Sunday, November 29, 2009

Dark Days Challenge Week 2

This weeks local meal was grass-fed beef roast, cooked all day in the crock pot with tomatoes from the garden and canned Anaheim peppers (ours). Green beans (canned, also ours) and my favorite way to eat sweet potatoes - Roasted sweet potatoes in lime syrup with chives (our potatoes and chives, neighbors limes).

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Lime Syrup and chives

3 1/2 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes (10 cups)
1/4 cup butter, melted
3/4 teas. salt

Toss potatoes with butter, salt (and pepper if desired) in a bowl until coated well, then spread in 1 layer in 2 shallow baking pans (cookie sheets). Roast, uncovered, switching position of pans halfway through roasting until potatoes are tender and undersides are browned, 15-20 minutes.

1/2 cup water
2-4T sugar (depending on how tart the limes are)
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 teas. finely grated fresh lime zest
2 T chopped fresh chives

While potatoes roast, bring water, sugar, and lime juice to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Simmer until reduced and thickened, 3-5 minutes. Toss potatoes with syrup and zest in a large bowl, then sprinkle with chives. This may sound like a strange combination but the tang of the lime syrup is a perfect compliment to the potatoes.....they are just yummy!

ps. We also found out yesterday at the Farmers market that the couple who raises the cattle will soon be raising meat birds.....yippee yahoo!

Advent Conspiracy

...thanks to Pampered Mom at Under the Maple Canopy for posting this (first).

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Family life is the normal context in which we can learn that a life filled with thinking about others instead of ourselves is the sure road to the most fulfilling joys and satisfactions.
-Alan Keyes

The family. We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another's desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together.
-Erma Louise Bombeck

The children have been a wonderful gift to me, and I'm thankful to have once again seen our world through their eyes.
They restore my faith in the family's future.
-Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

The institution of the family is decisive in determining not only if a person has the capacity to love another individual but in the larger social sense whether he is capable of loving his fellow men collectively. The whole of society rests on this foundation for stability, understanding, and social peace.
-Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sweet Potatoes

We harvested our potatoes at the beginning of the month and I was surprised by the amount we got out of our little 4 ft. plot. I had no plans to plant these but since one I had bought to eat had was another case of 'why not try something new'. The potato rested in a glass of water (half in half out) on my window sill for several weeks as the sprouts grew the requisite 6 inches (or so) before I planted them out.

After breaking off several 'slips' (as they are called) I just stuck them in the ground in our parkway bed (between beds of peanuts) and that was it. I planted 5 slips in July (around the 1st) ...

...and by mid-summer we were having to cut back some of the vine so people(or rather large cats) could use the sidewalk (our kitty is actually next to the peanut plants, sweet potatoes are in the background). Next year I'll give them a bigger area and plant more. No diseases, no pests, no kind of plant.

Greens go to the chickens.

It was kind of like an archaeological have to be careful getting the potatoes up so as not to damage the skin in order for them to last in storage.

I kind of brushed them off as I went until they were exposed enough to pull out. Because our soil is still not as loose as we would like ('s clay) if I pulled too soon the potatoes broke off in the dirt.

Ta Da!

Align Center
We harvested 27lbs. in all....not bad for a spur-of-the-moment planting.

And several were close to 2 pounds each...eek!

I'm making a wonderful sweet potato in lime syrup for Thanksgiving (the citrus is so good with the sweetness of the potatoes). Plus, I use them in pumpkin recipes; mixed with Jack-O-lanterns, they really add flavor.....especially in Pies!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Another Good Quote

I am very fond of the oyster shell. It is humble and awkward and ugly. It is slate-colored and unsymmetrical. Its form is not primarily beautiful but functional. I make fun of its knobbiness. Sometimes I resent its burdens and excrescences. But its tireless adaptability and tenacity draw my astonished admiration and sometimes even my tears. And it is comfortable in its familiarity, its homeliness, like old garden gloves when have molded themselves perfectly to the shape of the hand. I do not like to put it down. I will not want to leave it.

- Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dark Days Challenge

Our first all local meal for the Dark Days Challenge....wasn't entirely all local. I decided to use the grass-fed beef from Springville to make spaghetti sauce. I browned the sausage and added it to my home-made tomato sauce (made with our very own home-grown tomatoes). In the same pan I sauteed the onions we had bought at the farmers market, along with our own peppers (which despite the cold weather are still producing) and garlic from last spring. We also bought parsley from the market so that went in along with dried basil from the summer garden and a bit of oregano (which was not ours but will be in next years herb garden).

The salad was home-grown greens, local apples, pecans from our tree, pomegranates from the neighbors tree and local cheese. The dressing was local olive oil and honey, more basil, California mustard and balsamic vinegar from Italy (so I guess that's a bit outside the 150mi rule).

The bread was home-made but we're still looking for a local source for grains, so the flour that went into it was not.

And the noodles were (eek!) from Pennsylvania. I had planned on making home-made noodles but got busy in the garden and doing other projects so I used the boxed kind.

All in all, not bad but we still have to make some adjustments to stay within the definition of local for this challenge. I'm not posting recipes because everything was pretty much what most people can already cook, just with ingredients found in our neck of the woods.

Maybe next week I'll come up with something more exciting....must go look for recipes :)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Value of Nothing

This one definitely goes on my 'to read' list.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pretty Flowers

I'm clearing out the zinnia bed in our other garden and planting the last of the winter crops....more peas and cabbage. We are finally getting some cold nights, so hopefully it's not to late. I had the hardest time pulling these flowers out because they have actually looked better in the last couple weeks than they did all summer.

They really brighten up the dining room on a cold autumn day... we can write nifty messages on the vase....

....and have them replaced with strange inexplicable predictions.

Moral of the story - Never let 18 yr. old boys play with chalk.

Friday, November 13, 2009


Picked our very own Fuji apples, from our very own (tho mysteriously dying) tree...

...Used this handy-dandy ( plastic, $5 clearance, probably Made in China) apple peeler...

...sliced and added sugar....

.... cooked with a little water until soft....

...mushed to get rid of big pieces (for kids, we like it chunky)...

...and poured into pint jars.

7 Pints of Sauce go into the canner for 20 minutes (tho with tops on, that would get messy). It's yummy and qualifies as my 11th Pantry Replacement item for the year.....yippee yahoo :)

Plus, we had enough apples to also make a cobbler...more yum!

ps. I actually made this last month, just never got around to posting about it.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Good Quotes

Stole these from my dear hubby and am reprinting them so those of you too lazy to go to his blog (you know who you are) won't miss out.....

He who wishes to secure the good of others, has already secured his own.

Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.

We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee.

You're not obligated to win. You're obligated to keep trying to do the best you can every day.

Service is the rent we pay to be living. It is the very purpose of life and not something you do in your spare time.

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.

Religion is to do right. It is to love, it is to serve, it is to think, it is to be humble.

Everybody can be great... because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.

A lot of people are waiting for Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi to come back -- but they are gone. We are it. It is up to us. It is up to you.

thanks Dear :)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Happy Veteran's Day

To all our military personnel and specifically to our Hometown Heroes....a huge thank-you for your service and your sacrifice. We are very proud of you Sam....and we miss you.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Eating Local

Steve and I have decided to participate in an 'eating local' challenge put on by Laura at one of my favorite blogs - (not so)Urban Hennery. The idea is to cook one meal a week from SOLE (sustainable, organic, local, ethical) ingredients and write about it on our blog. We had intended to participate last year but had trouble finding local meat (the butcher shop 2 blocks from our house carries beef from Idaho....none from California....huh?). We could've eaten vegetarian for one day a week but our vegetarian meals are smoothies, pancakes, and soups....I figured that would get monotonous. I was getting pretty discouraged about the lack of meat choices until two weeks ago when we stopped by the Farmers Market between soccer games. Among the booths selling fresh local produce, local olive oil (yea!) and various craft vendors (daughter's favorite was the 'design your own' dog collar booth) we met a rancher and his wife from Springville (50 miles) who had only recently started selling grass-fed beef at the market. Yippee Yahoo!!!
(Yes, we actually do get excited about stuff like this:)

So, we perused their offerings and came away with ground beef and sweet Italian style sausage. We tried hamburgers first (starting easy, the beef has less fat and cooking takes getting used to) and I made spaghetti sauce. We also took home a pamphlet and will look into the possibility of purchasing a quarter of a steer to get a bit of a discount.

The first batch of hamburgers was shared with my brother and his girlfriend (hi Anne) and were quite good. Definitely a different taste (not gamey exactly, but different). On advice I got from the ranchers wife, I mixed some olive oil into the meat for added fat (tends to dry out otherwise). This Saturday, we bought more beef, more sausage, and a London Broil. The challenge officially starts next week but I decided to do a test run.

The Menu -

Grass-fed local Hamburgers on Homemade buns
Lettuce from the market and tomato from the garden
(onion from the store)
Home-made relish, mustard(CA) and Ketsup (who knows?)

Sweet potato fries (homegrown potatoes fried in local olive oil)
Strawberries (Watsonville - 188miles)
Wine from Santa Rosa (not local but still Ca)

It's amazing home much actually goes into a meal that I don't even think about. I thought we were 100% local until we added on the condiments and the wine. And even the strawberries are outside the 150 mile rule; this may be harder than we thought! But we will be learning alot about where our food comes from along the way and I think it will be fun, interesting ....and worthwhile.

Friday, November 6, 2009


I've written before about Freecycle and the joys of getting free stuff and the occasional chance to dispose of someone else's garbage (it's a double edged sword, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose). But the thing I didn't write about were the people. I have met several gals whom I now consider friends (hi Terri) and yesterday had the pleasure of meeting another (hi Kris) who not only is a member of Freecycle, she is also a gardener, she cans, and she's funny (of utmost importance to me). Plus, she BLOGS....go see'll wait.

Kris came by to pick up peppers that I had no use for (I have canned enough to last several winters). Since jalapenos are one of the few things chickens can't eat (that would just be mean) the only place left for them was the compost pile and that just seemed wrong. So the peppers now have a purpose (she's making jalapeno and I have a new

ps. and I didn't send you to her blog just to read nice things about me.....honest :)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Calling all Pet Owners

Please please please, go look at this's hysterical!
And I don't think you have to live with a cat to appreciate it, but it probably helps :)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

No Buying???

Steven reminded me that we have reached the end of our 'No new clothes, No China' challenge so I thought I would recap the year.

The 'no new clothes' part was fairly easy..... until we decided to go to Georgia for Sam's graduation. I succumbed to the desire to have one pair of pants that didn't have holes or paint stains on them (tho I did mend 2 pairs for the trip).

Then there was the shopping expedition with my lovely daughter. Annie is a bit of a fashionista who had the misfortune to be born to hippie parents (or so she says). She is amazingly similar to Stacy London (What Not to Wear) without the brutal honesty (thankfully). I was in the dressing room at JCPennys and she kept handing me tops that "would look great on you Mom, trust me"....and as much as I hate dressing rooms and trying on clothes, she was mostly right (tho 'great' is a stretch, presentable was closer to the truth...
... but I did love that my daughter thinks I could actually look great in something :)

So, 3 shirts later (all on sale) I again broke the 'no new clothes' rule, but rationalized that it was a special occasion and I did enjoy having a few nice things to take on our trip. Everything else I bought this year was from used clothing stores (recycling is allowed:) so I did OK overall, not perfect but not too bad.

As for the no 'Made in China' part of the challenge.....complete failure. Well, maybe not complete, but after 6 months of feverishly trying to find substitutes for things apparently ONLY made in China, I lost interest. I still look at labels, I still TRY, but it's pretty hard. When shopping for a pressure canner the only model we really liked was Presto and of course it's 'Made in China' (but hey, Fagor of America is made in Spain). After a bit of internal debating, I decided I was not going to settle for an unsatisfactory piece of kitchen equipment that would be used frequently just to make a point. We bought the Presto. Not that Fagor is inferior in quality, I just didn't like the design and the controls.

So, what did we learn? -------

--- I like having new clothes once in awhile, more than I thought I did.

--- China makes a lot of stuff that we use every day....and makes it cheaply (at what human cost?)

--- We are willing to spend more for American made....but many times don't have that option.

--- Our daughter has very good (and expensive) tastes, she needs to marry money :)

--- It may be time to get the sewing machine repaired (right Nancy?).

It was a good experiment, we may try it again sometime.....we may have too.

Monday, November 2, 2009

October Garden Tally

Green Beans.......................17.5 lbs.
Tomatoes .........................16 lbs.
Peppers ..........................11 lbs.
Butternut Squash .................6.5 lbs.
Sweet Potatoes ....................2 lbs.

...and 151 eggs!

Total for October ..............53 lbs.

To find how much 'eating out of the garden' was affecting our grocery bill,
I had planned to track our food purchases this month a bit more closely, but alas :( I didn't. Here's to doing a better job of record-keeping in November!

You know you hardly ever see the word alas much anymore....I like it.