...if you have a backyard and a kitchen, this blog might be for you!

a chronicle of tips and recipes on everything from gardening to canning and baking your produce, even if you're planted in suburbia...in fact, especially if you are planted in suburbia.

Friday, September 30, 2011

"In My Day..."

As my study of waste-avoidance continues, I find myself getting more esoteric.

One of the things that strikes me is how much the use of the oral tradition has been lost. Generations of wisdom lore lost to many. Oh, here and there, a fortunate child still has the benefits of a lesson in the basics of living well (in the timeless ways) with that lesson coming not from a google search or a YouTube video, but rather from a family elder. But in many cases, those traditional sayings are simply being forgotten.

So in honor of all those snippets of wisdom accumulated by former generations, today's poetry post is only poetry in a quilted fashion. These sayings are taken from Bernard Schofield's A Miscellany of Garden Wisdom. Imagine you are hearing them from an old man wearing a floppy straw hat and gloves, as you pick blackberries together on a bright morning. As you pick, he sing-songs the likes of these:

  • The soil is rather like a bran tub--you only get out of it what you put in.

  • This rule of gardening ne'er forget, to sow it dry and set it wet.

  • One for the rook, one for the crow, One to die and one to
    grow; Plant your seeds in a row, One for pheasant, one for crow, One to eat and one to grow.

  • Much February snow, a fine summer doth show.

  • If you enjoy the fruit, pluck not the flower.

  • Cut thistles in May, they grow in a day; Cut them in June, that is too soon; Cut them in July, then they die.

  • When snails climb up the stalks of grass, wet weather is at hand.

  • If lilies be plentiful, bread will be cheap.

And last but not least, ushering in tomorrow's image--Daffodowndilly has come to town, In a yellow petticoat and a green gown!

Now, let's imagine our Blackberry-picking Buddy takes us into the kitchen for a cooling drink of Blackberry Shrub...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Giving More Than a Cup of Water

How do we determine whether we are right or wrong to call this mere lobby a wasteful use of resources when we know that just a mile or two away, people are living life like this:

It seems to be a hot topic of politicdal debate these days. I'm not one prone to beg controversy, but I am a student of compassion and justice. No week of reflecting on wastefulness would be complete without a moment's consideration being given to the topic on a small scale--as it relates to my hobbies.

I found the following study, and while it is most likely completely true, it is also a very dry and detached source of information:

Food loss at the retail and consumer levels in the United States includes
14.8 billion pounds of fruit and 23.4 billion pounds of vegetables,
valued at $15.1 billion and $27.7 billion, respectively, in 2008 retail
market prices. The total value of these losses is $42.8 billion per year,
or roughly $141 per capita. To most efficiently reduce the annual food
loss, it may be beneficial to focus efforts on the four fruits (fresh
apples, grapes, peaches and strawberries) and four vegetables (fresh
and canned tomatoes and fresh and frozen potatoes) that have the
greatest amount of loss.
[ from a paper by: Jean C. Buzby (jbuzby@ers.usda.gov), Jeffrey Hyman (jhyman@ers.usda.gov), Hayden Stewart(hstewart@ers.usda.gov), and Hodan F.Wells (hfarah@ers.usda.gov) are economists at the Economic Research Service of the US Department of Agriculture. The views expressed here are those of the authors and cannot be attributed to the Economic Research Service or the US Department of Agriculture.]

Here's the source if you'd like to read more.

Some people will do that. Read the very long document. Many will think what a shame it is--maybe even going so far as to dedicate a facebook update to lamenting it.

Here's another source of true information: my memory. My first experience with a hungry and homeless person was a winter holiday when I was just a child. I looked out the kitchen window across our frosty back yard to the burn barrel near the alley. There, an old man was shuffling through our trash. I came from a small town where people simply grew food if they couldn't afford to buy it sothe man at our barrel was an oddity to me. Not until I went back into the living room where my cozy family were watching a holiday parade on TV and mentioned my sighting of this dumpster diver did I learn about the hungry homeless. My mother jumped up and ran to look out the window, but the man was gone. She explained to me that he was hungry, and that if I should see such a person again, I should tell her quickly so we could offer him some food.

While some whose awareness is abstract might become a voice for change, others who have direct experience might become the very hands of it. They might do this:

Some might even go so far as this:

This week I'm looking at waste as a lifestyle, and today wasted food in particular--food that's not technically "spoiled" but that nevertheless makes retailers fear litigation because it is not at its peak of freshness. The issue of balancing food waste and hunger is a complex one, broad as an ocean shore. I may not be engaged at either extreme--dumpster diving to feed others or writing lengthy annotated research reports--but still, I'm putting my toe in the water, letting it splash over my feet and seeing where a walk along that beach might take me. I'm accepting that I might leave a positive footprint in the sand even if only for a little stretch and only until the next tide rises. I'd hope you'd consider doing the same.

Happy serving!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Whiff of Days Gone By

Remember when we made this yellow rose and rosemary potpourri? http://suburbansettler.blogspot.com/2010/11/lovely-post-on-pot-rot.html

I just pulled another bag from the freezer and tossed it in a bowl. Very quickly the petals thawed, the aroma wafted up and the color remained true. The test for long-term storage in the freezer for floral potpourri is indeed a great success. So even though tearing those dainty petals off the stem before they actually wilt may feel like a waste, it will only seem so for a moment. Once they've dried and been blended with the rest of the potpourri mix, they can offer both beauty and fragrance for months to come. What's more, you can buy the essential oils everywhere from GNC to Amazon. By the way, the herbal oil I started last week-- http://suburbansettler.blogspot.com/2011/09/kitty-thyme.html

--it's about ready to strain and use. Since it's made with kitchen herbs, I may use it for fried green tomatoes, especially if it is too light for scenting a potpourri. I'll have to get back to you with the results.

But if you're a rose gardener, be certain to preserve some petals for winter potpourri's. Nothing would brighten a dull gray winter day like a genuine summer rose aroma!

Happy plucking!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Baked Pumpkin, Plus 1

...with the plus one being the bonus recipe link for Roasted Pumpkin Seeds. Early autumn is the time for picking tender little pumpkins--either off the garden vine or off the front-door display table at the grocery. They make all sorts of delicious, easy and healthy desserts.

Baked pumpkins have been gracing tables for centuries, and no wonder. They are tasty. This recipe is adapted from one popular in the 1850's. Simply take a small pumpkin (2-3 lbs.) and cut its top off. Clear it of seeds and stringy membrane. Wash it inside and pat dry; then place it on a foil-covered baking tray. Pour 1/3 C heavy cream--I used 2% milk and was still quite satisfied with the richness, 2 tbsp brown sugar, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp nutmeg to the cavity. Bake at 350 degrees for about 90 minutes (larger pumpkins might need an hour and forty-five) until inside is soft.

Spoon the insides into a bowl, straight from the pumpkin. It makes a delicious after-school pudding-like snack for the kids, or a tasty spread for the piece of apple bread you just baked and are sampling.

Now, here's today's bonus--the waste not, want not part of the post:

Common sense says toss this mess in the trash. Maybe save a few seeds for next year's planting, but that's it. Those ancestors of old, however, would tell you that you wasted a chance for a different tasty snack.

Roast those seeds in the oven after drying them overnight and stirring them in salt and garlic-flavored olive oil.

Recipes abound online for all sorts of flavor mix-ins and oil ideas. Here's one website, for instance.

Whatever recipe you choose, the snack gives you the opportunity to fulfill the food pyramid's nut-or-seed requirement without pinching your fingers in a nut-cracker!
Happy salty, greasy, orange hands!

The Daffodil Principle

(a story shared at godvine.com)

Several times my daughter had telephoned to say, "Mother, you must
come see the daffodils before they are over." I wanted to go, but
it was a two-hour drive from Laguna to Lake Arrowhead.
"I will come next Tuesday, " I promised, a little reluctantly, on
... her third call.
Next Tuesday dawned cold and rainy. Still, I had promised, and so I
drove there. When I finally walked into Carolyn's house and hugged
and greeted my grandchildren, I said, "Forget the daffodils,
Carolyn! The road is invisible in the clouds and fog, and there is
nothing in the world except you and these children that I want to
see bad enough to drive another inch!"
My daughter smiled calmly and said, "We drive in this all the time,
"Well, you won't get me back on the road until it clears, and then
I'm heading for home!" I assured her.
"I was hoping you'd take me over to the garage to pick up my car."
"How far will we have to drive?"
"Just a few blocks," Carolyn said. "I'll drive. I'm used to this."
After several minutes, I had to ask, "Where are we going? This
isn't the way to the garage!"
"We're going to my garage the long way," Carolyn smiled, "by way of
the daffodils."
"Carolyn," I said sternly, "please turn around."
"It's all right, Mother, I promise. You will never forgive yourself
if you miss this experience."
After about twenty minutes, we turned onto a small gravel road and
I saw a small church. On the far side of the church, I saw a
hand-lettered sign that said, "Daffodil Garden."
We got out of the car and each took a child's hand, and I followed
Carolyn down the path. Then, we turned a corner of the path, and I
looked up and gasped. Before me lay the most glorious sight. It
looked as though someone had taken a great vat of gold and poured
it down over the mountain peak and slopes. The flowers were planted
in majestic, swirling patterns-great ribbons and swaths of deep
orange, white, lemon yellow, salmon pink, saffron, and butter
yellow. Each different-colored variety was planted as a group so
that it swirled and flowed like its own river with its own unique
hue. There were five acres of flowers.
"But who has done this?" I asked Carolyn.
"It's just one woman," Carolyn answered. "She lives on the
property. That's her home."
Carolyn pointed to a well kept A-frame house that looked small and
modest in the midst of all that glory. We walked up to the house.
On the patio, we saw a poster. "Answers to the Questions I Know You
Are Asking" was the headline.
The first answer was a simple one."50,000 bulbs," it read. The
second answer was, "One at a time, by one woman. Two hands, two
feet, and very little brain." The third answer was, "Began in 1958."
There it was, The Daffodil Principle. For me, that moment was a
life-changing experience. I thought of this woman whom I had never
met, who, more than forty years before, had begun ~ one bulb at a
time ~ to bring her vision of beauty and joy to an obscure mountain
top. Still, just planting one bulb at a time, year after year, had
changed the world. This unknown woman had forever changed the world
in which she lived. She had created something of ineffable
(indescribable) magnificence, beauty, and inspiration.
The principle her daffodil garden taught is one of the greatest
principles of celebration. That is, learning to move toward our
goals and desires one step at a time ~ often just one baby-step at
a time ~ and learning to love the doing, learning to use the
accumulation of time. When we multiply tiny pieces of time with
small increments of daily effort, we too will find we can
accomplish magnificent things. We can change the world.
"It makes me sad in a way," I admitted to Carolyn. "What might I
have accomplished if I had thought of a wonderful goal thirty-five
or forty years ago and had worked away at it 'one bulb at a time'
through all those years. Just think what I might have been able to
My daughter summed up the message of the day in her usual direct
way. "Start tomorrow," she said.
It's so pointless to think of the lost hours of yesterdays. The way
to make learning a lesson of celebration instead of a cause for
regret is to only ask, "How can I put this to use today?"
Never to late to start our own garden...

Our last look at the waste not, want not principle: don't waste today's or tomorrow's potential stewing over the reach of yesterday's efforts.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Waste Not, Want Not, Featuring Green Tomatoes

As a novice gardener and canner, I remember wondering why so many recipes in the canning book involved under-ripe or under-developed produce. But "putting up" food over the years has taught me the wisdom in these old recipes. Seasons differ from year to year, and the wise gardener who hopes to feed a family through each barren winter will learn to make the most of whatever is available in the summer.

This week's blog posts come with a theme attached: waste not, want not. After all, squirrels and chipmunks aren't the only creatures thinking of putting back whatever can be scavenged when autumn gets well settled. Humans have traditionally thought in those terms, as well, particularly before the local grocery made "seasonless" shopping an option.

The picture above shows my typical ration of ripe to green cherry tomatoes this season in the garden. I tried all the tricks: pruning bulk branches, fertilizing, finally inquiring of other local gardeners...I learned that everyone is facing the same dilemma: full-bodied but unripe tomatoes. That doesn't mean, however, that my cherry tomato plant was just so much lost space in the garden. It simply meant flipping a few pages over in Ball Blue Book of preserving (my most frequently used canning book) to the dill green tomatoes recipe.

The recipe calls for 5 pounds of green tomatoes to be evenly distributed in 6 sterilized pint jars, along with 1 bay leaf, 1 clove of garlic and 2 tsp. of dill seed per jar. While filling the jars, heat 3 1/2 C vinegar, 3 1/2 C water and 1/4 C canning salt in a sauce pot. When the mixture boils, it is ready to add to the jars, up to 1/4 inch headspace.

Don't forget to run a thin spatula around the inside of the jar after filling. This particular mix tends to trap air bubbles more than some others do, bubbles that can lead to spoilage. Then it's off to the boiling water canner for 15 minutes processing.

Every post this week will have something to do with waste-free garden and kitchen life. Today, it was the green tomatoes that could have been left to ruin at that first frost--a day not too far away--and the dill seeds, garden fare with a purpose beyong just starting next summer's dill crop. Tomorrow, we'll take a different tack, but we'll stick to the theme of avoiding waste. By the end of the week, we'll see what wisdom we've gleaned from our week of discovery learning.

Happy preserving!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sabbath Rest with Corrie ten Boom and the Woodpecker

(I didn't have a stock woodpecker shot in my personal file, but here are some nice ones of Joshua trees. Scott took them on his travels. You'll have to imagine the woodpecker...)

June 3

A woodpecker tapped with his beak against the stem of a tree just as lightning struck the tree and destroyed it. He flew away and said, "I didn't know there was so much power in my beak!" When we bring the Gospel there is a danger that we will think or say, "I have done a good job." Don't be a silly woodpecker. Know where your strength comes from. It is only the Holy Spirit who can make a message good and fruitful.

It is not try, but trust. It is not do, but done. Our God has planned for us, great victory through His Son.

Who can utter the mighty doings of the Lord...? Psalm 106:2

Holy Spirit, make us jealous for God's honor.

--from Each New Day

Saturday, September 24, 2011

"To Market, to Market..."

although modern shoppers would probably say, "Uh, no..." as the little poem's next phrase rolls out: "...to buy a fat pig." More likely, they'd relate to the last verse, the one that goes "To market, to market to buy a plum bun. Home again, home again, market is done." This little poem has surely been chanted since well before it's first publication in the late 1500's, so our cultural tradition appears to be steeped in farm market life, whether live pigs make an appearance or not.

And, since marketing is now easily done at a grocery store, why should these markets still thrive? All I can do is give you some assumptions based on my own town's farm market...held every Saturday morning from early May through mid-October. First and foremost, I'd say this: it's not just about what you buy.

It's about the story that builds while you're there.

It's about the vendor who says. "That birdhouse gourd? If you want to come by the farm store, we have ones already dried, ready to drill the bird hole and paint. Don't buy these, they're too fresh, and you'll have to wait to use them."

It's about the booth you think offers brownies, but then realize from the aroma you've actually come upon hand-made soaps, and the vendor who leaves it to you to figure out the difference.

It's about corn sold by someone whose overhead expenses involve the bed of a farm truck and whose advertising budget covers things like cardboard boxes and black magic markers.

It's about learning who made the cupcakes. Not someone's apron-wearing grandma, but these guys...although the apron is a constant.

It's about consumers...

...and producers outside the human race who nevertheless make a welcome appearance.

It's about shopping for what's seasonal, only what's seasonal.

and the casual side of creative display;

...about shopping under a watchful eye...

...and kettle corn as the impulse buy.

Happy marketing!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree...

...or one might just hit you on the head because apples are dropping everywhere!

True, apples make cheap, easy table art this time of year, but they're also good for other things. Eating. Cooking. (wink)

Last year, I pulled out the slicer-corer (a gadget well worth it's minimal cost) to make applesauce for the blog. This year, we'll look at apple butter. Many people avoid apple butter thinking it complicated and time consuming. Time-consuming, somewhat...complicated, no. Not if you have a crock pot, a colander and a potato masher.

I spent about 10 minutes coring and slicing 14 Jonamac apples with the tool shown above; then I added the slices to 2 cups of apple cider. After a couple of hours in the crockpot, the apples were ready to be "put through a food mill" as the recipe states it. For me, that meant pushing them through a colander with a potato masher and then disposing of the peels. I got what you see above from what you see below.

I measured the remaining pulpy, delightful sauce (OK, I stirred it around a bit and said to myself, "Hmmm, that's about 2 pints then.") I needed to know this because per pint I would add 1 cup of sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp allspice and 1/2 tsp of cloves. Now for the time consuming part: this mixture cooks on low for about 6-8 hours, stirring every 2 or so. Freezing the apple butter is an option, but much like jelly the apple butter is easy to seal in canning jars. See here for a reminder: http://http://suburbansettler.blogspot.com/2011/06/what-to-do-with-six-quarts-fo.html

Not a lot of fuss, you just need to be a homebody that day. But in the end--that time when the dark of night is chill, but the supper table is warm and bright--a fresh, hot jar of apple butter sits under your table grace. Happy supper!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Kitty Thyme

Growing herbs in the window's light. They can serve a larger purpose than just entertainment for your sun loving cat. They can even be good for more than just snipping a few for that pot of spaghetti sauce. Herbs can be made into essential oils that have a wide variety of uses--including gifts!

The main thing to know is this: it is a fairly easy process and can be done with just a week or so of "steeping" time. I'm making a kitchen herb oil with sage, rosemary, basil and thyme in safflower oil--a light oil that picks the subtle herb flavors better than a more aromatic oil.

Here's a link that spells out the essentials for making herbal oils.

Happy flavoring!

Looking Glass River Garden

Few of us have garden and lawns so expansive that streams course through them. These first pics are from New Harmony, IN--a virtual garden town. Though my own garden is a compact little nook of a garden, still I can dream...

Looking Glass River by Robert Louis Stevenson

...We can see our coloured faces

Floating on the shaken pool

Down in cool places,

Dim and very cool.

Till a wind or water wrinkle,

Dipping marten, plumping trout,

Spreads in a twinkle

And blots all out.

See the rings pursue each other;

All below grows black as night

Just as if mother

Had blown out the light!

Patience, children, just a minute--

See the spreading circles die;

The stream and all in it

Will clear by-and-by.

Monday, September 19, 2011


...what to do when this adjective is not the best descriptor for your garden. Don't you still have that longing to put up garden-fresh flavor for your winter menu? That's the subject of the day.

I gave half my garden a rest this year. (Have you noticed that sky-blue tarp spread out on the ground in my garden pics this year?) That rest zone meant I grew far less than fills my winter-larder. ("Just what is a larder?" a fellow blogger asked the other day. Well, whatever it is, mine is more sparsely stocked than in years past--with homegrown fare, that is.) What's more, it was such a dry season that what did grow wasn't up to the standard of previous years.

Supplementation is the key at this point. See the 7 quarts of tomato sauce cooling on the back of the stove? They're the result of that 25 lb. box of tomatoes from the farm veggie-store. I mentioned them in a post the other day.

I also got sweet corn from a local producer. $4 for 10 ears this time of year. (Well, $5 if you want to include the dollar I gave Junior Gardener for shucking them and toting the inedible remains to the compost heap.) Mid-summer, the corn was even cheaper. In fact, the Brussels sprouts are the only thing in the freezer-ready basket that actually came from the back yard, but they aren't the only thing that's nearly fresh from the vine.

So what if the green beans spent a day or two traveling from the bean patch to the farm store shelf to my shopping basket. I'm sure that when I pull a bag out of the freezer come Thanksgiving, I'll never have a clue whether it's a bag from my own garden or from someone else's. They will still have that "kicked-up-a-notch" flavor that I want gracing my holiday table. And, they were only five and a half bucks for this 3 lb. bag.

A couple of pointers about freezing produce:

Today I'll sign off with:

Happy farmer's market shopping!

Here We Come a'Gardening...

So what if the view out your back door isn't this one?

That's the thrum that underlies my blog most of the time; but whereas I might inspire you to consider city gardening, this gal will actually get you on your way. What a great blog and resource site!


Happy goal-setting!