Thursday, October 29, 2009

it's time to plant the garlic!

Here in New England, there are from what I understand 2 approaches when it comes to planting garlic. The first is to plant it in late Fall, once it's cooled down enough outside that the garlic won't start to sprout early (you want it to wait until Spring). The other is to hold off planting until Spring, and put the garlic in as soon as the ground is workable.

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!!

food inc. and botany of desire

Did you watch the Botany of Desire documentary on PBS last night? If not, they'll be repeating it several times over the next couple weeks - which is a good thing, as I live with 2 big-time Yankees fans, and so I only watched the first part of the film (apples) before we switched over to the World Series (to watch the Yankees in what turned out not to be one of their better games...).

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!

exeter market's last day - and the winter markets are coming!

Today is the last day for the Exeter farmers' market. We'll be stopping by to pick up potatoes (my latest obsession is mashed potatoes - I seem to need them as a side dish to most any meal the last couple weeks!!), onions, and hopefully some turnips or cauliflower.

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

a garden surprise

We spent lots of time outside yesterday in the beautiful sunshine, raking leaves in the yard, sweeping leaves off the deck (lots of leaves all over the place!!), and getting two of the garden beds ready for winter and one ready for garlic (more about that when we plant toward the end of this week!). As we were pulling old squash plants up and moving leaves off of one of the beds, we came across this fine looking baby Swiss chard - an awesome little garden surprise, some of which will definitely be finding its way into the kitchen today!

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!

in search of the perfect veggie burger

My son is a vegetarian. He used to love meat - meatballs, roast chicken, pork tenderloin - all favorites But then one day when he was 2 (he's 6 now) we were having roast chicken, and he looked down at his plate and the conversation went like this -

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

ill nature

I just finished reading Ill Nature, by Joy Williams. It's a collection of essays and is subtitled "Rants and Reflections on Humanity and Other Animals." I got it at a library book sale, thinking that any book that contains an essay called "Save the Whales, Screw the Shrimp" just had to be a good one. Sure enough, I loved it. If you come across the book, and you're a person who thinks and wonders about things like managed wildlife, hunting lotteries, and eco-tourism - and if you're the sort of person who believes that people should not go about their lives without thought to how their choices impact other living things - it's definitely a good read!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

happy cows make more milk

I was reading today that researchers at Newcastle University in England have shown that happy cows produce as much as 68 more gallons of milk each year than cows who aren't socialized to humans and treated with kindness. I like that - always nice when research "proves" good things like this!

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

when it snows in october

When it snows in October, napping seems a good idea. For Mo-pug, the day called for two naps - one with her favorite person - and one with her favorite pillow...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

portsmouth farmers' market trip

Another beautiful Saturday morning - another trip to the Portsmouth farmers' market! We brought home delicata squash, Brussels sprouts, Northern Spy apples, a rutabaga, and a nice big bunch of kale. We also got some kabocha "sunshine" squash (those are the ones in the photo that look like flat versions of pumpkins). This is the first year we've tried kabocha - and it's definitely an instant favorite. It's really awesome just peeled and de-seeded, cut up in big chunks, and roasted in the oven after being tossed with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and minced garlic. That'll be part of dinner tonight!

Hope you're having a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

last csa of the year - and bok choy soup

Today was our last CSA pick up for this year. The share includes potatoes, onions, garlic, cabbage, leeks, butternut squash, salad turnips, carrots, kale, and a pie pumpkin. My son was particularly excited about the pie pumpkin - he loves pumpkin bread and pumpkin muffins, and then today we came across a recipe for a pumpkin penne pasta dish that he's eager to try. Now we'll have plenty more pumpkin for the new recipe (which I'll of course share if it comes out well!). It's been a great year for CSA - I'm sorry to see it end, but I'm already looking forward to next year!

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.

squash, squash everywhere!

A hard freeze is predicted for the area of New Hampshire where we live, some farms in our region have already seen freezes that have put an end to the more sensitive of their outdoor crops, and our last CSA pick up for the year is today. Winter really is on its way!

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

fall cooking - and layered potatoes and leeks

The season for comfort food is upon us, and we've been busy in the kitchen the last couple of days making chicken stock (using bones saved from summer cooking), pumpkin puree for future baking, and even some corn muffins. Today while we had the oven on anyway, we decided to make Layered Potatoes and Leeks, since we had both leeks and potatoes left from previous weeks' CSA shares. I tried to take a photo, but it didn't come out well - the recipe on the other hand comes out quite well (grin). Enjoy!!

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

farmers' market trip - newmarket and portsmouth

This morning the sun was shining and the wind was blowing, and it was a great day to head to the farmers' markets!

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!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

mo-pug moment

Mo-pug loves sunbeams, and she loves to look out the window… but holding up her head is sure a lot of work... :-)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

csa - and autumn squash pasta

Only one more week of CSA after this week - but luckily the Portsmouth and Exeter farmers' markets have several more weeks left. Then the winter markets will start - so many great opportunities for continuing to eat local this year in New Hampshire!!

This week's CSA brings us red and green tomatoes, garlic, leeks, carrots, beets, lettuce, Swiss chard, peppers, salad turnips, and a nice big butternut squash. In honor of the butternut and leeks, thought I'd share a recipe from the book Recipes from America's Small Farms - we made this several times last year, and enjoyed it each time. We used butternut - haven't tried it with acorn squash yet. Maybe this year...

Autumn Squash Pasta

3 to 4 lbs acorn or butternut squash
1 lb ziti or penne
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 large leeks, cleaned and coarsely chopped
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped
1/2 to 1 tsp coarse sea salt, or more to taste
freshly milled black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine or water
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Preheat the oven to 350. Cut the squash in half; scoop out and discard the seeds. Place the squash, cut side down, in 1 inch of water in a 13 x 9 inch glass baking dish. Bake 45-50 minutes, until tender. Set aside, just until cool enough to handle, then scoop the squash from the shells.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package in boiling salted water for 2 to 3 minutes less than the cooking time on the package. Drain, and set aside.

Heat the oil and butter in a large pot over low heat. Add the leeks, onion, garlic, sea salt, and pepper. Saute until the onion is translucent and the leeks have become pliable, making sure the garlic does not burn. Add the squash and wine (or water) and stir until a thick sauce forms. Fold in the cooked pasta; taste and adjust the seasonings. Spoon into the same glass baking dish; sprinkle with the cheese.

Bake for 20-30 minutes until the cheese brown; sprinkle with the parsley and serve hot.

Monday, October 5, 2009

growing wheat in new england

I was at the library today, and saw that Yankee magazine has an article about "Growing Wheat in New England" (click here to read it on Yankee's website). It has interesting info about how wheat used to be grown here, and how local wheat is starting to make a comeback. The article includes a list of "a sampling of producers around the region that are growing, distributing, or baking with New England wheat" - including a place called Hungry Ghost Bread in Northampton, MA. The Hungry Ghost is supporting wheat growing efforts in New England by offering wheatberries to their customers, to plant at home. Reading all about this, I'm inspired again to look for flour that's more local than what I'm using right now for baking!

Friday, October 2, 2009

back-yard chickens

We don't have chickens... yet. But we're hoping that by Spring, we'll have figured out a good way to incorporate a tiny flock into what's slowly but surely becoming our back-yard mini-farm. Our goal is to be able to have our very own fresh eggs courtesy of our very own happy chickens.

I seem to be far from the only person obsessed with back-yard chickens right now. A friend gave me an article from The New Yorker yesterday ("The It Bird," Sept.28, 2009 issue), that points out that many folks, especially (according to the article) female folks, are suddenly very interested in adding chickens to their lives. The article chronicles one woman's adventures with her little flock, and includes reference to a small coop/housing structure called an Eglu. The Eglu certainly looks nifty - though it's also rather expensive. And I wonder how well chickens would do in it during New England's snowy winters... winter-time housing for our future chickens is definitely something we're giving lots of thought to right now, as we head into Fall and can feel cold coming!

The article also cites a 1922 book called A Little Journey Among Anconas. I discovered this morning that, by magic of the internet (I still find technology to be quite the wonder!), this book is available for download at no cost from Google Books. Seems like an awesome little resource - I'm enjoying reading all I can about chickens right now!

What about you - if you too are chicken-obsessed, or if you're already a chicken expert, are there any books or links you recommend? Anything you've learned that might help us beginners? As always, I look forward to hearing from you!