Saturday, May 27, 2017

Trees Please

Remember when I talked about planting some trees on Earth Day?

Well I placed an order from Stark Brothers Nursery. And this is a completely unsolicited response on my part... They have AMAZING customer service. Stark's was incredibly communicative. I received emails every step of the order process, who promptly fulfilled the order and shipped. I ordered April 9th, had a shipping confirmation on April 11 with delivery on April 14. And this was not a paid expedited shipment. Color me impressed!

Ok--a funny and cute anecdote about the post title "Trees Please". When my daughter was a toddler, she loved broccoli, except she couldn't pronounce broccoli. She would ask for "trees please". haha

Since these were bare root saplings, I soaked the roots for 24 hrs after they were un-packaged.

And this stuff--coconut coir-- is the shizzle!

It is a SUPER hard, compressed block of coconut fibers. But when you add water, it is oh so magical. This is an eleven pound block.  Add water and it expands substantially. I failed to estimate exactly how much of this stuff I would end up with from that compressed block, ha. This is my 4 cubic feet garden cart. Soooo, yeah, lots of coconut coir. Fear not, I have put it to good use--more on that later.

I mixed the coir and an organic garden soil in a 1:3 ratio. The coir is a great soil conditioner. It helps with water retention, air circulation and adds organic matter to the soil while having a neutral pH.

I purchased 3 Heirloom variety Apple trees--Antique Treasures Collection. The collection contained 3 semi dwarf bare root trees of  1 each Cox's Orange Pippin Antique -an English cultivar dating back to 1835; Orleans Antique-a NY cultivar dating to 1924; Ben Davis-this is a US cultivar dating back to the 1800's.

I also purchased Peach tree seedlings--the Burbank Choice Peach Tree Collection. Saplings? Or should I say whips? Because they have no branching yet. This collection consisted of  2 dwarf trees-1 each July Elberta Peach and Starking Delicious. The July Elberta is heat resistant, originates in California and dates back to the 1930's. The Starking Delicious is frost hardy Elberta type, originates in Arkansas and dates back to 1949.

I currently have 2 Redhaven dwarf trees. Errrr... 1 tree and a bush?   Redhaven's  originate from Michigan and date back to the 1930's. Not sure what happened to the 2nd tree/ bush.  I thought it died but apparently not. I am debating whether to keep the "bush" or not. I need to see if  the shoots are above the graft.  I am not certain if these are suckers or water sprouts.

All of my peaches are self pollinating, freestone with a July harvest. And in case you were wondering clingstone vs. freestone refers to how the fruit flesh clings (or doesn't) to the fruit pit when cut in half. The tree on the left is 2-3 years and needs a bit of pruning. See the large "V" branch on the front of the tree? I think that should be pruned off. I am worried once fruit laden it may split. The tree/bush was planted last year.

  I started all my bare root saplings in 5 gallon buckets  because I haven't had much luck in the past years with my trees. Too many variables with weather, soil conditions, deer (gggrrr), or unfortunate incidents due to the weedwhacker. I decided I put too much money in to lose another set of saplings. And as you can see by the pictures,  the bucket saplings are growing quite well. The big question is should I plant them this year?

Fruit trees should be planted in the Spring but I really wanted to give the trees a chance to grow. If I were to plant them in fall I would need to plant them by the 1st week of September to make certain they can acclimate. I could mulch the roots and wrap the trunk prior to the onset of cold weather. The biggest damage for trees in cold weather is when the sun warms the trunk and the temperatures drop rapidly after the sun goes down.

I know it is only May and I am already talking about winter prep. If I overwinter them, should I keep them in the 5 gallon buckets? Or  make root balls and wrap them in Burlap? I can over winter them in the garage--which is cinder block and uninsulated.

I really, REALLY don't want to lose any more trees. I have lost all of my apple trees (a total of 4) and 3 peach trees.  Not to mention multiple ornamentals.  It is time consuming and expensive.  What say you, my bloggie friends? I am open to advice and suggestions.

©My Cozy Little Farmhouse 2009-current. Unauthorized use and/ or duplication without written permission from blog author/ owner is prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided acknowledgement is given to My Cozy Little Farmhouse, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Under Pressure

Yep, I did it. I splurged and bought an electronic pressure cooker! IP for shorthand.

Y'all know I have a kitchen gadget obsession.  The IP is now being distributed via Target. I scored a great deal. On sale for $99.95 (before tax), an additional 10 % instant rebate, 5% for using my Target debit card and a $10 rebate. Woot!

Soooo shiny!

I have had a cook top pressure cooker and I have a pressure canner. This electronic IP is AMAZING. No more rumbling, jiggling weight. It has several safety features built in. It is so easy to use.

The first thing I did after un-boxing my IP--after giggling and doing a little jig--was to wash all the parts and read every piece of literature that came with the IP. Next, a quick visit to the website to  watch the tutorial video. Only then did I set it up and perform the pressure test. Everything worked like a charm!

The first night I made beef vegetable soup. I sauteed the semi-frozen  diced stew beef  (12 oz beef in 1 TBS oil)) in the IP. IN THE POT! My crock pot doesn't have that function.  Next I added 1  (15oz) can of low sodium beef broth, 1 (8 oz)  can tomato sauce, 1 can (8 oz) diced tomatoes, 1 can of water (15 oz), 1 teaspoon of better than bouillon vegetable base,  1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning, 1 frozen bag  (12 oz) soup vegetable mix, and 2 bay leaves. After a quick stir, closing the IP, I selected the Soup function, high pressure, and set the timer for 35 minutes. Natural release (NR) for 20 minutes.  The meat was falling apart tender, perfect vegetables, great flavor.

The 2nd night I made soup beans and ham. I did soak my beans overnight as per my usual method. I sauteed 1 cup mirepoix and 8 oz diced ham  in 1 tsp bacon grease. I added 4 cups hot water, my soaked/ rinsed beans, seasoned with 2 bay leaves, and 1 teaspoon Penzey's Sunny Paris, and 1/2 teaspoon Chicago .  Placed the lid, turned the lever to seal,  Pressed the Bean/ Chili button, high pressure, set the timer to 35 minutes and walked away. 10 Minutes NR, then quick release.  My beans were finished in 35 minutes. Absolutely perfect texture with an earthy, slightly salty/ sweet and smokey flavor.

Country style pork ribs. I sauteed the season ribs (Penzey's Chicago seasoning) in 2 tsp oil, covered the ribs in sliced onions. Added  3/4 cup water w/ a shot of honey bourbon and 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (ACV). I selected Meat/Stew, high pressure for 40 min. I used a honey bourbon mustard glaze and baked it in the oven for 15 min (400°F). I served it with a salt and pepper crusted potato and a side of broccoli slaw. The ribs were fall off the bone, melt in your mouth tender..

Chicken & dumplings-1 pound boneless, skinless trimmed chicken thighs (whole, semi-defrosted) sauteed in 1 teaspoon butter, 2 cups water, and 1 heaping tablespoon Better than Bouillon Roasted Chicken base. I selected Meat/Stew, HP 8min/NR 10min/QR. Use 2 forks to pull the chicken into rough cubes/ thick shred. I added 1 cup mirepoix (frozen), 2/3 cup peas & carrots (frozen), 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning, 1 cup water, and1 bag of Reames dumpling noodles (frozen). I gave it a quick stir, selected Soup, HP 10 min and NR 20min I had to go to the grocery for milk, ha. Opened it up when I came home, gave it a quick stir, added some pepper and it was perfect!

I always thought I was a decent cook, now I feel like an amazing cook. Apparently you can make lasagna, hard boiled eggs, baked bread and make a cheesecake in the IP. As well as a kazillion other things. There are several online communities around the pressure cooking. It is almost cult-like, haha.  Best kitchen gadget purchase ever!

©My Cozy Little Farmhouse 2009-current. Unauthorized use and/ or duplication without written permission from blog author/ owner is prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided acknowledgement is given to My Cozy Little Farmhouse, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A little late to catch this trend

It is a little late in the game but I am just now catching on to this trend...of vinyl wall art and quotes.

I made a stop at Meijer's which is a local grocery plus store (they have clothing, home goods and a nursery in addition to the grocery). As I was meandering up and down the aisles I happened across a clearance section and found this vinyl wall quote for $4.99. SCORE!! 

It was so cute, I had to buy it!

The process for applying the quote was very simple. (I think the most difficult aspect was finding the perfect spot to place it!). I don't actually have much wall space in my kitchen. I decided the space between the refrigerator and kitchen door seemed to be the best spot. The decal came in 4 sections. I used scotch tape to hold the beginning of the quote in places and used the embossing tool to rub the vinyl on the wall. When I was certain it was in place I peel back a corner to check. Once I was certain it was okay, I used a very hot and barely damp soft cloth to rub over the vinyl release sheet then peeled it back slowly, in taut but smooth motion. I repeated the process for the remaining 3 sections of the quote. I eyeballed the placement, as to what appealed to me visually. 

I think it turned out rather well!

My daughter decided she liked it and also bought a kit.  It always makes me smile when I go to the kitchen and see it. A nice statement for under $5 and and 15 minutes of my time. If only everything else were so inexpensive and easy to do.

©My Cozy Little Farmhouse 2009-current. Unauthorized use and/ or duplication without written permission from blog author/ owner is prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided acknowledgement is given to My Cozy Little Farmhouse, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Much ado about spices

Food is THE central component in my life. Food is social. How many events are planned around food? Food is comfort. Was it a good day? Let's celebrate with food. Was it a bad day? Let's drown our sorrows with food. Oh you're sick? You need to eat. 

It isn't just about eating though. I think about food. ALOT. Where am I buying it? Can I grow, harvest and preserve it? What am I cooking, baking or creating?

One of my favorite things about food is to try or create new recipes. Part of that creation process are the flavors of the ingredients. Especially the herbs and spices. Combining all the ingredients to form just the right combination of  texture, aroma and taste. Every growing season I have several planter boxes filled with various herbs. I use what I can then harvest and store what I can't use.  I would say there is nothing like fresh herbs and spices. The aromas are so tantalizing!  To be honest though, the bulk of spices/ herbs I use, are dried simply because it is convenient.  I have tried many varieties and brands of spices. Generic, Store branded, McCormick, Spice Island, Simply Organic and Dean & DeLuca. But not all spices are created equally.

Recently I had the opportunity to try Penzey's Spices. They have brick and mortar stores across the country as well as a strong online presence.

The store is very well laid out. Oh and the smells are AWESOME! There are all sorts of little sections on how the spices are categorized. Salads, Grilling, Baking, Indian, BBQ, etc...

My favorite part of the trip (besides smelling all the yummy spices) is the kitchen display. ALL the Penzey stores have a replica vintage kitchen, displaying jars of cinnamon (4 varieties), cake spice, pie spice, baking spice and vanilla (as well as other baking type spices and blends!). This is the stock photo for the Cincinnati store because I actually forgot to take a picture!

I showed considerable restraint and didn't buy the whole store...but it was tempting! The Tsar Dust, Greek and Star Anise were freebies with my purchase!

Since visiting the store I have also placed an order...or 2. They have amazing service and there are always freebie spices and swag (Bumper stickers, pins, etc) in the orders.

Besides the excellent quality of the spices, Penzey's is also involved in the community and an advocate for equal rights. Yet another reason I love them! If you haven't been I suggest you go. If there isn't a store local you, order online. You will not regret it!

©My Cozy Little Farmhouse 2009-current. Unauthorized use and/ or duplication without written permission from blog author/ owner is prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided acknowledgement is given to My Cozy Little Farmhouse, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.