Saturday, June 26, 2010

From scratch.

Ryan and I were supposed to have a small, intimate country wedding
under the cherry tree in our backyard. That was the plan, but not the production. Weather did not work out and thus, we wed inside whilst the tree stood alone. But, in what I could interpret as mother nature apologizing for nasty weather on my wedding day, (go ahead and sing the Alanis -- you and I both know you want to...) our cherry tree put on a feast of cherries a few weeks ago heretofore unheard of!

I decided to reap nature's bounty and create the ultimate, from-scratch, down home country cherry pie. (Any other "country" adjectives you can think of?!?!)

Ah, like life, here is the bowl of harvested cherries. I must thank Ryan for his help, as I could only reach the bottom two limbs on the tree...

Everest, with her ultimate guidance, "supervised" the pitting of the cherries:

Pitted, sugared (organic turbinado), and ready to be pied:

My go-to homemade pie crust is a vegan, organic oil crust, courtesy of Betty Crocker:

The finished product! Served with pride to my family with some vanilla ice cream goodness.

I can't even begin to describe how I felt doing this. It was the first time I picked and pitted cherries and certainly the first time I did so after picking them from a tree in my own yard. It was a lot of time and effort, but the reward certainly seemed worth it. I felt incredibly self-sufficient -- and I think I would have even if the finished product had not been so dang delish.

The garden is coming along. The weather has been on and off nasty pretty much since our wedding (hmmm...) and pictures shall be forthcoming. I probably should not have told Ryan about our first tomato by exclaiming (while he was at work on the phone with me) "Did you know we're parents?!?!" Oh, well. As this blog is all about, I am living and learning.

Feel free to come out and see the garden. We can always use extra weeding hands!!!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Breaking ground

Admittedly, we got off to a late start. However, the parsonage in the country is now home to our first organic garden!

Here's the tilled patch we chose for our garden's home...

We're going to try our hand at heirloom organics. We got our seeds and seedlings from local farms, who advised certain plants that are suited for Hoosier soil and climate. We've got tomatoes: Cherokee Purple, Mr. Stripy, Hillbilly (yes, indeed) and Big Beef. We're also growing okra, beets, carrots, onions, peppers (hot and bell), eggplant, squash (acorn, spaghetti and pumpkin), cauliflower and broccoli. There are also some flowers and herbs in the mix. Especially catnip for the girls. I don't think I forgot anything, and that seems like a hearty list!

Here's Ryan working the land...

And a Hoosier country sunset!

So far, some organic tricks we're trying are companion planting (e.g. marigolds next to tomatoes) and habanero tea. We haven't applied the tea yet, and I am excited to see how the bugs react. We've had a few squash casualties, possibly from chipmunks, and other than that there hasn't been too much wildlife damage.

More good news: Murray is taking to his outdoor location very well! He even had his first robin's nest this spring. We were very proud of Murray's first family.

Monday, March 22, 2010

on the sly...

Last week when I was returning to my office, I spotted a big, red fox -- right next to the road! Now, I understand I am a city girl, but this was *so* cool. I only had my blackberry, so the pictures aren't spectacular. See if you can spot Mr. (or Miz) Fox:

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The relief of rebirth

The sun has been out and the temperature has been decent for two days in a row. You might not think that is much, but I have to share just *how* important this is to me. For the fourth or fifth winter in a row, I became devastatingly hopeless, sick and tired. This wreaked havoc on my relationships, my job and my feeling of self-worth. Ladies and gentlemen, this was the worst case of seasonal affective disorder (aka SAD - a delightfully ironic acronym) in my own personal history. After being what a beloved physician calls "lower than a toad's belly" (I swear, only in Indiana...) I am taking better care of myself, I am getting treated and I feel amazingly better. Not only that, I have a proactive plan for heading this off next year. There was a song that really hit the nail on the head and helped me get through this winter: "November was White, December was Grey" by Say Hi to Your Mom. That, and Ryan's incredible understanding and patience and a surprise package of mix tapes from my friend Gavin.

A lot has changed in the past few months. I got rid of the food dehydrator. It was made of plastic and I am not partial to heating plastic with my food. If a stainless steel dehydrator ever becomes affordable, I am all in. My jam is still good. The beans are still good. Oh -- and I moved to the COUNTRY! Check out this (almost) most rural location: Erie, IN.

Ryan and I got engaged on July 25th. Before it happened, I commented that the date was Christmas in July. Little did I know he would ask the big question that afternoon!

Here is the gorgeous ring Ryan got from my mother. It was her mother's and I used to wear it in undergrad until it broke and I lost the main stone.

Along with moving to the country, Ryan and I have been spending more time in a town nearby, Wabash. Some of our new haunts are: Modoc's and Market Street Grill.

I am so, so glad to be feeling better. And with living in the country, I will have plenty of bECOming Hoosier stories. One that I wish I had photographed while it was happening was the story of our xmas tree, Murray. Yes, he has a name. Ryan took me to a tree farm so we could cut our own tree. We picked it out, had the saw ready and were about to take it down when suddenly I could not do it! I could not kill the tree. Ryan, whom I have already described as patient and understanding, indulged me in procuring a living tree, complete with 300 lb root bulb. It took all the effort of Ryan, my brother, Ryan's good friend (great friend!) Jason and (kind of) me to just get the tree into the car, out of the car and into our home. Murray never got decorated and is still in our living room. He is growing and it will be hard to plant him outside, but I know that's what's best for him. He smells great, though, and I will miss him. Here's a picture of him, although it hardly does him justice.

I will be trying to write more as the spring arrives. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Freezing in the Summer

Ryan's mom and step-dad Gene have an amazing garden this year. Ryan and I chalk that up to their use of compost, to which we often contribute. Whatever the reasons for their success, we luckily reap the benefits. Recently, Ryan and his mom picked a bunch of green beans out of the garden. I froze some last year, sans blanching, and was told that was not a good idea.  This year, I resolved to correctly engage in the bean-freezing process. Join me for the photo montage, will you...?

After washing, we removed the ends and stems.
Ryan is a snapper. I am a knife-wielder. 

Hot water blanch for 3 minutes.

Ice water blanch for three minutes.

Dry, place in freezer bags (I would love to know of any non-plastic alternatives to this!), remove all air and into the freezer you go!

This winter, perhaps we will be able to enjoy the spoils of a summer garden - complete with properly blanched green beans!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

we be jammin' (adventures in canning...)

Over the 4th of July weekend, Ryan and I not only got to spend some quality time with our families, but we also bravely faced spiders, mosquitoes and thorns for a couple hours to get a few gallons of fresh, hand-picked wild raspberries. Last year we froze what we picked and gave some to Ryan's aunt Deb to make jelly. Although all of the jelly offerings Ryan's family has shared over the years have been nothing less than delectable, Ryan and I are both jam lovers. We like the seeds. So this year, I decided to try my hand at my own seedy (yet classy) raspberry jam.

For Christmas, Ryan's mom gave me some canning supplies as well as the Blue Book -- THE book for canning, freezing and drying.  I referenced the Blue Book for raspberry jam. The berry to sugar ratio was insane! (9 cups berries to 6 cups sugar) I decided to take things into my own hands and use a 6.5 cups berries to 2 cups sugar ratio. Traditionalists might get their hackles up at this and say something such as "But how will you know that it will set if you don't follow the recipe exactly?!?!" Answer: faith. And willingness to participate in some trial and error.

Check out this big pot o' hand-picked wild raspberries!

And in goes a more 'acceptable' amount of organic, natural sugar.

Steamy, jammy goodness. That set up just fine, thank you.

 Through the funnel and into the jelly (JAM) jar...

A delightful hot water bath.

The finished product! Delicious, if I do say so myself. And amazingly seedy. Come on over and try some!!

Overall, our first jammin' experience seems to have gone well. I guess the true test will be when we open a jar months from now. I think the most rewarding part of the whole weekend was getting to hear stories from Ryan's grandpa Mills. He happens to be the only grandparent either of us have between us. He spontaneously started telling us stories about when he and Ryan's grandma started dating. It was unexpected, but definitely wonderful. Hopefully we will get to hear even more another day on the Rochester farm...

Saturday, May 30, 2009

I Wana Shipshewana!

It has become a yearly ritual to visit Shipshewana every Memorial Day. Shipshewana is actually a gorgeous area of farmland in northern Indiana and is known for being in "the heart of Amish country." 

Ryan and I go to the world-famous Shipshewana flea market.  We find quite a few treasures. And I tend to use my father's training a la Juarez to make some good deals. 

We have spent the night twice in Shipshewana. It is almost an indescribable experience. It is calm, small, and quiet - except for the clomping of the carriage horses' hooves. 

Amish cooking is also an experience. Noodles, amazing pies, mashed potatoes... 
The Blue Gate Restaurant is a few blocks away from the flea market and has the most excellent banana cream pie I've ever had. Another thing I think is so commendable about Blue Gate is that they make an effort to use local foods for their menu offerings.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention one of the best reasons to go to Shipshewana. JOJO's Pretzels. 

They are so amazingly delicious. I never really knew what their secret to deliciousness was. This year, the pretzels we got were so fresh, we had to wait a few minutes for them to be ready. And it was thus that the secret was revealed:

 Is that not achingly delicious-looking? Also a reason to probably indulge just once a year. 

Next on the agenda for this Hoosier-in-Training: Berry Picking. I plan to do more than just freeze 'em this time around.