Farewell for Now

You may have noticed things have gone a bit quiet lately. I’ll just cut to the chase: my interest for writing full-blown blog posts has waned. However, while the writing has fallen off, things around here certainly haven’t. The chickens are in full swing (we’re even preparing to sell some of our excess–exciting!), we’ve got water kefir bubbling on the counter (thanks Kels!) and the bread baking has seen a steady pick-up since the long-awaited arrival of a Kitchenaid for my birthday (thanks Jesse’s folks!). If you’re still interested in what’s going on around here, you can follow our new Facebook page: Cold Turkey Farm. I will try to be more diligent updating there than I have been here. Promise! 🙂

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Garlic Pickles!

We made it past the first threat of frost last week, giving the garden a little longer to produce. Here are a few things that we pulled a few days ago (honeydew, tomato, summer squash, cucumbers and lettuce):

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The cucumbers were the first of the year, and we used them to make our first-ever jars of pickles! Because we aren’t anticipating a very large harvest before frost really sets in, we opted for a simple refrigerator pickle recipe for garlic dills. They are delicious! Much better than the one-dimensional flavor of a basic store-bought dill.

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By the way, did you know there are dyes in most store pickles? I didn’t until I started looking for a recipe for these and someone commented on it. I looked at the jar we had in the fridge and sure enough, there it was–yellow and blue somethingorother. I dumped the rest of them out.

Yesterday I picked another bucketful of cukes. Several of them were HUGE for a pickling variety. We must have missed them our first go-around and they took advantage of the ideal conditions we’ve had this week.

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For the most part I felt the big ones were too seedy to make into decent pickles, but there were enough of the others to make another four jars. Yum!

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Amazingly, the growing continues! The corn has managed to survive many batterings over the past few months and much to my surprise has put on ears with beautiful purple silks.

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It’s a white variety called “Country Gentleman” that’s really not suited for our short growing seasons, so I’m crossing my fingers that the nice weather will hold. Next year I’ll pay more attention to the growing time length and less to the price of the seed when choosing varieties. It’s been an excellent growing year overall for Minnesota, and I doubt I’ll be so lucky in the future!

Broken Toes, Purple Spuds, and the Great Minnesota Get-Together

Another great fair year has come and gone, and I’m so proud to have been a part of it! (I could have done without the pop or beer or whatever it was someone spilled on my legend card and ribbon, but I guess that’s a risk you take at the fair):

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I took some notes on seeds used in other displays for future years. I also noticed this neat sign:

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I wish I could have had a picture of this last year before starting. It’s nice to know what colors and shapes are available in allowable seeds before choosing an image.

As always, we spread our fair-going out over two days–Tuesday and Saturday. I highly recommend approaching the fair this way if you love it like we do, especially when the weather is as miserably hot and humid as it was last week. It’s nice to be able to give in to exhaustion and leave before suppertime that first day without feeling like you permanently missed out on anything.

My sister flew in and went with us on Saturday. We spent a good chunk of the day in the coliseum sitting in front of one of the big wall fans trying to cool off. Nothing saps your energy like spending a muggy day among nearly 200,000 other people! We stayed pretty conservative on the food this year, although Aut did try a jam-smothered Monte Cristo that did not impress. I broke with tradition and decided to get my yearly cheese curd fix from The Mouth Trap in the Food Building ($5) rather than my traditional stand near the horse barn ($6) after reading in the paper that they used Ellsworth cheese curds. Ellsworth’s curds have become somewhat ubiquitous since they started selling them in grocery stores across Minnesota, but they still hold special significance for me. When we were kids, my aunt used to load up my cousins, siblings and me and drive out to Ellsworth Creamery to get curds fresh off the line. Unlike those from the store, these had the characteristic “squeak” that only a fresh curd makes as your teeth slice through its lukewarm goodness. Good, good memories. The curds fried did not disappoint.

One other new spot was Mike’s–a hamburger stand we visited because of a coupon book deal.

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If you’re looking for a cheap way to feed your family or yourself at the fair (not an easy feat) I would check out this little place. Burgers go for two bucks, and if you have a coupon book hot dogs are only $1.50. Top that off with a 75 cent 16oz root beer from a root beer barrel and you’ve got yourself an affordable fair lunch.

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Back at home, there is once again trouble in the chicken pen. Keya got a bit too excited while “helping” me move the girls from their run back to the coop a few days ago. When the Orpington broke rank from the others, Keya pursued, and before I could stop her, the fleeing chicken stopped short to change direction and all 25 or so pounds of dog went walloping right over the top of her. I knew it was bad when the Orp got up and limped away. Upon closer inspection, she had a crooked toe that looked like it had been broken or dislocated around the second joint. When Jesse arrived home from work, he held her while I fashioned a splint out of some packing plastic and taped the problem toe to the one next to it.

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Over the last few months I have learned that one of the worst things you can do to a chicken is to take it out of the flock, so I was concerned when, immediately after taping her toe the girls swarmed whenever she’d take a faltering step, pecking at her foot and its bandage. After that first day, however, they seemed to grow bored with it and now ignore it completely. We’ve been offering her half of an 81mg baby aspirin twice a day mixed in with yogurt and grain. The first day she took it willingly and slurped up the yogurt like candy. By the second she still took the pill and grain, but was much less enthusiastic about the yogurt (meant to protect her stomach from the medication). By today she was having none of it, even when I offered the pill in a handful of grain without the yogurt. Chickens. She seems to be managing alright, so I’m giving up on the pills. We’ll leave the tape on for a few more weeks and hope for the best.

In the garden, the corn is putting on ears, the cucumbers are starting to produce, and the tomato branches are bending to the ground under the weight of so many green fruits. Unfortunately with frost possible any day now I’m not sure how much further they’ll all get. I’m going to spend the winter figuring out a good planting schedule for next year so that we don’t get so behind like we did this year. Not getting cucumbers into the ground until July 1st just doesn’t cut it with our short season, no matter how fast-maturing the variety.

The All Blue potatoes are another story. The foliage is starting to die back so we pulled three plants this evening and collected a quarter bucket of beautiful purple tubers:

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Nothing compares to the gorgeous color unveiled when you cut into a blue/purple potato. If you’re used to only ever seeing the boring white of a russet, it’s hard to believe how much color they have:

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I think we’re going to try to make some homemade kettle chips with these. Yum!

Homemade Deep-Fried Oreos

I was watching the news yesterday and was pleasantly surprised to see that one of the local channels had sent a guy down to the fair. Our local networks stand in stark contrast to those in the Cities, who do ALL their broadcasting this time of year from their booths at the fair. Here, we’re lucky if it even gets mentioned. Maybe it’s payback for the number of times our area is noticed on their channels? I don’t know, but it’s annoying.

Anyway, this guy did his talking in front of the deep-fried candy bar booth (yeah, you know the one) and ended the segment with trying deep-fried Oreos. They looked so good. I was really tempted to get them last year while waiting for Jesse to get his fried Snickers, but it was like a million dollars for three or four Oreos, and the cheapskate in me just wouldn’t allow it.

So what’s a fair-loving, fair-missing cheapskate trapped in northern Minnesota to do? Um, hello!

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*shudder* To be very honest, they were super-delicious. Kind of like an Oreo doughnut. The cookie sort of softens to match the surrounding batter in the process and the cream is like a gooey center. But after only two of these my stomach went from “Mmm, delicious!” to “PLEASE, NO MORE!” and I felt compelled to spend a half hour on the bike, even though it was like 10:30pm when we were done. The thing about eating stuff like this at the fair is it’s once a year, and each feeding session is surrounded by two or three hours of walking and sweating in 85-90 degree heat. Making them at home doesn’t come with this safeguard, and I’m now convinced fair food is fair food for a reason. Even writing about it this morning is making my stomach turn–not to mention there’s that lingering smell of fry oil in the house. Worst part of any fried food session.

So do try them–they really are delicious! But maybe just one. Maybe spend the six bucks or whatever it is at the fair for four of them. But have friends around to share the other three. Blech.

Crop Art Results Are In!

Welcome to the best 12 days of summer–it’s Minnesota State Fair time!!

I made a mistake in my previous post–judging did take place on Monday, but I didn’t realize that the results aren’t posted online until 8am the first day of the fair. Drumroll please…

The bad news: I didn’t get first. The good news: I got second! Out of 25 entries! Not too bad for a first try, and it gives me an extra reason to come back and try again next year. I’m already brainstorming ideas 🙂

I wish we were going today, as the weather looks to be perfect. Since we won’t be there until next Tuesday, I’ve been searching for those inevitable first day photos people will be posting to see it on display. After a few hours, success!:

Crop Art

By the way–no, she isn’t overcome with excitement by the wonders of seed art (isn’t everyone? 😉 )This is the lovely couple who are now engaged after he popped the question in seeds. Take note guys–chicks dig creativity.

Can’t wait to see it next week! If you’re headed there yourself, take a peek. And happy fairgoing!

Done!!

It’s been nothing but seeds and glue for the last week and a half, but I finished it!

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Yesterday we drove down to the Cities to drop it off–magical:) It just feels so good to finally do something you always said you wanted to do but figured you probably never would. After having our car searched by a cop–wonder what he thought of that bag of scratch grains and nyger seed in the trunk?–we were granted access to the fairgrounds. It was only four days before opening day, so we felt kind of special. There weren’t tons of people around, and those that were were trying to get their food booths ready. There was a lot of construction noise in the Ag-Hort Building and, by the looks of it, quite a bit that was left to do. Most of the ag exhibits don’t arrive until later this week.

The check-in process was much less formal than what I was expecting. In fact “process” is really not the word for it. More like a friendly chat and chuckle with the superintendent about the corn tattoo that his kids give him for his birthday, questions he’s received about whether marijuana is allowed in crop art this year, and the time a police dog had to search his car before they would let him through the gates. Suspicious-looking corn cobs apparently 🙂 He also let me know this was the first time he’d seen someone arrive with their art in a “cooking pan”. It seemed like a perfect transportation vessel to me! Anyway, he directed us to leave my entry under the correct lot tag on a long table, and that was about it. Judging commences this evening and I should know the results by tomorrow–fingers crossed!

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I almost made a funny faux pas when I was making my legend card. The name of the variety of amaranth I used is called “Love Lies Bleeding”, but my mind must have been somewhere else–

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Thank goodness I had decided to remake the card with a little blurb at the bottom about the origin of the image I used, or it would have gone unnoticed. Hehe 🙂

While I’ve been busy gluing seeds, the garden has continued to produce. We’ve been getting summer squash for the past week or two and the tomatoes are finally starting to turn red.

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I tried turning the squash into fries. I just rolled them in a beaten egg and a mixture of panko and garlic salt, and then cooked them for about a half hour at 400 degrees. It actually turned out quite well:

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We cut a cabbage and had it for dinner a few nights ago. It was delicious. I love steamed cabbage. The rabbits enjoyed it as well:

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The cucumber plants are really growing and flowering. I hope they’re able to put on some fruit before our first frost, which could unfortunately show up as early as next week! Our growing season is so short up here. The nasturtiums and zinnias are showing some color as well, and the Brussels sprouts are developing.

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I don’t know what happened with the marigolds. I have tons of foliage growth but no flowers. I think next year we might just buy some started plants.

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We had some rodent trouble earlier. Jesse took care of three of the four ground squirrels that were causing problems, and the carcass of the third that he purposely left near the garden seems to have had the desired effect on the last one. It’s been leaving my pumpkins and melons alone from what we can tell.

Just one more shot from the garden: this little guy showed up on a corn leaf after a rainstorm last week. I had to use a penny for reference–he was so tiny!

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There’s a Mouse in the House…and He’s Hungry

After a period of keeping things fairly well-updated I seem to have once again fallen behind. In my defense we have been running quite and bit, as well as hosting several folks here at the house. Summer is always a busy time whether it’s driving to the Cities or St. Cloud, or just getting things done at home.

My biggest time consumer though is something I deliberately chose not to broadcast widely in case I didn’t get it done, but I’m bringing it out of the shadows so you can share in my disgust over what happened this morning.

Our big event every year is going to the Minnesota State Fair. Like many Minnesotans I am IN LOVE with the fair. I mean seriously, where else can you watch livestock shows, gaze upon glistening butter heads, and eat deep-fried alligator all at the same time? It’s amazing. A must-see at the fair is always the crop art, and every year we go I study my favorites, enviously gazing at their ribbons and imaging my own handiwork on the wall. Last year submitting an entry was on my resolution list and this year I am finally bringing it to fruition.

Now, gluing seeds to a board might sound easy (and basically it is), but it is SO time-consuming. A line of seeds nicely laid out can easily take a half hour. It’s ridiculous. So, being that I decided this was the year in, oh, about early July, I am really pinched for time; hence the secrecy. I hate failing and I really hate failing publicly. But last week I submitted my registration and the ball is in motion.

So here’s the situation: We live in the country. There are a lot of mice in the country. Anyone guessing where I’m going with this yet? Last year we had a mouse in the kitchen. We figured where it was probably coming from and set a bunch of traps. We caught it, and with one or two exceptions really hadn’t had any trouble until the last two or three weeks when Jesse found his lunch snacks had been pre-nibbled. Gross. We again set traps with some success, and had just spent yesterday evening sealing up a space under the cabinets we were pretty sure was the main culprit with a board and some copper wool. We were very satisfied with the job and assumed we’d solved the problem.

Until this morning.

I awoke to Jesse standing over my head struggling for some creative way of telling me that “maybe in the future we should…ahhh…find a more…uummm…protected place than…ahhh…the breakfast bar to leave the seed art…” This hesitating is his way of trying to lessen the blow of a catastrophe, but by this point in our marriage all it says to me is, “Something really bad just happened and you’re going to lose it.”

Wide-eyed, I jumped out of bed to see the damage. Sure enough, that little rat had eaten almost all of the seeds I had laid on Sunday while Jesse was at work–like probably 4-5 hours worth of carefully gluing on seeds. Each one had been carefully plucked from its glue casing.

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Needless to say with less than two weeks until entries are due I felt totally defeated. My knee-jerk reaction in these situations is usually dramatic, and I often do things I later regret. So when I declared, “That’s IT! I’m done! There’s no way I can finish it in time now. Might as well just throw it in the trash!” Jesse wisely rescued it and hid it away before going to work so I couldn’t make good on my threat.

I have since calmed down and begun repairing the damage. I don’t know if I will be able to finish in time, but I’m certainly not going to roll-over to a freaking mouse! If all else fails I guess I can enter it next year. (By the way, I’m deliberately keeping the design a bit secret. If you’re on your way to the Minnesota State Fair this year, keep your eyes peeled in the Ag-Hort Building. Perhaps I’ll make an appearance 🙂 )

There is a movie I love called Lords of the Gourd about a group of giant pumpkin growers in the Northeast. I used to laugh at a slightly-eccentric grower who, upon discovering that one of her pumpkins had “gone down” as the result of a feasting rodent, constructed a mousetrap “ring of death” about three layers deep around her remaining pumpkin. Now I understand. I believe I’ll be putting in an order to make my own.

Bolting Brassicas

I’m a total cole crop newbie. Before this year’s planting, all I really knew about them is that they love colder weather and, in the case of broccoli, will “bolt” if it gets too hot, turning into a head of tiny yellow flowers. We had near record-breaking heat yesterday, and when I went to water this evening, I thought my gorgeous broccoli heads that appeared fine only two days ago were toast. Depression!

But I went inside, cracked one of my veggie growing books and gained some relief from what I read: broccoli heads are usually ready to harvest in mid-summer! For some reason I thought broccoli wasn’t done until the fall. Seems what those plants were really saying was, “Hey stupid, if you want to leave us perfectly edible broccoli heads out here to cook in the sun, fine! But don’t be surprised if we turn into the original edible bouquet!”

So here you go, our first veggie garden harvest of the year!:

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Bolting horror stories had kept me from planting brassicas before, but I think they’ll always be a part of my garden plans from now on.

Yummy Blueberry Muffins

Wild blueberries take forever to pick–this bunch only measured about a cup but took over an hour and a half to find and pick!

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It’s totally worth it though. The flavor is much more intense when compared to store-bought berries. (I will say that when we went and picked our own a few years ago at an organic farm, the flavor was similarly excellent. Taste is definitely sacrificed in the name of efficiency when it comes to berries.)

If there’s a better way than blueberry muffins to enjoy these fresh, tasty morsels I’m not sure what it is.

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Needless to say, my weekly weigh-in this morning for the weight loss challenge a group of us are doing was not the greatest! Oh well 🙂

Gun Fun & Fudgy Goodness

Yesterday Jesse’s folks came by for a visit and we had a great time chatting, checking out the garden and meeting the chickens. We also spent a good part of the time shooting clays–something I’d never done before. In fact, I’d never used a shotgun before. I had had the opportunity several years ago while working as a counselor for the summer hunting camps at Deep Portage, but, not wanting to make a complete fool of myself in front of a herd of pre-pubescent boys, I always passed. (By the way, if you sign on as a teacher for a hunting camp, make sure you have at least one hunting trip under your belt to avoid completely losing face. Good stories of your first monster buck or the one that got away are also nice. I had none of these things. Hadn’t even held a gun. It was a long summer…)

Anyway, usually I really shy away from new stuff and have to be heartily coaxed before I’m willing to jump in, but this time I tried to fight the apprehension and go for it. It didn’t help that, after quickly volunteering to try to throw clays I over-enthusiastically plowed one right into the side of my father-in-law’s new and long-awaited pickup truck. No major damage thankfully, but I felt like a complete heel. Regardless, I really was eager to give the shooting a try. I’ve discovered I’m not too shabby target-shooting with a rifle and handgun, and I always thought shotguns and clays looked like a lot of fun. And they are! I managed to clip a handful and totally obliterate two of them. Jesse really enjoyed it as well. He hit several more than I did and was definitely the most proficient thrower of the group. We may be adding a mutual Christmas present to our list this year 🙂

The gun was a 12 gauge Browning. The size initially made me a bit nervous. Dad had used a old 12-gauge when he was younger for hunting and had told us about how it had a nasty kick and wasn’t that fun to shoot. But according to Jesse’s dad, the heft of this model and the target shells we were using did a lot to lessen the blow, and he was right. I didn’t really notice the kick at all at the time, though by last night there was definitely evidence that it was there:

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No big deal, although my arm is a bit sore today. But it was a blast. I look forward to doing it again.

While they were here, I did a bit of baking. We went to the library on Monday and I checked out the book Baking with the St. Paul Bread Club. While paging through I noticed a recipe for buttermilk whole wheat bread that looked a lot like the one I tried last week and posted on the Eats and Sweets page. Sure enough, it was noted as an adaptation of that recipe. I tried it yesterday and liked it better, so I’ve changed the original recipe to that one. You can find it on the Bread page. It did brown more than I liked, even with adding the foil at 20 minutes. I’m thinking of getting a ceramic pan or a different metal pan to try on my whole wheat breads to see if it helps.

The other thing I made is a peanut butter fudge that is good; TOO good. It’s a recipe I ripped out of a magazine somewhere. Think peanut butter cookie dough smothered in dark chocolate. Can you feel your fat cells growing? I know I can! But hey, life is short–eat fudge! But don’t buy it. It’s so expensive to buy and super-easy to make. I’ve started another recipe page called Cookies & Candies and I’ll post it there. Give it a try!

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