Sunday, September 30, 2012

Last Garden Update for 2012

We got the last of our crops out of the garden today - sweet potatoes. We had planted different types: white, red and orange yam.  We filled up the entire four wheeler and will let the potatoes dry for a day or so, before sorting and storing them in a friend's cooler.

We also pulled out all the irrigation lines and the plastic which we used this year.  Jeff used the potato digging plow and ran it along each row edge, which loosened the plastic enough so that Lars and Tina were able to pull it out easily. 

We disked half the garden, and then made a row at the one side to plant garlic.  This is the first time we are planting garlic in the fall - previously we only used the fast-growing, single season, type.  We had ordered two different types of garlic:
  • California Early, an artichoke-type, softneck garlic  (8 oz)
  • German Extra Hardy, a purple striped-type rocambole - hardneck garlic (16 oz)
  • Music, a porcelain type hardneck garlic (16 oz)
We had enough garlic for 2/3 of a row... so possibly we'll find something else to finish off the row before winter.

Tina also finished cleaning up the strawberry rows - getting them ready for the winter.  Just need to cover them with straw yet.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Experimenting with Blackberry Wine Recipes

This year we decided to approach home winemaking more scientifically - not only are we writing down exact ingredients and keeping track of temperature, brix and hydrometer readings - we also keep track of how often we rack the wine, and make notes of color and taste variations throughout the process.

And we are making only small batches - but varying the recipes - for our blackberry wine.  For this newest batch we just started (from our frozen berries) we are trying to reduce the amount of overall acid in the finished product.  We did some research on the yeast varieties and are trying out a new one for this batch.  We don't want to change too many variables at the same time -  we'll know in about a year what worked best.  This is not a hobby for the impatient, that's for sure.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Favorite Autumn Vegie Stews

Here are two of our favorite winter vegetable stews - I often double the recipe and freeze several meals.  Heavy cream biscuits go well with either soup and that recipe is below.

Potato-Corn-Cheddar Stew
(about 12 servings)

  • 12 oz bacon, chopped
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 6 cups chopped sweet onion
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 12 cups chicken stock
  • 6 cups medium cubed potatoes
  • 10 cups of frozen sweet corn (thawed)
  • 2 cups half&half
  • 8 (or more) oz of grated cheddar cheese
  • cook the chopped bacon in the olive oil in large pot over medium low heat until bacon is crisp (5-10 minutes)  Remove the bacon with slotted spoon and save for decoration later
  • add the onions and butter (don't be scared by mixing the 3 types of fat, it does work!) and cook until onions are translucent
  • Mix the flour with the salt, pepper and turmeric and add to the onions, stirring well for a minute or so (making a basic roux), then add the chicken stock and blend it in well
  • Add the potatoes and bring everything to a boil.  Boil for about 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender
  • Add the corn to the stew, and return to a boil.  Boil for several minutes (I once skipped this step, and the soup turned sour - not pretty)
  • Add the half&half and cheddar cheese and cook for a few more minutes, until the cheese is completely melted (I usually bring it back to a boil, it seems that something is added to cream and half&half to prevent separation when added to hot liquid, so it does not seem to matter).
  • Season to taste with more salt and pepper if needed
  • Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with bacon
Freeze any leftovers


Chickpea-Wintersquash-Lentil Stew
(Can be made as a vegetarian dish - about 8 servings)

  • 3/4 to 1 cup of dried chickpeas that have been soaked - see below  (or 1-2 cans of chickpeas), depending on how much you like chickpeas
  • 2 1/2 lbs of long neck or butternut squash - peeled, seeded and cut into 1 " pieces
  • 3 large carrots - peeled and cut into 1" pieces
  • 1 large onion - chopped 
  • 1 cup lentils
  • 4 cups of either beef broth or vegetable broth
  • 4 cups of tomato juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon minced fresh ginger (or 1 teaspoon ground dried ginger)
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground fresh pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
  • (optional) 1/4 cup lime juice and cilantro to add right before serving
  • If using dried chickpeas, either soak them overnight by covering them with water - about 2 " above peas, and soak for at least 6 hours.  Or use the quick soak method by again covering the peas with at least 2" of water in a pot, bring to a boil (if you like soft chickpeas, boil for 5 minutes), remove from heat and let stand 1 hour. Drain before use.  If using canned chickpeas, just drain :)
  • In a large pot, saute onions, ginger and garlic in some vegetable oil until onions are tender
  • Add all other ingredients (except the option lime and cilantro)
  • Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a gentle simmer.
  • Cook until the chickpeas are soft and the lentils have started to break down, about 2 hours.
Optional:  right before serving, stir in lime juice and garnish with cilantro leaves. If planning to freeze any of the stew, remove that portion before adding the lime juice, and reduce the amount of juice accordingly.

Serve as stew in bowls, or serve of cooked white or brown rice.

Heavy Cream Biscuits
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cup heavy cream (whipping cream)
  • Preheat oven to 425 degree F
  • mix dry ingredients, then add cream until stiff dough forms (I use the kitchenaid mixer)
  • knead slightly, then roll out on floured surface, just enough to make 8 biscuits with a biscuit cutter
  • Bake for about 8 minutes - less is better than too much

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Meatloaf Football

To celebrate the first win of the season for the Big Spring 8th & 9th grade team, Jeff made his special meatloaf for Lars, and Sammy had the bright idea of shaping it into a football.  She even added the lacing by using mustard before baking.
Go Bulldogs!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Another Boston Weekend

When Anja and Duff moved to Boston, they took their ancient "college car" (which had preciously been Samantha's "college car") with them, but quickly realized that it would be nearly impossible, or at least not economically feasible, to get it inspected to meet Massachusetts standards.  They also realized that with a brand new baby - and future trips to Pennsylvania and Mississippi - it was finally time to buy a new car.  So they did - but parking regulations in their new home would not allow for more than one car. And Sammy kind of wanted her old car back.  Which meant we had to get it before the temporary parking pass ran out in Boston.

So Tina took the night train, from Harrisburg to Philadelphia and then another train to Boston.  (Which was not so bad - however, the train was surprisingly full and only aisle seats were available.)

We had a great weekend together in Boston and Tina got to babysit Leif for nearly 4 hours on Sunday.  This was a rather easy task, as Leif seemed to think that everything Tina said was just funny.

We went for long walks each day, the weather was absolutely gorgeous and we even got to visit Duff's new office at MIT.   Leif was just the happiest baby the entire time.

In the evenings we watched Episode 3 of the first season of Sherlock Holmes and Episode 1 of the second season, which gave Tina enough time to knit a happy red winder hat for Leif:

On Monday, Anja tried for the first time to feed Leif some rice cereal and he did surprisingly well!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Our New DYI Project: Standing Seam Metal Roof

We have been planning what to do with our "shed" across the street since the day we moved to the Long Shot Farm.  This building has a great cemented foundation, relatively decent windows and the entire building was at one time insulated.  However, the roof had been home to a significant holiday display each winter, including Santa, a sleigh and reindeer - permanent metal railings had even been installed on the roof to anchor this contraption.  Sadly, these decorations caused the roof to sag in the middle - which meant that fixing up the shed is a much more complex project that first we had to put if off a while.

Jeff and Tina started on
Friday afternoon
Luckily, earlier this year we were able to purchase a very nice standing seam metal roofing system from a contractor friend at a very reasonable price.  But with the fruit and garden, we just had very little time to devote to the project.  We worked on it off and on - emptying the shed, tearing out all the inside boards and removing the old insulation.  We also reinforced to roof from below, by first using metal chains to "pull" the building together, and then installing additional joists.

Progress by Friday evening

For the last week or so, Jeff has been cutting the pieces of roofing panels to the correct size - we need 22 pieces of each side of the roof.  This weekend we finally got to install some of it.  Tina and Jeff started on Friday evening,  tearing down the bottom row of the old asphalt shingles, and reinforcing the edge by attaching 2x4's below the roof.  We then installed the drip edge, which is part of the roofing system on both sides of the roof.  The next step involved attaching sheets of house wrap on top of the old shingles, to protect the new metal roof from scratching - we did this with simple roofing nails.  We actually attached only about 2 ft of the plastic sheeting, and kept the rest rolled up - since this sheeting is very slippery, and the asphalt shingles provided a lot of traction while working on the roof. 
Then we finally got to attached the first panel with the appropriate brackets, and then snapped the next panel onto it.  We managed to get the first three panels up before it got too dark. 

Jens and Zach were both around to lend a hand on Saturday, which speeded up the process a lot.  Of course with the 3 boys around, there was also some goofing off....especially when it came to teasing Tina (who does not like to work on roofs)

We finished the first half of the roof by Saturday evening.

Finished first side by Saturday

Sunday was spent mostly playing with Toben and Fiona, and visiting with their parents, as well as with Grammy and Ruth from Bedford county.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Chambourcin Progress

This evening we transferred our newly fermented Chambourcin wine into carboys.  We added wood chips to one of the "batches" - we'll see how this turns out.
The juice has amazing color and smelled delicious.  Can't wait to find out what this will taste like once it is aged enough.

Barn Remodeling Continues

Even though the downstairs of the barn is basically done, the entire upstairs as well as much of the outside of the barn still needs to be fixed over the next couple of years.  But we made some more progress with the outside of the barn this weekend:

On Saturday, we got the barn and tractor shed roofs painted - by a team of South Carolina barn painters that travels up and down the east coast.  They had huge sprayers, special roof paint and they managed to get the entire roof done in less than an hour.  It looks so much better!!!

On Sunday, we tore down the rickety old connection between the barn and the silo.  This must have been built to keep the silage dry in bad weather (and the person getting it).  It was a real eye-sore and we have not need for it.  We won't use the silo for feed - not quite sure yet what we will do with it at this point.  It could be used for storage, we could even build ceilings and stairs.  Actually saw some pretty neat silo to house conversions on the internet .  Here is one example: 

But  maybe we will use our silo as a water tank to use gravity to irrigate the grapes an blueberries.  We'll have all winter to think about it.  But the painting crew is planning to come back later in the fall and they will paint our silo as well.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Garden Update - September 8

We are coming rapidly toward the end of harvest time.  This week we canned our last batch of spaghetti sauce and our tomatoes are pretty much done.  We dug the remaining potatoes and started digging up some sweet potatoes.

Working on the second cutting of herbs and we've been drying a lot of mint, some rosemary and more oregano as well.

We still have a few onions, melons, green peppers, carrots and parsnips, as well as some pumpkins.

White Sweet Potatoes

Potato Bread

Still one of our favorite breads - so much so, that we always make a lot of extra mashed potatoes:

  • 3/4 cups warm water/milk mixture (about half of each)
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower (or other) oil
  • 1 and 1/2 cup left-over mashed potatoes (ours are made with lots of butter and milk)
  • 1 tablespoon dry milk powder
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 and 1/2 to 3/4 bread flour (depends on how dry the potatoes are)
  • 2 teaspoons yeast

For breadmachine:  place ingredients into machine in the above order, turn on dough cycle and let it run its course.  Remove dough and shape into loaf.  If using just one pan, it will be a very tall loaf of bread...  sometimes I make one slightly smaller loaf and several rolls.  Preheat oven to 375 degree F, and let bread rise.  Bake for 25 - 30 minutes.  Cover crust with a little butter right after baking to keep it soft.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Another Barnwedding

We had another beautiful wedding for friends in our barn today.  It was an evening event and though it was quite warm, it was a wonderful afternoon and evening for an outside ceremony. 

The wedding was quite unique, in that the bride and her father rode to the ceremony on horseback and the flower-girl was leading another horse ahead of them.  The horses were decorated in the wedding colors, and the flower-girl's horse even had sparkly flowers throughout her mane.  After the wedding, the bride and groom rode once around our pond - and a "just married" sign was pinned to the wrapping of the horse's tail :)

We had offered the use of our barn and did not have to do much else - other than that Jeff had volunteered to make chicken corn soup.  He and Caleb, the bride's brother, made over 10 gallons of very delicious soup the day before.  The other food was prepared by the bride's family, including the wedding cake (which the bride had decorated herself).

The ceremony took place by the pond, the dinner afterwards was in the barn.  The bridesmaids, flower girl and "mini-bride" all got dressed in our dining room.  It was a lot of fun to watch the girls get ready.

Everything went off without any hitch - it was a lovely wedding and everyone seemed to have had a great time.

Hopefully we'll have more pictures to post soon.

Rehearsing with horses

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Pumpkins and Potatoes

We mowed off our potato patch to get ready for digging and found several pumpkins within the weeds.  Our pumpkin vines have been very prolific this year and some stretch the entire width of our garden.  Jeff smashed quite a few stray pumpkins while mowing, but the orange ones caught his attention and were "saved".  They now decorate our kitchen door.

We only dug a bushel of potatoes today - enough for all our visitors to take some home and a side dish for tomorrow's pig roast.  There are still plenty of potatoes and pumpkins to harvest.