Monday, July 28, 2008

Big tomato

Remember our baby, our first tomato on the vine? It was finally ripe on Friday! We've picked a dozen cherry tomatoes in the last week, but we've been eyeing this beauty for days, just waiting for it to be perfect.

We finally picked it and served it up thus: thick slices of tomato alternating with thick slices of local hand-pulled mozzarella, some of our basil from the garden, pine nuts, olive oil, vinegar, and a sprinkling of pepper. Yum!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Oh the insanity!

Yesterday Jeremy and I went crazy at the farmer's market. We stopped at Schultz Family Farm and bought three flats of raspberries - Royal and Red. We've been wanting to do u-pick at their farm, but the farmer keeps telling us there aren't enough for picking.

Because we bought so many berries from him, he also gave us a dozen eggs from his chickens!

We also picked up another dozen eggs from Sunshine Harvest Farm; jade beans, onions, and garlic from Prairie Hollow Farm; trout from Star Prairie Farm; Provider beans and a yellow watermelon from Loon Organics; cheese from our cheese guy; soap from Olsen Naturals; and, last but not at all least, blueberries from Heathglen Organic Farm. The farmer's markets are bursting with fruits and vegetables! Jeremy had also discovered relatively local (Wisconsin) cherries so he swung by to buy a flat of sweet yellow and red cherries. He just loved the jam we made from the cherries Ashley brought that he had to have more.

After brunch with a friend, we came home and spent the rest of the day cooking and making jam. We made 8 half pints of royal raspberry jam, 4 half pints of red raspberry jam, 4 half pints of sweet yellow cherry jam, and 2 pints of red cherry jam. In the midst of that we also made a quiche for dinner! Our kitchen was so packed out Jeremy had to cook the quiche in the kitchen upstairs.

By the end of the day there was cherry and raspberry juice spattered all over the walls and counters and oven and all over us! We had stained pink wooden spoons, the counter top, sponges, our aprons, and our hands.

Right now Jeremy is processing and freezing kale (which we got from some unclaimed CSA boxes) and after church we'll be making blueberry jam, maybe some more cherry jam, and we'll be canning a ton of beans. Jeremy might also try his hand at making more watermelon pickles.

No rest for the... insane!

By Sunday evening we had finished the rest of our jam (so we did 24 half pints and 2 pints total)...

...we had sorted through our beans...

...and canned them! (even though we ended up freezing a bunch more because we didn't want to stay up till midnight to can another batch) ...

...and Jeremy had time to cut up our yellow watermelon so he could make watermelon pickles (which you make out of the rind).

All this to the immense relief of our fridge which was bursting at the seams:

Friday, July 25, 2008

Art Cars on parade!

I've been meaning to write something about our neighbors for some time. They are really quite interesting. M creates art cars, so there are always several parked in front and in back of the house. One time I saw M leaving the house dressed in a shaggy brown bear costume and wearing roller blades. Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera at the time. But never fear! M is always dressing up and doing something else funny and crazy.

The other day we saw her pulling out of the drive with a new large contraption tied to the top of her car. It looked like a giant blue donut and was strung with lights. That's not too crazy considering the rest of her car is decorated to look like a polar bear. We ran into M on Saturday and found out the annual Art Car Parade was that night!

After dinner we drove down to the Lake of the Isles and started driving around looking for the parade of cars.

Aha! There they are!

And there's M!

And M's car:

After the parade, the cars (and other vehicles) parked at a nearby business. The creators mingled with the spectators and a good time was had by all.

The studded car - inside and out:

The Mercedes-Bonz:

This was one of our favorite cars, just because of the attention to detail. Notice the sprinklers on the hood of the car.

The faucet works!

Ahh, the shuttle van:

One of the stranger, home-made vehicles:

And of course, no Art Car Parade is complete without the obligatory human-powered bicycle car...

...the scooter...

...and the ugly old brown couch vehicle:

Monday, July 21, 2008

Garden Wars, Episode IV: The Squirrels Strike Back

At first I thought the squirrels were kind of cute and I didn't mind so much if they nibbled on the bird seed that fell from the feeder (as long as they didn't try to get to the feeder). But then we planted a garden and planted herbs in pots on the porch.

The squirrels dug seeds out looking for a tasty snack. Later, they dug through our potted plants, looking for bird seed that might have fallen in the pots. I suspect they're responsible for some of our bean plants that were dug up. We've had bird netting over our whole garden almost the whole time which has kept the squirrels out.

When the garden was getting too big we took the netting off. Within days we lost a plant or two and I saw little excavations in different areas of the garden. The netting went back up! This time we wrapped it around the garden, clipping it to the fencing at the bottom and securing it at intervals a couple feet up all around the garden. This way we can still step in or reach in to the garden to harvest and weed. But - I hoped - a squirrel sauntering up to the garden might think it was fenced off again. And it worked.

Until today. I was chatting with Toby in the kitchen and something in the garden caught my eye. I saw a squirrel crawl up a bit of fencing, over the bird netting, and slip into the squash patch. Still wearing rubber gloves from doing the dishes, I dashed out the door and commanded the squirrel to get out of the garden! He held still and acted like I couldn't see him. But I did see him and I started running around to chase him out. Kind of a mistake: he freaked out. He ran for it right into the side of bird netting and got tangled up. I unclipped one side of netting and propped it up so he could get out and Toby and I started trying to herd him out. He was running back and forth through the garden, bouncing off the net walls, getting tangled horribly, wrenching himself free, and doing it again. He finally found the escape hole and shot out. I felt slightly bad for the fright he'd had, but even so, as soon as he stopped - just outside the garden - I ran after him and chased him up a tree. I hope he tells his friends what a bad idea it is to visit our garden!

Some of you may not realize how un-Quakerly my attitude has become toward squirrels. I really think there are too many of them and the population must be culled. Apparently there use to be a neighbor who would shoot them with a bb gun - and another who caught them with live traps, and then shot them. I'm starting to think that sounds like a good pasttime to pick up. Meanwhile, I encourage everyone to run over squirrels in their vehicles and I smile when I see squirrel road kill. (I know - it's so awful sounding!)

I understand from my mother that one of my favorite meals growing up was fried squirrel. Perhaps it's time to bring back that tradition...

Sunday, July 20, 2008


Our patch of dinosaur kale, Scotch curly leaf kale, and swiss chard was finally big enough to be harvested last week. I picked quite a bit of it, blanched it, and popped it in the freezer. There will be another harvest of these greens yet this summer. We're looking forward to eating these in green soup or greens gratin or quiches - or who knows where else!

We also picked our bush beans. They keep growing so there are more to pick even now. We picked a smaller batch awhile ago and cooked them up for dinner. They were so tasty!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Hi Ho Cherry-o

As I mentioned earlier, our friend Ashley from Seattle recently visited. She brought an extra backpack that was completely filled with a 20 pound box of cherries.

Jeremy and I waiting in the airport for Ashley:

The hand-off:

Now Jeremy gets to lug the cherries:

Our little beauties, all bundled up and unharmed:

We picked up this cheap little pitter at an Ace hardware and it worked like a charm:

Though pitting 20 pounds of cherries is a very messy job:

Here’s a few jars of the lovely jam we made:

And here are some of the cherries we dried:

We’ve got about a dozen jars of jam and several more pounds of frozen cherries. And we had fun eating cherries with everything for a few days while Ashley was visiting. Thanks Ashley for bringing those lovely Washington cherries!