Friday, August 30, 2013

Random Five Friday

1.  We are officially in the midst of soccer season.  What could be better than to watch his dedication coupled with pure enjoyment.

2.  These brown sugar oatmeal cookies of PW Woman, are fantastic!!

3.   Remember our bumper garlic harvest??  Well, I sold 60 heads of garlic to a local organic grocery store this week!  So exciting!

4.  Our larder is filling nicely with beautiful canned goods.  My hope is that we can keep our energy high through mid-fall to increase this exponentially. 

5.  One of the first things that we did when we moved to the farm was have a big party and to give it a twist, we made it a chili cook-off.  Over the years it has taken on a life of its own and tomorrow is our 6th installment.  We are running around finishing last minute preparations for around 80 people (almost half of who are children)!   This year we have 7 chili entries and 5 pie entries for their respective competitions.  Who will get to keep the chili pig and the golden rolling pin this year??  What better way to spend the final weekend of summer!?

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

I See You

This giant beauty was situated on our screen door this morning.  Its mate was directly adjacent to it on the eve.

It was so serene, and did not seem to mind my photo shoot.  I tried to get a shot from the side to better capture its legs.

When I loaded the photos, this one seemed to say....I see you!  Happy Thursday!!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Well Processed Apple

With the fall schedules beginning to take shape, I know what will happen. It will soon be October and we will have not made it apple picking yet. So, we took the opportunity between soccer games at the tournament on Saturday to pick some early season apples....just in case time flies as I suspect.

The apples were small but flavorful, a perfect combination to pack in school lunches and to make a first batch of applesauce.  I can see that I will need to get many more apples processed into sauce, if Charles polishing off an entire pint for breakfast yesterday morning is any indicator of its popularity.

I always love processing garden and fresh picked goodness.  Any waste immediately becomes chicken treats so not really waste at all.  At B's suggestion, we took the apples one step further.  We cooked down all of the cores and skins until they were complete mush.  Then strained the mush through a jelly bag.  We were left with right at 4 cups of the most amazing smelling apple juice, which we immediately added (equal amounts of ) sugar to and cooked to the magic 220 degrees and now also have 6 jars of beautiful pink apple jelly.  To top it off...the chickens loved the remaining mush!  So win, win...a well processed apple!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Random Five Friday

1.  I am balancing my oh so frou-frou picnic basket for our Ravinia concert experience tonight by filling it with only homemade and garden grown items; cucumber salad, dill pickles, dilly beans, honey, red currant jelly, sweet potato biscuits, and elderberry wine.  I cannot tell you how excited I am to see Lyle Lovett tonight, a long time wish, granted.

2.  In order to milk every last moment out of summer, this week we made our annual trip to the Renaissance Faire, I love that place.  I then took the kids to the pool every day when I got home from work, and we were sure to indulge in ice cream and special meals...because what else do you do during the summer!?

3.  My little girl began the 7th grade yesterday.  Where does the time go?  She is growing up so fast, and meeting the new year head on with grace.

4. The kids are HUGE David Tennant fans.  He is their favorite Doctor (yet they will always give the new ones a chance),  and being not just a pretty face, he's a fabulous Shakespearean actor.  Since we are suckers for BBC America and quite proud that we are cultivating that in the children, we have begun watching Broadchurch.  Beyond my crying through most of the first episode, it looks to be a great whodunnit.  Are you watching it??

5.  Yep, it appears we have another batch of these little ones!

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

There's a Fungus Among Us

The last couple of weeks have just flown by.   There has been a recent return of more summer-like weather,  and we are soaking up every last moment of summer vacation.  The warm weather also has the garden going gangbusters!  Check out the back to the garden page to see what we have been harvesting and what our farm bag families have been enjoying. 

Similarly to this little guy we saw a month or so ago, a beautiful shelf mushroom is emerging from this tree.  It seems that overnight it has gone from a little speck to a rather massive presence.  I am headed out now to do the nightly garden harvest, and put together a special fresh dinner for the girl who begins the 7th grade tomorrow!  We will squeeze every last drop out of summer for her this evening.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Physiology of Taste and Tastebuds

As I mentioned here, I am a student again.  Our first mini assignment was to skim The Physiology of Taste and pick a bit that speaks to our humor and post a brief reflection of it in a 'status' format.  I find myself captivated by this book written 200 years ago.  So much of what is discussed through anecdote or observation holds true today.

There are many areas in what I have read so far that could be expanded upon, but I came across a translation on gastronomical tests, and thought of our little dinner club...the Tastebuds.  We meet monthly choosing a theme or chef, then spend hours cooking together and enjoy a beautiful meal at the end...evenings full of friendship and family.  We critique each dish and in our opinion, there have been very few failures.  I  must say that we have become quite the food snobs through this process.  We have found that we are hard pressed to find food that we enjoy more.  Is it the taste, the companionship, or both?  I think, perhaps both, and a mutual love for the rituals of food and friendship.

The quote that made me laugh out loud today was this. "Whenever a dish of distinguished and good flavor is served, the guests should be attentively watched, and those, the faces of whom do not express pleasure, should be marked as unworthy."

The passage goes on to describe different levels to the 'tests' that can accommodate those coming from all levels of experience.  I am eager to move through this course discovering new perspectives and reflecting upon what food culture means to me and what my hopes are for both my family and our community as reflected in the food we prepare and eat.

Sunday, August 11, 2013


We have been up to our eyeballs in ferments this weekend.  All of the crocks of veggies that we have been lacto-fermenting for the last couple of weeks we emptied and jarred.  This group we did as refrigerator picklings so that we could maintain the integrity of all of the good bacteria.  As we have already started re-filling the crocks, our next batch we will water-bath can and as a result will loose some of the benefits of lacto-fermenting, but we will gain the fresh taste of pickles for the months to come. 

We bottled the 2012 elderberry wine.  This batch we did as a straight run.  We did not add any other fruit flavors to it (like last years elderberry/rhubarb).  It will benefit from time in the bottle, but the flavor right out of the carboy is great.  We are considering doing our 2013 batch as a first press and then a second press rose.  All new experiments, so much fun!

We pulled all of the garlic yesterday and out of the entire row, we only found one head that we couldn't keep.  We are heavy in the garlic.  It was surprising how immense the root systems were.  The giant clods of dirt that the roots held onto took more than a little effort to free.  Thankfully, with B's broadfork. we were able to pull up sections, harvest, and aerate all at once!

To tie this in to the ferments theme here,  aside from farm bags, we are going to look into selling some at a local farm fresh store, packing in oil, and making some black garlic to sell and share. I am interested to try this out, the flavor is supposed to be fantastic!

I asked B this morning, how are we going to outdo yesterday?  We shall see...

Friday, August 9, 2013

Random Five Friday

1.  Bird Houses : We bought one of those bird houses that you suction cup to the window this spring.  I was feeling a little frustrated because we have never seen any activity through the glass viewer, and I realized that just maybe it was a silly purchase.  If I were a bird, I would not want to see large shadows constantly peering in at me, so why set up housekeeping?.  Last night B opened it up to peek inside...lookie at these five little beauties!

2.  National Zucchini Day:  Yep, yesterday was the day and with our squash plants producing like crazy, I have been searching and searching for new recipes.  This quiche was. the. bomb.  The kids are asking for more and it was so easy!  Do not worry, you have not missed out.  Remember if you garden, everyday can be a day to randomly gift your neighbors with zucchini! (aka adult ding dong ditch em :)

3.  Note To Self:  When you are mowing and disrupt some sort of nest, after the first sting, give up.  Even if you go outside 30 minutes later, one of the angry little buggers will gun for you.  Just wait it out and have your husband put the mower away me on this one.

4.  School Days:  We have officially finished school supply shopping.  Whew!  The summer is winding down way too quickly and we are already trying to balance fall schedules that are seeping out for both school and sports.  Sid has 13 days of summer left and making the most of all of them.  Charles is gloating that he has 25 days, but I am guessing he will feel differently come the end of the year when she is still  sleeping as he heads out the door!

5.   Motivation:  We have decided to start running as a family.  The kids are both interested in track, and B and I are looking to ease our way into running.  Of course I made this decision on fair week, which was ridiculously busy and it was never going to happen then.  I have researched healthy ways to ease into running to avoid injury and build up stamina and with the purchase of running shoes this week, I am set to go.  Now, it is setting aside the time to make the first venture out.  Now that I have written it, I can't hide from it, this weekend it shall be!

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Monday, August 5, 2013

A Colorful Market

Fitting that outside our capital building is a small active garden growing fresh vegetables when the farmers market held there every week is ranked one of the best in the nation.  

We arrived early to beat the crowds, so we got a first go around and sneak peek before it was really busy.  The robust crowds that followed were such a variety of people.  From those who you know spent casual Saturday mornings there regularly, to those who wanted only the freshest cut wildflowers for a wedding that afternoon.

Aside from the overall feeling of community, what was the most striking about the market?  The parade of color.

Both colorful products and colorful people.

And, beyond that parade of color were the farmers and artisans, all so passionate about their work and so enthusiastic to share their love with us.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Food, Summer Stuff & MIT

The early black-eyed-Susans of August bring with them lengthening shadows and the softer, more golden light that are sure signals of the approaching fall.  With that comes my inner sense of needing to prep for the cooler months ahead. 

Food culture seems to be a key thought process around here, especially during harvest season, and this week it has brought lots of new ideas and goals.  In the last couple of weeks we have been getting some early garden harvests in and experimenting with preserving different things.  Two large crocks are on the kitchen counter lacto-fermenting away, one with cucumbers and one full of green beans.  Though neither crop is producing heavily yet, it is coming and soon.

Food is such an integral (intergalactic is what my auto correct tried to correct this to. Ha, maybe its that too!) part of our experience.  Growing, canning, cooking, eating and simply taking an active role in how the food we eat gets to our table.  I just finished French Women Don't Get Fat.  It was an interesting read on food culture and how by simply placing your emphasis on the importance of the meal and how it is to be eaten and enjoyed is one of the essential components of healthier living.  When I finished reading it, I made Karen LeBillons carrot soup.  It was such a hit with the family, that the kids have asked me to make it again...and soon!

After finishing this meal, I read that my group of blogging friends has proposed taking one of the free courses offered through MIT's website together.  I am so excited to be part of this group of dynamic and creative women.  We will be discussing and studying a course on food and culture, and then applying our thoughts more fully in a writing course on contemporary issues, Culture Shock!  How fun to get ready for school in the Fall right along with the kids.  Message me if you would like to join us!

I am excited to be headed to the Madison Farmers Market with some girlfriends this weekend.  I have never been and it is supposed to be something to see.  I hope to take lots of pictures, chat with the farmers and artisans, and bring back some tasty ideas.

So, as you can see, food has been dominating my thoughts, well,  along with preparing for the wedding and the usual summer stuff!  Oh and remind me to tell you about B's latest adventures in removing wild bee swarms from barns where they have taken up residence (cutouts)....quite the experiences!


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