The 2014 Wayne County Fair is history, but our great fair booth staff got fantastic pictures of the whole week! We wanted to share the album with all of you. A big thanks to the Wayne County Fair staff and all of our friends who stopped to visit. It was great to see you! Continue reading
When I was growing up in Kent, Ohio my mother and grandmother canned tomatoes every Labor day. I hated it, I just wanted to be normal and buy tomatoes from the store in a real can not a jar that we said was a can. I didn’t want the bees swarming our hot house and I wanted to tell my friends of some fun activity that we did- not can tomatoes!
I smile when I think of that young girl that so desperately wanted to fit in and be cool. Now I have given up and embraced the country world I am in and love to can. I love the freedom I have when I pull a jar off the shelf and don’t need to read the fine print or call the company to make sure it won’t harm my family. I also love that I can look at recipes in canning cookbooks and not have to make any real dietary changes. Continue reading
It’s our big fall party–and you’re invited!
A display of gorgeous woodcarving by local resident Paul Weaver is still on display, and it’s like nothing you’ll see anywhere else. These dimensional dioramas portray familiar stories about country life and more.
And even though you’ll find food samples from local vendors like Little Town Granola, Uncle Henry’s Pretzels and others in the store throughout the day, stop in at the Cast Iron Cafe, and order some Amish Country treats. It’s a great place to take a break and rest your feet.
As the days are growing shorter, our American Gardeners are sharing their end of season experiences. Two had great seasons, one was disappointed, but they’re all ready to start growing again next spring.
Tim, from Ohio says that he’s getting tomatoes, and a few other things, but the rabbits at his retirement land got fat and sassy on his carrot and lettuce seedlings. “Rabbit tastes pretty good, though,” he writes, “and I guess I got some harvest from the garden in the end.” Continue reading
Since tomatoes are the number one most popular vegetable for the home gardener, most of us find ourselves with a glut of them before the season is over. Canning takes care of a lot, but sometimes we can’t even give them away fast enough once they get into production mode. When that happens, it’s time to think seriously about what to do with the excess. There’s always the compost pile, but who wants to waste a good tomato?
Try these ideas
Frozen Green Tomatoes for Frying
If you like fried green tomatoes, it’s a simple fix to freeze them for later. Slice them uniformly just as if you were going to fry them, then dip them in whatever mixture you like. Lay them out on a wax paper covered cookie sheet and freeze until they’re firm. You can then put them in freezer bags or containers and remove them individually when it’s time to cook them. Don’t let the tomato slices thaw before frying, but place them quickly into a hot, oiled skillet. They will taste as fresh as if you just pulled them off the vine – a real treat on a snowy winter day!
Frozen Tomato Sauce If you have a lot of tomatoes and want to can tomato sauce or make ketchup, but can’t stand the thought of adding even more heat to an already hot summer’s day, puree your tomatoes and get them ready to make sauce, then freeze the puree until the warmth from the stove will be welcome! When you’re ready to can, thaw the sauce and cook it down until it’s ready and that’s all there is to it. If you don’t want to can it, cook it down first and freeze it in one or two cup portions.
Freeze Whole Tomatoes But don’t freeze them in a lump that you have to hammer apart when you only want one or two. Instead, remove the skins (or not, if you don’t mind them), core and place on a wax paper or parchment paper covered cookie sheet in the freezer until they’re solidly frozen. Remove them quickly and put in freezer containers or bags, then you can simply use as many or as few as you need. Since tomatoes thaw and then reheat quickly, just plop them into your stew or soup or leave in a dish long enough to thaw for other purposes.
Still have more? Sun dried tomatoes are a specialty, but you can make them easily. They are exactly what they sound like: Dried in the sun. A dehydrator is excellent for this, but you don’t even need that. A flat surface that can be protected from insects–a cloth will do it.
Slice the tomatoes thinly and uniformly, place them where they won’t touch each other and leave in the sun, covered by a cloth until they are leathery to crisp. (Keep your cloth in place with clothes pegs or binder clips!) Store tomatoes in a closed container, and keep in a cool, dry place. Check them now and then as they tend to absorb moisture. If they do, you can redry them in the sun, or dry them out again in the oven. Use a very low temperature, leave the door open and watch them so they don’t burn.
You can even dry tomato “leather” to use as sauce in cooked dishes. Make a puree of the tomatoes and cook it down as much as you can to speed the drying process, then spread it on a leather dehydrator sheet. This is a solid sheet, usually of plastic that won’t let the liquid seep through. Use a plastic sheet over a tray in the sun if you need to, but it will take longer than a dehydrator or sun-drying sliced tomatoes.
When the leather is finished, you can store it in sheets, break it up or pulverize it in the blender for a tomato bouillon of sorts. Be aware that if you pulverize it, it will turn hard after awhile. A little cornstarch mixed in well before storing will prevent that. Don’t waste even one of those precious globes that you worked so hard to grow!
There’s nothing like a fresh, homemade waffle. And our friends over at King Arthur Flour have reminded us that this IS National Waffle Week, with some recipes and yummy-looking photos. But what’s even more important than the waffle? That’s right–the waffle maker. If you have the right waffle maker, your waffles are guaranteed to be scrumptious, crisp on the outside and tender on the inside, no matter the waffle recipe. Don’t waffle about–make sure you know which one is perfect for you! We’ve gathered ours here, to make it easier than ever for you to decide. Continue reading
I was anxious to finish clearing the new riding trail, so the next day I returned to the creek and began searching for the right spot to exit on the opposite bank. It seemed best to head upstream, where I could see another inviting sand bar around the bend.
Wanting to give Robin a break, I rode my other Tennessee Walking Horse mare, Dandy. Miss Dandy is a sweet little fireplug of a horse — bright and chubby with short little legs that seem almost out of scale with her body. Sure, a taller horse might have been useful in the creek, but short can be handy out on a trail, and Dandy has such a willing attitude. She waded up the creek when I asked, ready to give it a try.
Looks were deceiving in this case. The sandbar did not offer a way out of the creek, having a high bank behind it. So we continued upstream around the bend, to a bank that, although sharply cut by the current, seemed lower. Now, if there was firm footing at its base and the water wasn’t too deep…
As if she had read my mind and already had the answer, Dandy started to balk. She was almost up to her belly in the creek by this time (though I think that says more about her than the creek) and was anxious to retreat.
I pressed her to go nearer. She took one more step, then shouted “Absolutely not!” in her most convincing horse body language, with surprising energy for her size. I can tell you there was a lot of splashing.
Sometimes it is best to listen to the horse, and I thought this might be one of those times. We had gotten just close enough that I could tell the water at the bank was indeed deep (Dandy already knew). We headed back downstream where I hoped for better luck.
Downstream the creek was wide and smooth as glass as it coursed around the next bend. My limited creek-navigating experience told me that meant deep. We hugged the near bank where I could almost see the bottom. Dandy seemed to have forgiven my earlier lapse in judgment and went boldly, soaking us both as she plowed through the water.
After what seemed like 200 yards — it was more like 50 — I spied another sandbar along the far bank. At the far end of it, I saw just the bank we needed, sloping and not too high. I just hoped it would not come out too far away from the fields I was trying to reach. I looked for the shallowest spot and crossed.
I tied Dandy under a tree, and stepped up on the bank to get a better look.
Yesterday’s work had been on the shady north side of the creek where nettles flourish, but today I would be on the south side, and I could see it was a very different proposition.
No satisfying swish of a scythe blade would happen here, no juicy stalks giving way without a struggle. Most of the growth this time was of the sun-loving variety: trumpet vine, ragweed, pokeberry, thistles. Coarse, woody stuff.
I’d had a hunch this would not be a scythe-friendly job, so my tool of choice today was a pair of long-handled pruning shears.
Not that the scythe couldn’t handle tough weeds — it certainly could — but I didn’t have the heart to try it. Now that I had experienced the feel of a scythe working as it should, I couldn’t bring myself to use it on woody brush.
Once I started, though, I wondered if I had made a mistake. Nipping at these plants with pruning shears was much slower than the scything had been. Fortunately I didn’t have nearly as far to go this time, so on I went.
Proceeding directly away from the creek toward the sunlight, I cleared a roomy path onto a field, taking out lots of deadwood as I went. My last obstacle was a group of tall pokeberry plants with stalks nearly two inches thick. It was a struggle to get my shears around them but I kept at it. As they started to fall, I could see at last exactly where I was. And what a happy sight!
I had come out where I had hoped, directly across from the old road that would lead into the far woods and the fields that lay beyond.
Once back on Dandy, we rode around the field to the base of the road, and started up.
At the top, the road opened into a wide, grassy glen that serves as a kind of hub, opening onto a number of beautiful, gently rolling fields, all with generous and well-maintained borders. As I continued to explore, I realized I couldn’t have asked for a better place to go riding!
For me, all of the hard work it took to get here was worth it, every bit.
Already I have spotted deer, pheasants, and turkeys on these remote, peaceful fields, and I look forward to seeing how flora and fauna transform as the seasons change. Lots of peaceful riding and nature watching ahead, I hope.
I also have more plans for my scythe, now that I have a feel for it. I hope to be putting up a little hay next year, and maybe even use my old dump-style hay rake that has been sitting idle for too long. My horses have done a little pulling, and I would love to use them in the haying process. In any case, I know I have much to learn, and I can’t wait for the next adventure to begin!
Did you miss the first post in this set? Read it here: http://wp.me/p6fhR-5Ex
Out in Iowa, there’s a small family working on making it on their own, growing their own food, and living a frugal–but fabulous lifestyle.
Early in the summer, we sent Meagan and her family our Cucumber and Squash Trellis and a Raised Bed Gardening Set. And they did great things with it! You can see step-by-step as their square foot garden grew. Thanks, Meagan, for sharing the results with us.
Grow The Perfect Cucumber Patch
I’m a gardening enthusiast. My summers growing up were spent outside in the garden with my mother.
She taught me everything I needed to know about loving the garden and the outdoors, growing my own food and even some canning, pickling and preserving skills that I still use to this day!
Now I would say, I’m pretty much the queen of canning. I remember my mothers cucumber patch. It was always beyond spectacular. We made so many delicious pickles and had the most delicious salads from the cucumbers my mother grew.
But after I got older and moved away from home, I could never get them quite right. I cant really say that I’ve been able to have a successful cucumber patch since I’ve been out on my own. Until now that is! Lehman’s carries tons of products for gardening and now a days, raised beds are all the rage! And I can see why!
The wonderful folks at Lehman’s sent us two of their gardening products. They sent us their Raised Bed Gardening Set and their Cucumber & Squash Trellis so that I could try them out and try my luck at creating the perfect cucumber patch using Lehman’s products! And I think I’m well on my way to cucumber heaven! Read more–click here
“The old man, holding himself erect, moved in front, with his feet turned out, taking long, regular strides, and with a precise and regular action which seemed to cost him no more effort than swinging one’s arms in walking, as though it were in play, he laid down the high, even row of grass. It was as though it were not he but the sharp scythe of itself swishing through the juicy grass.”
— from Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
If you have ever been curious about scything and wondered if it might be for you, consider treating yourself to reading Anna Karenina, chapters 4 and 5. The description of hay-making with scythes, the sounds and smells and feel of it, is wonderful. For those of us who enjoy closeness with nature and the feel of working outdoors, it is enchanting
That’s what did it for me. I purchased a snath handle and two blades from Lehman’s and made hand-haying my goal.
Lesson #1: It takes a bit more planning than that to start a hayfield.
Not to worry. I’m working out a plan for the hay. But a few weeks ago I had a more immediate need.
Caesar Creek runs through a beautiful farm property adjacent to mine, on which I have permission to ride my horses around the crop fields. The part where I have been riding is a large field, over 100 acres, with the creek making up almost half of its boundary.
It was a boundary to me, anyway, because it was impenetrable. High, steep banks made most approaches impossible on horseback, and the wooded vegetation on both sides was deep, dark, and full of nettles — painful to both horse and rider.
Then one day, on a long ride down a local country road, I discovered the actual back side of this property. It was so much bigger than I realized! And the most beautiful and tranquil parts of it were on the other side of the creek, a maze of rolling, picturesque crop fields linked by decades-old paths through wooded glens.
I just had to find a way to cross the creek.
Lesson #2: Nettles cannot be bargained with.
These weren’t just nettles. They were uber-nettles — tall, dense plant-warriors, ready to sting at the slightest disturbance.
But then I realized they had taken over so completely that little else grew in the woods surrounding the creek – a uniform population, with tender, juicy stalks that wouldn’t bother my scythe one bit.
“I came; I saw; I scythed.” — A. A. Jones
I studied an aerial map to figure out where I should start making my path to the creek.
Then I had to decide how to get there with my nettle-neutralizing gear and enough energy left to do the job. The starting place was at least a mile from my house through fields — too far to walk and still be a threat to the nettle population when I got there. The nearest road would put me within 200 yards, but there was a bog in between — also no good. I decided packing everything in on horseback was the best way to go.
The snath handle was the biggest transportation challenge.
My solution was to attach a banjo strap and sling it over my shoulder.
Everything else fit in my cantle bag on the saddle, even the carefully-wrapped scythe blade. I was all set!
Lastly, I used my favorite knot from my youthful days as a wrangler to secure a lead rope safely around my horse’s neck. This would make tying up quick and easy once we were on the trail.
With my sensible 17-year-old Tennessee Walking Horse mare loaded and ready to go, we headed out to the site.
My first order of business was to knock down enough nettles to give my horse a comfortable place to stand under a shade tree, at the edge of the woods. Then I removed her bridle, attached her fly mask, loosened the saddle, and asked for her patience.
Minutes later the scything began in earnest, and I didn’t stop for two hours. I didn’t mean to go that long without a break, but I found myself hooked by the same almost Zen quality that comes with playing golf.
For me that means initial frustration, followed by working at it too hard, followed by more frustration, until I am about to give it up for good, then I finally relax and … Thwack! The golf ball sails, and I can’t wait to do it again.
I kept trying to remember all I had read about proper scything technique, but it was difficult to apply in the moment. When I would notice myself struggling, I realized I was making choppy strokes, all arms, and the cutting was difficult. So I would take a breath, and then swing smoothly with my body, letting the blade do the work. And voila! The nettles cut like soft butter.
Oh yes, I kept going.
After two hours I had made it deep into the woods, well out of sight of my horse who grew nervous and whinnied for me. That’s what reminded me to take a break. After checking in with the The Boss (her name is Robin) and rehydrating, I went back in to make a final push to the creek, which was now almost visible. I went straight for the sound of water, ready for this job to be over.
After another 20 minutes of work, I realized I was about eight feet too high. I had come out on one of the creek’s many steep, high banks. I retraced my path and continued cutting parallel to the creek another 50 feet or so until the contour looked more promising, and tried again. This time I came out at a small step-down bank opening onto a wide sand bar — perfect!
I went back for my horse, and we tried out the new path. A few tree limbs needed to be cut, but it was passable.
Once we were in the creek, I took a few minutes to survey the other side — only steep, high banks in sight.
Now aware of how tired I was, I would leave it for another day to find an exit from the creek on the other side.
Look for the second installment of Scything Caesar Creek on Wednesday, September 3.
Where did time go? My baby girl is suddenly five years old and getting ready for her first day of kindergarten. Wasn’t it just yesterday I held her in my arms and sang the song with her- soon she will be stepping on the bus.
I had hoped that she could be a carefree lunch eater and able to participate in every pizza party- but that is not her reality. Around age one she was diagnosed with milk, egg, wheat and sunflower food allergies. While we were hoping that she would outgrow them by now, she still has reactions to all.
So along with the normal supplies there will be an Epi-pen and care plan for the school follow. I hope that she will not carry all my fears and worries, but that she can find a safe balance of being cautious and being normal. Continue reading