Washington is Nice Too

When we lived in Sacramento, we would head to Apple Hill every year to get our fill of fresh apples and baked goods at the apple farms.  I found a similar area in Washington outside of Spokane.  In Green Bluff, in addition to apples, they grow peaches, cherries, berries, plums, and pears.  We visited a few of the farms today for some you-pick peaches and apples.  It turns out we are at the end of late season peaches and the beginning of early season apples, but we couldn’t pass up peaches for $1.10/pound and apples for $0.75/pound.

We learned the proper way to pick a peach.  Pull down and it should come right off if ripe.  Do not twist!  Put the peaches in the box stem end down.  The farmer’s 88-year-old sister-in-law was adamant about this process.  I hope to be so opinionated and vibrant at 88.  Now I need to figure out what to do with 18 pounds of peaches (aside from biting straight into them and letting the juice run down my chin).

We also toured the Strawberry Hill Nutrition Farm.  It is a “nutrition” farm because it is beyond organic, focusing on healthy chemical-free soil.  Verne gave us a tour of his 4-acre fruit and vegetable farm and he gave us tips of growing healthy produce.  He plants nasturtium flowers with his squash to keep the bugs away.  He said marigolds will make the squash bitter.  He also had red painted rocks sprinkled throughout his strawberry field.  He said the birds will peck on the rocks and be unhappy with what they find, so they will leave your strawberries alone.  And his last tip:  play classical music for your garden.  It creates a stress-free environment for you, the plants, the birds, and the bees.  And yes, there was classical music playing as we wandered through the garden and I was completely stress-free.

Cabbage
Arches of green beans

One of many greenhouses

On our way out of Green Bluff, we saw this house flying three flags.  The flag on the right says “Come and Take It.”  I had not seen the black, white and blue flag before, so I looked up the meaning.  It is the Thin Blue Line Flag.

The Blue represents the officer and the courage they find deep inside when faced with insurmountable odds. The Black background was designed as a constant reminder of our fallen brother and sister officers. The Line is what police officers protect, the barrier between anarchy and a civilized society, between order and chaos, between respect for decency and lawlessness. Together they symbolize the camaraderie law enforcement officers all share, a brotherhood like none other.

In Spokane, we visited Michlitch’s spice shop.  As the sign indicates, they have everything but the meat.  We sampled a few spice blends and left with two for making sausage (German and Jalapeno) and two lemon blends for chicken.

We ended our afternoon at the Iron Goat Brewery in Spokane.  We learned that the brewery is named after the garbage eating goat sculpture in Spokane’s Riverbend Park.  The metal goat sculpture has a vacuum inside that allows the goat to “eat” small pieces of garbage as part of a creative solution to eliminating litter. The statue will inhale just about any piece of refuse that will fit into its mouth.  It was built for the World’s Fair in 1974 by Sister Paula Turnbull.

The beer was good!

Not a bad way to spend your Wednesday.

Fun With Food

After a couple of weeks with days in the 90’s (and two over 100), we are starting to see fruit and vegetables ripening in our garden.  We’ve picked some cherry tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, Armenian cucumbers, onions, tomatillos, chilies, and plums.  We’ve finally identified the mystery fruit trees: two are plum and two are pear.  We’ll probably remove the pear trees because we aren’t big fans of pears and they are more dead than alive, but the plums get to stay.  I tried one today and it was delicious.

Armenian cucumbers are popular in Fresno where I grew up, and they are my favorite cucumbers because the skin is soft and not bitter.  My brother says I’m probably growing the first ever Armenian cucumbers in Idaho.  I made a quick Japanese pickle salad with the first cucumber.  The second one was added to tomatoes and onions.

Since our garden is not quite bountiful enough for canning yet, we took advantage of a sale at the local fruit stand.  We purchased a box of Washington peaches, a box of Fuji apples, and a flat of California strawberries.  From that we made:

  • 4 quarts of unsweetened applesauce
  • 4 pints of apple butter
  • 4 pints of strawberry jam

The peaches are still a bit firm, so we will peel and can those later this week.  The pigs and chickens are in heaven enjoying all the fruit and vegetable scraps.

Apples washed and quartered
After the apples are cooked, the food mill purees the fruit and discards the seeds and skins
Applesauce
A day’s canning
Fresh strawberry jam on a homemade sourdough English muffin

The laying chickens have finally kicked it into gear and are laying 4-6 medium to large eggs daily.   The yolks on the fresh eggs are a deep yellow-orange and very thick.  They make great fried eggs.  I’m getting experimental making frittatas.  Last night’s frittata included eggs, milk, jack cheese, bacon, breadcrumbs, tomatillos, onions, chilies, and garlic.  Shawn approved.  We aren’t sure what kind of chilies we picked, but they weren’t very spicy.

Last night, Shawn processed the last of the meat chickens (a.k.a. Frankenchicks).  He had to do the butchering at night because the bees and wasps are rampant during the day and very attracted to the meat and blood.  We now have a freezer full of chemical/drug-free chicken that should last us through the fall and winter.  Raising meat chickens was definitely a learning experience, but I think Shawn has it mastered now and next year should be a breeze.  (Check out his videos on YouTube.)

The nighttime butchering setup
That’s a tie-dyed apron, not blood
Bagged and ready for the freezer

Time to go see what the garden has to offer today…