Saturday, December 26, 2009

New home

New location of Bright Meadow Farms! We are no longer in North Central Ohio but have moved about 20 miles north of Warren, Michigan.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

popcorn, apples and pumpkins

Two weekends ago we were at the farm in Kent City and harvested our pumpkins and popcorn. It was a beautiful day and I didn't mind harvesting the popcorn by hand, picking each ear then stripping the husks back and throwing the kernels in the basket. I harvested 5 half-bushel baskets full of popcorn. The ears were very wet but I was hoping to dry them.

We brought them down in the back of my husbands truck with the tonneau cover over it. It was a couple of days before he opened the back of the truck.

Our popcorn was moldy. There was a white web on almost all of the ears. We have decided it is best to just throw it all in the compost pile.

The pumpkins were a different story. They are beautiful. A few are spoiled but there are many that are very nice. I hope to make a few pumpkin pies, but they may be decorations until Thanksgiving.

We also had planted some Indian corn. I picked a few ears and brought them back. They seem to be a success. Hopefully the raccoons will leave us some the next time we visit the farm I will harvest the rest.

I picked 6 half-bushels of apples, Northern Spy. I've made one apple pie but have a lot of canning to do to process the rest. When will I do it?

We're planning to make an offer on the house in Michigan this weekend, then come back and pack for a week. I'll need to do laundry on Saturday night and Sunday morning in order to be ready to go to work on Monday morning.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I'm Baaaaack!!!

So much has happened in the last few months with so little time to pause and reflect that it is all a blur.

I had knee surgery during August and had to use a walker, then a cane, to get around for a few months.

In mid-August, my father suffered side effects of a drug he was taking for his heart, a recurrence of the problem he had in February. This caused a major lung condition and he was in intensive care for six weeks. The drugs he took for the lung condition, plus the enforced stillness in intensive care, have caused his muscles to atrophy to the point where he couldn't stand, walk or otherwise move around freely.

Of course I spent as much time as possible at the hospital, while still doing the minimum high-priority tasks at work.

He is currently in rehab, and yesterday he stood five times for over a minute each time. It will be a long road to recovery, but he is definitely travelling down it.

While all this was going on, I was also searching for a new job since the manufacturing plant I work in is closing. I have found a new job that will entail moving to Michigan (my husband also will be relocating) and so we have also been house-hunting.

We found a couple or three houses that we both liked with a little bit of acreage (all under 5 acres) and we will be making an offer very soon. Imagine, taking on a new 30-year mortgage at our age! The home prices in this down market are very crazy. We haven't decided whether to sell our house here or not.

My new job starts November 2. We'll be staying with a friend next week. We'll see how much the "houseguest" stress and strain adds to the load.

All this life change has added a lot of "stress points" to my chart. I haven't been able to keep up with the Master Gardeners at all this year, and this distresses me.

One bright spot is that my daughter saw a post on Craigslist for "something that might be wool-pick it up and its yours" I picked it up, it was wool, I took it to Zeilingers in Frankenmuth, Michigan for processing one weekend when we were househunting and found out it was 10 fleeces, not two as I had supposed, and was "fine wool". It's since been cleaned and weighed out at 56 pounds of cleaned wool. I'm going to have 46 pounds spun into yarn and 10 pounds left as top for spinning.

My own garden hasn't been cleaned up yet and there are a LOT of weeds in it. I harvested broccoli side shoots for a casserole on Monday, though, and last night we had beets from the garden for dinner. Earlier this week I found a cucumber that hadn't been frost-damaged and we had it for our salad tonight. Planning when we are going to clean up the garden plot is beyond my capabilities right now, I have to take each day as it comes. I am only doing high-priority tasks, and sorry, the garden just doesn't qualify!

Thanks to everyone for bearing with me through this stressful period in my life. I hope to resume my blogging activities once we get settled in to our new home.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Out of commission

My father has been suffering some pretty major health problems so I haven't been able to spend time in the garden or online much recently.

Will return as soon as possible!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


there is a huge zucchini class! lol

Saturday, August 08, 2009


I've been canning all day and my efforts have yielded 7 quarts of garlic dill pickles, 11 pints of green beans, 3 quarts of sweet pickles, and one quart of dilly beans. (OK, I know, about $35.o0 retail, and it took me all day...with the big burner going on the stove... I wonder how much the electric bill will be this month?) But I know where this food came from, I know which chemicals were used on it (NONE!) and I know how it was processed. That can't be measured in dollars.

Because the green beans are a low-acid food, they must be canned in a pressure canner. The pickles, however, can be canned in a boiling water bath canner. So I had both canners going on the top of the stove, rotating them in as needed to sterilize jars or process a batch of food.

When I opened the very last batch of the night in the boiling water bath canner, I found that one of the jars had cracked around the bottom and all the pickles were floating in the canner! I was heartbroken.

I'm taking "The French Chef Cookbook" to bed tonight for some light reading. It is a compilation of the recipes from the first few years of Julia Child's TV show, and many of the recipes come from the book featured in the Julie & Julia move, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I don't know if the recipe for beef bourguignon is in it, but I certainly hope so.

I took 4 wheelbarrows full of weeds to the compost pile this morning. I quit when it started raining, but the rain didn't last long - fortunately for the weeds, I had already started my pickling adventures. Maybe I can do some more tomorrow.

DH went to the farm this weekend. He needed to get away, GM's bankrupcty is very stressful. He's not sure if the position in Detroit is secure or a good one, it could be a temporary position and he might have to take a pay cut. The cost of living is higher in Detroit than here, but that's true of almost any location other than here. Although Kiplingers seems to indicate that we're about average (100 on their scale) I will probably be taking a pay cut whether or not I relocate (see list of new items on google) so I guess it's a really good thing that I know how to garden and preserve the harvest...

I'm thinking about investing in a food dryer. Given my economic situation, does a $300 - $500 investment sound reasonable, or would I be better served getting a $40 appliance at WalMart?

Garden update

Tonight I went, alone, to watch Julie & Julia movie. I read the book a few years ago, and posted on Mary Jane's Farmgirl connection about it, and the movie moved me as much, or more, than the book.

After reading the book I was inspired enough to buy a Julia Child cookbook, but after seeing the movie, maybe I should have gotten Julia's biography instead.

I was definitely moved to tears while reading both the book and watching the movie. I find parallels in the lives of both characters with my own. I was surprised to feel the emotions when Julia and her husband were talking about having to leave Paris - very similar to my own emotions right now when anticipating having to leave Ohio due to my husband's job change.

I haven't posted much lately, that is because of my guilt complex about not choosing a winner for the zucchini recipe contest...

Now that that is over with, I can tell you my gardening experiences in the last few weeks. Since my knee has been recovering, I've been limiting my gardening to just picking the ripe (or overripe) vegetables and letting the weeds go. Bad mistake!

Earlier this week I pulled a full row of beets. Using a seed tape for the beets was definitely a good decision this year, and I will do it again. My daughters came over and helped me can pickled beets and garlic dills.

I've been a little disappointed with the cucumbers, I noticed I have some cucumber beetles and many of the leaves are turning yellow and drying up. I did have a rather large harvest the night the girls came over, and the ghostly white cukes are the most productive of all. The lemon yellow round cukes (what was the name of that variety?) haven't done so well this year, I think I planted them too close together. I did pickle seven pints of dill pickles, and still have several left to make another batch.

As usual, the zucchinis are quite prolific, all varieties, and because of my neglect due to the surgery, many are as big as baseball bats. I've made zucchini bread, stuffed zucchini, grilled zucchini, the recipes posted on the contest blog entry, canned zucchini salsa (10 pints) and made deep-fried zucchini. It is an ongoing battle with DH to keep them out of the compost pile.

I've been picking green beans (and wax beans, and purple beans) for several weeks. Last night I pulled up all the plants and took them to the patio to sit in a chair and pull off the mature beans. It is much easier on my knee to sit than to stand in the garden on the uneven ground and pick them, and I felt that there wouldn't be many more anyway.

After pulling the beans, I found that I had a huge harvest of green peppers that I hadn't even seen because of the bean foliage. That is a crop to harvest tomorrow.

My tomatoes are FINALLY starting to turn color. I have one Celebrity that is slightly orange, and the plum tomatoes are looking a little bit yellow. I believe they are delayed because the weather has been so cold this year. I am afriad that all will ripen on the same day and I won't be able to keep up with the harvest.

I am still harvesting the Bibb lettuce variety (?) from Territorial that claims it is slow to bolt. Since we've had an unusually cool summer, the claim has held true, and it has been delightful in salads.

Two nights ago we picked the first ears of sweet corn. They were just a little bit under-ripe, so hopefully the rest will come (if I can keep the raccoons out) to enjoy with the tomatoes.

I am trying to clear the garden of weeds this weekend so that I can plant some cabbage, some cultivated arugula, some more beets, and perhaps some cauliflower. This is just about the outer limit for planting the fall garden, except for perhaps some radishes. That is my plan for Saturday, on Sunday I will be working and babysitting my newest little grandchild, he is just adorable!

Friday, August 07, 2009

Contest Winners Announced! Finally!

OK, the contest is over, I've cooked the recipes (I apologize, it took longer than I thought) and I am announcing that Serene Bean is the winner for the squash-stuffed chicken recipe.

The runners up are 1badmamawolf for her stuffed zucchini, and Lisa Marie for the chip recipes.

Please send me an email through MFJ connection to claim your prizes!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Zucchini recipe contest

The zucchini are coming in, and they are piling up! I still have shredded zucchini in the freezer from last year, so I'm sponsoring a contest. Leave me your unusual zucchini recipe in a comment!

By unusual I mean -

- No zucchini bread
- No chocolate cake
- No ratatouille recipe or anything with canned/jarred spaghetti sauce
- No faux apple pie
- No chicken/cream soup casserole with or without stuffing
- No deep-fried anything

I already have a lot of recipes like those.

What I'd like are hors d'ouvres, soups, salads, something for the freezer that doesn't result in an unappetizing green icicle. Your recipe should be YOUR original recipe, and you must give me permission to publish it, acknowledging you as the author.

First prize is a vintage hand-embroidered table runner and creamer/sugar bowl set with goldtone (or maybe gold?) trim. Second prize is a vintage apron.

Deadline is July 20th at 5:00 pm. Good luck!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Limited mobility

I had knee surgery on Thursday. There was no question of gardening on Thursday or yesterday, because I was in quite a bit of pain, but today I was feeling well enough to venture out to the garden with my walker to pick a few of the zucchini - Rain was forecast for today and I didn't want them swelling up to football size. I took a small basket with me, and handling the walker and the basket was a little much. Trying to lift the walker over the large zucchini leaves must have been quite a sight - I was glad no one was watching me. I had to yell for my husband to come and get the basket of zucchini when it was full, but then on the way out I couldn't resist pulling a few of the perfectly-ready beets. With my hands full of beets, and a couple of green beans I found, I took a mis-step and knocked the walker over, out of reach. I had nothing to hold on to except the flimsy deer fence, so once again, I had to yell for my husband to come and get me. He told me several times how foolish I was to risk my knee for a few zucchinis. I had to admit, though that being in the sunshine and in my garden was very restorative, I am very glad I did it even though I may pay later today or tonight with additional pain. Even after being rescued twice, I still couldn't resist picking a couple of heads of lettuce on the way out. There are a lot of weeds (that stupid! hairy galinsoga and redroot pigweed) but they didn't tempt me at all.

I rinsed off the walker with the hose before coming inside. Once inside, I washed the remaining dirt off the beets, then cut the tops off, leaving about 1 inch of stems on the roots. I used a vegetable brush to scrub them really well, then put the roots in a pot of water on the stove, which I brought to a boil, then turned down to medium for about 20 minutes. Likewise, I cleaned the ends off the green beans and also put them on to steam/boil. I sauteed one yellow and one green zucchini with onions and a little garlic and a small amount of fresh basil and fresh oregano (which I had thoughtfully picked before I went for surgery and placed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator). When the beets were finished, I poured off the hot water and submerged them in cool water. At that point I sliced off the tip of the root, the remaining stem portion, and then just gently rubbed the skin off. I sliced them, and popped them into the microwave for 60 seconds to heat the outside back up.

Voila! perfect vegetable accompaniment to leftover lasagna from yesterday.

Unfortunately after dinner as I reached for my walker, I slid my wheeled chair over to it, and leaned forward too far -the chair popped out from under me, and I landed on the floor. I don't think I damaged anything too badly, but it was good that DH was home to pick me up, otherwise I would still be sitting there crying.

The forecasted rains came while we were eating dinner, and now the sun is peeking through. The garden really needed the rain as it had not rained for over a week.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Zucchini's in!

I've been harvesting zucchini - a few tiny ones before we left for the farm (didn't want to come back to footballs if it rained) and a few six-inchers yesterday. The yellow zucchini is also starting to come in.

The "Delicata" squash seeds I got from a fellow Master Gardener turned out to be VINING squash instead of bush squash - so I ended up building another trellis. Please note that the size of mature squash plants is the reason you don't plant them close together!

I've been picking a few wax beans and green beans each day for about a week from those little seedlings I showed you a month or so ago. The other beans are blossoming, and should be able to pick in a few days.

I have tiny green tomatoes on most of my tomato plants. There are several volunteers, I think from the red currant tomatoes from last year. I've ripped several of these out but let a few of them stay. I am very pleased to report that the little tomato seedlings that I thought would be failures seem to have caught up to the garden-center transplants and I hope to harvest from them also. I should have devoted another row to those seedlings - I had 72 plants of various varieties and I only planted one or two of each. I give credit to the scoop of compost I put in each hole with the transplant.

The peppers have blossomed and a few have tiny little peppers on them.

I continue to trellis the cucumbers, they require daily attention to make sure the vines don't flop over and fall into the cole crops. Speaking of cole, the Chinese cabbage are not all that great of a crop - they bolted almost immediately I planted them. Had the last kohlrabi a few days ago, and cooked kale last night as a side dish (steamed, then sauteed with bacon and onion and canned garbanzo beans). The broccoli and cauliflower haven't produced anything yet, and the Japanese beetles are moving in in the last few days - first they attacked the zinnias, then moved on to the coles.

I protected the corn from marauding raccoons and deer this year with my fence, but the wind blew the stalks over a week ago. I went out and piled up soil around the base of the plant to prop them up, and that seems to have been somewhat successful. As the corn keeps growing it stretches up so most of the stalks are a little curved right now, but I think it will be OK.

It hasn't rained for a week, so this morning I had DH put the sprinkler on for a few hours. I would have done it last night but remembered the warning that watering at night can lead to more fungus disease. I did cultivate some last night through the aisles with my Mantis tiller, and also hand-pulled several feet of row this morning. The hairy galinsoga and redroot pigweed are particularly troublesome.

It is time to plant cabbage, and maybe some more broccoli and cauliflower. I've been looking for seeds locally but it seems that the Burpee man has already come and taken most of them away from the big-box retail stores. I could still order from Territorial or Stokes.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Black Raspberry Season

The air here outside of Kent City is full of cottonwood fluff - it looks like it is snowing. I took my Gator out through the orchard today and found that the black raspberries are just starting to get ripe - maybe one of the cluster is turning black, the rest are still red. Too bad we are leaving Sunday, I will wait until Sunday morning to pick to maximize the harvest.

I pulled weeds in the four LONG rows of green beans, mostly lamb's quarters, but a few redroot pigweed (amaranth) and some plants I have not identified that are seeding now. They seem similar to a plant identified at Unger Farm as a native prairie plant -we have loads of them! The beans are blooming and should have beans by the next time I am here.

The deer's tongue lettuce I planted last time I was here in the shade of the 100-year old maple tree is doing spectacularly! The frizzy-headed drunken woman lettuce is not as good, I don't think it stands up to heat quite so well.

I found volunteer seven-top turnips in the field and cooked them for lunch. DH doesn't like them, but he took a small sample for politeness' sake.

I also cooked the baby zucchini I picked before leaving home. I sauteed them in a tablespoon of olive oil and a tablespoon of butter with carmelized chopped onion in the cast-iron fry pan on the grill, served with Bucyrus bratwurst. Ummm. DH had seconds, a new first for zucchini.

Two of the four tomatoes I planted are surviving, deer footprints tell a sorry tale. The four jalapeno peppers are still there and have tiny peppers on them. I also found some of the cilantro. Salsa is on the way!

DH pulled the lamb's quarters out of the pumpkins - last year the pumpkins were our cash crop. So even though he says he is not going to do "stoop labor" I think he felt sorry for me on seeing all the weeds. It is worth pulling weeds to know I do not spray my plants with broadleaf herbicides.

I noticed very little insect damage. The Indian corn looks healthy, the popcorn maybe not so good. I will try and side-dress it with some fertilizer later.

We took a ride through the orchard and found that the Yellow Transparents are not ready yet. A week, maybe two?

Saturday, June 27, 2009


I've never eaten kohlrabi before, although I have seen it in the grocery store. My mother never fixed it; and I never experimented. But this year I was given a gift of four kohlrabi plants which I put in my garden (I thought they were cabbage!)

Today I went to meeting of the community gardeners at Unger Farm and our extension agent pointed out several gardens with kohlrabi that should be harvested "immediately", or they would be as hard as baseballs. Well, needless to say, the ones in my garden were even bigger than the ones he pointed out.

Tonight I prepared it, sliced very thin, and sauteed in olive oil with a little garlic and green onion slices, with a splash of lemon juice, salt and pepper, and a little cream cheese and milk. It was great! Two kohlrabi bulbs were more than enough for the two of us, we've got leftovers.

I found a great web site today that features a North Carolina extension educator who shows how to prepare some lesser-known or used vegetables and fruits. The videos are really designed for produce sellers at farmer's markets so that they are able to help introduce their customers to using more produce. Her videos also are accessible via YouTube. I watched the eggplant video, and was enchanted by her accent.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

And the rains came....

Title of Louis Bromfield's novel, and the way I am feeling tonight. It was SO HOT and muggy this afternoon - 90 degrees (our air conditioning isn't working at home, DH has ordered parts for the air conditioner) I suggested we go to the movie theater for the evening's entertainment. We watched "The taking of Pelham 123" which was a great movie except I hate the violence. But DH loves movies with car crashes and there were a few of them!

When we left the theater, it was raining. It has cooled off down to 70 and much more comfortable. Evidently we lost power at home, the clocks were all blinking when we got home, but only off by two minutes.

Bee balm in bloom

The bee balm (aka Monarda) is in bloom, just in time. In this 85-degree heat the hummingbirds have emptied their feeder. I filled it last night, the ratio being 1 cup sugar to 2 cups water.

The hummingbirds seem to like the bright red color and deep-throated petals of the monarda.

There are at least three separate groups of hummingbirds visiting my feeder. One goes to the woods behind the house, one always goes to the red-twig dogwood, and the other always exits by flying over the garage roof toward the neighbor's.

They chirp at me if I am in their way or get too close to their feeder.

I always thought of them as silent birds, but in fact they are quite noisy.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Seasonal Salad

Searched for a recipe in SOAR (searchable online archive of recipes) for arugula, and the first one that came up sounded pretty darn good.

2/3 cup pearl barley
1 pound green beans -- trimmed
1 cup fresh corn kernels
4 ounces arugula
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons minced shallots
2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
3 1/2 ounces soft fresh goat cheese -- crumbled

Cook barley in medium saucepan of boiling salted water until tender, about 30 m inutes. Drain; cool. Transfer to large bowl. Cook beans in large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 4 min utes. Drain. Transfer beans to bowl of ice water to cool. Drain well. Pat b eans dry with paper towels. Cut half of beans into 2-inch pieces. Transfer to bowl with barley. Mix in corn kernels. Coarsely chop 2 bunches arugula; add to bowl with barley mixture. Whisk olive oil, vinegar, shallots, thyme and Dijon mustard in small bowl to bl end. Pour enough dressing over barley mixture to coat. Season salad to taste with salt and pepper. Arrange remaining 2 bunches arugula around edge of large platter. Arrange rema ining whole beans in spoke pattern atop arugula. Mound salad in center of plat ter. Sprinkle with goat cheese. Drizzle any remainingdressing over arugula and beans and serve.

OK, I cheated. I used canned whole-kernel corn instead of fresh, and frozen green beans (grown in our garden last year) instead of fresh. I used 1/3 of a whole onion instead of shallots, and used my food processor to blend the dressing. I did have the fresh thyme. Remember, I planted it in between my cole crops, (the mystery plants turned out to be kohlrabi, never have grown it before, heck, I've never even eaten it before!) Just had to dodge the sprinkler to go get the thyme... And I used semi-soft Manchego cheese for the goat cheese because that is what I had in the bottom of the refrigerator.

Rest of the menu is baked pork chops and baked potatoes. Going to have to eat outside because it's too hot in the kitchen! Add a glass of chardonnay and everything will be fine.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Neon orange guck

I went out to check on my garden tonight after work and found this "stuff" on the backs of the leaves of one of my raspberry? Blackberry? plants (they are planted near each other and I have trouble identifying until the fruit comes on).
Is it a fungus? Bug eggs? spray paint? I looked on Ohioline, it could be orange rust which does not infect red raspberries, (great! My Carolines and Autumn Brittens might be safe!) just black raspberries or blackberries - or possibly late leaf rust which ONLY affects red raspberries, according to MSU extension. Question - how do I figure out which it is? Or does it really matter? I guess I just have to dig it up and "destroy" it. (How do I do that? Do I burn it or put it in the trash pickup?)

Monday, June 08, 2009

Deer proofing the garden

I planted hollyhocks near the mailbox. First thing this year the neighbor, with good intentions, whacked a few of them with the weed whacker. I had to admit that it looked a lot more tidy after his ministrations.

Unfortunately, the deer found the remaining hollyhocks very tasy. That thing that looks like green sticks is what is left of my hollyhocks. First they ate the blossoms at the top, the next night they came back and ate all the leaves. There are a few buds left, if I fertilize them and mix up some "Hinder" do you think they will leave them alone?

Don't plant mint!!!!!!

Three years ago, I thought it might be a nice idea to have some spearmint near the door so I could garnish iced tea or lemonade with a mint leaf or two.

I started a few seeds in a flat, then planted them out into a flower bed near the garage. That first year I had all the spearmint tea I wanted from fresh spearmint, and I gathered a lot of spearmint and dried it.

Last year it took over the whole flower bed. It was pretty until it started getting too tall and spread into the daylilies, obliterated the little mugho pine, and was competing with the alpine strawberries!

This year, it was awful. The dried stalks were scratching and looked awful. The roots were getting deeper and the plants were getting taller. It was spreading into the lawn.

So this weekend I started digging it up. After watching me struggle to spade up the front half of the flower bed, DH went to the neighbor's and borrowed a backhoe to dig up the rest. When all the dirt was out of the bed except for around the tree roots, I started screening the dirt, to put the dirt back into the bed, but put the spearmint roots, plants, and wild strawberry plants into the compost. It only took about 20 wheelbarrows full.
Talk about a lot of work! Now I know why I didn't choose landscaping as a profession!
I planted cleome, geraniums, verbena, and lobelia in the bed. I took one daylily out of the bed (that's it in the background) and am trying to decide where to put it. I left the hollyhocks in, and some of the daffodils.
It will be interesting to compare the before and after pictures in a few months.
I mentioned to DH that maybe I didn't get quite "all" of the spearmint, because I left the daffodills in place. You should have seen the horrified look on his face!

Lemon Meringue Pie

Talk about slow food! It's been a while since I made lemon meringue pie. It is one of DH's favorites, and the weather is HOT, and I had lots of eggs, and happened to have some lemons in the fridge, and a prepared pie shell from the last time I made a pie.

Here's the recipe:

Prepare and bake a 9-inch baked pie shell. Cool.

Separate 4 eggs.

Mix in a double boiler top

4 TB cornstarch

4 TB flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 c sugar

Add 1 1/2 cups boiling water - cook and stir over direct heat until mixture boils. Set over hot water, cover, and cook 20 minutes. Add 1 TB butter, few gratings of lemon rind, 1/3 cup lemon juice, and 4 egg yolks, slightly beaten.

Cook and stir until thick. Cool. Pour in cooled pie shell.

Prepare meringue - Put 4 eggs whites in mixing bowl and beat until soft peaks form . Gradually beat in 1/2 cup sugar, and 1/2 tsp vanilla, and a few grains of salt. Spoon the meringue evenly over the pie, but do not make it smooth. Spread well to the edge to seal to the pie crust so the meringue does not shrink while baking. Use the back of the spoon to make peaks if desired. Bake at 425 degrees until delicately brown (about 5 minutes).

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Saying goodbye, slowly

When I went to work Monday morning we had an "announcement", the plant would be closing by June 2010 or sooner if market conditions demand.

Well! Ok! What next?

It has been a week in shock, we don't believe there is anything we can do to change the decision that has been made, given the statements made by President Obama about the need for a "quick and surgical" bankruptcy. Quick does not mean going back to revisit already-made decisions.

So, it is to be a professionally-done wind-down. No tears, just make sure that things are properly closed up and turned off and sent out and documented and accounted for.

I am just a little too young to retire. I don't know what will be next in my professional career - but I know it won't be here. So, this will be the last year, at least for a while, for the Bellville Farmer's market and the Alta Greenhouse farmer's market.

My peach tree, planted the year my husband and I were married from a seedling started by my former neighbor, will not bear fruit this year because of the below-zero temps last winter. Had this not been the case, this might have been the year that it finally bore fruit.

It reminds me of the three apple trees I planted at my last house - I had Liberty, Enterprise, and Jonafree - three varieties advertised to be resistant to rusts, etc. I got married when they were just starting to bear, and sold my house. The trees did not move with me. It was hard to leave them behind.

On the one hand, I am excited about new career possibilities and opportunities. On the other, I am very sad to be leaving behind my garden, my trees, and especially making my family more distant, geographically. My oldest daughter is expecting my third grandson this month, and I will just be getting to know him when moving...

I spent some cathartic time hoeing weeds in the garden tonight.

Saturday, May 30, 2009


My wonderful husband borrowed a dump truck and we now have 4 yards of hardwood mulch in the driveway waiting to be applied, mostly to the flower beds and around trees. He is such a doll! Tomorrow is another gardening day!

I have noticed that my arthritis doesn't bother me while I am in the garden, only after I leave. Is this a sign from above that I should stay in the garden longer?

Never done in the garden

DH and I got our farming done this week while on vacation at the farm. We planted 2 long, long rows of pumpkins. This year I planted jack-o-lantern size, not pie pumpkin size. I also planted some of the "white" pumpkins. Next to the pumpkins are 8 rows of green and purple snap bush beans, since we had so much good luck with them last year. Planted 2 rows of Indian corn and way across the field he planted 10 rows of popcorn. I planted a row or two of lettuce in the shade, and planted about 10 tomatoes and 8 pepper plants, as well as a packet of cilantro seeds.

We still have sweet corn to plant there, but didn't have a separate patch plowed up for it, and since the Indian corn and the popcorn are in this patch, can't plant sweet corn near it without losing the sweetness of the sweet corn due to cross-pollination.

Spent the entire day outside yesterday back in Ohio potting up flowers for the patio and for the cemetery. (I missed Memorial day deadline this year, but at least I finally got it done. )

I put lilyturf in the pots instead of the standard spike. Lilyturf is usually used for a ground cover, which must mean it spreads. It flowers in the late summer. I put in the usual geraniums, and a few snapdragons. Snapdragons were my grandpa's favorite flower. I also added some cute little dahlias to some of the pots, some salvia, some nicotiniana, and some coleus. I used a variegated ivy in a few pots for a trailer.
After I finished with the pots and at the cemetary, I started weeding the vegetable garden here. I NEED SOME MULCH!! The hairy galinsogas are sprouting, and I am seeing creeping Charlie creeping in. I cut some rhubarb to use the huge leaves as much in the lettuce. I spent a few hours hoeing, then planted some herbs.

I bought a new book on companion planting, Great Garden Companions by Sally Jean Cunningham, at Schuler bookstore in Grand Rapids, and read through it on the ride back from Michigan. She suggests "mixing it up" and intensively planting in the garden, mixing herbs, flowers and vegetables all throughout the garden to provide a "living mulch", shading out the weeds, and to provide flowering plants to attract beneficial insects.

So, yesterday I planted nasturtium seeds next to the cucumbers (they're up!) and fennel near the zucchini, and thyme in the cabbage. Luckily, I already had chives planted, and volunteer dill is sprouting among the lettuce. I won't tear it out. We'll see how it all works together.
Today I finally filled up my hummingbird feeder. I've been noticing the little birds flitting around for a week or so, but I know with all the flowers in bloom right now and the neighbor's feeders, they're not really going hungry. I just like to entice them out to my back patio so that I can enjoy their beautiful colors. Notice the red "dam" on my feeder - it is the best $3.00 I ever spent. It is just a piece of plastic, which I fill with water. This keeps the ants from getting to the hummingbird feeder, they would have to cross the open water, where they would drown. Before I installed this the mess from the ants made it a yucky job to clean and fill the feeder.
One more day of vacation, then it's back to work.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Not done yet

OK , still not done. This morning I was in the garden by 6:00 am; and planted four varieties of squash, green zucchini, gold zucchini, delicata squash, and another zucchini.

I got four rows of sweet corn planted, but didn't get the cucumber trellis built.

Tomorrow we are leaving for Kent City, got to get the cucumbers planted in the a.m.

Church is at DH's Catholic mass tomorow at 7:00 which means breakfast in Crestline.

One of the things I love about living in this area is that the waitress at the restaurant where we have breakfast on alternate Sundays was in my high school Spanish class. I've known her about forever. The restaurant has a picture of my father's football team hanging on the wall. When we come in, she brings over coffee, orange juice, tomato juice, and chocolate milk before we even order. She always greets us by name. My uncle always sits at the next table, sometimes my cousin is also there.. It seems like home.

The owner of the local garden center was in my high school class, and one of my "circle". I didn't realize this until recently when I presented as a vendor at the "herb day" and found out that he had married the daughter of the greenhouse owner (who was his high school sweetheart - I knew her, but didn't know her parents owned the garden center).

It is so comforting to feel part of the local community. I've been divorced from some of this for a long time - when my kids left the local school system to move to Michigan it seemed like tearing up roots -- we were transplanted and suffered "transplant shock" just as you would if torn away from your roots. Surprisingly, when we moved back home, we weren't welcomed back, but almost treated as strangers again...another transplant shock.

Oh well.

Another thing I love about living here is the ability to attend country auctions on almost any day of the week. Tonight, after my daughter's graduation ceremony, we attended the Saturday night auction outside of Johnsville. We picked up the proceeds of my MIL's auction, and I spent $20 and got lots of "stuff"-- One way to be green and recycle is to buy "gently used" at the auction. We also bought local farm-fresh eggs and Amish home-churned butter...

Friday, May 22, 2009

Tomorrow's another day

Needless to say, I was overambitious this morning. I did plant two rows of beans, a row of peppers, and two rows of mixed broccoli, cauliflower, chinese cabbage, and kale. I filled in some baby lettuce plants between the ones that are about 4 inches high, and hoed out around the lettuce plants. Noticed a lot of the bane of my garden, hairy galinsoga (see 2006 post from July 11 - right now they are tiny, but in July......)

I picked up a lot of rocks and put them in a bucket. Where do they come from? I swear I got all the rocks out last year! I sprayed Roundup all around the outside of the garden where the deer fence meets the yard - I'm not pulling grass out by hand, and it's too close to the fence to be able to mow it.

I tilled the area for the sweet corn, then went to get my seed and found that I had neglected to order sweet corn! I had Indian corn and popcorn, but no sweet corn. So ran back to the local greenhouse to get some corn seed. I bought 1/2 pound of Illini X-tra sweet for the farm at Kent City, and a couple of early varieties for here. Probably you are supposed to separate them by more than 4 feet, but oh well....

By this time I was starting to run on empty, but DH, bless his heart, had fixed the chipper we bought from a friend of his last week and was running it on the branches that were in the compost pile. I helped for about an hour then I hit the wall. Came in to take a shower, cook dinner, and have a glass of wine... I am definitely winding down.

Tomorrow morning I will go out and plant corn, zucchini, and cucumbers - before 11:00! So that we can get ready for graduation.

Heading out to the garden

I picked lettuce leaves for our salad last night for dinner. So wonderful to have FRESH food available.

You can almost see the row of lettuce plants across my garden through the deer fence I installed last weekend. If this doesn't keep them out, I am going to give up gardening!

Last night my daughter and grandson helped me plant a row of beets and put a few tomatoes in the ground. Today I plan to plant some beans from seed, some cabbage plants I picked up at the nursery, and another row of lettuce from the flat in my driveway. I'm going to try and get the zucchini, cucumbers and corn planted today too. I've got a flat of tiny marigold plants to put around the edges to keep out six-footed pests, too. If there's time left over I will put in the flat of impatiens I picked up last night on the way home from work.

Hopefully I won't be too wiped out to attend my daughter's college graduation ceremony tomorrow!

I love being in the garden in the morning. The irises have started blooming, they are so beautiful in the early morning sunshine!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Buy American

American automakers are producers just like American farmers. Gross National Product depends on production. We need manufacturers just like we need farmers.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Moved plants back inside

DH has started up the woodburning fireplace insert again, since the temperature is hovering around 50 degrees. We are down to less than 1/2 a cord of firewood so will have to go and cut some more soon.

I had temporarily moved my tomato and pepper seedlings outside this weekend when the temperature was up to 80 - had to move them back in. I took a tip from my podiatrist and put some plastic film over the light fixture on the plant stand to keep the warm air around the plants. The thermometer is reading 70 degrees so hopefully they are happy in there.

Progress report on the beans - Four sixpacks - black has 5 sprouts, white has 4, the pinto one has 3, and the brown one has 2! 14 out of 24 is approximately a 60 percent germination rate, I'll give the brown ones a few more days, maybe they're just slow.

No link between NAIS and Influenza A(N1H1)

Thank goodness! See the post on the USDA web site where the Secretary of Agriculture makes it clear that "swine flu" virus is not transmitted by contact with swine, the virus is not food-borne and you cannot get the virus by eating infected meat. HERE is another link with similar statements on the APHIS web site.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Deer Fence

I worked until dark putting up 8 ft. t-post fence posts and the deer fence I ordered from A.M. Leonard. It got dark before I was finished. Some of the fence posts aren't tall enough.

I wonder if I will have captured a deer in the morning - jumped in and can't get out? I don't know what to do with it if that happens....

Drove over to Unger Farms and took pictures. See them at the Crawford County Master Gardener's blog at .

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Comments on NAIS???/

I received an email post from OEFFA (Ohio Ecological Food and Farmer's Association) that AGRICULTURE SECRETARY VILSACK SEEKS DIALOGUE WITH PRODUCERS AND STAKEHOLDERS ON NATIONAL ANIMAL IDENTIFICATION SYSTEM - further information would be posted on this USDA APHIS web site .

I haven't seen any further posts - but what I have seen are multiple reports about swine flu on the news this week. Just google "Swine flu" and sort the news articles by date for the most recent information - or look at this article from Associated Content. (Who are they associated with? I wonder)

Geez, am I getting to be really paranoid? How coincidental is the timing of these two events?

Giving up on mother-in-law's tomato seeds

I have given up on germinating my mother-in-law's tomato seeds (see March 29 post). So far they've been sitting around in the 72-cell flat doing nothing, and they've had almost a month to do SOMETHING. I'm going to re-use the flat for something else.

Saving bean seeds

Last year we planted several varieties of bush beans at the farm - wax, green, and purple varieties. We mixed them all together in the row, and we had VERY LITTLE insect damage. Later I read that the bean beetles do not like the purple varieties of the bean. This was the best crop of ANYTHING we've had - four long rows of beans yielded more beans than we wanted to pick by hand, for sure! We planted the week of Memorial Day. We picked at least 5 bushels while we were there for the family reunion in early August- gave some away, froze some, etc. but they evidently continued to bear. When I returned later in the year I found bean pods on the vines that had dried up and turned black. I harvested them too, putting them in an open plastic bag (to reduce chance of mildew) still in the shell, and keeping them in an unheated attached garage all winter.

Last weekend I shelled those beans and sorted them by color - brown, black, white, and pinto.

I am currently running a germination test to see if they are worth planting. So far I have 4 of 6 sprouted of the black (upper right in photo), 3 sprouted of the white (upper left in photo), and 1 showing promise in the brown beans (lower right). So far no pinto beans have sprouted. We're enjoying an 80+ degree day today here in North Central Ohio, so I've got them outside. I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Vanilla- vanillin

I have been studying vanilla. Did you know that vanilla beans come from a member of the orchid family? or that they only have beans if the flowers are either hand-pollinated or pollinated by a specific bee that lives only in Mexico? Or that vanillin is a natural flavoring derived from spruce trees?

Vanillin is more "hardy" in baking than pure vanilla, it stands up to higher temperatures. Some vanilla flavorings are a blend of natural vanilla and vanillin.

Other vanilla flavorings are synthetically produced, they are useful when a pure white color is desired in the finished product, as in a wedding cake.

I will be developing more information about vanilla in the near future.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Esther Ritter 1910-2009

I wrote about my grandma, Esther Mae Klahn Ritter, on this blog about a year ago. This morning she quietly passed on to be with her Lord and Creator. She had several hospitalizations this year and was struggling quite a bit lately. At 98 years old she was a shining example for all of us of how to live a loving, humble life. I love you, Grandma!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Propagation mat

The flats in the attached, unheated garage are cold... I ordered a propagation mat, which arrived today. I am anxious to see if it improves germination. I have two flats under lights, one is on the mat, the other is not. I am wondering if I should have ordered two or whether I need to switch off the flats every other day....

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Planting time

Yesterday I planted 5 flats, tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and lettuce.
The tomatoes and peppers were from Johnny's selected Seeds and were some new varieties I have not tried before. I've still got a lot of seeds left to go.

A few days ago I planted some tomato seeds I found in an envelope in my mother-in-law's house. The envelope was marked simply "TOMATOES" so I have no idea what variety - my husband claims they are big boy. I think that's because those are his favorites. Since they're a couple of years old I'm not sure what kind of germination I will get. I'm also planning on planting a few six-packs of tomato seeds I kept from my successful crop of tomatoes a few years ago, I have quite a few left. Mostly they are from the "bloody butcher" tomatoes but since I didn't isolate them from the other tomatoes I planted, who knows what the genetics might be now?

Some of the seeds I planted yesterday were from the seed exchange my Master Gardener's group did in February.

It is hailing! right now. Pea-sized balls of hail. At least it's not snowing. I'm going to curl up with my A.M. Leonard catalog and order some propagation mats and a soil testing tool.

I saved hollyhock seeds and marigold seeds from my flowers last year, I have thousands of seeds. I plan to seed a couple of flats of each and take them to my daughter's apartment building and see if I can give any plants away.

Today is DH's birthday. I'm making a pot roast and a cherry pie. I can't tell you how long it's been since I baked a cake, nobody eats cake around here anymore! Not even birthday cake.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

House Bill 875

If you are interested in sustainable food production, please educate yourself about House Bill 875. See for the full text.

'To establish the Food Safety Administration within the Department of Health and Human Services to protect the public health by preventing food-borne illness, ensuring the safety of food, improving research on contaminants leading to food-borne illness, and improving security of food from intentional contamination, and for other purposes. 'Bill # H.R.875

This affects you if you are a Food Production facility (defined as follows)

(14) FOOD PRODUCTION FACILITY- The term ‘food production facility’ means any farm, ranch, orchard, vineyard, aquaculture facility, or confined animal-feeding operation.

I don't see anything in the bill about the size of the farm, or the market it serves. Does this mean an end to farmer's markets?

Perhaps the level of reporting required will be no more onerous than that which is currently required for organic food production, but it does seem to favor the larger producer as opposed to a smaller one.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Foremost Soil Scientist to Speak

Dr. Rattan LalProfessor of Soil ScienceSchool of Environment and Natural Resources, The Ohio State UniversityCollege of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Science Dr. Rattan Lal will speak on Wednesday, March 25th at 7 p.m. in Kottman Hall 103. His topic is principles of soil management. Dr. Lal is a world-renowned expert on sustainable management of soil and natural resources, food security, and climate change. His research interests include:
Restoration and rehabilitation of degraded soils including minelands, soil resilience, water quality, soil structure and compaction
Conservation tillage
Natural resources management with emphasis on food security and environmental quality
Agricultural development in the Third World We’re extending an invitation to attend to all interested Ohio Master Gardeners. For more information, e-mail

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Elderly relatives

One country tradition I remember well from my childhood is having neighbors that look in on each other, and in typical small-town fashion, knowing almost everything there is to know about everyone else on the "block" or in the square-miles-wide local farm community. As a teenager I thought this was stifling, but now in my mature old age I see the wisdom of this tradition.

In our fast-paced, high-tech virtual world it seems that we don't have as much time for just sitting down and chatting with each other as we did back then (gosh, folks, I'm only talking 40 years ago!)

These last two weeks my father has been in the hospital fighting for his life with so many problems it was fortunate the doctors knew where to begin. He thought he had a minor infection and fever, went to the emergency room, and had a heart attack there. The initial diagnosis that got him admitted to intensive care was pneumonia, which turned into sepsis. Treatment with strong new antibiotics cleared up the infection, but he didn't improve. After almost 10 days in the hospital intensive care unit they finally realized it was an uncommon reaction to a drug he was taking for his heart arrythmia and had been taking for almost a year.

My dad had been following up with his family physician, but had decided to change from the cardiologist he had been seeing an hour away, to a more local cardiologist. Except he hadn't visited the local cardiologist yet. We are still trying to understand how the information got lost in the shuffle - that patients on this drug, Amiodarone, are supposed to be monitored by both a cardiologist and a pulmonologist. As it states on the link, "since many patients taking amiodarone have a history of heart problems, their symptons are easy to mistake for heart disease (or sometimes, the effects of aging).

This is not the only drug he is taking that has a list of side effects a mile long. At my last visit I noticed how "puffy" he was, but he had a scheduled visit to the family doctor the next day, so I wasn't too concerned. Next thing I knew he was on his way to the hospital in the ambulance.

Please look in on your elderly neighbors. If you don't know who they are, get to know them. Take them a casserole sometime if you have too much (but remember that many elderly are on restricted diets or are diabetic.) Don't be afraid to be nosy.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Crawford County Master Gardeners

Crawford County, Ohio, Master Gardener training is starting soon. There are a lot of exciting educational and project opportunities this year, including a community gardens at Unger Farm. I have been a strong advocate of community gardening in the past, (as long as someone else does it) it is time for me to step up to the plate and make this happen. Please contact me, or the Crawford County Extension Office, if you are interested.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Ordering Seeds

I am looking through the seed catalogs to see if any can be FEDEXed - I suggested a seed exchange to our Master Gardener's group last fall - now it's coming up and I haven't ordered seeds yet!

Ouch! Of course I could take some last-year's seeds to the exchange, I am sure many are still viable, but it's not the same....

Friday, January 16, 2009

Can this greenhouse be saved?

Last week we had a heavy, wet snow, and my greenhouse roof wasn't capable of supporting the snow load. DH went out a few days ago and knocked all the snow off, and although it looked better, he reported that the fiberglass rods were splintered and would have to be replaced if I intend to use the greenhouse next year. I suggested collapsible fiberglass tent poles but he thought I would be better off using fiberglass rods from an industrial hardware supply house like Grainger or MSC.

We had a light snow yesterday, but now even that light snow is bending down the top of the house, this picture was taken a few moments ago. I am NOT going out to do anything about it - it is minus 12 degrees today here in North Central Ohio. Good day for sitting by the wood stove and looking at garden catalogs.

Speaking of catalogs, I have been receiving a few new ones this year. One from John Scheepers "Kitchen Garden Seeds" and another from Spray-N-Grow, in addition to all the ones I mentioned on my post last year and the update. I also got a catalog from Nourse Farms, which was highly recommended by our local Extension agent. I ordered blueberry plants from them last year for this year's planting, I plan to put them in our acid soil at the farm.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Windy day?

We came back from Michigan two days ago, arriving after dark, about seven p.m. My eye caught a couple of shapes frozen at the side of the house as we turned in. Remembering that the neighbor lady had hit a deer just before Christmas just in front of our house, I jumped to the conclusion that they were deer. DH stopped the car and slowly turned his headlights directly on the shapes.

They were not deer. It was my greenhouse, caught in the pines that border our neighbor's property!! My greenhouse, and the contents of my greenhouse, had blown all over the yard.

The next day, Tuesday, I spent going around and picking up plastic flowerpots and metal stakes. I found all but three of the stakes, and I have no idea how many flowerpots will be missing come spring. While looking for the stakes I noticed some of the turnips I had not yet harvested, and remedied that situation. I brought them in, peeled them and parboiled them.
I noticed the ground was frozen only for the top 1/4 to 1/2 inch. I moved the greenhouse to a new location and staked it down again.

For some reason I was inspired by my work outside (and maybe by the successful pierogi-making at Christmas?) to get out the attachments for my Kitchen-Aid mixer and try out the pasta extruders. I spent three hours making a pound of noodles, cutting the noodles off the extruder and individually separating each noodle to lay it on a towel to dry. By the time DH came in, expecting dinner to be ready, I was exhausted! I told him we were going out for Mexican food.

On New Year's eve, I babysat for my three-year-old grandson. Well, the Kitchen-Aid was already out, so I decided to use the meat grinder to make ground ham for ham loaf (first time to use that attachment, too!)

Menu for New Year's Eve

Baked ham loaf
Czechoslovakian-style turnips
Steamed carrots
Buttered noodles with mushroom gravy
Dinner rolls

Here is the recipe for the ham loaf:

5 cups ground ham
1 cup oatmeal
1 small-medium onion, diced
2 eggs
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon cloves
2 teaspoons brown mustard
3/4 cup milk

Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. For the last 15 minutes you can use a glaze such as currant or apple jelly, maple syrup, or tomato-apple chutney, depending on your taste.

With the ham I served buttered noodles and made a mushroom gravy. I also made Chzechoslovakian-style turnips, recipe follows:

1 to 2 cups of sliced, boiled turnips
1 cup whole-kernel corn
2 apples, peeled and sliced
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup sour cream (reserve 1/2 cup for topping)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Mix together, spray baking dish with vegetable oil spray and then put in oven with ham for approximately 1/2 hour. Serve with reserved sour cream on top, you may add horseradish if desired.

Today we are having pork and sauerkraut, a German tradition for New Year's Day. I couldn't find any sauerkraut in bags at the supermarket yesterday, and all the Vlasic brand sauerkraut was also sold out. Luckily I did find some in the international foods section, there was some Bavarian-style sauerkraut and also some Polish style.

We'll have mashed potatoes and baked apples for dessert.

P.S. The turnips were not a success with DH.

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