Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving weekend

Thanksgiving means many things to different people.  To some it is the gathering around the family table to enjoy Turkey and all its trimmings.  To others it is a time of fasting to remember the plight of one's ancestors.  For our family it is a time of quiet reflection of all the blessings bestowed on us during the previous year.

Most of yesterday was gray and rainy however close to sundown, the western horizon suddenly was aglow with a golden light.  When I looked to the east, the sky was still a dreary gray and then it appeared: a perfect rainbow stretched across the valley, its colors deep and vibrant.  It reminded me that as we look forward to our bright futures from time-to-time pause and look back, else you may miss a blessing resting near your shoulder.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Icy, frosty mornings

Temperatures hovered around 25 F this morning, making it an excellent time to look at the small crystals that covered the pastures and orchards. 
A fog had settled across our area last night.  As the night turned colder, the fog formed crystals on the foliage which is also known as hoarfrost.  One could easily imagine the frost fairies creating these magical scenes.
If you look closely, some plants have tiny hairs across their leaf surfaces.  This allows the plant to continue to thrive when other plants go to sleep for the winter.  An herb called 'Lambs Ear' is a good example of this furry quality.

Another interesting feature is Needle Ice.  Ever note an area in the soil that appears to have been lightly churned just after a freeze?  This could have been the result of the water droplets in the soil freezing into elongated crystals.  These build and force their way through the soil particles.  Those that break the surface look like tiny glass rods or needles.

This picture also shows the power of ice.  These tiny rods also lift and push rocks and other things to the surface.  One can have a cleared field in late summer, only to discover that come Spring it appears that one is 'growing rocks'.  These little crystals can break down walls, bust up roadways, and do all sorts of damage.  Fortunately we have none of those issues so we can just enjoy how pretty they can be.  As a side note, when looking at needle ice, also look for Frost Flowers.  Similar to needle ice, the frost flower forms where the needle ice comes together and curls a bit to form a flower.  If I have the good fortune to find one, I'll take a picture to share with you.

want to learn a little more about soil and ice?  check this out:

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween to all!  May all your monsters be friendly and goblins be helpful.

By the way: these cute little mini-pumpkins are also edible.  Bake them up up like an acorn squash and serve as a sidedish or dessert!  Not just a table decoration but a delicious seasonal treat!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

To everyone in the path of Hurricane Sandy: please be safe.  Be warm and dry.  The intense weather should be passing soon.
Our boy, Sandy, he's a lover not a fighter and all the girls adore him.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Brussels Sprouts and other cabbages

Earlier today we were out in the garden harvesting the Brussels Sprouts.  Fresh sprouts are a favorite at our house.  Although we've harvested a little over a gallon, these won't last long.  When I was a kid, Brussels Sprouts were reserved for special occasions like Thanksgiving or Christmas.  I never understood why we couldn't have them more often.  Baby brussels sprouts have a mild cabbage like flavor that are delicious when roasted with root vegetables or lighty simmered in chicken broth (then garnished with crushed walnuts).

I was an adult the first time I saw how Brussels sprouts grow.  After the leaves develop, a small bud or node forms at the base where the leaf stem connects to the stalk.  I was told to wait until after the first frost before harvesting as the frost will 'sweeten' the sprouts.  I don't know how true this may be however with all the other garden work that needed to be completed earlier, it's nice to know some vegetables are happy to wait their turn.

To harvest Brussels Sprouts, one must first cut the stalk.  We find that a pair of heavy duty limb loppers, like the ones one would use to cut small branches, works remarkably well.  Next step is to remove the loose leaves.  Finally remove the sprouts.

There are several methods for removing sprouts from the stalk: the first method is to gently grasp the sprout and twist to remove it.  The second method is to simply cut them off.  Be very careful using this method.  The sprouts are small and sometimes difficult to negotiate.  Wash the sprouts, discarding any yellowed leaves.  These are now ready to use.

Although there are some folks who enjoy the leaves, they are a little too fiberous for my taste.  However there are some ladies I know who love them.  And once again the sounds of happy hens can be heard in Chickenland.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Looking to the future

When listening to people planning for the future, one cannot help but smile.  While young, one speaks about education, marriage, and raising childen.  When the person gets a little older, one plans for the children's education and retirement.  At My Happy Acres we're making plans for the future.

We're constructing an animal barn and hopefully next year will begin setting the foundation for a Boer Goat herd.  We're very excited about our plans.  So stay tuned for future developments.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Autumn Leaves

I don't know about you, but I love the changes of the seasons.  Whether it is the sprouting of new life in Spring or the crisp Fall mornings when the brightly colored leaves are tinged with frost, each day offers something new to enjoy.

My grandmother used to tell me that being able to identify trees by their leaf or bark is one of the signs of a well educated person.  I'm still learning the differences.  But this time of year, it's hard to get past the 'oooh! Isn't this pretty?' 
We all assume that when the weather turns cool, the leaves of our Maples and Oaks will gradually start to change color.  By why do they change?  Well, to put it simply, as the days start to get shorter trees and other plants start to slow down and rest.  Rest from what?  All those green leaves were working and producing sugars to help the plant thrive and grow.  When the plant slows down making Chlorophyll, which is what makes them green, sugar production slows and the other colors of the leaf suddenly appear.  (If you want to read more about this, check out Science Made Simple:

All sorts of critters enjoy the nuts that become ready this time of year.  Black walnuts are hailing down everywhere.  Acorns, too, are coming down by the handful.  Historically the Native Americans would gather the acorns and after soaking them to remove the bitter taste, would dry them so that the acorns could be ground into a flour.  I have been told it tastes a great deal like chickpea flour. 

As you walk along look for the seeds and pods.  Most everyone can identify acorns but do you recognize the conelike seed pods in this picture?  These are from the Tulip Poplar.  When the seedpod dropped from the tree, it looked a great deal like a pine cone.  However after letting it sit and dry, it gradually opened to reveal itself.  

Winter will be here soon.  When you get the opportunity, enjoy what this season offers you.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Kohlrabi and the cabbage family

Kohlrabi is a member of the same family as the cabbage typically used in cole slaws.  The Kohlrabi comes from the German Kohl for 'cabbage' and RĂ¼be or Rabi for 'turnip'.  These are very easy to grow and add a nice change to the Fall dinner table.

After trimming the leaves from the bulb, carefully peel it as you would a potato or celery root.  The remaining flesh can be roasted with garlic and cheese, stir fried with other vegetables, or shredded and used in cole slaw.

Kohlrabi Apple Slaw

4 peeled and shredded kohlrabi bulbs
4 shredded apples

 ½ cup Cider Vinegar
⅓ cup Vegetable Oil
½ cup Granulated Sugar (scant)
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Pepper

To those following this blog you will notice that the dressing is the same one used for the Bean salad given previously.  If you have a mild dressing that you like, try it as a marinade in other recipes.  This recipe is also quite nice with a slightly sweet mayonaise based dressing such as Marie's cole slaw dressing.  Part of enjoying life is not giving up but embracing the adventure.  Let Kohlrabi become part of your family's adventure at the dinner table.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Autumn Harvest, Roots

With the cooler temps, we've begun harvesting many of our root vegetables.  Beets, carrots, and rutabaga are all Autumn favorites.  Pan roasted or put up for later, these vegetables are a nice addition to the Fall dinner table.

Rutabaga is a member of the turnip family.  These vegetables thrive in cool temps and moist, yet well drained soils.  Although these were planted at the same time as the green beans last May, they didn't take off and start growing til the soils began to cool in September.  We've been pretty religious about thinning, as you note in the picture, these are now growing cheek to gum and need to be thinned further.  Which is okay by me.  Young rutabagas have a mild flavor.  We peel, then cook them on the stove like a potato.  They can then be served mashed as a tasty substitute for mashed potatoes.
Beets are in the same food family as Spinach and Kale.  Although many people are only familiar with pickled beets, these can be roasted or even added to stir fry for a little color and flavor.  Both the root and greens are edible.  For more information about this food see

The following is a favorite recipe of mine for beets.  For those who don't cook with wine, you can use cider or apple juice however the recipe works best with red wine.  By the way: at our house the rule of thumb for cooking with wine, is only use the wine that you would drink.  If it is not palatable enough to be sipped from a glass, you don't want to use it on your food.

Beets poached in Wine Sauce

 ¾ cup dry red wine (Merlot) or apple juice            
1/2  cup  water
1 Tbsp.  packed brown sugar 
 2 1/2  lb.  beets, peeled, and cut into bite-size pieces
Tbsp.  snipped fresh parsley
Lemon wedges (optional)

In a large saucepan combine 1/2 cup of the wine, the water, and brown sugar. Bring to boiling, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add beets. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 45 minutes until beets are tender and can be pierced with a fork, stirring occasionally. Drain. Transfer beets to serving bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
 Splash with remaining 1/4 cup wine. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve with lemon wedges. Makes 8 to 10 side-dish (1/2-cup) servings.
*Note: You can avoid staining your hands with beet juice if you wear plastic gloved while peeling and cutting the beets. Trim beet tops or leave tops on.

Although I've never developed a taste for wild carrots, I wanted to share with you this picture.  To make it easier to weed the garden, vegetables are planted in rows then marked with a string hung a few inches above the soil.  Anything growing on either side of the string is pulled as a weed.  Anything within the row whose leaf doesn't match what is expected, such as a thistle or clover, is also promptly pulled.  When harvest time comes, it always gives me a wee smile to see what surprises are held beneath.  As you see, the wild carrot top and the domestic carrot are similar.  Both are edible however the domestic carrot has a sweeter flavor, is higher in beta carotene, and is easier to pull.  Nothing goes to waste.  Goats, chickens, all sorts of animals love the wild carrots as much as the domestic.  
If you have planted carrots, make notes as you harvest.  Are they straight or bent?  Are they long and thin or irregular?  If you have kept the seed package, read what the vendor stated as 'normal size'.  Prime conditions will result in good, straight, sweet tasting carrots.  If the soil is too hard or stony, you may end up with stunted or crooked roots.  Keep this in mind before planting next year. 

Lastly, remember: all foods taste best when enjoyed when shared, after some fresh air and exercise with a friend.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Cool days, Autumn afternoons

It's been a cool day here in CNY.  Soft steady rains are gradually giving everything a nice deep drink.  I wanted to share with you my quiet day listening to the patter and rustle of changing leaves.  A walk in the woods refreshes the mind and clears one's thoughts, provided that one has the presence of mind to turn off the electronics or leave them behind.  So much of our stress these days seems to be self imposed.  When was the last time you went an hour or a day without your phone or tablet?  When was the last time you walked in the wood and listened to the rain?

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Apple Picking time

What a beautiful weekend to go apple picking!  The apples are luscious and ready for picking.  Starting in late August through early November, apples ripen and become ready for harvest.  Some of these are good eating apples, while others make wonderful pies and desserts.  What is the difference?

When chosing an apple that will be cooked, consider if it will retain its shape.  Also consider if the fruit has a nice balance of tartness to sweetness.  Our family prefers Granny Smiths or Cortlands for pies and tarts however the Ida Red is also an excellent choice.  For those that like a sweeter all purpose apple, the Golden Delicious has a nice flavor.
There are hundreds varieties of apples.  Low in calories yet high in fiber and flavonoids, there is a grain of truth in the old maxim, 'An apple a day, keeps the doctor away.'  Recent research suggests that a diet including apples could be benefitial in preventing cancer and other maladies.  All I know for sure is nothing beats an afternoon spent with your family picking apples in the clear Fall air.

Except maybe a fresh, warm pie...

Fall  Apple Pie

6 to 8 tart apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (about six cups)
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp Tapioca pearls (dry tapioca)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp Nutmeg
2 Tbsp lemon juice (keeps the apples from turning brown and adds a wee kick to the flavor)
chilled butter
Pastry for 2 crust 9" pie (it's okay to cheat: Pillsbury makes a wonderful frozen crust for those of us who are pastry impaired)

Preheat the oven 400F degrees.  Combine the filling ingredients, coating the apples well.  Spoon the apple mixture into the pie shell, dot with butter, then apply the top crust to the pie.  Be sure to cut a few vent holes in the top so the pie can breath while it cooks.  Bake at 400F for about 50 minutes or until done. 

This simple filling can be used for a variety of desserts.  If you want to kick it up a notch, add 1/2 cup dried cherries or cranberries to the apple mixture.  Remember: the dried fruit will help soak up some of the liquid, so you may want to slightly decrease the amount of dry Tapioca.  Enjoy!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Signs of Fall

Have you noticed a change in the air?  Perhaps a whiff of drying leaves or a blush of frost tinging the dew on the morning grass? 
Signs of Autumn are subtle this time of year.  A few leaves tinted unexpectedly.  Golden rod and purple aster flag their colorful plumes in the cool morning breeze.  The last monarchs of summer begin to gather and make their way south.  Birds, such as the Canada goose, also gather and begin to feed, building their fat stores for the long flight to warmer, milder places.

As you walk in the wood, pause and listen.  The deer are beginning to gather.  Be cautious at the sounds of rattling antlers.  The male deer are establishing their places and have little tolerance for interlopers.  Also be cautious when walking in areas where people hunt.  Before walking down an inviting path, be sure to ask the land owner or manager permission.  Not only is this good manners, but could keep you or your pet from being mistaken for a deer by a hunter lying in wait.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Song of the Turtle

"The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land" (Song of Solomon 2:12)

A lovely quote from the King James Bible referencing the soft cooing of courting doves in the Spring.  Although each morning we are greeted by the songs of mourning doves, we are also well aware of the sounds of other critters in the bush. 

A few weeks back, female snapping turtles made their way out of their cool damp homes to seek out protected places to dig a hole and lay her eggs. One female can lay as many as 20 eggs however three to five is not uncommon.  Just after the last full moon of August or the first full moon of September, the hatchlings emerge.  They feed on slugs, earthworms, grasshoppers, and other tasty bits as they make their way to the safety of moister places near the creek and wetland.

These little guys were still covered in the mud they dug through as they burrowed out of their eggs and made their way to the surface.  Turtles are self reliant and are ready to feed and defend themselves as soon as they emerge.  Although they look cute, those heads are armed with jaws ready to nip the end of a finger or the tip of an inquisitive puppy's nose.  We rounded up those that had ended up close to the house, carefully scooping them into a small container, and relocated them closer to the woods yet protected by high grass.  Ravens, foxes, raccoons, and even older turtles, would enjoy a hatchling snack so we take care to put them someplace safe. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Natural verses Organic Farming

There is a lot of confusion in the market place regarding the differences in 'Natural' verses 'Organic' farm goods.  Although sometimes the words are used interchangeably, they can be quite different things.  In the US, products marketed as 'Organic' must meet certain guildlines and come from Organic Certified sources.  'Natural' products are not always from certified sources.  So what's the difference? 

In 1990, the Organic Food Production Act was passed by Congress to "establish uniform national standards for the production and handling of foods labeled as “organic.” The Act authorized a new USDA National Organic Program (NOP) to set national standards for the production, handling, and processing of organically grown agricultural products. In addition, the Program oversees mandatory certification of organic production. The Act also established the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) which advises the Secretary of Agriculture in setting the standards upon which the NOP is based. Producers who meet standards set by the NOP may label their products as “USDA Certified Organic.”

Later in 1995, specific definitions were further outlined to help clarify to the consumer what the 'Organic' label means.  Also at this time, the beginnings of regulations and enforcement came down, providing specific structure for farms and dairies to be certified organic.  These guidelines were finalized in 2000 and the law enacted in 2001.  It can take as much as three years to get certified.  Once completed, the farm or area within the farm is periodically recertified.  If for whatever reason the certification is lost, the farm cannot be re-certified until it once again reaches the required standards and passes thorough inspection.  For example: in Washington state, the use of an unapproved substance may result in a loss of organic certification for 36 months.

Here at My Happy Acres, although we are not currently certified Organic, we believe in and practice sustainable agricultural methods.  We have clean ground water and like many small farmers, do everything we can to maintain its integrity.  Living close to the land is not a fad or catch phase, but is our way of life.

If you are interested in Organic production and are willing to dive into 'the deep end of the pool', Cornell University has some guides that you may be interested in.  These are free to download and have lots of good information outlining the general practices recommended by them.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Spicing up your life

Did you know that there are over 1000 varieties of pepper?  A typical grocery store may carry a few such as the sweet bell pepper or Jalapeno chili but that doesn't begin to scratch the surface of the flavors and varieties out there. 
Most people don't realize that many of the peppers we enjoy today originated from South America.  We take for granted those wonderful little surprises that make many of the southeast Asia dishes so tasty.  As peppers come into season, you can enjoy them fresh, pickled, dried, roasted, or even frozen for later use.
Some people say that they don't like peppers because they are too spicy.  With over a thousand to choose from, the favors are as varied as the peppers themselves.  The Poblano pepper for example adds a rich spiciness to your dish.  Just a word of warning: the heat can vary from pepper to pepper on the same plant.  Additionally when allowed to red ripen and then dried, the Poblano becomes the chile ancho a popular addition to many Mexican and Central American dishes.

Another popular chili is the Banana pepper.  These are available in both a sweet and hot variety.  We enjoy these pickled as a bright side dish or garnish to our summer picnic table.   One of our favorites is the Cherry Bomb pepper.  These can be amazingly hot.  About  the size of a golf ball, these can be stuffed with cheese or prosciutto to make Poppers that your guests will always remember!

So seek out new varieties of the season's peppers and enjoy the spicy side of life!

For further reading and other fun:

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Tomato perfection

Are they ready?  Not yet.  How about now?  Soon.  Now?  Wait for it...

This is the mantra of every gardener.  The rose enthusiast waiting for the certain blossom to open.  The orchardist waiting for the fruit to reach its sun blest juiciest.  And of course the summer vegetable gardener waiting for the tomatoes to vine ripen for best flavor.

So now is the time.

Although we will can a few during these first few weeks, nothing compares to a tomato which has ripened in the warm summer sun.  You can keep your hot house and hydroponics.  For me there is no comparason to the flavor mother nature intended.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Little Jewels

While chatting with a friend the other day, it was asked about the difference in chicken eggs.  The brown shelled eggs sold at the market are frequently higher in price and touted as being more healthy.  The shell of an egg has nothing to do with how healthy the content.  Put simply: what goes in is what comes out.  
Little Miss and Goldie
Think about it.  When you eat a healthy diet, get plenty of sunshine and exercise, and are able to relax among your friends, you feel better and are more productive.  Chickens are no different.  Most laying chickens live rather sad lives, confined to small cages where they receive food and water in exchange for producing a certain number of eggs.  When the egg production slows down, they are culled and replaced with younger birds. 

For those folks that only purchase eggs or chicken meat marked 'Free range', all I can say is buyer beware.  The USDA standard for free range merely states that a bird needs to have access to the outdoors.  This unfortunately doesn't mean that she is roaming a lush pasture with her little chickeny friends.  The picture on the carton may show wide open spaces, however her reality may be only to have a 6x6 foot concete yard to share with 100 of her fellow layers. 

Our girls have lots of room to roam with plenty of chicken snacks, sweet grass and clover, plus a wholesome feed available to them to ensure a balanced diet.  As a suppliment and special treat, the gals also receive cucumbers and other vegetables from the garden, tomato bits, and even a bit of watermelon from time-to-time. 

So why do some chickens lay white eggs and others lay colored shelled eggs?  Good question.  If you were to look at a hen's anatomy, all of her eggs start out the same and are pretty goopy as they form in her ovaduct (egg producing tract).  Toward the end of the tract, the shell forms around the egg and yolk, with some liquid to cushion and bathe the developing chick.  This shell is white.  As the egg is laid, an oily secretion coats the shell to protect it from bacteria yet allow the developing chick to breathe.  This secretion is what gives the shell its color.

The general rule of thumb is, if your chicken has red or dark colored earlobs she will lay colored eggs.  If she has white earlobs she will lay white eggs.  Now here's where I wish my camera could pick up the soft and subtle colors of an Americauna egg.  The photo doesn't do these lovely jewels their due.  Missy's eggs are a soft turquoise color.  Each girl produces a different shade ranging from pinks and blues to minty greens.  I can look at the color and tell you, who it is from. 

They taste no different from any other egg but because they are produced from calm, healthy, happy hens are more nutrious than those produced by those sad birds at the egg laying factory.  Something to keep in mind the next time you reach for a dozen.

Hidden treasures

Monday, August 6, 2012

There are somethings in this world that never get old.  This morning's sky was as bright as a robin's egg.  The rains have cooled the world down to the point that it is comfortable enough again to venture out.  Wild flowers are exploding out all over and tiny blades of grass are struggling to get established.  Of course the cooler conditions also have encouraged the moths and butterflies into action. 

Black and Tiger Swallowtails drift and flutter every where.  It's fun to watch the dogs dance about on their hind legs as they reach and prance as they attempt to capture their elusive foe.

I found this on YouTube this morning and thought that you also may enjoy it.  Many of the butterflies featured are the same ones that presently grace our pastures.

Nothing teaches patience like waiting for one's tomatoes to ripen to perfection.  Each morning, I wander out and carefully peak at each one (ready?  not yet.  Ready?  no yet).  Each year I think I have planted enough tomatoes however each year I find that nothing beats the flavor of a fresh from the garden beauty.  We still can and sauce quite a few however keep our fingers crossed that we have enough. 

Since you asked, yes, the chickies are all doing well.  Fresh water and plenty of shade has kept everyone reasonably comfortable.  Our lover boy roosters have been very attentive making sure that everyone knows where to find the choice bits, even nicely sharing those special snacks (fresh from the refridgerator).  I have found that they especially love cucumber seeds and peels, which I am more than glad to save for them.  Aside from their free choice from the pasture, we also share our vegetable scraps with them.  This provides some extra nutrition and variety to their diets.  Besides: everyone enjoys a cool treat when it's hot outside and the chickies are no different.

Don't forget to visit and support your local Farmers Market.  In many parts of the country farmers are struggling to stay afloat.  Please help them out and buy local.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Harvesting and stocking up for the winter

Two weeks ago I did a posting about green beans and provided a lovely recipe for DH's favorite three bean salad.  I assumed that everyone knew what 'blanched' meant however learned that some of you needed a few hints on how to do this so that the vegetables come out crisp tender.

To begin, the smaller the amount of time between harvest and freezing or canning your vegetables the higher amount of nutrition you will receive from them.  This also goes for flavor.  Vegetables just taste best when fresh from the field or garden.  For the best flavor, pick your vegetables in the cool of the morning.

Although others may work a little quicker than I, it takes me about an hour to prepare and process a gallon of green beans.  You will need to following to blanch and prepare your vegetables for freezing.
  1. large bowl to hold fresh picked vegetables (or keep them in your clean garden bucket)
  2. large bowl to hold cleaned raw vegetables
  3. large pot for boiling water and stainless steel stainer to hold vegetables while cooking.
  4. large bowl of iced water with a colander for holding and draining
  5. vacuum sealer or press and seal freezer bags.
Although this process can be used for nearly any vegetable, we're using green beans (mostly because that's what is coming from the garden in the greatest abundance).

Before beginning, clear your counter space to allow you to work efficiently.  The configuration of my kitchen allows me to work in clockwise.  Starting at the sink, take a small handful of beans and gently rinse the dirt and plant debris, such as the dried blossoms, from the beans.  Pinch or cut off the stem attachment and discard.  Now snap or cut the clean beans into 1 - 2 inch segments.  If the green or yellow beans are fresh, they should easily snap into pieces.  If they are a little rubbery, it just means that the beans may not the freshest however may still have good flavor.

Rinse the dirt from your beans

Once the stem attachment has been removed, snap your beans into 1 - 2 inch segments.
While you're cleaning your beans, set a large pot of unsalted water on the stove to boil.  As soon as it reaches a rolling boil, take a handful of beans and drop them into the straining basket so that the beans are covered in water but not bouncing around in the water bath.  Many of the better cookbooks also contain a reference table for how long to keep them in the water bath in order to blanch them until crisp tender.  I typically cook mine until they turn a truly lovely shade of bright green which is about 3 minutes. 

When starting out, you may want to take one out of the bath (careful: HOT), rinse it in the cold iced water, then taste if it is cooked to your liking.  whatever you do: don't cook it until it turns to mush or turns grey green.  if you are freezing your harvest, you will most likely be thawing and cooking it at a later date.  You want it to be a wee bit raw to hold those lovely flavors!  Remember that those bright colors are the nutrition you're saving.  Don't boil away the vitamins!

Boil about three minutes, until crisp tender
When ready, drain the hot vegetables and plunge them into an ice water bath to cool and halt the cooking process.  This will preserve the color and lock in those vitamins!  Once cool, the drained beans are ready to ladle into the freezer bags.
Plunge into an ice water bath to stop the cooking and retain the nice color
Drain the beans throroughly before spooning them into freezer bags.  Be sure to remove as much air as possible before sealing.  This can be done in several ways:  if using a vacuum sealer, follow the directions for your appliance, add your vegetables, evacuate and seal each package.  If using press and seal plastic bags, scoop the vegetables into the bag, then place the bag open side up into a pan of cold water to press the air out.  Be careful not to submerge the open bag into the water and get water in the bag!  When the air has been removed to your satisfaction, seal the bag and remove it from the water.

Add the cool, drained beans to the freezer bag, seal, and freeze
Why remove the air? Air pockets will allow frost to form, causing freezer burn and will eventually undo your efforts.  Vegetables prepared in this way can last a long time and will continue to feed your family well into Winter when Summer is just a delight as we peruse our seed catalogs dreaming of next year's garden.