Friday, September 7, 2012


I don't know about you but I love pickles.  Sweet, sour, spicy, chips, spears and those almost embarrassing whole ones...hey, I'm referring to the mere size...some so big we might wonder if one person could finish them..  Actually, I love anything "pickled" but today I am writing about the cucumber sort.  I have a recipe to share with you!  Pickles, pickled by the jar!  Yep, that's right...8-10 cucumbers, depending on the size and you can have yourself a jar of fabulous pickles waiting in your larder for the day your taste buds water for the garlicky, salt and vinegar cure of that firm crisp pickle!  You know the kind?  The kind addictions are made of.  Once the  the vinegar begins to manipulate the sides of your mouth there is no turning back.  Just one, are you kidding?

On our farm the garden is mostly about our own personal consumption and I'm learning how to deal with the various phases of the bounty.  Pickles are the reason I plant cucumbers.   The smaller (under 5" long)  cuc's are good for dill pickles. As long as the cucumbers aren't bitter (not enough constant water) and not too large (over 2" in diameter) they're always good for B&B's (bread & butters for those not familiar with pickle vernacular).  In my humble opinion FRESH picked is always key when it comes to pickles!  I don't believe I have ever met a pickle aficionado that wouldn't stick their nose up at soft pickles!

Now, listen up, a few successful canning's and an expert I am, NOT!  One of the reasons I am sharing this recipe; it is so darn easy.  I promise, if you try this recipe two things will happen.  1) You won't believe how easy it is.  2) You too will feel like an expert

I am the type with BIG ideas and not always enough time, or these days, energy to get er done. So, this recipe really appealed to me.  At the end of a long day working , destroying the kitchen with canning equipment spread from one end to the other doesn't appeal to me.  Another reason I like this recipe is the ease of dealing with your daily harvest.  In most home gardens the yield  is a few a day. So, collecting the quantity of pickles needed for most other recipes can be a pain.  Since the freshness of the pick contributes to the "crisp" of the bite, if you collect over time you'll have older cucumbers too. I believe the older ones have the potential to risk the crispness factor.  Now I know some of you are wondering about those pickles resting on the grocery shelf.  Don't think about!  I wouldn't even try it.  Just buy elsewhere.  There are plenty farmers and farmers markets around these days that freshness shouldn't be an issue. When the seasons not right, don't pickle. By the way, have you seen straw bale gardening?  Cucumbers are some kind of easy to grow.  

 When I found this recipe  I was stoked.  This is my third year using this recipe and I think I've finally perfected it.  I adapted it from a recipe I found in Backhome Magazine.
First, you want to wash your cucumbers well and snip the vine end, just a snip.  I'm told if left on the cucumber it can create a bacteria in the jar that would ruin the whole batch.  I'm not going to guide you through the basics of preparing the canning jars cause it is pretty basic stuff.  You want to sterilize each jar and the lids.  Any questions check out Ball site.

Using pint or quart size jars ( better for gifting) :
Place in the bottom of the jar
1 clove of garlic
1 healthy sprig of dill
1 dried hot pepper or a shake or 2 of hot pepper flakes (optional)
Next stuff each jar with as many cucumbers as possible.  I sometimes use a wooden spoon end to manuever the cuc's to make room.  They somehow snuggle up in the space.  Leave 1/2" headroom from the top of the jar.  If you'd prefer not to leave them whole the spears also work great in this recipe.
1-1.5 Tablespoon of non-iodized salt
1/2 cup cider vinegar
Fill the rest of the jar w/ boiling water, again making sure to leave the 1/2" headroom.
Last but far from least place a fresh grape leaf on top of the jar before you seal it.  I know most of you won't have access to such a thing.  The old timers say it is the final step to assuring crispness.  Maybe a neighbor has some  grapes?  If they have grape vines, they have leaves a plenty.  Maybe it's the very thing needed to bring neighbor to neighbor?
Process in a water bath for 20 minutes.
Make sure the jars seal.
In 6-8 weeks your pickles will be ready for the tasting.  Don't dilute the experience with crackers or anything else for that matter.  You will not stop at eating one and you'll be running about the house bragging on your yummy treat.  No, me, I didn't do that.....

What comes at the end of a Blog?  Unresolved photo placement!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Morning Gifts

The sun has returned and the out doors has again been calling me! This particular morning, like most, I embarked on my morning chores, letting the chickens out and feeding and watering to begin the day.  Lucy, the llama, and about 13 teenagers reside in one pasture.  Until they have lambs the first time they remain a bit skiddish around humans...even John and me.  We don't breed our girls until they're at least a year's a matter of physical development to me. They know the routine though. They are always watchful but they step right into the daily morning routine. 

Then I move on to the BIG girls, and they are BIG! They all have lambs by their side and they are pushy! I cannot out smart them and they do not listen to reason.  Believe me, I try! Guess they have alot on their mind raising the youngsters.  They know breakfast noshing is in the very near future.  Although they recognize my arrival is the first sign of breakfast they clearly think being on top of me will guarantee more, better....I don't know?  They each have their own personalities.  I have a time naming all the sheep...I cannot just give them a name, it has been very important to me to watch for their personalities, so, these gals really do live up to their names!  Don't tell my mother though who just happens to have a ewe with her name!  I won't go into too much detail here.  Naming deserves a whole post!

The main reason I am blogging today is a sighting here on the farm...we have a 2 acre pond that we've been told is one of the healthier ponds around.

 We don't manicure the perimeter of the pond and from what we're told that is one of the reasons it is so healthy. Many ponds are experiencing algae growth out of control brought in by the increasing Canadian geese population. We have been told fowl will avoid areas when their safety is challenged by over growth; they can't see an approaching predator.  It seemed a little contradictory to me that wildlife preferred manicured areas. Maybe those geese have been populating too many golf courses and roadsides? Maybe those geese have gotten a bit too citified and have forgotten the ways of nature?  
So yes, I am very glad we have a healthy pond but I am often disappointed that we don't have more birds. Well, this morning, much to my surprise... a female Mallard left the side brush to paddle to safety...away from me and off to the middle of the pond and I caught this....

Nature, ahhh!  The gifts she has to give....

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Finding the Words

A degree in Marketing you'd think I'd love writing about Stoney Mountain Farm, our journey and our products.  The issue is not whether I like it or not, it's that it has become such an integral part of my day to demands my action and my creative juices.  Maybe my zodiac sign would give some indication why I respond with rebellion?  I am sure my loved ones would have an opinion but I'm not asking! I am a very creative, very unorganized personality.  Try to put me on a schedule, it works for a few days.  Actually, a little structure feels good for a few days, but only a few.   I Blog, I do Facebook for the farm, Facebook for the Dryer Balls, I do Farmers Market news letter, I do Constant Contact...all require writing.  If you don't post, you don't stay in touch!  If you don't stay in touch....well, we all know what that means.
Alas, I have a growing business that requires outreach. 
The sad reality is I really love to write.
I'm sharing all this because a few posts back I felt the Blog calling me.  I felt remiss in my frequency of blogging.  I felt like I MUST write.  You know what you get when you try too hard?  Not your best work.  The topic was authentic but the content was forced.
I am sharing this because I hope I now can recognize the difference.  You can't force creativity.  Well, I guess you can but it's the difference between art and stuff, right?
This city girl turned farmer has had some incredible experiences on this farm that I know I should share. Many have asked me to.  I just have to give them words....

This little picture I adore.  I bought it at an antique store and it hangs over my desk as I try to find the words.  The caption "SEEING" as she looks in the mirror.

To find the words....I need to find my voice!
Finding your voice requires SEEING yourself.....

(My poor photography skills are the reason for the glare that looks like a moon above her head.  I actually moved her around hoping to remove the "moon"...instead of removing the glare, the moon moved!  Good, aren't I?)

Friday, April 13, 2012

The girls and a few token boys!

I'm sure you can agree that no farm is complete with out the early morning crow of a rooster.  No rooster is happy with out hens!
We are going on 5 years and just now officially adding the rooster:chicken:egg dimension to our farm plan.  A few years ago we added about 12 chickens and one MEAN rooster.  They graced our farm with their hen like cuteness for about 8 months and something came in one eve and left nothing but feathers for us to find the next morning.  We then decided then we couldn't have chickens until our fences were up and we could keep them secure.  We couldn't have them running round in the yard like "sitting ducks(chickens) for raccoons, weasels, neighbor dogs, and foxes just to name a few.  The locals all had different suspicions about the crime scene, all different.  We never arrested anyone!  I guess the whole occurrence made us a little gun shy, not sure we wanted to feel the heartbreak again.  So, wait we did.
We decided to bring chickens back to our farm operation primarily because it is the most efficient and healthiest method of fertilization being used today. And, you heard it from me...a rooster completes the farm!
As many of you have heard, our new chicken DIG's arrived.  The chicken house is now home to 45 hens and 3(maybe 4) roosters.  .  We chose hearty varieties of chickens that are good layers and we also wanted to stay true to our belief in heritage breeds.
Well as it goes the wee ones arrive and they begin their life under a heat lamp.  They grow FAST and eat ALOT.  A bit more then a month has passed and the girls and their few token boys have decended upon the pastures!  Here they are coming out for their first peeks.  I wish I could have captured this moment.  Now, they run about as if they own the place.  They do make us laugh.  My mom once said she could imagine them in the halls of congress, "clucking" issues out!  I have never been able to look at them the same since.

Friday, March 30, 2012


I wonder if I'd have taken the same 'journey through food' had I not become a farmer.   My passion for great food and cooking was established early on in my life.  My journey would help me understand that  FLAVOR begins with the seeds, the genetics, the roots, the dirt and the hands of a farmer.  I would learn that FLAVOR was determined at the beginning of our food origins.

I considered FLAVOR successes  the result of experience and creativity in the preparation...all attached to a finished product, say a fine cheese from a family that had been mastering the art for generations.  I didn't realize what you begin with, the raw ingredients, could have such an impact on the final result. I thought, and why wouldn't I, that any bright green pepper without blemishes would provide the absolute complexity of any other green pepper anywhere, right?

SlowFood, founded in Italy in 1986 and soon after taking root throughout the US, helped me realize that the integrity of our food was in jeopardy.  I became reacquainted with the most basic "ingredients" in my food experiences. I became educated to "organics" and familiar with "local" economies and the benefits of eating local.  Farmers Markets were popping up everywhere.  My thirst for fresh, local, healthy, juicy, FLAVOR full options became obvious.    About the same time I saw the emergence of terms like "heritage" breeds and "heirloom" varieties...FLAVORS surpassed for bigger, prettier, faster growing, and disease resistant options.  All these sheep, pigs, cows, and chickens with distinct flavors and natural lean qualities that couldn't keep up with the demands of the factory farm operations, too small, too slow growing, and not domesticated enough....all being replaced.  As for our fruits and vegi's that were a little too fragile, or not pretty enough...also being replaced.   As for our intimate food experiences, who had the time anymore? 

Before now the naive belief that getting food to us faster, making it last longer, have a better shelf life, more of it and cheaper prices had been the perceived solution in our growing society. We were paying a huge price to achieve our goals. FLAVOR was gradually being sacrificed, but how were we to know?

My move to the farm brought the venue for my continued adventure down FLAVOR lane. With fresh vegi's from my garden and other farmers it became more and more apparent, the FLAVOR differences were so obvious.  I believe my first mind blowing experience was the almighty tomato.  Who doesn't know the difference between a garden fresh, ripened by the sun, hopefully heirloom tomato and a store bought, well traveled, refrigerated alternative?  As I walked from my own garden with a spear of asparagus, watching the water flow from the freshly cut end, I realized I felt almost robbed.   My ONLY experience with asparagus had been on my plate or in the grocery store with the ends dry and looking like the corrugated threads of cardboard.  Walking toward my house that tender spear didn't have a chance, YUM!  Even if you could bite into that pale green flesh at a grocery you wouldn't because tender, as we've known it, happened only after cooking.  I bought carrots at the farmers market so sweet I'd swear I'd eaten a decadent dessert and lettuce varieties of all kinds, spicy, sweet, crisp and curled, dark green, light and even red.  WOW!  I was like a child learning the nuances of the very food I'd been so passionately consuming. Everything grabbed my senses. It wasn't until I realized FLAVOR was a choice not a given that I began to really pay attention.  
So, whats the most important take away from my journey...we must engage in where our food comes from.  I know we are all going through a food revolution of sorts. Those at the most basic end of the spectrum might be questioning buying from the big box stores, while others like me can barely shop in a grocery store at all.  As I said I am lucky to have healthful, FLAVORFUL, fresh options mostly outside my door.  My hope is at the very least you are all awakened by some morsel of food that makes your mouth water and your tongue dance too.  I am more and more convinced we each have to find our way back to REAL SLOW WHOLE  Food. 
To be continued.......