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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

An Honest Day's Work

My family discovered a gem in our community, thanks to Marisa letting us know about the Pick Your Own website featuring local farms. We visited the last part of June, the end of strawberry season, and I can't wait to go back when other crops ripen. We're already planning to make strawberry-picking there an annual tradition.

Was it easy-breezy? Was it all play and no work? Of course not, and therein lies the value. I think my children learned quite a bit about what it takes to put food on the table, or to make a living growing food. Yes they help in our small home garden, but this experience suggested the greater challenge and scope of a farmer's work.

It was the top of a 97-degree day. There was no shelter from the blinding, setting sun. Since it was the end of berry season, you had to constantly search, and take many footsteps to fill your basket. The sun lit far-off berries like rubies, but just when you thought you were closing in for the pick, your own body cast a disguising, disorienting shadow. There was lots of bending up and down, up and down. And this was the fun part, the harvesting. When my 7-year-old daughter saw the expansive rows she said, "Wow, you have to walk a lot to be a farmer."

The farm we visited had strawberry plants as far as the eye could see. Immense, but not big enough to drown out the cries we heard from another 7-year-old girl in the field. "Daddy! I'm sweaty! This is itchy! Eww -- there's strawberry juice on me!"

Our society certainly is disconnected from farming. This makes me sad. I guess that's why I smile that pick-your-own farms like this one help form a stronger relationship between farmer and consumer. I like how they reinforce the idea that honest work reaps worthwhile rewards. I hope you will support local farms in your own community.

I was particularly charmed by the green sign at the farm's check-out area. No
attendant was on duty when we visited, just a scale and a battered wooden cash box. Not only d
id these folks open up their acres to the uninitiated and maybe even the ungrateful, they di
d it on the honor system.
Their faith in human nature is even more delicious than their berries.


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Pick Your Own

When searching for a farm I could take the kids to pick strawberries, I found a website dedicated to farms where you can pick your own produce.


Friday, June 26, 2009

Eat the Season Friday - Basil Pesto

Today we were able to make our first batch of pesto. Pesto is one of the many gifts of summer - you can add it to pastas, sandwiches, chicken or fish for a perfect summer meal. Or you can do like we do around here and eat it with a spoon. We are admitted pesto addicts in our home and one of my favorite snacks is toasted whole wheat bread spread with a generous helping of pesto. And while we might all agree pesto tastes delicious - good pesto from the store is not only hard to find but it can be pretty spendy. Even if you try and make it on your own using basil leaves from the store it will be expensive. The best way to enjoy it is by growing your own basil - making this pesto cost only a couple dollars at most.

First let's talk about cutting the Basil. There is a right way and a wrong way. If you cut it the wrong way you will stunt it's growth and cause it to begin to flower. The trick to cutting it correctly is to cut about a third of the way down the stem right where some leaves are forming. In this image I had just cut the basil plant and you can see the new growth. If you cut the basil correctly you will actually encourage it's growth and you'll be able to harvest more and for a lot longer!

There are many recipes for pesto and they all have different variations - this one happens to be my favorite basic pesto:

2 1/2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
2 or 3 large cloves of garlic, peeled
2/3 cup good quality olive oil
1/4 cup walnuts or pine nuts(I used walnuts)
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

The first step is to wash the basil - the best method is to fill a bowl will cold water and immerse the basil giving it a few good swishes. Then combine all of the ingredients except the cheese in a food processor andpulse until it is well blended and becomes a sauce- about 10-20 seconds.

Scrape the mixture into a medium bowl with a rubber spatula and fold in the cheese. And viola - you've got pesto! Store it in the fridge in an air-tight container. If you don't plan on eating it within 3 or 4 days then throw it in the freezer where it will last for up to six months.

What's in season? basil & garlic

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

New Feature - Eat the Season Fridays

We are adding a new feature which we think will enable all of us to use the food out of our gardens and from our local farmers more easily - Eat the Season Fridays. Every Friday we will post a recipe with photos containing something that is in season. Why eat in season? Here's an answer from one of our favorite sites, eattheseasons.com:

There are a number of good reasons to eat more local, seasonal food:

  • to reduce the energy (and associated CO2 emissions) needed to grow and transport the food we eat

  • to avoid paying a premium for food that is scarcer or has travelled a long way

  • to support the local economy

  • to reconnect with nature's cycles and the passing of time

But, most importantly, because

  • seasonal food is fresher and so tends to be tastier and more nutritious

Not only do we think it's really important to add more locally grown seasonal foods to our diets, we're also really excited to try out new tasty recipes and foods! Check back Friday for our first installment!

Curious as to what is in season right now? Click here!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Backyard Farming Disasters 2009 - Garden Apocalypse

We are proud of our garden. It is productive and beautiful. We were bloated with spring crops – salads, cooking greens, onion, broccoli, cabbage, etc. Our summer crops reach for the sun promising tomatoes, peppers, beans, cucumbers, and squash. It all came crashing down last week. Much of it was eaten to the ground. Particularly distressing was the damage to the peas. We were just starting to harvest them. We only got a couple of bowls full from gleaning the remnants. We are thinking about changing the name of our backyard farm from Antietam Glen (after the creek that skirts our property) to Antietam Apocalypse.

The culprit this time? Deer. The herd that roams the neighborhood has never bothered us in years. We thought we were immune. We thought the deer were afraid of the horses in pastures that surround the garden. Not so. It’s more likely that our Labrador retriever that died last fall did her job and chased them off in previous years. She certainly went after groundhogs. The family is lobbying for a new dog but I am still mourning Cinder. Maybe I will give in when we come home from vacation in August. In the mean time we have baited and charged the garden fence. We painted a peanut butter/vegetable oil mixture at intervals on the polywire rope. When the deer go up to check it out, they get a 4,000 volt jolt in the nose or tongue. I get satisfaction just thinking about it.

The garden will rise from this apocalypse. I will wake up to my twenty minute breakfast. I will eat tomato salad and squash frittata. We will have a successful garden in 2009.

Peanut butter/vegetable oil deer attractant on polywire rope.
Notice the bare wires that carry a 4000 volt charge

Friday, June 19, 2009

Summer Lovin

Summer will officially begin in two days and her fruits are beginning to ripen. Eating in season is always a good idea but during the summer it's a pleasure. Tomatoes, strawberries, corn, cucumbers, herbs, squash, and watermelon - the list is endless of all of the wonderful things mother nature has to offer. We are already eating strawberries three meals a day - going through several pounds a week. My taste-buds are tingling in anticipation of all of the wonderful foods I am going to eat in the coming weeks and months...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Days of our Chives

Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our Chives.

Chives are an herb that we probably take for granted. I am impressed with their durability and beauty. Let’s get to know chives a little better.

Chives are the most diminutive member of the onion family and they have a mild onion or garlic flavor depending on the type of chive. They are hollow and tubular and look like thick grass. Chives grow well in most types of soil and regenerate even after being harvested. They can be grown from seed or by dividing and transplanting existing chives. When harvesting they can be cut down to two inches above the base and they will replenish through the growing season. The growing season can be year round in a temperate climate or if you plant them in pots indoors. Chives are great fresh but they also retain much of their flavor when freeze dried. Many people think the only use for chives is to flavor potato chips but there are many other uses.


The most surprising thing to me about growing chives is their beauty. They are a dark green color and you can see from our pictures that the purple flowers are very beautiful. We will probably plant more chives in our flower garden next year.

Pest Control

Chives are a great companion plant to have in your garden as they repel bugs due to the sulfur that they contain. Plant them with your tomatoes, grapes, roses, or carrots. The flowers also attract bees which is a plus for your garden as well.

Medical Uses

Chives are rich in Calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and iron. They have been used in diets to help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol, and also help with anemia due their iron content.


Chives can be used in meals any time you want to add a mild onion flavor to your food. They are great with most savory egg dishes, potatoes in various forms, soups, salad dressings, sauces. In our home we use them in our omelet, egg drop soup, and breakfast burrito recipes, in addition to chopping them up and putting them on salads or in baked potatoes.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Top ten tips for shopping the farmers market

1. View the farmers market as entertainment, not a chore. It really is fun. Think how much produce you can buy for the cost of taking your family to a Saturday matinée. Encourage your friends and neighbors to join you on your outing.

2. Take your children and ask them what they would like to buy. Help them learn about the different fruits and vegetables. Splurge and buy them a pint of strawberries they can eat right there.

3. Take a cooler with a couple of milk jugs of ice. Keep that great produce you buy COLD! until you use it.

4. Don’t go to the farmers market to price shop. Local farmers can’t compete with factory farms prices. You will pay higher prices but you get more for your money. The produce is fresher and tastes better. You help the local economy and improve the environment.

5. Be flexible and build a menu around what the farmers have. Farmers sometimes have recipes for vegetables that you are unfamiliar with. Don’t forget the meat, eggs, and dairy products many local farmers are producing now. If you go just to buy tomatoes or sweet corn, then you are actually hurting the environment with this special trip.

6. Ask the farmers for seconds. Farmers are sometimes anxious to sell lower quality at a reduced price. Often you can’t tell the difference when using these for cooking.

7. If you can’t find what you are looking for (provided it is not out of season) ask the farmers to grow it for you. They are often looking for new crops to grow.

8. When the farmer is not serving other customers have them tell you about their farm.

9. Go to the farmers market on the way to your regular trip to the grocery store. This saves energy and you can buy menu ingredients to supplement what you purchased at the farmers market.

10. USE WHAT YOU BUY! Spoiled vegetables in the refrigerator crisper is a waste of money and discourages you from going back to the farmers market.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Are You Ready To PLAY????


Last year I bought a package of wildflowers and haphazardly threw them around my front flower beds just hoping that a few plants would pop up. The $2 package of seeds said there were a few perennial flower seeds included. I was hopeful that I would get a perennial or two out of the deal, but didn't expect much, I was just looking for a cheap way to add a little extra color to the flower beds. I got exactly what I was looking for, lots of colorful flowers.

To my surprise, this year, I have 3 different flowers that came back. I think one of them is a perennial and the other 2 seeded themselves. I really like knowing what I have growing in my flower beds and thought I would ask all of you knowledgeable gardeners out there if you can ID my mystery flowers that returned from last year.

So here we have it....NAME....THAT...FLOWER!

Mystery Flower #1
Is quite tall and thin, and just loves the spotlight. She seeded herself front and center in the flowerbed, with no regards to the smaller flowers behind her. She is pretty vain and sheds her blue flowers and replaces with a fresh set each day.

Mystery Flower #2
Also sports pretty blue flowers, but is much shorter, only reaching about 6 inches tall. She is also much more considerate and generous than mystery flower #1. She has seeded herself in quite a few spots in the garden but because of her short stature has not blocked any other flowers.

Mystery Flower #3
Has pretty orange flowers and has a nice round plump shape. She isn't ashamed of her body shape, and has had no problems growing bigger and bigger this spring. She is about a foot tall and about a foot and a half in diameter. She loves the warm spring days and won't open up until the sun is out. Mystery Flower #3 is one of 4 identical quadruplets that seeded themselves throughout the flower beds.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

SLC Farmers Market Starts Saturday

If you live in the Salt Lake Area, don't forget that the farmers market starts this Saturday! Click Here for more information.

If you live somewhere else, do an internet search to find out where the closest farmers market is to you and when it starts.

There is nothing like farm fresh produce, most of it picked that morning or the day before, picked at the peak of freshness. The less our food and produce has to travel, the better it is on the environment. You are also supporting local farms and their employees.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Move over, grasshoppers! There's a new pest in town.

My 1-year-old thinks he's hot stuff when he climbs into our garden box, giving new meaning to the word squash. When you're the smallest in the family, I guess it's nice to have a kingdom that makes you feel big. For the moment, that is . . .

If these seedlings survive my baby's treading treatment (and they will!), they will grow to their own monstrous proportions before I know it.

I'm so glad they grow faster than my baby. Still, he's growing fast, too fast, even.

And that's why I don't shoo him from the garden.

Monday, June 8, 2009

My new chicken coop!

For my 30th birthday I got a new chicken coop! If you didn't know it yet, at our new place we have no fenced-in yard so I thought chickens were not going to be an option this year. But I just couldn't stand living without some hens so I looked around and came up with an option. I found this coop on the local classifieds and bought it. Knowing we can't have free range hens at this place I decided to only have two hens so that this coop would be roomy enough for keeping them cooped up. We are also going to build it up on stilts and put a run underneath so that the ladies have somewhere to take dirt baths and scratch around. I'm so excited. Isn't it cute?

If you're in my area, you can get one from this same guy. His name is Aaron and he's building these as a side job. They come unfinished and are fully customizable. When I was picking mine up I saw a beautiful run he had added to another woman's coop. Since the economy is slow it's helping out his family and ours! What a great idea. You can contact him @ 801-756-2716.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Megan's Square-foot Garden - Building & Planting

Ok, so you might have noticed that I've changed my plans a little. When I started the seeds a couple months ago I wasn't quite sure where we were moving to or when so I decided to go with a container garden that could be moved easily and grown anywhere. We eventually found our new place and even though we are still leasing the owners of the property said it would be fine with them if we put a garden in. Still, knowing we are only here for one year and not wanting to worry about soil amendment and the like we settled on doing a square foot garden. If you haven't heard of square foot gardening you really should check it out. The basic idea is to grow as much as you can in as little space as possible - which is great for a backyard farmer. Their website is FULL of information as well as the book. Here's a little intro from their site:
How would you like a garden filled with beautiful flowers, fresh herbs and luscious vegetables, all with NO WEEDS and NO HARD WORK? No more heavy digging or all-at-once harvest. Less watering, weeding, and thinning. What's left is a picture perfect garden you will be so proud of. Put yourself in a rocking chair and start your own Square Foot Garden!
We built boxes according the directions and filled it with the soil mixute suggested by the creator of the technique - Mel Bartholomew. The mixture, called Mel's mix, is 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 compost, and 1/3 vermiculite. We then planted our seedlings along with some plants we got from the local nursery - tomatoes, squash, pumpkins, corn & cucumbers. Anyhow, here is the video that will explain it a little bit but if you want the full details on how to garden this way I really suggest you visit the site or check out the book.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Farmer's Market Friendly Bike


I saw this cute bike today and just couldn't resist sharing it. It is obviously an earth friendly choice but also seemed the cutest way to transport yourself over to the farmer's market - or to a neighbor's to share your extra squash. The back bucket also has an optional bench with seat belts to take along the little ones. There are also some without the buckets and racks instead for more serious gear. Aren't they great?
Click here to check them out:
Madsen Cycles Cargo Bikes

Monday, June 1, 2009

Lemon Balm

Getting to know your friendly neighborhood herbs: Lemon Balm

Marisa bought some lemon balm at a local farmer’s market and it seems to be a very strong and beautiful plant. Lemon balm is a member of the mint family and its leaves impart a nice lemon favor similar to lemongrass. Like most members of the mint family, lemon balm is considered a weed because of its ability to take over a garden. For this reason it is good to plant it in a pot or a secluded area in your yard. It does well in partial sun but can dry out in full sun exposure. It is also best used fresh as it loses a lot of its flavor after it is dried. What can you use it for?

Insomnia and Anxiety

According to the book “Country Wisdom and Know How” it can be mixed with extract of valerian and used as a sleep aid. Studies have shown it to be as powerful as pharmaceutical sleep medications.


Lemon Balm can be used to make a tea. Today the tea is taken to treat colds and flu, lower blood pressure and for insomnia and indigestion. To make the tea, steep one Tablespoon of fresh leaves in a mug of boiling water. For a spicy kick you can add a little ginger or if you prefer your tea sweet add some honey.


Lemon balm can be used a s substitute to recipes that call for lemon grass or lemon zest. You can add it to chicken as you roast it. We have added lemon balm leaves to salads for a nice citrus kick. We will share recipes using lemon balm in the future on this site.

Even if you don’t use it for any of these purposes I think it is a beautiful, dark green plant that would be attractive as ground cover. Find some at your local farmers market and see if you can find other uses for it.