Sweet Potato Starts

Back in October I wrote about our Sweet Potato Bonanza crop. We are hoping to have another one this Fall.

In the beginning of April, hubby set up the potatoes from last year’s crop to sprout starts. The jam jars are multi-purpose, as are the window sills in the eldest’s bedroom.

And a few weeks later, most of them are producing!

Fargo is super impressed with our mad sweet potato skills!

Spring ’17 Continued

I have been having fun taking flower and Fargo pictures.

Tulips in the morning.

Same tulips in the afternoon.

Fargo loves being out in the sun, but I’m not sure he’s really able to relax.

With a ton of help from Fargo…

The first round of veggie garden weeding is DONE! Unfortunately, there will be many more rounds because the only thing we don’t have to work hard to grow is weeds.

Beautiful Blooms 2017

It’s that time of year again when there will be lots of outdoor pictures. In between the never ending hours of weeding, I’m definitely trying to appreciate the beauty of the blooms.

This is a Star Magnolia baby from the in-laws’ tree. First year it has bloomed.

Bleeding Heart

Candy Tuft ground cover

Fargo The Terrible is looking at the flowers on the Flowering Plum Tree

I did get all of the tall grass cut. I’m working my way through the perennial beds, they are all raked out and last season’s growth is all trimmed. I took a first go at the upper third of the veggie garden this morning.

We took a few minutes away from the weeding/project list to get out for a walk yesterday morning. It’s been a while since we’ve taken Fargo, but that’s a longer story for another time.

Catching Up, Cornbread and Signs of Spring

Hello, sorry it’s been so long. I had to travel for work (which is a rarity), then we were away to see family, then I was trying to catch up from being away for 5 days, then there were actually a few hours of nice weather and I used them to get started on the yard work. But here I am and I have a few things to share.

We bought a cast iron skillet! We have dutch ovens, but never had a skillet. I have seen a number of recipes for desserts baked in a skillet and I saw one for cornbread that looked pretty fun, so we bought a Lodge 10″. Before buying ours, we borrowed the in-law’s skillet (in pictures below) and because hubby loves cornbread, that was the first thing we tried.

This Honey Skillet Cornbread recipe uses corn kernels (we used the corn we froze last Fall) and a lot of butter.

It looked beautiful out of the oven, nicely browned, and even a bit like the picture in the recipe for a change. My “hunny” jar, a gift the youngest made at school a few semesters ago, was perfect in this picture because honey was just the right thing to drizzle on this bread.

It didn’t last long, that’s for sure.

I have since tried another recipe, but it was definitely not as good. I’ll try a few more, but I’m not sure there is a better one.

Happily, the seeds (except for the ones I forgot to order) have almost all sprouted and the seedlings are doing well.

We are supposed to have rain/snow showers tomorrow, so planting is still a ways off. Next step here will be thinning and/or transferring to new cups if I think I can fit more plants in the garden or I have friends who want some. It’s painful for me to actually just get rid of a healthy start for the sake of thinning, but I know it’s necessary, both here and when direct seeding in the garden.

Fargo was very helpful yesterday while I was working on cutting back the tall grass.

I only managed to get to about a third of it yesterday, so it’s still on the overall “to do” list.

I have spent hours weeding two of the perennial beds. There are hours and hours and hours of work left to do. I always have big ideas of how to improve or expand the beds to add more natives, but by the time I get even a fraction of the weeding done, there’s no time left to go above and beyond.

Here are some of the first flowers to show their faces.

I am hoping to take the fancy camera out over the weekend, weather permitting, and take some flower pictures. The grape hyacinth is up, the lace peonies are are working their way up and the dogwood buds are pretty.

In the next few posts, I’ll have the master bathroom re-boot project to share, a new and very exciting outdoor project that will be starting soon, and pictures from a very quick trip to Vermont. I have no Hobby Adventures update for March, as I’m still finishing up one last cross stitch. I will not likely have a report for April, given the mess of yard work waiting for me, but maybe.

 

Seed Starting 2017

I took the first day of Spring 2017 literally. I lined up my plastic cups and my seed packs and I got busy.

Unfortunately, I somehow messed up my seed order from Fedco Seeds and forgot to order banana peppers. I’ll need to find seeds locally (which I thought I would have done by now, but those particular cups are still empty). I started three types of tomatoes, three types of peppers, broccoli, cabbage and basil.

Hubby set up the little shelves and lights.

And this morning my brassicas showed their might.

Also, Fargo still loves his new ball.

And when we just can’t take any more ball and we “hide” it in the bathroom he still lets us know he wants it. No one is getting into or out of that bathroom without him knowing.

Butternut Risotto

One of my favorite recipes for our butternut squash is Butternut Risotto. I found this recipe years ago…so many years ago that I cut it out of a magazine page and have it taped in the recipe binder. I was happily surprised this morning to find a link to the online version which makes it easy to share with you.

I need to add a note here that the pictures did not turn out well and do not do this dish justice in how pretty it looks while cooking and when finished.

I’m sure I use way more butternut than called for because it is yummy, especially (I think) when grown in the backyard garden. Even though the picture isn’t clear, the amazing color of the squash sure is.

beautiful butternut

Although the recipe calls for chicken broth, I have always used vegetable broth. I switch back and forth between cooking this in a large saute pan and a larger pot and I haven’t noticed a difference in the finished product.

The main piece when making risotto is the constant stirring. It is not a start and simmer dish, it is a high maintenance process.

risotto

The recipe gives the option to choose either saffron or turmeric and I have always used turmeric. It certainly tastes amazing, though saffron may also taste amazing, or it may be even better. If you make this with saffron, let me know your thoughts.

Butternut with butter and parm and rice…how can it not be a favorite?

butternut risotto

For the past few years I have used vegetable broth in the 4 cup cartons, mostly from Trader Joes. In my blog and book perusals, I read about Better Than Bouillon vegetable broth.

I will be using it the next time a recipe calls for broth and I will report back on flavor.

I have no running to report on however, we have been managing to walk at least a mile almost every day (on Saturday I even walked twice! 😉 ). I don’t necessarily think my running days are over, but it is scary how easy it is to not run after not running for a while. It gets easier and easier and easier to not do it. Sigh…

February Hobby Update

When I had the brilliant idea to include a “monthly hobby update” on the blog, I certainly thought I’d have more on which to update. Sigh. I have definitely spent way more time following current events than I used to. Maybe that needs to count as a new hobby?

I am on the last of the four cross stitch projects I started before the holidays. This is the third one I completed.

If I cross list my gardening adventures category with my hobby adventures category, I can include that hubby and I spent a good bit of time planning out this year’s garden crops and choosing which varieties of seeds to order.

We ordered through our favorite seed cooperative

And the seeds have already arrived!

A new and exciting aspect to our gardening this year will be participation by a wonderful co-worker and her boyfriend. Given some of the physical challenges we’ve dealt with this year, the help will be very welcomed. In return, we will happily share what will hopefully be a lot of produce.

I am alternating between reading the bread book mentioned in a previous post:

And a book the eldest got me for the holidays:

 

There are some very yummy looking recipes in here and I’m gathering ingredients to try some.

It’s been too cold to work much more on the garage in an attempt to make space for a work bench/work shop. I am pretty sure I have a knitting project picked out, though I’ll need to recruit help getting it started. The master bathroom project we thought would be scrapped, may be back up to the top of the “to do” list as we’re starting to research supplies.

This about sums up the past month. The no sugar thing has definitely put a cramp in my baking…

 

 

Grinding Flour

I’ve used the grain mill attachment a few times now, adding some home ground flour in with store bought for bread baking. Last week, I made bread from flour ground completely at home. I used a combination of Hard White Wheat, Hard Red Wheat and Oats.

grains

I didn’t really have a recipe plan but ended up with about 2 cups white wheat, 1 cup red and 1 cup oat. The oat groats take a very long time to grind, much longer than the wheat. I also think the flour is a different consistency, or else it’s more airy when freshly ground and I need to use more than the recipe calls for. The dough was very wet so I added some rolled oats as well.

The next morning, when I shaped it into a ball, I had to add more flour to make it workable.

wet bread dough

It baked up nicely and, whether it was the combo of flours, or the freshly ground piece, the flavor was awesome.

well baked bread

Hubby got me a book about bread for the holidays, and in it, the author talks about baking the bread longer than you’d think in order to bring out the flavor.

bread book

I did bake it longer, but I think I’ll try even some more time for the next loaf.

As an extra for this post, our dinner the other night was super colorful and super delicious. I love using our home grown produce throughout the winter. Included below are our sweet potatoes and butternut squash.

colorful dinner

 

Getting Ready for Winter (and a sweet potato recipe)

It’s been busy around here the past two weeks. We haven’t gotten much further on the garage, though that is the main project again for today. Most of the daylight hours, which are way fewer now, have been spent on outside projects.

We cleaned out the garden.

garden clean up

Hubby downed some trees, cut them up, hauled them home, split them and then I helped move the piles (this picture does not represent the piles, I had already moved them)…

wood piles

…so he could stack all of the wood. It’s almost a work of art.

wood stacking art

Meanwhile, I used the first of this season’s sweet potato crop in some African Stew, recipe at the end of this post.

african stew

Which we ate with a fresh loaf of bread (almost a year of home baked bread).

bread loaf

We added a new attachmentl to the pretty kitchen power tool. A grain mill, which seems to be heavy duty. I’m hoping to test it out today on some wheat grains I bought and I will be sure to report back on how it went. This is a terrible picture.

grain mill

The African Stew recipe I use is from a children’s cookbook the girls got as a gift years ago. I have not been able to find a replica of this recipe online, so I’m going to type it out longhand. I’m sorry that I’m not tech savvy enough to be able to offer you a “printable version.”

2 T oil (I use olive oil)

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

4 cups vegetable stock

2 cups peeled, diced sweet potato

1 can chick peas

1/2 cup brown rice

1/4 t salt

1/4 cup peanut butter

2 cups chopped kale

2 T lemon juice

1 T soy sauce (I have made it without soy sauce and it was still yummy)

hot pepper, ground or flakes (optional)

*saute garlic and onion in oil until softened, then add 2 T stock and cook 3-5 minutes longer

*add remaining stock, sweet potato, chick peas, rice and salt

*bring to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes

*remove 1/4 cup of liquid and mix with peanut butter, pour back into stew and mix well

*add kale, cook 5 minutes

*add lemon juice and soy sauce and hot pepper to taste

 

 

Butternut, Black Beans and Beauty

Our winter squash crop was not abundant this year. Hubby battled vine borers in the spaghetti squash plants and the extreme wet/dry spells took a toll on all of the plants. Here is our crop yield.

winter squash

Our first spaghetti squash was part of a very pretty dinner plate a few nights ago, one of the last of the year with food almost entirely from the garden.

garden dinner plate

Last night I opted for one of the butternuts. Over the winter I made a Black Bean and Butternut Enchilada dinner, which was pretty good. Last night I put together a similar dish, but without the tortillas added. I followed the basics of this recipe.

I made it much more colorful by using red onion and the last fresh green pepper from our garden.

onion butternut

butternut skillet 1

And with the black beans.

bk beans butternut

It was delicious with cheese and chips!

bk butternut chips

On an unrelated note, I was able to catch a bit of the beautiful sunrise yesterday morning.

campus sunrise