Better Late Than Never Garden Update

Well friends, it’s June 16th, and I am coming at you with my first garden update of the 2017 growing season.  Hum.  Where exactly did the time go?  And better yet, what on earth have I been doing?  Time has somehow slipped between my fingers so rapidly, that I cannot even seem to identify the activities that filled these minutes, hours and days.

But nonetheless, this garden of ours is surely well underway, and perhaps the furthest along we have ever been come this time of the year.  I believe I can owe a great deal of this success to the fact that my girls have been real, active participants in our homestead this year.  While in the past the girls surely had “jobs” like collecting eggs in the morning, watering their fairy garden, and picking ripe cherry tomatoes from the vine, but this year the girls have been logging some legit man-power hours.  Gianna hauls spent dishwater outside to water plants, and she moves the sprinkles around to various locations throughout these hot, dry days we have been experiencing.  Addie tilled all the garden beds this spring, and she does a great deal of the wedding that needs to be done in the veggie beds.

And let me tell you, this year these littles are much more appreciative of the strawberries gracing their breakfast table and the cilantro and lettuce making its way into their tacos come dinnertime.  And isn’t this what homesteading and forming connections with our food is all about?  With the knowledge of the human labor and natural resources needed to grow our food, we are much more humble and filled with an awe-inspiring sense of gratitude when we are able to bring that food to our tables.

I wish you all a wonderful weekend, in which you are able to nourish your body with food that gives you strength in body, as well as soul.  

First Garden Post of the Season

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Friends, I do believe this is the my first garden update of the summer.  How is this possible?  Oh my.  There is so much happening out there right now that I struggle with where to begin.  Let us begin with the herb garden…

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I am trying out some new herbs in our herb garden this year and, although it appears to be quite “junglish” right now, I am happy with what is coming out of it at this time.

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We are growing lemon balm for the first time this year, and I have begun drying it for tea and some other medicinal salves I hope to make this winter.  Lemon verbena is also new to our herb selection this year, and I have a liqueur in the works right now.  I promise to share the details of this venture as the process nears an end in three weeks. We also grew quite a bit of stevia this season, and this week I ran it through our dehydrator and then our spice grinder.  We now have a fine stevia powder to use in drinks throughout the remainder of summer and into fall.

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Next, along the south side of our house, we have a raspberry bramble that is booming this year in a way I have never seen.  The bees flock to the raspberries each day, and at any given time we can count almost 50 of them swarming the forming fruits.  I cannot wait to see the bounty we receive from these plants this year.

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Our apple trees are actually producing some fruit this year, which is very exciting.  However, the Japanese beetles have slowly began taking them over, and each day I find more and more leaves have fallen prisoner to their wrath.  I fear we may lose all our apples before fall.

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Finally we move into the main garden space where our beans are also finally coming in.  This year we are growing Bountiful, Purple Pod, Golden Wax, and Dragon Tongue (our family favorite) with it’s beautiful purple stripes.

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The extreme amounts of rain this summer have led to some of the tallest tomato plants we have ever had, but unfortunately they bear very few fruits.  My hunch is the cool temperatures this summer have inhibited fruit production on these plants.  My hope is as the temperature rise this week, we may see some tomatoes begin to form.

Thank you for joining me on my first garden tour of 2015!  I promise it will not be long until we venture into the garden again.

Fuasa—Italian Easter Bread

We have many food traditions in our house, but the one that reigns supreme is my Nona’s fuasa recipe.  My nona, Madeline Zanocco (the woman in the photograph on the left), emigrated to the United States from Vicenza, Italy.  She had five children, the forth of which was my grandfather.  My grandpa, Angelo Zanocco, decided to take on the role of rebel child in the family because he was only one of Madeline’s five children to marry a non-Italian.  This is why I always chuckle when I think about the fact that it was my German grandmother, Adeline (in the photograph below), who taught me to bake her fuasa recipe, and thus carry on the family tradition of making Italian Easter Bread every spring 🙂

I have been making (and eating) fuasa on Easter Sunday from as far back as I can remember.  The sweet crunchy goodness of the bread is synonymous in my mind with the holiday celebration.  Now that both Nona and my grandmother Addie have both passed on, I have made a point of continuing with the fuasa tradition each Easter.  I have made fuasa with my girls from the first year of their lives (My oldest can be seen in the picture below from 2007, making fuasa for the first time when she was only six months old.), because I find so much value in passing on our family food culture to the next generation.

And when I say I will make fuasa each year without fail, I always think of the year when I decided to triple the fuasa recipe (that means I was making 15 loaves of bread), and my oven broke.  I frantically called around to our friends in the area, but all were already away for the holiday weekend.  So, I packed up by 15 loaves of dough, my hubby, and my 18 month old and drove to Illinois State University where my sister was attending college.  From there I went to her friend’s apartment to bake.  Yes, I was baking 15 loaves of bread, with a toddler, in a college kid’s apartment…while he was having a party!  I’m not sure I was their favorite person that night 🙂  But the fuasa got done none the less.

It has been so fun to see the girls take on more of an active role in the baking of the fuasa each year.  It is truly my hope that they continue this tradition and pass it on to their little ones some day.

Nona’s Fuasa Recipe

2 yeast packets

2 cups milk (scalded then cooled)

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons salt

8 egg yolks (save the whites to use on the tops of the loaves before baking)

1 1/2 sticks butter (melted)

9 cups flour

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 teaspoon almond extract

Stir yeast into warm milk.  Set aside.  Beat egg yolks, add sugar, salt and flavoring.  Then add the melted butter.  Next add the flour and milk mixture, alternating between each.  Beat until smooth.  Place on floured board and knead.  Place in a large bowl, butter the top of the dough, cover with a damp towel and let rise until double in size.  Knead dough again.  Divide into five pieces, roll out and knot.  Place in greased pans, butter the top of the dough, cover with a damp towel and let rise until double in size.

Beat the egg whites.  Baste the top of each loaf with egg whites, then sprinkle with sugar.  Bake each loaf for 20 minutes at 350 degrees and 15 minutes at 250 degrees.  Enjoy!

I wish each of you a very blessed Easter weekend!