Archive for the ‘gardening’ Category


CSA basket #2: eating local for dinner

   Posted by: liz

For the first time in our 7 years here, we decided to forego the big summer garden. We knew that with putting up a show this summer (more on that in a future post) we wouldn’t have the time or the energy to get get our 20×40 foot garden in this year.

So I chose to join my mom in a local CSA. We only got a half share (one every-other-week pick up) and this photo shows our 2nd basket (photo taken by my mom).

Last night, we ate almost completely from our CSA basket for dinner.

I cleaned the lettuce and made a balsamic and feta salad for our first course. Next, we steamed the sugar-snap peas and had those with some sliced sharp cheddar and leftover brats in cherry spiced mustard. It was just enough food for all of us (of course, the boys had their signature PB&J right before bed, which has become tradition for them these days).

I plan to use the zucchini in loaves of regular and gluten-free chocolate zucchini bread. I’ve never been a fan of actually eating zucchini: our first week’s zucchini still sits in our fridge waiting to be shredded for future loaves of bread.

If the strawberries last through this morning, I’ll make a pie with some of it and I’d like to try a jar of balsamic strawberry jam.

Eventually, we want to join a local meat CSA and we’ll add local pork and beef to our dinner plates.

What was in your CSA basket this week?



   Posted by: liz

it’s been so long since last i blogged that i actually forgot my login password. january was my last post, and it’s been the longest time between posts, ever. i’m always thinking of blog posts, always churning ideas around in my head, but never sitting down to write.

this was a particularly long and tiring winter. this spring has been unusually wet and cold. memorial day weekend marked the beginning of the longest stretch of warm weather, and it started out with a cold frost. i guess i could fill you in on the last 3 months, but i don’t want to bog you down with a depressing post. instead, i’ll give you a highlight reel of current things in our family:

- i continue to be so amazed at how the boys and i grow in our relationships with each other. we are together all day long, every single day. there are DEFINITELY some tense and frustrating moments in that. we get on each other’s nerves. we need our space from each other. but for the most part, our conversations and our time spent WITH each other are rewarding, fun, and always growing. even though they are around their mom every single day of their lives, the older two boys are beginning to spread their wings and be more independent. i’m all for this, and i’m glad it’s happening, slowly, but surely. i don’t know what this would look like had we chosen traditional schooling – would they have been much more independent by now? probably. i’m okay with it taking it’s time. i’m REALLY okay that they’re still young boys who are innocent in so much. there is still so much time for them to grow up. slowly.

- that said, there are some stretches of exhausting times when we are together as a family all the time. the bickering and the whining about school work and farm chores and…the list goes on. i get tired of being their teacher and their mother every single day of their lives. it’s hard. it’s hard having them with me on all my weekly errands. it’s hard not having time to myself until evenings (although our evenings are all full these days). it’s just plain hard.
but we did end our school year two weeks ago and have been enjoying the warming weather, and hanging out with friends. both rowan and sawyer had evaluations this year and both of them “passed” with rave reviews from their evaluator. during that time, i realized that adam was reading a book that sawyer was reading previously. sawyer is reading so well these days, but adam has taken off with his reading. he doesn’t sound out words any more, he reads for comprehension, which is earlier than the other two boys ever did. for all the struggles of teaching your kids that you may encounter, there are some pretty great discoveries along the way!

- so i’m running again. i really need to not take the winters off (but how i HATE indoor running, and it’s harder and not at all comfortable to run outside in the winter). i’m signed up for my first 5K of the season. i’m ready! because once i start to run, i can take on the world and all it throws at us again.

- this past week, kenny was rockstar dad and husband again as i took three days in a row to teach a geography and art camp for the co-op that we are a part of. i was out the door well before the boys woke up, and he tended to them and their needs while i taught forty-one 6 to 8 year-olds for three solid days. i came home to dinner already cooked before turning around and heading back out to rehearsal the first two nights, and on the last night, i came home to a beach chair sitting next to the pool, a bottle of my favorite chardonnay already uncorked, and a lovely grilled tilapia, chicken, green beans, and coconut rice dinner, al fresco (with friends joining us at table!). a great way to end those crazy exhausting three days.

- we are three weeks away from opening night of our second production, The Tempest. the rehearsals have been going so well, the cast is amazing and the sets and costumes are going to be stunning on that stage. i can’t wait for Butler to see that Shakespeare is interesting and fun and not stuffy and boring. we’ve been really busy every single evening and weekend putting this show together. some moments are tense and overwhelming, but for the most part, i’ve really loved the creative process in this production. from the conversations with the actors about their characters, to the evenings i spend at the sewing machine while kenny composes music for the show, it’s been a fun and exciting production.

- our farm is on hold for the moment. at least the sheep, their guard donkey, and our two chickens are happy and healthy. we just haven’t added to to our flock this year, and our honeybees did not make it through the winter. we’ve also decided to container garden on our deck instead of plant our massive yard garden again this year. i’m okay with this. sometimes you just need to take a year off of the hobbies that may consume you.

- we are so blessed. there is nothing hard about our life. we are a healthy, busy, a bit nutty family who has absolutely nothing to complain about.
except the winter weather.


homesteading year 4, part 1: expectations

   Posted by: liz

for the first year living up here, we did nothing except try to plant a garden (didn’t happen) and had a baby (adam!).

that was a lot for us, so we took it easy the fall and winter of our first year. but plans started picking up the following spring and we dove head-first into homesteading our little plot of land out here in the rolling hills of western pennsylvania!

that next spring, we ordered and DROVE to ohio to pick up our 15 egg-laying chicks. they were still wet when we picked them up (from hatching!) and we brought them back to our home, set them up with a warm brooder box in our laundry room and watched them for hours (kenny even got up twice in the night to check on them!).

we even had a garden that year, that was eaten to the ground by groundhog, but at least we planted and tended a lovely garden!

fast forward to this summer and we’ve found some balance to the whole “hobby-farming” endeavor. we have a new barn with an actual fenced in 1.8 acres. within that fence, barnyard politics rule…not the rules we thought to set up. the donkey is in charge of the five sheep and the two goats. the chickens keep their distance and the cat sneaks some water when the donkey isn’t looking (and then makes her way back out of the pasture fence).

the bees died out this winter and we didn’t get more, we tried to get 10 chickens in our freezer, but only consumed two (gave the rest away). the best laid plans…and all that jazz.

our garden is booming this year thanks to a very patient and green-thumbed kenny. the beans were a huge crop, the limas and edameme are just about to pop, and the tomatoes are all lovely and blight-free this year! we have a cutting garden again (zinnias!) and we had fresh lettuce and broccoli and herbs and will be picking some beautiful butternut squash (for soup!) soon. not to mention the decorative gourds for the dining room table fall decor (that i won’t be spending money on!).

we’ve been eating farm fresh eggs for years now, and i can tell you they are superior and worth the effort o keep hens just for that. last night, we had our first dinner of roasted herbed whole chicken that were raised, killed, and cooked by our own hands and it was good…but not WOW! the drumsticks were tough (probably because the donkey love to chase these chickens and they got a LOT of exercise!), and the breast meat, although large in quantity, were just as tasty as the herbed butter we cooked them in. what was satisfying was the fact that we can now, if we ever need to, raise and harvest our own chicken.

i am glad for the opportunity to learn and teach this way. i’m learning just as much as our boys are, and that is satisfying enough!


one local summer, week 2

   Posted by: admin

i missed week one because i couldn’t pull together a meal with strawberries and asparagus – the only two things in season right now! week two will be published at farm to philly. stay tuned for more delicious meal ideas!

so i did more searching and purchasing this week. i splurged and went with local meat sold at a local family farm. i’m also leaning on their strawberries this week as we’ll probably be picking and freezing some from another local u-pick farm later in the week for our fall and winter months.

i’m turning this meal into a lunch as this is so up the boys’ alley for lunchtime goodness.

eggs (from our chickens) – fried. hopefully i’ll be makingsome local butter later in the summer
local smoked sausage with locally made horseradish cheese (3 miles to the farm where we bought it, 10 miles from the farm that processed them)
strawberries, grown 3 miles away.

i’m having trouble finding locally grown grains. i called a place that sells locally milled grains to ask if they also grew it and they said they get it shipped in form the midwest. and that defeats the purpose of this whole challenge, right? i’d like to make a quiche with our eggs soon, but it might have to be a frittata.


sunday evening update

   Posted by: admin

we’ve had several days in the 90s. i’m LOVING it.

the first really hot day was thursday, and i basked in the warmth. by the second day (friday), i finally let kenny put the air conditioning on (i think it was the kids yelling over the monitor when i put them down for bed on thursday saying, “mommy, i’m sweaty!” a thousand times that did it for me).

we broke out a new wading pool (a frog!), kenny bought a new slip and slide, and by last night, the slip and slide fed into the wading pool. it’s rowan and sawyer’s new favorite thing to do.

our garden is popping up all over the place. all the beans popped, so far we have an 85% percent corn sproutings, and the other plants haven’t burned up in all the heat. when the plants get a little bigger, i’ll get a pictrure posted. now it just looks like black mounds and hay (similar to last year’s garden, minus the chickens and the groundhog troubles, plus a big fence that kenny and my brothers put up last week).

and today, kenny purchased this book. are we crazy yet? :)


one local summer 2008

   Posted by: admin

we’re thisclose to getting the plans for our summer garden in. we’ve extended it by several feet this year and we’re still planning which plants and seeds go where.

it’s also that time of year to sign up for a very cool summer challenge – one local summer. so all you foodies and gardeners out there…go sign yourselves up and start planning! i’m already thinking of the local farm stands i’ll visit and the recipes we’ll be making with our own garden produce.

we recently cheated and bought strawberries at the grocery store…but the boys were in dire need of something other than apples and pears – our winter fruits of choice. i’m eager to get to the local berry farm and pick all the berries we can eat. we got a little sick of strawberries last year with the amount that we picked that i still haven’t used the ones that we froze! there is just something so perfect about a warm, sweet freshly picked strawberry that one frozen 10 months ago can’t match.

we’ve been spending the majority of our days on the outside of the house lately. it feels great to not need a coat, and to roam the yard again without heavy boots and deep snow keeping us from walking easily.

maybe it’s because this yard has so much more foliage and life beneath the ground than our old yard did…but this year again, i’m surprised (by joy, of course) at the new buds forming on the otherwise dead-looking tree branches, and the bright green shoots sticking up out of the earth after a long hibernation. even though we’re expecting it, it’s always surprising that life returns after such a long, cold, dead winter.

i spent the day in the city on saturday. my friend serina and i (and her 5-month-old son, asher!) headed out bright and early to the salvation army fabric fair. we didn’t realize just how nuts the fair actually is until we tried to maneuver our way through the crowds. i tried two or three times to browse through the patterns/book table, but the ladies wouldn’t budge. these women meant business. we did score on some great new fabirc (cheap!) but made our way through as carefully as we could without getting hurt. :)

that afternoon, i met kenny and the boys (and my mom) at our old church for the shape note workshop i was so excited about. it was a lot of fun to sing in a group again (i rarely get this opportunity anymore since i’m not the singer in the family), and it was interesting learning a bit more about it. but kenny and i made the same observation about the actual singing: at this point, we’d much rather listen to it sung (by those who sing it a lot!) than to sing it ourselves. there was a huge need to pay attention to the line of music that you’d sing, and i honestly can’t remember actually hearing the music being sung because i was too intent on getting the notes right. so i keep listening to the pieces from the Awake My Soul web site to get my fix.

in the warmth of the afternoon sun on sunday, we labored in the garden. now i know that this is (an example of) the type of work that God requires us to abstain from on the 7th day of the week…but seriously, is it work when it’s so enjoyable? when it’s all you’ve been wanting to do for the past three months of frozen temperatures? because it felt great to see the ground again, and to see the garden getting ready to be a bed of growth again. the boys helped us with their garden tools while adam napped. we breathed in the earth, the sun, the tractor diesel fumes….  if there is one thing i’d like to do away with, it’s the tractor diesel. i wish there were such a thing as an affordable, green tractor that would make all the rest of our organic gardening and earth-keeping worth it. perhaps one day, the barn will be fixed up enough to house a few goats and sheep. because they’re the perfect earth-friendly tractors around.

AND…we lost another chicken today. it was one of the black and white ones (silver laced wyandottes) – the ones i call george washington (they look just like him!). we believe she was hit by a car as she was lying, wings sprawled, in our rock/shrub garden. we’re not sure it was a natural landing that put her there, or if someone put here there after doing the damage. she’s had a proper burial and yes, we told the boys. and this after we were just telling someone how we’ve never lost a chicken to traffic, even though they freely walk in the street on a daily basis (cars normally slow down, honk, or stop). this puts our daily egg count down to about 10-11. thank goodness for friends who readily take eggs off our hands.

our garden continues to be munched on by a particular small, grey rodent of sorts…some things are surviving, but i’m afraid that our pole beans will not produce beans this year. the lima bean plants look really good, however, as do the green pepper, celery, and one lone cucumber plant. and our tomatoes? they’re going crazy. i’m afriad all the green globes that are forming will turn red on the same day and i’m going to have to can and make salsa within a 24-hour time slot. yikes! at least the boys will eat the cherry tomatoes off the plants.

i’ve been following (but not participating in, sadly) a great project/blog called One Local Summer. the jist of the project is to make one meal a week of all local ingredients. if you haven’t already done so, go to your farmer’s markets and get some locally grown fruit and vegetables. you may even be able to find baked goods made from locally grown flours/grains. the other night, we had steamed green beans from the garden of kenny’s colleague. they were so sweet and delicious, i’m sure they would have been great raw. i’m afraid it’s what we’re missing in our own garden, thanks to mr. groundhog (did you notice, in that list of groundhog characteristics that a groundhog is “is a herbivore, or vegetarian, eating a wide variety of wild plants, clover and alfalfa, and garden vegetables if available.)

tonight’s dinner is the closest i’ve come yet:
grilled chicken with homamde BBQ sauce (made with local honey)
corn on the cob (grown in slippery rock)
green beans (grown in slippery rock)

the only thing not “local” is the chicken. hopefully by next year, we’ll be eating locally-grown, preferably pasture-raised, chicken and beef. and pork. and the occasional lamb. and turkey.

“we set our hopes high so that we can grow wings and learn to fly.”
i have no idea who coined that phrase


the latest buzzzzzzz

   Posted by: admin

kenny should really be the one writing this post, but he gave up blogging for Lent a while back and just never got back into it (actually, it was around the time sawyer was born, 2004, when he gave up on blogging).

he’s the mastermind behind our next big project, which kicked off officially today: beekeeping.  we spent the morning making sweet and sour meatballs to take with us to the Pennsylvania State Beekeepers Association’s Summer Picnic/Potluck. we were expecting there to be perhaps 10-15 folks there sharing our meatballs, perhaps a few bags of chips, some warm soda, and maybe a cake in the shape of a honeybee complete with “honey” icing while the beekeepers chatted about their hives.

fortunately, it was nothing of the sort. we were one of 50 families (maybe more)…totalling a few hundred people with hot dogs and a TON more food to share. there were activities for the kids (the boys made “kite” honeybees and tree-branch name plates) while kenny listened to a few of the experts talk about the recent bee colony collapses. he also got to “schmooze” or “network” with several beekeepers in our area (one lives just down the street!).

these beekepers know how to throw a family party.

they do get a bit corny with their “Honey Queen” contest where they nominate some floozy woman as the “Honey Queen” for a year. as i was passing her wearing her tiara and sash, i asked her just what she did to received this title (yes, okay, i was taking notes so I COULD BE THE NEXT HONEY QUEEN)…and i made the mistake of referring to her as the “queen bee.” she corrected me immediately and told me that she wrote an essay on the health benefits of honey and the judges interviewed her. she said she won based on the combination of her interviewing/speaking skills and the uniqueness of her essay. i was hoping it was a baking contest so i at least had a chance for next year. but speaking skills? writing an essay? PUL-EASE.

our neighbors donated their old beekeeping equipment to us complete with bee suits for kenny and i and a little-itty-bitty child’s suit for the boys. rowan and sawyer tried theirs on this morning.

i’m now really excited about this: the benefits of local honey (i mean, a few yards away local!), honeybees for our garden and our neighbors’ gardens, and learning the incredibly complex ways of the honeybee are just a few of the things i’m excited about. we order our bees sometime in january and we’ll receive them late spring, 2008.



   Posted by: admin

i want to wish all the dads in my life a very happy father’s day. we had a fantastic day except for the…devastation.

here is another picture from the series of photos i took in the garden JUST LAST NIGHT (by the way, that’s mud on adam’s rear in the previous post…not chicken poop. there seemed to have been a bit of confusion amongst some of my readers – ha!). this is a photo of the row of lettuce and broccoli (the broccoli is toward the back…all you can see is big, beautiful leafy greens). they were my favorite plants in the garden: a blue-ish green leaf; thick stalks and growing up as well as out.

this photo is 10 minutes old. taken just 25 hours after the photo above. the lettuce in the front is gone…the lettuce in the middle is mowed, and the broccoli? sticks. broken sticks. the gorgeous leaves now being digested in the belly or bellies of the three groundhogs that live in our yard.

lets take a closer look at the lack of broccoli in our garden:

they’ve also munched on our beans and cucumbers.

i know you are all shaking your heads as you read this thinking, “why haven’t you gotten that fence we ALL told you to put up as soon as humanly possible?” why didn’t we listen to all your advice? because…because…we have no excuse. we’re still researching the most effective and cost-efficient (that’s my new phrase) fence. and our garden is being eaten from under our noses by the burly little hogs that i have no sympathy for anymore.

another reason we haven’t put up a fence yet is because the previous owner, who still lives near us, swears up and down she never needed a fence. they grew tomatoes and other veggies and never had a fence. we believed her. now we’re not so sure.

i’ll leave you with an image from happier times earlier today. what a great dad kenny is: he hardly got a chance to use his father’s day present (a 30-year anniversary edition shakespeare ugly stick, for those readers who are also fishers) today since the two older boys seemed to want to do all the fishing. after the fishing, we ate our grilled burgers and then swam in the lake. all three boys are fishes. we couldn’t get them out of the water.