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Category Archives: Food

Underachievers

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That would be us. In the energy world. At least according to our latest and not so greatest report from our “Smart” meter. I have a hate-hate relationship with that meter. It only gives us bad news. Like this.

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Basically telling me to stop making home cooked meals for us.

My peak load on electricity. Dinner time. I suppose to become an overachiever we need to hop in the car nightly and head out 20-30 miles round trip to buy a dinner at a chain restaurant that would feed a family of six in a developing country.

In other words, we don’t do as well in energy consumption as 70 of our closest “neighbors”. We ranked 71st in the latest mailing, out of 100 people around us. It does NOT include any of the local McMansions. Since they heat with natural gas, they aren’t compared to us. Only the older homes that are cursed with heat pumps.

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We have two of the beasts. They work well, since we can tailor the output for bedrooms versus first floor, but still they consume beaucoup energy. Particularly when you are retired and home all day. Yes, we could crank that temp high and swelter in the house, since we no longer head off to government jobs in ice boxes that are set low to keep the computers cool.

All of those energy saving suggestions are tailored to those who leave their homes every day to go to work. Not to those of us who are here when the temps hit the high nineties.

But really. How is it more energy “efficient” to not use our stove or oven. Or to get rid of the chest freezer with all our home processed fruit and vegetables in it. Should we be buying all those quick fix meals that can be nuked or heated quickly? What about all the energy waste in the packaging and the transport?

None of that is counted for those of us who cook from scratch nightly. Who don’t do the carry out or fast food or restaurant hopping that keeps our kitchens clean and spotless. That minimizes those loads in the dishwasher. That lowers that “bump” from 5-7 pm in our energy curve.

Really. I want to believe that buying local food and making it myself is better for us. But is it? How much do we really save? Honestly, I think we are doing a better job in many ways, but it certainly isn’t reflected in the reports we get monthly.

How do we measure what our real carbon footprint is? I can’t easily answer that, but it is a good question.

Something to ponder on a Monday night.

The Morning After

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The flag was still flying high on the crane when I got to the fairgrounds at 10 am this morning. Most of the rides were dismantled. A steady stream of cars arriving to pick up exhibits, entries, ribbons and premium checks.

I like watching the crews take down the fair. It’s interesting to see. I have been volunteering within the farm and garden building. Stacking up entries for easy retrieval. Helping people find their ribbons, and decide what to do with their vegetables and fruit, now that it’s been sitting around a week.

I started helping a couple of years ago. My favorite part of being there is watching the 4Hers come in to get their entries and their ribbons. It’s also watching children come in to our tables to find their entries, and in many cases their ribbons.

One little boy today was picking up a third, fourth and fifth place ribbon for biggest zucchini. One for him and each of his siblings.

I also enjoy visiting with my friends at the beekeepers’ tables, and just getting to talk vegetables with other gardeners. Commiserating about how our tomatoes suffered this summer.

I just wish we could find someone to take all the less than perfect food (and some that was still usable). There previously were people who took things home to feed pigs or chickens. Now, not so much.

The food banks can’t take them. They have been sitting out in the heat for a week. Most of the tomatoes were going south. The berries, really gone.

Still, it’s fun to help a little and see behind the scenes in tear down.

People were taking their animals home. The stalls were all cleaned up, and new mulch was in a humongous pile out by the show pavilion.

Another year. Another check. This one my biggest. Just about enough to cover what I spent to buy seedlings and plugs at Sharp’s Farm last spring.

Thirty Five Years

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Give or take an hour.

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A significant anniversary. Living through those vow-y things. Like sickness and health. And loss of loved ones. Job changes. Uncertainties. Good times. Laughter. Tears.

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Standing up there not knowing what life will bring. Operating on love and faith. It does amaze me that we beat those odds. About eight years ago at a Christmas work dinner/dance, at 28 years, we were one of the last couples dancing. We could call it luck. We could call it dedication. We could call it hard work. Or a bit of all of it.

We’re not doing much for this one. We did the big splurge at 25. The fancy inn. The gourmet meal.

We just hit the county fair to see if I won any ribbons (more on that tomorrow). We will be grilling shrimp and petite filets. Opening an old Chateau Montelena we won at a charity auction years ago.

We certainly aren’t party people anymore, are we? Maybe tomorrow, the 36th anniversary of our first date, we will raise a toast at the beer garden.

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Don’t Miss

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At the Howard County Fair starting Saturday. Some new things. Old things. Every year it keeps getting bigger and better, yet the favorites still remain.

Like the Critter Barn.

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Or the daily pig races. Every day. Check out the events highlights here.

We like wandering around the barns looking at the animals.

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This year there’s a new addition to the fair. A beer garden. Thanks to Howard County’s home grown brewery. Manor Hill. They will be located at the rear of the main exhibition hall.

There’s a few more special events this year too. And old favorites that must be done. Like getting fresh squeezed lemonade. Or a soft serve cone.

For us we also love wandering the home arts building looking at the photographs. The farm and garden building, including buying our supply of honey from the beekeepers.

On our way out, we will get peaches from the farm stand, and Bowling Green cheese.

Our future farmers spend the week there. It’s a labor of love. Come support them.

This sums it up quite well.

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Fair Weather

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Today let’s talk about the weather. The weather that impacts gardeners and farmers. The weather that influences what we harvest. And whether, for me, it’s good enough to give me flavorful heirloom tomatoes.

Growing these tomatoes was on my bucket list. My 50 things I wanted to do before I die. Back 12 years ago when I turned 50 I wrote that list. Before we bought this house in the country. Before I ever tilled and weeded and suffered through our awful summers.

This year our county fair is a week later than the past. Giving me more time to get those heirlooms ripe. Except all that rain has made them a mess.

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They are cracked. They aren’t as full of flavor. Still, I try and pick the best ones to submit.

Submissions are due by Saturday morning, although I try to get mine in on Friday night. Today, I harvested all my leeks. I picked one of my unusual vegetables, hoping I may get a better one Thursday. I still haven’t chosen my herbs.

If you have never made it to the county fair, you really ought to come out.

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Come see what our traffic jams look like. Ride a few rides. Have some unhealthy foods. The fair runs from Saturday to Saturday. We like heading over there early before the crowds. And we buy a season pass.

See you at the fair?

Fair Trade

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Getting ready for the county fair. The next few posts will highlight things that we are interested in doing, and show some of the preparations that I make in order to enter items for ribbons.

This year, I am literally drowning in heirloom tomatoes, compared to previous years. Unfortunately many of them will be past their prime on submission days. Still, I found a solution to my problem.

Thanks to Bistro Blanc.

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What does ginger beer and peaches have to do with the fair? Not much, but we were drinking a peach ginger mule at the bar Friday night when Chef Janny came out to visit with a few regulars. It was past prime dining time, so he was done service.

I mentioned to him that I had an overabundance of herbs and veggies. In the past, I had given Chef Marc some of my rosemary and basil, when I was deluged with them.

We made a simple deal. I would bring him what I had available. We would work out a “trade”.

That’s how I became a local supplier to a local restaurant.

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Here’s some of the vegetables I put together. The hot peppers. I have a serious overabundance of them. I did keep back six that are almost all perfectly straight and uniform in size. Hopefully they will hang in there to be submitted as fair entries.

Shallots. Lots and lots of shallots. I have all sorts of shapes and sizes.

Heirlooms. In the above picture, there are Black Prince, Amana Orange, Abe Lincoln, German Johnson, Goliath and Box Car Willie. I am doing the taste testing to determine which ones would do best at the fair. I still can’t decide, and there are dozens of them on the vine up at the garden.

Not shown in my pictures are my lavender, chives and basil. Or a container full of teeny cherry tomatoes.

Next weekend after my submissions, I will probably deliver another batch. So, if you eat at Bistro Blanc, you may be getting “farm to table” from my little part of the world.

As for that lovely drink up there, it’s simple. Get a bottle of ginger beer. A lime. A peach. Some ice. Good vodka. I used Absolut. Muddle the peach, after removing the skin and pit. If it isn’t really sweet (ours was), add a pinch of sugar. Pour in 1/2 cup of vodka, crushed ice, juice of the lime. Divide between two glasses and pour the bottle of ginger beer into the glasses, evenly dividing it.

I found Crabbie’s up at Old Tyme Liquor. It can be used to make Dark and Stormies, if you have dark rum. What is it about summertime and cocktails?

Energy Savings (Or Not)

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We have these periods of time here where we live. Called “Energy Savings Days” by our local gas and electric provider. They happen to fall during my food processing times, at least twice this summer they have.

I then have a dilemma. Don’t use the stove, oven, crock pot or dishwasher to process these mountains.

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Yes, both those pictures were taken the same day. Yes, I have to draw down some of these tomatoes. I just change the A/C setting in the house, and then do what I need to do to process foods. I can’t give up six hours of productive time when I get anywhere from 10-20 pounds of tomatoes a week.

I am crossing my fingers and hoping I get good tomatoes next week, as the Howard County Fair opens on August 8th. On the night of the 7th I will be delivering herbs, onions, tomatoes, peppers, an ornamental basket, and this year, some of my canned foods.

Like my pickles.

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And some fruit preserves. And, hopefully a pepper jelly if I get it done this week.

If we get another energy savings day, I probably will be working through it. As the harvest doesn’t stop just because it’s hot out there.

Oh well, at least we aren’t using our cars much when I’m processing foods. Heck, I even improvised on this tabouleh.

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I used Israeli couscous instead of bulgur because I ran out of it. This was a quick simple lunch dish. A cup of couscous simmered in chicken stock. Parsley. Mint. Tomatoes from the garden. Lemon juice. Olive oil. Salt and pepper.

Gotta use those tomatoes everywhere I can.

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