Thursday, May 27, 2010

Children of the Corn.

Getting started planting the corn.

Elias loves to plant seeds.

He finally gets to plant his corn.

My husband has visions of a corn maze in our backyard. You think I'm kidding, but I'm not. Earlier this year he got it in his head he wanted to grow corn...and lots of it. We've never grown corn before. I guess because we've never made the room. So, when he came home with about three types of corn seeds, I knew we were in for it.

I had to let him do it, you see, because he started telling me I was getting too bossy in the garden. I would have to agree with him. Each year I always plot out exactly where everything will go, and when, and pretend I was getting his feedback. He was getting tired of it. So, when he approached me about my assertiveness, I took his advice and let his own garden ideas come alive.

So, here we are on the midst of a corn field. We are planting more in three weeks. He wants it growing on both sides of the path to our pathetic little shed. The guy's got his dreams. He's now moved onto potatoes and is currently building a potato box...

I think I may have opened Pandora's Box.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Ohhh, Rhubarb.

My sweet niece.

I'm not a pie maker but I always thought I should be. My parent's owned a restaurant growing up and, by default, my sister ended up being the pie maker for the place. She was three years older and I was a mere junior high school student. It made sense at the time and she could bust out a dozen pies in no time.

I was never a pie eater either - until recently. I just always thought pies were pretty and looked hard to make.

All that changed a few years ago while visiting my grandma. I was going through all her recipes, like I usually do, and came to a Rhubarb Custard pie with a "pat-in-pan" crust and a crumbly, brown sugar topping. She had a rhubarb plant so we picked some and I got to work.

The "pat-in-pan" crust was made up of no more than flour, sugar, milk and oil (not shortening) and the filling was also only a few ingredients of rhubarb, eggs, flour and sugar. The crumbled topping was just as simple.

When that pie came out of the oven and I tasted my first bite, I fell in love with that pie. It launched a love of everything rhubarb. It was so tart, yet so sweet.

I'm currently trying to grow my own since I've been known to steal it out of people's yards. (Yes it's true. I currently have a fridge full of the stuff because I did it just yesterday...ok, the house was vacant, but still. It's like gold to me! )

So, since it's that time of year, I thought I'd share my grandma's recipe for those who also love the tart taste of fresh rhubarb, but aren't particularly a stellar pie maker either. It also has this cool, rustic look after baking which I've always appreciated. Enjoy!

1 1/2 c plus 3 Tbl flour   3 Tbl cold milk
1/2 c oil                         1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp sugar

Place flour, sugar and salt in pie pan and mix with fingers until blended. In measuring cup, combine oil and milk; beat with fork until cream. Pour mixture all at once over flour mix stir with fork until moistened. Pat the dough with your fingers. First up the sides; then across bottom. Flute edges. Shell is ready to fill.

1 cup sugar                    1/8 tsp salt
2 Tbs flour                     3 cups diced rhubarb
2 eggs well-beaten

Pour sugar and egg mixture over rhubarb in un-baked pie shell.

Crumble Topping:
1/4 c flour 1/2 tsp all spice
1/4 c butter 1/2 c walnuts
1/4 c brown sugar

Sprinkle over top of rhubarb mixture and bake 375 degrees for 50-60 minutes.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Change starts at home!




Thanks to my ever-so ambitious and supportive mother who provided today's title after I explained to her my current volunteer project: organizing a group of neighbors to enlighten an overgrown traffic circle at the end of our block in the Ravenna/U-District neighborhood of Seattle. She noted you can't change the world all at once and that change starts at home.

It got me thinking about our project.

Our enthusiatic group got together at 9am Sunday. It turned out to be a most successful community-oriented event with fellow neighbors bringing their own tools, yard-waste bins, coffee, pastries and edible plants. It was a great opportunity to meet folks we hadn't met before and come together as a group to dig our hands in the dirt and unite as one. We found out we have a group with a great sense of humor and it helped pass time as we joked about the opportunities of our little traffic circle. (Dog park?)

We worked efficiently and cleared the space in about 2 1/2 hours. We were able to keep some aromatic mint and a few established plants in the circle. One of the suprising things that happened were all the neighbors and strangers alike, cruising by giving us their thumbs up and giving us their genuine encouragement about our efforts. It made our group just a little bit prouder.

Afterward, we all enjoyed a sidewalk BBQ and continued our planning for the future of our circle.

So, with our little group of neighbors, we are changing the world; one traffic circle at a time!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Quick tips are my style.

I am a well-known "cliff-note" kinda gal. Just give me the jist of it and I'll take it from there. Yes, I am lazy to a point and I don't apologize for it. But I get things done and that's all that matters.

So, when my mom went "Green" a couple years ago at Christmas-time and gave each of us kids, (three total) and spouses, (three total) gifts of books she already had over the years, it became a pleasant surprise on how she gave them based on our likes and dislikes (I received Cheapskate in the Kitchen if that tells you anything)

My husband received 200 Tips for Growing Vegetables in the Pacific Northwest.

This is where my "cliff note" mentality comes into play. My husband and I love to garden and we're pretty new at it so each year we learn just a little more. This book was a lifesaver in so many ways. It's short and concise. It provides just the basic info for all aspects of gardening; composting, growing corn, soil, natural pest control and oh, so much more. What it doesn't do is go on and on about each subject to where you don't even know what the point was in reading it anyway. I don't learn anything this way. Too much information bogs my mind. I like to get the quick version and then add to it with other tips from experts, if needed. Like composting, this "200 Tips" book provided just enough info to get us started and then we were able to adapt other tips as we went along. Now, through the years, with the addition of our wonderfully fragrant chicken waste to the compost, we can say we are almost experts. Well, not quite, but we're getting there...

Monday, May 17, 2010

U-Pick Farms in the Northwest...and beyond.

Nothing reminds me of summer more then pulling up to a farm with rows and rows of strawberry patches and going to town filling your flat! The sweet, strawberry smell in the air and the excitement that grows when you start picking the bright, red fruit. My Oregon grandparents would take us picking every summer and it was always a highlight of our summer visits. After spending the morning in strawberry patches, we would stop by the store to pick up cream and shortcake and head home for the freshest of treats.
Like in years past, each summer is an opportunity to fill your kitchen with the best summer has to offer. Take the opportunity to travel and explore the region's U-Pick farms; not only for strawberries, but blueberries, raspberries and more...

Here's a couple of helpful resources of local, U-Pick farms:

They provide an itemized list of farms by state and county. Always call the farm before you head out to get up-to-date info on the harvest. Fun picking!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

In memory of my chicks.

I bought a couple of new chicks in March to add to my coop of Rhode Island Reds. I went a different route and chose Ameraucana chicks due to them being "Easter Eggers"; laying colorful eggs of light pink, blue, etc... I was excited to add these two new little birds to my flock since last year we ended up with, well, a boy chicken. Ahhhh.

Thankfully, we found a good home for our rooster (not via Craig's List) and our two little hens went about their business becoming quite the egg producers and part of the family; including co-existing with an 80 pound dog and one very bossy toddler.

That's why it was such a shock one afternoon day when I came home to find a foreign dog in my backyard happily having a meal with my two hens; not a week after I purchased my new chicks. To my surprise, it hit me harder then expected. I saw the dog chewing on my favorite girls, which you must realize, are the only girls in my household besides myself. I was scarred. I couldn't bring myself to go into the backyard - which on most days, but this day, was a highlight. Our backyard dinner parties were always something special when the hens would roam around and were such a great addition to the landscape.

The very next morning after the dog killed the chickens, my 2-year-old son asked to go get the eggs, a daily ritual in our household, and I had to tell him the chicks went bye-bye - words he understood. It was a shocking realization how quickly they fit in with us. My husband had an equally difficult time and mourned them as well. What once was a daily occurance - hitting the backyard - suddenly became a struggle.

Now, with my new chicks, it was harder to get close to them. I was angry and missed the ones I had. My new chicks were cute, but they weren't the same. Slowly we forced ourselves into the backyard and started cleaning out the the coop. When we started preparing it for our new chicks, we could feel an excitement brewing for the new (hopefully) girls. And I think they were preparing for us.

Now, we've embraced those chicks and have enjoyed watching them grow. They have spent a night in the new improved coop and we have high hopes for those "Easter Eggs" to start coming. Happily, we bought two new chicks last week; Rhode Island Reds in remembrance to our first chickens. They are so adorable and growing fast. In the next couple of weeks, our new chicks will be taking over our yard again and our family will return to normal by enjoying the entertainment which comes from having backyard chickens.