Sunday, September 30, 2007

An afternoon's efforts

The six beds on the bottom are where the greenhouse will be. That mass of boxes is used to line the paths in the gardens...then, I dump wood chips on top. Today it's just a mess. Oh, and I am atop the chicken coop.

So, this was my task yesterday. I thought about renting a ditch witch, but I knew renting/loading/unloading/using/loading/unloading/unrenting would be about as much caloric energy (and probably more time, frankly) than getting out my big daddy boss hog tiller to bust up the sod and then using my little girly wageslave lackey arms and back to dig the trench.

Frankly, this little trench was beautiful. It was a bit of a shame to have to fill it back in again.

Oh, and I ended up needing more than 100' of pipe. And I hummed chain-gang tunes to myself whilst I worked.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

On the order of work

100' of 3" perf pipe in the back of the Volvo. I need a chain-gang song to accompany it.

A long time ago, for some work-related reason, I took the Myers-Briggs profile test and found out that I am a contingency planner. (INTJ for those of you who know what the heck I am talking about.) Well, that certainly didn't come as a surprise to me: I have always looked to a future goal and figured out eight ways of running up the hill to get to it. But sometimes, I swear, despite all my plans and counterplans, my life (anyone's life) is like one of those sliding tile games: you know the ones, with fifteen sequential numbered tiles and sixteen spaces? I have to move each and every tile first to get the number one up to its proper spot.

And so it goes. My task list, this weekend, is growing. Before I can put up the greenhouse, I need to trench up lots of earth! We've got drainage issues.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


What a crock

So I bought three heads of cabbage at the farmstand on Sunday.

"I bought cabbage for sauerkraut," I told Tom when I got home.

"But we don't eat sauerkraut," he said, wrinkling his nose.

"Yeah, but then, have we ever really HAD sauerkraut before?" I asked. "I'm doing this on the Chinese Food Principle," I told him.

You see, I despised Chinese food, that is until I got away from my small-town Indiana take-out establishment and actually ate real Chinese food in the city. That cornstarch and MSG-laden fare I'd grown up with just did not resemble the stuff I got in Chinatown, thankfully!

So I have a crock of the shaved stuff sitting (stinking) away in the basement right now. It takes a while to ferment and "cook down." I will let you know if we end up becoming converts to the home-made kraut. (Remember, microbes are my friends, so this is yet another experiment in friendship maintenance.)

Food preservation is funny this way. You end up making (or trying to make) that which is outside your normal victuals, mainly because you CAN. The garden is like that, too, though thankfully I have planted enough different veggies that I have stumbled on more winners than losers. The quest for variety is fairly high here in this household with our city-shaped palates; I do tend to go out of my way often to make something novel. We can always get down a can of tomatoes to throw on spaghetti if my "creations" end up being really awful...and the chickens and the compost heap are none too picky, frankly; to them, it's all good!

And if this cabbage is a kraut failure? Well, I'm out $2.19 and a bit of time.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Eat Local: Preserving tomatoes

This made 3 quarts of juice, 3 pints of sauce and 5 half-pints of ketchup

Tomatoes: Love them! Other than fruit jam, it's tomatoes that get the most processing around here. They are very versatile, as you all well know. There are loads of sites that will tell you how to process them, starting with the USDA. I'm just going to describe the ways I "put them by," as processing tomatoes is a task I take on every other day between mid-July to the middle of October.

Tomatoes are one of the few things most anyone can can. Boiling-water baths are great! However, for a few reasons, I have mostly abandoned my big black enamel pots when I get the glass jars out during Tomato Season. Instead, I use my pressure canner.

Clockwise from top right: cook pot, food mill, can funnel, can lifter and big pressure canner

Pressure canners, though huge, spendy, and somewhat spooky, are actually a lot more forgiving of the harried home-canner than boiling-water baths. One, they get a lot hotter (240*+ versus maybe 212*), and the actual pressure process allows you to add things to your tomato sauces that would be too risky to do with a boiling-water bath (it has to do with the acid level in the tomatoes themselves: any added onions, peppers, basil, etc. may tip the pH scale to Microbe City, which is not a city you would like to visit, trust me.). You can actually put nearly ANYTHING in jars and can it in a pressure canner. I have rows of cooked beans downstairs, as well as jars upon jars of stock. If I were a carnivore, there'd be jars of meat, too, as premade as soup or stock or chili or whatever.

Likewise, with a boiling-water bath process, you need to be monomaniacal about cleanliness, boiling both the jars and the sealing lids before you fill them (and fill them with HOT contents, while the jars are still HOT). Pressure canning? Not so much. YES the jars and lids should be absolutely clean, but they don't need to come out of a boiling pot before they're filled.

But back to the tomatoes. My larger heirloom tomatoes tend to have thick skins, so I try to get the peels off before I do my preserving. There are two ways to do this: one is by hand and the other is the Lazy Person's Way, with a food mill. By hand: Wash and score (make an "X") on the bottom of the tomatoes with a sharp knife. Place tomatoes in a pot of boiling water for about a minute or more; scoop them out and immediately plunge into a pot of iced water. You can use your knife and peel the skins off, core them, and then cook them. By the LPW: Wash and cut off rough spots of the tomatoes. Core them and cut into smaller pieces. Place in pot and cook until mushy. Run through food mill: I use the medium screen, as I like the pulp and can tolerate the few seeds that get passed through it. They're now ready to can.

In the beginning of the Tomato Season, I am much more fussy about separating the tomatoes by type (cherries for sweet things like ketchup, paste tomatoes strictly for paste, big fat watery ones for juice, etc; I also separate by color because I'm obsessive), but toward the middle of the season I am tired of all that and process maybe two-three quarts at a time with Whatever Is Ready To Go TODAY. This mix just ends up being simple sauce. In the winter, I will figure out what to do with that sauce when I take the jar off the shelf. Soup? Pasta sauce? Chili? It might need to be cooked down some (i.e., boiled off), but that can happen when I'm readying everything else for the meal.

But back to the pressure canner. This device allows me to make things like salsa, or the Glut Sauce I made the other day, or ratatouille, etc. with the 'maters. It usually isn't too much work to prep the tomatoes a la Lazy Person's Way whilst I do dinner prep, and while they're cooking down, or processing, I do my other cooking.

One thing about the pressure canner: it does take longer. Getting one load up to pressure, the processing time itself, and getting down from pressure sure takes lots longer than doing one boiling-water bath. Because I do my pressure canning in dribs and drabs while I do other things, this is no big deal. But when I have a bushel of things to put up? Yeah, either I set aside the whole evening to do it, or I get out those old black pots!

So: am I advocating that you all should run out and buy pressure canners? Absolutely not. I would say put it on your wish-list if you plan to do both as much, and as many, varied different kinds of food preservation as we do around here. But if you buy your produce in big quantities from the farmer's market, as I used to do as a city girl, those big boiling-water pots work just fine! For jams, pickles, and simple tomatoes, this may be all you need. For other stuff, though, yeah, pressure canning is the way to go.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Paper or plastic?

I've started packing things away for the end of this growing season.

One way to preserve the harvest, of course, is to preserve the next one! These are sprouted lettuces. I cut the stalks, place them blossoms-down in paper bags, and then hang them up (closing the bags first) on the walls and rafters of the potting shed. I don't deal with them, then, until early next spring, when I crush the dried blossoms to release the tiny seeds.

After I bag and hang the seed heads, I chop down the rest of the stalks to about 2-3" above ground. I cover the bed with a good 2" of compost, then another 5-6" or more of grass clippings. The worms appreciate the cover of the clippings and the food in the compost, and the lettuce stalks and roots slowly decompose and aerate the soil at the same time.

All this nonsense takes me about 15 minutes to do. I find I have an endless supply of lettuce seed, though, for a little bit of effort.

Geek notice: Lettuces do cross-pollinate, though the extent to which they do is debatable. This is the second year of these three particular types, and I have grown and harvested them side-by-side the whole time. They still appear to be that which they were originally (namely, Green Oak Leaf, Amish Deer Tongue, and Green Bibb lettuce), so I continue to grow them in the same bed.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Return of the Salad

Yay Autumn! Cooler weather means cool salad greens.

I so looked forward to the day that those little seeds would sprout. Tender greens bolt into hot bits of cellulose here usually around the end of June. For years past, I have tried in vain to find something to substitute for those little bites for July-September. Malabar spinach, amaranth, chopped cabbage, some more stalwart Asian mustards...blah! So this year I gave in and went without.

Like awaiting that first tomato, the return of the Salad is something to be savored, to be...celebrated. So we did, last night. Bread, soup and...salad.

And the best part? The kid kept asking for more.

Waste not!

Here is one way of making sure your grape harvest won't go to waste: have the middle school kids pick them all! They'll be making jam and juice in their classroom this afternoon.

(Now, if I could've only figured out how to make them pick the grapes for US...)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Fruit leather

Yet another example of our tightwaddery: Fruit Leather
(And yes, I either need better eyes or a better camera)

Okay, I admit it! Last night I cried "Uncle!" and went to bed at 9:30 after *only* decanting four gallons of grape juice into the freezer. I just did not have the energy to go on. Tom said he'd finish up, and he also said he'd use the residual grape pulp to make fruit leather.

If you are the parent of a small-ish child, you know the ubiquity of "fruit snacks," plastic packaged bits of carrageenan and maybe (maybe) 5% REAL fruit juice. I pack my kid's lunch every day, all organic, all home-grown, all whole foods, and yet I can't stop her from snacking on her friend Olivia's "Froot Snacks". But Hah! Revenge is sweet. And so is this grape leather.

Basically, any kind of fruit pulp (ground in a blender) that's dried in the oven overnight will result in leather. Some of the naturally drier/stringier/less sweet fruits like apples or peaches may need a bit of presweetening first to appeal to the young palate; we do add some spices to the apple leather we make. Tom looked at all our food preservation books, but he used the how-to's from this site to make the leather.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

On sweat

I kind of knew that putting chairs in the garden was a bad idea. Here they are this morning, receptacles of "stuff" like drying Hutterite Soup Beans and the ever-patient Mother of All Colanders

"Don't you ever just sit down and take it easy?" my next-door neighbor asks. I have just come with the Mother of All Colanders to load up with some freshly-washed grapes from the wheelbarrow that's in his front yard. (We still can't use our water for foodstuffs, so I am still schlepping back and forth to use his hose.)

"I don't know of any parent of a young kid who just sits down," I reply, hoping to divert him. This is my umpteenth trip with the colander: it's Sunday, and we're juicing the grapes.

I look at my stained fingers typing this. Every night has been devoted to filling up the larder, whether I am jam-making or saucing tomatoes or roasting eggplant or making vegetable stock. Call me a masochist, but frankly, I'm simply more of a glutton. There is something really--and excuse me for dipping into the woo-woo--centering about all this. I don't know. It's a purposeful way of being.

And it's a way of being that doesn't allow for much rest, at least at this time of year!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Lightening our load

Nabbed from a website.

SO! We have successfully made it through a summer without air conditioning here at Old Vines. The a/c window units are still gathering dust on their shelves out in Tom's garage. I am glad. We've used the whole-house fan some, but in general, it's fortunately not been a really hot year. If we have felt the heat, a dip in our daughter's kiddie pool or a swim in the lake have helped us deal with it.

That said, when Canning Season rolls around, I am compelled to turn on the stove and heat up the place. We know this will just have to happen. The house came with an old cookstove that can be hooked up to a propane tank: I suppose I could resort to that with my canning madness. But general cooking? Hmm, we still need to do a lot of that.

SO, again! What can we do that's environmentally sound? How about a solar cooker? I married McGuyver, after all: I have sent him searching out this task. These things can be as simple as a cardboard box and tinfoil. He will most likely put something together that's far more elaborate than that. And the best place to put it? Atop the chicken coop! It's on a 35* angle facing south.

And then there's the idea of a bread oven. We're investigating a purchase of land adjacent to our house (mainly so no yahoo builds on it); this land is a woodland now. A wood lot. Wood. Oven. They go together. When I was a Minneapolitan, I helped a couple different friends build their own pizza ovens. I had friends who were chefs, and this was an obvious extension of their breadmaking abilities. We also plan on building one for my daughter's school here, too. So, why not one here? Why not. Let's just do it.

I'm sure I will keep you informed about all this nonsense.

Monday, September 17, 2007

...and Sunday was Grape Day

Yes, everything else gets shoved aside when it's Harvest Season.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Saturday was Apple Day...

Child labor

Time for a turn with the cider mill

Time for another turn with the peeler/corer

I swear most of my posts for the Eat Local Challenge seem to be all about the wonders of Products, not Produce. Here I am, shilling for cider mill and peeler/corer producers everywhere, but I swear my natural instinct is What Would the Amish Do. As it was, the mill doesn't work too well with our mostly juice-less McIntosh apples, but that peeler/corer worked great. We ended up making 12 quarts and 7 pints of applesauce, one small thing of apple leather, and only half a gallon of juice.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Stepping down

Bloody Beatrice, Bonnie and the guineas out on patrol

Seasonal transition is fairly gradual here. I would think it is because we're zone 6-7 and are surrounded by zone 5, but really, it's just Lake Michigan.

I loved Minnesota, but it really didn't seem like too long a time between Air Conditioning Season and Heating Season. There was no gradual step-down; it was fairly quick. (And spring, I swear, took FOREVER!!!) But I am a great season-denier. And now I live in a place that supports this crazy tendency of mine. The leaves here have had the good sense to not shock me out of my revelry: they, on the extreme side, have turned yellow-green. Only on the drive to school do I see a few heraldic (panicky) sumac and maples who've gone over to the red end of the spectrum.

Today, though, it's 10:00 and it's 48*. I think my denial will not last long! Especially now that it is cider season.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Well prepared

Or, preparing for the well

We can't just, you know, have them dig a well in the front yard. Nope, we need to take down one tree and a few branches from two more trees, move one large perennial bed, and then move a whole bunch of stuff around in the basement.

Tom got to have "fun" yesterday with the chainsaw, and I with the chipper/shredder (think Fargo without the blood).

And no, we don't have "chainsaw art" where the tree was, though it certainly does appear that way in this picture!

1:00 p.m. Update:

Hey! I recognize that gray muck! That's our clay soil! This process is rather fascinating. From what I can understand, it's dug hydraulically. Fascinating. (And yes, our house does have a tin roof. It's the one thing we'll never have to replace!)

5:00 Update: A beautiful sight.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

More bugs

September is a beautiful month around here, but it is also Fruit Fly Month. Even if we don't have any fruit/veggies lying around, they manage to appear. So, this is how we solve that problem. Take a piece of paper, 8.5" x 11", the thicker the better. Make a cone with a small hole at the bottom. Tape together, then place over a jar in which you have placed a juicy piece of fruit. Voila.

The disgusting thing is this is one day's worth of bugs. I kill them by filling the jar with water (cone still intact) and adding a few drops of bleach.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Freezing herbs

Don't look too closely. It is very blurry.

This lack of water here at the house has put a serious dent in my plans for Greater Grape Domination. I've been canning and freezing still, somewhat miraculously, but somehow I don't have the heart to do anything grape-related over the next few days. (Maybe it's the fact that I have to boil water to wash, then rinse, the dishes. Maybe.)

BUT! Enough about me. I did manage to put away about a garbage bag full of basil into the freezer last night. This method works with most fleshy herbs, like parsley or cilantro, though basil is a great candidate as its flavor is so fickle and easily lost with cooking. (The other herb that freezes well this way is sorrel, but I know that is something not everyone has growing in their Back 40.) I lightly rinse then remove the leaves from basil that has not flowered, tearing them into small pieces. I put them into my grandmother's Cuisinart food processor (circa 1975 and still whirring away) with a tiny bit of water. I pulse to a mince (no further) then I scoop them into ice cube trays. Once they're frozen, I put them in a resealable freezer bag and keep them in the upstairs freezer for easy use. I will reheat one of those many jars of tomato sauce, and, at the end of the heating, I will pop in a cube, then toss the lot over some spaghetti for a quick winter meal.

Pretty easy-peasy.

My mom goes about 4 steps further by making actual pesto that she freezes in trays, then wraps the cubes individually in foil. This obviously works, too, but my husband isn't too hep on cheese and nuts, so I just stick to the simple stuff.

This is yet another entry into the Eat Local Challenge for preserving the harvest.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Oh, well....

Alot at stake

The one thing I didn't mention that happened Sunday evening, as I was washing up after my Grape-A-Thon, is that our well went out.

I can think of better ways to spend $5,000., can't you?

But honestly, the well was the ONE thing we hadn't replaced here on the homestead.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Behold, the magnificent grape

Ding! The Niagara grapes (Vitis labrusca) are ready. Time to harvest and process them.

Step one: Send child off for a day with her Nana. (This step is not really necessary; the circus, fortuitously, was in town. Believe me, the child will have other grape opportunities yet this year.)

Step two: Grab pruners and the wheelbarrow. Yes, the poop hauler/coop cleaner/dirt slinging wheelbarrow: I am of the school that, with a little effort, anything can be clean again. It's the only form of redemption I truly believe in. Now go out and hit the vineyard!

Step three: Shocking, but true: the first two vines made a wheelbarrowload! Egads. This here is about 60 pounds. Sixty pounds will yield about 5 gallons of juice. Considering I am working solo today, it's time to process the first barrow. (Notice Penny, ever wanting you to please, please throw her frisbee for her.)

So, over the next three hours, I hose off, then de-branch, this load of grapes in ten- to fifteen-pound increments. I take them inside, run them through the food mill, then squeeze the resulting juice through two cheesecloth-lined flour sack towels (one at a time). The juice goes in the fridge until I get a big batch. Then, I put the juice into freezer bags and pin the bags closed with clothespins to do a first freeze in the basement freezer. I will haul them out tomorrow and seal them for the final time.

A bit of background on the vines here: our farm is called Old Vines. It's an old fruit farm, one of thousands in this area; ours hasn't been a working farm for probably 30 years. The grapes, though, still produce; they're 80-90 years old. We have been organic since we started with them. Our method the first year was nothing, just to see what cooties came and ate them. Well, Japanese beetles were our pest of note. So that fall Tom started applying milky spore to the ground by the grapes. Last year was a no-harvest summer, as a very late frost wiped out the imminent fruits. This year? Bonanza. It was a near-drought year then tons of rain in August, so, um, we're overwhelmed. Tom sprayed kaolin clay on the leaves and fruit twice during the Japanese beetle push (late June through July). Kaolin colloidal clay is just that: clay, the kind you'd use in facial masks, interestingly. Well, it sure made for some pretty and mostly critter-free grapes, I will say. The leaf canopy was undamaged by the bugs, so the fruit production was enhanced.

You're just making juice, you ask? Yes, partially. Niagara grapes are the #1 grape used in this country for white grape juice. We'll thaw the bags in the winter and dilute the contents slightly for a morning beverage. Anyway, this is the simplest way that I process these growing things. I mentioned that for the September Eat Local Challenge, which emphasizes food preservation, I would start simple and move my way up to more "complicated" preservation methods. Dang, though, I am beat, as I did another wheelbarrow load after this one! Another 60 pounds, another five or so gallons. And this, quite frankly, is JUST THE WHITE GRAPES! Only 4 vines out of 44!!!!

(Yes, I will be getting help with the next batches...)

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Drying herbs

Lemon balm, tarragon, basil, summer savory and marjoram tied up and ready to go

With September's Eat Local Challenge's emphasis on food preservation, I thought I would show "easy stuff" first. Refrigerator pickles are easy. This is even easier.

A lot of the reasons I do what I do is because, in the country, I have no access to the gourmet establishments that populated my city life. Instead of doing without, though, now I am D.I.Y. But even when I was a city kid, I dried my own herbs. It was so easy to do. Considering how expensive spices can be, this certainly appeals to my tightwad side. And in the thick of winter, it is so nice to be able to grab a bit of summer seasoning off the shelf.

Not that I am growing cinnamon, vanilla, peppercorns or even ginger outside (though I could grow the latter, I suppose). Instead, most of the spices I grow fit in that generic French category of "fines herbes." These are the green ones that most of us can, and DO, grow in our North American gardens. Basil. Borage, chervil, cilantro (coriander), fennel, mint, marjoram, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, savory, thyme. Chives. Tarragon. Lemon balm, lemon grass. And Hungarian peppers can even be dried and ground into your very own paprika.

So, here's the procedure. Select the healthiest, strongest herbs: generally, they're at their peak before they go into flower. Go outside in the morning and cut some herb branches. If they are wet with dew, shake them off a bit and set them in the sun to dry (but not fry: it is important to watch out for this). DO NOT wash them off; just try to brush or shake off any of the dirt you see. Tie them up with some twine and place inside a small paper bag (lunch bags work well for this) that you have punched a bunch of small holes in. Cheesecloth also works: you must make sure, though, that the drying place is dark. Tie the bag around the branches and hang it up in a dry, dark, well-ventilated spot (not your kitchen, in other words: your bedroom, maybe, or your garage). The herbs should be dry in about 3 weeks. You can them remove the leaves from the stems and gently crush them or grind them as needed.

I love making my own herb mixes. Italian herb mix is one I use frequently (oregano, rosemary, thyme, marjoram and basil). The true Fines Herbes is an equal mixture of of the following: chervil, chives, parsley and marjoram (or tarragon). Bouquet garni is a stronger mixture of thyme, sage, and parsley, but, like Fines Herbes, its contents can vary. I am also a huge sucker for savory (both winter and summer) and thyme, so I make a big mix of that, too.

Confession here: I did a lot more herb-drying in Minneapolis, as those harsh Minnesota winters generally laid waste to all but my most hardy perennial herbs. Now? I am a lot more lazy, as our winters here are a lot more forgiving. I find that I can still go out in December and pick fresh, frost-bitten herbs for my cooking.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Ugly bugs

Did you ever wonder what those disgusting tomato hornworms look like when they grow up?

I found out yesterday...YUCK. It was so ugly I had to grab my gloves. I think the pink part behind its head freaked me out more than its size.

But around here, it's Chicken Dinner!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

A surprise

So, maybe those guineas aren't completely useless after all.

We got them because we lost a couple of hens to a hawk last year. Instead of getting a loud and obnoxious sex-crazed rooster with eyes peeled to the sky, we got loud and obnoxious guineas instead. I will have to take a picture of them, though it is hard: they're really skittish. Anyway, the guineas are loud and proud, and extremely alarmist about the slightest thing flying overhead. So they're useful.

I didn't expect eggs, though.

From all that I have read, these birds tend to lay in sneaky places, places other than the coop's three nesting boxes. Guess what. At least one of the guinea hens (there are three, plus a boy) is laying in the box. Just like the chickens.

So we cooked up our first one on Sunday for lunch. Economic, this egg. Not at all watery. Tiny yolk, thick white...and the most amazingly thick little shell and inner lining: I had to all but cut the darned shell open! It was TASTY.

But it sure would take a lot of them to make a souffle.

POSTSCRIPT: I spoke entirely too soon. I just went to investigate a particularly long guinea-screaming-session, and behold: behind the greenhouse garden, in the weeds, a guinea nest.

Little sneaks.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

So, you say you can't can...

Three weeks to go

...and I say you can can.

September is the Eat Local Challenge with an emphasis on preserving the harvest.

BY FAR, the easiest method of food preservation is cold storage (a la a root cellar), but I will get to that at a later post.

Right now, though, I would like to discuss refrigerator pickles. You need a refrigerator, pickling produce (cucumbers, green beans, even summer squash or corn), vinegar, a way to boil water, and some clean jars and lids. Oh, and some salt, and maybe some dill or other herbs. Here is a good site for refrigerated cucumber pickles. The one advantage that I have found to this method is that the lack of cooking makes for some crisp little salty treats.

Now, before you all rush out there to try this, realize that the USDA does not recommend doing any preservation without boiling-water bath canning or pressure canning. BUT, well, for years now I have made "Dilly Beans" with my first green beans and my first fresh dill. Basically, these are pretty little treats is all; I put up about four pints, wait 12 weeks, and then we eat them. Likewise, I make small batches of things like jam or pasta sauce that can be frozen or refrigerated if the harvest was too small to invest the time in getting out the glass jars. In other words, that precious space in the refrigerator? I'd rather it IS NOT taken up with canning jars!

But if you have extra refrigerator space, are afraid of canning, and you are a sucker for pickles, you should give this a try.

Monday, September 03, 2007

On the art front...

Okay, it's the third day in September and I have not mentioned yet that my husband's book (or monograph, if you want to be technical) went on sale on the first. Yes; he is an artist, an honest-to-pete, makes-a-living-doing-it artist. The book is published by Aperture, which is the premier book house for photographers' books.

It is a board book, in the same vein as that which we give our toddlers to mangle, but, in the words of my friend's eleven-year-old daughter, this is much more naughty. Well, the cover might be, just a bit...artistic license, you know? Anyway, if you're so inclined, you can read about it here.

What's funny is publications as disparate as Entertainment Weekly, Vanity Fair, Harper's, The New Yorker and full-on literary publications like The Georgia Review and Virginia Quarterly have either reviewed this book or have recognized his art. Which I take to mean that he's got broad appeal.

So go check it out. You should be able to find it at your local bookstore, but you can always get it on Amazon and other on-line stores.

Tom's galleries are Foley Gallery in NYC and Thomas Barry Fine Arts in Minneapolis.

One Local Summer 2007: Week Ten

Sweet potato flower (who knew?)

With this, the last week of August, our One Local Summer experiment has ended!

I hope you all had FUN with this challenge. I certainly learned a lot from all of you. This exercise may have been frustrating at times, and if anything it has proved to us that, like it or not, we have really become separated from the food-growing process. (I mean, my grandparents did not need to go 80 miles from their homes to find dairy and flour, as I have done!) With any hope, you've all done some thinking, and more than likely, you have inspired other people to consider their food miles. And let's not forget the food itself! YUM!

I recycled the meal
I made for the last meal for One Local Summer last year. Very univentive, I know, but it was so good, I had looked forward to making it again this year...just needed some beans to ripen.

Matt in Iowa made two local dinners this week. He made his first pesto! And his mom promises to teach him how to make noodles for the next time he makes it. How great is that.

Lucette in Cleveland made a meal with simplicity and ease, she said. Listen to this: "vegetables chopped and sauteed to a sputter...." (I will certainly miss these tomato/cucumber daily salads in three months, won't all of you?)

Farm mom Ang in Michigan posts a lot of firsts in this week's meal. This challenge was really hard for her at first (she is surrounded by farms but nothing to eat), but with some effort, they've done it. And she says if she can, anyone can! Go see her Eggplant Parmigiana.

Emergency surgery and prolonged recovery has taken its toll on Frugalmom in Illinois. She hasn't posted to the challenge as much as she would have liked. That said, she reminds us that eating local need not be a complicated affair: a BLT or some home fries is a simple start.

Evie in South Dakota grabbed her last meal on the run: literally! She did not one but two marathons this week. (Whew.) Speaking of influencing people, she thinks this challenge has helped her daughters the most, and will be something they remember through their lives.

Kelly in Ohio will be continuing the challenge on her blog. She feels that she hasn't made nearly all the recipes she wanted to try, so she needs a few more weeks! Now, that is inspiring. This final meal looked delicious and not too difficult, which is also inspiring.

I will say that Linda in Missouri has had some of the more interesting meals of the challenge: she really goes all-out! She put an Asian spin on this last one, using her own lemongrass and tag-sale dishes. Those cabbage rolls sure looked great!

Ohioans E4 and Lori made a huge haul at the farmer's market this week, but life's complications got in the way of a 100% local meal. (I think 90%, or even 50%, qualifies if your heart is in it!) But both their barbecue and its charcoal were local...

I realize that today is a holiday and that many of us are caught up in the frenetic pace that is Back To School season. If you're still planning on posting a meal, please do so: I will try to catch you all up on the One Local Summer site. I'm missing many of my usual Midwesterners this week, so I hope you can still participate!

Thank you, Liz, for dreaming up this challenge!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

The Last Supper

The Last Supper (of One Local Summer 2007)
and Meal #1 of the month-long Eat Local Challenge for September, 2007

Am I saving the best until last? Well, maybe. How about the most time-consuming. Though this is a great meal to put together if someone's hovering about your kitchen, chatting with you while you work.

Paula Wolfert, whom I generally consider a windbag, I readily concede knows her way around a kitchen. Her take on the Provencal soup Soupe au Pistou was amazingly delicious last year when I first made it. (Yes, how ridiculous is that: I am recycling my last supper from last year's One Local Summer!) You see, I've been judiciously watching the ripening of my Flageolet shell beans in preparation for this soup this year. All other stuff came from the garden, and the butter (yay!) came with a wink and a nod from a vendor at a local farmer's market (it's illegal to sell raw milk products in Michigan). The noodles are quasi-local too; coming from another farmer's market in Indiana.

I also made a roulade (basically, a rolled-up souffle) with a roasted tomato filling, topped with some Amish farmer's cheese.

A salad of fresh tomatoes rounded things out. My mom and brother were our guests. (I called Mom this morning, knowing she was coming by to take the kid to the beach, and asked if she planned on staying for supper. "Of course; I am no fool," she said.) It was great!

Okay. The Eat Local Challenge thing: I certainly won't be posting daily meals, though I might do weekly. This local-eating thing is kind of old hat with us. But I will be posting about ways to save the harvest, as that is the challenge of this month's Challenge. I'm looking at all the fruit still coming down the line (pears, apples, and all those hundreds of pounds of grapes on our vines) so just getting ahead of all that WILL be a challenge! Stay tuned...