Harvest Season

It’s fascinating to look at blog posts from harvests past. Last year, I was doing some of the same chores I’m doing now.

I’m bringing in tomatoes and peppers every day, but I’m still watering the plants left behind because they’re still producing (quite a bit of) fruit.

I’m pruning the tomato plants so the water and sun can go into the leaves and stems that are still growing and still producing. Meanwhile, I’m searching for a source that will sell me garlic bulbs to plant now. Now, I tell you. Not next May. And since no one in town seems to carry garlic for planting, I’m reduced to ordering online.

I bought garlic near Lake Geneva on a visit to La Petite. It grew well. I’m thinking about planting garlic again, but not in the same place. That spot, behind the garage, will be a mess next spring because we’re replacing the garage. We’ll lose half of that plot, and the rest will probably be a mess from the construction itself. I’ll cope; I’ll use a few more containers than usual this time.

Also in that post, I mentioned sunlamps for the herbs. Chuck bought me lamps for my birthday and a timer for Christmas. That helped with the seedlings and the herbs. We also followed through and bought a daybed with a trundle bed that tucks underneath. We didn’t know at the time that this would become my sickroom after surgery in January and late in April. We’re just glad we bought it when we did.

Like last year, I’m cleaning up the containers. Unlike last year, we have straw bales to deal with. The peppers in the bales are still growing, so we’re not ready to pull out the plants and spread what’s left of the straw. I’m still bringing in jalapenos, poblanos, and sweet yellow banana peppers. The tall tomatoes in the Jungle need pruning; I’ll get to it, sooner or later. No pictures, though. Things are looking spindly and scrawny.

Meanwhile, school goes on. My music classes take more of my time this year, and that time is spent well in helping my students.

So, readers, how does your garden grow? How are you handling the fall harvest and putting the garden to bed?

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Kitchen Sink Stew or Pantry Raid?

When I was looking through Homecoming posts for yesterday’s encore, I stumbled upon an early Pantry Raid. This one had a “recipe” for what I called Skillet Stew. As I read it, I realized that I could make it, almost exactly as noted, with the foods in my pantry and kitchen today. And then I realized I’d made pantry raids a few times in the past few weeks.

There was the tomato soup. I realized that I had too many tomatoes for BLTs or salads, so I quartered them and loaded the crock pot. Chef Daisy added in a few herbs and a small onion, diced, along with a hint of garlic, and then it simmered all day. Upon arriving home from school, a potato masher squashed the tomatoes, an immersion blender blended the pulp and pulled out most of the skins, and it was almost soup. A little Worcestershire sauce took the edge off the sweetness of fresh tomatoes, and then a little powdered milk helped thicken it to soup consistency.

Mmm. A little grated cheddar and we had a Wow supper.

Later…I had a chicken rice soup that wasn’t a big hit. The broth was weak. So, with the brilliance of an experienced Kitchen Raider, I drained the soup in a colander. I then added what was left (chicken, rice, and vegetables) to a container of tomato soup. It was thick, tasty, and delicious.

Now, inspired by reviewing my old Skillet Stew, I can see that I might be able to use the leftover lamb chops for a Hunger Games style Lamb Stew. Let’s see if I can find dried fruit to represent the dried plums that Katniss liked. I don’t have any plums at the moment, and for a true raid, I should use what’s on hand here.

By the way: there was no Farmers’ Market today because of a huge celebration that our fair city calls Octoberfest. It’s okay; I have enough fruits and vegetables in the house to feed the family quite well this week, thank you very much.

And another aside: Eating the Opponent this week means Chicago style pizza from Papa Murphy’s take and bake. Sometimes I ask the pros to help out. 

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Friday Night Lights – encore

Many of my online friends have high school age offspring, and those offspring are celebrating the Rite of Fall called Homecoming. We had some memorable homecomings of our own – our own progeny, that is. Here’s one.

Love is attending a high school football game on a cool Friday evening and watching the moon rise between the bright lights.

(Photo Credit: Husband’s first camera phone, several years pre-smart phone. Not bad, eh?)

 

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Updates

Life goes on, even when the blog isn’t working. Now that I can post again, here’s the update from Saturday’s market.

It's fall - apple season and more!

It’s fall – apple season and more!

I was on a field trip Monday to an urban farm in Milwaukee. They did the container gardening thing to extremes – awesome extremes. I think I need one of these.

Roll Out the Barrel

Roll Out the Barrel

I really liked this one.

We'll have a barrel of fun!

We’ll have a barrel of fun!

Oh, it feels good to be back online again. Bear with me, people. I may be a little punchy this week.

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I’m back!

I don’t know how it happened – either a very generous tech friend or family member or sheer luck — but we are back online with Compost Happens.

Now what? Now, I rest. Tomorrow, perhaps, I’ll post.

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And still more tomatoes!

You heard about last week’s tomato sauce marathon, but you didn’t see it in progress. It started like this: with four crock pots simmering.

one and two

one and two

three

three

and four.

and four.

Crock post number four has been officially retired. Rusted in spot, with one handle falling off, I decided it was done. I kept the crock (the pretty blue removable crock itself), but I threw out the heating element. The blue part might become a planter or a crock for kitchen utensils or – who knows? With Pinterest around, it could become just about anything.

Back to the tomato sauce – eventually, the sauces boiled down to two crocks full. I had already stirred it up with my immersion blender and sorted out the skins with a food mill. It made seven quart jars and three pints. Two of the quart jars didn’t seal, so they’re in the refrigerator. I’ll make spaghetti or pizza soon. Freshly made sauce is inspiring.

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Salsa season!

One of my go-to books for canning is Put ‘Em Up! by Sherri Brooks Vinton. The first time I made this, I had a lot of tomatoes, but we had to buy the jalapeno peppers. Mine were not growing very quickly – or they’re being eaten by the furry creatures that bounce through the yard. Maybe that’s why the bunny was collapsed under the rain barrel? Never mind. Just kidding. This year I had the opposite problem – loads of peppers before the tomatoes were ready.

Heirloom Tomato Salsa
1 cup distilled vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon salt
3 pounds heirloom tomatoes (any kind – or a combination of types)
1/2 pound onions, diced
1 cup chopped cilantro (optional; I use very little if any cilantro.)
Bring the vinegar, sugar, and salt to a boil in a large nonreactive saucepan. Add the tomatoes, onions, and jalapenos, and return to a boil for 5 minutes. Add the cilantro and remove from the heat.
To preserve:
Either refrigerate (for up to 5 days) or use the hot-water method.
For the boiling water method:
Ladle into clean, hot, half-pint jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Release trapped air. Wipe the rims clean; center lids on the jars and screw on jar bands. Process for 15 minutes. Turn off heat, remove canner lid, and let jars rest in the water for 5 minutes. Remove jars and set aside for 24 hours. Check seals, then store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.
I made a double batch Saturday night. I’ve made triple batches some years. It all depends on tomatoes and peppers and how they grow. No matter how much I make, we seem to eat it or cook with it. None goes to waste.

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I Believe In Music – Musical Intelligence, that is.

It’s the last in a series. My first post on Multiple Intelligence theory attracted a lot of attention, so the folks in the social media and marketing offices decided to capitalize on it with a series of posts. I wrote many of the drafts, and I edited and contributed to the others. Here’s the last in the series: the Musical Intelligence. Those who know me and my family will not be surprised by the reference to the history of the well-known Suzuki method of learning to play an instrument.

My only regret is that the social media Powers That Be did not include my tribute to Barbara Dryer. Barbara was co-founder of Connections Academy and leader of Connections Education. She passed away in early September from a very aggressive breast cancer. As she faced her own mortality, Barbara took the time to create a smooth and workable succession plan. Her brilliance and her dedication to online learning will live on.

When I met Barbara in person, I mentioned that I was the music teacher at WCA. She smiled broadly – I can only call it a grin! – and asked, “What’s your instrument?” I knew immediately that she was a musician, too. I will always remember how brief and yet exciting our chat was, and how enthusiastic she was about this partnership between Juilliard School of Music and Connections Education.

And so, in honor of her memory, here it is: The Language of Music.

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Early Morning Marketing

The downtown Farmers’ Market is winding down a bit. It’ll continue through most of October with the last weekend of September off for the big Octoberfest celebration. We were awake and ready earlier than usual, so we loaded our pockets with parking meter change, grabbed the shopping bag on wheels, and headed downtown. Amigo was sound asleep; he didn’t even miss us.

We spent only half the time we’d plugged into the meter, but we managed to fill the bags with good food despite the shorter time period. Earlier than usual and cooler than usual, there were far fewer shoppers on the Avenue. We moved a little faster through the smaller crowds.

Those that were there found good deals on peppers, potatoes, apples, and the big fall seller, squash of all kinds. We bought acorn squash, butternut squash, and a little green and yellow zucchini squash, too. The big winter squashes will store well in our cool back hallway pantry. We’ve been able to store the thick-skinned squashes into December and even January some years. The thin-skinned zucchini will be supper tomorrow night.

So now, without further ado, here is one of the last batches of goodies from the market.

Mmmmm.

Mmmmm.

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