Friday, September 24, 2010

A Wonderful Surprise!

Yesterday, I was sitting on the couch with dh, before we went out for date night.  It's raining outside, and the door to the porch is open so we can hear the pretty sound of it coming down. I had just got home from work, and we sat snuggling, discussing a variety of things while watching the barret-jackson classic car auction on tv.  After half an hour, he mentions, casually..."Oh, and by the way, a box of plants came for you today."

I jumped straight up off the couch.  "Good God, man!  We were sitting here chit-chatting and there's PLANTS on the porch for me?" He just looked at me as I ran out onto the porch.  And this giant box is what I found.  Whatever I expected, it wasn't this.  It was HEAVY. 

I opened the box and discovered it was from CostaFarms.  I was expecting a box from them; but I had no idea the plants would be so big and beautiful.  The lovely plants just kept coming and coming out of that box, like it literally had no bottom. 

Melissa from CostaFarms sent me two cute little mums.  They will go very nicely with my asters.  I hope that they will be hardy to our very cold winters.

 I  don't know a lot about the names of houseplants, but I think this one is called a croton.  It has lovely fall color, for sure, though I think it looks like this year round.

A beautiful fern, with a hanging basket hook.  

Dh just laughed at me as I took plants out of the box with big eyes.

After I get all these plants situated, I will be sure to blog more about them.  Most of them are part of the O2 for You collection.  Thanks to CostaFarms for the wonderful surprise!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

PattyPan Squash Recipes #1: Spicy Stuffed Squash

I've had a lot of people on twitter ask for some of my pattypan squash recipes, and for advice on how to cook them.  A detailed post on cooking the squash will come later this week, but for now, the spicy stuffed squash bowl.  I was trying to use up some of my garden produce, and decided to use a squash and some less than perfect corn ears to make a zesty and filling dish.  After cooking the corn and the squash, I set them to the side to cool.  I don't need all that corn for this, I used a knife to remove the corn from the cobs, and then what I didn't use in this recipe got frozen for later use.

While the squash cooled off, I cooked some cut up chorizo sausage, some green peppers, and onions with some olive oil in the skillet.  When the veggies are tender and the sausage is done, I let it cool and put it into a bowl. 

I added some of the corn and some parmesan cheese in with the sausage and veggies.  You can add some salt and pepper here if you like, but it has plenty of flavor on its own.  Since the squash was cooled off, I took the center out and chopped a few pieces of squash to mix in with the filling. 

Finally, I stuffed the cooked squash with the filling mix.  I had so much filling it wouldn't even fit inside.  I had to spill some over the edges.  I put it all in a glass baking dish and let it heat up and blend the flavors for about 15-20 minutes.  Then it was ready to eat.  You can add a little salsa on the side, it takes the heat up a notch and makes it even more fantastic.  I love spicy foods, do you? 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

My Awesome, Strong Kid

I always forget and take videos sideways on my cell phone, so crane your head to the side and watch my friggin' awesome kid scale up to the top of this 12-15 foot swing set in like 2 seconds!  He is only 7!  I could never do stuff like this, even in my most grandiose gym class fantasies.   After that he did the monkey bars, first with both hands, then with one hand on each bar, swinging like a monkey.  Then we finished a really long bike ride, during which he whined the whole way.  Does that make any sense?  Anyways, I am way envious of my child's upper body strength.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Breakfast Skillets

Since in a few weeks I'm going to have a WHOLE LOT OF POTATOES in my basement room/root cellar, I've been looking for easy ways to use potatoes that aren't too time-consuming.  Tonight I made breakfast skillets with some of my test storage potatoes.  More on that in a future post.  This is an incredibly simple version of this dish, but you can jazz it up as much as you like.  I started with some breakfast sausage.  The sausage is happy (Happy= meat that comes from free-range, family farms, where the animals live comfortable, happy existences without horomones, unnatural foods, or unneeded antibiotics). I scooped the sausage into a plate so I could keep cooking in the same skillet.

After I peeled and chopped a few medium potatoes, I put them into the pan with some oil.  I cooked them about 10 minutes, until they were slightly browned.  Then I drained them on some papertowels and emptied out the skillet for the next step.  The potatoes were organically raised in my garden.

While the potatoes were cooking, I whisked four eggs in a bowl, and added some milk.  I LOVE the deep, rich color of the egg yolks.  The milk is from a local dairy, with happy cows, only 45 minutes from where I live.  These eggs came from the chickens of a local farmer, only a few miles away.  I went and got them from his farm, and stood and talked to him for 45 minutes while he did work around the yard. Of course, there are no chemicals used there.  See more about Farmer Joe here.  You can't beat the color of egg yolks from happy chickens.

After I put the eggs into the skillet, I dumped the potatoes and the sausage back in on top of them. I sprinkled cheese over the top, along with salt and pepper.  I stirred it gently together, making sure the eggs didn't burn on the bottom. 

Then I dished onto plates and served!  I had mine with some salsa I canned, made from ingredients we grew in the garden.  We also had toast with creamed honey; the creamed honey contains dried apples, and comes from bees 'raised' locally.  It was delicious! We love cooking with local, organically-raised ingredients as much as possible.  You just feel so much better about what you are serving to your family.  What are you cooking from local ingredients?

Monday, September 6, 2010

In Stasis

Spitfire nasturtium, and cousin

In the month of August the weather changed abruptly.  The sky opened up and it poured and poured.  We had several days where the rain gauge said 4 inches in the last storm.  Locally, but thankfully not at our house, there was severe flooding, worse than the flood of 93.  Which you may have heard, is the standard by which we measure flood water.

Then, it stopped.  We didn't have rain to speak of for a few weeks.  All the plants in containers, after getting watered heavily and frequently, almost on a daily basis, panicked at the decrease in water.  Our lawn turned brown.  Squash vines took on a tan cast and looked puckered.  I started watering daily with the hose, but it just wasn't the same. All my container plants look a little 'dry' now.  In the last few days it has finally rained a couple times, so hopefully they will recover. The nasturtiums above used to be at the top of the tippy pot planter.  They are so happy to be down on the ground that they look even better than they did before, in spite of the temporary water shortage.  

Here is a good example of how many of some plants are peeved off.  Even though it just rained, these plants are looking a little wilty. The nasturtiums aren't too terrible, but have several dead leaves and are a little yellow.  The pictures might seem a little blurred because of the extreme wind we had today.

These nasties never stood a chance.  They keep trying to grow and prosper, but since the giant cucumber and kale plants block their light, I will be surprised if they ever bloom.  And of course, they never even attempted to climb up this trellis.

purple hyacinth bean plant
Purple hyacinth bean plant (only 1)

In comparison, the purple hyacinth bean plant is climbing all over the place.  This is only one plant!  I am going to do a ton of these next year.  They are so beautiful.  I am not sure if the beans are edible, but I am going to find out.  While I was looking at the beans, I noticed my clematis.

Stupid clematis, finally blooming

This poor clematis has had a rough go of it.  It has been moved four or more times. It never gets a chance to get established and bloom all over like some people's do.  I actually figured that since I moved it in March this year, I wouldn't get any blooms at all.  Maybe it was feeling peer pressure from the hyacinth bean, or maybe it decided the hyacinth was showing off and decided to show that it wasn't inadequate.  Whatever the reason, I will get a few lovely purple flowers, which coincidentally, compliment the purple hyacinth flowers.

These are my original nasturtiums, and they are looking much better after I gave them a haircut.  They have been looking pretty scraggly for a while, so I just trimmed off the bottom section.  It seems like that helps nasturtiums a lot.  Especially this climbing kind.  If they get too leggy or cruddy looking, you can just cut off sections, and it grows back bushy and green.

DH calls these 'buttonflowers', because of the shape of the leaves.

They really do have stunning color.  The spitfires are so bold and vibrant.

Beebum in the sunflower

So for now,  most of the nasturtiums seem to be in stasis.  They haven't grown much more, but most of them still look really good.  This really is a dependable, long-lasting, long-blooming flower. The whole garden seems to be on 'pause'.  I love this time of year, when everything is at it's biggest, and you kind of fall into a holding pattern, but that's okay, because this is the good time before it starts to get colder.  I'm enjoying looking at everything and taking pictures.  I caught this 'beebum' checking out one of my sunflowers.

After 2 years of blogging, I finally figure out I can add captions.  Was this always there?
The garden is still producing well, but some things are starting to die back and thin out.  Holes are opening up in my garden, and I welcome the space they provide, after the crowding of midsummer.  I'm starting to plan and make lists of things I'll grow again next year, and what new things I want to try.  I know, as always, nasturtium will be on my list for years to come.

I'm growing Nasturtium "Spitfire" for the GROW project, thanks to for the seeds.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

This Time of Year

Well, I am back to work, and that means there is less time to do everything I love to do in the garden and at home.  Including sleeping.  Sigh.  However, the weather is also cooling down a little, and that is nice.  The challenge now is finding time to go out and harvest everything in the garden, do canning projects, and write on my blog.  Since it is Labor Day weekend, I took a nap and then went out to gather.  I haven't been at the green beans for a few days, so there were a LOT.  My pattypan squash plant is just going nuts, so I picked four more today.  I could do a squash giveaway! My cucumber plants took a hit from powdery mildew and then no rain for quite a while, so the regular cukes are way down, but the lemon cukes are getting ready to explode again!

I also got lots and lots of hot peppers.  Some of the tabasco were ready, and lots of the chili and kung pao peppers.  You wouldn't even believe how hot these peppers are...two of those skinny red kung paos make a dish so hot I can hardly eat it. I think I am going to make some little jars of hot sauce out of them, since I am not making much salsa right now.  I also dug up a few shovelfuls of potatoes, and I left most of them in the garden, but the cut open ones came in to be used tomorrow.  No matter how careful I am, I always manage to slice a few of them in half.

These are all the tomatoes I got. It may seem like a lot, but compared to what I was getting, this is almost nothing.  Almost all of the initial flood of tomatoes are gone, they have turned red and been picked.  Now, the funniest thing is happening.  The plants looked like total doo-doo all summer from the early blight fungal stuff, because it rained every few days.  Then, it doesn't rain but once or twice in 3 weeks and the tomato plants have never been so happy.  They are as lush and green as they were in early June.  I'm hoping they will set more fruit and I'll have another flood of tomatoes before the frost in October. 

I also have tons of these golden pippen squash.  The watermelons are just starting to come in.  After cutting into one not ripe one earlier in the summer, I decided to wait until they fell off the vine.  I found these melons laying on the ground next to the vine, so I decided they were probably ready to come in. 

My porch in my new house has served as a wonderful storage, staging, and curing area for much of my produce.  The squash is living out here until it gets close to freezing, then it will go into the root cellar room in the basement.  The beans come out here until I shell them, and then they dry nicely as I sort them into each type for soup beans this winter.  It is a wonderful porch.  Carpeted, electricity, windows all the way around on 3 sides, and huge.  It is almost like being outside, but it is protected from insects and rain.  The perfect place for things to dry out and cure.

These are the beans I have so far. The beans are coming ready at different times, so it seems like I have a lot of the october beans and the tiger's eye, but it will even out more by the time frost comes.  I am really surprised, I thought I lost most of my limas to blight earlier in the season, but the ones that are left have really gone crazy, and I will have tons of them by the time I'm done.

My garlic and some of my onions are also hanging out here until I take them down to the root cellar.  I love my new is so useful in preserving my harvests!  Do you preserve a lot of food for the winter?  How do you store things in your house?
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