Fresh from the garden lettuce & RMO Essential Oils and Pest Control blend

For most of the last three weeks, all we’ve had in Wisconsin is rain, rain, and more rain. Every day is cloudy. Somehow in my fond dreams of yesteryear, I remember spring having some sunny, warm and simply satisfying days before the hot and sticky days of summer arrive. This year I made a solemn promise to take spring slow and enjoy every moment of it. Now all I want is heat and sun–go away rain, the rivers are flooding.  Less than two weeks after planting the last six lettuce plants we’ve had two big salads from those six plants, a lettuce leaf on five sandwiches this week, and lettuce on our hamburgers tonight. Believe it or not, there is still at least one salad left and more to come. This has been my most successful year of growing bibb lettuce.  While harvesting the lettuce I was bitten a total of three times by pesky mosquitos, which reminded me I need to order some Bug off! from Rocky Mountain Oils.

Last year I used a blend made from RMO’s cedarwood, lavender, peppermint, and lemongrass essential oils in purified water in a 4 oz spray bottle. I put in 30 drops of cedarwood, 25 drops of lavender, 15 drops of peppermint and 15 drops of lemongrass. I shake the spray bottle gently before each use.  I use either, it just depends if you want to make up your own batch or buy a blend that has all of the essential oils and more already in it. Either way, you cannot go wrong using Rocky Mountains Oils as your go-to pests go away and stay away from me spray.

 

My summer preserving and canning

This past couple of weeks has been BUSY for me. To give you a general idea of what I’ve been up to, I’ve been canning, and freezing produce here.  Lots of produce to be exact. In between canning and freezing is housework, going out and buying the produce I’ve been canning and freezing, summer vacation planning, weekend get-a-ways and more to be honest. During breaks from school, and on the weekends, I like to cram as many things into the time as I can. Sometimes this goes well and other times I feel like we rushed things so much, we weren’t able to fully enjoy ourselves. Luckily even though things seem busy, they do not seem rushed.

I’ve canned:

  • 24 of each -32 oz jars of tomatoes, peaches and tomato sauce
  • 6- pint jars of pickles, pickle relish, and salsa
  • 6- pint jars of peach and blueberry preserves
  • 6- 32 oz jars of peach pie filling
  • 8 gallons of green beans
  • 4 gallons of shredded zucchini
  • 4 gallons of cut up zucchini
  • 4 gallons of sliced beets
  • 8-1/2 gallon bags of multi- colored peppers-green, red, orange
  • 5 gallons sliced strawberries

I still have creamed corn to make and also corn on the cob to freeze, and when fall arrives apple pie filling and applesauce and squash. Our freezer that we bought just for just such an endeavor is half full at this time and our shelves are starting to fill up. Feels good. After preserving the peaches a couple of weeks ago, I made my husband and I breakfast for supper.

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Organic egg, spinach and kale omelet with organic white cheddar cheese served with my own grown organic tomatoes, organic grapes, and organic red potatoes. The total cost of meal per person-$3.25, the total time to make- 15 minutes.

After harvest-preserving vegetables

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Source

Some of the first things harvested in Wisconsin are strawberries and after several types of tender lettuce, green beans.  My husband and I have enjoyed garlic scapes- we grilled those, leaf lettuce-romaine, in so many salads I can’t count them anymore. We’ve been buying tomatoes thus far for eating, but this next weekend I will be canning tomatoes for sauce and chili.  Sweet corn is just starting to be available, and even though I once was a huge sweet corn eater, I now become ill when I eat it. I ‘m not sure what is causing this but often people who suffer from wheat gluten intolerance have reactions with corn. It’s something I have to accept even though I am not happy about it.

Our goal is to fill up our little freezer as we’ve done the last two years. We drive about 20 miles every week to an organic farm and buy a lot of vegetables. Some for eating every day and others for preserving for eating throughout the winter months.  This means not having to buy any vegetables and very few fruits all winter. As of this time, we have a dozen gallon freezer bags of shredded zucchini for zucchini bread and zucchini cakes. I use this recipe for the cakes, by Sandra Lee. We have several bags of cut-up zucchini for stir-fry, I use this recipe for stir fry by Cooks.com. It’s delicious and perfect rewarmed the next day.  I think we’ve got a total of a dozen full gallon bags of strawberries.  I will use these for breakfast smoothies all winter long.  I remove the stems on the berries and lay them on cookie sheets to freeze them then I empty the cookies sheets into gallon freezer bags, lay flat and remove the air and then freeze flat.  When I pull the strawberries out to eat, I wash and drain them.  I used to make a lot of jam but couldn’t eat it fast enough and didn’t really care for all the sugar in the recipes. So instead, I buy Bonne Maman, which is way better than any jam I’ve ever made or tasted.

So what’s left? Well, let me get back to the topic of this post, green beans. Ah yes, we have a lot of green beans.  So tonight, while trying to watch Noah, I froze 7 -1-gallon freezer bags of green beans.  I wrote a Hub page a few years ago on how to freeze green beans, I’ll have to see if I can find it. Otherwise, I use this recipe here from Better Homes and Gardens.

After the green beans and tomatoes, I’ll be freezing beets and brussels sprouts and then finally green, red and yellow peppers. This fall, which is only a few weeks away, I am going to try canning apples for apple pie. I usually just slice up the apples and freeze them but I want to try something different. The reason I freeze all of our vegetables is because it is easy, I’m not fussing with tight lids and we prefer our veggies not only look fresh but taste fresh- steamed not cooked. Freezing really works well for our tastes and preferences.

I hope everyone is having a great weekend. Even though it sounds like I’ve been stuck in the kitchen the whole time, I actually found time for a long hike in the woods, a delicious fish dinner by the lake (with hubby) and a great documentary on food-The Future of Food as well as Noah w/Russell Crowe, need I say more? Didn’t think so. 🙂 Have a great rest of your weekend.

Invest in yourself-the food you eat

invest in yourself

The real reason behind starting this blog several years ago was to voice my concerns about food safety and to journal about my family’s shift to an organic diet.  The desire to eat more organic food really struck me after reading story after story about all the additives in processed food.

When my husband and I married we had two very different eating styles that came from two entirely different lifestyles. He from a family that ate a lot of sweets and fattening food (and are now paying for it), and I who had been out on my own for many years eating whatever I could afford.  My husband wasn’t about to sit down to a meal of tuna sandwiches or mac and cheese any more than I was going to sit down to bratwurst, mashed potatoes, and gravy.  So, I needed to come up with a compromise. Eventually, I created a menu that included all of the healthiest things from each other’s diets and then as the years went on began to substitute them with the organic versions.

In 2004, after researching organic food, we started purchasing from the Organic Valley (OV) product line. Organic Valley headquarters are located in LaFarge, WI not far from where we live.  We chose OV after reading about their products, their farmers, and their founder.  Some of the first products we tried, and have stayed with for 10 years now, are OV milk, butter, eggs, and cheese.  We stopped buying canned vegetables and fruits at the grocery store and instead purchase fresh or frozen. I also purchase large amounts of green beans, squash, peppers and strawberries to freeze for meals throughout the winter.

In 2005 I noticed, after losing 10#, that I felt better than I had in a long time. I had quit smoking and drinking in 2003, started eating organic food in 2004 and was riding bike and hiking again. The list of foods that we had given up by 2005 was pretty long- some processed foods, sugary cereals, canned goods of any kind, non- organic sauces and gravies and non-organic dairy.

My husband had given up chips, cookies and other sweets for bananas and nuts. For a few years, while the organic food movement was getting started, sourcing food was a major problem. In 2007 we signed up for a CSA outside the area driving a 100 miles round-trip for our veggies. Then the following year we found a local one. But by 2009 the local one decided it was too much work and we were without a CSA again.  Since the spring of 2011, we’ve been buying our fruits and veggies from a local vegetable stand. 

People always ask me, ” how can you afford it?” And I answer “how can we not? it’s a lot safer than eating food that contains chemicals and additives and all those mystery ingredients”.

Sticking to an organic diet can be expensive. My husband and I take a lot of flak for choosing this way of life.  Thankfully we have fairly strong arguments against non-organic diets including the fairly obvious evidence of our health and active lifestyle.  As the years have gone by we’ve dropped other things from our diet- processed cookies, cakes, and non-organic condiments. We don’t eat fast food anymore and just recently I gave up salt.

Ten days after I gave up salt I weighed myself and I had lost 10#. No joke. At the same time, I gave up salt I also gave up red meat. I realized that I used a lot of salt on red meat because I didn’t like the taste of it.

The last seven years have been a struggle, my blog didn’t always report that. It isn’t easy to make changes to one’s diet. Sometimes it is not easy to justify the extra or added expense. I’ve had to do a lot of creative budgeting to afford some of the new food choices we’ve made. It’s easy to afford McDonald’s and easier yet to buy a bunch of processed foods and microwave meals every day. There has never been a time I’ve regretted the changes we’ve made or giving up things we liked because they were bad for us. It’s great to be almost fifty years old and feel like I’m in my 30’s. It’s a dream to see the smile on my husband’s face when he sees the progress he had made and the good health benefits he reaps every day.