Squash Bake. Squash Bake. Party Time. Excellent.

Currently, we have a bit of a squash problem – meaning we have seven, count ’em, SEVEN large green and yellow squash taking up half a shelf in our fridge. Keep in mind, this is after pickling five pounds of the beasts, making almost countless loaves of zucchini bread (really, I think we’re up to about eight, at this point), and devouring a previous squash bake.

20130714. So THIS happened: suddenly, it's summer!

When a friend told me her mom makes apple crisp in the summer but replaces apples with summer squash, I was all for it. Health food, it is not. But our house smells of wonderful baking deliciousness and cinnamon right now, and I couldn’t wait to share it with you. Because if you could smell it, you’d be jealous right now.

SQUASH BAKE, SQUASH BAKE, PARTY TIME, EXCELLENT. Helllllooooo, 1992!

SQUASH OATMEAL CRISP
Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 3 cups peeled, chopped squash (1/2″ cubes will do)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Putting It All Together

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8-inch square pan.
  • In a large bowl, combine brown sugar, oats, flour, and butter. Mix until crumbly. Lightly press half of crumb mixture into pan.
  • Spread the squash evenly over crumb mixture. Sprinkle with cinnamon, and top with remaining crumb mixture.
  • Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until golden brown.

In other news, today was another amazing day at ye olde urban farming apprenticeship. We spent the morning picking onions, weeding, and planting broccoli seedlings with Genesis and Eli, the farmers at Full Hand Farm. On our way out, I told Tyler, part of the Growing Places Indy dynamic duo, that I think I heart Genesis and Eli, and he said, “They make it easy to heart them.”

Check out some beautiful photos of their farm and a little more of their story at Farm Stories, a photography project by local photographer Kelley Jordan.

I am just so continually impressed, inspired, and encouraged by the farmers in this area, their stories, and their advice, wisdom, and knowledge. I get the warm fuzzies every single Tuesday when we visit other farms and community organizations. The willingness to share knowledge and experiences and personal stories with us has been downright heartwarming, and I doubt I will ever have quite this experience to this extent again.

P.S. Click here for a special little snippet of today’s magic, captured by the lovely Kate: Eli playing a squash stalk like a trumpet. Who knew?!

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Just Another Manic Monday

When I pause for a moment to take a good, hard look at all the things we have going on this summer, I realize it’s kind of a lot. Today was one of those days where it felt like it. Kind of a lot, that is.

Have I mentioned lately that we are engaged? Because we are. Which basically means the next step is to get married. Have I also mentioned we are pulling together a wedding by September (date still TBD)? I realized today that even very small weddings require a certain degree of coordination that is a large step above “backyard barbecue,” which is pretty much the extent of my party planning skills to date.

And then there’s the apprenticeship, the chickens, the dog, the cats, the summer projects, the garden, the job, the still-nebulous dreams for the future, and the many, many other things I’ll divulge in more detail at some point.

The long and short of it: I’m overwhelmed today, so I’m going to show you some pretty pictures of my evening, then curl up on the couch with some warm zucchini bread and a good book until I pass out at, oh, 9:00 or so.

Life continues on the homefront. The bee balm is swarmed by bees daily…
20130708. Bee balm bonanza.

The zucchini plants continue to bleed…
20130708. Bleeding zucchini.

Birdie maintains her cuteness…
20130708. Backlit Birdie.

And, as her winter coat falls out, we learn that her skin is spotted like a wee, tail wagging cow’s…
20130708. Birdie's winter coat fell out, and it turns out she's spotted like a cow underneath.

And finally, the peppers multiply like bunnies. I seem to have a pepper problem, though. The problem is I got the seedlings completely mixed up, and I have no idea what’s what. Well, I have a little idea… Eh, whatever. They’ll all get pickled and scarfed down regardless.
20130708. First pepper haul.

P.S. Heavens to Betsy, this may be the best zucchini bread I’ve ever eaten. Bless you and your restorative powers, zucchini bread!

Things That Should Never Be Uttered on a Friday Evening

This may or may not have been stated, rather boldly and with a small measure of gusto, just a moment ago: “I gotta go put on my comfy pants and write a blog post about bran muffins.”

Yup. Welcome to FRIDAY EVENING, SPACE-FARM EDITION!

But seriously, the mulberries are off the chain this year. You might be a little bit dead to me if the fantastic berry season facing us in central Indiana this spring/summer has somehow passed by you, unnoticed. The chickens have noticed: their beaks (and poops) are all dark purple-black from all the mulberries they’ve been eating.

20130620. MULBERRIES.

So in honor of this booming berry year, Friday evening or no Friday evening, I’m going to shout from the rooftops my favorite mulberry bran muffin recipe. When all of you are groggy, hungover, or still sleeping tomorrow morning, I’ll be baking up a batch of these delicious nuggets and eating ’em all warm and buttery and whatnot, fresh from the oven. How you like me now?

BEST MULBERRY BRAN MUFFIN RECIPE TO EVER GRACE YOUR COLON
(Adapted from Farm Girl Susan’s awesome recipe, which also includes a kajillion other mods)

INPUTS (makes about 10 muffins):
– 1 cup wheat bran
– 1/2 cup organic oat bran
– 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
– 1 teaspoon baking soda
– 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
– 1 large egg
– 1/3 cup soy/almond/regular milk
– 1/3 cup yogurt
– 1/6 cup safflower oil (or other neutral oil or melted organic butter)
– 1/3 cup sweet molasses, honey, or combination of the two
– A dash of lemon extract
– A healthy shake of cinnamon
– 1 cup frozen mulberries (don’t thaw)

WHAT TO DO WITH ALL THAT STUFF:
Pre-heat oven to 375°. Line muffin pan with muffin cups (mine have pirates on them… I highly recommend pirate cups).

Combine the wheat bran, oat bran, whole wheat flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl and set aside. Combine the eggs, milk, yogurt, canola oil, molasses, lemon extract, and honey in a small bowl and mix well.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix with a rubber spatula just until combined. Fold in the mulberries.

Generously fill the muffin cups with batter. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool the muffins in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes, then carefully remove them and serve warm – or not. Any temperature will do.

20130620. MULBERRIES.

Also, I happen to be completely, slap-happily exhausted right now. So this, comfy pants, white bean hummus, and a movie is about all I can muster at the present. Sneak peek for tomorrow, though: I can’t wait to tell you all about our totally heartwarming, life affirming visit to the Felege Hiywot Center.

MONSTERS IN MY GARDEN!

Meanwhile, back on the homefront… this monster popped up out of nowhere!
20130617. First squash and banana peppers.

In honor of said monster squash, dinner last night was sliced, baked squash with bok choy, tatsoi, and radish greens (sauteed in soy and teriyaki sauce with garlic and ginger) atop cous cous with chopped raw scallions and radishes for a little bit of fancy. Best dinner yet this summer.

Strawberry Yields Forever

Strawberry season is in full effect, y’all, and I think it’s safe to say that our strawberries have established themselves. Last spring, I planted four plants, and we got two strawberries. TWO.

This year, in our single 4’x4′ strawberry section of one of our raised beds, we have gotten almost more strawberries than we can eat. I say “almost,” because I really don’t think there is such a thing as “too many strawberries.”

20130609. Strawberries, mint, garlic scapes, peas, and strawberry-mint simple syrup.

This morning’s yield: strawberries, grapefruit mint, garlic scapes out the yin-yang, a few peas, our first itty bitty cherry tomatoes, and the most amazing strawberry-mint simple syrup ever.

So far, we have done the following with said strawberries:

  • Eaten ’em up.
  • Crushed ’em up with mint for some strawberry-mint water.
  • Boiled ’em down with mint to make strawberry-mint simple syrup.
  • Baked ’em up with a little sugar (“lazy person’s strawberry jam”) and spooned ’em over buttered bagels.
20130609. Strawberry season is in full effect.

The only bittersweet part about our epic strawberry yield: give it a few more weeks, and it will be over until next year.

Note: I unabashedly stole the title of this blog post from Jonny Yuma, a cool dude back in Bloomington and all-around nice guy. It’s just so brilliant!

Honorary Titles: Best Stay-at-Home Whatever?

I’ve decided that, if given the opportunity, I really could be… THE GREATEST STAY-AT-HOME WHATEVER TO EVER STAY AT HOME. It’s unfortunate that work gets in the way of all my amazing activities, keeping me from actualizing my true potential to stay at home, being whatever, and making and doing all day long.

But it’s okay. The work part probably keeps me (sort of, mostly, kind of) sane.

Here’s my recent resume of what I’ve been making and doing lately, which I think clearly puts me at least in the running to be greatest stay-at-home whatever: We brewed our first batch of beer last Sunday, and now our front closet smells delectably of beer…

20130410. Our hall closet smells like beer.

To be fair, I was more the helper. Chris is the real brewmaster in training.

Ever since, I’ve been feeding the spent grains to both the chickens and to Birdie (in the form of these amazingly easy dog biscuits):

20130410. Birdie's spent grain biscuits - before and after.

I think she approves.

The sweet potatoes continue to grow:
20130410. Sweet potatoes continue to grow.

And the barley fodder tray has begun to green up. Soon, the chickens will be munching on delicious barley greens (and in a few weeks, they’ll have free rein over the yard again).
20130410. Growing barley for the chickens.

I was also terribly impressed with myself: I SUCCESSFULLY made Neufchatel cheese with dried rosemary and lavender from last year’s garden (and with the prompting and encouragement of a fellow blogger, Chris Kafer, whose blog is one of the few I make a point of checking in on regularly!). This turned out better than I could have hoped and is amazing on bagels.

20130410. Homemade Neufchatel with rosemary and lavender.

NEUF. CHA. TEL! NEUF. CHA. TEL!

So wouldn’t you agree? I would totally be the best stay-at-home whatever that stayed at home doing whatever. EVER.

Spring: “Hello, Is It Me You’re Looking For?”

Why, yes, Spring. Yes, it was you I was looking for (for which I was looking? anyway…). Thanks for being all fashionably late and stuff.

True to weekend form, let’s just stick with a no-frills bullet point list of how Chris and I celebrated nicer weather today:

  • Attended an awesome urban backyard chickens workshop over at Fall Creek Gardens. Maggie, you crack me up (and make me feel like less of a crazy chicken lady, what with all we do to keep our chickens healthy and happy)!
  • Planted some of the kale in the outdoor beds. Looking at the forecast for next week, I think I’m going to get the rest of the kale and maybe the cabbage in the ground tomorrow, too.
  • Bought some propane, hooked up the new turkey fryer, and prepped the new giant brew kettle to make our first attempt ever at brewing our own beer tomorrow! (Note: Chris really did all of the above, but I’m super stoked to boil up our first batch tomorrow morning. The brew kettle is comically large and made me laugh out loud this morning when I walked into the kitchen, as it takes up our entire kitchen table. Pictures to follow!).
  • Planted a flat of sweet clover and started my own barley fodder trays to give the chickens some nice, fresh things to eat until we have the garden fence firmly in place. I’ll let you know how the barley trays works – it’s my first attempt at it, but it sounds ridiculously simple. Knowing me, I’ll find a way to jack it up.
  • Went to the grocery store to buy, among other things, ingredients to make another delicious egg casserole and Neufchatel cheese from scratch. It will be my first attempt at making such a cheese and only my second attempt at cheese-making ever.
  • Turned over a bunch of compost, uncovered glorious amounts of worms, and opened the compost bins up to the chickens. At one point, four of the five girls had jumped into the bin on the hunt for worms, pecking and scratching around. Help me process that compost, chickens!

So at this point in the garden, we have garlic, lettuce, kale, and a bunch of seeds, just waiting to germinate. Spring: the most wonderful time of the year.

WE HAVE LETTUCE.

“P” Is for Pictures, Pheasants, and Pickled Eggs

How about a lazy Saturday post? Anyone? Anyone?

First up: pictures. One of the neat things about starting our own garden a few years back was getting to know what plants look like when they are seedlings all the way up through adults. I mean, I knew what tomato plants looked like. But okra babies? Kale? Cauliflower? It’s a really fun surprise to see those seedlings push their ways up through the dirt, to get to know the different types by sight, and (eventually) be able to, at a glance, identify what you’ve got growing where.

Or, if you’re like me, you will NEVER be able to tell the difference between your cauliflowers and your cabbages. But whatever – that’s what ridiculous seedling map after map are for.

20130309. Green, green, green - lettuces waiting to go outside.

I’m waiting on some row cover fabric from Gardeners so I can move the peas, lettuce, and spinach outside – and make room under the grow lights for squash and other summer-loving seedlings. Come on, Gardeners!

20130309. Cacophony of green - cauliflower.

For now, though, the overwhelming green under the grow lights in the basement is making me very happy. These cauliflower seem pretty happy, too.

Next up: in other breaking news, Birdie destroys a new toy! What, you don’t think that’s news? All right, fair enough.

20130309. Birdie destroys her new pheasant.

Order of destruction: the wings didn’t last a half-hour. Then the rope legs got chewed off. Then the pheasant was decapitated. Finally, this morning, destruction was complete with the evisceration of what was left of the body. Mommy’s little chewer!

And finally, I took my first stab at pickling eggs. Note that I had never before eaten a pickled egg; the thought of a giant jar of pickled eggs, just sitting behind the counter of some dive bar, always grossed me out too much.

I followed Food Republic’s pickled egg recipe, and they turned out quite lovely! They are actually far more mild in flavor than I thought they would be, and I’m eager to try other recipes to see if I can actually get a more pickled-tasting egg.

While they may be understated in flavor, the color… OH, THE COLOR! I’m in love with them for their color alone. I’ve been slicing them up and scarfing them down on a bed of spinach with sliced strawberries and smoked almonds. Dressing not required. YUM.

20130303. Pickled eggs.

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Curried Egg Salad!

Isn’t that  how the saying goes? What? Huh? Not quite right? Oh, whatever, you know what I mean.

A couple of Easters ago, I dyed a dozen eggs just so I could pretend to be a kid for a half-hour. I like egg salad all right, but I wanted something different. With some consultation of recipes on the internet, combined with consultation of my spice cabinet and fridge to see what I had on hand, I made this up: curried egg salad (that, at Easter time, has the added bonus of looking like confetti cake with its pink and blue and purple bits of egg where the dye leaked through).

20110410. easter eggs!

With how colorful our backyard eggs are, I don’t think we’ll be dying them this year! These ones from a couple of years back were gorgeous, though.

With our current egg overload, this recipe has come in handy. Without further ado…

CURRIED EGG SALAD, A LA SPACE-FARM (modified from Epicurious’ version)

  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise, nayonnaise, or plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • 6 hardboiled large eggs
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: 1/2 cup dried cranberries, 1/2 cup walnuts or pecans

In a small bowl, mix the curry powder and cayenne with the mayo/nayo/yogurt and set aside. Using a fork, mash the hardboiled eggs until they are at a chunky consistency (you know, not too finely mashed, not too many big pieces left). Dump in the onion, celery, and optional additions (I LOVE dried cranberries in this!). Stir in the spiced yogurt until everything is well-combined.

Chill, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve with lettuce on nice, crusty bread or on a bed of fresh spinach. ENJOY!

You Know, Just Your Typical Long Weekend

This weekend in no particular order, I have:

    • Planted the first seeds in our new growing setup. So far, we’ve got the first round of peas, spinach, lettuce, cauliflower, and artichokes planted.

20130121. The inauspicious beginnings of garden v.2013!

      • Ordered free seeds from this place: WinterSown. Free seeds? Too good to be true? I’ll let you know how it works out!
      • Signed up for a free, online course, “An Introduction to the U.S. Food System: Perspectives from Public Health.” It starts in two days, if anyone wants to join me!
      • Smeared Vaseline on a chicken’s comb for the first time. Nothing kinky here, I swear. Our Mediterranean sweetie, Boo, already has a touch of frostbite on one of her spikes, and this is supposed to help.
      • Set up possibly the KLASSIEST (yes, with a capital “K”) wind break ever. The wind chill is supposed to get down to -10 to -20 tonight, and with Boo’s frostbite, we are NOT PLAYING, winter. We also added a 60-watt bulb light fixture to the inside of the coop for a little warmth boost.
20130121. Wind chills of -10 to -20 call for extreme measures.

Paneling ripped off the walls of our office + lawn chairs = totally awesome chicken windbreak.

20130121. Wind chills of -10 to -20 call for extreme measures: a light in the coop to keep things warm(er)!

Did you know that your typical chicken produces 10W of heat? So this 60W bulb will almost double the chickens’ natural heat.

    • Created – and accidentally exploded – a sourdough starter bomb. Ignore the picture of the large Ball jar in that recipe, just ignore it. When they say to start it in a large bowl, LEAVE IT in the glass bowl while it sits and ferments. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT put it in the glass jar, covered with a tea towel screwed down with a jar ring. It will seal up, and you WILL shoot a flour-water mixture 20′ across the room and all over the ceiling when you finally cut a hole in your dead grandmother’s tea towel out of sheer desperation.
20130120. Post-sourdough starter bomb.

It looks so harmless, doesn’t it?

20130118. Oh, sourdough... how I've missed you.

The reason I had to create a new batch of sourdough starter, which you should really never have to do – I used it all up making two loaves of delicious bread. Really, though, sourdough starter should last you your whole life if you take care of it.

On Saturday, we made the brilliant decision to ignore our obligations and to do lists and instead took Birdie to Holliday Park, a most bizarre place just five minutes from our house. It was 50 degrees and wonderful out. Today, faced with snow and chicken waterers that just will not stay unfrozen, I am so glad we took some time to be outdoors together.
20130119. Warm January day at Holliday Park.

20130119. Warm January day at Holliday Park.

20130119. Warm January day at Holliday Park.

20130119. Bianca's Jacket.