Wednesday, May 17, 2017

quite a bit has happened in two weeks

My last post, two weeks ago showed a picture of our latest snowfall.  That snow only lasted the better part of the day and was gone by evening.  Since that we have had the couple of 85 degree days.  Quite a change.

The newest growing space that I have is a huge garden that was created several years ago.  To say that it is a challenge would be an understatement.  It was created in an area that was a lawn and for a short time fenced as a pasture.  Grass, weeds and alfalfa were dug under at the onset and it  has been coming back ever since.

It was tilled up in the fall and the second year was our first crop year.  The following year the deer found our garden and last year we put up a deer fence that ended up being woefully inadequate for the amount of wind that we have.  I spent much of my time trying to reinforce the plastic posts that came with the system with metal T posts.  By spring of this year the plastic posts and even some of the metal ones were bent or broken and the mesh, which held up really well and was still attached to said posts was in disarray.  In the meantime last years crop was a disaster.  The deer seemed to stay away after the fence was installed but it really didn't deter the rabbits.  The weeds came.  And came.  And came.

Fast forward to Spring 2017.  My bunch came on two weekends, some on the weekend prior and some on Mother's Day weekend to apply landscape fabric.  The landscape fabric was a mother's day and birthday gift.  It is part of a new plan to try to kill off the weeds and prevent their regrowth.  So far we are planning a three pronged approach.  We will use tarps and heavy plastic on the bare ground when no crops are present, landscape fabric when the crops are planted and then that will be picked up and cover crops planted for late fall.  The tarps will then be used to smother the cover crop and keep the beds covered over the winter.

The other thing that happened is that a plan was made to replace the flimsy plastic posts and their ineffective reinforcements with wood posts.  Last night 18 post holes were dug by Robb who borrowed his dad's post hole auger and I am hoping a trip to the lumber yard today will have me doing fence repair and then planting crops very soon.  In the pictures below the landscape fabric is in the foreground and black plastic and tarps to the rear.  When I built the permanent raised rows my spacing was inconsistent so in order to keep the fabric centered over my rows some of the gaps is taken up by a band of paper grocery sacks so that the garden is completely covered in those spots.  Of course we are not nearly done but I am hoping to get the fence repaired, plant the fabric covered areas and keep advancing across the garden.  I may have a temporarily smaller garden while I work my way across but I am okay with that. 
1st weekend progress.  Thanks Nikole and Brad
2nd weekend progress.  Thanks Nathan, Michelle and Caitlin

Robb digging post holes.  Thanks Robb.
While the Mother's Day bunch was here we were able to get the farmstand to the end of the driveway and put out some surplus plants for sale.  Caitlin and Michelle  made some signs to place on the edge of the highway that passes by the farmstand and pictures were posted by Nikole to facebook and a Craig's list notice was placed by Nathan to let people know who don't happen to be driving past.  So far we have had a few sales.

I have a second garden space which is a small group of raised beds surrounded by a fence that I refer to as the potager.  Some of those beds have been weeded and planted.  I have more to do but it is good to get something in the ground. 

The weather has been dry so it has allowed the top of the soil to dry out but we got some rain and more is predicted.  That should buy me some time to allow me a chance to get the irrigation hoses set up for watering in the big garden before there is a need to water.  Lots to do.  And I think it is time to mow again. 

The ornamental flowering tree that was a gift from Nikole a few years back hoping that it would be blooming on Mother's day did not disappoint.
The lilac and lily of the valley are perfuming the yard so it is a joy to work outside. 

Thanks for visiting.

Monday, May 1, 2017

my dandelion field today

Yesterday I shared a picture of my front yard where I had collected the dandelions for jelly.  Today that area which was green and yellow is white.  Gotta love Minnesota weather. 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

on my other blog...

Today at Farmstand Cookbook I shared a recipe for dandelion jelly.  It can be found here  or on my sidebar.   It was fun and very tasty.  Pretty golden color, looks like honey and kind of tastes like it too.


Friday, April 28, 2017


Spring is getting closer.  Our zone 4 last frost date is still 3-4 weeks away but the grass is green, the first of the perennials are coming up  and the trees are staring to leaf out.  Much of the next few days have overnight temps yet in the low 30s.   I have mowed once and I have been spending some time in the greenhouse working with the vegetable plants--transplanting and haircuts.  I am pleased with their progress.  We have not had a lot of really sunny days so it has been a blessing not having to try and cool the greenhouse so as to not cook the plants.
9 varieties of tomato plants

the sage is blooming
 It will soon be time to get the farmstand down to the end of the driveway to try and sell some of the surplus plants. 

I love spring.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

a tablescape mystery item?

Last week when my sister was thrifting without me she found this fun rack with six small covered ramekins.  They were white and she knows my penchant for small white dishes especially and white dishes in general.  So she grabbed it up and I set about researching it as to its use.

It has a chrome rack with a folding handle.  The ramekins hold 1/4 cup.  The rack holds them up off the table about 1/4 to 3/8 inches.  The covers rest on the lip but do not fasten.  Both the ramekins and the cute covers have raised fluting. Were they used for cooking something?  I tried to think of what I could cook in them that a quarter cup serving would be  the right amount for.  I had recently been making pot de cremes but it seemed small for that.  Was the rack with the handle for lifting the collection out of a water bath?  I had heard about but never cooked coddled eggs.  A quick google search for egg coddlers showed a similarly sized container but one with a screwed on metal lid.  None with a rack and none that matched my little cuties.  

 It kind of reminded me of the marsala dabba that I found a few weeks ago.

When the marsala dabba showed up at Goodwill it was something that I had not seen before but it had markings on the side so I was able to google it.  It holds Indian spices.  My new ramekins were not marked in any fashion.  I googled ceramic spice containers and found many sets of little dishes, many with covers and some with covers with a notched out area that held a tiny spoon.  Mine did not come with notches or tiny spoons.  Many of them were pairs or three matching pots on a rack or wood tray.  Some were called spice jars, some condiment jars.  There were none that are exactly like mine.

I may never know what their intended purpose was or how they were marketed and sold but I might give coddled eggs a try.  I am not into exotic spices yet and if I were I have that dabba to hold them.  As often happens I fully expect that when I quit looking for them I will discover their purpose.  Until then they will dress up my collection. 

Joining Tablescape Thursday at Between Naps on the Porch here.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017


I don't know about where you live but in my neck of the woods there is a short window of time in late winter/early spring when Meyer lemons show up in our local produce sections.  I have been watching for them because awhile back I saw a recipe for a Meyer lemon margarita on the web.  It was a Rick Bayless recipe and it looked doable and good.  I don't drink a lot of margaritas but it is almost required, to my thinking, when at a Mexican restaurant.  Even then I usually choose a fruity, kind of sweet margarita.  (Peach is one of my favorites).  I am not really much of a tequila drinker aside from a shot of Don Julio in memory of my brother a couple of times a year. I was eager to try this recipe.

This year when the Meyer lemons were spotted I bought four bags and a bottle of tequila.  I only needed two but I also have the extras soaking in Everclear to make a batch of limoncello.  That post won't be written for another four weeks.

To make Rick's margarita the tequila is infused for four days with the lemon peel and then strained.  The simple syrup is cooked with additional Meyer lemon peel to infuse the syrup.  The Meyer lemon juice is collected for the third part of the recipe.  When the family was together at my mom's for Easter some of us  had a batch of margaritas.  It is made by the pitcher so it couldn't be easier.  Our ingredients were refrigerated and we poured it over ice to serve.  It had a strong tequila presence and was a little less sweet than I am used to but boy was it yummy.  It was easy to do and I tried to make it easier since I would be taking everything along.  When I had finished straining the tequila I poured it back into the bottle.  It would make two pitchers.  When I was done making the simple syrup I measured out the amount that I would need for a pitcher and placed it in small canning jars in the freezer.  I also measured out the juice and put the right amount for a pitcher in another canning jar.  When I headed into Mom's I grabbed the tequila, two jars of frozen infused simple syrup, and two jars of frozen lemon juice.  By the time it was time to throw together the drinks the frozen parts were still partially frozen and made for an icy drink when mixed together and poured over ice cubes.  

no ice in this picture but pretty yellow color
 Rick Bayless' recipe can be found here.


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

ooh la la French desserts

When my favorite thrift/estate store had a big sale in preparation for moving one of my treasures purchased was a stack of cookbooks.  I already have many, many cookbooks so I patiently poked thru their selections and grabbed several that I didn't already have.  Included in my choices was a small paperback book called Simple French Desserts that had been published in 2000..  I love all things kitchen related so many of the tools and dishes needed for these desserts were things that I had already been collecting.  I have individual souffle dishes, individual tart dishes  for creme brulee, other small dishes suitable for pots de creme and I had recently found a coeur a la creme mold and a kitchen torch.  I was set to go.

I didn't make the souffle, that will be for next time.  But this weekend provided a couple of opportunities for trying other recipes from the book.  On Saturday my brother was visiting at my parents and so we got together for supper.  My sister and her daughter and daughter's boyfriend joined us and I brought creme brulee for dessert.

On Sunday my son and his girlfriend were visiting and we got together at my parents' house again for dinner and this time I brought two versions of pots de creme, one chocolate and one coffee.

I did also make a coeur a la creme but it needed to drain for 24 hours so it wasn't ready for the weekend due to my not planning ahead. I also decided that since many of the dishes required separated eggs and I had whites left over that it was a good time to make another French goodie, macarons, with the whites.   Once I had a refrigerator stocked with the extra desserts it only made sense to arrange them on a tray and take a couple of pictures.

None of the dishes were particularly difficult but they did involve several steps and seemed to create a mountain of dirty dishes.  The pots de creme and the creme brulee are essentially custards and so they require egg yolks to be separated from the whites and beaten with sugar, cream that is heated, then strained, and then mixed with yolks and then once poured into the little individual dishes they are baked in the oven in a bain marie or water bath. They were served with creme Chantilly, a sweetened whipped cream.  The coeur a la creme required both whipped cream and whipped egg whites and the macarons, whipped egg whites.  My mixer got a work out. I must have washed that bowl and beater five or six times.  For the chocolate pots de creme the heated cream was poured over chocolate to melt it.  For the cafe au lait pots de creme the broken coffee beans were steeped in the hot cream to infuse the cream with a coffee flavor and then strained before mixing with the eggs.
creme brulee

crunchy sugar topping

cafe au lait in an espresso cup

cafe au lait, creamy coffee color

pot de creme

coeur a la creme with blackberry coulis

tasted good but difficult to serve prettily

macarons with meyer lemon buttercream

I love fussy cooking so this was right up my alley.     


Not exactly a tablescape but still joining BNOTP for Tablescape Thursday here.