Friday, June 26, 2015

What's in Your Hands?

"What's in  your hand" this week? What do you mean? Come for a virtual visit in the farmhouse to see what I mean...and how God answered my prayer! I'm the Farmer's Wife, Mamma to 13 children & 3 Grandblessings!

The men have lots of tiny transplants "in their hands" this week. 

Sometimes I have a desire for something that seems to be "just what I need"! This spring I've had this feeling. I wanted new curtain fabric, new paint on the walls of my farmhouse dining room, and just a finished look!

Years ago when I was pining away in prayer for a
farm to raise our family on, God asked me, "What's in  your hand?" At first, I was stunned. I just sat there and looked at my pen as I wrote in my journal that morning. He wanted me to look past the pen of course, and see all He had put into my hands to work with all ready. No, He hadn't given me a farm yet, but He had given me a one acre "homestead" to farm on.

That was the beginning of a journey for me. In the quiet of my living room I left my discontentment at His feet, and began to look anew at all He had blessed me with to serve Him and my family.

With this fresh perspective I learned new methods of gardening, the postage stamp garden I had with the children. We also built raised beds on the solid rock in our yard to increase  the amount of vegetables we could grow.

Our oldest son Matthew (now 31) began to raise bees
for honey, and Adam (24, was about 6 at the time) began to raise a small patch of strawberries. We planted pear and apple trees...We raised 4-H chickens...and the list could go on! All this was done on one acre with 9 children to help!

It was about the time when Farmer Steve began to research digging a pond to raise catfish that the Lord seemed to say, "That's enough!" It was then when we were busily content with "what was in our hand" that the Lord Jesus Christ gave us our farm...40 times what we had on our "homestead" debt free!

This lesson of "What's in your hand?" has been
learned time and time again in all areas of our lives. My most recent lesson was in the seemingly insignificant area of decorating my home. 

We've lived in our farmhouse now for almost 10 years, after 5 years of living in a small, old mountain "cabin". We've been focusing on fields, vegetables, livestock, and of course children for so long, that my desire for finishing our home seemed impossible. But now I "needed" to make the inside of our home reflect me...and be finished. I'm definitely NOT a decorator, but my God is, and He once again whispered, "What's in your hands?"

What's in your hands this week? "My share", you

say? "Vegetables from the farmer's market.", another may say. A few will say, "There's a ton of lettuce in garden ready to bolt!" Well, that's what's in your hand...will you be faithful to use it? Or will you miss the opportunity, and feel the guilt of throwing away your hard-earned purchases?

When I peered into my fridge this week there was an abundance of greens (as usual in the spring)! Here's a great way to use Swiss chard or spinach this week. It's real easy and quick. You can use your favorite pie crust or simply grease the pan, and make a crust-less quiche!

Spring Greens Quiche

7 eggs
1 C. Mozzarella Cheese
1 C. Cottage Cheese
1 1/2 C. milk or half & half
salt & pepper to taste
1 lb. Spinach or Swiss Chard, lightly sauteed and drained
2 Pie Crusts, pre-cooked (optional)
Optional: leftover ham or bacon diced small

Combine the first 5 ingredients in a bender. Arrange vegetables and meat on the bottom of a well greased pan or pie crust.  Pour the contents of the blender over the vegetable mixture.  Bake at 350 degrees until a knife inserted comes out clean. Let set 5 minutes before serving. 

This theme of "using what's in your hands" has been "haunting" my thoughts this week as I plan my meals. I knew clearly that this is what the Lord wanted me to write about! 

I have a "formula" recipe that helps me be a wise steward of leftover or small amounts of food. We call it "Whatever Casserole", but I'm renaming it as of now...

"What's in Your Hand Casserole"

2 C. Meat: leftover ham, tuna, chicken, hamburger, or bits of Sunday's roast!
4 C. Starch: boiled potatoes, rice, cooked noodles, Quiona, beans, etc.
2-4 C. Sauce:  Most folks use Cream of...Soups, I use a white sauce with mushrooms or herbs in it, cheese sauce, tomato sauce, gravy, etc. 

Layer the three categories into a greased  9X12" pan.  Layer the meat, starch, and sauce. Top with bread or cracker crumbs, or your favorite raw biscuits. Bake for 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees. Serve bubbly hot with a fresh salad or other seasonal vegetable.

Here's what my casserole looked like this week. My bottom layer was rice, next leftover roast pieces (not enough to feed the whole family, but enough to say there's meat in this dish :) The next layer was leftover green beans, sauteed onion, and carrots. Now I had a use for the leftover gravy as it became my sauce. Really, it looked like a deconstructed Yankee Pot Roast Sunday dinner! 

Summer vegetables are now beginning to mature! Squash recipes to come.
Search this website for past recipes this week.

I've used broccoli and chicken with noodles and cheese sauce, Quinoa with pepperoni, onions, peppers, and pizza sauce, and the list could go on. This simple "formula" has been handy when God whispers, "What's in your hand"?

Back in the farmhouse this week I've taken some time to see "what was in my hand" as I went about my day in regards to giving my home the finished look without major outlay of funds. I had no real theme, unless old & odd things is a theme. My Saviour knew my needs...even the insignificant ones like this, and helped me to create this...

I know my style is a bit odd...

My Mamma gave me these tea towels, and I love the country feel of clothesline curtains.

All the little things that I gathered around my home I grouped together to give the dining room a touch of me!

What a joy to see what God did "put in my hand" come together and reflect His provision for me!

Have you ever thought about what's in God's hands? As I gaze upon Him in my heart, I see His love written on His hands. The nail prints there were for me despite my sin, even despite how He knew I'd fail Him after I was saved. This kind of love is humbling, and motivates me to obey Him and serve Him daily. 

There's a lot in our hands this time of year...seeds, transplants, share boxes to be filled, leftover vegetables from markets, and all that goes into family life! May God find us all faithful to use what He has placed in our hands this week! 

Early Wednesday morning before breakfast
the boys are busy packing shares for Chattanooga and Knoxville shareholders.

We gather 15 dozen eggs a day...
Gently hand washed and packaged for sale within 24-48 hours from gathering.

We've moved our flock of laying hens to their new permanent pasture.

When the new chicken coop was made
it was to be moved by our smallest tractor.
NOT! After the first rains it just sank deeper into the ground. We finally got it moved the end of last month to it's new pasture that will be divided out into paddocks for continual rotational grazing...a "controlled free range".

Moving a flock of over 300 hens can be quite a challenge IF they aren't in the chicken
coop when moved! Sometimes we just do things the hard way!

Our ducks are one year

"Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present  you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever more. Amen."
Jude 1:24,25

Abundant Blessings,
The Farmer's Wife,

Farmer Steve

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Tips on Storing & Using Vegetables from a Farmer's Wife~CSA Week 1

 There's a lot of vegetables at Farmer's Markets and growing in gardens this time of year! Come on over to the farmhouse and learn from a farmer's wife with 13 children how to store them, and use them frugally in creative ways!
                                                             CSA Week #1

Trucks full of crates of produce are rumbling down our drive as they head to the farmhouse. Here in the farmhouse we're preparing a special supper to
Spring Pizza
celebrate CSA season and fill hungry farmer boy's bellies. I'll share the recipe with lots of photos to step you through it later in the blog.

My front porch looked comical to the FEDEX boys
that delivered..... cases of sweet potato slips this afternoon. Only a small farm family would make do in the way we are with tables stacked upon table to create large shelves to place all the share boxes that will soon be filled with your produce. Share upon share to share with you!

Caleb & Shelby
Two new Farmer's Wives have joined me this year.
Allison & Adam
Adam married Allison in March, and Shelby married Caleb in April. It's been fun to listen to them talk about all they face at the markets!

I'm going to try and answer some questions they are asked, as they are just learning also along with you. I'm blessed to call them both daughters!

Many of the questions I answer I hear year after
year. The how-to of taking care of a regular supply of fresh vegetables straight from the farmer's field is probably the most oft' heard...It is really simple, but one you have to stay on top of. It's a different way of living for many folks have chosen in this fast paced world in which we live. I think it slows folks down, and the work draws the family together. 

Here are my tips to get you started, or refresh your mind after a year of "sterile" veggies packed in plastic containers.

Tip #1

My biggest tip would be to clean your vegetables when you get home your market or CSA pick-up. You will be more likely to use your vegetables if you have them ready to pull out of the refrigerator. 

I encourage everyone to run cool water into a clean sink as soon as you get home. As  you unpack your lettuce and other greens simply cut off the stem and drop the leaves into the water. Then go unpack the rest of your groceries or go about your other chores that need to be done.

When you are settled in, go back to the sink and you'll be amazed! The lettuce has crisped up and is ready to spin or lay out on towels on your counter. (A salad spinner is a great purchase and will pay for itself many times over during the season!) 

If you have lots of little ones that are eager helpers as I do, make it a family affair...part of the market experience. Little ones love to swirl greens in a clean sink of cool water, and my boys have been my salad spinner operators for YEARS. 

I snip off the greens from beets, radish, and turnips  about one inch above the bulbs and drop their greens into the water that is still in my sink. Most folks throw out radish, broccoli, cauliflower and other greens that come with their vegetables. Be frugal and mix them with other braising greens such as mustard, kale, turnip and Swiss Chard in a stir fry or simple saute. In fact, when I steam broccoli, it's unusual for there NOT to be greens mixed in.

I store my root crops and other vegetables during the season in a Rubbermaid wash pan like this. It's nice and deep and since root crops last awhile in storage I can let my supply build up without it flowing over to the shelf. It sits next to the greens container, and makes for a pretty frig since it matches...sorry, but that's important to me. I like orderliness. I also can put squash (coming real soon!) cucumbers, carrots, and other vegetables in this tub throughout the season. During the winter it moves to the pantry and is used for storing potatoes, or other storage crops.

 By having everything stored clean and ready for use, I am more likely to use them when pulling a quick meal together.Take time to get it all manageable now so you can enjoy the season.

Tip #2
It's time to get the refrigerator cleaned out! You will need a shelf and a drawer devoted to storing your weekly supply of vegetables. All those leftovers that migrated to the back of the frig must now be dumped. (It happens to everyone!) If you haven't used those condiments for a won't. So dump them too. It's time to get the refrigerator monster under control before the season moves on! I try and do a quick sweep through the refrigerator each week when I add new vegetables so older treasures don't lurk and grow mold. Make this clean up part of your new routine.

Tip #3

Think through how you will store your vegetables in the frig. Several years ago I found rectangle Rubbermaid containers that fit perfectly from front to back in my refrigerator. This is a link for those who will be storing lots of lettuce or other greens this season. While I was searching for that container on Amazon (I do not get paid for any sales to any site.) I found a neat size for smaller families. It's half the size and stackable!  I think you can put two in the space of my biggie! Here is a link to that size that may work for you. I use two of the larger sized containers constantly throughout the season for lettuce and other greens that make their way into my kitchen.

Tip #4

Subscribe to this blog for fresh ideas, tasty farm-to-table recipes, and farm news. You'll see to the right a place to subscribe by email. DO IT NOW! It's a great way to get to know your farmers, educate yourself, and hold yourself accountable to a new way of eating.

Tip #5

Think "outside the box" in how you use your vegetables. I've come a long way from the simple country cooking...and have a long way to go in "breaking some of the cooking rules" I grew up with. Nowadays there is much more freedom to experiment with flavors. Enjoy the traditional recipes while having fun also with some new ideas you may have. 

While I've been working on the blog this morning I've been answering calls from several shareholders that have questions...I thought I'd answer them in the blog also, for I've learned that if one person takes the time to call there are several who are wondering that don't call.

What are all these vegetables and how do I use them?!?
For many families there will be a few vegetables in their share they don't know their names, let alone how to cook them. That's understandable! No worry...Join us on FB, subscribe to this blog, or find the forum on our website called, "What's in the Box?" where a shareholder posts what's in his share each week. I don't mind an occasional call, it helps me stay in touch with our shareholders needs.

How do I keep my lettuce fresh? Everyone has a different idea and now I have a whole bunch to deal with and I don't want to be wasteful.
You're right! There are numerous ways to care for your lettuce, so I'll just share mine. If you've read the rest of the blog you'll see I soak the leaves in cool water until they crisp up. Then I use a salad spinner to dry them. (Laying them on a large clean towel with let them dry also.) Then I pack them whole into the rectangle Rubbermaid tubs I described before. Lettuce keeps in these for more than a week! Rotate your stock if needed, but try to use it up as we'll try to keep it in your share weekly. 

I like to include lettuce into 2 meals each day. Two "outside of the box" ideas I use are: 1. Serve poached eggs on a salad and top with crumbled sausage or bacon. The lightly poached egg yolk becomes the dressing for the salad and it's a winner in my book! 2. I like to make lettuce wraps for lunch instead of eating traditional sandwiches. I simply lay a large outer lettuce leaf flat on my plate. Lay leftover meat/sandwich meat down the middle of the leaf. Next I'll chop other vegetables fine like onion, asparagus, summer squash, or cucumbers and sprinkle a small amount over the meat. Add a small amount of plain Greek yogurt over the vegetables, then salt & pepper to taste. Lastly fold one side of the leaf over the mixture and roll. Yummm! 

We don't like (fill in the blank) in our share.
What do I do?
We want happy shareholders! If you've really tried the vegetable out...used them in different ways that I've described then just tell the person you're getting your share from that you don't care for whatever the vegetable is. We'll try and substitute from the table within reason. We want you to be tickled to be part of our farm!

I won't be at the market to get my share next week. What should I do?
There are several solutions to this question. First you could find a friend to bless and have them pick it up and use it. We've gained several shareholders by this kind of "advertising". Another solution is to tell the person you are picking your share up from a week ahead of time that you'd like to donate next week's share to the food bank or needy family. Lastly you could go online and redirect your share to another market that is convenient to pick it up from later in the week. 

I'm finding I have more vegetables than I can
use in one week.
We are growing "your garden for you". This is a common problem in gardening also! Find a friend to share with, rethink how you use your vegetables and include them in breakfast also, or freeze your leftovers for a great supply of healthy veggies during the winter. 

I know this has been long, and I usually am a bit long winded...but there's a lot going on around here as the season gears up further with the addition of shares.  If you can hang in there with me for a few more minutes I'd like to share a couple of recipes for this week's vegetables and then tell about our last month in pictures. We'll get back to a "normal" blog next week!

There seems to be a few unfamiliar vegetables in this week's share that some are unfamiliar are the top 4 I've had calls about:

 Bok Choy

It looks like we'll be having stir fry this week! Do a word search on this blog for directions I've given in the past for it.

If you don't like stir fry simply saute it with your other greens, use the leaves to make wraps, or make a filling similar to stuffed cabbage and make an Asian version...that's a new idea I think I'll try this week! Experiment and have fun!

 Red Russian Kale

Red Russian on the left
One woman this morning wanted to know what the purple and green leafed thing in her share was...well, it's kale. This is my favorite variety for making kale chips, and quick sautes since it has less body and texture. Use just like the frilly kale you'll receive latter. We steam it, roast for a kale chip, drop it in soups, and much more!

 Swiss Chard

This is my favorite of spring greens! I love to saute it simply with the green garlic, onions, and even mushrooms that we also sell on table. You can't go wrong! 

Use Swiss Chard in any recipe calling for spinach and you'll make a winner meal. Also, this is a mild green that is a fantastic green for green smoothies. I really can't say enough about this vegetable...mix it with other greens for steaming, and include the stems. There is very little waste.

 Hakurei Turnips 

Unlike the traditional turnips with a distinctive taste, Hakurei is VERY versatile. We've found that these are our favorites...raw, steamed, mashed like potatoes, roasted, whatever way a potato can be used, even in chowders! 

This week try using these tiny ones simply scrubbed clean with a green scrubbie like these we use. This saves time and leaves the outer skin where are the vitamins are for best eating.

If there's not enough for your meal, or you forget to use them during the week, no worry! These tiny treats will keep for weeks in the frig.

Here's what I fed the hungry crew for supper last night. We were craving pizza, but the refrigerator was busting with greens....sooo....

Spring Pizza

1 bunch greens (I used Swiss Chard)
1 bulb Green Garlic, sliced and chopped
1 medium Onion, chopped
1/4 lb. Oyster Mushrooms, chopped (optional)
2 T. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Leftover meats such as ham, bacon, or other leftovers
1/2 to 3/4 C. all purpose flour
2 C. plus/minus milk
1/4 C. Shaker Parmesan Cheese
1/2 C. Ranch Salad Dressing or 2 T. mix
Pizza Crust/Flat Bread
1 lb. Grated Mozzarella

Stack washed greens onto a cutting board with the largest on the bottom.

Roll the leaves up and chop across the leaf roll, including stems. Next make several cuts lengthwise to break up the chard ribbons.
Slice the end off your green garlic bulb...
Chop the bulb and stem clean up till it starts to look a bit dry.

Optional: Chop mushrooms 

Chop ham or other meat you have as leftovers.

I like to use a wok to stir fry in, but using a large frying pan will do also. Add all your ingredients except your greens. When your ham "caramelizes" and your onions are translucent, add your greens, stirring until lightly limp.

Next, make the sauce:

1/4 C. Butter (1/2 stick)
1/2 to 3/4 C. Flour

Melt butter, then stir in the flour.  Slowly add about 2 cups milk and stir, adding more/less if needed.


1/4 C. Shaker Parmesan Cheese
1/2 C. plus Ranch Dressing or mix

Stir until thick.

Top pizza with sauce, then distribute the stir fry mixture over the sauce.

Top with grated Mozzarella Cheese.

 Bake at 450 degrees until cheese is melted and slightly golden. Let set to cool at least 5 minutes before slicing. ENJOY!

We have about 30 ducks on the farm that graze and swim to their heart's content...3 are sitting on nests of eggs! It'll be fun to have little ones soon. 
Best buddies, Farmer Levi and nephew Samuel said Good-bye. Hope and Bryan have moved from the farm to a mission church in South Dakota until a new pastor can be found for the church.

 We gather and lightly hand wash 180 plus eggs a day. We sell them at each of our markets.

A close up picture of the chicken we brought to Children's day at the Oak Ridge Farmer's Market. 

Strawberry season is now past...Aren't they pretty?

 Farmer Luke (12) found a large snapping turtle in the fields while planting onions. It sure did scare me as they demonstrated how it jumps, hisses and snaps!
 Farmer Noah (16) plants onions...LOTS of onions!

Asparagus season is winding down too.
 Charity loves nature and often has insects or toads for "friends".
Here is one of her "toad families".
 Memorial Day is also birthday season for our family. We celebrated with an extended lunch break at the farm. 

 Noah is actually starting to learn to smile for a camera! He's our quiet one and serves at Market Square. This is where he ate his Memorial Day picnic.
Our birthday "boys"!
Farmer Caleb (23)
Farmer Issac (21)

The girls and I took a nature hike to our waterfall last weekend with a picnic.

We drew and wrote in our nature journals as we overlooked the waterfall from the bluff.

Wild Rose
We drew all kinds of flowers we found as we walked. #specialtimes #ticksaplenty#God'sbeauty

We continue to plant all season. I think this is the winter squash that will soon go out into the fields.

There is plenty of field work to do! Here the guys are weeding row upon row of baby carrots

We're pleased to announce that God has brought another of our son's his helpmeet! You've seen her picture on here for a year or more, but now it's official! Destany Brock is the future wife to Isaac Stephen! 

We celebrated with a private family luncheon here at the special it was!

 We decorated with heirloom china, antique ruby glass, and tea cups with silk flowers spilling out of them to dangle above the table. It was fun to have a girly celebration amongst the busy farm days.

                                   We said goodbye to Hope and her little family. Here our second grandson, Josiah is giving Grandpa one of his last hugs. They are now missionaries to the mid-west. Bryan is pastoring a mission church that was about to close their doors.  Please pray for them!

After 16 years of not having an engagement ring, my boys and husband bought me an identical one! We had a much bigger audience when he popped the big question this time as the family and extended family were present!  I'm a blessed farmer's wife...

 Our tomatoes are doing GREAT this season, and Lord willing we'll all be enjoying them the first part of July!

I'll end this blog with a picture of the first pickings of yellow squash. Can full blown summer be far away?

"As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
                                 Joshua 24: 15

From all our busy farming family to yours,
Abundant Blessings,
The Farmer's Wife