...Growing, Building, Cooking, Preserving, Crafting...

2006 began our urban homestead when I broke ground on a garden, which now includes perennial fruits, flowers, & many vegetable varieties. We dream of solar panels, keeping bees and hens. Until then we'll continue growing and preserving our own fruits and vegetables, building what we can for our home, cooking from scratch, and crafting most days.


Quality Time

Hometown Parade

My extended weekend jaunt south to my hometown was fantastic!  Saw lots of familiar faces, caught up with old friends, and bonded with my parents.  Amtrak is the best and we managed to slide through Union Station in Chicago without drama.  Thank goodness Vera is still light enough to ride in a Mei Tai while I pack-mule the rest of our luggage from train to train.  The Honeybee Festival had a bit to be desired, though I DID get my hands on a sleeve of locally made honey sticks--one of Vera's favorite snacks.  She oohed and aahed at all the tractors in the parade (coincidentally most of them were made in Wisconsin) and we also headed out to the county fairgrounds where we strolled around the "pioneer village," checked out the craft pavilion, and watched Vera ride the "Honeybee Express," a series of modified metal drums hitched to a Cub Cadet.  She loved it!

For some reason this made me crack up!
Native American beading at the pioneer village
Weaving with Beads

Though many things and people haven't changed a bit in the last 15 years I've been gone, there are also some new developments.  My parents have always been crafty and big d.i.y.ers, but their roles have taken a twist.  My dad, who is on the verge of being completely retired, has taken up building random garden art and baking the latest cake he spies in my mom's subscription of Taste of Home magazine.  I walked into the kitchen Friday morning and he was busy with the beaters whipping up a pecan upside-down coffee cake.  It was gorgeous!  He's always enjoyed cooking--he's famous for his lasagna and also makes a mean chili--but now he's jumping in feet first and baking from scratch.  I couldn't be more proud!  And my mom--aside from planting a garden the past two years--has been dedicated to taking piano lessons from the organist at my old church.  I can only hope to be as ambitious and have such a zest for life as these two when I'm in my 60s.  I guess they have to find something to keep them out of each other's hair as they will be home together more when my dad's through working.

Papa Doc the Domestic Divo

D's Pecan Upside-Down Cake

Original Garden Art
Used Windows, Scrap Wood, Old Paint, and a Rusty License Plate
for Character.  Now THAT'S upcycling!
Back at the homestead, things are cranking full steam again this week.  A friend and I made another visit to Brightonwoods Orchard today.  We wanted to give the kiddos time to play together--especially in that cool treehouse--and we hoped we'd get a chance to catch up ourselves.  The day trip ended with us nearly getting kicked out of Aeppeltreow Winery, also located at the orchard.  The kiddos were all over the place and--despite the owner's experience and understanding with rascally youngin's--we sensed we needed to leave before someone broke it and had to buy it.  But not before tasting some of their delicious sparkling apple and pear wines, dessert wines, and distilled spirits.

Trees so full of fruit you wonder how people in the world go hungry!
Taking some color-combo cues from nature
Making a run for it after escaping from the tasting room
My stovetop at any given time summer-fall--Busy!
And, of course, I walked out of there with another bag of apple seconds, which I'm cooking down right now into more sauce as well as green tomato apple pie filling for canning.  I made this pie filling according to the recipe a couple of seasons ago and really enjoyed it as the base for a dessert crisp.  I'm always looking for new and different ways to preserve the end of season green tomatoes.  There are still plenty of them on the vine.

I also purchased a pie pumpkin at the orchard with hopes of cooking it up for dinner.  I'd prepared soup the night before so I thought I'd try something new.  Immediately a lasagna popped into my head and I found a recipe soon after I got home.

Pumpkin and Swiss Chard Lasagna (Gluten-Free)
Serves 8-12

Cheesy Goodness!
Elbow noodles could also be substituted for the lasagna noodles to turn this into a sort of mac 'n cheese or, as I like to call it, "mac-asagna."  Also, consider adding homemade pumpkin puree to your favorite homemade mac 'n cheese recipe.

2 T. grapeseed oil
2 large onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large bunch Swiss chard, washed, stemmed, and roughly chopped
1 1/2 t. salt
1 t. ground black pepper
1 t. dried sage
1/2 t. ground nutmeg
2 c. homemade pumpkin puree*
15 oz. ricotta cheese
2 c. shredded or chopped mozzarella + few T. for top
1/2 c. Parmesan
3/4 c. cream or milk
12 gluten-free lasagna noodles (or regular lasagna noodles, if you like), pre-cooked

Heat a large skillet, add oil and heat over moderately low heat.  Cook onions, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 min.  Increase heat to medium-high and add chard, garlic, 1 t. salt, 1/2 t. pepper, 1/2 t. sage, and 1/4 t. nutmeg.  Cook, stirring a bit, until the chard is heated through, and no liquid remains in the pan, about 4 min.  Preheat oven to 400F.  In a medium bowl, mix together 2/3 of pumpkin puree, ricotta, mozzarella (minus 4 T. for top), Parmesan, and remaining 1/2 t. pepper, 1/2 t. sage, 1/4 t. nutmeg, and salt to taste.  In a 9x13-inch baking dish, spray or grease bottom to prevent sticking.  Lay 3 noodles in dish then spread 1/3 of pumpkin-cheese mixture over noodles.  Spread 1/3 of Swiss chard mixture over pumpkin.  Repeat this noodle-pumpkin-chard layering two more times, and to with final layer of noodles.  Combine remaining pumpkin puree and 3/4 c. cream or milk.  Pour evenly over top of lasagna, sprinkle with extra mozzarella.  Cover with foil an bake 40 min.  Remove foil and bake another 10 min. until golden on top.  Let cool slightly before slicing and serving.
*To bake and puree your own pumpkin: cut, seed, and slice (with skin) into 3-4 inch pieces, toss in oil, season if desired and roast at 450 degrees until tender (30-50 min, depending on thickness of slices).  Let cool a bit, remove from skin and cut into 1-inch chunks.  Puree in a food processor until smooth (with a little water of stock as needed).  Use immediately, refrigerate, or freeze.


Riding That Train...

Domestic Honey Bee
(Courtesy of cirrusimage.com)

Trying to squeeze in one more post before I run away for a few days.  Ben has to work, but then he'll have a stay-cation. Vera and I are hopping the Amtrak this afternoon to head south for my class reunion.  Final destination: Paris, IL.  I thought I could try to pull in some sort of seasonal food reference for a reunion theme as there are fruit/vegetable combinations that only intersect briefly as fall becomes winter and they haven't seen each other since last year.  But I'll leave that idea alone for now.  Along with our high school reunion this weekend is the Paris Honeybee Festival, one of two big festivals with parades that hit the town annually.  Funny how the Honeybee Festival has new meaning for me now that I'm learning about beekeeping.  It was never confirmed, but there was always a rumor that the local beekeepers released so many bees into the wild around the time of this festival to make it more..."festive."  We certainly noticed it on the Paris Tigers tennis court as we swatted them with our rackets and darted them for dear life.  In hindsight--and with my new knowledge of honeybee interest and activity--I'm pretty sure those were yellow jackets and not at all the busy bees who make sweet honey.  I hope that I'll get the chance to see some of these critters close-up or taste some local bee products as I try to catch up with old friends this between today and Monday.

My short-cut week left me no choice, but to get all my preserving and cooking done early.  I kicked out a batch of Cardamom Apple Butter and some applesauce after our excursion to the orchard on Monday.  And yesterday I prepared a few pints of Salsa Verde with our garden's tomatillos and green tomatoes.  I also had an "ah-ha" moment yesterday with some beans.  I've been growing more beans for drying this year and have plucked and shucked them as they dry on the bushes.  The red limas have been quite productive given their limited growing space, but I'm also growing regular lima beans.  It just occurred to me yesterday that I should blanch and freeze some of these like the quick frozen variety you'd find in your grocer's freezer.  We have about a quart so far and there appear to be at least that many more still in the garden.  Should be enough to at least make a modest side dish of succotash for Thanksgiving.

Blanched Limas
Our early-in-the-week dinner party was a lot of fun.  Monday night dinner, who'd a thunk it?  We kept it simple and enjoyed each other's company over wine and hearty food.  Vera loved all the attention, but I'm sure she would have been twice as happy if our friends had brought their kiddos.  The dessert sort of developed as I went along and I decided I'd share the recipe here.

Blonde Gingerbread with Brandied Peaches (Gluten-Free)
Serves 12

Adapted from Process This! by Jean Anderson.  Easy to prepare and dress up.  The photo here shows it with a dollop of Cardamom Apple Butter and ice cream.

Perfect cool-weather dessert
1 c. brandied peaches, chopped (I used home-canned, you could substitute just about any fruit here) Reserved juices from brandied peaches
1 3/4 c. gluten-free all purpose flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. xanthan gum
1 c. xylitol or granulated sugar
1 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. ground nutmeg
1/2 t. salt
1/4 c. coconut oil (or butter), melted
1/4 c. vegetable oil
3 T. sorghum syrup
1 extra large egg
1 t. pure orange oil (or 2 t. orange extract)
1 t. baking soda
1 c. buttermilk
Extra brandied peaches for garnish
Vanilla Ice Cream
Toasted Hickory Nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour 9 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan well.  Place brandied peaches in large mixing bowl and set aside.  Pulse flour, sugar, spices, and salt in food processor 3-4 times to combine, then transfer to bowl of peaches.  Toss peaches in dry ingredients until evenly dredged, then make well in center of dry ingredients.  Add melted coconut oil/butter, sorghum syrup, egg, and orange oil/extract to food processor.  Quickly stir baking soda into buttermilk, pour down feed tube, and pulse 4-5 times until all ingredients are well blended.  Pour sorghum mixture into well in dry ingredients and gently fold wet ingredients into dry--okay if floury specks show, they'll disappear during baking.  Pour batter into prepared pan and spread to corners.  Bake until springy and tester inserted in center comes out clean, 35-40 min.  Cool to room temp.  Cut into large squares and serve in with extra chopped peaches, a little of the brandied peach juice (put in bottom of serving bowl), a scoop of ice cream and toasted hickory nuts.


A Feeling in the Air...

Bin of Jonamacs

Brightonwoods Orchard
Now that the official first days of fall are moments away, I believe I'm in the mood.  I wake up to chilly mornings with visions of walks in the woods through the fallen leaves, baking with apples as the aroma of cinnamon hangs in the air, hunting for the perfect pumpkin at a local farm, and wrapping up in a handmade scarf or sweater.  Call me a romantic, but the changing seasons do this to me.  Hopefully, these visions will become realities and not just a reflection of what should have been as we then cross to the next season.

This morning Vera and I were destined to get in the autumnal mood as we road-tripped down to Burlington, WI to visit Brightonwoods Orchard.  This jaunt was partly pleasure, partly necessity as I showed up to get my whippings with a wet noodle for not picking up my special order of apple seconds at our neighborhood farmers' market over the weekend (there was a domestic communication breakdown preventing me from getting the confirmation that my apples would be waiting for me on Saturday.)  I like to think that everything works out for the best; I was glad to visit the orchard firsthand because Vera got to check out the barns, bins of apples, pumpkins, cider, and the orchard, while I enjoyed the drive down country roads full of sunchokes and blink-of-an-eye drive through Paris, WI (another second class Paris like my own hometown of Paris, IL.)  We came home loaded down with tens of pounds of the slightly less than perfect apples to make sauce, butter, freeze, and bake fresh; gallons of fresh unpasteurized cider, a bag of homegrown popcorn as well as some hand-shelled hickory nuts (which are worth the pretty penny you'll pay.)
Wandering through the orchard
The world's most awesome treehouse!
My weekly meal prep. and recipes have taken a shift with the seasons as well.  Though we're still welcoming the homegrown tomatoes that make it into the kitchen, we're also ready for some heartier, heavier vegetable varieties.  Tonight we're hosting a sort-of-impromptu dinner for some friends in town for the weekend from northern Illinois.  They escaped their organic farm in the Chicago environs to get away to our fair city for the weekend.  (I love that people see Milwaukee as a "destination.")  I'm keeping it fairly simple this evening though I know our hard-working friends who raise most of their own food will appreciate every drop and every bite:

Chickpea and Turnip Cobbler
Kohlrabi Slaw
Gingerbread w/Homestead Brandied Peaches, Vanilla Ice Cream, and Toasted Hickory Nuts

I look forward to catching up, kicking back, and perhaps even leaving some clean-up for tomorrow (though this is doubtful given my and my husband's mild obsession with tidiness.)  I love hosting dinner and I hope this one kicks off another season of Sunday dinners with close friends.

And with fall is looming, the canning kettle is still working full tilt.  Since late last week I put up the last of our crushed tomatoes, roasted half-sharp red and yellow peppers, pickled green peppers with ginger, homemade barbecue sauce, and stuffed bell peppers.  We didn't get to freezing the stuffed peppers last year, which is usually something Ben handles--it's one of the perfected dishes in his humble repertoire.  I gave it a try this time as I was "power-cooking" yesterday in preparation of a getaway with Vera this coming weekend when Ben will have to fend for himself on leftovers.  

Peppers for roasting over an open flame
It's messy, but it works on the stovetop

Stuffed Bell Peppers
Serves 4 (w/ leftover filling)

Grain and Meat Mixture for Stuffing
I was able to use a couple of our homemade items as components for this dish--what didn't fit into the canning jars.

4 large red or green bell peppers, tops removed, seeded and veins taken out
1/2 c. quinoa
1/2 c. millet
1/2 c. red lentils

2 T. beef fat, oil, or butter
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic

1 lb. ground bison (or lamb, beer, chicken, etc.)
1/2 c. roasted red peppers, diced
1 1/2 c. (homemade) barbecue sauce, divided
salt and pepper, to taste

Blanch hollowed peppers in simmering water for 4 min.  Place immediately in an ice bath to cool.  Pat dry.  In the meantime, combine the quinoa, millet, and lentils in a medium saucepan, cover with water and a lid and cook until tender.  Heat the fat/oil in a large skillet, add the onions and garlic and saute until tender.  Add the ground meat and cook completely.  Mix in the diced red peppers.  Turn off the heat and add up to 1 c. barbecue sauce.  Mix completely until combined and desired consistency is reached.  Add grain/lentil mixture and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Fill peppers with meat mixture so that it's mounded over the top.  Dollop remaining barbecue sauce on top.  Freeze in a shallow pan until solid then pack into freezer bags, or bake until heated through in a 350 degree oven, about 10-15 min.

Wild Rice Dish
My power cooking yesterday wasn't just the frenzied, make-it-bake-it-all chaos it sounds like.  Ben gave me the gift of a few hours in the kitchen where I could leisurely and lovingly prepare a well-rounded Sunday dinner for my family: Ham Loaf, Wild Rice with Carrots and Raisins, Green Salad with Oregano-Cumin Dressing, and Lemon Rice Pudding for dessert.  I tried a new ham loaf recipe that's not as "sweet" as the last one I've posted on my blog.  I stumbled across a food processor cookbook at the library and found the recipe.  As much as I love to cook from scratch and chop, slice, and dice everything, you may have noticed that I also love my Cuisinart.  In order for me to prepare as much quantity scratch food as I do while chasing a 2-year-old, I need a little helper.  This recipe makes it easy to whip up a meatloaf in no time.

Ham and Sausage Loaf with Capers and Lemon
Serves 10-12 (makes 2 loaves)

Adapted from Process This! by Jean Anderson.  Fortunately I had all of the main ingredients on hand and adapted it to be gluten-free and with a little extra fiber.

1 1/2 lbs. ground smoked ham (you can grind in the food processor)
1 lb. ground pork
1 c. rolled oats
1 t. dried lemon peel
1/2 c. lightly packed parsley sprigs and tender stems
2 t. dried marjoram
1/2 t. dried thyme
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 t. dry mustard
1/4 t. ground black pepper
1 c. whole milk
1/2 lb. bulk sausage meat (not too sagey, not too peppery)
1/4 c. ketchup (or homemade barbecue sauce)
2 T. well-drained small capers (or homemade "Midwest capers")
2 large eggs
6 slices smoked bacon, halved crosswise, optional

Preheat oven to 350F.  Coat two standard loaf pans with oil or butter and set aside.  Place ground ham and pork in a large mixing bowl.  Put oats in food processor with lemon peel and pulse to combine.  Add herbs and pulse to mix.  Add this mixture to meats.  Drop coarsely chopped onions into processor with mustard, pepper and pulse.  Add milk and broken up bulk sausage and pulse to combine.  Add ketchup/BBQ sauce, capers, and eggs and pulse quickly 3-4 times.  Transfer to mixing bowl ad mix thoroughly with your hands.  Pat the ham mixture firmly into prepared pans and lay the bacon strips across the top, overlapping them slightly.  Bake uncovered until instant-read thermometer, inserted in center of loaf, reads 170F, about 1 1/4-1 1/2 hours.  Cool the ham loaf slightly before slicing.  Cut and serve.

What's next on the urban homestead?  Making applesauce and butter this week, crossing things like salsa and turnip chips off my to-do list, and kicking back to enjoy the last months of the garden.


Getting Ready for Fall

Good Morning Lakefront--I've always loved you so 
Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy
View from the playground
I know it's technically still summer, but I am absolutely loving this taste of cooler, fall-like weather.  Not only is it keeping me motivated to can--perfect weather to turn on the kettle and think about winter creeping closer--but the morning sun has been gorgeous.  We took an early morning walk along the lake last week and I wanted to cry with happiness.

A cold dip before cooking
The beautiful sunshine carried into the weekend as Vera and I headed down to our CSA farm to pick paste tomatoes.  She knows her colors so I told her to only put the reddest fruits into the bucket; it was a bit too late as a few green and "orange" ones snuck in before my instructions set.  We spent Saturday and Sunday canning crushed tomatoes--I have about 2/3 of my 30+ quart par stock put up already this season (found some yellow paste toms at the farmers' market last week which made a gorgeous sunshine-colored sauce.)  We also canned some Pickled Chinese Long Beans, which I'm crazy about both in how the horizontal spirals of beans look on the pantry shelf as well as the brine ingredients--nice and sour with a touch of hot and warm spices.

Chinese long beans
Those are some LOOOOONG beans
Spiraling them into the pint jars
Ready to marinate for a few weeks...
Ready for my close-up

Fairy Tale eggplants
I've been addicted to making the rounds at local farmers' markets lately too.  We usually hit the West Allis Farmers' Market when I need to get fresh produce mid-week for a preserving class.  But last week we went on a whim and I found the most adorable mini eggplants--the variety is called "Fairy Tale."  I couldn't do them justice in the Asian-inspired saute I made to serve over brown rice and red lentils.  I would love to find a recipe to preserve them whole.  What is it about tiny vegetables that makes them so attractive in this way?  Last Thursday Vera and I hit the South Milwaukee Downtown Market where we picked up fresh eggs, the aforementioned Chinese long beans, as well as some perfectly plump locally grown red grapes--and seedless to boot!  V had just been asking for red grapes that day because she found the green ones I'd recently purchased at the co-op to be too "sour" for her taste.  Local red seedless grapes = happy mommy AND toddler.

Local seedless red grapes--perfect snack!

After my comments on the Squash-a-mole recipe last week I bought more oversized summer squash to roast, puree, and freeze.  I am still finding new ways to use this delicious "sauce."

Sauteed Broccoli and Garlic with Squash-a-mole Sauce over Pasta
Serves 4

Broccoli portion of recipe adapted from 1000 Vegetarian Recipes by Carol Gelles.

Tasty through and through
Prepared Squash-a-mole (1-2 c.)
4 servings Pasta (I used Tinkyada GF Spinach Spaghetti), cooked al dente in highly salted water
1 T. grapeseed oil
4 c. broccoli florets
1 T. minced garlic
1/8 t. red pepper flakes
3 T. water
Salt, to taste

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the broccoli, garlic, and red pepper flakes; cook, stirring, until tender-crisp, about 4 min.  Add the water and salt; cook, stirring, until the liquid has evaporated and the vegetables reach the desired doneness, about 3 min. longer.  Add squash-a-mole and toss to combine.  Serve over warm pasta.

I've been in a list-making mood lately.  I made my fall/winter knitting project list--leaving room for impromptu projects, especially after the stash of gorgeous wool skeins my mom just dropped off from a rummage sale score.  I also made my end-of-season list of what I still want to preserve.  The clock's a tickin' and there's still lots to do.  Hopefully I can take time to enjoy the weather, my daughter, my family, and the garden in the midst of all the hot-water-bath canning.  Though spending the day in the kitchen also makes me very happy--and this weekend as a batch of tomatoes was processing and V was napping, I sat and did a jigsaw puzzle--another one of the simple pleasures in my life.

An hour or two of entertainment for me cost a whole 40-cents


Preserving Marathon

Sweet and Sour Pickled Carrots all from our garden

Beginnings of Eggplant Tomato Relish
After typing that post title, I had a thought--wouldn't it be fun to have a preservation marathon sometime?  Like an all-night dance marathon, but with batches and dozens of jarred local fruits and veggies to show for it.  Well, we may not have plans for an official activity, but the majority of my weekend seemed like good training for such an athletic event.  I'm self-diagnosed with "Obsessive Preserving Disorder."  Maybe they will give me my own reality show to air right after "Obsessive Hoarders."  I was on such a roll from Thursday through Sunday and I can't say I minded for a single second being in a hot kitchen that long.  I love cooking and preserving and could do it all day!  Thursday I put up Eggplant Tomato Relish and into the weekend I finished Cantaloupe Jam, Persian Pickled Beans, canned tomatoes for my CSA farmers, Sweet and Sour Spiced Pickles, blanched and frozen green and yellow beans from our garden, and "Souper Mix"--an herb combo to use in soups...surely I'm forgetting something.  The soup seasoning mix is a great way to preserve herbs and could be adapted to your liking.

Souper Mix
Makes 3-4 8-oz. jars

Adapted from the River Cottage Preserves Handbook.  When using, keep in mind that this is a very salty mixture intended to sit in for your usual sea salt, kosher salt, of regular table salt.  Add gingerly to start. Wash, trim, and peel (when necessary) vegetables.  Keep in mind that this book says to seal it and put it on a shelf, but I'm not convinced--even with the salt content--that it's a shelf-stable product.  I suggest freezing.

9 oz. leek
7 oz. fennel (I used the fronds and tender stems)
7 oz. carrot
9 oz. celery (with leaves) or celery root
2 oz. dried tomatoes
Frozen in saved glass peanut butter jars
2 or 3 garlic cloves
3 1/2 oz. parsley
3 1/2 oz. cilantro
3/4 c. plus 1 T. salt

In batches, process all ingredients in a food processor until well blended.  The result will be a moist, granular paste.  Spoon into sterilized jars, allowing about 3/4-inch headspace.  Screw on lid tightly and freeze.  To use: stir about 1 t. into 1 c. of hot water before adding to soups, casseroles, stews, etc.

Another recipe on my list this past weekend was "Squash-a-mole."  Nothing like guacamole, but very much tasting like roasted corn-a-mole.  I'm not usually a follower of celebrity chefs, but as I was waiting for a massage on Friday I flipped through a copy of Rachel Ray's magazine and found this idea amid a slew of other summer squash and zucchini recipes.  And with the proliferation of those vegetables, who can't use another recipe idea?

Makes 4-6 servings

Adapted from Rachel Ray.  I used this as a spread inside some cheese/mushroom/olive/swiss chard quesadillas.  You could also use it as a garnish for the quesadillas, a dip, a southwestern pizza sauce, "pasta sauce," on grilled cheese, on bruschetta...the possibilities are endless.  I used one of those baseball bat size summer squashes to make this.  Typically at that size, they're not much use for anything but shredding for bread.  I am planning to bring home some more big'uns from the farmers' market later today and make a few batches to freeze.

1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 lb. yellow summer squash, sliced
1 lb. zucchini, sliced (you can also sub. more yellow squash)
1 yellow onion, coarsely sliced
6 unpeeled cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 c. grated parmesan cheese
1 c. toasted walnuts (could sub. pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, etc.)
2 T. fresh thyme leaves or 1 T. dried
Salt and pepper, to taste

Toss sliced squash and zucchini lightly in olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Place under preheated broiler for 20 min.  Tossing occasionally.  (They can also be grilled.)  Process all ingredients in a food processor and season to taste.  All I can say is yum!

So speaking of squash, I didn't know they grew on trees.  Actually, they only do that at our place.  My neighbor and I were lamenting earlier this season about how our winter squash plants seemed to be all male--there were no signs of fruits from any blossoms.  But then--patience people--a couple of weeks ago I finally found two starting to overtake our back lawn.  And just yesterday I saw that another one's vine had happily crept into the cherry tree and is dangling from a branch between our yard and our neighbor's.  Now we can both have a good laugh.  This will be the first year growing winter squash so I am excited to see how to cure and store them all winter.

Cushaw squash laying in the garden

...When Squash Grows on Trees...
I've also been busy shelling dry beans with the help of my little bean counter again.  The red limas have been extremely productive in their tiny space.  I harvested and shucked three more varieties today for a satisfying harvest thus far.

Clockwise from upper L: Red Limas, White Limas and Cannelini, Black Turtle Beans, Ireland Creek Annie
Ireland Creek Annie--heirloom beans I scored at a seed swap this year.  
Black Turtle Beans
Cannelini and White Limas
Last Wednesday night was the second annual Community Pie sharing event at the Washington Park bandshell during the summer concert series.  Our group prepared almost two dozen pies using fruit from across the city that would otherwise have gone to waste--mulberry, rhubarb, serviceberry, blueberry, strawberry, etc.  We enjoyed the bluesy sounds of Reverend Raven and the Chain-smoking Altar Boys while a diverse groups of folks enjoyed pie and danced.  We had some new helpers this year that I hope will stick around for upcoming fruit gathering and pie events.
New Pie All-stars: Hannah, Katie, and Rebecca.  Make that ROCK stars!

Community Pie--where everyone gets a piece of the pie!
Plenty to go around
One of my favorite people--local food activist and urban gardener,
 Sharon Adams from Walnut Way