Cranking Out Some Dinners

img_4382

There are definitely times when I am not on top of making up quality dinners in our house. I do get lazy. We don’t always end up together for dinner. But I do feel that dinner as a family is important. I want it to happen every night. It is one time during the day that we all sit together and connect. It matters. And lately I have been making some decent meals to make that sitting together worth it.

Those vegetables in the photo above, tossed on top of some buttered orzo, was one dinner not to be missed. I made that a couple of times recently. I also made chili with fresh biscuits. And smooth squash soup with honey oat bread. Tonight I made up some burritos.

img_4406

Beans simmering before getting wrapped

Some fresh garlic, two kinds of beans and some spices. Dump that into some locally made flour tortillas (So flaky! So light!) with shredded extra sharp cheddar and steamed broccoli and you have yourself a delish dinner. Simple and a winner.

img_4407

Hot and ready to be dressed

I need to mix things up a bit. I do have a couple dozen dinners I make in rotation. It is a solid rotation but I need to take some time to gather a few new recipes. Maybe I will try something with polenta. Or a new take on shepard’s pie. Those one-pot meals are certainly handy. I’ll do some digging and come up with something new

It is the harvest season. There is always something to whipped up with squash or potatoes or late greens. If I can’t figure out something new I can always just make apple pie for dinner. I can’t imagine I will get any complaints with that on the menu.

Summer Shifting to Fall

IMG_2028

All of a sudden we don’t hang out on the porch all the time. It has gotten cold. Friday morning we had our first frost since spring started. Today the wind is howling. Fall has arrived. The crescent moon on the equinox makes it official.

Asters are blooming in the field. Goldenrod bows in the wind. Milkweed pods are beginning to brown, their seeds drifting over the meadow. This morning I watched the Green Mountains silhouetted by the golden light of morning; a duck zipped across the sky, heading north. Birds have stopped singing, calling to each other now quietly to stay in flocks as they migrate. Leaves drift to the ground, red highlighting the hillsides.

This time of year I think of all the things I have not done. I need to finish clearing the garage of painting accoutrements. I need to dig up and mulch the garden. I want to pick apples and make jam. I should prune some trees. And other things. Should I cut the field again before it snows? Can I fix the lawn mower so we can mow a few more times? Will we be able to get corn again before harvest season is over?

It is hard not to want to simply get outside on these days the sun rises later and lower in the sky. There are mountains to hike and trails to run. Too many years ago my wife and I started hiking the Long Trail about this time. We got married in the fall. It is the best time of year to be outside. It is cool, beyond the heat of summer but not yet the chill of winter. There are no mosquitoes. The air smells full of all that was summer–fallen leaves and soil and ripe fruit.

This morning I spent some time on the porch, finishing a book, drinking coffee, eating a cider donut I picked up at yesterday’s Shelburne Farms Harvest Festival. The wind whipped the trees and the field grass. I thought about all I might do today but felt lazy at the same time. Yesterday I read that the reason we are here is to lead an amazing life. Maybe I should start with trying to do that. I am assuming an amazing life includes roast corn for dinner, if I can find it.

More to Pick

Late Summer Bounty

I picked a few more things from our garden today.  The harvest is winding down but we do have more to pick.  I wanted some leaks for dinner (to start off the pumpkin soup) and I had to pick the zucchini before it got enormous. The cucumbers needed to be cut off the vine (they have been getting bitter quickly) and that pepper is going with the roasted potatoes. The melon was iffy.  I am hoping it is ripe as I want to serve it with dinner. If not we have a back up watermelon and a few slices from the last melon from our garden (tastes like candy).

Yet to go: three or four more melons, a few peppers, maybe a zucchini or two, a couple of cucumbers, cherry tomatoes out the wazoo, lots of leeks.  We have several green tomatoes still as well. That isn’t bad for September. And did I mention the basil? More pesto for the freezer (and for immediate consumption) is in the works. Like I said, not bad for September.

Popcorn Picking

I picked the popcorn today. Last time I planted popcorn, two years ago, I picked it on the 22nd of September, but this was ready to go. It was nicely dried and the stalks were starting to fall over. I planted the same variety as last time–Tom Thumb, a miniature variety with four foot tall stalks–but the weather was just not the same this year.  With the help of my daughter I picked 69 small ears.

Popcorn off the Stalk

Both my kids helped me shuck it. My daughter noted several times that the ear she just revealed would the be the perfect size for a doll, although it would have been less tasty than the corn we purchased from the Conant farm (whose last day was today, and we missed it). After peeling back the husks, we ended up with a pile of golden ears.

Each Ear Equals One Batch of Popcorn

Last time I bagged the ears in a mesh bag and left it to dry for a bunch of weeks. The children were so excited to start collecting it in a bowl, however, that I totally forgot in my own excitement. So we took it off the ears and we marveled at the bowl of kernals. It will need to dry more, indeed, but in a mesh bag that is hanging in the right spot, that should happen easily.

This Will Warm Us on a Winter Day

It was easy to grow. The hardest part was keeping the birds away long enough for it to sprout. They love to yank it out just as it pushes green from the soil. The first time I grew it I had to totally replant it. The second time I tried to grow it I did not have enough time to try again. This time I hung reflectors just as the first shots appeared. That scared the crows and turkeys away and I had plants. After that it was just water, weed and wait. I planted melons in between the plants and that worked out well for both plants.

In a few weeks I will test the popcorn to see if it pops well. Once it is I will jar it up to keep the moisture content right and we will have healthy snacks for the winter. And plenty of it.

More Produce

Pumpkin Crop, and Other Stuff

I finally picked our pumpkins today. I harvested our entire crop, seen above with a few other items I sliced off the vine this afternoon. So we have a whopping three pumpkins for pie, soup, what have you. That ain’t much. In past years we have gotten more pumpkins than we can eat, freezing most of them for use over the winter. We did get a few, indeed, but we’re not talking a bumper crop here.

We are still picking cucumbers. The cherry tomatoes are falling off the vine. I might pick a bunch of them and dry them. The second melon from our garden is pictured above as well. Hopefully it will be as good as the first. That first one was tasty when we busted it open and even tastier after the second half of it cooled in the refrigerator. We should be able to pick a few more of those.

Next up–onions, already drying out of the ground. Good food. We have much more to still harvest. The rain we will get over the next couple of days will help with that. It should drop below 90 degrees by Saturday. That might help as well.

Potato Harvest

The kids and I dug up all our potatoes the day before yesterday. It was like digging for buried treasure. They had as much of a blast as I did. Turn the soil and find some food.

There's One

I wish I had a scale. I have thought maybe 149 times that I could use one, but I have not taken the effort to get one. I planted five pounds of seed potatoes and all told, with the potatoes we already pulled from the dirt earlier this summer, we harvested 40-50 pounds of potatoes. That is a guess, of course, but probably close.  That paid off.

First into the Basket

We have two varieties–one purple and one white. Right after we dug them up we boiled some of the white one and ate them with salt and butter, along with the corn we bought. A simple and fine dinner.

Bucket of Potatoes

I plan to store a bunch of them so we can be eating potatoes at least into the fall. Hopefully I can make them last. I still need to pull the onions. They won’t keep as long but they will last for a couple of months. And I need to make pesto. And those melons are looking close to ripe. And pumpkins. We’ve got lots of food these days.

Garden Chores

I got out to the garden today (too rainy to paint, although I did bust out the pressure washer to clean the porch deck) and took care of some business. First check out this bounty I picked, including tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, carrots and onions:

Basket o' Tastiness

The popcorn is growing well, with tendrils melon plants creeping up the stalks:

Happy Corn Plants

And speaking of melons, I just may be successful this year. I don’t want to speak before I actually pick and eat a ripe melon, but we are close. I saved seeds from a chanterais we got from our farm share last summer. They started off well, they blossomed and a couple of fruits started growing. Now, a couple of them are close to ripe, good sized, and healthy. Seeking carefully under the corn plants, I found ten of them in various stages of growth. There are still more blossoms but those late bloomers will likely not make it at this point. If we eat one or two tasty melons I will be a happy camper gardener.

Check Out That Melon, if You Know What I'm Saying

And I did finally pull the garlic. I could have yanked it all sooner, but today was the day I got around to it. I harvested 19 remaining bulbs. I already used one of them to make some pesto–OK, a lot of pesto–and I will need to save maybe five of them to plant this fall for next year, but that leaves 13. Not bad, considering how much I already used.

More Than Ready for Harvest

Drying in the Sun

So it was a good day for fresh food. We ate pesto pasta for dinner with tomatoes, cucumbers on the side. I need to dig up potatoes next. They are ready to make it to the table now as well. Right now I plan to have another slice of zucchini blueberry bread. It is still warm.