Saturday, August 28, 2010


Walking down for the evening check of the pigs, chickens, and garden I smelled the most intoxicating scent. My nose followed this richly alluring smell directly to my backyard beehive. The bees have been working so very hard to store away precious nectar and spent countless hours fanning it to make the most delectable honey. Tens of thousands of flushed little bodies heat the hive and the luxuriant scent of warm honey is wafted into the air.

I walked around the hive in a circle ten feet away and smelled the scent throughout. I walked downwind from the hive and for thirty of more feet could smell the richness.

I worry. Because if I can smell the lush sweetness from thirty feet away, I fear a bear may capture the scent from three thousand feet away!

I'm worried tonight.

Thursday: 5 eggs
Friday: 6 eggs
Today: 7 eggs

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Flying Time

Sometimes there's just so much going on with kids, kids' sports, housework and just all the minutiae of everyday life - but I always try to steal a few minutes or hours in the garden.

Today I planted spinach and lettuce outside the high tunnel. It's a bit of an experiment to see if I can stretch the growing season a bit. I'll also plant some inside the high tunnel once the beans and cucumbers get cleaned out - I'm going to plant peas on the cucumber trellises.

It's time for bedtime hugs and kisses. Goodnight all!

8 eggs today!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Our Daily Bread

It's been about a year or more and I haven't bought a bit of bread, other than the occasional package of Kaiser or Kimmelweck rolls!

Sometimes you're lucky enough to find a perfect bread recipe. Most people don't have time to fool around with kneading and rising times over and over and all that, so I was very happy to find "No Knead Bread" in Mother Earth News magazine awhile ago. I fooled with it and tweaked it here and there and finally made it into my own.

There is something magical about walking into the house and smelling fresh bread baking. How can you be in a bad mood? Hunks of warm, buttery, fresh-baked bread change a simple soup dinner into a divine dining experience!

Sharon's Version of "No Knead Bread"

1-1/2 Tbs. yeast
3 c. very warm water
1 c. whole wheat graham flour
4-1/2 c. unbleached white flour
1 Tbs. milled flax seed
1-1/2 Tbs. non-iodized salt
Sea salt

Put yeast into a large bowl and then drizzle the warm water into it. Stir to get out the lumps. A wooden spoon works well because you'll need the stiffness to stir the dough at the end.

Add the rest of the ingredients - finishing with the salt. Then mix it up into a big, sloppy mess.

Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for a couple of hours. Anywhere from 2 - 4 hours has worked for me, but around 2 hours seems to get you a loftier bread.

Put a metal pan on the bottom shelf of the oven and a baking stone one shelf up (you may have to grease your baking stone if it isn't well seasoned). Preheat to 425-degrees (yes, I know my oven isn't spotless : ) - I've been doing a lot of cooking!).

Now's the tricky part. You have to work quickly and get this big sloppy mess, in two gloppy clumps onto your baking stone, sprinkle a bit of sea salt on the top of the bread dough, and pour about 1-1/2 cups water into the metal pan. Then push it in and slam the door shut to keep in the steam. I usually have the sink water running at a drizzle and wet my hands before I handle the dough and then rinse them very quickly before grabbing the water and salt.

Bake for about 30-35 minutes and...


3 eggs

Monday, August 23, 2010


Then followed that beautiful season... Summer....
Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape
Lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

If the essence of everything Summer ever is, was, or will be, were to be summed up in a vegetable - it would be one perfectly luscious Tomato.

5 eggs

Sunday, August 22, 2010


I looked at my ingredients and thought, "What can I make?"

SALSA of course!

John helped me to chop up the vegetables (the Pampered Chef chopper makes short work of them!)

The ingredients are in the jars ready to be put into a hot water bath.

GUESS what we had for dinner!?!

from "The Practical Produce Cookbook"

8 c. peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes
3 c. chopped jalapeno peppers - I didn't have enough jalapenos, so substituted hungarian hot peppers too
2 c. chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. minced cilatro (optional) - I don't like it and don't add it
2 tsp. oregano
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cumin
1-1/2 c. vinegar or lemon juice

When seeding or cutting hot peppers, wear rubber gloves to prevent hands from being burned (or you can coat your hands with olive oil). Combine all ingredients in a large kettle. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Carefully ladle hot salsa into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Adjust lids. Process in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes.

It turned out kind of watery - I figure we'll dump it into a strainer and draw off the excess liquid before we serve it. I'd appreciate tips and/or recipes anyone may have!

Gardeners are starting to see more powdery mildew and other fungal diseases in their gardens with the cooler, wetter weather. I looked up natural alternatives to chemical sprays and here are two I'm going to try. I'll let you know how they work.

Hydrogen Peroxide Treatment

To prevent bacterial and fungal problems on outdoor plants use hydrogen peroxide! Hydrogen peroxide will prevent the disease spores from adhering to the plant tissue. It causes no harm to plants or soil, however don't use on young transplants or direct seeded crops until they have become established.

Warning: Always test on a small portion of plant tissue first to check for any negative reactions. Do not proceed if there is any damage to plant tissue. Do not substitute food grade H2O2 for the common H2O2. Spray plants with undiluted 3 percent hydrogen peroxide that you can buy most anywhere. Be sure to cover tops and bottoms of leaves. Do this once a week during dry weather and twice a week in wet weather. This works as a preventative. If you already have problems use this as a direct treatment.

Milk for Mildew

Milk with its' natural enzymes and simple sugar structures can be used to combat various mildews on cucumber, asters, tomato, squash and zinnia foliage. This works by changing the pH on the surface of the leaves, so they are less susceptible to mildew. Use a 50/50 mixture of milk and water. Thoroughly spray plants every 3 to 4 days at first sign of mildews or use weekly as a preventative measure.

Milk can also be mixed at a rate of 2 ounces milk to 18 ounces of water and used as a spray every 7 to 10 days to treat mosaic disease on cucumber, tomato and lettuce.

6 eggs

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Lots of Catching Up...

It's been a crazy busy couple of days and I haven't been able to get near the computer - much less my blog!

Heather had to go to the orthodontist this week - poor girl. On the way home we stopped and bought a bushel of corn. Can you believe it only cost $7 for a whole bushel!?! Admittedly, it was one day old corn. I wasn't too worried because I was going to freeze in anyway and most of it will end up in soups or other recipes. We found some yucky cobs while were shucking and those went to the pigs. They were VERY happy.

Someone, I won't say who, left the garden gate open this week. You will not believe the devastation a flock of chickens can visit upon a garden! I lost about half of my summer squash and many of my big, beautiful, heirloom tomatoes. It's enough to make you want to cry!

We decided to try the Farmer's Market on Friday afternoon and Saturday. Friday ended up being quite a bust, but Saturday's business wasn't too shabby. We think we'll stick to just Saturdays now that school will be starting up again. A lot of people are buying dill for pickling and the green beans are going well. I sell Carol Jackson's canned goods too and people really love them.

I think I may get just one more week out of my green beans. They're getting too long and tough to sell now. I'm going to go through and pick all that I have - which is tons! - and freeze and can them. Then I'll plant salad greens, radishes, and fast growing cool weather crops in their place.

I didn't think I was getting much out of my cucumbers. I peeked under the mass of vines this morning (I tried to train them to a trellis, but they refused to hang on and kept falling down every time I turned my back), and there were tons of them! I sold a few at the Farmer's Market, but with the season on they aren't in high demand. I think I'd like to try to make some dill pickle spears, some sweet pickles, and some bread and butter pickle spears.

Does anyone have any "use up cucumber" recipes or advice they would like to pass on?

Today: 6 eggs
Friday: 7 eggs
Thursday: 4 eggs

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Front Page!

John and I made the front page of the local paper this week.

Remember I told you Tom Corbett, the Attorney General running for governor, came through the Farmer's Market this past Saturday? Here we are! I will try to scan the picture for a better quality photo when Fitz shows me how!

4 eggs. I'm going to start squeezing those chickens!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Bee Happy Today!

I went out this morning to check my bees. I was not too terribly thrilled with what I found in the backyard hive. I was please to see the bees had filled in all of the brood box frames, but they hadn't even begun to pull out the comb on the honey supers! I can't take honey off the brood box or they'll starve to death in the winter time.

So, in frustration, I decided to check the blueberry bees today too. I was much happier! The bees have filled up almost all of one whole honey super and will begin working on the second super very soon! Each of these supers will hold about 30 pounds of honey. So maybe, just maybe - if the bears, raccoons, skunks, and every other wild creature will leave my hive alone! - I will have some raw honey to sell this year!

Geared up to go check the bees.

The backyard hive.

A VERY important tool. The smoker. I like to burn hay in it because I feel it's more natural. The smoke is puffed on the bees to make them more docile.

IPM (Integrated Pest Management) One of the biggest problems facing honey bees today is the varroa mite. The mites suck fluids from the bees, weakening them, and eventually weakening and killing the whole hive. The mites love to have part of their life cycle in the bigger capped cells of the drone bees.

So I put these special green frames with larger hexagons which encourages the mites to go into them. Everyone once in awhile, when I find a nice bunch of capped drone brood like this, I take the frames out and put them in the freezer to kill the mites.

The hive doesn't need very many drones - so the hive isn't injured by their loss. Then when the mites are killed I put the frame back in the hive and it "vacuums" more drones out.

A beautiful frame with perfect brood in the middle and honey around the top. The honey frames are in a special box above the hive that has a queen excluder to keep the queen from laying eggs. Thus, lots of honey and no brood!

Hopefully, in future blogs, I'll be able to show you pictures of honey being extracted!

Heather asked me to bake "something sweet" today. So I made her this recipe. I have a LOT of zucchini to use up! : )

Zucchini Chocolate Cake
from "The Practical Produce Cookbook"

1-1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter, softened
1/4 c. vegetable oil
3 eggs
1/2 c. milk 1 tsp. vanilla
2-1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
2 c. shredded, peeled zucchini (I don't peel mine - the kids are used to the little green bits and I think it pumps up the nutrition to leave on the peel)

Cream sugar, butter, and oil. Beat in eggs, milk, and vanilla. Combine dry ingredients and add. Stir in zucchini. Pour into buttered 13 x 9 inch pan. Bake at 350-degrees for about 40 minutes.

I dust mine with confectioners sugar, but you can frost it or glaze it - whatever suits your fancy.

8 eggs today - Happy dance!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Leftover Produce

So now I've closed up the Farmer's Market for this past Saturday and brought home my unsold produce. What do I do with it? Processing time! Freeze, can, dry, pickle, mix into baked goods and feed to the pigs.

Most of my recipes and processing information come from THE very best produce cookbook I have ever found. "The Practical Produce Cookbook" by Ray and Elsie Hoover. I purchased it while I was on a trip to Amish country with my dear friends, Rosie and Jim. I have never found a book with as much information and so well laid out.

I used this book to make a few jars of Dilly Beans and Dill Pickles from my leftover produce. I also blanched and froze a bunch of summer squash and yellow beans.

"The Practical Produce Cookbook" starts with asparagus and ends with winter squash. In between it contains just about any vegetable you can think of - spinach and salsify, rhubarb and pumpkins, brussels sprouts and carrots - just to name a few.

Then, under each heading - Beans - for example, it contains information about how to grow the plant, when to harvest it, yields, and often nutritional information. The recipes follow with first soups, then salads, side and main dishes, and with some vegetables - like rhubarb - dessert recipes, and finally canning and freezing directions and recipes.

If you are into cooking, canning, baking, or just into eating well, this is the book to have!

5 eggs

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Farmer's Market A Success!

We had our grand opening of the Coudersport Farmer's Market yesterday. I feel it was a complete success!

In previous years the Farmer's Market had been one big tent with everything underneath. But that system required an inordinate amount of work for the one person setting it up.

I thought that maybe it would be better if each farmer brought their own tent and produce as they could come. It worked very well! It increased the visual appeal and now each farmer can come as they are able. We hope to end up with a very nice sampling from many small farmers in the region.

Fitzgerald's Family Farm booth with mixed vegetables, herbs, canned goods, jellies, and maple syrup:

Misty and Katy Reed's booth. They specialize in mixed vegetables and happily had many things that I didn't carry - including potatoes, onions, and lots of gorgeous cucumbers!

Tadd and Ellen Ostraski's booth. Hot and sweet peppers of all kinds!

Alvie Fourness' booth. The world's best garlic.

Two handsome boys! Sadly, Heather was home ill with strep throat.

The "Tom Corbett for Governor" bus came through on it's whistle stop tour while we were there at the farmer's market (you can see it in the background of the first picture [right click to blow up the picture]). He came around and shook everyone's hands.

I have a feeling that when the people running this campaign saw a small town farmer's market in a picturesque little square their eyes lit up and went "ka-ching!"

7 eggs : )

Friday, August 13, 2010

Farmer's Market Prep

Due to a sick child I wasn't able to make the pickles as I intended. I spent plenty of time today getting prepared for the Farmer's Market which myself and a few other folks will be attending. I put together my vegetable price list and will be picking vegetables VERY early tomorrow morning.

Here are my prices for locally grown, chemical pesticide and fertilizer free, vegetables.

Green $2.50/qt.
Yellow $2.25/qt.
Basil $3.00/bunch
Dill $2.00/bunch
Mixed Summer Squashes $.50 each or 3 for $1.00
Chives $2.00/bunch
Baby beets $1.50/bunch (about 8)
Cukes 2 for $1.00
Mint $2.00/bunch

Wish me luck!

Did you know that vinegar is a natural weed killer?
I can attest to this as I have brown patches in my lawn where John created baking soda and vinegar "volcanoes" in a bottle and it overflowed onto the grass. Pour white vinegar in a spray bottle and use it in place of chemical weed killers. It doesn't persist in the environment like the chemicals do.

6 eggs - better

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Queen Anne's Lace

The wild carrot, or Queen Anne's Lace, is an aromatic herb that acts as a diuretic, soothes the digestive tract and stimulates the uterus. A wonderfully cleansing medicine, it supports the liver, stimulates the flow of urine and the removal of waste by the kidneys. An infusion is used in the treatment of various complaints including digestive disorders, kidney and bladder diseases and in the treatment of dropsy.

(I've always thought there are micro- and macro- nutrients in wild foods - foods we used to eat and have abandoned -that promote better health.)

Ancient folk lore said that to cure epileptic seizures you should eat the dark coloured middle flower of Queen Annes Lace. The flower is also used in ancient rituals and spells, for women to increase fertility and for men to increase potency and sexual desire.

It also makes a tasty jelly!

I never would have imagined that you could make jellies out of anything other than fruits until one day I was talking to a woman who puts up all kinds of preserves and she told me one could make jellies out of edible flowers. She named Queen Anne's Lace and lavender as two possibilities. Amazing! I researched it, and sure enough, it could be done.

So, today, I took a look at a common roadside and field weed that springs up everywhere and got cooking!

First, I picked the Queen Anne's Lace flower heads and soaked them in water for about 10 minutes to drive out the hidden bugs. There are some tiny spiders whose color is an exact match!

I then steeped them in boiling hot water for 30 minutes.

While this was going on I sterilized my jars. I've grown up hearing the story of an entire family who was killed by a batch of bad green beans. So you'll understand that I am very careful to sterilize everything!

The flowers are strained...

...and then strained "juice" is mixed with pectin and lemon juice and boiled. Then sugar is added and it is boiled some more.

Finally, the jelly is poured into jars and put into a hot bath for 5 minutes.

The result is a delicate jelly that tastes of flowers and lemon. Mmmm.

The recipe:

Queen Anne's Lace Jelly

18 large Queen Anne's lace heads
4 Cups water
1/4 Cup lemon juice (fresh or bottled)
1 Package powdered pectin
3 1/2 Cups + 2 Tbsp. sugar

Bring water to boil. Remove from heat. Add flower heads (push them down into the water). Cover and steep 30 mins. Strain.

Measure 3 Cups liquid into 4-6 quart pan. Add lemon juice and pectin. Bring to a rolling boil stirring constantly. Add sugar and stir constantly. Cook and stir until mixture comes to a rolling boil. Boil one minute longer, then remove from heat.

Add color (pink) if desired. Skim. Pour into jars leaving 1/4" head space. Process in hot water bath for 5 mins.

Makes about 6 jars.

Warning: The seed is a traditional 'morning after' contraceptive and there is some evidence to uphold this belief. It requires further investigation. Carrot seeds can be abortifacient and so should not be used by pregnant women.

For a lot more information about Queen Anne's Lace go to

4 eggs : (

My very kind neighbor gave me a couple of bags of cucumbers. I was happy to accept because the ones in my garden are still tiny. There are so many, I'm going to share the wealth! Today, I wanted to make some assorted pickles, but I found I should soak my cucumbers overnight in ice water for crispy pickles. Soooo tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

7 Eggs Today!

Don't you just LOVE the colors!?! Especially the dark brown? When the new chickens get laying we'll have even more variety!

Baby, It's Hot Outside!

We've had lots of hot, humid weather and it's making it very tough to want to do anything outside. Yesterday, I managed to save the flat leaf parsley from encroaching weeds before I had to give up working in the high tunnel. It was 98-degrees inside there with not a breath of wind and high humidity. I didn't want to be found passed out among the cucumbers!

The chickens seem to find the combination of the hot weather and the circling hawk oppressive. They spend most of their time cooling off in the shade of the chicken coop. Each day, they go through 5 gallons of their water!

Have you ever seen a chicken drink? They dip their beak into the water and then tilt their head back and allow the water to run down their throat. They do this over and over until they've had their fill.

Heather has thrown out a handful of feed to result in a chicken feeding frenzy!

6 eggs

I wondered if people could leave a comment so I can get any idea of the number of readers?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Found Treasure!

Beans, beans beans! I love this time in the garden when everything is coming on and you pull back an abundance of emerald green leaves to find hundreds of perfectly grown green beans.

There's such joy in going out to pick summer squashes and you find yourself filling your basket with more than you can possibly eat in one meal. It's like finding a chest of gold after all of the hard work.

I know that in a few weeks the novelty will wear off and it won't be so exciting - it'll be just more to process. But for now...,what treasure!

Aaargh! The hawk is back!

4 eggs