Antietam Valley Farmers and Artists Market

A very lovely friend of mine recently moved to the Antietam area. She discovered and shared with me that they have an awesome farmers market on Saturday mornings. Their grand grand opening for the season was earlier this summer. The event is usually all outdoors but because of the rain they moved it into the rec center there at the park. This alone was super awesome.

We first did a circle to see everything. The worst thing to do at a farmers market is to buy at the first stand you see. You must walk around, see what everyone has and THEN go around and purchase.

My first purchase came from Conebella Farm. They are a dairy farm that has been owned by the same family since 1923, a whopping 5 generations. They have AMAZING cheese. After trying a few samples I was HOOKED and left with a 10oz block of Hickory Smoked Colby Jack. I purchased the Old Bay cheese  spread the last time I was there. It’s so good with pretzels. The prices are great for a local, fresh cheese!

Next came HONEY! Griesemer Beekeeping has fresh honey made out of Wernersville. I did not buy a jar of honey this time, but couldn’t resist a few honey sticks 5/$1. They have a variety of flavors and it was hard to pick just a few! Fun fact- buying local honey is also great for allergies!

Grow Your Own Freedom was my next stop. I am addicted to this stand. I’m just going to leave their website right HERE! I’ve been using their bug sprays all summer. At least once a year like this because of bites-IMG_7001

I usually swell and hurt and throb, it’s a nightmare. This year, I got ONE bug bite on my hand because I forgot to spray once. Even with working in the garden. Even in the middle of a swamp in North Carolina on vacation. NO BUG BITES. Seriously. This stuff is MIRACLE spray. The last time I was at the market I got their Vanilla Mocha chapstick. Uh. Holy. Moly. I can’t even. Or odd. So yummy. It leaves my lips nice and soft without being sticky. I am in LOVE. They make soaps, salves, scrubs- tons of all natural and locally grown/made stuff. Garden care is also a service that they provide and help with. Seriously. I think I’m in LOVE. 

We bought a few other goodies, but I will write about those in a later post. For now, enjoy this picture of me with a purple tongue from eating a pint of black raspberries all by myself.

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Snow Day Garden Planning

It is a winter wonderland right now. Seriously. We have over a foot of snow in our yard, a combination of the approximately 8 inches we got today plus what was already laying on the ground. My dad used our snow blower to created a doggy path in our back yard since our critters are a bit vertically challenged.

10437617_10206255174127735_8793836284818350200_nI am desperately looking forward to the days when our yard looks more like this-

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Last year was the first garden my parents did. This little plot is 8×10. This year, we are more than doubling that to a whopping 32×10. Yes, 32×10. That is 320 square feet of prime food growin ground. When you decide to grow a garden that big, you can not haphazardly throw plant in the ground. There is an art to this, a serious science. I have spent at least 3 hours researching, drawing, erasing and going back to the garden boards to plan out our vegetable garden this year. An excel spread sheet, and 2 tables later, I think I’ve got it!

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This is an excel spread sheet of all different fruits and vegetables we will be growing, whether in the main 32×10 garden, in a separate box, like our strawberries, or in our side garden, like the cucumbers. It features how deep to plant the seeds, how far apart to plant them, how many can be planted in a square foot, when to plant, companion planting info, soil info and sun preferences. Instead of having to search 18 different websites, I can simply pull this up and all of the info I need is right there in one spot!

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This is our 32×10 garden lay out. Below is the color key, black is walking space. It is a pain in the butt to harvest, weed and take care of a garden when you have no room to actually walk! What a travesty to have great plants and accidentally step and crush them! This helps aid this problem. Having it laid out also means no guessing when it comes to planting time. Each square will have 1-16 plants depending on what is being planted there. We LOVE canning homemade tomato sauce, and being able to harvest and freeze fresh green beans, carrots and peppers to use throughout the winter and spring. Nothing beats having fresh carrots and green beans in a good hearty pot of stew in the middle of December. We are also planting marigolds around the perimeter of the whole garden. There are numerous benefits of this, one of them being that they attract bees, which helps pollination, which in turn means lots of produce!

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 5.18.33 PMRight now, the wind is blowing and the snow is still kinda falling. By the end of the week it is supposed to bounce back up to the 40s and Spring will quickly be approaching. I still have our front flower gardens to plan and a few weeks before we’ll be able to till the ground and get our (organic/natural) soil additives in preparation for planting time mid-April. Though it seems so far away, like the snow may never stop and the ice will never melt, I know that in just a few short weeks I will have my toes in the dirt and seeds in the ground!

Garden Growth

GREAT PUMPKIN! I don’t think anyone quite understands the joy of having not one, but MULTIPLE pumpkins growing right now. Last year, we had a giant plant and no pumpkins. I LOVE pumpkins. Pumpkin carving and pumpkin seeds are two of my most favorite things in the world. I have not ventured to pumpkin soup. That might change this fall though! They’re still little, and look more like our watermelons, BUT THEY’RE PUMPKINS! Yeah, I’m that excited. Like a kid in a candy store.

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Of course, the tomatoes. They are HUGE! And we have had a few start to turn red. I can’t believe how big they are this year. We must have done something right to the soil. We didn’t get very many even close to the size of these guys. By the time I get back from Antrim I will have a bajillion to make sauce with! Thank goodness I have already set a day aside to do it!

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And the chickens. They are still growing. Their combs are slowly but surly coming in. They LOVE eating strawberries and have begun to associate me with feeding them the delicious little treats. The other day I saw one of the girls “assume the position.” I had never seen a chicken lay an egg and didn’t realize it was different from when they just kind of sit down. Eric, who has a bit more experience informed me that that is how they sit when they are laying an egg! No eggs yet but hopefully that’s a sign that they are coming soon!!! 🙂 I love their fluffy little butts too!

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Children of the Corn

Ok, I thought the play on words was hilarious. I have a very dry, off kilter sense of humor though. It’s ok. I know most of you will roll your eyes or not get it.

Honestly, I didn’t think it would happen. When Eric told me he wanted to grow corn I rolled my eyes. Everyone knows that in order for corn to be successful you must plant quite a bit of it in order to get proper cross-pollination. My aunt and uncle have been growing corn for years, and have had struggling crops more often than not. They do, however, have issues with varmints and deer that we simply do not. Reluctantly, I kept my mouth shut and said “Go ahead,” totally expecting very little to come of this venture. We could be planting green beans in that space! I was quite pleased as the stalks began to creep upward. I was still unsure of whether or not we would get ears of corn. It’s not unheard of to have plenty of stalks with teeny tiny, little to no ears sprout because of a lack of pollination. Today, Eric proudly sent me pictures of  4 baby ears of corn coming in. We have about 20 fuzzy little sprouts coming in.

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I must say, and admit, he was right. I am excited to see how big they get and how many more sprout up over the next few weeks! 🙂 I guess now I have to let him make next years corn area take up a bit more of the garden space.

Summer Tea

Having done mission trips through a southern based organization, to say I’ve grown up with southern sweet tea is an understatement. My mother’s recipe is a collaboration of an Alabama recipe and a North Carolina recipe. She made it during one of our mission trips and auctioned off two gallons to go towards our mission fund that week. Both gallons went for HUNDREDS of dollars. Poor Southern boys were a wreck up North here without their sweet iced tea.

MY tea, is not southern sweet tea. There is not 2 cups of sugar. No peaches were harmed in the making of this tea either. It’s fruity, fun and refreshing.

Ingredients:

2 Black Cherry Berry and 2 True Blueberry teabags

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1/4 cup white sugar

1/4 cup honey

Fresh Strawberries (optional)

Lots of water

1. Heat water in a pot until it starts boiling.

2. Add sugar, honey and the 4 tea bags

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3. Allow to boil about 30 seconds and remove from heat. Let the bags steep for about 10 minutes.

4. While the tea is steeping, slice up some strawberries! When I got to the house today Eric had been out in the patch and picked an entire bowl of the little red rubies! Talk about FRESH!

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5. I poured the tea into a pitcher to chill for about an hour.

6. Pour into a mason jar, add strawberries AND ENJOY!

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Check out that back porch view!

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And because I’m not spoiled enough, I spent my afternoon floating around the pool, drinking tea and reading “The Jane Austen Handbook.” I’d like to clarify, I spent my whole weekend working retail, I have EARNED this lazy day. 😉 That book review will be up tomorrow!

Babies! And Not Just the Chickens!

We have lots of “little” things around the gardens this week! I can assure you I am NOT growing one myself. Just wanted to clarify so that my mother doesn’t have a heart attack. 🙂 We are hitting that point in the summer where everything is really starting to grow. We have more than just green beans and strawberries coming in! Though, let’s face it, nobody is complaining about either of those things!

First, we’ll check in with the strawberries! They are due for another shoot cut off and bury day in the very near future! They are producing like crazy and it’s wonderful! I love going outside to pick breakfast FRESH every morning!

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Next, the mater plants. It’s like a forest. We have beautiful baby green tomatoes! By the time I get back from my mission trip the first week in August they will be ripe and ready to turn into SAUCE! 😀

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Baby watermelons are the cutest. They’re just adorable. Our watermelon plants are monsters this year and I have a feeling we will have some monster melons to go with them!

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We trimmed the pumpkin back a TON so that the main plant, some choice leaves and the blooms have been left. This helps ensure that the good stuff can go towards making PUMPKINS! 😀

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We’ve got fuzzy little sprouts on a number of our corn plants. Whether or not we get some real ears this year will be the real question! They’re growing like weeds and looking good so we’re hoping we get SOMETHING from them!

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Last, but certainly not least- the ACTUAL babies! THE CHICKENS! I don’t think I can quite call them babies anymore being that they have all of their big girl feathers. They aren’t quite laying yet but we should be getting our first eggs by the end of August! They also, after well over a month, have figured out that they can roost all together in a row on the hockey stick, seen in the first photo in the top right corner. They have all turned gorgeous shades of red, mahogany and brown. Women pay big bucks to have their hair dyed the colors of these girls. Their combs are turning red and their beaks are getting darker. They have totally made friends with Miller, through the fence of course.

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The gardens are producing, growing, and taking over. There is something humbling, earthing, and beautiful about being able to go outside and get fresh fruit for breakfast and fresh green beans for dinner.

Jeremiah 29:5 “ Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them;”

It’s all in the Dirt

It’s been a busy week for the dirt in the gardens! At Eric’s house I plucked our first onions. They’re a bit on the wee little side but they are packing a punch and delicious!

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The watermelon plants are budding! Last year we did sugar babies and weren’t very happy with the results. This year we chose a different kind and it is flourishing! There are buds EVERYWHERE! In the world of vine plants- BUDS=YUM! This goes for the pumpkins as well. As you can see in the first picture, the pumpkin is creeping in.

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Speaking of….he’s taking over our garden! Because our one watermelon plant is doing so well we are probably going to pull the smaller of the two that is struggling just a bit. And the rest of our onions will be out shortly. We have to get those guys out so our massive octopus of a pumpkin can roam more on the free side. The next step will be hefting the vines over the fence to let it free range in the yard! On the plus side, there are a number of beautiful blossoms! I’m hoping to ACTUALLY get a pumpkin this year! 😀

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What our pumpkin looked like on June 15th. I honestly can’t even get a picture with a wide enough view to show you how big the pumpkin plant is. Trust me, it’s become a monster. I’m hoping I get MONSTER pumpkins out of it too! The second picture is from June 26th. It’s much bigger than that even. Trust me.

I spent my afternoon walking through the sea of green beans. They are HUGE! And I still have one more row left to do! I set myself up a nice little system on the living room floor so I could watch TV and not be stuck standing in the kitchen. It’s amazing how quickly that colander fills up!

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First round- Row 1

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By the second round I got smart with a bowl for the tips, a bowl for the snapped and my colander in the middle. Rows 2 and 3

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I got to repeat the process with round 3, row 4. Yeah, there’s still another row left to do.

At my parent’s, my mom and I were investigating our carrots! They’re starting to show through the dirt but they’re just not ready yet! Hopefully by the end of the month they’ll be there.

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Each set of gardeners does different things to help their garden dirt. At my parents, my mom saves our coffee grounds, saves and crushes egg shells and sprinkles it all in the garden. They have been battling first year soil. In the fall they’ll be adding lime and peat moss. At Eric’s, he does lime in the fall and again about March a few weeks before we plant so that the lime doesn’t burn the baby plants. He also adds peat moss and sand. Now that we have the chickens and the gardens are so huge he has finally agreed/decided too…. COMPOST! YAY! We have the perfect spot for it behind our sheds at the back of the property. Egg shells, grass clippings, leaves, weeds, our garden clippings, coffee grounds, chicken poop, banana peals- it’s all going in! I’m sure I’ll be posting about THAT adventure by the end of the summer. 🙂

Pocket Chicken and Potatoes With Green Beans

When it is in the 90s the last thing you want to do is turn the oven on in the house. Even with the AC on full blast the oven is a bad idea. But the taste of the grill isn’t always wanted every day of the week. Here is my way around both problems.

Ingredients-

4-5 boneless, skinless chicken breast

Salt

Pepper

Olive Oil

Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

Parsley

1/2 cup onion

2 garlic cloves

Butter

Pakricka

1. Thaw chicken breasts.

2. Pull out 2 large pieces of foil and make the shape of a plus sign. Spray with non-stick spray and drizzle some olive oil to keep the meat from sticking.

3. Finely chop your onion and garlic, kind of mix them up in the same bowl

4. Place about a quarter of the onion and garlic on the top piece of foil

5. Season each chicken breast on underside and place on top of onion and garlic.

6. Season the top side of the chicken and spread the rest of the onion and garlic on top.

7. Drizzle with a bit more olive oil and add small pads of butter on top of each breast.

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8. Wrap the chicken up nice and tight!

DO NOT POKE HOLES! The whole point of this is to partially steam the chicken. It stays nice and moist this way.

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9. Turn the grill on High and place the pockets on the grill. Our grill at that point cooks at about 400.

10. Cook for 10 minutes, go out and turn the pocket. Cook for another 10 minutes.

11. Turn the grill down to Medium for 15-20 minutes.

12. You can pull them out just to add a few grill marks or remove them from the pocket and place on a plate to serve.

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Serve with fresh veggies!

I was super excited to make the potatoes! It finally gave me a chance to use the ones we dug out a few days ago!

Ingredients:

Potatoes

Olive Oil

Butter

Garlic

Rosemary

Onion

Parsely

1. If needed, cut potatoes. I used a lot of our smaller ones that only needed cut in half or not at all!

2. Lay out 2 piece of foil just like the chicken. Spray with non-stick spray

3. Add potatoes to the center

4. Drizzle with olive oil, seasonings and herbs

5. Top with a few pads of butter

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6. Wrap up nice and tight. DO NOT POKE HOLES!

Cook along side the chicken- see directions above and below

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7. Turn the grill on High and place the pockets on the grill. Our grill at that point cooks at about 400.

8. Cook for 10 minutes, go out and turn the chicken pocket, FLIP the potato pocket. Cook for another 10 minutes.

9. Turn the grill down to Medium for 15-20 minutes.

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And last, but not least, actually my favorite part- THE GREEN BEANS!

Tonight was our first night of having our green beans FRESH out of the garden! Absolutely, hands down, favorite and best thing about having the garden!!! Traipsing through the green bean forest is quite fun as well!

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Green Beans

Garlic Clove

1 Tablespoon Butter

Olive Oil

Minced Onion

1. Blanch/cook your green beans to desired level of crunch! We like ours a bit on the crispy side still!

2. While the beans are cooking, finely mince garlic and mince onion (or use the dried stuff)

3.. Drain water and put beans back into pot.

4. Add butter, a squirt of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon garlic, and 1/2 tablespoon of onion.

5. On medium-high heat melt the butter and keep everything moving as to not burn it.

6. Once the beans start to show signs of frying and the garlic and onion are thoroughly infused, remove from heat.

That is one yummy, fresh, flavorful summer dinner!

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New Additions

Eric had a brilliant idea. Our girls love roosting together in a row and the balusters we set up aren’t too long. So he put an old hockey stick for them. GENIUS! Of course they weren’t hanging out on it when I went out to take pictures.

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Our gardens have some new additions as well! We have our first baby beans starting to burst through!

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Eric’s tomato plant was the first of them to have a mater bud.

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And the strawberries are coming in strong!

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I plucked a few before work. I meant to take pictures of them but uhhh oops! They were delicious!

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