Spread Joy with a Heart Tree

In 2010, I read an article in StyleBlueprint about a heart tree created by my smart and beautiful friend, Martha Ivester. I’ve been thinking about “hearting a tree” ever since. Last week, Martha posted instructions for how to make the heart pillows on Facebook. It was just the inspiration I needed to get started.

The tradition of hearting a tree started at Martha’s former church, The Parish of the Epiphany, in Winchester, Massachusetts. At first, parishioners hearted a tree by their church. Soon after, parishioners started hearting trees anonymously at night at the homes of friends and shut-ins who needed a boost of good cheer.

“The most important aspect of making hearts is to gift them to someone,” said Martha. “One of my favorite memories of Nashville was the year eight moms and their children gathered together for two mornings of heart-making for friends who needed cheering up. We hearted a tree for a friend who lost a parent, for another who had a sick child, and for another who was going through treatment for cancer. The experience created a sweet moment of community and connection.” Martha currently lives in Copenhagen and still hangs hearts in front of her house for Valentine’s Day.

Thus inspired, I decided it was a good weekend to spread a little winter cheer on my street. My first task was to find a heart template; Google to the rescue! I chose two different sized hearts- a stout one and a long one. The stout heart image came from here.

I printed the hearts onto 8″ x 11″ sheets of card stock.

By the time I made the hearts and filled them with fiber, they looked like this sizewise.

Next, I searched the house for fabric. I recycled a bright orange tee-shirt,

a few of my husband’s tired-looking cotton shirts,

my kids’ old bandanas, and leftover fabric from various craft projects. The only item I had to purchase were the three bags of polyester filling.

To get started, lay out a piece of folded-over fabric with right sides facing each other. Trace the heart image onto the wrong side of the fabric with a marker. I aimed to get 3-5 hearts from each piece of fabric.

Next, use straight pins to hold the two pieces of fabric together before cutting them.

Sew the hearts together, leaving a two-inch opening on one edge of the heart. Be sure to double back over the stitching, so the stitches don’t unravel.

Using sharp scissors, cut little slits into the seam allowance around the heart’s curved edges to make it easier for the heart to lay flat once it is turned right side out.

Do the same around the pointed edge of the heart.

Turn the fabric right side out. Use a slim, smooth, pointy object to push out the point of the heart. I used the dull end of a paintbrush.

Fill each heart with polyester fiber.

Sew up the opening from where you inserted the filling.

I traced the heart image onto 15 hearts, then pinned all of them, then cut, sewed, snipped, turned them right side out, stuffed them with fiber, and hand-sewed all the openings shut — assembly-line style. It helped speed up the construction process.

Cut 36-inch strips of heavy-duty string to hang the hearts on the trees. I chose a thick cotton yarn that would not snap when tugged at. I used an embroidery needle to poke through the pillow and make the knot.

Martha likes to finger knit or crochet a chain-stitched string with colorful yarns when she makes hearts.

Attach a pillow to each end of the string.

Hang them on a tree and brighten someone’s day, including your own!

PS: No worries if your fabric print comes out upside down!

PPS: You may notice that the heart-opening is at the top of the heart in some of the photos. After I made the first few hearts, I moved the opening to the side of the heart. It was much easier to sew up that way.

Related Stories:
My Favorite Rollout Butter Cookies

 How to Make Royal Icing and Decorate Cookies

Chocolate Birthday or Valentine’s Day Cake

Lily’s Red Velvet Cake

Follow Judy’s Chickens on Instagram and Pinterest @JudysChickens.

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© 2014-2021 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may not be reproduced without the written consent of Judy Wright.

Seed Starting in Recycled Milk Jugs @JudysChickens

Last spring, while visiting my friend Mary’s vegetable garden, I spied this group of milk jugs planted with vegetable seedlings.

Mary said she started using recycled milk jugs to start seeds when she saw another gardener doing so. We, gardeners, enjoy learning from each other!

The beauty of milk jug sprouting is once you plant seeds, moisten the soil, and tape up the sides, you can pretty much ignore the emerging seedlings until they are ready to be transplanted; no need for babysitting. The almost closed system keeps moisture in and uses the warmth of sunlight to nudge seeds from dormancy to germination. It is an efficient, green, portable, fun, easy-peasy way to start seeds.

I left Mary’s garden and headed home; I had an idea. A murder of crows had been invading my little backyard corn patch, digging up most of the seedlings as they sprouted.

By the way, the birds were after the kernel, not the green blades which they left behind. Arghhh. This bummed me out because I was nearing the end of my prized stash of Kentucky Rainbow Heirloom Dent Corn from Susana Lein’s Salamander Springs Farm in Berea, Kentucky.

Planting seeds in jugs seemed like the perfect way to grow a quick and controlled crop to replace what I had lost. I cut two jugs in half, filled them with dirt, seeds, and water, and taped them up.

Eleven days later, I opened the jugs and planted the bushy seedlings.

I covered the bed with shade cloth to keep all marauders out.

It took about one minute for a crow to pull out the first seedling when I uncovered the bed. I set up a perimeter of string and dangling, flashy CD’s.

And an owl.

The plants did well. They grew as high as an elephant’s eye.

Eventually, I harvested and cooked the delicious, earthy-tasting ears.

Why do I love this corn? It is unusually savory instead of sweet. I love to roast the ears with a little olive oil and salt and cut the kernels off the cob. YUM!
 

The story doesn’t end there. (Does it ever?)

When I was cleaning out my garden tote in mid-October, I found these moldy, sprouting ears of Kentucky dent corn. I couldn’t throw them out.

I took one and stuck it in a recycled half-gallon jug.

I expected it to rot. Instead, it took off! I was thrilled by the unexpected growth from the individual kernels of corn on the cob. Many months later, the little jug garden is still thriving.

The scientist in me had to see if the sprouted cob was a fluke or if the results could be reproducible. I planted a two-year-old cob I had saved to show students an example of incomplete pollination. It, too, took off.

Plant a Seed with a Child and Share the Thrill of Growing Food Together

Milk jug gardening can be a fun, inexpensive, educational activity to do with children. Imagine how impactful it could be for a child to bring homegrown food to the dinner table, even if it’s only a few leaves of parsley or radish sprouts.

Free seeds for growing food can be obtained from seed exchanges at public libraries across the country.

During COVID, the Nashville Public Library Seed Exchange has let residents check out seeds online and pick them up curbside at one of their branches. This is what the seed bank looks like at one of the branches.

The seeds are donated by local gardeners. Members of one local non-profit, The Herb Society of Nashville, save seeds from their home gardens and get together seasonally to package them.

How to Make  a Milk Jug Greenhouse:

Supplies:

clean, plastic milk jugs (gallon and half-gallon sizes)
scissors
store-bought seed-starter dirt or the richest dirt you can find outside
a shovel or cup to spoon dirt into jugs
blue or masking tape
a marker
seeds
water

Instructions:

1. Using scissors, cut around the base of a clean jug about 4 inches from the bottom, leaving the plastic under the handle uncut to serve as a hinge for the greenhouse’s upper half.

2. Fill the jug with 3-4 inches of dirt. I have had good results using dirt from my garden. You could also buy bags of clean seed-starting potting soil.

3. Plant the seeds of your choice. It is fun to try seeds you may have in the house. I cut open a lemon, pulled out five seeds, and planted them, as well as a few cloves of garlic.

They all sprouted and continue to grow. I transplanted the garlic outdoors.

Months later, the lemon seedlings are still going strong!

4. Dribble water into each container until the soil is damp but not sopping wet. I do not put drainage holes in the bottom so I can bring the containers indoors.

5. Close the hinged top and tape around the cut edges of the plastic. Leave the jug spout uncovered for a little air circulation.

6. Label the container.

7. Place greenhouses outside if warm or inside in a sunny window if cold. After I planted the corn seeds, I went out of town for a week and left them untended. The seedlings flourished in my absence.

Radishes are good to grow if you want to see quick results but know that they do not transplant well. Keep the seedlings growing in the jug and encourage children to snip the greens to put in a salad or use in a sandwich.

Sowing seeds, tending plants, and harvesting food and flowers produce feelings of great satisfaction, joy, and wonderment while nourishing the body, mind, and spirit. Milk jug gardening is a fun and portable way to get started.

Happy Gardening!

Related Stories
How to Build a 4 x 4 Raised Garden Bed
Spring Planting Guide for Your Kitchen Garden
Growing and Cooking Sweet Potatoes!
Lemon Tree Very Pretty
Family Dirt
Asteraceae: My Favorite Family of Pollinator Plants
How To Curbside Recycle

Follow Judy’s Chickens on Instagram and Pinterest @JudysChickens.

If you enjoyed this post, consider becoming a follower. Be sure to press “confirm” on the follow-up letter sent to your email address.

© 2014-2021 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may not be reproduced without the written consent of Judy Wright.

How To Curbside Recycle

I recently watched the holiday edition of Nashville’s How to Recycle Right webinar. Specifically, it was about what could and couldn’t go into a curbside recycling bin in Nashville. It explained a lot of the Whys and Why Nots of recycling.

These statistics caught my attention and have inspired me to become more informed and intentional about recycling:

  • 80% of all waste goes into a landfill. Landfills have no value.
  • 12% of waste gets recycled. Recycled trash gives new value.
  • 8% of waste gets composted. Composted matter gives new value.

Waste management and the concept of recycling to make new products is an extensive topic. This post addresses what can and can’t go into our curbside recycling bins and WHY. Check with your city’s waste management website for specifics for your area. For example, Nashville no longer has a buyer for dairy recyclables, so they now need to go into the landfill bin.

Recyclers all need to know this — recyclables are ultimately placed on a conveyor belt where they are inspected by humans who pull off unacceptable materials and put them into bins destined for landfills.

Here are items that get rejected and why:

Wrapping paper, ribbons, bows, anything with glitter: these items have minute particles of plastic and metal that can not be recycled by paper mills. An alternative is to save and reuse them.

Soiled pizza boxes: any cardboard that is soiled with food, cooking oil, or water can cause mold while sitting in the recycle bin. Mold weakens fibers in cardboard making it unusable by a recycling paper mill. The clean portion of a pizza box can go into the recycling bin; the soiled part needs to go into a landfill bin or your compost pile.

Plastic grocery and trash bags: these muck up the system by getting entwined around conveyor belt gears, not unlike a string that gets wrapped around the rollers of a vacuum cleaner. Thus, all plastic bags, full or empty, are pulled off the conveyor belt and put into a landfill bin, regardless of what is in them. Even a brown paper bag full of recyclables will be pulled because there is no time to open and check what is inside. Another reason to keep recyclables loose in the recycle bin.

Glass: cannot go in our recycle bins because if the glass breaks, the particles get embedded in cardboard, making it unusable by a paper mill. Also, broken glass can injure staff. Glass can be recycled separately at drop-off recycling centers, or in Nashville, by the non-profit Justice Industries. Check this organization out!

Foil and foil containers: there is very little metal in foil, so it has to go in the landfill bin. No coffee K-cups in the recycle bin, either.

Shredded paper and tissue paper: Too thin; it mucks up the machines. I put shredded paper in my compost heap.

Everything in the recycle bin should be loose and viewable by waste management staff. Whether paper or plastic, all bags of trash will be pulled and placed in the landfill bin. Tragic but true. There is no time for the staff to open and examine the contents.

Ignore the recycle symbol on the package. The numbers inside the triangle refer to the types of chemicals used to make the plastic containers. Clamshells, clear plastic produce containers, and dairy containers cannot go in the recycle bins because Nashville does not have a buyer for that type of plastic.

Anything smaller than two inches cannot go in the recycle bin. This includes plastic and metal bottle caps. However, it is okay to empty a plastic drink bottle and then replace the plastic cap. The same goes for emptied and rinsed laundry jugs and plastic food jars– replace the caps.

I have put some other No-No’s items in the recycle bin in the past, thinking I was responsible: broken plastic toys, metal chicken wire, empty paint cans, random pieces of wood. When in doubt, throw trash in the landfill bin, say the experts.

Here is what can go in a recycling bin in Nashville.

Aluminum or Steel Cans:

  • Drink and food cans ONLY. Please empty and rinse food containers.

No scrap or construction metal. No chains, coat hangers, wires, aerosol cans, pots, and pans, or electronics.

Plastic Bottles, Jugs, and Jars: Keep it simple and remember these are the only plastic items that can go in our recycling bins.

  • Empty drink bottles with lids attached.
  • Empty milk and juice jugs, rinsed with lids attached.
  • Empty plastic food jars, rinsed with lids attached.
  • Empty plastic laundry jugs, rinsed with lids attached.

No prescription medicine bottles, styrofoam, bubble wrap.

Cardboard:

  • Clean and dry cardboard, corrugated cardboard, and cereal boxes.
  • Recycle companies prefer flattened boxes. Tape and labels can remain.

Paper and Cartons:

  • Empty food and drink cartons, rinsed, and dry. Even though cartons for things like broth containers appear waxed, they are not and are okay.
  • Junk mail, newspapers, magazines, paperbacks (not hardcover) are all okay. Envelope windows and staples do not need to be removed.

No padded mailers, even if they have a recycle symbol on them.

Glass:

  • Glass bottles and jars can not go in the recycle bins but can be brought to recycling drop off centers. Labels can remain attached.

Remove all caps, lids, and corks and put them in landfill bins—no windows or mirrors either.

I’m grateful to Waste Reduction Program Manager Jenn Harrman for answering my many questions. I asked her what to do with hard to clean containers, like an empty jug of olive oil. Her response: “You might let it sit upside down for a while into a drip jar or on a pan you plan to use, which will get quite a bit of those remaining drips out, then give it a good rinse, and let it dry. Do the best you can and do put the cap back on.”

She continued, “If you are doing your best without driving yourself crazy over it, you are doing it right. The biggest issues we have comes from bagged recycling, plastic bags, bulky items, scrap metal, construction debris, materials covered in food, and excessive moisture from containers that haven’t been emptied/rinsed at all. The cleaner and drier your recycling is, the better, but don’t sweat it if a few bits of moisture make it into your bin.”

If we all filled our recycling bins with what is recyclable, we could move the dial on increasing the percentage of trash that stays out of the landfill. That has been my goal for the last month since watching this webinar. Should you be inclined, Jenn provided a link to the webinar. Here is the passcode: 1xg3V#2w.

Happy New Year! 

Related Stories:
Seed Starting in Recycled Milk Jugs @JudysChickens
Last Ditch before You Pitch Rotisserie Chicken Soup
How to Make Cork Bulletin Boards
How to Make Gorgeous Birdhouse Gourds
How to Cook a Pumpkin: Roasted and Puréed

Follow Judy’s Chickens on Instagram and Pinterest @JudysChickens.

If you enjoyed this post, consider becoming a follower. Be sure to press “confirm” on the follow-up letter sent to your email address.

© 2014-2020 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may not be reproduced without the written consent of Judy Wright.

How to Spatchcock a Turkey

Different times call for different measures.

This year we do not need this 18-pound centerpiece for the table.

In fact, being #saferathome means my husband and I will be on our own for the Thanksgiving meal. And I am okay with that. If the pandemic has taught me one thing, it is how to manage my expectations.

Meanwhile, we still need 8-quarts of poultry stock and 7 pounds of turkey meat to make our twenty-quart pot of Bruce’s Turkey and Sausage GumboMy adult children and their families look forward to getting their Thanksgiving gumbo in to-go containers every year and it is my pleasure and honor to do this for them. It is my family I am most thankful for in my life.

Since it is 2020 and we have been trying all sorts of new things in every aspect of our lives, I decided it was as good a time as ever for my husband and me to try our hand at spatchcocking a turkey. He was game!

What does spatchcock mean and why do we do it? Spatchcock is a butchering technique where you remove the backbone of poultry. This allows you to open and flatten the chest cavity for faster and more even roasting.

When the bird is turned over, it looks like this.

I cooked this turkey in a 400º oven for 1 hour and 45 minutes. The meat was super moist and the skin was crisp.

The bird weighed 16.5 pounds to start. Once I removed the innards, the wingtips, and the backbone, it weighed 13.5 pounds. After it was roasted and my sweet husband took all the meat off the bones, we had 7 pounds of meat. Each breast provided us with two pounds. The bones all went into the poultry stock that had been simmering all day. I started the stock with frozen rotisserie chicken carcasses from the freezer. Read about that here.

How to spatchcock a turkey.

A Mennonite farmer once told us any job is possible if you have the proper tool. The proper tool for this job is a pair of poultry shears. This is crazy, but we had a pair of these shears in our house and I never knew what they were for. In fact, I almost got rid of them because they were not good at cutting paper when I couldn’t find the scissors I wanted!

Poultry shears have sharp, curved blades helpful for getting into hard to reach places when deboning meat. They remind me of pruning shears – the handles help you get a good grip so you can squeeze down hard as you cut. Plain scissors will work, but there will be a little more huffing and puffing involved.

How to Spatchcock a Turkey

Defrost the bird. Remove the neck and gizzards from inside the two cavities, one on each end of the turkey. Wash the bird inside and out. Pat dry.

Lay the bird breast-side down. The wings should be on top.

Remove the backbone with poultry shears. First, one side of the spine

and then the other. CRUNCH! CRUNCH! CRUNCH!

Save the backbone for the turkey stock.

Flip the bird over and press down on the sternum, aka the breastbone, located between the breasts, as if to do CPR. Repeat, moving your hands down along the sternum, until you no longer hear crunching as you press.

We practiced spatchcocking two different sized turkeys during the week. The smaller one splayed out flatly with just the chest compressions. The larger one needed a little more help to flatten it. My husband turned the breast over and used a meat cleaver to cut into the sternum to split the chest open a little more.

 

.

How to Cook the Bird 

We cooked one in the oven and the other on the grill. I’ll show you the oven method first.

Preheat oven to 400º.

Arrange the bird on a roasting pan. Rub olive oil all over it, top and bottom, and season with a generous amount of salt and garlic pepper. I use McCormick’s Garlic Pepper.

The hottest part of an oven is the two back corners. Place the roasting pan in the oven, so the thick breasts are in the back.

I cooked the bird for an hour and fifteen minutes and then started checking the meat’s temperature every ten minutes. I checked the temperature in many spots — the thickest part of the breast, the thickest part of the thigh, etc. As long as every section registers at least 165º the turkey is safely cooked. I shoot for 160º because, after many years of cooking, I understand the concept of “carryover” heat and know that as the turkey rests, the internal temperature will climb to 165º. The concept is well described in this post.

I let the turkey rest on the counter for about 30 minutes and then poured off and saved the drippings for my poultry stock.

Before I added the drippings to the stock, I poured them into a fat separator to remove the fat.

When my husband and I spatchcocked the other turkey earlier in the week, we cooked it on a grill using indirect heat.

Don’t ask me what got into me; all that frilly seasoning was unnecessary! The flavor profile was a FAIL; too sagey and lemony.

Having said that, it sure was fun to decorate!

And it sounded lovely in all of its crackly glory as it roasted in the grill.

 

That turkey was 13.5 pounds before I opened the sack. It was done in 75 minutes. It was as moist as the oven-roasted turkey.

So, that is the end of my spatchcocking saga. I’ve got my eight quarts of gelatinous poultry stock and seven pounds of turkey meat.

Later this week, I will gather all the ingredients for Bruce’s gumbo and get busy chopping. For now, I’ll rest on my laurels

knowing this is in my future.

The recipe that is trending on my blog this morning is Karen’s Foolproof Make-Ahead GravyIt is delicious!

Happy Thanksgiving, friends! I am grateful to all the folks who read my blog, make the recipes, and write to share their experiences. Thank you. You give me joy!

If you need last-minute instructions on how to cook a few traditional sides and desserts for Thanksgiving, check out Thanksgiving Week on the Menu.

Follow Judy’s Chickens on Instagram and Pinterest @JudysChickens.

If you enjoyed this post, consider becoming a follower. Be sure to press “confirm” on the follow-up letter sent to your email address.

© 2014-2020 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may not be reproduced without the written consent of Judy Wright.