Yesterday was the official opening and planting day for the community garden.  Stephen and I spent some time planning out our garden this week.  After we firmed up our plans, we redrew them so they would be legible.  Then, I took photos of them and printed them out so we’d have a copy that could get wet and dirty at the garden and a dry clean copy for our records.  You can click on the photos if you want details.  We planned out one of our plots with the square foot gardening method along with a 8×2 aisle.  Since that wasn’t going to be big enough for everything, the other plot is just pumpkins, cucumbers and overflow tomatoes.  We were gifted a few tomatoes so we made sure to plant them.  We planted a mix of seeds and plants.  We have a staggered planting schedule for some items and will have a couple more small plantings in future weeks.



We arrived at the garden just after 9AM.  It was going to be a hot day in the sun.


Nick and Sally got to work playing in the dirt.  Others got busy planting.


Once we had our square foot plan strung, we got busy planting too.


Nick and Sally took turns helping out.  We were the only ones with small children at the garden.  They got lots of attention.


Turns out water was a bit of a problem.  The plan was to use water from the community center, but the distance was impractical for carrying water.  So, the mayor and a council member went and got a rain barrel, filled it and brought it out to the site.


Here’s 3 view of our planed plots and one of our neighbors.  Most of the other plots seem to be filled with plants.  That was to be expected with the late start, but we are hoping our plan and calculations with the fall crops will yield us good results with our mix of seeds and plants.



Soon we got busy watering.  It took a few trips, but we left with everything wet.



We ended up being at the garden for almost 2 hours.  We planted a pepper plant, tomato plants, pumpkins, and marigold plants.  We also planted the first round of seeds for cucumbers, spinach, beets and carrots.

Planting was winding down when we left.  We returned last night to water some more.  We want to give our seeds and plants the best shot even though it’s really hot and dry this week.  We got email this morning that the water fairies came and watered today.  We’re still going up to check on things since we don’t think our seeds would have been watered.

The kids are super excited about the garden and have already asked when we’re going today.  It’s a good thing it’s only 2.3 miles from our house.


On Wednesday, the kids and I headed out to Mike’s Berries in Lagrange, Ohio.  I had never head of Lagrange until I looked it up.  Google showed it 1 hour away.  I don’t usually travel that far for U-Pick, but it met my hour maximum for travel and they have the only “non sprayed, no pesticides” U-Pick strawberries that I found.  Since most of our farms for U-Pick spray, I really wanted to check out this farm.


Right after we arrived, we met Mike.  It was a perfect photo opportunity!  He was quite personable.


When you don’t spray, you get weeds.  This is probably the last year for this patch as it’s getting quite overgrown and will probably be tilled at the end of this season.


Nick and Sally loved investigating the field as they looked for berries.


Soon, they were finding red berries right and left.


The berries taste great, but it wasn’t the best picking.  This is just a really rough year for strawberries everywhere.  Most places have limited U-pick with small berries and are having a very short season.

We ended up picking about 3 quarts.  Grandma Carol and Mike helped us top them off to make an even 4 quarts for $10.


Carol weighed them to make sure we had the full amount we paid for.  A quart should be a pound and a half.  We picked our berries in these quart containers and used their carrier in the field.  Once they were weighed, I put them in a container that I had in the car so they could keep their containers for another customer.


Besides strawberries, Mike’s farm expects to have tomatoes, potatoes, late season berries, and lots of different varieties of garlic this year.  Due to the distance for us to travel, we probably won’t be heading there often, but we really enjoyed our visit and would recommend this farm to others, especially if you live on the west side.

 Posted by at 3:00 PM

Today was the first of our 22 weekly pickups for our Fresh Fork CSA.  We decided to switch from Beachwood to Mayfield for our location this year.  Mayfield is a new site for pick up and it’s close to our house.  We were glad there was also some shade for the stop.


This year, we upgraded from the small to the large share.   This is what we were expecting today:

Small CSA Share

  • 1 whole chicken, approx. 5 – 6 lbs.
  • 1 head kohlrabi
  • 1 bunch collard greens
  • 1 quart strawberries
  • 1 bunch red Russian kale
  • 1 bunch garlic scapes
  • 1 head green leaf lettuce
  • 1 bunch radishes
  • 1 quarter lb. bag pea tendrils

Large CSA Share Small contents above plus:

  • 2 bunches spinach
  • 1 lb. shelled peas
  • 1 head broccoli
  • 1 lb. sweet pea and black pepper linguini from Ohio City Pasta

Here’s a group shot of the items:


Our quart of strawberries was full when Dan gave them to us.  The kids ate some in the parking lot before we left for home.  The rest of the berries will be gone by the end of the night.    We received zucchini instead of broccoli.  I’ll probably use the squash in my squash fritter recipe.  Everyone here likes them.  The squash will be fine for a few days in the fridge, so those will probably make an appearance at lunch Monday or Tuesday.


This time of year, I use garlic scapes every chance I get.  I chop them and use them in salads, casseroles, when sautéing greens, etc..  They keep well so, I don’t have to freeze them often.  We haven’t had an Ohio City Pasta that we didn’t like.  I’m sure this sweet pea and pepper variety will be no exception.  I’ll probably make a béchamel sauce for it.  I tend to like most of the pasta with a white sauce instead of red.


I’ll use some spinach with our pasta.  I like to wilt it just a bit in the pasta water and then serve it together.  Sometimes I also chop it and add it to the sauce first.  It will depend on my mood.  Our chicken is thawing in the fridge.  I’ll probably cook it for lunch Sunday or dinner on Monday.  Once cooked, we get a couple of meals out of it.  The rest of the weeks bag will complement our chicken nicely.  I’ll also make stock with the bones.  I love not having to buy chicken stock.


One kohlrabi isn’t really too much.  I’m either going to fix it for myself for lunch one day or roast it with some beets and radishes if we grill a meal in the next few days.  I haven’t mastered kale yet.  We’ve had it several ways, but I don’t have a favorite way to prepare it.  I’ll probably just sauté this with garlic scapes and olive oil and serve it with a splash of lemon.


I need to verify what type of peas these are.  If they are sugar snap, the kids will devour them quickly.  If the are snow peas, we’ll cook them for a side dish this weekend.  I’m thinking about steaming the collards and letting the leaves cool and then using them for wraps instead of tortilla.  I have some taco flavored meet and peppers left over and I think it would make a good filling.


We’ll probably roast a few radishes, use a few in salad and maybe try the newsletter recipe that uses them.  Pea tendrils was a brand new item to me this week.  I’ve heard that they are good in salads or sautéed.  There’s aren’t really very many, so I don’t think I’m going to cook them.  I’d thinking of just using them in a salad.


In addition to our bag, I also picked up a couple of extras.  We were out of eggs, so I picked up a dozen.  I also decided to pick up a half gallon of milk.  I’m hoping to switch to local milk 100% of the time soon.


It’s going to be a great week in the kitchen.


I’ve been busy the last few weeks, but I am still getting my workouts in (even if is squats while strawberry picking).

Last week, when we met with our trainer, I completed the following:


2 sets of the following:

  • Lateral Band Walk w/ Shoulder Press 5lb x length of gym x 2
  • Single Arm Rope Pulldown 20lb x 20ea
  • Single Arm Overhead Lunge 8lb x 20ea leg
  • Dumbbell Chest Press/Fly Combo on ball 10lb x 20
  • Step up + Lateral Lunge x 12ea leg
  • Punching Back Extension 5lb x 6punches x 15
  • Shoulder Alphabet 5lb
  • Shoulder Retraction 20lb x 20

1 set:

  • Single Leg V-Up x 15ea
  • Bar Fwd/Bkwd Row 6lb x :30ea

Today, my partner and crime worked out with our trainer.  After a 5 minute warm up on the spin bike, I completed the following:

1 set of the following:

  • Single arm/leg V-ups x 20ea
  • Straight Arm Back Extension x 20

2 sets of the following:

  • Cable Single Arm Chest Press 30lb x 15ea
  • Shoulder Circuit 2.5lb x 8 reps x 6 exercises
  • Bus Drivers 45lb bar x 40total
  • Walking Band Figure-8s x length of gym

3 sets of the following:

  • Kneeling Bosu Lat Pulldown 50lb x 20
  • Overhead Lunge x 20ea
  • Cable Good Mornings 50lb x 30
  • Walking Lateral Lunges x length of gym

I suspect my arms and shoulders will be particularly sore tomorrow!  Our summer schedules are quite hectic with lots of travel, so my trainer workouts will be more sporadic, but I plan on exercising on the road and in town as often as possible.

 Posted by at 10:09 PM

Yesterday, we drove out to Monroe’s Orchard to meet up with friends for strawberry picking.  This was our first time visiting this farm.  We were greeted by great signage.  It was easy to know we had arrived.


After pulling in the driveway, we saw this sign and followed around to the market building.


We had the option of bringing our own containers and having them weighed before picking or buying containers.  Small quart sized containers were 20 cents.  Larger containers that held 8 quarts were $1.25.  I didn’t bring picking containers for myself, but I did have buckets for the kids.  So, I bought one of the large containers.  Debbie was working in the market and she was extremely nice to us.  This time of year, not much was going on in the market.  I suspect it would be much busier during apple season.

Then, we drove behind the building to the grassy area to park and head to the field.  Ella was there to greet us, demonstrate how to pick berries (for the kids) and assign us to a row.  The picking was pretty good and the berries were plentiful.  We didn’t think the berries were very sweet.  The field we were picking in was the Jewel variety which are a tarter berry.  Also, the weather this year has not been ideal for strawberries.  Many farms are having small berries, limited picking, and delays with ripening due to the weather.


Nick had to use the port-a-potty not once, but twice during our hour of picking.  Luckily, it was close to the picking field and very clean.  I’ve been to plenty of public bathrooms that weren’t as nice as this port-a-potty.  Two trips is better than accidents any day!


This is a typical shot of the kids.  Sally is busy eating a strawberry and Nick basket is empty.  He is always in search for the perfect berry and rarely finds them.  Many times, he ends up looking at weeds and running around the nearby fields.


We ended up with just over 5 pounds of berries.  They were $1.65 a pound + $1.25 for the container.  We ended up paying $10.00 total.


These berries were washed, hulled and then frozen whole.  They will be used in jam or smoothies.  I made sure to clean them last night since we had more picking planned for today.


Today was our first pickup for our Geauga Family Farms CSA for the summer 2012 season.  We are getting the single share this year and our pick up is on Tuesday afternoon at the Whole Foods in Woodmere on Chagrin.

We arrived around 4PM and everything was very organized and well labeled.  Nick checked in with April at the table.  I really like the addition of the signage this year.


Here’s what we were treated with this week:


Green onions, broccoli


Beets, curly kale


Lettuce, strawberries


We’ll use some onions in our quiche muffins this week.  The rest I will chop and freeze for later.  Most of the time we use onions in cooking, so having them in the freezer works great for us.  The broccoli will make a quick side dish one evening this week.  Lately, the kids have been fighting over broccoli.  Unless we decide to grill, I’ll probably make Harvard beets with the beets.  The greens are also edible, so I’ll be sautéing them with some garlic scapes.  The kale will either be made into kale chips (haven’t mastered them yet) or used in our quiche filling.  The lettuce will go into salads.  We actually didn’t open the strawberries on the way home.  Since we still have some, we’re going to make strawberry lemonade spritzers with them.  I picked up sparkling water.

It looks like we are off to a great start for the season!


It’s June and we have just decided to plant a garden.  Last week, I was reading the Mayfield-Hillcrest Patch, and I read about a community garden in Highland Heights.  We had been looking for a community garden to try out.  Our yard doesn’t have enough sun and our growing has been complicated by the deer population as well.

Saturday, we went up to the garden area to check it out.  There are 36 8’x8’ plots, including 2 that are handicap accessible (the higher boxes on the right in the photo).  Plots are $18.


The kids immediately fell in love with the idea of planting a garden.  They had a great time checking out the boxes.


Yesterday, I met up with a representative from the garden club to sign up and get an information packet.  While I waited, I took a few photos of the gazebo and the flowers.


It’s the first year for the garden and there is lots to figure out, but we’re going to give it a try.  We are following the square foot gardening method, figured out a plan and went shopping for plants and seeds.

After dinner last night, we rode our bikes up to the garden and showed Nick and Sally our plots.  It was a nice ride.  It’s just under 5 miles round trip and for the most part, we can avoid busy roads.

The garden officially opens for planting on Saturday.  Hopefully, we’ll have dirt and fencing at the site by then.


One of our favorite stops at the Baltimore Farmers’ Market last weekend was Baltimore Hoop Love.


We really enjoyed watching the pros.


It was also fun to try out the hoops.



My sister takes the best photos – Always!


We actually stopped back after our shopping.  My niece picked out a hoop and picked the colors so it could be wrapped to her liking.


The hoops are made from PVC irrigation tubing.


They are hoping to help promote local farming and farm openings with their circus type act.  They are passionate about local food and the market is such a good fit for them.

Before long, we were on our way back to my sister’s house.  My niece has been enjoying her hoop.  I was happy to discover that this company also does birthday parties with hoops, juggling, stilts, etc.  They were a ton of fun.


Today, the kids and I had plans to meet up with a friend at the Shaker Farmers’ Market.  During the summer months, the market is 8AM – 12PM every Saturday.

I like to park on the north side of the square behind the CVS.  Then, you just follow the sign to the square.  Since we usually go to the market early, parking is not a problem.


Here’s a view from the entrance of the north side of the market.


Strawberries are in full swing.  There was lots of red, especially at the Woolf Farms stand.  The “mushroom” guy was busy as usual.  He always has a line of people.


I tried something new with Nick today.  I gave him $3 to spend on whatever he wanted.  He bought 2 pickling cucumbers and a few tomatoes.  Then, he talked me into sugar snap peas and I gave him money so he could practice paying for things.


We had a short list of things we wanted to get at the market today.  Since both of our CSAs start next week, I wanted to buy things that we would use between today and Tuesday.

We ended up with 2 kinds of lettuce ($2.50 each), a bunch of beets with nice greens ($3.00), tomatoes ($2.50), pickling cucumbers ($1.00), garlic scapes (.50), and sugar snap peas ($3.00).


Although there are only a few peas pictured, we started with a  baggie full.  You can kind of see the amounts in the photo of Nick buying them.  Stephen and Nick shared a tomato at dinner.  I prepped the greens and plan on salad tomorrow that includes the rest of the peas and some of the cucumbers.  I’ll probably cook the beets and greens too.  I don’t have immediate plans for the garlic scapes, but we always like having them around this time of year.  I might make a frittata with them and use some of our chipotle cheese in the dish.

We were happy to find everything we wanted to buy (and more) at the market today.  Our only mistake was not walking through the south side of the market.  I totally didn’t think about the other half of the market that is on the south side of the tracks until we were driving around the square to head home.  I suspect we missed a few good stands, but it probably saved us a few dollars.

I’m still hoping to visit 8 different markets this year.  This was number 4.  It gets harder when the CSA season starts, because we don’t need to buy more at the markets.  I still think they are tons of fun and good for the kids.

 Posted by at 9:19 PM

While I was in Baltimore last weekend, I really wanted to go to the Farmers’ Market.  It’s open April – October on Sunday mornings from 7AM until noonish.  It’s located downtown and is known as the largest producer’s market in Maryland.

It’s actually a Bazaar and market.  The way we entered the market, we past stand of baskets, clothes, jewelry and more.  My niece was very interested in the jewelry, but I wanted to check out the produce.  After a few minutes, we made our way to the market.  The market is located under a couple of bridges.  So, there’s a good deal of shade built in.  That made for a nice walk through.  It was already hot and we were there just after 7AM.


My sister and niece bought some spicy jerky for my brother in law.  The went back and bought some sweet to enjoy as well.  I’ve never seen duck eggs at a market.  I didn’t need any eggs, but I may try them next time.


This booth reminded me of Humble Pie Baking Company here in the Cleveland area.  He had lots of savory and sweet individual pies and a few traditional sized as well.  We purchased a few savory ones to have for lunch.  There was a seafood stand that consistently had customers.  They also had live crabs that my niece liked checking out.


It was easy to tell that the prime in season crops are strawberries and asparagus.  The were everywhere.


My friend Erin (also known as the bride the day before) let us know that there were good breakfast choices at the market.  You can get omelets, donuts, pastries, coffee and crepes.  I opted for a crepe.  It was fun to watch the crew.  There were 2 guys that prepped the ingredients and 2 guys cooking them.  A fifth person took the orders and kept everything moving along.  I love good efficient processes and  loved this stop.  My sister bought some pickles at the In A Pickle stand.  We were surprised at the line for them.  They were tasty, but my sister likes my pickles better.  If pickling cucumbers are ready when we go to Baltimore in July, I’m going to leave a few jars of refrigerator pickles for her.


One of my favorite stands was the mushroom stand.  They all looked so delicious.


I settled on “The Deluxe Mix”.  We ended up cooking them with burgers on Memorial Day.  They were really good.  Locally, I don’t get many opportunities for such a variety in fresh mushrooms.


Between my sister, niece and I, we ended up buying savory pies, mushrooms, asparagus, lettuce mix, dill, jerky, pickles, crepes, and a hula hoop (but that’s a story for a future post).


As we left the market, this guy was playing a saxophone made out of PVC pipe.  He actually could play a tune.  We also passed the free parking that we had been told about.  We actually parked a couple of blocks away in the street and our locale turned out fine.  When I’m in Baltimore on a Sunday morning, I will definitely check out this market again.

 Posted by at 10:09 PM