Friday, December 21, 2007

Holiday baking

I've made six kinds of Christmas cookies so far. The biggest success at work was "Blind Dates" from the Farm Journal Country Cookbook. I'd post a photo but they are all gone!

I also made chocolate macaroons, coconut/cherry drops, Spritz cookies (with Irish creme flavoring) chocolate walnut balls, gingersnaps. I made some peanut brittle. I still need to make the 7-layer cookies, lemon bars, peanut blossoms, and maybe some rock candy. If I get really ambitious I'll make some fudge. I don't think I'll be doing iced cookies this year, I need to cut back a little bit!

One thing I have been doing over the years is recording the recipes that everyone likes and are traditional for our family Christmas in a special "blank" book I keep with my cookbooks. So far I've only put the cookie recipes in, but I really should put in the recipes for turkey and stuffing, green bean casserole, and the corn casseroles. Who knows if my grandkids will want to share my recipes with their wives some day?

I'm working on the menu for Christmas day. We're having my kids, the grandkids, and Ed's brother over. Since Ed and his brother grew up making sauerkraut pieroghies on Christmas day, it's kind of a tradition, and we might do that. Along with the pieroghies we'll have:

corn casserole
green bean casserole
mashed potatoes
cranberry jello salad
deviled eggs
relish tray
pecan pie
apple or cherry pie?
mixed nuts

Pieroghie recipe as I was given it:

2X2 lb bags
Boil the sauerkaurt 30 min, bag only
3 cups plus 6 heaping tablespoons flour
1.25 cup of water
2 tablespoons milk
2 eggs

Onions dice and brown with 1 stick of butter

I think what this means is:

Prepare sauerkraut filling: rinse, drain, and saute 2 bags of sauerkraut (do not use kind in cans or glass jars)

While the sauerkraut is heating, put a stock pot on the stove with water (for boiling the pieroghies later) and turn up the heat, then prepare the dough:
mix 1 1/4 cups of water, 2 tablespoons of milk, and 2 eggs into 3 cups of flour. Add flour by heaping tablespoon (about 6) until dough ball is slightly shiny and stretchy. Roll out 1/2 of dough at a time on pastry cloth (my mother-in-law uses a Tupperware plastic sheet) until it is very thin, should be about 14 x 18 inch rectangle. Cut the dough in squares approximately 3-4" with a floured knife. Put about a teaspoon of sauerkraut into the center of each square, (try not to dampen the edges with the juice as it will make the pieroghie difficult to seal), and fold up the squares diagonally into a triangle. Pinch the edges shut. If they don't seal, use a little plain water to dampen the edge.

When all the pieroghies have been made, carefully lower them into the boiling water. They will float when they are ready. Don't overload the pot with too many at a time, or they will stick together and be a mess.

Prepare the onions: Melt 1 stick of butter (1/4 pound) in a frying pan and slice in a couple of yellow onions in 1/2 inch slices. Brown the onions until they are just past translucent and starting to carmelize.

Remove the pieroghies from boiling water to serving platter. Toss with browned onions. Serve with sour cream.

(Hope I got this right!)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Counting down to Christmas

There are only a few days left and we are busy trying to get those last-minute presents in the mail or FEDEX before the deadline. Also trying to get the baking done. Here's a recipe for no-fail pie crust - easy as pie! for your holiday pleasure:

Easy as Pie Pie crust recipe

1 c. butter (room temperature)
1/2 c. lard (room temperature)
3 c. flour
1 egg
1 t. vinegar
5 T. ice cold water
1 t. salt

Using pastry blender cut shortening, flour and salt together until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal (I don't know what coarse cornmeal looks like but that's what all the rest of the recipes say!!!LOL) Do NOT use food processor as this will result in too much blending. Mix liquids together and add a little at a time. Use a fork to mix but do not overmix, just enough so that crust starts to hold together. Let crust rest while you prepare pie fillings, or give the baby a bottle.or wrap a present.. this lets the liquids disperse into the crust. Roll out just enough dough at one time to fit in the palm of your hands - about the size of a baseball. Roll out on pastry cloth dusted with flour (Don't use plastic sheet, crust will stick) when it is just large enough to cover the bottom and sides of your pie plate (turn the plate over, and cut out an inch or so around the outside) then gently bring the far side of the crust toward you, folding it in half, then in half again. Lift into pie plate and unfold (don't worry if it cracks, you can pinch the broken places together. Roll out the top crust in the same manner, just slightly smaller than the first, fill the pie, then pinch the edges together. Cut slits for steam vents. I like to brush the top with a little milk and sprinkle some granulated sugar on it before baking.... Or sometimes I add a little sugar to the crust, and sometimes I substitute part whole wheat flour or bread flour, whatever I have on hand - it is fun to experiment.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Not a diabetic cake

If anyone ever comes up with a recipe for a diabetic birthday cake, I think it would sell. The only ones that can eat cake, and still enjoy it, knowing what all the sugar does to our bodies, are under 18!

We had a birthday party last night at Chuck E. Cheese's pizza palace for my 4-year-old grandson. He's the one in front. The little one to the left is my other grandson. He was a little overwhelmed by all the noise and confusion. So was I. Everytime the car next to our table went beep-beep-beep, I thought it was my pager and jumped a mile.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Goodbye convenience foods?

I realized yesterday (after stepmom pointed it out) that frozen chicken breasts are very high in sodium due to being injected in a broth/salt solution. This does not work for either my dad or my stepmom. They will need to eat fresh chicken, not packaged frozen chicken breasts. It is a little overwhelming for stepmom because she is not so steady on her feet anymore.

Tonight I went to the grocery and saw that fresh chicken breasts were approximately $2.00 per breast - a package of 5 averaged between $9 and $10, depending on weight.

I elected to purchase two whole chickens for total of about $7.00. I get 4 breasts (small though they be) as well as 4 legs and thighs for another meal or two, plus two whole carcasses for soup and broth making.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Health Foods and diet

I've been learning a lot about dietary guidelines for elderly people in the last week. My stepmom is on a renal (pre-dialysis) diabetic diet, and dad will have to follow a Coumadin-sensitive diabetic diet.

I have always thought that fresh fruits and vegetables were healthy for everyone, but evidently that's not always true.

The list of fruits and vegetables and other foods they have in common that they are both allowed to eat is short.

He needs whole-grains, she needs refined flours. She can't have tomatoes, he can't have lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, mustard greens, turnips, spinach, etc. (going to make it hard to make a salad)

At least they can both eat green beans.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


I've been away from the blog world for a little while.

A few weeks ago my father started having a lot of back pain and required a lot of extra help, so I didn't have much time to get on the computer and check my email or even update my blogs.

I thought a few hours a week was a lot of time, little did I know. Monday my sister called 911 because my dad wouldn't let my stepmom call, but in my sister's judgement, he needed to go.
Turns out she was right. The paramedics said he almost died in the ambulance. He was transferred from our local hospital to Columbus. We've been at the hospital all week. He had blockages in 3 of his arteries, one 99% blocked. His lungs were filled with fluid. He was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. The doctors inserted three stents, and did another test to see if he needed a defibrillator. It turns out he doesn't need it. (whew!) Yesterday they moved him out of intensive care and into the regular hospital, so I'm stealing a few minutes to get my laptop out of the car and hook up to the hospital's wireless internet connection.

My stepmom is 83 and this has been pretty hard on her. She's diabetic, she didn't want to eat at first at all and we had to coax her to take care of herself. She can't walk more than a few feet at a time, so we've had to have at least two additional family members at the hospital at all times to manage her and her wheelchair and still communicate with the nursing and medical staff - stepmom is also hard of hearing so we have to repeat and explain everything to her. I don't know how smaller families handle a situation like this. I know at times I've been stretched to the breaking point, and I've got support from sisters and brother.

It's all been a blur. Tomorrow morning it will be a week but it feels like we've been here much longer than that. I was planning to have Tuesday and Wednesday off anyway due to the holiday, so I only missed 1/2 day of work, although I'll be off Monday and Tuesday at least until he is released and settled in at home. We ate Thanksgiving dinner in the hospital cafeteria. We all figured we have a lot to be thankful for. The hospital has been just great at providing help for the family members as well as excellent care for my dad.

So, if anyone was expecting something from me or looking for me, that's where I've been. I have 390 emails I just downloaded and haven't had a chance to look at yet, please be patient with me, I will get to them eventually.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Killing frosts

We've had a few killing frosts this week, all the impatiens in the flower bed are dead, and the lettuce in the garden is ruined, although the beets are still alive. Today I will be taking up the last of the mulch blanket out of the garden and putting it away in the garage. I have a few tulip bulbs to plant, have to get them in the ground before it freezes.

There are several stables around here that have signs "Free Horse Manure" - I'd love to get a load of it to put in my compost pile, but don't have a way to haul it except to put it in a big garbage can and load in the back of my Aztek. hmmmmm......

Monday, October 22, 2007


There is nothing more delightful than taking an almost four-year-old grandchild on his first hayride, especially when it has a slightly scary stop in the cemetary just after twilight, and lots of kids from 4 to 18 riding along, singing songs, and tossing straw off the side of the wagon. After the first 10 minutes he leaned back, looked at the sky, and said, "This is way fun!"

My thoughts exactly.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Barns falling down

I drove to Columbus today for a dental appointment with a specialist. I went the back roads for about half the trip, and for some reason today I noticed so many of the barns that are falling down along the roadside. Roofs are caved in, rusty, or blown off, paint faded or entirely gone, siding is missing, walls leaning crazily. Some appeared to be empty but others had "stuff" in them.

By comparison I noticed a number of the Amish barns, which were either new contstruction, or well-maintained and painted white with green roofs. You can tell the Amish farms a few different ways - by the buggies parked in front; by the lack of TV antennas or satellite dishes or electrical lines running to the house, or by the typical clothing hung on the wash line.

I also noticed there aren't many new "bank" style barns, many of the newer barns were metal with peaked roof construction, not the old-fashioned gambrel style roof.

It would be an interesting project to photograph the old barns and find out some of their history, if the owners were willing.

While in Columbus I stopped an visited a bit with my sister. Always love to see her and my brother-in-law, and their two beautiful bouncing baby boys!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Farmer's Market

I stopped at the post office in Bellville this morning to send a package, and noticed the farmer's market was still going! There were only about 6 vendors today, but I managed to buy something from everyone except the coffee roasters (I have so much coffee on hand already, or I probably would have.) I got homemade organic whole wheat bread, Amish-made doughnuts, green beans, red and green peppers, sweet corn, and a pumpkin.

The red peppers were quite a bargain - they were 10 for a dollar! They add so much to a meal to just slice even half a pepper into the vegetable, or to use it for seasoning, or even just for color.

The bread lady told me they are planning to be open for two more weeks as long as the weather holds. I am so excited!

Monday, October 08, 2007


We finally made it to the farm this weekend. 20 acres of apple trees and we harvested less than a bushel.

Most of the Golden Delicious had already dropped off the trees. There were a few Jonathons but they were so small and wormy they weren't worth picking. We totally missed the pears. Most of the ones we did pick were Northern Spies, and they were a little past their prime.

Oh well the deer will eat well this winter.

Monday, October 01, 2007

And a cold rain's gonna fall

It's raining, cold, and the weather matches my mood. I've had an ear infection for several days now and it is quite painful. I went to the doctor today and got some antibiotic drops. I feel like huddling under the covers - "make the world go away". Definitely not a day for going out and planting tulip bulbs, which needs to be done, along with cleaning up the final debris in the garden and pulling up the trellis, stakes and mulch.

On the bright side, the rain should help my fall lettuce crop along. I'm still getting the occasional zucchini and a few lingering tomatoes out of the garden. The deer have been invading and have munched the tops of the asparagus plants. I picked some rhubarb yesterday, and was chastised by DH, who said you can't pick rhubarb after July. Who says? I can if I want to!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Contest Winner

Country in the burbs wins the wallpaper border! All the comments were so relevant, and so right on, that I couldn't pick by the merits of the comment. So I printed the comments, cut up the paper, folded them up, put them in a bowl, and had DH draw one out.

Thanks everyone for participating. My own secret to apple pie? DH says it is the lard in the crust, I say it is the vanilla, cinnamon, butter and nutmeg in the filling. And I have to agree with those who say it is the care and the love with which it is made that makes it go over the top!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Contest: Apple pie border!

We have had a string of several weeks of near-perfect weather here - crisp, warm, sunny, dry days, and cooler evenings. The apples are going to be ripe soon and I am looking forward to a weekend trip to our farm to collect bushels and bushels of apples.

I am feeling generous, and to celebrate the beginning of apple pie season, I am hosting a contest, the prize being two strips of wallpaper border, totalling 10 yards, in Chesapeake pattern FAM24501B. I had originally ordered it for my kitchen but since I have a very "busy" kitchen with 6 spice racks and lots of canisters, we finally elected NOT to put it up. It is still in the original package.

What do you think is the most important ingredient in apple pie? You might identify the variety of apples used, the special way you make the crust, or the proportion of spices, or anything else that makes your pie "special".
I will select from the comments attached to this post to award the winner on September 30.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

End of the garden chicken soup

One day a few summers ago, I went outside to tell DH that dinner was ready, and that he should wash the grease and oil off his hands from playing in the garage and come in to dinner. He wasn't there! The neighbor lady's mother-in-law was standing outside, and I started chatting with her. She said "He'll come home when he gets hungry," and sure enough, he did! Since then it has been a standing joke at our house.

Today he's working on another neighbor's truck. I hope he gets hungry soon, as the chicken soup has been cooking in the crock pot and it smells really, really good.

End of the garden chicken soup

1 quart chicken stock
1 chicken breast, cubed
1 onion, diced, or 1/3 cup sliced green onions
1/2 to 1 tomato, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
2 carrots, scraped and chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped fine
1 small red pepper, chopped fine
1/2 zucchini, chopped into small pieces
1/2 tsp garlic granules or 1 clove garlic, smashed
pinch saffron threads (may substitute 1/2 tsp. turmeric)
1 cup cooked noodles (may substitute rice)
Salt and pepper to taste

put all ingredients except cooked noodles in crock pot - on high for 4 hours or low for 6-8 hours. 1/2 hour before serving (if your husband is home, and you know where he is!) add the noodles and stir.

If you have green beans or peas or potatoes, they all make a good addition to this soup.

Serve with homemade bread or sandwiches on sourdough.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Back to School

Tina from asked the question, "what do you like most about the fall season?" so I answered, fall is a time for new beginnings. The mental picture that symbolizes this for me is the rosy-cheeked little children waiting for the school bus, carrying lunch pails and wearing new hand-knit sweaters, under the green and gold leaves on the trees. Or something like that. Wouldn't you know that by leaving that comment, I jinxed myself? I had to wait for four different school buses to pick up children on my way to work yesterday!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Nothing gold can stay

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
- Robert Frost

For some reason Robert Frost's poem has been echoing through my mind today. A couple of people at work are moving on to more exciting career opportunities, and a few have decided to take the ERO. So my workplace will not be the same, even if I decide to stay. The poem really captures that cosmic truth - nothing ever stays the same, or as some less eloquent souls have put it, "when you stop growing, you die."

If this is such a universal truth, how come people are so resistant to change, and cling to the known and experienced so tightly?

Sunday, September 16, 2007


I've been in a state of confusion for the last few days. My company has offered me (and 12,000 other people) an early retirement offer.

Taking the offer would mean more time to garden, to go to the farmer's market, to knit, to make knitting patterns, to take the Master Gardener's program, to learn more about apple orchards, possibly to raise the Angora goats and rabbits and chickens that have always been lurking back in the back of my mind.....

But it would definitely mean a significantly reduced income. They've offered a lot of choices, from taking payouts of my pension fund immediately, to deferring it until age 65. If I took it immediately, it would probably run out way before my Social Security kicks in, if it ever does.

I really hadn't planned on retiring before age 55 at the earliest. So this has really thrown me a loop. So tantalizing!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Farm Subsidies

I just visited the Environmental Working Group farm subsidy database (linking from the NO NAIS link, below right, and clicking my way through various links). Out of curiosity, I clicked Ohio, to see which farmers got the highest subsidies from 1995-2005. I was a little surprised to see a local farm family high on the list. They received over $4 million in subsidies over the 10-year period.

I pulled up a map to see where their farm is, exactly. That gave me QUITE a shock, as it is just around the corner, less than a mile away, from the farm where my grandmother grew up.
For all I know they are currently farming that acreage!

...and his lovely wife

I've been reading Connie Schultz's book about her campaign adventures with her husband, Sherrod Brown. I felt a kinship with Connie. Like her, I was a divorced single mother for many years, who remarried in her mid-forties to the love of her life. I'm a member of the United Church of Christ. She's close to my age. She's a feminist who believes that women ought to have choices, even a choice to stay at home. So am I. I'm a Democrat, and I voted for Senator Brown. We're both Ohioans.

There are a few differences between us, though. I will never be a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist. I will never be a politician's wife, although I sympathize with the anonymity she discovered once they hit the campaign trail.

I found her book very enlightening, entertaining, and touching. Stories about her mother and father and how they shaped her life were sprinkled throughout the book, and she talked about the values they helped develop and that she shares with Senator Brown.

I took exception to one paragraph in the book, though. She was discussing her childhood in Ashtabula, Ohio. She said "Small towns seem to grow two kinds of kids: those who can't imagine leaving, and those who can't imagine staying. I was the latter...It was the land of limitations to me, the place where the big dreams of childhood were crushed under the weight of grow-up life. As in most small towns, many of the kids in my high school were afraid to leave. I was afraid not to. "

Ms. Shultz missed a third kind of kid - kids like me. Kids like Dorothy Gale, who dreamed of travelling over the rainbow, and actually did it. They went to Oz, had a lot of adventures, and made new friends along the way. The whole time though, they knew: There's no place like home. That's what happened to me - I've lived in Manhattan, I've lived in Spain, I've lived in Detroit. I was successful in those places, and made lots of friends. One thing I learned, people are pretty much the same all over, and it's the people you meet and the people you seek out that make a big difference in your life. But there's no place like home. Home is where my family is, and home is where my traditions are.

(It might help to sing a few bars now of Buffy St. Marie's I'm gonna be a country girl again...)

I've wandered in the hearts of men looking for the sign
But here I might learn happiness, I might learn peace of mind
The one who taught my lessons was the soft winds through the pine
And I'm gonna be a country girl again

Oh yes I'm gonna be a country girl again
With an old brown dog and a big front porch
And rabbits in a pen
I tell you, all the lights on Broadway
Don't amount to an acre of green,
And I'm gonna be a country girl again

I know people like Ms. Schultz - most of my friends from high school are now all over the globe. They're scattered to Kentucky, Maine, Texas, California, Venezuela, and Japan. I have a close relative in Florida who took off for Puerto Rico while in her twenties and won't come back, even though it might be to her advantage. My own sister has travelled from Texas to California to Detroit to Pennsylvania to New Mexico. At least she's come back to Ohio, albeit it's Columbus.

I also know people like the other ones she described - those who never left home, maybe because of fear. I remember one friend from an even smaller town telling me - "at least you got out. I'll never get out." She was referring to the fact that I had moved 7 miles away! I can't imagine what she thought was trapping her in her small town. Money? The rents aren't all that different. Family? I don't know all the circumstances, but I can't imagine that her family was keeping her from moving to the next town.

I have lamented the "brain drain" out of this part of Ohio for a long time - since I realized my friends weren't coming back. There aren't enough career-enhancing jobs here to keep our best and brightest here. Even now, when we look for potential employees at work, we have to advertise in Cleveland, Columbus, and Toledo and further afield to get candidates. The available qualified people have left town. The ones who are working here are afraid to take big risky career moves, just because of the lack of other opportunities here. We have great quality of life here, and the cost of living is one of the lowest in the US. We have no traffic jams, and we're just a smidge over an hour away from cultural opportunities in Columbus and Cleveland. (I spent an hour and a half commuting every single day when I lived in Manhattan...) So it's mostly the career opportunities.

So, Sherrod, I hope you are working on improving the employment opportunities here in North Central Ohio for our best and brightest kids! I hope you are working on improving the education of those kids so they can succeed here when we do get those jobs back. I know you're working on it - I googled this quote from the American Chronicle:

Even Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said that in his state, which struggles with high unemployment, business owners have told him "they just could not find the engineers or computer scientists they needed to run their business." Of course their answer appears to be: "Just put a Want Ad in the New Delhi Times"and we'll get plenty of response."

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Slow rise

My peach leaf starter is not bubbling. I suspected it might not, since both the leaves and the potatoes were "sterilized" by heating before fermentation was to begin.

I went ahead and used the starter in a loaf of bread, but with a cup of the starter, I included commercial yeast. I used a cup of warm water, about 3 cups of flour, about 1 1/2 teaspoons of the yeast, and a teaspoon of salt. I'll probably get the taste, anyway! I started the bread last night. I punched it down this morning, and again when I got home from work. I put it in the pan, and let it rise a final time. Sprayed it with some "shine", sprinkled on some sesame seeds, put it into the oven at 400, for 1/2 hour. I just took it out of the oven. I wish I could somehow share the heavenly peachy aroma with you!
I ordered some books on bread from Barnes and Noble last night. One is supposed to have recipes for homemade starter using peach leaves. It will be interesting to see the difference.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Farm Sustainability Checklist

I found the Vermont Agriculture newsletter Agriview from 2004 while searching for something else. I was about to dismiss it as "not pertinent to Ohio" when I spied this checklist - definitely relevant and still timely:

Farm Sustainability Checklist
(From Scout Proft, Someday Farm, Dorset)

As the year winds down it’s worth another look at the sustainability management list on
this farm; modify it to fit your own situation as you look to next year and beyond.

• set personal goals: family time, something to pass on, commitment to educating others.
• set economic goals: what we can live on, what we can do without, how much we can save.
• develop a variety of products and a plan to generate income throughout the year.
• identify “what ifs?” and plan how to shift gears with little economic loss.
• develop many markets: sell to as many different kinds of people, close to home as possible.
• develop unique products:“our own”, easily grown, dear to our hearts, not part of a fad.
• pace the projects: balance tedious and interesting work, schedule off hours and vacations.
• have realistic outside commitments: to boards, fairs, trade shows, tours, presentations, etc.
• allow quality time: set limits to work so you can be available to your partner and children

Sunday, September 02, 2007

The starter is started

I stripped the peach tree of some of its leaves this morning, and made the starter according to the recipe I posted the other day. As advertised, the color of the infusion was not appetizing, but it had the most lovely almond aroma. If my kitchen gets hot and steamy, it might be bubbling in 24 hours...
OK, it has been 24 hours, and I don't see any evidence at all of bubbling or any yeast-like activity. But it was a little cool last night, so I'll give it another six hours.

What? You still can?

After church this morning we stopped at the nursing home to visit my Grandma. Grandma will be 97 this year and she has Alzheimer's. She recently had a bout of pneumonia and gave us a scare, she was moved from nursing home to hospital to another hospital and back to the nursing home. As a result of all the moves and probably due to medication changes, she is quite a bit shaken up. She didn't recognize me this morning, but I think her eyesight is failing too.

I gave her a brief rundown on what I've been doing besides working - and she said "What? You still can?" and shook her head. I reminded her of the times I worked with my mother and her to can tomatoes and pickles and pickled beets and pears and apples and freeze corn, and she smiled. I think she does remember those times too.

She said "You've got to change along with the times, I guess." That's a profound statement, coming from her. She was born before women had the right to vote, and before the automobile was commonplace. It was a huge life change for her to move from her large home and garden into assisted living, and from there to the nursing home. She has accepted each step with grace, never complaining, but only praising the people who take care of her now.

So, why do I can? There's lots of practical reasons, such as knowing that the food I am eating was raised without chemicals and didn't travel far from its origin. I'm not too sure about how environmentally sound the practice of home canning is - while the jars are re-used and don't go to a landfill, heating up the water takes a lot of energy. Since I usually only do one canner-ful at a time, I am guessing that a more production-oriented process would probably be more energy efficient. It does take a lot of time. But on the other hand, when I have food in the pantry, I don't spend my time shopping, or travelling to the store, either. It's very satisfying to see all those full jars lined up on the shelf, knowing that even if we have a snowstorm or a power outage, we're not going to starve. And, designing the labels for the jars gives me a mild ego trip, when I see the pleasing graphics and the quotations I add to every label.

But the real reason I continue to can is probably my mother and my grandmother. When I have that big blue granite-ware kettle on the stove, I am transported back to my mother's kitchen. I realized this after a conversation with DH yesterday - a mutual friend of ours is fixing up his late father's old van. There isn't a real reason to do it - the parts are expensive, it's not a collector car, and his mother isn't driving much any more and has another, newer car anyway. I told DH that our friend must miss his father, and working on the car reminds him of his dad. He said, "Is that why I work on my uncle's old tractor?" And of course it is. He misses his uncle. Same with canning. It reminds me of my mother, and my grandmother, and brings me close to them.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Peach tree leaf sourdough starter

Thanks to Rebecca, who saw my plea to the reference librarian and forwarded the article. I am flummoxed, because all it says was that there would be an argument between those old "sourdough" cowboys who insist that yeast is needed for the starter, and those who would insist that peach tree leaves be used.

I am going to have to find that other cookbook with the instructions for the peach-tree-leaf sourdough. The more I thought about it, the more I remember that it was a library book and not one of my own cookbooks which mentioned it. I think it was a recipe book that concentrated on breads.

Canning tomatoes

I complain "I've got all these tomatoes to can" and DH reminds me "you don't HAVE to do this, you know", "Yes, I do", "No, you really, really don't".

It reminds me of a conversation I had 20 years ago with a former supervisor who had moved here from Detroit. She found our town a little provincial. In an effort to find some friends and make professional acquaintances here, she joined the local Business and Professional Women's Club. She was frustrated. She mentioned to me that all the ladies there did was complain about how now that they were working, they didn't have enough time to get all their canning done. She said, "Oh, my gosh! Buy your canned vegetables at the grocery store!" I told her then that she was missing the point - that I also canned MY vegetables from MY garden! She just shook her head. She didn't get it. She probably still buys her vegetables.

I have been canning for 2 days. I put up 7 quarts of tomatoes, and made 6 quarts of tomato sauce. There are more tomatoes in the garden. Lots more. I have to go pick...

Friday, August 31, 2007

Dear Research Librarian,

I am looking for a copy of a 2-page article that mentions using peach tree leaves as an ingredient in sourdough bread starter. I have one cookbook that also mentions this, which says to use crushed leaves, but found only -1- recipe online, so I am curious. The recipe online says to boil the peach leaves but it seem like that would kill any enzymes or yeasts, so I am very curious as to what this article says.

The Sourdough Biscuit Rose P. WhiteWestern Folklore, Vol. 15, No. 2, New Mexico Number (Apr., 1956), pp. 93-94doi:10.2307/1497483This article consists of 2 page(s).

It is evidently available on line in Jstor, , but this database is not available through OPLIN, at least I couldn't get there.

I looked online at the Western Folklore society web site but didn't see any option for ordering reprints.

Here is a list of participating libraries , I see Ashland University is listed, is there any way I could get a copy of this article even though I am not a student there, without having to drive to Ashland?

I am willing to pay for the cost of copying the article, and mailing it, if it cannot be emailed.

Can you help me? Thanks in advance,


Not this time

I received a call from the Extension office late last night. Unfortunately, the master gardener's program which is offered in Ashland county this fall is going to be offered during the daytime, on Tuesdays. That is impossible for me.

The agent said that since many of the people who have expressed an interest have also requested an evening class, there may yet be another class scheduled.

Wait and see.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste teh fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each. – Henry David Thoreau

1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 2 a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted - Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

I am afraid the summer is passing away quickly here. It's still hot, but the foods that are ripe in my garden are passing their prime. I have a peach tree. I remember exactly how old it is - my next-door neighbor found it sprouted in her compost pile the year I got married. She gave it to me as a housewarming gift for our new home. I planted it in a pot, and finally put it in the ground. It is now about 15 or 20 feet tall, five years later, and if not for the late frost last spring, now might be the exact season for the peaches. The year before, I had 5 blossoms, which turned into one fruit, which fell off the tree when it was about an inch in diameter - DH says it was a casualty of the June drop. This year, nothing! Not a blossom. I am hoping for peaches next year.

Waiting for the season to arrive, expectation of that first peach, the first tomato, the first melon, the first pea, the first leaf of lettuce - anticipation adds to the pleasure of the taste, and to the pride in the harvest. And when the season passes, there is a kind of sadness; that specific taste will be gone until next year, when the cycle begins again.

Peach Leaf Sourdough Starter:

1 quart fresh peach leaves, unpacked

3 cups water

3 baked potatoes, medium size

1/2 cup yellow corn meal

3 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons salt

Bring water to rolling boil and steep peach leaves in it for 15 minutes. Drain liquid and add enough water to make 3 full cups again. This will have a rather unappetizing green color but don't worry! It will disappear during the fermentation process. Peel hot baked potatoes and put through food mill or sieve. Scald 1/2 cup corn meal in 1 cup of the liquid until it reaches boiling point and thickens. Stir constantly so that it will not become lumpy. Now combine all ingredients in large mixing bowl (do not use metal or plastic). Cover with cheesecloth and set in warm place (about 30 to 85 degrees F.) until well fermented. In warm humid weather this will take about 24 hours. In cool dry weather a few more hours may be required for mixture to become active throughout. Stir every few hours during the process. When it is ready, pour into a large glass jar (2-quart glass pickle jar with porcelain-lined zinc lid will do). Store in refrigerator at about 38 degrees. If necessary stir down a time or two until it stops foaming. It is ready for use when about 1/2 inch of clear liquid has risen to the top. This will take about 2 days. Stir well each time before using. When this starter has been used down to about 1 cupful, add 3 cups water, 3 medium-size baked potatoes, 1/2 cup corn meal scalded in 1 cup of the water, 3 tablespoons sugar and 2 teaspoons salt prepared as for the first time (peach leaves are not needed after the first time). Set in warm place until it becomes very active in about 6 to 8 hours. Store in refrigerator and it will be ready for use the next day. A properly renewed starter improves with age and, once one becomes accustomed to taking care of it, it all becomes automatic. When, for some reason, it cannot be used about twice a week stir it thoroughly every few days and add 1 teaspoon sugar. Each time it is renewed, empty the jar, wash and scald jar and lid before filling with the new mixture. - Recipe by Olga Drozd on

Letting go

We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us." -Joseph Campbell

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen...By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. - Hebrews 11:1,8

People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar” --Thich Nhat Hanh.

I don't want to pull plants out of my garden. After all the time and effort I have invested in these plants, I hope that they will still produce more, even though there is evidence to the contrary. My cucumbers are stricken with some kind of disease, and many of the tomato plants have totally lost their leaves. The corn is overripe.

There really isn't going to be any benefit in keeping these plants in the garden, and in fact, getting rid of them might help next year's garden by reducing infection with viral disease. If I pull them, I could possibly still plant and harvest peas, radishes, lettuce, and maybe spinach before winter in the space that's left.

hmmm. I wonder if this is a metaphor for other things in life that I hold on to? Resentments, fears, habits, routines?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Master Gardener Program

I'm looking into the master gardener program. This is a program that combines training and volunteering to create "expert" resources in the community to assist with public gardening education. I'll post more information when I receive the application package.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Farmer's Market Day

Yesterday I went to three different farmer's markets. I got to our small, local Bellville market just before closing time and I was lucky enough to catch Joan of Meadow Rise Farms just as she was packing up. She gave me a bagful of organic peppers for only $5. Unfortunately I was too late to catch the bread lady, who grinds her own flour and makes wonderful bread, she had sold her last loaf at 10:00. I also had a fried pie from an Amish girl, and bought a bag of buckwheat pancake mix.

I am really feeling like a failure since I haven't even taken one day this summer to load up my little Aztek with produce to sell at this market, but I'm in a quandary. Too much produce for my own use, not quite enough to make it worth the extra effort of going to market.
The second market I attended yesterday was a little farther away, the festival at Mohican Gardens that I mentioned a few days ago. It took me a while to get there on the highway, especially since I took the wrong exit at first, but the return trip was a little shorter as I took the back roads. There was a wonderful demonstration on herbs while I was there, I talked to a summer intern from the Ohio Proud program (he said to watch for a totally revamped program and website in November.) I also bought a carful of mums for planting around my patio. There were a few farm market stalls and I bought a loaf of bread. I picked up flyers for Turk Brothers custom meats in Ashland.
The third market wasn't intentional at all, but since I was driving by I had to stop. It was the Malabar farms produce stand. There was a great article in Ohio magazine about the farm produce stand and restaurant on Pleasant Valley Road. I bought three luscious, shiny eggplants. I will have to see how I will sneak them into DH's dinner..

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Less is more

Perfection is reached not when there is nothing left to add, but when nothing more can be taken away.” -- Antoine de Saint-Exupery

When I made my French bread entry for the county fair this year, I learned something. I made it with flour, yeast, water, salt, and a very little amount of honey.

No milk, no eggs, no shortening, no oil, no "bread dough enhancer", or gluten. No seeds or flakes or herbs or spices. Just plain flour, water, yeast, salt, and a tiny bit of honey. That is all.

It tasted great. It won first prize, a blue ribbon.

This morning I got out a loaf I made a week ago, following this philosophy, and it was not spoiled or moldy as I half expected it to be. It was fine. A little on the dry side, but that was OK because I was making toast anyway.

Is this an epiphany or a revelation?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

No flood damage

Thanks to all those who have called and sent emails expressing concern over the flash flooding here. We were very lucky not to suffer any damage, although the surrounding communities will be cleaning up for weeks/months/years to come. There are picture galleries on the Mansfield News Journal web site of the damage, and you can look for related articles if you would like to help some of the people who did suffer damage in the storm and floods.

A gift from my sister

I mentioned to my father last night that I had gone to TSC in search of canning jars and baskets, and struck out in both cases. He asked why I didn't use the baskets my sister got for me? And I had to reply, "what baskets?" Evidently when the grocery store where she worked closed, my thoughtful sister asked for permission to take these lovely half-bushel baskets home instead of throwing them in the dumpster. Dad has been storing them in his barn for a few years. He said "I told your husband." Now, DH does not like clutter, so I am sure he just "forgot" to mention it to me. But see what good use I have put these baskets to! These tomatoes are the Quali-T 23 variety from Territorial. They are nearly perfect, except where the hornworms took a few bites. I still have several more to pick on the Mortgage lifter and Bloody Butcher varieties, but ran out of time and energy tonight.
The sweet corn in my garden is mostly past its prime. I will have to pick it tomorrow and freeze for soups and chowders this winter. Next year, I will have to revert back to the Burpee Super-sweet varieties that did so well last year. The old Golden Bantam variety just doesn't last very long once it is ripe. We probably had a window of only a few days when it was at its peak, and we can't eat that much corn that fast.
Tonight I picked all the zucchini, since I pulled out half my plants it is retaliating by refusing to grow.
I picked all the cucumbers I could find in the garden except for the ones that were an inch long. I am not sure if the heavy rains here affected the cukes, or if it was the hot, humid weather, but suddenly, all the vines shrivelled up and turned brown and the leaves have a yellow patching - is it cucumber mosaic? I will look it up.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Festival schedule

Since Julia said they would welcome all publicity, I have taken the liberty of copying the text from the email she sent me to give you the information about the festival: Granted, it is the next county over from here, but it is only 20 minutes away!

She also mentioned that due to the floods, rains, tornadoes, and general high water here, there is significant mud at Arbor Hill Heirloom Organics, so therefore no parking available. Activities scheduled there will take place at the Mohican Gardens farm.

Troutman Vineyards
Deanna and Andy Troutman opened the winery at Troutman Vineyards in June, 2001. The property was owned for many years by Russell Stauffer, who raised chickens and sold produce in a roadside stand located near the house. Andy and Deanna moved to the property in the fall of 1997 with plans to start a small, high-quality winery. Deanna, a marketing executive, and Andy, vineyard manager at Wolf Creek Vineyards, began planting vineyards in Wayne County in the spring of 1998. Tours of the vineyards and winery will be available both days. If you have questions on growing grapes or making wine, Andy and their staff will be on hand to answer questions. There’s also a petting zoo for the kids. Visit with the goats and chickens. Enjoy their beautiful farm setting and a taste of one of Ohio’s resurging farm enterprises; Ohio Wines.

Arbor Hill Heirloom Organics ( Saturday Only)
Visit the farm of Scott Savage and family. At this farm you will have an opportunity to learn about vegetable crop production and the specialty of this operation, fingerling potatoes. The Savage family produces and market gourmet potatoes through farm markets locations in the Columbus Area. Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Assoc. representatives will be on hand to discuss Certified Organic Crop Production. Scott Savage will be available to share his experience and recommendations on growing for Farmers Markets.

Tea Hill Organic Farm
This family farm operation is engaged in the production, processing and marketing of free range poultry and other organics farm products. The farm business includes operation of ODA inspected, custom slaughter poultry processing facility . Workshops and tours of their Free Range Poultry operation and Poultry Processing Facility will be held both days. Tea Hill Organics is open April through November, and its products are available from the farm, at North Union Farmers Markets in Montose and Cleveland, Ohio.

Mohican Gardens More than a place to purchase plants, our goal at Mohican Gardens is to enhance your enjoyment of gardening by providing quality plant materials, practical advise for your gardening projects, and an opportunity for you to build an appreciation for the beauty of nature. Beautiful designs and gardening ideas abound from the conservatory and many display gardens. Themes include water gardens, herb gardens, shade gardens, cutting and fragrance gardens.

Activities at Mohican Gardens will include: Kids Cane Pole Fishing Grab a pole and we’ll meet you at the pond. Kid’s Cane Pole Fishing Derby. Cane poles and adult supervision provided. Saturday 10:00 – 12:00 and Sunday 4:00 – 6:00

Getting the Good Bugs Saturday, 11:00 : Ron Becker OSU Extension Learn about “IPM” Integrated Pest Management Effective management of pest in your garden or vegetable crops through monitor crop conditions and pest activity to minimize the use of chemical application.

Cook It Up Fresh and Local Saturday,12:00 : Julie Ann Spreng Cooking with Herbs, Ready for some aroma therapy! Cooking with herbs, it smells and tastes so good!

Greenfield Farms Cooperative Saturday, visit their display and check out the produce! At 2:00 learn about this local farm cooperative’s involvement in organic food production, how the cooperative operates and where to find their products.

Perennial Garden Designs by Lorie Ambrose, Walk through the Perennial Gardens Saturday 3:00 – 4:00

Cook it Up Fresh & Local Cory Barrett, Executive Chef with Lola Bistro in Cleveland, Ohio will provide a cooking demonstration. Great ideas for that “fresh” summer cuisine. Sunday 1:00

Forestry Management by Jeff Wilkinson, Forestry Consultant, Jeff will provide insight on Best Forestry Management Practices. Sunday 2:00

Herb Gardens by Lorie Ambrose, Learn about growing and preserving Herbs Sunday 3:00

Country Line and Square Dance! Grab your partner and kick up your heels or just sit back and enjoy the fun! Saturday evening 6:30 – 8:30

Through out the day: Saturday Farmers Market Fresh Produce, Herbs, Floral Baskets, Mums and Baked Goods, 10:00 – 3:00

OSU Master Gardening Program by Ashland County Extension Master Gardeners. The Master Gardeners will be on hand during the day to answer gardening questions and provide information on the Master Gardening Program. (Saturday)

Maplewood Farms, Tom Baumbrger will be demonstrating his portable band sawmill. Tom will be available to answer questions on various types of wood, their uses and forestry questions. (Saturday and Sunday)

Aqua Doc, Pond Management Have questions on controlling pond vegetation, proper aeration and other management problems? Visit with John Wilson for information on pond management and their management services. (Saturday and Sunday)

Those Great Old Barns Ashland Co. Barns and Rural Heritage Society Barn Display of Mohican Township Barns. (Saturday and Sunday)

Ashland County Organic Festival

I turned on the radio at work this morning to listen for weather reports, and couldn't believe my ears. My first reaction was that I had stayed up too late last night blogging, and my subconscious mind was now taking over my conscious mind. But I turned up the volume, and listened --

2nd Annual Mohican Valley Farm Festival - Free workshops and tours for those who just want a taste of country life or are interested in starting farm production. August 25 and 26.

The participating/sponsoring vendors are Arbor Hill Heirloom Organics, Mohican Gardens, Troutman Vineyards, and Tea Hill Organic Farm.

They are having cooking demonstrations "Cook It Up, Fresh and Local", gardening workshops, a vineyard tour, and a number of other workshops and demonstrations..

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Split tomatoes

The problem with using the camera in my cell phone to send to the blog is as you see here - you can never see the quality of the photo until it's online.... and everyone else sees it too! Anyway, here are some of my cracked tomatoes.

Too much rain

I drove through a tornado yesterday on the way back from Parma from a meeting. A monsoon on the way there, and a tornado on the way back. Overnight, it must have rained all night, because when I got up this morning there was a river running through my back yard. My next-door neighbor's lawn became a lake.

According to the local paper Mansfield News Journal, there might have been a tornado about a mile from my house, and several roofs were damaged in the immediate area.

Just went out and checked, and all my lovely salad tomatoes have cracks in them from too much rain. I'll have to process them SOON or they will go bad. Like, tonight?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Aiden on the farm

We are starting them young! Aiden loves the tractor. My oldest grandson, almost 4 years old. He thought it was hilarious that we don't have any animals on the farm. He kept saying "You have 4 cows." I said, no. He said "You have 3 cows" I said no, zero cows. "Two cows." "Zero cows." "One cow." "Zero cows." "HEEEEE HEEE HEEEE HEEE." When we arrived and opened the barn, he looked in, and said "Where are the cows?"

This way to the elderberries!

Aiden spent the weekend with us on the farm. He is proudly pointing to the elderberries he helped pick. Funny, the elderberries that are growing in the shade are ripe, and the ones in the sun are still green. Anyway, Grandma got tired of cleaning elderberries before she had enough for a pie, even though Aiden was helping. She mixed in a pint of frozen black raspberries to finish the pie.

Aiden was eagerly anticipating the pie, but when he tasted it, he didn't like it.

Former farmhand William remarked that I should save the elderberries to make elderberry wine, he thinks it makes very good wine.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Love and Bees

"I hadn't been out to the hives before, so to start off she gave me a lesson in what she called "bee yard etiquette". She reminded me that the world was really one big bee yard, and the same rules worked fine in both places: Don't be afraid, as no life-loving bee wants to sting you. Still, don't be an idiot; wear long sleeves and long pants. Don't swat. Don't even think about swatting. If you feel angry, whistle. Anger agitates, while whistling melts a bee's temper. Act like you know what you're doing, even if you don't. Above all, send the bees love. Every little thing wants to be loved."
- Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees

I read this book several years ago, and this paragraph really stuck with me. I was pondering it today while at work, walking through an area fill with people who are relative strangers to me. Does it seem that some people are defensive, and they swat, or strike out, as soon as they see you? And I think I need to learn to whistle.

Good Neighbors

We have a very good neighbor. He goes fishing at Lake Erie as often as he can get away during the summer and brings home the limit of walleye. I'm grilling some of the filets tonight - the recipe I'm using couldn't be simpler. Place the walleye filets in a glass or ceramic container. Skewer zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, and onions and place them over the top of the ceramic container. Sprinkle about 1 tsp of Old Bay seasoning over the veggie skewers, and then squeeze one lemon and souse them all. Put the vegetables on the grill first, as they will take about 30-35 minutes, and brush with a little olive oil and another sprinkle of Old Bay. Let the fish marinate for about 20 minutes, then grill 10 minutes on each side. (Our grill thermometer says the temp is about 350 to 375 when we grill.) Baste with remaining marinade after turning. Plate and serve with yellow rice or sweet corn fresh from the garden!

We froze these fillets last Saturday as I knew that DH would not be home. I thawed them under cool running water. My neighbor's wife says to be sure, when freezing them, to fill the bag or freezer container with water to keep the filets from freezer burn.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Perfect Summer Meal

DH is on the road again, so I'm eating alone. I am cooking sweet corn, fresh from the garden 20 minutes ago. In a few minutes I'm going to take it out and slather it with butter, add a little salt and some freshly ground black pepper. With the corn, I am going to have fresh sliced red tomato (Mortgage lifter variety, a cousin of Brandywine) and some cucumbers peeled, sliced with a little cider vinegar and few drops of honey. I'm going to have a slice of locally-produced Amish farmer's cheese with some french bread I baked yesterday. For dessert I'm having a blueberry-ginger cake, trying out the recipe for the blueberry festival. The only thing that would make this better would be to share it. Poor hubby - he will probably stop at McDonald's on his way home. It is just so NOT THE SAME.

I had a terrible earache earlier today - the whole side of my face is sore, including the throat inside. I stayed in bed late, then finally dragged myself to the kitchen for a cup of coffee and out to the patio where I sat down in the sun in the zero-gravity recliner, laid back, and shut my eyes. Just listening to the sounds of summer really relaxed me, so much that I was startled when I spilled my coffee all over myself!

I heard the rise and fall of the cicadas singing, the "wheet-wheet" of a robin, an occasional warble from a sweeter bird. Behind the cicadas I heard crickets chirping. And of course, I heard the cars roaring up and down the highway, an occasional motorcycle revving its engine at the local racetrack, and once a semi-tractor/trailer rig going past. I heard the crunch of a car's tires slowly winding down my east-side neighbor's lane. I heard the whine of an occasional housefly or hornet flying past me, and some stupid bug without navigational skills kept plopping into the brick wall - it sounded like a June bug but it's a little late for one of those. I heard the whisper of the breeze tickling the tree branches, and the rattle of some dry leaves blowing across the patio. A little later I heard my neighbor dropping what sounded like rocks into a plastic bucket, making me feel guilty for lying down in the middle of the day. So, I got up and pulled weeds from my flower garden.

Looking for bread recipes in an old Farm Journal "Breads" cookbook, I found this recipe for marmalade: I think I'll make it with yellow summer squash instead of zucchini, and shred the squash instead of slicing it.

Places to visit

Bright Meadows Farm - a winery near Hallifax Virginia. I need to visit, if nothing else, just to buy a bottle of wine with their label!

According to Ben Franklin, "Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance."

Monday, August 13, 2007

Fairs and Festivals

The Richland county fair closed a day early! Well, it closed on schedule, but since I've been coming to the fair for over 30 years I didn't look at the schedule. They have evidently decided this year that closing on Saturday night gives vendors and exhibitors more time to pack up and move out.

Well, that's all well and good. Except that I didn't read the fair book, and when I went yesterday late afternoon to pick up my exhibits, I thought I was in the twilight zone. Nobody was around, the office was closed, the midway was torn down. I stopped by the office today and found that sure enough, they did keep my non-perishable exhibits, so I picked them up. It turns out that the scheduled time for pickup was 8-12 a.m. Don't know if others were in the same boat as me or not! But it was really weird, going to a deserted fairground, and kind of sad.

One of the assistants in the Home Arts department confided in me after the judging was over on Wednesday last week, that someone's quart of peas exploded. The department superintendant and the assistants believe that this person takes commercially canned vegetables and re-cans them for the fair. Hard to believe! But there was the evidence, spoilage in the jar of meat canned by the same person. I am having a hard time trying to understand the motivation of the person who would do that. The assistant mentioned that this person is a home ec teacher. That makes it even harder for me to understand!

When I mentioned that I didn't mind taking third in the black raspberry pie behind the person who won best-in-show and best-in-class (over all baked goods at the fair), my boss mentioned that the Cracker Barrel restaurant sells excellent black raspberry pie filling in jars in their gift shop. He said I should put it in a Pillsbury pie crust and save myself a lot of work. Again, I don't understand the reasoning. Why would anyone "cheat" to win a $3.00 award, when you can't bake a pie for that price? The only reason to even enter is for bragging rights - and how could you live with yourself if you bragged about winning a contest you had to cheat to win?

I did notice that this year most of the winning pie crusts didn't look all that "flaky", they seemed to be finer textured than mine. Since I won several ribbons last year, using the same pie crust recipe, I have to believe it was a different judge.

The Lexington Blueberry Festival is this weekend. They are having a blueberry bake-off. Trying to decide whether to enter or not. It would mean staying home for the weekend, not going to the farm. DH was just there last weekend, so he may be amenable to staying home. There are three categories - pies, quick breads, and other desserts.

I fixed spaghetti-zucchini carbonara tonight, just for me. A zuchini, a yellow squash, an onion, half a green pepper, 1 garlic clove, 4 mushrooms, 4 strips of bacon, 2 tablespoons salad olives, 1 tsp capers, and 1/4 cup flaked parmesan cheese. mmmmmm. A glass of red wine and I am happy! And enough left over for lunch tomorrow.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Ripe for Change (Trailer)

I'll bet $10 there won't be a screening here in North Central Ohio anytime soon!

In my kitchen

Someone asked the question at Mary Jane's farmgirl connection - "What does your kitchen look like?" Well, here's mine - kinda small, but functional. I am sure I will not win any interior design awards, and if anyone has suggestions for eliminating clutter, I'd like to hear them! Just don't tell me to get rid of any of my five spice racks.

Friday, August 10, 2007

How to use zucchini?

Zuchini to Compost today. The foot-long ones. There are more in the garden. Last week I committed zucchinicide - I pulled up three plants that were still bearing. It hurt me to do this, but it had to be done. I couldn't even get to my tomatoes. This was just after I found 8 giant zukes. And added them to the 25 other zucchini that were on the kitchen table waiting for me to make something else. So far I've made bread, chocolate cake, orange squares, pancakes, stuffed zukes, grilled zukes, steamed zukes, deep-fried breaded zukes (ooh those were good) cubed and stir-fried zukes. Needless to say, I couldn't face cooking another zucchini. They sat on the table for a week. Then DH took them to the wheelbarrow outside. That was two days ago. I still haven't done anything with them, so today, he kindly removed them from my sight....

One of the farmgirls posted a recipe for mock pineapple for using in stir-fries:

Mock pineapple
12 cups zucchini, chopped up to resemble crushed pineapple
1 46 ounce can of sweetened pineapple juice
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice

Put the juices in a large pot with the sugar and bring to a boil. Add the zucchini and boil for 20 minutes. Put in sterlized, hot pint jars and process in a water bath for 10 minutes. Makes about 8-9 pints.

I've got cukes, too. I've already made 11 pint jars of dill pickles and 7 pints of bread and butter pickles. This will probably last more than a year. I've still got at least 6 zucchini plants in the garden.

I just ordered a couple of books from B&N - From Asparagus to Zucchini
and Life's Little Zucchini Cookbook The first is a collection of recipes and advice from a community-supported agriculture organization. The second just had nice photos on the cover. Can't wait 'til they get here! It's not like I don't have zucchini recipes already, it's just looking in 100 cookbooks to try to find them.

I've got lots of tomatoes ripe in the garden now too. Looks like I'll be making salsa this weekend. Tomorrow morning I'll go to the farmer's market and get peppers, since the seeds I planted this year must have been sterile - I saved seeds from a purchased pepper and not a one germinated..

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Tag, You're It!

I just learned about blog tag: List seven random things about yourself in your blog, then "tag" seven other bloggers by leaving their names in your post, and visiting their blogs and leaving comments for them to find. Once they are it, they do the same, and leave a comment on my blog with their seven taggees. This could spread quickly!

I'll start:

1. I have two daughters and two grandsons. If I can get good pictures I'll post them here.

2. I am married to the nicest man on earth - our five year anniversary is coming up in September.

3. I've worked in IT for 28 years for one of the big three automakers. I'm a certified project manager (PMP), a certified production and inventory manager (CPIM), ITIL Foundations certified, and a certified data processor (CDP). (Yawn...) The system I currently support uses radio communications through the computer to give fork truck drivers information on what they should pick up or drop off.

4. I love to garden (if you read this blog you already know that.)

5. I love to bake. I've got four pies cooling right now for the pie auction at the county fair.

6. I love to knit. I've usually got about 10 projects going, right now I think there are a few more than that.

7. I am a lifetime Girl Scout.

Who are my taggees? Let's see, I'm going to pick by linking through my interests on my blog profile.

OK, got to take the pies to the fair, I'll be tagging you all shortly!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

County Fair Report

Lots of competition this year at the fair! I got a second on my rhubarb pie, a third on the black raspberry, a second on the honey-pecan pie, a third on the relish display, a second on the jams and jellies display, and a second on the purse. One first-place ribbon on the french bread - but nothing to brag about, I was the only competitor in that class. Oh well, the competition will only inspire me to improve.

I used Paula Red apples in the apple pie - note to myself, the apples were too "crisp", it needed to bake longer or cook the apples in advance. The cherry pie filling was a little bit too runny.

The zucchini- chocolate layer cake took no awards. This year some of the ladies entered their cakes in Tupperware containers and did not follow the instructions to display on a disposable plate or board and cover with Saran Wrap. The judge's assistant said it was a blessing- it was so much easier to open than the Saran Wrap. I'll have to remember that for next year.

Fair entries

I baked pies for the fair yesterday. Rhubarb, apple, pecan, cherry, and black raspberries. Pies, and a chocolate layer cake, and french bread. Took some jams and jellies and relishes. Probably the relishes will be disqualified because I didn't read the rules carefully enough - I used old-fashioned glass tops, which depending on the judge, may not be considered "safe" enough --- (meaning, they can be used over and over again, so we don't have to buy new lids every year). I took some early and some late tomatoes from my garden - first time I've entered the produce show.

I entered the scarf I knit last fall and the knitting bag (called it a purse) I made out of a recycled thrift-store sweater.

The judging started at 9:00 am and should be over some time soon. It's pouring rain here, so the fairgrounds will be a mess. I'll have to take an umbrella and maybe a raincoat. I'm going to visit my grandmother first - they've moved her from one hospital to another. Then afterwards stop by the fairgrounds and see how my entries did.

Local Food, Local Restaurant

I just learned that there is a new chef at the Malabar Inn restaurant. This restaurant is located at the Malabar Farm State Park (former home of Louis Bromfield) and is the restored 1820's stagecoach inn belonging to the Schrack family. I've dined there before, and although they served local food, it was mostly so-so fare. But, my hopes are high for new chef Dan Bailey. The menu is here and looks fantastic.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Hornworms and Dill

Headline News: Dill DOES NOT repel tomato hornworms, at least in my garden! (See post)Look at these guys!

I found 5 of them in the space of a few minutes! If they are this big when they are caterpillars, what the heck do they turn into when they metamorphose? If you dare to look closer, click on the pictures to see them full size. Actually they are kind of pretty, when they are not chomping away on my tomatoes. Maybe I could design a sweater pattern with white diagonals on a green background... hmmm.

Then there is that HUGE gross factor when you try to pull their soft, squishy body off the plant, and they hold on for dear life (which is why I sacrificed a few leaves.)

Yes, that is green worm poop. If you see little balls of black poop or green poop like this under your tomatoes, look above it and you will probably see stems without any leaves, totally defoiliated. It doesn't take long - I didn't see any evidence of these guys yesterday. OK, so now that I know the answer, I find this web site that says that dill is a TRAP PLANT for tomatoes. TRAP PLANT!!!! that means that the fragrance attracts the pests. You're supposed to plant trap plants somewhere other than your target plants! Oh, well, now I know.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Farm Bill

House to Consider FY08 Agriculture Appropriations Bill - a headline emailed to me from -

This week the House of Representatives is set to debate H.R. 3161, the 2008 agriculture appropriations bill. Issues up for debate include food stamps, crop insurance, and commodities. The House may also consider country-of-origin labeling, as well as an amendment that would prohibit giving subsidies to farmers whose income exceeds $250,000.Let Congress know what you think about the farm bill.
Separated by 182 years, John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed, and I share a birthday. He was born in 1774. I just realized this today.

I finished a quick read through Slow Food - A case for taste by Carlo Petrini. (Ha! I even have to read fast!) As I understand it, his vision of the Slow Food movement is
-not to protest fast food but to teach how slow food is better
to educate consumers, beginning with children
-to preserve biodiversity and unique regional foods and flavors
-to provide economic support for local, small food producers

I started thinking about regional flavors in the North Central Ohio region. Among the Native Americans who lived here were the Iriquois, the Chippewa (or Ojibway), Wyandot, Miami, Delaware, Seneca, Ottawa, Hurons. I haven't seen much written about their cuisine, but imagine that wild game played a large part in it. But even they weren't native to this area, they moved west from New York about 200 years prior to the arrival of the Pilgrims. The Adena and Hopewell (mound-building) Indians lived here long before, their primary foods were maize, squash, and beans.

Moving forward in history, this region was settled during the expansion into the Northwest Territories, in the early through mid-1800's, primarily by German farmers - my own family history shows a number of names like Klopfenstein, Ritter, Klahn, Weber, Horning, Kocheiser, and so on.
So what is more German than apples and pork? But then, pondering even more, I realized that this area was once the haunt of Johnny Appleseed - in fact, our football conference here is the Johnny Appleseed conference, and we have the Johnny Appleseed Heritage Center just a few miles away. So I googled Johnny Appleseed and came up with his birth date - couldn't believe it was the same as mine!

And just to complete the circle, I find that Michael Pollan's book "The Botany of Desire" has a Johnny Appleseed reference, and Michael Pollan is on the advisory board of the Slow Food USA organization.

I've seen signs like these all over the place ever since I was a little girl -- I remember especially the DeKalb seed corn signs that a neighbor put up, that advertised the hybrid cross he was using. My farmer dad never put up these signs, so I am mystified - Is this like an advertisement for the variety of seed? Does the farmer get paid for advertising? Or is it just a point of pride, if his corn grows well, to let the neighbors know what he planted? Or, is it a warning, in case the corn pollen might cross-polinate with another variety?

I've seen these signs for so long and so often that I haven't even been reading them -- UNTIL TODAY. Croplan GENETICS. Midwest Seed GENETICS. Does this mean these are GMO varieties?

So, the question still stands -- Are the farmers paid to put these signs up? Or are they a warning? or are they bragging? I will have to remember to ask my cousin the next time I see him.

Monday, July 30, 2007

One more seasonal recipe - read the whole post for my healthier modifications:

Zucchini orange squares

1 1/2 c. unsifted flour
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2-3 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking powder
1 c. grated, drained zucchini
1/2 c. frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
4 T. vegetable oil
2 egg whites, beaten

Mix dry ingredients and stir in zucchini. Add juice and oil to beaten egg whites and fold this into dry ingredients. Pour into a 9 x 13-inch greased and floured pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. When partially cool, drizzle with icing made of powered sugar, butter and orange juice, very thin.

OK, I can't resist the challenge. I am going to change this recipe to make it healthier. According to, here are the rules for substituting honey for sugar:

1. Use equal amounts of honey for sugar up to one cup. Over one cup, replace each cup of sugar with 2/3 to 3/4 cup over honey depending upon the sweetness desired.
2. Lower the baking temperature 25 degrees and watch your time carefully since products with honey brown faster.
3. In recipes using more than one cup honey for sugar, it may be necessary to reduce liquids by 1/4 cup per cup of honey.
4. In baked goods, add 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda per cup of honey if baking soda is not already included in the recipe. This will reduce the acidity of the honey, as well as increase the volume of your product.

and, from an article in Natural Health, here is some information about substituting whole wheat flour for white flour:

"Whole-wheat pastry flour is milled from a soft, or low-protein, variety of wheat that doesn't form much gluten (strong, elastic strands of protein) when it's mixed. It's best for cakes, cookies, pies, and quick breads, where lightness and tenderness are more desirable than strength and elasticity. Regular whole-wheat flour is milled from hard, or high-protein, wheat and is best suited for yeast breads, where it contributes a hearty texture and robust flavor.Whole-wheat pastry flour is milled from a soft, or low-protein, variety of wheat that doesn't form much gluten (strong, elastic strands of protein) when it's mixed. It's best for cakes, cookies, pies, and quick breads, where lightness and tenderness are more desirable than strength and elasticity. Regular whole-wheat flour is milled from hard, or high-protein, wheat and is best suited for yeast breads, where it contributes a hearty texture and robust flavor."

Better-For-You Zucchini orange squares (my adaptation)

3/4 c. unsifted white flour
3/4 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1 c. honey
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2-3 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 c. grated, drained zucchini
1/3 c. frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1 t. orange extract (optional)
3 T. vegetable oil
1 egg, beaten (unless you have a use for two egg yolks!)

Mix dry ingredients and stir in zucchini. Add juice and oil to beaten egg and fold this into dry ingredients. Pour into a 9 x 13-inch greased and floured pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 35-40 minutes. When partially cool, drizzle with icing made of powered sugar, butter and orange juice, very thin.
Make this now, and preserve it for Thanksgiving.

Green Tomato Mincemeat

6 c. green tomatoes (should be in your garden now)
6 c. apples (The original recipe called for Granny Smith, but Lodi is an excellent substitute and is in season right now.)
2 c. dried cherries (from Traverse City, order online from
1 c. golden raisins )
½ c. apple cider vinegar
1 t. lemon zest
1 t. orange zest
1 T. cinnamon
1 t. nutmeg
1 ½ t. salt
1 t. ground cloves
4 T. butter
3 c. sugar

Core and section green tomatoes and apples. Chop in food processor.
Add all other ingredients; bring to boil; cook over low heat for 1 ½-2 hours.
Place in four pint or two quart canning jars. Hot water process in canner for 25 minutes.
When ready to use in pie, place in prepared pie crust, if desired add ½ cup toasted walnuts and/or ¼ cup brandy. Top with second crust.
Bake in 400° oven until brown.
(Note: Recipe for canned mincemeat can be halved or doubled. It doesn't have to be canned even especially if you're making a smaller amount. It will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks.)
Just ran into an article about the Blue Tractor - it seems they are devotees of the slow food movement. No wonder the food is so good!

Today I went out and got the yellow squash. Found a few monster zucchinis - I swear they weren't there yesterday! Next, for the cucumbers, which I have been ignoring. Tonight I sliced the ones already in my kitchen sink and put them in brine with some vinegar. Tomorrow I will put them in jars and process them.

I went to visit my grandma in the hospital today. She is 96, and is going through a bout of pneumonia. Up until about 10 years ago she was the best gardener in town, and in the country, too. People still talk about her rose garden, but I remember best the way she shared her produce with all the older people in her neighborhood. She had a huge flower garden in town, and her vegetable garden was about an acre in the country (at our house). We helped plant the sweet corn in those LONG, LONG rows. Some of my most pleasant childhood memories are sitting on the back porch at twilight (no air conditioning then!) shelling lima beans from the garden with my mother and my grandmother, watching the fireflies and listening to the corn grow. I still remember the day she and my mother discovered zucchini. The only way they knew how to fix it, at first, was fried in batter or baked in zucchini bread. I was telling her about my zucchini problem and she suggested a food bank. I don't know if they will want fresh zucchini, can they distribute them that fast? And is everyone else in town trying to get rid of them too? I will call the church office tomorrow.

DH says the neighbor is harvesting green beans, cabbages, and peas right now. I did not plant any of these this year. I was hoping that if I skipped a year the bean bugs will go away (wishful thinking).

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Here are some of the QualiT-23 tomatoes. They are a later tomato, but seem to be extremely uniform, and the pests don't seem to like them. I need to check with the seed company (Territorial) just to make sure they're not genetically engineered!

Here is a wider view of my garden. The Hairy Galinsoga is still a pest, thanks to the Propex blanket it is staying at the edges of my garden mostly instead of inside it. And the lawn probably needs mowed. But you can see the difference between this view and a few weeks ago. How productive the soil is here in Richland County!

The blackberry plants I transplanted from my dad's farm last year, thinking they were raspberries, have a few fruits on them. Should I tear them out and plant Heritage? Probably.

This is yesterday's zucchini picking. I can't use this many in a month.

Here I am, on the deck of the winery in Chateau Grand Traverse, you see the vineyard behind me and further back is the bay. The neat thing about the Old Mission Peninsula is that you can look either direction and see water, the peninsula is not very wide. Oh, I wish I was still on vacation! I

I took some pictures in my garden yesterday. The zucchini is going great guns. I have been finding a lot of new zucchini recipes but I fear I am going to still have to put some on the compost pile, or do drive-by's (leaving shopping bags on neighbors' doorknobs after dark, or visiting the local Wal-Mart to find cars that have foolishly been left unlocked, putting them on the back seat!)

The tomatoes are doing well, I saved seed of Bloody Butcher tomatoes last year but feared they would cross with the other varieties of tomatoes since they were not separated in the garden. I was right - I am seeing some tall plants, with darker green tomatoes, a few on each stem, and some short plants with huge clusters of brighter-white tomatoes. Here's a photo of the shorter plants in front, with some of the taller plants behind. The problem is I have no idea which of the 5 or 6 varieties I planted last year these plants crossed with. I suspect possibly one of the two Russian varieties, Silvery Fir Tree. The plant somewhat resembles those plants. I swore I would never plant those again in my garden due to the blight. They are living up to their "early" billing, though. I've picked three already and here's another one, just about ready.

I evidently had a moment of forgetfulness this spring. Did I forget the definition of "prolific"??? These yellow squash have been more than prolific. I can't keep up with them. I used one that got too big and hard to mark a low spot in the yard - the bright yellow is the same color they use for caution signs on the highway.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Oberlin Fresh Stop

Oberlin is about 50 miles from here -- not exactly local, but not too far away.

Local Difference. Buying local makes a LOT of difference. While we were staying at the Chateau Grand Traverse, I picked up a flyer from the Michigan Land Use Institute.

Their web site is here.
Taste the Local Difference is part of the Michigan Land Use Institute's Entrepreneurial Agriculture Project , which works to grow jobs, save farmland, and build healthier communities with food that's thousands of miles fresher.

It would be nice to have something like this here.

While on vacation a few weeks ago, we visited a restaurant in Traverse City call "the Blue Tractor Cookshop". (this is their back door) It was WONDERFUL! The food was sublimely prepared, fresh, and seemed to be local. Sure enough I just checked their web site and found this:

" The name is also a salute to today's working men and women of Northern Michigan who carry on this tradition. The Blue Tractor represents the often relied upon equipment that makes it possible for our farmers to provide us with the freshest local product. At Blue Tractor, we are committed to working with local producers and to putting only the finest food on our tables. Enjoy!"

Thumbs up to the Blue Tractor!

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