Saturday, December 8, 2012

Officially a Family of Five

Long time, no write. Between taking care of children (and a husband) with yucky fall colds and the start of the holiday season, I haven't had much energy to sit down and write about life. We're all doing well, really; I am continuing to learn how to make the most of the few moments of free time that I have. 

Our baby boy is four months old now and we've made it official by having family pictures made at Okra Hill.  I love the results because Kate (who happens to have been my oldest son's preschool teacher last year) perfectly captured our family. Here are a few of the shots, though I'm saving the best to be printed before I share them online.

Our barns made perfect backdrops for the majority of our pictures. The boys are sitting in front of "Windy's Barn," which is the barn where our cat eats her supper. 

Remember how I've talked about these Tonka and John Deere dump trucks hauling everything? Look, it even hauls a baby! Don't worry, this hasn't gone on without my supervision (yet). If you're in the market for a dump truck, definitely consider the John Deere model. This one is played with every day and only recently had to be repaired (dump bed rusted off--if the boys would be more consistent about putting them up each day instead of exposed to the weather, that wouldn't have been a problem). 

I really wanted some pictures taken in the garden because we spend so much time there together. I love this one because L and M have mustard spinach stuck in their teeth and sugar peas in their hands. 

To me, our house is part of the family. Building it was almost like giving birth and it's already provided us with a wonderful space to live. So having a photo of us in the garden with the house in the background was another one of those shots I wanted to include in our shoot. We'll try this angle again next year when the lighting is different. 
All this said, I'll get around to updating this blog with all the lovely things growing and being harvested in the garden right now--carrots, beets, onions, garlic, kohlrabi, mustard spinach, kale, broccoli, cabbage, and collards. Yum!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Pumpkin Pancakes for Fall

It's fall on our hill. With the winds of last week, the trees' leaves are steadily falling. Our chickens are molting. And there's a crispness to the air that we don't get to experience for very long in South Carolina. 
Our house is looking very settled in now.

And since it's fall, it's time for all things pumpkin. Saturday I roasted a pumpkin we had grown (volunteer) and stored the pumpkin puree in the fridge. 

Back when I was pregnant with my second son, Ashley's cousin Martin invited us over for breakfast one morning. He made the best pancakes, which motivated me to try to learn how to make pancakes (in the past mine would burn, be too dense or not flavorful). I'm been making the White Lily pancake recipe with consistently good results. This morning I used that recipe with tips from King Arthur Flour on how to make pumpkin pancakes.

Here's my Pumpkin Pancake recipe (updated 10-4-2013):
1 1/4 c self-rising flour (I'm excited about the SRF from KAF --will order some soon)
2 T sugar
1/4 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. ginger
dash of nutmeg
* Whisk these in a bowl.

In separate bowl, combine:
1 c milk (less if your pumpkin puree is more watery)
1/2 c. pumpkin (you can use canned or roasted, depending on what you have)
1 egg, slightly beaten
Dash of vanilla extract

Add milk mixture to flour mixture. Whisk together. I made the pancakes on my griddle, the temperature between 325 and 350. I loved them, as did the boys (especially since I made them in Mickey Mouse/bear shapes).

Friday, November 2, 2012

Fun at the Fair

A few weeks ago, the South Carolina State Fair opened. Since we live near the capital city, we always try to go. Last year was my first time entering goods into the fair and I won two blue ribbons (dill pickles and molasses-ginger cookies) and one second place (brownies). Though it may seem silly to some people, I really am proud of my ribbons. As a stay-at-home mama, I don't receive much outside recognition for the work I do around the house so the ribbons in my pantry remind me that I do know what I'm doing sometimes! All that said, I entered 6 things into the fair this year: dill pickles, pickled beets, strawberry jam, brownies, molasses-ginger cookies (these go in the "drop cookie" category), an apron, a bag and a pillow. 

My dill pickles won blue again this year.

My pickled beets also won a first prize!

As did my molasses-ginger cookie. We all love looking at these old cases filled with baked goods. It's neat to think about all the folks who have entered things over the years. So three blue ribbons (and $19 in prize money...I'll be sure to not spend it all in one place..ha!) for Okra Hill Farm. 

Seeing the exhibits is always a highlight but this year we chose to take the boys on some of the amusement rides. All five members of our family rode the Ferris wheel (the baby is riding in my front carrier). 

The view from the top of the Ferris wheel--that's Williams Brice stadium in the background, where the University of South Carolina Gamecocks play. 

Our 2 year old and 4 year old had their first ride on a few other kiddie rides. 

A few days after the fair concluded, I had to go back to the fairgrounds to pick up everything and my blue ribbons. Here's a little photo shoot of these two winners (I threw the cookies away because they were hard as bricks after being on display for almost two weeks). 

 Fair season always signals the beginning of fall and we're certainly having fall now--the leaves are changing and we've had blustery winds all week. More later on the goodness growing in the garden. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Farewell Okra of 2012

The okra season is a long one--four months here on our hill. We've enjoyed having it with our meals, sharing it with friends and family, and marveling at how well it produces (and really isn't bothered by pests). As a farewell to this vegetable, I thought I'd share that we do indeed eat okra in one of the most traditional ways--fried! We really don't fry much food at our house but a few weekends ago, Ashley cranked up our turkey fryer, using a smaller pot and made us a fried food supper. I'm smiling as I write this because the post I just completed was about how I've been eating salad all the time. Well, sometimes it's good to have some grease :o)

Ashley made catfish bites, fried okra and hushpuppies. Yum! 

I served this with grits, broccoli slaw, and radishes to cut the grease. 

Generally our boys like fried things, like chicken tenders, catfish and hushpuppies. But one thing they both did was pick the breading off the okra! No fried okra for them--they did this at a seafood restaurant a while back, too. Funny. 

But all growing seasons end and we were ready to be done with the okra. The stalks weren't producing as much and the okra growing wasn't as pretty as before (bumpy and funny, curved shapes). Saturday we measured the tallest stalks--89 inches!--amazing for something that grew from a seed. Things like this always remind me of how God provides for us so I looked up some verses about seeds. Read them here if you're interested. 

Our boys are such good workers in the garden, especially the oldest. I gave him the task of cutting down the okra and he neatly chopped them all down at the ground, laid them in a pile and then took them to the goats. 

I tried to get a picture of these two...and they're smiling and saying "CHEESE" but not looking at my camera. As usual. 

I'm so glad we have this garden for our family. Almost every evening Ashley is out there working with the boys and I bring the baby out if I have time after cleaning up from supper and before his bath. We've been rewarded by its bounty and the experience of it all. 

The beginnings of our fall garden

Our second fall of gardening has begun. We've already cycled through some of the plants (the first set of broccoli was eaten by deer; the second batch struggled; and Ashley decided he had planted the collards too early--they were eaten up with bugs). All that to say, our lettuces and greens are doing well!

Recognize this bunch of greens?

It's the top of a bunch of radishes. Although radishes are fun to pull (we love pulling root vegetables around here), we're not really fans of consuming very many. So we ate a few, gave away some and then treated the goats with the rest. The color is beautiful though!

 We have at least four types of lettuce growing. Yum! I've been eating salads every day (inspired by reading Eat to Live and watching Forks over Knives). Fresh lettuce from the garden is so much better than the stuff we can buy in the grocery store--and I know this hasn't been treated with any chemicals.  

We're also growing kale after enjoying the free kale we found along the highway in front of our house (strange, I know...but we live in a big farming area and trucks roll by all the time loaded down with boxes of produce--and occasionally stuff falls off at our house). 

Our favorite way to eat kale is making kale chips. There are a lot of recipes out there for this easy, nutritious snack. Basically you cut the kale up, removing the ribs. Toss with olive oil and salt (not too much--I usually use my hands to evening distribute the oil) and roast in the oven (one recipe says 275 degrees; I've also done 350). I use my wire rack on a cookie sheet method (how I make fries, too), which eliminates the need for turning the chips. The chips are done when they're crispy, around 10 minutes, depending on the temperature you selected. 

Tonight I tried Bobby Flay's sauteed kale. Yum! A great accompaniment to the shrimp, brown rice and okra supper. I plan to serve kale frequently while we have it. Read more about this "powerhouse" vegetable here

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Just Because You CAN Do Something...Doesn't Always Mean You Should

I've mentioned before- we love okra cooked all sorts of ways--steamed, grilled, fried, pan-roasted. And because of this love of our spiny vegetable, I was excited to find a recipe for okra cupcakes. I'm constantly trying new recipes and after reading through this one, I was intrigued. Okra and fennel? Sounded slightly bizarre but also potentially delicious. So I enlisted one of kitchen helpers and we got to work. First we had to food process the okra. 

The batter was fairly straightforward--but the consistency was kind of sponge-like. It tasted good (I always try my batter, eggs and all). 

And the cupcakes came out looking great. They tasted pretty good, too, right out of the oven. 
My 2 year old gobbled down a muffin and asked for more. I probably ate 2 when they were warm. But once they cooled down...I would have to say they were one of my least favorite baked goods that I have ever made. The okra taste was too much. Maybe if I had made the frosting to mask the flecks of okra it would have been OK. Who knows. I won't be trying the recipe again--and it proves that just because you CAN put okra in something sweet, doesn't mean you SHOULD. Back to the old standbys of okra preparation for me!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Bean Buffet (for the Goats)

In the last post I wrote that we were nearing that point of being done with beans. Well, we're officially done with them now! Ashley has taken down the panels....

And created a bean buffet for our hooved residents. 

Ziggy and Waylon have really enjoyed helping us out. I think they've finally earned their keep! 

 They've basically eaten the panels clean, leaving very little work for Ashley. Thanks, guys!

 In other Okra Hill sectors...the caladiums at the chicken house are beautiful! Ashley got a deal on three big boxes of these. It really adds beauty to the chickens' residence!

The fall garden is on its way. This picture was taken a week or two ago--now Ashley has plowed all of this up (except for the radishes and peas he planted). We'll plant beets, kale, lettuces, parsley and cilantro in this space. 

A disappointment last week...bugs ate up our sunflowers. Boo!

Ah, but the okra...oh the okra continues to grow! When I went out today, it was towering over me...maybe nearing 7 feet tall? We've had another great week of weather--really felt like fall~

That's Max, our rat terrier, with me. He's 10 years old and had been living with Ashley's parents for the past 2 years while we built this house and got settled in. We're happy to have him back with us (and from this picture, it looks like the feeling is mutual). 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Down in the Okra Patch

Have I mentioned how much we love okra? We didn't name our place Okra Hill Farm for nothing--this crop continues to produce. Although we're used to seeing these plants growing, most folks who visit our place for the first time always ask "Now, what's that growing right there?" pointing to the pretty pale yellow flowers. 

Okra is in the hibiscus family. Where the blooms are, an okra pod eventually arrives. 

You can see the various stages of the okra on this plant...pre-bloom (top), bloom (left), and small pod (right). 

We're not the only ones who enjoy the okra...

 I spent a few minutes researching online what these black ants are up to on the okra but I can't find a definitive answer. They don't appear to be harming the plant--and move away when I pick the pods. 

 Here are my three boys in the okra patch. We've jumped right back into the routine of going to the garden every morning, thanks to the stroller. It's hard to believe that I've been a mama of three boys for almost a month!

Oh and green beans...goodness, the green beans that just WON'T stop! I've been picking buckets full, trying to find people to take these off my hands. I hate to see the food go to waste--but at some point we're probably just going to pull up the vines and be done with them. I've finally mastered picking the younger, tender beans, which means no strings. We're spoiled by the "stringless" green beans we get at Publix (grocery store) and I don't always do the best job removing the strings before cooking the beans. I'm getting better though.

All this said, I think we may be nearing that "tired of green beans" point!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Ooodles of Okra!

We've pulled up the pink-eyed peas but the okra continues to produce (if I remember correctly, we were still enjoying fresh okra last September). Ashley has replaced the pink-eyed peas with broccoli and the corn with collards (32 plants each again!). 

And sunflowers! We have sunflowers! In seventh grade, sunflowers were big on my best friend Amanda and I's favorite image lists. They really are beautiful. 

After Ashley planted the broccoli and collards, he said he wished he had staggered the plantings so we wouldn't be overrun with the crops all at once. Oh well--next time we'll remember that! And notice the Tonka truck--like the wagon, these Tonka trucks are constantly being used in the garden by the boys. Ashley even had the idea that I could push one along with my feet so I could hold our newest addition in one hand and pick okra with the other. I haven't tried it yet, though!

Our grapes are also ripening--we're growing a classic Southern variety--muscadine. They're delicious and make for a sweet treat when I'm walking by and pop one in my mouth. 

We've had beautiful (aka, low humidity) weather this week. I'm sure the sweltering heat and humidity will be back but it's nice to have a break!