Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Along these lines, in the coming year I hope to greatly expand our backyard vegetable gardens. I'll be trying to grow some things I haven't planted before (such as Delicata squash, melons, and curly kale) - and I'll also be planting greater quantities of tomatoes, cucumbers, snap peas, Brussels sprouts, and other favorites. This means more raised beds will need to be built - lots of work to be done outside!
I also hope to finally pull everything together such that I can add chickens to our little world in 2010 - again, lots of work to be done first, building them a coop and a run so we can keep them safely in our yard and out of the neighbors' yards! I love reading about other local folks' chicken adventures - helps me remember that this is definitely "doable" in my neck of the woods!!
Anyway, so given my 2010 plans, my gardening obsession, and my love of sheep (I don't have real sheep of my own (yet!!) but I do have a collection of sheep decorating my fireplace mantel...) I thought one of my Christmas gifts from my husband was just perfect. He took a "found" planter, cleaned it up and patched a hole in the bottom, and then painted it for me.
"Ewe plant" - makes me smile every time I look at it. And it really does just say it all - doesn't it?
Happy New Year, all!!
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Just wanted to take a minute to wish everyone a wonderful holiday season.
May your days be filled with -
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
I like cookie recipes that don't make TOO many cookies, as I for one can leave no cookie uneaten. If it's here in the house, it's gone before I know it!! So a recipe that makes just about 2 dozen cookies works for me - plenty for everyone in the family to enjoy, but not so many that we enjoy them to excess.
This butter cookie recipe makes 2 to 2 1/2 dozen happy little cookies - and it's nice and simple. Not too many ingredients - and all things I usually have on hand.
Oh - before I share the recipe, I'll share a picture of Mo-pug, who was happy this morning to discover that I am a messy baker. She stood in the kitchen trying to catch flour as it floated to the floor. Note the white sprinkles on the normally all-black puggy chin. She cracks me up!!
A super simple centerpiece, and a happy holiday creation - without spending a dime. Works for me (grin)!!
Monday, December 21, 2009
I missed posting my Week 4 Dark Days meal - oops!! Something about December - it flies right by sometimes!
For Week 5's Dark Days meal, we decided last night (once we were done shoveling snow!) to "think warm" and barbecue! We pulled some chicken legs (Hayward Farm) out of the freezer and put them on the grill. Then we quartered some Meadow's Mirth white onions, put them on skewers, and out onto the grill they went as well. I love grilled onions. Of course I love onions just about any way they can be cooked - so I'm easy on that count (grin). We had the oven on for a banana bread anyway (just about nothing local in that baking project!!) - so we threw in a couple of the sweet potatoes we got from Ramsbotham's Farm.
It was a simple meal - chicken, onions, and baked sweet potatoes - but a super tasty one!
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Saturday, December 19, 2009
In Newmarket, we bought garlic, eggs, and a handful of packets of High Mowing Organic Seeds (delicata squash, cucumbers, melons, snap peas, and pattypan squash). It's great fun to be thinking about next year's garden as more snow heads our way this weekend!!
Then in Rollinsford, we stocked up on storage onions, potatoes, broccoli, and more garlic- and we also got some kielbasa. I was hoping to find cauliflower and Brussels sprouts too - but they were sold out by the time we arrived. Next time!
The next markets in this area aren't until January 9 in Exeter, and January 16 in Rye and Newmarket - and I'm looking forward to them already!
Thursday, December 17, 2009
My engineer husband has been having tons of fun figuring out which appliances we should definitely be unplugging when they're not in use (like our copier/printer/fax, which so far (even though it puts itself in "sleep" mode) has about double the phantom load of anything else we've measured in the house!) - and which we apparently need not unplug (like our lamps that are on wall switches, which have zero phantom load as long as the wall switches are off).
Right now, our refrigerator is plugged into the meter. We're leaving it there for 24 hours so we can get a good picture of how much electricity it is using, and whether a new refrigerator is in order or if the one we have is still running "typically" in terms of energy usage.
I'm sure our electric bill will be a little higher than usual this month, on account of the handful of Christmas lights we have up outside - but I'm hoping the "phantom load" exercise will help us bring the bill down as we head into 2010.
I've read that many libraries are starting to have the meters available for borrowing - might be worth looking into if haven't tried one yet, and you're curious about energy usage at your house too!
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Today we picked up the kale, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, eggs, onions, and potatoes pictured above - as well as some ground pork, pork tenderloins and kielbasa. Our items came from Ramsbotham's Farm, New Roots, Meadow's Mirth, Heron Pond, Hollister's Family Farm... I think that's everyone!
There's another Seacoast Eat Local winter market next Saturday - this time in Exeter, NH. I'm looking forward to it - and I'm hoping to have a little more time next week to check out the tables of some of the farms and vendors who we haven't purchased from yet!!
Friday, December 4, 2009
We make our meatballs with 1/2 ground beef and 1/2 ground pork - plus an egg, chopped onion and garlic, a little cumin, and a touch of salt. We cook them in a "Cuban style" tomato sauce (rather than Italian). To make the sauce, we start with a sofrito of chopped tomato, garlic, and onion heated in a little oil - then we add plain tomato sauce, dry white wine, a touch of salt, and the meatballs, and cook together until the meat is done.
When we make meatballs, we always make enough to have leftovers, as they taste fabulous the next day in a toasted sandwich, or (my favorite way) reheated, cut into small pieces, and scooped up with corn tortilla chips.
Local ingredients for this week's Challenge meal are the pork (Jenness Farm - not only do they have goat products, but they also sell pork at their farm store!), ground beef (Pinewoods Yankee), egg (Stonewall Farm), tomato (from a small farm in Lee, frozen by us for winter use), tomato sauce (made this summer from some of our CSA tomatoes, and frozen), garlic (Tuckaway Farm), and onions and potatoes (both from Meadow's Mirth). Non-local ingredients are the salt, cumin, oil, and dry wine.
Saws are available at the farm - but make sure you wear your boots! There were lots of trees from which to choose! And some trees had already been chosen - my son enjoyed counting rings to see how old some of the trees were when they were cut down! We chose a 7' tall Concolor Fir. We have cut a Concolor each of the last 10 years - they're pretty trees with long, soft, blue needles. And the trees smell like oranges, which I think is wonderful - Christmas wouldn't feel the same in our house without one!!
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Monday, November 30, 2009
Number of real Christmas trees sold in the US in 2008 - 28.2 million
Number of artificial trees imported into the US in 2008 (mostly from China) - 8.9 million
Pounds of plastic (mostly PVC) contained in a typical artificial tree - 7.3
Number of years a person must reuse an artificial tree before it has a lower carbon footprint than a real tree (according to one study) - 20
Number of years an artificial tree is typically reused before being thrown into the landfill - 6 to 9
Most real Christmas trees come from farms, not forests. They are a crop that is designed to be harvested in "rounds" (each year as trees are cut, more are planted), and typically have little to no pesticides sprayed on them over their growing years.
And my favorite tidbit from my reading - "Artificial trees come in a cardboard box. Does that save a tree?" That one made me laugh!
We get a "cut your own" Christmas tree each year from Warren Farm in Barrington. Going out in the fields to choose a tree is one of my favorite Christmas activities - especially when there's snow on the ground and the fields are looking wintery and beautiful! When Christmas is over, we always lay the tree out in the woods in back of our house, and it becomes a hideout for critters like squirrels and birds. Many bigger towns offer Christmas tree pick-up, and turn the trees into compost or woodchips. All good!
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
I hadn't had a chance to share the photo yet, but when I read the Colors of November post over at Life Looms Large, I thought this would be fun to add to the MckLinky that Sue has set up for folks from around the world to share their own pictures of colors in nature. Thanks Sue, for the fun post - I'm looking forward to seeing what photos people share!!
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Today, in honor of the fabulous winter farmers' markets we went to yesterday, we had a stir-fry of broccoli, leeks, and garlic for dinner. I bought the broccoli yesterday from Heron Pond Farm, and I had bought the leeks and garlic at the Portsmouth market before the season ended. I think I have enough garlic stored right now to last until next summer... love garlic - can't be without it!! Leeks on the other hand, I need to pick up more of at the next market. They're on the list!
To go with the stir-fry, we had baked sweet potatoes from Ramsbotham's farm. Yum! No photos this week as my camera battery was charging - but next week I'll definitely include pictures...
Non-local ingredients for this meal were the oil and dark soy sauce - and everything else was straight from the farm!
Saturday, November 21, 2009
We started our day at the Newmarket market at the Stone Church, as it's closer to our house than Rollinsford, and we knew Tuckaway Farm would be there (I love their veggies!). In Newmarket, we bought potatoes, Brussels sprouts, turnips, onions, and bok choy.
Then we headed up to Rollinsford. The Wentworth greenhouse is an awesome place for the market - there were tons of people shopping, but it didn't feel overcrowded or loud - it was just a "happy, bustling busy little place," as we heard one person say. In Rollinsford, we picked up ground pork, broccoli, rutabaga, and more potatoes and onions.
Not only are we set for Thanksgiving now, but we should have plenty of local food to last til the next market (in Rollinsford, December 5th)!
Speaking of the farmers' markets, I realized last night as I was making my shopping list for today that I think our Thanksgiving is just about all locally-sourced this year. Our turkey, squash, turnips, potatoes, onions, and garlic are all from local New Hampshire farms. The pumpkin and eggs for the pumpkin pie are from local farms too. The cranberries for the cranberry sauce are from Massachusetts. And our butter is from Cabot (a cooperative that includes farms from New England and upstate New York). I think the only non-local items we'll be using are the condensed milk for the pie, flour, salt/pepper/spices, and oil. Pretty nifty - the opportunity to access local foods even in the "dark" months is definitely something I'm thankful for this year!!
Monday, November 16, 2009
And what happened was... actual Brussels sprouts started to grow! What had been tiny little pea-sized sprouts got larger and larger, and finally today they were ready to harvest!
Our first ever bowl of homegrown Brussels sprouts - a very, very happy thing!!
Saturday, November 14, 2009
We also checked on the status of our Thanksgiving turkey, since the farmer who raised him was at the market today too. Our turkey is also coming from Madbury this year - and, as it turns out, is on his way to "the end" this very day (or as the farmer's mother said, "oh yep, he should be quite literally losing his head right now..." - gotta love a sense of humor!). Previous years we've bought our turkey from a farm in Deerfield, NH, but they're doing less farming (and no meat) this year - so we have a new turkey farm. Hard to believe Thanksgiving is really next week - where did 2009 go??
Hope you're having a great weekend!
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Thought I'd share the recipe we used to make our own hot chocolate mix this week. After making our own, I can see now why so many people give pretty jars of homemade mix for Christmas presents - it's quick and simple to make, and (my opinion) it tastes much better than store-bought!
We found the basic recipe on foodnetwork.com, and modified a little (we omitted the cayenne pepper and the corn starch). It makes 5 1/2 cups dry hot chocolate mix -
2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup cocoa (Dutch-process preferred)
2 1/2 cups powdered milk
1 teaspoon salt
Hot water (or warm milk)
1. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and incorporate evenly.
2. In a small pot, heat 4 to 6 cups of water.
3. Fill your mug half full with the mixture and pour in hot water (or warm milk).
4. Stir to combine.
5. Seal the rest of the mix in an airtight container - keeps indefinitely in the pantry.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Food, Inc. is definitely worth seeing if you haven't yet - I, for one, can't get the images of the sad, sick cows in the feedlots and at the slaughter houses out of my head. I'm so happy there are so many folks here in New Hampshire who offer local, humane-raised meats. Thank you farmers!!
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Last year, we planted in October, and as soon as the ground thawed in Spring, we had green shoots of garlic peeking out of the soil. So, since it worked out well, we're planting in October again this year.
To plant garlic, we start with bulbs from a couple different local farms (we had intended to save some of the garlic bulbs we harvested from our own garden for planting, but ended up using them all for cooking. Next year we'll remember to save our own seed stock (I hope!!)). We split the bulbs into their individual cloves.
Then we take each clove and plant it "pointy side up" so that the tip is just covered with soil (don't plant too deep).
We plant additional cloves every 5 inches. I'm married to an engineer, who does no planting without his trusty tape measure... :-)
We use craft sticks to label our rows, as someone once gave me a box of 1,000 that they didn't need - plenty for many years of labelling!
Once we've planted and labeled, we take Fall leaves (we have lots of those around here!) and cover the rows, as I've read that this helps fertilize the garden bed since the leaves decompose over Winter. Come Spring, we remove whatever hasn't decomposed, and the soil underneath has always looked nice and rich and ready for planting!
That's all there is to it - a couple minutes spent outside, and you get a nice harvest of yummy garlic come the following summer. Growing garlic is definitely lots of fun - not too much work - and given that none of our other below-ground crops (carrots, beets, radishes etc.) worked out too well this year, I'm guessing if garlic will grow at our house, it will grow at your house too!!
Also worth noting - Food, Inc. is being released on video this coming Tuesday (November 3). I had thought about pre-ordering it on Amazon, but decided instead to wait and see if our local video rental store is going to have it available. I still haven't seen the movie, and am looking forward to doing so hopefully next week!
Even though Exeter is ending, the Portsmouth market is still on through November 7. And then the Seacoast winter markets start up pretty quickly after that (November 21 is the first in Rollinsford).
In this past Saturday's pouring rain we happened to be driving by Northwood's "off season" market location on Route 4, so we stopped in - it was definitely worth the stop, as we got a dozen of the best eggs we've had all year, and some nice tomatoes. The next Northwood market is November 7 - and then there will be another on November 21. The market is held at the Masonic Lodge, next to the municipal lot at the traffic light where Routes 4, 202/9, and 43 come together.
Lots of great opportunities to buy fresh, local produce and other foods this Fall and Winter!!
Monday, October 26, 2009
Speaking of gardening, I've decided to use leftover seeds from this summer to try growing some lettuce indoors this Fall - I'll be planting it this week, and we'll see what happens. I'm hoping I can grow at least some baby lettuce - and I think I'm going to try chard too - as well as basil, chives, and parsley while I'm at it. I'm not sure what will grow well inside and what won't - though from what I've seen online, folks manage to grow all sorts of things indoors without benefit of a greenhouse (now a greenhouse would be LOTS of fun!!) - can't wait to see what kind of luck I have and will keep you posted!
Rb - "Mom, where does chicken come from?"
Me - "It comes from the farm."
Rb - "No - where does it REALLY come from?"
Me - "Well, it comes from chickens."
Rb - "WHAT?? Chicken is CHICKENS!!??"
With that he pushed his plate away and that was it - a couple follow up questions about beef and pork, and he's never touched meat again. Beef being cows and pork being pigs was one thing - but the clincher was the chickens. You see, Rb loves chickens - like really, truly loves them. If we go to a farm and there are other kids there, we usually see them clustered around the pigs or the goats or the cows... but my son can always be found with the chickens. There used to be a farm in Epsom that sold milk, chicken, pork, veggies, etc. The first time we went there to pick up some meat, they gave us a tour of the farm. They wanted to show us the dairy cows - but Rb stepped one foot into the big old barn where the chickens were roosting (it was after dark when we arrived) and that was it - he was thrilled - stood there among his chicken friends smiling and chatting quietly with them, while we grown-ups talked with each other. One of the farmers kept asking him "don't you want to see the baby cows?" but there was no convincing him that the cows could possibly be as entertaining as the birds. Finally, it was time to go and the farmer said "well that's a first - I've never seen a child skip the cows!" Rb still talks about that barn full of birds - I think he'll remember it always!
Anyway, so long story slightly longer, we've been buying Gardenburgers for Rb, since making him beef burgers is out of the question - but I'd much rather make him something homemade. I've looked online and there are zillions and zillions of veggie burger recipes - but it's awfully hard to decide which ones sound good and which ones might come out well. So if you've tried making your own veggie burgers, and you have a recipe or a technique you'd recommend or like to share, I'd love to know!
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
We don't yet buy our milk "straight from the farm," as we do with our meat and eggs. I know there are many, many benefits to non-pasteurized milk - but for some reason, I have something of a mental block on this one. I for too long have heard that pasteurized milk is "safe" and I haven't yet convinced myself to move past this. We're all works in process, right?
So we don't buy farm-fresh local milk, but we do buy organic Stonyfield Farm milk. Stonyfield is more local than some alternatives, but then not completely local as their milk is processed and packaged here in New Hampshire but actually comes from the Eastern US (not just New England). Again, for us it's a compromise. One of the ways we came to the decision to use this brand was by using the organic milk ratings put out by the Cornucopia Institute. They give Stonyfield a rating of "three cows out of five" - some of the other organic milks that I've seen sold at area stores (Horizon, Organic Cow, etc.) received "zero cows" - making me happy we've stayed away from those!
What about you - do you get your milk from local farms? Was it an easy decision for you, or did you struggle with the idea at first? I'd love to know!
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Hope you're having a great weekend!
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Today for dinner, we're going to use the remainder of the bok choy that we picked up at the Portsmouth market this weekend, potatoes, leeks, carrot, and garlic from today's share, plus some of the chicken stock that we made yesterday, to make Bok Choy Soup. The recipe is from Green Earth Institute. We made it last Fall too - it's perfect for a chilly Fall day!
Bok Choy Soup
1 teaspoon butter
1/2 cup minced leek or onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 baby bok choy, thinly sliced
8 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
2 teaspoons dried chervil (optional)
2 teaspoons dried marjoram
1 carrot, peeled and grated
3 ounces dry vermicelli
Salt and pepper
1. Place butter and 1/4 cup water in soup pot; add leeks and garlic and cook slowly until beginning to brown.
2. Add bok choy, chicken broth and 2 cups water; bring to boil.
3. Add potatoes, optional chervil, marjoram, and carrot.
4. Simmer 25 minutes.
5. Add vermicelli; cook 10 minutes.
6. Add salt and pepper to taste.
7. Serve, and enjoy! Makes 8 servings.
There are lots of winter farmers' markets planned for the upcoming months (see Seacoast Eat Local, Living the Local Life, and What Did She Do Today for dates and details). This many winter markets will definitely make continued local eating more "doable" than it has been in previous years (when there were holiday markets, but not much after December). But we're still making sure we have favorites on hand - tomatoes, corn, peppers, shredded zucchini, and scallions in the freezer, and winter squash in wire bins that we got from Freecycle.
One of my son's favorite homeschooling projects so far this Fall was weighing all the squash (one-by-one) that we'd brought home, and making a chart of the weights. Learning is everywhere with homeschooling - and he loves using the kitchen scale!
The acorn and delicata squash won't store for as long as the butternut and spaghetti squash, but we're stocking up on as much as we'll be able to enjoy before it goes bad. Winter squash needs to be kept in a cool-not-cold location to hold the best - since we don't have a root cellar, we'll be keeping ours in a far corner of the upstairs bedroom, as when we use the wood stove to heat, one side of the upstairs is the last to get warm. I read somewhere that if you crate your squash in containers that allow air circulation through the sides, and then place a piece of plywood on top, you have a handy nightstand. It made me smile to know I'm not the only person with squash in the bedroom!!
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Layered Potatoes and Leeks
2 medium leeks, thinly sliced
3 cups fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups potatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces yogurt
Sauté leeks, mushrooms, garlic and rosemary in olive oil until leeks are tender but not brown.
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boil; add potatoes and return to boiling. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 3 minutes. Drain.
Grease a 1 1/2 quart casserole. Arrange 1 cup of the potato slices over the bottom of the dish, overlapping slices if necessary. Spoon one third of the leek mixture over potatoes. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of the cheese. Repeat layering with potatoes, leek mixture and cheese to make 6 layers. Drizzle top with 1 tablespoon olive oil.
Bake uncovered in a 400 degree F. oven about one hour or until potatoes are golden brown and tender. Let stand 10 minutes. Serve with yogurt.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
This is the last week until November for the Newmarket market. In Newmarket, we picked up some Brussels sprouts, and broccoli. I love Brussels sprouts! When we were bagging them up, a couple walked by us - the woman gasped and said, "look at those people - they're buying BRUSSELS SPROUTS" - and the man replied, "well dear, some people do actually like them..." It made me laugh - she doesn't know what she's missing. Fresh-picked Brussels sprouts, steamed and served with a tiny bit of butter, are nothing but yummy!!
From Newmarket, we headed to Barker's farm stand - where we picked up a pie pumpkin, storage onions, and some corn. It is a tradition in our family that every year for Thanksgiving, I make a slightly overcooked pumpkin pie (my stepfather would say "burned" - but I prefer "slightly overcooked" (grin)) . As I've mentioned before, my husband does most of the cooking in our house (for which I am eternally grateful). But pie is something that I make every year. And for some reason, no matter how closely I watch the oven, and how much I try to avoid it happening, my pie is always a little on the well-done side of the spectrum. But it tastes good despite its appearance, and that's what counts, right? :-)
After Barker's we headed to Portsmouth. We hadn't been to the Portsmouth market for a couple months, and we were curious to see what treasures we would find. We brought home more broccoli, some baby bok choy, and a big bag of green beans. Looking forward to a stir fry for dinner tonight!