Life on the creative side

Posts tagged “farm to table

A neighbor’s generosity brings blackberries back to my garden on the ridge

Blackberries

blackberries from Ray

Thanks to a neighbor’s generosity, blackberries grow once again in my garden on the ridge. I have always loved  blackberries, they populate  my childhood memories as well as those of my children. We  enjoying making jelly and it became a traditional summer activity  with my kids. The sweet-tart berries were the first plants in my ridge garden.  But a few years ago I lost all my blackberry bushes.  Then last fall I mentioned in passing  to a neighbor that I missed my blackberries.  Well the word spread along the ridge until it reached Ray, a life-long neighbor and friend, who this spring deposited twenty blackberry transplants from his garden on my front porch – I love life on the ridge.

Creating a blackberry patch

 

Blue bird house in blackberry patch

 

first blackberries on the vine

The transplants are doing well.  I’ll be sure to share some fav recipes at harvest time.


Peppers In The Garden

Jeff in his garden

Last year my brother’s garden had a bumper crop of peppers and he generously shared his harvest.  My kids and I took advantage of his generosity put up (canned)  some pretty awesome hot sauce. The hot sauce was such a hit that this year, along with my tomatoes, I  put out an impressive selection of  peppers.

 

peppers in the garden

Hubby constructed a tall fence around my small plot to keep deer out of my tomatoes and peppers.

Inspired by the technique over at  The Farm, Old World Garden and assisted by hubby and my sister, Edna, we created raised rows  covered with straw and mulched the  paths.

kathy in the garden

 

wayne mulching the garden

 

 

Edna in the garden

 

I also planted some bird house gourds along the back of the deer fence, we’ll see if they behave or if they try to take over the entire garden – my experience with rambunctious gourds leaves little hope they will behave, even so I can’t help but love them.  I also planted some extra gourds around the vintage hay rake near the garden shed.

 

gourds around the rake

 


Drying Apples

Since our trip to the orchard, Hubby and I have been busy drying  apples  and in this post I want to  share the simple process.

collection of apples for drying

Clean and cut away bruises and blemishes, peel (optional), core and thinly slice the apples; an apple peeler/corer  works great here. The peeler cuts the apple into a long spiral which  I then cut in half to create half moon shaped pieces – it is important to keep the slices consistently thin 1/4″ or thinner is best.

using apple peeler/corer for drying apples

I dipped the slices into a lemon/water bath to prevent the slices from browning; ½ cup lemon juice+1 cup water; this step is optional but it keeps the apples from browning  and I like the hint of tartness the lemon imparts.

peeled, cored and sliced apples in lemon bath

I used a dehydrator, with the apples spread out in a single layer over the dehydrator screen; the temperature set to 150 for around twelve hours (depending on the conditions it can take anywhere from 10 to 24 hours for drying apples).

drying apples in dehydrator

You want the apples to be dry but still pliable (they must be at least dried to the state of raisins to keep well). From this state the dried apples can be stored and used later by re-hydrating them for use in hand pies, apple pies, chutney etc.  (a future post). If I had wanted to make apple chips I would simply have dehydrated them until they were crispy – yum.

For a variation I tossed two cups of the slices into a Ziploc bag along with ½ cup of sugar and a tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice (cinnamon also works great) and shook to thoroughly coat the slices. The seasoned apples took an additional five hours to cure but what yummy munchies they make.

The slices will shrink and pull away from each other as they dry.

apples drying in dehydrator

If you don’t have a dehydrator an oven set on as low as possible should work fine. If you’re using a cookie sheet, the fruit should be turned over once during the drying process, but cooling racks provide more exposure which aids in the drying.

The dried fruit should be at room temperature before being stored in air-tight containers. I refrigerate or freeze any that I don’t plan on using right away.

dried apples sealed in freezer bags

I am by no means an expert on food preservation,  but the folks over at the following site are, so check out their recommendations and start drying apples. http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/uga/uga_dry_fruit.pdf

 


A Trip To The Orchard: one of our favorite fall activities

apples at reed valley orchard

With a new crispness in the air and leaves blushing hints of colors to come, it’s time for one of our favorite fall activities.

apples at reed valley orchard

This is the season of pumpkin patches, fall festivals and, for hubby and I, a trip to Reed Valley Orchard. The family run orchard is situated at the end of a gravel road that meanders along a lovely little creek and through gently rolling hills and pastures of bluegrass. On the scenic road to reed valley orchard, one of our favorite fall activities

Nestled between Paris and Cynthiana Kentucky in a particularly scenic region of the bluegrass state populated by magnificent horse farms and historic stone fences,  Reed Valley Orchard boasts 3000 trees of numerous varieties including apples, peaches, pears as well as various berries. Scenic drive along Kentucky's bluegrass region back-roads reed valley orchard one of our favorite fall activities

They sell their produce along with baked goods, canned goods and gifts in the country store. store at reed valley orchard

You can purchase bags of fruit…

large bag of mixed apples purchased at reed valley orchard

apples at reed valley orchard

or grab a wagon and wander through the groves picking the fruit yourself.

Apple picking wagons for you pick at Reed Valley Orchard fall activities picking apples at reed apple orchard one of our favorite fall activities

Hubby and I purchased apple cider, peach nectar and a bag of mixed apples we’ll be drying; minus of course the ones that ended up in yesterday’s apple pie. For more information about Reed Valley Orchard check out their website http://www.reedvalleyorchard.com/ or find an orchard, pumpkin patch or corn maze near you; it may just become one of your favorite fall activities.

more resources: http://www.pickyourown.org/index.htm#states  http://www.pumpkinpatchesandmore.org/index.php


Take It Outside: outdoors dining

food, toasting to dinning outside

On these lovely last days of summer, one of my favorite activities is outdoors dining.

great food and wine and outdoors dining

The season brings an abundance of fresh produce, inspiring causal alfresco meals.  During a visit to the beach an Italian friend  introduced us to dolce vita, preparing an easy delicious meal that our families took together under the seaside arbor. While Roberto didn’t measure ingredients, I have roughly estimated quantities so I can share this wonderful dish with you and your family, but by all means take liberty with the recipe to suit your tastes.  This has become a family favorite, it’s so simple and so good-especially with tomatoes and basil fresh from the garden.

Roberto’s Spaghetti:

roberto Spaghetti Food

½ box Spaghetti cooked al dente
While spaghetti is cooking mix the following together in a large shallow bowl
1 ½ cups Fresh mozzarella cheese (I prefer water packed if available) chopped into 1 inch cubes.
4 large tomatoes cut into 1 inch cubes
½ – ¾    cup olive oil
2 teaspoon Salt or to taste
Fresh basil torn or cut into rustic pieces

Strain spaghetti and mix into tomato mozzarella mixture serve immediately with hearty rustic bread, some olive oil, balsamic vinegar and Parmesan cheese for dipping. Throw together a simple spinach salad, great for outdoors dining.

Food, Roberto spaghetti perfect for outdoors dining

My brother and sister-in-law are pros at embracing dolce vita. They have created an amazing shelter, tucked into the trees at the edge of their yard, for gatherings that always seem to involve delicious food. A favorite shelter activity is grilling personal pizzas.

Super Easy Grilled Pizza:

pizza on the grill for outdoors dining

Pre-made Naan bread lightly coated with olive oil and grill until lightly browned (homemade or purchased pizza dough can also be used)

Toppings of your choice.  Pre-cut, sliced or shredded tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, peppers, pineapples, pepperoni, ham, beef, sauce, cheeses…

Let your guest top the grilled naan bread buffet style,  then place the pizza back on the grill to heat, blend the flavors and melt the cheese. So easy and soooo yummy!

food outdoors grilling pizza

So before summer fades, gather up some loved ones, grab some great food and take it outside for some outdoors dining!


Farm to Table

egg avocado cheese sandwich

organic, permaculture farm, produce market, ky

Summer time is the perfect time to embrace farm to table dinning. Blue Antler Studio sits on a rocky ridge in rural Kentucky, where farm to table is just simply the way of life, so farm fresh produce is easy to come by this time of year.  In fact I sometimes come home to find a sack or a basket of fresh produce, a gift from one neighbor or another’s garden.

basket of sweet potatoes

Out the road a little ways sits my dad’s treasure-stuffed, man-cave cabin…

a man-cave cabin

just inside the door there is a small refrigerator. If you look inside the frig you’ll usually find several dozen beautiful farm fresh eggs sitting beside a jar labeled with a hand-written note that reads, “egg money $2.00 a doz”. The eggs are not from my dad, as he and mom no longer keep chickens, but from Danny, a life-long neighbor, who keeps my family in lovely brown, pale-blue and cream-colored eggs all season.

colorful farm raised eggs

Much to my disappointment however, this year has been so hot the hens haven’t been laying well; but today I got word that finally there were eggs in the frig.  So I hurried out the road, threw open the frig door and to my delight discovered four dozen Danny eggs stacked beside the money jar; yipee!

egg jar

In true farm to table fashion, or Rocky Round tradition, this evening I enjoyed a delicious egg, cheese and avocado sandwich on a hardy, grilled bread; complimented by a glass of red wine sangria sweetened by in season, peaches and blackberries.

egg avocado cheese sandwich

LOL – I was so excited about this lovely meal, I had eaten half the sandwich before I thought to stop and take a picture.

                    .fresh sangria makings

Does life get any sweeter?

:)

To learn more about farm to table living  check out – http://www.farmtotablenm.org/

 


Kentucky Backroads Farm Tour

organic, permaculture farm, produce market, ky

northern ky back roads farm tourAt eight forty-five Saturday morning a small group of Blue Antler Studio regulars loaded a cooler into the back of my sister-in-law’s SUV, then all five of us piled into the car and headed down the gravel road and off the ridge.  It was a hot day for the local back roads farm tour but our spirits were high; at least the ride would be air-conditioned.  We had done our homework and had mapped out several of the fifteen or so small family run operations we wanted to visit, including a small organic  farm, a horse ranch, a cattle farm, a beekeeper and three wineries.

permaculture produce marketWithin fifteen minutes we were pulling into Greensleeves, a twelve acre sustainable farm and our first stop of the day. We were met by sweltering heat and an enthusiastic volunteer as we got out of the car. After registering and sticking on our nametags, we were directed toward a small building surrounded by several other structures: a couple of small barns, a greenhouse and another shed or two. Tall grasses and flowers, both wild and self seeding cultivars, were competing for space and sun alongside the buildings and pathways, giving the place a slightly unkempt appearance.

 Inside the building a long low table filled with produce, jams, jellies, flavored mustards, raw cheese and soap stretched out beneath a canopy of drying herbs and flowers that hung from low rafters. Gretchen, the farmer and our guide, led us on a very informative and inspiring tour starting with the barn; where we met Valentino, the resident sheep, and saw large cloves of garlic drying in racks. As Gretchen explained the principles of permaculture, we strolled through the gardens; where a few hardy volunteers were defying the heat, pulling weeds by hand so not to disturb the soil. There was evidence everywhere of the competition between unruly weeds and the crops, but Gretchen picks her battles wisely; truly organic practices involve maintaining a delicate truce between nature’s disorderly behavior and a farmer’s attempt to coax a living from the land.  We then walked by a small orchard populated with apples, pears and peach trees. As we passed back through the yard we stopped to see the crowing rooster and his harem of hens, before finishing up our tour back at the produce building.

In the produce shed, Gretchen took us into her cold storage, a cool piece of heaven on such a hot day, where the cheeses, berries and greens were stored.  Then after loading the cooler with our purchases and promising to return to help pull weeds,  but not before the heat wave had passed, we were off to our next stop.

As we pulled into Little Rock Farm they were grilling up goodies in the yard.  For a buck fifty we tasted some of their home-grown beef-burgers; grass fed, antibiotic and hormone free: fifty cents more treated us to corn-on-the-cob, hot off the grill. Also for sale was some home-baked zucchini bread and local honey. They keep vacuum packed, frozen beef stored in a freezer right there in the barn. A payment box is  permanently mounted on the wall by the door so customers can help themselves, if the family’s not around you just pay on your way out; self check out farm style. If its produce or fresh eggs you need, simply step into the cold storage at the other end of the barn, get what you need and drop your cash into the box; country life is a blessed life.

The next stop was our first winery of the day. I prefer dry red wines, and my experience has been that small family run operations tend toward milder, sweeter selections: Not Camp Springs Vineyards, they produce a full range of wines from sweet to dry. After tasting, and purchasing a few bottles, we wandered through the small art gallery, in the loft of their tasting room, enjoying the artwork and visiting with the artists. Local photographer, Don Wiedeman whose preferred subjects are the historic, German, stone structures of the area, voiced an interest in seeing the log structures out on the ridge, including Blue Antler Studio. Then an ohio river valley winery Campspringsunexpected down pour forced us to wait out the rain over a glass of Merlot in the tasting room: Isn’t summer time sweet.

I also found wines to my liking at our next two stops; StoneBrook and Seven Wells. Each offered a full-bodied red that I enjoyed. As the afternoon began to slip away we made our last stop at the impressive LazyK horse ranch. The LazyK is a beautiful facility offering boarding; riding lessons; an impressive, dust-free, indoor arena; and riding trails. But the heat and the wine were taking their toll so we headed back to the ridge, content in our decision to plan a visit to the Beezy Bee farm on another day.

  On the ride home we made plans for one more gathering at Blue Antler Studio before my sister Jane goes back to her life in California and me back to mine in Florida. While we’re always a little sad to leave our family on the ridge, our roots run so deep in this rocky soil that no matter how long or far we travel we stay grounded with a good sense of place. After this wonderful summer together we carry away with us the memories of creative gatherings and time shared, keeping the ties that bind us to our family and friends on the ridge ever strong.

 

 

 

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A Trip To The Farmers Market Kicks Off A Wonderful Pre-Wedding Weekend

Cindy flew home for the weekend and what a wonderful weekend it was.  She looks great, she’s eating healthy and working out regularly, not to mention all the walking that comes with being a NY City girl; she’s in the best shape of her life.  While this is a good thing, the inch that has melted away from her already slender waist has made another dress fitting necessary! So everyone please say a little prayer that when she next slips into her lovely gown, a mere four days before the wedding, that it looks and fits perfectly.

On her first morning home we rose early and headed off to the local farmers market.  The day was clear and, as it was early, the temperature was a perfect 75 degrees. We spent the morning wandering through stalls of hand-made and home-grown products. After tasting , squeezing and smelling all manner of veggies, we purchased  tomatoes, the first of the season; baby cucumbers; a bag of mixed greens  from my favorite greens vendor;  fresh-baked farmers bread from the German baker; giant sweet carrots; red onion  and some locally made Gouda.

A collection of hand-woven baskets caught Cindy’s eye, she returned again and again to the booth filled with the free trade products; impressed not only with the lovely baskets but the humanitarian business philosophy.  When we finally headed for home with our sacks full of fresh organics, a beautiful hand-crafted, free trade basket swung from her arm.

The best part of the weekend, not counting catching up over a beautiful bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon and the lovely shower hosted by friends of Cindy’s future mother-in-law, was making the bouquet prototype. The all green succulent arrangements are going to be more beautiful than even we imagined.  Cindy is thrilled.

We also worked out the cake design, finalized the menu, walked through the photos she wants taken, decided on the ceremony layout, worked on the veil, picked out the father of the bride’s wedding-wear and practiced our up-does.

So after three frenzied days of wedding planning, wonderful fresh meals eaten under the arbor, a little wine, a little sangria and a little more of Wayne’s amazing orange crushes; it was time for her to leave.  Although we had been very productive, getting much checked off our long list, by the time she turned to wave good bye at the airport, our to-do list and excitement was growing.


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