Summer Lovin’

You guys, I’ve totally slacked on everything this last month. We’ve just been having so much fun hanging out and cramming in as much fun as possible. Here’s what we’ve been up to-

The Zoo. We have a membership and we’ve more than gotten our money’s worth. We especially love the new penguin exhibit.

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The Smithsonian. We are members and D.C. is less than an hour away. We’ve spent many days exploring the museums. Our last trip included the Library of Congress and the Botanical Gardens. I could’ve sat there all day. So beautiful.

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Art classes at the Walter’s Museum. As you can see, she studied the portraits intensely.

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We discovered Jamberry and our nails have never been so pretty. I’ve fallen so madly in love with them I’ve become a consultant.

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Speaking of things I’m doing, I’ve reopened my etsy shop. Come by, say hi, buy yourself a pretty.

First Friday’s in Hamilton. Especially the super delicious and free cupcakes from Hamilton Bakery. These guys are doing it right.

Eating eggs. So many eggs. We have a larger number of chickens than I originally planned. We are now selling excess eggs to our friends and neighbors.

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Lauraville Market. I live in such an awesome, family oriented community. I love that Emme has so many friends to play with.

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How are you closing out the summer?

 

Ask Andi

theveganfarmer.com marketI’ve received some questions lately about Harper Farms and what we do so I thought I’d share a few. Feel free to contact me with any and all questions. I’m more than happy to answer them.

I’ve noticed pictures of chickens in your Instagram feed lately. What made you get chickens and how hard are they to keep?

We’ve talked about getting chickens for a couple of years. We knew after our move in 2013, it wouldn’t be too much longer. We finally had a nice size chunk of land to devote to them and the time to care for them. We’ve settled on 6 and so far, 4 are laying eggs. As someone who reads every label and is super picky about what we eat, this just made sense. I love knowing exactly what my daughter and husband are eating. Our chickies have lots of space to roam, plenty of fresh food and water, and most importantly, tons of love from Emme.

As for their care, they are super easy. I clean the coop daily. Chickens poop A LOT. As long as they can roam, have fresh food and water, some sand to bathe in, they’re pretty happy. We occasionally give them treats of kale or lettuce. When it’s hot I give them frozen watermelon and carrots. They are a pretty quiet bunch. We live in the city and several of my neighbors didn’t know we had them.

How hard is it to build a chicken coop?

It can be as simple or as difficult as you make. You can build it yourself or buy one already fabricated. We started with 3 chickens and used our daughters old play house. She had outgrown it and it housed our chicks perfectly. We built an insulated rolling base, attached a prefabricated run and called it a day. Then we decided we needed 3 more chickens. We had a storage shed attached to our garage we weren’t using so that became their new coop. We cut a few milk crates to use as nesting boxes. Since we doubled the number, the run was no longer large enough. We put up fencing and gates and now they have room to roam on one side of the house. They love lying under the fig tree.

Your farm doesn’t seem that big yet you have a huge variety of fruit trees and vegetables. How do you squeeze it all in and did it cost a lot to get started?

The best advice I can give regarding this is to start very slowly. Figure out what is important to you and how much time you currently have to devote to your garden. You don’t want to go into debt and/or burn yourself out. We started with just a few vegetables and have added a few new things each year. Starting slowly also allowed us to build our skills, make errors, and for me, learn how to be a better from scratch cook. As for our yield, we use every inch we can that isn’t dedicated to our chickens, dogs, or daughter. We plant in containers, raised beds, fenced in ground, and pots in the house.  Inside plants are mostly herbs and mint. We also pair complementary plants together like tomatoes and basil.

How hard is it to can/preserve food? Can you recommend some books to get me started?

It can be quite simple. My husband and I tend to can different things using different methods. This works well for us since I have less patience for the more labor intensive canning. Which isn’t really all that labor intensive. It just takes more time. I tend to use the water bath method more. I also like to freeze some things like bell peppers and fruit. The peppers can easily be thrown into stir fry’s. The fruit I bag with either spinach or kale and dump directly into the blender for smoothies. A quick Google search or trip to your local library will offer some great books to check out. Here are a few to get you started-

Canning for a New Generation by Liana Krissoff

You can Can by Better Homes and Gardens

Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

What are some of the ways you’re living more simply or sustainably?

Black Bean, Rice, and Egg Bowl

theveganfarmer.com beansriceI’m on a serious bean kick. Black beans are by far my favorite. To add extra protein and get the kid to eat it, I added an egg. I threw this recipe together so this is just an approximation-

What You’ll Need

1 C brown rice, cooked

1/3 C black beans, cooked

1/4 onion, chopped

1 egg

1 TBSP oil

1/4 C water

1/4 red pepper, chopped

salt to taste

red pepper to taste

garlic to taste

splash of Braggs or soy sauce

In a pan, heat the oil and cook the onion for 4-5 minutes. Add everything but the egg and cook a few minutes until the rice and beans are heated. While this is happening, crack an egg into a heated, buttered (earth balance) pan. Fry to your liking. Pour the rice and beans into a bowl and top with the egg. To keep it vegan, leave the egg. Enjoy!

No Bake PB&J Bites

It’s swelteringly (totally a word) hot here the last couple of days. I don’t even want to look at my oven. What’s a girl to do when she needs a sweet treat? Make some no bake PB&J bites! These are hands down my favorite treat. The rest of the family enjoys them too.

What You’ll Need

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10 medjool dates, pitted

1/2 C raisins- or 1/4 C raisins and 1/4 C dried cherries

1/3 C peanuts

1/4 C cashews

3 TBSP creamy peanut butter

pinch of salt

Throw everything in a food processor and blend about one minute. You don’t want it to be smooth. Roll the mixture into small balls or flatten into bars and chill for about an hour. How many bites you end up with depends on who is helping make them.

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I usually end up with 18-20. These are the perfect snack packed with protein and yum. Enjoy!

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Canned Spiced Cherry Jam (without pectin)

theveganfarmer.com spicedcherryjamYou guyyyyysssss. This jam. It’s everything. We have a sour cherry tree in our yard. It is sour cherry season. I’ve spent the last several days arguing with the birds over how many I’m allowed to have. Seriously. An Oriole almost took my eye out this morning. Anyway, if you’ve never had jam made from sour cherries, I suggest you RUN to the nearest pick your own farm and get some. It was super easy to make.

What You’ll Need

lots of cherries. LOTS. I used about 2.5 quarts

4 cups white sugar

3 cups brown sugar

4 TBSP lemon juice

cinnamon

nutmeg

ground clove

Remove stems and pits from the cherries. This is much quicker to do if you have a cherry pitter. Throw them in a big pot with about 1/2 cup of water. Bring it to a boil then reduce and simmer for 15 minutes or so. Add the sugars, lemon juice, and spices. I don’t have measurements for the spices. Just add them in small amounts until you find the flavor you like best. At this point I took a potato masher and mashed some of the cherries. My next batch I’ll puree half before adding to the pot. Bring it back to a full boil and stir constantly for about 10 minutes. Sterilize your jars and lids. Once the jam has thickened a little, go ahead and pour it into the sterilized jars. Leave about 1/4 inch space at the top. Place lids and bands on until just tight. Lower the jars into a water bath, cover, and bring to a boil for 8 minutes. Remove the jars from the water bath and let sit for 24 hours. Test the lids to make sure they’ve sealed. Enjoy this cherry deliciousness on toast, ice cream, in oatmeal or straight from the spoon.

The Laziest Craft Ever

theveganfarmer.com puppetEmme is in a puppet phase. While at the craft store over the weekend, she found a few $1 sock puppet crafts. We finally got around to making the giraffe this morning. Of course once that was done, she needed a stage. Being as resourceful as I am, I quickly dug a fruit snack box out of the recycling bin and cut out a panel on the front and back. This is where the super lazy part comes in. I cut a random piece of fabric to cover one opening and fastened it to the box with safety pins. I then took two pieces of ribbon and tied them to the safety pins. These we used to tie the “curtain” back while giraffe was performing. Seriously the laziest, easiest project I’ve completed. She played with it for nearly an hour. What’s the laziest project you’ve completed?

 

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Canned Chocolate Mint Syrup

Note to self- When the nice man at the farmer’s market tells you that mint is invasive, pay closer attention. Mint has exploded all over my yard. While I love mint tea, I’m having a hard time keeping up. So it’s time to get creative. Hello chocolate mint syrup! It’s good in my morning coffee, over vanilla ice cream and in my tea.

theveganfarmer.com mintsyrupWhat You’ll Need

2 C chocolate mint leaves (or mint you prefer)

5 C water

4 C sugar

2 TBSP lemon juice

 

Rinse the mint leaves, add the water, and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. While they’re simmering, sterilize your jars, lids, and bands. I used 3 pint jars. Strain the leaves, add the lemon juice, and bring it back to a boil. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved, about one minute. Fill the pint jars, leaving 1/4 inch at the top. Add the lid and band and twist until just on. Process the syrup in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Very carefully pull the jars out with canning tongs and let cool. You should hear a pop. This is the lid sealing. You now have delicious mint syrup. Enjoy!

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Quick Mermaid Craft

I’m trying to do one simple, crafty thing a day with Emme. She’s all about Ariel right now so I thought hey, let’s be mermaids. This is so easy to do guys. Start to finish was maybe 10 minutes. She’s been wearing it for about an hour now.

What You’ll Need

One adult sock

cut out of mermaid tail- card stock will do. we used felt.

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I drew a tail on felt, cut it out, and let her decorate with markers.

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She chose the sock she wanted.

5 Don’t judge my weird sock collection.

We taped the mermaid tail to the sock. Easy peasy, right?

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It didn’t last long on both legs as she is incapable of sitting for more than a minute. She’s been waving it around on one foot for about an hour. I’m betting she’ll sleep with it on.

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Day in the Life

Our normal isn’t so normal lately. Between Emme’s hit or miss napping and adding a new puppy to the family, things have been more than a little sideways. Yesterday we managed to get it right. The day started with a trip to the craft store. As you can see, Emme’s favorite part is the animal section. She’d stay there for hours if I let her.

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Next up was a trip to Home Depot. We set aside a small garden plot for Emme to plant flowers in. She chose yellow marigolds and pink snapdragons.

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We met daddy at home to plant her flowers and mulch the rest of the garden beds.

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By mid afternoon we needed a break. Our community was hosting a fishing event so we walked the trails to the water. Rob loves to fish and Emme’s been wanting to learn. She mostly dipped her butterfly net in the water and played with some neighborhood friends. We brought Baxter with us and had a really nice family outing. The weather was deceptive. It was warm, but not overly so. I ended up with a bit of a burn.

We came home, grilled our dinner and turned in early. Emme was asleep by 7:45, a true rarity these days!

How was your weekend?

 

Crayon Resist Easter Eggs

I’m stuffing 350 plastic eggs for the kids to hunt on Sunday. It took me 2 hours to stuff 150 last night. I’m on top of things this year, no? I decided today would be a good day to dye eggs with the munchkin. Since Easter’s two days away and all. See? On top of things.  We made it super fun by drawing on them first.

eggs3Here’s what you’ll need-

hard boiled eggs

water

vinegar

food dye

crayons

munchkin

 

Boil as many eggs as you’d like and allow them to cool completely. Pour about a cup of warm water into a small cup or bowl, add a tablespoon of vinegar and about 10 drops of food dye. Do this for as many colors as you want.

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Use the crayons to make pretty pictures. Or completely abstract art. Frozen crayons aren’t necessary. Unless you’re three. Then make it happen. Also, say hi to our new puppy Baxter. Gently place the egg in the dye and let sit for 5 minutes or so. Take them out and allow them to dry completely. I didn’t and now can not get the dye off my fingers.

This is what we ended up with-

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What awesome art projects are you doing this Easter?