Sunday, September 30

Farm Photo 9/30/07: It's A Stock Dog's Life

Lamb Love For Lucky Buddy Bear

Lucky Buddy Bear is half Australian Shepherd and half English Shepherd. He loves his sheep--and sometimes they love him back.

Want to see more?
I'll Spring To Life If There's Trouble
Add Babysitting To Bear's Job Description
Resting But Ready For Anything
Stock Dog Extraordinaire
6/18/06: Now That's A Dedicated Dog
Sheep Shearing Day Duties
Gang Activity
Hanging With Newborn Twins
Dog Inspection

You'll find more Bear photos
here. Scenes from Lambing Season 2006 and Lambing Season 2007 are here and here.

© 2007, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares stories & photos of her crazy country life on 240 remote acres.

Thursday, September 27

Farm Photo 9/27/07: Made For Each Other?

A Perfect Match

When I first saw this butterfly I thought its wings were partly transparent and that I was seeing the color of the squash blossom beneath them. Considering there are probably at least a million colors in the world, it seems incredible that this butterfly has the exact same coloring as this flower. Or does it? All I know is that from now on, this winged beauty will be referred to in my garden as the Squash Blossom Butterfly.

Speaking of squash, have you frozen some grated zucchini yet so you can make Carrot, Raisin, & Zucchini bran muffins once I finally get around to sharing the recipe? It's a scrumptious new variation of my popular bran muffin recipe, and calls for one packed cup (weighing 8 ounces) of grated zucchini for a dozen muffins. I hope to have it up in the next couple of weeks. (The Tomato Basil Sourdough Bread recipe is coming first.)

More into salads than squash? Over In My Kitchen Garden, I've just written all about how easy it is to grow Swiss chard, one of my very favorite vegetables, from seed. No garden? No problem. Swiss chard does exceptionally well in containers, which means even apartment dwellers have no excuse not to try sprinkling a few seeds somewhere.

Next up In My Kitchen Garden will be two of my favorite Swiss chard recipes. In the meantime, I hope you'll add your favorite way to enjoy Swiss chard in a comment on the how to grow it post--whether you actually grow your own or not. The suggestions so far all sound so delicious that I've been out in the garden urging all my 1-inch high seedlings to grow "Faster! Faster! Faster!"

Want to see more?
You'll find plenty of pollinator pics here, and lots more flower photos here.

© 2007, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares stories & photos of her crazy country life on 240 remote acres.

Tuesday, September 25

Farm Photo 9/25/07: It's All In The Light

Inspiration For The First Stained Glass Window?

A year of of Farm Photos ago:
The Ears Tell The Story
Morning Sun Having Fun

Two years ago:
Look What Flew Into My Photo
WCB #16 Window Washing
9/25/05: I Can't Resist These Pink Sunrises
Lucky Buddy Bear Happy In His Hay Cubby

And out of the kitchen came:
Pita, Pita, It's Time To Eata! My search for the perfect pita bread recipe, plus delicious things to do with unpuffed pitas.

© 2007, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares stories & photos of her crazy country life on 240 remote acres.

Sunday, September 23

Farm Photo 9/23/07: Hello Autumn!

A Hint Of Color Heading Down The Driveway

It's hot and humid and still feels like summer, but last week's cold snap hinted at the cozy days and cozy food to come, and we let out our annual Summer Sigh Of Relief. This morning I paused long enough to take a good look around and realized that the wooded walls that make up our little valley are quietly changing from green to yellow. A pleasant breeze sends lazy flurries of tiny leaves onto the grass.

The calendar says autumn is here. The farm says soon. Very soon.

Want to see more?
Green, Green, Green, But Not For Much Longer
Happy First Day Of Fall
9/27/05: Autumn Bloom
Morning Calm Before The Storm
Last Night Of Summer Spectacular Show
Autumn Is Here

Want to know what to do with all those green tomatoes?
Make my simple salsa-like
Green Tomato Relish!

In My Kitchen Garden:
I'm wondering what to do with purple basil. Got any ideas?

© 2007, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares stories & photos of her crazy country life on 240 remote acres.

Thursday, September 20

Kissing Summer Goodbye
With The Easiest Greek Salad Ever

One Of My Favorite Ways To Celebrate Tomato Season

You'll find the recipe (if you can call something so simple a recipe) over In My Kitchen Garden, along with a little bit about my Less Fuss, More Flavor kitchen philosophy. You didn't know I tend a kitchen garden blog? And it's not just for gardeners either. Click
here to find out why.

Thanks to the culinary talents and generosity of Farmgirl Fare readers, I have two other wonderful seasonal recipes I'm planning to share: Carrot, Raisin, & Zucchini Bran Muffins (a new variation of my beloved bran muffin recipe) and Tomato Basil Sourdough Bread. But, as usual, I'm racing the calendar here. If you like bran muffins and can still get your hands on some zucchini, you might want to freeze some. For a dozen muffins you'll need 1 packed cup (8 ounces) of grated zucchini. You can read all about freezing zucchini in this post. And don't miss the comments section; it's full of helpful zucchini tips, ideas, and recipes.

As for the bread, it needs to be made with fresh basil and tomatoes. Except for a couple of gangly cherry tomato plants in the greenhouse, my really pathetic tomato season is pretty much over. Last night I savored the final Greek salad of the summer--while standing in the kitchen of course. If Tomato Basil Sourdough Bread sounds like something you'll want to make, do you still have tomatoes? Or should I wait and post the recipe next year?

If you don't yet do sourdough (which we're going to tackle soon at A Year In Bread), I think this fresh tomato technique could be used in almost any bread recipe, including the one for the beautifully simple four hour Parisian baguettes from my new favorite bread book, Local Breads by Daniel Leader.

The bread recipe wouldn't be up until next week, so let me know if you'd like to see it. Thanks!

Other Ways I Enjoy Fresh Tomatoes:
My Less Fuss, More Flavor Fresh Pizza Sauce
Savory Tomato Pesto Pie
Tomato Pesto Pizza, My Basil Pesto Recipe, & A Simple Tomato Salad
Three No-Cook Summer Recipes: Mexican Jumping Bean Slaw, Easy Vegetarian Tacos, & High Kickin' Creamy Tomato Dressing
Cream Cheese & Tomato Sandwiches On Italian Black Olive Cheeks
My Seven Second Tomato Glut Solution
Colors Of Summer Salad
Summer In A Bowl

© 2007
, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares stories & photos of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres.

Tuesday, September 18

Farm Photo: 9/18/07

A Peaceful Slice Of Life

Two years ago today I posted my
100th Daily Farm Photo, which is still one of my all time favorites. (There's just something about sunflowers . . .) I've actually lost track of where I'm at now, since I no longer put up a new photo every day, though I'd like to get back to doing it.

As I
mentioned recently, it's hard to believe I've taken something like 15,000 photographs since I started this blog in June 2005. It's also hard to believe I've been blogging for over two years. It flies by so quickly, doesn't it?

When I posted the 100th Daily Farm Photo I wrote, So do you think I'll make it to number 1,000? Or will I run out of subject material long before that?

Two years, two cameras, and 15,000 photos later, I have a sneaking suspicion the answers to those questions just might be yes and no.

Want to see more?
Homemade Swing
You Can't Fence Out A Sunrise
Swing Shot
Why We Cut Firewood
3/17/06: Same Scene, New View
7/2/06: Summertime & The Swingin' Is Easy (Okay, I thought today's photo, taken yesterday, seemed really familiar, and now I finally see why. I just re-discovered this eerily similar photo taken & posted back in July 2006. Oops. Maybe I have run out of subject matter!)
11/23/06: Thankful To Call This Place Home

100th Daily Farm Photo
200th Daily Farm Photo
300th Daily Farm Photo
400th Daily Farm Photo
500th Daily Farm Photo

Welcome New Visitors!
Click here for a brief introduction to this site.

© 2007, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares stories & photos of her crazy country life on 240 remote Misouri acres.

Thursday, September 13

Farm Photo 9/13/07:
One Hardworking Beagle

Weeding Supervisor at 3:17 pm

Weeding Supervisor at 3:24 pm

It's a tough job, but somebody's gotta do it. And because nobody gets away with having only one job around here, Robin was, among other things, also this year's Haying Supervisor.

Robin's big beagle smile is infectious, and she emanates sheer joy and an exuberance for life during every waking moment. Everything is an adventure, and nothing gets her down. I often remind myself that I need to be more like this wonderful little dog.

It's been almost eleven years since Robin came trotting into my heart on her half-frozen baby puppy paws--and every day since I've been so very grateful that she did.

Want to see more?
You'll find plenty of other photos of Robin here. And you can read about how she turned up all those years ago

© 2007, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares stories & photos of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres.

Tuesday, September 11

Farm Photo 9/11/07:
Cavorting Around On A Zinnia

Fauna & Flora In The Kitchen Garden

Speaking of the kitchen garden, after an unplanned two month hiatus (where does the time go?), I'm back to posting at, the garden blog I started as an offshoot to Farmgirl Fare back in the spring of 2006.

You'll find my latest post, "Planning & Planting The Fall Garden" (which includes about a zillion links to help you plant your own fall crops as well as enjoy the bounty of late summer) here. If you do stop over for a visit, I hope you'll leave a comment and share your successes, failures, and lessons learned this year in your garden. Love food but not a gardener yet? Find out why you'll still probably enjoy In My Kitchen Garden here.

Want to see more?
You'll find all sorts of other flower photos
here. Several also include Lamb Reports since they were taken during spring lambing season.

© 2007, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares photos & stories of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres.

Saturday, September 8

How To Freeze Zucchini and Summer Squash & My One Claim To Fame

Summer squash blossom in my kitchen garden

It's a big world out there, and distinguishing yourself from the crowd in even some small way is nearly impossible. Most of us must accept early on that we'll never be an Olympic athlete or an astronaut or a princess, but these days even the tiniest of titles are snatched from our grasp the second we strike up a conversation.

Just finish touring 14 European countries in 12 days? Your seatmate on the plane home did it in five. Was your child reading books at age two? One of the kids at his preschool recited Shakespeare from the womb.

Tell someone you bake your own bread, and they'll inform you that they keep five different authentic European sourdough starters in their fridge and grind all of their own wheat.

Even the dubious honors are hard to come by. Each year I'm nominated for World's Worst Housekeeper, but I never win. The second time my mother arrived for a visit, the first thing she did when she walked into The Shack was hang a little sign on our tacky-but-practical black plastic pole lamp that said Martha Stewart Doesn't Live Here. Out of respect to Martha and my mother, we refuse to dust the lamp.

But I do have one bonafide claim to fame:

I'm the only person on the planet who tends an enormous kitchen garden and yet bought 30 zucchini this summer.

So far this year I've harvested two zucchini from three plants. There's a third one out on the vine, but it's turned a sickly yellow. I planted four other types of heirloom summer squash that are doing almost as well.

This totally embarrassing situation mostly has to do with killer squash bugs and my refusal to use toxic poisons in my organic garden.

2011 Update: I've been taking a break from planting summer squash, but I'm still determined to grow some, and before those nasty squash bugs even show up, I'll be liberally dousing the plants and surrounding soil with food grade diatomaceous earth.

This 100% natural powder (it's even safe to eat and we regularly feed it to the animals) has numerous uses around the farm and garden, including as an organic pest control for both hard and soft shelled creatures. We buy this brand in economical 50-pound bags (it lasts indefinitely if kept dry), and I use it in the garden to successfully kill or deter everything from sow bugs and cabbage worms to those ravenous blister beetles (you can read about more ways we use it here). I'm hoping it will also help with the squash bugs!

The good news is that I paid just twenty cents per zucchini, because there's only so much you can charge for something that everybody else is desperately trying to offload for free.

Clever and tasty ways to use up zucchini are everywhere this time of year, but many people are sick to death of eating it, no matter how nicely it's served. What you should really be doing with all your late summer zucchini is freezing it for later.

Six months from now, when you're not only craving zucchini but seriously considering plunking down $2.99 a pound for some bruised and battered, rubbery specimens at the supermarket, you'll be thrilled that you did.

Fortunately, freezing zucchini and other summer squash is a snap:

All you do is cut it into half-inch slices, blanch it in a pot of boiling water for three minutes, transfer it to a bowl of ice water to cool, drain it, and bag it

Back in 2002, I decided to freeze my first pile of zucchini and yellow straight neck squash, figuring the frozen slices would turn to mush but that I could blend them up into warm winter soups. To my pleasant surprise they emerged from the freezer in perfect shape,* so I ended up turning each package into a quick winter pantry sauté:

Heat some butter or nice olive oil in a large skillet, add chopped onion and cook until soft, then stir in some chopped fresh garlic and cook another minute or two. Add summer squash or zucchini slices, a quart jar of canned San Marzano tomatoes from the garden (or purchased canned tomatoes), a can of organic garbanzo beans, and a generous sprinkling of freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan.

Cook until tender and hot, and serve over rice or pasta if desired. A hunk of warm, crusty bread to soak up the sauce is recommended.

Lemon zest and fresh rosemary add a flavorful twist to this just-sweet-enough zucchini bread (recipe here). Freeze the zucchini or freeze the entire loaf!

You can also freeze grated zucchini for baking. Just portion it out into the amount you'll need for a recipe (1 cup, 2 cups, etc.), squeeze out some of the liquid if it's really moist (you can use a flour sack towel—these are so handy in the kitchen, I use these and these every day—or cheesecloth, but I usually just stand over the sink and use my hands), and pack it straight into zipper freezer bags or containers.

August 2011 update: For help with how to use your frozen grated zucchini (drained? not drained? etc.), check out this thread on the Farmgirl Fare Facebook page. And please join in the conversation if you have something to add!

You can pack your sliced zucchini into zipper freezer bags or plastic freezer containers, but it'll freeze better and last much longer if you vacuum seal it with a FoodSaver.

A FoodSaver is an investment that pays for itself in no time, and once you start sealing up everything in sight you'll wonder how you ever lived without one. I use ours to seal everything from green beans to wild venison to chainsaw chains (it keeps them from rusting).

Rather than buy pre-made bags, I've found it's more practical and economical to make my own custom bags using two different sized rolls of the FoodSaver bag material (and I haven't had good luck using other brands).

A whole grain, healthy zucchini bread that still tastes like a treat, made with white whole wheat flour and unsweetened coconut (recipe here).

So as tempting as it may be to toss your excess summer squash to the chickens, take a little time and freeze it instead. Come winter, you'll be so happy you did.

Related information you might find helpful:
How To Freeze Summer Squash: illustrated, step-by-step instructions from the wonderful site
Quality for Keeps: A Comprehensive Guide To Freezing Vegetables from the University of Missouri Extension Center 

Canning your own food is easy and economical! A granite ware waterbath canner, along with this oh-so-handy 6-piece home canning kit will only set you back about $35.

What to do with all those green tomatoes?
Make My Super Simple, Salsa-Like Green Tomato Relish!

Hungry for more than zucchini? You'll find links to all my sweet and savory Less Fuss, More Flavor in the Farmgirl Fare Recipe Index. Enjoy!

*When you blanch and freeze most vegetables they lose their crunch. I actually prefer my squash on the soft and slightly overcooked side, but if you're an al dente sort of person you'll want to use your frozen squash in soup.

©, the vegetable crazed foodie farm blog where Farmgirl Susan shares recipes, stories, & photos of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres—and there is never too much zucchini.

Friday, September 7

Farm Photo 9/7/07:
A Wooly Look Back At Lambing Season

Silly Wendy & Her Baby Girl On April 12th, 2006

It's hard for me to believe that I've taken something like 15,000 photos since I started this blog back in June 2005, especially considering I'd only taken a few hundred during the previous 37 years. And I certainly never imagined I'd be constantly strapped to my camera. But it seems like the few times I decide to leave it in The Shack I come upon a fabulous photo opportunity, like the dragonfly that landed on the truck antenna six times the other day while I stood watching and framing photos I couldn't take with my fingers. The bright blue sky made a perfect background.

I keep several files of photos I plan to post, but for some reason or another many of them never actually make it up here. Mostly it's a timing thing. I always seem to be running behind, and it feels odd posting a photo of something that's out of date, like summer flowers in January or Silly Wendy with this tiny lamb who is now a grown up lady sheep.

I came across this photo the other day and immediately set it as the desktop background on my computer. When Joe saw it, he said, "Ohhh, that's so cute--even with the little pile of sheep pellets!" I figured any photo that can make a tough farmguy say the word 'cute' and passes muster even if it has manure in it deserves to be shared, no matter when it was taken.

Silly Wendy, who received the second half of her name during the infamous Farmgirl Fare Name That Sheep Contest, is Doll Face's daughter. While we're starting to see a real conformity within the flock (translation: I can't tell some of this year's lambs apart), she and Doll Face each have a very unique, but very different, look. Eleven-year-old Doll Face is small with delicate features. Five-year-old Silly Wendy has a much larger frame, a snow white snout, and the biggest pink nose I've ever seen on a sheep.

Last spring Silly Wendy gave birth to a cute and sturdy ram lamb, but he and all the other lambs never seemed this small compared to their mothers because for the first time we sheared the sheep before lambing season.

It was by far one of the best things we've ever done, both for the flock and for us, and if all goes with the winter weather and the sheep shearer's schedule, we'll shear the sheep before lambing season every year from now on. That means we won't be seeing these big wooly mothers again, which is another good reason to share such an outdated slice of life from the farm.

It's hard to believe that sheep breeding season starts next month!

Want to see more?
Scenes From Lambing Season 2006
Scenes From Lambing Season 2007
Scenes From Sheep Shearing 2007

© 2007, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares stories & photos of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres.

Monday, September 3

Farm Photo: 9/3/07


Lucky Buddy Bear is half Australian Shepherd and half English Shepherd. Most of the time he's much more interested in his flock of sheep than all the crazy squirrels around here, but he does like to give them a top speed run for their money. I have no doubt that someday I'll see Bear head straight up a tree after one.

You'll find Bear stories & lots more photos

© 2007, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares photos & stories of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres.

Saturday, September 1

Three No-Cook Summer Recipes:
Mexican Jumping Bean Slaw, Easy Vegetarian Tacos & High Kickin' Creamy Tomato Dressing

When Life Gives You Five Enormous Cabbages. . .

Okay, life didn’t exactly give me the cabbages, but when they’re twenty cents a pound and locally grown, in my book that’s practically free—and obviously meant to be. So that was why one day last summer I tossed twenty pounds of cabbage into my supermarket shopping cart.

Once in the kitchen with my bounty, I realized there was no way all those cabbages were going to fit in my already crowded refrigerator, which meant I had to store them in a cooler with ice packs. I then proceeded to stuff myself with cabbage until I was sick of it, which is of course what true seasonal eating is all about.

I was also determined to come up with new ways to enjoy this extremely nutritious member of the Cruciferae family of vegetables. Inspired one day by various ingredients that were all hanging around the kitchen hoping to be eaten soon, I tossed them together with a few pantry staples and created this colorful salad that I immediately named Mexican Jumping Bean Slaw.

I’d forgotten all about it until a couple of weeks ago when I arrived home toting five locally grown cabbages. Obviously I didn’t come down with a case of self-restraint over the past year. Fortunately these little darlings weighed in at less than a pound apiece. They even all fit in the fridge.

The slaw was as good as I’d remembered it, and would be perfect for a potluck. While it tastes great on its own as a side dish, a snack, or a light and healthy lunch, this time I decided to try stuffing some of into warm homemade taco shells. I topped these refreshingly different vegetarian tacos with chopped tomatoes, cilantro, a drizzle of dressing, and a dollop of sour cream. Oh yeah.

Mexican Jumping Bean Slaw

Serves 4 to 6 — Recipe may be doubled

This delicious and healthful coleslaw-type salad doesn’t actually contain any jumping beans and is more Tex-Mex than Mexican, but when it comes to dubbing new dishes I’ll admit that sometimes catchy wins out over reality. Besides, with a name like Mexican Jumping Bean Slaw, you might even be able to talk any picky little eaters at your table into seeing if they’re able to pop a bite in their mouth before it jumps right off their fork.

The snappy tomato dressing, which was inspired by last summer's Seven Second Tomato Glut Solution (oh how I wish I had that glut this year), whizzes together in seconds in the blender and can be used on all sorts of other things besides this slaw (see my suggestions at the end of the recipe), but you can always use a bottled dressing instead. Trader Joe’s sells a lowfat creamy cilantro dressing in their refrigerated section that’s full of flavor but not calories.

The optional cooked chicken turns this into a heartier dish that’s perfect for a summer supper with friends, or for feeding people who simply can’t fathom the idea of eating a vegetarian taco.

As always, I urge you to seek out local and organic ingredients whenever possible. They really do make a difference in so many ways. Cans of organic black beans and organic corn are versatile pantry staples, and both can often be found for about a dollar.

3 cups (about 9 ounces) shredded green cabbage
1 cup (about 3 ounces) shredded purple cabbage
2 large sweet red peppers, diced
2 medium carrots, grated
4 large scallions, chopped
1 15-ounce can organic black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-ounce can organic whole sweet corn, drained or 1-1/2 cups cooked fresh corn
2 cups shredded or diced cooked chicken (optional)
Salt to taste

2-1/2 cups High Kickin’ Creamy Tomato Dressing (see recipe below)

In a large bowl, combine green cabbage, purple cabbage, red peppers, carrots, black beans, and corn. Stir in chicken if desired. Add 2 cups dressing and mix well, adding another 1/2 cup dressing if desired. Salt to taste. Serve immediately, or for best flavor, chill for several hours or overnight. Slaw will keep in the fridge for 2 to 3 days.

Mexican Jumping Bean Slaw Tacos

Few Tablespoons olive or canola oil
Corn tortillas

Optional toppings:
Chopped vine-ripened tomatoes
Chopped fresh cilantro
More High Kickin' Creamy Tomato Dressing
Sour cream
Guacamole or diced avocado
Shredded cheese

Heat 2 Tablespoons oil in a large skillet. Add two or three tortillas. Using tongs, turn tortillas over so that both sides are covered with oil. Let cook, turning once or twice more, until just starting to crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Set on a paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle lightly with salt. Cook the remaining tortillas, adding more oil to the skillet as needed.

To serve, fold warm tortillas in half and stuff with Mexican Jumping Bean Slaw and optional toppings, drizzling with more High Kickin’ Creamy Tomato Dressing if desired.

High Kickin' Creamy Tomato Dressing
Makes about 3-1/2 cups

1 pound juicy, vine-ripened tomatoes (about 3 medium), coarsely chopped
1 cup yogurt (I use lowfat or nonfat)
1 cup sour cream (I use lowfat)
3 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 cloves garlic, peeled & chopped
1 Tablespoon ground cumin, preferably freshly ground
1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds, preferably freshly ground
1 teaspoon chile powder (or more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth, adding a little more tomato if it’s too thick. Store in refrigerator for up to 3 days. Warning note: The heat from the chile powder in the dressing becomes more pronounced the next day.

Other ways to enjoy this dressing:
--Mixed into a Tex-Mex potato salad
--Drizzled over a platter of sliced garden tomatoes
--Tossed with a green salad
--With a plate of grilled summer squash
--In your favorite chicken salad
--As a quick way to give rice salad a kick

©, the cabbage crazed foodie farm blog where Farmgirl Susan shares stories & photos of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres.