Friday, July 31, 2009

Independence Days #12

Strange how this year late July has brought something of a lull in the garden and the kitchen. Blame it on the weather, if you will, since that has held up the progress of some new crops -- and thus of my food preservation plans.

All works out well, however, because I've been so busy with Local Roots projects that I haven't been able to devote much time to the food. (Yes, that is going to have to change!)

So here's this week's Independence Days report:

1. Plant something: Lettuce, spinach, golden beets, and beans in the Southern Belle's garden. We also mulched the new crops so that she has less weeding to worry about in the last few weeks of her pregnancy.

2. Harvest something: Spearmint at the Renaissance Man's garden; zucchini (again!), potatoes, onions, golden chard, basil, and lavender at the Southern Belle's garden.

3. Preserve something: Dried zucchini shreds, broccoli, kale; froze two more pints of corn; canned five half-pint jars of zucchini relish; made herbal honeys with rosemary, thyme; started more herbal tinctures (rosemary, thyme, basil, lavender, rose hip).

4. Reduce waste (Waste not): Cleaned out a few jars from the refrigerator and washed them up for late-season canning; extended the use of the canner water again.

5. Preparation and storage (Want not): Received my order of bottles, jars, and tins -- hooray! Also ordered and received the first equipment for starting seeds in the winter.

6. Build local food systems: Finished work on the August Local Roots newsletter; sent out Local Roots producer meeting announcements; sent first three pieces to local paper for weekly Local Roots ad/column; wrote update article for the Ethicurean on Local Roots; picked up a book on scythes; shared seeds with the Renaissance Man's sister-in-law for a fall planting at the Farm; talked livestock with RM; shared zucchini with other Local Roots steering committee members.

7. Eat the food: Zucchini bread; fried okra and green tomatoes; corn on the cob; fattoush; zucchini pancake; cheese grits with kale; roasted potatoes and cauliflower; a luscious curry.

I still have a good bit of produce in the refrigerator, though there's not much I want to preserve, so I'm not quite sure what I'll end up getting at the farmers' market tomorrow. I should think about that. I also hope to get into the garden this weekend and do a little cleanup so that I can plant more fall crops (and then mulch them).

There's always something to be done, if I just look...

Labels: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Oh, Say, Can You CSA? 2009 Week 10

I finally managed to persuade the Renaissance Man to join me again for the weekly CSA pickup, giving My Wonderful Parents the chance to rest at home on a dreary, rainy afternoon.

Truth be told, the RM and I were actually pretty tired ourselves by the time we headed up, but as we've both had busy schedules thus far this week and haven't seen much of each other, just having the time to sit and talk and watch the scenery made the trip more pleasant.

Of course, at our destination, the sunny colors of this week's produce gave us even more reason to enjoy being out on a grey day:

The Lady Bountiful had many of the same items as last week, but little by little we're seeing more:

--one Late Flat Dutch cabbage (for my folks)
--one Mars onion (for RM)
--one Superstar onion (for me)
--one quart Kennebec potatoes (split three ways)
--two pounds green and yellow zucchini (ditto)
--one pound cucumbers (two for me, one for my folks)
--two green peppers (for my folks)
--one pint medium hot peppers (split three ways)
--two Early Girl tomatoes (mine)
--one pint sugar snap peas (for my folks)
--one bag lettuce (mine)
--one bulb garlic (for RM)
--one bunch carrots (split with my folks)

I decided to share some of my share of the produce with the RM not just because he drove but also because he's headed to the Farm for an extended visit this weekend and can share the food there. (Besides, I have plenty in the refrigerator as it is!)

Once we dropped off my folks' produce, we headed home for a quick stir-fry using summer squash, carrots, garlic, and then green onions and chard from my garden for a relatively quick and nourishing dinner before our Local Roots meeting.

That's a pretty good deal, don't you think?

Labels: ,

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Full Press Court

Progress is picking up again at our weekly Local Roots steering committee meetings, because we're trying hard to get ready to open in September. (Yes, we pushed the date back because there were still too many obstacles -- keep your fingers crossed that we can stick to this new schedule!)

As faithful scribe, I've been busy contacting the media and putting the word out about what we're doing so that we can get more members to sign up. I haven't had overwhelming response yet to the press releases, but at least two key papers have picked up the story:

--The Daily Record, our hometown paper, arranged an interview with most of the committee yesterday and has put the article up on their web site.

--Farm and Dairy, a newspaper for Ohio's farmers (especially in our corner of the state), published most of the information I had sent in the press release, emphasizing the upcoming producer meeting.

In addition, I finally pulled together an update for the Ethicurean that gives more details about the work we've done lately.

Thanks to the fabulous Jen Hugon, the Local Roots web site is not only nearly complete, but our August newsletter is looking fantastic, and our blog, Digging In, is up and running. Since the newsletter comes out monthly, we'll plan to use the blog for news snippets, tidbits of information, and gentle reminders. Visit us there, too!

And starting next week, the other local newspaper -- the Wooster Weekly News, not available online -- will start running a weekly piece (bigger than an ad, smaller than a column) to feature Local Roots and any of our meetings, events, farmers, or specials. The first couple of weeks will repeat the basics of the business for the broader audience, but after that I'll try to tailor the message to get more people interested in local foods.

So much happening! It's rather exciting to be the current media darlings to a certain extent, but that makes me all the more determined to seize the opportunity to spread the message about eating locally and living locally -- and to make it sound so appealing that people will clamor to join us.

Good thing we have a receptive audience!

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Straighten Up and Fry Light

It's official. Summer truly is here.

Yeah, yeah, the solstice was a month ago. I know that. But the temperatures have been so much cooler than normal that it hasn't always felt very summery.

My seasons are apparently now determined not by the calendar, but by the fresh produce.

And today, I had my first okra.

I do have other recipes for cooking okra, and I mean to try at least one this year. Really. But for the first okra of the season, there's no question: it's gotta be fried.

The beauty of frying in this cast iron skillet is that I don't really need that much oil. And while I first fell in love with fried okra when I was exposed the deep-fried version, I much prefer this.

Once I cooked the okra, I thought I'd go all the way back to my temporary Southern roots and fry up some green tomatoes, too. My, my.

About all I needed to make the meal perfect was a glass of ice-cold sweet tea, but I didn't have any of that.

Still, on a busy summer day, this is as good as it gets.

And that's all right!

Labels: , ,

Market Report: 7/25/09

I had a grocery list for the farmers' market today. I did. Honest.

I still had some CSA produce left in the refrigerator, I had plenty of zucchini from the garden, I had recipes in mind for cooking this next week, and I had a scant amount of food preservation planned.

So much for plans. When I see all that fantastic, gorgeous, tasty produce -- when I end up visiting with several of my favorite farmers -- all self-control goes out the window.

Just look:

See? A severe case of Low Sales Resistance, as my dear Opera-Loving Friend tells me. I couldn't help buying so much good food:

--carrots, broccoli, eggplant, and okra from the Fiddlin' Farmer (who brought his first okra of the season just for me)
--green onions, Inchillium Red garlic (for seed stock), kohlrabi, cucumbers, parsley, rosemary, and cookies from the Cheerful Lady
--rose hips from the Sheep Farmer
--spelt flour, a vegetable focaccia, and an orange plum tomato from the Spelt Baker
--green tomatoes from the Lady Bountiful
--half a dozen ears of bicolor corn and a bag of hulless popcorn from the Corn Queen
--kale from the Young Farmers
--grape tomatoes from a new farming couple
--thyme from the Herb Guy
--gingersnaps and cupcakes from the Gluten-Free Baker

Oh, heavenly day. That's some seriously good fresh food.

How could I resist?

Labels: , ,

Friday, July 24, 2009

Independence Days #11

So much for the rest I got over vacation -- life is back to the hectic pace again, all too quickly.

Right now, I'm mostly just finding time to preserve food for winter over the weekends, so I think it's time to clean up the kitchen so that it's easier to get back in there for short projects during the week.

And the gardens are in something of a holding pattern between the end of the early crops and the beginning of the later summer crops (tomatoes are coming on!). It's been a little too dry lately to plant anything, but with a refreshing mid-week rain, perhaps that will change this next week.

Anyway, here's this week's roundup:

1. Plant something: Broccoli seedlings at the Renaissance Man's garden.

2. Harvest something: White radishes at RM's garden; zucchini, radish seeds at the Southern Belle's garden; garlic and red onions at the Contra Callers' garden.

3. Preserve something: Dried zucchini shreds, carrot shreds, cauliflower; froze corn, broccoli; canned tart cherries, cherry juice.

4. Reduce waste (Waste not): Learning to shop at the farmers' market with a list so that I rein in my impulse buys (and thus reduce the amount of produce that ends up lost in the refrigerator); found four jars of pickles that had unsealed and tucked them into the refrigerator before they could spoil; kept an eye on the new pickles (daily checks) to make sure I don't lose any of those, either; had the Renaissance Man pick up small straw bales so I can mulch gardens (to hold in moisture so I don't lose so many seedlings).

5. Preparation and storage (Want not): Had a shopping spree at Lehman's and purchased a new heavy-duty stainless steel canner (my old one was getting rusty at the bottom), freezer boxes (shown above with corn inside), glass bottles and cruets (for herbal vinegars and oils); cleaned up some very dirty canning jars to get back into the cycle of use.

6. Build local food systems: Received my portion of a joint order of tart pitted cherries from the Chef Mother; attended the Family Farm Field Day (with six other Local Roots steering committee members!) and learned a good deal as well as promoted Local Roots where possible; picked up seed and nursery catalogs from local sources to share with the Renaissance Man; continued work on the August Local Roots newsletter; sent out Local Roots press releases; helped the Contra Callers with their garlic harvest and braiding (well over 40 minutes and 40 bulbs of garlic, for the 40 Seeds Project); talked with the Contra Caller about getting a scything lesson; shared my chinois with my folks for their first round of applesauce; connected with a couple of other college folks about getting Local Roots involved with campus events.

7. Eat the food: Zucchini-carrot bread; homemade grape juice (from pantry) with breakfast; salads and broccoli pizza for work lunches; a gorgeous stir-fry with snap peas, beans, corn, summer squash, and carrots.

While the garden work may be slowing right now, I'm really glad that I've been finding more opportunities to work on building "local food systems" with other people in many ways. It's amazing how one thing so often leads to another in making these connections between people!

Reviewing the week like this certainly helps to point out things like that -- and to make me realize that even when I think I'm spiraling out of control in my schedule, I'm often doing some good and useful things.

And that inspires me to keep going.

What inspires you? What are you doing to declare your Independence these days?

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Oh, Say, Can You CSA? 2009 Week 9

The clouds gathered as my work day wrapped up today, and as My Dear Papa says, "If it's time for CSA pickup, it's time for the rain to start!"

It started out that way this year, at least, despite the sunny days of the past couple of weeks. But since we haven't had any significant rain in a couple of weeks, I found myself actually cheering the dark clouds on, hoping for a good soaking.

Raindrops merely spattered the windshield on the way to the farm, though, as we headed north for our produce pick-up date.

The Lady Bountiful had another colorful array of produce for us today:

--one Dynamo cabbage (for the folks)
--one Candy onion and one Superstar onion (split)
--one quart Kennebec potatoes (mine)
--one elephant garlic (for the folks)
--one regular garlic (for me)
--1 1/2 pounds zucchini (for the folks; I picked plenty from the garden last night)
--one pint summer squash (mostly for the folks)
--one Cheddar cauliflower (mine)
--one bunch Bright Lights Swiss chard (for me)
--four hot peppers (jalapeno, poblano, Hungarian yellow wax; mostly for me)
--two Early Girl tomatoes (mine)
--one bunch beets (for the folks)
--my half-dozen eggs

Oh, what fun I'll have cooking this weekend!

Especially if it rains a little more... (c'mon, you can do it...)

Labels: ,

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Braiders of the Lost Garlic

Earlier this summer, the Renaissance Man and I enjoyed a lovely, relaxing dinner at the home of our favorite contradance callers. The Contra Callers live outside of town on a quiet, wood-sheltered homestead, where they have a large and productive garden, a row of blueberry bushes, a bamboo patch, a magnificent barn, and other delights for a farmgirl wannabe like me.

We headed out again last evening to visit, to check on the progress of the garden (it's doing very well, as you can see!), and to help the Callers with a project they had mentioned in our previous get-together.

Mr. Contra Caller, a farmboy at heart despite his advanced years, had shown us many of his hand-woven baskets as well as a braid of garlic hanging at the front door. When we expressed interest in the technique, he invited us to return when the garlic was ready for harvest, and he offered to show us how to braid the stems so that the garlic could be hung to dry.

Last evening he called to say the garlic was ready -- were we?

Yes, indeed, we were, and after we helped him pull a portion of the garlic, strip off the leaves, and trim off the roots, he showed us his method for braiding the stems.

We each gave it a try, and though we struggled at first with getting all the bulbs and stems worked in and keeping the braid tight at the beginning, we each found that it got easier with each new braid. Once I had gotten the hang of it, in fact, I moved from braiding together 6 bulbs to 8 and then finally 10. (Adding more isn't difficult, though there can be a lot of bulk to work around at first.)

By the end of the evening, we had harvested and cleaned all of the garlic and then braided well over half of the harvest. My fingers were sore from all the pressing down on the stems, but I was thrilled with the muscle memory I had built into my hands in learning this new skill.

We hauled the garlic to the barn to hang up and let dry, though the Contra Callers graciously allowed us to take some home for ourselves (along with some freshly pulled red onions). They fed us carrot cake, frozen yogurt, and peanuts for dessert after all our hard work, and we enjoyed talking with them for another hour or so before it grew late and we needed to head home.

Of course, in the course of that conversation, the Renaissance Man and Mr. Contra Caller got to talking about scythes, so I suspect another lesson will be forthcoming -- one that will help me harvest my grain patch this fall.

I know I'm up for another exciting farm adventure!

Part of my contribution to the Forty Seeds Project: over 40 minutes, well over 40 bulbs of garlic braided!

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Time For a Field Day!

When the latest issue of Farming Magazine came out, I spotted a notice for an upcoming "Family Farm Field Day" that was taking place practically down the road from here.

Granted, Mount Hope is about 20 minutes away, nestled into the rolling hills and fields of Amish country, but it sounded like a worthwhile program of events for the day, including a keynote speech by Joel Salatin (the feisty farmer featured in The Omnivore's Dilemma). How could I pass up such an opportunity to learn more about farming?

I managed to persuade the Farmgirl Wannabe, one of my favorite partners in local foods "crime," that she might enjoy the day, too. Since she has one of Salatin's books and has cited it as an influence on her desire to farm, she readily agreed.

So we met up at the Hungarian pastry shop this morning after I'd had my wander around the farmers' market, and, along with her parents, we headed out to the tranquil scenery of Amish country.

Despite knowing that the event would be held on an Amish farm, we were pleasantly surprised to find that not only had many "English" driven in with their noisy internal combustion engine vehicles, but one of the pastures was packed full of buggies, horses, and bicycles. This would certainly be an educational cross-cultural event!

The back pasture, dotted with several enormous tent canopies, provided the focal point for the day's activity, with tents set up for talks and demonstrations on homemaking topics, farmstead planning and ideas, natural resources, and keynote speeches.

And let's not forget the food! One large tent sheltered the main dishes (hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, salads, drinks, noodles), and elsewhere around the field one could find freshly baked soft pretzels, fresh kettle corn (made over an open fire), and freshly churned homemade ice cream. Aside from the pretzels and kettle corn, all of the food was provided for donations only, with the money earmarked to be divided among the area's Amish schools.

We wandered around, listening to portions of programs on how to make money on a small farm, how to make yogurt, how to garden into the fall (and winter), and thoughts on different approaches to raising sheep (featuring one of our Local Roots steering committee members). We also explored the vendor tents and found resources for plastic sorting bins for the market, orchard stock (ideas for the Farm?), local seed sources, solar and wind systems for homesteads, and much more.

In between all of the listening and learning, we also had opportunities to talk to others about Local Roots, sharing brochures and the producer packets that the Farmgirl Wannabe had put together for the occasion. It never ceases to thrill me when we find other people getting enthusiastic about what we're doing!

Joel Salatin spoke three times during the day, but the only one I managed to hear in its entirety was his noontime keynote. (I had heard part of the tail end of his morning talk on making a small farm profitable and the end of his afternoon musings on what lies ahead in agriculture.)

If you've read Salatin's books or heard much about him, you probably know that he is something of a contrary, libertarian, outspoken rebel. He has a strong conservative streak, a definite amused disdain for bureaucracy, and very decided opinions about farming. But his fire-breathing, finger-wagging, joke-cracking, hell-raising, adjective-laden (just like this) rhetoric has a solid grounding in common sense and decades of experience. So while I might not agree with every position he holds, I do listen to what he has to say.

His keynote speech focused on what dedicated small farmers could bring to American culture (and, presumably, how they could save said culture if they stood up for their ideals). Among the things Salatin believes farmers have in their favor are humility, a renewed emphasis on the domestic economy, the willingness to work in "relationally-oriented" ways, transparency, the nutrient-dense food they raise, and the forgiveness and redemption that brings health (of all kinds) back to society.

With ideas like that, he draws on the tradition of Wendell Berry, emphasizing the good things people learn when they learn how to work with nature in order to provide what is useful to their families and their communities. But Salatin talks about these things with the salty sass of a revivalist preacher, drawing laughs from the largely Amish crowd over descriptions of the USDA as the "U. S. Duh" and the contrary observation that instead of implanting RFID chips in animals (as proposed by NAIS), they should be implanted in politicians.

Beyond the needling, though, he provided several sensible ideas that had me nodding my head:

--He noted that we should teach children how to garden in order to teach them humility and to show them that the world does not revolve around them; "Frost happens!" and many other uncontrollable factors challenge our so-called dominion over nature.

--He challenged small farmers to be widely-read, thinking, and articulate advocates for their way of life, to prove that farmers are not dumb and unable to do anything else.

--He encouraged the spread of cooking and canning classes to restore that knowledge base to more homes. (I thought so highly of that idea that I nearly stood and flashed him with my "Yes. We Can" t-shirt, worn in honor of the event.)

--He exhorted farmers to find ways to tap into new markets because "the market is coming to us" with the increased attention foodies have given to local foods. (The Farmgirl Wannabe had caught him earlier to tell him about Local Roots, and his enthusiastic response to her conversation may well have been in his mind when he mentioned this.)

Overall, the day filled us with renewed enthusiasm for what we're doing and gave us some new ideas to follow. Perhaps next year we can even show up at the event as vendors and spread our message even further.

And while we were exhausted by the time we returned (it was a very full day!), we all knew we wouldn't have missed this Field Day for anything.

Labels: , ,

Market Report: 7/18/09

There are so many vendors now at our local farmers' market that it's really difficult for me to limit my time there. I enjoy getting around to visit people, and I'm always tempted to buy more than I really need.

This morning, though, I had to keep my visit short and sweet -- well, under an hour, anyway -- as I was planning to meet up with the Farmgirl Wannabe and head off to the Family Farm Field Day in Mount Hope.

I made it to the market shortly after 7:30 and was happy to find several of my favorite farmers already set up:

Given what I had already picked up at CSA this week, I had a surprisingly easy time holding on to my money. But I still found some good things to take home:

--red potatoes, cipollini onions, and cookies from the Cheerful Lady
--broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, and carrots from the Fiddlin' Farmer (as well as another lovely little bouquet from his son)
--a pint of honey from the Bee Man
--a dozen ears of bicolor corn from the Corn Queen
--more broccoli from the Young Farmers
--a total of six pints of pickling cucumbers from two separate small farmers

Can you tell what I'll be preserving this week? Yes, I need to make more dill pickles, and I plan on blanching and freezing all that early corn and some of the broccoli. Yum!

By 8:30, then, I was ready to load my produce into the Farmgirl Wannabe's cooler and join her (and her parents!) for our outing.

And all that work will be put off until tomorrow...

Labels: ,

Friday, July 17, 2009

Independence Days #10

Life certainly has a way of laughing at one's plans, doesn't it? I had hopes of keeping up my food preservation pace this week, despite my return to work, but after the annual Farm Gathering, I was a little too worn out to do much more!

So here's this week's Independence Day roundup, such as it is...

1. Plant something: At the Southern Belle's garden, Windsor fava beans, Laurentian rutabaga, Cherry Belle radish, Antares Oakleaf lettuce, and pac choi.

2. Harvest something: Pulled the remaining garlic; picked golden chard, nettle, lambs' quarters, carrot thinnings, zucchini, dill, pac choi at the Southern Belle's place; foraged more lambs' quarters at the Farm; picked radishes, lettuce, and chard for Gathering meals at the Farm.

3. Preserve something: Laid second round of garlic out to dry; dried lambs' quarters, nettle.

4. Reduce waste (Waste not): Saved remaining beaten egg from fried zucchini for the next morning's French toast.

5. Preparation and storage (Want not): Ordered glass bottles with dropper lids for my herbal tinctures.

6. Build local food systems: Talked with the Renaissance Man's sister-in-law about her plantings on the Farm and offered to share seeds for an autumn harvest; shared garden produce at the Farm Gathering; spent time teaching My Adorable Nephews a little more about the garden.

7. Eat the food: Fried zucchini, salad, samples of the lemon balm beer.

And that's about it! Here's hoping next week is a little more productive...

Labels: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Oh, Say, Can You CSA? 2009 Week 8

Last weekend, while I headed off to the Farm Gathering, My Wonderful Parents hopped into their vehicle and drove north to the Lady Bountiful's farm.

The Lady had scheduled one of her work days for CSA members, and the folks spent a few afternoon hours pulling and cleaning almost all of the rest of the garlic on the farm.

By the time we headed up for our CSA pickup this afternoon, all of the garlic was bunched and hanging in one of the small greenhouses behind the barn. That's a lot of garlic! And I bet I'm going to be collecting a good bit of that over the rest of the season!

For this week, though, we had a more varied selection of produce:

--one Dynamo cabbage (for my folks)
--one Candy onion and one Mars onion (split)
--one elephant garlic and one regular garlic (mine)
--1 1/2 pounds zucchini (green and gold; split)
--one pint green tomatoes (mostly for my folks, though I took one)
--one pint summer squash (split)
--half a pint sugar snap peas (last of the season; mine)
--two Early Girl tomatoes (for my folks)
--one Windsor broccoli (mine)
--one bag mixed lettuce (mine)
--one bag mixed carrots (mine)
--my half-dozen egg share

The Lady frets perpetually that she's not giving us a good enough variety of produce or that we're getting enough, especially this year with the cool weather we've had. But really, I see no cause for complaint!

And I know next week there will be even more to enjoy!

Labels: ,

Sunday, July 12, 2009

I Beg Your Garden

To round off my week's vacation, the Renaissance Man took me to the Farm for the tail end of the annual Farm Gathering.

While last year's excitement involved the acquisition of new skills (i.e., filleting fish), this year remained a little low-key, though with plenty of vibrant personalities to spice up the weekend's activities. As usual, I helped with the cooking and the cleaning up, but many hands made very light work, and I still found time for a swim in the lake, a foraging hike (for lambs' quarters), and other moments of idle and not-so-idle leisure.

Given my delight at all the neighborhood gardens this year, you can have no doubt as to my attraction to the new vegetable bed in front of the Farm house. Planted by the Renaissance Man's sister-in-law, it contains several sprawling tomato plants, bean vines, lettuce, Swiss chard, spinach, onions, and radishes.

It also includes a small patch of sweet potatoes, something I've never tried growing before, so I'll be watching this corner of the garden closely.

When I looked over the garden Friday evening, I noticed that it had gotten weedy in some spots, so I gladly jumped into the plot yesterday morning to clean it up, and I followed that today with a generous watering.

The Farm Mother noted my interest in the patch and said to me a couple of times, "I've never had a garden in my front yard before... but I like it!" She is not physically up to the task of caring for the garden, but she has certainly been enjoying the bounty thus far.

The spinach has started to bolt, so I offered to RM's sister-in-law some of my extra seed, to be planted if I can make it back to the Farm in a couple of weeks. She was enchanted with the idea of garden-fresh carrots for Thanksgiving (when next she and her husband return), so I hope I'll be able to follow through with my idea soon.

If not, well, we'll manage somehow, and I will send her my apologies.

But how can I ever resist a garden?

Labels: , , ,

Friday, July 10, 2009

Independence Days #9

What a lovely vacation week this has been! I've gotten a fair amount done at home, but with plenty of time to rest and relax.

I still feel terribly lazy in some ways, but even with slowing down and plenty of chances to do nothing, I had something to show for it all:

1. Plant something: At the Southern Belle's, planted more green beans, shelling peas, Winter Marvel lettuce, Tuscan kale, gai lan (Chinese broccoli), and Chioggia beets; at the Renaissance Man's, planted basil and thyme (herb pots from the Lady Bountiful).

2. Harvest something: At the Southern Belle's, the first row of garlic, scallions, the first zucchini, pac choi, carrots, oregano blossoms, chard, golden beets, and nettles; at the Renaissance Man's, more green beans, the last fava beans, stunning purple Blue Coco pole beans, lemon balm, and peppermint; foraged black raspberries and red clover in the park.

3. Preserve something: Laid garlic out to dry; strained, sweetened, and bottled the strawberry and mulberry shrubs; dried pac choi, shredded zucchini, parsley, nettle, oregano flowers, spinach, shredded carrots, blueberry leather, lemon balm, cauliflower, onion; froze blueberries; canned sweet cherries, blueberries; started oregano infused oil, lemon balm tincture, red clover tincture; made second batch of kohlrabi kim chi; made several small jars of raspberry jam; put up seven pints of dill pickles; started lemon balm beer.

4. Reduce waste: Used wilted kohlrabi greens in kim chi; reused canner water for washing and rinsing dishes; decided to start harvesting produce when I'm ready for it so it doesn't sit around the fridge for a week.

5. Preparation and storage: Bleached remaining garden pots; got a crate of quart jars from the Cauliflower Queen; made two batches of pasta and turned most of it into ravioli, which I then froze for later.

6. Build local food systems: Connected with the Cauliflower Queen about getting fresh dill delivered on pickle-making day, as well as about buying some of her hickory nuts this fall; gratefully received a handful of little round carrots from a kind neighbor.

7. Eat the food: Scrambled eggs with kale and beet greens for breakfast (inspired by Ed, the Slow Cook); kohlrabi rolls (like cabbage rolls); broccoli-walnut pasta; potato salad; radish borani with fresh vegetables; pesto pasta with sauteed green and yellow zucchini.

I'm actually feeling fairly laid-back about my food preservation this year, not feeling like I have to buy so much to put up for winter. (Maybe that's because I still have dried vegetables, canned tomatoes and pickles and fruits, and a few frozen items left from last year.)

But who knows what the next week will bring?

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Oh, Say, Can You CSA? 2009 Week 7

I had hoped that, since I'm enjoying a leisurely vacation this week with very few time commitments, I would be able to head up to the CSA farm early, wander around a bit with the Renaissance Man, and help the Lady Bountiful for a bit before picking up my produce and heading home.

So much for plans! The Renaissance Man ended up having a meeting scheduled and was unable to break away from work early; I headed up with My Wonderful Parents, who had a schedule of their own; and I ended up being too tired and lazy to be of much help.

But I still spent a few minutes wandering around the farm when we first arrived, refreshing myself with peeks at all the good food yet to come.

The Lady Bountiful has kept a good rotation of crops going in the raised beds, replacing early lettuce with carrots and adding in beets and other good things.

The tomato plants in the high tunnel have grown considerably -- some (on the left) are even over my head! And with the number of bees buzzing around the tunnel, I'm sure we'll have an excellent crop of tomatoes to enjoy this year.

I took a peek at the apple trees that so delighted me last year, and it looks like there will be more crisp beauties to enjoy this year -- fingers crossed!

Ultimately, though, I got back to the barn to find this week's produce selection:

--one green and one yellow zucchini (split)
--one pint green tomatoes (for my folks)
--one pint summer squash (split)
--one bag mixed lettuce (mine)
--one Walla Walla onion and one Mars onion (split)
--one pint sugar snap peas (for my folks)
--one bulb fresh garlic (mine)
--one bunch Swiss chard (mine)
--one head Early Dawn cauliflower (mine)
--one bunch Detroit Red beets (for my folks)

I also picked up my usual half-dozen eggs and the first installment of my honey share -- a nice-sized bottle!

I still hope to get out and help a little more at some point.

But for now, I think I'll just enjoy vacation!

Labels: ,

Pickle-Down Economics

While there's still a lot of bad news going around, thanks to our poor economic times, I have to confess my delight in seeing people do more to increase their self-reliance.

Seems like everywhere I go these days, I'm spotting more kitchen gardens in back and even front yards around town. And I strongly suspect that more people are learning how to preserve some of that bounty for winter.

As you might expect, I'm doing my part.

If it's July, it must be time for small cucumbers to load their vines -- and for fresh dill and garlic to beg to join them. Yes, it's time to break out the recipe for the family's hot dill pickles!

I picked up four pints of pickling cucumbers at the market on Saturday, but I was unable to find fresh dill. However, a conversation with the Cauliflower Queen -- a new but enthusiastic grower at market -- left me with her excited promise to deliver fresh dill to my doorstep on my pickle-making day, whenever I said the word.

So we made arrangements for her to stop by today, and shortly before she was expected, I started making the brine and sterilizing the jars, as well as prepping everything else to go in the jars.

She arrived at last, bringing a small jar full of fresh dill, along with a crate of quart jars she said she didn't need any more.

And the cost for this home delivery? Boy, she drives a hard bargain. She would take nothing less than a hug. (Good thing I had one handy!)

I ended up with seven pints of dill pickles -- and another new farming friend. (I think I might have to dig out a little jar of something to take to her one of these days!)

That's just the kind of economy I want to build!

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Market Report: 7/4/09

Let there be no confusion: even if it's a national holiday, the farmers' market will carry on!

Unfortunately, the day started off slow for the market vendors. We had a cool but sunny morning, perfect (in my mind) for wandering around the square in search of good food, but I saw very few early-morning shoppers. (Hope it picked up later!)

On the up side, though, fewer customers for the vendors means I get more time to chat, and some days I don't mind being selfish.

As this weekend begins my vacation, I took my time strolling through to see all the good food on offer, and Handyman Joe noticed my relaxed air right away. "You look... content," said he, and I had to admit this was so. Good food, good weather, all the time in the world... who wouldn't be content?

And so I wandered -- and bought:

--a large zucchini, two small red onions, and two cookies from Handyman Joe
--a quart of green beans from a quiet young woman
--a quart of sweet cherries and two pints of red raspberries from the local orchard
--kohlrabi greens (actually a gift) from the Lady Bountiful
--a ground cherry pie from the Herb Lady
--four pints of pickling cucumbers from the Young Farmers
--an oatmeal hickory nut pie from the Cauliflower Queen, who, after a long and delightful discussion, also insisted that I take a large fennel bulb for free
--a small clump of blue oyster mushrooms from the Mushroom Farm

Really, with a refrigerator full of CSA and garden produce, I didn't need a whole lot, but I did want to get some items for preserving.

And since I have several items to put up for winter, I'd better get started...

...vacation or no vacation!

Labels: , ,

Friday, July 03, 2009

Independence Days #8

The temperatures dropped around here this week, which has made it a little easier to get into the kitchen and cook. What a nice change of pace!

I can't say I've done a whole lot, though perhaps if I go through the checklist, I might surprise myself...

1. Plant something: At the Renaissance Man's garden, golden beets, golden chard, Antares oakleaf lettuce, summer savory.

2. Harvest something: At the Renaissance Man's garden, a few lonely pods of fava beans, the last French Breakfast radishes, one white radish, lemon balm, and the first crop of Masai bush beans (don't let the photo fool you; they were about 4" long and very slender); foraged black raspberries in the park and shepherd's purse at the Lady Bountiful's farm.

3. Preserve something: Froze peas, broccoli, chopped garlic scapes; dried spinach, lambs' quarters, peas, carrots, lemon balm; made over two pints of strawberry-mulberry jam with the Renaissance Man.

4. Reduce waste: Saved more food scraps for stock; saved bread crumbs to add to zucchini-feta pancakes for texture; starting to save oil.

5. Preparation and storage: Made stock and froze it; bought lemon juice for tomato canning later this summer; gathered baskets and bucket for berry picking.

6. Build local food systems: Talked with an editor at one of the local papers about publicizing Local Roots on a regular basis; taught the Renaissance Man how to make jam; foraged with the Renaissance Man, scouting out new sources of wild edibles; talked with the local movie theatre about doing a Local Roots film series later this year; saw the July Local Roots newsletter go out; took the Southern Belle and My Adorable Nephews blueberry picking.

7. Eat the food: Steamed green beans tossed with oregano, garlic, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar; pasta with loads of fresh vegetables; snacking on kohlrabi and little carrots; zucchini-feta pancakes; broccoli-cheese soup; black raspberry tea bread.

Well, guess I did more than I thought! But next week I expect to do even more as I'll have some vacation time from work, and I plan to get a bit caught up.

Tomorrow we'll enjoy Independence Day with the usual celebrations around town, culminating in what should be a grand fireworks display. It's certainly going to be a time to appreciate what is good about our country.

For me, of course, that includes celebrating the wonderful local foods I grew up picking and appreciating -- and celebrating the family traditions for putting up those foods for winter.

And yes, that's a kind of Independence I'm willing to keep practicing.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Oh, Say, Can You CSA? 2009 Week 6

There's construction going on all over the place these days. I can hardly cross the street for my morning break at work without dodging a torn-up section of sidewalk or street, and several other streets in town are ragged, dusty ghosts of themselves.

Even heading to our CSA farm today, we had to stop for a while before we could continue through a one-lane section of the road. It's just that time of year.

It's a good thing, though, that good CSA food is worth any obstacle!

Today's offerings included:

--two Walla Walla onions (split)
--one bag mixed lettuce (mine)
--one pint summer squash (split)
--one bunch carrots (mine)
--one bunch cilantro (mine)
--one and a half pounds zucchini (yellow and green; split)
--one bunch kale (mine)
--one bunch broccoli (for my folks)
--one pint sugar snap peas (also for my folks)
--two fresh garlic bulbs (mine)
--and my usual half-dozen eggs

The summer produce is definitely starting to come in! And while it looks like I got the larger share of the produce -- I did -- I think I may save some to share at the Farm on an upcoming visit.

I also wandered around the raised beds and picked some of the shepherd's purse (a wild edible) I had noticed growing in one of the beds. The Lady Bountiful joined me in my browse, and when she pointed out the bolting spinach, I tested a leaf at her request and thought it might be fine for cooking or freezing. So, being the perpetually generous person she is, she told me to grab a bag and scissors and take whatever I wanted since she'd be pulling it soon.

See? It's always worth the trip to CSA what's growing!

Labels: , ,