Monthly Archives: September 2011

Squirrels Putting by For Winter

While walking this week a friendly neighbor waved us over. We were walking close to our house but in an area I don’t normally go because of the very busy street. But this day the children wanted a change of pace. Now I must say that when it comes to my children I am a bit cautious (OK alot cautious). So when this strange man waved us over inviting us into his yard I wasn’t all that comfortable. But I also do not want my distrust to color my children, at least not yet. After all there is plenty of time to learn to distrust, now is the time to build it. So cautious we went. What a treat we found and for once trust paid off.

See he had discovered a nature find he was so excited about he just had to share it and we were the lucky recipients. This is what we saw.

The man told us that this was a chesnut tree and the squirrels were preparing for winter as you can see by stuffing every nook and cranny of the dead part of the tree with chesnuts for later. He went on to tell us how he enjoyed “chesnuts roasting over an open fire,” and how his father used to make rings from the shells. I was so glad we stopped.

Winter Squash + Recipe for soup

I can probably count on one hand all the times I ate winter squash growing up. Often it was not at my home but as a guest in someone else’s that I had an opportunity to expand my taste buds. I had no idea how much the adventure of farming would expand my taste buds though. Now winter squash is added to my list of new favorite vegetables (along with kohlrabi and turnips).

Last year we had a crash course in growing winter squash for wholesale markets. But we did have some guidance. The varieties were selected for us and the time table of planting, harvesting, curing and storing were given to us. This year I already needed a refresher as I made my own plans. I found this website very helpful for all interested in growing their own squash.

One unique part of winter squash is the need to “cure.” I thought it was for storage purposes but it also has a lot to do with taste. Curing or storing in a warm, breezy place allows the sugars to distribute properly and skin to harden for storage.

Space is tight at both our farm and home so it seemed like the best place to store the squash for curing was in our living room. Our cooler was full of cabbages, carrots, soybeans and the like, plus that definitely wasn’t “warm.” Our porch was full of onions and gets pretty cool at night so the toys and school work had to be pushed aside while curing was happening, about 7-10 days.

With curing done it was time for the taste test. I cut one each of our butternut, acorn, delicata and sugar dumpling squash. I cut them in half scooping out the seeds and laid them cut side down on a baking pan and added a cup full of water to the pan. I baked them at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Here they are as the sampling began.

All were good but the delicata (skinny green and yellow ones) were amazing, so smooth and creamy. The sugar dumplings (round green and yellow) were also good and very sweet. The acorns (all green) had a coarser texture and nutty flavor and the butternut (tan and green) were quite smooth, nutty and sweet with the most flesh per fruit.

After the taste test I made a big pot of squash soup. Even Proeun liked it. Here is the recipe.

Easy Squash Soup

2 TBSP butter or olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic
1 medium onion chopped
2-3 pounds squash, halved, seeded and baked till soft
4 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
pinch of sugar (I left this out)
1/2 tsp or more curry powder
pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

heat butter or oil in a large saucepan over medium flame. Add the garlic and onion; cook stirring often 7-10 minutes. Scrape the squash from the skins and add to soup. Stire in stock, sugar, curry powder, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Puree in batches. Add bay leaf and simmer 20-30 minutes.

Adapted from The Complete Book of Soups and Stews, by Bernard Clayton

Homeschooling Chronicles: 1st Nature Study

As I have said before this year marks our first official year homeschooling. The hardest part about this time of the year is that farming is not done yet and we are beginning homeschooling so some times activities have to be combined and time do double duty. 

Last weekend we went up north to the family property. Work needed to be done to prepare is for the winter and coming hunting season. Knowing that now I have to conscientiously include homeschooling in our day to day life I planned our first “Nature Study,” ala Charlotte Mason. I was introduced to nature study through
Charlotte Mason Companion and read more about it in Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock (I bought it on Amazon but can’t find it anymore), and Pocket Full of Pinecones but had never done one with the children. 

So while Proeun worked we went for a walk looking for interesting nature specimans. I didn’t tell the children what they were for and kept the sketchbooks (each has their own) and colored pencils hidden. Once I explained it to them they were so excited.

Two selected young plantain leaves to draw.

Avril chose a maple leaf.

Through drawing them they learned skills both in art and observation, including anatomy of a plant. I am so pleased with how it turned out. I don’t feel like I am good at drawing and I had hestitated introducing the idea to the children but they seem to really enjoy it. And they both have a good eye.

I bought a sketchbook for myself and did my own drawing of a blade of grass (starting easy). I was pleased with it but won’t show it here.

A couple of things I learned

1. have good lighting (we were in a cabin without electricity so it was not the best for drawing).
2. have good colored pencils. While the quality was good there were only 12 colors and in nature there are so much more then that. Proeun has a much bigger set I plan to pull out for the next nature study today of winter squash.

Edamame Fresh from the Garden

I remember the first time I tried edamame, Japanese style soybeans, was at a sushi restaurant with my sister. She had recently discovered a love for sushi. While I love my sister I still do not really love sushi and look for veggie options most times. I saw the edamame and thought they would be a good bet, but I had no idea how to eat them, and my sister didn’t either since she was decidedly in the raw fish camp. So I chowed down, pod and all thinking “this really isn’t that great.”

I have since learned how to eat them and now grow them and really the flavor can not be beat! I told Proeun, “imagine if this was our main snack food, how healthy we would be.” Having fresh soybeans is not possible all through the year though frozen can be pretty good. So I am so thankful that now is soybean season.

Soybeans being harvested by hand in our field.

We have also discovered a new way to eat them, seasoned.

Here I used the Chili Spiced seasoning, recipe below. Also included is the Curry spiced seasoning, both are excellent.

Chili Spiced Edamame

1 pound green beans in shell
1 TBSP coarse sea salt
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp ground cayenne

Rinse soybeans. Bring large pot of water to boil.

Add the soybeans still in the pods and boil for about 5 minutes, until the beans are tender and no longer taste raw.

In a serving boil combine salt, chili powder, garlic powder and cayenne and mix well. Add the beans. Toss with the spice mixture. Serve at room temp.

To eat, pop open the pod, bring the pod to your lips, and nibble the beans out of the pods, getting a little spice with it aw you lick your lips.

For Curry Spiced Edamame use

1 TBSP sea salt
1 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp cayenne 

Prepare as above.  

Recipes from Serving Up the Harvest

Homeschooling begins

Even though spring has the reputation for being about a new beginning after a long winter, fall around here certainly seems to have alot of its own “beginnings.” While we have been educating our children for years we did do some more formal schooling last winter. But this year is the very first official year, meaning I have children old enough to be registered with the state as “homeschoolers.” It’s a very exciting adventure–one we are just beginning and I am still working to get in the swing of it. Here are some pictures from Math class. We use Math U See curriculum. My aunt homeschooled her children using this and it came highly recommended from a number of sources. We really enjoy it.

Here the children learn how to use the number blocks.

Mavis likes to do anything her big brother and sister are doing. I always copy a couple pages for her to play school with.

Farm Kids

I am so thankful that the children have a place to go that is wide open and green and we get to be there with them to observe the wonder of childhood. It’s so easy to forget how magical things can be. As the season winds down so does our time outdoors. As much hardwork as farming is it is really hard to see the wide open spaces changed for four walls. Especially since we commute to our farm currently in the off season we don’t get many chances to go out. I will miss these moments.

They love digging in any bare dirt they can find.

Two going on an errand.

Mavis, just chilling by the cooler.

Effie grabbed a long bean from the harvesting bin while I was working. We are so blessed.

Homestead Skills–woodburning stove

Have I mentioned how thankful I am for my husband. I mean literally he can do anything he puts his mind to. Not that I would love him less if he was less skilled I am just so thankful he is skilled and confident enough to give difficult things a try.

A new homestead skill “we” are learning is how to install and properly use a wood burning stove. We are practicing at a family cabin Proeun and his brothers also helped build from the ground up. With cold weather on the horizon this project that had been put off for quite awhile is now a necessity. So this holiday weekend we were building and creating. Not a bad way to spend the weekend.

Here is the stove Proeun picked out. I love it, very classic.

Building the chimney and the hole to go outside.

What do I say?

The cabin. The woodburning stove will allow us to enjoy this retreat even in colder weather. Which is great because during the summer it is so hard to get away when you have a farm to run.

But definitely it has been such a blessing to have a little bit of wild space to enjoy especially with a cabin to rest in. Also we get to practice our skills like wild plant identification, splitting wood (Proeun does this more than me), cooking with limited supplies and so much more. I would love to do this more often and one day maybe we will have a home with a wood burning stove.

Paper Lemon Photography

Molly has been spending a lot of time at the farm. She is a teacher working on her Master’s Degree. For her project she decided to photograph farms from around the area. The Minnesota Food Association (where we currently farm) is one of the farms that she has been spending some time at. You can find out more about her work at her blog. She recently sent me an email saying that some pictures of us were there as well.

Here is one of my favorites of our girls.

There is nothing like an amazing photographer to help you see the beauty in your life and work. I think I will have to get some prints of these. Thanks Molly for all your hard work! Be sure to check out her blog to see some of her other great pictures.