Late August In the Garden

IMG_0856

IMG_0405 IMG_0888 IMG_0854 IMG_0853 IMG_0872 IMG_0954 IMG_0966

As summer wanes, and the expansive days of summer fade before our eyes, I am beginning to feel that same briefness in the garden.  While we still have a great deal coming out of our garden, and the tomatoes are finally beginning to come along, I feel a pull towards the space inside our home.  At this time of year, my body grows weary from all the hours spent out in the garden.  And while I still adore being in this space, I look forward to the days of nestling in with a cup of coffee, good book and some crocheting.  I often think this is why God gifted us with the seasons.  They allow us time to recharge our minds and bodies before venturing out again.

This past week in the garden has been quite bountiful.  Our second round of strawberries are still coming in the door, along with our long-awaited raspberry crop.  The tomatoes are starting to ripen and we have been eating them fresh off the vine, most of them never even making it over the threshold.  The lemon verbena liqueur that I mentioned a couple weeks back, is now completed and I look forward to the cocktails and baked goods we can make with this citrusy elixir.  More herbs are being dried, and beans frozen.  But perhaps our greatest delight of the week has been our apples.  As I shared before, the Japanese beetles have devoured the leaves of our apple trees.  We reached a point this week that there were more dead leaves than living and I feared if we didn’t pick our apples now we may lose them.  So pick we did.  And pie we made.  It was a great week in the garden.

In the Garden

It’s August!  This means we have entered the jungle-phase of the gardening season.  In order to move about the garden, one must weave in and out of the labyrinth of branches and vines.  And while doing so, one may come across our cat sleeping amongst the beans, or perhaps a groundhog who has found his way into our tomatoes.  (Talk about a bit of a fright when not expecting that guy.  Oh boy.)

IMG_0771 IMG_0757 IMG_0758 IMG_0759IMG_0756 IMG_0769

But amongst this tangle of vegetation there is a great deal happening, and our kitchen is finding itself brimming with our garden’s bounty.  The tomatoes have now grown taller than me (and standing at 5’11” that is saying something), and for the first time EVER we have been able to grow broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage!  We planted ever-bearing strawberries two years ago and we are now reaping the rewards of an amazing second round of these lovelies.

IMG_0815 IMG_0822

A few weeks back, as I mentioned in this post, I hung some herbs to dry.  This week my girls helped to take the leaves off these dried plants, grind them by hand, and then can them for the winter months.

IMG_0744 IMG_0747

Also in the herb department, our basil and lavender are just beautiful this year.  I decided to try out Ashley English’s Lavender Lemonade from her book //ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=qf_sp_asin_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=makofahom-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=1611801281&asins=1611801281&linkId=XB3HIFBW6PW65FC3&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true“>Quench (using stevia to replace the sugar) and it was delicious!  I have also been making basil-lime water infusions and it puts a whole new face on my family’s hydration needs.

IMG_0814 IMG_0824

I pulled most of our carrots this week and tried my hand at lacto-fermentation.  So far, there is a lot of fermentation goodness in the form of carbon-dioxide bubbles rising to the surface of the jars when I burp them each day.  I am very excited to taste these in a few more days.

Coming up next week, I hope to share with you some of the recipes I have been working on, which feature so much of this garden goodness.  Until then, enjoy the remainder of your week!

 

August Action

IMG_4781

There has been a lot of action of late in our gardens.  It is truly at its peak, and despite the near 100-degree temperatures this week, we find ourselves entwined in vines of all sorts, harvesting all this fabulous veg.

IMG_4630 IMG_4628 IMG_4757 IMG_4785IMG_4819

Tomatoes make an appearance at our dinner table each night, for I am not sure there is a better fresh vegetable on earth than a homegrown tomato.  Herbs are being dried each day in order to preserve them for the winter months.  Onions and beans are being diced and then destined for the freezer.  And who could forget our school garden, from which we just reached the 100 pounds donated mark!  Yup, the students of Cathedral of St. Peter School have donated 100 pounds of fresh produce to the Plant a Row for the Hungry program at our local food pantry.

So much wonderful August action in the garden right now.  I hope all of you are finding yourselves in the midst of such garden greatness as well!

From Scratch

IMG_4055

In our family’s attempt to make as much as we possibly can here in our home, there are those weeks that go by when we are in the midst of a creating whirlwind, and suddenly I look at the calendar and it’s Wednesday.  This is one of those weeks.  Oh boy.

IMG_4027

There have been baskets and baskets of beans harvested from the garden, more than we could ever eat at this time.  So, this weekend we rinsed, cut and froze most of our harvested beans to set aside for the winter months.

IMG_4038

We are to that point in the growing season where some of our plants have gone to seed.  So this weekend, entrenched in vines and leaves of green, we pulled out arugula and collected the seed pods for late fall planting.  Then replanted carrots and beets for fall harvest.

IMG_4045

I opened my linen closet last Friday to a cavernous black hole, completely void of any form of soap, lotion or shave oil.  The girls and I got to work and rounded out the weekend with a fresh batch of lotion (I use the recipe from this book.) and shave oil (my recipe can be found here), and a new eczema-friendly soap concoction.  (The recipe for this soap to come soon.)

IMG_4044IMG_3860 IMG_3866 IMG_3873 IMG_3875 IMG_3881

And last but not least, there is the fermentation frenzy that has taken over our house the last two weeks.  I don’t often become overly obsessed with much, but oh my, I think I may just be in love with Sandor Katz, his book The Art of Fermentation, and all of the nutritional benefits fermenting has to offer.  I gave this book to my husband last summer for his birthday, to aid him in his beer-making endeavors.  But I now find myself huddled with my morning coffee, spilling over the pages of this book, completely enraptured by the content.

Amidst the fermenting madness is fresh made yogurt, milk kefir, water kefir, and kombucha.  The constant growing process of it all is just amazing, and the wonderful probiotics offered naturally in these foods is simply mind boggling.  I have so much more to learn, but I am sure enjoying the entire process along the way.

I hope all of you are enjoying a wonderful start to your week!

Beans, Beans Everywhere

IMG_3533 IMG_3528

One thing is for sure, we have a LOT of beans coming through our kitchen door these days.  So many beans in fact that there is no feasible way to eat them all.  Enter “Operation Dilly Bean.”  If you have never eaten a pickled bean, a.k.a. dilly bean, you must make it your duty to eat one this year.  A dilly bean earns a solid ranking in the top 3 list of pickled veg in my book.  Yum.

This past Sunday found me hovering over the kitchen island chopping beans and breathing in vinegar fumes, with visions of dilly beans dancing in my head.  The past few years I used a dilly bean recipe from this book, but this year I decided to mix things up a bit and try something new.  I used the basic pickling recipe from this cookbook, and based on how great Miss English’s other recipes are, I’m sure this one will not disappoint.

IMG_3543 IMG_3563 IMG_3566

“Oh, Jam? I Love Jam!”

IMG_2822

I think I love jam just as much as I love Friends…and what could be better than an entire Friends episode dedicated to jam?  Love it!  That’s why all afternoon, as my four year old and I worked in our strawberry-coated kitchen, I couldn’t help but hear Joey’s voice in my head repeating, “Oh, jam?  I love jam?”

IMG_2772 IMG_2775

Yesterday, while my oldest was away at camp, my tiny sous chef and I worked with Pomona’s Universal Pectin, a wonderful low-sugar pectin (as we did in this post as well), and ended up with some absolutely fabulous results.  When making jam last year, we used the low-sugar recipe options included with the Pomona’s Pectin.  This year, we tried out two no-sugar options, taste tested them this morning, and yummy…delicious!

IMG_2823IMG_2783

The first recipe we tried was simply the cooked strawberry jam recipe included inside the Pomona’s box.  We used the honey sweetening option and it is delicious.  The second recipe we tried is from the latest issue of Taproot.  And oh boy, let me tell you, this recipe is amazing!  It is a strawberry-maple with vanilla jam recipe, specifically designed for Pomona’s Pectin.  And the best part about this fabulous recipe is the only sweetener is maple syrup.

Happy jam-making season all!

IMG_2821

Corn Sausage Chowder

IMG_1405

It seems that this is going to be a recipe-type week here at Making of a Home.  As we inch closer to the growing season, we have been eating lots of food from our larder, to make space for this year’s bounty.  Last night I grabbed bell peppers, sweet corn and chicken stock from our deep freeze and came up with this recipe from those ingredients.  This is a hearty soup that will put some meat on your bones during these damp, April-shower-filled days.

In a stock pot, heat 1/2 stick butter and 2 tablespoons flour over medium heat to make a roux.  Stirring constantly, heat this mixture until it turns a rich caramel color.

Add 1 diced red pepper, 1 diced green pepper, and 1 diced yellow onion to the roux mixture.  Cook the vegetables until the onions become translucent.  Be sure to stir often, scraping all of the roux-goodness from the bottom of the pan while you stir.

IMG_1390

While the veggies are cooking, cook 2 pounds ground sausage in a skillet.  Once cooked, set aside.

Add 1 quart chicken stock, 2 cups whole milk, 1/2 cup cream, 1 tablespoon salt and 1/2 pepper to the vegetable mixture.  Simmer, with the lid on, for 20 minutes.

Add the kernels from 4 ears of sweet corn, the cooked sausage from earlier, and 8 ounces shredded Monterey jack cheese.  Simmer uncovered for 45 minutes to one hour.

IMG_1393

Garnish the chowder with a dollop of sour cream if you desire.  Enjoy!

IMG_1400

*A note about all my recipes:  I use all organic ingredients, local when available.  I use non-homogenized milk, and all of the dairy we use is from animals raised on pasture. I also use oils that are non-GMO verified.  All our meat is raised locally on organic feed, and our beef is grass-fed, grass-finished.  All our spices and cane sugar are fair-trade certified and purchased through a cooperative.

What do you eat in February?

IMG_0871

Local watermelon.  As strange as that may sound, yes, for dinner last night we feasted on local watermelon we put by way back in early September, and let me tell you…It was delicious!

After reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle several years ago, I longed for the days of  “looking at all [those] jars in the pantry [giving] me a happy, connected feeling, as if I had roots growing right through the soles of my shoes into the dirt” that Barbara Kingsolver so eloquently describes in her amazing piece of writing.  And today, many years later, I truly believe I can confidently make that statement with my head held high.  We have established food security for our family.

Our dinner last night was a reminder of this.  With a lovely beef roast from a local grass-fed cow that was processed in October; green beans hand-picked by two adorable Fagan gals, bread and butter pickles made with cucumbers from one of my favorite farmers, pickled beets featuring the dazzling brilliancy of the Chioggia beets pulled from our very own dirt in the backyard, and who could forget that locally grown watermelon frozen in a bit of water and local honey.  Every element on our plate last night came from a place I know and from people whom I trust.

IMG_0866

All of those hours spent hovering over the hot stove, in the sweltering heat of this past summer, seemed worth it when all I had to do was head to my basement last night, grab some meat and veggies from our freezer and a few jars off the pantry shelf.  Since beginning our journey toward sustainability, I am filled with an extreme sense of gratitude that I never thought possible.  It seeps into every one of my pores and I can feel it in every fiber of my being.  The Earth has provided us with so much, and by harnessing these gifts in a conscientious manner, we have been able to provide food for our family, even in the dead of winter.  God is good.

IMG_0868

A Year In Review

It is hard to believe that this blustery day in February marks the one year anniversary of Making of a Home.  Thank you so much to all of you who have been following my musings over the course of the last year!  I am deeply grateful for each of you.

Today I would like to share with you some of my favorite (and your favorite) posts from this past year.  Thank you again, and be on the look out for some new and exciting changes and additions to Making of a Home over the course of the next year.

026

Chocolate Anyone?

~~~

145

Inspiration

~~~

005

Laundry Day

~~~

026

Upstream

~~~

009

Let Them Read

~~~

014

Rhubarb Goodness

~~~

001

Spring Soup

~~~

020

It’s In My Blood

 ~~~

007

Pastaless Lasagna 

~~~

009

Fuasa—Italian Easter Bread

~~~

057

Generational Wealth

~~~

052

Farm Fresh

~~~

022

Ode to the Strawberry

~~~

IMG_7076

Retreat

~~~

IMG_7417

Grandma Dit’s Carrot Cake

~~~

IMG_7244

Canning Day

~~~

IMG_7722

New Chapter

~~~

IMG_7901

Suburban Homestead

~~~

IMG_9408

Walk with Us

~~~

IMG_9692

Thanksgiving 2012

~~~

IMG_9817

Musings

Brew and Moo

IMG_0062

The mercury had risen just a touch, but enough to make it bearable outside.  The snow fell lightly upon the ground, leaving a white dusting on the roofs of houses and the paved roadways.  This past weekend we took full advantage of this beauty.  I kept the kitchen warm with the stovetop all abustle, and the smell of warm milk in the air.  Meanwhile, my hubby could be found in the nearby garage, reading and mixing his brew with the aromas of hops pouring forth into the crisp air outside.  The girls frolicked in the snow, while the cat sat perched in a tree, taking in all the action.

IMG_0283

IMG_0274

My oldest daughter and I used our favorite cheese kit and made two pounds of fresh mozzarella cheese.  (You can check out our previous cheesemaking experience here.)  For the first time, I allowed her to truly assist me by slowly stirring the curd and then stretching it, adding salt, and then forming it into small balls of deliciousness.  The best part of the entire experience was when this six year-old, who normally only likes “cooked cheese,”  took a ball of fresh mozzarella and bit in.  She said, “Well, I only like cheese that I make.  That’s the only kind I’ll eat.”  Love.

IMG_0252 IMG_0254 IMG_0257 IMG_0259 IMG_0260

The holidays left us empty handed in the home-brew department, so my husband brewed three fresh batches this weekend.  He tried out a new brewing kit, and then made two tried and true favorites…a caramel creme ale and a fabulous breakfast stout.

IMG_0288

IMG_0281

IMG_0292

The finished products of the day:  beer, cheese and a bit of hot chocolate of course.  Is there anything better?  Yum!

IMG_0294 IMG_0301