Category Archives: just picked

Cucumber Abundance

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Apparently the cucumbers are more than happy in their new bed. We’ve been getting inundated with them for the past week or so and luckily I don’t think it’s going to stop anytime soon. It feels good to get a good, abundant harvest again. So many other priorities rudely interfered with our usual spring garden routines this year that we’ve been feeling weak in the whole growing department. But look, we have cucumbers. It’s a start.

We planted about five or six different kinds. I’d carefully explain which each variety is, but those tags are buried deep beneath those tangled vines. That will have to wait for another time. Needless to say, they are all good and I’m so enjoying eating them. And infusing them into gin for martinis. There’s that too.

We’ve been thinking about doing a big fall garden this year. Last year I read You Can Farm by Joel Salatin. It was a motivating, inspiring, quick reading book. But one thing is said is that if you want to be a farmer, you have to tell your kids that time consuming extracurricular activities are out, especially baseball. Now that I lived through two boys on two different Little League teams during one spring season, I can see what he meant. If you want to focus on building your land up as a profitable, you can’t waste those hours doing things that aren’t building up the farm. However, we are not intending to be farmers, but a family who lives in the country with a big garden. I want my kids to be able to play sports if they are driven to do so. But man, that did put a giant big kink in our spring garden habits, as I’ve mentioned before. Well that and deck building and business trip taking (to Norway none the less!). Luckily we live where we do and we can grow a lush garden in fall too. And so, this weekend after a hectic spring and a free, though busy summer, we’ve allotted to getting the beds ready. Wish us luck!

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Spring in the Asparagus Patch

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For the first day of Spring, I thought it only appropriate that I show you pictures of asparagus. It has been coming up for a few weeks and the wee one and I go check on it every couple of days. For the record, this is not how you should be keeping your asparagus patch. I know that. Though the asparagus spears may look pretty emerging out of weeds and we may feel like wild foragers searching for it, asparagus likes a nice weed free, well composted and mulched growing bed. Do as we say, not as we do, friends. This winter we got too caught up in tasks that weren’t related to asparagus patch weeding. Sorry asparagus, next year we’ll do better for you.

The kids aren’t so hot on eating asparagus, which is surprising, because they aren’t picky. You can sneak a lot over on my kids, though, by pickling whatever their vegetable foe is. So I did a quick pickle by heating up 1/3c. water + 1/3c. white vinegar and a dash of salt. Into the half pint jar I put asparagus tips, one peeled clove of garlic, some fresh tarragon, and a few red pepper flakes. I poured the hot vinegar mixture over it and when it cooled I put it in the fridge. In previous years I’ve canned them in a hot water bath, but since we only had enough for one jar that day, we’re keeping it for immediate eating. Yum.

Happy Spring!

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Walnuts : : A Tough Nut to Crack

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The walnut harvest is upon us. I can’t remember how many walnut trees we have, but there’s a bunch of them out there. All in varying degrees of maturity and health. All in all, we’ve been getting around four full grocery bags of walnuts every year. We eat the vast majority of them, give some away and send some to our children’s school for their walnut cracking activity.

My dad and his siblings grew up on a farm with a large walnut orchard. He and his brother and sisters always had to help with the walnut harvest each fall. One time when my dad came to visit he asked how the walnuts were, picked one up, put it between his two palms and cracked it’s hard shell open with his bare hands! Oy! As for Scott and I? We use hammers to open them.

After you harvest them out of their hull, you need to let the walnuts dry for about two weeks before boxing or bagging them up, otherwise they’ll rot. Don’t ask me how I know this. With all these trees worth of walnuts, this takes a huge amount of space, so you’ll find all our outside tables and the floor of our garage covered at this time of year. After a few weeks, we bag them up and wait for a quiet day when we can all sit around and crack them.

Walnuts are super healthy for you, full of mono-unsaturated fats, Vitamin E, Omega-3 oil and all sorts of other good things your body needs. We use them in cookies, for eating plain, in salads, banana breads and granola. Sometimes I carmelize them with maple syrup in the cast iron skillet for snacks. They all get used eventually. This year I want to experiment with making a walnut butter out of them. We go through so much almond butter, I wonder if this would make a good substitute. Has anyone tried making their own walnut butter before? Maybe walnut milk?

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grape harvests inside and outside the fenceline

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If you were to look outside our windows this morning these are views you would see. It’s harvest time in our neck of the woods. In case you aren’t familiar with wine grape harvesting, they do it in the middle of the night when sugar and acid levels in the grapes are the most stable. It’s also much more favorable conditions for the work crew as temperatures can still get blazing hot during the day. It’s an exciting time around here, tractors and giant trucks carrying grapes are a constant on the road (usually right in front of you, going a third of the speed limit). Soon, maybe in another month the smell of fermenting grapes will hit you as you drive by wineries. This is a good time of year.

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On our side of the fence line, we have our fair share of grapes, but not wine grapes. We have various types of table grapes growing. They faired much more productive than our poor Concord grapes so we decided to turn our excess into juice. Unlike with apple cider making, you don’t have to grind the grapes before you press them, which makes grape juice making much quicker. The hardest part was picking out the bad grapes from each bunch and making sure we had washed off all the spiders. Ick! But then we just loaded up the press and twisted and twisted and cranked that handle until we had pitchers of juice.

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My initial intention was to can our excess juice, but it was too good, we drank it all right away. Maybe next year we’ll show more restraint and have it last longer. But for this year, we enjoyed every drop of that nectar.

As I said, this is a good time of year!

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Baked Chiles Rellenos, Corn Harvest & Ponds

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The baked chiles rellenos turned out great! We have chili rellenos a few times during the summer and they are without a doubt one of my favorite dinners. But they are a lot of work! This was a nice alternative and I could make it early in the day and pop it in the oven after soccer practice. It’s especially nice when your husband comes home early and makes a peach pie to bake with it! Anyway, recipe for baked chiles rellenos here.
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We harvested all the corn this weekend. Five portions went into the freezer and the rest went into dinner.
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The sunflower plant growing next to the corn just fell over. Much to bees dismay we cut off all the blooms and brought them inside.
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Scott woke up yesterday and decided we needed a pond. A bunch of excited boys and a few hours later we have a pond. I’ll show you more pictures soon.
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While the boys were out digging, the girl and I decided to finally, finally sew this little top I’ve had cut out for months. Instead of sleeves I made it sleeveless (this was supposed to be a summer shirt!), with bias bounding. It turned out cute and if luck is on our side it will fit next spring too. She grew five (!) inches in the last year, so she’d better get as much use out of it now.

Don’t forget, today is the last day of the $50 Pharmaca giveaway. Enter, enter, enter!

How was your weekend?

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Take Better Care

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I just have a moment to write. I have dinner that’s ready to come out of the oven…if it’s good, I’ll share the recipe as it’s helping use up all the excess eggs & chilis we have coming in.
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Thank you for those who agreed that chocolate is health food.
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We picked our poor neglected concord grapes the other day. Note to self: 5lbs of grapes = 2.3 measly half-pints of jam, take better care of grapes next year.
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beans and wheat

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I so appreciated all your comments on your experiences cutting things out of your diet. I think it’s so interesting how experimenting with cutting just one thing out of your diet can make such an effect on the way you feel. If you haven’t yet tried eliminating anything from your eating habits, you might consider giving it a try. Just for a week at least, just to see if you detect any changes. Even if you don’t think you have any problems to fix. Maybe (hopefully if it’s a food you like) you won’t feel any different, but maybe, as some people have written, it will eliminate some headaches or joint pain or asthma. You never know until you try, right?

After at least 20 days off of wheat, I think I can say that giving up wheat for me personally, doesn’t make a huge difference. Well, it certainly has eliminated my spring allergy sore throat, but I think I’ve actually gained weight this month! I was hoping to get rid of a pound or two as we’ve been thrown full swing into swim suit season, but instead my shorts and tank tops are fitting a wee bit tighter! Maybe it’s from substituting corn chips & nuts instead of crackers and bread.

My son’s asthma is still active, but still seems less active than normal. My daughter’s eczema, which is the entire reason we’ve started this experiment hasn’t been eased at all. Poor thing.

Maybe we haven’t been eating wheat but we have been eating from the garden! After parenting three toddler’s we can say that shelling beans (these are favas) can hold a two-year-old’s attention a surprisingly long time!

Thanks for your diet comments, keep them coming!

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