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Yes You CAN

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If I can can, you can can.

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My first entries into the canning arena at the fair. Cherries and dill pickles. I got a fourth place for the cherries. Nothing for the pickles but I am still learning. I saw the better jars did spears. I did slices.

I knew I wanted to learn how to can more fruits and vegetables and I finally got the courage to enter the fair. So glad I did. You never know until you try.

These luscious cherries. From Larriland. Picked in June.

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I separated them before making the preserved batches.

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This was a very simple cherries, sugar and water mix. No pectin. No hard work other than pitting all those cherries. Water bath processed. I got 5 pint jars of them.

As for the rest of the fair. Two blue ribbons, plus one third and one fourth place

Herbs. This may be the third blue ribbon for herbs. I have to look at the records, as I have never gotten a blue ribbon in anything other than herbs before this year.

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And, onions. They got me my other blue ribbon.

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Those onions. Lots of work to dry. But, oh so worth it.

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The five selected hung out in a closet in the laundry room, on hangers and string, until I was ready to enter them.

I didn’t take pictures of my third place basket. I need to go back and document that for my records. My final ribbon, for yellow slicing tomatoes. Somehow I missed taking that picture too.

As usual, I struck out with my heirlooms. They just lacked the intense flavor they need in order to win a ribbon. But, there is always next year.

If you have never had the courage to enter items in the fair, you really should just throw caution to the wind, and get in there. Easy to do. Really. Every year I learn more, and the people I meet are all very helpful.

Next year, I may even overcome my inexperience in baking and enter my zucchini bread. Or, take the time to enter some of my photography. There are so many ways you can participate.

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.

The Best Of

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Those lists. The best this. The best that. I take them all with a grain of salt. So when I saw a Facebook feed from Black Ankle about the “101 Best Wineries in the USA” I thought, OK, another popularity contest.

Seems this list is a bit more than that. They use chefs, wine writers, sommeliers, wine experts and more to pick wineries of good value, consistency and great taste.

We have enjoyed wines from at least half the wineries on this list. They really did a good job of picking places that make wines of distinction, and their write ups are spot on. Yes, Black Ankle makes one awesome Syrah.

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It made us open one for our final night of the Buy Local Challenge. Served with a lamb loaf and local veggies.

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Sunday night dinner.

The wine is simply elegant. If you haven’t had the chance to head out to Mt. Airy and visit Black Ankle, you should. Besides the syrah, they make some interesting whites, like Albarino and Gruner Veltliner.

A perfect place for a Friday night picnic while listening to the music. Take a basket with you, or buy from the winery. Buy a bottle to compliment your meal. Enjoy!

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