Posts Tagged ‘vegetables’


What’s been put up?

October 31, 2009



My friend over at Fessenden Farmstead had a piece on preserving fruits and vegetables, which made me think I hadn’t talked about what has been put up at our house.  I’ve been derelict on that because I’m not the putter-upper – my husband is (and I am ever so grateful). 

I suppose that isn’t totally true (it’s true that I’m grateful, not true that I’m not a putter-upper).  I am the runner of the dehydrator – and in fact, I intend to dry parsley today.  I am also the freezer of fruit.  This year it was only blackberries (wild) – it is also often peaches, but apparently peaches are biannual and this is their off year I guess (plus a frost came and killed the blossoms last spring… that couldn’t have helped). 

Peaches look fine frozen, but as soon as they thaw they start turning brown.  Last year I “solved” that problem with camouflage – I froze spiced peaches – the spices (heavy on the cinnamon – but I can’t remember what else) already colored the peaches brown so the discoloration wasn’t as off-putting this year when I used them (great in my oatmeal).  Next year I’m also intending to freeze in single serving sizes.  That should do the trick.

Berries are easy – wash, dry, freeze on a cookie sheet, dump in a container or bag.

I dry tomatoes – and have been enjoying them in many things already.  Salads and sautéed with onion and polenta being my two favorites.

My husband is the tomato freezer.  We stopped canning and went to freezing, primarily because I didn’t like the lemony taste of the tomatoes when they were canned.  I’m sure we could have adjusted his approach, but freezing is so darn easy (we won’t discuss the power usage of the freezer – although a full freezer is more efficient than a 1/2 empty one – and the tomatoes really help keep ours full).

My husband pickles also – and they are soo good.  Pickled green beans are to die for!  And pickled asparagus, and pickled banana peppers – – and pickled cucumbers too.  He most recently made green tomato relish – I haven’t had a chance to dip into that yet.  I made green tomato relish once in my single years – and my face got blotchy and puffy – the doctor said it was probably the steam off the green tomatoes causing an allergic reaction.  I now avoid the kitchen on green tomato cooking day.

So the pantry is well stocked with the fruits (and veggies) of the garden.  All set for the Dark Days Challenge.  That’s the once a week meal made of SOLE food – sustainable, organic, local, and ethical. For more information you can click the badge in the side bar.  Sign up too!


Carrot Update and Other Garden Thoughts

October 4, 2009

I harvested the last of the carrots today.  We had planted 3 rows (about 15 feet long and none too neatly – that is it wasn’t as if there was a nice neat row of single carrots).  This last row, like the first, yielded about 6 gallon bags of carrots.  The middle row gave us about 3 gallons.  The first row had a lot of amazingly huge carrots – – the 2nd and 3rd had more reasonably sized individuals.  They were Danvers Half-Long carrots – most are about 6 – 8”. 

We have given carrots to relatives this fall as we saw them.  Friends are next.  I’m also planning on carrot corn bread sometime this week (it was on the plan for today but got bumped by laundry).  If I get some raisins I’ll do a carrot raisin bread too – – and maybe carrot cake, with a little cream cheese icing…. yummy.

I have some plum tomatoes drying – I hope they’re done before I want to go to bed… I was a little late to get them going.  There are still plenty on the vine – my husband says he’ll freeze them.

My husband is still finding green beans in the garden for his Sunday lunch (he’s the only one in the family who likes green beans cooked – he pickles them too though – and those are great).

Otherwise, there are a few eggplants still in the garden, a few beans, maybe a banana pepper or two.  That’s about it.  This evening I ordered garlic (our crop wasn’t very good this year so no big bulbs from which to plant cloves).  We’ll plant the garlic when it arrives in a couple of weeks – – and the cycle starts again.



Busy as a bee

September 29, 2009

I have been crazy busy – as last weekend approached my husband and I realized we really needed a 5 day weekend – one for the cross-country meet and garage-cleaning we had planned for Saturday, one for the Art’s Fair on Sunday, one to clean the house and do laundry, one for catching up on work such as grading and preparing classes, and one just to vegetate.  Unfortunately, we only had the two days.

All in all in was a fine weekend though. Friday was the high school carnival.  It is their big fundraiser for the year and involves games for the young kids, various foods in the cafeteria served at food booths built by each high school class, a Chinese auction (you put tickets in the cans of items you want and the drawn ticket wins the item) and a live auction followed by lip sync skits by each class.  I tried to win a print done by a good friend that included my father’s handwriting – but someone else (a very good person herself) won it.  I’m told I’ll be getting a copy as an early Christmas/Birthday present anyway – – yeah!

This year’s theme for carnival was Delavan CSI – What was Carnival like from the 50’s – 80’s.  Each class had a decade.  I was asked to be a lip sync judge.  They like to have a school board member, but it has to be someone without a high school student – this was my last chance for the next 8 years.  It was fun, and the seniors won – all told though I think the skits had a record number of young men dressed in drag.

On Saturday my son ran well at his race as did much of the team and my husband and I did get the garage back into shape.  Everything had been pulled away from the walls back in May when it was rehabbed and had never been fully put back together.  We needed to get it in shape so we can put the cars in when the frost hits – which really could be any time now.

On Sunday my husband and I got to go to an Art Fair – alone!  The kids didn’t want to come and they are old enough and responsible enough to stay home alone.  It was wonderful.  We spent too much money, but we got some Christmas presents for each other and family (and for at least one item we don’t even know who will get it).  We bought some art for the house. DSCF7136 Here’s one by Lou Zale.   We have  3 more of his pieces from previous years – photographs (film, not digital and not altered) with an often whimsical quality.

We also bought a glass globe for the garden and some blown glass drinking glasses for very special occasions.  For ourselves we bought pewter wine goblets – light and pretty and just waiting for a chardonnay or maybe a merlot – actually, I don’t think they are picky and any wine will taste especially yummy served in these.


Yesterday was full from dawn until late.  I got to work to find a message from the elementary school; my daughter was ill.  A consultation with my husband and we decided he was in a better position to cancel his classes than I was.  So I was able to put in a full day of work.  Then I went to a friends to see her house rehab, but more importantly the babies (the recipients of the baby blankets), but more importantly than that, to take the mom out to dinner – her fourth outing sans babies in 8 weeks.

But I wasn’t done yet.  Then it was get home, kiss everyone hello and goodbye and head to a school board meeting.  It was a very long meeting.  Not at all tedious though – we had a number of important issues to hear about and deal with, so it did not feel like a waste of my time in the least, but I’m just not used to getting home at 11:00 at night.

Up this morning at 6 a.m. and off to work by 7.  My husband dropped my daughter at my office at 8:30 (she was still feeling a bit low).  I had class until 10:30 then we came home.  Frankly, I needed the break.

I was able to get some work done, and I had a chance to say hello to the bees. No honey to harvest, but the bees seem to be doing fine, as far as I can tell.  Here’s a frame of comb they made: a frame of their own design

And here’s my helper today:

beehive portrait cropped 

Speaking of honey, last week I helped my friend Bill harvest some honey.  He borrowed a hand cranked extractor (it spins the frames and the honey is pulled from the cells by centrifugal force) and I had a 5 gallon honey bucket with a filter.  It took us about 2 hours [used to say 6 – – it only took 2 hours] to extract about 6 frames of honey and bottled about 1.5 gallons.  I left with a 2 pint jar for my efforts.  Next year I hope to be able to harvest my own.

Oh, and the garden.  Our latest crop has been the sweet DSCF7137potatoes.  We grilled some with white potatoes and carrots the other day.  Good eatin’.  We still have carrots in the ground but are short on storage space.  I prefer to store them in the fridge – we haven’t had luck keeping them in the basement.  We have juiced some, and that is tasty.  Perhaps I’ll grate some for carrot cake this weekend.

Still to come are sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes) and pears.  The pears seem to be ready to come in – they won’t ripen until they are off the tree.  Someone was out there recently knocking them down – a raccoon perhaps.  Still, there are enough to share.  The sunchoke crop doesn’t seem as large as past years, but I think it will suffice.

All said and done, how green has my life been of late?  The commute to work is never very green except that I drive a Ford Focus and get about 29 mpg – even with 194,000 miles.  I did break down and turn on the heat in the house this afternoon since my daughter was sick and it was 60 degrees inside and only 59 out.  It took the chill off, but now the heat is off again for as long as we can stand it.  We’re eating from the garden quite a bit, supporting the local grocery store too, so that’s good, green, and socially appropriate.  But, we’re driving to cross-country meets all over the tri-county area – all the driving is probably our worst offense.

We can’t do it all, but we do what we can.





September 17, 2009

It has been a strange summer in many parts of the country.  My family and friends back East had more rain than they needed and never much warmth.  Here in the Midwest – at least my part of the Midwest – it was cooler than normal (on average, the coolest summer on record), but more often than not the weather was simply beautiful for people like me who don’t like 90’s and don’t like humidity. 

The weather had mixed effects on the vegetable garden.  The tomatoes were slow to ripen – but once they got going they got moving.  This was yesterday’s harvest – there are still more ripening:9-16 harvestI will dry some of the plum tomatoes and my husband will freeze many others as well as some of the slicers.  Friends and family will also benefit from the bounty.  I don’t know what to credit with our tomato success – we typically have a good crop.  It may be the fact that we always mulch the tomatoes with straw – that keeps the ground consistently moist and I’m told that helps to prevent blossom end rot.  Maybe the llama manure helps too.

Yesterday I also harvested our potatoes as well as some of our carrots.  We have 3 rows of carrots and I have finished harvesting the first row.  I filled over 6 gallon bags with carrots from that one row.  I’m rather hoping the next two rows won’t be quite so prolific.  Why can’t I tell?  Well, after a certain point we just let the grass and weeds grow as they will – so it’s kind of hard to actually see the carrot plants – but they are there.

The weeds didn’t seem to hurt these babies:huge carrots

That carrot weighed over 1/2 a lb.  My husband and I made carrot juice this evening.  A gallon of carrots makes about 2 cups of juice – – and it is tasty.  In fact, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the largest carrots are the sweetest ones – I was afraid they’d be tough and bitter.


Here are our potatoes (and carrots):potatoes and carrots



We had roasted vegetables (potatoes and carrots with a bit of feta cheese) for dinner tonight.  We roasted all the one and two bite size potatoes.  ymmm ymmm.




We’ll be eating potatoes for awhile – – this one could feed all four of us: DSCF7071

We’re still eating chard – our only salad green at this point.  There are a few banana peppers still on the plant and a couple of eggplant still growing (and one in the refrigerator).  Our basil did very well this year, but the hot peppers never produced at all; I guess it just wasn’t warm enough.  We still have sweet potatoes to harvest  – I suppose I could dig them up any time now.  The sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes) are just flowering – they won’t be ready until after the first frost.

My husband tilled an area and sowed some more lettuce seeds.  It may be too late for a second crop – we probably should have planted the seeds in August.  But we didn’t, and the weather is so unpredictable we might just have pleasant, frost-free weather until November – – or we’ll get a killing frost next week – – who knows.



School Year Begins and Blogging Slows

August 21, 2009

Summer vacation is over.  My husband and I are officially  preparing for classes that begin next week, and Friday was the first day of school for both of my kids.  Does that mean our green advances are over?

No, but I do think that everyday life and the day job will interfere more with my documentation efforts.  There are just too few hours in the day or even the week to keep up with all my responsibilities on a daily  basis.  I’m afraid first priority goes to mothering, then “wife-ing” (my husband will be surprised he rates this high), then the day job (college teaching) followed closely  by school board member and president of the school’s education foundation.  Blogging and writing my column for the local paper comes after maintaining friendships, but probably before cleaning the house.  And that doesn’t even deal with maintaining the yard and garden or petting the cats.  And don’t forget the bees and llamas (although frankly I pay much more attention to the bees than the llamas, primary responsibility for which has migrated to my husband.)

For me not only is the summer is over, but so is my sabbatical.  One of the perks of a career in academia is that every 7 years you can apply for time off from university responsibilities (including teaching) to conduct a project of value to your professional development.  I spent the Spring semester learning about Environmental Psychology.  Environmental Psychology started as the intersection of Psychology and Architecture, but has now evolved to include the environment broadly defined – that is both the built (man-made) and natural environment.  I developed a course on Environmental Psych to be taught at my university as well as an area of research that I can do with the help of students.

I am looking forward to getting back into the classroom, but I will miss my days at home too.  I was remarkably busy, but my hours were my own.  Now my time is increasingly being scheduled by other people.  What does it mean for the blog?  Probably fewer and shorter posts; but I do plan to keep posting about moving my family greener and greener.

And today? I picked tomatoes and carrots and potatoes.  I was wondering how much money we save by growing a garden?  Do we break even? Save money?  We spend about $100 or less on seeds and such – do we save that much?  I suspect so – we have a heck of a lot of tomatoes, potatoes, and carrots already and we’ve barely dented the number we’ll end up with.  And they’re organic.  Someday I’ll crunch the numbers, but for today I think I’ll just enjoy my roasted potatoes and carrots (prepared by my dear husband as I type).


August In the Garden and the Kitchen

August 19, 2009

It has been a cool summer, and I loved the weather.  But now the summer heat has finally hit.  The good thing is the tomatoes are ripening like crazy. Here’s today’s take of tomatoes and banana peppers. an August day's haulThe carrots are ready to be pulled too – – I pulled up what we might eat over the next several days.  This is a tiny fraction of our crop – they’ll keep in the ground so I don’t have to pull them all at once, although I do end up sharing them with some bugs if I wait too long.DSCF6907

Lately, I have been making a lot of ice cream.

The other day I stopped at our favorite natural foods market – a year round farmer’s market of local foods – they sell milk from a Central Illinois creamery that does not ultra-pasteurize or homogenize the milk and the cows are not given hormones.  I picked up 2 gallons, not looking at the dates, but 1/2 noticing there weren’t many jugs.  At check out the woman pointed out that the milk was already 2 days past their use by date – she would sell them to me at 1/2 price, but to let them know if they were bad and they’d replace them.

My experience has been that less processed milk lasts longer than the more ultra-pasteurized and homogenized milk.  So far (it is now 5 days past the use by date) the milk is fine – – but I’m trying to use it as quickly as possible too.  So I have been making ice cream.  Actually, it’s ice milk.  I can’t eat eggs so my concoction involves skim milk, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla, sometimes 1/2 and 1/2, sometimes heavy cream, but more often not – – beyond that it’s just a matter of imagination or  recipes.  I made a spiced ice cream the other day with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger (I think it was based on a recipe from an old Midwest Living magazine).  Today and yesterday I made chocolate.

I’m trying to think of other ways to use the milk.  I have several boxes of pudding mix in the cupboard, so that’s a possibility also.  I don’t think I’m up for making cheeses, so I’m probably stuck with making assorted desserts, or maybe a soup (that my children won’t eat…). I’ll suggest that to my husband, he’s the cook of real foods – I specialize in desserts.