Our sunflowers have been very productive this year! The heads are drooping under their weight, and our tallest one comes in at about 10′ 4″.

A very happy bee.

This one is almost ready for drying. We’ll have to keep an eye on it and claim it before the birds do!

I’m only 5’4″ – it’s fun to know the tallest one is almost TWICE my height!!


Tasty Reds

Out first round of potatoes from the garden. Two plants gave us all this. And they were amazing!

Fresh and Homemade

This past weekend proved to be full of fresh and homemade surprises. My husband bottled his homemade strawberry wine and we decided to give it a try. Even though it’s “unaged”, it was terrific. Dry, mild,  and aromatic, the strawberry flavor was light and very enjoyable. It our opinion, it was a huge success and will be repeated next year. He’s thinking peach wine might be next on the agenda.

When I came home from work on Friday, not only was I surprise by a chilled bottle of strawberry wine, but a freshly baked loaf of baguette. I’m blessed with husband who has decided he likes baking! In order to round out the afternoon, a trip to the local farmer’s market- at this time of year, indulgence is super fresh produce from the local farmers market. The corn was turned into fresh corn cakes with ham, the tomato and zucchini part of a quick summer pasta sauce, and the blackberries went into a homemade pound cake.

We decided we wanted to try our hand at making our own pasta, so Sunday evening was experiment time. All it takes is some eggs and flour, and if you can make a pie crust, you can make pasta! Mix mix mix, knead, refrigerate, roll, and slice. I tossed together a quick farmer’s market/garden style sauce, some fresh parmesan, and this was amazing! I HIGHLY recommend anyone try making your own pasta, you will be very pleased with the results! It’s hearty, tasty, and the texture is terrific. AND, it even reheats well! I might even dare say it’s better the second time around! Of course, I have to credit Miss. Jenna Woginrich at Cold Antler Farm for trying the recipe. 🙂

To top the weekend off, my husband (despite his really strange milk phobias) agreed to willingly make the switch to raw milk. Thanks to our knowledge of WAAWWE, a store devoted to local, healthy, and humane food, we knew that the owner sells raw milk from her farm down the road. So after a short jaunt, we met up with Lisa Kaiman of Jersey Girls and purchased our first 1/2 gallon of raw milk. Free with the purchase was a healthy dose of milk and food talk, including topics that I am familiar with, but were new to my husband. We both were educated on a number of things, and my husband was so intrigued that I convinced him to watch Food, Inc. with me.  I was familiar with a lot of the information given, but a lot of it was new to me. I can add that movie to the list of things that continues to push me toward eating more sustainably! Interestingly enough, my husband was moved at the end of the film. He told me that he had expected all of the ethical and environmental impacts, that they were not a shock to him, but what scared him was the ability of Monsanto to patent a gene. He went on to explain to me all the future implications this could have for the patent of any genes, ownership of life, and a slew of ethical situations. I may even have him write a post for this blog, adding a new perspective for many of us. Personally, I was disturbed about the use of chemicals to “disinfect” food, the creation of “fillers”, and the super-resistant diseases coming from commercial farming practices. We have already switched over our beef, and we’ve been trying local pork and poultry and really like it. I think this film may have been the final push I needed to switch all of our meats over to local, grass-fed, and humane products.

Just beyond the weekend, Monday afternoon a co-worker of mine who lives just up the road told me that he has a huge collection of wild blackberry bushes on some of his land and he can’t manage to get to all of it, let alone pick them all. So, he told me to feel free to head up after I got out of work and help myself to whatever I could get at. Despite it being somewhat muggy, I convinced my husband to put on some jeans and a long sleeve shirt and tag along. We ended up with quite a bit, but boy, was it something rugged to get at them! We had to follow deer trails through an overgrown marshy area and let me tell you, some of those thorns were huge! I felt spoiled thinking about the farm berry picking I’m use to. But we kept picking until we couldn’t reach any more bushes. Not a bad haul for 30 minutes of prickly bushwhacking!

*Final Note: The raw milk is amazing. Even my husband likes it! He says it tastes less “milky” than store bought milk. It sounds kind of odd, but I get what he’s saying. It’s mild, sweet, and filling. Maybe I’m a werido, but I swear I can taste hints of fresh grass in it, and it lacks that sticky and shallow bitter aftertaste you get with store stuff. And the best part? It comes with cream. 🙂 Right now we’re mixing it in, but sometimes with my morning coffee, I don’t mix it up and get a nice shot of cream in my mug. Shhhh… don’t tell the hubbie I’m skimming his cream!! 🙂 If you are interesting in learning more about raw milk, Lisa has a nice article on her Jersey Girls site, and there are thousands of websites to search, all available at the click of a button.

Blueberries, Pickels, and Wine

After a long break, I’m slowly making my way back to this blog. This spring was pretty crazy with a lot of personal life changes. There was some family issues, a much needed job change, a well deserved vacation, a lot of gardening, and now, things are slowly quieting down. We’ve been keeping ourselves busy with all kinds of projects since April!

A family weekend of tilling and planting everything from seed this year while has worked out a lot better than transplanting.

Two months into planting from seed, everything is looking amazing. The only problems that we are having at the moment are pumpkin arms going everywhere and the potatoes seem to have a little early blight issues.

We picked out first cukes today and they are amazing! These are supposed to be pickling cukes but they got forgotten under all the leaves and got a little bigger. It’s okay though, they still taste amazing! We’ve also been eating fresh green beans and Swiss chard.

My husband has been experimenting with making local fruit wines. This is our first 5 gallon batch of strawberry. Next up will be peach and then apple. 🙂 I can’t wait to try it!

We’ve been doing plenty of picking on our weekends. We’ve got several quarts of strawberries put away and now we’re working on blueberries. What a year for blueberries! They are so large, sweet, and plentiful this year! At $2 a pound, we got about 3 quarts for $7. They made some awesome muffins! Oh! Yes, I’ll have to post that recipe! How can you resist “healthy” muffins?

And as of today, we have been trying our hand at making pickles. Today it was traditional bread and butter pickles. We even have a fancy crinkle cutter which really makes these guys look like the real deal.

Frugal Food: Beef and Beans

My husband laughs at me for keeping the smallest bits of leftovers. I can’t help it! Why would you take something you’ve worked so hard for and just toss it? If I can’t get a full meal out of a little bit of leftover veggies, rice, or even meat, I’ll put it in Tupperware, label it, and put it in the freezer. Most items are destined to become future soups or stews, but you can get way more creative than that. About a month ago, a beef roast feed us a couple of meals, but after the second heating, there was very little left and it was starting to dry out. We really didn’t feel like having it again, and it was too dry for sandwiches. So, I cut it up into small pieces and put it in the freezer. And there stood my husband, shaking his head, “Just toss it hun, it ain’t worth saving. What are you going to do with it? Don’t you have enough scraps in the freezer?” But I just smiled and said, “You’ll see.”

Well, wasn’t it a few weeks later when I had some leftover tortillas, I found a use for those scraps. That bag of roast tidbits came out, got finely chopped up, tossed with some sautéed onions, garlic, chili powder, hot sauce, black beans…

…and became some terrific filling for beef and bean quesadillas! I always have an onion in the crisper and individually frozen portions of pre-cooked beans in the freezer. And who doesn’t have leftover cheese in their fridge? The meal didn’t cost me a dime because it was all leftovers and items I had on hand! We have a nifty little quesadilla maker someone got for us a couple of years ago, but a pan and a quick flip would be just as effective. Or, I could have used the same filling to make burritos.

I didn’t say a word about what was going in them to my husband. It wasn’t until after several happy bites and wondering where the beef came from that I smiled and told him it was his scraps he told me to throw out. He happily ate his words that night. Creative cooking from scraps is not only easy, it’s extremely cheap (free!) and delicious.

Anyone else have some favorite scrap recipes they like?

A Snow Day

There’s nothing better than getting a day off from work for a snow day! I admit to being pretty lucky to be able to avoid driving on the roads on days like today.

We’re up to inch 17 right now, and still going strong.  I made my first round of shoveling this morning, followed by a snowy hike into town to get my taxes out in the morning mail.  Few people out and about, only those of us cleaning up. So, until my husband gets home and we make a round two of the shoveling, I’ll be relaxing with a hot bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup and a book.

Snow At Last!

It seems as though everyone but those of us in the Northeast’s has been getting snow this season. But yesterday, we finally got a respectable helping of it yesterday, just about a half a foot here. Although that always means cleaning up after it, I think we’re all pretty pleased with what we got. So, with a hot bowl of soup in our bellies, my husband and I went out about 6:30 last night to clean up. After my task of getting my car cleaned off and moved, shoveling the porch, and cleaning the steps, I took off into the back field while my husband finished the driveway. There I sat, surrounded by darkness and snow, just taking it all in.

I felt each snowflakes as it kissed my face, melting on my nose, my lips, my chin.
Wisps of wood smoke swirled with the snowflakes in the air. It wasn’t that sharp, shallow, cold middle of winter smell, no. It was warm, full-bodied, earthy and sweet. 
The wind whistled, slightly muffled, as it moved through the yard and the trees. Snow crystals collided, resulting in sharp, crystalline chimes. A winter melody.
Very little of the porch light reached the field, but what did found its way by reflecting off the snow. Though no spotlights on a stage, the glow silhouetted a neighbor’s pine. Here it performed for me, its branches swaying, waving, all part of an interpretive dance. Plant stalks, leftover from fall, rise through the snow and take part in the show, bowing low then rising up again.
Alone in the dark and snow, I was warm and wished to be no other place.