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.