Purple “de Milpa” tomatillos. As tasty as they are beautiful.
Well, the photo editor/uploader issues with WordPress haven’t been fixed yet, but I’m going to try and get a few images to upload for this post. I wish the uploader would cooperate, and I could share photos of all the garden is producing – Sunchokes 10 feet fall, baskets (and bellies) full of “Fall Gold” raspberries, ducks laying pale green eggs every day, broody chickens, yarrow and salvia and dahlias splashing every corner with color…
I love the transition of early September, when we are just beginning to be weary of summer, but not quite ready for the dreariness that Oregon offers the rest of the year. The plants and bees are frantic to do their work before fall sets in, and the cooler weather and episodes of rain have re-greened every inch of the garden. The front and backyards are bursting with tomatoes, tomatillos, summer squash, chard, kale, elderberries and ripening quince, winter squash, and apples.
Runner beans are beginning to dry. Looking forward to a few pots of soup from 1 teepee’s worth of vines.
The difficulties of malfunctioning WordPress haven’t been a bad thing, really. Taking a break from blogging and my FB page has been a good thing for me – less stress, more free time with the kids. I have learned to roller skate (never skated as a kid!) and am training with Ruth and Bea for roller derby (they play, I fall a bunch and try to learn a fraction of the skills they have acquired). I ended up falling at skating class and jacking up my left arm, so typing is slow and one-handed at the moment (another reason to take a break from blogging). (I am very much looking forward to getting back on skates when the splint comes off in a week or two – I may not be a good skater (yet!) but it is something I can do with my girls, good exercise, and a fantastic way to release a lot of accumulated anxieties, worries, frustrations.)
Bea picking dahlias and lavender, both of which are still producing abundantly
Time late at night that I would normally spend blogging or reading other blogs, I am now spending exercising and strength building for derby and working on writing projects. I really miss reading what other blogging families are doing, and seeing other mom’s beautiful handwork and culinary creations – through them I find so many good knitting patterns, book recommendations, recipes, home-education inspiration. However, it is also stressful for me and a lot of feelings of inferiority well up with each blog post I view. The more I read about lives that run so much more smoothly than my own, and view those carefully chosen images, the more I stress about dust bunnies in every corner of my house, kids with tangled hair, house projects unfinished, and piles of unfolded laundry. When I take a break from the blogosphere, I feel more centered and enjoy my family more, because I am stressing less. And with the start of our homeschooling year and having a kindergartener, a 3rd grader and a 5th grader, plus a very active 2 yr-old, I need less stress.
Orange beefsteaks with red cherries in the background. Near the house, the beds are overrun with red and yellow “Brandywines” and “Mortgage Lifters”. We’ve been eating “Sun Gold” cherry tomatoes with nearly every meal – so delicious on omelettes or in salads.
So, after sharing this morning’s photos from a few hours in the garden with the kids, I’m not sure when I’ll be back. I probably won’t be posting regularly for a while, but I will be back now and then to share some of the good things happening in our lives.
Bea picked a handful of lavender for “secret potions”
Sweat Meat winter squash vining through the kale
Brandywines with oca (Oxalis tuberosa) and cucumber underneath. We’re getting more big ripe beefsteaks this year than in the last three years combined.
Rows and rows of beautiful beneficial (though inedible) mushrooms spring up in all the paths after it rains. They breakdown the woodchips and release nutrients into the soil.
Blessings on you this month as the seasons shift. I hope September is as energizing for you as it has been thus far for our family.
Despite having taken oodles of photos and having several posts drafted, WordPress is being fickle. Beyond fickle. Looks like we might have to reinstall it or some such frustration. Photos won’t load properly, won’t edit, disappear, load distorted on iPad but not on PCs…it’s a big mess I haven’t got the time to fix at the moment. As soon as things are repaired, I will be back to regular posting. Thanks, Angela
Do you ever fall in-and-out-of-love with a craft or recipe? Do your habits and hobbies have a seasonality to them?
When a skill or hobby piques my interest, I tend to research everything on the subject, and fully submerge myself in it. I get a little obsessed. And then, sometimes the interest wanes (like making rag rugs). Or sometimes it becomes cemented in the rhythm of our family life (like baking bread). I like to knit in the winter, sew in the summer, but bake and garden all year long.
(On a side note, I think this is why project-based homeschooling appeals so much to me. Being allowed to freely, and thoroughly explore an interest or idea is as important to kids as it is to adults.)
lactofermented shredded ginger carrots. Recipe from Cultures for Health. The flavor of the carrots comes through pure and delicious, the bite of ginger is the perfect complement to the saltiness of the brine and tanginess of the lactic acid.
lactofermented dill pickles. These are half-sours, with grape leaves floating on top to keep the pickles crisp.
When I go out to the garden, my first thought is, “What can I pick to pickle?” When I need a snack, I straight for a dish of kraut or dilly beans.
The basket of mending, countless unfinished knitting projects, this blog, the novel on the bedside table all sit neglected right now. I’m up late at night setting up second ferments of kombucha, or shredding some root veggie, or washing out fido jars, or reading books and articles on the science of fermentation.
I suppose there are worse things to be fixated on than making healthy, delicious, vitamin-packed food, right?
WordPress has been wonky, and I’m having trouble uploading photos and editing them. If WordPress will cooperate, I will be back later in the week!
A cascade of very fresh, very ripe figs the kids poured out onto the kitchen table. They are from a neighbor’s tree. She doesn’t know the variety (they are actually her next-door neighbors, but a large portion of the immense tree overhangs her driveway, and no one family can consume the vast quantities of fruit.
The figs are pale green with a pink flesh, and very soft and sweet. I think they may be “Desert King”, which does quite well in our climate, and typically produces a large good-quality breba crop (we have a young one in our yard, and it has exactly eight nearly-ripe fruit on it).
I’m planning on starting a small (one gallon) batch of fig wine with some this weekend. The rest we are eating fresh, or on toast with mascarpone. I have my eye on these quick fig recipes, though. Numbers 6 and 8 look particularly good.
For all things “fig”, the knowledge bank at Figs4Fun is the place to visit.
Do you have a favorite fig recipe? A favorite variety?
I will be back with more posts over the weekend. We will be busy with the girls’ Roller Derby practices, birthday parties to attend, Sunday Parkways, and such. The weather promises to be perfection, so every un-scheduled moment will be spent in the garden. So much ripening, and so much in bloom, I hope to share pictures of it all.
Kombucha going through a second fermentation to produce a fizzy, fruity final drink.
A few folks have asked for the recipe for a recent batch of elderberry kombucha. There isn’t much of a recipe – it is simply kombucha put through a secondary fermentation with fruit added. Here is the process:
I am currently brewing my kombucha using the Wild Fermentation group‘s method of 3 black tea bags, 2 green tea, and 1 oolong for each gallon of water. You can also set up a continuous brew system, which I hope to set up in a crockery dispenser very soon.
Once the kombucha has reached the desired level of tangyness, remove the SCOBY, and reserve a 1/2 cup or so of kombucha to jump-start your next batch.
From here, you have a few choices. The first option is starting a secondary ferment of your booch right in the jar, and starting your new batch of kombucha (with SCOBY) in a new vessel. This is how I have always done it previously – usually with lemon juice and a little brown sugar, or diced strawberries. Covered and left on the counter for a few days, it will turn into a fizzy, fruity version that my kids find quite superior to plain-old kombucha.
The downside of this is that the entire gallon is one flavor. This means you are taking quite a risk when experimenting with flavor combinations. That persimmon-molasses kombucha I thought would turn out so great? Yeah, well, that was a whole gallon none of my kids would drink. But there is another option.
A while back, I had pinned a blog post from My Gutsy that featured fruit combinations for secondary fermentation of kombucha. It was very late at night, and I was skimming whole-foody type blogs and knitting and half-dozing off, and I should have read her post more closely. She does her second ferment right in the bottle! Brilliant! Why hadn’t I ever done this before? Now, I can try small batches of different flavors, and it is already bottled up and ready to go when I am scrambling to get out the door for homeschool park day or church or what-have-you.
She recommends re-using kombucha and tea bottles (about 16 oz), adding 1/4 cup fruit juice or puree and filling the rest of the bottle with booch, but also gives ratios for other sizes of glass containers. I used some chia-drink and iced-tea bottles I had washed out and saved in our basement canning room (I knew they would come to good use someday!).
For some of the bottles, I picked a few blackberries from the yard, crushed them, and added a little orange juice. For some, I used my old stand-by scaled down to = 1 Tbsp lemon juice and 1 Tbsp brown sugar. For the remainder of the bottles, I went with elderberry syrup:
For each 16 ounce jar, I added 2 Tbsp of elderberry syrup. Because the syrup already contains quite a bit of sugar, and the elderberries have a strong and distinctive flavor, I thought it might be best to start with 1/2 of Gutsy’s recommended amount of fruit juice. I was sure to leave a good 2-inches of head-space to prevent breakage, and left it on the counter, tightly sealed, for two days.
The resulting drink is a beautiful magenta color (see top photo), and has just the right amount of sweetness and berry flavor plus fizz. Of all the flavor combinations we tried, the kids loved the elderberry best (George could be heard shouting, “BOOOOCH!! More BOOOCH!!” Halfway across Sellwood Park). So, today when I bottled up another round of kombucha, every jar has an added immune-boosting dose of elderberry syrup.
A few notes of safety –
1)Raw elderberries contain some cyanide (which cooking removes), and the stems and seeds contain even more. Please follow my safety guidelines, which can be found here, and do not add raw elderberries to your kombucha.
2)Kombucha is a living food, and helps populate good intestinal flora. Begin consuming kombucha or any fermented or cultured food in small amounts (a Tbsp or so at a time). Ease it into your diet in order to avoid digestive upset, gas, etc.)
Lately I’ve been getting back to making home fermented foods, for our health and for simplicity’s sake. I routinely make sourdough, yogurt, and buttermilk, but had gotten away from cultured vegetables (life gets busy). But the past several weeks, I have re-discovered how much we love lacto-fermented veggies.
Lacto-fermentation is the process of using beneficial bacteria (primarily Lactobacillus acidophilus and L. bifidus) to create lactic acid and ferment raw fruits and veggies into foods that are more easily digestible and have more bio-available nutrients. The process also preserves food for many months.
The garden is bursting with produce, but my schedule is hectic and time is precious, so even setting aside the health benefits, lacto-fermentation is the best option for preserving and enjoying much of our garden produce. Unlike canned pickles, lacto-fermented veggies do not require heating up the kitchen and hours slaving over a canner on hot summer days. They only require a few minutes to prep the ingredients, a little care in setting up the ferment.
Today, a batch of Dilly Beans finished after five days on the counter, and I couldn’t wait to crack into the jar. I must say, they are superb. They are exponentially better than the less-than-crisp hot-water bath canned bean pickles I’ve made in the past. A completely different and superior food, and I can’t stop eating them! These beans are crispy, crunchy, salty, tangy, with just the right balance of dill and garlic. Did I mention how crunchy they are?
Here’s my recipe, but first a few notes that will help your fermentation be successful:
On the brine – in order to create the proper environment for the good bacteria and inhibit mold growth, the brine MUST be salty enough. The traditional ratio is 3 Tbsp of salt for 1 Qt. of water. Also remember that all of your pickles must be fully submerged in the brine – any pieces sticking up out of the brine may mold or grow funky bacteria and spoil your batch.
For a less salty, and quicker fermenting brine: omit 1 Tbsp salt and substitute in 1/4 cup whey from making yogurt, creme fraiche, or cheese. (You can strain a cup or so of store-bought yogurt with active cultures (REAL yogurt, not one with added guar gum and thickeners and such) to get your whey if needed. I like Nancy’s Organic Wholemilk Plain. It’s what I use as a starter for homemade yogurt, too.)
On the fermenting vessels – My friends at The Liberated Kitchensuggested picking up large fido jars at Ross or Marshalls. What a great idea! For $3 or $4 each you can snag half-gallon and gallon-sized jars which work great for fermenting. I pack my veggies in, add the brine, and then insert a small juice glass to push the veggies under the brine before sealing it up. (Note: I used to believe that you had to burp the jars to reduce pressure and avoid spill-over or breakage, but have since learned that Fido jars actually allow gases to escape through the gasket, without oxygen re-entering or the need to burp the jars.)
Best Dilly Beans EVER
1 1/2-2 lbs of fresh, organic green beans
4 cloves of garlic, smashed with the side of a knife
2 heads of dill buds/flowers OR a good handful of dill fronds (which aren’t as potent)
1 heaping tsp black peppercorns
Enough brine to cover the beans +1 inch (My beans were quite long, and I needed about 1 3/4 Qts.)
1)Place garlic, dill, and peppercorns in the bottom of the jar.
2)Stack beans (standing up on their ends) into the jar.
3)Fill jar with brine, being sure to fully cover beans, but leaving headspace.
4) Leave on the kitchen counter (60-80F is ideal) for 5-10 days, until desired tangyness is achieved, then move to the fridge (Be sure to check the contents daily, and don’t overfill or you may break your jar, especially if it is warm in the house and it ferments rapidly). Will keep for several months in the fridge.
For more info on lacto-fermentation and other fermented foods, plus tips on trouble-shooting and inspiration from other fermenters, visit the Wild Fermentation FB Group.
My favorite no-cook summer recipe is Tzatziki…or maybe it’s Raita…it’s a toss up. These similar nutritious dishes are delicious, and their subtle differences complement other foods so well that we make and enjoy both frequently. Serve some with a handful of kalamata olives and a little block of feta and a mint iced tea and you have the perfect summer lunch.
Right now there is a lot of dill in the garden, so today Tzatziki it is! (Whip up a batch of falafels and we’ll call it “good” for dinner.)
Here’s my recipe:
Baker Family’s Favorite Tzatziki
3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Vinegar (you can use homemade, but a light-colored vinegar is best, so as not to discolor the sauce)
3 large cloves garlic, pressed through a garlic press
1/2 tsp salt
large pinch of white pepper (optional)
2 tsp fresh dill, finely chopped
1/2 onion, very thinly sliced
2 large cucumbers, peeled (or half-peeled as shown above) and thinly sliced
2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt (Greek is best, or you can set homemade yogurt in a strainer for an hour or so to drain) OR for a yummy twist on the original: 1 cup whole-milk yogurt + 1 scant cup tahini blended with juice of one-half lemon
In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil and vinegar.
Add crushed garlic, salt and pepper, and dill and whisk well.
Then whisk in yogurt (or yogurt-tahini blend).
Gently fold in onions and cucumber.
Cover and chill for at least two hours before serving.
Taking a break from a busy day to quickly join the Yarn Along. I have a penchant for permaculture books, and something about reading up on landscape design and permaculture theory just pairs well with knitting. This morning I finished The Resilient Farm and Homestead while casting on a pair of socks.
The book is well-written and not-t00-technical. It is geared toward those folks with property, and/or those new to the ideas of resilience and permaculture homesteading. While I may not have enough land for sheep and goats and a duck pond, the book still had a lot to offer, and it was nice to day dream while reading through it.
Here is the cuff of what will be stripey socks in beige, plum and dove grey, cast-on with 5s for a quick knit. I snagged a bag of Lamb’s Pride worsted at a garage sale last weekend. I couldn’t resist when it was such a good deal, and folks like me (with chilly feet!) can never have enough pairs of thick wool socks in the winter.
I’ve been cooking up lots of good things in the kitchen, and will be back tomorrow with one of my favorite summer recipes.
As always, looking forward to reading up on the other knitters in the Yarn Along later tonight while kiddos are in bed (and I crank out a few more inches on these socks.)
(Edit: I realize WordPress is having issues right now – all my photos are loading sideways, and while they look fine on my Dashboard, they appear flipped on their side in the final post. Working on it!)
The past few mornings have felt like September with their crispness, and we’ve started out the day in sweaters. And yet the afternoons are the best that summer in Oregon has to offer with blue skies and warm breezes. So, of course we’ve been taking advantage of the gorgeous weather and spending every possible moment outdoors. Every evening we’ve taken long walks, and most days we head to a playground in the city after swim lessons and garden chores.
Sunday we played hooky from church, packed a picnic lunch, and went for a day hike in the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge. The paths are wide and easy to navigate for toddlers like George who want to walk/run like the big kids (“No backpack! I walk! I WALLLLKKK!”).
And the wildlife! We saw frogs and birds and insects and fish at every turn in the path and every pond. Bea tuned-in to every call of every bird, particularly the Orange-Crowned Warblers and Song Sparrows. But the highlight of the afternoon is when a Bald Eagle flew very low to the ground, directly over our heads, and landed in an adjacent tree.
If you haven’t made a trip out to the Refuge, we highly recommend it. And we’ll be traveling back again to see the migratory birds moving through in the fall and spring.
I’ll be back later this week with some knitting, spinning, and maybe a few new recipes. But for now, it’s back outside to soak up that sunshine.
Part two of Late June in the garden: the backyard. Rhubarb, beans, amaranth, garlic, pole beans, tomatoes, tomatillos, volunteer chard and sunflowers.
Backyard raspberry patch
The side yard, with shed in the background
Raspberries in the back and side yards are still cranking out the berries. The side yard patch (on the left) has encroached upon the path and blueberries, columbine and dahlias (to the right). Ah well, I do love that wild, overgrown look to the garden.
thimbleberries, lingonberries and elderberries in the shade garden
It’s going to be a great year for elderberries. Both the native and Asian elderberry in our shade garden are loaded full of young fruit.
A young Cox’s Orange Pippin apple
We will finally be getting apples this year! Six of our dozen+ young apple trees have fruit! And the quinces and one fig have set some fruit as well. So good to see our investment in perennial fruit crops begin to yield a harvest!
Potatoes, poppies, hollyhocks, kale, cucumber, chard, sage, chives, pumpkins, tomatoes, white clover, currants, gladioulus, chard, filbert: a healthy and vigorous polculture, full of bees every morning
Corn poppies: a self-sowing annual poppy. Reliable, beautiful, and low-maintenance.
I hope you enjoyed the tour of our permaculture farmette. I will try to post a few more times this week as we hide from the summer heat. Stay cool!