Weaning, a whole new meaning

Weaning, a whole new meaning

Last year we brought my dear mother here to the farm from a nursing home.  We knew her time was short. We knew she would want to be surrounded by her loved ones.  As we approach the anniversary of her arrival here and her passing and another year of weaning our lambs from their mommas,  I felt the desire to share something that happened during her time here.

On July 28th, the day before she passed, John and I were weaning the lambs from their mothers. The window of my mothers room looked out over the pasture where we were.  In the process, I looked up (my heart and mind during those days were never far from her)  toward her room.  I couldn't help but feel the magnitude of what we were doing...separating the babes from their mamas.   

To WEAN: accustom (an infant or other young mammal) to food other than its mother's milk.  accustom (someone) to managing without something on which they have become dependent or of which they have become excessively fond.

 We knew my mother was shutting down and that it wouldn't be long.  At this moment I felt the arms of mother nature comforting me.  Yes, it brought tears but in that moment I felt my mother communicating with me through nature as if to say, it is a fact in life, it is real,  and it is happening.  Sooner or later we must say good bye.

This year will be no easier then it ever has for us.  We don't like separating them and for several years we didn't.  What we observed is that the mothers will drop from exhaustion trying to feed their babes and combat the heat 

Strawberry Balsamic Basil Pops

A mouthful in word and flavor!

This time of year we’re all blessed with the bounty of glorious juicy naturally sweet seasonal fruits exploding from the gardens. Blessed with a basket of fragrant strawberries…plenty enough to make my ‘current’ favorite jam, Strawberry Rosemary. I still had plenty left.

What to do with the rest?

Make a strawberry pie, muffins, my new ‘current’ favorite Strawberry Cake, my grandmother’s strawberry shortcake, more of my new favorite jam (cause I never have enough)…..hmm, what shall I do?

Then I remembered my new pop sickle molds! I googled strawberry pops! I had no idea the number of results that would come up. Apparently strawberry pairs with a lot , even black pepper which I’ll try next time around.

Sooooo many combinations. Adding ice cream or yogurt, sugar, no sugar or sugar substitute, no dairy, straight fruit, water, lemon or lime juice…they’re all good.

A food processor, blender, or hand blender…strawberries (or any fruit really) some liquid (you choose what and amount…regardless they’ll freeze) ice cream or yogurt if you choose and herbs, if you choose.

Blend

Pour in molds

Freeze

Yum

Most of all I want to impress upon you….these are sooooo easy and I think a yummy refreshing treat to have around! The molds are inexpensive. And if you prefer really healthy they are so adaptable…again, everything freezes!

Start with about a pint of Strawberries. Remove stems. Throw in the blender or food processor. Add sugar, 1 Tablespoon to 1/3 Cup depending on your desired sweetness. Add about 2 cups of liquid or dairy or combination of. Blend. If you don’t want texture in your pops, blend alot…if you do want texture…don’t. If your adding herbs I like to wait until everything else is the consistency I want and then add the herb, blend just enough to have tiny bits throughout

If you’d rather specific directions to refer to…My favorite so far is Strawberry Balsamic and Basil…I just added about 1- 2 Tablespoons of Balsamic vinegar about 3/4 cup water and 4 Tablespoons fresh lime juice to the strawberries and sugar and threw in freshly torn basil leaves at the end. Each brand of pop sickle molds hold different amounts of liquid so you might have too much liquid. I adjusted my water and lime juice. More then once I’ve had extra liquid. The pops go fast so I cover and save the liquid in the fridge and when one pop disappears I refill and freeze!

Easy Peasy

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Collard Salad

Collard Salad

When I saw this recipe for collard salad the northerner in me was apprehensive. Did I say NORTHERNER? Don’t worry or get confused that this shepherd living and farming in the south is not the person you thought you knew… I am not a true northern but a confused mix of both. Most of my rearing took place in the south. I was after all born in the south. Alas I cannot get too far away from the fact that both my parents were northerners and I spent a lot of my youth in the north. Growing up we ate like northerners most of the time. My mom was a northerner so that’s how we ate. My mom also was adventurous and would be the first to honor any culture so we did eat southern foods from time to time but mostly like a northern transplant might. She DID as so many northern folk do, put sugar in her cornbread, not much but enough to know she could not be a southerner. I have one of her old cookbooks and my story is evidenced by her handwritten “cornbread” recipe on the back cover. Yep, sugar! So in my round about way I’m saying collards are not and never were a common item on any menu in my house. I eat them and enjoy them once a year, New years day.

On one particular Saturday in May at our weekly farmers market I was gifted a bundle of collard greens. Grateful yes. Unsure what I could do; so true. Unable to waste anything =challenged.

Who better to help with this deeply southern food group then Vivian Howard. I luckily own her first cookbook, Deep Run Roots. I journeyed through several of the recipes when I first got the cookbook, everything I tried was good. Her deviled eggs with buttah, blueberry BBQ sauce, and her Party Magnet Cheese ball (as featured in Garden & Gun Mag) all were hits. Anywho, gifted with a bundle of collards I decided to try one of the recipes and ended up choosing the collard salad. What a surprise, what a treat. I usually ALWAYS commit to making a recipe exactly as written the first time but I just did not have pineapple on hand. I did have collards though! The heated dressing wilts and tenderizes and the overnight marinade brings out the wonderful flavors. The greens keep a “green” texture which allows it to be considered a salad I suppose. I honestly say the pineapple was not missed and the idea of it has me a bit confused. Alas, out of my desire to respect all recipes as written I shall try the pineapple next time.

Pokeweed, Friend or Foe?

A picture of  Pokeweed  blossoms being pollinated. 

A picture of Pokeweed blossoms being pollinated. 

Pokeweed flowers bloom on racemes that curl up while flowering and droop down when heavy with fruit, making it the perfect roost for birds to perch and eat.  Several years ago I had a Pokeweed plant appear outside my office window.  Many times I would think I must go dig that up or cut it down, it's out of place!  As each day past that I didn't deal with it the "weed" got bigger and bigger, reaching a whopping  6-7 feet tall.  Then, to my amazement, I realized the birds were feasting on the berries, one berry at a time.  If you've ever seen a Pokeweed you know there are many berries to be consumed, that equals loads of entertainment!   I saw all kinds of songbirds and thrashers.  What really sealed the deal for me, an Indigo Bunting appeared and returned every day!  It was then I realized mother nature had a message for me...these "weeds" as we refer to them, serve a purpose...yes 

They pop up in the most unexpected places and ruin "order" but order does not  apply in nature and we just need to readjust our lenses! 

Pokeweed certainly has alot to offer but it is also true there is need to exercise caution around this plant, especially with children.  

 I am certainly not an expert on this plant and my take away might differ from others.  What we do know is we should all be aware what we're dealing with.  I totally related to one article I found on the internet, The Weed, The Myth, The Legend.   The author goes over the plant in toto, offering the facts and the legends so that we approach the plant with the knowledge necessary to enjoy it, safely.

My husband, in his youth ate the leaves (Pokeweed Salad) but knew that those leaves must be picked at a very immature stage and cooked several times,  otherwise he knew he could be very sick.  While researching Poke Salad I found a wonderful recipe/article in Saveur mag that made reference to the song, Poke Salad Annie and many famous recollections of the "weed" .

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"Though mostly obscure to the mainstream, poke sallet, which is sometimes referenced as "polk salad" or "poke salet," has occasionally dipped its toe into the pop culture pool. Most notably, in the lyrics of "Polk Salad Annie," by Tony Joe White, released in 1968: "Everyday for supper time / she'd go down by the truck patch / And pick her a mess of polk salad / and carry it home in a tow sack." The song about a rural Southern girl and her family peaked at Number 8 on the Billboard Top 100 in 1969, and was later remade by Elvis in 1970, and put into regular rotation at his live shows. Country legend Dolly Parton even mentioned in her memoir that she would use crushed poke berries for lipstick as an adolescent, since her parents forbade her from wearing makeup."

As a child I remember going to my grandparents home and my forever attraction to a yew tree (or bush...it looked like a  TREE  to a small girl) .  I don't recall whether it was the fragrance or the way they POPPED but I did enjoy them...yet I had heard, ..."DON'T EAT  THE BERRIES".  Somehow I recall every time I approached that bush,  I heard the voice of an elder...

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  I love that I  learned more as I shared this topic with you!

I hope that you enjoy all the history, lore and environmental benefits this plant has to offer.  These are probably not "landscape" plants but they sure have alot of benefit in their natural settings.

 

Cucumbers Galore

A garden offers so many wonders.  Whether growing a patio tomato or the whole produce department, you know the feeling.... sitting down to eat the bounty from your plot of earth, big or small.  There is nothing like biting into something that you nurtured day after day to it's maturity.  Sharing the gardens riches with friends is another of the garden perks.  Pickles, preserves or baked goods made from what I've grown and nurtured are a true gift of love... to give and receive.  

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One vegetable that I adore growing is the good old cucumber. That good old cucumber gives us pickles, dill or sweet, whole or sliced and relish.  How about soups; gazpacho and chilled cucumber with yogurt, YUM!  How about some raita served with grilled unleavened bread?  I could eat that duo for every meal!  As kids I remember eating marinated cucumber and mayo sandwiches!  Last but not least, how about that ever popular, never a southern summer table without, bowl of sliced cucumbers with a bit of dill, a pinch of sugar and vinegar? 

  Because there are so many things a person can make with cucumbers, size doesn't really matter BUT if pickling is your intent, it can be tricky harvesting cucumbers.  Since the very best pickles are made from cuc's right off the vine you want to be able to pick enough of the same size all at one time.  Unless you have quite a few cucumber plants it's not likely you'll find the quantity needed in one picking.   When a few cucumbers are ready to be picked the others are still coming.  That is why I love this  DILL Pickle recipe from a previous blog post...all you need is enough cucumbers to fill one quart jar at a time. 

Alas, you invariably end up with some cucumbers that sit on the vine too long.  And, as those of you who've grown them before know, there is always that one hidden cuc you discover that has been growing for goodness knows how long.  Yikes!  A great option for those cucumbers is my Cinnamon Pickles from a previous post

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This ongoing struggle with my cucumber harvest has probably been the source of my love of them today.  I do not like to waste anything so no matter the size or shape; I had to create!  I'm loving a pantry full of edibles for my table, gifts of love for family and friends and what better then a homemade gift for a host/hostess.... straight from your kitchen!

Today, I'm talking relish!

This was my first attempt and I can't say enough about the ease and results.  One thing that did jump out at me was the color of the results...why wasn't my relish green?  I now know they add blue dye to relish, EEK...no need, just change your expectation...it is so worth the small effort.

I adapted this recipe from Genius Kitchen

Tangy Pickle Relish

makes 6-7 1/2 pint jars

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 lbs cucumbers , peeled and seeds removed
  • 2 -3 sweet onions
  • 1⁄4 cup pickling salt
  • 3 cups white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 5-6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dill seeds
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seeds
  • 2 teaspoons celery seeds
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon turmeric
  • red pepper flakes to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Finely chop cucumbers and onions. I use a food processor and do smaller batches to be sure not too fine.  Place in a large bowl and sprinkle with salt, stir well. Let stand for 1 hour.
  2. Drain mixture in a colander, rinse under cold water and drain again, pressing out any excess moisture.
  3. In a large pot, bring vinegar, sugar, garlic, dill seed, mustard seed, celery seed, and pepper flakes to a boil.
  4. Add cucumber mixture, bring to a boil again, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. 
  5. Remove from heat, add the turmeric and mix well.
  6. Pour into sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Seal with lids and rings. Process in boiling water bath in canner for 10 minutes.

 

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