Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Situation

It's difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.
Lewis Grizzard, writer and humorist

I have previously spoken about out tomato "situation." It's out of control really. Three bad harvests led us to plant an abundant variety of plants this year, in hopes that we would actually pull in a sizable crop. The garden gods have smiled upon us and everything in our yard is bursting with life. The tomato plants in particular.

We tried just eating them as they ripened, giving them away to anyone and everyone. But eventually they began reddening faster than we could slice them and it was quite clear that the time had come for us to preserve our fruit. We spent several hours in the hot desert sun pulling every last tomato we could find from the vines. And though I don't have any official measurements (what is the official measurement for tomatoes? Bushels?) we amassed an impressive and intimidating pile.

First, we made salsa. Our garden is full of onions, jalapenos, garlic and tomatillos too so that seemed like a no brainer! Then we made bruchetta. I made a batch of marinara (which is AMAZING) and the rest were sliced and dehydrated. Scratch that. Are in the process of being dehydrated. My Excalibur has been running for five days! The tomato "chips" are good snacks by themselves but I will store some to be rehydrated for cooking and we want to try layering them with garlic and oil to make our own version of sun dried tomatoes.

The pile has dwindled but as I look outside, I see hints of red peeking through the tangle of vines. There are more. MORE!

I suppose I shouldn't have put my sauce pot away quite yet...


Friday, May 25, 2012

See How My Garden Grows

While many around the country are just coaxing their tender seedlings from the soil, our garden has exploded. It helps that we get to plant in early February! Thing will slow down soon as temps are now consistently above 100 degrees but I'm enjoying the produce! I have regularly been hauling in eggplants, peppers, squash, peppers, beans, tomatoes, tomatillos, turnips and lettuces. So much bounty!

Our apricot tree delighted us this year with it's biggest crop yet....still not a big enough haul for jam but enough to allow my children to make a trip to the tree everyday at lunch for a week.

The pomegranate tree is LOADED. I'm excited to have a good juicer this year. I'm looking forward to lots of yummy juice!

We are enduring what I affectionately call the "tomato situation." Three years of bad tomato harvests instilled an overzealous desire to plant a ridiculous number of tomato plants in hopes of getting enough fruit to preserve. Be careful what you wish for friends. Our plants, some nearly five feet tall, have given us SO MANY TOMATOES. We eat them at every meal and I give them away to neighbors and friends daily. My son ventures out each morning and fills a plastic tea kettle with cherry tomatoes for him to eat with his breakfast. We have enough to preserve...and then some!

We planted "cut and come again" lettuce this year and I love it. It's a perpetual salad bar!

Our melon vines are coming along. Cantaloupe and watermelon threaten to take over the east side of our yard.

And of course, the zucchini. I really don't know why I plant more than one plant. Zucchini's prolific reputation never disappoints! I've made zucchini bread every week for almost a month, including a delicious new chocolate zucchini bread I just tried yesterday. It's more of a cake than a bread but it's got squash in it so it's healthy, right? Here's the recipe:
Chocolate Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 packed cups grated zucchini (don’t peel it)
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven at 350 F. Spray two 9×5 inch pans with nonstick spray.
In a large bowl, stir together flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
In a medium bowl, beat the sugar and eggs until light and fluffy. Add the oil and vanilla. Add to the dry ingredients along with the zucchini and chocolate chips. Stir just until combined, and divide between the loaf pans.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the tops are cracked and springy to the touch. Makes 2 cakes.
How does your garden grow? Please share with us!


Monday, May 21, 2012


Yesterday's annular eclipse was pretty spectacular. I'd been geeking out about it for weeks. The last solar eclipse I vaguley remember was way back in in elementary school. I don't remember much. I recall the eerie half twlight, a box viewer over my head, and the lemonade my then teacher (Hi Mrs. Bassett!) provided us. Since annular eclipses are rare, I wanted to be sure my children had some sort of muddled memory of their mother peering into a cheerio box while they rode their bikes in the orangy glow of the eclipse.

I started by explaining the mechanics of a solar eclipse, artfully illustrated with the help of an apple, an orange and a ping pong ball. I gave a stern warning about looking directly at the eclipse....maybe too stern. My daughter cried for twenty minutes and refused to go outside because she was afraid she would go blind. Ooops.

After calming her down, we upcycled a cheerio box and a bit of almunium foil to make a pinhole viewer. It worked beautifully and both children were able to see the moon cross in front of the sun.
We were located a little far south to see the famed "ring of fire" but the moon did cover about three quarters of the sun.

My cousin Jacki, who is located in New Mexico, had a better view of the eclipse. I just had to share these awesome photos she took!

Just amazing....absolutely amazing!


Monday, May 14, 2012

Round 'Em Up

This weekend, we drove to the family ranch and helped tag and brand the new spring calves. This was my children's first time helping with branding and they were the best little cowpokes I could ask for.  At the end of the day we were sunburned, tired and filthy but happy and immensely satisfied. Family, friends, food and horses....simple and perfect.

When it comes to grassfed beef, we practice what we preach!

From between the ears of my horse

My husband M and little J after a few hours of gathering

K was in charge of the "nut bucket"

M flanking a calf

Granddad and Uncle B cutting the herd

K waiting patiently on Kid