Like many American children, I grew up with Charles Schultzâ€™s tale of Linus in the pumpkin patch.Â Those of us who grew up on small or large farms knew the pumpkin patch in real life â€“ watching its vines grow and curl.
Pumpkins are wonderful to eat as well as make into decorations. They are in the squash family and chock-full of vitamins and nutrients. Pumpkin is very low in cholesterol and saturated fat and high in dietary fiber. The pumpkinâ€™s dark orange color is from a richness of a mineral called beta carotene; this is important to help the body use vitamin A.
Ripe pumpkins can be cooked in such a variety of ways, but did you know that the ones that are still small and green may be eaten in the same way as zucchini? Try it – you’ll be in for a pleasant surprise!
Fried Green Pumpkin
1 small greenÂ pumpkin
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 cup butter Continue reading →
Our warehouse (and my office) is about six miles from our store in Kidron. A former lawn mower factory, it is surrounded by acres of grassland that had been used to test new prototypes. Having come from generations of farming stock, my Dad and I thought that mowing 10 acres of lawn was horribly wasteful. I’m too busy running the store to make hay, so we decided to use the land to feed our addiction to tree growing.
Someday our warehouse, the hulking steel former lawn mower factory, will be surrounded and hidden by a forest of cherry, maple, oak and walnut.
As a result, every day when I walk in from the parking lot, I get to check on my little seedlings. I look for unhealthy crooks in the branches and signs of disease or other distress. But mostly I just love to watch them grow.
Winters are tough on my little babies. Last winter, they were alternately covered by snow and attacked by legions of bark chewing field mice. At one point, our next door neighbor (who didn’t know we had planted tiny tree seedlings in that field) drove his snowmobile over them. In the spring, many showed no signs of sprouting. But, because hope springs eternal, we decided to give them some time before we mowed them off.
One especially dead-looking seedling stands right by the path I take every day on my way into the office. To my surprise, one day it showed tiny green buds pushing out near the base of the trunk. Today, it’s doing just fine. Broad, healthy leaves are bunched around the base, sprouting from right below the line where the frost kill stopped. Continue reading →
The main purpose of our garden is to provide our family with fresh nutritious food but it also supplies us with all manner of homegrown decorations (all fully compostable!) to feed the soul with beauty and whimsy. Either fresh cut or dried flowers grace the kitchen table year round. Sometimes the veggies themselves make a lovely summer centerpiece. Fall, however,Â is when the garden ornaments truly shine with colorful popcorn, sorghum seed heads, corn shocks, pumpkins galore and weird squash to add to every corner (see my previous post).
This year our gourd crop was especially noteworthy. There were birdhouse gourds aplenty and the children were completely fascinated in discovering all personalities of goose gourds hidden under the prolific vines. We were especially amused by the vine that decided to climb a nearby apple tree resulting in geese with very long straight necks. Our daughter experimented with growing luffa gourds which are now drying with hopes of recovering a sponge from the inside. Other years we have grown apple gourds and even snake gourds (my sonâ€™s choice, not mine!). Continue reading →
As I type there are several boxes of apples waiting to be made into applesauce, apple pie filling, and apple butter.
Apple Express Suction Cup Peeler
If you are into canning, and are planning on making applesauce or apple butter, there is one tool that is invaluable.Â It saves so much time it will pay for itself in a single batch.
An Apple Peeler Corer Slicer (say that five times fast!) is a handy tool that is worth every penny.Â If you can buy one it truly is worth it.Â If you can’t buy one, borrow one…. be careful though… once you try it,Â you’ll want one.
This tool makes peeling, coring and slicing easy.Â Â MyÂ kids love to help and it’s fun to eat apples in curly Q’s. Continue reading →
Last week, I talked about how we struggle to balance the economic need for lower prices with our desire to stick with American-made products. (Click here to read the article.)
Antique illustration of an early chain pump.
I said it was tough to decide what to do about Chinese-made products if price matters. This led to an outcry from customers, who said among other things “you get what you pay for” and “have you thought about the poor living conditions of the people who make this cheap stuff?”
There is a simple truth to this debate: It’s easy to stick with American-made when quality matters.
Quality mattered for us when we reordered a tiny casting for our chain pump. The chain pump concept dates to pre-historic times. The design for our pump dates to 1872. It’s a great pump for cisterns and dug wells because it moves a very high volume of water with little effort. When the manufacturer got into financial trouble several years ago, we tried to buy the company. Unfortunately, we couldn’t reach an agreement.
Having failed to acquire the old company, we spent the next few years testing and perfecting our own design. It took several years to get it right. But, by last year, we Continue reading →
You’ve had a successful hunt. You have carefully field dressed and cared for your meat. The choicest cuts are wrapped and frozen. Tenderloins are just waiting for that perfect marinade. Jerky has been seasoned, dried and ready for snacking on the next outing. So what else is missing? Home canning.
There are several reasons I have grown to love canning the venison and elk that my guys bring home:
1. Canning frees up freezer space for other things.
2. Pressure canning can make the less tender cuts versatile.
3. Home canning meat means jars of meat on the shelf ready to go at a moment’s notice. No defrosting time. Ever tried to defrost an elk roast quickly in the microwave because you forgot to take it out earlier? Doesn’t work so well. (Ask me how I know!) Continue reading →
Fall is upon us with its cool air, fresh smell, and hues of red, brown, yellow, and orange.Â This the time of year when our minds drift to crunchy leaves, spooky decorations, and bright orange pumpkins.Â Pumpkins have become a Fall icon and choosing the perfect one for display or turning into a jack-o-lantern is important and can be difficult.
The size of your pumpkins will depend on what you want to carve on them.Â Pumpkins can range in size from very small to gigantic, depending on the variety.Â Those that are medium sized work best for most stencils that you would purchase or make.Â Very large pumpkins can be carved with elaborate designs and placed on your porch or around an entryway.Â Smaller pumpkins can be quickly carved with traditional faces and can be scattered around for parties, haunts, or to create a lighted pathway.Â Before choosing buying your pumpkins, you will need to decide what designs you will be carving.Â This will allow you to create a shopping list of the different shapes and sizes youâ€™ll need. Continue reading →
Don’t put that grill in storage yet! Autumn is (in my opinion) the best time of year to have an outdoor party. The weather has cooled off and the biting bugs have lessened.
To me the food is an important element in the autumn gathering â€“ it adds enticement to the nose, eyes and palate. The flavors of cool weather are big and bold.Â Much of the meal can be cooked on the slowly on the grill. Side dishes of baked beans, potato salad and roasted fall vegetables make the meal complete.
Fall provides an abundance of natural materials for decorating and crafting. If we search our gardens, farm stands and even along the roadside, we can collect items just waiting to be transformed into an autumn creation. From gourds and straw bales to pumpkins and corn shocks, it’s wonderful to use decorations that can be eaten or tossed in the compost pile rather than the trash can at the end of the season.
From our popcorn patch, we tie together bundles of three colorful ears for decorating and later dismantle the trio to shell for winter popcorn. Our compost pile was generous in growing an assortment of gourds and even a huge pumpkin this year. The pumpkin stood guard at our steps for a week before becoming a pumpkin cake for a November birthday boy. Our family raises a small patch of sorghum cane and we save the beautiful burgundy seed heads to create fall swags embellished with wheat, sea oats, rose hips, teasel and other dried finds. Once Thanksgiving arrives, we hang the swags in a tree to feed the birds so they can enjoy their own feast. Continue reading →