Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween harvest

It's hard to believe that this basket of goodies was harvested on Halloween!  The weather is surprisingly warm for this time of year which has kept the garden producing much longer than usual.  This harvest consists of tomatoes, peppers sweet and hot, Lima beans, peas and raspberries.  It's getting dark so early that I had to take this photo in the light of the street lamp.

A little earlier, I caught this honey bee enjoying some of the last of the nectar of the season.

The blueberry bushes have put on their fall colors.

I hope your Halloween was more treats than tricks.

Thanks for reading!

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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Fall garden update and solar panels

Solar panels installed on our 1800s Victorian home
(photo courtesy of Will Parkhurst)

It's been a busy couple of weeks.  At home, we had 16 solar panels installed and they are now up and running.  Happily there are lots of options like leases and lease-to-buy that allow more people than ever to take advantage of harnessing the power of the sun.  The guys at Solar City were so helpful in guiding us through the choices and the installation crew was super friendly and really fascinated to see me harvest dinner from the garden while they worked on the roof.  They asked lots of questions and hopefully at least one of them will be inspired to plant a few tomatoes or peppers in the spring.   As I'm writing this, the sun is shining brightly and we're producing electricity while making a slightly smaller footprint on the earth.  If you've ever thought about adding solar power to your home, I'd definitely recommend Solar City for consideration (tell them Will and Melinda Parkhurst sent you!).  

Crew installing panels on the roof
(photo courtesy of Will Parkhurst)

Four of the eight panels
(photo courtesy of Will Parkhurst)

The temperatures have dropped drastically and we seem to have skipped fall completely and gone straight to winter for the past few days.  Overnight temperatures have hovered around the freezing mark at dawn.  I managed to get the garlic planted during the full moon last week and have covered up the hoop tunnels to protect my fall greens and root vegetables from the frosty temperatures.  I took a few photos on a warm day before I snuggled the crops under their garden fabric blankets.

Heirloom climbing rose and fig tree after their first year

 Colorful crop of Swiss chard

Beds before going under cover

Brussels sprouts

Curly kale

 Thanks for reading!

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Monday, October 14, 2013

Simple roasted vegetables

Harvest after the rain

After about a week of rain, the weather has cleared and the garden has been revived.  The tomatoes were so full from the rains that some of them have split their skins.  I am typing this post with fingers stained red from raspberries that literally burst as they were pulled from the vines.   The moderate temperatures and rainfall gave a boost to the last of the summer plants that last week were looking bedraggled and on their last legs.  Now, the lima bean plants are again full of pods and the basil has perked up enough to provide another batch of pesto for the freezer. There is nothing more satisfying than knowing that during the dark of winter there will be a little taste of summer available in a dollop of thawed pesto for a hearty winter soup.

To make use of those juicy burst tomatoes, I put together a simple roasted vegetable dish that is filling the house with a tantalizing rich aroma.  This recipe doesn't use any precise measurements and can be made with whatever you have available or like.

Tomatoes, zucchini, sweet peppers, onion, mushrooms, acorn squash and tofu ready for roasting

Simple roasted vegetables

vegetables cut into large chunks (tomatoes, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, squash, green beans, etc.)
sea salt or Bragg's Amino Acids
balsamic vinegar
smoked paprika
crushed garlic cloves
fresh or dried herbs or pesto
red pepper flakes, hot sauce or black pepper (optional)
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Prepare a roasting pan by spraying with cooking spray or lining it with foil for easier clean up.

Place all the cut up vegetables in a large bowl.  Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat.  Add in the  Bragg's amino acids (if using), garlic, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, a liberal sprinkle each of smoked paprika and dried herbs or several dollops of pesto and a hot pepper if using.  Toss the vegetables again to coat evenly with the herbs and pour into the prepared baking pan.  Roast for approximately 1 hour or until the vegetables are fork tender.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Thanks for reading!

Raspberries ready for picking

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Summer vegetable tart
Vegetable pie

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Mother Earth News Fair 2013 and reading list

Llamas at the Mother Earth News Fair in Seven Springs, PA

A couple of weekends ago, my son and I took a little road trip to Seven Spring, PA to attend the East Coast Mother Earth News Fair.  It's a three-day hands-on learning, sustainable living event featuring workshops, vendors and demonstrations.  The topics range from activism, gardening and farming, alternative power sources, cooking and preserving your harvest, eco-friendly building and many entrepreneurial topics.

 Fair grounds at the Seven Springs Resort

This is our second year to attend, and there was so much to see and learn with events happening on 14 stage and rooms simultaneously plus demonstrations of all kinds of equipment, tools and techniques.  In the mountains, it alternated between picture perfect beginning of autumn weather and monsoon rains, but the inclement weather didn't hamper many of the activities.  I ended up attending some workshops I wouldn't have experienced had I not been inside during some of the heavy rains.

I attended workshops on making organic body products, herbal health care, how women are changing food and farming cottage industries, gardening,and simplified sustainable living to name a few.  Ed Begley, Jr. was one of the keynote speakers and he gave an inspirational talk about simplifying living by starting exactly you are now and doing what you can no matter how small it seems.

Heritage Breed Chicken Oprah Henfrey

I heard so many inspiring stories from both the presenters and people I met during the event...many ways to try to leave the world a better place while enjoying a fulfilling life.  I picked up a few books after attending some of the workshops and have added a few more to my reading list for later.

Product Details
The Good Life Lab:  Radical Experiments in Hands-On Living (Wendy Jehanara Tremayne)
An inspirational story of a couple who ditched their careers and life in New York City to move to rural New Mexico to build, make, forage and grow all they need to live a self-sufficient lifestyle while discovering a sense of value and abundance during the process.  The book also includes tips and tutorials.

Product Details
Medicinal Herbs:  A Beginner's Guide (Rosemary Gladstar)

Product Details
Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health (Rosemary Gladstar)
Rosemary is a renowned herbal teacher and practitioner whose workshop has inspired me to add even more herbs to my garden for next year.

Product Details
Organic Body Care Recipes (Stephanie Tourles)
Stephanie's workshop has me excited to try making even more beauty products at home after sampling some of her favorite masks, creams and oils.  My previous experimentation with whipped shea butter and bath fizzies is just the beginning!

I would highly recommend a trip to the fair location closest to you next year if you have any interest in sustainable living.

Thanks for reading!

 Windmill farm in the Pennsylvania countryside

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Mother Earth News Fair 2012