Saturday, October 31, 2009

Market Report: 10/31/09

The day started off grey and rainy and chilly, and I wanted nothing more than to burrow back under my covers and sleep many hours more.

But no, a busy day awaited me, so I was up with the lark (probably before) to get myself ready to head down to the farmers' market. Five lone vendors remained for the final day of the Downtown Farmers' Market, and very few people braved the early dreariness to stop by, so I spent some time talking with them all and buying good fall produce (sorry, no photo):

--cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts from the Amish Farmer
--Yukon Gold potatoes, two tea breads, and a cookie from Handyman Joe
--carrots and chard from the Lady Bountiful

I made a quick stop for hot spiced coffee and then headed to Local Roots to take care of some last minute details before our open house began.

For the next six hours, life was something of a blur!

Early on, the crowds came streaming through to see the building, find out more about what they can expect to find in coming weeks, enjoy some food, ask questions, and visit with their neighbors.

A number of us on the steering committee baked sweet treats for the open house -- I contributed my ginger molasses cookies -- but our producer members also pitched in. The two tea breads I had bought from the Cheerful Lady made it to the table, along with delicious crackers from the Spelt Baker (whose husband brought me my 100-lb. grain order!), and a fantastic artisan cheesemaker shared samples of his divine almost-Gruyère and another cheese. No wonder our guests were so happy!

The paint we added to the room this week certainly helped to provide a warm and welcoming contrast to the chilly grey day for the outdoor market, and the bright, cheerful front door with its trademark carrot (above) created an atmosphere of fun for everyone as they entered.

A couple of producer members took the initiative to come in and set up tables displaying some of their products as a hint to shoppers as to what they will find. I had the pleasure of talking with this couple (who farm not far from the Farm) and, at the end of the day, happily took home their beautiful surplus kale (both curly and dinosaur).

As the open house wound down around 3, we began to clean up. Having manned the till most of the day, I was delighted to report that we had received several new paid memberships (including a few new producers) and sold almost 20 t-shirts! Most of stayed to straighten things up, clean up the refreshments, put things away, and vacuum -- as well as to talk about the great success of the day.

As for me, I'm bundling up into the truck and heading off to the Farm with the Renaissance Man for the rest of the weekend in order to get a well-deserved rest!

And guess what? The Market Reports will continue next week!

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Independence Days #25

Busy, busy, busy week! And I'm not sure what else to say...

1. Plant something: Nothing.

2. Harvest something: Not this week.

3. Preserve something: Dried apples, apple peel; strained and bottled plantain oil, burdock extract.

4. Reduce waste (Waste not): Used the flour left from last week's baking (from rolling out dough) in zucchini fritters; used cane sugar left over from rolling ginger molasses cookie dough to use in morning tea or coffee.

5. Preparation and storage (Want not): Saved seeds from a lovely little red kuri squash; bought more flour (and then proceeded to use it); compiled lists of items I need to stock up on next for holiday baking, then took care of one list at the local grocery.

6. Build local food systems: Made more Local Roots connections at the Farmgirl Wannabe's wedding; enjoyed the comments from my "market research" there; put the money the FW paid for my baking toward upcoming Local Roots events (another thing for the Forty Seeds Project!); finished editing the Local Roots newsletter (a whopping 8-pager!); oh heck, was pretty much obsessed with Local Roots all week while trying to prepare for upcoming events!

7. Eat the food: Some of those delicious wedding appetizers; roasted potato soup; broccoli pizza; fresh apples; granola with last year's dried wild blueberries; roasted Brussels sprouts; raw cider that is starting to turn and get happy.

The Local Roots Open House is this Saturday, and next weekend we'll start the film series, so I'm going to be pretty busy yet. I just have to remember to slow down occasionally and breathe!

How are things in your world?

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Open for Good Local Food

Behind that carrot-orange door, things are happening this week: vacuuming, painting, cleaning, decorating. Why?

What you see here is the front door of Local Roots Market, and on Saturday from 10 AM to 3 PM, we're hosting an open house for the community to come by and check out the place. Stop by for hot coffee or cider, home-baked goodies, and possibly even samples of future products from producer members -- then wander around the building and find out more about eating locally, even in the winter.

Yes, the winter -- because Local Roots will officially open on Saturday, November 7! All through November we will host a Saturday indoor farmers' market from 10 AM to 3 PM with local farmers and other producers selling fresh fruit and vegetables, frozen meats, jams, breads, and other good stuff. And this is just the beginning!

More is scheduled to happen at Local Roots throughout November, and we've already had a lot of good press about the opening, but all of this will mean that I'll be spending a lot of my free time on the planning and marketing of events -- and therefore blogging might be a little light. Bear with me!

Or come to Local Roots and see for yourself!

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Wedding For the Verdict?

So, after all that baking for the Farmgirl Wannabe's wedding, I was eager to find out how my little offerings would be received.

When we arrived under the big tent, we found one end of the tent thronged with people lined up at the bar and -- right next to it -- browsing their way through the appetizers. Wasn't it beautifully decorated?

Everything looked so good, and my contributions looked even more appealing in that setting. I loved how the breads ended up nested in bowls that brought out their wholesome goodness, and the spiced nuts sparkled in the cut-crystal jars (at the bottom of the photo). The crackers were placed next to the large cheese board, silently offering themselves as the perfect foil for all those creamy flavors.

In short, I was impressed.

So, too, were other people, apparently, because as the evening wore on, the levels in those bowls and tins dropped steadily, and the comments occasionally came floating back to me. The Renaissance Man and I sat at a table surrounded by other Local Roots folks, all of whom praised the items I had made. One person insisted that I either sell the spiced nuts at the market on a regular basis or I give him the recipe, and our chair added that I was pretty well committed now to baking the crackers to sell.

Later in the evening, our treasurer (and mother of the bride) took a number of us to meet The Decorator, one of our members and a potential investor, and when she found out I was the baker behind the sesame thins, she grabbed my hand and absolutely insisted that I sell them at the market on a regular basis so that she could enjoy them.

Of course, the rest of the evening was wonderful, too: the wedding ceremony itself was short and sweet and rich with loving meaning, the buffet dinner (catered by the chef from the local Bistro) was delicious and filling, the cake (carrot cake covered with chocolate fondant) was surprisingly light as well as tasty, and I even managed to get the RM onto the dance floor for one song before we left. We had a satisfying evening overall -- for so many reasons.

And that baking? Yep, that all worked out well. I'm definitely committed now. (Or I should be...)

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Market Report: 10/24/09

The farmers' market was down to half a dozen vendors today: the Amish Farmer, the Cheerful Lady, the Lady Bountiful, and three others. The chill in the air and the threat of rain definitely played a factor in crowd control, because there weren't many more people than that out browsing at any given time.

Still, I posted a couple of signs about the Local Roots open house next week, and even before I left I heard customers asking the farmers about Local Roots -- the excitement continues to stir people!

I reminded myself to buy things just for using soon instead of feeling like I had to stock up even more, but I still brought home a hefty load:

--three small winter squash, a bunch of carrots, and two flat red peppers from the Lady Bountiful
--a quart of Yukon Gold potatoes, a large "cheese" pumpkin, and cookies from the Cheerful Lady and Handyman Joe
--a half-pint jar of pear butter from a new couple
--a head of Cheddar cauliflower from one of our Local Roots producers
--a loaf of honey-cracked wheat bread, a plate of maple-nut cookies, and a small pecan pie from the Mennonite Baker (I was hungry)

I think I fancy making either a roasted potato soup tomorrow or some sort of curry, and perhaps it's even time to bake a pumpkin. The temps are dropping again -- along with the golden leaves outside my window -- so it's time to reach for comfort food.

One more week outside -- and then it's time for Local Roots!

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Independence Days #24

What a lovely little bit of sunshine and warmth we had this week! Of course, we're now back to chilly light rain and falling leaves, but, well, that's what you get this time of year.

The seasons are shifting again, and this time it's welcome, despite the cooler temperatures. This time it means that the major food preservation work in my household is done. Huzzah! Hooray! Yippee!

Not that I mind food preservation, of course, but there's so much going on now with the final push to open Local Roots that I am ready for the break. My focus is definitely needed elsewhere!

But I'm still practicing my Independence wherever I can...

1. Plant something: Inchillium Red garlic at the Southern Belle's garden.

2. Harvest something: Carrots, beets, green onions, pac choi, stinging nettles at the Southern Belle's garden.

3. Preserve something: Dried parsley, thyme, nettles, apple peel; started thyme oil; ran parsley salt through grinder and tucked into a jar; set up potato box (with straw) and sweet potato crate for cold storage; filled last box with carrots and sand in cellar; taught My Adorable Nephews how to make applesauce.

4. Reduce waste (Waste not): Threw parsley stems, turnip leaves into stock; managed to use up the sour milk in crackers, oatmeal; checked onions and pulled out softest ones for immediate use; saved apple peels to dry for tea.

5. Preparation and storage (Want not): Bought several boxes of canning lids to store for next year; stocked up on pecans, walnuts, baking soda, tea, rice, unbleached flour, cane sugar; made vegetable stock; pulled five-gallon buckets out of the cellar for grain storage.

6. Build local food systems: Talked about Local Roots at hair salon and left some applications for interested people; got a contact for a local community garden; showed My Adorable Nephews how to make applesauce; got help from Scooter in planting garlic and cleaning up garden beds; reviewed student projects for Local Roots; organized the Street Team to blanket the area with flyers for Local Roots; gave an interview to Farm and Dairy about Local Roots; baked more goodies for the Farmgirl Wannabe's wedding.

7. Eat the food: Easy curry with potatoes, green beans, and cabbage; oatmeal with apple; roasted roots and potatoes over steamed greens; broccoli-walnut pasta; salads with salsa and shredded local Cheddar; fabulous artisan cheeses shared at this week's Local Roots meeting.

In addition, my article about Ohio apples and the joys of picking (with My Adorable Nephews) and eating them was posted over at The Ethicurean. Take a look!

It's time to shift gears. The garden, while still producing greens and other good things, is winding down, and unless I get some pots started for inside, my planting is soon to taper off. The farmers' market has two weeks left, and though I will still be able to buy local produce at Local Roots over the winter (it makes me so happy to say that!), the urge to stock up is wearing off.

The busy season is wrapping up -- in good time, as I've been doing this Independence Days challenge for nearly half a year. But that doesn't mean the challenge is done -- there's still work to be done in food storage and managing those stores, and gradually getting ready for next year.

And around we go...

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Loaf Is a Many-Splendored Thing

The week has flown by again, and for the past day and a half, I've been at home on vacation.

No, I haven't been sleeping in and lolling about, thank you very much, despite my inclination. I specifically took these days off in order to wrap up my baking for the Farmgirl Wannabe's wedding.

Though I knew that the nuts and crackers from last week's baking would make good snacks on their own, I also wanted to have some more neutral edible canvases (so to speak) for the cheeses that she intended to feature on the appetizer table. (Besides, after watching the gents on the Local Roots steering committee drooling over the box of goodies I had taken to the FW, I figured more food would be needed!)

So first I pulled out that wonderfully easy and handy artisan bread recipe from Artisan Bread In 5 Minutes a Day and churned out baguette after baguette:

I also made a za'atar loaf (on the right) but later decided to keep that for myself -- there seemed to be plenty of bread once it was sliced!

After the artisan bread, I made a batch of pumpernickel, using some freshly ground rye flour from the rye that the Madcap Farmer had recently given me. The dough was very heavy and moist, but I did get three slender but dense loaves out of the recipe. (Sorry, didn't get a picture!)

Once all of the breads had cooled, I sliced them and laid them on cookie sheets to toast briefly, turning them into not-quite-crostini so that they wouldn't be quite so crumbly (especially the pumpernickel) at the festivities.

This morning, I was up early again, this time to bake a double batch of pesto scones (or scone bites, since I cut them into small squares) using local basil, local butter and milk, and local heartnuts. I think they taste even better than the last time I made them!

Along with all of that, I whipped up a big bowl of haydari as a creamy, savory spread for those delicious breads.

By noon today, everything was packed up and ready to ship off with the Farmgirl Wannabe's parents, who stopped by to pick them up.

Tomorrow, we'll see how it all turns out -- and celebrate true loaf while we're at it.

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

And a Good Thyme Will Be Had By All...

Yes, I managed to squeeze in testing yet another baked treat for the Farmgirl Wannabe's wedding next week.

When I reviewed recipe ideas with her, crackers stuck out in my mind as a good all-around crowd-pleaser (especially with dips and cheeses at hand). But I also thought that I might want to try a savory version of shortbread -- something buttery and flaky with a little edge of salt and a hint of some herb.

Since I picked up a large bunch of fresh thyme -- with a scent like the fragrant evergreens of Christmas -- from the Cheerful Lady yesterday, I figured this would be an excellent herb to use.

So here it is:

I used my chai spice shortbread recipe and took out the sugar and sweet spices, added a little extra salt along with the dried thyme and some dried grated orange peel, and worked in just a little more liquid to hold it all together.

They turned out perfect: rich but light, fragrant but not too heavy on the herb flavor. And I cut them small to make them stretch a little farther (though I suspect they may prove addictive, in which case no amount will be quite enough!)

Sounds like the right food for a good time, don't you think?

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Two Nuts Who Are Completely Crackers For Each Other

The Farmgirl Wannabe, whizbang super organizer at Local Roots, she of the fields of my grains, is something of a nerd. She's totally "with it" when it comes to business and computers, but she's more than a little offbeat outside of that milieu. (Guess that's why we get along so well.)

She also has a goofy, sweet fiancé of five years -- who is soon to become her husband.

As the story goes, apparently the FW just didn't ever really feel like setting a date and thus feeling the pressure to organize a big wedding. So this fall, when thinking about how she wanted to celebrate her 30th birthday, she decided it was time to tie the knot.

Mind you, her birthday is October 24. And she decided this around, oh, say, Labor Day.

Any other bride would likely give herself a year or more to plan and to line everything up and to get the biggest case of stress ever. Not so the Farmgirl Wannabe. Her main concern was the food -- as much good local food as possible -- and beyond that, eh!

Needless to say, she soon got my mental juices flowing as we talked about possible dishes for the wedding buffet. And in the midst of that discussion, I offered to help with the appetizers -- specifically, on the baking side of the appetizers as she mainly wanted cheese and a few nibbles to go with drinks.

So, I came up with a list of ideas, ran them by her for approval, and started planning. I arranged to take off the two days before the wedding so that I could plow through the baking, but a week or so ago I thought, I'd better start the baking this weekend, in case I needed to make more than I expected.

Well done, me.

I started last night by whipping up two double batches of spiced nuts: rosemary walnuts (left), with local butter, rosemary, and sage; and Indian spiced pecans, with local egg whites (and everything else from elsewhere). I ended up with a little over two quarts each, with just enough left for me to do a bit of taste testing.

Today I got crackin' on the crackers. First up: my favorite sesame thins, with local spelt flour (from the Spelt Baker, of course!). They are so fragrant when they bake, and they make me hungry for a combination of spicy peanut sauce and Uzbek carrot salad. (Now there would be a thought for a dip!)

After lunch, I tried a basic cracker recipe, using the rest of my local spelt flour and some homemade parsley salt (plus local butter and milk). The first batch puffed up like little pillows while the second batch remained a little flat, but they all had a buttery flakiness and a nice edge of salt to them.

Next week, I'll bake some mini scones and probably a couple kinds of bread for crostini, and then I might whip up a dip or two. With any luck, that will give a number of people (if not all 150 invited guests) a tasty snack before the main event.

And here's hoping those two lovable nutcases approve!

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Market Report: 10/17/09

Yet another grey, chilly day with the threat of rain -- no wonder the farmers' market continues to dwindle!

Some of my favorite people were on hand, though, with tables still loaded with a good variety of produce, so I was happy to visit with them and fill my bag:

--pears, parsley, pac choi, carrots, onions, and a gigantic white turnip from the Lady Bountiful
--Yukon Gold potatoes, Broadleaf Czech garlic, a tender lettuce mix, and a bunch of thyme from the Cheerful Lady, plus a small bag of dry minced garlic that she wanted me to try
--Jonagold apples from the Orchardist
--brussels sprouts from the Amish Farmer

I wandered back home early to unload my backpack before my hair appointment, and afterward, I swung back through the market on the way to the natural foods store. This second time through, I picked up:

--molasses cookies from the Mennonite Baker
--a bunch of red hot serrano peppers from the Lady Bountiful (for drying and turning into chili powder)

Then, I took some time to stock up on bulk foods from the natural foods store: flour, rice, oats, sugar, salt, tea, and so on. Who knew my cupboards were getting so bare (at least in these staples)?

I was sorely tempted to pick up more at the farmers' market -- more potatoes, more squash, something -- but it occurred to me that I don't really have to have this squirrel nut-gathering mindset when Local Roots will be open soon!

And that thought warmed my heart on such a chilly day.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Independence Days #23

Wow! Who turned the heat off?

Somehow we've jumped right smack into the middle of November with the drop in temperatures and perpetually grey skies. I mean, there's even a hint of snow in the weekend forecast!

Guess that means it's a good time to get into the kitchen and heat things up a bit, between the oven and the stove and the dehydrator.

So on to this week's report:

1. Plant something: Nothing.

2. Harvest something: Carrots, beets, green onions at the Southern Belle's garden; spearmint, lemon balm, sage at the Renaissance Man's garden; apples at the local Orchard.

3. Preserve something: Dried parsley, tomato slices, lemon balm, spearmint, sage; canned four pints of pears, three and a half pints of tomatillo mincemeat; pureed onion and pepper together and froze them as disks; strained and bottled sage vinegar.

4. Reduce waste (Waste not): Used up blemished tomatillos and apples in mincemeat; saved flour from kneading, rolling out pie crust; saved maple syrup bottle for future storage; got back to saving bread crumbs; salvaged something of the last two eggplant to make eggplant parmesan; converted the tops of a pair of wool socks (that had been shot through at the heels and toes; sorry, I don't know how to darn, darn it!) into makeshift fingerless gloves for typing on the computer in a chilly room (because it's just too soon to turn up the heat!).

5. Preparation and storage (Want not): Stocked up on pasta, unbleached flour, tea; packed up storage jars, bottles, and tins to put away for the season; washed dehydrator trays for winter storage; cleaned stovetop; called and ordered grains for winter baking.

6. Build local food systems: Took My Adorable Nephews apple picking; handed out Local Roots applications and events information to friends who haven't signed up yet; shared Forty Seeds (literally!) -- pawpaw and calendula -- with the Farmgirl Wannabe and the fabulous Jen; worked on marketing push (press releases, short articles) for Local Roots opening and film series; ordered grains for the Chef Mother and the Renaissance Man while ordering my own.

7. Eat the food: A saute of kale, pear chunks, and walnuts; fresh cider; broccoli pizza; sautéed onions and cabbage with steamed fingerling potatoes and dill salt; stir-fry with pac choi, carrots, red pepper; maple-oatmeal bread; apple pie; pawpaw custard; eggplant parmesan; the Chef Mother's late-season red raspberry cobbler.

My schedule is still pretty doggone full these days, but I'm definitely starting to find a little more time to wrap up preservation and to turn to cooking and baking. What a relief!

Now... what will next week bring?

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cider -- House Rules!

When the Cheerful Lady offered me some of her "house" cider, made with apples and a few pears from her farm, I couldn't resist, despite there being nearly a gallon of cider from a local mill already in the refrigerator!

In fact, having two different ciders called for a taste testing. And I knew just who to call on to help me with the sampling.

The Renaissance Man was, as always, ready to help. So last night we sat down with two cups of cider each: one from the mill, and the other from the Cheerful Lady.

And the results? Drumroll, please...

Color and clarity:
--the mill cider had a darker color, not as clear
--the CL's cider had more amber tones, was crystal clear

--the mill's cider had more substance to it (due to the sediment)
--the CL's cider was lighter to drink but tasted fuller

--the mill's cider had overtones of spices to it, but after repeated sips, the flavor started to fall flat
--the CL's cider had a more complex flavor (you could really taste Apple, and multiple varieties at that) that held up over time

--The mill's cider was very good, sweet, satisfying, would make good mulled cider.
--The CL's cider really had more character (that must be because of Handyman Joe, a real character himself, having a hand in it), had a better apple flavor, tasted more refreshing, and was superior for drinking straight up.

I was really impressed with the mill's cider when I first tasted it as the flavor was so much better than what we find at our local orchard, and yes, I still like it very much. But the fresh, clear, thoroughly apple-laden house cider from the Cheerful Lady's farm kept edging it out.

Who needs wine when local cider can be so satisfying and have so many differences from pressing to pressing?

That's right -- in this house, cider rules!

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Oh, My Pawpaw!

Last week during our Local Roots steering committee meeting, one of our supporters came to the door. Instead of asking us when we would be open and selling food, as so many of our supporters have been doing lately, this woman carried a couple small bags of fruit from her own gardens to share with us.

Not being ones to turn down good local food -- this is, after all, the whole point of what we're doing -- we stopped the meeting briefly to examine the contents: Concord grapes and pawpaws.

Pawpaws! I quivered with excitement, much as any collector on a lifetime hunt for the rarest, most elusive treasure would do. Pawpaws!

And why, you may ask, was this gift so noteworthy?

The pawpaw is a rarity in these parts. Though it is native to North America and even to Ohio, it is related to tropical fruit and has no commercial value whatsoever because it ripens quickly (and ferments quickly, too) and will not travel well. Unless you grow these on your own property, you could go through life never knowing how a pawpaw looks, smells, or tastes.

It's a pity, because the pawpaw contains more protein than most fruits, it is a low maintenance plant with virtually no pests, and it can be used much like a banana (a fruit that is even harder to find around these parts).

I happily took two -- one for myself and one for the Renaissance Man, of course -- and at the end of the evening, the remaining pawpaws somehow made it into my possession as well. (I just don't know how!)

The next evening, I took the opportunity to examine this odd fruit more closely. It wasn't fully ripe -- the fruit gave a little when pressed, but it still had some firmness to it. When opened, it had a sweet, rich fragrance akin to both banana and mango -- and a hint of something else.

I removed the seeds, which are surprisingly large and numerous for the size of the fruit -- about half a dozen seeds 1" long from a fruit about 3" long! Those I cleaned up, removing the rubbery casing and rinsing the dark brown seeds to save for the Farmgirl Wannabe, who would like to try planting them on her homestead.

Finally, I took a taste. Yes, it definitely had a creamy texture, and the taste did combine the tropical notes of banana and mango. But the aftertaste... hmmm. I am not entirely sure how to describe this vaguely disturbing aftertaste except to note that the flavor went straight to my nose and sort of tingled. It reminded me of medicine or some such thing... and then vanished.

Well, I thought, now I know why people say raw pawpaws are an acquired taste: that aftertaste is something that will either put you off the fruit forever or will be something you gradually learn to ignore.

Fortunately, though, all reports indicated that the aftertaste dissipated in cooking, so I found a recipe for pawpaw custard to try with the last large fruit.

The recipe was simple enough: milk, cream, egg, sugar, and the pulped fruit. I slid it into the oven to bake and waited for the results. The flavor that was left really concentrated on the tropical tastes, so it was much more pleasing than the raw fruit. I still wouldn't call this my favorite fruit at this point -- after only two experiences, how could I? -- but I could see the value of growing pawpaws in an area with no tropical fruits to call its own.

Count this as one more culinary adventure under my belt!

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

So Apple Together

Following the success of our blueberry picking adventure this summer, My Adorable Nephews wanted to do something else out at the Orchard.

When told about the other crops available, they exclaimed, "Can we come back and pick apples?"

How could I say no? My little guys want to help harvest food? Yeah, I'm not passing that one up.

So a couple of weeks ago, the Southern Belle and I conferred as to when would be a good date for our apple adventure. We had originally planned to head out next weekend, but a last minute change in her schedule caused us to bump up our outing.

Fortunately, the weather cooperated yesterday, giving us blue skies and sunshine and even a bit of warmth.

After the lady in the market had directed us to the best areas to pick, we selected certain varieties for our picking. We started with the Red and Golden Delicious apples, so right for eating -- and the trees obliged us by offering plenty of low-hanging fruit for the boys to reach.

As with the blueberry picking, both Beaker and Scooter ran around gleefully in search of "my best yet" and "my prize-winning" sample of each variety. They were impressed with the size and beauty of the different varieties, especially the jumbo-sized Melrose apples (on right) that took two hands to pull from the branches.

By the time we had finished -- a very short time later, it seemed! -- we had four of these bags crammed full of Red and Golden Delicious, Melrose, Empire, Mutsu, and Cortland apples. One bag, loaded with Melrose and Cortland fruit, will get tucked away for applesauce making next week, while the rest are fair game.

They dropped me off at home with a dozen or so apples of my own, so I added them to the motley collection I already have. And by this evening, I was ready to peel and slice several of them to add to a homemade pie. Heavenly!

How could I not be happy this time of year?

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Market Report: 10/10/09

Now that we're entering the home stretch of the farmers' market season, things are slowing down considerably. The sun rises later, the morning remains chilly, and the crowds (both of farmers and of shoppers) have thinned out considerably.

As for me, I love it. (Well, I don't love not seeing some familiar faces...) This is the time of year when I feel I can start to relax a little, take a deeper breath, and enjoy what is.

The bulk of food preservation is behind me for the year, though I'm still trying to tidy up from the last couple of CSA offerings. Now I'm moving more toward storing food whole, not prepping and preserving. What a relief!

So these days, I head to the market more with a sense of easygoing willingness to see what the day has to offer. With a cup of spiced coffee and a walnut croissant from the Hungarian pastry shop in hand, I'm ready to wander.

I had received an email from the Cheerful Lady yesterday offering gallons of fresh-pressed cider to her select friends, so I had eagerly requested a jug for myself. I stopped by to visit with her and Handyman Joe -- not to mention to get a swig of that spicy, tart, satisfying cider from my own gallon.

Having filled my backpack with some heavy items from them, I decided to leave my bag and my jug with them while I continued my circuit.

My wanderings for the morning brought me a fine yield:

--Yukon Gold potatoes, two small squash, and the cider from the Cheerful Lady and Handyman Joe
--broccoli and sweet potatoes from the Young Farmers
--beets, chard, acorn squash, and pears from the Lady Bountiful
--a loaf of peasant bread from a baker with a book in her hand

It's not much, true, since there weren't many farmers out on a gray and threatening morning. But with what I already have at home, it's more than enough.

Three weeks remain for the Downtown Farmers' Market, which would be sad news if not for one thing: Local Roots will open the weekend immediately after and continue the tradition of good food and fellowship downtown!

So maybe the season won't end after all!

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Friday, October 09, 2009

Independence Days #22

Wow, I'm really getting tired of saying, "It's been such a busy week, I've barely been in the kitchen!"

Yes, I've gone through another round of meetings, appointments, and scheduled events, and I'm pretty whipped. I have piles of produce sitting on the kitchen table, more in boxes and baskets on the floor, and yet more in the refrigerator -- and no significant chunks of time to deal with any of it.

That has got to stop. NOW. And I intend to do something about it this weekend.

In the meantime, here's what little I did do this week:

1. Plant something: Winter wheat at the Farmgirl Wannabe's homestead.

2. Harvest something: Foraged hickory nuts at the Farm; radishes and borage from the Renaissance Man's garden.

3. Preserve something: Started chickweed oil, chickweed tincture, basil vinegar, borage vinegar.

4. Reduce waste (Waste not): Other than the usual, not so much.

5. Preparation and storage (Want not): Found a lined curtain for my bedroom window this winter at Goodwill (dirt cheap and in great shape!); got a small bale of straw for root cellaring potatoes or sweet potatoes; tucked turnips, carrots, and more leeks into my root cellar sand boxes.

6. Build local food systems: Visited an off-grid greenhouse in the Columbus area during the solar tour and talked about possibilities spinning off from that with the Renaissance Man; walked the woods at the Farm with the RM and found more hickory trees and other good wild edibles to revisit next year; talked about Local Roots with a local lawyer who was very excited about the market; started being more forward about inviting people to join Local Roots (and having membership information handy!); firmed up plans for the Local Roots film series; checked out a new cider source (near the Lady Bountiful's farm); discussed farming plans with the Farmgirl Wannabe.

7. Eat the food: Chard-walnut pasta; apple pie bars; good cider!; cucumber sandwich on the Chef Mother's bread; leftover emerald curry; ravioli with end-of-season tomatoes and basil.

As we head deeper into fall, I hope I will have some more time to work on some of these things, despite the harvest season dwindling rapidly.

And I really hope to start this weekend.

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Ya Gotta Have Art... and Food!

There's been too much busy-busy around here of late, and I'm interrupting the regular flow of food and gardening posts to get happy.

Are ya with me?

There's a lot of beautiful and joyful stuff going on all around me, and I think it's time I got my head out of my own craziness to celebrate some of the folks around me who are providing much-needed smiles, inspiration, and refreshment.

My hero, Gene Logsdon, recently talked about food and beauty over at, and it's worth reading. So often we get caught up in the health, nourishment, and survival aspects of food that we forget to think about the aesthetics of it -- and how it's the beauty and satisfaction that comes from experiencing the beautiful that has led folks like me to a deeper appreciation of true home economics.

Thinking of his post inspired me to catch the above photo from the Farmgirl Wannabe's kitchen yesterday evening -- the colors, the forms, the celebration of food as art all warmed my heart on a chilly, drizzly day.

Other recent delights?

--I'm smitten with 5 Orange Potatoes, a mom's blog about herbs and teaching her charming "little ladies" about nature and the beauty found there. I'm picking up tips for herbal preparations and uses, as well as for possible crafty things to do with My Adorable Nephews.

--Stony Run Farm, a little Oregon homestead run by Risa and Beloved, offers up well-written and thoughtful pieces of living from the land in a simple, sustainable, beautiful fashion. Risa is following the Independence Days challenge, too, so it's good to read what she's been doing and to learn from her.

--Props to the lads at Beetses, one of whom is now a frequent Saturday-morning farmers'-market how-do-you-do acquaintance for me. Yes, they cook a lot of meat -- not quite so appealing to a veg-head like me -- but I appreciate the enthusiasm they bring to preparing and savoring local food and to learning more about cooking while they do it. (Full disclosure: Nathan and Meena are volunteers at Local Roots, which is how we met up after passing each other, blissfully unaware, around town.)

--And of course, any discussion of beauty, art, and good food would be sadly lacking without a hat tip to the fabulous Jen Hugon, graphic designer and marketing goddess for Local Roots and super-fun artist! Jen has offered a few of her lovely art works for the Forty Seeds Project, and she'll be bringing some of her art (and Woolykins -- needle-felted creatures) to the Local Roots holiday market next month. (Save your pennies!)

These are some of the folks I look to each morning to lift my spirits and to kindle new ideas of my own. Who are you finding out there in the Land o' the Interwebs who sets your taste buds or artistic soul alight?

It's easy to get bogged down in all the work involved with food, either in cooking, in gardening, or in preservation.

So take some time this weekend to relax and savor the beauty!

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Thursday, October 08, 2009

If You Don't Like the Weather, Wheat a Minute...

Ever since I discovered the moderate success of my buckwheat crop this year, I have been eager to plant my winter wheat on the prepared plot at the Farmgirl Wannabe's homestead.

Of course, as any farmer will tell you, plans generally don't go the way you want them to proceed. The old saying, "Man plans, God laughs," is especially true when you're dealing with nature and a pair of incredibly hectic schedules.

So though I had hope to sow the wheat seeds in late September, a full calendar on both our parts kept us from getting things ready.

Today, though, despite the threat of rain in the forecast, we made it happen. I had a free evening, she had a free evening, and we raced to beat the incoming front.

The FW's fiancé had mowed down the peas, vetch, and oats in this bed and raked a mess of cut grass on top. We had originally planned to till this plot, but time continued to march on without us, so I decided at the last minute to accept the no-till version of planting. We raked the grass off the bed, pushing it aside to use as mulch.

A faint misty rain started to fall on my shoulders as I reached for the bag of seed, so I hurriedly loaded the broadcast seeder and walked across the plot, scattering seed in front of me. We then gathered up clumps of drying grass and worked a loose layer of it over the seed (since I didn't have a seed drill to bury the seeds or even extra loose dirt to cover them, I opted for mulch).

Then, we stood back, saluted each other, and headed inside as the sprinkles got a little more steady, giving the plot the start of a good watering.

Now, maybe I went about this all wrong and planted things too late and too haphazardly. I'll find out. But I'm not expecting major yields, and I can always say, "I still have seeds left, and there's always next year." I'm still learning how to work with Nature, and yes, I'm going to make mistakes or be stuck scrambling for a solution now and then.

We're expecting more rain tomorrow and early next week, though, so I am hopeful that the wheat will germinate and begin to grow before slipping into winter hibernation.

And we'll wheat and see what happens...

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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Oh, Say, Can You CSA? 2009 Week 20

Where did the summer go? Those sunny warm days seem so long ago right now, especially when the grey skies hover and the chilly fall rains come down (as they have so often lately).

Today, at least, we had sunshine, despite the nip in the air, as the Renaissance Man and I headed out to see the Lady Bountiful and to pick up the last assortment of CSA produce for the year.

With My Wonderful Parents off on an adventure of their own, I was delighted to persuade the RM to go with me -- and to share the bounty with him.

The Lady had decorated for our arrival! Well, not specifically for us -- she has invited all her CSA members to a grand feast on Saturday, which we will, unfortunately, miss. (Tara, tell me all about it!)

But the colorful welcome made the final CSA pickup festive, if a little bittersweet.

The Lady pulled out all the stops for us in this final week, adding four new crops to our shares and loading us up with more excellent food:

--one large delicata squash (for the RM)
--one winter squash (your choice; I chose an acorn squash for the RM)
--one quart pears (for me, for canning)
--two small cabbages (green for the RM, red for me)
--two bulbs garlic (split)
--two sweet onions (split)
--one bunch of celery (for me)
--one pint tomatoes (split)
--one pie pumpkin (for me)
--one quart lima beans (for me, possibly for my folks)
--one bunch carrots (for me)
--one bag green beans (for the RM)
--one pound Red Russian kale (for me)
--one bunch leeks (for me)
--one bunch turnips (for me)
--two pounds peppers (split, but mostly for the RM)
--one pumpkin (for decoration)
--one corn shock
--my last (sniff!) half-dozen eggs
--my last honey bottle in my share

I also had ordered a few extra things for storage ahead of time: a few more little pie pumpkins (shared with the RM), another bunch of turnips (for root cellar storage), several small cabbage heads (like overgrown Brussels sprouts), and carrots and beets that she had not been able to pick ahead of time (so I will get those at the market later).

The Lady had figured out our total amount of produce over the twenty weeks of the CSA season, and while I didn't hear the total amounts (either in weight or cost), I did hear her say that we had 51 different kinds or varieties of produce. I well believe it! It's been a very colorful and delicious season!

She is offering extended season shares, but I will wait to discuss that with My Wonderful Parents. Since I've been stocking up on extras, I'm not desperate to do it, but I certainly wouldn't say no.

Then, after we loaded up the truck with the enormous bounty, instead of turning left out of the drive, we turned right and headed down the road to explore a new-to-us cider stand. I bought a gallon of very good, rich, tangy cider; a bag of Empire apples; and a wee little straw bale that should provide enough straw for my potato bin storage this winter.

Now... to find time to do something with all of this... and to enjoy it!

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Friday, October 02, 2009

Independence Days #21

At long last, I made it back into the garden!

And just in time, too, as we had our first serious cold snap this week. I didn't see any frost damage in the garden (the basil looked fine), but I was glad that I had finally put in almost the last crops before it was too late.

I'm trying to keep up indoors, too:

1. Plant something: Lettuce, spinach, and garlic at the Renaissance Man's garden (finally!).

2. Harvest something: Black Cherry tomatoes, lemon balm, basil, lavender, calendula flowers at the Renaissance Man's garden.

3. Preserve something: Dried more squash chips, cherry tomatoes, lemon balm, cinnamon apple slices, parsley; made and canned grape juice; made seventeen 1/2-cup blocks of basil butter to freeze; air-dryed calendula blossoms; froze strips of red and orange peppers; strained and bottled elderberry cordial.

4. Reduce waste (Waste not): Rescued a few "seconds" from among the Lady Bountiful's produce; kept the furnace as low as possible during this first cold snap (has only come on once, and that by accident); didn't take everything in this week's CSA share since I knew I wouldn't be able to use it all.

5. Preparation and storage (Want not): Harvested and dried calendula and cosmos seeds; packed away other seeds; placed a big order with King Arthur for specialty baking ingredients (and a kitchen scale); bought sand and set up root cellar storage boxes for root crops; bought new dish towels; started setting up cold storage with box of wrapped-up butternut squash.

6. Build local food systems: Wrapped up Local Roots newsletter for October; spent a day helping the Lady Bountiful (including cleaning about 40 squash for the Forty Seeds Project) and talked farming with her; planned apple-picking outing with the Southern Belle and My Adorable Nephews; stocked up the Renaissance Man's supply of winter squash at the same time as mine.

7. Eat the food: Baked acorn squash with maple syrup; sautéed spinach and garlic with balsamic vinegar; pesto scones; a Thai-inspired emerald curry with zucchini, edamame, green beans, garlic scapes, and poblano pepper (all from the Lady Bountiful's CSA!); broccoli pizza.

There's still plenty to do, what with a little more produce coming my way through my CSA share and a few more weeks left in the farmers' market season.

But the cold weather is coming soon, and it won't be long before all that care I gave the garden and the pantry starts to give back to me.

And we'll see just how "independent" I can be this winter!

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