Thursday, October 20, 2011

early fall garden

Even though the growing season is winding down around here, we've had a few things come into their own recently. My rose bush only had produced a few flowers throughout the summer, but it went gangbusters recently. At one point I had 16 flowers all at once! 

Mark planted spinach and argula once our zucchini plants bit the dust for the season, and they have been thriving in the colder weather. We actually had our own spinach on homemade pizza last Friday, and we were able to share the first of the arugula in a salad for a family dinner on Saturday. Is it crazy that I already can't wait until next year's garden?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

mother earth news fair 2011

In September, we headed to Seven Springs for two days to attend the Mother Earth News Fair, which sounds like a giant hippie fest. While we did spy a few hippie types, they were in the minority. It's basically a huge fair with workshops and vendors focusing on a sustainable lifestyle, covering everything from canning and preserving to gardening and clean energy. We attended a variety of workshops over the weekend, including one I really enjoyed on organic eating on a dime, as well as how to extend the growing season, a workshop on compost, backyard chicken coops, and reducing energy consumption at home.

Probably our favorite speaker, and one of the big draws for us to come to the fair, was Joel Salatin, who was the keynote speaker. Mr. Salatin owns and runs Polyface Farms, which was featured in the documentary Food, Inc. (Which if you have not seen, you NEED to. NOW.) He spoke about standing up against industrial agriculture among other things, and was really inspiring. We came away with a renewed passion for the changes we've tried to implement in our household and the ones we will continue to add as we grow our homestead.

On the way back to the turnpike after the fair, we stopped at a farmer's market in Donegal and found these enormous pumpkins! We ended up taking home two baby pumpkins and a straw bale for our front porch. These big daddies wouldn't fit anyway!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

canning whole pears

Last month my grandpa generously gave us basket after basket of fruit - pears, as well as Cortland and Yellow Delicious apples. (And a thanks to my parents for all of the help picking and transporting them!) We canned the pears in syrup and also froze apples for pie filling in vacuum sealed bags. The pears were fantastic. Slippery little buggers to peel and prep for canning, but I will be excited to try them this winter (which is starting to feel ever closer as the days get slightly colder)!

First, the haul.

 After peeling, the pears soak in lemon juice and water to prevent browning while you are still prepping the other pears.

Next, make a simple syrup to the desired thickness. We used a medium, which was the recommended, though you can do a heavy or light syrup as well.

Let the canning begin!

Onto the second shelf now in my grandma's canning cupboard. Next year we are going to be really organized about how we plan the canning sessions around what is "coming in" from the local harvest and the bounty of my family's gardens and trees. Instead of rushing to start early, we're going to save our energy for when everything comes on thick, and take time to do it properly. For being our first year, I'm pretty proud of what we've accomplished. I still want to can pickled peppers and jalapenos before the season is over, as well as applesauce if we can swing it!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

purple potatoes

I've got so much great stuff to share from September, both here and on once upon a cupcake, starting tomorrow. Things are settling down around here, so I should be back more regularly.

But I just have to quickly share something that is currently roasting in the oven. Purple potatoes from Clarion River Organics! Aren't these the most beautiful potatoes you've ever seen?