Wednesday, April 13, 2011

For The Love of Vegetables

 Cannellini Lingot - Dry Shelling Beans

These beauties are wonderful for soup. It's going to be a few months before I can harvest these, but when I do, I plan to dry them in my dehydrator and store them in a few big jars. This winter, when the snow raises hell all around us, I will have a hot ham and bean soup, flavored with thyme and oregano. I can already taste it. :)

 "Jade" green bush-type beans will grow in 2-4 foot tall bushes instead of vining around and taking over the garden. The bean pods themselves can grow up to 10 inches long and are virtually stringless. They're also tender and sweet. I plan to transplant them from the greenhouse at the same time I sow my sweet corn into the same bed together. Beans and corn are natual companions, each one providing necessary nutrients to the other that are needed for healthy and vigorous growth. Corn, beans and squash are the traditional "Three Sisters", grown together by Native Americans for hundreds of years.

I can't wait to bite into one of these Pink Accordian heirloom tomatoes. Heirloom tomatoes are a very valuable piece of the garden. They are not modified in any way, not hybrids, not altered to suit some commercial farms needs - perfectly natural and the way that Mother Nature intended them to be. The seeds are savable, and can be continued on for years to come. They never look as perfect as the tomatoes in the grocery stores, but beautiful in their own way.
"Country Gentleman" shoepeg corn is also an heirloom variety. It's especially grown in the south, and is considered one of the best roasting varieties available. It's self-pollinating, and not hybridized, and will grow perfect with my green beans. I have plans to dry some for seeds, scrape the kernels off of the cobs for freezing and perhaps an ear or two on the grill with the hamburgers and bratwurst at family BBQ's this summer.

All of these pictures were borrowed from Territorial Seed Company's website, but only because I already purchased the seeds for them and they haven't turned into big beautiful vegetables yet. Do yourself a favor - start a garden. Grow a tomato or two. Put some herbs in a pot and be proud of yourself when you can add them to your cooking. Nothing is more beneficial to the soul than waiting on a seed to come forth.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Pickled Beets and Purple Eggs

I have a wonderful memory of my Grandpa Orlin, who was my greatest inspiration and hero. It's not my favorite memory, but it's a beautiful one to me just the same. We always had certain foods when I went to Grandma and Granpa's house in the country. We always had tapioca pudding, applesauce over white bread and butter, oatmeal with milk for breakfast, green beans from the garden and sweet corn from my Uncle Dwayne's farm down the road. And pickled red beets with hard boiled eggs.

I just planted 5 rows of red beets in the garden and it made me remember sitting on the patio at the glass-topped table and Grandpa came out of the garage with a big plastic bucket full of purple juice that would permanently stain anything it came in contact with and said "Who wants purple eggs?!"

And my sister and I would say "Eggs aren't purple! Eggs are white!" And he would chuckle and dish out pickled red beets and hard boiled eggs that had been stained purple with beet juice. Carrie would never touch the beets, but it was one of our 'special' foods that we only got at Grandma and Grandpa's.

So in about 9 weeks, I'm going to say "Who wants purple eggs?!" And even if there are no takers, I'll be sitting on the patio, staining my teeth and tongue with beet juice, thoroughly enjoying my pickled beets and purple eggs. :)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Apollo's First Shoes

This is Apollo Joseph, our newest customer! A.J. is modeling his new Baby Chucks in hunter green and I must say, he IS adorable! A.J. is just 3 weeks old and already on his way to making great shoe choices. :)

L.Peek Designs on Etsy will be open again on April 18th! Be sure to stop by and say hello!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sourdough Starter

I have known about this for awhile, but have not had the opportunity to get started until today. In an effort to wean my husband and myself off of white bread loaves from the store, I am going to try to make more homemade bread this spring and summer. And it all begins with sourdough starter, or wild yeast cultivation, which is what our ancestors used to bake leavened bread for thousands of years before the invention of commercial grade yeast in little foil packages. (And btw, is quite expensive these days.)

So today I have begun the cultivation of my wild yeast. I'm sure Alex is much less thrilled about it than I am. He tends to see my little attempts at pioneer living 'cute' at best and a giant mess and many tears when I fail at worst. But if this turns out well, than we will be eating potato soup and clam chowder out of bread bowls and serving bistro sammiches on thick slices by summer.

Starting The Starter

1 Get a glass or ceramic container with a lid. It should be able to hold at least three to four cups of liquid, so a quart sized Mason jar will work well. (I have an abundance of them.) Do not use a metal container - it will contaminate the starter.

2. Different types of flours make different types of breads, but I recommend starting with white flour. Apparently whole wheat and rye starters have a tendency to rot before the beneficial culture of lactobacillus and wild yeast have had a chance to develop their symbiotic relationship.

3. Mix one cup of white flour with one cup of lukewarm water in the glass or ceramic container and stir until smooth. Put it in a warm place. Mine happens to be sitting on the furnace right above the heating pipe right now. (Ideally 70-80 degrees.) You can also put it on the stove if you have a pilot light to keep it warm. In the summer, I will probably keep it in the garage, in a box on the floor.

4. Every day, pour off one cup of your starter and add a half cup of flour and a half cup of lukewarm water back in to feed what remains. The biggest mistake most people make and probably the most common cause of failure is neglecting to feed it every single day. Unfed starters will begin to mold very quickly and in any case will not creat a successful loaf. You MUST feed your starter EVERY SINGLE DAY without fail. I can't stress it enough.

5. The cultivation should start to get bubbly after a few days. A layer of liquid, sometimes called 'hooch' (LOL) will form on top. Don't be concerned, this is natural. Stir it in every morning when you add the additional flour and water.

6 After two weeks have passed, you should have an active culture of wild yeasts that you can bake bread with. About a week after that, instead of throwing away that cup of starter in the morning, use it to make a practice dough. The starter gets stronger as it ages, but give it a try! Try it in sourdough pancakes if you're particularly brave and have an agreeable household! (I do not.....yet.)

7. After the wild yeast has cultivated, if you aren't going to bake every day, put the starter in the fridge and feed it once a week. To revive it, take it out of the fridge and give it two or three days of feeding before baking with it.

I will update you on the progress of this little experiment in a few days! I do not expect our house to become a bakery, but I do expect to be able to bake bread once a week.

UPDATE!!!! - The sourdough starter is doing exactly what the instructions said it would do! It is getting bubbly on top and the hooch started getting nice and thick on top today after I mixed the new stuff in. :) Alex said "It takes two weeks?? That better be the damn best bread I've ever eaten for how long I have to wait!"

Monday, April 4, 2011

El Dorado Heirloom Seeds

I was clicking through some of the advertisements on my blog this morning, which I do from time to time to see what kind of companies are using my space for their marketing, and I was excited to see a company called El Dorado Heirloom Seeds. As I am a sucker for organic seed companies, and always researching and looking for the best companies to purchase my seed from, I began to research and delve into their story and their product offering. I was delighted with what I found.

This is just a small excerpt from their 'About Us' section of their website, and it has the heart and soul of this company wrapped into a few paragraphs:

We are honored to live a simple life. We lived in a chicken coup for six months while we passionately built our tiny straw bale cabin in Montana. With no electricity or running water we forced ourselves to learn how to raise our own food and live by our own efforts. Those eight years were as hard as it gets and we value them more than all other years because they molded us into what we are today. Because of the rough times and the doubts and stress then, we laugh more today.

Just six years ago, our dad started over again, this time by himself. He cut his way into a wooded five acre property he bought for almost nothing, pitched a tent and built a chicken coup, which worked as his home five days a week, while he built another small cabin, this time with wood.
This simple and somewhat humble lifestyle fits us well and if you ever gave it a try, you’d discover how much we have in common.

Our Mission at El Dorado Heirloom Seeds is simple:
To get American’s to return to growing their own healthy food and thus eliminate unhealthy GMOs and sterile hybrid vegetables grown by corporate farms.

Our Personal Philosophy is rather basic:
Accept yourself and the responsibility of making yourself a little better each day. Then no matter where you start it’s only a matter of time before you are worthy of the greatest rewards and respect. And what goes for you should go for others, meaning, all of us have the right to be wrong and broken, so don’t force your beliefs and desires upon others. Be an example! Plant a powerful idea.

The world would improve in every way if the people grew authentic and organic heirloom vegetables out the back door and down the street and on the rooftops. The next step would be to start eating our meals together.

Are you impressed yet??

Check them out for yourselves!

Blue Day

I remember reading a novelty mug once that said "Put on your big girl panties and deal with it!"

I don't feel like putting my big girl panties on today. In fact, I don't feel like putting any panties on at all. I will mope around in my fuzzy Walmart bathrobe for awhile, pouting and randomly bursting into tears, and feeling sorry for myself for about 15 minutes. Then I'll stop pouting and get on with my life.

Definitely not bothered enough to quit, but bothered enough to leave in tears.

I know it will get easier. I know it. But right now, it feels like I'm at the bottom of the well