Tuesday, October 18, 2011

BUSY Fall Days on the Farm

Greetings from our mountain farm!

We're all recovering from our biggest and best fall farm day ever last Saturday. Whew!! It was an exhilarating day of preparation, meeting new and also welcoming old members of our "farm family". There were many highlights for me...one special moment was spent in the kitchen with one talented shareholder that painted a picture of our vegetables as they appeared in her share during the season. It now hangs in our dining room as a remembrance of a our 2011 growing season, and one woman's delight in God's provision for us all. Thank you Pat!

The weather was beautiful and the Lord painted the perfect fall background to our day. One blessing to me were the children. I enjoyed sharing the wonder of nature with many of them as they discovered each item on their list during the nature scavenger hunt. (One adult couple even joined in, and were excited with their finds!) In the kitchen garden folks heard squeals of delight from toddlers finding peanuts during the peanut hunt. Lots of folks chose to go on a hayride into the woods with farmer Steve pulling them with his tractor. They visited our waterfall...the beauty this dry fall wasn't in the water, but the beauty of the woods off the bluff overlooking a deep gorge below.

The 30 foot farm buffet table was loaded with smoked turkey and pork, 4 kinds of breads, squash dishes, salads, pickled vegetables, potato dishes, and 6 ' alone of desserts! Everyone ate sitting around a campfire on bales of hay or chairs they brought....it grew strangely silent as folks enjoyed the meal surrounded by a fall farm landscape. As the darkness fell, children of ALL ages enjoyed roasting marshmallows over the dieing embers...and folks began to slip away into the darkness to return to their homes...

So, another farm day is over, and our season is coming to an end. Several folks are reserving their share for the 2012 season all ready. We will probably be limiting the number available at each market so we can spread our harvest days out over the week. So if you would like to be part of our "farm family" next year, go online and reserve your share. Then you can visit us once again in the spring! We are looking forward to it.

I've been VERY busy this week. Early Monday morning during my devotion time with the Lord I begged for strength and wisdom to accomplish all it looked like I needed to get done the next two days. I asked especially that the Lord would, "multiply my strength". One of the first things on my to-do list was to clean out the walk-in refrigerator of the weekly shares that weren't picked up and culled vegetables that were a bit too "nasty" looking to go into shares (but perfectly edible). It seems that several people think their shares are over, so I had SEVERAL to separate. The box truck brought four eighteen gallon tubs of mixed greens, three boxes of tomatoes, two bus tubs of mixed squash, two boxes of broccoli and cauliflower , and a box of basil! In my heart I was struggling with being overwhelmed as school had to be added to the list also...then
..WHAT A BLESSING HE SENT ME! My sons that are usually busy in the fields joined me in the farm kitchen for the day! My strength WAS multiplied! The kitchen was a bee hive of activity and I kept telling my "organized" self that it didn't really matter that things were done MY way, just that we all enjoyed getting them done. When the steam lifted, we had 5, 1/2 pints of pesto, 10 gallons of broccoli and 9 gallons of cauliflower in the freezer, 26 gallon bags of mixed greens, 51 quarts of salsa and 19 quarts of tomato juice canned, 1 gallon of chopped onions in the freezer along with 19 quarts of shredded zucchini and 4 gallon bags of squash frozen. We all were exhausted by the day's end, but we can all smile at the results. The years of including all my children in the food preserving process has been well worth it....from the youngest (Charity and Levi are our washers) to Adam, Caleb, and Isaac they all were used to answer my prayer of "multiplied strength". Thank You Jesus!

Like I said, we love to can our own salsa...we like it even better when all the ingredients come from our farm. We have gleaned tomato fields in the area for years, but now with the increased production of our own farm we f\inally have enough seconds for me to do some of our canning! Our salsa has a different "personality" each year....and even differs from batch to batch. This recipe does a mild tasting salsa, just add hot peppers to make it spicier. Here is our basic recipe.

Colvin Family Farm Salsa

1 1/2 bushels tomatoes
15 cups diced onions
3-4 cups hot peppers, chopped fine
4 1/2 cups vinegar
3/4 C. minced garlic
1/2 cup salt

Pour everything in a large pot, mix well. Cook until boiling and simmer for 30 minutes. Fill sterilized jars to one inch from top. Clean rim of jar with a damp paper towel. Top with sterilized flats and bands. Process in a boiling water bath canner 25 minutes. Let sit on your counter 24 hours after processing. Remove bands and store in a cool, "dark" room.

My week continued to be full with baking for the Crossville market...pumpkin and zucchini breads, pumpkin roll cakes, pumpkin cinnamon rolls, carrot cakes, molasses cookies, freshly ground whole wheat breads, cinnamon nut rolls, cinnamon apple rolls, and more...The Crossville market is a lively spot in my week. I thank God for the new friendships He has allowed me to make this year...Check out this online market for a look at the future of farmer's markets! crossville.locallygrown.net/market.

Today I've made 16 loaves of fresh bread for our shares, cleaned the house after a busy week, made a huge dinner for my hungry family, went to a birthday party with my little girls, AND WELCOMED MY OLDEST SON MATTHEW HOME FROM THE MIDDLE EAST WITH HIS NEW BRIDE BRITTANY! After the party I packed squash and lettuce shares, jostled in the line packing shares with ALL my boys (we taught Matt and Brittany how to pack shares! :) and then made a light supper.

Saturday (As usual I'm taking two weeks to get this out.)

My full life got fuller today. I am sooo blessed! My mother-in-love is wanting to make a special relish that I make called, "Red Stuff"...it's an old family recipe that we may can and sell next year. She called wanting to pick tomatoes today with me and my little ones. Since all the farmers on the mountain are preparing for a freeze, today is really the last definite day to do so. We have stripped our vines of all tomatoes this week also. With only 7 buckets to can I was wondering how to make what we need...today the Lord provided two HUGE fields of tomatoes to pick! I now have twenty-two bushels of tomatoes to can...more salsa, red stuff, and whole tomatoes will soon be put into jars for the long winter ahead. What a blessing it was to see my eighty-five year old mother-in-love and her new husband (he's eighty-three!) picking down the long rows of tomatoes with my children....they will cherish today's memory for years to come. We now have 23 BUSHELS of tomatoes to work! Praise God!

Tuesday (October 25th)

This is becoming more of a journal than a blog...sorry. We hosted a wedding reception for our son Matthew that is now home from the middle east last night. They are now off to Puerto Rico, my childhood home, for their honeymoon. They were married on July 9, 2011 and are now just getting alone together! I'm thankful that things have a chance to wind down a bit now as the season is winding down.

The boys (6 of them) are making salsa today. The farm kitchen is a bee hive of activity!! I've had other responsibilities to keep me out of their way...so I encourage, fetch needed ingredients, and will help with the eventual clean up! I'm soooo proud of them. I think they have about 100 quarts going on our 6 eye stove!! Jars are lined up over all my counters! I have to tell you about a first! Usually when I need jars from our root cellar I ask one of the boys please go get them. They bring up boxes of them to me, saving me a lot of lifting. Today, with Isaac (17) in charge, they brought a piece of plywood down there and sorted jars onto it...then they carried the board with 100 jars on it to the kitchen porch door! I grabbed the camera real quick to see this unique method. When we do something around here it is always in a
big way.

I hope you are enjoying the fall vegetables in your shares. We are for sure! We've really enjoyed the cauliflower and broccoli, so I thought I'd share a few of my experiments from last fall. Below is the basic recipe...feel free to use just broccoli, a mixture of of the two or even chopped greens like spinach, Swiss Chard, kale, or others! I've used it many different ways with whatever the Lord puts in my hands to feed my family. :)

Broccoli Cheese Soup
Broccoli/Cauliflower Cheese Soup, Spinach Cheese Soup, Green Cheese Soup (that's fun)

2 T. Olive oil

3/4 C. chopped onion

6 C. water
6 chicken bouillon cubes

Add and cook 3 minutes:
8 oz. vermecelli (thin pasta) broken up in small pieces
1 t. sea salt

Stir in and cook 4 minutes:
2 packages frozen broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, greens, or combination of each(I freeze in quarts for soups or use 10 oz. frozen packages of store bought) cut up fine, but chunky
1/8 t. garlic powder

6 cups milk
1 lb. Velveeta cheese or grated cheddar

Cook only until cheese melts, BUT DO NOT boil.

Brown and crumble bacon for a garnish...this is best on cauliflower.

I'm getting the"fall itch" for soups and fresh breads...I get a craving, then it's soup season in full swing once again. Last winter we had soup almost every lunch. I put the ingredients in a 6 quart crock pot and ground the wheat for muffins while doing the breakfast dishes. Then as school wound down for the morning I mixed the muffin of choice and we had a nice cozy lunch. It sure was nice. Maybe you could try it out. Remember the above soup's vegetable choice can be almost anything you have extra of in your refrigerator. I'd really like it if you comment below on what you've tried...then maybe I can try it too!

Adam brought me to the "stats" page for this blog to reassure me that folks are reading it. Thank you! I felt like I was writing to empty cyber space
. I pray it is a blessing to each of you.

Pretty soon we'll be enjoying early evenings with more time indoors for family fun. One thing the Colvin family likes to do is to cook together. One of our favorite fun times is to make pizza, a Mexican dish, or egg rolls together and then watch a good movie together. We use all kinds of vegetables to make our egg rolls...they are nothing like what you get in a restaurant but we love them! We clean out the refrigerator's vegetable shelf and add a bit of shrimp or something cut up small. I'll list several vegetables, but use what you have on hand. Plan a family fun night and try out this recipe!

Egg Rolls Colvin"ese" Style

1 small head of cabbage
1 medium onion
1 small carrot
handful of snow peas
bean sprouts
1 rib celery
1/2 pepper
handful radish

Meat or seafood in your egg rolls is optional. If you choose to include some, cut it in small pieces. We like a small amount of imitation crab meat or shrimp. You can use boneless chicken breasts, a small steak or whatever is in the freezer. Cut it up in small pieces and stir fry it in a small amount of oil with a tablespoon of choped garlic. Remove from the oil when finished and place in a small bowl. Place the bowl in the middle of a large round tray. (or improvise)

Next,cut all vegetables in small pieces. (They must be uniform size so they cook quickly.) As you chop your vegetables start with your seasoning vegetables first...onion and a bit of fresh ginger. Place them on a tray at the"12 o'clock" position. Then assess your vegetables...which take the longest to cook? Carrots are always longest in my choices, so I cut them up in small pieces and place them at the "1 o'clock" position on the tray.
Then in the above list I'd chop cauliflower and place it at the "2 o'clock" position and so on ending with cabbage which is the last one to be added as it is your filler. You can do this ahead of time and cover it until cooking time. My children like to help with the chopping though, and we make it a "party" atmosphere.

I have a large wok, so I heat it up with about 1/8 C. oil. I add the seasoning vegetables at "12 o'clock" position. Cook only a few minutes before adding the vegetable in the "1 o'clock" position (if it's carrots, stir fry them a bit longer than the rest of the vegetables)...working your way around the tray giving each addition a minute or two to stir fry before adding another. The last addition should be the cabbage which should be your last vegetable as it is the "filler". When the stir fry is barely "limp", it is ready to fill your wrappers.

Follow the instructions included in your egg roll wrappers to wrap them. Be careful to not over fill them. (Start with about "1/4" cup of vegetables and see how it rolls up.) We use a mixture of 1 T. flour and 1 C. water to moisten the edges and "glue" it together. Place them on cooling racks to dry a bit before deep frying. We fry in our wok and drain in a vertical position to drain well.
Serve with sweet and sour sauce and Chinese hot mustard.

Val's Sweet & Sour Sauce

In a medium saucepan place and heat well:
3 T. oil
1 C. sugar
1/4 C. corn starch
2-3 T. soy sauce
2/3 C. apple cider vinegar
1 1/3 C. water

2-4 T. chopped onion
1 T. finely chopped grated giner

Cook until thickened. Refrigerate leftovers, keeps well. I like to mix with Chinese hot mustard for a zingy sauce!

As you face YOUR busy days this fall please don't fall into satan's trap of thinking you don't have enough time to spend in God's Word each day. We don't have enough time NOT to! I know he whispers the same lies to each of us, so what I struggle with, you must also. I cannot miss my time with Jesus each morning or I'll be unable spiritually and emotionally to handle the multitude of responsibilities that at times seem overwhelming. WITH Christ, alllll things ARE possible! On my own, I am nothing.

"Hast thou not know? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint: and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."

Isaiah 40: 28-31

Abundant Blessings from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,
The Farmer's Wife