Category Archives: Garden

A purple sweet potato pie

Our friends grew some purple sweet potatoes this year, and we were blessed to receive some of their harvest.☺️ [click here to read more about Ipomoea batatas]

After we brainstormed a bit for possible choices, Mike’s mom chose a “purple* sweet potato pie for her birthday “cake!”πŸŽ‚

*Some funny behind-the-scenes-trivia: we actually thought these were called “BLUE sweet potatoes,” so the whole time we were working with them, we kept remarking about how PURPLE they looked!πŸ˜‚ Glad to learn they are, in-fact, PURPLE!😏*

I have two sweet potato pie recipes in my collection. Decided to do the simpler one here, so we could get a better appreciation of the purple color. First I washed, and then boiled 1.2# pounds of taters for about 40 minutes.

After that, I ran cold water over them and started by peeling skin off with a knife but ended with just using my hands and rubbing the skin off. Came off SO easy!πŸ‘πŸΌ

Had about 50 grams more than the one pound of sweet potatoes the recipe called for, but decided to just use it all.

Added 4 oz. of our butter and was struck by the color contrast of deep yellow & vibrant purple!😍

Mixed above well, and then added the rest of the ingredients:

1c (145g) sucanat, 1/2c (4 oz.) milk, 2 eggs, 1/2t ground nutmeg, 1/2t ground cinnamon, & 1t vanilla extract. Mixed on medium speed until mixture was smooth, and poured it into the single pie crust I made before I started.

For it, I added 140g of unbleached flour to 4g of sea salt + 78g of butter and used my pastry blender to pulse it up. Added 2.5T cold water and blended it a bit more until it formed a ball. Rolled it out and formed my crust.

Baked it for about 1 hour and 5 minutes at 350Β°.

And here you can really see the purple vs. blue color next to this blue lid…πŸ˜‰

Tasted great and was fun to celebrate Mom’s birthday with this pie!❀️

Thank You, Lord, for the gifts of family, friends, harvests, sharing, and celebrations. You weave everything together in amazing ways…Amen❀️

Dilly Beans – a family affair

We all worked together yesterday to make a family favorite – dilly beans. They are basically green beans that taste like spicy/dill pickles. They are pretty labor intensive to make, so a cooperative effort is much appreciated. I actually thought I had already done a blog post about them, but a search proved me wrong. So here goes… πŸ‘

We set aside about 7 pounds of the straighter beans as we picked to can or freeze – they fit down in the jars better… (I like the bean tips to all be up so it’s easy to pull them out of the jar.)

Once filled with beans, we added a clove or two of our garlic that has been drying. (It’s pretty potent, so we didn’t put the full amount of cloves in as the recipe says.) Paul went out and picked some of Grandma’s dill heads to add – 2 to 4 heads/quart. Then we added 1/2t of Michael’s ground hot peppers. For the brine, we heated up 3Q+1/2c of apple cider vinegar with the same amount of water. (Wish we could have used our homemade ACV, but we didn’t have enough made.) Stirred in 1.25c of Celtic sea salt, and brought the brine to a boil. Poured the brine over the filled jars to 1/4″ headspace. Had extra brine, and needed 3 more quarts to fill the last canner, so we played with cuke slices and spears, too. Made sure the tops of the jars were wiped clean, placed the sterilized lids on top, tightened the rings around them, and water-bath canned them for 10 minutes. Only had two jars’ lids “crinkle”, so we’ll just use them first. (They DID seal, but I’ll probably just keep them in my fridge.) We normally let them sit in the pantry for at least 6 weeks before we dig into them. 😊



















Savin’ the sweet taters

{sigh} Our poor sweet potatoes… They have had to really work hard here this season. Not the actual “growing” part, just the “storing” part…

Mike’s mom was given some starts of a friend’s authentic, West Virginia, sweet potatoes a couple years ago. We all LOVED them! So each year since, she’s grown some starts from the previous year’s crop, and we’ve enjoyed learning how to incorporate them into our menus. πŸ™‚

Last year was another wonderful harvest – I think we measured some in at 6+ pounds! The thing about sweet potatoes, though, is that they need to “cure” before we wrap them individually in newspaper & place them in cold (pantry) storage. Normally, they last fantastically for us – like until May or so… HOWEVER, last year, a well-intentioned helper, decided to WASH the “dirty” potatoes that had been curing on a screen. So basically, that super-important-protective-layer got scrubbed off… Not much you can do to fix that once its happened, so we let them sit a few more days to dry, wrapped them in our newspapers, and hoped for the best. Sadly, we found mold on some in January. But for-the-most-part, most were doing ok. Until yesterday morning. {double sigh} Basement flooded as all our snow & ice has been melting… And if you are too lazy forget to place your precious cargo of wrapped sweet potatoes up in crates because YOU KNOW this has happened before… You get wet wrapped sweet potatoes. DUH. 😦

So yesterday turned into: sweet potato 9-1-1 AND shop-vac the basement day, lol. πŸ™‚

Here’s the crate I filled up of sopping wet taters…


Took two canning pots & two 8-qt stockpots to fit all of them…



Fortunately, there were only two small ones that were moldy…


Next I boiled them for a l-o-n-g time. Like an hour and a half… Didn’t mean to, but I forgot about them as Mike & I were having so much “fun” cleaning up our basement, lol! Didn’t seem to matter, though. They weren’t too mushy to peel & they mashed up really easy… πŸ™‚

I dumped the hot water off and rinsed them in cold. Then I let them sit a bit so I could finish the basement…




Many people ask us why our sweet potato dishes are “greenish” instead of orange colored. I’ve heard it’s because many confuse yams and sweet potatoes as the same thing… But they are definitely different, lol! πŸ™‚

My yield was five 4c containers and four 2c containers. (Every two cups weighed a little over one pound.) Wish I would have weighed all the potatoes before I started, but I forgot.

The reason I chose those sizes to freeze in, is because our two favorite uses for mashed sweet potatoes are a double batch of “Sweet Potato Puff” {I do tweak it a bit and use evaporated cane juice (ECJ) instead of white sugar, make my own brown sugar using ECJ & molasses, and usually omit the pecans as they are a luxury ingredient around here…} and sweet potato pie. (I sub white sugar with ECJ and my pie crust recipe is in this post…) πŸ™‚

It wasn’t exactly how we planned to spend our day, but it appears as though the rescue effort was a success! And a good kick in the pants reminder to keep valuable items off our basement floor, lol! πŸ™‚


{This is the first time I’ve tried to “link up” to a blog-hop… For some reason, I can’t get the pic below to link to The Prairie Homestead Blog, but I CAN GET these words to link to it. Sooo, click this paragraph, lol, and you can “barn hop”. Please don’t hesitate to tell me what I’ve done wrong – advice is always welcome!}

<br />

Garlic gift

Came home one day earlier this week to a gift of garlic from one of our customers! I had spoken with her awhile ago of how we’d love to grow garlic again “someday”, but just haven’t gotten around to it. She mentioned she’d probably have extra & wondered if we’d like some… Isn’t it funny how an unexpected gift can be just-the-thing to get us to turn a thought into an action? πŸ™‚

So remember the raised beds that got blogged about last year? Click here or here or here to see a few… Well, other than Paul’s strawberries that were strong enough to push through the weeds this spring, we never got around to preparing or planting the other two this year. And then Paul kept getting stung by hornets each time he push mowed in that area, so that corner of the yard ended up growing up into a jungle, lol…

The promise of fresh garlic next year prompted Mike & I to dig-in & prepare one raised bed! πŸ™‚

(Oh – and we did find the hornets’ hole in the ground, too. Fortunately they didn’t bother us, but Mike will take care of them this weekend.)









We’ll cover them with a bunch of leaves in the next week or two. And we’ll be excited to see how they do next year! THANK YOU, HEATHER, FOR YOUR GIFT – AND FOR BEING OUR MOTIVATOR!! πŸ™‚

End of season prayer…



A prayer as I meditate onΒ Psalm 90:12-17

Father, as one season ends and another begins, I pause and offer You praise and thanksgiving for Your abundant blessings. You have provided above and beyond what we needed, so that others could take part of the harvest, as well. Your Words are fueling me with the energy I need to complete what’s before me… Thank You for teaching me how to number my days aright so that I can gain a heart of wisdom. I feel Your compassion as I put one foot in front of the other – even when I can’t see where that next step leads… Not only do You satisfy me in the morning with Your unfailing love, but the whole day I can’t help but sing for joy when I focus on Your gifts! I am glad for each day that You have afflicted me with – for every year that I have seen trouble. You are showing me Your deeds, and Your splendor to my children. May Your favor rest upon us as You establish the work of our hands – YES, ESTABLISH THE WORK OF OUR HANDS!! Amen.

Garden’s planted 2013

Yesterday, we wrapped up planting the garden. πŸ™‚


Markin’ off the rows. LOVE Grandma’s wheelho! πŸ™‚



Brittle, broken fenceposts make great row markers, lol! πŸ™‚





Coverin’ up the corn…



Boys helping Grandma plant, lime, and water the tomatoes… πŸ™‚


Lord, we give You our garden: the seeds, the plants, and the labor. We trust that You will give us exactly what we need for moisture & sunlight. And when our harvest comes in, we know it will be the perfect amount to feed us and share with others. May it nourish the bodies of all who partake of it – fill us with what we need to help You with Your harvest! Amen.

Potatoes – 2013

This weekend, after Mike got the garden worked up, I worked on cutting up the 50 pound bag of Kennebec seed potatoes for planting.


It just so happened, the boys had friends over that day… And much to our sons’ chagrins, we put them all to work at helping us plant the taters… (after we filled their tummies with a hearty dinner complete with homemade ice cream, though!) πŸ™‚

Their friends helped to make this not such a chore for our boys – so it was such a blessing to have them there. They even told us they enjoyed the “farm work”! I think Mike may have also convinced them of how “fun” it will be to dig them all up in the fall, lol – “good training for those muscles”, I believe I heard him say… And in all honesty, we’ll need as many muscles as we can get, since we planted twelve 50 foot rows of potatoes this year! (Just a bit more than last year’s 2.5 rows, lol…)

Amazing how much quicker it is to plant with extra hands. πŸ™‚ It only took us 45 minutes to measure, plant, and mound dirt over those 12 rows!

THANK YOU, BOYS! (Oh, and spread the word to others about digging this fall – we won’t send you home empty handed!) πŸ™‚

Here are some pics from the evening:

Potato planting 101…



Just taking a moment to admire the audience…






Weekend loader-tractor-tiller rental

Mike’s parents sponsored the rental of a loader-tractor-tiller to work up our big garden, and to perform a few yearly chores that we don’t have the “tools” to do throughout the year. We are so grateful! πŸ™‚

There are some things a large tractor just can’t do. And we don’t have a front loader, so this one we rent does some annual chores we save up for this annual rental… πŸ™‚

Mike had scheduled it for earlier last week, but the forecast was for rain/storms, so we cancelled it. Turned out to be a blessing in disguise, though… Learned that since Monday was a holiday, we could rent it after 11am on Saturday, and have it until 9am on TUESDAY!! When you rent a tractor, it is for 8 hours of “use”. In the past, it has always been difficult to use all 8 of the hours when it has to be back the next day (without completely exhausting Mike), and we try to not purposely schedule extra work for Sundays. So, the additional day that came as a result of the holiday was so wonderful! Here are some pics of what got accomplished:

Tilling up the big garden…




It’s a good thing the garden is ready for planting now – just had our plants delivered from Skipper’s Nursery! They started our plants for us last year, too. I’ll do a future post on those as we get them planted. So glad we have friends who are willing to barter with us! This saved me many hours of labor & frustrations since we just don’t have a good setup/location to grow our own plants. πŸ™‚


Next was the removal of the old satellite dish by our house. One of the best things we’ve ever done was cancel our TV. Did that almost 5 years ago. We have a DVD player, so that suffices for our media. I, for one don’t miss it AT ALL! I am soooo excited to finally have that ugly dish gone, lol! πŸ™‚



Next was the attempt to smooth out the dip at the end of our driveway. We have a scary driveway – in a low spot between two hills. A left turn is a “blind turn” – and a right turn is not quite as hazardous, but can be if you don’t wait long enough for cars to clear a low area. In other words, when you pull out of our driveway, rocks will SPIN, because you need to be accelerating quickly – hence a hole grows larger as the year goes by…



Next stop, pulling up feed troughs that got buried this winter from hay-feedings… (Um – yeah – don’t do that! Much better to carry in bales or slices and place them in different spots. Laziness never produces a good ending…)



Lol – the calves were VERY interested!


This trough was a little trickier because there was no easy way to get into this side of the barnyard. Fortunately, overtop of the fence worked out fine. πŸ™‚


I got to help on this one, since Mike was on the other side of the fence…



On to the milking barn next door. Time for the annual “clean out/scrape away” from the cow’s entrance…





Next up was trying to fix Mike’s parents’ driveway. It washes out in spots, so this was an effort to patch it up for now. Mike’s brother got to “play” with the tractor, too… πŸ™‚



Next Mike headed across the road to begin the “end phase” of the last part of our EQIP grant. Can’t wait to be done with our contract – it’s been a l-o-n-g six years. This phase entails creating a filter area to catch the water from our milkhouse drain. When a road crew came through a few years ago to replace a culvert, we asked if they would bury a conduit for us. Thankfully, they agreed! Since our contract is up this summer, it’s time to wrap things up. πŸ™‚


These rocks by the milking barn have been causing water to leak into the corner of the barn. A better place for them is across the road, lining the trench… (Killing two birds with one stone ? Ha!) πŸ™‚



And back & forth they went…


Can’t resist – “the three muskateers” or “pied piper” ? πŸ™‚




And last-but-not-least… A fun treat! Something Mike’s never had enough time to do, but has often talked about over the years, is to see if an old small brush hog would fit and work on this smaller tractor. This brush hog is leftover from when the farm was leased out as a Christmas tree farm. It has been in the way sat in the barn for years, without the right sized tractor to pull it… Mike & Ben were able to get it to attach & work!




Oh my – this little cutter worked so well!! Mike was able to go around the entire perimeter of Gray Heaven – saved him HOURS of weed whipping fencelines!

And then he was able to clear more area around Mordor – something he’s wanted to do for a long time! πŸ™‚



Now that we know this mower works so well, no doubt we’ll add more paths to cut on our future to-do lists… πŸ™‚



Thank You, Lord, for this productive weekend!

Pantry peek

We take our harvests and try to stretch it to feed us for one year. Rather than work to a certain “number”, we take whatever our harvest is & divide it by 12. Saves us a lot of stress – that fear of “not having enough”… It encourages us to be more content with what we have and plan our meals accordingly. πŸ™‚

I do keep a record of each year’s total on the pantry shelves with a piece of masking tape – just so I have a ballpark idea of what we had the previous couple of years. Helps with knowing how many canning supplies I should invest in for the next season, too. And quite honestly, once we finish processing, I stop thinking about it & my brain can’t recall those numbers when someone asks. (This blog is actually helping to document tallies as well…) πŸ™‚

Once the monthly breakdown is calculated, I mark each jar with the month it can be used in. It helps me to see at a glance what items I have “available” to use & plan our meals accordingly. Since we all cook here, it allows the current chef to assess his options from our pantry “grocery store”… And it keeps my boys from eating 22 quarts of dilly beans in 2 months, lol! πŸ™‚





I have yet to remember to weigh our potato harvests. While the kennebec potatoes we grow don’t last us a full year, we can usually go 6 months or so. Last season we started with 3 milk-crates of taters, and are now into our last crate. They are sprouting, but not soft.



And Grandma’s special sweet potatoes are wrapped in newspapers & stored in a crate as well. I forgot to weigh these, too – but I do know we had 2 crates full. These taters last longer – I bet we go 9 months or so… πŸ™‚


dried beans

After touring a friend’s garden a few years ago, we were introduced to these soup beans.Β  LOVE THEM!Β  We normally grow Black Turtles, Vermont Cranberries, and Jacob’s Cattle.Β  Their colors are beautiful and look so pretty in a glass jar! The seeds are planted just like you would green bean seeds, only instead of harvesting them to eat like you would green beans (which you CAN do…), we leave them on the plants until the pods are dried and the plants are yellow/brown – early fall.Β  Once we harvest the dried pods, we simply remove the seeds from the pods. If they are really dry, the pods can “paper-cut” your fingers, so we try to not wait too long. [I was unable to find any pictures of them in this state, so perhaps this season I can take some & update this post…]

This is a GREAT chore that forces you to S-L-O-W down… I think that’s why I enjoy these beans so much.Β  They force me to SIT and “listen”…Β  Good therapy after a busy season of harvesting. πŸ™‚

We do the best we can to sort out the imperfect seeds – ones that have sprouted or are cracked.Β  Usually, they are in the minority. (One year we did grow one type of seed: Painted Ponies, that had a lot of imperfect seeds, so we haven’t grown it again.)

Just to make sure there is no moisture in the beans before storing them in glass jars in our pantry, we dry them in our dehydrator overnight.

To hydrate the beans, the best thing to do is soak them overnight.Β  We like to use a mixture of water & whey. This actually makes the beans more digestible.Β  That being said, in reality, I don’t always have the forethought to do that.Β  Most of the time I want to use them in a recipe the same day.Β  So below is the method we use that is quicker and works for us.

My formula for determining how many beans to hydrate is:

1/2 pound of dried beans = 1 cup of dried beans = 3 cups of finished, hydrated beans

Place dried beans in a large pot and cover with water by at least 2 inches. Bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute. Remove pot from the heat, add a lid, and allow it to sit for 1 hour. Drain and rinse the beans. Add fresh water to cover the beans for at least 2 inches.Β  Bring to a boil. Add a lid & lower the heat.Β  Allow the beans to simmer for about 10-15 minutes. (…taste testing the crunchiness of a bean every so often…) Also need to remove the lid & stir occasionally – will keep the foamy water from overflowing onto your stove-top.:)

**This procedure is about half the time most cookbooks say to prepare dried beans.Β  We learned that the age of the beans determines how long the hydrating will take…when we followed the cookbooks, our beans were MUSH, lol. (Kinda makes you wonder just how old the beans are that are on the store shelves! Not a big deal, though – it is a nice attribute that this is a food with a long shelf-life.) After experimenting with less & less boiling times, we came up with our above procedure.Β  I say all this so that it is understood that it may take longer to get older dried beans to desired softness. πŸ™‚





Last season we had 21 quarts of beans for our pantry, 11 quarts for next door, and many smaller jars we filled & gave away as Christmas gifts with our bean soup recipe. πŸ™‚