Thursday, September 18, 2008

Chard Pie

We are always looking for new and interesting lunch fare. Here is the latest and greatest creation...

Ellen's Chard Pie

2 cups flour, 1/2 cup butter (cold and cut into pieces). Use the fingers to combine the butter into the flour. Add water to make a dough. Refrigerate for a while (an hour or so).

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

(I actually didn't measure, but this is my best guess. You want to fill the crust with about 3/4 inches of filling.)
Chard (most of the stem removed), steamed lightly, chopped, and squeezed (about 1 1/2 to 2 cups squeezed)
Beets, roasted and peeled and cubed very small (about 1/4" cubes) (about 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup)
Saute these in some butter to absorb the flavor. Turn off the heat and add:
Romano cheese, about 2 oz., cut into matchstick sized pieces
Fresh mozarella, about 2 oz., cubed into 3/8" cubes
Kalamata olives, about a dozen, pitted and chopped
2 eggs, slightly beaten
Salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste

Roll the crust and place it in a buttered tart pan. Trim the crust to fit the pan. Add the filling and spread it out. Bake for about half and hour or until the filling is done (no longer wet and the cheese is slightly browned) and the crust is golden.

Cool slightly and remove from pan.

We ate it cold in our lunch and then had leftovers for dinner that night, cold. Samara ate it up for lunch with no hesitation. Thomas had to be encouraged to try it, but then enjoyed it. Reed ate nearly half of the pie by himself.  I had to restrain myself - it was very yummy!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Little pig, little pig...

Well, they are not so little any more!

They've gone from this (at about 20 pounds)...

to this (around 150 to 175 pounds)...

We are also trying to purchase a ewe from a meat breed (our Shetlands are really a wool breed). We are considering a St. Croix and will possibly get one soon. We will then breed her with our ram Pete so that the lambs will have a more meaty carcass than Shetlands have.

Like squirrels, we are stocking up for the winter and will pick up a half of a beef in about two weeks. That should fill the freezer!

Monday, September 8, 2008

The work of late summer

As September begins we face the fact that summer is near its close. We've been working at our late summer tasks - doing those things that need to be done in the dry season. Reed re-stained the south sides of the house and the shed (the southern sides take the brunt of our winter storms) and put a coat of log-stain on the new wood-shed and the balcony. He also swept the chimney (and now that he's safely off of the roof I appreciate the savings of $140 - the cost of hiring someone to do the 15 minute task).

We are awash in apples, with more varieties ripening every day. Tonight I made apple turnovers - yum! We've already canned 15 quarts of apple sauce. We'll do more soon (we give a lot away). Reed froze about eight pies worth of peeled and sliced apples this weekend. We still have many buckets of apples hanging around. We are also drying batch after batch of them. Everyone in our family enjoys dried apple rings in their lunch and they also make good gifts.

Saturday we picked more strawberries from our ever-bearing strawberry plants. I've never seen such plants - they produce the most beautiful and delicious strawberries and have been producing all summer long! We picked enough to make a strawberry shortcake. Samara helped me make the cake and Thomas enjoyed licking the whisk from the whipped cream.

The hazelnuts should be dropping soon. Despite the fact that our trees are suffering terribly from eastern hazelnut blight, based on what we can see on the tree, we anticipate having a surprisingly copious crop of nuts this year. Our walnuts aren't producing much this year, but they tend to be on a two year cycle. We can hope for a better crop next year.

We are also eagerly awaiting our fall crop of chard and broccoli. This is our "freezing" crop - the crop with which we will fill our freezer and so, hopefully, not have to purchase broccoli or frozen spinach (we substitute chard for spinach in many dishes) all winter long.

I, personally, can hardly wait for our "Cinderella"-type pumpkins to ripen. I read a wonderful (it sound wonderful, at least) recipe for pumpkin "soup" that goes something like this...

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Take off the "cap" of the pumpkin (as if you were making a jack-o-lantern) and scrape out the pulp and seeds, leaving the flesh
Fill about 2/3 with gruyere cheese, shredded
Add several cups of heavy cream
Add salt and pepper to taste
Replace the cap and bake until the flesh is tender, but before the pumpkin collapses
Serve scoops of the flesh, the cream, and the stringy cheese in bowls

I can hardly wait!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

How the garden grows...

Despite a shortage of warm sunny weather this "summer," the garden is growing remarkable well. We have been slowly working towards loading up the chest freezer and feel a bit like squirrels - hoarding away for the long winter. The new woodshed is done and it is a beauty! Our friend owns a timber frame business and has some scrap wood for us to burn this winter - we'll stop by tomorrow and get the first load to put into the shed. We already have a lot of wood put up and neatly piled, but it was ready before the shed was and won't make it in there.

The food we've been able to grow this year has just been beautiful and big and delicious! We pulled this beet and then joked that it was almost as big as Thomas' head!

We also joked that this carrot (before Samara chomped it) and its greens were so big that the carrot-and-greens together were almost as long as Samara was tall!

We are now working on our fall crop of broccoli and chard - hopefully enough to freeze to last until late spring!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Summer bounty!

In mid-August we celebrated Samara's upcoming 3rd birthday with an outdoor luncheon with the various grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great aunts. The menu included at least one item from our garden in every dish that we served. On the menu was:

Stuffed zucchini with mint (zucchini and mint from our garden and an egg from our hens)

Swiss chard pasta (Swiss chard from our garden)

Applesauce cake with whipped cream and fresh berries (apples and fresh berries from our garden and an egg from our hens)

The stuffed zucchini was a big hit. I'll include a recipe here because I know that many people need zucchini ideas when zucchini season hits.

Stuffed zucchini with mint:

2 lbs. Smallish zucchini (about six)
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 egg
2 T. chopped fresh mint
Butter for baking sheet
Olive oil for drizzling on sheet
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Boil the zucchini whole in salted water for about 3 or 4 minutes (depending on the size of the zucchini). Remove from the water and let drain and cool. Cut each lengthwise in half. Scoop out the insides leaving enough to make a shell (a little less than 1/4 inch think).

Put zucchini insides in a small bowl. Add the other ingredients and mix well. If the zucchini is too lumpy, then pulse in a food processor briefly. It shouldn't be too smooth, but there should not be large chunks, either.

Put the zucchini shells with the cavity facing up on a buttered cooking sheet which has been drizzled with olive oil. Fill each cavity with the zucchini/egg/mint/cheese mixture. Put in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes or until the filling is just turning brown and bubbly. Serve hot or room temperature.

This was so delicious and was gobbled up very quickly! Yum!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Piggies and more...

Our farm is improving every day and our garden is just bursting with food. Unfortunately we've been away for nearly two weeks so we are hearing this from our dear friends and family who have volunteered to take on the task of caring for our place while we've been gone.

In May we bought, along with our dear neighbors and friends, three pigs. They don't live on our property right now - they are at our neighbors'. They had a great shelter which we improved by pouring a concrete floor as well as ample space for movable pig yards so that they could always have clean space to dig. They are thriving and we are getting ready to think about the fall slaughter.

Our lambs are also growing well. This spring we purchased some solar-electric fencing - this has been wonderful to use with the sheep. They are able to be moved every day or every-other-day to a new location in order to provide them with fresh pasture. This has helped them grow beautifully and healthily. Fresh grass often and no time for parasites to complete their cycle.

I have much to catch up on after not having blogged for so long that it will take several posts in order to catch up. More posts will be squeezed in between farm tasks. Happy gardening!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

More Lambs!

We have three more lambs - and one was a complete surprise. Some excerpts from my farm-calendar notes:

Saturday, April 5th:
We went to the Strissel's to work on their shelter for the pigs and when we got back in the afternoon Mercury had just had a lamb. I think that we startled her by arriving just as the lamb had been born.

The lamb had some trouble latching on and getting interested in nursing. After about 24 hours of "forcing" it to nurse we sheared Mercury (who was very wooly) so that the lamb could more easily find the teat. It helped right away and the lamb is doing fine now.


Tuesday, April 8th:
After Tuesday night yoga Joni and I went out ... for a bite to eat and a beer and to knit. We were taking too long with our talk and knitting and Paso Del Norte wanted to close, so we headed back to (business building they own)... do the rest of our knitting there. Joni had to call Alan to get the code to get into the building and when she called him he told her that Reed had been trying to get in touch with me because a sheep was in labor.

We called Reed right away and he said that Earth had been acting funny and even though we didn't think that she was pregnant he went to move her with the rest of the females and lambs. He then saw, after he moved her, that there were hooves coming out of her. He left her alone so that she could continue if he hadn't stalled things too badly, but she lambed just fine and had a teeny male. We haven't seen it nurse much but it is doing fine (I'm writing this over a week later).


Reed has also been working hard on the garden and in the greenhouse and is getting excited about taking a class on making hard cider this summer. He'll register this week. We are also getting set up to build our woodshed. Reed and his grandpa felled some cedars that were going to be shaded out anyway to use for the posts and main beams of the shed. His grandpa has a draw knife that must have belonged to his father or grandfather. He had never used it! Reed's grandpa will be 87 in June, so this drawknife could be over 100 years old! It worked like a dream to remove the bark from the poles.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


Spring is here and we are busy at Haldan Farm and loving it. We are busy getting plants started, grafting trees, lambing, and preparing to build a new woodshed.

On Wednesday, March 12th, we welcomed two new lambs. Skelda, who lambed for the third time since coming to live with us, had her first set of twins. Reed came running in after going out at about 8 pm to get some wood for the fire. "You want some cheery news? We have a lamb!"

Up until now Skelda has only had single births so we though that the one lamb was it. We went out to see that all was okay with the new lamb and that Skelda was okay and I just had this feeling from watching her interact with her lamb that we would be seeing another. She was the good mother that she always is, licking her lamb and stimulating it, but she seemed more distracted than I've seen her after lambing. I watched her sides and I could see that she was still in labor. Sure enough, a few minutes later, another was born while we watched! It was very exciting as it was the first birth I've witnessed other than my own children.

Last year, on my birthday (almost exactly a year ago - March 17th), I went to a fruit tree grafting workshop with one of my former elementary students (now in his early twenties!) who was visiting from Wisconsin. What fun! I got very excited about grafting trees and then Reed jumped on the grafting bandwagon, too.

Last weekend we grafted 22 apple scion (the part which grows into the tree and produces the fruit)onto three different varieties of rootstock. We ordered most of the scion, but a few were cuttings from our own trees.

Our gardens are getting cleaned up and the beds prepared. We plan on having a very large garden this year. We would like to grow about 50% of our food this year, increasing each year until we are growing or raising 85 - 95% of our own food.

The children have loved working outdoors and the weather, for the most part, has cooperated - we've had one of the nicest springs I've experienced here the Pacific NW. It has been sunny, but with enough rain to keep things as moist as they need to be. It's also been warm.

As soon as I get to the library or somewhere else that has faster internet access (we can only get dial-up right now) I'll post some pictures.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Donkeys on the horizon

After visiting our friends in eastern Washington we have renewed excitement about our upcoming miniature donkeys. It will be about a year and a half before we get them, but we will spend the time planning where they will live and building suitable shelter and paddocks for them. We will also begin to acquire the accoutrements we desire, such as a small cart and saddles. These donkeys are so intelligent and sweet and they just love people. We plan to keep them as pets, but they will also be able to pull carts through our orchards when we prune (to collect scion) and when we harvest (collecting fruit). One donkey can pull two adults so two donkeys will be more than able to pull our whole family. We are so excited and will spend the next year and a half reading like crazy about donkeys.