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Category Archives: Volunteering

The Accidental Vegan

That would be me. By whatever means, I have become the cook that brings the vegetarian/vegan contribution to the parties. Whether it is the amateur radio Field Day, or the contribution to my brother’s dinners (for my vegetarian in-law’s in-laws), or the potluck volunteer luncheon, I bring the veggie-centric dish that is satisfying and different.

We feed the volunteers, the garden clubs and the vendors at our Holiday Craft Fair every December at the Conservancy.

I share cooking with my friend who also coordinates and cooks for our Amateur Radio Field Day. We have become quite skilled at meeting the needs of those who partake. We have all sort of dietary restrictions and preferences. I get large amounts of vegetables in my farm share (aka Community Supported Agriculture)

Add to that, my lactose intolerance, which has me modifying recipes to take out the dairy.

Last week I made two dishes for the holiday event. They were vegan. Easy for those with restrictions. One was a vegan cole slaw. The other? One awesome butternut squash and black bean chili. Recipes were requested. Here is the response.

I began cooking many dishes using squash once we started seeing behemoths like this in our box. I do hummus, I do lasagna, and now I do chili using them.

This chili was easy. Two large cans of black beans. One diced, roasted butternut squash – large. Two large onions. One can of roasted red peppers, sliced. One can of Rotel tomatoes and chilis. One can crushed tomatoes. Those pumpkin spices. Choose those you like. I am partial to cinnamon, cumin, and coriander. Some garlic powder. Salt and pepper. Crock pot all of it. Kick it up with more heat, or more garlic.

As for my cole slaw. I used Savoy cabbage, carrots and Granny Smith apples. All chopped. I made a vegan dressing for it. It was mustard, vegan sour cream, white wine vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. That vegan sour cream makes this dressing a great alternative for those who are avoiding dairy.

You don’t miss the meat when you add tons of flavor using herbs and spices. We certainly didn’t.

 

Lucky Seven?

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Yeah, this site is seven years old. In 2011, I registered the domain and started writing. I obviously don’t write as much as I did when I began.

It was fall. Lovely weather. I wrote mostly about my farm share, and my hobbies which included my volunteer work at the Howard County Conservancy.

I have to admit it was really about documenting the farm share to assist people (like me) who wanted to see what you got when you signed up for Community Supported Agriculture.

Pictures of vegetables.

Like those from my Lancaster Farm Fresh CSA. Which I also joined in 2011. And which is still a weekly part of my life. Those Tuesday pickups at Candace’s house, year round. 48 weeks of the year, with just a few weeks off over the holidays.

I haven’t documented them these days. I decided it was far too repetitive. But they still inspire my cooking, like this week when we got freshly grown ginger roots. Not dried. Young and fragrant. Making me want to make stir fry.

As for the Conservancy connection, I have changed what I do. Not as much volunteer naturalist, but still on the program committee, and still the community garden co-manager. I use my love of cooking to support our programs. Scones for the Mother’s Day tea. Vegetarian options to feed the volunteers at our Holiday crafts fair. Soups for pot luck meals.

I tell stories on paper. Why do I mention this? To advertise the upcoming storytelling event on November 9th.  At the Mt. Pleasant site of the Conservancy. Co-sponsored by CA and Rec and Parks.

Some good friends will be telling their stories. It reminds me that I should pay more attention to this site and keep my stories alive.

After all, sharing our stories keeps us connected.

Rain or Shine

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No matter the weather. Harvest goes on. That includes those of us who volunteer weekly to harvest vegetables at our community garden. Perishables destined for the Howard County Food Bank.

We line up the wheelbarrows and get to work. 26-28 weeks total of harvests beginning in May and ending in late November. I am so thankful that we have a dedicated core of volunteers. It makes no difference if we get wet, or if we have to start really early to beat the heat.

I have learned much in this endeavor. What works. What doesn’t. What is best to grow. What won’t be used. It isn’t easy to cook healthy meals with limited resources but we try to grow items that lend themselves to simple preparations. No need for ovens, big pans, spices, etc. We know some of the recipients are living with a hot plate and maybe a microwave.

Greens are always welcome. Simple to prepare. Tomatoes are a treat for all of us. Nothing like juicy, ripe, sweet heirlooms, bursting with flavor. This week was one of our best for tomatoes, as we had three other gardeners away on vacation, and their tomato plants were overloaded with ripe fruit.

For the past month or so, we have had harvests of over 100 pounds weekly. We have these overproducing eggplants, which is a first for us. We have peppers that are full of blossoms and then are weighed down by the load of peppers, particularly our jalapenos. We also were very lucky with leeks, garlic, and of course, the tromboncino.

We have taken to calling them Italian squash, in order to get them accepted. They are the absolute best “zucchini-like” vegetable we grow. They get huge, but those long thin necks don’t contain seeds, which can be bitter. They slice and cook easily, and they also (for those of us with the utensils to do it) make wonderful fritters, breads, cakes, muffins, and more, when shredded. We have been getting dozens of these weekly, and they really do taste so much better than zucchini that have been left on the vine too long.

I get out a frying pan. Put in onion, pepper, tromboncini, cherry tomatoes. All in a splash of oil. Add salt. Pepper. Oregano. Cook until your house smells like spaghetti sauce. Serve over rice. Pasta. A “nuked” potato. It’s so good.

Now, where was I? I got off the subject, which is the garden. We are in the midst of planting for fall. The collards, kale, cabbage, carrots, beets, broccoli, and chard, all going in this month. We have 2000 square feet at the moment. 1000 square feet of the original food bank plot, plus 500 square feet being used where current gardeners had to take a year off for health reasons, plus 500 square feet where gardeners moved away during the season.

It means we may hit 2000 pounds this year. Which would be a record for us. Our highest total two years ago was 1700+ pounds.

Oh, and I forgot. Two of us put in a couple of butternut squash seedlings a while back. They went nuts and are advancing beyond the plots into the bench area. They are in an area of my plot that I didn’t use. There must be 20 of them ripening now.

They are another squash that goes a long way and is really easy to cook, once you manage to peel it. Can’t wait to have them ready to harvest.

Here’s to our volunteers, and here’s hoping the weather cooperates and gives us a good fall season, since summer has certainly been a good one for us.

 

 

 

Almost August

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Summer is just rushing by. Really high heat. Really heavy rain. Humidity. All those endearing aspects of living here in the MidAtlantic.

August is here. Summer is halfway over. Thankfully. But, we have favorite activities staring us down. Like the county fair. I am working on my submissions for herbs, vegetable display, heirloom tomatoes and more. Daily visits to the garden to plead with the heirlooms to ripen in time.

My calendar has more days with activities than blank days.

CSA. Food bank harvest. Fair. CSA picnic. Howard County Conservancy activities, like the BioBlitz and the “Bugs, Bees and Daiquiris”.

Processing the garden. There are days when I harvest three pounds of cherry tomatoes and a couple more pounds of larger ones. Time to fire up the canning pots and get busy.

Add a few family commitments and we may be in event overload.

Will we see you at the fair? Or, maybe the happy hour with Mike Raupp and Paula Shrewsbury?

It’s the height of summer. Enjoy it!

Creatures of Habit

If it’s Tuesday it must be food bank harvest. Except it’s December, and after seven months of Tuesday harvests, our season is over. It feels strange not having a standing date with a few friends and fellow gardeners. I have to find another way to fill those mornings.

I have been considering how to continue getting vegetables to the food bank through the winter. Our CSA ends for the fall season next week, and doesn’t start up again until mid-January. I thought I might work with my site host to get those swap box items that seem to accumulate in large amounts. It is interesting to see what doesn’t get taken every week.

Last week for example, three people didn’t take their apples. They were all “appled out”. I wonder how many massive butternut squashes weren’t picked up from the bulk bin yesterday. Every one of us got a massive squash, and all the large shares had a “bonus” item. Sweet onions.

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The two humongous onions alongside the regular ones on my counter.

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As for squash, we got another one of these. I have to say, even I can’t keep up with processing such a prolific harvest.

What’s the take away from this post? The decision to make a New Year’s resolution to find sourcing to give at least something to the food bank twice a month over the winter. I know there won’t be much in the way of fresh vegetables, but I should be able to put together some of my site host’s “leftovers” along with some simple staple items from the local stores. Or maybe find a way to volunteer some time to the main site, or the pantry sites.

I need to pop over to the food bank’s new distribution site and see what they will need after the holidays. When contributions fall off. After all, the need doesn’t disappear during the dark winter months.

Giving

It’s not just for Tuesday.

There are so many worthy causes that can use our help and our monetary support all year long. One “Hallmark holiday” day may be cute and trendy but the reality is this. The other 364 days of the year (OK, 365 this leap year) we can still make a difference.

Give time. Give money. Give publicity. Help in any way you can. Share a Facebook post from a nonprofit. Support an event at local charities and nonprofits.

Just recently I saw requests from places locally. Like:

How Girls Code
Howard County Conservancy
Howard County Community Action Council
Voices for Children

Today I realized I supported the food bank three times before 11AM. Once by pulling some items from my CSA share, to take up to our community food bank garden. Then, by harvesting collards and cabbage to add to my contribution. Then, at Harris Teeter, donating to give them money. It’s easy to do. It’s those little things that add up.

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It’s the season of giving. Find something that you believe in. Something that ignites a spark within you.

Every little contribution is worth it. I got hooked on food bank gardening years ago. It’s one of the most rewarding things this old lady can do. I can still harvest veggies.

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Five Years Old

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I made it to five years writing this blog. On November 2nd 2011, I opened a WordPress account and started writing. Somehow I have gone from a handful of readers to over 500 followers. Amazing to me that I continue to find topics that interest me, while plodding along in retirement. Keeping busy. Still dedicated to eating well, volunteering, gardening, and not quite as dedicated to remembering to write about it all.

My second post. About my fall CSA. Which just began again yesterday. I have continued my commitment to eating from small farms, local and regional, as much as I can.

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This fall I expanded my options to include flour and grain. I hope to bake more than I used to do. I do know that the flour will find its way into holiday baking, and that cornmeal just inspires me to make polenta more often than I did.

As for new exotic things to discover, we found a Thai Kang Kob squash in our box. I just made squash lasagna from the triamble squash from a few weeks back.

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It was a good dinner last night for us, and leftovers will feed my better half while I am out with the local bloggers checking out The Turn House, a new restaurant that took over the space in the Hobbits Glen Golf Course.

Both the squash recipe and a report on the blogger party will follow in a few days.

I also need to write about the construction at the Conservancy, and about two great events in the next week.

There is much happening around here. Definitely enough topics to continue my blogging. Think I can keep this thing going until it’s ten years old. Let’s see.

Anyway, I will be seeing the locals tonight in Columbia. Can’t wait to try out a new farm to table option, with a locally raised chef.