Category Archives: Gardening

Pickle Camp 2015

teri-williams-summer-cropBy Teri Williams

I look forward to pickle camp each year. Friends and family gather to share stories and the thrill of scrubbing cucumbers and peeling garlic.

"pickle pals" for life, Elsa and Teri

“Pickle pals” for life, Elsa and Teri

There are also plenty of laughs and good food enjoyed by all as we sit back at the end of the day and get that warm feeling about what we accomplished, and begin to start counting down the calendar days until Thanksgiving, when the first jar is popped open and pickle camp comes back to life, one jar at a time.

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Fresh, ready-to-pack ingredients line the counter for packing jars.

Fresh, ready-to-pack ingredients line the counter for packing jars.

Elsa had the liquid measurements on her wrist likened to a quarterbacks play list. The assembly line behind her was moving fast.

Elsa had the liquid measurements on her wrist likened to a quarterbacks play list. The assembly line behind her was moving fast.

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ELSA’S PICKLES

Place the following in the bottom of a quart canning jar:
1 head of dill
2 cloves of garlic
½ tsp mustard seed
1 red chili pod
¼ tsp turmeric
4 whole pepper corns

As jars are being filled, another garlic clove, red chili or a pinch more of dill can sneak into the jar, making the recipe really just a guide line.

For 7 jars, in a sauce pan heat:
6 cups vinegar
7-1/2 cups water
1 cup kosher salt
3/8 cup sugar

Place cucumbers in jar standing on end, pack tightly. Fill jar with vinegar liquid mix, place canning lid on top and screw lid on tight. Place into a water bath canner (water should cover top of the jar) and bring to a rolling boil. Process for 15 minutes. Do not open until Thanksgiving.

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Green Goddess

teri_cropI have no patience for waiting on the greens in the garden to mature, so with a little help from my local farmer John at Maple Rock Farm, I learned to create and use some of the bounty early.

I have never been good at following recipes and measuring. Everything is done by eyeballing, more liquid or greens can be added to get consistency desired.

Parsley- Walnut Pesto

IMG_0583Fill your blender with 2 cups of chopped parsley, 1 cup chopped walnuts, 3-5 cloves of garlic.

Pour in ½ cup of good olive oil (I used Olivar De La Luna organic extra virgin). Begin blending, add more olive oil as the paste begins to pureé. You do not want it so thick you cannot get it out of the blender, but it should not be too runny.

Use a spoon and scoop into ice cube tray and freeze.IMG_0584

Once cubes are frozen solid, place the tray in a pan of hot water for a few minutes to loosen cubes of pesto, then place them on a cookie sheet to freeze hard again, then store in a container in the freezer.

When you want pesto, place a cube (or several) in a bowl and thaw to room temperature. Add hot or cold pasta and mix.

Grate parmesan cheese over pasta and mix. Do not add cheese before freezing, (it will turn into globs when heated).

Green Garlic Paste

IMG_0743Early summer-late spring, cut the garlic scape off of last year’s garlic you planted in the fall. These can be chopped and put into dressings, sauces and salads, but I like to make a garlic paste that is versatile and keeps in the refrigerator for several weeks.

Fill blender half full of chopped garlic scapes, add ¼ cup of good olive oil and begin blending. You will add more olive oil as the combo begins to blend into a chunky paste.

 

IMG_0748This paste does not get smooth but will have texture.

Add more oil, or scapes, until you get a consistency of soft paste (if it is too thick you will not get out of the blender). Place green garlic paste in a mason jar with lid and keep in the refrigerator.

I use this as a rub on chicken; add to tomato paste-balsamic vinegar-olive oil as a marinade for beef; add to good olive oil-balsamic vinegar and salt/pepper as a salad dressing; stir into pasta; add to any dish you would add garlic to.

 

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There’s No Place Like Home

I have been dreaming all winter long of sailing off into the sunset down south in Bahamian waters. Good friends, clear-warm water and a life style to relax in and warm my soul. However, to my surprise, I found myself feeling empty. I could not put my finger on it until I was on the ferry returning to Orcas and rounded the corner at Shaw Island; the Orcas ferry landing came into sight. I missed my island life!

I’ve always had a “welcome home” feeling when getting back on island from a short trip to the mainland, but this trip took me away for three weeks. Returning, I found myself deep in amazement of life right here on this island. Life gets too busy. I had not taken the time to slow down, look around and be thankful. I had been taking my island life for granted, and in fact, had some angst about life not fulfilling my every desire. It was always right in front of me………. If I had just slowed down to look around and see how my life was filled with treasure. I did not have to sail so far away to find what was in my own back yard. Growing my own fresh food, the land around me filled with nature and family memories, work and friendships that challenge and fulfill my soul. I am so glad to be back home and will never again go looking outside my own backyard searching for my heart’s smile. Enjoy today, Teri

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Birdfest on Orcas

teri_cropBy Teri Williams

Spring is my favorite time of the year for so many reasons.

I’m back in my garden, seeds are sprouting, flowers are blooming, and birds are nesting and singing.

From hummingbirds zipping around my garden to eagles nesting across the valley, we have a huge variety of birds to appreciate.

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Get your birding book out and enjoy learning about these little chirpers! This photo was found Googling birds in the San Juan Islands.

And Orcas celebrates our feathered friends with a little help from the Orcas Island Chamber of Commerce, which hosts the annual Birdfest, a celebration of birds! This year, the Orcas Island Birdfest runs for four days: Thursday, April 30 through Sunday, May 2.

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Sharp Shined Hawk

 

The schedule is packed with bird walks and nature tours, workshops, a fine art exhibition and scientific symposium, all focusing on the wonder of birds and grassroots solutions for maintaining healthy populations.

Even if you are not a “birder,” this is an unforgettable experience showcasing the natural splendor of the San Juan Islands.

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Hooded Mergansers at Otter’s Pond, ready to have ducklings in a month.

Grab your binoculars, pack your Birding in the San Juan Islands by Mark G. Lewis, put your hiking boots on and get ready for some local color and sound.

Wood peckers are easy to spot

Pileated woodpeckers are easy to spot.

Visit www.otterspond.com for a list of birds you can see on Orcas Island.

For information about the 2015 Birdfest and a complete calendar of events, visit  OrcasIslandBirdFest.com.

Happy Birding!

 

 

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The Incredible Edible Stinging Nettle!

122 By Mandy Randolph

Springtime on Orcas Island means nettle time! Some people only consider nettles to be those pesky weeds that cause an irritating sting when brushed up against. My students at Orcas Island Elementary School know otherwise… they know that nettles are nutritious, tasty, and free!

A fresh nettle patch growing on Orcas Island.

A fresh nettle patch growing on Orcas Island.

Nettles are low in calories, but pack in a whopping amount of iron, calcium, vitamin K, and fiber. It has long been believed that ingesting nettles can combat the symptoms of hay fever and seasonal allergies. Try drinking two cups of nettle tea a day just prior to and during your allergy season and see for yourself! You do need to be careful when gathering your nettles. Wear long sleeves and pants. Use gloves and clippers to harvest. You can take the sting away from your nettles by drying them in the sun or simply by rinsing and soaking the nettles in water. The most certain way to take away all sting is to boil briefly.

A box full of freshly harvested stinging nettles.

A box full of freshly harvested stinging nettles.

After harvesting your nettles and before eating them, you could take some time to investigate them with a magnifying glass!

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Farm to Classroom students investigating stinging nettles with magnifying glasses.

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You can enjoy nettles in many ways, in soup, tea, sauces, and stir fry. We decided to make a nettle pasta dish in Farm to Classroom last week. Here is how we made our nettle pasta.

Stinging nettle pasta!

Stinging nettle pasta!

Start by mincing garlic and sautéing it in some olive oil. 20150312_113039

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Bring a pot of water to boil and add nettles to boiling water for 3-5 minutes. Remove the nettles with a slotted spoon and chop them. Add your pasta to the same water you boiled the nettles in.

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Add the chopped nettles to your garlic and sauté. Add a few pinches of sea salt if you’d like.

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Add the cooked pasta and mix thoroughly until combined.

Fresh stinging nettle pasta.

Fresh stinging nettle pasta.

Enjoy warm or cold!

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Here is an easy way to store your extra nettles for use later. Boil, chop, squeeze out excess water and form into a ball. Freeze the nettle balls on a baking sheet and transfer to a Ziploc bag once frozen. Then you can toss a nettle ball into soup, smoothies, sauces, scrambled eggs and omelets, you name it!

A batch of "nettle balls" before they went into the freezer.

A batch of “nettle balls” before they went into the freezer.

Go ahead and try some stinging nettles. My students enjoyed them, and you may too!

Happy students enjoying stinging nettle pasta. Seconds please!

Happy students enjoying stinging nettle pasta. Seconds please!

Eat your nettles!

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Just a Simple Farm Girl

teri_cropBy Teri Williams

Sometimes I stray too far from the barn, but a day at Coffelt Farm Stand brings me right back to what really is important, family, farming and friendships.

 

Local berries make a sweet colorful gift and reminds me of kitchen time with grandma

Local berries make a sweet colorful gift and reminds me of kitchen time with grandma.

My grandparents had a dairy farm complete with chickens, horses and bottle fed calves. Grandma’s garden filled canning jars and the cellar was filled with pears, apples and plums from the orchard. These are fond memories deep in my soul. I spent many summers picking berries with grandma, never wanting to eat any so my bucket would be as full as hers. Jams and pies were  yummy results. I still remember when grandma left the pie making to me for a family gathering. Her shared crust secrets and faith in me still show in my pies today.

Grandma T's garden shares ready to eat sweet peas and the promise of greens for a meal

Grandma T’s garden shares ready to eat sweet peas and the promise of greens for a meal.

Wanting to get out of the city, I moved to Orcas Island 27 years ago with 3 sons and a desire to find my roots again. The boys are grown and raising their own families now.  It is my garden and orchard they will remember in their hearts and souls, as well as the many trips to local Orcas Island farms.

In my garden, each year I look forward to planting new things, talking to other farmers about their favorite seeds and sharing tricks to invite worms to feed the soil.  I have starts from Sid Coffelt, plum trees from my great grandma’s orchard, tomatoes from John Cadden, garlic from Mary Ann Sircely, raspberry bushes from my mom, Arlene Carlson and blueberry shrubs from Faith Deeds garden. There is much heart and soul in my garden and I dance with joy thinking about the harvest with my grand kids!!!

Brand new lambs and a proud mom

Brand new lambs and a proud mom.

The Coffelt Farm, located in Crow Valley, Orcas Island, gives tours to school children in the spring time when new born run the barn yard. This spring the farm welcomed several new piglets, lambs and a couple of calves.

Orcas Island School children enjoy a day on the farm learning about all the animals and what it means to be a farmer

Orcas Island School children enjoy a day on the farm learning about all the animals and what it means to be a farmer.

This farm girl says get busy, visit a farm, offer some volunteer time in a garden, share an afternoon canning the harvest, spend time with your grandma, bring a friend and create a memory to nourish the soul.

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Garden Fresh Roasted Potatoes

122 Posted by Mandy Randolph

When I am not busy doing all things real estate at the T Williams Realty office, I enjoy my other career as an elementary school teacher. In my previous post I told you all about our great potato dig in the school garden. Well, just last week we finally enjoyed the fruits of our labor. All of the students at Orcas Island Elementary School helped to make and then eat some garden fresh roasted potatoes!

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Our yummy garden fresh roasted potatoes- just look at all those colors!

The potatoes were stored just the way they like; cool, dark, and dirty. They spent the past three months stored in cardboard boxes and covered with shade cloth in a rodent free, unheated garage. When we opened the boxes they were just as firm and glorious as the day we picked them.

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Kindergarten students digging up the potatoes in the school garden last fall.

In the classroom the children are divided into working groups: Potato cutters, onion dicers, garlic peelers and mincers, and the rosemary choppers. Yes, all of the groups will be using knives. Children and knives? At school? Yes! The students are taught safe knife handling skills starting in Kindergarten. The rules are followed closely because the children know that using the knives is a privilege that must be taken seriously or they will lose it. Kids LOVE to be helpful! Sometimes we adults forget to give them the opportunities. Not in Farm to Classroom– all students are taught to use tools and expected to do their part!

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Elementary students safely using knives in Farm to Classroom.

Once the cutting commences there are ooohs and ahhhs as the purple majesty and cranberry red potatoes are sliced open to discover that they are also colored on the inside!

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The stunning Purple Majesty potato!

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The Cranberry Red potato- red through out!

The onion group starts to complain of watering eyes. The peeled garlic (harvested from our garden) starts to fill the room with its distinct scent. The rosemary group is focused on cutting tiny pieces so it doesn’t “feel like we are eating the Christmas tree”.

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Carefully dicing the onion.

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Peeling and mincing garlic grown in our school garden.

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Focused on chopping the rosemary into teeny-tiny pieces.

With the chopping complete the potatoes, garlic, onion, and rosemary are tossed together with olive oil and some salt.

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A very colorful bowl of potatoes.

Off into the oven set at 450 degrees for about 15 minutes.

Our garden fresh roasted potatoes are so delicious! The children loved eating them and you will too!

Farm to Classroom Recipe: Garden Fresh Roasted Potatoes

Ingredients:

5 medium potatoes

1/3 cup Olive oil

1-2 cloves of garlic

½ small onion

Rosemary sprigs

Salt *optional

Directions:

Cut potatoes into 1 inch cubes, dice onions and garlic

Mix potatoes in large bowl with olive oil, garlic, onion, rosemary

Spread out in one layer on a baking sheet

Bake at 450 degrees for 15-20 minutes

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The Great Potato Dig!

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Orcas Island School District is home to one fantastic school garden. You’ll find it right there next to the great maple tree in front of the big brick building that houses Orcas Island Elementary School.

The garden is maintained by the Elementary Children during a weekly class called Farm to Classroom. I have been teaching this class since its inception almost six years ago. It is a labor of love and a time of great discovery by all.

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Miss Mandy sharing a watermelon grown in the school garden with some eager students!

One of my favorite activities in the garden is the yearly “great potato dig” with the Kindergarteners. It is early October in the school garden and the potato patch is ready for picking! Enter 35 Kindergarten Students. First a quick lesson on potatoes. You wouldn’t believe how many 5 year olds don’t know that potatoes grow under the ground. You can imagine the delight on their faces once they realize that they get to dig for the buried treasure.

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Farm to Classroom students digging for potatoes!

The digging commences and soil starts flying from the children who dig with wild abandon. Some of the kids decide it is much tidier to pull the plant and pick the potatoes off the roots. Everyone is actively engaged.

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Beautiful red potatoes and the excitement of pulling out the entire plant with potatoes still attached at the roots!

Oh, the squeals of delight as they find their first potato! And then the variety of colors and potato shapes cause more shrieks of delight and several shouts of “Show me, show me!”

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Just look at our variety of potatoes. Red, purple, blue, yellow, and we even grew a heart shaped potato!

The potato patch was plentiful this year. We started a new patch in a well-seasoned compost pile. Added to that was a delivery of soil from San Juan Sanitation to establish a nice deep area of loose soil. We planted organic potato seeds of several varieties. What a fabulous combination. We will use these potatoes for cooking projects in the classroom this winter.

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“This one looks like a person!”

The children have put the garden “to bed” for the winter. The potato patch was gently tucked in with a cover crop of fava beans that will certainly provide another exciting opportunity for discovery next spring!

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Third and Fourth grade students prepare the potato patch for the fava bean cover crop planting.

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oh…… what to do with those luscious, juicy, colorful tasty tomatoes.

Here are 4 easy recipes to preserve your summer harvest.Toms

No Cook Sunshine Tomato Sauce- Clean Eating September 2014-Give several summer ripe tomatoes a light rinse. Chop

Easy Sunshine Tomatoes Sauce

Easy Sunshine Tomatoes Sauce

coarsely and dump into a large jar. Mash a few garlic cloves (I like a lot of garlic) add to jar. Add 1 cup of olive oil and a dash of balsamic vinegar. If you don’t have vinegar, use lemon or lime juice. The better the quality, the better the flavor on both oil and vinegar. Add sea salt and ground pepper to taste. If you have fresh basil, oregano, rosemary or thyme, tie up in bunch and toss in too. Put the lid on; shake the jar to mix contents, set in the sun or hot sunny window. Let sit to soak up the heat of the sun for 4 hours (can do longer time, do not recommend shorter time). Pull herbs out. Serve with crusty bread or use as a light raw sauce for pasta. I blended my jar contents and warmed in a cast iron skillet, spoon over ravioli, top with shaved parmesan cheese. You can freeze or keep in refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Homemade Tomato Paste- Maple Rock’s Farmer John-Take your split and over ripe toms and cook them down in a pot to the point that you can macerate them with a potato masher or even a stick blender if you have one.  After mashing them, run them through a food mill to remove the skin and seeds (I skipped this step). At this point you have a watered down sauce (sometimes I’ll drain off some of that liquid prior to mashing). Transfer the sauce in the pot onto the biggest sheet pans (I used cake pans) that will fit in your oven and cook it down for one hour at 350 then take it down to 250 for another two- three hours.  Stir occasionally and add some nice olive oil and salt to taste.  We like to make as big of a batch of this as we can and freeze it in pint jars not quite filled to the top.  Keep one in the fridge all the time to add to just about anything you can think of.

Salsa- Years of Adding and Subtracting in Teri’s Kitchen and Ball Blue Book

Add chips and tequila!!!!

Add chips and tequila!!!!

10 cups chopped tomatoes (I include skin and seeds, can remove if desired) about 6 lbs.

5 cups chopped green bell pepper, seeded. About 2 lbs.

5 cups chopped onion (you choose type, I use Walla Walla) about 2 lbs.

2.5 cups chopped, seeded hot peppers. (I usually use a variety based on what my farmer is growing. Include some seeds for more heat). For deeper flavor, roast peppers first, then remove skins. About 1-2 lbs. Be sure to wear gloves

2 garlic heads. (can vary dependent on your taste, however, too little is not good).

1 tblsp hot sauce

2 tblsp dried red pepper

1-2 tblsp crushed cumin

1 ¼ cup cider vinegar

Salt to taste

Big hand full of chopped cilantro

Chopped and combine all ingredients (EXCEPT CILANTRO). Place in large saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add cilantro. Ladle hot salsa in prepared jars, leaving ½” headroom. Cover with seal/screw top. Process 20 minutes in a boiling water bath.

Dried Tomatoes- Easy-This is great use of blemished or split tomatoes. I usually use this method after I have done all of the

Better than sun dried tomatoes and can done any time of the year!

Can be done any time of the year!

above and am tired or ran out of jar space in the pantry. Clean tomatoes, cut stem and blemish/bad areas away. Slice the tomatoes about 1/8” thick. This is a guideline. Too thin, they come out crispy, too thick, they come out chewing and are more likely to mold in the jar. Coat the trays with a non stick spray or rub with olive oil to keep slices from sticking to the tray. Place slices on tray, leaving room around the slices so they have air circulation around all sides. Set dryer on 135 degrees for 5 hours. The timing can vary, checking every two hours until dried to your preference (close to potato chip crisp). Turn off the dryer and let tomatoes cool completely. Store in an airtight jar. Great to eat as is, or add to quiche, soups or sauces for a strong tomato flavor that will delight your taste buds.

Enjoy preserving, eating, sharing and pairing all of the above- teri

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Explore the “Discovery Garden” in Skagit Valley

Posted by Sandi

I’m tightly anchored to this rock we call Orcas Island – by choice. I love staying in its dreamworld spell and probably only head to the mainland once every few months. When I do, there’s a few favorite spots I like to hit when I’ve got extra time. One is the WSU Discovery Garden on State Road 536 in Mount Vernon.

map of Skagit Valley Display Gardens

The Discovery Garden is part of the WSU Skagit Valley Extension which includes a Research Center and the WWFRF Fruit Garden.

The Discovery Garden is a demonstration garden of the Skagit Valley Master Gardeners. These volunteers have created more than 25 separate gardens for the enjoyment and education of the public. Some of my favorites are the Japanese Garden, Heather Garden, and Native Plant Garden. The garden is open dawn to dusk and there’s something to see anytime of year. Even if you just have 20 minutes to spare, it’s worth a stop. And it’s free!

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The Master Gardener program is an extension of Washington State University. It started in King County in the 1970’s and has now grown to 46 states and four Canadian provinces. The gardeners are trained and certified in the program, and they assist the extension in teaching sound gardening practices to individuals and communities. They hold annual plant sales, monitor insects and diagnose diseased plants brought in by the public.

No matter your gardening interest — fruits, veggies, roses, ornamentals or natives — these devoted volunteers are available to help your garden become a success. So next time you’re headed to or from the San Juan Islands, take a short detour to the Discovery Garden and see their passions in action!

Looking to enjoy the simple life on beautiful Orcas Island?
Contact T Williams Realty  – we’ll help you find your way home.

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