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Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

Hibernating

Oat and Wheat Bread

A nearby bluff

First, for my regular readers, let me say a belated merry Christmas and a blessed new year.  I have no good explanation for my long absence, short of too much off-homestead work followed by hibernation.  Yep, you read that right.  My best explanation for my failure to post is that I’ve been hibernating.  Oh, sure, I’ve kept cooking and baking and even doing winter gardening and taking long walks or jogs outside, but those things have mostly happened on the bright sunny days, and generally my days are measured by the sunlight.  When the sun goes down, I’m ready for bed.  And I don’t want to get up again until the sun rises.

Thursday the Ozarks were hit by a slick mess of ice and snow.  I was sixty miles from home when the storm changed from rain to snow, but I had the luck to make it home safely.  All the while, as the slushy mess swirled around me, I kept wishing for a place to hibernate.  When I got home, I curled up with the “barn cats” on the sofa and settled in for the rest of the winter.

Snow-Swept Ozarks Field at Dusk

 

Truth is, when I lived up north, our quick-moving snow storm would have shut down nothing.  I would have bravely ventured out, walking a bit more carefully or driving a bit more slowly but gone on with my business.  Still, I think that slowing down and re-charging during the winter is an idea from nature that most of us could use.

Cold Frames . . . . Brrrrr

Do you know the best time to plant most trees?  Autumn.  Plant in the autumn, and the tree will establish itself through its roots, growing strong while appearing dormant above ground.  Winter is important for tree growth, even if we can’t see it happen.

Miss C., cozy for winter

I’m not sure if I’m most like a tree or a bear or a ground squirrel or even one of the cats (who seem determined to teach me how to enjoy winter), but I know sometimes I just need to step back, snuggle up in a comfy chair, and re-establish my roots.  Winter is a great time to do just that.  Now, though, as the days get longer and brighter, even though it’s colder, I’m starting to feel like a tree, prepping its buds for blooming.

Copyright 2011 Ozarkhomesteader, including images.

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There is no question that fall has come.  Actually, we had our first frost about two weeks ahead of schedule, at the beginning of October.  

I am extremely resistant to yielding to winter in the garden.  In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re still picking summer crops.  I used an old king-sized mattress cover for moving to protect my teepee, this year laden with trombetta squash and armenian cucumbers.  We picked several pounds after the first frost.

Sadly, a wind storm last week ripped off the plastic and collapsed the teepee.  I haven’t given up on everything else, though.  Last weekend was the real test, when temperatures plunged into the lower twenties.  Everything that stayed covered survived.  Tomorrow night, we’re expecting more freezing temperatures, but I’ve tucked in the garden and hope that it stays that way.  If so, we’ll keep harvesting for a few more weeks.

How do you let go of your garden as winter comes?  Do you have a ritual of putting the garden in hibernation?  Are you like me, trying to get that last tomato to ripen?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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I have a confession:  I like pimento cheese. I still consider pimento cheese a treat.  Unfortunately, I know that, even made with natural ingredients, it’s not good for me.  Thank goodness for red pepper pesto, which provides all of the great pimento cheese taste with none of the guilt.

red pepper pesto on whole-grain penne

For those of you who aren’t Southern, let me begin by explaining the concept of pimento cheese.  Pimento cheese is an obscenely orange creation made of grated yellow cheddar, canned pimento peppers, and mayonnaise or even Miracle Whip.  When I was growing up, you could find it most often served at ladies’ luncheons where women wore fancy hats and drank sherbet punch, student piano recitals where parents eagerly awaited their child’s labored key plunking, and non-catered wedding receptions, where loving friends of the bride and groom decked out the church fellowship hall or local women’s club with crepe paper bells and garlands and tissue paper roses.  The pimento cheese at these events manifest itself spread on white bread that had been cut into shapes like playing card symbols (hearts, diamonds) and seasonal critters and emblems (turkeys, stars) and then made into sandwiches, sans crusts of course. I actually looked forward to events where I could anticipate pimento cheese.  When I moved north for school, I craved pimento cheese as a taste of comfort food from home.  I finally found it in a small grocery store in a predominantly African-American neighborhood populated with–you guessed it–Southern expatriates.

But that was then, and even though I’m back in pimento cheese territory now, instead I feast on red pepper pesto with gusto but no guilt.

Red Pepper Pesto

Begin by broiling 3 sweet pimento peppers, turning regularly until the skin starts to separate from the peppers all over.  Yes, you can use something other than pimento, but pimentos have a special flavor.  I used sheep-nosed pimentos, fresh from the garden.  Take the peppers out of the broiler and while still piping hot, put them in a lidded glass container and set them aside for a few minutes.  Then slip off the skins, rinsing if you need to get the skins off.  Clean up the seeds and membranes inside too.

Now comes the pesto part.  Chop the peppers to get the process started.  Then using a food processing, mortar and pestle, or hand blender, blend the peppers with a tablespoon or more of good olive oil, until you get a nice paste.  Add less than half an ounce of finely grated real parmesan cheese and combine.  Add salt to taste.  That’s the basic version.

If you’d like a little more kick, add a mashed roasted garlic clove or a tablespoon of toasted pine nuts or herbs.

This pesto is great on toast points, crostini, scrambled eggs, or as a pasta sauce.  It’s tasty warm or cold.

Are you a fan of pimento cheese?  What childhood favorite have you converted to a more sophisticated, adult treat?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.

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I started our summer squash late this year, but we’ve still ended up with bushels of it.  Last year I posted about summer supper squash pancakes, and earlier this year I offered a can-less version of squash casserole.  Of course, you can always sauté squash with onions, but why not go a little crazy and come up with a few more variations?

Earlier this week we had squash roasted with sweet onions, pimento pepper, a little chile pepper, and strips of turkey ham.  The recipe is simple; just cut the onions into chunky slices (half the onion and then quarter and separate into leaves), toss with a little oil, and give them a head start them roasting at 400 degrees F while you cut the squash into nice chunks, the pepper into dice or slivers, and the ham into strips.  Once everything else is prepped, toss it in with the onion, season to taste, and roast for about twenty minutes more.  You can sprinkle fresh, chiffonaded basil or another fresh snipped herb across the top.  I served ours as a side dish with spinach oyster soup, balsamic fig and bleu cheese salad, and crusty grilled bread.  My husband said he could easily enjoy the squash dish as the whole meal. Of course, this squash dish with that characteristic Southern drawl used a lot of squash, but I still had a lot more.

What to do?  How about squash stir-fried with Asian flavors?  This dish is still based on onions and squash, but it’s definitely different from traditional Southern squash.  Begin by slicing a sweet onion into thin slices.  Stir-fry the onions in a blend of walnut oil, peanut oil, or vegetable oil and a tablespoon or two of toasted sesame oil.  While the onions fry, cut your squash into chunks and sliver some crystalized ginger (yes, the candy ginger!), about two whole pieces per small squash (yielding a couple of tablespoons or three of slivered crystalized ginger).  Add the squash and crystalized ginger slivers to the stir-fry along with a splash of good soy sauce and, if you want, a splash of hoisin sauce.  Sit fry until a few pieces of the squash start get brown goodness.  I served our Asian-flavored squash with citrus-glazed broccoli and ginger-sesame salmon.  

What’s next?  I’m thinking squash with scallops and grits and perhaps some yellow squash muffins on the side, with cheese to make them a savory addition to supper.  I’m also planning on trying the squash relish that reader Regina posted for me in the comments of this squash post.  And this fall without a doubt I’ll be making some squash dressing to go with chicken or turkey.

How do you use your squash bounty?  What’s the weirdest thing you ever did with squash that tasted good?

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(Just because it’s Wordless Wednesday for me, it doesn’t mean you can’t leave comments.)

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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Our seemingly endless summer really is coming to an end.  Our oak leaves dropped a couple of weeks ago from the heat, lending a fallish scent, but we knew that they were not presaging fall, just yielding to our hot, dry weather.  Better evidence of the coming fall is the parade of animals through our yard, trying to fatten up for winter.  Days are still in the 90s here, but the past few mornings we’ve dipped below 70 degrees F.  This morning it was 55 degrees F when I got up.  It was bliss.  We’ve been sleeping with the windows open and feeling the need to snuggle under a blanket in the wee hours before dawn instead of sweltering without even a cotton sheet like we have been for most of the summer.

Along with these early signs of fall, we’ve seen “our” wildlife return from their summer retreats.  While one doe and fawn have visited regularly since July, this evening we had almost the whole herd of deer back to see what had fallen under the apple tree.  Last night, I found a big, fat raccoon on the porch.  I scared it off, as I see nothing good that can come from having coons around.  Tonight I surprised an armadillo, and bark rained down on me as another critter–I’m guessing possum or coon–escaped up an oak tree.

All of this relatively cooler weather is inspiring me for fall planting.  I hope to get in some seeds for lettuce and related greens.  I started craving turnips today, so I’ll put in some of those too.  And I’ll definitely start some cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower, preparing to cover them before they produce, in case of early frost.

Have you seen signs of fall?

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A few years ago I tried my hand at dehydrating, but I went with a relatively low-end dehydrator.  I quickly learned my mistake.  My tomatoes developed mold before they finished drying, and the dehydrator died while we were drying apples.  We finished the apples, complete with autumn spices, in the clothes dryer on the sweater rack. I’m not kidding; for weeks afterwards, all of our clothes smelled like apples and cinnamon.  I returned that dehydrator to the store but knew I’d be getting another one.

I’ve been reading dehydrator reviews ever since.  I settled on a smaller Excalibur with a thermostat and 26-hour timer.  It wasn’t cheap, but I got it with a free 10-year warranty, and if it works as it should, we’ll save a lot of money by preserving our harvest and making turkey jerky at home.

For example, this year I’m growing Principe Borghese tomatoes, which farmers developed especially for sun drying.  It’s too humid here to sun dry, but we can use the dehydrator to get similar results with better nutrition.  We like pieces of dried tomatoes in salads, on pizzas, and in pasta sauces all winter and spring long.  Have you priced sun-dried tomatoes recently?  They are expensive enough that I ration them in our house, but no more!  We can make our own now, for pennies.  Ditto on turkey jerky.  I ate a fair amount of turkey jerky on our Grand Canyon trip on the days when I couldn’t eat the group protein.  The good stuff–chemical free from healthy birds–is so pricey, though, that I can’t imagine it as a staple for ordinary camping or school.  Enter Excalibur!  I’m totally imagining homemade, chemical-free turkey jerky.  Dried blueberries?  Yes, as soon as our baby bushes produce a little extra.  Dried apples?  Of course.  Peppers ready for camping recipes?  Oh, I can’t wait to try it.

I haven’t even got my Excalibur all of the way out of the box yet, but I promise to report on it as soon as I use it.  Meanwhile, do you have a dehydrator?  If so, for what do you use it?  And have you made jerky?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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