Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Produce from the Farmers' Market and What I am Doing With It

This past week our town opened up its Farmers' Market for the season.  The city government has set up this market in our new Urban Farm Park, where there are shady spots for picnics, the Community Vegetable Garden (which I joined this year), a large chicken run and coop with lots of chickens, a rooster or two and a guinea, and areas for community activities.  The Farmers' Market was great -- it's on Thursday evenings from 5 to 7:30, which means it will be a little bit cooler on the hot days, and the time frame makes it great for the whole family to go, which we did.  They had lots of vendors selling local produce, fresh baked breads, local honey, local meats, etc., along with food trucks so you can eat an easy dinner there, live music, folks hooping, chickens clucking.  A wonderful atmosphere.  I think we'll be going every Thursday night -- maybe pack a picnic dinner this week.

Above is my haul from last Thursday:  a huge bunch of beets, an incredible purple cauliflower, yellow squash and zucchini, and some sweet potatoes - purchased from a grower near Senatobia, MS who grows in a greenhouse through the winter, hence the early summer veggies.

What I have made with this stuff:

1.  A roasted cauliflower and chard salad (I still have a lot of chard and winter greens in my garden, but trying to use it up fast as this hot weather will make it all bolt and go pretty bitter).  The beets had tops on them and if I didn't have my own fresher greens I could have used the beet tops.

2.  Roasted (see a trend here?) sweet potato, chicken, and chard salad with chick peas and an herbed balsamic vinegar dressing.  This was last night's dinner and I ate yummy leftovers for lunch.

3.  For tonight, the plan is grilled zucchini and summer squash planks with herbs and parmesan, fried eggs (from my chickens), and sweet potato biscuits with butter and Amaretto Pecan Creamed Honey from Wolf River Honey that my husband could not leave the Farmers Market without.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Red Clover

Almost every spring portions of our front yard are covered with red clover.  The clover blooms about the same time as the milkweed plants start growing, and until recent years large numbers of monarch butterflies on one of their migration routes up from Mexico, would descend on the yard to feast on the clover nectar and lay eggs on the milkweed.

This year, the red clover bloomed, the milkweed grew -- but I haven't seen a single monarch.  Every year over the past ten or so years they have been fewer and fewer.  The honey bees are fewer and fewer also.  Last year I had to hand pollinate most of my vegetable garden plants to get a fruit set.  When I see the lawn spray trucks all over the neighborhood I just want to scream!

Now the clover has all set seed, and I'm harvesting the seed for next year.

I cut whole seed heads and plunk them in a paper sack, that I will fold over and staple and label.  Some time between November and February, on a nice day where rain is expected later that day or the next, I strew them out all over the yard, walking over where they fall so they make some contact with the soil. And maybe next spring there will be monarchs.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Making Violet Syrup - Part 3 of Eat Your Weeds

I can't believe I've left so many weeks slip by without blogging.  In my defense, we have had many days of heavy rains and a record late freeze that have left my garden bedraggled and gasping and not very photogenic.  And on the days when the weather has been good and the garden inviting -- well, I've been working hard playing catch up on all the garden jobs, trying to get the creeping charlie under control (grr), and getting the vegetable garden in, while trying to control my Annual Spring Horrid Rash that I get every year (chickweed poultices and washes with chamomile tea seem to work about as well as anything the doctor has ever prescribed -- I don't know if any treatments actually ever work, or if the Horrid Rash simply runs its course each time and eventually recedes).

With our crazy spring weather and the total lack of a spring garden, I have been relying on the "weeds" in our yard (along with the remnants of my very successful winter garden -- swiss chard is still going strong, although the kale and collards all bolted and played out, as did the winter lettuce).   One weed I like to use a lot in salads is violet -- which grows profusely in the shady areas of our yard.  Both the leaves and flowers are a great addition to salads.

Here are some snips from around my yard that I add to salads:  red veined sorrel (a perennial), chives, chive blossoms, pansies, lemon balm, red and pink clover, and some violets are in there, too.

A few weeks ago I made violet syrup with the violets in the first picture.

Fill a mason jar about half way with violets, then fill the jar half way with warm water and let steep over night in the fridge, to make a violet "tea" or infusion.

Strain out the violet blossoms.  You can see below that the "tea" has a little bit of color to it.

Boil the violet water (this was about 1 cup) with one cup of sugar to make a syrup.

For dinner I made oat and apple pancakes, garnished with flowers, and served with dried tomato chicken sausages.   The syrup was wonderful with it.

Violets are a good source of vitamin C, and pure violet syrup makes a healthy (as in healthier than artificial pancake syrup) and economical alternative to pure maple syrup.

linked to various blog hops, including Sunny Simple Monday

Monday, April 8, 2013

Dandelion Cookies -- Part 2 of Eat Your Weeds

Last week I posted about making Chickweed Pesto out of common chickweed you can find growing in your yard.  This weekend my 5 year old grandson Aydan came over and we harvested dandelions from the yard and made Dandelion Cookies (thus, Part 2 of Eat Your Weeds).

We had to look all over the yard, in many nooks and crannies to pick a half cup of dandelion flowers.  Our neighbor's front yard is full of dandelions, but since they have used a yard service for many years (which sure doesn't seem to do much good!), I had to explain to Aydan that we can't eat those flowers, only ones that are in our yard that we know are safe.

This one was actually in a garden bed, snuggling up with some collards.

our neighbor's front yard

part of MY front yard
After we collected about 1/2 cup of dandelion flowers, Aydan helped me pull out the yellow petals, throwing the green calix parts into the compost bucket.  Then we mixed them in with 1/2 cup of oil and 1/2 cup of honey, 1 teaspoon of vanilla, and 2 eggs.

We poured this wet mixture into the dry ingredients (1 cup of whole wheat flour, 1 cup of regular oats, and a pinch of salt) and Aydan stirred it all up.  We dolloped tablespoons of the cookie batter on to a greased cookie sheet.

Into the preheated 375 degree oven for about 12 minutes.

Perfect for a little picnic outside on our first warm, sunny Saturday in many a month!

Simple ingredients, using what we have in the pantry and the yard.

Linking to Tuesday Garden Party

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Chickweed Pesto (more growing food without a garden)

notice there are only 5 petals, but they are deeply split, making it look more daisy-like

What a cold and wet spring we have had here so far!  I've barely been able to do anything in the garden.  Our March temperatures have averaged 20 degrees colder than last year's March.  Last March was too warm by 5-10 degrees, but you'd think we could have some "normal" more moderate weather!

My collards and pak choy that have grown so well and keeping me in greens through the winter are
bolting (evidently the bolting has more to do with longer days than warmer temperatures).  The cold and wet have kept me from planting much in the garden for spring, and I'm afraid now it may be too late for a good spring harvest of radishes, sugar snaps, and lettuce before we hit the hot summer temperatures.

Since I haven't dug much in the garden yet, nor emptied pots around the yard from last season, I have a good bit of chickweed growing everywhere.  Chickweed loves to grow in cultivated ground -- garden beds and pots.  It is also easily found growing in a lawn that is not sprayed.   It's easy to pull out, and of course the chickens LOVE it -- but it is also a pretty tasty edible that you can add to salads or use as a sandwich topping like lettuce or sprouts.

The other day I went out to the yard and just snipped some plants off from the base and brought them in and made a pesto spread.  We don't spray any of our yard with pesticides or herbicides, and we live on a residential street so I feel we don't need to worry about too much pollution from cars affecting the plants.  A couple of snips yielded about 2 or 3 cups, which I cut up with scissors in the bowl so the long stems would not tangle in my food processor blade.

Into the food processor, with 4 cloves of minced garlic (because I like lots of garlic), 1/2 cup of olive oil, 1/4 cup of parmesan, a tablespoon of lemon juice and some lemon balm I found growing in the herb garden, a dash of salt, some pepper, and a handful of walnuts.

Chickweed Pesto!  We used it on crackers and with chips.  It had a fresh lemon-y flavor and kept its color over the several days it lasted.  I used the remainder then in a pesto-bean-syrian (thinly sliced red onions, roasted mini-peppers, tomatoes, green beans, olives and feta with the pesto mixed in a lemony oregano vinaigrette) kind of salad to go with the Vegetable Pastitsio I made for Easter dinner.

I love to eat my weeds!

Joining Tuesday Garden Party; Backyard Farming Connection Blog Hop; Farmgirl Friday Blog Hop

Friday, March 29, 2013

"Old Lady Gardening". Really? (and some Altered Book art)

Sometimes, more than I like to admit, I like to torture myself by looking at the stats on this blog.  I'm pretty sure it's one of those "no-no's", like tracking the stock market on a daily basis.  You can get yourself all in a state with the ups and downs.

Anyhew, there with the stats is a thing that shows "traffic sources", and it will show the google searches people have made that lead to your blog, with the key words they use.

"old lady gardening"


Of course, one of my goals is to be one of those spritely "old ladies" always in the yard, with sticks and seeds in my stylishly ultra short steel gray or snow white hair (think Judy Dench), stooping down conversing with the fairies that live near my frog pond.  I didn't think I was quite there yet, though.  At least my hair is pretty much the same old boring brown, with some gray mixed in, that it's been for a number of years.  But I do often have sticks and leaves and seeds stuck on me.  And sometimes I find a chicken egg forgotten in my coat pocket from the last time I went outside.

Well, enough of that.

This was my spread for the March meeting of the Altered Book group I belong to.  The theme of this book is "Good Fortune" (as in fortune cookies).  The fortune at the bottom says "One dreamed of becoming somebody.  Another remained awake and became."

And further up on the page I wrote with pencil that existential observation "Things in the mirror may appear closer than they are".  I spent a lot of time on my recent trip to Austin looking at that phrase imprinted on the side mirror of the car I rode in (what should have been an 11 hour drive took 14 hours due to interstate construction).

Another member of the Altered Book group (the owner of the "Good Fortune" book as a matter of fact -- come on, Cindy!  I dare you to post a comment! -- I don't even have those weird unreadable letters and numbers to trip would-be commenters up ;-), brought these to show -- they are made from toilet paper tubes.  I think it would be cool to make a chess set out of them.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Welcome Kemper!

Today we welcomed our newest grandchild to the world, Loren's (our #2 daughter) and Jonathan's first child, and our third grandchild!  Presenting Kemper Lizbeth:

She's a big ole juicy baby -- 10.6 pounds!  Mother and baby are doing great, and even though Loren and Jonathan and Kemper are far far away in Austin, TX -- the wonders of technology and the web made it almost like we were there.