“CHEEP! Quit perching right over my head, you almost pooped on me!!” I know I can try to reprimand a peachick that is high up in the rafters of the barn, but he certainly doesn’t really know what I’m saying, and that becomes obvious when Cheep makes no effort to move to an alternate space that is NOT directly over my head.
But other than his faulty perching choices, Cheep has turned out to be quite a character. You know, I never intended on hand-raising a young peachick, but then again, there are many things I never “intended” on the farm. In the case of Cheep, it started with wild peafowl (peacocks and peahens) that took up residence here about two years ago. They wander the property and keep mostly to themselves, but after the last hatching season over the summer, unfortunately, one of the peahens was discovered by a predator and killed, along with one of her two little chicks. The one chick that remained would not be adopted by the other hen, so I, of course, became the adoptive peachick momma. My shoulder became a perch, and my hair easily became a replacement “wing” for baby Cheep to hide and sleep under. Needless to say, over the last few months, I’ve grown quite attached.
But Cheep has grown quickly, no longer fits on my shoulder, and has now taken up residence in the barn with the goats and chickens. We still spend time together in the mornings while I do the milking and he tries to peck at the streams of milk as they go into the pail.
I have found Cheep is an endless source of amusement as he learns to find his “place” in a farmyard with other animals. He has gone for “goat walks” when I take the goats to another field to nibble on weeds and vines, so he seems to think he’s a goat, because he will browse right along with them. He can also be found perching on a goat’s back.
I don’t know about you, but during prime gardening season, I have no problem with the vegetables being the centerpiece of my meals. So after reaping the amazing benefits from my garden, and coming into the house with a basketful of my bountiful harvest, I look forward to a seriously awesome vegetable meal.
But I have to admit, I found it quite disappointing that the infinite resources of the internet could turn up nothing better than the option of “side dishes” when I searched for “Green Bean recipes.”
So, it became my mission of the evening to create a main course veggie meal using the crisp green beans and luscious arugula that I had harvested in abundance! I also poked around in the fridge for some condiments and extras and was able to scrounge up a bit of fresh goat cheese and some ginger.
So if you get lucky enough to come into your own green bean abundance, I hope you will try my:
Green Beans in Ginger Sauce
- 1 ½ pounds fresh green beans, cut in 3-4” pieces
- Large bunch of fresh arugula (or use any other greens), chopped
- 1-2 Tbsp butter or cooking oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 Tbsp soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
- 1 ½ Tbsp honey
- 3 oz. chevre (soft goat cheese)
- 1 Tbsp sesame seeds
- ¼ cup cashews
In a small mixing bowl, mix together soy sauce, minced ginger and honey. Add chevre and press in using a fork until worked into the liquid mixture, then use a whisk to make is smooth. Set aside.
In a large frying pan, heat oil (or butter) on medium low, then add garlic and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add the cut green beans, sauté for another 3 minutes, then add the arugula, cover and let steam for 3-5 minutes (longer if you like your beans softer). Remove the cover, then add the chevre mixture and cashews and stir until well mixed.
Spoon the green bean goodness over cooked rice, or quinoa or other grain of your choice. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and enjoy!!
Living in Florida, we have an unusual growing season. In order to avoid trying to grow anything in our blistering hot, humid summers, we start in the Fall and grow crops all the way through Spring. The long season has its challenges but also benefits. It’s challenging to stay ahead of the pests, but the benefits are multiple plantings of crops. For example, we plant tomatoes in early Fall for an early winter crop (before it freezes) and then another planting in the Spring, for a harvest before the heat of Summer arrives.
So here is how the garden looks at the start of the season:
The only crops showing here are the basil and sunflowers in the first bed. but salad greens, turnips, beets, peppers, green beans, eggplant, tomatoes, scallions, mustard greens, swiss chard, zucchini and yellow squash, carrots, radishes and sugar snap peas will be coming up soon. And we have other plants in seed trays ready to transplant in a few weeks: broccoli, onions, cabbage, lettuce and herbs including cilantro, thyme, fennel and parsley.
I’m really looking forward to the first fresh salad of the season!!
Many years ago, I was having a conversation with a neighbor and she shared with me an amazing tip she had learned: “Did you know you can take the skins off of an onion and put it in the dirt around your plants as fertilizer?” I resisted the desire to say “that’s just composting” because she seemed so excited to share what she obviously thought was rare and unknown information.
It wasn’t a new idea to me, perhaps because I had gardened with my Mom since the earliest days of my childhood memory, and the whole family was WELL versed in understanding what was deemed the “good garbage” (always placed in the re-used ½ gallon, wax-coated paper milk container on the kitchen counter) versus what was thrown in the regular trash can. Composting was something that was just a regular part of life for us. I believe that composting is not only important, but essential for many reasons, so I’d like to share these reasons, as well as simple step-by-step ways to get started, and also reap the benefits of composting.
What is compost?
Compost is basically organic material that has broken down or “decomposed.” You can use leftover vegetable scraps from the kitchen, grass clippings, rake-up leaves, etc. If you live in a rural area, you can also use old hay and manure, which is an excellent addition if you have a source for it. Once it’s put in a pile and breaks down, it is filled with healthy organisms, good bacteria and nutrients that improve the soil and give aid to the health of plants. This is a benefit that goes beyond basic fertilization since most fertilizers merely add the basic nutrients of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium. Plants need much more than that to be healthy and productive.
How to compost at home
Bin or pile composting: You can purchase a special compost “bin” or use inexpensive fencing to designate a small area. Simply add your scraps as you collect them. It is always a good idea to layer wet compost items with dry ones (potato peelings with dried grass clippings, for example) to keep the pile from getting too wet, which may cause the pile to have a stench. Keeping a moderately moist environment will help the “good” organisms to get to work and not cause insult to your nose. Some say to turn the pile periodically, which will give quicker results, but you can also let it sit on its own and have compost that you can use in a year or so.
Worm composting: Also known as vermiculture, using worms to help with the composting process is an alternative. You can make a wood box for your worms, or purchase a special worm composting bin. Purchase your worms and put them in the recommended medium. Add your kitchen scraps daily and the worms will make compost for you. A great book on this topic is Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Appelhof.
Direct composting: If you don’t have the space for a composting bin or worm bin, you can try direct composting. Take your kitchen scraps, place them in a blender with some water, and blend them up. Make a small hole or ridge in the soil near plants you want to nourish. Pour in the compost “soup” and then cover with soil. For bulkier items, such as grass clippings and leaves, just rake the material onto your landscaping beds as you would with mulch.
The result of your efforts will be wonderfully rich, sweet-smelling soil. Add it to your garden beds, to your potting soil mixes, to your landscape plantings. Not only does this process make wonderful FREE food for your plants, but it also keeps all of the kitchen scraps and yard waste out of the landfills. The garbage man will thank you, and your plants will too!
Here’s a very simple veggie lunch to try. I think it’s absolutely delicious.
Avocado Open-Faced Sandwich
- 1-2 slices whole grain bread, toasted
- 1 small avocado, peeled and sliced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- Roasted red peppers
- 1-2 mushrooms, sliced
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Veggie for garnish
Arrange sliced avocado on the toast, sprinkle with minced garlic, salt and thyme, then drizzle with olive oil. Add a layer of roasted red pepper. Finish off with mushroom slices and drizzle a bit more olive oil if you wish. As a variation, you could top with cheese and melt it in the oven for a few minutes. Garnish with slices cucumbers or fresh parsley or any other veggie you have on hand.
This may look simple, but you will be surprised at the amazing flavor, especially with the roasted peppers and the flavor of the olive oil mixed with thyme. Please try it and let me know what you think!
Have you ever noticed how we humans need to provide labels for EVERYTHING? I’ve lately been fascinated by the labels for our eating patterns: vegan, vegetarian, fruitarian, lacto-ovo vegetarian, etc. I myself have been a vegetarian for about 15 years, but recently have decided to occasionally add meat to my diet. I still call myself a “vegetarian” because I don’t want to give people the idea that I’m a regular meat-eater (which I’m not) but in a way I’ve been feeling guilty that I’m being deceptive, or lying about my vegetarian “title.”
If I stop calling myself a vegetarian, then I’m concerned about showing up at a friend’s house for dinner and having them expect me to eat meat, since they wouldn’t know that the only meat I will eat is from an animal I’ve raised myself, or from a local farm where I personally know the person/farmer that raised it. And even then, I will only indulge in said “flesh” about once or twice per month at most.
So in my quandary, here I sit, fearful of misrepresentation and feeling so lost without being able to define myself with one of these all-important labels of life.
But as happens in our information age, I was doing some research online and wouldn’t you know, I found a whole new host of wonderful labels that I never knew existed!! Did you know about a Pescetarian, which is one who will only eat fish in addition to vegetarian foods? But wait, what about a Pollotarian, which is one that will only eat poultry in addition to vegetarian foods? And in my excitement, I found the perfect label for ME: Flexitarian, one who is a mostly a vegetarian, but occasionally eats meat!
But wait, I will only eat meat that is locally-raised, and it must be either ground beef, pork or chevon. So, what does that make me then…
Eureka!! I must be a Locobovporcinecaprinitarian!
I am completely appalled at the new V8 commercial: husband and wife sitting across the dinner table, she romantically feeds him a brussels sprout and when she momentarily looks away, he grabs a napkin and spits it out! Then he excuses himself to run to the kitchen and drink a V8 juice which is a “fusion” of vegetable and fruit juice, where the serving of vegetables is “hidden” by the flavor of fruit.
So is that what it comes to? Vegetables are so awful we have to “hide” the flavor? I say we should take up arms and defend the reputation of vegetables nationwide! We will not stand for this gross defamation of character. We DEMAND justice for the rights and respect of brussels sprouts and all other members of the vegetable race! The sweet yet poignant flavor of brussels sprouts is appreciated by many and must retain a place of appreciation and respect for the joy they bring to tastebuds around the world!
Rise up fellow brassica lovers and support our beloved veggie brothers and sisters. Buy some today and cook them up for parties and get-togethers, serve them for your family and celebrate the beautiful and complex flavors they bestow to our palates.
Power to the Brussels!!
Christine Abbey, Brussels Sprouts Advocate