Friday, June 17, 2011

In June

In June ’tis good to lie beneath a tree
While the blithe season comforts every sense,
Steeps all the brain in rest, and heals the heart,
Brimming it o’er with sweetness unawares.

–James Russell Lowell (1819–91)
Elderberry Blossoms

I'm JUST THAT CLOSE to summer vacation...
One more day...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Squash Blossoms; a Guilty Pleasure

Squash Season is Coming!!!
This is admittedly NOT the plant I took my male blossoms from; that plant had a huge headstart, being grown in the high tunnel, however I didn't plan ahead and neglected to photograph it.  Them.  They're taking over. (I'll insert a picture here at a later date!)

Squash blossoms are an early summer delicacy.  I only pick the male blossoms, the ones without the ovary attached (swollen base), because that's what will eventually become your squash.  And I only take a few; they're a guilty secret. For this recipe you'll need a simple egg batter (like the one you use for pancakes), a stuffing, some vegetable oil, and some salt.

Open the blossom, then remove the pistol.  Or is it the stamen?  I don't remember.  Remove the phallic polleny thing in the middle.  It will be bitter if you don't. Stuff the flower with something you love: crab, shrimp, mushrooms, cheese; I chose fresh mozzarella, because that's what I had. Wrap the blossom around the filling.  Really tuck it in.

Heat up your oil and get a plate ready with paper towels to catch the drips.  Dip the entire blossom in the batter, and make sure the petals stay around the filling as you rotate it for coverage.  I found it easiest to do by hand, but if you grip the open end of the blossom with a pair of tongs, you may be able to finesse it into compliance without messing up your manicure.  Having no such manicure, I wasn't terribly concerned about using my hands.  Place them in the hot (but not smoking) oil. The stuffed blossoms.  Not your hands.

Make sure to turn them as they get brown.  Don't fuss with them too much or you'll lose your stuffing.  Well, they will...not you. 

These are NOT chicken wings.  Meat-free goodness.
Drain on paper towels or whatever you use for lapping up oil, then salt to taste and enjoy.  If you have a favorite dipping sauce, now's the time to break it out.  I used harvard beet glaze, because that's what I had.  And that was just fine.


Monday, June 13, 2011

Berry Berry Good.

Putting Food By...
It's become an obsession of mine.  With the imminent collapse of the fossil fuel system, combined with my "Buy Fresh, Buy Local" mindset, the natural course of things is to preserve foods that will be accessible sans power. Also, since I'm particularly sensitive to sugar for some reason, and have found through personal experience that freezing diminishes taste and texture, I've decided that dehydration is the way to go.

I bought this dehydrator about 20 years ago.  It's still kicking. Of course there are natural ways to dehydrate food; I'm currently dehydrating some elderflowers in my shed as we speak; but I digress.

Nearly Antique Plastic Dehydrator (I'm Getting Old. YAY!)
First, you clean and half the strawberries.  Mine were grown in Amish country (just a hop over the county line in Kutztown), and are natural and local.  Beautiful, aren't they?

You KNOW I Ate Some...
After you cut them, place them on the trays, seed side down.  NOT cut side down.  They'll stick.

Stack those trays up.  If you have multiple trays, you'll save energy, because it will take the same amount of time to do 6 as to do 2.  The trays weren't cheap, as I recall (it's been awhile), but they have more than paid for themselves.

Use the Proper Heat Setting
They shrink way down.  Down to 20% of their original volume, as I calculate...

I almost always dehydrate overnight, and that worked fine for these goodies.  I found that 5 quarts of fresh fruit equalled 1 quart of dried.  So I made 2 dried quarts for the winter.  That should hold us.

They taste wonderful: concentrated strawberry goodness.  I can just imagine them in oatmeal, on cereal, in cream-of wheat, or bread pudding...spring goodness in the deep winter. Yum.

Beauty is Only Skin Deep

By the way, the Farmer's Almanac has this tidbit to share about the aforementioned topic:

"The month of June's full Moon's name is the Full Strawberry Moon. June's Full Strawberry Moon got its name because the Algonquin tribes knew it as a signal to gather ripening fruit.
It was often known as the Full Rose Moon in Europe (where strawberries aren't native)."


Sunday, June 12, 2011


Most of you already know that each animal on the farm (any farm) has their own distinct personality.  Yesterday, I decided it was time to showcase Gazelle, who has recently become the Belle of the Barn.
Last year was Gazelle's first freshening.  I recall carrying her, trembling, to the milk stand, where she'd barely tolerate the process.  She had to be lifted onto the stand for weeks after that, afraid to jump up, afraid of any different sounds; just afraid.  She was a small, trembling bunch of nerves, for no reason other than it was in her nature; being born and raised on the farm, she has never encountered abuse or neglect.  She was just wired that way. 

So, I began a season of psychotherapy for Gazelle.  I told her how good she was, how smart and beautiful.  I rewarded her efforts with handfuls of sweet feed, and laid my hands on her whenever she was in the stand.  I stroked both her body and her ego (if you have to ask if goats have egos, you don't know goats), and as the season grew warmer, so did her spirit.  Though she was never queen material, being a diminutive goat, Gazelle was beautiful, and soon lost her fear.

Then winter came, and with it, the long gestational wait.  Gazelle ripened with the rest of the girls, and gave birth to twins in March. Big, hungry twins.  She was relieved at weaning time, like most of the mommas.  And milking time began again.

Miss Gazelle is now the Lolita of the Lower Barn.  She bats her eyes at you, nuzzles your ears, kisses your lips.  She gazes into your eyes, hypnotically implanting that one thought, paramount on her mind: "GRAIN...GIVE ME GRAIN".  She has been called "the best goat", "my favorite goat", "a sweet goat", etc., by everyone who encounters her.  I believe it's her own psychic ability, recently developed, which she has learned how to focus on her minions (us).  See for yourself:

GIVE...ME...GRAIN...(You're getting SLEEPY; SLEEPY...)
Just look at that face.  Don't you just want to plant one on those fuzzy lips?  I often do, and Gazelle often kisses back.  And then, of course...I give her grain.

Who could resist?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Fauni Dell

This afternoon, after I finished milking the 24 Flint Hill Goaty-Babes, I decided to visit with the kids awhile.  They were sleepy and adorable, and all too ready to socialize. Frank has grown a bit aloof, though he still comes for a nose scratch if he sees his sisters talking with me.  Fiona is vocal and opinionated; she has a pouty sort of call that reminds me so much of her mother, my first goat (this time around!) Faith.  Fairly (our adopted daughter, the only Toggenberg in my familial herd) always comes to me for a cuddle and a suck on my fingers, though last time, she chomped down and drew blood, so she's officially finger weaned.  She was always such a frantic nurser; perhaps because I had to tube her to bring her back to life after her mother abandoned her.  One doesn't forget that feeling of starvation.  Ever.

And then there's Miss Fauni Dell.  Fauni was the middle birth of Faith's triplets, and I had given her up for dead.  She presented sideways, and Kathy pulled her that way after trying everything else she could (after I did the same).  Little Fauni's head turned to the side as she was born, and we feared the worst; I had given Kathy the go ahead to just pull her to save Faith's life.  I thought she'd have a broken neck; but she was small, and had no permanent injuries.  She slept with her head to that same side for the first few weeks of her life ( I bottle fed the triplets and little Fairly), but she was up and running with her sibs in record time.  And now she thinks I'm her Mama.

Fauni came out to play awhile tonight.  I brought her out of the kids' stall (they stayed in because of the heat today), and put her on the ground for a few minutes.  I stepped away, and she followed me.  I took 5 steps, and she followed me more.  Then we sat in the hammock, watered the garden, walked down to her goat-Mama's stall, and she followed me.  Talking the entire time. Maaaa.  Conversational.

We both heard Fiona complaining back in the kids' stall.  Fauni even answered her a few times.  I'm wondering if my little herd will follow me en masse; that's a game I'll attempt to play later this week, when I'm ready to videotape them. :::::LIVE UPDATE::::: CLICK HERE

Until then, I'm happy to be much loved by my little Fauni Dell, the wonder goat; our little miracle, who has Much To Do.  And I'm hoping that by the time she's ready to be a Mama herself, I'll have a place of my own to keep her in, and I can know her family even better that I know her.  My sweet little girl, who Was Meant To Be.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Pennsylvania Oysters

This same tree, and this same farmer shared their bounty with me last fall.  I recall that my hands were very cold when I pulled the mushrooms from the tree last fall; today, I was feeling springtime fresh.  We just had a week or so of hot, rainy weather, followed by two days of sunny heat.  TREASURE!!!
I saw them driving by...
 Though I admit that I stopped by his farm, Mr. Unnamed Farmer wasn't home yesterday, and I didn't trespass.  I went back this evening.

There they are.  Same tree, different season.
 They were a day or so past prime.   A small price to pay to maintain my integrity.  The farmer was still willing to give them up, despite my praise of last year's crop, though he did welcome my "payment" of milk and eggs, due on Sunday.  A fair price, at my insistence.  He was willing to just give them up.  Nice farmer.

After cleaning, a short soak; they were a bit dry on the edges.

Note the gills that travel right up the stem, which is minimal.  And they smell so good!

They typically grow on hardwood.  The tree these are on is WAY DEAD, but I'll ask Mr. Farmer
what it was when I see him on Sunday.

Recipes and storage tips to follow...
Life's good. Bb.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Spring has suddenly morphed into summer, as it seems to do every Memorial Day. With the torrential rains, tornadoes, subsequent sunlight and heat has come the inevitable greening of Pennsylvania.
Trimming the Garden: Feverfew, Lemon Balm, Spearmint, Sage, Kale, Spinach, Lettuce, Strawberries...
and a Few Weeds.
I'll discuss my vegetable garden in a later post, as I'm way behind on taking the appropriate pictures.  What I want to discuss today is the natural bounty I've experienced so far this spring.  Wild harvests have been possible for months already, with the first garlic mustard, ramps, morels, dryads' saddles, watercress, nettle, etc.  On Sunday afternoon, as I was waiting for the shuttle to arrive for our post-paddle trip home (we had a wonderful 17 mile paddle trip on the Pine Creek, near Williamsport, with a most-excellent group of new friends), I spent a few endorphin fueled moments gazing at the "weed" bank by the water.  It occurred to me that I could actually create a fairly decent meal from the abundant plants growing there.  There was stinging nettle (par-boiled and sauteed, a better-than-spinach green), burdock (the root is a prized vegetable in Asian cultures, though I've personally never tried it because it's a huge taproot, a long, deep dig...and I'm lazy), garlic mustard (spicy greens and root), upland cress (peppery), and some wild carrot.  We need never go hungry in the summer, if we know what we're looking at. 

Back at home, the herb garden in my tiny back yard is in full swing.  I harvested the comfrey because it was threatening to move into the kitchen, and I've begun harvesting the feverfew flowers.  The valerian is about to burst into bloom, and the tansy and pennyroyal are looking promising.  I have enough mint and lemon balm for the entire block.  My more traditional culinary herbs are holding their own; I've been topping the basil, parsley, rosemary and oregano for a few weeks as I need them for my cooking; the thyme is a little slower to get started, and my new chives are lagging behind. The perennial strawberries are enjoying a renaissance this year, after last year's hiatus, and the snow peas I put in after a glass of wine sometime a few weeks ago are doing surprisingly well considering their inappropriate position.

It's amazing to me how much you can harvest from a tiny spit of land, if you simply adjust your expectations about what a backyard should look like, and use your culinary and medicinal herbs and vegetables for greenery and flowers instead.  I have more than enough for my husband and myself, on a piece of land smaller than most people's living room; of course, my more expansive vegetable garden is off-site, and I'd dearly love to have that right at hand, but I'm happy to have it, regardless.

Gratuitous Snow Peas
More pictures to follow!

P.S.:  On the way home from the farm this afternoon, I saw two tiny spotted fawns.  What a blessing!  AND: a beautiful bloom of oyster mushrooms on the famous farmer's tree from last fall.  I stopped by to ask if he was still disinterested in them (!), but he wasn't home.  I sure hope no one spots them before tomorrow!

Watermelon Juice with Plum Vodka, a Watermelon Ball and a Backyard Mint Sprig. 
YUM!  When the Watermelon is Local, it'll REALLY Rock!