Alien or Native?

No, this is not a post about immigration woes. It is a post about invasive species – plants and animals that sneak into an ecosystem and disrupt it. Zebra Mussels. Purple Loosestrife. Hogweed (not Hogwarts, silly people).

I saw this on a walk near Ashland, Wisconsin. It looks like dill, but it doesn’t smell like dill.

Well??

Well??

It doesn’t appear to be the evil garlic mustard. Ideas, readers? Is this a plant native to the Great Lakes area? Or not?

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Plenty – locavores tell their story

I picked up Plenty: Eating locally on the 100 mile diet because it was mentioned in Low Impact Man. Plenty reminded me of Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle in the theme of the 100-mile diet, but the setting was quite different. Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon wrote Plenty Vancouver. Kingsolver lived and wrote in Appalachia.

I started to draw a comparison to my own location and climate, but Vancouver isn’t like Wisconsin. Vancouver is a temperate rainforest – lots of rain, only a little snow. Here in my locale, we have four clear seasons – or two, if you’re of the crowd that claims Winter and Road Construction.

But back to the story. I laughed out loud reading Plenty because of a parallel to my own life, blog, and locavore ambitions. Alisa and James had bought a large quantity of sweet corn – Wisconsinites also call it corn on the cob for the typical method of serving and eating this favorite. I, too, have been buying a huge bag of corn at its peak every August. Last year I had a hard time finding the time to prep it for freezing, and the final product just wasn’t as tasty as it could have been.  Alisa described a phone call to her mother asking advice on prepping corn. She found out… well, I’ll let her tell you.

“The sugar in corn starts to break down into starch within a few hours of being picked,” she said. “It doesn’t taste as good, and it loses nutritional value.” She was too polite to say the obvious – use it or lose it. She just started describing the process of blanching and freezing niblets. –Plenty; October.

I’d been thinking about corn and considering different ways of attacking this issue. The corn is inexpensive in August (Wisconsin’s corn ripens in late summer), so buying several dozen is a good investment. But here’s the dilemma: do I really have time to husk, blanch, and cut the kernels off the cob within hours of purchase? If I’m honest with myself (and I’m getting better about that), I have to say no. My solution, at least for the current summer, is this: I’ll buy a little extra from the market each week rather than five dozen ears all at once. It’ll cost me a few pence more, but I will be much more likely to get the corn prepped and in the freezer within a reasonable time frame. I handle peas and beans that way; why not corn?

The second laugh out loud moment came during the same corn chapter. It was 10:00 at night when Alisa realized they needed to prep the corn ASAP. Motivated (or mellowed) by a bottle of wine, they went at it. More than an hour into the task, Alisa remarked, “I feel like part of some apocalyptic cult.”

I blog about life, my life, and that includes a lot of gardening, canning, and otherwise preserving summer’s fresh bounty for the long winter months. Every now and then, I get comments or emails from so-called Doomsday Prepper groups. These are people who share my fascination with self-sufficiency, but for different reasons. Many Prepper groups expect the world as we know it to end soon and without warning. Their fears range from the massive changes due to global warming to a complete collapse of our government.

I’m not a doomsday type of person, but I do like to stock up with my own home made goodies now, while I have the chance. This stock-up process gives us good quality jams and pickles and more goodies in the pantry and locally grown vegetables in the freezer. We don’t do it to prepare for some mythical End of the World, but it does ease our winter grocery budget and bring a taste of summer to the table when there is snow on the ground.

Conclusion? I liked the book Plenty. I also enjoyed Low Impact Man and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. One other item all three had in common: the authors were already professional writers when they took on their experiments and chronicled the experiences. Maybe that’s why they were fun to read – and maybe that’s why I’m having trouble finding the time to finish my own manuscript. Ah, that’s another post. I’d better get back to shelling peas for tonight’s supper.

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Friends

When La Petite was in school, we saw her friends a lot. We made them welcome at our home, and they came over in large groups to hang out and drink our lemonade and sodas.

It’s a little tougher for Amigo. His best friends are scattered all over the state of Wisconsin. He met them at the state school for the blind, which serves the entire state. Luckily, Amigo and I enjoy road trips. As soon as we set up our trip to the Great Lake Superior area to see a Big Top Chautauqua show, he mentioned that one of his friends lives in a tiny town close to our destination. Amigo (who is showing major skill in arranging visits – future party planner, perhaps?) got in touch with his friend’s family through Facebook and made all the arrangements for us to stop by and visit.

The next day, they went fishing together.

"Chuck" helps the two young people bait their hooks

“Chuck” helps the two young people bait their hooks

Canes do not do double duty as fishing poles.

Canes do not do double duty as fishing poles.

I’m not much of a fan of fishing, but it was fun to go along and be a spare sighted guide from the car to the end of the dock.

Neither caught any fish — just algae — but it was fun. Her family sent us home with a package of their own home-made Polish sausage. Mmm – it was delicious. We left a thank-you of a few of my own homemade jams and pickles.

Readers, what do you like to bring along for getting-acquainted gifts? Since I started canning, it’s been easy. How about you?

 

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Signs of a Good Vacation

THO?

THO?

We were close enough to the U.P. that a sign in Yooper language made sense. But what is the last word supposed to be? I can translate Mmm, dat coffee! but THO? I’m lost.

Starbucks in the lobby and in the breakfast cafe: what do you think was in the hotel room coffee makers? Close, and if you’re a coffee aficionado, you might know that it’s from the same company.

Seattle's Best, in regular and decaf

Seattle’s Best, in regular and decaf

I made some in the room on the second day — the day we all slept late and actually missed breakfast hours! We’d had a fun and full day, and we really, really needed the extra sleep.

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Home again, home again – and off to market!

Today's Yum

Today’s Yum

From left to right — sweet cherries (imported from Washington), blueberries, flowers for MIL (to say thanks for feeding bunny while we were gone), beans green and beans yellow, peas (the last for the season?), carrots with tops, one tomato, green peppers…did I forget anything?

Raspberries fresh off the vine this morning, a couple of “home”made mixes from our vacation, and a package of brown & wild rice. Since I often mix wild rice with a whole grain or a brown variety, this is perfect.

We’re home! Tales and Pictures later. For now, I’m cleaning and storing lettuce – from the garden, not the market.

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Reasons for a Backyard Garden

One good reason for a backyard garden: bunny food.

Bunny likes parsley!

Bunny likes parsley!

Another good reason for a backyard garden: spinach. Add to salads, omelets, and just about anything.

Spinach! Iron-rich leafy green!

Spinach! Iron-rich leafy green!

I didn’t have a lot of spinach this season. Who knows – maybe the cold stretch ahead of us will trick the spinach into growing a second crop. I’m hoping the lettuce will do that, too. Salads at the O.K. Chorale! What could be more delicious?

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To Market, As Always

Going to the downtown farmers’ market must be good for my blood pressure. Just by walking onto the main street and seeing the vendors and hearing the peaceful crowd and the musicians…just setting foot into this wonderful market makes me relax and smile. We came home with this.

Delicious Collection!

Delicious Collection!

It’s fun to watch the seasonal foods shift through the summer markets. Very few vendors had strawberries today. I think I bought the last peas I’m going to get. I picked up honey, Michigan blueberries (from the U.P.; I don’t consider that imported), beans in green and yellow, asparagus (the last, I’m sure), and more.

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Planned Overs; the ultimate in planning ahead

On Monday, I started the charcoal grill with a goal of making burgers for supper – bacon cheeseburgers, if you want details. Don’t judge me; I served them on whole wheat buns, okay?

But back to the charcoal grill. If you’re like me and you prefer the charcoal grill to gas, you know that when the meat is done, the coals are still hot. In my kitchen, that’s the golden opportunity for planned leftovers, or planned-overs. On Monday night, the burgers shared the coals with chorizo (Mexican style sausage) and a Polska Kielbasa ring sausage.

Tuesday I made spaghetti and meat sauce – lots of both. The remaining spaghetti might become part of a side dish with the kielbasa or a batch or spaghetti carbonara. The meat sauce, with a little chili powder and jalapeno pepper, could be the base for a crock pot full of chili. If I decide to make that chili in true Wisconsin chili mac style, diced leftover spaghetti is right there in the refrigerator waiting for me.

Potatoes make great planned-overs. When I jump start a batch of baked potatoes on the grill, it takes hardly any time at all to finish them in the oven or microwave. If I make the planned-over potatoes into twice baked, complete with good Wisconsin cheese and green onions and chives from the garden, they’re not only delicious, but they carry a little of that charcoal flavor into another meal.

In conclusion (did you think I’d say “The moral of the story”?), planning ahead and cooking ahead meant that I only needed to light the grill once this week, and we had the potential for at least three meals from one charcoal fire. Like it? I did.

Side dishes, if you’re curious, included fresh asparagus and a mixed fruit salad, also fresh. Gotta love the farmers’ markets. We eat well in the summertime!

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Classic Mug Shot

When we travel, my favorite souvenir is a coffee mug. I drink from my Amtrak mug and remember the trip on the Empire Builder. I sip from my lobster mug and remember Nova Scotia. Whenever I finish a major project, I like to pull out my “ducks in a row” mug to show that I do, indeed, have all my ducks in a row.
Here’s another mug, a historic mug, that I must have.
Remember when President Obama said, “I can’t go around with my birth certificate plastered on my forehead!”? When he released the long version because his short version wasn’t good enough for the conspiracy theorists, he told reporters that he didn’t have time for this “silliness”. He had more important things to do. A few days later, he announced that Osama bin Laden had been found and killed. Ahem.
To thumb my nose at those who still don’t understand that Hawaii is one of the United States, the Democrats have come up with the perfect mug.
We’re headed toward the midterm set of elections, and I still use this mug. I noticed a few around the campaign office in 2012, and I’m absolutely sure other progressive voters are still using theirs. It reminds me to assume nothing when it comes to other people’s knowledge – or lack thereof.
Disclaimer: I am active in progressive politics, including Organizing for America, but I was not paid or sponsored in any way for this post. This mug was too good to pass up.

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