...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.


Stocking Up

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Milwaukee County Winter Farmers Market
Though the outdoor farmers' market season is nearly gone (except for the West Allis Farmers' MarketFondy Farmers' Market, and possibly a handful of others) the winter markets have begun.  Today marks the first day for both the Milwaukee County Winter Farmers' Market and the St. Ann Center Indoor Winter Farmers' Market).  Please patronize these venues now and throughout the winter and early spring where you can stock up on vegetables, meats, eggs, apples, honey, mushrooms, and much more.

Spiced Pickled Cauliflower
The past few weeks, even though our neighborhood farmer's market ended mid-October, I've been hitting the remaining markets around town.  It's time for me to finish stocking my freezer and pantry (though they would beg for me to stop!) and load up my cellar's wooden rack with squash, garlic, onions, potatoes, and nuts in the shell.  Believe it or not the canning kettle continues to boil around here.  I put up pickled cauliflower this week and still have some watermelon rinds (a "treat" my mom remembers from childhood) that I want to try pickling before the weekend disappears.  This past week was "use it or lose it" around here for a couple of days.  I had some potatoes from the summer that were badly sprouting, but I was determined to get what I could out of them.  I popped off the sprouts, boiled them all in highly salted water and have been adding them to soups, salads, and pizza(!) all week.  I put some into a breakfast casserole this morning and intend to make potato salad tomorrow.  One could also blanch and freeze cubed potatoes to fry up or use in a casserole, soup, or hash later in the season.  I also noticed that the couple bottom-of-the barrel winter squashes I bought at the market last month had developed a soft spot or two.  I peeled, seeded, and cubed these, steamed and pureed them before portioning in my mini-muffin pan.  These "cubes" will add a nutritious kick to a smoothie, muffin, cake, pasta dish, or soup this winter.

Crank it!
I'm also finally grinding the ornamental corn that was given to me by my mother to use as decoration this season.  I immediately saw it as food.  After a crop failure last year with my own ornamental corn, I never assembled the manual grain mill that I bought off eBay.  I finally dragged it out of the box and snapped it together (well, it wasn't quite a "snap," in fact, at one point, I thought I was going to break my sternum) and Vera helped me turn the crank as the corn ground between the plates.  Our operation was interrupted, as many of these projects are when a busy family is involved, but I plan to finish this coming week.  It will produce a fairly coarse meal that I could soak and use in baking or polenta.

Chippewa Wild Rice
Aside from stocking up at the market, I have acquired some other amazing seasonal foods from friends.  My husband's boss gave us a sample of wild rice--a different variety than I had seen before.  Apparently it's a single-source, hand-harvested wild lake rice from--appropriately--Rice Lake, MN that she acquired from the tribal rice buyer for the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe.  It's non-GMO, giving it a tender hull and a lighter color than the wild rice we're used to seeing commercially.  It cooked up incredibly quickly and made a delicious base for a fall vegetable stir-fry.  I may have to get my hands on more of this for our Thanksgiving table.

In other news, the holiday gift crafting has been underway for a good month already.  Last year I got a little too excited purchasing gifts and felt it in the pocket months later, not to mention these store-bought or online-purchased items--though some were solidly made--didn't have nearly the meaning that I'm hoping my handmade presents will this go-round.  Every year--save 2010 and the aforementioned "crazy"--I try to set some guidelines for my husband.  This time the (loose) rules are that NEW gifts have to be handmade (by oneself or another individual).  One could also purchase a secondhand present or a "service" instead of something material.  Let's hope this pans out.  Of course, I'm dropping most unsubtle hints to Ben already for the one thing I would like (I love that I can create and share a "Favorites" list on Etsy.)  More stories later about what I'm actually crafting, but let's say the sewing machine's been abuzz and the knitting needles have been clicking away.  I'm sure I'll burn some midnight oil before it's all said and done.  I have fond memories of my mother doing this for us around the holidays.  Hopefully it will be worth it when I see the smiles on the kiddos faces when they receive these lovingly made gifts.  On that note, I finally convinced Vera to wear a sweater vest I'd finished for her recently.  I told her I put a lot of love into it just for her.  When she put it on she said sweetly in her 2 1/2-year old voice, "Ooh, it's fuzzy!  Must be all that love!"  My heart melted.

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