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Home Grown

Tomatoes. The reason I garden.

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This year I concentrated on heirlooms. Which didn’t do very well, but I did make it to the century mark. 100 pounds of tomatoes by last Tuesday. With a few pounds of green tomatoes still hanging out there. Third year in a row to pass the century mark.

I dedicated about 100 square feet to tomatoes. ROI, a pound a square foot.

This year I did eliminate roma/paste tomatoes from my plantings. Deciding to rely on Larriland Farms, pick your own, to supply me with tomatoes for freezing. Last Saturday, me and hundreds of other people descended on the farm. Most of them looking for apples and pumpkins. Me, looking for tomatoes.

If you could make it through the parking lot to the area for picking tomatoes, you didn’t encounter any crowds. Down beyond the beets and the broccoli, the last tomato fields are open. Just a few weeks left to pick. Prices are amazing. $1.49 a pound for less than 20 pounds picked. Price drops to 75 cents a pound for more than 20 pounds. I picked 26 pounds.

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Almost 24 pounds of paste tomatoes and almost 3 pounds of Campari. It was sauce making and oven roasting time, for three days total, at my house this week. The freezer is getting full. Winter will have tomatoes on the menu.

The Campari.

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They suffered a bit from the strange weather. Lots of cracked tomatoes. Just like what I encountered in my heirlooms in my garden.

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Many of the Campari were destined for the roasting tray. This batch was tomatoes, a red pepper, scallions, olive oil, oregano, sugar, salt and pepper. Slow roast at 250 degrees. I ended up with a total of four trays of roasted tomatoes. One with the Campari and three with the paste tomatoes. When I use the paste tomatoes, I slice them in half or in thirds, depending on their size.

As for the bulk of the paste tomatoes. Three different batches of sauce. Each yielded 2 quarts.

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I blanch them first. Remove skins and seeds after they have cooled. In the meantime, I prepare the base.

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Onions and carrots first. Sometimes I add green pepper. Always I add minced garlic right before I start putting tomatoes in the pot.

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A tray from the oven, and a finished sauce. My sauce is simple. Just add a pinch of sugar, some salt and pepper and oregano. I like it chunky. Like this.

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The pasta. From Boarman’s. Called Al Dente. It’s an egg enriched pappardelle. It’s hanging by the butcher case. The sausages. One was hot Italian, the other sweet Italian. I ask the guys at Boarman’s to give me one of each and use them for my Italian meals. Mixing them.

As for that days work.

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Ready to transfer to the basement freezer. Yep, it took three days total to process the $20 worth of tomatoes I picked. Yield. Four jars of roasted tomatoes. Six quarts of sauce. One was eaten. Five in the freezer. Not a bad value.

Fall Festivals

‘Tis the season. October. When everyone decides to host a fall festival. My favorite. Which is attended by hundreds of kindred spirits in Howard County.

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The one at the Howard County Conservancy this Sunday the 2nd of October. It’s $10 a car. A bargain for all you get to experience. It mixes history with agriculture with children’s activities with good food, and so much more. 11-3. The weather should clear up before Sunday. Come out and have a relaxing fun Sunday afternoon.

Not Good At Math

A phrase that drives me crazy. Why do we announce (and particularly in front of children) that we aren’t good at something? Something necessary to thrive and excel in our lives. Most of the time, it isn’t even true. But I hear it constantly.

Usually during field trips when I introduce a math element to our hikes. Like when I talk about the chickens, and how many eggs they may lay in a week. If you have four chickens and they lay about six eggs a week, how many eggs do you gather in a week?

Basically, we are good at math. The common sense math we encounter daily. Here’s how.

Do you bake? Can you halve or double a recipe? Are you like me, finding only a 1/3 cup measure clean when you need a cup of an ingredient. Knowing three of them will make a cup.

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How about deciding how much paint to buy? What is the area of your room? Or, my latest project. The deck. Estimates of $40 a square foot to install. What will that cost? We divided the deck into squares, rectangles, triangles, and the one trapezoid to add up the area. Figured it out, and decided we could live with that estimate.

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Do you tip? Can you calculate that 18-20% number by looking at the bill?

Then, obviously, you are good at the math skills necessary to function. Yeah, you may have problems with trig or geometry, or like me, hit the wall at Theory of Numbers (I hated that course!).

I think we all need to be enablers when it comes to encouraging children to figure it out. Learn those analytical thinking skills.

Pull out a recipe. Measure and bake. Make a simple wood project, like a frame. Learn how to saw at a 45 degree angle.

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Just don’t tell the little ones that it’s OK to be functionally deficient. It’s not OK to be “Not Good at Math”.

Rainy Days

Finally, we get a good soaking rain. Good enough to give the sod a fighting chance to survive.

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Although it also kept the carpenters from working on the deck.

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I will be happy when they get done with the work and we can finish seeding the sodding the yard. The mud runs are getting a wee bit eroded.

The good news also, the tomatoes in my garden got much needed relief from the heat and drought conditions.

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I am running low on ripe tomatoes, and there are many green ones on the plants up at my garden.

Today though was cooler, dreary, just the type of weather that screams “SOUP!” and has me reaching for the pans and the crock pot.

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I dug into the freezer and took out a package of my Maple Lawn turkey drumsticks. The last ones from my visit at Thanksgiving. I freeze them with two to a pack. Just the right amount to make turkey stock, and crock pot soup.

Don’t make the mistake that I made and put frozen turkey into the crockpot. It could crack your ceramic from the thermal shock. I started my stock this morning on the stove.

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The turkey will defrost, and you should take it out and let it cool down enough to shred. What you see above is the bones, skin and tough pieces, used to make a hearty stock. Those shredded pieces?

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Went here. In the crock pot. This is a two step process, but yields at least four meals.

In that stove top pot, I placed the legs with carrots, onions and celery. Tarragon, parsley, salt and pepper. I forgot that I didn’t have carrots in the freezer, so Jenny’s came to the rescue here. I will miss the market when it closes in five weeks.

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When she opened this morning, I bought enough carrots to use today and to cut, blanch and freeze some for when I need them in the winter. The freezer is getting back to being ready for the end of the markets.

In the crock pot, I put water, the better parts of the carrots, celery and onion (I use the ugly stuff in the stock, and then discard them). After I got the turkey ready, I shredded it to remove all those pesky little bones that turkey drumsticks have. Seasoned and left to slow cook all day. I just added the egg noodles at 4 pm, so they will be perfect when we are ready for dinner at 6.

A nice bowl of soup. Some of our awesome CSA bread.

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Last Tuesday we got a loaf of miche.

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One of my favorites from She Wolf Bakery. I definitely will be getting bread in my fall CSA share, as I love the vegan breads we get. They stay fresh all week. No mold. Don’t get hard and stale. Bread and butter, with soup. A perfect meal to herald the change of seasons.

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The flowers? Just a bit of sunshine on a rainy day.

Pepper’d and Squash’d

My Community Supported Agriculture basket is overflowing with peppers this week.

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Including ghost peppers. Which I have no idea what I am going to make with them. We also got a healthy dose of squash.

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Acorn and patty pan this week. Last week?

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Zucchini and delicata.

It may say “autumn” in the next week around here, but the vegetables are still screaming summer.

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Because there’s six ears of sweet corn in this week’s basket, too.

A little side dish, celebrating the seasons.

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I took the zucchini. Sliced it. Covered it with items from the olive bar at Wegmans. Drizzled in olive oil. A very tasty side served with Boarman’s steak.

And, now, because my programs have failed me twice while writing this post, I think I will run off quickly before it dies again. Here’s to Indian Summer, enjoyable while it lasts.

High Maintenance …

… or what I did on my summer vacation.

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Storm water management, and failing infrastructure. As in 29 year old patio and deck. We decided to bite the bullet and conquer our aging outdoor areas while dealing with longstanding water issues surrounding our house. Not sexy. Not fun. Not cheap. But, they had to be done.

Our house will be 30 years old next year. Columbia, right down the road, will be 50 years old next June. As in any aging area, there are always places that need attention. That old movie, The Money Pit, comes to mind. No matter how you look at it, you need to fix what is broken, and deal with design/build problems.

Our patio bit the dust last winter. Big time.

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Before.

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After. Well, almost after. We still have to do landscaping, and they did do sod up to the deck.

The deck contractors, who also do our maintenance cedar staining start tomorrow. Hopefully, in two or three weeks we will have a new composite deck and freshly stained siding, garage doors, porch furniture, front door, and trim. Someone please remind me we bought a brick house. Where did we go wrong? All this trim to keep up.

As for the storm water management, we decided to bury all the downspouts and tie them together, create a slit drain to carry water off our driveway, and dump all the water out into our field. So far, so good. With all the evening showers after the install, we have seen massive improvement in drainage. Finally. After many attempts to deal with keeping water out of the garage, and away from the foundation. It has been a long learning process, and we think we may have finally solved our water problems. I will know for sure this winter, when snow melt from the roof and down the drive test the limits of the new system.

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Eight inch sewer pipe being laid. The system starts with four inch pipe from a slit drain. Goes to six inch around the house. Where the downspouts and sump pump hose meet, it bumps up to eight inch. It all comes out about 300 feet beyond the house, into a rock lined swale.

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The slit drain.

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Thankfully, our pretty much rotted deck was slated for demolition this summer. Even the pressure treated footers are reaching the end of their lives. Hello Azek, goodbye cedar.

This was not my favorite summer. We didn’t go anywhere. I just wrote checks. Many checks. Rhine did a great job with the drainage, sidewalk, patio and will finish the landscaping after our deck is done.

I hope to get the grill up and running, before it gets too cold to enjoy the patio and deck.

The New Normal

These days. My typical Tuesday, to do all my shopping in one fell swoop.

Pick up the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share.

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Lancaster Farm Fresh. An Amish cooperative of over 100 farmers. Organic for the price of conventional. We are in the last third of the summer season. Getting ready to sign up for the eight week fall extension.

Figuring out what to make with what we got. Thinking about stuffing peppers.

Heading off to Boarman’s market to finish my shopping. Those back roads from Braeburn to Hall Shop to Highland.

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Picking up the proteins that now replace what I used to get from Friends and Farms. Sausage for stuffing. Filets for a date night dinner. Chicken breasts for tomorrow.

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Finding local eggs there since there are no eggs left in the house. So much of what we eat now comes from the local sources and the small businesses around here. Not a bad way to shop.

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The best part of these pick ups? That amazing bread from She Wolf. A real highlight of our CSA. Maple and Oat Sourdough.