Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Got Veggies...You've got SOUP!

Hello from Red Gate Farm!
We are into week 7 of our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) season.  We have 11 more weeks to go and I'm already a little sick of sautéed vegetables in olive oil.  I am also pretty tired of grilling and roasting.  
My counter is lined with squash, zucchini, onions and tomatoes and a few small ears of corn.  I am ready to claim my counter back and use up these beautiful fresh veggies before they go to waste.  Even though it is close to 90 degrees here today, I am CRAVING vegetable soup. 
I know how hard we work to produce and harvest our vegetables.  I've been wanting to write a post that is a look into a "day in the life" of a vegetable farmer.  I swear if you could just live that day through my words, you would never want to waste anything simply out of respect for the work it takes to get it to your table.  I really have great anxiety over throwing away a week old squash or even an ugly tomato that may have a few bad spots.  It just seems like an incredible waste.  If it's on my counter, it's in the pot!
I like making soups for a variety of reasons.  One of my favorites is vegetable soup, primarily because it is very forgiving if you are not a seasoned cook.  I don't really worry about getting ingredients right or making sure I've measured out vegetables/spices properly.  I go with what TASTES right.  Like the RONCO commercials, "you can set it and forget it"!  Soup is better when left to simmer all day.  It is like fine wine, it gets better with age. I guess another big reason I'm a fan of soup is because you can make a pot large enough to last a few days. My husband is not picky and will eat left overs for days.  God love him! 
I typically pair my soup with a grilled pimento cheese sandwich.  Oh BABY, you have not lived until you've tried one of these!  It's super easy to make.  I am not a recipe follower so you'll have to rely on the ole taste buds to guide you.  Here are the ingredients:
Sharp Cheddar Cheese
Crumbled Bacon
1/4 tsp of sugar
Pimentos (drained and diced)
Scant amount of onion (optional, sometimes I do...sometimes I don't)
Scant amount of salt
If you find yourself in a pickle to use up aging veggies or are just looking for an alternative to roasted/sautéed veggies....RED GATE GAL is here to SAVE the day!  I'm listing out ingredients, not a recipe so to speak for vegetable soup.  Really...this is how I made my soup today.  Get a little creative and just let your taste buds do the cooking.  I'd love to hear how your soup adventure turns out! 
Squash cut into small cubes
Zucchini cut into small cubes
Onion (2 small)
Corn (I just cut kernels off a few small ears that I had)
Potatoes (used red and yellow, cut in small cubes)
Tomatoes (I peeled 6 medium and cut in various size pcs.)
Okra (you can use frozen or fresh)
1 large clove of garlic
2 small cans of tomato paste
1 small can of tomato sauce
3-4 cups of water
1/4 cup of granulated chicken bullion (beef would be better), I used this b/c I did not have broth.  I usually use broth.
Sea Salt
Cracked Black Pepper
Dried or Fresh Parsley (I used dried b/c I had already picked in the garden once today and I was LAZY)
I melted my butter in the pan, sautéed my veggies for 10 minutes, added everything else and brought to a boil.  Then I turned the stove down to simmer and I'll leave it to cook for about 4 hours.  The soup is fine to eat as soon as the vegetables are tender.  ENJOY!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Granny Hasty and the Great Pork Roast Rescue!

Granny Hasty and the Great Pork Roast Rescue
I moved away from home when I was 20 and started keeping house as the old timers would refer to it.  As a kid, I hated being in the kitchen and as a result never learned to cook.  My mom was a decent cook overall, but a really good cook when it came to traditional dinners.  She could whip up a mean country fried steak dish or a baked ham that would put Honey Baked Ham to shame.  Mom would also make a Blondie cookie bar that was to die for, but only on special occasions.  More than not, we had chunky soup over rice for dinner.  And oh my goodness....I ate toasted tuna fish sandwiches every Sunday after church.  This is not a dramatic statement, we seriously had toasted tuna every Sunday until I was about 13 and my parents divorced.  Some good things came out of that situation : )!  You will NEVER find a can of tuna or chunky soup in my kitchen.
Granny Hasty's cooking was a whole different story.  She had a few dishes that she did well, but she really loved her pepper.  Granny would make a dish called "Sweet Spaghetti".  It was like someone had dumped 3 cups of sugar into the sauce and poured it over noodles.  YUCKO!  I will say she made great fried chicken and an awesome chocolate pound cake.  But that's about it.  Despite her lack of cooking skills, I loved my Granny to the moon and back.  I could talk to her about anything.  I remember that she played with us and walked me to school everyday when I was in 1st grade although it put great strain on her back.  It's no wonder when I set up housekeeping, she was the first person I called when I ran into trouble.  And so the story really begins....
I became brave one weekend and wanted to cook a roast for my husband for dinner.  I went to Kroger, purchased the roast and followed the recipe I had.  My mom had made me a recipe binder with recipes from all of the women in our family.  I still have that binder and treasure it even more 20 years later.  I followed the directions to a "t".  The house smelled wonderful and I was so excited to show off my cooking skills to my new husband.  As I pulled the roast out of the oven I noticed that the meat was white and not reddish/brown like I remember eating growing up.  Yep, you guessed it...I bought a pork roast. 
In a panic, I called my grandmother.  I wanted to make my roast the same color as the familiar ones I had as a kid.  The only thing I could think of was to add red food coloring to the meat and let it soak to absorb the color.  When I proceeded to ask my grandmother if she thought that idea would work, she burst out laughing.  Not just a little, but for several minutes.  When she finally got her breath back, I remember her saying how crazy I was and then started laughing again. We did decide that if I really felt like it needed something, I could add barbecue sauce.  I mixed up ketchup and mustard  and smeared it on top of the roast.  It tasted horrible and I did not have anything else to add to it at this point as we were really poor back then.  I did not have the heart to call my granny back again knowing that my barbecue recipe may send her over the edge in another laughing fit.
So, as I am taking butternut squash cheese souffles out of the oven today I am thinking of my Granny Hasty.  I've come along way baby!  Wish you were here to taste test and I hope that I did you proud.  Thank you for being there for me during the hard times growing up as a kid and laughing with me during the crazy ones.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Addicted to Busy

I have started my day as usual.  I wake up with my husband at 4:30, we have coffee and pray we don't wake the baby as every step we take through the house would put a ballerina toe dancer to shame.  I hand him his lunch on the way out the door, get my good bye kiss and I watch the morning news. 

Within 30 minutes, I hear faint whimpers and I know the princess is summoning me for her morning bottle.  My mind is already swirling with the day's to do's.  Sophie and I watch the 2nd round of the same disheartening stories from the headlines that I saw earlier with my honey.  If I'm feeling lazy, I'll log on to Facebook and update our Red Gate Farm page or browse Pinterest.  Anything to delay washing dishes or having to do laundry.  I have learned in my transition from corporate manager to stay at home mom, that laundry and dishes multiply as you are washing them.  GRRR!

In my previous life, I was a schedule and to do list freak.  Tom and I usually had a schedule of activities booked a month in advance at any given time.  In my quest to slow down, I have realized that I was addicted to being busy.  It actually gave me some weird high. My job required me to travel the country and do the work of 3 people.  I volunteered at church, worked in the community and could not say no.  The more I could be a part of, the more I could cram in the day, the more successful I felt.  Truth was....I was withering away on the inside. 

I am so thankful that the farm stirred something in me that craved a slower life.  There was a long unfulfilled need to just "be still" that I had not paid attention to.  One of my favorite "be still" moments is watching wildlife.  Before we built our house on the hill, I commented to my husband that I would miss watching the wildlife from the kitchen window.  The cattle would come down every day and socialize around the barn, which was in direct view from the window.  I could watch the chickens peck around the yard and the baby goats jumping in the air as they began to find their legs.  The occasional bluebird would land on the electric wire that draped from the light pole right in front of the kitchen window.

When we built our new house, one of the first things my husband did was clear out the woods behind the house.  The kitchen faced the woods now, so I did not have much a view through the trees.  Little did I know what would await me in my new wildlife watching post.  I am so thankful that he did not want me to miss something that gave me so much peace. 

My husband keeps a pile of corn in the woods in front of the new window.  He takes such pride in the fact that he does this for my benefit.  I watch a herd of 5 deer each day come to the pile and take turns eating.  Birds fly back and forth through the woods all day long.  There are several types of woodpeckers that come in as well as cardinals, crows, blue jays and sparrows.  While watching the deer this morning, I had an overwhelming feeling of being blessed in that very moment.  I am reminded of Psalm 46:10...Be still and know that I am God.  His magic and wonder was all around me, even in the thickest part of the woods.

Too many times, we glorify being busy.  We forget to be still.  We forget that we need to energize our souls.  There is so much medicine in the act of being still and living in the moment.  I hope you can carve out a little time today to slow down.  There's an entire world we miss in the act of being busy.

(images taken from www.christianfunnypictures.com)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Homemade??? Oh Yes You Can!

Make It Yourself...OH YES YOU CAN!
Have you ever taken a store bought bucket of chicken to a church dinner or party in your own
dish lined with a nice kitchen towel?  Did you smile and simply say thank you as the dinner guests commented on how wonderful your chicken was?  Are you chuckling on the inside as you read this?  Yep, been there done that!  The dinner guests were all warm and fuzzy as they pictured you slaving over a frying pan and placing each piece of chicken gingerly into the dish.  As if you fried each piece individually just for them.  Not knowing that 30 minutes prior you were at the Wal-Mart deli counter ordering an "8 piece" and scrambling in the church parking lot to arrange your dish. 

There's just something about homemade isn't there?  I have learned that homemade not only makes others feel good, but it gives me a great sense of pride and that same warm and fuzzy when I've made something myself.  There have been many things over the last few years that I've procrastinated in making just because I felt intimidated by the process.  Usually, once I just make up my mind that I'm going to just "go for it", it's not as complicated as I had built it up to be.

A few recent examples for me have been making homemade yogurt and sewing a pillow case dress.  I've wanted to make yogurt for about a year now.  I also have wanted to sew for 20 years.  I have tackled both of these life's to do items in the last week.  I feel really stupid that it was so much easier than I thought and that I had waited so long to give myself such joy from a project well done.

My encouragement for you today...in the words of the NIKE...JUST DO IT! 

To ease you into the process, I'm including a few ideas for easy projects that might inspire you to move onto bigger ones.  HAVE FUN! 

Repurpose with Spray Paint
Take any item you want to repurpose and spray paint it or distress to give it a totally NEW look.  Many items will not require sanding, but you can if you feel the item needs it.  Be sure to wipe down the item first with a damp cloth and then allow to dry completely.  Follow instructions on the can for  how to spray the item.  Add a few coats and then finish with a coat of spray poly.  The side table pictured below was a piece I have had for 15 years.  It sat outside on our porch and was extremely weathered.  A little sanding, a few coats of paint, a little sanding on the edges to distress, a final coat of poly and VOILA!  A brand new piece of furniture.

Also pictured is a purple mirror I repurposed for Sophie's nursery.  I found this mirror on a Facebook trading site for $10.  It was large, gold and heavy.  Okay, down right ugly.  I simply wiped it down with a wet cloth, place printer paper over the mirror to protect it and then sprayed away.  This mirror goes perfectly above her changing table.

Homemade Laundry Detergent
This recipe came from one of our Red Gate Farm CSA Members, Thanks Melanie!  You can use these ingredients for liquid or powder soap.  I like to use the powder version and it seems to work well in our high efficiency washer  I know lots of folks who love the liquid version too.  Visit www.wellnessmama.com for detailed instructions.
1 bar of soap (any kind you want), I like Castille or Zote (as pictured and available at Wally World)
1 cup of Borax
1 cup of washing soda
a big pot ( that holds more than 2 gallons)
a grater
a funnel
a long spoon
2 empty gallon jugs/containers
Homemade Glass Cleaner (YES!)
This is my new favorite window/mirror cleaner.  Equal parts of alcohol and water.  DONE!  This cleans so much better than the Windex brand.  I even use it on our black appliances in the kitchen.
Homemade Soft Scrub (Yes! and YES!)
A few tablespoons of liquid castille soap, a little water, a little baking soda...mix to a paste and scrub away!
Now...go make something today!  ; )

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Nature Deficit Disorder...Really?

Nature Deficit Disorder....Really?

Recently while searching for an article to post on our Red Gate Farm Facebook page, I came across a search result that had the title, "Nature Deficit Disorder" and I had to keep reading.

The web page I came across is www.childrenandnature.org.  This website is dedicated to fostering activities that encourage kids to get back outside.  I've included an excerpt from their website below.

Nature-Deficit Disorder

Author Richard Louv introduced the term "Nature-Deficit Disorder" in 2005 with the publication of his bestselling book, “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.” He coined the phrase to serve as a description of the human costs of alienation from nature and it is not meant to be a medical diagnosis (although perhaps it should be). - See more at: http://www.childrenandnature.org/about/ndd/#sthash.QQmhZosf.dpuf

What intrigued me the most was that this is a MOVEMENT now. Tom and I have for a long time talked about this very concept.  Each year we host Family Farm Week at the farm.  Anyone in the family can attend...from Maryland to Florida.  We have seen first hand what a week at the farm can do in terms of transforming kids.  They arrive "tech'd" out.  They leave a little more mature and responsible. 

Our niece, now 13 has been visiting the farm for years.  She began helping with the CSA during her Spring Breaks a few years ago.  Her visits have gone from weekends to several weeks during the summer.  She never complains about having to work on the farm.  It's just unspoken that when you come to visit us, you are part of the farm family and assume responsibility for some chores.  I watched her this past Christmas when she came to visit, get up at 5:30 so she could run the trap line with Uncle Tom.  She would hit the mud room, throw on her boots and jacket and take off on the four wheeler.  It really did not matter if they caught anything or not.  It was that she was a part of the process.  She was being depended upon and had a job.  I also think the allure of what they may find when they went out was part of it too.

In the Spring and Summer when she visits, she helps plant and pick vegetables.  We talk about how food is grown and the healthier choices she can introduce to her family when she gets home.  She makes customer deliveries with me as well.  She has the biggest smile on her face when she hands off the veggie box.  I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt, she would rather be on the farm than anywhere else.  When she is here, she spends very little time on the laptop or her phone.  Those activities are usually at night when there's no daylight to be outside.
In 2012 we took our grandson and great nephew to Colorado for their 13th birthday.  We wanted to share with them our love for the outdoors and we had visited Colorado the previous year on vacation.  We had one rule for them while we were there.  They were not allowed to be on their cell phones during the day.  We expected them to be with us as a family and we did not want them to miss out on anything because they had their heads down texting their friends.  Being teens, we caught them a few times trying to sneak, but we expected that.

We went horseback riding, trout fishing, hiking in the Rocky Mountain National Park, ate a fancy restaurant and introduced them to the movie "The Shining".  As for that last part, The Stanley Hotel was the inspiration for Stephen King to write "The Shining".  I hope we did not scare the BEJEEZUS out of them, LOL.  We sat in the hot tub together and they actually opened up and talked to us about all kind of stuff.  It was a wonderful time.  I loved watching their faces when trying something new.  The amazement of seeing an elk up close and personal or conquering fear of riding a horse up a mountain.

If you spend any time with kids in nature, they'll ask you all kinds of questions.  The problem is, you also find out how little they know about how nature is connected to their lives.  How food is grown and where it comes from, how nature and humans are connected and depend on each other for survival.  It is critical that we all take an active part in seeking out activities to get our kids out of the house.  They are missing out on LIFE.

I am so looking forward to Spring.  I can't wait to get Sophie outside and introduce her to the garden and the wonder of the farm. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

A Healthy Connection to Food


A Healthy Connection to Food

I wrote a piece for our local paper in October.  I've updated and added to it, hope you enjoy!

For centuries humans have connected with food beyond the “intended” nutritional connection.  One of the earliest connections we learn about in grade school comes from the annual Pilgrims and Indian celebration.  We celebrate with food during the holidays and milestone celebrations.  We attend church dinners, community fund raising dinners, business open houses which all incorporate food as a way to celebrate and keep participants involved.  Even business managers and owners understand that participation to meetings will be higher if you offer food.  Some of the most important business deals have been made over dinner or by meeting for a cup of coffee.  Need I go on?

During these celebrations we focus on the taste of food and the emotional high it creates.  Our society has also coined the term “comfort foods”.  We use this term to describe foods that “ease” the pain of emotional distress, stress, and just a little something to lift our spirits.   Often the foods served at these celebrations/meetings are processed foods or foods that are high in calories, fat and sugars.  We may consider for a fleeting moment that the donut we just grabbed near the coffee maker is not good for us.  But, too many times that nutritional concern is related to the size of our waste, not the amount of poor nutritional value that food choice is providing. 

As a result, we are an obese society.  Obesity in our children is on a staggering incline, to the point schools are implementing farm to table lunch programs.  Government food assistance programs now offer an option to purchase local produce.  Our younger generation has little knowledge as to how the food got on the grocery shelves to begin with.  Many have never visited a farm or know that it takes 60-70 days to grow that one head of broccoli they just ate while grazing at the Asian buffet.  They have not been taught that the farmer who grew that broccoli worked from sun up to sun down to harvest that stalk.  All of the farmer’s hard work being done while they sit in front of an I-Pad or I  Just for kicks…the next time you are at your local super market, take a visual inventory of the grocery carts around you.  As I’ve done this I’ve noticed buggies are filled with processed snack foods and sugary soft drinks.  I then notice the physical appearance of the family members who “own” that buggy.  If they are not obese, then at the least they look tired and worn down.

More and more research is being conducted on the relation to chemicals in our foods and our health problems.  These studies not only site our physical health is at risk but also our mental health.  Our environment speaks to us if we open our eyes to see the effects.  A prime example is our declining bee population.  Read a few articles on the effects of the over use of agricultural pesticides on our bees and you will want to know where your cucumber came from and why it’s so waxy.

I am not trying to discourage using food as a supplement to the celebration or event.  I believe that we need more gathering around the table.  A time to slow down from being a slave to a life of jam-packed calendars, technological dependency and extended working hours.  More importantly, a time to have face to face communication and reconnecting with the human spirit.  These “around the table” gatherings also foster healthier communities and social connections.

I am suggesting that we must change our food choice paradigm in order to foster a respect for food.  In turn, we will have a healthier connection to that food that makes the food choices we make as important as event to which we are celebrating.  When you incorporate fruits and vegetables into your diet you are purposefully making choices.  It causes you to think beyond reaching for the convenience item on the shelf.  You might visually catalog the farmer planting a vegetable seedling and nurturing it through until it is harvested and sent to market.  You will find yourself asking the question, “what is really in that prepackaged meal?” Reading ingredients on food labels will become second nature.  Gathering the family for a day trip to the local farmers market or you pick farm will be on the family weekend agenda.  Children who become actively involved in making family meal choices will be more inclined to participate in the preparation.  Through this paradigm shift we gain a sense of responsibility to our bodies, the local farmer and to our environmental footprint.



Sunday, January 5, 2014


Hello from Red Gate Farm!

I sit here typing and pausing to look at the kitchen window as a cedar limb blowing in the wind catches my attention.  We are awaiting the South's version of a winter snow storm with anticipated snow fall of 1-3 inches (Yankees...insert laughter here).  I am sure by now the bread and milk isles are barren.  Being a farmer and someone who always has a little stash of staples, I never really worry about getting stranded.  I did notice that Tom brought our reserve of candles up from the old farmhouse.  He's a DANG FINE YANKEE, so his "winter intuition" may be sensing something more than the weather folk are predicting.  Guess I'll take a loaf of bread out of the freezer to thaw.  There...I'm prepared!

For those of you who have spent any time with me, you know I'm a list maker.  I love seeing all my tasks that need to be done with lines crossed through them.  Such satisfaction to watch a favorite pen's ink cross out perfect penmanship...an art lost in our schools these days I might add.  Give this girl a spiral notebook and a great roller ball pen and I'm yours forever!

Speaking of lists...It's that time of year when lists and goals seem to be the topic of many social media posts.  After years of failing to realize my New Year's Resolutions, I've stopped writing them down or sharing them.  Remember, I'm a list maker who crosses things off when done.  I like the IMMEDIATE FIX, probably the reason I never tried drugs.  I'd be an addict for sure!  Watching my resolutions fade into the poster's paper fibers month after month, was just too painful for me.

My blog is a perfect example.  I started this blog in 2011 as a New Year's Resolution and as part of a journey I was on.  I started out resolving to write once a week.  After a week became a month and a month turned into 6 months and finally only 2 posts in 2012, I was just going to give it up.  It then occurred to me, who was I doing this for?  In my journey the blog was to be a place to share thoughts, ideas and encouragement.  It was never meant to be based on a schedule.  When I could not meet the scheduled goal, I felt defeated and I lost sight of the intent of the blog.  Instead of REFRESHING myself, I just stopped writing.  I now have given myself permission to write when the feeling hits me and hope that someone else might glean a little something in the process.

Over the past few years I've learned to slow down.  I've backed away from a jam-packed schedule with no time for anything other than meeting other's requests for my time.  I find that I'm working my way through my list addiction and taking more time to tackle things as time allows.  I have to admit that when you have a newborn, you seem to adjust to this type of lifestyle faster. 

This year I encourage you to RESOLVE less and REFRESH more.  Our souls need time to reconnect with hearts and minds.  I am finding I cherish quiet, peaceful sitting more than anything else these days.  I enjoying escaping in my own thoughts and dreams.  I no longer consider that a waste of time.  I don't want to send a message that goals and lists are not good.  I had a 20 year successful corporate career because of them.  I DO want to send the message that your soul has to be refreshed and ready to receive them in order to achieve them.

Here's wishing you a REFRESHED SOUL for 2014!