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Let’s Do a Bee Walk

For Farm Tour Day, my friend, Sid, who runs Annie's Flower Farm, asked me to do a "Bee Walk." What is that? Something you make up as you go! We took a stroll through the gardens and kept a close eye out for honeybees, native pollinators, and even frogs. And why do some bees like some flowers and other pollinators prefer something different? And what can they tell us about how much we need one another?

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A Message for Peace

I had to throw out my words today about crazy holiday gift ideas. The recent news of innocent children slain in Newtown make us all question who we, as a human race, have become. Maybe it's time to get back to the garden...

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Fall Abundance – and a Great Recipe for Apple Cake

So many reasons why I love this simply gorgeous time of year! But aaaghhh! So much to do! …last-minute scramble to button things up for winter, can and freeze surplus produce, get the garlic in the ground, don’t forget fall cover crops…and what to do with all those apples? Try this Skillet Apple Cake Recipe - it's fast & easy!

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Harvest Celebration Farm Tours

Tomorrow, Saturday, October 2, is the 14th Annual Harvest Celebration Farm Tour in Clallam County. If you are on the Olympic Peninsula, Washington State, this is a very fun event that gives you a glimpse of what the Peninsula has to offer. This year, nine different farms are opening their barn doors and throwing a party – hayrides, music, great food, farm animals & produce, demonstrations – a ton of down-home family fun.

We are incredibly blessed to have such an abundance of “real” food and local products available to us. It’s up to us to insure that availability. By supporting our local family farms, we are supporting our independence, our self-sufficiency, and our communities. Our health – and our quality of life - defined on so many levels – depends on it. So when you check out some of our local farms this weekend, take time to get to know our farming neighbors. We’re all in this together.

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Capturing Sunshine in a Jar

Save money, eat healthier, control the ingredients, be more self-sufficient – all good reasons to can your own food. It is a connection to past generations who understood the importance of self-reliance to survival. And like our grandparents, come some blustery day in the midst of winter, we can gather with family and friends, crack open a jar of those home-canned peaches, sit back, and close our eyes at the sweet taste of summer. Mmmm-hmmmm. A little sunshine in a jar.

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Blue Moon Garden Review

A cold winter's night beneath a blue moon: December 31 and it's that time of year again: time to evaluate what worked and what didn't in the garden. Once you complete this year-end ritual, you can dive into all those seed catalogs. But don't skip this pre-garden planning step: a realistic evaluation now might prevent you from making crazy impulsive purchases based on glossy photos, mouth-watering descriptions, and a human tendency to forget the bad and remember the good. Or not.

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Local Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

products-from-slgCheck out the phenomenal variety of goods I purchased this week from the Sequim Locally Grown outlet: cinnamon rolls and a peach pie (wow!) from Sequim Valley Products, turnips, kohlrabi, and leeks from the Lazy J Farm, shallots from the Johnston Farms, flax seed from Teri Crockett, fresh oysters from QuilBay Seafood, and a live Colorado Blue Spruce tree from the Hydrangea Rangers (which we will plant after Christmas)! I had also recently purchased locally grown wheat from Nash’s store, fresh raw milk from the Dungeness Valley Creamery, freshly roasted coffee from Princess Valient, fresh raw honey from the Rarely Bee Haven Apiary, and lip balm and soap from the Galloping Goats Farm. That is just a small sampling of what is available.

Sequim Locally Grown makes it so easy. You just go online and browse through the produce and products posted by local farmers and artisans, make your selections by Tuesday evening, and then pick up your order at the local Grange on Thursday. It’s a special treat to see what was selected for you to complete your order – and definitely fun to see what everyone else is getting to give you ideas on what to order next week (personally, I’m going for Yvonne’s Chocolates!). (More local sources of food can be found on my Buy Local page – and if you think of someone who needs to be added, please contact me!)

This Thanksgiving, I am literally OVERWHELMED by how blessed we are to have so much available to us that is grown right here! It is such a privilege to be able to get to know the good people who work so hard to bring it to our table!

I am also keenly aware that not everyone is blessed with such abundance. According to the World Food Program, over a billion people in the world are going hungry, which means 1 in 6 people do not get enough food to be healthy. We are spoiled in the US, but we still have our problems. They are not insurmountable. It just takes a little effort on everyone’s part to help out someone else. Can’t find locally grown food near you? Go to Local Harvest for a directory of family farms. Just plug in your zip code and you may be surprised what is available near you. Real farmers. Real food. All across the country. Once you taste locally grown, anything else seems mediocre. Being a locavore becomes a mindset and a way of life.

I also know that I am extremely fortunate to be able to grow my own food – and although my hourly wage may not amount to much, the pride I have in knowing I am providing the very best nutrition and flavor for my family, the security in knowing that no matter what the economy does, we will have plenty of food, and the satisfaction in doing something that keeps me physically fit and that provides me something of substance (that I can see and EAT!) as a result of my labor – is worth far more than what I would pay for a similar (but ultimately inferior) item that has been transported from who knows where to sit on a shelf in a supermarket.

I have corn and beans in the freezer, canned tomatoes, relish, and jams on the shelves, and broccoli, chard, collards, and an assortment of greens ready to harvest in the garden right now. I have numerous boxes of Gravenstein apples and several varieties of potatoes in our barn, along with an assortment of pumpkins and other squashes. (If you could use some apples, please contact me!)

Abundance is what Thanksgiving has become all about. Get this: according to the American Council on Exercise, for the average American, Thanksgiving is a time to consume 3,000 calories and 229 grams of fat. If that doesn’t epitomize this odd compulsion Americans have with consumption, I don’t know what does.

I think of those early Pilgrims, whom we unrealistically commemorate on this holiday, and how they sat down with the Wampanoag Native Americans (who undoubtedly lent them a hand to keep them from starving!), probably at a simple feast that included deer and seafood as well as fowl, beans, corn, squash, and probably some wild greens. And guess what? IT WAS ALL LOCAL FOOD!

So before you commit yourself to a post-Thanksgiving feast coma followed by a fleeting idea of the need to walk for 30 miles to wear off those calories (and then collapsing for 3 days afterward and doing nothing), consider what Thanksgiving means to you. A time to be thankful, of course; also a time to be mindful. Abundance? Yes. Over-consumption? Not necessarily. A time to celebrate the fruits of all the hard work that went into making all this food available. A time to lend a hand to others.

And if you really want to celebrate a traditional Thanksgiving – GO LOCAL!

Thank a farmer. Thank the hands that feed you. Thank your neighbor!

Ultimate Garlic Roaster

Looking for a really good garlic roaster? Look no further. Andi and Rudy Bauer of Bauer Haus Pottery make some amazing pieces. Roasted garlic elevates a simple dinner to a holiday feast. The Bauer Haus garlic roasters will ensure your garlic roasts to perfection.

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Harvest Abundance – and a Great Zucchini Bread Recipe!

True confession: I simply have not had time to follow up on my last post. Furthermore, I am not afraid to admit that I still have zucchini on my countertop. Yes, I continue to sneak them into spaghetti sauces and muffins, but in reality, they have been pushed to the back to make room for zillions of green tomatoes. I do mean zillions.

Daniel_in_cornpatchIncredible summer that it was, we also managed to get enough RED ones to inspire the red tomato dance with wild abandon, something I won’t post on YouTube just yet, but believe me, my tomatoes were something to behold!

And CORN! To experience the taste of just-picked sweet corn is a rare thing in the maritime Northwest, where people have no concept of measuring summer days by number of heat units.

Harvest time is crazy! September and October flew by with a flurry of “must dos” before the winds and rains drove all but the soggy hardy indoors: garlic to plant & more to deliver, fall crops to mulch and put under cover, potatoes to dig, tomatoes to can, corn to freeze, and fruits and jams…

Baby_pie_pumpkinThe winds picked up in early October, just after the garlic was tucked snugly in the ground. The tarp over my tomato trellis was ripping like a flag on a stormy sea. I scrambled to pick a peck of green tomatoes, along with a nice supply of baby pie pumpkins. The winds blew harder. Apples literally rained from the trees.

ApplesWhat to do with four trees full of apples – heirloom Gravensteins – juicy and tart. Too few to sell commercially – too many for just family and friends. Over the next few days, I picked 6 boxes of windfalls and put them out by the road with a sign: Free Apples. One by one they disappeared.

Free_applesAnd THAT, exactly, is what I love about fall: with a seemingly endless list of tasks and an urgency you can smell in the damp mornings when the fog rolls in across the fields – there comes a moment when you have to pause and marvel at the sheer abundance of what you have – and with that, the appreciation of the opportunity it gives you to share that abundance with complete strangers.

And speaking of sharing, before I move on to other things, I must share with you what is quite possibly the best zucchini bread recipe ever. I have at least two dozen loaves of this in my freezer and have given more than a dozen away.

I have adapted this recipe from Recipes from America’s Small Farms – Fresh Ideas for the Season’s Bounty by Joanne Lamb Hayes and Lori Stein with Maura Webber (link also provided in the right column). I particularly relate to this book because the recipes are accessible (no exotic ingredients), they revolve around what is in season, and they are organized according to parts of the plant (leaves, stalks and stems, seeds and pods, roots and tubers, etc.). There are loads of tips on how to prepare specialty items found at farmers’ markets, such as mesclun, arugula, nasturtium flowers, and garlic scapes. And although it’s a little heavy on the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) idea (which I do support), the short write-ups on the family farms from whom the recipes are featured makes you feel like they could be just down the road. Highly recommended.

One more thing before the recipe: I feel the need to clarify that I would not call myself devious in my sharing the abundance of zucchini. Au contraire. I considered stamping across my forehead, “Zucchini’s not for Weenies.” I never resorted to leaving zucchinis in people’s cars or on doorsteps and then running. No. But I do admit to cleverly disguising (er, I mean, enhancing) the zucchini behind nuts, raisins, and even chocolate chips. And after our annual family pumpkin-carving party, I smiled genuinely as I gave each unsuspecting child a loaf to take home with them. Each of them smiled in return and said “thank you” (good children that they are). Little did they know what I meant when I said, “Trick or Treat!” 😎

(One more caveat: if you have followed other recipes I have posted, you will know this is really more of a guideline.)

And now….(finally)….without further fanfare….

A Darn Good Recipe for Zucchini-Bran Bread (makes four 8-inch loaves) (My thanks extended to Beth Staggenborg of Boulder Belt CSA in Cincinnati, Ohio.)

Initial prep:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease your pans.

Mix together wet stuff & sweeteners:

6 eggs
1 c vegetable oil
1 c brown sugar (half brown and half raw is also good)
¼ c molasses (for dark bread) or honey (for light)

Mix together dry stuff:

4 c flour (whole wheat or white/wheat combo)
1 c oat bran
1/3 c wheat germ
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 T ginger (optional – but good)
1 tsp salt
1 T baking powder

Mix the wet & dry (not too much – it will get mixed more in the next step)

Fold in the not-so-secret ingredients:

6-8 c grated zucchini (I have used up to 10 c!)
1 c chopped nuts
1 c raisins
Chocolate chips – couple handfuls (optional)
Other ideas: fresh ginger – grate in a bit if you have it. Orange zest is also good.

And to Complete…

Divide the batter. Bake about 40 minutes or so. Less for smaller pans. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before slicing.

Easy!

Essentially, my version has less oil, less sugar, more zucchini, and a few more spices than that in the Small Farm cookbook recipe.

Remember,  ’tis the season – Share the Abundance!

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