Friday, December 31, 2010

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

In the Bleak MidWinter

We have had over 5 feet of snow in December. At first it highlighted the raised beds nicely, and then erased them completely.

The garden shed remains snug and tidy, like a little gingerbread cottage.

And the snow continues to fall...

On Christmas Eve, the U.S. Mail brought a huge bundle of colorful seed catalogs. Usually we don't see them until after New Years Day. A fellow gardener, whose wife is a Postmaster, tells of her holding out on him as his seed catalogs sit in the back of her post office with their date stamp taunting him. Few things bring more joy and light to a gardener's winter home than those vibrant wish books.

As usual, I get a notepad and start jotting down ideas. Then I compare my wish list to my more practical shopping list written in August. Of course you have to allow yourself one or two impractical experiments each year. This year mine will be Blue Podded Peas.

Actually, this is sort of a practical experiment since you already know my views of being able to distinguish pickable parts from non-pickable parts. And the peas will fit nicely into my spring planting. Since the garden was under construction last spring, we missed out on all those early vegetables: Onions, Carrots, Peas, Lettuce, Chard etc. So that will be my focus this year.
I can not tell you how much I look forward to the start of gardening season. There will be no rototilling. No waiting for the mud to subside. No fence to put up. No rows to measure and mark. All I will have to do is stroll down the sidewalk, kneel beside my tidy little beds, already high and dry and prepared for planting, and poke the seeds in. Then I'll probably add a layer of fresh compost and voila'... instant garden!
I have already broken my list down by seed company. First I go for the specific varieties and harder to find items. Then I compare prices on similar items. Finally I fill up the gaps with the common things rounding out each order to make the most of shipping rates. You also have to watch for coupons. I am always suckered into Gurney's $25 offer. .... finally, you have to take into account the seed swap.
On my last post, Julie asked where she would find just a few seeds of sweet corn instead of half a pound. Well, some seeds keep quite well for a couple of years. Others are great for swapping and sharing with friends. For instance, in our neighborhood, Bob and Trish do the onion order. Shelly and I let Bob know what we want, and relinquish some control to his wisdom as Bob and Trish are far more experienced with Onions at this point. I've had great luck with the onion plants they have gotten me. I generally have extra of several kinds of seeds, and am happy to distribute my excess to anyone interested. If you still don't want a larger quantity of seeds, your best bet is to buy them off the seed displays at Garden stores and Big Box stores as those are packaged in much smaller quantities. I often pick some up when they are discounted to try varieties I would not have thought to order.
And some seed swapping is much more far reaching than the neighbors. Several people have expressed interest in planting my PaPaw's Barlow Jap tomatoes. I am still quite tickled to send out a dozen for free whenever anyone asks. And, as good seed trading etiquette dictates, they always reciprocate with a list of varieties they have to trade should I be interested. That's where my Blue Podded Peas are coming from!
I've been keeping an eye out on the gardening forums to see where the Barlow Jap has migrated through swapping and reswapping. So far, they have been grown in OH, PA, AL, NC and KY. Last week I sent some to TX and TN. And they have also jumped the pond and have been grown in Germany and South Africa. Now PaPaw would really get a kick out of that!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Gardener's Christmas

What do gardening and Christmas have in common? Well, in Western NY, not much. But with a little creativity, I've found I can combine two of my favorite things although, they are unlikely bedfellows. As I was flipping through decorating inspirations, I found this great Christmas tree on, and I realised I haven't done a blog on Christmas decorating.

Looks like she stole the idea from my seed packet fence markers! Maybe I'll have to make some myself and do a complete garden themed tree. Of course, the seed packet thing has been done before. These are two blown glass ornaments I bought back in 2008 from Smith and Hawken. The best parts about these is that they feature the Card Seed Co packets from a town near here.

Last year I found this little box of tomato ornaments at the local antiques mall. I wasted no time snatching them up for $2.50. Red tomatoes are a perfect subject for Christmas ornaments, and they also came from Smith and Hawken.

My favorite is a set of three big Heirloom Tomato ornaments (Red, Green and Gold). They are suprisingly difficult to photograph, but here are two of them in a set. I just got the Pea Pod off of Ebay and it is just as wonderful.

I miss the Smith and Hawken catalog, and I'm looking forward to it's return this spring, but in the meantime Sur La Table is a great resource for gardening themed ornaments. These are the ones I purchased this year. I love the green Wellie boot. I mean, who wouldn't!

And bring back memories of those hot summer days slaving over a batch of pickles...

And now and then I find some fun ones around town. These fun farm animals on veggies were found a few years ago and lend a bit of farmhouse whimsy to my decorating.

With a little imagination, you could even incorporate some of your harvest into a holiday wreath

I love searching the internet for ways to cultivate my gardening interests in the deep mid-winter.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Grandma's Molasses Cookies

I wrote this a year ago, so this is somewhat of a reprise. But it goes in here great, just as these cookies go well with Glogg.

So my mission at Christmas, like so many women before to keep the traditions alive. I've been longing for some of Grandma's Molasses cookies, and I thought for Christmas, it would be nice to make some and share with the family. Actually, I did not consider sharing until I read the recipe. Now I realize it will not simply be an act of family tradition, but a necessity.

A couple of weeks ago, I asked my Mom to find the recipe. She promised she would. She also said she had a tub of Lard I could have. Lard? I don't really plan on using Lard. "Well, they won't be the same without the Lard".  I give it a couple of days, contemplating the thought of baking cookies with Lard in the year 2008. After much thought, I relent. "OK fine, give me the Lard." Mom smiles knowingly "You're going to need the BIG Kitchenaid."

Today, I am happily off work and snowed in. 5 days 'til Christmas. A perfect day for baking. I had already read the recipe and bought supplies accordingly. In addition to the Lard, I bought a second bottle of Dark Molasses, in case one wasn't enough, 5 pounds of unbleached flour, and an extra jar of Cinnamon.

I wrestle the Kitchenaid out of it's cupboard. WHY do I keep this monster over the refrigerator? Oh, I remember, it's the only cupboard large enough. I jockey it over my head narrowly missing the blades of the ceiling fan thinking... "why don't I remember to turn that thing off? Remember what happened to the toaster?"

I start with the lard. 2 cups. My kitchen now smells faintly of bacon. I scrutinize the ingredients on the pail of lard, but it does not reveal what I already know to be true. Lard is pig fat. Granted, it has less saturated fat (the bad fat) than butter, while it also has more than twice as much monosaturated fat (the good fat) than butter. Still, this does not look (or smell) like the beginnings of a cookie recipe.

I glance over my shoulder to make sure my husband is still out plowing. 1 1/2 cups sugar, 2 eggs, cream together... now the lard looks better even if it doesn't smell better. 2 cups of dark molasses. I was right, 1 bottle only has 1 2/3 cup in it. Open the second bottle. The smell of Lard is soon overcome by the molasses. My kitchen no longer smells like bacon, it smells more like the feed mill. 1 1/2 cups of unbleached flour mixed with 2 tbsp soda, 2 tbs cinnamon (am I reading that right? Tablespoons?) I open the second jar of cinnamon. 1 1/2 tbsp ginger, 1/2 tsp allspice, 1 1/2 tsp salt.

I mix that in and eye the mixing bowl. It is now dangerously full of batter. Yes, Batter. And the next step is 2/3 cup boiling water. This ought to be good. Although I pour slowly, the Kitchenaid, in a typical display of bad temper, splashes boiling brown batter on the wall and floor. THAT looks yucky. I leap for the paper towels before my husband comes in to see what looks like...well you know... all over the floor.

Now comes the rest of the flour. I am supposed to add 7 to 9 cups to texture. I dump most of the 5 pound bag of flour into a large bowl, and I can't see how 9 cups of anything are going to go into the already full mixing bowl. I get a scrap of paper and a pencil and start making hash marks to keep track of how much I've put in. Amazingly, through some phenomenon of science, the flour does not increase the volume of the batter but instead changes it’s viscosity. It disappears willingly into the batter thickening it to a dough.

The Kitchenaid groans. It's been through this drill before. It knows what's coming. I keep my hand on the top, testing the temperature of it’s motor as I add flour. At 7 cups (8 1/2 total, because we already put some in earlier) the dough reaches a familiar consistency. It has been over 20 years since I stood on a stool in the farm kitchen and watched this dough being made, but I remember it well.

Finally satisfied, I scrape the sides and the beater and set the bowl outside on the porch to chill. I turn my attention to my exhausted mixer and the counter. Not bad. Besides the batter-splatter incident, all went well. There isn't even much flour to clean up. I feel the mixer again, and consider bathing it with Absorbine and throwing a woolen horse cooler over it for an hour. A thorough sponging with plain hot water does the trick. It will survive and be ready for the peanut butter balls later.

I pause to collect my thoughts. The dough will need to chill at least an hour, then I will roll it into balls and press it with the sugared bottom of a glass to press each cookie down, and place a raisin in the center of each. The recipe doesn't reveal how many dozen it makes. We'll find that out soon enough. I'm sure it will be enough to share with the rest of the family. Those old farm wives didn't mess around. They made enough for a whole farm crew all at once. 

 After a break to create a Christmas centerpiece I began to bake. 350 degrees 8-10 minutes and DON'T burn them. "Burnt ginger cookies are no good". (The recipe actually says this). A little trial and error and I settle on 9 minutes. My hands soon have that familiar sheen of lard. I roll and press, remembering to double strike them to get extra sugar on them. 

They are soft cookies, and not burning the bottom means they will still be soft when you take them off the sheet. After 4 dozen I perfect the technique of getting them off without smooshing the sides and only have to eat four rejects. After 5 dozen I am considering putting the rest of the dough back outside and saving it for cookie day at Mom's. 

 After 6 dozen I lose count and begin to run out of room on the dining room table. After 7 dozen I decide I 've been on my feet all day and the peanut butter balls can wait until Sunday. The Kitchenaid, now cool to the touch, goes back in the cupboard. After 8 dozen I am looking at the rest of the dough and figuring maybe I should just throw it out. I scrape the last from the bowl and do a final count. Including the ones I broke and had to eat, 106 cookies. That's 8.8 dozen. Whewww!

They are sort of pretty all laid out on the table. Their sugary tops glimmer in a Christmasey sort of way. I think back over my childhood. Grandma almost always had these cookies in the jar. I would guess she made a batch like that once or twice a month. If she didn't make these, it was peanut butter cookies. What a lot of work. But completely worth it.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Now Thatsa Won Spicey Meataball

Every year (or so) we buy a side of beef. The biggest problem I have with that is... what the heck do you do with half a dead cow? And I'm not a huge fan of beef anyway. This last time, we specifically told the butcher we did not want any more than 75# or so pounds of ground beef, and that they should find other more creative ways of dealing with the rest of it. Stew beef is always a lovely option.

When we went to pick it up, we had no less than ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY NINE pounds of ground. 129. Pounds. And I know I'm remembering that correctly, because I made mention of it on a chat site, and I can go back and check. That was a little over a year ago, and we still have 60 pounds or so lurking about the freezer. See, this is the problem with buying locally and in bulk. Why can't they make cows that consist only of rib eye steaks with one roast, #20 of stew beef, and #50 of ground. Richard, if you are reading this, may I suggest you look into Low Line Angus or some other tiny bovine?

So, naturally, we are getting a bit desperate for ways to use this ground beef. Thus Meatball Fest was conceived. This past weekend, while most of America was out scrambling around trying to get the best deal on a new flat screen TV, we were over at the neighbors making meat balls. I took a #20 pound tote full of beef out and put it on the side porch to thaw (I am a big fan of natural refrigeration), and Mike and Shelly gathered the other ingredients. We always have enough eggs we can collect up, even though Mom's chickens are moulting and a bit off their game.

Shelly had her mother's meatball recipe, and I had my Grandmother's Swedish Meatball recipe. We roughly divided the beef between the two, warmed the Glogg, put on Christmas music and popped open a bottle of wine. The meatballing commenced. We didn't have a firm plan of attack, but each of us fell into our favored tasks. Mike tried peeling onions which brought him to tears. I took over because they don't bother me. Shelly measured out ingredients and watched the timer, acting as referee between the many tasks to be done in a relatively small area. Mike mixed the large batches by hand. Tim worked the scooper keeping two roller's hands full, and ran trays in and out of the garage to cool.

Six hours later we had many dozen baked meatballs divied up into zip lock bags and back in the freezer. Through the Holidays and the winter, if we need a quick hors d'oeuvres or dinner idea, all we have to do is grab the appropriate number of bags of home made meatballs out of the freezer, and we're in business. I think next we ought to have a Korv stuffing party.

Grandma's Swedish Meatballs:
3 pounds of ground beef
3 medium onions diced
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups bread crumbs (I use the Italian seasoned ones)
4 shakes of black pepper
4 shakes of Allspice
roll into small meatballs, makes about 3 dozen
To cook them you have two options. You can place them on a cookie sheet and bake at 375 for 25 minutes. Or, you can lightly flour them, brown them in a frying pan, then put them in beef broth to simmer for an hour. When I serve them at the Holiday, I put them in a crock pot, cover them with broth, and put them on low.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


Now that the beauty of autumn is past, and the temperatures are dropping, my interests have turned indoors to cooking, eating and home making. Neighbor Mike has gone on a bread making spree, thanks to my loaning him William Alexander's book 52 Loaves of Bread, and he loves to share. I've taken up making sweet, dark Anadama bread to trade him and I'm enjoying the rich butteriness of winter squash. I'm starting my mornings with hot tea, and finishing my evenings with hot cider or Glögg. The house has been filled with warm and delicious smells. What is Glögg? What do you mean you don't know what Glögg is! I can't believe you are missing out on such a useful winter elixir.

Many European and especially Scandinavian cultures have a traditional variation of mulled wine, usually red wine, heavily spiced, and served warm. King Gustav I Vasa of Sweden was fond of a drink made from German wine, sugar, honey, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and cloves and in 1609 it was called "glödgad vin", which meant "glowing-hot wine." This has been shortened to in Swedish and Icelandic to Glögg, Norwegian and Danish call it Gløgg, Finnish and Estonian have Glögi.

The American Swedes, particularly those native to our far corner of New York, have taken their Glögg a step further, and created a deadly concoction involving the highest proof grain alcohol they can get their hands on. It's potent stuff, being 1/3 moonshine. Now I'm "swedish" (half Swede), but my husband is Svedish, and when he introduced me to the family recipes for Glögg and Tom and Jerrys, I quickly concluded that his family's Swedish tradition was obviously to stay loaded from Thanksgiving through New Years.

The Glögg tradition starts in late summer with the outsourcing of grain alcohol. You see, the American Government has concluded that the public is not to be trusted with high grade alcohol. There are now only a handful of states where you can buy "the good stuff" which is 190 proof Everclear or Graves grain alcohol and our lovely state ain't one of 'em. The 151 proof version doesn't provide enough kick with the normal recipe, and the higher proof vodkas change the taste. In the past, I've been able to find Moonshine amongst some of my West Virginian coworkers, but the quality and proof varies greatly, so its easier to just import the store bought stuff. Around August or September, we start making calls to our contacts in Maryland, and the Carolinas to get the necessary ingredient.

The spices will be in the old, family owned Swedish bakeries and markets around the first week of November. But, we always put aside enough spices to start us out next year. The weather will likely turn before November, and we will ration whatever is left from last year's Glögg while keeping an eye on the calendar. You see, Glögg is important. We don't want to get caught without. And, now I see you can buy Glögg spices online through Amazon, and several other Swedish storefronts. But the local version has been unchanged for a couple of generations. The spice packets, are about the only part that is unchanged, as each family has their own subtle variation. The Johnson Family Cookbook has 4 markedly different variations.

So, what makes this precious firewater so special? Well, first, let me say that we serve Glögg in a 4 ounce glass. Few people are up to a second round. It's served steeping hot, just on the verge of boiling. Thus heated it will radiate fumes which make in unwise to inhale over your glass. If you have a head cold, it will clear it. If you have a chill, it will chase it. If you have insomnia, it will cure it. It is a necessary antidote to shoveling or plowing snow. It lends a warm, cozy glow to dark blustery evenings. It goes well with cookies.

The recipe starts with the spice packet containing cinnamon sticks, almonds, cloves, cardamon seeds, raisins and dried orange peel. Some people use the "fruit" version which includes dried apricots and prunes and perhaps some slices of apple, although I'm not sure about the wisdom of combining prunes and fuel grade alcohol. We use a double spice packet, dumping them loose into a stock pot with two quarts of water, and simmer them under cover for at least two hours. As a bonus, within 10 minutes, the whole house will begin to smell of cinnamon and cloves. I've found that it's a good time to let the Anadama bread dough rise on the stove top, while the spices simmer beside it.

After two hours, the water will have reduced by half, and the only real work begins. You have to strain out the spices. What I do, is use a slotted spoon to fish out the majority of the spices leaving just a little scrunge in the pot.

Then I strain the water through several layers of high quality cheese cloth which can be washed out to reuse again and again. Then, you rinse the stock pot, return the liquid to the pot, and the pot to the heat. Next you add the sugar. We use two cups because we like it sweet. After the sugar is fully dissolved, you can turn off the heat and add the wine and grain alcohol.

For wine, we use Taylor Tawny Port. We've also used plain Taylor Port, but it isn't as flavorful. This is also where the individual family recipes begin to vary. The most common variation seems to be the addition of Brandy, but I've heard other things too such as Sherry and even Rum. Honestly, the Tawny Port tastes very much like the finished product in milder form. We add one quart of the Tawny Port, then one quart of the grain alcohol. Two years ago, for our pre-Christmas party and hay ride, I made a terrific batch from the last bottle of Tim's father's collection using a 1940's bottle of grain alcohol with the brand name Pharm-X-O. That's right. Rubbing alcohol. We had to pick two neighbors up off the floor.

This is when the Glögg tastes the best... right off the stove. You have to be careful to take it off the heat at this point, or all the alcohol content will burn off. The fumes coming from the pot are flammable. You can touch a match to it, and it will burn quite vigorously with a mellow blue flame. Tim's father claimed this burned off the impurities, but really, it's just a party trick to demonstrate the proof of the alcohol. You can put the flames out by covering the pot.

You now have a $50 batch of Glögg to be distributed amongst your friends. As I said, it's best hot off the stove, but we put it up in any screw top bottles we can find to give as gifts, and we've found it keeps just fine for several years, although it does start to "mother" and produce sediment that needs to be filtered out. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a stock pot full of spice water cooling on the stove as I write, and I need to go and strain some spices and finish batch number three... yes, it's the second week of November, and we're already on batch number three. Yesterday, we sat in lawn chairs in the beautiful 50 degree sunshine, sipping mugs of Glögg and surveying the winter garden beds... wintertime dreaming of gardening.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Autumn Puttering

Even though the season is over, and the garden is put away, there is still puttering to be done. We've washed the bench cushions and stored them away. Tidied up the shed. Removed the freezable chemicals and put them in the cellar. And cut new rings of woven wire to protect the shrubs from the deer.

We also put tree tubes around the smaller trees to protect them from rabbits, but not before the young four point buck scraped a couple of them up. So we put pruning patch on the worst areas, and put the tubes over. We also preemptively staked the mulberry trees which will not have the good sense to lose their leaves before the first snowfall. These trees really take a beating. They are obviously not suited to zone 5. Their first leaves always come out before the last heavy frost. And last year, they were still green in November, and the first heavy wet snow, we came out in the morning to find them laying flat. And I mean flat. But, we picked them up, shook them off, and tied them back up. And they seem to get over it all.

And the little Astrachan apple trees are growing by leaps and bounds. Next spring we'll take the tubes off and stake and fence them instead.

Now is also the time to putter about with soil conditions. There appears to be a calcium deficiency, as evidenced by our blossom end rot. Adding bone meal at the roots kept it at bay, but I went to the feed store and bought a couple of bags of ground oyster shell grit and spread it liberally. It will have all winter to leach through the soil, and in the spring, we'll work it in as we plant.

We are still enjoying fresh beans and peas from the garden. The Maestro Peas and Blue Lake bush beans are doing great. The Survivor Peas are a bit slow, and the Goldmine Beans gave up pretty quick. So next year we'll skip those varieties. This one Maestro plant is really rising to the occassion!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Putting to Bed

The day after Ungardening is the Putting to Bed day. Now with the raised beds, we are going to try a little no-till lasagna gardening. Tim was mulching leaves in the lawn, and he rounded up quite a pile with the mower. I went out with the sucker/blower, and chopped them further, using two bags per bed. I think this looks very cozy and almost pretty with the golden brown leaf mulch. And, if I had not just spent half an hour blowing leaves OUT of the garden, I would have been tempted to leave the beds like this. But, I know better, and soon these chopped leaves would have been mixing with our fresh gravel. So, as I laid them down I watered them with the hose.

Then we rounded up Mike, and got out the little tractor for some more mulching. The gates were carefully measured so that the smaller tractor, complete with belly mower, can fit through with a little room to spare. We used up about half of our composted horse manure, throwing down a layer of an inch or so to hold the leaves in place, and get the composting started.

When we were done, it was not quite so pretty, but our beds have been replenished with organic matter, and should be ready to plant in the spring.

And now a little word about pests. This was my view out the window in the morning... 5 turkey jakes, and our truant fawn. He is the child of a doe who just wreaks havoc on our landscaping. Most of the summer I saw him with his grandmother and her two fawns. But quite often he would run through on his own. Why? Because his mother, the no good floozy, was busy wandering about eating my perennials and being a lousy parent. And still he's up to no good, running with the bachelor turkeys. His mother has a price on her head this season. And I expect nothing but trouble in the future from this little guy.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Rototiller and the Marigold Stomp

Today was the big day for "Un-gardening". The tomatoes came out, and everything got cleaned up in preparation for the war against the falling leaves. In the past, this was a pretty labor intensive day. Neighbor Mike and I would roll up the 200 feet of no climb horse fence. Tim and I would pull the T-Posts with the bucket. Then, the rottotilling would begin. The rottotilling was actually the easy part since we had a 5 foot PTO driven tiller for the smaller tractor. But, the rolling of the fence alone diminished the benefits of the tractor tilling.

The garden was beginning to look a little rough with bacterial spec taking over several of the tomato plants, and leaves littering the walk. I started last week picking green tomatoes, and there are ALOT of them. Although they have stopped ripening on the vine in this cooler weather, they will continue to ripen in the dark after you pick them. The ones that don't get made into fried green tomatoes (my favorite dish while watching football) should be individually wrapped in newspaper so they will ripen, and you can continue to enjoy tomatoes for a couple of months. My mother has been known to stretch her tomato season as far as December!

First I went through and removed all of the twisty ties and tags. Next, you pick whatever you intend on saving. Then I began a vigorous pruning, removing all the foliage until all I had left were tomato trunks inside the supports. After the supports were removed, we pulled the roots out. I took the poles out of the pole beans, leaving large, spineless, blobs of foliage.

We filled the tractor bucket with most of the tomato waste and put that on the burn pile. The beans, clover, marigolds, and basil were destined for the compost pile. We have filled this compost tube several times this summer, and it breaks down at an amazing rate leaving plenty of head room. Here's a picture of Tim doing the "marigold stomp" trying to get the last wheelbarrow in. We have plenty of rain fore casted for this week, and I guarantee that tube full of garden trimmings will be reduced by half in a week.

We tried out best to rake up all of the fallen tomatoes, but I guarantee you there will be plenty of Sungold volunteers next year, just like this one which popped up in Mike and Shelly's cucumber bed mid-summer.

When it was all said and done, we were left with a row of parsnips and my fall garden which consists of beans, peas and carrots. I also have half a bed planted with lettuce that is just beginning to poke through the soil.

The garden looks much bigger with all of the beds empty.

Even with the garden gone, we now have to deal with a glut of produce. The best recipe to cope with this is Ratatouille which combines tomatoes, eggplants and summer squash among other things. Really it's a perfect dish for a day like this. Tim calls it "Rototiller" which is a pretty descript name since you chop up everything you find in the garden before you run the tiller through. I mean, what else do you do with a dozen Little Fingers eggplants?

My mother is very good at dealing with these garden combinations. She makes the recipes up as she goes, and she can turn this menagerie...

Into a meal like this....

And furthermore, her husband has adventurous taste buds, and he will eat it.

So for anyone who's interested, here's a recipe for ratatouille. Tim is getting reheated stew for supper, and I'm off to try my hand at frying stuffed squash blossoms!

2 onion, sliced into thin rings
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium eggplant, cubed
2 zucchini, cubed
2 medium yellow squash, cubed
2 green bell peppers, seeded and cubed
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 chopped red bell pepper
4 roma (plum) tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
4 sprigs fresh thyme
salt and pepper to taste
Heat 1 1/2 tablespoon of the oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until soft.
In a large skillet, heat 1 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and saute the zucchini in batches until slightly browned on all sides. Remove the zucchini and place in the pot with the onions and garlic.
Saute all the remaining vegetables one batch at a time, adding 1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil to the skillet each time you add a new set of vegetables. Once each batch has been sauteed add them to the large pot as was done in step 2.
Season with salt and pepper. Add the bay leaf and thyme and cover the pot. Cook over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes.
Add the chopped tomatoes and parsley to the large pot, cook another 10-15 minutes. Stir occasionally.
Remove the bay leaf and adjust seasoning.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Garden Shed

The Garden Shed / Chicken Coop is finished. Tim and I each have one part of the project left. His is the chicken fence, and mine is the window shades in the garden shed to keep it cooler in the summer.

So here is the Before when we moved it from the house next door (that we sold to Mike and Shelly):

And the After:

It has doubled in size, and Tim has finished the walkway and the deck so that we don't have mud splashing up on the siding, and we aren't tracking in all kinds of dirt. You can't imagine how much dirt sticks to dewy work boots. Because of the electric lines being dug in, there has been a nice patch of dirt right in front of the door for months.

See the apple tree in the tube in the foreground? That is one of the scions I sent down to Horse Creek back in the spring of 2009. It is growing by leaps and bounds and we had to add to the tube to keep the deer from trimming it. The second one is in the foreground of the picture below and is growing, but not as vigorously.

The gravel right behind the shed will be part of the chicken run, and the mulched area is my "perennial foods" garden where I relocated my strawberries, rhubarb and horseradish. Next spring I will add a row of asparagus. I decided to leave my first asparagus bed where it was to see if it can't make a go of it since it seems to be improving now in year 3. The Rhubarb has more than quadrupled in size since transplanting, and the Horseradish has come back to life.

Tim went above and beyond the call of duty inside the shed. We chose maple cabinets from the discount outlet and bought a small refrigerator which is great for storing "excess produce". Aside from a few cucumbers, it mostly holds beer, wine and mixers. It does make it nicer to grab a refreshment when working or socialising outdoors, and cuts down on the foot traffic in and out of the house.

Tim removed the center of the face frame and reattached it to the right hand door so the base cabinets open all the way making it easier to tuck all my larger items away.

The long handled tools are hung on the opposite wall, and the third wall has commercial shelving for storage of tomato ladders, window boxes and other plant supports.

I have a few neat garden collectables to display in here, but we haven't gotten around to cutseying it up yet.