Random Photo Friday: The Covered Bridge at Warner’s Hollow

The Windsor Mills covered bridge as seen from Phelps Creek (Ashtabula County, Ohio)

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An Easy (and Inexpensive) Way to Make Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Rather than pay the high prices some grocery and specialty stores charge for those tiny jars of sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, you can easily make your own.

I usually keep a small container of dried tomatoes with olive oil in the refrigerator to add to soups, sandwiches, and pasta*—the rest of the dried tomatoes go into a freezer bag to defrost and use as I need them.


Easy Oven “Sun-Dried” Tomatoes

Don’t worry too much about the quantities in the recipe. Adjust the amount of olive oil and the seasonings according to how many tomatoes you have and your taste preferences.

3 lbs. Roma or plum tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. basil, dried
2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 300°F.

Cut the tops off the tomatoes with a paring knife and cut in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds and any remaining white core.

Place the tomatoes into a plastic bowl (or large Ziploc bag). Add the olive oil, garlic, and seasonings; toss to tomato halves to coat with the oil mixture.

Lay the tomatoes skin side up on a roasting rack placed over a cookie sheet (I actually use a nonstick cookie cooling rack—the grid design prevents the dried tomatoes from falling through.)

Cook for about 2 hrs., or until the tomatoes are wrinkled and dry (but not blackened). The baking time may vary, depending on the moisture content of the tomatoes—keep an eye on them after they’ve been in the oven for an hour or so because some pieces may dry faster than others may.

When the tomatoes are done, remove them from the oven and let them cool.

To freeze: Place a piece of plastic wrap on a cookie sheet and arrange the tomatoes in a single layer. Cover with another piece of plastic wrap. Stick in the freezer until the tomatoes are frozen. You can then put them in a freezer bag without the tomatoes sticking together.

*If you have a bread machine, try this recipe for Zesty Pesto Tomato Bread…even the teens liked it at our house!

It’s Potato Harvest Time

Big changes at the homestead this week: the Amish crew finished the fence out back, so we finally have a pasture (and hopefully get beef calves soon).

I can't wait to be able to look out the kitchen window and see cows out in the pasture.

We’re also having the garage floor re-cemented….and my personal goal…we’re FINALLY getting our ancient, narrow, take-your-life-into-your-own-hands-in-the-winter, crooked front sidewalk fixed!

(Can you tell I’m happy?)

Anyhow, this morning Farmer D said lots of rain was on the way, and the potato skins have toughened up enough, so it was time to dig them up.

We planted a mix of Kennebec and Red Pontiac potatoes this year.

Farmer D & his dad are ingenious. After a couple of years of digging the potatoes up by hand, they adapted a potato plow to pull behind the four-wheeler.

Dad says this sure beats plowing behind a horse like they did when he was a kid.

After they plowed the row, we just had to sift through the dirt to pick the fresh potatoes. (The guys are always in their Red Wing boots. I think this is easier to do barefoot.)

Now we just have to pick the potatoes.

Though we lost a few plants because of the lousy spring weather, and had a problem with blight, the potatoes we harvested look good.

A portion of our potato harvest: Don't they look wonderful?

The new potatoes will sit outside or in the breezeway (depending on the weather) until we’re sure they’re dry. We’ll then move them to the pantry in the basement to store.

Bacon Cheddar Mashed Potatoes from FoodNetwork.com

Homegrown potatoes sure beat the store-bought ones! Especially since I found this Food Network link for 50 Ways to Make Mashed Potatoes. 

Random Photo Friday: Mom’s Dream Car

Classic Ford Thunderbird after the parade. (If you can tell me what year this is, please leave a comment.

I Love a Parade?

Grandma always said, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

Hence, I’ve been pretty quiet today.

Yesterday, even though I was still suffering from the massive sinus infection that’s been plaguing me for over a week, I did my family duty by going for a long walk and lobbing candy at strange children.

Here comes the big parade!

My dad–because he and my mother are the primary caregivers to my favorite nephew, and because Mom will be much happier if Dad gets out of her hair a little more often–has decided to run for the school board in the town in which he lives.

He once held a position of some influence in said town, and went through a huge depression and identity crisis when he retired. Thank goodness things worked out the way they did with my nephew. My sister is a single mom who works a gazillion hours to keep afloat; my parents watch her kid so frequently that he basically lives at their house and visits his mom a couple of times a week.

So now that my father is (once again) coaching baseball teams, signing up to chaperone field trips, and acting as room “grandfather” for the nephew’s class at school, he has also decided to get back into the small-town political scene.

AND naturally, he recruited us to help him.

My sisters and I were always involved in sports as kids, and were all in marching band in high school (where I have the minor distinction of being the first ever female tuba player). When we moved to L-town (and I did my stint with husband #1), I spent three years in charge of the fall festival parade, however, it had been years since I had anything to do one.

I was okay with that.

Annie dog was the star of the show.

But yesterday, because I LOVE my family, I spent the afternoon walking through the center of town while praying that I wouldn’t go into a hacking fit launch a half-dissolved lemon and honey cough drop into the lap of unlucky spectator.

My nephew discovered that my dog made a great “babe magnet.”

Everyone else thought the nephew was flirting with the girl scouts, but I think he was hoping they had cookies.

My little sister got lucky. She sprained her ankle just that morning (coincidence?) and had to stay in the back of the truck.

L's view of the parade

It turned out that we had a lot of fun. Talked to people I hadn’t seen in years, smiled and waved at row upon row of total strangers, and went through a lot of candy.

Now Dad wants to know what I’m doing on Election Day…

Random Photo Friday: Ferris Wheel

Though it was a beautiful day, there was no one riding the Ferris wheel at Geneva-on-the-Lake.

How to Make Stuffed Cabbage

Thanks to Farmer D’s careful tending, we had gorgeous cabbage in the garden this year. Though some is soaking in brine for homemade sauerkraut, I used most of it to make and freeze cabbage rolls for  quick and easy future suppers.

Fresh-picked cabbage from the garden.

When I was a little girl, I loved helping Grandma make “pigs in a blanket.” Though Grandma has been gone for years, I can still picture her in her homemade apron as she mixed the meat filling (always by hand) and as she rolled each large leaf of cabbage.

I should warn you: Grandma never measured by conventional means. Her recipes were more like “a handful” of this and “a smidgen” of that. With many “comfort foods,” I cook the same way. You can always tweak things to suit your own tastes.

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All is Grand at the County Fair

I had a different post in mind for today, but then I read Chris Kick’s article on The Social Silo, The County Fair is a Good Kind of ‘Busy’, and it made me think about our own fair experience.*

Though I generally work a day or two at The Great Geauga County Fair (for my “real” job), and half our kids spend lots of time at the Trumbull County Fair, this is the first year we took part in the fair as a participant.

Three generations of family farmers bringing Milton to the fair.

16 entered his 4-H steer this year. He also spent the week at the fair helping his fellow 4-Hers, a few of whom are his cousins, tend to their animals.

Genuine Ohio cow butts

The kid did good–this was his first year in 4-H and his steer won a plaque for the highest rate of gain.**

Though he doesn't look bad like this, I preferred Milton when he was still mooing.

There was lots to be done to get ready for the Trumbull County Fair, and as soon as it was over we started making plans and making changes to prepare for the next round of calves and for next year’s fair. (I should go out to the barn and take pictures of the beautiful concrete step-ups the guys poured this week.)

That was our working fair.

The Great Geauga County fair was just for fun.

Turned out the Dixieland "band" I heard was all this guy.

*If you didn’t click on Mr.Kick’s article, please go back and read it. The folks at the Farm and Dairy rock.

**I’d like to thank Lazy B Trailers for renting us the Titan stock trailer, and King Bros. for bidding on and buying our 4-H steer. We appreciate you both.

Random Photo Friday: Amish Buggies

You'll see lots of Amish buggies if you travel west from here - there's a large Amish settlement less than 1/2 hr. away.

Why Have Fun When You Can Chop Wood Instead?

Though we’re nowhere near Farmer D’s dream of living off the grid, we’re more self-sufficient than a lot of people.

That keeps us very busy.

And occasionally, it sucks.

The kids are back in school. The temperature has started to cool. Gardening (and canning) season is starting to wind down. I thought I’d have a few days to catch up on my junk mail and the basket of stuff on the dresser I swear I will put away, when my darling husband pulls in the driveway with this:

Time to get out the chainsaw

Thanks to a felled tree in the soybean field down the road, this is the first load of many more. (Note the pimped out dump trailer with Autocrane…Farmer D is serious about his wood.)

Free firewood is a good thing, because our outside wood stove heats both the house and our hot water (and with a gaggle of girls, we go through a lot of hot water!). The bad part is that there is no firewood fairy and we have to chop and stack  the wood our (middle-aged) selves.

So rather than waste our time or plan a quick getaway for the two of us before harvest, Farmer D and I will be spending quality time together out in the driveway with our steel-toed boots and his and hers chainsaws to make sure we have enough wood for another bad winter (or zombie apocalypse).

Mine is electric.

And I like to pretend I’m a chainsaw murderer.