Monday, August 30, 2010

Eating from the Garden

I believe some of the best eating comes straight from the garden. Today I was blessed to create two dishes with produce straight out of the garden. It was a mighty fine cooking day. 

I started out the day in Kansas City interviewing for a position at Harvesters- The Community Food Network. I interviewed for a Nutrition Services Coordinator which is a position very similar to what I did as an AmeriCorps member. Harvesters is an amazing organization and they are definitely growing to meet the ever increasing need of the hungry. After the typical interview question and answer session, I was able to complete my very own food network challenge. I was given 20 minutes to prepare a presentation in the kitchen using produce from their garden and non-perishable items from the pantry. I could do anything, imagining I was presenting a nutrition lesson to an agency. It was super fun and I took advantage of the fresh squash, tomatoes, Chinese purple beans, and peppers. I think my dish was pretty tasty, too bad I didn't get to eat more of it.

After a fabulous afternoon making four giant pans of apple/pear crisp in the bake lab I hurried home a little famished. I was so excited and anxious to make some great dinner that I went straight to work as soon as I entered the house. I whipped up another delight comprised of all great things out of the garden. This one included: red onion, carrots, red bell peppers, eggplant, tofu and a crazy Asian black bean garlic sauce. I made some brown rice to go along. As I finished the creation I went into my father's office to announce my dinner and found him MIA. Having no idea where my mother or father were at this hour I ate alone. It was a great meal.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Organic Gardening

I had the amazing opportunity to give a presentation to the Dickinson County Gardeners Guild this past week. My amazing neighbor that heads up a lot of the activities asked me to speak about organic gardening and my travels on working on organic farms. It was so fun and I definitely learned a lot. There is nothing quite like being the position of teaching that makes one learn so much. I think I learned more the night before as I attempted to put together a powerpoint presentation and was reading book and websites for about 4 hours. I do believe my friends on organic farms would be proud of me for at least planting a few seeds in the minds of rural Kansans. I even got to tell them about Permaculture, Community Supported Agriculture, and even composting toilets. Got some really great facial expressions!

I do believe that people just simply need to be exposed to new things and generally they are more responsive than we think. Education is just so critical. I've got a lot to do and could really use some help out here......any takers?

I made a few treats just to make a few friends and get the night started out right. 
Panzanella Salad (fabulous way to use up those tomatoes)


Once upon a time last weekend I decided to stop at the Red Barn Farm outside of Westin, MO. I was in search of peaches as the giant sign along the road said peaches and sweet corn. Upon my entering the Red Barn, I was surprised to see apples on the giant sign noting the fresh available fruit. I was then informed that the giant storm that went through the area the night before had knocked a significant amount of apples off the trees and were being sold as pick from the ground 1/2 bushel for only $10. Sign me up. I don't even need to know the normal price for apples available still on the tree. I will gladly take those seconds off the ground. After a short long while in the orchard picking up amazing apples off the ground I went on my merry sweaty way home with my bushel of apples ready for the greatest creation to come from a tree, applesauce.

Applesauce is seriously one of the easiest things to make and preserve as well. First, one must simply wash the apples, core the apples and get to cooking. We plop them all in a giant pot, add a bit of water to avoid burning and let the them steam away.
After assembling the ancient sieve mill thing we have we add the nice and soft apples into the hopper.

Then comes the turning of the handle, the apples are pressed down through the system and applesauce comes out the side while the peelings come out the end. 
It's quite an amazing process. After we get a giant bowl full, then comes the tasting and altering if necessary. This year we added some cinnamon and just a touch of sugar.
A few 35 minutes of water bath canning later, we have ready to store applesauce. I should have gotten more apples. We managed to make 16 quart jars of the goodness from that bushel of apples. I'm not sure how long it will last. We shall probably be making more later in the fall when the apples are really flowing.

Monday, August 23, 2010


For some time now as people ask what I am doing with my life at the moment I have responded with the usual, "Well I work part time in the bakery lab at KSU, I live at home, and pretend to be a farmer." Tonight I decided that I am no longer a pretend farmer, I'm legitimately a farmer. As the sun went down and the rain is said to be approaching tonight, I was out there working to get things done. I just planted our first cover crop ever, as far as I know. One thing I have realized since returning from my vagabond trip is that the sun goes down much earlier; the days have gotten considerably shorter leaving fewer hours of sunlight and productivity time. Tonight as it became too dark to see the ground I was trying to rake up and prepare for the seed, I ran to get my headlamp. Thanks to my new headlamp and it's ability to shine, I was able to finish preparing the soil and got my seed spread. I'm not really certain where the seed all went as it was a bit too dark to really see it falling to the ground, but I do know that it escaped from the spreader I was using. Time will only tell how good of a job I did, but if it rains tonight as I've been told it should, hopefully we'll see some great buckwheat cover the ground with a nice blanket of green manure. 

So according to a farmer is:
 1. A person who operates a farm or cultivates land. 
 2. An unsophisticated person from a rural area.
I don't so much agree with that #2 definition but I am cultivating the land. It might not be very much land, but it produces amazing food and I am doing what I can to increase it's productivity in a rural area. I think that is quite sophisticated. 

A good farmer is nothing more nor less than a handy man with a sense of humus.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Hard at Work!

Shoffner and I make a great team. In the week or so since we've been back I feel like we have accomplished a great deal of work. Despite the ridiculous heat, we managed to be productive each day starting at 6am and coming back inside around noon when the heat was simply unbearable. A few of our projects:
Successful two compartment compost bin. The boards in front slide out for easy loading, turning, and unloading. We put that roof on to keep our unnecessary rain and moisture. One side will be for adding to and the other side will be curing/creating amazing organic matter.

Successfully installed two rain barrels. These barrels I managed to obtain from the bake lab after dumping their contents earlier this summer. We got the necessary spouts, mesh screen covering and cut into those gutters for a great method of collecting rain run-off. They are actually full at this precise moment as the day of installation we got a giant storm that filled them instantly. Very exciting!

We also managed to find the very first chicken egg! I was thinking it would be another month of so, but much to our delight, our two chickens are producing!
We also spent one morning in full outer garments slicing, dicing, throwing, and hauling limbs and firewood that has been hanging out in our driveway ditch for over a month now. Still more to do, but holy cow it gets hot out there in the sun! Many garden weeds have seen there last day. Many garden tomatoes, okra, eggplant, and peppers have been harvested and enjoyed. And millions of ticks have been flicked, picked off, and cursed at as we battle the most disgusting battle yet against the tick infestation out there. It's a serious battle!

We also hosted one amazing Soiree #3 at the Lindahl farm. They just keep getting better.

My bestie is off visiting family before she returns to the Philly ghetto on Wednesday. It's been great, but now back to work for us both as I return to the great KSU bake lab on Monday.

Philly Fun

I made my second visit to the city of Philadelphia to visit my bestie, Miss Jessica Shoffner. After leaving Dave at the Manchester, NH airport on Monday, August 2nd, Kelsey and I traveled to Philly to pick up Shoff for our return trip to Kansas. We did manage to spend a day hanging out around Philly and found a few memorable moments.

This would be me going Wow! It's the Liberty Bell! I've finally seen this treasure.

That's right! We got love!

And for a little bit of Reading Terminal goodness. I could spend much time in there and much money as well on quality food from so many places. Shoffner and her roomies get their weekly CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) from Lancaster County Farms which is a group of over 60ish different farm providers. So amazing!

Quite possibly another one of my favorite photos taken by the greatest, Miss Kelsey Fairfield!
Just a little bit of teamwork as we haul those veggies home.

After our short visit, Jessica, Kelsey, and I made the two day trip back to Kansas arriving on Thursday, August 5th. It's been a whirlwind of activity since then as Shoffner and I have been busy at work on the farm earning some cash from Daddy Doug to pay for us to live to dream.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Quick Return to Vermont

After a very eventful conference time in Maine, Kelsey, Dave and I back west for a bit of exploration in Vermont. This would be my second trip through the great states of New Hampshire and Vermont on this travel expedition but definitely the first time for my great friend Kelsey that joined the trip. We drove across the remainder of the state of Maine, through New Hampshire and just into Vermont on Highway 2, aka Kancamagus, aka Kangamangas highway. It was a beautiful drive across the northern section of these states. We passed by several more of these signs:
Almost as if I was calling the moose with my repeated moose noises, a female moose appeared on the side of the road just munching her happy dinner away. Dave, a profession at speedy reactions, slammed on the brakes, did a u-turn in the road and drove back for proper photo taking. We were a little too slow and apparently too obvious because she moseyed her way back into the forest before we could record her presence in our cameras.  

After a delightful drive we enjoyed the amazing sunset over a quaint lake just over the state line in Vermont. We managed to stay two nights with some great friends of Dave's and enjoyed several hours of relaxation, along with some joyful kayaking and canoeing.

Kelsey and I simply living the dream!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Maine Vacationland

Maine is the vacationland state as the many road signs indicated upon entering the state. It was indeed a beautiful vacation and one that I would absolutely love to visit again someday. My first view of the Atlantic ocean in Portland, ME. It is such a great small city on the coast. After gaining a few traveling friends earlier in the day we checked out a great bakery in Portland called Standard Baking Co. and made our way to Skowhegan for The Kneading Conference. 

We were so very blessed to stay with some wonderful hosts outside of Skowhegan. They blew us away with their great off the grid home, amazing hospitality, humor, and wonderful conversations. Here is a great shot of the view of the mountains as we made our way into town.
The Kneading Conference was a great organization of home bakers and professional bakers from all over passionate about great bread and quality grains. We listened to speakers and attended workshops all centered around the age old tradition of baking artisan breads from natural grains and quality ingredients. We also ate some really great food at the conference that was all local. Check out my first plate. Yes, I ate all that and enjoyed every moment of it. So many fresh veggies and fresh goat cheese. Add some yummy bread and that's all I need!
The conference also highlighted several methods of baking in different ovens. There were even workshops on creating earth and brick ovens. Being used all over the conference were these amazing copper covered wood fired ovens. Simply amazing! Wish I could have hooked one up to my car to drag home. Only about $15-20,000.
We enjoyed our tour de ice cream while in Maine as well. Gifford's ice cream would have to be the most popular and we enjoyed it several days in a row. Our first evening we managed to come home with four quarts of hand packed ice cream. My favorite would have to be Maine Deer tracks which consisted of coffee ice cream with caramel and chocolate swirl and Heath chunks in it. We also had some great Moose Tracks: Vanilla with chocolate and peanut butter cups in it. Also great was Berry Tracks: a combo of fresh Maine fruit.
Our host, Susan, took us to the most beautiful lake I have ever swam in, Lake George. There are so many lakes up there and they are so breathtaking. We swam in crystal clear water that was remarkably warm and the view simply amazing.
Have I mentioned the weather in Maine was simply fabulous? We were wearing sweatshirts and pants our final evening out, and enjoyed sunshine everyday. Our stay in Maine was a short three day stay, but I do believe I will have to return someday. I would love to bring my family back here for some more vacationland experiences. 

Quick Recap

Well Friends, it has been a whirlwind of events that never seem to stop. I just wanted to give a brief recap:

After a fabulous week hanging out in the forest of New Hampshire, I ventured to Manchester, NH to pick up my  work partners, Dave and Kelsey, for a conference in Maine. (Actually, just to clarify, Dave whom I have been recently vacationing with and traveling Vermont and Maine with is my boss, advisor, life coach, and sometimes father. He is NOT my boyfriend. It's kinda humorous but apparently I have not made that clear so here I am making it clear.) So we traveled to Skowhegan, Maine for The Kneading Conference. It was an amazing experience meeting some really great people and eating our faces off.

After a delightful 3 days in Maine, we ventured back over through New Hampshire to Vermont for a couple of days on a beautiful lake where Kelsey and I enjoyed some kayaking, canoeing, and more ice cream. We made a stop at King Arthur Flour for some possible job interviews and then headed back to Manchester, NH to send Dave on his happy plane way back to KS. Kelsey and I made the 7 hour trip to Philadelphia through 7 states to my best friend, Jessica Shoffner's, abode. After a quick day in Philly we made the two day adventure of a straight road trip back to Kansas.

We arrived back Thursday night and have not stopped to hear silence just yet. The garden that I so tenderly cared for before leaving is a giant mess and we are in the process of harvesting everything, ridding the space of giant weeds, and getting ready to plant some fall crops and cover crops. We have several projects to work on this next week and could probably work forever and still find things to do.

Oh and Dad bought two pups and four goats. The Lindahl family farm is now legit; we have four dogs, two chickens, and four goats bought but not yet arrived. Craziness!