Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Animal Attraction

Tom Turkey
Today was a gorgeous day, the perfect day here to visit the favorite local attraction of Grandkid #1.  It was also a red letter day for GK #2, today he took off walking under his own recognizance.  He has taken a very few tentative steps,
but this afternoon he decided it was time, and off he went.

Anyway, this was the day to visit the local barnyard.  An enterprising local has made a petting zoo complete with pony rides and free kitten adoptions.  There are pigs, goats, cows, horses, a dog, kittens, rabbits, guinea pigs, chickens, chicks, ducks, geese, an alpaca, a peacock, and an emu.

Children under two are free, all others are five dollars each, and a plastic bag of dried corn to feed the animals costs three dollars.  There is a nice playground and picnic area, and snacks for sale; just drinks and chips I think. 

The owner was drawing out plans for a zip line that he was
preparing to construct.  He also told me about several other
Domestic Ducks
improvement plans.  I asked him if this was his idea, and he said
yes, that it was his plan so that he could stay at home and work.
My granddaughter thinks it is a brilliant idea.  I enjoyed it a lot too.

Next time we will take a picnic, and spend lots more time.  There is  an abundance of space to run off excess energy and plenty to see and do.  It was an inspiring enterprise and the gentleman also used it as a place to promote some of his ideas, with lots of funny sayings posted, his political candidate promoted, and a Statue of Liberty in the center of his pond.  I always admire someone who can advance their own solutions and views and make a living too.

The animals appeared to be very well cared for and gentle.  The area was cleaner than a normal barnyard and much more spacious than the typical zoo, so I guess I was pretty impressed.  Lots of grandparents and grandkids and moms making the most of the last week before school starts up here.

Sand Box with Diggers
I would linger and write more but the daughter needs some help getting the baby to bed.  Tomorrow is the second day of preschool for GK  #1.  It was a good, good day, but everyone is tired out now, so off to bed.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Bright Green Olives

Olives, pepper and cheese
Kroger's olive bar is one of the places where I am pretty willing to ignore my locally-grown convictions and throw down some money.  I love olives, especially ones in oil instead of brine and I have discovered the best olive ever.  I have been avoiding the Kroger Store in favor of a cheaper alternative but this week I went to get some olives and there is a new one.  I didn't pay that much attention to the label, I think it said something about Sicilian.  Anyway, this olive is bright green, it is the one on the right side of the saucer in the photo.  They are AWESOME.  They are crunchier and tastier and even prettier.  It will be a while before I will even bother with the other ones, these were so good.  I hope the store doesn't suddenly decide to stop carrying them.  All you olive lovers in my area, go out and buy some so that they keep supplying them, please.

Purple Hull Pea Vines
I usually buy fresh mozzarella cheese and slice it and marinate it myself.  Especially if I have fresh basil, but I bought some of theirs for a different flavor, and it was good.  But I wish I had bought the whole pound of Sicilian green olives, then I might have some left, but naaah, probably not.  I consumed them muy rapido.

I will be out of town for a bit and will miss my purple hull pea harvest.  This is a sad thing, but one of the neighbors said she will come and pick them and freeze some for me.  I will be very sad if I miss them all.

Sneak turtle after compost additions
There are cucumbers again, and still lots and lots of okra.  There are a few melons left.  The co-gardener didn't get a video camera, but he did buy a fancy light and patrols the garden a couple of times a night, but still no sign of the
melon thief.

The phone or Google+ finally downloaded the picture of the sneaky turtle sampling the discards headed to the compost (see previous post).  You can see the last of the old cucumbers going out.  The new cucumbers are just starting, I've had two or three so far.  Good timing, although it took a couple of tries to get the cukes going.  Lots of basil left and I have some lettuce coming up finally.  Now if the tomatoes will just get going, I will have something to go with my bright green olives.

It has been a rough garden summer, but I am thankful for the chance to have such delicious food.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Oil Change, Sweet Potato, Bearnaise

Sweet potato vines, Bearnaise, steak

It has been a quiet weekend, with several trips up and down the mountain on the Ruckus to the garden. I finally got around to changing the oil in my new used Ruckus. I had to borrow the Co-Gardeners 17 mm socket and finally his biceps to get the drain plug out, but eventually got the job done. Wow, so far You Tube has been my guide for Honda care. Let me just thank all you gifted video mechanics out there. You make the world a better place for many of us, blessings on you!

Tonight's featured supper was steak with Bearnaise sauce, baked potato, fresh corn on the cob, and sweet potato vine tips. I have eaten the sautéed tips of the sweet potato vines before, but tonight I decided to try them as if they were leafy asparagus. Since I knew I was making the Bearnaise sauce, it seemed like a good time to fix other things that could benefit from the sauce. I chose to boil them and only used about the last six to eight inches of new growth. The purple color of the new growth boiled out.

New purple growth of sweet potato vine
They are pretty bland and the stems toughen after about three or four inches, but they aren't bad, especially with Bearnaise sauce. In my opinion, most anything is pretty good with Bearnaise! This sauce had an additional snipped up fresh branch of tarragon from our garden French Tarragon. If you remember I bought two from the Farmer's Market (see previous blog post). I planted one and held one in reserve. The planted one flourished but the other one eventually expired when I finally got around to planting it in the garden next to one of the figs.

If you have ever seriously worked at growing sweet potatoes, then you know how easy they are to grow. They make take a while but eventually you will have vigorous, green vines all over the place. After searching around on line a while I finally found some figures about sweet potato vine nutritional value. They have lots of protein and contain all the essential amino acids. The leaves also have Vitamin A and quite a few other useful things in varying amounts. It turns out that chicks can be fed dried sweet potato vines instead of their regular feed and will do as well as all but the most intensively fed broiler houses chicks. Good for your backyard/free range types of chickens. There is even a recipe for making sweet potato soap. I will need to look into that one.

I think George Washington Carver did some work with sweet potatoes too, not just peanuts. That might be fun to look into too. Anyway, I am full and have a new appreciation for one of my garden plants. In the second grade, my teacher, Mrs. Applegate, had a sweet potato growing in a vase. I was fascinated with the green lush vines and loved it when it was my turn to add water to the container. Now I start my own plants from a parent potato, and grow and harvest them. I don't think I have ever had a total failure with sweet potatoes. They are tough customers. Growing up, we oiled the skins and put them in the oven until they were soft. Then we split them and added butter. It is still my favorite way to eat them. If you watch, sooner or later they will go on sale for around thirty or forty cents a pound, sometime in the winter. They store really well in a box somewhere, where it isn't too hot or cold. Lots of really healthy, tasty eating on the cheap. One more way to trim the grocery bill in these expensive times.
New growth on older pruned tomato vines

I have also tried something else I have read about but never attempted. I pruned a couple of my big tomato plants that had gotten really straggly and beaten down by the weather. I cut them back to the lushest of the new growth and stuck cages around them. They are sturdy and have blooms and look good. We will see how they do compared to the ones left to recover as is, and the new plants I put out. They new plants are growing, but don't look like they will catch up to the pruned ones, but we will see.

Trying new things, why is it so hard? If God's mercies are new every morning, why are we so reluctant to try new things?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Preservatives and Seed Savers

When I was at the Farmer's Market a while back I bought some peppers. When I made my purchase, the grower threw in a free selection of all the other types of peppers she grew. One was a small red chili cayenne type. When I used it I really liked the combination of hot, spicy, and a little fruity. I wished that I had grown some of those this year.

Seed Savers Pepper Seed Packets
When I went on an outing in the Capitol City, my friend and I shopped at one the fancy organic stores there. I looked at their seed rack and found these two types. The freebie peppers the grower gave me were much smaller than these, but I hope they will have a similar flavor. These seeds are from Seed Savers Exchange. This organization has been around a while and was formed to protect the diversity of foods and naturally grown products by promoting, saving, and selling open pollinated and heirloom seeds. They are an organization you can join, it doesn't cost much for a membership, and that money is used to preserve and grow the seed stock. If you haven't read up on their mission, it is interesting and they have done a great job of raising awareness of the need to protect our seed diversity.

These packets have a paragraph on the back that tells the history of the particular type. One came from South America and the other from Italy via Canada then to Troy, New York. Peppers are pretty interesting. There are LOTS of different kinds and they look different and are used for many different dishes. I will save these seeds for next year, probably not enough time for this year, but I wish there was. Peppers seem to grow really slowly in our garden for some reason.

Hormel "No Preservative" Sandwich Meats
I was reading up on the seeds while I was eating my breakfast. I had a Muenster-Pepper Omelet with fresh tomatoes and my own sausage creation. Lately I have been reading and seeing a lot of info on the negative effects of preservatives, especially in meats. It seems to be linked into the inflammatory response that is somehow linked to arthritis and Alzheimer's among other things (Please note, I am not a doctor or a licensed anything). Anyway, the bottom line is that I really don't like the taste of preservatives in meat. I am reasonably careful with my food, and have never had any food poisoning incidents so I am choosing to explore the preservative-free meat products that are starting to appear in stores. Hormel has packaged sandwich meats in a little brown box that I like, I think one of the other lunch meat companies has a line too. I have even been finding preservative-free bacon. And then, the Do It Yourself bug bit and I decided to make my own breakfast sausage when I couldn't find my favorite brand.

DIY Breakfast Sausage Patties
I found some very lean pork, used an on-line recipe from Alton Brown.  Next I added my own garden sage, rosemary, marjoram and onions and some other spices and patted it out. It was very lean, so for tasty fun I added some chapped bacon in the next batch. I think I will add olive oil to the next to strike a better balance between tasty and healthy. I really like my own sausage, it is a premium product and will get better as I tweak the recipe my way.

It strikes me that both of these topics have a lot to do with intentionality and deliberation. Our sermon this week was about honoring one another. I think they are all connected. Deliberation lets us slow down and single out what characteristics or traits we value. Can be type and taste of a pepper, ingredients and recipes for sausage or praiseworthy actions of others. Intentionality means we have decided to do something with that information, let it have some kind of effect. In the business and leadership world it is called strategy or execution. We take information and let it inform and guide our responses. It does a lot of things that I haven't thought through yet, but it does help make an interesting breakfast and garden.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Break in the Drought and Cantaloupe Thieves

New cucumber plants
We have appreciated the rain. The garden is growing super quickly with the extra water and the cooler temperatures. We have some corn on the way, purple hull peas, okra and peppers. There are new cucumber plants with little cukes and some odds and ends of other things. We also have melons, but we are in a race to see how many we will get before the varmints eat them all.

Unripe cantaloupe
Banana peppers
When the cantaloupes are about one or two days away from picking they begin to send off fragrant fruit smells. Before we pick the fully ripe fruit, something comes along and eats it. I am guessing it is a raccoon, possum, squirrel or rabbit, or maybe several of these. They don't come every night and they only eat the ripest ones. They don't get all of them, but they have gotten several of them. We have yet to see what it is; very frustrating. They are either climbing over or under the fence. They may even be hiding out in the garden. It happens at night, which makes me think it isn't squirrels. They haven't eaten the corn, and I think raccoons would do that. Oh well we will keep trying to figure it out and take some kind of corrective action.

In the not so sneaky department, I caught a box turtle sneaking up on my compost makings. I sat the peelings outside to deter the fruit flies and when I opened the door to leave this morning, I caught the turtle checking out the container.  It surprised both of us. I can handle sneaky at that speed. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Boutiques and Botanicals

Display in Serendipity
Had a few extra minutes in town this week and visited a new shop in our old downtown area. This shop was a super fun mix of furniture, clothing, accessories and other cool things. The prices were reasonable and I am very tempted by a nice spacious purse I saw there, hmmm.......
Anyway, it was a pleasant change. The previous shop was ultra trendy and rather ridiculously expensive. The stuff was super cool, but I usually felt like I was being sized up and found wanting in one way and another. The owner of Serendipity, Tomisa, was certainly a friendly breath of fresh air.

Maybe the chip on my shoulder toward the previous shop, was that in my previous life I made sales calls there and they even advertised with my company. If you want to know how people really behave, go call on a business owner as an advertising rep. Probably accounts for part of my push against materialism. Anyway, rant aside, I love the new shop and will visit often on my way to the new coffee shop or my drugstore.
Seed pods, 6-8 inches, Kentucky Coffee

In totally unrelated news, outside the library this week, I found a Kentucky Coffee Tree. Wikipedia says they are naturally occurring and rare here in the “midwest”. I am sure this was planted by the University, in fact I think I remember identifying it with my dendrology professor Dr. Tucker.

Kentucky Coffee Seeds
They look a little like an ash tree, but with big pods. The pods have smooth seeds that Wiki says are easy to grow. It also said that early settlers optimistically thought the beans might be a substitute for coffee. It is classified as somewhat toxic (what does that mean?), so I don't think I will give it a try. However it is almost time for sumac berries, and I think I will make some sumac lemonade this year. Co-gardener of Minimalist Intentions blog made some and it was pretty good. Maybe the wildlife have eaten them all. I need to check.

So, looking back, Serendipity lived up to it's potential, and Kentucky Coffee, not so much. Hope I can learn to be who I am with everyone and not treat someone differently for ANY reason. Good goal, not so easy.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Migas My Way

Onions, peppers & tortilla browning
This morning I had my version of migas for breakfast. Migas is the word for crumbs in Spanish according to Wikipedia and probably refers to the use of crumbled or chopped tortillas. I think I first discovered the recipe in a Mennonite Cookbook called “Extending the Table”. This is a collection of recipes compiled by the Mennonite Central Committee and features very homey typical national dishes from around the world. Many of the recipes were submitted by their Mennonite members serving as missionaries.

My version of migas was pretty humble but tasty. I used corn tortillas, snipped up with my kitchen scissors, crisped in a little butter with onions and peppers. I added my scrambled egg mixture and used up some leftover fresh mozzarella and basil. It was great. The Pioneer Woman has a version of migas that looks delish and beautiful and has a pretty entertaining description too. My only claim to fame is that I knew about the recipe long before she did.

Finished breakfast- Migas
My daughter introduced me to Ree, of The Pioneer Woman fame. Since we haven't had a television in about twelve years there are a lot of things I don't know about. And since I am still not too sure how to use Pinterest there are a whole lot of interesting things that I am way behind the curve on. So I guess Ree gets the splash for migas and I just get a blog entry. Anyway, she is fun and the dishes all look tremendous.

The base of corn tortilla and eggs couldn't be simpler. But it is one of those synergistic things, the combo of those two, outshines the separate ingredients. For a simple breakfast, you can't beat it. When my Mom was ill, I fixed this for her breakfast many, many times. Her staple foods were migas, butterscotch or banana pudding cups, and Ensure. I fixed it so often that, although I really like migas, it was a long time before I could enjoy it.

I like dishes like this where I can use up the odds and ends of vegetables and other foods. In the winter I make a clean out the refrigerator soup that varies with the leftover assortment. I guess we could call it the casserole philosophy. Cook your noodles and add whatever, top and heat. That is where the profit- margin and savings is located, in those plastic containers of leftovers.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Pole Barns and Airstreams

The Neighbor's 80's Airstream
So it is time for a word about The Neighbors. We have four properties adjoining our new property. One belongs to the original Co-Gardener, two are homes that were there before we bought our property. The other belongs to the new Neighbors. These are two folks we are very excited to have nearby, or soon to be nearby. We have known both of them for several years and are delighted that they are going to build their own home.

Their plan is similar to ours. Do-it-yourself and make it efficient. Their plan is different, because they are designing it themselves. His day job is as a musician, degreed in engineering, with significant touring breaks and random work to help cash flow. She has a seminary degree and is still thinking about the path her vocations might take.

Poles for the Pole Barn
As an interim dwelling, the couple has purchased an Airstream Trailer. They intend to live here while they build and as they tour and travel. They shopped extensively to find a good deal and to find something that would retain its value. They have chronicled some of their journey if you want to follow along on the Moore Homestead blog link on this page. Moore's Homestead

Currently they are raising a pole barn building. This will serve as a storage area and eventual studio space. He labored over the plans for several days working out the glitches and tweaking it to meet his criteria. They will probably have their home construction finished long before ours.

Neighbor's Scale Plans
We are currently considering a greenhouse purchase. Elegant Astronaut (link to blog this page) gave me a gift certificate to her favorite masseuse. Charlene, the masseuse, happens to know someone who needs to sell their three greenhouse structures, and by one of those strange quirks they are only a mile or two from our new property as the crow flies.
Rafters Up

  One of the structures is a gothic frame with heater, thermostats and fans. The other two are disassembled hoop houses. We have plans for a geodesic/aquaponic/hydropinc greenhouse, but we have pressing needs for a greenhouse space sooner than we can build our custom dome structure.
It is all matter of cash flow at this point.

Neighbors are an important part of community life. They are a constant and good reminder to be ethical in all that you do. They can be your best friends (or your worst enemies if things don't go well). I am looking forward to long and good relationships with all our neighbors.