly voice on the other end confessing a crime, no operator asking me to direct my call. Just silent space, that seemed to speak volumes about the past. The smell of decay prompted me to quickly put the phone back where I found it. I then briskly walked away from the house, and it’s history. I put the darkness behind me just like the people of Woods Hole did back in 1972.

At 2 AM the night we returned from repurposing salvage from the house. My phone buzzed and when I unlocked it, this photograph appeared. It was taken by me and had been in the middle of my camera roll with about 40 other photos of the house. For some reason that I cannot explain it had been mysteriously texted to me. From a blocked number…

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Vanilla Chamomile Infused Maple Syrup

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Beginning the process of sugaring, outside a rolling boil all day before being brought inside to the final syrup phase.

The infusion of sweet botanicals is extremely simple. Dried herbs and fragrant flowers will willingly release their active ingredients and soothing aromas when allowed to marry with things like honey, liquors or oils. It also works fantastic with maple syrup and tis the season to cook that sap down to experiment with what our own woods can provide.

Dried chamomile flower first was discovered in ancient Egypt and its popularity as a medicinal drug grew throughout the Middle Ages, when people turned to it as a remedy for numerous medical complaints including asthma, colic, fevers, inflammations, nervousness, skin diseases and cancer.

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Recent and on-going research has identified chamomile’s specific anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and sedative properties, and currently the herb Chamomile is included as a drug in the pharmacopoeia of 26 countries. Chamomile is an ideal herb for an infusion it’s normal use is that of a soothing tea that is wonderful with honey and lemon. It’s by far my favorite to infuse in maple syrup…

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In the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico vanilla beans have been reportedly been used for their potential stimulant and aphrodisiac effects. It flavors in baked goods and ice creams surpass none when added to a sweet dish. It smells wonderful and tastes even better, so it’s going in the pot today as well.

Infuse the herbs in cheesecloth and add a vanilla bean.

Infuse the herbs in cheesecloth and add a vanilla bean.

When making an infusion into sugar syrups the liquid is typically boiled (or brought to another appropriate temperature) and then poured over the herbs. When infusing syrup, boil to it’s final stages about one to two hours remaining before syrup is formed, then add a cheese cloth bag of about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of herbs and a vanilla bean that has been split open, to about three to four cups of syrup. Cook down until it reaches a temperature of about 215 degrees on the hydrometer, candy thermometer or to your specified syrup consistency. Then remove the bag of herbs and filter twice through additional cheesecloth to remove any sediment. (I would buy two packages for this project) If you don’t sugar your own sap, this can be done easily with real maple syrup from the market. Just pour into a pot and add the herbs and allow to steep on very low for about an hour.

The next batch for me will be a lavender vanilla infusion and going forward you can use anything combination you like. Cinnamon, chili peppers, rosemary, coffee beans or rose petals, the sky is the limit. Bottle and label, as an added step I found some decorative sealing wax to close up the cork. Give as an Easter gift to your favorite neighbor or someone you care about. You can keep it out of the fridge for a few days, but to prevent mold you should keep it in the refrigerator for four to six months.

Just be creative and you will really make those pancakes, French toast and waffles something to talk about. Aromatherapy at it’s finest and if it ever reaches my breakfast it will be a miracle… I will probably drink it all as a soothing tonic just sipping it straight from the bottle. Enjoy.

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How To Bring Back An Extinct Strawberry…Will You Help Save The Marshall?

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“The pasture and lawn are rich with yellow of dandelion blossoms, on the roadside the bluets and Marshall Strawberry blossoms welcome the bobolinks as they run about in the grass or sing above them.  There is a hum of bees and mosquitoes, an accompaniment to the song of the birds.” ~ A Harvard College article 1896

I have had a bit of a revival in my life, from gardening to writing my blog on homesteading and survival, I read voraciously about topics that are important to our survival and health. Currently I am reading a book called “Silent Spring,” By Rachel Carson. Written in 1962 it was a groundbreaking step for the environmental movement, it’s title and context revolves around the extinction of food and several species of birds, and the gist is it’s pretty much our fault.

Although the book has been challenged and called on the carpet on several topics, (big money and politics surrounding the pros and cons of DDT to under mind her writing)… Say what you will, Rachel was right! The Nostradamus of food culture you may say, from breast cancer to the extinction of Passenger Pigeons she predicted the long-term side effects of pesticides and the damage chemical genetic modification brings. How certain birds, mammals and foods would vanish from existence over a short period of time, simply due to our meddling. In the past it’s been our quest for the biggest, plumpest and prettiest food, we have strayed from the truth and skewed our perception about what is the perfect fruit is. Now it is our job to fix that damage, so I wanted to share with you a story… I give you the Marshall Strawberry.

A Lovely Image Of The Marshall Strawberry Courtesy Of Leah At Marshall Strawberry .com

A Lovely Image Of The Marshall Strawberry Courtesy Of Leah At Marshall Strawberry .com

About a hundred years ago a sweet petite strawberry garnered top attention in the food world. Named after its creator Marshall Ewell, he discovered a seedling by chance, he introduced it to the world in 1893 at a fair in Marshfield Hills Massachusetts and sold a majority of his first plants to a strawberry farm along the “Salmon Nation” off the San Juan Islands, in Washington State. The Marshall took off like a shot on the West Coast, blessed with testimonials like, “It is a great wonder, one of the deepest red handsomest berries I have ever seen.” “The vines enormous standing at least 20 inches in height.” ~ James Rogers 1893.

Marshall berries fast became the most popular berries in the nation, it’s capital being Oregon’s Willamette Valley and the star of heirloom seed catalogs until the 1940’s. Then by the beginning of World War II, Marshall’s were severely injured by crop diseases that were brought in by other countries. They stopped thriving when we began altering the soil conditions adding chemicals for the diseases causing irreparable damage to the Marshall, but seemed to be able to support other larger modified varieties. By the 1960’s bigger, faster, and (allegedly) better was the era of food, and the Marshall simply vanished… Almost.

Ten years ago the Marshall was deemed one of the 5 most important endangered foods, no plants could be located to be propagated or seeds located to be planted. One perfect strain of the Marshall was conserved at the USDA’s National Clonal Germplasm Repository in Corvallis Oregon, and there it slept until 2007… enter the heroine.

Leah Gauthier is an intermedia and relational artist from Bloomington Indiana. Her love of food and history inspired her to write a letter to the repository and simply ask for some. Since she was using them for her food and not experimenting on them, they happily sent her a few of the runners off the original “mother” plant.  After 6 years those little plants have produced 600 more little ones, and now Leah is making them available to the public.  I read about them in an article on Beekman1802.com, which inspired me to become a mom to this very rare plant. Let me tell you once you see them, you know how special they really are. Each baby Marshall Strawberry is individually numbered with a metal tag, shipped overnight in tiny mesh bags, included with a personalized letter and instructions. A treasured plant I will be treating like a pet, and any runners will be preserved in my garden or given as a gifts with their history attached.

After Performing A Bit Of Microsurgery To Get Them Out Of The Box They Are Free And Ready To Be Potted.

After Performing A Bit Of Microsurgery To Get Them Out Of The Box They Are Free And Ready To Be Potted. They Arrive Healthy Wrapped In These Little Bags And Numbered.

I have number 180 and 181 out of 600 berry plants in existence.

I have number 180 and 181 out of 600 berry plants in existence.

Leah, The Beekman Boys and I don’t want to be the only one to pick up the charge for the Marshall berries. If we want them to survive we all need to help. Even David Karp the self titled “fruit detective.” A writer for the New York Times and Gourmet Magazine has his doubts about its preservation and how it struggles to survive he says, “it’s a struggle to find any producers willing to maintain the exquisite Marshall Strawberry.” “Too many farms are wrapped up in 21st Century dependence on chemically intensive agricultural systems for them to thrive.”

Just Unpacked My Marshall's Sit In The Sun Resting Until I Put Them Into Pots...

Just Unpacked My Marshall’s Sit In The Sun Resting Until I Put Them Into Pots…

Now heres the rub, if you choose to get in on the revival, it’s not a cheap endeavor to purchase an endangered plant. At $30.00 per plant plus overnight shipping, you may cringe, but over time I truly believe it will be worth it and the berries will pay for themselves. From everything I have read they are the sweetest berries ever to have existed and I for one cannot wait for them to grow up, and produce fruit.

Please go to marshallstrawberry.com to buy your own. If you do please leave a comment here with your numbers, we can all connect together and be berry brothers.

“You will be helping to ensure a diverse and healthy food supply and to make sure this rare and delicious strawberry is available for future generations to enjoy.” ~ Leah Gauthier

I think Rachel Carson is smiling down at us happy about saving the Marshall, and would be inspired in the fact that we are bringing back the sounds of spring.

~ Amy Wexler

Welome Little Strawberries You Will Live Indoors Until It's Nice And Warm...

Welome Little Strawberries You Will Live Indoors Until It’s Nice And Warm…

References:

Renewing Americas Food Traditions by Gary Paul Nabhan

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson 1962

Beekman1802.com and

Marshallstrawberry.com