Archive for the ‘gardening’ Category

This photo doesn’t begin to show how yummy these were. I used the biggest ones for the first meal. Most of them were about 1/2 – 2/3 this size. (Let’s pretend I didn’t take this picture.)

My folks were on vacation, and I was in charge of harvesting from their garden while they were gone. I came home with about a dozen zucchini, and no plans for it. I will eat sauteed or grilled zucchini, but I don’t like it too much.

If I could find a recipe that would let me hide the zucchini, use up some of the several dozen banty eggs from our hens, keep the meat out for “Meatless Mondays”, and will keep in the freezer for several more meals, it would be worth a try.

I discovered recipes for zucchini ravioli. My experience with ravioli is ala Chef Boyardee, which I loved as a kid. Homemade ravioli must be ten times better than anything from a can. So like a good cook, I first chose a 104 degree day to start this new cooking adventure! My plans were to flash freeze all of them because it was too hot to cook. But as I smelled the filling, I couldn’t help but fire up the oven and try them out the first night.

I started with this recipe as my guide, since I had never made pasta before. The how-to photos are very helpful:


While I’m sure this recipe is very good as written, I just can’t leave well enough alone. I always change recipes. Besides, the zucchini from this recipe was a little bit too visible for my picky self. I also had my heart set on marinara sauce.

So the variations to the recipe were as follows:

For the dough:

I use primarily whole wheat flour, although I did use a cup of white to help with the texture. We added rosemary and garlic directly to the dough. In our family you can’t have too much garlic. I also tripled the dough recipe. I don’t have a pasta maker and had to roll it out. I guess if I had a pasta maker, the dough would have gone farther.


1 extra large onion

1 1/2 heads of garlic

thyme, oregano, savory, rosemary

1 c. of pesto that I had frozen from last year

4 medium zucchini, shredded with the water squeezed out as best as possible. A cheese cloth would work great for this, but I used a strainer and my fist.

1/2 parmesan cheese

2 c. ricotta

2 c. mozzerella

a little bit of salt

This made a ton of filling. I think I would scale back a little bit on the cheese, but it is cheese after all. I still had at least a cup of the mixture left at the end of the process, so I dumped it into the marinara sauce. Yum! More cheese.

My goal is to trick the kids into liking this ravioli with the cheesiness. As they grow to like it, I’ll add more zucchini and scale back on the cheese. I’m also thinking that spinach would be tasty in the mixture too, but I didn’t have any.

Two or three raviolis with sauce and a salad made a delicious meal. I made a meal for 3 the first night, and had enough left-over ravioli for 2 gallon size freezer bags. If you flash freeze them and then store them in the freezer bags, you can pull out just what you need for the evening meal.

The process was time consuming, it took about 3 hours start to finish. Some of the time was letting the dough rest. But I love it when I can make more than one home cooked meal at a time. The process was fun and would make a great project with a couple of friends cooking for an afternoon, and splitting the bounty at the end.

The ravioli were pretty inexpensive too. I buy flour in bulk, used eggs from my chickens, herbs from my garden, and zucchini from my folks. The only pricey thing was the cheese which probably cost about $4-7. I think in the end I made about 70 medium/large raviolis. All of us were satisfied with 3 for the meal so that works out to about 40 cents per serving. I cheated a little with the sauce. I used sauce from the grocery at $1.49. By the end of the summer, I’ll have homemade sauce for free and for more yumminess.

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Each evening, as the sun is lighting my garden at it’s prettiest, I wander around my garden to see what’s blooming. And I talk to my flowers.

Some of you are thinking, “you do that too?  I thought I was the only one.”

The rest of you probably just think that’s crazy. It is.

For those of you that talk to your plants, I thought you might like to see what’s growing in my garden this week.

Let me introduce you to my friends:

Burgundy Penstemon

burgundy Penstemon or Beard Tongue

Burgundy Penstemon a.k.a. beard tongue: These bloom for quite a while. Penstemon are native to Indiana, but these are a cultivar. I like the foliage, and each year I’ll have a couple of baby plants from them. I deadhead very little because I like free plants.

Hot Pink Penstemon

Hot Pink Penstemon or Beard Tongue

Pink Penstemon: This is a short cultivar of penstemon. I love the hot pink blooms.  Anyone notice the dandelion?


Pinks or Dianthus

Dianthus: This is some sort of dianthus or pinks, although, I don’t know which one. It sort of looks like Sweet William, but it’s short. To the left is a coral bell with unusual leaves.  Growing through the plant is grass.  I guess I have some weeding to do.


Harebells or Campanula Rotundiflora

Campanula rotundiflora a.k.a. Harebells: Native to North America.  Last year I split them so I have them in several places in my front bed. They are light and airy.  The background blurry flowers are stock, an old-fashioned annual.

Clustered Bell Flower, Dane's Blood, or Campanula Glomerata
Campanula glomerata a.k.a clustered bell flowers, or Dane’s blood: These are native to Europe prairies and forest edges, but have naturalized themselves in North America. The deep purple is fantastic. It’s a perennial and it usually has lots of babies

Canterbuty Bells

Another campanula, this time, Canterbury Bells. They come in a variety of colors, but I have a thing for purple.


Purple Larkspur

Larkspur: a reseeding annual related to the perennial delphinium (they’re in the same genus). Mine have gone crazy in the garden, but I love them! This year, they are about 3 feet tall and are just starting to bloom. I’ve decided to stop trying to buy delphiniums, and just let the larkspur take off. There’s only one thing not to love –they are poisonous, so don’t plant them in a field with grazing animals or if you have curious toddlers.  In the back are sherbet colored tall snapdragons.

Jackamani Clematis

Jackamani Clematis: huge, purple, and prolific, this thing has climbed all the way up the front post on my porch. I love it, but make sure it has room. Apparently the trick for clematis is shaded roots and sun on their leaves.

Purple Columbine

Purple Columbine: I posted this flower last month too. It just won’t quit! It’s about 3 feet tall. A section of it that I moved this spring is only about 18 inches high. The flowers are about 2 inches across. It’s very large for a columbine.

David Austin English Rose

David Austin Rose -Carding Mill

This rose is an early birthday present from my folks. It’s a beautiful David Austin Rose called Carding Mill. The deep peach with blue love-in-a mist (nigella) are just spectacular.

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I gave away lots of love-in-a-mist plants. It’s a reseeding annual that is just now blooming. They are very easy to grow.

Last week, some old friends and a few new ones, gathered at my house for a potluck of sorts.

The instructions were to bring at least two of the following: wine, dessert, flowers, seeds, or more flowers.

At seven o’clock, ten of us gathered, for what will be the first of many dessert and flower potlucks.

Jane and Molly brought Scotcheroos. Rachel brought a Rhubarb and Raspberry coffee cake with coconut ice cream. Claudia brought rose water cupcakes with pink icing swirled on top. I made a flourless chocolate cake with strawberry sauce; and Marlys brought a terramasu coffee liquor torte –yes, it was amazing.  All of it was amazing.

Anika and a couple of others brought wine. Mary and my mom brought a double share of flowers.

After sitting on the back deck sampling the desserts, we took a tour of my veggie garden and flowers.

And then it was time to share flowers.  There were dozens of plants to be traded.  At least three of the attendees were relative newbies to gardening, but they provided treats and desserts, so we provided them with flower starts and gardening advice.  Any experienced gardener knows, that you shouldn’t have to buy basic hostas, stella doro daylilies, or coneflower, as these all spread pretty well.

Everybody left with at least a few new plants for their gardens.  The newbies probably ended up with the most, but that’s fine.  We got them off to a good start.  Now they can spend their extra gardening budget on unique flowers for next year’s exchange!

I fully planned on taking photos of the dessert spread, and of handing out plants, but I got so engrossed in what I was doing, I completely forgot.   You’ll just have to imagine a gaggle of happy gardeners (and future gardeners) high on too much sugar and giddy with their new flowers.

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April Flowers

All of my flowers are blooming early this year.  I have a blossom on my clematis, and buds on my roses and peonies.  It’s just crazy.

I went out and took some photos of what’s in bloom this evening.  Enjoy!

The daffodils are almost finished.


I like the combination of the bright orange geum and the Montana blues in the background.


This is the first full-size iris of the year. My dwarf iris are already done blooming.


These Montana blues were originally given to me by my favorite former neighbor, Jeanette.




The teeny tiny lilacs we planted two years ago are finally starting to bloom.


Don't be raniculus! I used to have these planted with forget-me-nots, and they looked grand. For whatever reason, I can't get forget-me-nots to grow at this house.


We have plenty of dandelions that are creeping over from the neighbor's bright yellow yard.


Sage with tulips.





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I am back in the heirloom tomato plant business.  Years ago, when I had my farm, I grew about 50 varieties of tomato plants and fruit for the farmers market.

Even since selling my farm, I always seem to start too many plants for myself.  Also, this year, Prairie Farm won’t be selling heirlooms as she has closed her business.  Hopefully, this will fill a gap for some of the Goshenites that love a good heirloom.

The plants are off to a good start, and I’ve been doing a lot of transplanting.  Some of the varieties are very limited quantities.  I may even have a few pepper, broccoli, and brussel sprout plants as well.

I’m taking pre-orders.  Some of the varieties I have fewer than 20 plants.  So if you want to make sure to get what you want, you’ll want to pre-order by April 15th.  The cost is $2.50 per tomato plant.  If you buy 10 or more, it’s $2.00 each.  The other veggies will be $2.00 per 3 pack.

To pre-order, send me a message jennyfrech at gmail dot com.  You can either specify what type you want or send me your qualifications for plants (ie. 2 cherry plants for pots, 3 yellow slicers, and 5 good sauce tomatoes) and I’ll pick out some yummy ones for you.  I’ll transplant your order for you, and it should be ready by the first week in May.  You can pay when you pick up.  I am also open to bartering if you have an idea for a trade, let me know.

Here are the varieties I have this year.  All of them have information online if you need more information.  ** means that these are in very limited quantities.

Heirloom tomatoes

Just a few of my tomatoes from my farmer's market days.


Bonny’s Best


Cour di Bue

Polish linguisa**


Cherry Tomato


Yellow Riesentraube

Jaune Flame (big orange cherry)**

Isis Candy**

green grape

grapoli di inverno (winter keeper)


Japanese Black Trifele

Rio Grande

Cherokee Purple

Gold Medal (yellow)

Green Zebra**

Aunt Ruby’s German Green**

Fantom du Laos (white)

orange minsk**

Amana Orange**

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I haven’t yet taken any time to talk about some of my favorite blogs.  I mention them from time-to-time, but I’d like to do a formal introduction.  That way you don’t miss out on important, useful, or useless but funny information.  I follow several, but we’ll start with these…

Jennifer by a table that Steve made for her (photo from The Common Milkweed)

The Common Milkweed

This is a great site for gorgeous photos of nature and gardening, for getting ideas of how to repurpose your junk, and to watch the transformation of a little rundown country house into a dream homestead.  The posts are simple, full of great ideas for living simply and green, and for inspiration.  They’ve linked back to my site, and I get daily traffic from them.  If you enjoy my blog, then you definitely need to head over to check out theirs.

I met Jennifer and Steve exactly one time at a teeny craft sale where we were selling our wares.  We became facebook friends, checked out one another’s etsy sites, and started following one another’s blogs.  Even though we only know one another through the blogs, I’m pretty sure they’re part of my tribe.

Photo from Chicken Nugget Lemon Tooty - Visit this site for a smile 🙂

Chicken Nugget Lemon Tooty

This is a blog that features the artwork of children.  Their dad is an artist that encourages his kids to be creative, and creative they are.  I was introduced to this blog through the friendly rock street art his kids were doing.  It’s a joyful little blog that makes me happy.

My daughter also likes the shadow puppet theatre that his kids performed for the book, When the Mountain Meets the Moon.

The Marvelous In Nature

If you love nerdy nature notes, then this is the blog for you.  Seabrooke Leckie is an author and illustrator for Peterson Field Guides.  She just finished a new guide on moths. Her blog documents her daily walks.  Her curiosity leads the reader into new discoveries.  Recently, she has shortened her blog posts, but still worth reading if you are a nature nut like me.

Stay tuned for more blogs that I love!

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“If people let the government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.” ~Thomas Jefferson

Pastured Pig © Jenny Frech 2010

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that sustainable agriculture is an important issue to me.  I worry about the state of our food systems, not just in the U.S., but all over the world.

Last December, Congress passed Bill S. 510 the Food Safety and Modernization Act, and President Obama signed it into law in January as Public Law 111–353.  As a supporter of local agriculture and food choices, I tracked it down online.

It doesn’t sound too bad.

Basically S. 510 gives the USDA the right to inspect, require additional paperwork for traceback purposes, and regulate all farms and hold them to a set of standards.

Luckily, The Tester Amendment passed along with it, which leaves some provisions for small farms that sell directly to the customer.  My biggest concern with this law is some wide open wording which could allow the USDA to regulate seed savers as well if they choose to do this.

It’s very confusing, and I read a lot about this stuff!

There are mixed reviews.  Some say that this regulation will hurt small farmers, some say it will help.  Some say that this regulation will keep people safer, others think we will lose some of our rights to food freedom.

Sure, I want my food that I have to buy at the grocery to be regulated and watched.

I’d love to be able to know if the food I’m going to eat is free from pathogens.  But food is biotic (meaning it comes from a living thing).  Living things have bacteria and pathogens.   Sometimes we forget that not all bacteria is bad.  I’m not sterile on the inside, I’d prefer my food to not be sterilized by bleach or other sterilization techniques.

We stand a better chance of pathogen free food if our food passes through fewer hands, travels a shorter distance, and goes through fewer processing steps.  I’d like to maintain the choice of buying as much of my food locally (from smaller producers) as possible.

This law doesn’t add to my confidence level about the future of our food.

I worry that:

1. big agribusiness will have the upper hand after this law is signed.

It’s easier for corporate farms to swallow the costs associated with the new regulations.

2.biodiversity of our food system is at stake.

Reading between the lines, some food biodiversity advocates are afraid that the USDA will be able to restrict seed savers. In Iraq and some places in Africa, it is illegal for farmers to save the seed they’ve grown for decades because it doesn’t meet the standards set by the government, which forces farmers to buy Big Ag seed.

3. our food choices will be reduced.

I’m not trying to say that everyone needs to run down to the farmer’s market every weekend, but I sure like having the right to do so.  Farmer’s markets are even starting to help lower income individuals eat healthier nutrient dense foods in the form of WIC vouchers, community based garden plots, urban farms, and donations from farmers.

4. the USDA is contradictory.

They give farm subsidies to grow corn for high fructose corn syrup, but yet, we have a generation of obese children.  I’m not sure that I completely trust them in the area of making sure that the food we eat is not detrimental to our health.

5. GMOs are polluting our ecosystems.

Once GMO DNA is out in the environment, there is no cleaning it up.  This has been devestating for Mexico that depends on the wild Maize to cross pollinate its crops.

6. I might lose the right to save seeds from my garden, and buy seeds from my favorite small seed catalogs or from other small growers.

I feel like we are moving to a synthetic food system, one that encourages us to eat tasteless, nutrient-deficient food.  In just a few generations, we have forgotten that chicken really does have it’s own flavor; egg yolks should be bright orange, not yellow; tomatoes come in all shapes and colors, and should not bounce; and baked goods made from wheat should be brownish with texture, not white and fluffy.

Like Thomas Jefferson, I don’t want some stuffed shirt to tell me what I can and can’t grow, buy, or eat.  

I want fresh, unadulterated food, Darn it.

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