Sunflowers

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!!

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Pumpkin Time of Year

Even though they adorn our homes as decorations this time of year, pumpkins are so much more than that- they’re food! My goal for this autumn was to learn how to cook and enjoy pumpkins, and I have. Although I have not done the obvious of making pumpkin pie from the real thing, we have been enjoying it as a side dish with suppers (add a little butter and brown sugar, yum) and I’ve made some amazing muffins! They are so good, I decided to share it here. The original recipe came from a co-op flyer last year and they said it came from Farmer’s Market Foods. I have since adjusted it to our liking and hopefully to yours too!

Pumpkin Muffins
Makes 20 regular muffins, but easily cut in half (which I do)

2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. whole wheat flour (feel free to sub. your ratio of flour types to your liking so long as you get 2 1/2 cups)
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
3 eggs
2 c. pumpkin puree (2 cups of the real stuff = one can of pumpkin)
3/4 cup oil (or subs. with 3/4 c. unsweetened apple sauce)
1/2 c. walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Sift together all dry ingredients in a large bowl, set aside.  In a medium bowl, beat the eggs and then add pumpkin and stir until well combined. Add the oil gradually to the egg/pumpkin mixture, stirring well. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix- but don’t over mix. Fold in your walnuts.

Grease and flour (or use paper liners if you want) your muffin tins then fill 3/4 full. Bake 30 minutes or until tops are firm.

 With all that delicious pumpkin, don’t forget about your seeds! Although they can be a pain to remove from the pile of slimy pumpkin guts, they are a highly nutritious (and really tasty and addictive) snack. Rinse and dry them thoroughly over night (sometimes it might take longer) then toss in olive oil and salt, spread on a baking sheet, and bake for one hour, tossing every 15-20 mins in a 250 degree F oven. We have made several different batches this year, experimenting with flavors. One we tossed in a little melted unsalted butter and sugar for something sweet, and another was a salt and crushed pepper mix (my husband favorite). We realized the sweet batch was a little blah, so we mixed it with the salted ones and I’ve really enjoyed the sweet and salty mix. After they have fully cooled, store them in an airtight container.

*Salt and pepper, salted, and sweet and salty mix*

The Transition Time of November

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The calendar tells us that it is still autumn until we reach the winter solstice, this year being December 21st. But I have always found the month of November to be not quite autumn, yet not quite almost winter. September and October really build up the joys of  autumn- colorful leaves, apples, pumpkins, the start of the cool nights, and Halloween. Then, in a blink of an eye, not much unlike Christmas, it’s over. All of the leaves have fallen and the colors on the hills have since changed to crisp browns of dead leaves, grays of exposed bark, and dark blotches of evergreens on the hills. The only bright colors I’ve seen this weekend are those of the falling needles of the tamarack trees at the higher elevations in Mt. Holly. All the apples and pumpkins have been sold and our beloved Wellwood Orchards is now closed for the season. Every night now is cold, with mornings full of frost. And sadly, the witching hour is over and nights are darker earlier, as we have all now turned our clocks back an hour. Quiet and dark, November wraps us in the coming cold, but can reward us with afternoons of fleeting sunshine.  

After reviewing my list of October goals, the only thing I didn’t quite fulfill was the “lots” of soups and breads, although we have begun eating our fair share. 🙂 Halloween was a blast, kind of out of this word really… 😉

Trekkers

Mid-October Photo Briefing

This blog always shows me how busy I keep myself. In the past two weeks I’ve been working on my autumn “to-do” list and so much more!

Carrots with a view

Our harvest of carrots this year! A handful got roasted, another batch blanched and frozen for soups, more used for a pot roast, and one final batch given away to my father in exchange for his time spent helping us to expand the garden.

Squash and Apples

One of my favorite things to do with squash- cooking it until tender then melting it with apples and some brown sugar to top over some brown rice. Mmmm-mmm!

Rotoman

My father with his rototiller which he graciously brought all the way from Maine to help us expand our garden to twice its size. We already have potatoes, winter squash, and pumpkins on the brain for next year thanks to the expansion. During his visit he also helped to fix our front door and replaced the old weather-stripping with new stuff that actually works. Our door shuts tightly now and lets less heat out.

Fini

I’ve figured out the secret to pumpkins- halve them with a serrated knife, scoop our the pulp and save the seeds (for roasting of course), half again, throw into a pot and boil the pieces until you can stick a fork through the skin side of the pumpkin. Drain and let cool. When cool to the touch, gently use a spoon to scoop the flesh away from the skin and you’re done! I ended up making pumpkin puree for cooking, using an electric hand mixer to get it smoother than I could by hand.

Pumpkin Muffins

And I found the best recipe ever to make the best pumpkin muffins! The perfect way to enjoy a Sunday morning? Hot cup of coffee, Sunday paper, pumpkin muffins.

October 13

And this is what I found when I saw my husband off for work at 5:30 this morning- a snow-sleet mix covering our porch. It’s all gone to rain now, but the slush is still everywhere. Not what I expected for the middle of October.

All the leaves are past their peak now, with most trees retaining less than half of their leaves. The cold nights and mornings are here, and today isn’t suppose to get much higher than the mid forties. I’m sure there will be a warm spell again soon, that familiar Indian Summer break of a few days in early November, but for now, it’s our signal to get things in order, put your garden to bed, get your storm windows in, and prepare for the cold that’s ahead.

End of September

It’s the last day of September and I can’t believe how fast the month has gone by! We’ll welcome in October tomorrow, the month where autumn is at its peak and the days get shorter, colder, and darker. In the interest of community and curiosity, I take turkeycookies’ approach and ask, what do you have planned for October?

*Another round of apple picking, complete with a visit to the petting zoo this time
*Hopefully can another 6 or so quarts of apple sauce
*Play more with pumpkins- I’ve figured out the secret to pumpkin cooking thanks to habitsofamouse
*Bake more delicious pumpkin muffins made with real pumpkin and enjoy countless batches of pumpkin seeds
*Enjoy the crisp nights and smells of wood smoke on evening walks
*Find and experiment more with root crop recipes, including various squashes
*Make lots and lots of soup and homemade bread
*Carve pumpkins and dress up like Star Trek (TNG) officers for Halloween

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Welcome Autumn

With the arrival of the equinox, today we welcome autumn to the northern hemisphere. It’s crazy how fast time flies the older you get. September is quickly coming to a close and yet it feels like the month just started. The last few weekends of late summer have brought us plenty of happiness. We marked the arrival of September with a trip to the Rutland Fair, enjoying the day with great company- visitors from the north, my Mom and Step-Dad (Hi Tom!). My husband took second place in the amature art show and all four of us spent the weekend catching up and celebrating. The weekend after that marked the passing of my Grandfather. Unable to make it home, we spent a day up at VINS exploring and learning in his remembrance. And last weekend was our first trip to the orchard for apples, picking up squashes and filling the weekend with batches of applesauce. This weekend will be a wedding, working on some final harvesting in the garden, experimenting with pumpkins, and more cleaning and buttoning up as October is fast upon us.

Day and night are equal, and we can feel the sun weakening. The sun is setting earlier, the mornings are colder, and even in midmorning and early evening we can feel that briskness that is upon us. Leaves are changing and the final harvests are approaching. Nature is readying itself for the rest of the long cold months of winter. Today is a great time for all of us to take a moment to reflect upon the great days of summer- rainy days and all. Now is a time of harvest. Take time today to give thanks.

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Harvest Meal: Turnip and Greens with Bacon

Reading some other blogs, I’ve realize that all of us in the North are starting to experience the transition from cool summer food to warming fall and winter meals. Over a big plate of salad, my husband and I looked at each other and realized that it wasn’t as satisfying as it was earlier this summer and that we’re ready for soup and warm home-cooked meals. Here’s something new we tried and really enjoy: Turnip and Greens with Bacon.

Turnips and bacon

I have a hard time wasting things, so when I thought about eating our turnips, I wondered if you could eat the leafy tops as well. Turns out yes, you can! It seems most people eat them when they are young and tender, but my thought was why would you stunt or k ill your turnips for their greens? But, you can eat the mature greens as well. Obviously they are not sweet and tender like their younger counterparts, but if you cook them, they turn out just fine.

You will need:
Bacon
Turnips
Turnip Greens

No specific measurements needed, just use what you would like and take into account how many people are eating. I removed and put the dead or damaged leaves in the compost. The nice looking green ones I pulled off of their main stem (very woody and stringy, not pleasant to eat) and put them in the strainer. Leaves with a little insect damage were still used, but I just ripped around iffy areas. Gave them a good rinse to get off the dirt and then into a pot of boiling water. There I boiled them for about 8 minutes or so. I read that doing this not only wilt and tenders them, but also gets rid of a  lot of the old and bitter taste they can have. When tender, I drained them and put them aside. Meanwhile, I washed and peeled the turnips, sliced them up, and boiled those until tender. Drained and set aside. So now you’re left with cooked turnips and greens. Next, in a large skillet, cook your bacon to your liking. Remove your bacon and let cool. Do NOT drain the bacon grease! You need it! While your bacon is cooling enough to handle, throw your turnips and greens into the pan and let them warm and cook in the flavorful drippings. Cut up your bacon when cool enough to handle, and throw that back into the skillet. Let everything cook together for a few minutes until all the grease has been incorporated and things get warm and encorporated. Add some pepper and you’re done! Serve with some homemade cornbread (I like making cornbread in muffin tins because it’s easier to serve and store and then you have leftovers for breakfast or a snack) and you’re done! It sounds simple, it really is, but it’s quite nice if you like turnip. The greens are pretty bland on their own, but cooked with the turnip and bacon, they really do something mild and nice for the dish. Besides, it throws in more vitamins and looks really nice on the plate!

No doubt our turnips were one of the most successful plantings in the garden- tied with the carrots. We really like them in soups and stews, but now we have one more way to enjoy them.

Huge Turnip

*The biggest turnip we’ve pulled so far*

Weird Turnips

*And a couple weird ones, one actually grew another turnip on it I think? Just goes to show that not everything looks like picture perfect, contrary to what grocery stores show. Luckily, they taste different too (way better!)*