Tag Archives: seasons

As Easy as Pie


Oh…the joys of Spring and Summer are upon us….no?  It’s Autumn, you say?  Really?  Where’d my Summer go?!!

You might also feel that way…just a bit?

These little 3 to 4 pound beauties make the best pies!

This post really brings me into reality.  I just realized it was time to bake the pumpkins. (still shaking my head that it is autumn)

“Oh how we love pumpkin season. You did know this gourd-ish squash has its own season, right? Winter, Spring, Summer, Pumpkin…. We anxiously anticipate it every year.” ~Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer, October 2010

I usually prefer to bake up actual pie pumpkins and my favorite one is the little “Winter Luxury” pie pumpkin, as smaller tends to mean sweeter.  I get the seeds from the Jung Seed company in Wisconsin.  But since my unofficial motto is (according to my husband) “Can it before it rots” I pretty much put-by food regardless of pedigree.  I rather enjoy carving a huge jack-o-lantern and baking a pie from the face parts I cut out.  It brings a chuckle to any kid in your home to be eating “face pie” on Halloween.  I also will use hearty sweeter pumpkin like squashes like Red Warty Thing and hubbard as pumpkin mash as they are pretty much interchangeable in recipes.

Pumpkin is the one thing I don’t can.  Instead I prefer to freeze it.  The pure density of squash leaves too much question about whether the pressure canning process brought the center of the jar up to the right temperature and for long enough.  Additionally, I prefer to take it out as ready to go mash.  NEVER, can mashed pumpkin as it is too dense for safe home processing.

So….this morning, my house was 59 degrees.  By George, I am NOT lighting the furnaces in September.  That makes it a perfect day to bake pumpkins.  Here is what I do:

Just halve the pumpkins and place on a cookie sheet to bake.

Preheat oven to 325 (you can do 350 for a faster bake, but don’t go higher).  You want to slow simmer the flesh, not bake it crispy.  Take a long carving knife and slice the pumpkin in half.  Scoop the seedy center our with a spoon and …in my case at least….feed that yummy center to the chickens and ducks!  Lay the halved pumpkin face down on foil covered (for clean-up ease only, foil bottom not necessary) cookie sheets and cover with foil.

Boy…that took all of 5-10 minutes.  Really…this isn’t that hard or time consuming.  I might lose my day-job if people realized how easy some of these very heirloom activities actually are….

Bake for 1 to 3 hours, depending on how much you have in your oven and how big the pieces are.  Smaller equals faster.

You know the pumpkin is done when a fork slides easily in all the way to the shell as if warm butter.

You know they are done when you can sink a dinner fork like into warm butter until it reaches the shell.  Take out and let cool a few minutes.  You probably can read half of “Fifty Shades of Grey” during this effortless time and people will thing you slaved to make them a pumpkin pie from scratch.  Your secret.  🙂

After baking let the pumpkins cool just enough to handle. It is easier to work with when warm.

Next is up to you.  At this point the pumpkin is ready to use in recipes.  I don’t like the texture of the occasional strings in the flesh.  So here is what I do:

With a soup spoon I scoop the now soft and warm flesh into my old food mill.  Press it with a few turns of my hand and it deposits into the bowl underneath.  Any strings are strained out by this extra step and it is also not time consuming.  Warmer is better.

If not using it right away, stir and premeasure into freezer containers or bags, writing the amount,date, and of course, contents on a label.  100% pumpkin.

SO EASY.  AND, it is your family food quality control … You know what is in that pumpkin puree and what isn’t.  You may not have read that aforementioned book, but I get a lot done when baking pumpkin and I adjust the oven temp lower if I have to run on an errand that is longer than an hour or so.

This food mill may be old, but it sure does a quick job of sending pumpkin through.

It is very easy to scoop out a baked pumpkin.

Mine almost entirely goes into pumpkin pie.  Which should be another post perhaps.  Equally as easy, but oh so tasty!  My favorite pie.  I actually had it be my “wedding cake” when I married.  I love it that much.

Do you bake your own pumpkin?  What is your favorite variety for it?

Ready for the freezer!

Advertisements

A Sprung Spring

Posted on

See the plant nursery in the window? Pretty nice “digs” for them, if you’ll pardon the pun.

We try to use as much space as possible for planting. Even vertical shelving and mismatched planters. Soon the pots and shelves will be screened by moon flower and morning glory vines.

Rhubarb!! A seriously under-used food plant.

One of the lucky pepper plants that survived the greenhouse demolition. We don’t really know which of 4 varieties if may be!

Finally!  I got to plant my garden.  It has been a crazy spring.  80 degree March and 30 degree April.  Wind heavy storms.  I happily started seeds in the parlor windows in mid February so my little pretties would be ready to transfer out to the big outdoors greenhouse by mid to late March.  The weather was so nice in March, I was pleased to re-pot the now leggy tomatoes, ground cherries, and peppers, etc. and haul them all out to the sunny warm shelter of the outdoor greenhouse.

That’s when it started.

The Crazy Spring.  It was like Spring sprung a spring and went bouncing off its track.  The weather didn’t just turn cold, it turned frozen with night temperatures plummeting to 23 degrees and daytime ones nudging 40 and 45.  Certainly not growing weather.  I took to hauling the many flats of plants back into the house at night and then, out to the greenhouse by day.

Eh…it’s Michigan.

That’s what I told myself.  You do what you have to, to garden in Michigan springs.

Then, it warmed up a smidge and I let the plants have a sleep-over in the outside greenhouse.  That’s when disaster struck!  Fantastical high winds.  They arrived as if on a freight train and demolished my greenhouse and spilled my lovelies all over.   Broken stems and dashed harvest.  I did my best to find and re-plant what I could and hauled them back into the parlor to stay.  Then, fortunately, I had more seeds, I started new plants.

Here is a young row of strawberries interplanted with asparagus. In normal years, the asparagus would be much shorter! Plus, it has been left to grow healthy roots instead of stalks this first year.

That is one of the great things about starting a garden with seeds instead of nursery plants.  Extra seeds.

Well.  I finally got my gardens planted.  The recovered older plants are in the ground with smaller ones.  Rows of seeds are now sprouting into red trails of beet leaves and fine tendrils of newly emerging green onions.

There’s cabbage, broccoli, rutabaga, potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, horseradish, sweet corn, peas, beets, ground cherry, squashes, beans, pickles, lots of herbs, nasturtiums, sunflowers, morning glories, marigold….and lions and tigers and…

Beets make a pretty row of red and green. My how the chickens love the little ones I pull out to thin the row.

Already in the ground were the perennial plants.  Strawberries, Asparagus, Rhubarb, Onion, Garlic, Blueberries, Raspberries, Currants, Apples, and Pears.  I’m loving my rhubarb harvest right now.  Couldn’t pick the asparagus as it was planted only last spring and it is best to give it a year or so without harvest to let the plant focus energies on the root growth.  The first crop of strawberries froze off but there’s more on the way.  We surely lost the pears and apples to the Crazy Spring.  I’m also getting lots of spring perennial herbs and the onions that make our food practically dance with flavor.

I can’t wait to start canning season.

I’ve been teaching a lot of canning lately and it is certainly the season

Herbs! Oregano and tarragon in front. Planted area for basil and cilantro next. Then, fennel, lavender, lemon balm, pineapple sage, dill, chives…

for canning pickled asparagus.  Bygone Basics guests enjoy taking their green jars of treasure home.  Now it is my turn.  This weekend…I’m canning as much as possible of this neat treat…for ourselves and our guests.

After that…Jam!…of the strawberry rhubarb varieties…and then…summer produce will be in full swing and all harvest will break loose.

What is your favorite food to grow?

What do you look forward to “put by?”

We grow things in the ground and in pots and buckets….here is some basil that will flourish in vertical space.

A newly “grounded” plant. It had just been rained on so it looks a tad bedraggled.

A Compost … Post

Posted on

Confessions of a Composter

Most who know me well, have seen me spirit food scraps from restaurants. Yes. I admit. I am one of THOSE people.

I can’t stand to see waste. I think it may be a disease, as it is getting worse as I get older.

My possible disease diagnosis aside <wink> .. I’m getting quite a nicely rounded bio-cycle. Food for human consumption enters the cycle (via my own gardens, grocery, gifts from other growers…and um…restaurant take-away… What isn’t immediately consumable is given to the chickens.

What my free-range feathery little girls who run about the lawns with happy little smiles on their beaks then do, is give me eggs! What chickens can’t eat, goes into the compost. The chickens also produce manure; and that, along with their straw bedding, is regularly put into the compost, too.

The compost eventually gets dumped into the garden. The chickens eat bugs from the compost after random spreading there and further spread it out in the garden with their scratching. And I get eggs.

The compost improves the soil, helping grow abundant good food in the garden…and the cycle revolves. Did I mention I get eggs out of the deal too!? So I have learned that the more organic resources I can introduce into this little bio-cycle, the more powerful the food growing cycle is.

Now please note, I live within CITY limits…in a neighborhood. But fortunately, I also have a few acres of space for gardens!  (yay me!)  This style of healthy living is possible even with small patio gardening. (you should fore go the chickens if there is no room for them to be happy) You can compost in small places and keep vigorous plants in that soil in containers on your deck even. I’ll tell you how:

There are some really nice home use and commercial composting equipment you can pay a pretty penny for and if you want to go that route, that’s fine. I prefer to look around first to see if there is something I can reuse or recycle before I go buy new things.

Let’s call it creative composting.  You can have a compost bin made out of just about anything.  Look around, what have you laying about?  Some cinder blocks?  An old tarp?  Old wooden pallets (these work great because you can stand your rakes and hoes, even Shepard’s crook flower holders to prettily screen your pile, in the outer wall).  Old unused small dog kennel?  A few 5 gallon plastic pails?  Discarded window screens (just wire them together).

We use the big bulk food plastic barrels that would be discarded by huge food processors and go to a landfill to never break down.  They are great for rain barrels too.  Since turning your compost is important, you need access into it with a pitchfork…or in the case of my compost barrel…John has made a lid that fits tightly on the top and I just knock it over and roll it around a bit and stand it back up.  When the time comes to put it on the garden, we just roll it there.  He did drill some small holes in the sides and bottom for proper drainage and aeration.

Essentially, you just need something that will contain your compost, give it some aeration and drainage, and allow you to turn it in some manner.

Start your compost with brown matter.  No…not poo.  Lawn clippings, leaves, even cardboard/newspaper.  Yes…paper is organic and will return to the earth as nutrients instead of a landfill if you mix it in a compost pile.  You can even toss in some soil to introduce the microorganisms that break down matter into soil.  Then you can begin tossing in your household scraps.  Keep throwing on the brown matter.  But there are somethings you shouldn’t put in your compost:

  • used cat box litter (could spread disease)
  • bones (won’t break down)
  • large quantities of fat in one glob (add shredded newspaper with it and stir the pile)
  • Meat (just be cautious as this may attract unwanted interest in your compost…I have never had a problem)
  • non-organic items (plastic, heavily glossy mailings…)

Definitely add your coffee grounds; paper filter and all!

See an earthworm after a rain?  Put him in too, to help break things down.

It works well to have two barrels as it takes about three to 6 months for a good compost to do it’s job.  I fill one and let it sit for a month or two (still need to roll it around once in a while) while I start to fill the other.  About the time the second one is getting full, it is time to put the first one on the gardens.

We have two kitchens at Bygone Basics/Amanda’s Bequest.  We keep two small compost buckets in the kitchen and dump them daily into the larger one out doors.  We just use a bucket we’ve found to re-use for this purpose, but you can purchase kitchen compost containers that are specifically made for this in many home-improvement stores.

Composting is a great way to boost your plants and food output, reduce your trash bill, keep a lot of paper and waste out of the landfill, take care of livestock manure, and of course, get eggs!  

(did I mention I LOVE eggs?)

If you haven’t already, have a look at our websites:

Bygone Basics:  www.bygonebasics.com

Amanda’s Bequest – A Heritage Farmstay Bed & Breakfast:  www.amandasbequest.com

There’s Always Time for a Quickie

Posted on
There’s Always Time for a Quickie

Having just returned home from Kansas after being away for quite a while, helping a very ill family member, I find myself buried in about 7 pages of “to-do’s.”

BUT…I didn’t want to let this week go by without a bit of a “quickie” blog post.

It is hard to believe so much food can come from such a little box.

This post is a gentle reminder about one of the FUN parts of winter….planning your garden and ordering seeds!!

My package containing all of my summer’s bounty arrived while I was in Kansas. …so far I’ve been able to restrain myself from borrowing Dorothy’s “I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore”….oops… 😉  Just can’t wait to sink my fingers into the dirt and plant those little seeds while thinking of all of the good nutritious foods that will come of them.  I’ve made some changes in what I plant this year and am looking forward to gardening with an eye for massive production in small spaces.  I’m going as vertical as possible, using the fence around the garden to grow the cucumbers up, for example.  Also there will be even more companion gardening, as that was quite successful last year.  Growing beans right in between the cornrows was perfect!

If you have any great garden tips, share them!  I love to learn new ways.  ICan@bygonebasics.com

So…..plan that garden….or even just a few container gardens if you don’t have much space.  There’s still time to order seeds and get them growing for summer’s bounty.

I officially CAN'T WAIT for Spring now...

Posted on

This Week’s post is written by a guest blogger:  Jessica Rabe.

I would like to apologize.  I am a guest blogger today, and I accidentally published something while trying to link.  This is why I don’t have much to do with technology 🙂

With Valerie is in Kansas for a week to help with an ill family member, I have the pleasure of being a Guest Blogger for Bygone Basics.  First, I’ll introduce myself, and then, I’ll let you read what you came for in peace 🙂

My name is Jessica, and I’m Valerie’s oldest daughter.  Mom, jokingly calles me her Scullery Maid.  I’ve been helping with the heritage kitchen whenever I can, and I love *almost* every minute of it.  (I mean, who truly enjoys the cleanup?)

Waste Not, Want Not

Have you ever thought about all of the trimmings you throw away, or even toss on the compost?  I never really did either, but it turns out the answer is: A lot!  Recently, Valerie and I stumbled upon a wonderful blog post: Five Packaged Foods You Never Need To Buy Again by Jane Mountain.  I’ll be the first to admit that I got a bit carried away in my excitement.  My second favorite part of the Bygone Basics is learning how to take food as far as it will go, so the idea of saving the trimmings, bones, and juices really got me excited.

You mean….. I can use garbage to make all the soup I could ever hope for!!?

(For those wondering, my favorite is the health aspect.  There’s just nothing like using raw closest-to-nature products, and the only drawback is cost.  Hence my excitement!)  Imagine my shock when Valerie told me that she already knew all about this.  It’s so easy, why weren’t we already doing this?  (Her answer was that she found she got great eggs from the chickens by feeding them the trimmings.)  I figured we can do both….first make the soup stock and then feed the skimmed off, boiled stuff to the chickens.  Worked like a charm!  We got four times the product from our food.  ate the carrot, peelings and ends went into making stock….and the the chickens got everything strained out of the stock…and we got our eggs.  NOTE:  chickens didn’t get the bones…those got composted.

A lot of product was gotten out of everyday "trash". This is a shot of our fresh soup stock and some of the day's pasta sauce all canned and ready for the shelves.

After about a week of saving, we had enough to start making a meat/vegetable stock.  (I’m still waiting to make just veggie stock.  There is much anticipation for a huge mess and a delicious way to squeeze every last drop of goodness out of these vegetables .)  It sure isn’t a pretty process, and it takes a lot of time to boil down.  But really, we just did other things while it simmered (sure smelled good).  I have to tell you, I don’t see any future need to buy soup or bullions.

Now is the time

During the summer, everyone is rushing to get their produce in jars before it spoils.  There’s really no time to try out any of the fancy recipes you dream of doing when it’s a race against time.  However, winter is the perfect time to start unsealing some of those jars and making that spaghetti sauce, or to try any other experiment you’ve always wanted to try.  Such an urge grabbed Valerie just last week, at the same time we were doing the meat stock.  She began breaking into some canned basic tomatoes, herbs she’d dried, and threw a few fresh ingredients in there.  This is also a great way to turn disappointment into satisfaction.  Amanda and myself had messed up a bruschetta recipe…she added that too…a perfect way to put some good use to those still-good tomatoes.  The result was a delicious pasta sauce that’s also healthy!  (My favorite part.)

Remedy from Ukraine

In December, I returned home from spending a few months in Kiev.  I was there teaching English, and honing my Russian language abilities.  Of course, I ended up sick a couple of times, and so my host family made me some “tea.”  Surprisingly, it was as easy as putting some lemon slices in some hot water, and squishing the juices out of them with a spoon.  It went down so nicely.  What a great way to give your immune system a boost!  This is the time of year when people begin to get sick, and this is a great, simple home remedy to drink before or after you start feeling poorly.  Stay healthy!

Contact Valerie today by calling (231) 740-4065, or emailing ICan@bygonebasics.com to ask about the February classes, (click to here check them out) put in an order, or schedule your own Experience.  Be sure to visit the newly redesigned (and easier to navigate Bygone Basics website.  www.bygonebasics.com

You might not agree, but I think this photo is a thing of beauty. Stock simmering in the back and pasta sauce simmering in the front. I wish you all could have shared in the aroma!

CRAZY INSANE, ALMOST THOROUGHLY, AMAZING WORLD

Posted on

Squash in the Bygone Basic's garden...before it snuck out of the fence.

Just letting you know that I’m still here.  I’ve …well…you read the title of this Blog….a bit overwhelmed by life.  It is truly amazing, but gets crazy too, doesn’t it?!

Lately, I’ve been putting by everything that doesn’t run faster than me.  And if I can find someone who will do a bit of hunting for me…well then…all bets are off on that too.  Smile  We also have had a lot of Bygone Basics guests come to learn how to make these heritage recipes themselves, while immersed in old-farmhouse style atmosphere and tools…they are always surprised how easy old-fashioned baking and home canning really is.  Especially when I show them (if they wish to know) how a few of today’s tools can speed things up with out reducing the quality of the food.

I’ve also added pies to my line of baked goods that you can order through the Bygone Basics pantry.  Right now a lot of various types of apple pies are going through the ovens.  Pumpkin pies are following in popularity.

I’ve submitted an application for a Special Use Permit to turn our old manse into “Amanda’s Bequest – A Heritage Immersion Bed & Breakfast.”  More on this in the future.

As the season changes into autumn and the weather is colder, so is my house (because when I’m the only one in it I can put on a sweater and I hate high fuel bills). 

Did you know that in the past, home baking served a dual purpose?  Food was baked, not only for the table, but also to keep the house warm. 

I follow that principle as well.  Lately, I’ve been baking squash for pies, breads, and savory dinners.  Squash is such a nutritious and versatile fruit.  It is just as tasty in desserts as it is in the main meal.  It is surprisingly cheap and easy too.  Here’s my simple treatment of it:

Cut the squash in half or smaller if it is really large (by squash, I refer to pumpkins and other winter squash such as acorn, Hubbard, and butternut).  About 4-5 inch chunks are good.  Don’t worry about peeling, just wash and cut up.  Remove the seed portion with a spoon easily once it is cut.

Line a large pan (cookie sheet or 13×9) with foil and spray or wipe with oil.  Place the squash cut side down.  Place in oven (as many racks as you can fit for maximum energy use) at 325 F.  Bake until fork slides easily into squash to shell.  This may take two or more hours and is dependent on ripeness, variety, and cut up size of squash (smaller pieces cook faster).  Really easy right?  I must warn you, it will start smelling really good towards the end and you will want to serve some of that for dinner!

Once soft throughout, take out of oven and cool for 15 minutes.  Use a knife or spoon to scrape the flesh from the shell.  At this point it is perfectly useable in recipes and for dinner.  I take it one step further.  I press it through my cone shaped food mill with a wooden pusher (that is ages old, but works like a charm!).  That takes all of a few minutes.  You can use any type of food mill you have.  Voila!  Yellow Gold! 

Make pumpkin pie using eggs from your free range chickens (I do anyway); serve it with butter (or bacon grease) and salt/pepper for dinner; can it for future yums!!  It makes great sweet breads and even baby food.  You can even add brown sugar and butter for a great “Thanksgiving sweet potato” taste…

I promise to look the other way if you decide to add marshmallows to the top.

Squash we grew for the sense of humor in its name...Great Warty Thing. It is true to its name!

If you didn’t have the space to grow squash, it is incredibly reasonable to buy this time of year and stores until you have time to bake it.  I’ve even been known to bake the flesh of my jack-o-lanterns on Halloween eve.  Why not?  I’ve already gone through the work of removing the seeds and since I carve my pumpkins the day of Halloween, it is still fresh.  Waste not – Want not.

Bunny Laid an Egg!

Posted on

I know.  It isn’t Easter but it almost seems that way here.  Bunny worked magic and laid an egg last night.  I should mention that Bunny is a chicken.  Bunny’s story is humorous and inspiring.   She came to us on Easter morning this year as a practical joke.  A friend learned that we had aquired a chicken tractor and had ordered chicks.  He thought it would be funny to toss one of his old used up hens into the coop with some plastic easter eggs.   “She wasn’t good for anything but the frying pan anymore.”  She was rough looking and a bit dirty.

I woke up on Easter morning to one of my daughters at my bedside telling me that my chicken had scared her.  What?  A chicken?  Yes.  She said.  In the coop.  Of course I had to go look into this.  Sure enough.  There she was on a nest of pink, yellow and blue plastic eggs.  Angry as a wet….well…hen when I reached in to love her up a little.  As it turns out she believed she had laid all those eggs and when I removed them the next day.  She was ornery and wouldn’t get off her nesting spot.  When we figured out who put her in there, I asked him if she was lonely.  He laughed.  OK.  Evidently not lonely

As all of her drama was occurring, my baby chicks had arrived and were immediately put in a box in the shed under a heat lamp.  Bunny might have heard their cheeping as they where nearby her, gave no indication of it.  A few weeks later.  The weather was warm and the 8 little chicks had out grown their box.  Bunny seemed ornery still but I had finally gotten her flushed off her nest and wandering about the yard each evening. 

My baby “girls” were introduced to Bunny in her tractor.  I worried she would peck them to death.  I needn’t have

These little chicks couldn’t have known a better mother. 

Bunny took them under her proverbial wing.  She taught them what to eat as free range chickens.  Those little ones learned how to consume kitchen and garden scraps with relish.  I barely have to buy food for them.  She marches them into the coop every night to bed.  All I have to do is close the door.    

As summer has progressed, Bunny’s little girls have grown to tower above her.  She is a little white Brahma hen.  She has filled out and is a plump smooth sturdy little lady, but little she is.  The other chickens are a mix of leg horns and other large egg layer breeds….well there is one anomoly…but that is another story.  One chicken at a time.  She still ushers them about as the senior member of their little flock.  When a dog or cat happens through, she flaps and screeches and runs AT the threat to chase it away.  Pretty good for an old bird. 

Bunny is the little white hen in the rear at the coop doorway.

Guests at Bygone Basics have come to to love feeding the chickens as part of their visit.  Everyone loves Bunny’s uniquely feathered feet.  Her red comb and pure white body are even the colors of the Bygone Basics logo.  She became quite a pleasure to have, and a character too.

Last night, Bunny laid an egg. 

She went from a washed up old chicken who was no longer laying to a vibrant, healthy, contributing member of her society.  I wish I understood fully how this transformation happened.  We women sometimes find we have to move on and rediscover ourselves at various phases in our lives.   Bunny did it.  She was old, terrified, tired and useless….or so the people in her life thought.  She was tossed aside.  And landed in a strange environment.  She didn’t just lay down and die.  She transformed herself.  She made a community and gave herself completely to it.  She is now a beautiful and valued senior member of my little society of girls. 

In many ways I relate to my little fiesty Bunny.  Transformations are hard, but if a chicken can do it……

Bunny is the little white hen with the very red comb.