Photo: Great grandparents at their farm in Blandinsville, IL, with five of their six children .. my grandpa was yet a twinkle in grandma's eye. Stable boy and governess also pictured. Hodges farm, circa 1903-4

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Oh Deer!

These two thieves were spied around my garden today.  Last week I mindlessly forgot to put back the deer fence after picking green beans with my grandson, Jacob.  I'm sure this pretty pair had their bellies filled with the juicy green leaves.  
Bambi with ever watchful mama nearby

Friday the moose were on patrol on the old logging road that runs through our property ... right behind one of our gardens.  They were too quick to snap their picture.
Mama stretches out for a snooze

Now that summer is winding down, and 'food' is drying up, the forest critters are visiting our yard more often.  I see that my newly planted grapevine will need to be moved or better protected.  It's an expensive venture to garden in the woods.  Without proper backyard fencing, the animals seem to graze here and there.  Our veggie gardens have some protection with fencing immediately around them, which will have to do as we live in a an area heavily populated with wild creatures.  
Mama deer is extremely relaxed with head resting on ground

I'm sure this mama deer and her fawn have a place they bed down in our yard as I've seen soft impressions under a little low growing fir tree.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Hot Summer Days Are Perfect Weather For ...

making fruit leather.
raspberry, spicy peach, peach fruit leather

If you have an abundance of fruit and need a way to preserve it without heating up the kitchen, you could make a tasty treat for your storage pantry.

All you need is flavorful perfectly ripe fruit.

If the fruit has thick skin, peel it first.  Then chop and place in a pan.  Using a stick blender, puree.  Taste to see if it needs any sweetener.  You can use a little honey or cane sugar.  Barely heat to preserve the enzymes (keep it under 100F).

I added a little cinnamon and cloves to one batch of peach.

If using berries with lots of seeds, pass the puree through a sieve using the back of a spoon.

fruit puree ready, spread thin and it's ready for the shed
Have your cookie sheets lined with lightly oiled parchment paper.  Pour the puree and tilt the pan to help spread the mixture.

Put the pans in a nice warm garden shed (without funky garden chemicals) and leave for a day or two until dry to the touch and a bit leathery feeling.  You could also dry it in the oven on the lowest setting for a few hours.

If you use apples, I think they will need a little more cooking time to turn into a puree.

When leather is very dry, you can roll it up in the parchment paper, or remove and cut with a pizza wheel into strips.  Store loosely in a jar or parchment rolled inside a zip lock bag.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Thrifty Bird Bath

For the past few years I've been looking at and pricing bird baths and haven't wanted to part ways with as much money as most cost ($50-$100) for sturdy concrete ones.  This saucer bird bath was an inexpensive solution to keeping more of my money in my pocketbook.  The top is a plant saucer I picked up at a local nursery.  It's made from glazed pottery and cost about $11.  I had a tree stump in the backyard and added a cut log to give height to the saucer.  It's easy to clean out with the surface being glazed ... and a hand pump hose bib at the back side of our property nearby.  The birds enjoy splashing and drinking and it's fun to watch their antics.  Storing it away for winter is very easy as I only have to put the saucer in the garden shed.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Subsistence Meals

This is how I cook.  I take a look in the garden and see what's ready for the day.  Pick it .. bring it inside .. and fashion it into dinner.  Last night I made Garden Potage or 'stoup' (Rachel Ray's term for thinner than stew and thicker than soup:).  Pulling homemade beef stock from the pantry for the base and adding a little left over rice from a two nights ago, dicing a left over hamburger patty into mince, adding green beans, diced sorrel, diced red potato, onions and fresh herbs.  Served over steamed garden cabbage.  Side salad of thinly sliced cucumber splashed with apple cider vinegar, honey and dill, a glass of fresh farm milk and pan toast.  Hubby paid a nice complement and then commented how he would never complain again about being finicky over the food he's served (He is reading a book about a WWII pilot and I think it must go into detail how people were starving during the war).  No recipe from a book and we probably won't have the same exact thing twice.  I figure it cost 35 cents a serving (for the milk and ingredients used for making the bread).  Three people fed a delicious and nutritious meal for $1.05.  We rarely have leftovers and if we do, you can bet they get re-purposed into another delicious meal.

The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.
Calvin Trillin

Thursday, August 09, 2012

My Garden Is For The Birds

There is a pretty amazing cycle going on in the garden.  It's probably been going on for a long time, but I'm just more in turn with it now. Each morning the birds arrive just around dawn to 'clean' up the beds and plants from bugs and slugs.  Mama and daddy quail arrive with their brood and slip through the wire fence.  Dad sits atop a fence post as lookout while mom ushers the babies in and around the 'breakfast table.'  Then they scurry over to the in ground garden for their dust baths and have a treat eating the raspberries that have fallen to the ground.  Next comes the robins and spotted towhees that eat much bigger bugs.

  The hummingbirds sip nectar from the scarlet runner beans, pollinating them.  When I water, they like to dance in the mist and fly pretty close to say thank you.  My dill is frequented by lady bugs that have kept away the aphids.

 Dragonflies and butterflies are plentiful.  Of course, there are bees and wasps that do most of the heavy pollinating, and from the looks of the tomatoes, have been quite busy.  The 'dance' in the garden is wonderful to watch.

"No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden."-- Thomas Jefferson

Saturday, August 04, 2012

A Pickle By Any Other ...

... Name just wouldn't be the same.  I have fond memories from childhood of eating watermelon rind pickles when visiting the farm tables of family in the mid west while on summer vacation.
Today I ventured back in time and made a batch of sweet watermelon rind pickles ... just in time to enjoy when my folks are in town for a visit.  My Pop will think he's back at his boyhood home as I'm sure his mother made these.  The recipe is from the Ball Blue Book of Preserving.  I cut the recipe in half ... getting 6 half-pints.  Do you have a favorite unusual pickle?