Now that spring is officially here, everyone at the farm is busy with many spring-cleaning projects, including cleaning the woodlands, pruning various trees, and washing all the windows of all the houses - inside and out.
During the year, debris and film can build-up on windows, sills and tracks. Windows should be dusted and washed regularly to keep them sparkling clean. For my windows, I like to use a white vinegar and water solution. Vinegar safely kills germs and is much more economical than chemical cleaners - plus, it’s completely non-toxic and anti-bacterial.
My housekeeping crew has made a lot of progress with this time-consuming chore. Here are some photos. What spring-cleaning projects are underway in your home? Share your comments below.
Some of the first windows to get cleaned this year are those in my Tenant House, where my daughter and grandchildren stay when they visit.
Carlos is busy cleaning the inside of the windows on this cold day.
My windows are dusted regularly, but a film caused by air pollutants that hit the window can accumulate.
A good all-natural cleaning solution using a mixture of equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle will clean them well.
Spray a small amount on each pane, being careful not to spray directly on the frames. Choose a time of day when the sun is not shining directly on the windows. The heat from the sun can cause the cleaning fluid to dry, which will result in streaks or water spots.
Carlos wipes the vinegar-water solution around entire window with a damp washcloth, making sure to get into the corners.
This can take some time, especially if there are lots of panes in the windows, but it is well-worth the effort to get them sparkling clean.
Carlos follows up with a dry cloth. Always wipe the windows completely dry to avoid any more film from accumulating.
And then he wipes the pane again with a microfiber or lint-free cloth to prevent streaks.
It’s a good idea to use rubber gloves when doing any chores to protect the hands.
My storm windows are still in place in all the houses – soon, these windows will be removed and cleaned and then put away for the season. The outside of the regular windows will be washed afterwards – all in time for Easter.
My Summer House windows are also on the list to be cleaned.
Fernando gently sprays a little vinegar-water solution on each pane.
And follows up with the wet cloth, dry cloth and lint-free cloth.
Downstairs, Carlos also wipes the frames and the hardware.
And, don’t forget to get up high – all areas of the window are important.
Sanu is doing the windows in the Winter House.
She is also careful to wipe all the tight corners.
As well as the window sill, head and jams – here, Sanu wipes the sill with a damp cloth.
The windows look so clean, shiny and as fresh as spring itself.
Next – the many windows of my blog studio.
Remember, there are lots of great cleaning tips in my “Homekeeping Handbook: The Essential Guide to Caring for Everything in Your Home”. Everyone should have a copy. http://www.amazon.com/Martha-Stewarts-Homekeeping-Handbook-Everything/dp/0517577003
Many pruning chores are underway at my Bedford, New York farm.
Yesterday's temperatures were relatively mild here in the Northeast - the bright sun melted more of the snow from last week's Winter Storm Stella. It was a good time to prune the row of Osage orange trees that line a fence near my tennis court. The Osage orange, Macular pomifera, is not an orange at all, and is more commonly known as hedge apple, bowwood, or bodark. The fruit is wrinkly and bumpy in appearance, and considered inedible because of the texture and taste, but they're very interesting and fun to grow.
Enjoy these photos.
Along one side of my North Maple Paddock by the run-in shed, I have a row of Osage orange trees. Despite the name, it is actually a member of the fig family.
There are a handful of taller Osage orange trees and about 300-saplings we planted several years ago.
These trees must be pruned regularly to keep it in bounds. It is a fast grower – the shoots of a single year can grow up to three to six feet long. Here is Chhewang pruning one of the taller specimens.
The branches are armed with stout, straight spines. Before the invention of barbed wire in the 1880s, hedges were constructed by planting young Osage orange trees closely together.
Because of the thorny branches, it is important to wear protective glasses, long sleeves and thick gloves when working with these trees.
This is how the Osage orange tree looks when it is all leafed out. It is a small deciduous tree or large shrub.
The Osage orange produces a large, warty, inedible fruit that has a distinctive orange aroma.
When mature, the Osage orange fruit, is filled with a sticky latex sap, which has been found to repel insects.
Here is one of the trees bearing several fruits a couple years ago. The leaves are three to five inches long and about three-inches wide. They are thick, firm, dark green and pale green. In autumn, the leaves turn bright yellow.
We prune these trees yearly. Without pruning, Osage orange trees grow in dense unruly thickets as multi-stemmed shrubs.
Chhewang prunes out competing leaders, retaining only one strong upright with evenly-spaced branches.
One of the tools Chhewang likes to use is my Martha Stewart long-handled tree pruner from one of my past gardening collections – these trusted tools are long-lasting and durable.
Chhewang also uses this longer, 10-foot long tree pruner, to cut taller branches that are more difficult to reach, especially because of the sharp thorns.
Chhewang removes dead or damaged branches and any crossing branches that rub against each other.
The Osage orange tree is native to North America. It is said that the Osage Indians made hunting bows from the beautiful hard wood of this tree.
In this tree, Chhewang found a small bird’s nest. A bird was smart to build it here where it was protected from predators because of the thorns.
The heavy, close-grained yellow-orange wood is very dense and is prized for tool handles, treenails, and fence posts. It also withstands rot.
Osage orange trees can reach a mature size of up to 40-feet tall with an equal spread.
Although it is difficult to see, this Osage orange tree has been well-pruned and will look very pretty when its leaves return.
I hope these trees produce a good amount of fruits this autumn.
This year, because my busy calendar called for several meetings at our New York City headquarters, I decided to host a fun holiday luncheon for our entire staff - complete with corned beef, cabbage, potatoes and of course, our own version of the traditional Irish soda bread. I got a large beef brisket from Pat LaFrieda, and began preparing it about a week in advance, so it could corn for several days - the term comes from the ancient processes invented for preserving meat by packing it in salt or soaking it in a concentrated brine.
I received this amazing beef brisket from my friend, Pat LaFrieda, and decided to corn it myself in time for St. Patrick’s Day. http://www.lafrieda.com/
Here I am in my kitchen trimming some of the fat off the brisket.
I made the brine mix using kosher salt, sugar, garlic, pickling spices, and pink curing salt, or sodium nitrite.
My brine recipe was inspired by one I recently saw in The New York Times – it is for a four-to-five pound brisket. Here are the cloves of garlic, smashed and then placed in a large pot with about a gallon of water over high heat.
Our brisket was much larger – more than 20-pounds, so I needed to make a lot of brine to cover.
Here I am pouring a pot of brine over the brisket. It is so large, we needed to use a plastic storage bin for brining.
I also added two cinnamon sticks for additional flavor. And my secret ingredient – four bottles of Corona beer, which added a delicious sweetness to the brine.
The liquid was allowed to cool before I placed the brisket in the bin. I used a winter squash grown right here at my farm inside a plastic bag, to weigh down the brisket, so it was completely submerged in the brine.
I placed it covered in the refrigerator for six-days, turning it once every day.
On the sixth day, I took the brisket to our office headquarters in New York City, where it was rinsed in cool water and simmered with vegetable broth for at least five-hours.
We used 20 large carrots cut into these big three-inch pieces.
Thee parsnips are from my farm. They were dug up earlier in the week from my outdoor vegetable garden.
We used two large green cabbages.
Once the corned beef was cooked, all the fat was trimmed off.
Here are the carrots and onions that cooked with the corned beef – all of it was removed from the pot.
And then the vegetables were par-boiled in the broth of the corned beef, so it could absorb all the rich flavors. It is important to make sure the cabbage is really tender.
The carrots and parsnips were also finished and par-boiled in the broth. Depending on how much you are cooking, this could take about 10-15 minutes.
The corned beef was then sliced for serving – so tender and delicious.
And then transferred back into the broth to keep warm. You can also place the corned beef into a serving vessel and pour some of the broth on top to keep it warm.
Here I am joined by members of our test kitchen team: Josefa Palacios, Lauren Tyrell, Kavita Thirupuvanam, and Geri Porter.
This delicious rendition of Irish soda bread is from our newest book, “A New Way to Bake: Classic Recipes Updated with Better-for-You Ingredients from the Modern Pantry” – in bookstores next week. It’s called Soda Bread with Currants and Caraway.
We served the delicious bread with Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter – it was so very, very good. Did you see my post on my Instagram page @MarthaStewart48?
The potatoes were cooked separately – par-cooked and finished in the same liquid from the corned beef.
We served the corned beef with freshly grated horseradish, prepared horseradish, Dijon mustard and country mustard.
About 50-employees came rushing into the test kitchen for lunch and stood patiently in line.
Everyone was so excited to partake of this delicious meal!
Here is Greg Lofts, our senior food editor.
Look, the Irish soda bread was a big hit! We all had such a great time. How did you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? Let me know in the comments section below.