West Brookfield Farmers Market

  (West Brookfield, Massachusetts)

Feb-March Market News

February-March Market News, 2015

Spring is finally here and although there is still goofy amounts of snow on the ground, I do see some daffodils shooting up along the south side of my house.  It has to warm up soon, right?  This newsletter will be a February/March issue.  I don’t know if it is just the busy-ness of life or an extended case of winter doldrums but I just could not get it together to put out a February news.  I got my seed order in a few weeks ago and finally got around to getting my starter tray planted.  I am also working on a new garden design in the field around our sugarhouse and decided this year to get a few chickens.  Feels good to try and work towards some level of self-sufficiency…that and it keeps my hands and mind occupied!  Anyway, hope you are all as excited for spring as I am and before you know it, opening day of the market will be upon us (June 3rd, mark your calendars!).

Winter Farmers Markets

Winter markets are still in operation…many through mid-April.  Try and visit before they close.  Not only can you buy some great locally grown fruits, veggies, sweets, etc but just being in the midst of all that delicious food really brightens the spirit (much needed after this extended winter!)

http://www.mass.gov/agr/massgrown/farmers_markets.htm

Amherst Winter Market:  Amherst High School, Sat. 10-2, through March
Northampton Winter Market:  Smith Vocational High School, Sat. 9-2, through April 18
Springfield Winter Market:  Old Monkey House, Forest Park, 2nd and 4th Sat, 10-2
Wilbraham Winter Market:  2301 Boston Rd., 2nd and 4th Sat., 10-2, to April

Worcester/Canal District Winter Market:  200 Harding St., Sat. 9-12, all year 

March is Maple Month

This winter has been a difficult one for sugar makers.  The cold temperatures and deep snow pack have made for a much later season than normal.  Some years, we have had our first boil during the first weekend of March.  This year we weren’t able to boil until March 16th and now with the temps dropping again, we are on hold until the sun warms the trees enough to start producing again.  That being said, this past weekend, March 21-22 was Maple Weekend in Massachusetts.  Sugarhouses were open to visitors, and restaurants around Massachusetts featured menu items made with 100% pure Massachusetts maple syrup.  Maple season will continue throughout the month of March so if you weren’t able to get out this past weekend, try to visit a sugarhouse or 2 next weekend.  It’s a fun and educational late winter/early spring activity!

If you decide to visit a sugarhouse, check out Warren Sugarhouse in North Brookfield.  They have a great operation up there and have a quaint store where you can buy all their great products!  OSV is also having Maple Days at the Village throughout the month of March so check them out to.  At the Village you can see how syrup was made over 100 years ago…a little more labor intensive than now but the final product is just as sweet!

www.massmaple.org

Asparagus Flower and Heritage Festival

The Asparagus Flower and Heritage Festival Committee has been busy planning the upcoming event which will take place on May 16th from 10-4.  There will be lots of great food, farmers and family fun!  Music will be performed by Dick Chase and Friends and there will be over 100 vendors selling their wares.  Save the Date…it is a great festival that shouldn’t be missed!

Espalier: A Unique and Beautiful Way to Grow Orchard Fruit in Small Spaces

Several years ago while visiting my brother, I noticed that he had quite a few apple trees lining his driveway like a fence.  They were short, well trimmed and loaded with fruit.  It was then that I saw and learned about the horticultural technique known as Espalier and I’ve been wanting to try it ever since. 

Espalier is an ancient agricultural practice used to control woody plant growth for the production of fruit, by pruning and tying branches to a frame, flat against a structure such as a wall, fence, or trellis.  This training of fruit trees into two dimensional forms is an excellent technique for anyone who has limited gardening space but would still love to grow their own orchard fruit. 

Dwarf fruit trees such as pear and apple lend themselves to espalier better than stone fruits (peaches, nectarines etc..).  The process of trimming and training the tree to follow a specific form or trellis does limit fruit production but for a home gardener, it will provide enough of a crop to feed the family and it looks really nice.

This technique uses a support structure of sturdy posts and a wire trellis. The one year old “whip” is planted in between the 2 support posts just in front of the trellis.  Frequent pinching and pruning is required throughout the growing season and only those branches growing in the right direction are kept.  The trellis shape can vary from a single “U” shape to a starburst design or one with multiple horizontal planes. 

Although this is not the simplest or most traditional way to grow orchard fruit, it certainly is unique and different.  Espalier does not have to be limited to fruit bearing trees either.  Other trees and plants, including Japanese maple, forsythia or cotoneaster can also be trained to follow a two-dimensional form.  So if you are looking to create a truly unique garden feature, espalier might be for you.  You’ll be the talk of the neighborhood! 

Info taken from: The Apple Grower, Michael Phillips and www.Wikipedia.org

Roasted Winter Vegetable Baklava (from Gourmet Magazine, Dec. 2008)

For some cooks, using phyllo dough can be a daunting task.  But it really isn’t.  Just keep a moist towel over it and if it tears a little bit, no worries.  Just piece it together in pan.  This is a great use of winter veggies at farmers market right now.

1/2 cup walnuts (2 ounces), toasted
1/4 cup fine dry plain bread crumbs
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes
2 fennel bulbs, trimmed, reserving fronds, bulbs halved and sliced lengthwise 1/4 inch thick
3/4 pound parsnips (3 medium), sliced diagonally 1/3 inch thick
1/2 pound carrots (3 medium), sliced diagonally 1/3 inch thick
1 large onion, halved and sliced
3/4 cup olive oil, divided
2/3 cup water
1/3 cup chopped dill
8 (17-by 12-inch) phyllo sheets, thawed if frozen

Preheat oven to 425°F with racks in upper and lower thirds.  Pulse walnuts with bread crumbs in a food processor until nuts are finely chopped (not ground).  Peel potatoes and slice 1/4 inch thick. Divide all vegetables between 2 large 4-sided sheet pans and toss each pan of vegetables with 3 tablespoons oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.  Roast vegetables, stirring and switching position of pans halfway through, until softened and golden brown in spots, 35 to 40 minutes. Leave oven on with 1 rack in middle.  Add 1/3 cup water to each pan of vegetables and stir and scrape up brown bits from bottom. Chop 1/4 cup fennel fronds. Combine all vegetables in 1 pan and toss with fennel fronds and dill.  Brush baking dish with some of remaining olive oil. Cover stack of phyllo sheets with plastic wrap and a damp kitchen towel. Keeping remaining phyllo covered and working quickly, place 1 sheet on a work surface, then gently brush with some oil and sprinkle with 2 rounded tablespoon walnut mixture. Place another phyllo sheet on top and repeat brushing and sprinkling. Top with a third sheet and brush with oil.  Drape phyllo stack into one half of baking dish, gently pressing it into bottom and up side and leaving an overhang. Make another stack with 3 more phyllo sheets, more oil, and remaining walnut mixture. Drape into other half of dish (phyllo will overlap in center of dish).  Spoon vegetables into phyllo shell. Fold overhang toward center over filling (it will not cover vegetables) and brush edge with oil. Brush remaining 2 sheets of phyllo with remaining oil, tear in half, crumple, and arrange on top of filling.  Bake in middle of oven until phyllo is deep golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool 5 minutes before serving.

Arugula, Bacon and Gruyere Bread Pudding (from: www.epicurious.com)

I love savory bread puddings….they make a perfect main course or side dish.  I just made one the other night and baked it in individual ramekins using leftovers I had in my fridge.  So good!  This recipe is nice because right now, delicious freshly picked greens are available at winter markets and even at Tip Top Country Store in Brookfield.  Spicy arugula gives this dish a little zip, but spinach would be delicious too.  Ham or prosciutto could be substituted for the bacon or you could just make it all veggie.  Yum!

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
5 large eggs
6 bacon slices
1 large shallot, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
7 ounces baby arugula or baby spinach (6 1/2 cups)
6 cups cubed (1-inch) country-style bread (1 pound)

5 1/2 ounces Gruyère cheese, coarsely grated (1 1/2 cups)

Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle. Butter a 2-qt shallow baking dish.

Whisk together milk, cream, eggs, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a large bowl.

Cook bacon in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, turning occasionally, until crisp. Transfer with tongs to paper towels to drain, then coarsely crumble.  Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from skillet. Increase heat to medium-high and cook shallot and garlic, stirring constantly, until golden, about 1 minute. Gradually add arugula and cook, stirring, until it wilts.  Stir arugula mixture, bacon, bread, and cheese into custard. Transfer to baking dish and cover with foil. Bake 30 minutes, then remove foil and bake until golden in spots, about 10 minutes more.  Serves 4-6


Support Your Local Farmer and Remember…

Buy Local and Buy Often…..

 
 

January 27, 2015 Market News

Garden Planning, Winter Markets and Tasty Recipes[Read More]
 
 

Victory Gardens....For Home and Country

 

Gardening, to some, is a therapeutic and deeply satisfying pastime.  To others it is a full-time job.  But during WWII it was a way to show your support for the war effort while providing healthy food for your family and friends.  Planting a garden and sharing or preserving your harvest was downright patriotic.  Unfortunately, many wars have been waged since the end of WWII but our citizens have never been asked to “Dig on For Victory” or “Sow the Seeds of Victory” again. 

 

The concept of a Victory Garden, also called a war garden or food garden for defense, first appeared in 1917 when Charles Lathrop Pack organized the National War Garden Commission and launched the war garden campaign.  With many of the country’s resources going towards the war effort, the citizens of the U.S were asked to help in any and every way they could.  They purchased war bonds, conserved raw materials, recycled and planted victory gardens.  A popular U.S slogan during war time was “Our food is fighting” and during the height of the campaign, more than 20 million victory gardens were planted.

 

 

War gardens were planted everywhere…backyards, abandoned lots, city rooftops...and came in many different shapes and sizes.  Even Eleanor Roosevelt planted one on the White House grounds.  Plots were cultivated in Golden Gate Park, in the Riverside District of NYC and in Boston at the Back Bay Fens(one of the last original victory gardens still in operation).  These gardens produced an estimated 9-10 million tons of fresh fruit and vegetables which equaled approximately  40% of all the vegetables consumed nationally.  With the citizens taking charge of their food production, more supplies were able to be shipped to troops around the world.  Food really was helping to fight the war!

 

Victory gardens were promoted in magazines and newspapers on a regular basis.  Women’s magazines were filled with instructions on how to grow and preserve garden produce.  Families were encouraged to can their own produce so that more canned goods could be sent to the troops.  Pressure cookers/canners were in great demand and in 1943, 315,000 canners were sold vs. 66,000 the year before.  Gardening and canning was touted as a fun, patriotic family event.

 

 

When the war ended, so did the government’s promotion of victory gardens.   Many people chose to not plant a garden during the spring of 1946 in expectation of greater produce availability.  That did not occur, however, because the agricultural industry had not yet returned to full production.  By the summer of 1946, food shortages plagued many communities across the nation.

 

 

Victory gardens are now a thing of the past.  Agricultural practices have changed dramatically since WWII with small family farms being replaced by large corporate farms and time proven tillage methods being overshadowed by mechanization and petrochemicals.  Today though, more people are taking an interest in the quality of the food they eat and even more are embracing the concept of self-reliance.  Who knows?  Maybe in the future folks will come together once again to plant gardens, produce food and do what they can to create a strong sustainable economy right in their own backyard.

 

 

Info taken from:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victory_garden

http://www.livinghistoryfarm.org/farminginthe40s/crops_02.html

http://www.vintageveggies.com/TheVictoryGarden/page2.html

Sprouts: Great Things Come in Small Packages

When the cold winds of January blow and freshly picked greens aren’t as readily available as you would like, growing your own sprouts is an easy, tasty and satisfying way to keep a steady supply of healthy greens in your house.  All you need is a wide mouth canning jar, some seeds (types of seeds will be discussed below) and water.

There are so many benefits of growing your own sprouts; the most important being that they are incredibly good for you.  Sprouts are a powerhouse of nutrients and contain lots of Vitamin C and protein.  Another great benefit (as mentioned above) is that for very little effort, you and your family can eat fresh greens all winter long.  Sprouting is also a fun gardening experiment for young and old alike.  Kids can get the satisfaction of caring for seeds, watching them grow and eating the rewards while adults can experiment with sprouting different seeds until they find which ones they like best.  It’s a win, win!

Normally, when people think of sprouts, they envision the clear plastic boxes of alfalfa sprouts we commonly see in a grocery store.  Alfalfa is only one of about 40 kinds of seeds that can be sprouted.  Others include barley, cabbage, clover, corn, lettuce, lentils, mung bean, pea, pumpkin, quinoa, radish, sesame, soybean, spinach, sunflower (hulled) and turnip.  There are also others that are not so common like almond, corn, garbanzo, kidney and pinto beans, and wheat.   All these varieties mentioned can be grown in a jar and will provide tasty sprouts within 2-5 days depending on the seed.  Experts contend that virtually 99 percent of all vegetation is edible in the sprout stage, the only seed varieties that shouldn’t be sprouted are tomato and potato as they are poisonous.

For beginning sprouters, start with some of the easier varieties like alfalfa, cabbage, lettuce, lentils, mung bean, pea, or spinach.  Turnip, spinach, radish, pea and lettuce can also be grown in soil in a shallow tray for those who miss having their hands in the dirt.  If you have any leftover untreated/organic seed from your garden, use that first and then buy new seed when needed.  Don’t use treated seeds because they’ve probably been sprayed with fungicides.

The easiest way to sprout is by using a quart-sized wide-mouthed Mason jar with a mesh, nylon or cheesecloth lid held on with the metal jar band.  For alfalfa seeds, start with 2 Tbsp. seed in the jar.  Cover with cool water and soak for a few hours (this softens the hull for easier sprouting).  When done soaking, rinse the seeds and drain well.  Lay the jar on its side, out of direct sun and rinse the seeds a couple times a day.  Rotating the jar is also helpful because it spreads the seeds/sprouts and improves circulation of air and moisture.  Within 4-6 days you should have a nice jar of sprouts between ½ inch and 2 in. long.  They are best eaten raw. 

Different kinds of seeds require different soaking times and may take longer to reach the desired “harvest” size.  Some of the hardier sprouts may also need to be lightly cooked to increase tenderness.  There is plenty of sprouting information available on the internet so check it out and start sprouting.  It’s another great way to eat local in winter….

Info taken from:  The Encyclopedia of Country Living, Carla Emery

 

 
 

Rosemary: The Perfect Winter Herb

The Perfect Winter Herb...Rosemary

There are very few herbs that can be successfully grown inside during the winter.  Most end up getting too leggy or just cannot thrive without consistent sun and warmth.  Thank goodness rosemary is not one of them because there is nothing better than cutting off a fresh sprig to liven up a winter stew, add to a marinade or toss with some roasted winter vegetables.  Its uses are endless and can be paired with lamb, pork, chicken, beef and venison.  It can even be used to flavor sweets and baked goods.

Rosemary can be purchased already packaged in most grocery stores but it is really a beautiful plant to have indoors during the cold months.  Potted rosemary can be purchased now from many year-round greenhouses so it’s not too late to get a pot of rosemary for your window that can be transplanted in your garden in the late spring.

Growing Rosemary Indoors

Rosemary does best in a cool, sunny spot.  A window with southern exposure in a cool room is ideal.  Cool temps limit the growth of powdery mildew, a common fungus that slowly attacks and kills the plant.  Water the plant regularly but don’t overwater.  Wait until the top of the soil is dry before you water again.  Don’t fertilize in winter because it can cause the plant to get leggy.

As Useful as It is Beautiful

There are so many delicious ways to use rosemary.  Here are a few ideas to make an everyday dish extraordinary.

·         Use as a bed for roasted potatoes.  Strip the leaves but don’t chop them and lay them in the pan and place the halved potatoes on top.

·         Wrap sprigs around roasts or chicken and secure with kitchen twine before cooking.

·         Tie several branches together and use them as a basting brush for grilled or roasted meats.

·         Use stripped branches as skewers.

·         Toss rosemary with winter vegetables before roasting.

·         Add some chopped rosemary to pizza, focaccia or biscuit dough during the early mixing stage for a tasty twist.

In the late spring after the threat of frost has passed, replant outdoors or repot in a larger pot with fresh soil.  When ready to bring indoors again, remove the plant gently from the soil without damaging the root ball.  Re-pot in fresh soil and enjoy for another season.

 
 

Colorful Blooms in Winter

Colorful Blooms in Winter

Although it is already November and some folks start forcing bulbs in mid-October, I still think its worth it to try and create beautiful displays for late February, early March by forcing bulbs right now.  I know here in Mass., the month of March can be cold and bleak and nothing would bring a smile to my face than the smell of a daffodil or hyacinth on a blustery, late winter day.  Try it out, there's really nothing to lose!

When the leaves are gone and snow is on the ground, we all can’t help but wish for the beauty that spring brings.  To lessen the harshness of winter, it always helps to force blooms and savor their beauty and fragrance.  There are quite a few bulbs that can be forced if planted correctly and their blooms really do lighten our spirits when the cold dark days weigh upon us.

Folks who dapple in bulb forcing often choose Paper-white Narcissus.  They’re a reliable bloomer and are incredibly fragrant.  They are also the simplest and most straightforward bulb to force because they don’t need a cooling period prior to blooming.  But there are many other bulbs one can plant indoors during the cold months that after 12 to 15 weeks will yield a beautiful floral display.  But before you choose your bulb, you must properly prepare your pot.

The size of your pot depends on your space or on how many bulbs you wish to force together.  Fill your pot with quality planting mix, any good mix will work as long as it is comprised of soil, peat and vermiculite or perlite.  You can amend it with some bone meal if available but a bigger focus should be on drainage.  It is critical that the drainage is good because otherwise the bulb will rot.  To ensure good drainage, place a layer of sand under and around each bulb.  Do not bury the bulbs but leave a little of the “nose” visible.  Once the bulb is planted, water it well and place the pot in a cool, dark, dry place for about 12 weeks, watering regularly.  This will give the bulb enough time to set roots prior to producing leaves and flowers.

Besides paper-whites, there are a few more varieties that may be forced.  Hyacinths are not only beautiful but smell delicious..the epitome of spring.  Tulips, narcissus (daffodils), crocus, grape hyacinths, iris and lily of the valley can also be forced into flower in late winter and early spring.

All of the spring-blooming bulbs just mentioned must have a cold period of at least three months to initiate bloom.  After the bulbs are planted, place the pots in an area where the temps will stay cold but not freezing such as an unheated garage or cellar.  If you are worried about the bulbs freezing, place them in a box and cover with hay for added protection.  Some folks even plant the pots in a shallow trench in their garden and cover them with leaf mulch or hay and plastic to prevent freezing from occurring.

After bulbs have been chilled, you can bring them inside.  You want the bulbs to have grown a strong root system and you can check to see if any roots are coming through the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.  Once in the house, water the pot and place the pots in a cool, moderately sunny area of the home until active growth is visible. Don’t over-water. Once growth begins, move the pots to a warmer location that receives a little more light. Too much sun too soon will permanently damage the plant.  Within 2 or 3 weeks of being brought in, your bulbs should start flowering.

Sources:

 The Mayflower Magazine, September 1901, Vol. XVII, No. 9

URI Greenshare Factsheet       

http://www.uri.edu/ce/factsheets/sheets/forcebulbs.html

Univ. of Minnesota Extension

http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/horticulture/dg1116.html

 

 
 

October 1860 Almanac Advice, Timeless Words

 Some advice never gets outdated.  Farmers from long ago had an awareness of their surroundings and took care in the planting, harvesting and storing of the crops they grew.  As we become more involved in buying local or growing more of what we eat, we too may become as insightful as our forefathers.....

October hath 31 days

 Recall the gifts received from Heaven,

And lay them all at Memory’s shrine;

Remember some have harder striven,

Whose share of good is less than thine.

 

Weather Prediction
October 1-10:  Frequent showers of rain, fine for the season.  

October 11-20:  Cooler with high winds.

October 20-24:  Great plenty of wind and rain.

October 24-31:  Pleasant.  Some flakes of snow.

 
Farmer’s Calendar 

Now come the cold nights, the frosty mornings, and the sunshiny days-the most melancholy, and yet the most beautiful, of all the year.  But work still remains to be done.  The roots are not all out of the ground.  Carrots grow long after the frosts have begun to nip the more tender plants.  Apples and other fruits, especially the winter varieties, are now to be gathered;-mind you don’t bruise them by careless picking.  Gather your apples by hand, one by one, and lay them gently away.  A single decaying apple, bruised in gathering or packing, may cause you the loss of half the barrel.  Now is the time, also, to look to the farming tools which have been used in summer, and to put them away, carefully cleaned and dry, for next season’s use.  Exposure to the weather will destroy them as fast as ordinary usage.

 
 

Cool Weather Gardening

Cool Season Gardening

As far as I’m concerned, the longer I can grow and harvest my own food the better.  Last year I picked my last bowl of salad greens on December 14th .  My dinner that night was bittersweet…sweet because I was still eating something I grew but bitter because I knew it would be at least 3 months until I could start again (I have yet to build a cold frame although this is going to be my year!).  I know from talking to some of my friends that to actually plant seed in September seems fruitless.  What could possibly grow between now and when we get a frost or the first few snowflakes fall?  Lots I tell them…lots of tasty, beautiful greens……

I am a relative newcomer to planting cool weather crops and until last year, I really only had greens until the first hard frost.  But, I finally decided that I want more from my garden and so I invested in some metal hoops and created a mini greenhouse environment in my garden.  It was so exciting to see the frost on the ground but my lettuce was still alive and growing.   

The first step in having a successful fall garden with tasty greens is to select seed varieties that do well in cooler temps. Some really popular varieties include romaine, red and green leaf, buttercrunch, mustard, spinach, arugula, and mesclun.  Braising greens like mizuna and tatsoi are also fun to grow.  Kale, swiss chard, broccoli raab, radishes, and pea shoots are also reliable fall growers.

Planting a fall garden doesn’t require a lot of space.  You can plant in an existing bed where annuals and perennials have died back, in an open spot in the veggie garden, or in containers or window boxes.  Direct sow the seed in a wide swath a little denser than normal.  When they reach about 3 in. thin them out and have your first salad of baby greens.  Keep on trimming back and they will continue to produce.  Stagger your cuttings so that some greens have the opportunity to mature and give you more substantial salad fixins.

To keep harvesting through the frosty nights, you will need to cover your crop in one form or another.  I highly recommend purchasing metal hoops or constructing your own out of bendable PVC pipe and covering the plants with thick plastic.  I used clothes pins to attach the plastic to the hoops and it really worked well.  I could open up all or part of the “hoop/green house” on warm days with ease and close it up at night.

Growing fall greens really is easy and so satisfying.  Whether in containers or outside, a little effort will yield truly delicious results.  Good luck and enjoy…..

 

 
 

Never too late for composting

I have always had a compost at my house but I can't always say it has been a good one.  This fall, I am changing that and putting my best foot forward to have a productive compost.  I have spent quite a bit of time reading about composting and what to add and not to add and thought I might as well share some basic tips for those who wish to join the composting bandwagon.  

Right now, I have a square bin with a wooden  frame and wire mesh sides.  The bin has removable sides so that I can disassemble it and move it over when I want to turn the pile.  That much I do correctly.  What I realized though is that i don't consistently add green and brown materials to the compost to get it to the proper 'cooking' temp.  I sometimes add grass clippings but mainly I add kitchen waste and I have found that it does not breakdown the way it should.

For those who don't have a bin yet, you can use a variety of materials....lumber, chicken wire, bricks, concrete blocks or hay bales.  Make sure there are enough openings in your bin to allow air to pass through and "feed" the bacteria in your compost.  Organize some organic materials into two piles, green and wet (nitrogen fixers) and dry and course (carbon).  Start by layering the bottom of the bin with some course materials like chopped cornstalks or brush.  Top with some grass clippings then some garden soil.  Top that with something dry and course like hay or straw and then begin the layering process over again with grass clippings or kitchen waste, soil and a dry and course material.  Build it to about 3 feet high and turn periodically.  When it starts to breakdown some, you can flip it, moving the top layer to the bottom.  Spray with a little water and keep adding your material.  If you have a two bin system, you can remove the finished or nearly finished material to your second bin where it can turn into useable compost. 

Not sure what's good compost material and what's not?  Here are a few items that are easily found in your house or yard that you can use for your compost:  Coffee grounds, corncobs or stalks, eggshells, fruit and vegetable wastes, hay, leaves, manure, pine needles, sawdust or wood shavings, weeds (cut before seeds set), wood ash, and grass clippings.  Some final tips:  don't layer grass clippings too thick, don't throw any meat or dairy products into compost (vegetarian only), don't let the heap get too wet or too dry (the consistency of a wet sponge is good) and finally, chop up leaves and other  materials with your lawnmower for easier breakdown.  The smaller the pieces the faster the decomposition.  So, I am putting my advice to work and if all goes well, I will have great compost for my garden in no time.  Happy Composting!

(Tips taken from Organic Gardenings best Kept Gardening Secrets)

 
 

"Putting Up" the Harvest

We all love the abundance of fruit and veggies available to us during the growing season but sometimes it gets overwhelming and we are not sure what to do with it all.  Pickling, canning, and dehydrating foods are the best ways to preserve fruits and veggies for winter storage.  Never attempted canning?  It's not as hard as you might think and there are lots of great "How-to" books to assist you.  If canning isn't your thing, freezing is the next best thing.  Here are a couple simple recipes to get you started on home food preservation followed by a couple freezing tips.

 

Fruit Butters

Fruit butters are delicious spreads made by cooking fruit in small amounts of liquid until a spreadable consistency is reached.  Spices are often added but sparingly so as to not overwhelm the flavor of the fruit.  Apple butter is the most popular kind of butter but many other fruits can also be preserved this way.  The following recipe uses apples with some notes at the end if you wish to use peaches or pears.

Peel and slice apples, removing core.  Use equal measures of fruit and cider, or half cider half water.  Sugar to taste but not more than half the amount of fruit.  Cook the butter down, slightly reducing heat to avoid spatter.  Stir vigorously to prevent burning.  Test for readiness by putting a spoonful on a cold plate.  If no juice oozes out from the egdes, then it is done.  If it is still too juicy, just keep cooking down until it reaches the desired consistency. 

For a smoother butter, pass the mixture through a sieve, strainer or food mill.  Taste for sweetness and add more sugar if need with a pinch of salt.  Boil rapidly, stirring constantly to prevent scorching.  Add some cinnamon, cloves and allspice to the butter and stir.  Spice amount depends on how much butter is being made.  Some folks recommend 2 tsps. of mixed spice for 1 gallon of butter.  Pour into sterilized jars and seal.

 * Peaches:  Scald fruit and remove skins and pits, crush fruit, and cook in its own juices as directed for apple butter.

* Pears:  Quarter, remove stems but not cores and skins.  Add half as much water as fruit by measure.  Follow directions for apple butter.

 

Freezer Pickles

 This is an incredibly easy and delicious recipe.  It has been used in my family for years.

 Mix together 8 c. thinly sliced cucumbers, 2 TBL. kosher salt, and 2 onions, thinly sliced.  Let stand in bowl for 2 hours.  While the cucumbers sit, place 1 1/2 c. sugar and 1/2 c. vinegar in a saucepan and bring to a light boil.  Boil until sugar is dissolved.  Let cool.  Divide the cucumber mixture evenly amongst freezer containers and top each container with 1/2 tsp celery seed.  Pour syrup equally over the cucumbers and celery seed.  Freeze.

*  Make sure you leave enough room in each container for expansion while freezing otherwise the syrup will ooze out of the top.

*  I usually use three or four Cool-Whip containers for this recipe.  The syrup won't cover the cukes entirely.  The juices from the onions and cukes will provide enough additional liquid.



 


 
 

Age Old Advice and Gardening Wisdom

The following excerpts taken From The Old Farmer’s Almanac by Robert B. Thomas, No. 86, 1860.

Then honor him who tills the soil,As well as those who rear our domes; For both leave monuments of toil Which point to many happy homes.

 
Sound Advice:

An agricultural writer of respute says, “ August is the best time for ploughing and seeding down such mowing lands as need re-seeding. *** From the 10th of August to Sept. 20th is appropriate time for this work.  There can be no doubt that this is the best way to resuscitate worn out grasslands, but it is important that it be done in season.  Flint, in his treatise on Grasses and Forage Plants, says “The most important point to be observed, is to use a large number of species of grasses, with smaller quantities of each than those most commonly used.  This is Nature’s rule; for in examining the turf of a rich old pasture we shall find a large number of different species growing together.”

The Gardens of New England, by Elihu Burritt

The farmer’s garden is the introduction to a large volume, of which every acre is a page, bearing the marks of his character.  Viewed in this light, the gardens of New England are full of hopeful and instructive reading to those who consult their chronicles.  They show that science, taste and successful industry, have been brought to bear upon agriculture.  They mark the degree of mental culture and refinement to which the farmers of the country have attained.

 

 

 

Eat Local, Eat Often

With summer in full swing, markets all over the state are loaded with delicious fruits and berries.  Blueberry season is almost over, ending a bit soon due to the hot weather and early crop production but blackberries, peaches and early apples are everywhere!  Here is a simple recipe that is great for both peaches and apples.  Enjoy this family favorite from my kitchen to yours.

 

Peach (or Apple) Cobbler

Butter an 8 in. square pan.  Cover the bottom with peeled and sliced peaces (about 6 or 7).  Sprinkle 1/2 to 1 cup sugar over the peaches (depending on their sweetness) and gently toss.  In a separate bowl, mix together 1 c. flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 egg, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1 tsp. baking powder until crumbly (hand mixing works the best).  Place on top of peaches and dot the top with ample amounts of butter.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour until golden brown.

 
 
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