Monthly Archives: August 2008

Sometimes Life Just…

Gets in the way.  Sorry for the long abcenses.  I’ll try to give you a quick run down here so you can get up to speed.

Went to an Iowa Hawkeyes football game today.  College towns are so much fun.  They have so much energy.  Especially on a football day.  The Hawks played the Maine Black Bears.  They stomped them.  (Sorry Wendy)  Good warm up I’d say.  Thank goodness the temps have been below normal.  It was only damn hot, not really damn hot.

We took a quick weekend trip last weekend to a water park and a town called Nauvoo, which was the first Mormon settlement back in 1845.  They have a lot of real life demonstrations on how to make bread, blacksmithing, etc. It’s interesting and a good refresher.

I finally found a really good cabbage recipe.  (here)  We enjoyed it last night and everyone really liked how it tasted.  It was also simple to prepare which makes it an even better recipe in my book.

Make sure you check out my Harvest/Storage tab.  We’ve been busy delivering a ton of fresh, local organic produce to the local food kitchens.  I’m enjoying that endeavor very much.

The chickens keep flying the coop so I’m going to be busy in the next few days making a new one.  I’m going to use 6 ft hardware cloth with steel posts and then drap something over the top.  I’m not sure what yet.  Next spring I’m going to plant some grape vines at the base of the fencing and train the vines over the top to act as a natural shade cover, provide food for us and them (Japanese Beetles) and also act as the roof so they will quit flying out of it.  As I do that I’m going to surround the garden with 6 ft tall fencing and create a door so they can start going out in the garden to clean up the garden as fall approaches.  I’ll document more of it in the near future.

I know I’ve been doing a ton of other stuff because I’m darn tired, but this is all I can think of right now.  We’ve been clubbing it a little lately with some friends and doing flood relief.  We went to the Iowa State Fair, which was a little disappointing.  It was interesting but not something I would want to do all the time. Cooking local meals and as always preserving a lot of food.  Mostly making tomato sauce and crushed tomatoes.  But also have done up some pickles.  In fact, we need to order a little more beef but our freezer is too full to fit in an 1/8 right now, so I’m not sure what we’re going to do in that regard.

Don’t forget to keep checking out Hen and Harvest for tons of great gardening info.


Amazing what they can eat

Admit it, you thought I was going to talk about the chickens didn’t you? HA! Not this time. This time it’s kids. We eat veggie meals in our house maybe 2 or 3 times a week. Tonight we had nothing but veggies. I boiled some new potatoes (about the size of a large egg) and steamed some corn on the cob. I also served some canteloupe and tomatoes from the garden. The kids didn’t think this was enough for them so I also made them 1 slice of bread with PB&J on it.

And they ate it up. Amazing how many veggies kids can eat when they want to. My oldest had two bowlfuls of cantaloupe, 1 ear of sweet corn, his PB&J and 2 potatoes. The youngest had 2 ears of corn, a shitload of tomatoes, 2 potatoes, PB&J and 1 bowl of cantaloupe. I’d say they easily got 4 servings of veggies/fruit in just this meal.

In other news I had this conversation with my youngest when I was picking tomatoes, or trying to pick tomatoes.

Ethan: Ever wonder why there aren’t any tomatoes on the plant?

Dad: Well I figured there was a tomato monster eating them. Do you know what happened to them? (I know he’s been eating them)

Ethan: There is. I saw him. It was me. I’m a tomato monster. Grrr. (Then he grins) I sometimes eat the green ones but they don’t taste as good as the orange ones. Now I wait for them to get orange. (They’re Sungold tomatoes)

If you knew his grin you’d probably laugh about this. He looks like a Cheshire cat, only he’s got an ornery glint in his eyes.

Independence Days Update

Plant something: Since my last update, which was 2 weeks ago, at least. I’ve planted broccoli, all my salad greens, some parsnips and carrots. Brussel sprouts and one other thing with the broccoli that I can’t remember. I’ve also planted some chicory. I can’t get my carrots to germinate so they may be getting replaced very soon. I had planned to plant more swiss chard and kale, but they are still chugging along from this spring so I’m going to leave those alone.

Harvest something: I’ve been harvesting tomatoes. All sorts of tomatoes. I cut some kale and swiss chard. The green beans aren’t ready yet (they were planted very late) and the second round of broccoli is still chugging along. Last weekend I was at a friend’s dad’s garden and we did some garden work for him. We harvested beets, carrots, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, cukes and zucchinni. He has a nice little farmstead with animals and I enjoyed tearing up all his old plants and feeding them to the goats. They are strange animals.

Preserve something: I did pickles, tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes in the canner. Even lacto fermented some pickles. Funny thing, I don’t like pickles. This will probably be too many pickles. Froze some sweet peppers, corn and shredded zucchini. Today is the big day for corn. I’m going to do a bushel or two.

Prep something: Can’t remember anything. I’m trying to talk my wife into moving the swing set so I can expand the garden there. It would add another 500 sq ft or so. There is no other good spot for the swing set though. Some are OK spots but not great. We’ll work something out. If we do I’ll be busy working on that spot. I still can’t decide about the garden plot and renting it for next year.

Cook something new: Don’t think so. I had some beets last night which were OK. I didn’t love them but I didn’t hate them either. They may be something I start growing.

Manage your resources: Same as always. Eating things to move them around.

Local food systems: I’m still delivering the food for the local farmer. Hit the Storage tab for a run down of all my deliveries. We’ve delivered a lot of food to needy groups that would have been wasted. Great success so far. I’m also talking to a friend about adding chickens. I built them a worm bin for Christmas one year and they are digging it. We’ll see about chickens.

Reduce waste: The chickens are turning kitchen scraps into fertilizer much faster than the compost pile.

Learn a new skill: Nope. I keep adding things to my list but no time. This winter I’m going to learn to brew beer. End of story. I’m going to do it.

Now I get it

For the life of me I couldn’t figure out why people would spend their hot Augusts in the kitchen making tomato sauce.  Why not just can the tomatoes and make sauce this winter?  Well, after processing 36 lbs this morning into sauce in less than 2 hours I get it now.

Last year I bought 40 lbs of tomatoes and canned them in quarters.  It took about 6 or 8 hours to clean them, remove the skins, get them in the jars, canned and then downstairs.  Perhaps more time.

This morning I put 36 lbs of quartered tomatoes through the Victorio  and juiced them in less than two hours.  In fact, it is just now 2.5 hours since I started and I’ve already cleaned it all up.  The sauce is in the oven cooking down right now so that doesn’t really count as time spent canning.  Once the sauce is ready I’ll have to can them, but that doesn’t take a whole lot of time either.

So by juicing them and making sauce instead of canning the whole tomato I saved myself at least 4 hours, even with the canning still to come.

Now I get it.

Chicken update

Things with the chickens seem to be settling in nicely.  They are still really spooked by me when I go in there.  I thought it might moderate some since I’m usually carrying a green bucket with treats, but not so much.

I just mucked out the coop and run for the first time.  It didn’t really need it, but there was a lot of junk parts of things in there that they wouldn’t eat that I wanted to clean up.  I’m hoping I can find a bale of straw today to lay out in the run to tidy it up and hopefully help keep the flies at bay.  If I don’t find the straw I’ll collect grass clippings the next time I mow and dump those in there.

The chickens were nuts when I was in there with the rake cleaning up, but after I left they were very happy to scratch up all that soil snagging bugs and whatnot.  Some of the stuff had started to decompose already, so nature was already doing it’s thing.

I’ve found that these things are very easy to take care of.  Most of my “work” involves opening and shutting up their coop.  I only have to feed them about every two-three days.  Same with the water mostly.  I’ve noticed they are eating more feed as the vegetation in their run continues to disappear.  When I was heavily pulling up spring plantings earlier they hardly touched their feed, but now that they aren’t getting so many large plants from the garden they are eating more of it.  Soon enough the garden will switch over again and they’ll get more plants to munch on.

I’ve actually been pulling things from the garden to feed them when we’ve had enough for the time being.  They’ve had some kale and swiss chard leaves.  A few broccoli plants there were under producing and a cabbage plant even.  Better to feed it to them than let it go to waste.

Still no eggs. I hope I didn’t get some duds.

The Mismanagement of America

This is a great video from the author of the book The MIsmanagement of America.

Damn Houdinis, that’s what they are.

The dang ol’ chickens got out again. Only this time it was dark. I was going out to put them up for the night and there they were, chirping away outside the fence. I have to wonder if they are like chicken versions of Houdini, or maybe David Copperfield or David Blaine. I was able to work the flashlight and herd them to the queen chicken wrangler who snagged them and deposited them back in their home. Their wings are clipped. Other than roofing the run I’m not sure what else I can do at this point to keep them in.

I made a bang up cabbage recipe tonight (here), even if it is August and this turned out kind of like a stoup. I used sweet italian sausage (what I had) along with a red onion and a small head of cabbage from my garden. Also put in some fingerling potatoes (garden), carrots (garden) and parsnips (garden). I was quite pleased to be using up miscellaneous items from the produce drawer. I did use a can of the cheese soup though, along with a store bought can of tomatoes (I’m out for now) and beef broth (haven’t made any since the cow came home) so I had some help from non local ingredients. The soup was very good. Boy #1 had two servings and boy #2 had 3 servings, and got in trouble for drinking it from his bowl. And I had enough left for a full meal when I pull it out of the freezer sometime. Even better, it sat in the crock pot all day so it was virtually no work.

Tuesday nights are normally a tough night for dinner because I go to the farm on Tuesday nights to get the produce from the farmer for the soup kitchens. She didn’t have anything tonight though so it was a night off.

If you have any doubt about the future direction of the Dow (in my opinion) this story with the below picture in it should help you make up your mind.

That’s a pretty damn scary picture. And the charts in the story for housing prices are even more scary, although they’ve already seen some of their declines.

That site, Automattic Earth, is a fantastic daily round up site for all the world’s financial news. I’ve seen so much incredible information on that site.