Friday, September 5, 2014

Staying focused...



Staying focused on ending the season well takes a lot of consideration.
What are some steps we can take to live a balanced life midst the busyness of fall? Come on over to the farmhouse and have a chat and see what's cooking!


Well, we're just four weeks away from the end of our
CSA year! Could it really be? Time has flown by since
our asparagus, then strawberry harvest when we first began. I'm amazed that another summer is gone and the cool days of fall are just ahead. I've seen signs around me with trees here on the mountain showing a tinge of red and yellow, a visible touch of God!

We must all stay focused...focused on finishing the year well, focused on using our weekly share of vegetables instead of just letting them sit in the fridg and mold, focused on choosing activities that will bring family unity.



Our family has been busy again this week. They've focused on harvesting the field of watermelons and cutting a bumper crop of okra. The boys have always talked about having to order gaylords (the large cardboard containers you see in the produce
department of your grocery store which hold large amounts of potatoes, corn, or melons) to hold this crop or that crop that they had just planted. It has always been a bit like the old saying, "Don't count your chickens before they hatch". We may have planted that much, but you can't always count on harvesting that much! Well, their dream has come true! They bought four gaylord containers and have harvested melons for days.

Though it's been a later harvest than projected because of the cool days of August, please stay focused on eating local and clean food. Come on out to your market this weekend and get a few. Few?! Yes, all melons freeze! Enjoy the yummy sweetness in the deep of winter by following these instructions.


How to Freeze Melons

Cut your melon in half, remove seeds and remove from the rind. Cut into uniform cubes or balls.  We tray freeze by placing the balls onto a cookie sheet, and sliding the sheets into the freezer for a day or so. When the balls are firm, remove from the freezer. I let them sit on the counter a SHORT time to allow them to loosen from the tray (but not thaw). Using a spatula I  scoop them up and put them into freezer bags that I can lay flat to conserve space in our freezer.

Like I mentioned earlier, the boys have been
harvesting lots of okra this week also. We've never had this much okra! After breakfast as they are running out the door, one will run back for a handful of rubber gloves to protect themselves from the itch that will inevitably come when handling spiny okra unprotected!

I'll be putting more up in the coming week for winter eating. You can too! It's the easiest vegetable to can! I gave directions Week 11's blog

If you are thinking the same thing I used to think...

"Gross, the slime!"
Try my hint for steamed okra. Add a bit of raw apple cider vinegar to your water and see what happens. Our family has become lovers of okra since I began to can it using a touch of vinegar. (If you ask, I'll tell you my okra slime story when blanching it to freeze as a new bride!)

If your family would like to try a new treat this
winter, why not pickle okra? I've debated whether to share my "secret" recipe...it's not soft...it's not slimy...it is yummy though! I love the convenience of just pulling a couple quarts off my pantry shelf and having a vegetable side dish without any preparation. We try to keep a couple jars in the fridg so they'll be cold at a moment's notice, but they are good either way.  They also make nice Christmas gifts. 

Pickled Okra

Wash your canning jars in hot sudsy water. Check the rims to make sure there aren't any nicks. Place in a 250 degree oven for 25 minutes. Keep jars hot as long as possible, it won't hurt to keep them in the oven longer.

In a dutch oven or stock pot heat  10 cups cider vinegar and 10 cups of water until boiling. Add 1/3 C. Sea Salt. Bring to a boil once again, stirring until the salt is dissolved.

Put your flats into a small sauce pan and bring to a boil, 2 minutes.

Wash pods. Trim the stems close to, but not cutting into the pod. 

Work as quickly as possible packing one jar at a time, keeping the jar as hot as possible during the process. 

Pack  the pods tightly and upright into sterilized jars. Slide one red chili pepper and one garlic bulb in on the outside (where it's pretty) during the packing process.

Pour hot vinegar solution slowly into jar until the tops of the okra are covered. 

Wipe the rim with a clean cloth dunked into the boiling water where your flats are.

Place a flat on the jar, and seal with a band. Place on a towel placed on your counter. Do not process any further. The jar should seal itself. If it does not, the vinegar solution will preserve the okra sufficiently. (Or it has for us for years!)

I guess in this day and time I need to add that we cannot be held liable for the outcome of any of our canning recipes. 
Use good common sense!

Well, I've talked a lot about okra, but I want to give you one new idea on how to use it if the cartons are stacking up in your fridg and you are feeling guilty. It's a new recipe I'm going to try tonight. (We did make the recipe for supper for 17...with my gang I usually make a triple batch. But I thought, "These are okra fritters they'll probably not be all that hot." Wrong! We ran out of the fritters pretty quick, and the adults had to nab a few as the teens asked for the platter at our end of the table! I was wondering if they needed a dipping sauce, so I had the teen girls try one out...even a picky eater...I won't mention names. They all loved them straight out of the oil..no dipping sauce needed.) Give these fritters a try! They are easy and great too!



Okra Fritters

1 1/2 C. okra in 1/4" slices
1/2 C. water
1 1/2 C. flour...wheat, coconut, almond, etc.
2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp chili powder
1C. milk (I'll be using coconut milk)
1 egg, beaten
1 qt. coconut oil (or oil of your choosing)

1. Heat oil to 360-400 degrees. 
2.Bring okra and water to a boil. (I used a tablespoon of vinegar to cut the slime.)
3. Reduce heat. Cover and cook 2 minutes.
4. Drain well on "paper towels".
5. Combine flour, baking powder, salt and chili powder in a large bowl. 
6. Beat milk and egg , then stir into flour

mixture just until combined. 

7. Stir in okra.
8. Drop into oil using a 1/8th  measuring cup. 
9. Fry 2-3 minutes or until golden brown. (Mine took longer than this.)
10. Remove fritters with a slotted spoon and drain on "paper towels".





Tip: Whenever something I'm cooking needs drained "on paper towels" I use a small grid cooling rack placed

over a cookie sheet. This works great also for baking bacon! 




Our strawberry order was delivered this week!
Noah and Isaac help unload our plants into
our truck.
When things begin to slow down on the farm, we still need to stay focused on serving our customers. This week we ordered and received next year's strawberries. I can "all ready taste them"! In the next few weeks we'll plant them in our high tunnels for next spring's harvest. 
We're starting right as usual with organic
strawberry transplants. This is the labeling on
delivery truck.

Physically we all need to focus on true nutrition
during these busy days. I see recipes all the time for "tailgate" parties, hear of families buying fast food on the run, and the attendance at farmer's markets goes way down after school begins. We all have the same amount of time during the fall as we did in the spring when the markets were first opened. Do you remember your excitement in April and May? Please don't let your hectic schedule distract you from what's truly important. Remember that farm families like ours earn their living growing your food and delivering it to the markets. We need your support!


Colvin Family Farm at Main Street Farmer's Market
in Chattanooga.


Remember the fresh taste of your farmer's produce before
you grab some "conveniently" at the grocery store!
We all need to focus on what is best for our families. Lately I also hear Moms wistfully longing for the slower days of summer. Really, how busy we are as families is up to us the parents. We decide which activities to be involved in. We decide (maybe unconsciously) to be caught up in the hectic flow of activities that draw our family apart.

One lesson I had to learn as a young Mom was to
Radishes are back in the fall
line-up!
say, "No, I'm sorry." to people who wanted the children or I to be involved in a myriad of activities. They couldn't see the rush to get out of the house, the laundry piling up, the cranky children who couldn't concentrate, or the tension that builds between parents in the process.  I had to learn to say either, "No, I'm sorry.", or "I'll pray about it and ask my husband." (Steve was great in helping me stay focused.)  We eventually grew more involved in family activities which drew us together rather then apart. It was always more fun when Daddy was with us anyway! 



This fall, as more activities are added to my day as a Momma, it's crucial for me to be focused on Christ. He is a personable God that has a plan laid out for each of my days. He wants to share it with me. When I seek His face first thing in the morning I'm more at peace for I know He will direct me throughout my day. He has promised never to give me(us) more than I (we) can handle...a fact I have to remind myself of often! (This concept is taught in 1 Cor. 10:13.) 

When I feel overwhelmed with allll I think I have to get done during my day it's usually because I've taken on more than He has planned for me to accomplish. It's been a long lesson for this type A woman...I'm a "Martha", always serving with a to-do list running through my mind. I've asked my Lord to fashion me into "a Mary". She didn't have an endless to-do list running in her mind like her sister Martha did. She peacefully sat at Jesus' feet listening to His every word. And in Luke 10:30-42 we read that Jesus said, "Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful and Mary hath chosen that good part.." Mary was focused on Jesus!




Yes, it's a busy time of year. We all try to combine fall activities with the summer ones because soon we'll all be inside while the snow blows outside. Staying focused on what is truly important for our families, for our physical well-being, and especially spiritually will allow us to enjoy the season to its' fullest! 

"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you."

Matthew 6:33

Abundant Blessings,
The Farmer's Wife
Val



Our Week at a Glance

Our daughter Hope lives on the farm and  helps when she can. She washed and spun
a lot of arugula for our mid-week shares!

Lil' Josiah "helped" also!

Farmer Steve and Faith Anne weigh
and package the arugula.
Here's a bit of what you miss...when you miss a
market!











Labor Day was also the day we
celebrated Noah's 16th birthday!
Caleb and Charity Rose made his
cake(s).

We've outgrown our family
mixer...


You can tell I wasn't cooking ...
but they ended up with 3 cakes to
feed the crowd that came to
celebrate with us.

Happy Birthday Noah!!




While on a walk one day
this week I enjoyed
many hints of the
changing season.

Carefree children riding bikes
as I walked. Noah was mowing.

Colorful mushrooms growing in
the fence row.

A touch of fall colors
are coming in the trees.

How big is your lawnmower?
Noah was bush hogging a field near
the house.

The "famous" market
kitty.

Everyone helps pack mid-week
markets.
These Tomatillos are ready to be
packed into share boxes.

Share boxes line the porch mid-week
ready for the vegetables.

Squash all ready to go into
the boxes.

Isaac is packing potatoes
to go into shares.

After harvesting, washing if needed, bunching/bagging, everything is weighed.

Then each box is packed.

Then after the shares are packed, they begin
readying vegetables for on table sales.

Mid-week shares

Adam packed potato shares.


One of my responsibilities is to keep
all the table cloths washed and ready to go.
The farm spills over into the farmhouse for the time
being until we finish the packing shed. This huge box of tablecloths sits in the hallway outside the "office" by our bedroom.

Trucks are packed midst
the proclamations of what time it is.

A happy rooster found
some squash bits to eat
beside the porch where we pack.

Some of my children at work...


Luke (11) at Main Street Farmer's
Market in Chattanooga. He and Adam
also work the Franklin Farmer's Market
near Nashville.

We're teaching Noah to be photogenic...
We still have a long way to go.
Noah works the Market Square Farmer's Market
in Knoxville with his big brother Isaac.

Charity Rose makes all the mini
loaves of bread for the Cumberland Sustainable
Farmer's Market in Crossville. Here she was
making "Girl Scout Cookies" with some leftover
scraps of dough. See the little "scouts" below?


After being a baker with Momma, Charity had a piano lesson because she wants to be a musician. Then she decided to be an artist.


Within an hour she was a baker, a muscian, an
artist, and back to being a baker when her "cookies" came out of the oven.
It's fun to have a 6 year old around!

Clover leaf rolls ready for sale at the Cumberland
Sustainable Farmer's Market.



Going to market in Oakridge is fun!
Steve often takes Faith Anne, Titus, Levi, and
Charity Rose with him.

 Razzleberry's Restaurant
near the market barters vegetables for their lunch.
 Their restaurant is an exciting place for all our children! If you like Polish food and commodities, you must visit their restaurant!

Thank you Waldek and Ilona!