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Ratatouille

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Anyone who has a backyard garden or who is a member of a CSA gets to the point in the summer where they do not want to see another summer squash!  We have roasted it, grilled it, stir fried it, baked it in bread, froze it, and are dreaming about it!  Ratatouille is yet another way to use the abundance of summer veggies. Put the Ratatouille movie in for the kids, pour yourself a glass of wine or ice tea and have a good time.  Lets get cooking.

From the garden you will need:

One yellow squash, one green zucchini, 2 egg plants depending on size, 3 potatoes, an onion,  4 gloves of garlic, thyme, about 1 1/2 cup sliced peppers and 3 tomatoes. Wash all your produce.

Preheat oven to 375. Start by boiling some water to blanch your potatoes, the potatoes just need a cooking head start so they are not too crunchy.

While the water is boiling you can slice the rest of your veggies.  I recommend a mandolin for this, but a knife and a board would work find. You will slice the potatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, and tomatoes.  I found that the knife worked better for the tomatoes.  You want thin slices maybe a 1/4 cm thick, start with your potatoes, because you will need them first.

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Once the water comes to a boil, blanch your potatoes for 3-4 minutes, then pull them out of the water and set them aside to cool while you finish slicing your veggies.

Put all your veggies neatly on a tray to make the arranging easier in the future.   Next dice your onions and your garlic.  Now lets start cooking. The sauce at the bottom of your pan is what gives your veggies all their flavor, so don’t be overwhelmed by the flavor you put in here.

I highly recommend cast iron pans in all my recipes, but if you do not have cast iron, you will need to cook this in a pan that is pretty deep and can transfer from the stove top to the oven.  Saute your onions and garlic in a table spoon of butter until they are clear.

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To this we are going to add salt and pepper to taste, a pinch of red pepper flakes, pinch of paprika and 1/2 tsp of thyme.  Once the onions are done, add 1 cup of tomato sauce, we used sauce we had canned, but any store sauce will do. Let simmer why you start the bechamel sauce.

Bechamel is a fancy word for cream sauce, don’t let it scare you, it is very easy to make. In a med sauce pan melt 1 tbsp of butter.  Once butter is melted add 2 tbsp of flour.  This will quickly turn to a paste. Slowly add 1 cups of milk.  I use goats milk, but you can use 1/2 and 1/2, whole milk, skim or a stock. I recommend a fatty milk for more flavor.  Once the milk just starts to warm and you see bubbles in the milk on the side of the pot, add 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. Wisk until smooth.  Pour 1/2 of the mixture over the tomato sauce mixture in your skillet.  Turn off the burners.
Now we start layering.  Take one slice of each type of veggie.  Potato, eggplant, zucchini, squash, tomatoes and pepper.  Starting around the outside of the pan layer them in a circle.  It will look like this. Keep going till you used up all your veggies or you have crammed everything you can into the pan.  I always seem to have extra veggies.

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Sprinkle with salt, pepper and Parmesan. Cover with parchment paper and put in the oven to back for 50 minutes or until the veggies are tender.  I have to put a cookie sheet under because it bubbles over.  Once veggie are tender turn off oven, remove and let stand for 5 minutes. The remaining cream sauce will go on the top when you plate! Enjoy!

Ratatouille

By  Shades of  Lavender

Produce from the garden:

  • 1 med eggplant
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 yellow squash
  • 3 med. Tomatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 4 gloves garlic
  • 2 green peppers
  • 2 potatoes
  • Tsp thyme

Refrigerated Foods:

  • 2 tbsp Butter
  • 1 cup Milk
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese

Pantry Foods:

  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • Pinch salt
  • Pinch pepper
  • Pinch paprika
  • Pinch red pepper flakes

Instructions:

Preheat stove to 375o. Bring a med. Size pot of water to boil. Dice onions and garlic. Use mandolin to slice rest of veggies to 1/4 cm thick. Boil sliced potatoes for 3 mins, remove from water.  In skillet, sauté onions and garlic once clear add tomato sauce, thyme and paprika to skillet and let simmer.  In a separate small sauce pan melt butter, add flour and milk, whisk until thickens and add parmesan cheese.  Drizzle 1/2 of cream sauce on top of tomato sauce. Start layering the sliced veggies one of each kind, standing up around the skillet, till the skillet is full. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Cover with parchment paper.  Bake for 50 mins.  Let stand for 5 minutes. When you serve drizzle the rest of the cream sauce to the top.

 

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A day in the Life

Yesterday was Wednesday, not that it matters the farm does not care what day of the week it is.  I wake up at 4:45, have coffee and do my sit down computer work while I wait for the coffee to hit me. I have a very strict office manager that keeps me on task.

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At 6:30 I start pasteurizing the day before’s milk and warming milk for the baby goats.  When the milk is done, I put the pasteurized milk in a container with ice to cool and I make the 5 bottles for the babies.  I gather my milking supplies for the morning, my small radio and my bottle of water.  It was suppose to be 93 degrees and I wanted to stay hydrated.  Morning chores consist of making sure all the animals have food and water and letting them out of their safe overnight pen so roam the yard or their field.  Next is to bottle feed the babies.  I only have two hands and there are five babies, so it is a juggling act.

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One baby had a small wound that needed to be cleaned and then it was time to go milk the mommas.  I milk the goats by hand and it takes about 20 minutes to do two of them.  It depends on how fast they eat.  After milking it is time to move them to the pasture.  With the help of my son we move 5 goats and a pot belly pig to the pasture.

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It is similar to herding cats.  They all want to go their own way.  We get them to the back field and my son finds a puddle full of frog eggs.  We have to stop everything we are doing to save the eggs before the pig crushes them when he wallows in the puddle.  My job was to get the bucket and then distract the pig.  Once the eggs are safe we can return to our duties.  Now we have to move 5 baby goats to their field.  This is like trying to herd kittens.  They just want to run and jump and spin… they really could care less what we want them to do.  In the end, we pick up and carry most of them across the field.

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With animal chores done it is on to the garden. Every morning I harvest the things that need to be harvested, I start the sprinklers and I pick the tomato plants for horned worms.  See picture below.  Then it is on to weeding and trellising tomato plants.  At this point the tomato plants are 5 feet tall and have grown bushy enough to cover most of the walk ways between the rows.  I trim suckers, cut off dead leaves and harvest tomatoes.

The pole peas are starting to grow so I provide them with bamboo to grow up, as well as, weed that bed.  We have not had the best luck with the beans this year because of the wild rabbits.  I am hoping that this next planting does better.

Once I came in from the garden I cured bacon from last years pig.  I had harvested several nice size tomatoes and nothing is better than I BLT.

Yesterday it was really sticky outside so I decided to sew and mend some clothes instead of go back out to work.  I mending several pairs of pants saving us hundreds of dollars.  Learning to sew was a valuable skill, I am very glad my mother forced me to learn, and I will make sure my children learn to sew as well.

After sewing, it was time for lunch and dinner prep.  We would be driving several hours to go pick up the piggies and I need to make sure we all had a good dinner.

Right before we got in the truck to go get the pigs we checked on all the animals and turned on the sprinklers again.  It was a really warm day and we did not want anyone to run out of water. The baby pigs did great in the truck and it looks like they are enjoying their new pen.

Came back home at about 7 after picking up the pigs and feed and started evening chores.  It was time for bottles, milking, watering and moving animals again.  One thing that we have to do in the evening is bath the pot belly pig.  He rolls in mud all day and it can dry out his skin, so we make sure he gets clean before bed. He is suppose to be black not brown! We collect eggs, walk through the garden and harvest any monster zucchinis that grew during the day, and head into bed just as it is getting too dark to see.

I start a load of laundry, wash dishes, wash children, fold clothes, shower and collapse into bed about 1030, just to wake up and do it all the next day.

Inside out eggroll

This is one of my favorite dishes and it uses a lot of veggies from the garden. 

1/2 red onion

1 sweet onion

2 tbsp butter 

3 gloves garlic

4 large chard stalks with greens

2 celery stalks with leaves

2 carrots grated

1/2 head red cabbage

2 radishes

1 cup left over ground beef

Sauce:

4 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp brown sugar

1 tbsp rice vinegar

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp onion powder

Pinch red pepper flakes

Tsp fresh ginger grated

Chop all veggies, let onions garlic and chard cook down in butter till soft. Add everything cook to your crunch desire. 

For sauce mix everything together in a separate bowl or cup. Add, let sauce coat everything and just start to bubble. Serve over rice! 

5 second update

I am so bad about posting. Everyday I think I am going to make a grand post and catch everyone up, but the reality is I just do not have time.  In the summer, like every other farmer in the world, we work from sun up to sun down.  We collapse into bed and do it all again the next day.  I have loaded a couple pictures to just let you get a peak of our world, and I hope to wake up tomorrow as Wonder Woman and be able to manage my time perfectly. The reality is I am just happy if I wake up, my family is fed and everyone has clean underwear.

Here everything is, in no particular order.  We have had 5 baby goats born.  Raised and butchered 50 chickens. We have 15 turkeys and we are preparing to have a 1000 foot frost free water line put in for the back fields as well as a high tunnel.  The garden is doing good, we are learning a lot.  Thank you for understanding and I hope you enjoyed our brief update.

Protein Power

I farm for three reasons, first I want to provide my family with the best food I can and second I want to share my love of gardening with friends and family. Lastly, I want to leave the Earth better than I found it.  We have learned that you can not have a productive vegetable garden without an animal presence on the farm.  The animal manure and activity on the land is what makes gardening without store bought fertilizers possible.  Our farm is only 5 acres and we do not have the ablitiy to raise meat and goat milk for the world, but it is enough to feed our family and close friends.  Every year we raise chickens, turkeys, goats and pigs for our family consumption.  The farm has finally grown to the point that we are protein independant.  The only thing that is raised off our land is beef and that is raised by a very close family friend.  There is peace of mind knowing that when there is a bird flu, mad cow, crazy disease outbreak, we do not have to worry about what is on our table. 


Every year when I share pictures of these animals on Facebook, I always gets the same response.  “I could never raise an animal I was going to eat.” Raising meat animals is often looked at as cruel, when infact, it is the opposit.  We raise these animals because we love them.  I know that my birds were raised in sunshine and on grass.  They were loved and given the best life possible while they were here.  I am not willing to give up meat and become a vegetarian, so I want to make sure the animals I eat are well cared for.   The meat birds pictured above get moved to fresh grass often, and they are preparing my garden beds for the future.  They are fertilizing, mowing and turning up the grass, as well as controling pests.  I will add leaf compost and turn it all under to plant my corn.  This practice saves me time and money while putting an amazing meal on my table.  The turkey our family ate at Thanksgiving, tilled and prepared the ground I will grow my pumpkins on for pie this year.  It is all a tasty cycle. 


We have not figured out all the checks and balances of farming yet, but when you allow things to work together the way they were designed, the outcome is amazing.  Giving back to the land and being good stewards of the reasources we are given is one of my favorite things about farming.  

“How Does Your Garden Grow?”

I have not planted any Silver Bells in the garden yet, but there is something magical and nursery ryhym like about a garden growing in the spring.  Out of a seed comes this magical plant,  with some sun, water and good soil it can produce food to feed my family and friends.  It is something about gardening that never grows old.  

This year our Spring has been hot and cold, dry and wet a typlical Maryland Spring.  We are working diligently when the weather allows us. We have to get all the garden beds made and the seeds planted.  Last year some of our crops struggled to grow in the heavy clay soil in the garden.  This year we are not tilling the compost into the clay, we are just adding 6+ inches of compost to the top of the clay. This means we are doing a lot of dirt moving, raking, and shoveling.  It looks great and the plants are loving the fresh, nutrient dense soil.  So far this spring we have planted onions, kale, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, peas, carrots, and radishes.  The garlic over wintered well and is growing lik crazy.  The asparagus plants, still have at least another season before they reach their full potental.  Rhubarb is growing leaps and bounds, we are waiting to be brave enough to harvest it and try new recipes.  As the result of our mild winter, some of our herbs were able to over winter well.  We will have plenty of Oregano and sage this year. 


This year we have opened our CSA program and it has required extra planing and planting.  We want to be able to offer our customers a wide verity of veggies for the season.  We are planting a total of 62+ different vegetables and 15+ different herbs.  We have started over 700 seedlings so far this spring to try and get a jump on the season.  Most of those seedlings are doing great, there has already been two crop fails, but we are replanting and hoping to still be able to have a good harvest later in the season.  The CSA program this year, will pay for us to be able to put up an larger greenhouse, which will be a welcome addition to our farm for starting seeds through the winter and into next spring.  

It is a busy season for sure, but I am really enjoying having dirt under my fingernails again and sunkissed arms. 

Tick Prevention

Spring means it is tick season again here on the East Coast.  In the spring the ticks are very small in their nymph stage, they are the size of a pin head.  Even this small these ticks can do damage.  I have struggled with Chronic Lyme Disease for 4 years.  I have a personal dispise for these small, blood sucking creatures.  Over the years we have tired many things to get rid of them.  Nothing that we did seemed to get rid of them completely.  We make sure the animals have been vaccinated and that we use tick prevention on them. This has helped but is still not 100% , especially not for the goats. So after doing more research and talking to other farmers, I believe we have found a solution that will work; Guinea Hens.  


A large precentage of the Guinea Hens diet is ticks.  They forage and “hunt” for their food, they do not eat from the feeder.  Meaning they not only eat ticks but they are also very economical. There are many challenges that come along with guineas which is why they are not the solution for everyone.  First, they are incredibly loud. The sound they make is similar to that of nails on the calk board, it will send chills down your spine.  Second,they are almost imposible to keep in a designated area, they will visit the neighbors or just plain leave the farm.  Lastly, they do not go into a barn to roost at night, so if you start the spring with 10 guineas, by the end of the summer the fox will have eaten most of them.  Even with all those down sides I have decided guineas are worth a try.  

They will be in a brooding pen close to the house for a few weeks, once the weather warms up and they feather out, they will be moved to their guinea treehouse in the field.  Guineas love to roost up high, so we are going to build them a coop off the ground.  We are hoping that if we keep them in this coop for a couple weeks while they are still young they will come back to it at night and not die!  Who knows, I will have to let you know how they do.  In the mean time, I am looking forward to tick free fields and a decreased risk of Lyme disease for my family and my animals.   They are so cute when they are little!  Not so much when they are older.