Sunday, November 12, 2006

...I thank you for the gift of loving and being loved, for the friendliness and understanding and beauty of the animals on the farm and in the forest and marshes, for the green of the trees, the sound of a waterfall, the darting beauty of the trout in the brook.

...and above all I thank you for people with all their goodness and understanding which so far outweigh their vices,their envy, their deceits. Thank you, God, for life itself, without which the universe would have no meaning.

From Louis Bromfield's Thanksgiving prayer. Complete text may be found at

Saturday, October 21, 2006

This is Maybelline, my husband's grandpa's truck. As you can see she has a strong back, as she is still occasionally used when the need for a tilt bed comes up.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

I have grapevine wreaths! took them out of the garage and tagged them for sale. I made these standing in the orchard this summer while picking raspberries - seeing these grapevines strangling the trees is distressing, but I never seem to have tools (like a chainsaw!) with me when I go raspberry picking. So each wreath is one or more vines pulled down out of a tree and wrapped while still green. I believe a reasonable price is is 50 cents for each inch of diameter of the wreath, they range from 14 inch diameter up to 28 inches. Here are a few closeup pictures of representative samples, you can click on them to see a bigger picture. They are very rustic, they have not been treated with any varnish or chemicals.

My plan is to sell these at the last farmer's market of the season locally. Internet sales would necessarily include shipping costs.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Northern Spy, Golden Delicious, Jonathon, Kieffer pears, Bosc pears, and a few Stark Crimson Delicious apples.... What have I done? I have to process these this week! Last night I spent an hour with my husband (quality time) repairing an old apple-peeler and adjusting it, and another hour peeling apples to freeze, just barely made a dent in these baskets. Maybe I can take the pears to the farmer's market as they look pretty good - but the apples are awfully disfigured - I tell everyone they are high-protein apples - they have worms in them... All no-spray.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Bright Meadow Farms Peppery Pear Salsa

Yield: six 8 oz. jars or three 16 oz. jars

1 cup white vinegar
8 cups coarsely chopped, cored, peeled pears - see preparation note, below, in number 2
2 red bell peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped
2-3 red jalapeno peppers, seeded (unless you like HOT salsa) and coarsely chopped
1 cup granulated sugar or 1 cup sucralose (Splenda)
2 tbsp sea salt, canning salt, or kosher salt
1 tbsp dry mustand
1 tsp ground turmeric or few threads saffron
1/2 tsp allspice
1 tsp Watkins brand ground black pepper
1/2 tsp Clear Jel (optional)

1. Prepare canner, jars and lids by sterilizing per manufacturer's instructions.
2. Drop pears into vinegar in large stainless steel saucepan as they are prepared. This will reduce the browning that may occur as the rest of the recipe is prepared. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and boil gently, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
3. Ladle hot salsa into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if necessary by adding more salsa to jars. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.
4. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to boil and process for 20 minutes (time for both 8- and 16-oz jars). Remove canner lid. Turn off heat. Wait 5 minutes then remove jars, cool and store.

For more information on canning refer to your local extension office or a recent canning cookbook such as the Ball Blue Book, the Ball Complete Book of home preserving, or Rodale's Stocking Up.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Georgia Lewis. My great-aunt and a farmgirl. Yesterday I attended her funeral. She was 89 years old. The minister mentioned her love of quilting and her flower garden. She hand-embroidered over 30 quilts, one for each grandchild. She also mentioned how important "doing right" was with my great-aunt.

I remember visiting her garden as a child and being entranced by the mirrored ball she had placed in the center of the garden, and being surrounded by sunshine and roses, and playing with her collie, Lad. She was one of the sweetest, nicest people I know. She was very thoughtful and kind. I will miss her.

The minister read this scripture. Funny because for the last two weeks I have been thinking of making a redwork quilt with the lines of the scripture in individual quilt blocks.

To everything there is a season,
a time for every purpose under the sun.
A time to be born and a time to die;
a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
a time to kill and a time to heal
a time to weep and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn and a time to dance
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to lose and a time to seek;
a time to rend and a time to sew;
a time to keep silent and a time to speak;
a time to love and a time to hate;
a time for war and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Sugarless jams and jellies. Some of my family members are diabetic, some are overweight, and some are on Sugar Busters diet. So my plan to supply jams and jellies for Christmas gifts is probably not realistic unless I include some sugarless jams. I found some recipes on the Splenda web site for jams. I considered using stevia but seem to remember someone saying it doesn't hold up well with heat processing or long storage, so that might not work, although I found several recipes on the Internet. Mother Earth News had an article on Making Low-Sugar Jams and Jellies in the June/July 2006 issue, and I learned that I must use a different type of pectin for making jam with low-sugar or honey. So I'll be off to the health food store for some low-methoxyl pectin. Hope the fruit doesn't spoil before I get everything together - maybe I should just freeze it for now.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Living, working, and gardening in Ohio and owning my husband's inherited family farm in Michigan brings some interesting problems. One is trespassers.

This weekend we noticed a break in the fencerow where the adjoining farm has a path that looks heavily used by 4-wheelers (all-terrain vehicles, ATV's, quads, etc...) and the path leads right out into our field.

E and his brother were very busy, so didn't have time to drag a brush pile up and block the access point, so it will be another week or two before we get there and have a chance to do this.

The entire farm is very clearly posted "NO TRESPASSING". These guys are not the only ones - I have chased away deer hunters and mushroom hunters who claimed they had permission from the owner. E has taken down and confiscated deer stands. There are beer cans in the orchard occasionally, and the new neighbors across the street have asked permission to scour the orchard for firewood for their bonfires (NO), the old neighbors to the north have asked if they can erect temporary fences in the orchard to let their horses graze because they don't have enough land (NO). The neighbors to the south put their deer stand up on their property - but they are shooting into our field.

Of course we wonder who is on the property when we are not there. We do ask a neighbor that we trust to kind of keep an eye on the place and there are two legitimate visitors - the honey field beekeeper and the guy who spreads manure.

Land envy is what all these people have in common. They need land to pursue the activities they choose. We have the land, but not enough time to "protect" it. So they just "borrow" it.

I have land envy, too. I look at the farms around here in Ohio and think that I would like to buy one so I can put up a greenhouse, or install a training facility for fiber/needle arts technology. The ones I want due to location near our house, or near my father's farm, are not for sale, so I just keep on looking. Every time I see a real estate sign in front of a farm I get a quickening of the pulse. Could this be the one?

So, today I read 1 Kings Chapter 21. 1 Later the following events took place: Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard in Jezreel, beside the palace of King Ahab of Samaria. 2 And Ahab said to Naboth, "Give me your vineyard, so that I may have it for a vegetable garden, because it is near my house; I will give you a better vineyard for it; or, if it seems good to you, I will give you its value in money." 3 But Naboth said to Ahab, "The Lord forbid that I should give you my ancestral inheritance." 4 Ahab went home resentful and sullen because of what Naboth the Jezreelite had said to him; for he had said, "I will not give you my ancestral inheritance." He lay down on his bed, turned away his face, and would not eat. 5 His wife Jezebel came to him and said, "Why are you so depressed that you will not eat?" 6 He said to her, "Because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite and said to him, "Give me your vineyard for money; or else, if you prefer, I will give you another vineyard for it'; but he answered, "I will not give you my vineyard.' " 7 His wife Jezebel said to him, "Do you now govern Israel? Get up, eat some food, and be cheerful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite."

The chapter goes on to discuss how she accomplished the death/murder of Naboth through political maneuverings, and thereby gained ownership of the land that Ahab desired. I always thought Jezebel was contemptible because she was unfaithful - a whore, more or less- she worshiped Asherah/Astarte and encouraged the Baal-worshipers, so she was unfaithful to Jehovah. She was punished - she was killed and her body was left for the dogs and the vultures.

I never really looked at this story through the frame of land envy until today. The conflicts in the Middle East are about land envy also. Our president has made it clear that we are keeping the oil-rich Iraqi land away from the hands of the terrorists by our presence in Iraq - and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is about keeping the ancestral land - but whose ancestors?

As I picked the Damson plums off our heavily-laden tree, the neighbor's dog was barking at me. He was disturbed by my presence on my own property, because he's not used to seeing me there.

While the neighbor attempted to quiet her dog, I was thinking about the abundance God has blessed us with - we can't possibly use all the fruit that grows on this land unless we hire someone to help harvest and process the food - but it's not an good economic proposition these days to be a farmer, hence our jobs in Ohio. Sources as diverse as the
Ohio Farmer magazine (2006) and the Minnesota Wheat Grower's association (1995) are emphasizing the need for farm diversification - especially diversifying into off-farm income.

The question - how can we share the wealth, loving our neighbors, without giving up our property rights? Are property rights really God-given? Can privately-owned farms be sustainable enterprises?

"Despite the fact that farmers have been forced to concentrate most of their energies on maintaining a healthy bottom line, they, and their colleagues in rural communities, are increasingly becoming aware that there is more to life than bread. Simply maintaining an income level that keeps the wolf away from the door does not constitute a life.

Increasingly, therefore, questions about quality of life, and social goals are being considered as part of the sustainable agriculture agenda. Slowly we are beginning to recognize that a set of values that we call "the common good" underlies everything that all of us do. Farming is no exception."
- Fred Kirschenmann, University of Nebraska- Lincoln

How to use Damson Plum Jam. I found a recipe at for roast turkey with a Damson plum glaze. It called for Chinese 5-spice powder and whole peppercorns, both of which I also have in my cupboard. Sounds yummy!

Also a recipe for a Damson Plum Tart at RecipeSource, this was also known as ZWETSCHGENDATSCHE by my German forbearers. Here is another recipe for this with a beautiful photo on Recipezaar.
Damson Plums - Bosc Pears - Ida Red apples - more elderberries - Jolly Elf Tomatos. I spent Labor Day weekend laboring at the farm - making jams and jellies from Damson Plums and apples and elderberries - canning pears for the first time in my life - and making salsa. E and his brother were busy with installing a new fuel oil tank so they stayed out of the kitchen all weekend!

This was my first introduction to the Damson Plum. DH identified the tree for me and asked it it was good for anything? (Poor photo from my cell phone - I really need to get a better cell phone camera or start carrying an actual camera!) The fruits are about the size of a large grape - but the tree was just loaded with plums. Research online tells me that the fruit is extremely tart (I knew that by tasting!) and that it makes excellent jams and pies. I tried the jam first - I don't think I would have needed the pectin but added it anyway. It came out a little firm. I also found a recipe for a plum tart. I picked a total of four gallons of the plums and didn't come near picking them all from one tree. I am wondering how to process the rest of them (I have three gallons left) and think that drying into plums is probably not feasible for such a small fruit. Perhaps cooking, then freezing the paste?

I picked 4 half bushels of pears. They are a tad bit underripe, but I may not get back to the farm in time to pick them when they ripen. I want to make some pear mincemeat, perhaps some chutney, and pear butter. I canned 5 quarts of the ripest ones today - seemed like it took hours to peel, cut in half, trim, then treat with lemon juice, poach in a honey syrup, then pack into the jars. I tried to give some away to my stepmother, she said "no, thanks"!

The salsa also took a lot of prep time - since I used Jolly Elf tomatos - they are quite small and there was a lot of cutting to yield a small amount of salsa. I actually used jalapenos in this recipe, sometimes this makes it a little hotter than I like it, but we'll see.

I cut a jelly bag from an old pillowcase and used it to strain the quartered apples. Since I didn't have a stand for the jelly bag at the farm I improvised using a colander. The apples were also a tad bit underripe- makes for good jelly but not too great for pie, which was requested by my brother-in-law. I made apple jelly, apple-elderberry jelly, and apple-plum jelly.

I found the elderberries were mixed as to ripeness - some were perfect, including the largest single head of berries I've ever seen - others were still way too red. I scouted the edge of the property along the creek and found another elderberry bush - I probably was able to pick about a quart all together. I was not too picky about the smallest stems, since I was making jelly I reasoned that they would not end up in the final product anyway. The jelly hasn't set yet. I will probably have to re-process it.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Elderberry pie. Everyone I know remembers their mother or their grandmother making elderberry pie, but they don't eat it very often now. The taste is distinctive, a kind of musky, earthy, sweet purple taste that is unlike any other berry I've ever tasted. I think the taste and aroma of elderberries brings back memories of mothers. That must be why people who like it, like it so well.

I spent 2 hours cleaning elderberries tonight, yielding 10 cups of elderberries which I promptly put in freezer bags, labeled, and stuck in the freezer. I cannot imagine anyone cleaning elderberries for any reason other than love or the promise of a blue ribbon at the county fair!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Every garden book I have ever read says to "KEEP RECORDS". OK. Here is some information I don't want to forget for next year. The Burpee Checkered Choice Hybrid Corn is oh-so-sweet, but small ears. We've been eating it for a week. We ate the first ear of Burpee Illini Xtra Sweet today. E declared it was just the way sweet corn should be, large full ears and bright yellow. There are two or three ears of corn on most of the Illini Xtra Sweet stalks... It will be interesting to see if the 2nd or 3rd ears are as nice as the 1st.

Tomatoes: The Quali T 23 from Territorial has the most perfect (still green) tomatoes I've ever seen, and the vines are untouched by the wilt that decimated the Silvery Fir Tree tomato from Abundant Life Seeds. Territorial also supplied the Jolly Elf grape tomatoes - large harvest but if picked green have a bitter taste, taste great red, but don't keep long, and don't ripen if picked yellow - and the BeaverLodge Slicer - which had a good yield but also was subject to wilt. Bloody Butcher from Burpee had abundant yield, and no disease, and seemed to be untroubled by tomato hornworms. The Mortgage Lifter tomato, which I believe was from last year's Burpee seeds, had incredible flavor but the ugliest fruits I have ever seen.

The cucumber - Marketmore 97 from Territorial - got mosaic virus, I think. Eight plants yielded about 30 fruits. It is still trying but I think it is going to die.

I don't remember which zucchini seeds I planted. I don't see them on the packing slips that came with this year's seeds, so I guess I must have used old seed. That probably accounts for the poor germination.

On the other hand, the volunteer canteloupes seem to be doing great. I tossed some seeds from a supermarket canteloupe, along with some other kitchen waste, into a pile of leaves at the edge of the garden and they exploded! I've never grown canteloupes before and I'll have to look up some information on when to pick them! The netting is complete, but the background is still dark green, I think that means they are not ripe yet.
The Michigan Fiber Festival is over- whelming. There are so many vendors, so many beautiful animals, so many types of fibers, looms, spinning wheels, dyes, yarns, roving, books, jewelry, buttons....I even found coned yarn for my knitting machine. The weather alternated between rainy and muggy and quite overcast, but there was a nice breeze blowing so it wasn't too awful. There was definitely a rainbow or two- the hand-painted skeins of yarn were just wonderful. In spite of my resolution to look over everything before purchasing anything, on my way in I found a roving in just the shade of cornflower blue that I love - I snapped it up before someone else could get it. So much for resolutions!

I spied a purse that was just adorable on the wall at Zeilinger's booth. They very nicely allowed me to take a photo with my cell phone camera. It was marked $90. Of course my farmgirl instincts say "You can make that! It is just a pair of thrift store blue jeans cut off at the waist and then some old sweaters that have been felted and all sewn together!

But, the question is, will I actually make it? Or would this be another UFO? (Unfinished object) Between the shopping for the magnetic snap, cutting a lining, felting, sewing, making the twisted cord for the snap, there is quite a bit of labor involved in that little purse!

If I had had a rabbit cage with me I would have come home with some of the beautiful Angora rabbits there.

I really liked this booth. The hutch they used for display is a mustardy yellow - as were the booth signs. At the edges of the booth were a couple of rabbit grooming stands with a display of scented beeswax sheep. The pillows on the chair had cushions the same mustardy yellow color. The floor had cedar shavings spread, which wafted the aroma of cedar throughout the booth. Everything about that booth said, "Come in - spend some time looking over our merchandise!" I am sorry that the camera in my phone did not do a better job of capturing their display.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Steam is rolling out from under the lid of my new boiling water bath canner. I sold the old one many garage sales ago, and since then I have been using my pressure canner for both pressure canning and boiling water bath canning. So today, under the theory that you should have the right tool for the job, I got a new canner. I had to go to five different stores to find it! I noticed a new warning on the label - do not use on glass-topped stoves. Good thing E had an old propane burner we hooked up outside.

I'm on the second batch of jars - first I had seven quarts of tomatoes, and now I have 5 pints of blackberry jam.

I picked the blackberries just a few hours ago. I missed the heaviest part of the crop but there are a few left, I picked about 3 pints today. The tomatoes were picked yesterday morning in Ohio (I couldn't let them just rot in the garden) and transported here to Michigan.

I checked the elderberries here while I was picking the blackberries - they are still green. Amazing difference in climate here in Southwest Michigan versus North Central Ohio, where I picked lots of ripe elderberries on August 6!

My CSA lady sent an email - she is not going to the farmer's market this weekend because it has been so dry, she doesn't have enough to bring to sell. I am glad I am not the only one without a crop to sell. I've been canning my excess produce instead of trying to sell a pint of this and a quart of that. Next year, knowing better what to expect, I plan to start new lettuce plants every 10 days without fail in the spring, same with beets and radishes. Forget the peas - they are just too much work.

Is it too early to get this guy into the Future Farmers of America?

Tomorrow I am going to the Michigan Fiber Fest in Allegan, Michigan. Hope to capture some good photos to share.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Spent the last week canning relishes and pickles in the evenings. Such a long drawn out process! The pickle recipe called for the pickles to be soaked in brine for at least six hours, then a vinegar soak for 12 hours, then finally boiled in the pickling liquid. One jar didn't seal, so I got to taste them, they are wonderful -- but really, all that labor for four pints of pickles? Not to mention the mess on the stove!

I made some chow-chow (4 jars) and also some sweet cucumber relish (3 jars), followed up by 7 jars of tomato salsa. I used my antique jars with glass lids and rubber rings, and screw-on bands. I purchased boxes and boxes of them at an auction several years ago, nobody else seemed to want them. I had never seen the glass lids before, and was entranced by them. I was worried that they wouldn't seal but they seem to be just fine.

The tomatoes are coming on thick and fast in the garden now -- too bad, I can't make it to the farmer's market this weekend. I wonder if I can just rinse them off and pop them in a Ziploc bag in the freezer? Don't have time to can or process them.

My cucumber vines are not doing well at all, mostly the leaves are crispy, but I picked 7 cucumbers tonight. There are some green leaves still at the ends of the vines. Looking for something on the internet to tell me what caused this problem! The zucchini seem fairly healthy, the pumpkins look sad, and the canteloupes that volunteered seem VERY healthy!

Something is nibbling big bites out of my beets. I suspect a baby rabbit. I will look into the live humane traps and relocate it (them?) if I catch any.

Corn is ready, we have had corn for supper three nights in a row. Ummmm, good! A little butter, salt and pepper, it's almost a meal. Slice a tomato and grill a bratwurst, life is good.

I have planted some lettuce seedlings in the shade of the corn stalks. I am pulling out the corn (and any weeds) as I pick the ears and sending it directly to the compost pile, then tilling the row and planting the lettuce. Hopefully there is time to get the lettuce up and going before frost hits in mid-October.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Best in Show! Best in Class! Big blue rosettes!

Honey Pecan Pie

1 cup honey
3 eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon Watkins vanilla-nut extract
1 cup chopped pecans
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1 recipe pastry for a 9 inch single crust pie

In a saucepan or the microwave, bring the honey just to a boil. Quickly beat the eggs into the honey. Add butter, vanilla-nut flavoring, nuts, and nutmeg. Pour into the pie shell.
Bake at 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) for 25 minutes or until set.

The rhubarb and cherry pies each got a blue ribbon, the apple pie got a red. The black raspberry pie got nothing. I will have to look for judge's comments later this week to see if the filling was too seedy, or some other reason.

The apple-honey bread got a red ribbon, as did the knitted apron and the purse.

One day of judging down, one to go. The pie auction to raise money for the fairgrounds is on Wednesday.
Earlier today I put some oil in the pan on the stove, turned it on, put some potatoes in the microwave, checked on the lamb chops roasting in the oven, went to the garden to get a zucchini. Ha! That was not a good idea. I came back in to find the smoke alarm going off, black smoke on the wall and the cupboards and the vent. Luckily no fire, I didn't use a lot of oil, maybe a tablespoon, so when it burned up there wasn't anything left to burn. I swear I was only out there 5 minutes, well, maybe it was 10... E doesn't know yet as he is entertaining cousins at the farm in Michigan. Maybe I can wallpaper the kitchen before he gets home?

I am going to buy one of those timers you can hang around your neck on a cord. Set it for 3 minutes when I go to the garden. Time passes so quickly there.
Hard and Fast Rules for Picking wild berries

1. Go in the morning. The birds are singing. The moquitos aren't awake yet. They wake up about 4 pm. Never pick berries in the evening.
2. Wear insect repellent. I use Watkins brand with DEET, I get a slight headache but not as bad as some others. I seem to have a reaction to DEET. Take it with you, it will wear off as you perspire. When you start hearing the buzzing near your ear, put some more on.
3. Wear Boots. Walk carefully. There can be groundhog holes or other lumpy places. If you are picking around old buildings there can be nails.
4. Wear sturdy jeans. You are going to see lots of juicy berries, just out of reach, that will require you to push further into the thicket. Thorns hurt. Leather chaps would be nice but I don't own any.
5. Wear a light-colored, long-sleeved shirt. You're trying to avoid insect bites, thorn scratches, and poison ivy. Work on your tan later. The sleeves will protect you from unattractive scratches. Dark colors absorb heat, light colors reflect it. It might be cool in the early morning but it will get hot as the sun climbs higher in the sky.
6. Wear a hat with a brim. I can't tell you how many times I have saved my eyes from being poked out because the hat brim caught the branch. The hat also protects your head from insect bites and the sun.
7. Take along a pruner or a leatherman tool to cut canes that might cause injury.
8. Take a water bottle. You can put it in the freezer the night before to keep it cold. Reuse the bottle, you don't need a new one every time!
9. I like plastic baskets for picking. I got the one in the photo for $1.50 at PamIda. You can put the basket right in the sink to rinse the berries. Less handling means less bruising. But take along some plastic bags or more containers. You never know when you will find something unexpected, like these elderberries that were ripe this morning!
10. Ask permission if you are not picking on your own property.
11. Let someone know where you are.
12. Take a first aid kit along.
13. Wash off your hands and any exposed skin as soon as you can, if you saw any poison ivy at all. Wash your clothes with Fels-Naptha soap before wearing them again.
14. Process the berries right away. If you're not going to use them the same day, freeze them. Or give them away. Hint - if you're picking on someone else's property, a small amount to them is advised!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Today was entry day for the county fair. I didn't have any elderberries in the freezer, even though I thought I did, so I had to scratch the elderberry pie entry.

Other than that I entered:

1 cherry pie, 1 apple pie, 1 rhubarb pie, 1 black raspberry pie - in the pie class.

1 honey-pecan pie, 1 honey-apple loaf of quick bread, 1 plate of honey-zucchini muffins - in the class "products of the hive".

1 display of six homemade soaps in the hobbies class. (the supertintendant mentioned I was the only entry, so it won't be much of a contest.)

1 apron - machine knit - in the Aprons- other handwork category.

1 purse - machine embroidered - in the purses category.

I also scratched the black raspberry preserves and the assortment of six relishes. If I am to do those next year I had better start now, because there is NO WAY I am going to do those between mid-July, when the entries are due, and the second week of August, when the fair starts.

Judging is tomorrow on the pies, and I think on the other items as well. Oh, the suspense!

Just look at the damage a tomato hornworm can do! At least I think that is what is eating my plants. I found two yesterday, the first was about an inch long and as big around as a bamboo skewer - the second was two and a half inches long and as big as a pencil. I wish I had taken their pictures before their demise. They are really strong - they seem to have suction cup feet and they really plant them on the stem of the plant.

These nasty little chompers not only eat the tomato fruits. By the way they are rude little things too, eating only half the fruit before moving on to the next one. They also defoliate the whole plant, seemingly overnight. The plant in the photo was lush and beautiful, like the one behind it, just yesterday. Now, it has two stems of leaves. Six of my tomato plants are showing some signs of damage. I know that there are more of the worms out there, because the damage continues, but I can't seem to find them. They are the same exact color of the stem of the plant. Dad claims they can get four or five inches long. I am afraid to meet up with one that size!

Friday, August 04, 2006

We got a little over 1/2 inch of rain, but it was enough to cool it off a little. What a relief!

I am picking cucumbers and tomatoes mostly. The tomatoes have a blush on one side or the other and I want to keep them picked so that they keep blossoming and making more tomatoes. Quite a difference between the Silvery Fir Tree and the Beaverlodge tomatoes. When they were six inches tall I couldn't tell them apart - now the Silvery Fir Tree plants look dead, although they have a few tomatoes, and the Beaverlodge have loads of tomatoes and green leaves. Healthiest plants of all are the Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes - the plants are over six feet tall. I keep finding green worms on the branches of different plants - they eat all the leaves right down to the stems. I tried a Quality 23 Hybrid this year but somehow only ended up with one plant, the tomatoes look great but they are quite green yet. They will be my slicers. But my favorite of all has to be the Bloody Butcher. Small tomatoes, just right for salads.

I can't believe I am saying it, but I don't think I planted enough zuchini this year! Only two plants came up although I planted about six hills. I even replanted but I think I stepped on the baby seedlings. I will probably just have enough for my own use, probably not enough for the market. I keep thinking about planting more beets, radishes, and peas, but it is getting late in the year and I haven't done it yet.

I am a little discouraged. If I am to be serious about this farmer's market thing next year, I am going to need a bigger garden, and a lot fewer weeds. Maybe double the size and buy a lot of landscape fabric.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Hot, hot, hot... too hot to work in the garden. Too hot to even walk to the garden. This is the third day in a row of over-100 degree heat index. They are promising thunderstorms after midnight.

In this weather, the mosquitos are bloodthirsty when the sun gets low in the sky and it starts cooling down, must remember to cover up with insect repellent before going out and checking. It is starting to get dark now, probably too late to do any work out there. I will water the potted tomato plants when I go out to feed the dog later.

We had a coworker's father's funeral this afternoon. The second one in two weeks. We went to visitation hours for the first one, this afternoon they had the interment first, at 3:00 in the afternoon. The sun was beating down. If it hadn't been so hot and humid it would have been a beautiful day as the sun was shining and there was a light breeze. After the interment, we adjourned to the church for the memorial service. It was a very nice service, he sounded like someone I would have liked to have known. Of course this isn't surprising as we like his son, our co-worker, very much, he is a very nice person. I was surprised to hear that the father was a beekeeper. It seems every time I turn around lately I run into a beekeeper.

I think this is a good thing. I don't see as many honeybees in my backyard now as I did when I was a child. I have seen some reports that they are declining with the increasing use of pesticides, the increase of the Varroa mite, and the decline of the backyard beekeeper. I've been toying with the idea of keeping a few hives, but right now I am afraid I wouldn't have enough time to devote to doing the necessary tasks.

After the service we came home and took a nap until dark. Too hot.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Farmgirls rock! I have been visiting MaryJane's farm web pages recently and "chatting" with the girls there. I have found a community of like-minded, but yet diverse, ladies there willing to share recipes, herbal remedies, solutions for garden weeds and bugs, and a shoulder to cry on or someone to laugh with.

When I think about farmgirls, I keep thinking back to one of my first employers back in the mid 1970's, a wonderful woman by the name of Helen Rieman. She was a farm woman, strong, determined, and smart. She managed a local restaurant in a department store at the mall. She was tall and sturdy and could be quite an imposing figure. The restaurant was famous locally for having a great salad bar with lots of homemade salads, and homemade pies. It was a favorite stop for the ladies who lunched, as well as the people who worked in the mall. I started as a waitress in the coffee shop and then later, during summer vacations, I worked either in the kitchen or as a waitress in the dining room.

I am sure I was hired because my father's farm was about two miles down the road from hers, as a lot of the other women in the restaurant were from the same general area. Helen always said she wanted farm girls working in her kitchen because they knew how to work.

She definitely put us to work, and she taught us a lot. We had an OLD cash register in the coffee shop - I had to hit a separate button for the dollars, a button for the tens of cents, and finally a number for the cents, then push the amount button. It had little flags that mechanically came up in the window for the amount. No electronics then! I particularly remember working on the grill and learning to puff up omelets in the oven. I still cook bacon, when I serve it, the same way she taught us - put a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet, lay out the bacon in strips, and bake it in the oven. It stays flat and crisps beautifully. (I now lay another sheet of parchment over top to keep my oven from being splattered with grease.)

There were a few older ladies in the kitchen and the dining room - I think they were mostly farmgirls too. But only Ruth was allowed to bake the pies. About the same time that Helen had some health problems and was forced into retirement, the restaurant was closed by the management off on the other side of the state. A lot of people miss that restaurant now. I miss Helen and the community of local farmgirls she helped create.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Instead of "pulling" weeds last night I tried "cutting" weeds - that's right, I took a pair of scissors right out into the garden. I was able to clear away a lot of that hairy galinsoga and some pigweed too - just cut the plant right at ground level. This way it doesn't disturb the roots of the vegetable plants, but I get the seed-bearing part of the weed out of the garden. I made three big bundles of weeds before the mosquitos got mad and chased me out of the garden. The weeds will probably grow back from the roots but at least I can see where my vegetables are now - I found several ripe tomatoes that I didn't even know I had. Maybe I can take the tiller out and rip up the roots later this week.

Heat index here today is supposed to be over 100 degrees. Of course "it's not the heat it's the humidity!" It hasn't rained for at least 3 days, although the water table is still pretty high. If I water the garden it is sure to bring on a thunderstorm!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Instead of doing the farmer's market this morning we went to the West Side Market in Cleveland, one of the oldest, biggest, and busiest farmer's markets in Ohio. Quite a difference between this indoor market in a historic building (with marble floors and a brick ceiling, I might add) and our little farmer's market in Bellville.

All in all, I am glad that we don't have to fight the traffic and the crowds. Granted we do not have quite the variety, but I think with the internet we can probably deal with that as long as we're willing to pay the freight, and be patient, to buy those few special items we can't get locally. I bought some chorizo from Spain, some Manchego cheese, and a pound of lamb chops, as well as garam marsala, which I didn't know where to find around here. Now I have to find that recipe again that called for it! I saw a couple of the butcher's stands that had rabbit, for approximately $4.00 a pound, which I thought was quite a deal.

E and his brothers bought some pepperoni sticks and I don't know what all else! After the market we had lunch at the Great Lakes Brewery just across the street. Interesting menu, I had a Barcelona pizza (Serrano ham and manchego cheese along with cantelope, of all things!) and a sip or two of E's Edmund Fitzgerald port - a little bitter for my taste, but probably that's how it's supposed to be.

I got some ideas from the market I hope to use in my stand at our local market. Mostly for the signage, I noticed each stall had a cable across and they were using binder clips to hang their signs above the produce. I will have to think about how to replicate that with my folding table under my shade canopy. The signs were either laminated or just an 8.5 x 11" sheet of paper inside a page protector. Also the bins of produce mostly had a block of styrofoam or something inside them so that the fruit/produce could be displayed looking like a much larger display of fruit than was actually there.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

FIRST TOMATO! I picked it yesterday - the Pixie Hybrid grape tomato was the first ripe one, well, perhaps it was not quite "ripe" but it was orange. It is somewhere between a cherry and a salad tomato - I was able to pick 5 or 6 of them. I also picked one of the Beaverlodge tomatoes, it had a yellow cast to it and I want the plant to keep on bearing more. It is turning orange on the table on my patio. I picked "up" a green one that had fallen off the vine, too. Hope it ripens.

Last night I spent a lot of time weeding. I found one of my cabbage plants had completely rotted away under the weeds. I will need to research whether this is some kind of fungus, whether it was an insect or a rodent that got to it. There are tiny little cabbage heads sprouting from the stem, should I pull the entire stem out and get rid of the rotted vegetation, or keep the plant and hope for a harvest from the little buds?

I also picked six cucumbers - they were not entirely filled out but certainly "big enough" for a salad, and two green peppers, and one entire Swiss chard plant. E says "No swiss chard -throw it on the compost" but I happen to like it.

Looks like we are going to miss both the blackberries at the farm and the farm market this weekend - my brother-in-law is coming to town and has plans that include the West Side Market in Cleveland and the Great Lakes Brewery. Should be fun.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

We picked some Yellow Transparent apples at the farm, too. Yellow Transparents are a fairly old variety, you hardly ever see them anymore. They are a little on the small side, but they are the first apple I know of ready in the summer, and they are the absolute best for pie. The tart flavor blends with brown sugar.

You have to cut them by hand, the apple peeler/corer just takes out too much of the middle of the apple. E says I'm crazy for even picking them. Looking at the tree I estimated 4-5 bushels - I was WAY off. We brought home one bushel. E says they always look bigger on the tree, from far away. When you get up close you realize that one is rotten, and another has bug bites, and the third is split, so you only put one out of four in the basket. And since our trees are the standard variety, not dwarf, we don't go all the way to the top in ladders, so we don't harvest the whole tree.

The deer will enjoy them.
Blackberries are just not quite ready at the farm.

My husband and I spent 10 hours travelling to/from our farm Thursday and today. He had actual company business to do in the city, and I can do most of my job from anywhere, so rode along with him. With the price of gas hovering around $3.00 a gallon, it is getting harder to justify a weekend trip at our own expense to the farm just to get away from it all, or to pick berries. So it is convenient that he manages the location only 30 miles from the farm. The company is glad they don't have to pay his hotel bill, and we are glad not to pay the gasoline. It all works out to the good.

We arrived at 11:30 pm, and the next day after work went out to the orchard with TWO big berry baskets to gather up my berries. The picture above, on the left, shows what I found. There were two or three berries in some of the patches that were ready, but more of them looked like this picture below on the right. Thousands of berries, but very few of them ready. I picked 3/4 of a pint of blackberries and about 1 1/2 pints of black raspberries that were still coming on. I am SO GLAD that we did not have to pay for the trip by picking berries! It would have been a disaster. As it is, I think they will be ready next weekend. We will probably go back, I will miss another farmer's market Saturday morning. But eating that berry pie in January is worth it!

It seems we missed the pie cherries this year. Last year the neighbors asked us to go with them to pick at their cousin's orchard - after the "shakers" had already gone through. There were a few trees that are just too weak to use mechanical shakers on, so we picked a couple of gallons. This year, when we were there last week, the shakers had not been through the orchard yet. When we asked yesterday, they said there just weren't enough good cherries left on his trees due to bad weather and hailstorms. So on the way home we stopped at another farm, and they said all their pie cherries (or "tart" cherries, or "sour" cherries) were gone - they picked the first week of July. Oh well. There's always next year.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

I stayed inside and baked pies today, since it was too hot to spend time outdoors! One strawberry-rhubarb, one apple, and one mixed berry pie. The apples were Lodi. I asked at the local orchard for Yellow Transparents, supposedly best for pie-making, and they said all they had were Lodi. My husband says that Lodi is an improved Transparent, so I guess it's OK. He liked the pie.

The mixed berries were a combination of last year's frozen black raspberries and cherries, some fresh strawberries, and frozen commercial berry mix containing raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries. I added extra tapioca for thickening, I hope it sets up.

Old-fashioned strawberry-rhubarb pie:

Roll out your favorite pie dough recipe and put bottom crust in plate.


2 cups strawberries, quartered and hulled
2 cups rhubard cut in 1/2 inch pieces
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon (I use Watkins brand)

and put in bottom crust. Roll out top crust, place on pie, and crimp edges. Cut steam vents and sprinkle with 1-2 tsp sugar. Bake at 375 for 40-50 minutes. Check after 20 minutes, if outer crust is getting too crisp top with aluminum pie ring to prevent burning.

Serve with ice cream or whipped topping.
Friday night it stormed again, thunder and lightning. We took a ride during the storm to Bellville to see if the town square was under water - I didn't want to lug all my equipment to the farmer's market if it was flooded. Luckily it appeared that there hasn't been a flood yet.

I didn't have too much in the way of vegetables since it has been raining all week, and the time I have spent in the garden has mostly been to pull weeds. The beets are still too small, and the lettuce has mostly bolted although there are some buttercrunch heads that are small but still tender. The 90-degree heat has been murder on the lettuce.

Traffic was light at the market, but the surprise of the day was that my mother-in-law came to see me! She drove down to have my husband repair the window mechanism in the car, but it apparently fixed itself on the way. So they decided to visit the farmer's market for entertainment. She loaded up on vegetables at the Amish farmer's table across from me (does he buy his produce wholesale? It seems way too early to have such big squash and cabbages, but the bee man said he's been to his farm and he does have early produce...) and she also bought some of my soap - I tried to give it to her but she insisted on paying.

The other highlight of the day was that I took my spinning wheel along to occupy me if it wasn't too busy - The Amish teenagers are very interested in the spinning wheel, which surprises me since their wardrobes don't seem to have much place for knitted or crocheted goods. Maybe they are taking notes so they can build spinning wheels to sell to the English! I wish I had a photo of me demonstrating spinning to the Amish!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Found some posters to print for the farmer's market - reasons to buy local:

Buy locally grown- it's thousands of miles fresher -

10 Good Reasons to Buy locally grown -

14 Reasons to Buy local food and products and Break the Chains -

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Today I mailed the entry form for the county fair. I entered 9 pies, 1 machine-knitted apron, a handmade purse, a grapevine wreath, honey quick bread, honey muffins, black raspberry jam, and a collection of handmade soap.

Now I've got a deadline to get those things made! The apron is already done, and I've got the grapevine part of the wreath done. I've got a few soaps made (honey and goat's milk) but I will probably need to think about the variation in shapes and sizes of what I have already done and maybe make some different "flavors" in the same molds.

I've got the black raspberries for the jam picked and frozen, and two of the pies are to be black raspberries, too. I can do the jam this weekend. I can't believe how quickly fair is coming up! Traditionally it signals the end of summer, and I don't feel like summer has even really arrived yet, since it has been so cool.

Last night after filling out the entry form, I got inspired to start cutting and sewing a table skirt for the farmer's market. I started at 10:00 and finished after 12:30... So much for my intentions to go into work early today.

It is still raining. I am sure we got another 2 inches, or more, today. I am resting up after my labors last night. Can't pull the weeds when it is pouring down! I did go out and look - saw that the green beans are ready. I picked a handful but was getting soaked so let the rest go until tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

It's raining again! We had 5 inches last night and it has been raining off and on all afternoon today, right now it seems to be pouring.

I was so frustrated after work today I went out to the garden and pulled weeds, even though it was still drizzling down. My wonderful husband could see how upset I was and he even came out to help - even though he dislikes gardening (having been used for forced labor in the pea-patch when he was small....)

I have hairy galinsoga. No, it's not a disease, it's a weed.
Ugh. Each plant makes 7800 seeds, and there's no dormancy requirement, so there can be several generations in each season. I started doing the math but I think it's more than a google. Every time it rains another generation of the dastardly thing germinates.

We pulled out an oversized wheelbarrow of just this weed and redroot pigweed in an hour. Then I picked some peas for our dinner, and tied up a few tomato plants on the trellis. Since it's pouring now, I will have to wait until tomorrow to pull some more.

I think the weeds are winning.
Vacation went well.

I picked and froze 29 pints of black raspberries, and made 30 or so grapevine wreaths from grape vines that are strangling the apple trees in the orchard. Lesson learned: Wear long sleeves and gloves when pulling down grapevines. I got a nice case of poison ivy on my right forearm for my trouble.

I have been getting lots of advice on how to treat the poison ivy. "See a doctor." "Wait three weeks and it will go away on its own." "Use a diphenhydramine cream to reduce the itching." I have noticed that when I take ibuprofen (broken foot is still healing) the redness and itching is reduced quite a bit - but nobody has mentioned that as a cure.

This week I am back at work. It is flooding here, we got 5-7 inches of rain in the area last night, and more expected this afternoon. I keep looking longingly at my garden - being away at the farm for a week and then having the rain, I have not done any weeding - and the weeds are getting taller.

Monday, July 10, 2006

I found this 1923 Chevrolet ad on the internet.
It shows a town woman purchasing vegetables from a farm woman at a roadside stand. I liked it so much I sent the ad to an on-line photo shop and had it printed.

Here's the text:

I can't believe how little things have changed! It still makes sense to buy fresh vegetables at the farmer's market.... I love the phrase, "in time and money saved, and health and happiness gained" all from the farmer's market!

Of course I may be prejudiced since Chevrolet has always been a big part of my life, and now you can find me at the Bellville Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings.

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