Saturday, August 21, 2010

My garden is drying up! (It's not what you think!)

How sweet I roamed from field to field,
and tasted all the summer's pride. ~William Blake

The days are getting cooler and shorter, yet there is still much work to be done in either of the gardens. (I pay little attention to any of the flower beds this time of year... their seasons for chores are early spring and late fall)

My dear dehydrator has been going almost non-stop this week as I dry zucchini, kale, basil, sage, tomatoes, green beans and carrots. I've had my old Excaliber dehydrator for over twenty years, yet I'd almost forgotten about it for many summer seasons until last year when I sought it out to dry mint for tea, and a surplus of zucchini. I do not can as much as I used to... with my four children grown now and not having to fix endless breakfasts, lunches and suppers for all of us every day, I much prefer to dehydrate garden produce than to freeze or can it. It just saves so much space, and time! (And, when the power goes out, I don't have to worry about losing all that food and hard work that's thawing down in the freezer!)

I was determined to get half of the carrots pulled up and dried this week, as some of them were as fat as parsnips! I have an old mandoline vegetable slicer that helps immensely with preperation time and I zip the carrots through it to get fairly uniform slices in short order... I'd be lost without that slicer! (I don't bother peeling the freshly pulled carrots, as a good scrub in the sink takes care of the dirt.) I then spread the pieces out on the dehydrator trays and let the carrots dry for 5 to 7 hours depending on the humidity outdoors. When completely dried, I remove the carrots from the dehydrator and store them in half-gallon GLASS canning jars. (Plastic is a no-no... it lets in moisture and retains odors) As you can see, a sinkful of carrots fits into a single half-gallon mason jar.

Come cold weather, it's a simple thing to open a jar and throw a few handfuls of dehydrated veggies into a pot of simmering soup! Corn, diced tomatoes or halved cherry tomatoes, zucchini, peas, pole beans, mushrooms, and of course carrots are some of my favorites to dry and use in this manner. I keep each type of vegetable in seperate jars, but if you only want to dry a small amount of different vegetables, you can certainly store a blend of several kinds in one jar! My neighbors Gary and Alice have encouraged me to dry some of my garlic this year to grind into garlic powder as they have done! You could just as easily run dried tomatoes, kale, etc., through the blender to powder these to sneak into sauces, soups and stews too!

I love my dehydrator for drying herbs as well. I just finished harvesting the first cutting of Basil, and after making three batches of pesto to freeze, I put the remainder in the Excaliber. When it dries, I scrunch it down into a glass jar just til it fits. When it comes time to use it, I take a big pinch or two and really crumble the herb into more of a powder, then toss it in the pot. I feel if I crush it too much when first stored, the dried herbs lose some of their flavor. Crushing it more just when I use it in a recipe seems best. Mints, bee balm and lemon balm dried for tea, as well as chives, sage, rosemary, tarragon, thyme, green onion tops, basil, and so on, are easy to dehydrate and wonderful to use in winter recipes. Just be sure to store in glass jars with tight-fitting, screw-on lids.

I am waiting for my crop of fall raspberries to ripen, as I want to dehydrate some for use in homemade granola and baked goods. I froze the ones I picked in early summer, but want to have dried raspberries on hand too. I've also dried blueberries, currants, bananas and sour cherries this season, and will dry some apples when they ripen.

I'd like to share one of my favorite resources with you... perhaps you're already familiar with it; Lehman's Non-Electric Catalogue in Kidron, Ohio was founded in the 1950's to serve the local Amish families and others without electricity. (Find it here... I LOVE this catalogue, as it continues to be a wonderful source of not only extraordinary tools, utensils and growing wishlists for me, but is full of valuable tips and information as well. And the folks are just so darn friendly and helpful! I hope someday to visit their store in person!

Well, I must go now. I can hardly believe that August is coming to an end and that September is just around the corner. May you enjoy the remainder of summer! Warmest regards, Laura of Wildenblue Farm

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I just HAD to publish something!!

(I am s-l-o-w-l-y getting back to things set aside months ago bit-by-bit. I am almost afraid I have forgotten how to blog, let alone use a computer again!)

It is hard for me to let it sink in that August is upon us here in the lower Adirondacks of New York State, yet the humidity and hot temperatures proves it is so. I have kept busy as the weather allows... trimming brush, revamping my garden shed, slowly rebuilding a stone wall near the barn, and trying to keep up with the weeds in each garden. (I am failing miserably at this) The vegetable garden has been overrun with a variety of gourd plants and Grandpa Ott morning glories; I have not planted these devilish beauties in over 5 years, but each spring they come back with a vengeance. I have tried learning to be heartless enough to rip out or hoe down the unwanted seedlings as soon as they emerge, but I save them to transplant all over the gardens, and wait til they have smothered most everything and then pull them out armful by tangled armful when I've had enough! Next year will be different... ahem!

We have had visits from several wild creatures over the past few months. It started with the arrival of a mother fox who gave birth to three little ones in the culvert between our driveway and the road.
This was followed by several fawns who arrived in the back field throughout the spring... one managed to somehow get trapped between the railings of the front porch and was rescued by my youngest son. About the same time, I had been mowing in the back field and barely missed a newborn fawn.

Most recently, I was cleaning the garden shed porch, and I kicked a box of polyfilm out of my way. It was too heavy to move with my foot, so I bent over to retrieve the polyfilm from the box and was startled by a small skunk who was curled up inside! I ran to the house to get my daughter so she could snap a picture, and he quickly toddled off under the outhouse.

Well, I will close for now, but before I go, I wish you all well and hope you too are enjoying the remainder of summer! Warmest regards from Wildenblue Farm!