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Posts Tagged ‘missouri’

I like adventure in my life.  Living on the edge.  Trying new and exciting things.  Things that make people say, “What is WRONG with you?”
I hear that phrase quite often from people who knew me way back when.  I have to admit that, had someone told me twenty years ago that I’d be living on a farm and raising chicken and cucumbers, I’d have punched them in the nose for even suggesting such a thing.  Now, though, I just look at them and smile.

The truth is, I can’t imagine living any other life than the one I have. I step out my door, or stare out my window, and all I see is a world blanketed in the beautiful green of the trees  and the brilliant flowery bits of purple, yellow, white, orange, blue and pink that cover the ground.  I see birds in colors that I never knew existed.  I watch bees and squirrels and butterflies as they scamper and flit through the yard.

in the woods

And, then there are my gardens.  I don’t believe there is any possible way to describe the feeling I get when I step into view of one of them.  The peace that fills me.  The easing of ill feelings and anger and negativity.  The joy and hope.  The reminder of all things beautiful and enduring that life has to offer.  It’s a little corny, I know, but there it is…

Pink flowers

In case you couldn’t tell, I’m kinda proud of my gardens.  All of them.  Even my sorry, neglected vegetable gardens.  Well, not really neglected…more like I-let-them-get-out-of-control-and-there-aren’t-enough-hours-in-the-week-to-catch-up-on-them…  Not that it was completely my fault.  It was mostly Mother Nature’s fault.  She’s the one who sent two solid weeks of rain in the middle of the summer, making it impossible to even get to my gardens. By the time I finally built a raft and rowed out to check on them, I was pretty certain they were done for.  My poor tomatoes, so lovely and full, had started to burst from all the water.  My lovely zucchini were water-logged and beginning to rot on the plant.  Even my watermelons seemed to have gotten just a bit too much water.

wet garden

Alas, as the rain cleared, the sun began to shine and the waters began to recede.  Lo and behold, I discovered all was not lost, in fact.  I pulled the cracked tomatoes, rotting zucchini and water-logged watermelons and watched in profound joy as those hardy plants sprouted new blooms and pushed out another round of fruits and veggies that showed even greater promise! Oh, how I love those Heirloom plants!

Should you ever find yourself in this same position, here’s what you can do to save your garden veggies; as soon as you can get to them, pull all the dead, dying, waterlogged or otherwise affected fruit from the plant and throw it in the compost pile (or feed it to your chickens, goats, dogs and cats like I do).  Pull off any leaves that are spotted or ugly.  Sit back and wait.  New blooms should appear within a couple of days and you can be enjoying a fresh round of fruits and veggies in a couple of weeks.  It is that simple.

My flower gardens are another story completely.  They LOVED all the rain!  They burst to life, covering my walls and ground with glorious color.  My vines vined, my flowers flowered…I have loofa, morning glory, datura, bamboo, castor beans….all of them happier than I’ve ever seen them!

So, riding high on a tide of garden-induced euphoria, I made the decision to add a goat or two to our happy farm family…

That wasn’t completely my fault, either.  See, my grandson needs some goat’s milk to eat, and my cousin (who swears she really does like me!) convinced me I needed some, and I could use some goat’s milk for my products….Anyway…the Universe conspired to make it happen.  Who am I to fight fate?

Meet Latte and Buttercup.

Latte and Buttercup

Latte and Buttercup

You have to admit they are pretty darn cute.  They’re good sports, too.  They didn’t kick me once while I was milking them…not even when they probably should have.  Instead, they just kinda looked at me askance a time or two, and I’m pretty sure that Buttercup sighed in exasperation a few times… Still, I have a gallon of fresh goat’s milk that I got all by myself! Am I unbelievably cool, or what?

At this point, you may be wondering what all the fuss is about.  Well, I’m gonna tell you.  It’s all about the goat milk and how super-duper-awesomely-cool it is.

First, though, let’s get the legal portion out of the way….The FDA says that any kind of raw milk is dangerous.  Deadly, in fact.  It harbors evil bacteria that are lying in wait to cause illness and death.  You should never, ever drink raw milk, or eat any products made with raw milk, or smell raw milk, or bathe in raw milk.  Instead, you should only buy milk that has been pasteurized by an FDA-approved agency until there is nothing nutritional or naturally-healthy about it.  (Do you feel the scorn and laughter I’m not bothering to hide…?)

But, if you are like me and enjoy living life on the razor edge of danger, here are some benefits of goat’s milk…

  • It contains over 50 nutrients, including Vitamins A, C, E, B1, B6, B12, minerals, enzymes, citric acid, amino acids, fatty acids, electrolytes, unsaturated fatty acids, selenium, calcium, potassium, niacin and several more.
  • It digests in 20 minutes
  • It most closely resembles the structure of human milk
  • It is non-mucus forming and non-allergenic
  • It is believed to be of great benefit for many medical conditions, including: arthritis, ulcers, malnutrition, brain disorders, nerve disorders, liver disease, heart disease, fluid retention and cancer prevention.

But, what about the benefits of goat’s milk in skin care, you ask?

  • It slows the effects of aging by helping to rebuild collagen and sustain elasticity of the skin
  • It helps prevent and reverse age spots
  • It promotes moisture retention
  • It contains alpha-hydroxy acids that  are believed to help rejuvenate and heal damaged skin

Unfortunately, raw goat milk is kinda hard to find.  A few states have outlawed it completely.  Most states have severe restrictions on the sale of it.  The danger, you know….

But, if you can get your hands on some, snatch it and run!  Bathe in it.  Drink it.  Gargle with it. Sniff it.  Okay, not really, but you know what I mean, right?  You can cook with it, too.  You know I’m gonna be posting new recipes that include copious amounts of raw goat milk.  Next thing you know, you’ll be seeing my face on America’s Most Wanted. I told you – I like to live dangerously!

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I love autumn!  It is my absolute favorite time of year, hands down.  Maybe it is the cooler temperatures that make working outdoors invigorating and make it perfect for those evening bonfires.  Maybe it is the beautiful autumn colors that transform the Ozarks into a feast for the eyes and the soul.  Truth is, both of those reasons are a big part of it, but it also has something to do with all the planting and  harvesting I get to do this time of year!

The last of the summer crops are trickling in, making room for the winter crops.  Straggler tomatoes, lettuce in full bloom, loofahs ready to peel…these are all some of my favorite things.

Loofah Gourds

Loofah Gourds

However, my very most favorite thing about autumn is the chance to head out to the pastures and forests that cover our land and dig up the medicinal roots that are all juiced up with healing properties!  This year, we have had a record-breaking harvest of wild herbs.  Burdock, dandelion, yellow dock, gravel root…all of them are giving up the most gorgeous roots ever, and they are doing it in a big way!

Root digging isn’t for everyone.  In fact, you really gotta want some of them bad.  Proper identification can often take an entire year of growth in order to see the entire life cycle of the plant before identification can be verified.  Some of them have taproots so long you feel like you’re digging your way through to China ~ unless you live in China.  Then you might feel like you are digging your way through to the United States…? Either way, its a lot of digging!

So, I wanted to make it a bit easier for those of you who are feeling froggy with all this nice weather.

One of my new favorite herbs is Rumex Crispus, aka Yellow Dock or Curly Dock.  I had heard of it before, of course, but it has never been an herb that I use on a regular basis.  Imagine…I’ve been walking on it for years and never knew what it was!  A friend of ours was out here one day and came into the house carrying a beautiful leaf that he handed to me.

“You ever have this?”  he asks me.

I look at the leaf and say, “Nope.  What is it?”

“Sour dock,”  he replies.  “My grandma used to eat it all the time!”

Of course, I have to taste it.  The name is fitting.  The dark green leaves spotted with purple have the texture of spinach and just the tiniest hint of sour when it hits the back of your tongue.

“Oh, that’s good!  Where’d  you find it?”  I ask.

“In your yard,”  he answers.

“Oh.”

He takes me outside.  Right out the front door, there it is.  Huge patches of it speckle my yard, my garden and my pasture.  I’ve walked past it a gazillion times and admired its beautiful color.  I couldn’t believe all the salads I’d missed out on!  And, a new obsession was born.  I went to work learning everything I could about it.

This is Rumex Crispus:

In the Spring and Summer season, the leaves are a shiny, deep green.  As the weather cools down and all those healing properties are draining back down into the roots, the leaves start turning stunning shades of burgundy and purple. No matter what color they are, they make a delicious addition to salads and stir-fry, though. Once the weather warms up they tend to get slightly bitter, but I sorta like the added bitterness in moderation. I’ve added the leaves to garden salads, fried potatoes, pasta salad, rice, stuffed zucchinni, black beans, and I’ve even eaten it all by itself with a dash of Bragg amino acids and lemon juice.  I read somewhere that you should wash the young leaves or it can irritate your tongue.  I’m really hoping that anything you eat of your yard gets washed first anyway, but I figured I oughtta add that…just in case…  The leaves also contain significant amounts of Vitamins A & C, beta carotene, protein, iron, potassium, calcium and phosphorous.  More than spinach.  Bonus…if you happen to find yourself stung by a patch of stinging nettles, rub some crushed yellow dock leaves on the welts to help ease the sting and itch.

The stalks are edible too, though I can’t speak for their flavor.  I think I’ll be trying those come spring.  It seems that you simply peel them and eat them raw, or you can boil them to soften them up. The seeds can be gathered and ground up into a flour-like powder that supposedly has a flavor similar to buckwheat.  Not really one of my favorite foods, but the process sounds interesting, so maybe I’ll give that a shot next year, too…?

The root is incredibly impressive!  This is one of the roots we got this year:

Yellow Dock Root

Its kinda hard to tell, but under all those little straggler roots like the one in my hand, there is a monstrous chunk of root that is easily the size of a sweet potato!  The root contains potassium, magnesium and loads of iron, which makes it valuable for treating anemia and other iron-deficiency related illnesses. It is also a powerful blood cleanser and liver detoxifier, and a mild but effective laxative. It is a tonic herb, which means that it helps to strengthen and tone the entire body. The root is also good for treating skin disorders of all types.

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There isn’t much I love about summertime in Missouri.  Intense, breath-taking heat, high humidity, biting and stinging insects…discomfort is virtually assured from June through September.  However, there are few a things that make all that discomfort worthwhile.  Long hours of daylight, spending time at the river and, most of all ~ fresh garden veggies.

No summertime garden would be complete without Zucchini.  Baked, fried, stuffed, pickled, raw ~ it doesn’t matter how you prepare it~ I love it!  The last couple of years have solidified my favorite method of eating those big, fresh beautiful zucchini, though.  It is definitely stuffed and baked. Which means that I have to share that wonderful recipe with you.

The beauty of stuffed zucchini is that it comes out tasting perfect weather you use fresh or frozen zucchini.  I always like to take a few zucchini and stick them in the freezer for this garden-fresh treat during the cold months of winter.  Zucchini is one of the few veggies that requires little or no processing before freezing.  Simply cut into slices, shred or grate it, stick it in a freezer bag and pop it in the deep freeze.  To freeze it for stuffing, cut off the ends, scoop out the seeds and voila!

Admittedly, zucchini can get a little mushy after it thaws, but if you aren’t eating it raw it doesn’t really matter.  Use the slices for fried zucchini, pizza topping or add  them to a quiche or pasta sauce. Throw chunks in some chicken or beef broth to make a delicious winter soup.  Use it grated in zucchini bread or, as I’m about to share, as stuffing.

If you are looking for an exceptionally healthy veggie, this one nears the top of the list, providing you leave the skin on.  Zucchini has a high water content, making it very low in calories, and contains no fat or cholesterol. It contains 7 g of carbohydrates, 56 percent of your daily recommended value of vitamin C, 11 percent of your daily value of vitamin K, 16 percent of riboflavin, 21 percent of vitamin B-6 and 14 percent of folate, plus vitamin A, vitamin E, thiamin, niacin, pantothenic acid, potassium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, calcium, iron, sodium, zinc and selenium.

Anyway…my stuffed zucchini recipe…

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Ingredients needed:

3-4 large zucchini

8 oz cream cheese

1-2 cups shredded cheese -any kind will work, but we prefer shredded Italian blend, cheddar and/or pepper jack

2-3 cups diced or grated raw veggies ~ tomatoes, squash, carrots, cabbage, peppers, celery…   This is a great recipe for using up some of those veggies that have gone soft but aren’t bad yet.

1/2 lemon

1 lb cooked meat (if desired) ~ ground turkey is amazing, but so is sage sausage, hamburger, steak…

Herbs of your choice ~ I love fresh basil, thyme, dill and oregano in this dish.  Just a tsp of each, chopped super-fine, works perfectly

Like all my recipes, this one is adaptable.  If you are using frozen zucchini, you can skip this first part and jump ahead to the stuffing part. If you are using fresh zucchini here’s what you do.

Take the 3-4 large zucchini and fill a pot big enough to lay them in. Fill the pot with water and bring to a full boil, then place zucchini (with ends still intact) in pot.  Boil for 7-9 minutes.  Remove from pot and place in ice cold water for 2-3 minutes.

Remove from water and slice off the ends of the zucchini, then cut the zucchini lengthwise down the middle.  Gently scoop out the seeds, saving as much of the flesh as possible.  Place zucchini on a cookie sheet lightly coated with the cooking oil of your choice and sprinkle with sea salt.

Mix all of your other veggies and the meat in a large bowl.  Make sure you get the cream cheese mixed well enough that you don’t have large chunks in the blend. Add herbs and squeeze lemon juice over the mixture.  Mix well.

Fill zucchini with stuffing.  Pile it on thick and high!

Cook for 10-12 minutes.  Remove from oven and sprinkle extra cheese across the top.  Return to oven and cook until cheese is melted.  Remove from oven and cool for 3-5 minutes.

Serve it up!

I feel it is only fair to warn you that this dish is VERY addictive!  I grew extra zucchini this year so I could make sure I have enough to last me until next growing season.

If you make more than you can eat at one sitting, you can throw the extra in the freezer and they reheat beautifully.

Enjoy!

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