Keepin' it real, my friends. This summer has been less than ideal farm living. I am finding myself equally horrified and fascinated every time I walk in this tangled mess of a garden.
Summer dinners at Devotion are inspired by whatever may be sitting on the kitchen counter after a day's harvest. Tonight we dined on big, super ripe blueberries right off the bushes. Later, we boiled pasta in seasoned vegetable broth and tossed it with garden fresh tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese. (We were all too lazy to go back out to the garden to grab the basil!)
A few years ago, I learned how to make fresh mozzarella from reading this blog. I highly recommend you giving it a try- amazing stuff! Making mozzarella cheese is fast, easy and kinda fun. I have incorporated it into a home school class with a dozen or more 4-14 year old students here at the farm, proving that culinary training or quiet, zen cheese making settings are not prerequisites. Rennet tablets (though I will use the Junket tablets from the grocery store if I am out of the other), citric acid (ok, I buy the big ol' 5lb bag because I use this stuff for all kinds of things but that's another post ;) and cheese salts can be purchased at specialty shops and online. I purchased mine through Amazon. (See links below.) I've found that I use quite a bit more rennet (up to one full tablet) than this blogger recommends and that adjustments need to be made with my technique/recipe every time I make cheese. The Granary here in Watkinsville, Georgia carries fresh, local milk that I've found works best for my cheese making needs. I have had a little success making cheese with milk bought from regular chain grocery stores; however, you will not get any curds using milk marked "ultra pasteurized". It is a futile and sad exercise. (Side note: this link to a recipe for ketchup is pretty awesome too from the Heart, Hands, Home blog site if you have more tomatoes than you can handle and kids that eat ketchup like it's their job ;)
Ahhh, summers are great....
Lots of love from our (tomato filled) kitchen to yours!
I completely understand a snake's place in a healthy ecosystem but if the snakes would contribute to the health of the Devotion ecosystem outside of our fence line it'd sure help my personal anxiety, blood pressure and snake-related turrets. We have recently (and completely by accident) hatched a whole bunch of little brown snakes somewhere near our garden. Unfortunately, Ollie and I both have picked up a few of them and moved them to various locations unbeknownst to us until we all arrived at our destinations. New dances have been learned.
Our new Devotion Farms catch and release program. Ew.
My Dad always substituted this Fable of the Snake for the classic "I told ya so" when I was growing up ;).
SmithKids will often give each other an evil glare when another SmithKid lets an "I'm bored..." slip out. That's because it is most often met with a very enthusiastic, "I am SO GLAD to hear you say that!" from me. They are figuring out that I have an almost inexhaustible supply of little jobs ready to rattle off and the (non-toxic, kid friendly) supplies all ready to grab and go. Here are a few things that they avoid with their crafty, creative little ways like the plague:
individual little baskets with their clothes to fold & stuff to put away in their rooms,
silverware basket to sort, handheld vacuum + chairs/sofa/snack drawers/things tall enough for kids to crawl under,
sorting the "leftover-ware drawer" (ours is too random to call Tupperware),
non-toxic window wash + rags,
toothbrush + non-toxic scrub + endless, icky grout.
I could list things forever but there is really no need. The kids do their "chore list" and "POOF" they are gone! Bored no more. It is strange really. ;)
Can you find Henry, the Carolina anole lizard? He's taken up residence in the straw bale sweet corn this summer to show off his bug consuming supapowers. We <3 Henry.
Organic new potatoes in bags ready for harvest.
To be fair to the people eating this hateful weed, I tried a younger specimen. My opinion at this point is kill em' all... every horrible, bullish one of them. They are BAD, BAD weeds.
OK, on to happier plants. I did harvest the bags o' taters yesterday (such an easy way to grow potatoes and root veggies!). Homefries coming up at the Smith house this weekend!
1 pound potatoes cut into 1 inch cubes
1 acorn/delicata/or butternut squash peeled & cut 1 inch cubes
1 hot pepper diced
1 sweet or bell pepper diced
1 sweet onion chopped, 2-3 tablespoons fresh butter, salt pepper to taste. Parboil potatoes & squash until they begin to soften a bit. Saute onions and peppers in butter in skillet on stove. Add potatoes and squash and continue to saute until all are done. Serve hot! Great served with salsa and sour cream.
HAPPY FATHERS' DAY WEEKEND TO YOU ALL!
Weed control Straight up vinegar. After the first year of living on the farm, I decided that fighting the weeds with chemicals such as Roundup (link here for a good read) was absolutely NOT an option. We were going to farm this thing as naturally as possible. And this is when I started buying 4-6 gallons of vinegar at a time at SamsClub ($3.58 for 2 gallons). There are lots of different 'recipes' out there but I tend to use vinegar at full strength (or mixed with a few ounces of dish detergent/gallon of vinegar if working with a waxy weed). Vinegar (like salt) will kill any plant it comes in contact with so I am very careful when working with the vinegar and use it sparingly. We have heavy red clay soil (highly alkaline) so adding the vinegar to most of our soil works to bring our soil's pH down but soil health is something to always keep in mind.
Goo/Wax remover. I keep 1 part vinegar to 1 part water with essential oil* in bottles* around the house. This works great on those gooey sales stickers they put on things at places like HomeGoods and the clearance stickers at Target (I swear those things are stuck on with Gorilla glue!) Dampen the sticker with the mixture and then scrape off with an old credit card. Wipe any residual stickiness with a bit more of the mixture on a cloth. For candle wax, first melt wax with a hair dryer and then follow same directions as above. This same mixture works great as a spray to keep in the bathroom for a quick Toilet spray to keep things under control between cleanings and GREASE cutter for the kitchen.
My favorite place to get essential oils ---> Mountain Rose Herbs
I love these bottles! ---> IKEA Korken
Window wash 1/4 cup vinegar, 2 cups water, 1/2 teaspoon liquid dishsoap (I like Dawn). Here's what's up with the DAWN or dishsoap... commercial window cleaner leaves wax on your windows and if you just use water or vinegar then you get streaks and frustration happens... bad. The dish soap helps take this wax off your windows.
Mold/mildew In the house, I use the 1 part water to 1 part vinegar with essential oil mixture mentioned about on areas prone to mildew. If there is an area with a hard surface that has mildew on it, I will wipe it with straight vinegar and wipe with hot water. Outside in the barn area when we have had an abundance of rain, we have a big problem with mildew and mold on the ground and in certain parts of the barn. Here I will spray straight vinegar on the mildewed areas in order to help curb the musty odors and inhibit growth until the sun and fresh air can cure the problem. Vinegar can be used in laundry that has mildewed by washing the clothes on the hottest setting with 1-2 cups of vinegar (no detergent).
Fruit/Vegetable wash 3 parts water/ 1 part vinegar
Salt replacement sometimes the bite a dish needs can come from a good quality vinegar instead of salt. The longer we live on the farm and experiment with new vegetables our pantry gets a more varied assortment of vinegars. We are also learning to infuse the vinegars with different herbs and such... but that's another post altogether =).
Kitchen Pig Cleanse (aka the garbage disposal) run hot water through your kitchen pig. whirl 1/4 cup of baking soda down the pig and let sit for up to 15 minutes. rinse with 1 cup vinegar and watch her bubble away! Rinse and swirl with hot water.
Pickle juice (ear infection home remedy) 1 part vinegar/ 1 part rubbing alcohol in clean dropper bottle (kids acetominophen/tummy drops etc. work great) 2-3 drops in each ear when cold symptoms appear, summer swimmers, etc. to prevent ear infection. (can be warmed in hot cup of water so not so cold). Hat tip Martha Gano- this stuff saved us from ear tubes =)
White water rings on wood furniture 1 part vinegar to 1 part olive oil
Burned popcorn/other smells (I burn a lot of stuff ;) bowl of vinegar placed in room for a few hours (essential oil nice but not necessary). Vinegar 'stink' goes away much more quickly than burned popcorn stink! You can also wave a cloth with vinegar on it in the air to dissipate bad odors.
Urine in carpet 2 parts water to 1 part vinegar. Blot. Sprinkle with baking soda let sit and vacuum.
Disinfect the microwave 4 parts water to 1 part vinegar on high for 5 minutes. Wipe down.
Sink and tub scrub 3 parts baking soda to 1 part vinegar plus squeeze of lemon.
Eggs splash of vinegar (tablespoon or so) to the water of water for boiled eggs to keep them all together if they happen to crack during the boiling process.
OK...I'm tired from all that vinegar talk and you are most likely bored from all that vinegar talk if you made it this far. I will spare you all the crazy things we've found to do with hydrogen peroxide and lemon juice. Hehehe. Write to us- we'd love to hear your vinegar tips! Much love from a soggy farm tonight.
Smash your crackers and mix with marshmallows, cherries, beeswax & bee pollen in large bowl. Add enough condensed milk and honey to form nice dough (not crumbly but not too wet/soupy). Lay out nice size piece of parchment paper and cover with coconut. Put dough on parchment and roll to form a log. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours. Slice, eat and bee happy!
Short answer: not worth risking your life ;)
But today I decided to try out the "eat your weeds" plan on the noxious, dreaded, horrible, no good, dreaded (did I say dreaded already?) bull thistle. Web authors stated that the stem would taste a bit like sugar cane (a huge treat from my childhood). So, I went out, combed the farm and found two surviving bull thistles in our front pasture. (Our weeds are organically grown, ya know ;) I "field dressed" the thistle using a vise grip and scraper blade and then cut it down with the limb cutter. (Leather gloves are also a must because bull thistles are covered in vicious spines) I finished peeling the outer layer of stalk inside with a vegetable peeler and cut slices of the stalk. The verdict: not "yuck" but definitely not "more thistle, please". The stalk was fibrous and rather tasteless which leads me to believe that I need to try again with a younger plant. So this post on bull thistle's yum-factor is to be continued...
And because I did promise some sort of treat and the thistle was not that, I am off to to make chef Michael Young's tray bakes with the kids. And tray bakes ARE super yummy ;). I will post this lovely recipe that followed me home from 'bee school' for you wonderful people tomorrow! Hope you have a most fantastic day! Shalom from the farm to you! ~L
Big, bad yellow dock weed that had been hiding in a field.
Therefore, I have been fighting a weed named yellow dock since the day we started farming this land. It is one raggedy, tough weed that seems to be able to grow anywhere and boy does it. After coming home from our first camping trip to find all the dock weed had gone to seed, I started my yearly battle of hacking and digging up this 'horrible, no good plant'. But then it occurred to me, I made friends with the dandelion several years ago, maybe just maybe I could make friends with the evil dock weed. So I hung up my shovel and stabbing tools and headed inside to do some research. And just like the dandelion, I found some good news! The yellow dock is a rather edible plant and now I can look forward to harvest time and not freak out when I come home to an out of control patch of farmland.
Seems that yellow dock is a member of the buckwheat family. The grains (seeds) can be harvested when they turn a pretty red/brown color at the end of summer or early fall. (See how my language about this weed is already changing- I just called her seeds pretty ;). Make sure you leave some for the birds! Rub the seeds in your hands and let the wind or a fan gently blow away the chaff before drying them in the sun or a warm oven. Store your seeds in clean mason jars. Seeds are best when toasted in an iron skillet or ground and used in place of any recipe that calls for buckwheat. Apparently this stuff would make for some fantastic survival food. One article I read said that it can last in jars for up to 20 years- that's crazy! I also found recipes for the leaves and uses for the roots- awesome.
Here are just a few (follow recipe title links for more wild eats ideas):
Yellow Dock Crackers Recipe
1 cup crushed yellow dock seed
1 cup flour of your choice
1 tsp. sea salt
In a bowl mix together the crushed yellows dock seed, flour and salt. Add in water very slowly until the dough is pliable (not sticky). On a well-floured surface roll dough thinly. Cut into desired shapes. Then transfer them onto a well-greased baking sheet.
Bake 10-12 minutes at 375°F or until crisp.
Yellow Dock Frittata
This breakfast can be made with any wild greens, but yellow dock gives it a nice lemony taste.
1 cup yellow dock leaves, steamed and well drained
2 Tbsp. Raw cream
salt and pepper to taste
1 medium potato
½ minced onion or leek
2 tbsp. butter
1 cup grated goat cheese
1 tsp. dried basil
1 T mustard
Peel and finely chop the potato. Sauté onion in butter until tender in a cast iron skillet. Add the potato and sauté for about 5 minutes. Whisk eggs, cream, basil, cheese, mustard, salt and pepper together in a bowl. Add the yellow dock greens.
Preheat the broiler in your over.
Add the egg mixture on top of the potatoes and onions. Cook on low heat on the stove top for about 10 minutes until the bottom of frittata is set, but top is still runny.
Put skillet under the broiler for about five minutes or until the top portion is nicely browned.
This link also has a cute idea for slicing the roots to make 'fairy furniture' or fun temporary jewelry!
Happy foraging my ppl! Blessings from a not-so-manicured farm to you today,
WORK WITH ME HERE.
Farm work (just like the housework) is never done. Here I will attempt to collect thoughts, recipes, tips and such on how best to "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are." -Theodore Roosevelt