Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Summer's Simple Things - Peas

Last Tuesday, I told you about The Inadvertent Farmer's pledge for a simple summer.  Because life can always use a slow-down, I decided to join in the fun!  This week, we are all about peas!  We have been planting our peas down the center of some of our tomato beds.  Then the tomatoes get planted on either side of the double row of peas.  We can harvest the peas through the tomato cages until they are all tuckered out.  I love how it works out.  (Remind me to post a picture of that.  I can't seem to find a suitable one right now.)

Peas.  We have enough this year to shell bunches at a time.  Sweetpea offered her lovely services.

She was so very helpful.

I absolutely love little hands doing work like this.  Well, just little hands in general, but especially shelling peas!

Who can think of a more perfect helper!?

Take time to enjoy the peas!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Some of My Favorite Art

Here are some pictures (not very good ones, I apologize) of some of my favorite artwork.  These are Boys creations.  He loves to use buttons and feathers and googly eyes in nearly all of his art.  I love it!

The two pieces are grouped together and hang in our front hallway.  You can perhaps just barely see the smiley faces drawn in on some of the buttons.

There was one more button art with googly eyes that I absolutely loved, but, alas, he took the scissors to it and now it is just pieces.  Oh well.  I suppose he's entitled.

Have a creative day!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Raising Monarchs

Every year we scour our milkweed plants for little tiny monarch butterfly eggs.  These beautiful and well known butterflies only lay their eggs on the milkweed plant.  Every year we bring in lots of monarch eggs, set up a nursery habitat, and watch them grow into butterflies.  Here's what our habitat looks like.  We supply them with fresh milkweed stems often.  As they grow, they will eat more and more (sound familiar?), so a constant fresh supply of milkweed is a must for this project.  Often, in one jar, we have all the various stages of monarch from egg to chrysalis.

When the monarchs emerge from their chrysalis, their wings are very soft and wet and rumpled.  It's a good idea to give them a couple of hours to begin the drying process before handling them.  But, when you are ready to re-introduce them to the vast outdoors, they are docile enough to hold for a bit.  We take full advantage of this time.

Sometimes they are feisty and fly away immediately.  But more often than not, we can hold them for a good long while before we deposit them onto one of the flowers in our front yard.  Usually, but the next morning, they are off and wandering on their own.  We sure do have a great time learning and loving them while they are in our care!!

It's about time to start looking for their eggs.  The milkweed is getting tall!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Happy Bread Baking to You...

Remember these fabrics?  So far they have made this:

It's official name is the bread-taker-outer - for removing hot bread from the stone in the oven.  And it's a birthday gift to my husband, Nick.  He has become the bread baker in our home, baking bread each weekend for us to chow on throughout the week - as pb&j breads, toast, sandwiches, dipping, slathered with hummus, soon topped with tomatoes, or even plain.  I found our potholders to be insufficiently large for such a task.  So I made one.  It measures about 10.5 inches by 6 inches, and is made with quilters cottons and 3 layers of natural cotton batting.  I made an initial version and had WAY a LOT of trouble with the binding (sensing a pattern here?).  So I made a second one whose binding is still flawed, but at least I can stand to be in the same room with it!

So, happy bread baking to you, Nick.  I'm hoping for lots of breads coming soon to a table near me.  And an early Happy Birthday to you (really it's tomorrow, but I couldn't wait).

I have one other project in mind for these fabrics...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Summer's Simple Things - A New Series from The Inadvertent Farmer

Kim, over at The Inadvertent Farmer, has started a new series called "Summer's Simple Things".  Since I am all about trying to simplify my life in whatever way I can, I thought I'd jump on and really make an effort to do so myself!

Today's simple pleasure is walking with friends.

And, of course, when we walk, we get hungry.

There is so much to see.

Be sure to take the time to look!  Don't want to miss a thing!

Hope you all have a great day!

Boy's Bicycle Bucket

Boy has a hard time wanting to ride his bike (2 wheeler now!) without his dad running along side him.  As incentive, I made him a bicycle bucket using this tutorial by Anna at Noodlehead.  Anna's tutorials are fun and easy to follow.

I picked out some fun material with Sweetpea's help and finally got around to making it.  Never having put on a binding before together with not being very patient, made it a bit for me to attach the binding.  Looks a bit wonky in places.  Still, it came out cute, and hopefully it will meet Boy's approval.  We'll find out tomorrow as he's spending the day with Grandpa today.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Strawberry Pie

Tis the season for strawberries.  This strawberry pie is sure to please!  I have always loved strawberry pie.  My dad used to make the gelatin version with a chocolate graham cracker crust, and I absolutely loved it!  But, becoming a vegetarian made that pie off limits to me.  So, way back when both me and my hubby (also a vegetarian) had some serious strawberry pie envy, I came up with this recipe.  Sweetened with fruit juice, it uses kuzu root, also known as kudzu, as the thickener.  Unlike corn starch, kuzu root is a whole food, and can be purchased at most health food stores, coops, or even some of the larger grocery stores with natural food sections.

Strawberry Pie

1 10 inch prepared and baked pie crust (everyone has their own lovely pie crust recipes, so I'll leave you to yours)
1 quart strawberries, cleaned and hulled
1 cup additional strawberries, cleaned, hulled, and mashed
1 1/2 cups apple juice concentrate (also works well with white grape juice)
5 T kuzu root

Carefully arrange (dump) the quart of strawberries into the baked and cooled pie crust.  In a medium sauce pan, mix the juice, mashed berries, and kuzu root until the kuzu root is mostly dissolved.  Turn on the heat and bring to a boil, whisk (I like that word) constantly.  Continue to whisk constantly, and whisk and whisk until the mixture thickens and turns from milky to translucent.  Pour this hot mixture over the berries, stir to coat them all, and put in the fridge for about an hour or until chilled and set.  Serve with your favorite whipped topping.  Sooooo yummy!

Friday, June 18, 2010


What will these make?

Find out next week...

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

 It's hard to believe that it's already time to start preserving the harvest!  All my summer crops are not yet even in the garden!!  (Note to self:  YIKES!)  I love to preserve foods that we grow in our garden, purchase from local farmers, or were kindly given from great friends (thanks for the rhubarb, Ann!!).  Yesterday, I was all about strawberry jams.  Two kinds - the regular sugary sweetness variety,

 and a juice sweetened strawberry rhubarb variety.

I am a geek.  (Yes, I just admitted this in public.)  I love numbers and patterns.  And rows of home canned goods lining the counters, table tops, floors, shelves,...  Those rows of yummy foods sealed in jars awaiting the cold, drab winter months makes me so very happy.  Yes, it's work.  But it's work I like doing.

I've been trying to perfect the strawberry rhubarb jam recipe, and I think I've come darn close this year.  It is a bit softer than standard jams - more like a thick sauce consistency.  So, if you are going to make it, and prefer a more traditional texture, up the amount of pectin a bit.

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam   (yields about 11 half-pints)

4 large stalks rhubarb, cut into 1 inch pieces - 2 cups cooked sauce
1 1/2 qts. strawberries - 3 cups crushed berries
1/4 cup lemon juice
4 1/2 cups of your favorite sweet juice (I've used apple juice concentrate or white grape juice)
1 pack of Pomona's Pectin (you will use the entire packet of pectin)
1/4 cup of the calcium water that comes with the pectin box.

Put all the rhubarb into a large pot, and cook it until it makes a nice sauce, about 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, clean the strawberries and crush them up either with a masher, your hands, or food processor.  When the rhubarb is sauce-ish, measure 2 cups of it.  Put it back into the pot along with the crushed strawberries, lemon juice, 3 cups of the juice, and the calcium water.  Bring all that to a boil.  (Basically from here on out, you are following the directions for the low/no sugar versions of jam on the Pomona's box.  But I will summarize them here so you know what you're getting into if you've never used that wonderful product before.)

While that is coming to a boil, heat the rest of the juice to a boil, dump it into a blender with the pectin powder, and blend for 1-2 minutes until smooth.  Put that mixture into the boiling jam.  Stir it in and bring to a boil again.

Now can your jam according to the proper canning directions.  Then sit back and stare at the jars for way too long.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Veggie Burgers

This is my new favorite veggie burger.  I love it because it can be made with all locally grown items, with the exception of the soy sauce.  I made them for dinner tonight.  They do take a bit of planning, though, since they need to be refrigerated for about an hour prior to forming.  Don't try to skip this step.  The burgers don't stay formed as well if you don't refrigerate them first.  (Believe me, I have tried!)

Last summer, I made and froze bunches of batches, so we had homemade veggie burgers in the freezer for much of the winter.  We all love them, so of course they didn't quite make it to the end of the winter.  But, luckily, I also shredded and froze lots of pints of zucchini and other summer squashes.  I used 1 pint per batch, thawed but not drained.  At this time of year, I'm trying to clean out the freezer to make room for all this summer's bounty (hopefully).  I froze 10 quarts of strawberries tonight.  Yummy!!

Well, on to the recipe...

Veggie Burgers (makes about 10)

1 T. olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 large carrots, shredded
1 small summer squash, shredded
1 small zucchini, shredded

2 c. rolled oats
1 c. whole wheat flour
2 eggs
2 T. soy sauce
1/2 c. chopped fresh herbs - your choice, but I prefer marjoram, basil, and parsley
salt to taste (I usually put in about 1/2 to 1 tsp, but it's up to you)

Heat the oil in a large skillet.  Saute the onions and garlic until soft, or about 5 minutes.  Add in the carrot, squash, and zucchini.  Saute for another 5 or so minutes.  While the veggies are cooking, throw all the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl.  When the veggies are done, put them into the bowl too.  Mix it all up really well.  Put the whole concoction into the refrigerator for about 1 hour.

After said hour, lightly oil a cookie sheet and preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Form the mixture into patties.  Dip them into a bit more whole wheat flour on both sides so they don't stick to the cookie sheet as much.  Place them on the cookie sheet with just a little bit of room between them.  Bake them for about 15 minutes on one side, or until the bottom is nicely browned.  Flip them over, and bake them another 15 or so minutes until browned.

Serve them however you want!  I like them best on a homemade honey whole wheat bun with mustard, lettuce, and cheese.  Mmmmmm......

Monday, June 14, 2010

Flip Out!!!

Last spring, a waitress at a small local restaurant (where my kids have breakfast with my father-in-law each Tuesday morning) gave us 6 tadpoles from the cover of her swimming pool.  We learned all we could about raising tadpoles, put them all in a little tank, and watched them swim around and grow legs.  The whole process was surprisingly quick (as all of us with little ones of our own know well), and before we knew it, the first frog had back legs and escaped the tank through a little hole we meant to close up.  Yikes!  We looked and looked and looked for him.  But he was only this big:

So we didn't find him.  (This is one of his brothers.  Or sisters.  We didn't learn that much about them...)  Feeling like horrible frog parents, we patched the hole, and waited for the other ones to grow up.  One by one they did.  As they grew, we found out they were Gray Tree Frogs (there's a link on that site where you can listen to their call).  And realized that there were Gray Tree Frogs already living in the pond across the street.

One by one, we released them in the pond across the street.

Unfortunately, we only successfully released 3 of the 6.  Despite our efforts, two of the little guys did not make it to get their back legs.  This was all last June.  Every once in a while through the summer and fall, the kids would scour the house looking for the little lost froggy.  But he remained unfound.

That is, until one day in January.  I was in our library.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something move on the floor.  I looked.  But I was right in front of the craft shelf - which has a way of spontaneously spilling out onto the floor in front of it.  I looked and saw nothing but craft supplies all over the floor.  So, I went back to what I was doing.  Again, I saw something move out of the corner of my eye.  Thinking that I was going crazy seeing crafty type things moving across the floor by themselves, I had a closer look.  And I realized it was a frog!!!  Our little frog that escaped it's makeshift temporary home back in June, six whole months before.  Only he was no longer little!  A frog!  In my house!  On the floor.  Loose... 

With the help of Munch, we quickly caught him and put him in the container he had escaped from until we had time to make him a more proper home.  You see, it was the middle of January in Northeast Ohio.  There was snow on the ground.  Totally inappropriate weather for a frog.  We fashioned him a new little home out of an old and cracked fish tank, some coir fiber I was planning to use to make my own seed starting mix, some logs, a plant, a little dish with water, a little light on top to generate some heat, and his very own fruit fly factory.  Yeah, we set up a little fruit fly breeding ground - a little cup with a rotten banana and a lid only partly covering it.  Yup.  We bred fruit flies for our little frog.  We spend 11 out of the 12 months setting vinegar traps to get rid of the buggers, and we actually set something up to BREED them!  But, I digress...

See how much bigger he got!?!  We apparently have enough itty bitty creatures in our house to support at least one amphibian for at least 6 months. 

We planned on releasing him to join his brothers and sisters in the pond across the street when the weather warmed up sufficiently.  We just needed to keep him happy until then.  That meant feeding him.  Something more than fruit flies.  Flip, as we took to calling him, ate crickets and fruit flies (and probably anything else that wandered into his den).  After a while, he started calling to us (only the males make noises).  Sometimes when I ran the water.  Sometimes in answer to the phone ringing.  Sometimes just out of the blue.  We grew to love him.  Every one of us did. 

So cute.

Spring came.  The windows were open more and more.  The sounds of the evening carried through them, and Flip heard his frog family outside.  One day, he tried to answer back, ever so very tentatively...  "Uuhhh, h-h-hello?"  It was time to release him.

We were all both sad and excited.

Everyone (almost) tried to hold him to say goodbye.

But, Flip was ready to be on his way.

We took him to the pond.  And set him down.  And let him go.

Can you spot him?

There he is!

Flip is out.  And sometimes, I like to imagine that it is his little voice I can hear singing along with all the rest.  I hope you're doing alright out there little guy!!!!