Thursday, August 23, 2012

Support Local Farmers

The price of eating fresh fruits and vegetables has really gotten out of hand this year, this summer's drought across the nation has put a death grip on costs associated with food production. That not only includes grain of all kinds, but the transportation costs associated with shipping our food to market. From farm to table, it's an expensive process.

One way we can save on costs is buying local. Farmer's Markets are a great way to find the freshest fruits and vegetables in your area and you are helping a farmer with each and every purchase.

Have you seen okra in your grocery store this summer? Me neither. It's almost impossible to buy here unless you know someone who grows it. A southern staple in the summertime, we cut it up and give it a dip in cornmeal before we fry it crispy. Served with fish and cornbread, for those that love it, this is as close to Heaven as you can get!

Late gardens are bringing on a flood of turnips, greens, winter squash, carrots and beets. The great thing about these are their "keeping quality." If you have a cool place to store, they will last for a long time.

Cabbage is another great fall vegetable, taking only 80 days to maturity it can be planted in mild weather states in late summer. A visit to the Farmer's Co-op to pick up a tray of fall seedlings will give you the head start you need to keep that garden going! Fall really is the best time to plant.

I came across this great idea the other day on Vegetable Gardener... growing a hill of potatoes in laundry baskets from the Dollar Store! Yes, this does work and it produces about 8-10 pounds per basket. You simply add soil, seed potatoes and then keep topping it off each week with more soil as they grow. Some people say they lined the basket with straw or burlap and that helped keep the soil from coming out the sides. 

Earlier this spring, we were having a problem with black tree ants. I noticed greater numbers outside on the patios, then on the decks and one day they had somehow found their way into the house. At first only one or two crawling across the carpet. I know it only takes a small crack for a bug to enter your home, so I began my search. In no time, I saw a large number of them in the upstairs windowsill. It was closed and locked but somehow they were getting in. I had a spray and used it along the sill, that killed the ones there in no time. But what about the great numbers I was seeing outside under the oak trees? 

A quick call to Richard at the Farmer's Co-op and he had a solution for me. Diatomaceous Earth. Ever heard of it? It's actually a natural product from the ocean.

The fine powder absorbs lipids from the waxy outer layer of the insects' exoskeleton, causing them to dehydrate. They die in a very short time, usually hours after application. That's exactly what happened after I applied a light dusting around the oak trees where I saw great numbers of the ants. The good news is that Diatomaceous Earth was poison free, pets coming in contact with the powder couldn't get sick. In fact they could actually lick it and it would work the same magic on intestinal pests! Watch the video and you will be amazed at this natural occurring marine settlement that's beneficial for so many uses!

One more thing you may want to add to your fall planting list is garlic. Simple and easy to grow, you probably have everything you need in the kitchen right now! That is, if you cook with fresh garlic. It's convenient to have the bottle of minced garlic in the fridge, but nothing tastes as good as fresh in my opinion. The bulbs I buy in the produce section last for a a good month, maybe longer. That's pretty good for shelf life! But having some growing in a sunny place in your yard is even better. Mother Earth News says planting garlic in the fall produces full sized bulbs that have more flavor. About a month before the ground freezes, place the single cloves of garlic in a sunny part of your garden, about 2" deep. Mulch well and then let Mother Nature slowly grow you a bumper crop of garlic!

It was 57 degrees at my house this morning, cool enough to get me thinking about fall desserts! I found this great recipe on Pinterest this week and it's making the trip to Texas with me... I bet it will be a big hit with my kids!

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
2 cups crushed gingersnap crumbs
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 (8oz) packages of cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon of vanilla
2 large eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter cut into pieces
caramel sauce
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 8″x8″ glass pan with foil, be sure to cover the sides, you are going to use this to lift the cheesecake out of the pan.
Combine the melted butter and gingersnap crumbs and press into the bottom of the pan. Cook for 10 minutes. Remove and set aside.
In a bowl beat softened cream cheese until smooth. Beat in sugar, sour cream, vanilla, eggs, pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Beat until smooth and creamy. Note: if you end up with lumps you can transfer the mix to a food processor and pulse a couple of times until smooth.
Pour mixture onto gingersnap crust.
In another bowl combine flour and brown sugar. Using a pastry cutter cut cold butter into the mixture until crumbly.
Sprinkle mixture over the top of the cheesecake. Bake for 40 – 50 minutes or until the center is set. If a knife inserted comes out mostly clean you are good to go.
Allow to cool on a cooling rack for about 40 minutes. Cover and refrigerate until chilled through, about 2 hours. Cut, drizzle with caramel sauce and serve.


  1. Gee. I hadn't even noticed that okra was missing this year.
    We used Diatomaceous Earth a couple of years to get rid of chiggers in our yard, but it's hard to find.
    The pumpkin bars look scrumptious, and so do all the vegggies. I think my husband is trying to grow potatoes in a car tire, but haven't heard any report of the progress yet. ;-)

    1. I just may have to try the laundry basket potatoes, sounds like something I could manage! I'm always seeing good ideas and planning "next year's garden!"

  2. We live in the woods, not very conducive for gardening. I grow a few herbs, basil is my favorite. I go to the farmers markets to pick up all the locally grown produce. Love, love love it. So fresh and so much better than the grocery store.

    1. Us too, it's very wooded and steep so I put tomato and pepper plants where ever we get some sun. Not much luck with a bumper crop of anything... unless you count rocks!


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