All in a Day’s Harvest

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We have been overwhelmed by the produce of our garden so far this summer. Not that we’ve gotten more than we can eat–yet; But in God’s ability to give life to something in such a tremendous and awesome way.  We DID sweat, and work, and get sore, and dig, and shovel, and rake, and plant, and water, and get eaten by mosquitoes… but honestly, I put some seeds in the ground and then stood back and watched God do the rest.  Let me tell you, He has done some amazing things.  I have plenty of pictures in this blurb, but I haven’t gotten any of the actual garden since it started producing… my bad.  But let me tell you all about it!

Little Boy SOO excited for life.

Little Boy SOO excited for life.

Starting back in April we prepped the ground, Back to Eden style: No tilling, layers of newspaper to kill the grass, a layer of dirt, and a layer of mulch to keep the ground from drying out.

Little Boy was ecstatic to be able to help our friend Lance load the mulch into the back of the truck.

Tractor

I won’t go into much detail with the prep, let’s just say that it was work–but not un-enjoyable. Ben and I are a great team… and Jayden-bug, he does his best to get in the way. The weather was nice; we were able to get free newspaper, dirt, and mulch! I was in the early weeks of my first trimester with this baby, so I was taking it easy–because I was starving! And had to keep taking snack breaks! And then I was SICK and had to take I-Think-I’m-Going-To-Throw-Up breaks.  😉  Ben did his fair share of the work.

The Garden Plot   Water break

We planted snap peas, carrots, red bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, roman tomatoes, marigolds around my tomatoes (I heard that was supposed to be good for some kind of pest…), lots of onions, some garlic, beans, corn, cucumbers, zucchini, Thai hot peppers, jalapeño peppers, basil, cilantro, watermelon, and raspberries!  (The herbs, watermelon, and raspberries I have around the house in different places…)  We PLANTED, and now we do a whole lot of nothing.  We water maybe once a week.  The GRASS came back, turns out Bermuda grass is a beast. So the grass is growing very nice and high up and around most of our vegetables.

I’ll get to the good part, this zucchini sautéing in butter and spices:

zucchini

And this batch of 100% garden salsa:

Garden Salsa

And this basketful of a day’s harvest:

All in a day.

I think what I am trying to say to you is this: God grew this garden, and hasn’t He done a fantastic job of feeding me this summer?

What has God produced in your garden this year?

See ya’ round,

Tasha

p.s.  My son LOVED planting onions, almost as much as he loves picking and eating the greens.

 

Sour Cherry Vanilla Jam… or Syrup!

I was all being whiny at church and was like, “There are no local berry picking places where I can go pick berries!”  Ten minutes later an elder came up to me and said, “Do you like to pick cherries?”    um… YES!

I have never picked cherries before.

He said to come out to his place anytime, the cherries were in season.  I grabbed a friend and we drove out Monday mid-morning. I didn’t take a picture of the tree, because I forgot. But these are SOUR cherries, or PIE cherries, I have a heard them called. Bright red little guys.  Picking was slow going as the little buggers are reluctant to come off the branch. Some I picked the whole stem along with it, sometimes just the berry, and SOMETIMES, I even snagged the berry and the pit stayed on the stem attached to the tree–which maybe is a bonus.

Here’s my little helper:

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I told him, “ONLY eat the RED ones.”   Later that evening I went back with my husband to get some more when little Jayden comes walking around the tree coughing, gagging, spitting…  I’m thinking maybe he’d forgotten the “only eat the red ones,” advice. Sour indeed!

I scoured the internet until I found a recipe that sounded good… and then of course I didn’t follow it. Go figure, right?

Typical.

Item 1: Pit the Cherries. Some people use a little pitting tool. I’ve even heard there is some kind of crank strainer bowl where you can just put them all in, and mash the berries through and the pit stays behind.  Ben and I just man-ed up and did it ourselves. We started by cutting in half, and then taking the pit out.  Then we got smarter and Ben discovered if you hold the cherry over the bowl (so as not to lose the juice), pull the stem with one hand and squeeze the pit out with the other.

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Item 2: Heat all the cherries in a big pot. Use a much bigger pot than the amount of fruit you have. This is a dangerous frothy business.

After the berries were heated, juicey and wilty, I blended them all up with my hand blender because I don’t like chunky jelly.

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Item 3: Start your canning stuff. Heat the lids and jars as directed according to proper canning instructions. I had never canned anything before. EVER. So this was an exciting time in our kitchen. Thankfully the boy was asleep already. (Isn’t my oven beautiful!? Maybe it’s time to run that self cleaning feature again…)

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Item 4: Add Sugar and Vanilla!! The ratio I used was 4 – 3. If you have 4 cups of cherries add in 3 cups of sugar.  (So after the berries are blended and bubbly you have to pour them into a measuring device to see how much there is.) I added one teaspoon of vanilla for every cup of berries. Okay, who am I kidding, I just poured in a good amount of vanilla.

Item 5: What, are you crazy? Don’t put the lid on the pot! Someone I know who looks and thinks a lot like me once did that. Until the pot boiled over like a chemistry lesson gone bad. (See all that steam? Yea… Most of that is smoke. Mmm, nothing like the smell of burning cherries and sugar all over your stove.) Also, this person’s husband lovingly said something to the affect of, “What, are you crazy?! Don’t put the lid on! The whole idea is for the water to boil off.”    OKAY. That person was actually me. And I’m like… Good thinking, Ben.  But in truth, neither one of us was overly dismayed at the boil over. I boil over something on a weekly basis. It’s apparently one of my special talents. Homemade chocolate syrup was the WORST!

Fire in the hole! Boil with lid off...

Item 6: Boil for a real freaking long time. Supposedly there’s this thing called the “wrinkle test.” Where you put a plate in the freezer, then take it out… Spoon a few drops of jam on the plate, wait a couple secs and then smoosh one side with you finger. If it WRINKLES, the jam is done!! If it wipes right up like syrup… Then it’s not done.  Well, I boiled for 20+ minutes. I did the wrinkle test. Didn’t pass the test. And said to myself… Hmm.  It’s midnight. And I like syrup.  So I called in the muscles (husband) for item seven.

Item 7: Pour into prepped jars. So we did that, and put on the lids that had been boiling forever.  A few minutes later I heard these magical little PoPs! When the lids sealed.

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And that about wraps up my first canning experience! I settled for thick syrup because I was impatient, and I am okay with this.  Advice to you: Yes, put the toddler to bed first. No, do not start a cooking project after 11 pm.  And OF COURSE I didn’t take any final project pictures because I went to sleep instead.

Have YOU ever canned before? I have memories of Mom’s blackberry jam ALL over the stove. But it was lip smacking good!

What’s your favorite recipe? Pectin or no pectin?  Let me know!

See ya ’round.

-Tasha

Laments of the Organic Bread Baking Biz

Laments in order of current thought progression:

1) Organic baking ingredients are difficult to come by in a small town.

2) Baking bread takes a minimum of 4 hours from measuring the flour to bagging a cooled loaf.

3) Gluten free Danae cannot partake of the bounty.

Advantages of the Organic Bread Baking Biz:

1) I gorge myself weekly on delicious homemade bread made from ingredients that I trust!

2) My husband’s coworkers are consistently jealous and awed by his daily lunch assortment, often including Organic PB&J on mouth-watering slices of homemade bread.  (This month’s flavor is Nash Brothers Organic Blueberry Jelly found at Bag N Save.  Look for coupons at: www.nashbrotherstrading.com.)

3) My house smells awesome, the day and few days after my bread baking extravaganza.

4) I no longer spend hours standing in the bread aisle at the supermarket reading ingredient labels.

How am I able to accomplish such a task? Well, let me tell you all about it.

Firstly, I must purchase organic ingredients, some at Harvest Health on 6th Street in York, some I find in Lincoln, and some I order online from Azure Standard.

Secondly, I put all the ingredients together, mush them around, and cook it.

Thirdly, eat and enjoy.  Fairly simply, yes?

If you would like to keep reading, here is the story in picture form:

First I clean my kitchen. I choose to never begin baking without a clean kitchen.

I mix together some dry ingredients:

2 Cups Bob’s Red Mill Organic White Flour

1 Cup Bob’s Red Mill Wheat Germ

1/2 Cup Organic Rolled Oats

1/4 Cup Organic Instant Non-Fat Dry Milk

1/4 Bob’s Red Mill Wheat Bran

5 tsp Active Dry Yeast

4 Tbsp Organic Cane Sugar (Or Organic Maple Syrup, mmm)

1 tsp Sea Salt

When the dry ingredients are mixed I add:

2 1/4 Cups HOT water

1/4 Cup Organic Sunflower Oil (or any kind of oil)

Mix at medium speed for 2 minutes, add:

1 Cage-free organic egg

1 Cup white flour

Mix on high for one minute

Then I switch my batter mixer out for the dough hook and slowly add:

2 more cups of white flour, and 1 cup of wheat flour

As the hook kneads the dough I end up adding about another cup of flour. When it gets doughy, I dump it out and knead for about 10 minutes… I don’t really have a system. I just kinda knead til I’m bored with it. Some people say you can tell when the dough is ready. I haven’t really been able to tell. So I just knead for a while. When you think you’ve kneaded enough and you’re needing to stop kneading, then knead some more. You need to knead for quite some time to have the yummiest of breads.  Btw, if you’re short like me, then get yourself a stool to stand on. Your kneading counter should be waist-high so you can really get your back into it.

Now comes the fun part. Smush it all out like you’re making biscuits, then fold the edges in around the circle–like curling in flower petals. Go around again, pulling in the dough.

Pick up the dough, flip it upside down, so the smooth side is facing you. Rock it back and forth in your hands pulling the smooth side tighter. As you tighten the top dough, just keep tucking it up under the ball. This is called Rounding the Dough. I think. I don’t suppose it’s super important, but it allows the dough to rise evenly and eagerly.

Dust your counter with flour, and put a big bowl on top. Isn’t she a cute ball of dough?

Leave her for about 20-30. My clue is when she’s huge enough to stick to the bowl all the way around. And this is a big bowl, mind you.  While she was sleeping I sliced up some organic oranges to dehydrate. Like so:

I was planning to simply do something crafty with them because they’re so pretty. But they turned out to be really yummy. So I ate them instead.

Wow! Look how big that dough is!

Gently roll her out. Knead the air out. Since I was making 5 baby loaves, I cut her into 5 sections. But she will make two big loaves or three mostly big loaves.

I oil my pan with coconut oil. Roll out the dough.

Fold up one side. So she’s frowning at you.

Fold in the edges.

Roll the dough!

Place dough seam down in pan. Slice the top if you care to. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.

Cover with a light damp cloth. Let rise for 45-60 minutes or until she looks good. If you let the dough rise too long then she might sink in the oven, and that’s no good. When she’s done rising, you should be able to poke her and she won’t bounce back up.  Bake at 400* for 20 minutes. When you knock on the crust she should sound hollow.

I regret that I was so excited to eat this lovely loaf that I neglected to take a picture. Your loss really, because eating her is much better than looking at her.  With that, thanks for reading!

I’ll be selling these beauties at the Farmer’s Market in York, Thursday’s 5-7.

See ya ’round,

Tasha

Bug Spray

Work in progress… 

Look forward to a Toxin-Free Bug Spray!

So THIS doesn’t happen to YOU: