Friday, July 31, 2009

it really works!

This is Luanne. Luanne is a Norfolk Island Pine that I bought from a plant nursery in Connecticut about 15 years ago. She was maybe a foot tall when I brought her home - and she was just known as "the tree." Then a couple years later I met R, who has a tendency to name just about everything that holds still - so she became Luanne.

Luanne now stands over 6 feet tall - and several folks who have come to our house (she stands just inside the front door) have commented something to the effect of "wow - you must use a lot of Miracle Gro!"

Happy to say, Miracle Gro has never been part of Luanne's diet. Instead (and in addition to occasional top-dressings of worm compost) we feed her (and all our other house plants) water from our fish tank.

About once each month, we change out about 1/3 of the water in our fresh-water fish tank. Instead of dumping the nutrient-rich water, we take buckets of it around the house and make sure each plant gets some. From what I've read, fish water typically has lots of nitrogen, which makes plants happy. If Luanne is any example, I'd even say "super happy!!" If you have a fresh-water tank, and you have house plants, give it a try - it really works!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

csa, and cold cucumber salad

Tomatoes and cucumbers were part of our CSA share for the first time this year - hooray! They join pattypan squash, Swiss chard, lettuce, garlic, fresh onions, a bouquet of zinnias (I love zinnias!) and more of those yummy carrots.

When we were at the farm picking up our share, we saw bees busy at work -

And lots of beautiful flowers!

This evening with some of the cucumbers, we'll be making this recipe for Cold Cucumber Salad - found in several places online including the Food Network site. We make it a few times each year - might not be the healthiest dish, with both mayonnaise and sour cream in it (though we do sometimes substitute plain yogurt for the sour cream) - but it sure is tasty!!

You'll need -
2 cucumbers
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Peel and slice the cucumbers and put them in a glass bowl.
2. Sprinkle them with salt and vinegar.
3. Cover and let stand for 30 minutes.
4. Pour off the excess liquid and drain in colander for about 30 minutes to allow complete drainage.
5. Add the mayonnaise, sour cream, dill and pepper, and mix well.
6. Cover and refrigerate until serving time.
7. Enjoy!

a fabulous freecycle find

On my never-ending to do list, we find #3 - learn to sew.

The rest of the list (in no particular order) includes things like... build more raised garden beds, plant peas and lettuce for fall harvest, get chickens, start worms on processing rabbit manure, build rabbit hutch, learn to knit, give up paper towels... it goes on. Having all these things written down helps remind me of the concrete steps I want to take to become both more "green" and more self-sufficient.

So anyway, a couple days ago on Freecycle I saw a posting for a sewing machine - so I emailed the "giver" and was fortunate to be offered the machine. Little did I realize that not only would I be receiving a great old Singer "work horse" - but also this beautiful work table/cabinet!

The "giver" said the machine had worked last he knew, but it had been in the basement for quite a while, so he couldn't guarantee that it still would. But sure enough - we cleaned it up a little (still need to give it an even better cleaning and oiling), plugged it in, and away it went stitching up a proverbial storm. I took a couple home economics classes in high school, and haven't sewed since - but I had no idea that R used to play with his mother's antique sewing machine all the time when he was little. He's full of surprises! He knew just how to thread this one, and get it going - and I think we have ourselves a machine that will do everything I need it to, as far as letting me learn how to sew and mend.

I have to say - thank you to everyone who Freecycles!! Keeps usable things out of the landfill, and gives old treasures a great chance for a new life. All good!!

So, my next step? Time to get reading and practicing! Our town library has lots of great sewing books, and I've heard there's lots of simple online sewing tutorials out there in cyberspace as well. If there are any websites or books you recommend, let me know. I can't wait to see what I can learn!!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

garden visitor

I was out in the garden today, checking on the bean flowers (high hopes for green beans coming soon!), and picking the cabbage worms off the Brussels sprout plants (yuck!!) and I spotted this little guy on a piece of wood watching me. It looks like he's smiling - which keeps making me smile, every time I look at this photo!!

Monday, July 27, 2009

can pugs eat local too?

Mo-pug thinks she definitely should be invited to the local-eating table, yes she does.

durham farmer's market trip

At the Durham farmers' market today, we were excited to see apples at the Applecrest Farm tent. Had to bring some home, as Rb loves apple slices with breakfast!

We also brought home broccoli from Applecrest, an eggplant from Nelson Farm, and cucumbers from Back River Farm. Now I'm not sure if it'll be ratatouille for dinner tonight, since we still have tomatoes, zucchini, and onions left from last week's market trips and CSA share, or if we'll wait until tomorrow for that and enjoy the broccoli tonight instead... what I do know is that I'm hungry just thinking about it!!

Thought I'd share our favorite way to make a super simple ratatouille - there are certainly many other versions and methods, but on a hot summer day when we don't want to heat the kitchen up with too much cooking, this is the one we usually go with. Tastes great over pasta or rice, or as a side dish paired with spicy grilled chicken - yum!

You'll need -
2 tbsp oil
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tomatoes, chopped
1 eggplant, peeled and cubed
1 zucchini, cubed
Light salt and pepper

1. Saute onion and garlic until soft.
2. Stir in everything else.
3. Cover and simmer 30 minutes until vegetables are tender.
4. Serve, and enjoy!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

garden update

Took a few garden pictures today, between rain storms. It was great to see the sunshine and blue sky yesterday, and a little today too - we've had so little of it, it seems like a wonderful treat when it's here!

This year so far, we've harvested lots of snap peas, 3 fairly small tomatoes, some baby Swiss chard leaves, leaf-lettuce, 3 bulbs of garlic, plenty of fresh dill, and some onion greens.

We have hope that we'll see a better yield the second half of Summer. Hope does spring eternal, it's true (grin). We're waiting on Brussels sprouts, broccoli, tomatoes, green beans, more Swiss chard and lettuce, pumpkins, onions, and both pattypan squash and zucchini. Still no summer squash from our garden, and it's almost the end of July - but we do have squash blossoms, so baby squash should be on the way soon!!

In addition to more lettuce, and possibly some cabbage, we're hoping to plant a Fall crop of snap peas. But first we need to figure out when those need to go in the ground to be successful. Any thoughts, fellow New Englanders??

On to the photos... This is the biggest Brussels sprout plant we have right now, and one of the five surviving broccoli plants (the rest were wiped out by slugs and cabbage worms). It looks like we may have a broccoli head starting to form on one plant, but it's hard to tell. Based on when we started the seeds, the broccoli should have been ready long before now, but seems it didn't work out that way.

This is our biggest zucchini plant - the blossoms are on the other side, hidden by the leaves.

And here we have my favorite tomatoes (Juliette) - all still green, but there are clumps of them on each plant. Hooray! There's Swiss chard and squash behind the tomatoes, too. Baby Swiss chard is awesome in salads. Juliette tomatoes are wonderful in salsa, and would have been great in yesterday's supper dish. I'm definitely looking forward to being able to pick some of our home-grown ones soon!

tasty tomato dish

Last night for dinner we were looking for something simple and summery, so we tried a recipe from the book From Asparagus to Zucchini (a very awesome book full of great vegetable-oriented recipes, tips, and ideas!).

We had a bunch of tomatoes left from the farmers' market, so I turned to the tomato section, and this recipe caught my eye. It was really yummy - though I think when I took some of the tomato/feta/sauce mixture and put it on top of homemade French bread toast, I liked it even better than I did on the spaghetti. Very tasty!!

Here's the recipe, with thanks to the Asparagus to Zucchini folks, and with a couple little modifications! Enjoy!

You'll need -
1/2 lb uncooked spaghetti
1/4 cup olive oil
2 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
2 cups chopped tomatoes (which worked out to 2 large tomatoes)
salt and pepper
feta cheese

1. Cook the pasta until just tender (as directed on package).
2. While the pasta's cooking, whisk the lemon juice and olive oil together in a bowl, and add salt and pepper to taste.
3. When the pasta's done, drain, and place in a large bowl. Add the lemon/oil dressing and combine well.
4. This is where we deviated from the book - the recipe calls for you to place the pasta on a platter and top with the tomatoes, but we kept it in the large bowl as it seemed easier to serve from there... so at this point, we added the tomatoes on top of the pasta, and mixed it all together so the tomatoes would also get some of the sauce on them.
5. Serve, top each serving with as little or as much feta as desired, and enjoy!

sunday shopping

In addition to continued sales on school supplies, we found a couple other good deals at CVS this week.

Kashi cereal and TLC bars are on sale 3/$10, and you get $5 back in Extra Care Bucks if you buy 3. If you print 3 of the $1.50 coupons from Vocalpoint (or elsewhere online), you can get 3 boxes of bars for what ends up being 50 cents total after Extra Care Bucks.

If you also have the $1.00 off Colgate Total coupon from the inserts in today's paper, they have Total toothpaste for $2.88, with $2.00 back in Extra Care bucks. Using the coupon, the toothpaste is "better than free" after Extra Care bucks.

I went to CVS this morning and picked up the Kashi bars and the toothpaste, plus some of the free-after-Extra Care Bucks sticky notes and a couple other little things I needed. This brought my total to just over $20, allowing me to use the $4 off $20 CVS coupon that I got in my email (by signing up to receive CVS emails, I find I get a $4 off $20 coupon at least monthly). Since (with coupons) I spent just over $6 cash out of pocket, and got $9.98 back in Extra Care Bucks to spend next time (plus another $4 off $20 coupon printed at checkout, that doesn't expire until some time in August!), it was definitely a worthwhile trip to the store!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

one local summer, stir-fried

Tonight for dinner, we decided to make a simple stir fry. We picked up broccoli at the Lee farmers' market this afternoon (since we ate our CSA broccoli with dinner last night!), and we had carrots from CSA. We added snap peas, garlic, and onion greens from our own garden. A little local chicken from the freezer, and some totally non-local dark soy sauce, and it all came together as a tasty meal!

Speaking of dinner, I also thought I would share this photo.

Our resident chipmunk (or some other little woodland creature) had my second home-grown almost-ripe tomato of the season for its dinner last night. Since tomatoes in our area are really struggling this year, I was very much looking forward to enjoying this one. I guess someone else had his eye on it too. He ate half, and left the rest in the bed where the onions are trying to grow. You can see the slugs next to the tomato, and the moss at the edge of the photo. This summer in New England really has been a wet one! There's a flood watch for our county right now, with 2-4" of rain possible tonight into tomorrow afternoon. I just hope the garden can handle more water!!

excedrin deal at walgreens

Walgreens has Excedrin on sale for $6.99, buy one box get one free. If you print 2 coupons, you'll pay $4.99 total for the 2 boxes, and then you'll get $5.00 back in Register Rewards that you can use on your next purchase, making the Excedrin essentially free. We picked up 2 boxes today - great deal!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

meet yoda

Yoda (in addition to being Rb's new best friend) could be considered our family's first "working" animal (our other animals don't do much work, unless you count playing and sleeping as chores... (grin)). He is a Creme d'Argent rabbit, and we brought him home yesterday. We have only about 3/4 acre of land and we live in a small neighborhood, so when it comes to adding livestock to our little homestead, we need to build up slowly. We decided to start with rabbits, because rabbit manure is wonderful for gardens, and from what I've read, rabbit manure that's been "processed" by compost worms is even more wonderful. We've got plenty of worms in the basement (maybe they count as working animals too...), and gardens that we're hoping to rely on more each year for our veggies, so it seemed a good choice to bring rabbits into the mix.

We got Yoda from a rabbitry we were fortunate to find right here in New Hampshire. Our plan is to also get 1 or 2 young female rabbits at a later date, so we will have the ability to breed occasionally if we wish. This will allow us to both increase our own stock over time and also make some of the offspring available to other folks interested in getting involved with this rare breed (see the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy website for more information on the Creme d'Argent and lots of other livestock in danger of extinction). The Creme d'Argent is a meat rabbit by trade. R eats rabbit meat - I don't (or at least I haven't yet) - and Rb's a vegetarian. But the ability to produce some of our own meat, if we decide to go that route, is another factor in our breed choice.

So, Yoda is home, and (as Rb points out) he's cuddly and, when not cuddling, he's already started doing his job of providing us with plenty of manure. Way to go, little rabbit!

csa - hello carrots!

The unusual weather continues in New England (are we sure it's July??) - and along with the cooler-and-wetter-than-normal pattern, we are also still seeing many of the cool weather crops (which is a-ok with me as the longer I have snap peas around, the happier I am!!). This week's CSA share has some favorites from previous weeks (lettuce, squash, garlic, and those fabulous snap peas!) - and adds fresh onions, broccoli, and carrots! Yay! No tomatoes or cucumbers yet, but we hear they're coming soon. Happily we've been able to get both those (and more) at the area farmers' markets, so between the CSA and the markets, we have plenty of veggies to suit the tastes of everyone in the family.

Tonight for dinner we're having a local meal of Hayward Farms chicken from the Nottingham farmers' market (which R is going to saute in a little olive oil and season with red pepper flakes), CSA broccoli (lightly steamed), and pattypan squash casserole made once again with homemade French bread. Can't resist fresh broccoli - yum!! And the spicy chicken goes really nicely with the casserole - the combination makes for one of my favorite meals this time of year!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

garlic is good

We tried growing garlic for the first time this year. Since we've never had any luck in our garden beds with things that grow underground, we started by planting just 6 cloves. We planted at the end of October 08 in one of our raised beds, and added a good amount of worm compost when we planted. We also put a layer of fallen leaves on top of the bed. As soon as the ground thawed this Spring, we could see garlic coming up. Two of the cloves didn't take - and one was growing much more slowly than the others, so we removed it about a month ago. Last night, we went out and pulled up our remaining three bulbs - and here they are. For first time garlic, I think they look awesome!

We have a few tips and tricks for growing garlic, that we've picked up from fellow gardeners and farmers. If you live in New England, plant your garlic in October or early November, when it gets cold enough out that you won't have it starting to sprout in the Fall - you want it to hold out until Spring. Once your garlic starts making scapes in Summer, cut the scapes to use for cooking once they've made a complete loop around. Leave one scape growing, as legend has it that when the scape begins to grow straight up into the air, the garlic in your bed is ready for harvest.

Since we only have 3 bulbs in this year's harvest, we've cut the stalks and roots, and have the fresh garlic in the refrigerator - we're not going to dry it but will instead use it up over the next few weeks. If you're going to dry your garlic, make sure you do so somewhere where it won't be in the sun.

Several people have told us that they save their biggest home-grown garlic bulbs each year for planting instead of eating. If you do this, you'll end up with garlic that has "evolved" to suit your particular soil and growing conditions. This October, we're going to plant many more cloves than we did in 08, so (if all goes well) our harvest will be much larger and we can save some of our stock for planting. All good!

Monday, July 20, 2009

today's harvest

In addition to what's become our daily handful of snap peas, R picked our first home-grown tomato of the summer today!! After all the rain, and now the troubles with blight that have hit New England, we weren't sure we were going to see much of a tomato harvest from our garden this year. But we had one tomato that was ready to come into the kitchen this morning. Hooray! We also have another turning orange on the same plant. The rest of the tomatoes on our 8 plants outside are all green, but I have high hopes that I'll see them redden before long!

Luckily there are lots of great farms in the area that have awesome tomatoes available while we await more of ours. This is the bowl full of tomatoes we got at the Newmarket farmers' market this past weekend. And Warren Farm's website says they're starting to have tomatoes available at their farm stand. They also have a pick-your-own patch that's awesome - hopefully it will be open soon.

In addition to what comes from our garden, we're planning on picking lots of tomatoes so we can make and freeze enough sauce to last through the winter again. Last summer I bought a chest freezer for $50 at a yard sale, and in the fall we filled it with sauce, chicken stock, and other containers of homemade fabulousness (grin), so we could keep eating local through the snowy months. Each year toward the end of tomato season, we also freeze a bunch of good sized whole tomatoes. If you put tomatoes in the freezer on a plate or tray (separated so they won't stick together), once they're frozen solid you can pop them into bags and then pull them out to use as needed for cooking over the winter. To me, they taste much better than canned store-bought whole tomatoes, and since I haven't ventured into home canning yet, the freezer is my friend when it comes to preserving the harvest!!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

awesome onions!

Today at the Lee Farmers' Market, Tuckaway Farm had onions. Seriously beautiful onions fresh from the field. These three are sitting on the counter, making our kitchen smell amazing right now. I love how this time of year in New England, there's so much produce available from our own gardens and the farmers' markets. Such a happy thing!! Now if only I could figure out how to get the onions in my garden to grow to look like these... (grin)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

csa, and poor man's crab cakes

This week's CSA share is another yummy one! Red potatoes made an appearance - love those! And the snap peas continue - a nice benefit of the cooler than normal weather we've been having. We'll be using some of the summer squash to make Poor Man's Crab Cakes (recipe courtesy of Meadow's Mirth farm). We made them a couple times last year - very tasty!!

Poor Man’s Crab Cakes

2 Cups grated Zucchini (or other summer squash)
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
2 eggs, beaten
1 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1 tsp. old Bay Seasoning

Combine ingredients. Shape into cakes. Saute or fry in small amount of oil until golden brown.

Monday, July 13, 2009

a very local monday

Today has been one food-filled day! Not only did we pick up beef (ground beef, steak tips, and flank steak - hooray!) from Pinewoods Yankee farm, but we also used eggs from a local farm to make egg salad for tomorrow's lunch, and we stopped at the Durham Farmers' Market and picked up the lovely bunch of veggies in the photo above.

Today for dinner, we're having our One Local Summer meal for this week. On the menu we have ground beef "crumbles" with Pinewoods Yankee beef, topped with Cabot cheddar (my mother was one of 5 children, and her mother, in order to stretch a pound of beef, would serve it crumbled instead of as burgers - it's something of a tradition now in our family!). Then on the side, we're having the remainder of the orange cherry tomatoes we got at the Newmarket farmers' market this weekend, the little bit of cauliflower from Barker's that we have left (cooked again as Cauliflower Popcorn), and some of the red potatoes we got today, roasted alongside the cauliflower. The only non-local ingredients are the Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and olive oil. I'm ready to eat - how about you??

coupons, coupons, coupons!

I found a couple links to coupons for organic/natural products that I thought I'd share.

Mambo Sprouts has a coupon booklet that's available in certain stores, or by mail if you sign up online for their mailings. According to their website, with the coupons you can "Save up to $25 on your favorite natural and organic products, including Clif products, Country Life, Organic Valley, Lightlife, Ian's, Santa Cruz and so much more!"

Also, Kiwi Magazine's website now has a link to organic/natural product coupons that you can print from home. Brands include Organic Valley, Lundberg, and others.

Lots of great savings opportunities!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

cauliflower popcorn

We made the Cauliflower Popcorn last night, and 6 year old Rb reports that it's "REALLY GOOD!!" I think it was the name that got him - he was looking forward to it all day!

It's super easy to make. I wish I remembered where I found the recipe, so I could give proper credit - I do know it was in a magazine I read, but I can't remember which one. To save time of going back through things, I tend to tear out pages (or pieces of pages) from magazines as I come across things I want to save. Then I recycle the magazines, and file away the recipes, tips, photos, etc. that caught my eye. But here we are - it's just a couple steps, and I agree with my son - it really is tasty!! I liked it much better when it was still hot from the oven - as it cooled, it had less flavor.

Cauliflower Popcorn - Toss 3 cups small cauliflower florets with 2 tbsp olive oil and ¼ tsp pepper. Roast at 450, uncovered, for about 20 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring once or twice. Sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese.

We put it in a big bowl, and it did resemble popcorn - only, as Rb said "more cauliflower-ish" (grin). If you try it, let us know what you think!

sunday shopping - school supplies

It's July, but in New England, with all the rain of late, it seems like summer's just begun. And now the back to school sales have started!

Both CVS and Staples have great deals on school supplies right now. We homeschool, and use lots of found materials and recycled paper for arts and crafts, but Rb was still excited to check out the sale items today, as he loves the opportunity to add some new materials to his supply!

Items free after Extra Care Bucks at CVS today through Tuesday include pens, rulers, children's scissors, notebooks, and glue (limit 2 of each sale item). Staples has packs of pencils for a penny each (no rebate needed, but limit 2 packs per person), and reams of copy paper for one cent each after rebate (limit 2). There are other school supply deals listed in both stores' ads - you'll want to check them out if you need to stock up!

We came home from our shopping trip with scissors and rulers - we have plenty of notebooks, glue etc left from last year's sales, so we didn't buy more. But definitely seems like some great money-savers out there this week!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

homemade fried rice

We used to eat out a lot, but over the last few years, as we've become more aware of and interested in where and how our food is grown and raised, we've started cooking at home a lot more, and eating out much less. Though I still enjoy going out once in a while (especially to restaurants that use fresh, local ingredients and offer healthy dishes), most days we find it more fun to cook our own versions of former take-out favorites, incorporating lots of local, organic, and natural ingredients. There are added bonuses to eating this way - not only can we control the "health factor" of our food (adding less salt, oil, etc. to our meals, and having more reasonable portions than we'd get at lots of restaurants) - but also, I find most times that cooking in costs far less per meal than eating out. All good!!

So for lunch today, we felt like Chinese food - and R made homemade vegetarian fried rice. Thought I'd share the recipe. It has a lot of steps, but each one is very quick, so it doesn't take long to make at all. There's more "prep time" than actual "cook time."

To make enough for a hearty meal for two, you need:

3 cups leftover rice (we use white, but I'd think brown would work well too) - it's best if the rice has cooled overnight in the refrigerator
Vegetable oil
About half a large onion, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 egg
Small/medium head of broccoli
Large handful of snap peas
Dark soy sauce

1. Crack the egg into a small bowl, stir it up, and then fry it in a little oil, breaking it up into small pieces as it cooks (like making a scrambled egg, but with no milk) - when done, set aside on a small plate or bowl -

2. Also fry up the onion until it's almost tender, but still has a crunch to it - then set aside with the egg -

3. Meanwhile, as the egg and onion are cooking, steam or fry the peas and the broccoli until bright green (we saute the peas, and steam the broccoli in the microwave -whatever works for you to set their color and just barely cook them should be fine) -

4. When the broccoli and peas are done, add to the "pile" with the onion and egg -

5. Then, once all that is done, in a large pan (or a wok if you have one - we don't), heat 2 tablespoons of oil on medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the rice, and fry, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes -

6. Now for the fun part! Keeping the rice on the heat, add 2 tbsp dark soy sauce to the pan, and stir until it's well mixed with the rice. Then quickly add the veggies, and stir to mix and heat everything together. Add a little more soy sauce as you go, if needed.

7. Serve, and enjoy!

a happening little market

Stopped by the Newmarket, NH farmers' market again today - what a great little spot they have there - and a seriously festive atmosphere!! There was a band playing, lots of vegetables, and happy people everywhere! We bought some more garlic, snap peas, and pattypan squash to supplement what we got in this week's CSA share - and some super sweet orange cherry tomatoes. Then afterward we also stopped by Barker's Farm in Stratham and were excited to see cucumbers and cauliflower! This evening with dinner, we'll be trying something called Cauliflower Popcorn - if it comes out well, I'll definitely share the recipe.

Friday, July 10, 2009

color crisis

Yesterday, I decided to try something new with the header and template on this blog, and somehow ended up with exactly the opposite effect I was looking for. Today, I think I've got it right... so welcome to the new blog (which is of course the old blog, just with better colors). I promise I won't keep changing everything on you. I just thought I liked the green background - turns out, not so much. I like the cleaner look of the grey and white. I hope you do too.

Happy weekend!!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

worms are wonderful!

It's not easy to get a good picture of worms at work, since as soon as they sense light, they go scrambling away from it. But these are our compost worms - they live in bins in our basement, and they eat our garbage.

Compost worms (ours are Red Wigglers) truly are a wonderful thing. You make them a home of shredded, dampened newspaper, and then you give them your fruit and vegetable scraps, plus coffee grounds, egg shells, leftover pasta, and other kitchen "junk" (just no meat, dairy, or fat/grease/oil) - and they turn it all into wonderful "black gold" that you can use in your houseplants or your garden. They don't take up much space, they don't smell, and they're not demanding. You only have to feed them once a week and they can go a couple weeks if you're away on vacation... they just work, work, work, and hardly ask anything but a dark, damp environment and a fairly consistent temperature (you can't keep them in the sun, and you can't keep them outside in the winter unless their container is well insulated).

We started out with worms in 2 Rubbermaid-type bins that we customized for their use (I'll post about how to make your own worm bin soon). Then I saw a Can-O-Worms system on Craigslist for $30 so I decided to give that a try. Both ways work great - though the harvesting (removing the compost and starting the worms over in new material) goes much faster with the Can-O-Worms. On the other hand, you get more compost (larger batches) from the bins.

The worm compost can be steeped as a "tea" that you can use to water your houseplants, or spray on their leaves as an all-natural insect repellant. The compost can also be used as a top-dressing for your indoor or outdoor plants, or you can mix it into your garden soil when you're going to plant. Last year, we started some seeds inside the house directly in worm compost, and it worked wonderfully. From what I've read, there are lots of great things you can add to your gardens (composted chicken or cow manure, seaweed fertilizers... the list goes on). But three particularly fabulous things are worm compost, rabbit manure, or rabbit manure that's been "processed" by worms. Once we get our rabbits, we'll be trying that out and seeing what happens when we give our worms a bunch of manure and let them "have at it" as they say - but for now, our worms are quite happy snacking on whatever we have around (this week it's been apple peels, leftover lettuce, and leftover beet greens). And we're super happy to have them helping us out by reducing the amount of waste we have and letting us "trade up" for fabulous organic worm-made fertilizer!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

this week's csa, and a local meal

This week's CSA share had beautiful greens, a big bag of peas, summer squash, beets, garlic... all look awesome despite the return of the rain and lack of SUN over the last few days!

We had a big lunch today of spaghetti with local sausage while I finished up a grant I've been working on for 2 months now (a well-fed writer is a happy writer... (grin)). So tonight, we had a smaller dinner - a stir fry of snap peas, with home made French bread (I'm loving that bread maker!). Our stir fry "recipe" -

1. Heat a little vegetable oil in a small fry pan -
2. Add about 2 servings worth of snap peas (washed and patted dry first) and stir constantly while they're on the heat -
3. When snap peas are heated through and bright green (takes only a couple minutes) add a couple tablespoons of dark soy sauce (you can use regular soy sauce, but the dark gives it a much more intense flavor) and about a teaspoon of sugar (use more or less of both the sugar and soy sauce, depending how many peas you're cooking) -
4. Continue heating until the sauce bubbles and is hot -
5. Serve and enjoy!

We buy the dark soy sauce at the Asian market on Woodbury Ave in Portsmouth, NH. I haven't seen it available at the grocery stores or natural food stores. It's definitely not a local food (not even close - it's imported), but it gives homemade fried rice, stir frys, and other dishes such great flavor that we think it's definitely worth having in our pantry!

Monday, July 6, 2009

free vegetarian times subscription

Annie's Naturals is offering a free subscription to Vegetarian Times magazine with purchase of 2 of their products. Details and a sign-up form are on their website. Awesome!!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

pollo enchilado

Since we picked up some fresh local chicken this afternoon, R decided to make Pollo Enchilado (or, Chicken with Red Sauce) for dinner. The recipe (straight from my mother-in-law's kitchen) follows - and the chicken from Hayward Farms is QUITE fabulous. We'll definitely be buying more!!

Pollo Enchilado
1 whole boneless chicken breast, cut into 1" pieces
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 medium tomato, diced
1 cup tomato sauce (plain - not flavored)
1 tsp or so of garlic powder, or 2 cloves of garlic minced
Olive oil
Dry white wine

First make a sofrito: On medium-high, heat enough oil to coat about 1/2 the bottom of a 3.5 quart saucepan (or similar size). Add the onion and tomato and garlic/garlic powder to the pan, and cook stirring frequently until the onions are soft (the pan will sizzle and the kitchen will smell fabulous!).

Once the onions are soft, add the tomato sauce, chicken, and a little salt (to taste) to the pot. Stir well, then add about 1/2 cup of the dry white wine. Stir, and lower the heat to medium.

Cook partially covered (or risk covering your kitchen with tomato sauce, as it bubbles a lot... (grin)), stirring occasionally. After 20-25 minutes, check the chicken to make sure it's cooked through (the sauce should also be slightly thickened at that point), and serve.

We usually have this dish over rice, with a salad on the side. Today, it was over rice, with plantains on the side, and black bean broth on the rice. Very tasty! If you try the recipe, I'd love to hear what you think!

PS the leftover red sauce, after you've eaten all the chicken, is great the next day on homemade pizza!

a new source for local chicken

Well, new to us anyway! We stopped by the Nottingham Farmers' Market today, and met the folks from Hayward Natural Farms - a farm located in Gilmanton Iron Works, NH. They said they sell eggs and meat from their free-range chickens at both the Nottingham and Northwood farmers' markets. We bought a package of chicken breasts and a package of chicken legs, and look forward to trying them in the next couple days. Always nice to find new places to get local meat!

Friday, July 3, 2009

blue skies, smiling at me!

After all the rain we've been having in New Hampshire lately, sunshine and blue sky were a welcome site today for sure!!

When I woke up this morning and realized we didn't need our umbrellas for the first time since I can't quite remember when (grin), the first thing I did was head for the garden! I found a lot of water-logged plants that definitely need some nice weather to help them perk up, and about a million weeds (weeds like rain!) but I also found this brussel sprout that has about doubled since last I saw it -

And I saw lots of green tomatoes -

And one happy zucchini plant!

From what I've read, the excess water we've been getting has been particularly tough on strawberries and tomatoes, although not for folks who are lucky enough to have fields and gardens in areas that are "high and dry." We're not in such an area, so I definitely hope the sun and drier weather are here to stay for a while!!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

a vegetable-filled start to july

This week's CSA share was full of wonderful veggies - beets, snap peas, garlic, scallions, baby squash, lettuce... plus we stopped at Barker's farm stand in Stratham this afternoon, and picked up a couple things that weren't in the share (a cucumber and a couple different varieties of summer squash grown at Barker's, and 6 ears of Massachusetts-grown corn).

Seemed like another mostly-vegetable, mostly-local dinner was in order! My husband made black bean soup yesterday (I asked him to write down the recipe so I can share it with you soon) - so we had black beans, squash casserole, a tomato/cucumber salad, and corn on the cob for dinner today. I love vegetable season - some seriously good eating!!