Monday, July 30, 2012

Time to Make Some Lists

Mark and Evan left early this morning to go for a bike ride down to the river. They plan to do some fishing and swimming. Tristan will probably head to the smithy this morning. This means that I am left to my own devices for a couple of hours. 

This time of year there seems so much to do. The garden is putting out some good food but the weeds are taking over. The inside of the house seems to be in a constant state of near disaster. It is a very small home and this time of year there seems no good way to keep it tidy for very long periods of time.

Now that we are nearing the end of July our thoughts are stretching toward the fall. Mark has decided to teach for one more year while he builds the performance part of his small business. He has been performing a lot this summer. June had 6 gigs and July has had as many.  He is now scheduling into September. I may be watching a friend's son for the school year as she heads back to work.  Evan begins 1st grade as a homeschooler. Tristan is beginning college prep this fall as he starts looking at art schools where he can grow his blacksmithing skills.

Meanwhile the work of home still beckons.  The work of the season is really upon us and I think it is time that I make some lists. When those things that need to be done are put in a nice orderly way they do not seem so overwhelming.

To-do List;


Till the soil in the cold frame, amend the soil and figure out the lights for it.
Go blueberry picking at the U-pick.
Process those berries.
Buy sweet corn at the feed store. 5 dozen for 28.00.
Process the corn.
prepare empty spots in garden for spinach.
order meat birds
upgrade and improve security of chicken tractor
turn the compost pile
put a cedar post in the ground to hang bird feeders from.
weed and put down more mulch

Start tackling each room with the aim of decluttering, de-spidering
Make an insulated curtain for our bedroom's sliding glass door
Finish the last bit of painting in Evan's room
organize cold room for fall crop storage, make a cinder block shelf behind the door for added storage.
I think I would like to find either a new shelf or cabinet for the kitchen to try to get a little more organized.

Make some draft snakes
finish Mark's new sweater
new sweater for Mark
finish the nieces's and nephew's birthday hats.
Make myself a new apron, I am inspired by this beauty!

Well, phew this seems enough for now.

So what is on your to-do list?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Kale Pesto

Early one morning  I was slowly waking up. The sun was shining through the window warming our room quickly. The kids were downstairs goofing around. I could hear their laughter over some Captain Underpants book. It was that in between time before I was fully awake and prepared to put my feet to the floor and savoring the remnants of a dream. A thought occurred to me...kale pesto, I wonder if there is such a thing.

My first inclination was to hit the cookbooks. I did not find any kale pesto recipes but I did learn from Sally Fallon's, Nourishing Traditions that kale provides calcium, iron, carotenoids. She also states that kale should always be eaten cooked;which I did not know. The reason is that kale's oxalic acid is neutralized in cooking.

Next,I googled for recipes and found many great, simple recipes that substitute kale for basil. But I was looking for something a little different.  Whenever I think of kale, I like to think of it's super food potential and pair it with other equally healthy ingredients. So this morning I took a walk out to the garden to harvest some kale and play around with a recipe.

This recipe includes some flaked dulse, a seaweed high in iron and many other great minerals. Maine Coast Sea Vegetables provides a great, easy to use and local  dulse. I substitute it for salt, sprinkle it on salads or throw it in a soups. But if you do not like the taste of seaweed you can use sea salt.

Parsley is also a really good super food. Last fall I was going through some health issues and my local herbalist suggested a tea make from parsley. Her suggestion was to drink  the tea until I could stand it no more. It really helps during those times when I feel a little depleted.

Kale Pesto

1/2 cup roasted sunflower seeds
1/4 fresh, minced or 2 table spoons dried parsely
4-6 cloves minced garlic ( we like a lot of garlic:)
1/4 -1/2 cup olive oil
dash of lemon juice,
4 cups steamed kale
1-2 table spoons of flaked dulse or salt to taste

The flavor is more earthy than a traditional pesto. This made about four 1/2 pints that I put in the freezer. I think I will use this a spreads for sandwhiches. I think this would taste really good with some sprouts and yogurt cheese. For a little extra zing you might try adding some onion too!


Monday, July 23, 2012

Independence Days Challenge Update, Here Comes the Harvest

All of a sudden it is here. Each day brings a bounty of piles being hauled into the house. Broccoli, peas, soon to be beans. Smells of garlic and herbs are infused into my skin. Often I find myself commenting about how much more this growing season is providing us than last year. Truly grateful and not a little boastful that my efforts are paying off. We really are saving a lot of money from our garden this year.

Planted:  Summer Cabbage, beets, cabbage, lettuce. I am filling in those empty spaces with succession crops this year; first, so I don't have to weed those spots  and second, so I can hold off eating what we put up by extending the season.

Harvest:  peas,broccoli, lettuce, garlic, shallots,dill,basil,cilantro, carrots,beets, oregano, 2 grape tomatoes...yum;)

Preserve: pickled beets, dill pickles, mustard, fermented pickles,peas and broccoli

Local food: local milk, local sausage, cukes for pickling ( mine had a catastrophic invasion)

Eat the food: fermented pickles are going fast. I only made three quarts. We don't have a good cool spot for them this time of year so that we can slow down the fermentation when we want to.  So after living on the counter for 4 days we ate one quart, put 2 in the fridge. A local farmer told me that in July the cukes go fast because folks wait all year for them. August the farmer is inundated with cukes but folks don't buy too many of them. Then folks remember the season is at an end and rush to buy the last ones. I think I will buy some in late August to ferment pickles for longer keeping. But for now we are enjoying our first successful fermented pickles. YUM!

Waste not: I am using cultures from some purchased lebnah ( kefir cheese) to make some kefir. We are expanding our seed saving efforts the lazy person's way. I have let some lettuce, chard and a few garlic scapes go to seed. I will havest the garlic bubils to plant as garlic grass next year. I hope to let the chard and lettuce  self sow next spring.

Want not: I found a nice glass carboy at an estate sale. We want to make some cider from our apples this year.  I found a winter jacket at the Goodwill for Evan.  Bottled the dandelion wine, racked off the mead and the strawberry wine.

Learn something new:  I made some mustard. The results were great. I will share a recipe soon. It is definitely worth making and canning your own mustard. The quality is excellent and the savings considerable.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Playing with Food

I love this time of year. I open the freezer and find it no longer has an echo. The shelves in the cold room are starting to fill with colorful jars. Each morning brings in more herbs than the dehydrator can hold. A trip to the farmer's market is a feast for the senses:  colorful produce, samples of cheese, music played by my husband:)

As I progress through the summer I have to temper my enthusiasm for food preservation with some wisdom.  There  have been years when I have made a couple dozen pints of rhubarb chutney that were not all consumed. In my defense, we used to grow pigs;  rhubarb chutney is really good on pork. Just not that much.  I have learned to grow foods that can be preserved just the way they are: onions, carrots, beets, rutabaga,potatoes and winter squash. These go into cold corners and the cold room. I still do some canning;  jams, jellies, tomato stuffs, applesauce, pickles, I am just more choosey about what I can. Just because something can be canned doesn't mean it should be. We gotta eat it too!

Last year I took a class at Koviashuvik on lacto-fermentation. We like to play with fermentation in our house. Mark makes beer. I make wine, apple cider vinegar and sourdough. We enjoyed some kimchi last winter. This year I want to try making some small batches for consuming in the fall. So yesterday I made some dill sour pickles to try later in August. If the troops like them then I have enough time to make some more in September before the cucumbers are done for the season. By then the cold room should be cooler and I can store the pickles longer. Fermentation is so much easier to do than canning. Cooler too! (Literally and figuratively speaking)

On my kitchen counter I have mustard seed soaking in vinegar. I am going to try making some mustard today.  We have local makers of mustard. They make very yummy mustard. But like   everything these days it is getting expensive and seems like a luxury more than a condiment. If I could cook my own mustard then I could include seasonal ingredients  as the year progresses. Spring mustard could include maple syrup. Summer mustards could include different herbs from the garden. Some mustards could include fruits like cranberry or blueberry..ooh yum!  If it all works out I will share the recipe

There is one experiment that did not work out so well.  I have an abundance of mint. I thought I could try to make some essential oil. John Green, in his book, The Herbal Medicine Maker's Handbook, had instructions for making a simple still from a pot, a steamer basket and a bowl. I ended up with mint flavored distilled water. I was not able to extract the oil from the water.  But I will try again. I thought I could make some mint oil to include in some lip balm. Try, Try Again.

Ultimately, food preservation is about making the best use of the bounty. I love that it is an evolving process of learning.

So what are you putting up with these days? Are you trying some new things this year? Please share!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

I am humbled...

I recently heard someone say that the perfect garden is the one in your imagination in January. Isn't it easy to feel the allure of lush tomatoes, abundant greens; a perpetual salad bowl right outside your door?  It is this little deception I play with myself every year. It becomes especially enthralling while I am planting little seeds into soil in early spring...before the bugs awaken.

Earlier today while I was in the garden picking peas I was thinking that this post would be filled with all the good things that are doing well in the garden. There is much to boast about. I have never been very lucky with peas. It seemed my germination rate was poor. They would not produce enough to fill quart bags for the freezer. I would hoard them from random boys who would wander into the garden looking for a quick snack. I would, inevitably, buy shelling peas. Those are too expensive to do now. Last time I priced them they were 16.00 for a peck, or two quarts of peas, frozen. Then last spring I noticed that robins would perch on a fence post, swoop down to my pea patch and then flit  away with a new, very tasty pea sprout. This year I covered them up with row cover until they were several inches tall. My germination rate was excellent. I chose an edible pod pea to reap the most calories and the least effort in processing. So far I have collected 6 quarts for the freezer. We have had them in salads and with lunches.

There are some other successes as well. The fertility of my soil has improved greatly. I have a nice patch of beets. Many of the plants in my garden are from seed I started indoors or outside. I have had to buy very few seedlings this year. This feels like a big step towards reducing the cost of gardening and reaping the financial benefit of self sufficiency. We have eaten large green salads. I have more food in my freezer than I did this time last year. Given that this is still early in the season I hope to have a goodly amount of food put up for this winter.

I really should not complain. Relatively speaking it has been a great garden this year. I have learned to plant a fair amount of cold weather crop so that the garden can withstand the wet summers we have had over the last few years. I am learning to adapt to climate change.

But....there is always a but...I have planted cucumbers, winter squash and zuchinni 3 times now.  Each time they grow enough to give me hope they will survive the onslaught of the cucumber beetle; only to find  lacy leaves. I have covered them, spread DE. Short of firebombing, I have tried everything. They are just terrible this year. I think it may be the very warm winter we had last winter. The ground did not get a good freeze last year. This is what happens.  I will probably buy some winter squash from local farmers to keep in the cold room but it will not be a big staple for us this coming winter. Eliot Coleman says that pest and diseases will diminish as the health of the soil improves. I hope to see this theory put to the test over the next few years.

We also have a garden visitor or visitors. I have been planting successive rows of beets. One spot started showing wilted greens. and nibbles on the tops of baby beets. Mice! Last year they enjoyed our potatoes. I have plated the spuds in huglekultures in different spots around the yard this year. The critters have decided perhaps beets are just as tasty. So the other day Evan and I set out a trap with some raisins on it.  We also invited Scuffer cat to wander around the garden.  The trap has not caught anything yet. But the beets are no longer bothered. The local animal shelter is giving away adult cats with all their shots and spayed/neutered. Think it is time for a good barn cat.

So far the garden in in good shape. I can see the improvements over last year in the vibrant health of the greens and the abundant production of the plants. It is not a perfect garden, they never are.  There are always challenges. It is what we gardeners face very year. We commiserate with each other's  woe. We share the bounty. We share our successes with pride. It is life in microcosm each turn of the calendar page....

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


                                        My husband Mark. Mark has started his new website!
                                                                Stop by to hear his music!