Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Maple Hill Hop 65



Maple Hill Hop


Welcome to 
The Maple Hill Hop.
This is a hop for folks who love the outdoors.
Feel free to post about anything that's going on
OUTSIDE
in your neck of the woods,
no matter the season.
(Please share only outdoor posts.)
Please link back to Maple Hill 101.


Today lettuce give thanks...



for the bounty that fills our need for freshness.
Lettuce is one of the best crops to grow here in winter.
We have temperatures that are just cool enough to encourage germination,
sunny days which inspire growth
and bugs take a vacation for the most part,
so they don't factor in to this crop's life cycle.



One of my favorite varieties is buttercrunch.
This is melt-in-your mouth good,
with just enough crunch and texture to satisfy any green lover.
Most lettuce takes about 50-60 days to mature,
but many can be harvested earlier for more tender leaves.



There are so many varieties of lettuce available now.
Reds, greens, purples all deserve a place in the garden
and on your dinner plate.
The collection of colors, textures and tastes
means that every gardener can find something s/he likes.



Lettuce is easily grown in containers, as are all you see here.

The soil should be kept moist throughout the growing season,
so as long as it's getting about an inch per week,
you should be able to savor it for quite some time.
We fertilize about every 4 to 6 weeks to give them the nutrients they need to thrive.


Lettuce is one of the easiest crops to provide for your homestead.
Loaded with vitamins, it's one of the best things you can do for your body.
Whether you're in the midst of your winter growing season, 
as we are here in Central Florida,
or just planning your spring garden,
be sure to consider this generous and delicious veggie.

What's happening where you are?
HOP on!





Friday, January 23, 2015

One Simple Thing-Cast Iron Cleaning



Cast iron has been around for centuries.
It's one of the longest lasting type of cooking utensils.
This workhorse can cook everything (literally) from soup to nuts.
I am blessed to have my mom's iron skillet
and it is cherished, especially now that she's gone.
I can remember her making omelets and all kinds of roasted veggies in it.
In fact, it rarely got a day off.
The bonus with using cast iron, is that some of the iron leaches into the food,
so if you have difficulty keeping your iron stores up, (like I do),
this is a great way to add iron to your diet without having to take pills.



Before you begin your seasoning it's okay to wash it with soap and water.
I use a repurposed nylon mesh bag to scrub it well.
After this initial cleaning, you shouldn't use soap on your pan again.


After allowing the pan to dry well,
lather it with olive oil or your favorite animal fat.


Make sure you coat the outside and the handle as well.


Place it in a 350 degree oven for at least an hour. 
You'll notice the shiny patina when it comes out.
This ensures a nonstick surface .



  Once seasoned, coarse salt can be used to scrub
any stubborn remnants in the pan after cooking in it.
Usually hot water and a swipe with a paper towel is enough to do the trick.
You can season as often as you wish,
but the patina should last a good long time
as long as soap isn't used on it.
Cast iron skillets are one of the easiest things to find
in thrift stores and yard sales.
With just a little bit of time and patience,
you can acquire pans that will last your lifetime
without spending much money.

Here are a couple of yummy recipes we've featured using cast iron:

Crispy Catfish
Ghee

For more tips on cast iron care, read this.





SSBH pies

The HomeAcre Hop

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Maple Hill Hop 64



Maple Hill Hop


Welcome to 
The Maple Hill Hop.
This is a hop for folks who love the outdoors.
Feel free to post about anything that's going on
OUTSIDE
in your neck of the woods,
no matter the season.
(Please share only outdoor posts.)
Please link back to Maple Hill 101.

It's been a dreary winter here so far.
For nearly a month,
the sun has been hiding around these parts.
What a glorious sight the sky was this weekend,
with blue as far as the eye could see.
We appreciate things so much more when we are denied them for a time.

This weekend found me fertilizing all of our crops.
It was so good to get outside and see what is growing in our modest garden.


Thanks to my farmer friends Faye and Lynn,
we have a broccoli forest started.
I've started  clustering like crops to make watering easier,
and create a lusher look. 
There's a pepper patch growing nearby
that will supply us with a red pepper regalia.


We were also gifted with ample eggplant starts
and hope to be harvesting within the next two months.
This is the Epic variety which can be found here.
The fruit gets to be about 8-10 inches long
and mighty flavorful.



We have a couple that will be ready a little sooner.
One of my favorite ways to enjoy this veggie 
is in Mimi's Ratatouille or roasted for a delicious pizza topping.


 

We're also growing this striped variety, Listada De Gandia.
The seeds came from here.
It's a smaller fruit, more likely to fit in your palm,
but equally as tasty.



I'm still having to reseed beets and sugar snap peas every few weeks.
It's a bit disappointing,
as I thought by now we'd be swimming in peas.
It has been a cool and relatively sunless winter thus far,
so I'm chalking it up to that.



 What has brought me untold joy is this blue pot
that's planted with two types of lettuce, beets and parsley.
It's the only place in the garden so far that has produced beets.
Maybe there's something to this container gardening, huh?



 The square-foot bed recently welcomed a few more lettuce starts,
as well as a few broccoli plants that Lynn had left over.
The "weeds" on the perimeter of this bed are morning glories
that are just getting started.
Thyme makes its home in the center of the bed.



A few lettuce starts were added along one of the paths in the south bed.
The arrow toward the upper left corner shows their location.
Our Halloween jack-o-lantern is slowly decomposing in the foreground.
The red flowers are native salvia, in case you're wondering.
They are butterfly and hummingbird attractors,
and the bees love 'em too!



The butterfly garden is making a comeback.
Here we have the native salvia, milkweed, daisies, parsley, rudbeckia and cleome
sharing space to greet flying visitors who bless us with their presence.



Everywhere that parsley has been planted is exploding.
This is a host plant for the black swallowtail caterpillars,
and we hope to be loaded with them in a few months.



This is a citronella plant given to us by someone coming to pick up caterpillars
(we give them away when we have them to educate folks on the life cycle).
It smells so good, and we're hoping it will do double duty as a mosquito repellent.



Without the streaming sun, we've been grateful for any burst of color in the garden.
These rudbeckias are still giving us a pop of  pizazz.



Milkweed pods have been harvested to start new plants.
This native, which is the host plant for the monarch caterpillar/butterfly,
will be grown so that we can supply folks 
with the necessary plant needed for their own butterfly gardens.


Our passionflower vine is blessing us with blooms daily.
Another butterfly plant, it adds beauty to the garden year-round.
We're so grateful to be able to enjoy so many wonders of nature.
And so thankful for that glorious sunshine!
What's going on outside where you are?
HOP to it!







Friday, January 16, 2015

Arbor Day




Hug a Tree, It's Arbor Day!

It has been over 135 years since J. Sterling Morton founded Arbor Day. 
His simple idea of setting aside a special day for tree planting is now more important than ever.



Arbor Day is a celebration of trees. It's a good day for planting trees, 
thereby providing cooling shade, wildlife habitat, cleaner air, and increased property values. 
By planting trees that are native to Florida, you will be sure of having a plant that is well-adapted to hot summers, sudden winter freezes, and prolonged periods of drought.



In 1945 the Florida State Legislature voted to designate the third Friday in January as the annual Florida Arbor Day. This year, the third Friday is January 16. The National Arbor Day is celebrated on the fourth Friday in April, but January is a much better time to plant trees in Florida so we have our own State Arbor Day.
source




 State parks are a great place to find native trees in your area.
Visit our State Parks here.  

ftf hop header





Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Maple Hill Hop 63


Maple Hill Hop


Welcome to 
The Maple Hill Hop.
This is a hop for folks who love the outdoors.
Feel free to post about anything that's going on
OUTSIDE
in your neck of the woods,
no matter the season.
(Please share only outdoor posts.)
Thanks for linking back to Maple Hill 101.


Let's talk broccoli.
This powerhouse of nutrition is so easy to grow
that every garden should have some.



It's amazing to think that a seed this size
can grow into one of the most health supportive foods on the planet.
The Farmer's Almanac has an informative page about growing this crop throughout the US.



 This member of the cruciferous family is easily grown in containers or right in the ground.





Broccoli is high in Vitamins A, C, and K,
as well as packing a serious fiber punch.



Even the lovely yellow flowers are edible,
so if your crop is starting to bolt,
you can still enjoy every bite.




Once the main head on the plant is harvested,
(here it's cut at an angle to avoid rain rotting the core),
the plant just keeps on giving.




Small, sweet, scrumptious tips grow out from the branches.
These can be harvested and savored in salads, soups or with your favorite dip.



I still haven't decided which I prefer,
the whole head or the tips.
But I can often be seen munching on these
on my way home from my work at the farm.
They are like a burst of energy with each bite.
Eaten raw or cooked, you can be sure they are a wonderful addition to any diet.
Try this recipe for Rice Crust Quiche
featuring this yummy veggie.





Here in Central Florida,
it's the perfect time to grow broccoli.
It is eaten with relish a couple of times a week.
Being able to eat seasonally is such a gift.





What's going on outside where you are?
Let's HOP!