Jan 222013

Often times the beginning of a new year finds me looking forward to what I would like to accomplish in the upcoming year.  As I was thinking about that, I also thought about where I had been the past year.  Here are some highlights of things from the past year, both pictures and links, that have stood out to me for one reason or another.

Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera)

I talked about the tulip tree in some detail during a “Tree of the Week” post and gave photos and links to help others identify it.  The beauty of this tree, even with no leaves, still strikes me and makes me pause when I see them.  Perhaps it is the straightness of the trunk or how the limbs just seem to sweep out from it.  This tree is definitely not a wall flower.

Poppy flowers

In May 2012 I talked about growing poppies.  These were a pleasant surprise the spring after we bought our house.  I didn’t like everything the previous owner’s did with the landscaping, but this was defiantly one thing I was happy about.

Some of my favorite posts from this time last year involved a short series about selling at a Farmer’s Market.  Here I talked about the Trials and Lessons I learned along the way.  A few posts later I talked about the differences between your perception of what it will be like and the reality.  I went on to expand on the lessons I learned in two follow-up posts, Part 1 and Part 2. The topic ended with a list of 50 things you could sell at a Farmer’s Market, other than produce that is.

Not only have I talked about Farmer’s Markets, but also about my own produce stand and how it got started.  I went on to talk more about my local produce auction.  Looking back I will have to say that the name of the post (Amish Produce Auction) is not exactly accurate, even though that is what everyone around here calls it.  In all fairness, there are some Mennonite and other sellers that bring items.  It just happen that a very large percent of sellers are Amish.  I also shared a second “Tales from the produce auction” post about  pumpkins and the circumstances that lead to me first started having  pureed pumpkin in my freezer.  Natural Deterrents was a recap of one aspect of having a stand that I never would have thought about.  Looking back I both laugh and get a bit annoyed.  Yes, I still hold a grudge against those beady-eyed squirrels.

Flowers from my front flower bed

 At the end of November I finally tackled a flower garden project that I had been putting off for about 4 years.  This was thanks to the ebook “21 Days To A More Self-Disciplined Life” by Crystal Paine.    Even now I am so happy when I look at it.  Yes, I still need to put down grass seed, but I am okay with that still needing to be done.  Besides, on average it is around freezing this time of the year.  Grass doesn’t really grow in those temperatures.

Tulips in my front flower bed

My composting worms also made an appearance after the surprising find that they were still alive.  I went on to talk a bit more about them and how much I really do love having a worm bin at home.  A few weeks later I talked about a worm’s diet.  During that post I also recorded the amount, in pounds, of food scraps I was sending to the compost  pile.  It was an insightful exercise in that it made me so much more aware of how much household waste we could recycle at home instead of throwing away or sending to be recycled elsewhere.

Food has been mentioned somewhat regularly on here.  At the beginning of February 2012 I posted about using what you have at home.  This included using frozen pumpkin puree to make shakes and muffins. Actually, I need to check to see if there are a few more bags in the freezer.  Pumpkin shakes sound good right now.

Last May I also shared recipes and the results from my Tea Party.  If you were a reader at that time you may remember that I was practicing recipes and prep work for a bridal shower I was helping with.  I have been meaning to do a similar thing (though not for a bridal shower) this winter that would involve coffee and biscotti.  If you happen to have any good recipes you are willing to share I would love to try them out.

Most recently I have been talking about Creating a Garden Calendar to help start off your upcoming garden season.  To make this a bit easier for you I also shared at least 27 different sources of calendars, here and here.  Not all of the calendar are still available for free, but I do know that I have seen more available at local businesses lately.  Even my bank had some that were free for the taking.

There were more things talked about over the past year, but these are the ones that stand out to me.  There were also more photos, especially towards the second half of the year.  For one reason or another these have stood out to me.  Perhaps it is the memory behind them, like the last photo which is of the front flower bed after it was finished and filled with compost and dead leaves.  Or maybe it is the bright colors, like the butterflies enjoying the orange slices on the yellow dish.  This time last year I would not have guessed that a lot of these experiences would have happened.  Similarly I do not know what the upcoming year, or beyond, will hold.  I only know that I will do my best to make the most of the opportunities that come.

Sep 112012


I wrote this post a few months ago, got distracted, and never actually posted it.  Now that the weather is turning cooler, I am thinking ahead to pumpkins.  It seemed like the appropriate time to post this and reminisce about last year. 

Also, before I forget to mention it, not all pumpkins are created equal.  The regular pumpkins you see at the store may be great for jack-o-lanterns but are too watery and bland for baking with.  That is for another day, but I did want to mention it.

At the produce auction this past fall, I was able to get a large bin of pumpkins (usually about 60 pumpkins, of the size I got, per bin) for $.25 per pumpkin.  It was the end of the auction, there had been a large supply of pumpkins that day and everyone else had either already reached their quota or had no room to take them.  No one was bidding on these pumpkins; they weren’t even paying attention to the auctioneer.  Out of a last ditch effort, the auctioneer looked at me across the room and said, “$.25”.  I hadn’t looked at them, but knew what the rest of the pumpkins had looked like and so I said, “Yes.”  That worked out well as some other people had wanted them but not that many.  I sold a few to others there, gave a few away, and brought the rest home.  I actually had to go back as I couldn’t fit them all in my car.  Some were placed out at the stand, a few were given away on the way home, and the rest were cooked down and frozen.  I didn’t think I could use 50 cups of pumpkin puree, as we had never eaten pumpkin in all our years of being married.  However, after I had sold a few at the auction (for the price I paid) and a few on the stand, the rest were free for me.  Free is my favorite price.

Turns out, I have been able to use more of the pureed pumpkin than I though.  We have used it in shakes, to make muffins and to make bread.  There is still some in the freezer, but I will definantly put up more this year if I can get a good price on it.  With the drought, and it being the beginning of pumpkin season here, I’m not sure what the harvest and prices will look like at this time.  As this is not something that we all ‘love and can’t live without’, I am not worried about whether we will get it this year or not.

One thing I was glad to learn last year, is that it is not hard to process pumpkins. (This link has been causing me some issues. If you have the same issue, check out The Prairie Homestead and follow her directions; they are basically the same.) It was a sort of slow activity, though.  The length of time was due to the fact that my oven can only hold so many pumpkins at once.

I wish I had pictures to show you the process.  If given the opportunity this year, I will do so.  Until then, you will just have to take my word, and those of other commenters at the link, that it is super, super easy.

A baking sheet under it is a must for me, as it otherwise gets too soft and goes through the grates.  That was Lesson #1 that I learned the hard way.

As to the ‘too soft’ part, that is what makes it so great and so easy.  You do not have to fight a knife and gain huge arm muscles while cutting into the pumpkin.  It literally slices easier than butter.

One thing that I have not had good luck with is saving the seeds.  It just seems like more effort than it is worth to get them out of the strings.  Perhaps you have had a different experience.  If so, please tell me how you did it.