You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘gardening’ tag.

I start with these

One thing I enjoy doing every summer is canning peaches. The name “canning” is a misnomer since I’m not putting them in cans,
but using a hot water bath to process the jars and peaches to produce an airtight seal. I have an outdoor burner that I attach to an LP tank that is used for a grill, so I can do all the hot work outside and not heat up my kitchen.

Nothing compares to fresh peaches in the summer, but there truly is no comparison to fresh peaches in the winter. During
the cold winter, I love to go down to our fruit cellar and see the bright colorful jars and I can’t wait to open one up and bring back a taste of summer. When the kids were little, I made pint jars. Now that they are older, I’ve moved to quart jars, which is about 1 ½ meals for us.

My mom did a quite a bit of canning and freezing of fruits and vegetables when I was growing up. After Dale and I were
married and moved out to the farm, his mother Celie helped me get started. My daughter Beth helps me now.

Now, growing your own food and canning and preserving that food has become quite popular. Who knew we farmers were such trend setters?

Ready to eat this winter

  With the fall season officially here, it’s time to say goodbye to much of the garden produce. Beets, carrots and potatoes have all been dug and are ready for winter storage. The tomato plants have produced well, but are starting to fade and the recent heavy rains have been hard on them. Only the squash, pumpkins and sweet potatoes remain in the garden, as we wait until they reach full maturity.

 Fall is my favorite time of year. I love the warm sunny days and the cool crisp nights. The colorful leaves paint a wonderful picture across the trees. The fall air has a certain scent that is easy to identify, but hard to explain. Going for bike rides and running seems extra special because I know that in a few weeks, the weather will change and not be as pleasant.

 A few apples hang on the trees and we continue to harvest them as best we can before they fall to the ground. Apple pies, crisps, pancakes and applesauce dominate the menu as we try to eat them at their peak.

 Soon I’ll put away the tomato cages, haul off the excess vines and have Dale till the garden. Before too long a blanket of snow will cover the ground as it goes dormant over the winter in preparation for spring and the next garden season.

“The apples are ready”, Dale calmly proclaimed to me the other day. Every fall we make our own applesauce, but this year, the apples are about 2 weeks ahead of schedule. “Really?” was my reply as I went through the checklist in my mind of all the things I needed to get done over Labor Day weekend. Let’s see, Cross Country Ride and Tie and Potluck, laundry, cleaning, another trip to the State Fair for Brett and Adam’s presentations and project judging, a bike ride and more cleaning. Yikes, no obvious open time slot for making applesauce.

But on the farm, when the produce is ready, you make time for it. It’s probably the hunter/gatherer in us that drives us to fill our pantries and freezers before winter arrives. Our inner voice also says we need to take care of them all, no matter how much we already have. Even if our freezers and cellars are full, we try to make room for more. This summer the tomatoes came right during State Fair and even though I did my best to make soup, sauce and stewed tomatoes, I just couldn’t get them all. As I walked through the tomatoes, spotting the ones that were pass their prime, I felt bad I couldn’t get to them all. Let’s see, if I would have pulled an all-nighter, I could have made sauce and used some of these tomatoes…..

After finishing some morning bookwork, my sights were set on the apples, with my trusty helper Beth at my side. We began peeling the apples. Fortunately, I have the best Mother-in- Law in the world (Thanks Celie!) She came out and helped peel for about 1 ½ hours which really saved time. My taste tester Beth helps determine how much sugar to add. We also needed to be careful not to have the heat too high and scorch the bottom of the pot. We want nice colored applesauce, not jars with brown flecks in them. (Sounds like something a judge would say).

Three hours and three pots of cooked apples later; we’ve processed 14 quarts of applesauce, which will last us almost a year. I’ll make more applesauce later to freeze and I’ll also slice some apples and freeze them for pies and crisps for later this winter.  

So the apples called and I responded. When I put the jars in my fruit cellar and see them lined up with my peaches and tomatoes, a faint smile will come over my face. Yes, it’s hard to explain the call of the fruits and vegetables, but well-stocked stocked shelves tell me the hunter/gatherer in me did alright.

I haven’t been feeling like much of a runner or farmer this past week.  A cattle show and illness have prevented me from running much and my marigolds are being consumed by slugs.

My family spent last Thursday-Sunday in Albert Lea, MN at a cattle show.  The days were filled with activities, which didn’t leave any time for running.  Minnesota hosted the show so we had the responsibilities of serving meals, organizing events, and providing entertainment.  On Saturday evening a fellow pork producer grilled boneless pork chops for supper.  They were delicious and got rave reviews! 

Maddie & Brandon

Maddie did very well with her showing and, of course, didn’t find any time for running either.  Above are a picture of her and Brandon enjoying the day.  Maddie and I have both been fighting some type of cold/flu.  I’ve had a sore throat and body aches off and on for a week now and have been feeling sluggish.  I’m sure hoping I start feeling better before Grandma’s race this weekend. 

On Wednesday we have a National Pork Board tour coming to our farm and staying for dinner.  It should be an enjoyable event.  I’m not meticulous about how our yard looks, but I want it presentable.  I was outside this morning pulling a few weeds and found slugs everywhere on my marigolds.  They have just about consumed every leaf on every plant.  After some quick research, I learned they like beer more than they like marigolds, so now I have some beverages available for the slugs in the flower garden.

If I can be rid of the slugs and my sluggishness by the end of this week, I will consider it a success.  Wish me luck!

As many runners have done, I have been pouring over articles to assist with training, gear and nutrition as I get closer and closer to Grandma’s Marathon. While I have noticed many trends, there are a few items I want to add from my own experience. Since my farming operation is based on raising pigs, I will admit an obvious bias towards pork consumption, so bear that in mind as I ramble on.

Exercise of any sort involves the use of your muscles. Running requires extensive use of your largest muscles, and a day or two after exercise, soreness can set in (at least until your body acclimates). Exercising muscle breaks them down slightly (the soreness) and triggers a reaction for your body to start building more muscle fibers to accommodate future strain. In order for your body to do this, it needs protein, and more importantly, it needs the amino acid building blocks in the proper balance to create protein. (We balance our pigs’ feed rations based on amino acids, feed intake and location in the growth curve)

While in college, my nutrition professor mentioned that the amino acid proportion in eggs was 94% balanced for humans, meat (pork, beef, poultry, lamb) was in the 70-75% range and plant proteins ranged from 10-50%, depending on the source. Based on this, meat is a great source of protein for athletes, because we have used the animal’s biological system to take the raw products (usually corn, soybean meal, ethanol byproducts and a vitamin & mineral premix) and convert it into a flavorful and nutritious meal. It is interesting that the one meat commonly considered OK to eat by running publications is chicken. A 2006 USDA study found that six common cuts of pork contain 16% less total fat and 27% less saturated fat than they did 20 years go. It also found that pork contains NO artery-clogging trans fats, and it includes essential vitamins and minerals.

A serving of roast pork tenderloin, for example, is an excellent source of protein, thiamine, vitamin B6, phosphorous and niacin, and a good source of riboflavin, potassium and zinc. Pork is a lean, low-calorie, relatively low-cost source of high-quality protein – 1 3 ounce tenderloin has 2.98 grams of fat compared to 3.03 grams fat for the same-sized serving of skinless chicken breast.

When you do prepare pork, do your best not to overcook it. The best aid in doing this is a meat thermometer. When the interior of the cut reaches 150F, remove the pork from heat and cover, letting it rest for another 5 minutes. The heat near the surface of the meat will continue to penetrate inward, raising the temperature past 160F, but removing the pork from heat will keep the moisture inside and help retain tenderness.

As far as training goes, I have had my extensive long runs (20 and 22 miles) over the last two weekends. I was satisfied overall with how they went. I am looking forward to auditioning the Pork Power racing shirts at the Med City Half-Marathon starting in Byron, MN this Sunday. After that, one more large mileage week before the taper, then Grandma’s on June 19.

“You can’t make footprints in the sands of time if you are sitting on your butt. And who wants to make buttprints in the sands of time” Bob Moawad

Finally some sunshine, I have talked to more people who were feeling bummed about all the cloudy weather. In true Minnesota fashion, once we get warm weather, we get out and enjoy it, and in some cases overdue it.

Last Friday was Track & Field day at Adam and Beth’s school. It’s a combination of running, jumping and silly events for the kids to compete in. Adam ran his best 1600 m, with a 5:48 time. He was happy to get the school record. I on the other hand, seemed to have pulled a hamstring muscle. Who knew that squatting down 100 times to measure the long jump could cause muscle strain. Next time I stretch before I measure.

Saturday was filled with outdoor chores, mowing the lawn, trimming around the buildings and washing the car. I was able to get in a 15 mile bike ride, which felt really good.

Sunday was more lawn mowing and washing the van. Dale was able to finish planting the garden, which meant putting in green beans, sweet corn, tomatoes, beets, muskmelon and squash. Our potatoes, onions, spinach and lettuce that were planted earlier are growing nicely. That evening Dale and the boys went to see Clash of the Titans, while Beth and I stayed home. She rode bike with me as I ran 2 miles. My muscles seemed a little sore, but it was still good to run.

I treasure weekends like we just enjoyed. It’s that combination of hard work outdoors, plus relaxing and enjoying the beautiful weather that leaves you with a good kind of tired at the end of the day.