Friday, September 30, 2011

~Good Things for September~

As usual, I sorted through the Good Things section in Martha Stewart Living for September and I came across some very useful ideas. 

Lace Tile Coasters
picture from

visit for how-to details.

I went to The Home Depot to get the tiles and the metallic spray paint.
The tiles got two coats paint.
Yeah, I was not happy with how mine turned out.  I think the lace was too thick...or something.  After seeing how the first coaster turned out, I decided not to decorate the other tiles with the lace.  To salvage this project, I'm going to Mod Podge the tiles and then add some Martha Stewart glitter. 

Double-Edge Punch
I decided to throw this in here for fun.  I bought this double-edge punch at Michaels. It works well and adds a fun border to craft projects or to scrapbooks.  I've only tested it but I'm looking forward to putting it to use soon. 

Turn Up the Heat

I did like the peppered vinegar idea.  I've been making herbal vinegars for a few months now but I never thought about adding peppers to turn up the heat.  The peppers shown here are from our garden.  In retrospect, I should have added larger peppers so that they wouldn't have all floated to the top. I also added some of our thyme, rosemary and sage along with some juniper berry and dried orange peel.

No-Slip Dish Towel

picture from

Make it into a loop by attaching Velcro strips to two ends, one on the front and one on the back, below. Stitch in place, or use iron-on Velcro strips.

As luck would have it, I set some time aside today to make the Velcro kitchen towel idea and I couldn't find the Velcro! I just bought the stuff so I know it's here somewhere.  Anyway,  this was such a great concept.  For those of us with children we know that sometimes, for some strange reason, they love to pull the dish towel off of the rack. The Velcro helps to secure the dish towel to the rack so that it doesn't slip as easily.   Even though I haven't had a chance to try this, I had to post this anyway.  It just had a "Good Thing" vibe to it. I can't wait to see the look on the kids faces when the towel won't come loose.

~It's a Good Thing!~

~Fall Garden~

Redecorating Our Summer Garden

Harvesting, maintaining, and enjoying our plot of land has kept me very busy, September has kept me hustling at Paradise Basin for sure.  October is tomorrow (yay) and by now quite a few of our summer vegetables have been harvested. We do still have many summer veggies that are still producing. Even though last week was nearly 100 degrees, I made as much space as possible for our fall garden (it was not feeling like fall). The earth changes and moves forward, even if we aren't quite ready. I'm taking notes from Mother Nature.

I have several gardening locations here on my micro farm.  The garden plot out back measures about an acre, the side yard about a quarter, and our two front yard locations equal about a half.  Because my husband has a demanding job, I have taken on this farming responsibility solo.  With three children and countless other responsibilities, let's just say that I have firmly promised myself that ONLY the side garden will  be planted for our fall garden this year.   

Last Sunday the process began. Once all necessary plants were removed, I made room for the seedlings by first amending our soil with a combination of our compost and Alpaca manure.  If you haven't used Alpaca manure before you should give it a try. All of our vegetables this year seemed to thrive as a result of this miracle manure. 

Next,the planting phase began.  We had an enormous amount of heirloom lettuce seeds this year so I made my own lettuce blend by mixing together a hodge podge of seeds in a paper bag.  Once the different lettuces emerge, a wide variety of colors and textures will be packed into our lettuce patch.  I'm hoping for a lot of color and texture.

I also planted interesting varieties of radishes, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, beets, carrots, basil, chives, catnip, and lemon balm.  Five days have passed since I planted the seeds so nearly everything is beginning to germinate. The hot weather has helped to hasten the process as it has been in the high 90s all week.  Consequently, I've had to water 2-3 time per day out there.  Every few hours I would run out, water and then run back in. I felt almost neurotic about the seeds.  I worked too hard to let the soil dry out.  I was not going to let that happen. Glad we are past that now.

 Gardening is worth the effort for so many reasons.  Most importantly though, it is a way for me to give back to my family.  I don't take for granted being able to walk right outside my kitchen door to harvest organic, heirloom produce.  I will forever look back on our fond garden memories including the copious quantities of flowers that Gabriel and Sarah pick just for me-even if they were among my favorites at the time. 

Photo Gallery

Welcome to our mini garden patch.  Our Fall seeds have been planted and germination has already begun!  Do come in for a visit.  I'd love to show you around. 

This was my first year planting broom corn. I am hoping for a broom or two from this corn, if all goes well.  I noticed that in the October
Martha Stewart Living magazine their is an article about broom making!
I recently learned that it is best to pick broom corn before the seeds turn red.  Oh well. I guess we'll find out soon if it really matters. I harvested about four times the amount shown here.  It takes a lot of broom corn to make a single broom. 
This was the last Hawaiian Pineapple tomato of the season.  These tomatoes had a slight citrus flavor.
Ever seen one of these?  When I first moved to the county and started growing tomatoes, I found a few of them on my plants and thought they were really cute.  Then I found out what they were doing to my tomatoes and I was not pleased. 

As I was inspecting our existing tomato plants, I was not happy at how many of these guys were in there feasting on my work.  I hand picked the Horn Worms from my plants  and discarded them.  If you ever see one of these on your tomatoes, get rid of them immediately, even if they resemble cute caterpillars.  Yes, the are very hungry.  Remember the book?
Sarah wanted to help me rake the Swiss chard bed.  She did a great job.
This watermelon-pumpkin cross is still growing.  It was supposed to be a watermelon but then it ended up crossing with some of our pumpkins.  I can't wait to cut into this to check out the inside.
The open spaces here were planted with an assortment of beets.
Sarah was having a wonderful time being silly.
Our Feverfew is still growing strong.  I made feverfew tinctures, infused oil, and dried some for tea.  Our dog Chester enjoys spending time in the garden with the family.
Out back we just let nature take its course. The property is home to many wild creatures, among them are wild turkeys. 
This is our lemon bee balm.  I've made tinctures, infused oil and dried some for tea.
The tiny sprouts have emerged!  Our soil still has a lot of small debris from our compost so we are still removing particles here and there. Keep in mind that nearly all of our of of our summer crops have been harvested so the garden space looks a little barren.
Gabriel likes to camouflage himself behind feverfew and catnip. He doesn't think that we can see him. 
See that barn in the distance?  In a few weeks, the trees in front of the barn turn the most brilliant shades of orange, yellow and red.
Near the garden entrance Ben's peanut patch is still thriving.
More seedlings emerge. 
A different view of the garden. In the center of this picture is borage.  I cook the leaves just like you would chard.  The flavor is very similar to cucumber.
The two trellises on the right are used to house tomatoes.  There were only a few tomatoes on the vine so I removed them and planted beans instead. Along the base of the trellis are Swiss chard and kale seeds.

In the distance beyond the entrance you can see some of our corn that will be ready for harvest in about a week.  We planted a second crop this year to extend our corn season.
Cauliflower was planted in the foreground.
Awhile ago we found this tub in the pasture.   I thought it would make a great planter, similar to a raised bed.  This year we planted carrots and beets inside the tub.  The carrots are yellow, red, and orange colored.  The funny stalk on the left is from one of our sunflowers.  I could not remove the darn thing as its root system is massive. 
Gabriel is very proud of his garden space.  The trellis area is his patch.  We have four "squares" and so each kid has their own space.
This plot is our beet patch.  The green plant in the center is lemon verbena.
Here is Mom and Dad's patch.  The existing plant here is Salvia.  Around the base of the trellis are beans and kale. 
This picture was previously shown but from a different angle.  The plant in the center is borage and to the left next to the rocks you can see some seedlings that are growing.
This bed houses kale, chard, and carrots. The two marigolds are great at keeping away some garden pests.
This is our heirloom lettuce patch.  The few plants shown here in the center are lemon balm and a volunteer tomato plant that we decided to keep around.  Look closely and you can tell that Chester has been  romping around.

On the left side of the fence (from the above picture) we have a walkway that Ben turned into a gourd tunnel.
Woohoo! We got one loofah.  Once the loofah has dried, it will become a scrubbie for our outdoor cast iron, clawfoot bathtub.
This is another gourd. 
The pumpkins!  About 90 percent of our pumpkins have been harvest so far. Last year I grew close to 200. 

Let's go back to the garden to check out a few more things before you go.
Wow!  A tiny tree frog lives in our tomato plant.  This is a great way to organically fight pests...frogacide-style.
If you have tomato hornworms this is what they will do to your tomatoes. 
This s what a hungry caterpillar does.
Hornworms are sneaky.  Look at how well they match the leaves.
Thanks for coming and I hope that you enjoyed our little fall garden tour.

~Get Growing~

Cherry Tomato,Bocconcini, and Zucchini Pie

Martha Stewart Living, October 2005
  • Yield Serves 4 to 6
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 finely chopped shallot, about 1/4 cup
  • 1 small zucchini, 7 1/2 ounces, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick half moons
  • 1 1/2 pounds cherry tomatoes, plus cherry tomatoes on the vine for garnish
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 ounces bocconcini
  • 3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Cheese Short Crust, made with Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1 large egg yolk


  1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add shallot; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add zucchini; cook, stirring occasionally, until light golden and liquid has been released, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl; set aside.
  2. Halve one-third of the tomatoes. Stir halved and whole tomatoes, cheeses, basil, lemon zest, flour, and sugar into shallot-zucchini mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  3. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to a 13-inch circle, about 1/4-inch thick. Make seven 3-inch-long cuts around edge of dough, evenly spacing. Trim to make 7 rounded flaps. Transfer to a 10-inch pie plate. Drizzle crust with remaining tablespoon oil. Spread with filling. Fold in flaps of crust, slightly overlapping. Put tomatoes on the vine in center. Refrigerate until cold, about 20 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk cream and egg yolk in a small bowl. Brush crust with egg wash. Bake pie on a rimmed baking sheet until crust is golden brown and juices are bubbling, about 45 minutes.
When I initially found this recipe, I didn't know the first thing about bocconcini. Then, I skimmed down to the ingredients list and saw that is was mozzarella balls, plain and simple. I was happy to know that I didn't have to drive all over town to find this ingredient.   

This recipe is not a fast, but it is worth the effort because the flavors are so good.  Fresh basil, garlic, tomatoes, cheese, and zucchini are blended together in a buttery pie shell.  Delicious? Absolutely. 

Photo Gallery

Gabriel and I went into the garden and gathered some Purple Opal Basil.
 Sarah helped grate the Parmesan.
These tomatoes are from our garden.  They still felt warm from the sun. 
This egg is from one of my mother-in-law's Araucana chickens.  I love the color!
With my direct supervision, Gabriel helped cook the zucchini.  This is an heirloom zucchini from our garden.  Once prodigious, they are now getting scarce as the season is ending.  
After we lightly browned the zucchini, we added the the whole tomatoes, cheeses, basil, lemon zest, flour, and sugar into the shallot-zucchini mixture.
Next, Sarah helped to make the pie crust. 
Okay, so I was really confused about this part.  The recipe said to make seven, three-inch-long cuts around the dough.  I've never tried this technique before, but I'm assuming it helps with the folding of the dough. The picture below is before we trimmed the edges.  The nice thing about this recipe is that the dough gets folded over so the imperfections are not noticeable.
And then I had to move the dough from the cutting board to the pie dish.  I was a little nervous.  In fact, it fell apart the first time so I had to roll it out again.  One corner just flopped off.  I was able to press the edge back into the pie dough so I was very relieved. 
Everything was now in the pie.
Before the pie went into the oven, I whisked the egg yolk and the heavy cream together in a bowl. Then, I brushed the crust with the egg wash to assist with the browning.
Our side dish was sauteed Swiss chard with walnuts.  This was our last bunch of chard from the garden.  Luckily, tiny, new seedlings are beginning to sprout.
Dinner made its was onto the table.
The walnuts added a wonderful, nutty flavor and texture to the greens.
We couldn't wait to have a slice of this pie!
Everyone was gathered around the table and they were ready to eat.  Ben loved this dinner and the kids enjoyed it because of the cheese. It was rewarding to sit back and enjoy a meal that was grown by  hand with very little impact on our environment.

~Dinner Was Served~

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