Independence Days Update: Summertime, and the Living is…Sweaty

Sharon August 18th, 2009

We’re in our second consecutive week of summer for the year ;-) – hot, humid and sticky.  The good news is that the tomatoes are *finally* ripening, and that we might actually get four or five peppers – two months of no sun and cool temps haven’t exactly produced stellar results.  The bad news is that I have very little desire to preserve anything in 90 degree weather.  This makes that bushel of cucumbers on my kitchen floor a bit of a problem ;-) .

The cucumbers arrived on Friday, as we were frantically getting ready for Peter Bane’s overnight visit, and then another set of visitors, and also trying to wind up “truck week” in which we did every single thing that required my friend Elaine’s pickup, since we don’t have one.  A friend of mine who owns a farm heard me lamenting that I was having a poor year for pickling cukes, and offered me some.  I said sure, thinking I’d get a little bag.  Then, I stopped by to pick up corn for lunch with our guests and she says “they’re over here, is a bushel enough?”  Gah – my reputation as a tireless preserver catches me again!

The problem was I got them on Saturday morning, and it was my birthday.  On my list of things to do that day were the making of my own birthday dinner for 15, dessert and tidying the house, but not pickling cucumbers.  Sunday was booked for other guests, and so was Monday… while I managed to sneak a few in there, they are still waiting for me, more or less patiently.  Today will be the day of the sweaty cucumber project – blah!  But that is the way of things – as my friend pointed out, with the sudden onset of heat and dry weather, they wouldn’t be good if we didn’t use them.

Had a lovely visit, and a spectacular birthday dinner (lots of middle eastern food and peach shortcake – yum!)  got a lot done on the house, got the year’s hay in the barn and more wood for the winter (I cut some of ours, but not all of it by any means – time), vaccinated the goats, got the parts of the garden totally destroyed by swampiness cut down, cleaned the barn, spread manure.  The big sorrow was the loss of Simon’s angora bunny, Raincloud.  Got the chickens butchered and hauled home some more cages for future bunnies.

This week should be much more relaxing, which is good, because I should finally have enough tomatoes to put some up, and I’ve got peaches and raspberries to do as well.  The boys are on their last week of a wonderful half-day camp, where they learn all sorts of neat skills – a friend’s son took the “My Side of the Mountain” themed camp this year, and Simon is chomping at the bit to take it himself next year, particularly when he learned he’d be able to start a fire with flint and steel by the end.  Isaiah loved “Native American Skills” and is now doing a “Nature’s Art” camp.  Very cool.  Asher wants to go, but won’t be old enough until next year – and it is right near home.  This is the first year we’ve known about it.

This was fair week – we took the boys to the Altamont Fair on Wednesday, and other than completely ridiculous overconsumption of cotton candy (hey, once a year…), it was lovely.  We all resolved that next year we will attend the fair fully, as participants.  I once entered some jams, but that’s so far been the extent of our fair participation, but the boys want to raise exotic chickens for the fair in the spring, and I have deemed this cool, and we are determined to bring goats to the fair as well.  The kids would like to enter the baking contests, since they are all becoming (with some help with the hot parts) accomplished bakers, and I’m determined to have a pair of socks good enough to enter into the knitted goods competition.  So one of our family resolutions is that this year, we’ll start working towards the fair as part of our homeschooling projects.

All of the herbs that like heat suddenly burst into flower, which meant it was time to harvest them – peppermint, anise hyssop, wild bergamot, lemon balm, etc… are all ready to go, along with a number of the medicinals, which is lovely.  I can no longer keep up with the summer squash, which is no great worry, since the big ones make great chicken feed. 

With the meat birds gone, the barn suddenly is so clean and spacious and much more pleasant.  The new layers are growing well, as are the turkeys, and much happier with more room.  The Bourbon Reds seem to be the fastest growing of the three varieties we have this year – Blue Slates, Reds and Black Spanish.  I’ve raised all but the Spanish before, but never simultaneously.  The black spanish, with their white faces and black feathers are by far the cutest, however. 

The barn swallows have fledged their batch of nestlings this year, and one group is already laying more eggs.  They still see me as a threat, but they are totally inured to the boys – on hot or rainy days, the kids spend much of their time sitting in the hay barn on the bales of hay, listening to Simon read _Harry Potter_ aloud or playing games, or just lying still, in the shade, and listening.  I came in the other day to find Simon reading, Isaiah looking over his shoulder at the pictures, and Asher lying flat in the hay, with Zucchini, one of our cats on his stomach and Jessie, one of the goats nestled up against him.

Planted: Spinach, which almost certainly won’t germinate since it got freakin’ hot again, layered currants.

Harvested: Tomatoes, 1 pepper, carrots, beets, summer squash, zucchini, mustard, turnips, lettuce, tomatillos, raspberries, blueberries, currants, peppermint, feverfew, anise hyssop, lemon verbena, wormwood, calendula, borage, bee balm, oregano, dill, spearmint, yarrow.

Preserved: turnip pickles, dried blueberries, dried herbs, tinctured herbs, dehydrated a few tomatoes and zucchini.

Waste Not: The usual composting and weighing of garbage.  Barn manure was spread on gardens, old hay used for mulch, feed bags used for weed suppression – but nothing really new.

Want Not: See cucumbers, above ;-) .  Also found a gorgeous, heavy king sized comforter at a yard sale that was just what we’d been looking for (Eric and I have a Queen sized futon bed, but find that a King sized blanket is required to minimize blanket hogging, which seems to be a mutual habit ;-) ) – we needed something for when the down is too heavy but the summer stuff is too light, which is a lot of the year around here.  Same yard sale yielded fleece PJs for Asher as well, which he is grieved it is too hot to wear.

Work on Community Food Systems: Did a talk at a local library that led to the planning of a library food garden.  Otherwise, not much.

Eat the Food: Tried a new pita bread recipe – it still doesn’t puff up properly.  I’ve now tried six recipes and never found one that was really quite right – they are all good, but not sufficiently hollow.  Anyone have a suggestion?


48 Responses to “Independence Days Update: Summertime, and the Living is…Sweaty”

  1. Sandywillo says:

    Well, perhaps the solution to your pita problem is to say you’re making pocketless pitas! I was surprised (and amused) to see “pocketless pita” bread in my local market the other day. I got some, and it was good!

  2. ctdaffodil says:

    again not a stellar week of independnece here.

    I just suck at this challenge this year

    Planted: Nothing – did order delivery of green manure to be tilled into the soil after 1st frost.

    Harvested :green beans.

    Preserved: Nothing, purchased on sale canned diced tomatoes and sauce before prices go up

    Waste Not: Composted some weeds and grass trimmings and last weeks newspaper (after it went in the shredder) – waiting on fall leaves

    Want Not: Donated out grown kid stuff – some games and clothes & training wheels

    Comm Food Sys: 2 gallon bags of greenbeans from the garden to the soup kitchen for their dinner sites. I grew the kind that don’t freeze well.

  3. ctdaffodil says:

    eat the food – made rice krispie bars from a stickish bag of marshmallos and some odds and ends cereals and peanut butter – I like them – the kids not so much….

  4. Julie says:

    Mine almost always puff. I use a basic bread recipe (half whole wheat) minus any oil or fat, raise it once, form the pitas, let them sit on a cornmeal covered cookie sheet for maybe fifteen minutes covered with a towel and then bake in a 400 degree oven until they puff well and look done. I have also transferred them to a baking stone in the oven but there was not enough difference to make all that trouble worthwhile.
    I suspect the lack of oil is the ticket??

  5. MEA says:

    Are you rolling the dough thinly enough — when I made some with a friend, I was amazed how thin they needed to be.

    Totally sucked at just about everthing in ID challange except keeping up with weeding and eating.

    Dediced that there’d be less evironmental inpace in carving a bedroom out of the downstairs than putting steps into attic. Also, I hope, less cost.

  6. Robin says:

    Planted: Turnips, kale, chard, cabbage, cauliflower, nettles, lettuce, radishes, leeks, onions, beets, buckwheat, black-eyed peas

    Harvested: Tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, okra, summer squash, zucchini, chard, corn, beans, cantaloupe, watermelon, onions, leeks

    Preserved: canned tomatoes, ketchup, okra pickles, pickled squash, froze tomatoes and okra

    Waste Not: terrible week for trash output. Two birthdays and I was under the weather meant extra food packaging and wrapping materials.

    Want Not: Stocked up on whole wheat bread for weeks when I don’t bake. I noticed the price of bread has plummeted to less than 50% of what it was last month.

    Work on Community Food Systems: Dad and I both took extra produce to food bank. 168 pounds so far this summer!

    Eat the Food: Mastered a tasty okra recipe that isn’t just pickled okra! The trick is to slice it really thin, about 1/8 inch, then saute with onions and peppers. Yum.

  7. Ann says:

    Would love to hear what you and Peter Bane talked about . . .

  8. Susan in NJ says:

    Feels like the second week of summer here also, and at the end of last week some combination of heat, humidity and smog had me really under the weather (hey, is that where the phrase came from?). And my preserving waterloo is tomatoes, which I’ve been buying, and regularly checking – looked fine yesterday (Mon.), this morning (Tues) they were in deep distress as the high temperatures finally started affecting our basement – usually this happens in July. Guess I know what I’ll be doing after work.

    Plant: No – a very little light weeding here and there.

    Harvest: One kirby cucumber, our first homegrown tomato of the year, rosemary, thyme, lemon thyme, oregano, bee balm, thai basil.

    Preserve: Froze diced green pepper strips, hung to dry beebalm and lettuce seed heads (for seeds); dried oregano. Temporary preserving – made a large batch of ratatouille and quartered tomatoes for Tuesday night’s cooking projects, all presently in fridge.

    Waste Not: Used the last of the storage onions; triaged tomatoes and put them in single layer temporary storage; did a lot of shopping after an unexpected funeral took us to an area where we shop two or three times a year; got a refillable lighter for the grill; didn’t buy some storage items that I hoped to pick up on the trip because the expiration dates (perishable shelfstable) were really short (like this week) – I conclude stuff just isn’t turning over in the stores.

    Want Not: Got another 50# of organic tomatoes; big box shopping (mostly necessary unessential items); got really nice heavy duty adjustable window box brackets for the deck rails to expand my multilayer garden.

    Community: Farmer’s market and garden chats as usual; shared some dried tomatoes with my tomato farmer, brought my boss some tarragon vinegar.

    Eat: Peach pie (not as good as my mom’s, sigh); fruit salad; fresh lima beans with basil, tomatoes and on a repeat, potatoes; ratatouille; fresh tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, fresh tomatoes. My partner grilled some really good hamburgers (local, grassfed), tuna pasta salad (from storage ingredients) on . . . tomatoes.

  9. My update is here:

    Oh and I just wanted to thank Saracrewe and Gina for taking a stab last week at identifying the pears we got through freecycle. Yesterday when I check on them, they were all ripe so I put up 16 pints of preserves and tomorrow will be putting up pear sauce. Had to take a day’s break from canning ours to teach a new friend how to can hers today. But after three days in a row of canning pears, I think I’m going to be ready to can something different.

  10. myra says:

    Hi Sharon- what a thrill- something I can offer you advise about! I’ve had fabulous results with the recipe below. As noted earlier, keep it thin- also don’t over work the dough, and the brown bag seems to make a world of difference. (When making with little ones who want to peek, make sure you let the oven heat back up before the next batch.)

  11. myra says:

    oops- so much for the “advise” ;) I forgot to mention that I make it by hand, and substitute half whole wheat

  12. Marie says:

    As posted on my blog…

    Plant Something:
    Nothing this week

    Harvest Something:
    summer squash, eggplant, beans, cucumbers, calendula flowers

    Preserve Something:
    Making my first batch of calendula oil

    Waste Not:
    Processed a whole lot of paper, dryer lint and fabric scraps into the grass clipping compost

    Want Not:
    Did the big monthly shop. Topped up the cupboards with oatmeal, dried beans, maple syrup, olive oil and other staples. Made a new blouse out of remnant fabric.

    Build Community:
    Bought this weeks produce from a small farm in New Hampshire after our set on the festival stage.

    Eat the Food:
    Sourdough herb bread, lots of cucumber salad, grilled eggplant and zucchini

  13. KC says:

    I noticed that one useful effect of Independence Days Challeng (among many) is that I now have a record of when I planted and harvested things – which I can look at for planning next garden (and also use other posts for inspiration).

    Planted: turnips, lettuce, red clover, buckwheat – ( the buckwheat has been bringing the pollinators into the garden)

    Harvested: Tomatoes – the cherokee purple are huge and really enjoying Chadwick’s cherry – a nice size (large) and supposed to be good for canning. nardello peppers – they look great but slow at turning red a few okra, some black eyed peas ( for saving seed) , yellow squash, zuchinni, and one winter squash, basil, green beans,

    Preserved: canned peach butter (made in crockpot all day and then canned) – really delicious – I used half the sugar. Also froze peaches. Made stewed tomatoes – froze a bunch to be canned at a later date.

    Waste Not: Composting.

    Want Not: bought 5 # bulk rolled oats for storage. A friend gave me a bushel of peaches. Bought a cast iron wok at thrift store and it has been really great for summer stir fries. I’ve been preparing new beds in the garden (slowly and steamily).

    Work on Community Food Systems: brought peaches to the neighbors and delivered csa to one neighbor who was on vacation and coming back soon. borrowed canner from neighbor.

    Eat the Food: Made a pizza in frying pan by: stir fry peppers, zuchinni, tomatoes, etc. make naan using no knead bread recipe (roll it thin and it puffs up like pita!) then flip over top with veggies and mozzarella and put the lid on while the other side cooks and the cheese melts. Quick and easy.

  14. d.a. says:

    Was sick last week, and am still recovering this week. Blergh!

  15. AnnaMarie says:

    Are you baking the pita or frying? I usually make mine on cast iron griddles on the outdoor camp stove. Sizzling hot, toss flat pita on grill for about a minute, flip and it puffs.

  16. gen says:

    Planting: No, but I did just order some seeds from Johnny’s that I will put in a glass jar, suck the oxygen out with my little pump-n-seal, and store in a cool, dark corner of the basement. Then, I don’t have to worry about availibility and shipping in Spring.
    FOR FALL PLANTING to OVERWINTER and harvesting IN SPRING: Has anyone done this with fava beans?
    Harvest: tomatoes, squash, blackberries, 1 eggplant (didn’t produce well), a few cukes. Have dehydrated the squash, or shredded and froze, or cooked lots of stir-fry and casseroles. Tomatoes have been canned and/or dehyrated–those that haven’t gotten eaten right away. Blackberries are just coming on, and will make lovely jam.
    Waste Not/Want: Compost, solar cooking, and got 1/2 the back to school clothes (all the jeans and pants) from 2nd hand sources. Cheap, and who can really tell?
    Have some fairly good light sources for non-electric times, but don’t have a fireplace/wood stove, etc for winter heating in non-electric times. That is my biggest area of lacking in adapting/preparing. I have been couponing and bartering like crazy…all of that plus gardening, canning, etc is part of my getting ready for winter.

  17. heathenmom says:

    I usually enjoy the heat (until late September … then I’m done!), but this year it started so early and we just haven’t had a break. I am soooo done with summer. Wishing for an early fall, but I’m not holding my breath! LOL

    Plant: nothing this week

    Harvest: Tomatoes, poblano peppers, eggs, herbs, weeds (and caterpillars) for the chickens

    Preserve: Tomatoes (dried)

    Waste Not: *Normal stuff – recycling, composting, critter feeding. *The freezer compartment of our fridge went kaput last week. I was able to salvage some stuff, but space in our chest freezer was very limited. The chickens ate very, very well for a few days! Unfortunately, we lost some soup bones and such. C’est la vie, I guess. :)

    Want Not/Prep/Store: *Hubby finished 2 laying boxes for our growing flock. *Stocked up on cereal at the discount grocery, and some on-sale canned goods at the regular grocery. *We have a LOT of dried beans in storage, but I often don’t leave enough prep time for soaking/cooking and end up buying canned beans anyway. So, I decided to can some of my own beans. It went very well, except that the amount of dried beans that my recipe said would yield 7 pints actually yielded 18 pints, plus a gallon bag for the freezer, plus a medium-sized pot of black bean soup. It was a long day, but I’m thrilled to have made some of my food storage items more usable.

    Community Food System: *Picked up my quarterly order from the bulk food co-op and split it with my parents.

    Eat the Food: *Everybody’s sick at my house, so Sunday I made some fabulous chicken noodle soup with pantry stuff, plus veggies and leftover chicken I had on hand. Yum! *As usual, bread & muffins from storage.

  18. Eleanor says:

    Most of the week was not too productive due to torrential rains on several days. Also, I have taken to working all of my hours (very long days) on Mon-Thur, so I have Fri-Sun off; so I end up doing everything on those three days.

    But, I did have time to harvest a banana pepper and several heirloom tomatoes (which finally got ripe) and to battle over-run squash bugs.

    Also, I tried my hand at canning pickled peppers. Have you done this before? The directions I have said to blister the skins, to remove them before canning. This part didn’t go so well as I used oil in the pan to blister the peppers. After that, there is no way you can hold onto the peppers with your gloved hands (or grasp the edges of the skins to pull the off). So, I ended up canning the blistered peppers, skin and all. My DH says they taste great, but I’m considering never blistering a pepper ever again.

  19. Heather says:

    Happy Birthday!!!

  20. NM says:

    Planted: nothing
    Harvested: I found a source for organic peaches, but had to order ahead to have them picked. Wanted to make peach juice, so I ordered 2 boxes; Really should have asked more questions. Went to pick them up, and learned this variety is the wrong kind for juice. And here are your 32 pounds of peaches …. So I’m canning in the morning, I’m canning in the evening … Not in the middle of the day, because then I’m at work. Down to half a box, now, but I have a meeting to cover tonight.
    Also: blackberries, strawberries, CSA vegetables, eggs, various items from farmer’s market, a pepper or two from the garden (saving most to ripen so I can make roasted pepper spread), some cherry tomatoes, pickling cukes, plums.
    Preserved: Peach salsa, peach conserve with almonds, peach chutney, peach conserve without almonds, blackberries in apple brandy, accidental jelly from the leftover blackberry syrup, fig plum onion confit.
    Waste not: unfortunately, the plums are wasting away while I deal with the peaches … And I really have to get to the cucumbers pretty darn soon. Did I mention we too are having another week of temperatures in the 90s?
    Want not: Heh. I want for nothing but time. Lots, and lots of time …
    Community Food Systems; a Slow Food meeting.
    Eat the food: Peach blackberry cobbler.

  21. NM says:

    And happy birthday!

  22. Chile says:

    You want sweaty? Just got home from 14 miles of bike errands in 110 degree temps. At one place, I took my t-shirt off in the bathroom to totally soak it. I wrung it out only enough to have it not drip as I walked through the store. It was completely dry in about 6 miles.

    Don’t pickle all of those cucumbers! Use some to make a really refreshing summer drink. Here is the recipe.

  23. My report: The week in review: planted bok choi, turnips, spinach, kale, lettuce.

    Harvested tomatoes, cucumbers, apples, plums, kale, blackberries, yellow zucchini, cabbage, eggplant, beets, beet greens, green zucchini, turnips, turnip greens, chard, lettuce, beans, tomatillos, bell peppers, potatoes, onions, garlic, strawberries, chicken eggs, duck eggs, drakes (yes — sad but true).

    Dried tomatoes and beans, made blackberry/plum preserves, strung leather britches (beans), and made apple leathers.

    Collected cardboard, newspaper, and bottles, and made compost from flower-bed wastes.

    Sold duck eggs, gave away veggies and bread. Toured a really great CSA/diversified farm.

    100 foot diet: from frozen: plum sauce. From the land: Apples, plums, duck and chicken eggs, bok choi, turnips, turnip greens, potatoes, zucchini, elephant garlic, blackberries, cauliflower, onions, green beans, strawberries, mint, basil, chives, onions, cucumbers, cabbage. 100 mile diet: wheat, oats, rye, spelt, craisins. 3000 mile diet: someone brought us overripe bananas. Gave them to the poultry. My son brought me a Moon Pie, something I craved as a child. That … I ate.

  24. >”I came in the other day to find Simon reading, Isaiah looking over his shoulder at the pictures, and Asher lying flat in the hay, with Zucchini, one of our cats on his stomach and Jessie, one of the goats nestled up against him.”

    May you live long and have a sharp memory; these moments will be your greatest treasure.

  25. Marilyn says:

    Hi Sharon,
    Happy Belated Birthday! I’m sorry that you had to cook your own birthday dinner…isn’t that what always happens to the best cooks! I am new to the peak oil world and am still trying to wrap my head around the issues. Your website is wonderful and I appreciate the time that you devote to it. I’m trying to live a greener, more frugal and more sustainable life. I’m not always successful, but I keep trying.

    We have had a garden for the last four years and I’ve been able to can and freeze a lot of our food. This year’s garden has not produced as well as our previous three. Thank goodness we have family and friends who have shared their crops. In the southeast, we had a late frost and a lot of rain early in the season. The Mexican bean beetles like the wet weather and they practically devoured my green beans. When we lost most of our beans, I thought about something that my grandmother used to say: “Always can enough food for two years because you never know when a crop will fail.” It was not uncommon for her to can 800 to 1000 jars in a year. I often wish I had paid more attention to the advice offered by both my grandmothers. Their lives were hard, but they lived them with such grace that you would never have known. They are my inspiration.

    Plant Something: Not this week, but did purchase cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower plants to plant in the next couple of weeks. Still a little early for our area.

    Harvest Something: Lots of red and green bell pepper, jalapenos, tomatoes, fox grapes, some pitiful brussel sprouts, black peas, okra, watermelon, and for the first time ever, two quarts of honey

    Preserve: Froze black peas, okra, and pepper for stir-fry, made juice from fox grapes – jelly will be made later.

    Waste Not: Fed the best scraps to the chickens.and the rest go into the compost pile. Cut up old panty hose to tie up a tomato plant. Cut up a Tshirt for rags that was evidently my DH’s favorite weed-eating shirt…I swear it was so stained that I briefly considered trashing it, but then thought better of it. One bag ready to go to Goodwill, but not out the door yet. Saved beeswax. Been perusing the frig before planning menus for the week.

    Want Not: Made monthly run to restock the pantry with needed items.

    Community Food Systems: Cut the neighbor’s okra while they were on vacation. Shared watermelon and peppers and honey with our friends, who in turn gave us a small basket of apples.

    Eat the Food: Potatoes prepared all ways, Baked Acorn squash with a little butter, brown sugar and cinnamon YUM, sliced tomatoes and cukes every night, Stewed cabbage w/ peppers and onions, black peas, Chicken Stir-fry w/ peppers…We’ve really been enjoying our fresh veggies. On the down-side, I just keeping looking at those pitiful brussel sprouts and think maybe tomorrow night.

  26. Lise says:

    Not doing so well this year. Overwhelmed by new-mommyhood, I guess. Here’s my report, all the same:

  27. sealander says:

    Hey Gen, I overwinter fava beans here in NZ. We have fairly mild winters here – they survive frosts, and the occasional snow. I don’t know how they’d stand up to continual snow cover though, it depends on how tall they are as the stems are likely to snap under the weight. They’re good for filling a gap in the spring garden after all the winter stuff has bolted, and nothing else is ready.

    So, rain for a week here, and I have a couple of 2000 word papers due so no gardening.
    Planted: Does “planting” eggs under a bantam count? ;)
    The new salmon pink chicken maternity suite is up and running, after much crawling about in the mud. One day my dream chicken house will actually have a run I can stand up in………
    Harvested: Carrots, parsnip, cauliflour, mizuna, parsley. Plenty of eggs.
    Preserved: Nope.
    Eat the food: Still working our way through the pumpkins and squash. And eggs. Started eating the dried pears and persimmons from last summer. Have to be careful not to go overboard on those, it’s pretty easy to eat the equivalent of several pieces of raw fruit in one go, with disastrous consequences ;)
    Community: May have infected two more people with the desire to keep chickens……it will be a pandemic in no time! :)

  28. TLE says:

    Plant something: baked rolls.

    Harvest something:lettuce, tuscan kale, broccoli, coriander, lemons

    Preserve Something:not this week

    Prep & Storage: stocked up on tinned tomatoes & beans.

    Build Community Food Systems: investigated our local food co-op, signed up for ‘urban permaculture’ workshop in my neighbourhood.

    Reduce Waste: usual composting, took own containers to co-op, found online recipes for homemade snackbars in an attempt to minimise crap food & packaging (still haven’t worked out a non plastic-wrap way to store them, though).

    Eat the Food: veggie moussaka, snack bars, bean wraps, scrambled tofu, salads & stirfry.

  29. homebrewlibrarian says:

    I was off vacationing in very hot and sticky southcentral Wisconsin for ten days (two words: sweet corn – mmmmmmm) so the only thing I was able to do was dehydrate about three pounds of Door County pie cherries that came back to Alaska with me. This was the first time I’ve used an oven and I’m very thankful for the friend who kindly allowed me to have it running night and day with the door cracked. Have to say that I MUCH prefer using my electric dehydrator over an oven. Much less impact that way. And very unlikely to dry to the point of being blackened. This was another first in that I had to hand pit the cherries. With a dull paring knife no less. I’m thankful this was my vacation and I had no other claims on my time.

    The other two pounds of pie cherries ended up in a Grand Fruit Crisp (peaches, local Wisconsin blueberries and Door County pie cherries) which was deemed by the friend I made it for as both Grand in the sense of size and also in terms of taste. I guess you could call that Community Building…

    Kerri in (blessedly cool) AK

  30. Stephen B says:

    Adding to what others have said about pita bread, because I’m not missing a chance to advice Sharon on something I actually know about :-) ….

    I used to work in a pizza restaurant and made pita bread every morning (Papa Gino’s for you Boston area folk.) To make it, we used to use a small pizza dough ball of our standard pizza dough recipe, which pretty much looks similar to the recipes posted above, just in a larger quantity. We proofed our dough a 1 to 3 days ahead in the walk-in fridge, (it does make for better flavor), then pulled the dough out to warm up a bit before baking (an hour anyhow.) We pounded/formed the dough balls into flat circles about 3/16 of an inch thick. (We had a special mold for pitas and a small dough ball of ours fit perfectly. We also spread a course semolina/cornmeal mix on our pizza bench worktop.) Anyhow, the point I want to stress for a good inflation in the oven is to let the pitas sit for at least 15, but often as much as 30 minutes after pounding before baking. If we let them stay much longer we’d take our water spray bottle and spritz them a bit, but usually didn’t need to do that. If they didn’t sit long enough, if they inflated at all in the oven, they’d be very uneven, with the top crust usually much thinner than the bottom one. Anyhow, we’d put them on standard, commercial baking sheets as we pounded them then put the whole sheet in the oven after the setting time. The other thing to know was that our oven, being a pizza oven, was hot, typically 550 degrees, and the shelves inside were solid steel and quite preheated. For a home oven, I’d say put them on a preheated pizza stone in an oven set about as high as a home oven can go. For those using one, I don’t know if a wood cook stove could get that hot, but maybe.

    In short, use a nice pizza dough, pounded to about 3/16th of an inch thick, let stand 15 to 30 minutes, then pop into a HOT oven, and watch carefully.

  31. Gabrielle says:

    The update this week is short, as we haven’t accomplished a lot of food preservation this week. This time of the year I start to burn out a bit, which luckily coincides with the first wave of garden plants going out and the next wave almost ready to fruit. I’m already thinking about the next foods to put up though. A friend told me that she was planning on making pear preserves this year, and I’ve been pining for some. I hope I’ll be able to find a source for them when they are ready to be put up.

    Plant Something—didn’t plant a thing all week. It has been too warm to do so in our area. The next wave of planting will start at the end of this month.

    Harvest Something—beets, tomatoes, bell peppers, green onions, green beans, zucchini, various herbs, and found a few red onions that had been hidden by the tomatoes.

    Preserve Something—froze zucchini

    Prep and Storage—I pulled 2 more tomato plants that had been infected by the blight. I caged the cucumbers and pole beans that I planted last in the succession. Hubby changed the brakes on the work truck and changed out a headlight in the car. He has also been doing some plumbing work in the house. What a money saver that we are able to do things for ourselves!

    Reduce Waste—We continue to compost, recycle, and use the rain barrel. We have been tracking our utility usage for 3 years now. We looked at the graph for this year in comparison to the last two, and we were very pleased with the progress we have made.

    Building Community Food Systems—More donations are coming in for the food pantry, which is a relief. I worked on organizing the donations in the food pantry at church and made some purchases with coupons. I worked the numbers and since we received a donation from the youth on February 22nd, we have spent $206.48. The items were worth a total of $2020.21, which is an 89.87% savings! Coupons are wonderful! We continue to purchase a CSA. We brought extra vegetables from our garden for the church vegetable cart.

    Eat the Food—I made some yummy homemade honey wheat bread. We enjoyed it with our strawberry preserves for breakfasts. Divine!

  32. Shira says:

    Leeks are finally planted. Now I have to keep them watered. Otherwise, they will have a high mortality rate in the heat.

    The garden is finally producing. I am glad to have summer’s bounty and glad to preserve it, it is just a challenge to keep up with gardening, preserving and some welcome activity in my day job. Giving away a lot of the more fragile vegetables helps.

    I have a kettle of cherries for preserves on the stove. The cherries were free, my price range, and just materialized due to something I did a while back, with no expectation of return. Very nice.

    Shira in Bellingham, WA

  33. knutty knitter says:

    The blossom trees are starting to bloom down here. I only planted polyanthus and a few early lettuces. Parsley is still going strong.

    Harvested some parsley but that is all.

    Nothing to preserve yet.

    Reduce waste. Recycled a bunch of books by putting them at the gate with a free sign – only one left :)

    No prep but we have managed to store our bed during the day – on the wall!

    Build community – not food but am doing stuff with the local community centre and teaching a class of 10 – 11 year olds to knit. (mostly boys).

    I still have a bunch of prize cards from the Agricultural and Pastoral shows when I was young – mostly for handwork and flowers. Mum won the plate three times for overall performance in all fields (except preserves which she did for us but always reckoned weren’t pretty enough for displays). Later I won three firsts for embroidery at the county fair – a big deal at the time. Haven’t thought of this for 30 odd years but it was great fun especially as our children’s home gardens were judged in situ. We were given the packets of seeds and bulbs for a small fee and this was our entry too. Mine was the end of one of the vege gardens. We got to give the judge a personal tour and explain what we were growing where. The weeding definitely got done that week!

    These shows were a very significant part of life in the country and, yes, we did eat large amounts of candy floss – once a year!

    viv in nz

    viv in nz

  34. mnfn says:

    Hi to viv and the other southern-hemisphere-ites! And happy birthday, Sharon!

    Harvest: Some thyme for cooking, otherwise nope.

    Planting and plant-tending: Planted radish (sparkler and french breakfast) and beetroot (bull’s blood and chioggia). Manured and mulched quince tree, mulched strawberries.

    Preserve: made fetta!

    Waste not: usual compost/recycling/minimising packaging. Borrowed a friend’s mulcher to transform the piles of ex-jungle into compostable materials.

    Want not: wholefoods stock up, equipment for cheesemaking.

    Community food systems: chatting to neighbours but otherwise nothing much.

    Eat the food: new favourite morrocan pumpkin stew recipe, rogan josh, duck with game sauce on red cabbage with roast vegetables, tomato pasta, free food at exhibition openings!

  35. David King says:

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SHARON! And many, many more.

    Planted: Summer lettuce seeds, set out summer lettuce plants too (It’s a project to find out which ‘heat-resistant’ lettuces are REALLY heat resistant in Los Angeles.

    Harvested: Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes, figs, cukes, squash, peppers, a little corn… Have you ever tried Garden Peach tomatoes? Very juicy and sweet. Left on too long, they are insipid, but if you get them just right, omigaud are they good!

    Preserved: Jalapenos – going to pickle Sweet Banana peppers – hope to end up with something like pepperocinis.

    Waste Not: Composting as usual.

    Want Not: saving seeds from tomatoes (Garden Peach and San Marzano)

    Community: We are hosting a solar cooker workshop, followed by solar cooker cook-off, followed by eating solar cooked food and celebrating Vidya’s birthday with a ‘Power Down Party’ – no electricity, no fossil fuels.

    I am loving the Nation of Farmers book – it’s going on my recommended reading list for my fall food production class.


  36. David King says:

    Oh… sorry, I forgot the eating category…

    I’ve been making Greek salads a lot – tomatoes, cukes chunked up, feta cheese, dried oregano, pepper and olive oil. Best if it can stand half an hour before eating… Friend brought over home made bread for sopping up the sauce at the bottom. For dessert: halve figs, drizzle honey on ‘em, broil for five minutes (on the grill is better), until thoroughly warm, serve with a really substantive yogurt dolloped on top.

    Go to heaven for a nap…

  37. Erika says:

    My pita bread recipe comes from ‘The Bread Bible’, and is wonderful. I cook them on the stovetop, not in the oven, and get better results.

    The dough needs to age for three days, getting pressed down every hour the first day (covered, in the fridge), and once a day until you’re ready to make them. When you’re ready, pull out the dough and divide it. Cover it and let it rest for 20 minutes. Heat the cast iron pan to fairly hot but not scorching. Roll out the dough, cover again, and let rest for 10 minutes. Toss a dough circle onto the pan, cook for 20 SECONDS then flip. Cook for about a minute, until bubbles start appearing, then flip again. It should puff during the cooking now, and is done when it puffs up all the way.

    Aging is important, to get the gluten all happy. And it’s really important to keep the dough from ever drying out, at all, even on a corner, or it won’t puff.

    My son loves them, and they stay together when you stuff them overfull.

  38. Gina says:

    Happy birthday, Sharon! Sounds like you had a great time! Peter Bane would have been an interesting guest!

    I absolutely love the ‘Eat the Food’ category this year. My mouth was watering at the mention of Morrocan Pumpkin Stew and pita bread (yum!) :)

    Here’s my weekly update:

  39. Sharon says:

    Thanks all of you for the Pita advice – I’m definitely not getting it thin enough, and I think I let it sit too long. I can’t wait to try it again!

    Marilyn, don’t pity me – Eric would have cooked my birthday dinner, but I like doing it!


  40. Lorri says:

    Update here.

    We have the full-size bed with king-size comforter for the same reason. Works wonderfully!

    Doing this challenge is helping me realize what I am doing as compared to what I could be doing, and to think about how much time & effort would be involved (not as much as I often fear).

  41. Deb says:

    What are socks “good enough” to enter in the fair?

    I knit socks for my family, friends and for barter. I also teach sock knitting to anyone who’s interested. Just wondering….

    Deb in Wisconsin

  42. Sharon says:

    Hi Deb – I knit socks for my family too, but because I’m knitting for my family, I don’t always rip back if I make a minor error. The fair is a competition, and I’d like to make a pair of socks fancy and perfect enough for me to want to expose them to other people’s full examination, rather than just pulling up my pants and saying “look, socks!”

  43. Deb says:

    People usually have the most troubles getting the cast on smoothly joined, the gusset pickup stitches done without holes and the toe kitchenered without “horns” on the sides. There are tricks and dodges to get you past those trouble spots. Let me know if you want advice.

    Personally, I think the fancy sock patterns out there are sometimes easier to make look good than the plain vanilla stocking stitch ones–it’s easier to hide loosey goosey stitches in lace or a pattern than it is in plain knitting. And judges tend to turn things inside out to look at how well you did the weaving in etc.

    Someday I’m going to come up with a pattern for stuffed socks that have tufts of roving knit into them for inside barn boots in the dead of winter. It cant be that hard….

    Deb in Wisconsin

  44. Janet says:

    I always get such good ideas here.

    I have a question on drying blueberries – I have done so unsuccessfully about 3 times. I blanched (to crack the skins) and ended up with a wet mess. I didn’t blanch, and they dried very unevenly. also slowly so there wasn’t much flavor. Advice?

    Planted: kale, lettuce, cabbage, chard

    Harvested: cantalope (first ever!), broccoli, tomatoes, basil, beans, wheat using a scythe (first time using a scythe!), cukes

    Preserved: dried tomatoes, calendula, stevia, vervain (using my greenhouse as a solar dehydrator); fermenting pickles

    Reduce waste: scavenging lumber from my neighbor’s remodel so my brother in law can use it when he builds his shed

    Build community: at a couple family events I have offered to bring the meat because I am not willing to participate in an event that used CAFO meat. Some family members were not aware of issues – and I was able to introduce them to this idea without preaching at them, simply said it is something that is important to me. In general I am discovering that what I do has a lot bigger effect that what I say – even though it is the same thing.

  45. Sarah says:

    Eat the food/Preserve Something — I made momos! Momos are delicious Tibetan dumplings. The recipe said “for four people, use this much dough”. The dough made enough for four people. The filling made enough for four people, I suppose, if you were planning on hiking through the fridgid Tibetan steppe all day! So I froze them. And we will have lots of momos. Otherwise I’ve been eating mostly peanut butter sandwiches because it is waaay too hot to cook.

    I also ordered popsicle molds so that we don’t go through so many packaged ones.

  46. David King says:

    Planted: nothing
    Harvested: tomatoes, tomatillos, eggplant, peppers, squash, onions, figs, lettuce,
    Preserved: peppers, figs,
    Waste Not: fixed an old coffee maker for use at work so I didn’t have to buy one
    Want Not: saved seeds from a tasty unknown tomato, potted up some CA Native plants that someone was going to toss,
    Work on Community Food Systems: donated 28 pounds of basil, cherry tomatoes and a few squash,
    Eat the Food: made my annual sacred BLT sandwich (finally) This is an event which SHOULD occur in early summer, but this year, instead of waiting on tomatoes to ripen, the delay came from a lack of lettuce. Here, in southern California, tomatoes are a warm season crop and lettuce is a winter crop, so the annual BLT is supposed to celebrate the first tomato of the season. This year, when the tomatoes finally started to ripen, the lettuce was all past due and bitter. Now we are starting the first round of ‘winter’ lettuce and I snagged a few leaves off several small plants in order to have my BLT. The bread for the official ‘Annual BLT’ should be baked at home too. The only ‘import’ is the bacon – and no, I have no plans to grow a hog, butcher it and smoke the bacon. Not yet at least! So, I had my BLT last night and it was worth the wait! The bread was still warm from the oven, the tomatoes were red and juicy and lettuce was succulent. Eating it, I felt the value of true wealth – good food mostly home grown or home made. Powerfully good!

    It’s been a good week here – suddenly it has warmed up and it looks like we might have a bit of summer for awhile this year yet!


  47. Super article

    There’s nothing like being healthy. In today’s world, we have toworkout occasionnaly and throw off our bad diet habits. It’s not that hard. You only have to stick to a diet program and keep going until you reach your goals.

    Thank you for sharing this with your readers.

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