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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Squash Atlas, at last!

"The world is very heavy!" my 4-year-old declared when I took this shot. And so is this banana squash, weighing in at 45 pounds. Our contest winners (way back in the day!) are Zachary and Jennifer, with their guess of 47 pounds. They win a self-administered pat on the back for their garden mass mastery.

Since harvest I've been cooking other squashes into soups and muffins and more, but I haven't yet had the heart to cut into this one. And by heart I don't mean I'm concerned about keeping the squash whole. I'm too wimpy to cut into it, knowing that once I start there's no turning back. I'll have to cook all of it so it can be frozen. Not to mention I'm not sure how to best carve it. Anyone have a culinary chain saw?

The beauty of winter squashes is that they're great keepers, and this one is no exception. Such a keeper, that we're so used to it hanging out in our dining room, we're puzzled when visitors point out the unusual.

By the way, this squash proves that there is practically no limit to what can be grown vertically. I trained its vine alongside our fence to save space on the garden floor. The squash started forming from a flower two or three feet above the ground, but eventually filled out the distance. Maybe that's why it grew so big -- just to touch the soil that nourished it!


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Seed Savers

The other day I went to the mailbox and got one of the greatest surprises I have had in a while. I ran home to my wife and screamed at her to come see what we had received. Our Seed Savers Exchange catalogue had finally come. This is one of the most exciting things to happen in our house as we plan out our upcoming garden and the new heirlooms that we are going to try.

What is the Seed Savers Exchange? According to their website http://www.seedsavers.org they are a non-profit organization that saves and shares the heirloom seeds or our garden heritage, forming a living legacy that can be passed down through generations. When people grow and save seeds, they join an ancient tradition as stewards, nurturing our diverse, fragile, genetic and cultural heritage.

Megan has a good article about heirlooms on this link.

If you are a new gardener or want to be able to reuse the seeds from your harvest from year to year I would strongly recommend that you start planning on planting some heirlooms next year. Go to the Seed Savers Exchange website and order some plants online.

One of the downsides with heirlooms is I have found it hard to determine which ones are better for my climate. This leads to some experimenting see which seeds work and which seeds don't.

If you live in the Utah desert the following plants worked well for us last year

Summer Crookneck Squash: More than our family and our neighborhood could eat and freeze from only 3 plants

Cherokee Purple Tomatoes: Abundant Fruit. Firm flesh. Unique purple color.

Mexican Midget Tomatoes: Bountiful and fruitful harvest from July to the end of October when it started to freeze.

Beam's Yellow Pear Tomato: Beautiful yellow tomato a little bigger than cherry tomatoes. Not as fruitful as the previous tomatoes that I listed.

Charantais Melon: 3 melons per plant but they were the best melons I have ever eaten. Like a cantaloupe but sweeter and juicier.

We didn't have as much success with the following plants

White Wonder Cucumber: We just couldn't get it to grow.

Brandywine tomato: We didn't get very many. However they were so good that we are going to try again.

What heirlooms have you found that thrive in your area? What ones have you found don't work as well? Is there anyone in Utah that has had success with an heirloom cucumber variety?


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Winter dreaming...

So this is the time of year when I dream about farming. It's the time of year when I can dream of next year's garden and harvest without the reality of work or time. It's the time of year when I pour over seed catalogs and farming books getting all dreamy and warm inside.

Today at church I was talking to a friend who grew up on a farm and I asked him if his grandfather had also been a farmer. He said, "No, he was actually a nuclear engineer. My dad just wanted to be a farmer so he bought some property and started farming." My eyes honestly got misty at this - my fear being that since I grew up in a suburb and didn't study agriculture in college means that I'm disqualified from this profession. I then asked if his dad ever made any money and he said, "Oh yeah! He's doing really well..." and told us about his dad's specialties on his polyculture farm in eastern Idaho. In fact, his parents were vacationing in Mexico this very week. I kept looking over to my husband with wide eyes during this whole conversation. He knew what I was saying with those looks. I was saying, "That's it - we are GOING TO BE farmers."

So this afternoon I visited my local libraries' website and entered in the word "farming" in the online catalog. I got pages of hits - mostly children's books on farms, a couple Hardy Boys adventures set on farms, and then some real gems. The first one I found was this:This is great because I don't want a 5,000 acre farm. And then I found this:

Ok, c'mon, this one is beautiful. I literally clapped my hands and squeeled when I found this. The title is lovely and the idea is right up my dream alley. I can't wait to get over and get them. Both are now on hold just in case someone else in my small town in Utah wanted to check them out and gets there before me tomorrow. I can't wait. Winter dreaming here we come!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


This article was written towards the end of the summer, but was kind of forgotten about, better late than never, right?
Pizza, homemade pizza, homemade vegetarian pizza. This is the thought process that went through my mind the other day on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Sunday is the day that we have the best meal around our house since we are usually rested and have more time to cook. Last Sunday was one of the best meals we have had in a long time. Here is the process I went through to make the pizza.

First I prepared the veggies. I grilled some fresh heirloom yellow squash and zucchini that I picked from our garden that same day. I sautéed some onions that we got from our CSA and I broiled some tomatoes from our garden in the oven. I set the veggies out on the table so everyone could make their own pizza. We also will use Marisa’s homemade tomato sauce and some fresh grated mozzarella.

Next I rolled out the dough. You can make your own pizza dough or buy some frozen pizza dough and thaw it if you’d like. We bought our dough from a local mom and pop pizza shop which is probably better than frozen but if you feel really energetic it’s probably best to make your own.

We don’t have the greatest oven so this is my preferred method to make pizza at home. I roll it out and then throw it on our electric skillet. I then cook it on both sides. This makes it nice and crispy thin with a nice chew and char on the crust. Then everyone throws on their preferred toppings.

Once the pizzas are assembled we throw them under the broiler in the oven until the cheese melts. The pizzas were awesome. The nice, crispy crust, fresh from the garden vegetables, and a flavorful homemade sauce all came together to make a wonderful fresh tasting dinner that even my kids loved. The picture of the finished product and the upskirt shot are making me hungry. I think we are having pizza again tomorrow.