Who We Are



The past few years, the area where I live, Crawford County, Ohio, has seen a wonderful explosion of younger families who are embracing the joys and challenges of living off the land. Because of them, amazing things are happening which have been embraced by our community. Farmer’s markets have been created and on-farm stores have opened. Families dedicated to growing organic produce and naturally raised meats are meeting the public’s needs for locally raised foods. And at the heart of this movement are the women.



Ohio Country Journal is my attempt to share the essence of farm life, focusing on, but not limited to, women. My goal is to bring you into our circle of friendship by inviting you to share your stories and experiences with us. You don’t have to be a full time country woman to benefit from joining us; you just have to be you.





The full-time country women featured in Ohio Country Journal are an inspiration to anyone who dares to follow her dreams, whether it is to live in the country or to bring the country life-style to their urban neighborhoods.





Thursday, August 11, 2016

How Corney Can it Get?




 


How appropriate is it that a sweet corn grower's last name is Corney? :) Read on to find out!

This year full-time country woman Denise Corney's brother, Terry, planted his usual acre of sweet corn. Despite the epic drought that we are experiencing this year, Corney Corn is thriving. So much so that Denise feels like she has corn growing out of her ears.

Several times this past week I've helped Denise with her corn stand. Our friends and owner of Galion's KFC on St. Rt. 598 north of Galion has graciously allowed Denise to set up shop in front of the restaurant. Denise also sets up at NorthSide Farmers' Market in Heise Park on Thursdays (4 -6:30 p.m.)



And, this is what is wonderful about living rural: not only do our friends allow us to sell produce in front of their business (on a busy highway, which really helps move product), but part of my payment from Denise was in sweet corn. One night I cooked and froze eight dozen ears after a hot day of selling. It sounds like a lot, and I guess it is, but it really did not take that long.

Here's how I did it. First I shucked the corn and put the naked ears in a large plastic storage tub. Next I got out my large stainless steel stock pot that has a colander basket that fits inside and put about 3 quarts of water in it and got it boiling. When this stock pot came with my set of cookware, I thought, Holy Smokes! Who eats this much spaghetti? It seemed like it would cook more than even the largest Italian family could devour in one meal, and I should know because my best friend comes from a super-sized Italian family. But, know what? I love this stock pot. Not only for steaming food like corn on the cob, but also because it serves as a water bath canner when I make jam. :)

I let a batch of corn steam for about 10 minutes. As soon as I took it out, I added another batch to steam while I cut the first batch from the cob. All I used was a sharp, thin-bladed knife. No fancy-dancy corn cutter is needed unless you really love kitchen gadgets that only accomplish one task. Then I say, go for it!




Because the smallest freezer bags I could find were quart sized, and that there is no way that the two of us could eat a quart of corn, I put enough corn for a meal in sandwich bags (about a pint). Then I put two bags in a freezer bag for the best protection.

As soon as each batch came out of the steamer, I put in another, which gave this process great momentum. All-in-all it took about 3 hours, from shucking to processing to cleaning up the kitchen.

Was it worth it? You betcha! Now I have our winter's worth of sweet corn in the freezer, just waiting to be put in tasty winter fare.

Writing this post today made me think of the song Jubilation T. Cornpone, from the play Li'l Abner. Why? Well, just take a gander at what was left of those 96 ears of corn! You can listen to the song here.



Marcheta *Jublilated


Monday, May 23, 2016

A Series of Fortunate Events

~ or~
How I Squeeze the Beejeesus out of a Single Lemon



Ahhh, those lemons! They are always available in markets and are inexpensive. Lemons can do much more than flavor water, a condiment for fish or used in salad dressings. Here are beneficial ways that I squeeze the life out of a lemon.



First I zest it, even if I don't need fresh zest because it easy to dry by putting it on a paper towel lined plate. To keep it clean, cover loosely with another towel. After a few days it should be dry. I like to use dried zest in "melt and pour" soaps. I love the baby buttermilk formula that I buy from Planktown Hardware and More.


Now I am ready to use the lemon.

Body Scrub


After zesting cut the lemon in half. We only need one half, so put the other half in the fridge. Juice the half that you kept out.  Put about half of the juice in a glass of water to sip while you work. Put the remaining juice in a small cup and mix a few tablespoons of granulated sugar until you get the consistency that you like. 

This makes a delightful sugar scrub. Since it has no added oils, it is perfect for use in the shower. Believe me, you will feel SO refreshed, and your skin will be so silky smooth you’ll wonder if you somehow grew new skin because lemons are a natural source of vitamin C, is a natural astringent, and is a natural exfoliant since the citric acid acts as a gentle "skin peel" that removes the top layer of dead skin cells. The natural qualities of sugar are glycolic acids which are used in many cosmetics. If your skin is sensitive or dry, dilute the lemon juice with water before adding the sugar.

The sugar scrub in itself is plenty wonderful, but wait! We aren’t nearly done with this lemon just yet.


Kitchen Cleaner


To clean the kitchen sink, turn the lemon half inside out after you’ve juiced it. Dampen the sink with water and sprinkle salt over the bottom. Then simply use the lemon half as a scrubber, going up the sides of the sink, too. Lemons have anti-bacterial qualities that make it a natural disinfectant, and the salt acts as a mild abrasive. *BONUS*…before rinsing the sink rub the salted lemon over your damp hands…Viola! You’ve just given your hands a lemon salt scrub treatment on top of cleaning the sink. Now rinse out the sink, dry your hands. Your sink and hands are now lemony-fresh.


And, There’s More!  What about your microwave oven? It wants to be clean, too. Take the same half lemon, salt and all, and place in a bowl of water. Place in the oven and microwave on high for about two minutes. Remove the steaming bowl with an oven mitt and wipe down the inside of the oven with a kitchen towel or paper towels. Isn’t this nice?


One Final Thing…this lemon has practically given its life for us: lemon water, lemon body scrub, cleaned kitchen sink and microwave oven. Let’s give it a proper burial, one that will keep on giving. Since I live in the country and have gardens, I cut what is left of the lemon up into large chunks (so that it will break down faster) and toss it in the compost.  

I do not have a garbage disposal, but I have heard that putting the lemon down the disposal last will help clean it and make it smell as nice as the rest of your kitchen.


I believe that these tips give specific meaning to the lyrics, Lemon Tree, Very Pretty because *W*O*W*! That’s a lot of uses for one half of a lemon, isn’t it? The added, extra bonus is that I feel so thrifty after I’ve had this date with one of my favorite scents. And, I still have the other half to repeat the process in a day or so. 


Marcheta *Sweet on Lemons (who says they’re sour?)  



Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Morel of the Story

 
 
 

Simple is best!

Yes, I cut right to the chase and got to the heart of the moral of this post. Or, in this case, the morel.  Mushrooms, that is. J

This wonderful spring treat is a real trooper this year; growing despite the cold, wet weather.

One of the reasons that morels are so special is because they have a short growing season and are hard to find. For these beauties we have to take a hike in the woods. And since they resemble the dead leaves they grow from, finding them is no easy task.

Back in the day, in the late 50’s and early 60’s, I remember going mushroom hunting with my parents in the woods behind our rented farmhouse. We took brown paper grocery sacks and in no time could fill several bags.

Now days, not so much. Even though we always leave one or two to send their spores out for next year’s crop, we find less and less each year. Morel mushrooms have become an expensive delicacy, selling for $32.00 a pound at the local produce auction. How lucky I feel that are we are finding them this year!

Sure, you could use these mushrooms in many recipes, but the absolute BEST is to just enjoy them simply for what they are. Slice the shrooms down the middle length-wish because the stems are hollow and may house a bug or two. Small bugs may make homes in the deep honeycomb-like crevices of the mushroom cap, so it is a good thing to wash each one separately under running water. Then  give them a quick soak in a bowl of water, just to make sure the mushrooms are clean of any unwanted tenants.

Pat the mushrooms dry with clean kitchen or paper towels. Melt real butter in a sauté pan, when the butter begins to bubble, add the mushrooms. A bit of salt and pepper are all they need. Turn to cook the other side. This does not take very long. And there you have it, the most tasty, most delicious mushroom in the world, ready to plate and enjoy. Morel mushrooms, if you are lucky enough to find them, are a fleeting pleasure, which makes the experience all the more special.

 

Marcheta *a-hunting I will go!

PS Because morel mushrooms are a wild food, you need to know what you are looking for so that you do not pick poisonous imposters. This website has good information about morel mushrooms.  Here is an excerpt on safety.

Considerations

Wild morel mushrooms must be properly identified to be sure they're safe to eat. Mushrooms known as "false morels" resemble the real morels but their caps are round and they're poisonous. If you're not experienced, don't hunt for mushrooms without first obtaining some instruction. Mushroom-hunting clubs, mycological organizations, botanical schools and some community colleges offer mushroom-identification classes and guided forays that send an experienced expert with a group of novice mushroom hunters to teach identification techniques. Never eat morel mushrooms raw. Cooking eliminates substances that may make you sick. Edible morel mushrooms can cause allergic reactions, so if you’ve never had them before, eat a small amount and wait several hours before eating more. Use morels as you would any other mushroom, but remember their flavor is stronger and stands on its own better than other mushrooms such as the white button varieties.

Top of Form

 

 

 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Gateway to Healthy Meals...

 



 
I found this young fellow taking a break from
helping his parents at their family market stand
 at Bellville, Ohio Farmer's Market.
Farmers Market Season has begun! And what a blessing and joy they are.
 
Our area is a cluster of three small towns. Once Upon a Time, not so very long ago, we did not have farmers markets here. Farmers markets were more of a "city thing".
 
 
Well, all of that began to change about 10 years ago. A few markets have sprung up and failed, for various reasons. Now things have seemed to have leveled out, and all three towns have successful markets. It meant some shuffling around a bit to achieve this. For instance, Galion's NorthSide Farmers Market (which I helped to get started) has moved to Thursdays to not be in conflict with Crestline Famers Market, which is on Tuesdays. Bucyurs' Farmers Market will continue on Saturday mornings.
 
 
 

I feel that these markets contribute to the quality of life here in our rural part of the state. People who do not garden now have access to fresh, local food sources. It was here all along, but without the markets not available to the general public.

Local honey and maple syrup are natural sweeteners available at
farmers markets.
Jim and I are not vendors until July, when our fruit harvest begins with Lodi apples. But you can bet your sweet bippy** that I'll be perusing the markets for items that we do not grow or produce. :)
 
       **Yep. I am old enough to quote Laugh In.....!
 
Holistic Acres! What a fantastic name for a small
family farm. :)
What to look for now: rhubarb, asparagus, greens such as spinach and kale, fresh herbs, herb plants, bedding plants, veggie plants, fresh eggs, honey, pure Ohio maple syrup, local meat (beef, pork, chicken), baked goods, and handmade items such as soap.
 
Happy Fresh Food Shopping, everyone!
Marcheta * fresh!
 







Monday, April 4, 2016

Spring Cleaning Team Work

Spring is slow to arrive this year in our area. Many people are chomping at the bit for warm days and sunshine. Others are chomping at the bit, too, because this weather is the perfect for the work that they need to do.



Logging is a great example. Woodlots need to be managed and maintained, just like everything else. Old and/or diseased trees need to be removed to make room for new growth.  In early Spring there is a perfect window of time for this job. It needs to get done before the trees  leaf out and vegetation becomes thick, but mostly before Spring rains make the ground too muddy for horses or tractors to pull the logs out.


A few days ago my friend called to tell me that her brother had hired an Amish team to log the woods near her home. I always think that it is neat to witness farm work as it was done when Ohio first became a state. Because of our large Amish population, we do not have to go to a living history museum to observe and appreciate the old ways, we see it all year 'round in farms populated by Amish and Mennonites.

These pics tell the story, albeit a grainy one. I was pretty far away from the action, and I respect the fact that the men were working and did not want to invade their privacy. I stood in the open so that they could see that I was taking pictures, I would never take a picture of people without them knowing.

The man riding has three horses that are pulling a large log out of the woods, taking it to a loading station. The man walking has dropped of f his log and is leading two horses back into the woods to pick up another log to pull out. I was too far away to hear the horses clomping along, but could easily hear the buzz of chainsaws taking down trees.

Yes, Amish and Mennonite are not adverse to using modern tools, which is a misconception for people who don't live near them. They use what is best for the job. In this case, horses are perfect for bringing out the logs as they can maneuver around the woods much easier than a tractor.

Marcheta *also Spring cleaning...where's my team? :)







Friday, December 4, 2015

Christmas Bird

The last post explained our new display for wreaths and swags. While Denise and I were painting, Jim was inspired to make arms for the St. Nicks so they could hold the wreaths. My idea was simply to impale the Jolly Old Souls with nails for hanging the wreaths. I'm glad that Jim stopped that cruelty and got busy making arms for the Jolly Old Souls.

The wreaths and swags look wonderful on their new display. It's always great to see an idea become a reality.


And then, there's this guy :)

 
 
Jim found an abandoned bird's nest and placed it on one of the Santa's arms. Naturally he found a bird in my craft supplies to take residence in the nest. When I investigated, I discovered that our feathered friend was sitting on a golf ball. Is Jim hoping for a hybrid 'birdie'? A golf ball with feathers that assures a birdie for every hole? Or one that is good for badminton as well as golf?
 
One can only wonder....Jim's brain works in mysterious ways. And that's all I am going to say about that!
 
Marcheta *bye, bye Birdie!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

'Tis the Season!

I love our seasonal lifestyle because it keeps life interesting and lively.

We enjoyed an extra-long autumn, setting up at farmers markets right up until the last week in October. We picked around 300 bushels of apples and had around 500 gallons of cider made.  *whew*...it was such work that the end of the season was bitter-sweet. I was glad to let go of the heavy work, but really missed seeing and visiting with market customers. And I especially miss our fellow vendors.

Now that we are recovered from apples, it is time to make Christmas greens. Our big, commercial orders are taken care of, and that's a good feeling for sure.
 
Here at the farm, we are in retail hours for Christmas trees and greens. All of our wreaths, swags, and grave blankets are made to order with our own, home-grown greens. I like to have a variety of greens in our wreaths...Blue Spruce for its strength...really the 'bones' of any structure. White pine adds soft, long-needle movement, Fraser Fir for fragrance, juniper for lovely texture and fragrance, and last, but not least, arborvitae for it's lovely, lacy texture. Making Christmas greens is a wonderful job, indeed, and I feel very fortunate to help people with their festivities.

This year, Jim brought home a picket fence that a landscape customer wanted removed. Jim pitched it on the burn pile. Lucky for me, I found it before a match was lit. I had big ideas for the fence.

Friend Denise came on board with my idea, and one sunny afternoon in late November, she came out to paint Santas on some of the pickets, while I worked on painting trees on other pickets.

Now our old, worn out looking barn is all "spruced" up, with evergreens and a new display created out of imagination and discarded items.

Stay tuned to this blog to see a fun development on our Santa Fence!

 
Marcheta *fa-la-la-la-la!
 
 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Retro Recipes...Nine Ideas for Apples

I love vintage magazines for many reasons. The woman's magazines, especially, had wonderful, well written stories and were packed full of projects and recipes. But mostly I love them because they give a glimpse of true history...what was popular at the time.
Soon I will be decorating a room in our new building that will serve as both a workshop for me and, in season, a space to sort, store, and sell our apple harvest.
 
I am calling this room my Happy 50's Kitchen. Today I was bumming around in a local second hand shop (Galion Flea Market in Uptowne Galion, Ohio), looking for magazines to help me get an idea of what the interior of 50's kitchens truly looked like.
 
I found an October, 1953 edition of Woman's Day. The first page I opened was this page of ideas for apple salads. How appropriate is that? :)
 
Some things never go out of style. They are called "Classics" for a reason, and these recipes sound as yummy today as they did when Marjorie Henderson, of Woman's Day kitchen, designed them 62 years ago.
 
See if you agree...
 
1. Apple Luncheon Salad
Arrange  wedges of unpeeled red apple on greens. Top with ham, chicken, tuna-fish, or shrimp salad.
     *note: you could also top with cottage cheese
 
2. Apple, Carrot and Raisin Salad
Combine bite-size chunks of unpeeled red apple with shredded carrot and seeded raisins. Serve with mayonnaise.
 
3. Apple Glace` with Honey Cream Cheese
Simmer 4 peeled, cored apples in syrup made by boiling 2 cups pineapple juice, 1/2 cup sugar, and a little red coloring, until apples are tender and red, turning often. Drain; chill. Put on greens. Stuff with cream cheese softened with honey. Top with walnut halves.
       *note: keep the apples whole, like for a baked apple. I would not use red food coloring.
 
4. Danish Salad
Combine 1/2 cup each finely diced apples, cooked potatoes, beets, cooked veal, and pickled herring. Add small, diced dill pickle, a little mince onion, and vinegar. Season to taste. Moisten with heavy cream. Mix lightly. Pack into 4 custard cups; chill well. Un-mold; garnish with sliced hard-cooked eggs.
    *note: this recipe is more involved, but the combination of foods is intriguing to me. I have no idea what pickled herring tastes like because I am allergic to fish. But now I know why this is called "Danish Salad" :)
 
5.Apple-and-Orange Salad
Alternate slices of unpeeled red apple and orange on water cress. Serve with sweetened French dressing.
     *note: I think putting the fruit slices on any type of greens would work. For instance, a modern twist might be to put them on a bed of spinach, which is so popular right now.
 
6. Waldorf Salad
Combine chunks of peeled tart apple, diced celery, chopped walnuts, and cooked salad dressing. Garnish with cranberry sauce. 
     *note: what is cooked salad dressing? I know, right? Well, no fear...a quick search on Cooks.Com led to a slew of recipes. For me, well, I'd probably use mayonnaise >grinz< 
 
7. Two-Cheese Apple-Ring Salad
Core, slice large red apple. Put cottage cheese between and on top of two apple slices. Top with crumbled blue cheese.
     *note: again, because of allergy, I'd omit blue cheese and use any kind of crumbled cheese that I like...such as farmers.
 
8. Curried Apple, Onion, and Pepper Salad
Combine strips of apple with thin onion rings, crisp slivers of red and green peppers. Serve with mayonnaise seasoned with curry powder.
    *note: apples and onions? In Laura Ingalls Wilder's book, Farmer Boy, she wrote that one of Almanzo's favorite dish was fried apples and onions. I gave it a try and can honestly say that I am a fan! So I imagine that this combo is tasty in Marjorie's recipe. I would use a sweet onion, such as Vidalia or Walla Walla
 
9. Jellied Cinnamon-Apple Salad
Dissolve 1/3 cup red cinnamon candies in 2 cups boiling water. Heat, and pour over 1 package red, fruit-flavored gelatin dessert. Stir until dissolved. Chill until partially thickened. Fold in 3/4 cup each chopped celery and apple, dash salt, and 1/3 cup chopped nuts. Pour into molds; chill until firm. Unmold on greens.
      *note: I doubt if I would bother to use a mold, I think it would be just fine chilled in a regular bowl and scooped out onto the greens when ready to serve.
 
So there you are, nine retro recipes for apples. As our varieties ripen I will give each one of these a try, and (hopefully) make blog post updates to give you my opinions. :)
 
Marcheta *all in a Woman's Day
 
 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Little Green Apples

If it's July, it's Summer Apple Pickin' Time.

The first apples of the season are Yellow Transparent and the child it had when it crossed with Montgomery. They named their baby "Lodi". Both are thin-skinned and extremely tart. And they don't last long.

So...what good are they?

SAUCE!

And yesterday I baked an apple/raisin/nut quick bread with Lodi apples for the first time to check out how the apples would hold up (they did) and it is fantastic! More about that later.

First: to make sauce. For this blog post I used one quart of apples. It took 20 minutes from start to finish and yielded a pint of sauce.

Begin by rinsing the apples under running water.



Next, quarter and core the apples. No need to peel them as the skins are very thin and will separate from the flesh when cooked. Plus, there's a lot of good nutrition at skin level. :)

 
Cook with about 1/4 cup of water over low heat. As the apples begin to cook down you can turn up the heat to speed up the process. Stir often to make sure the apples are not sticking to the bottom of the pan. If the sauce gets too thick before the apples are cooked down, add another splash of water. The cooking time takes about 12 minutes.

 
The apples nearly sauce themselves when cooked. When done, run the apples in a food mill or sieve, like this one, to remove the skins and make a nice, smooth sauce.
 
 
That's all there is to it! I added 1/2 cup of white sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, and a dash of nutmeg. Honey is also an excellent sweetener. For Lodi and Transparent, I do not recommend using maple syrup, which is really tasty on other varieties of applesauce such as yellow delicious.



Now for that apple bread!





Lodi Apple Bread
If you don’t have time to make Lodi applesauce you can substitute commercially prepared apple sauce.

Directions
Dry mix:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. apple pie spice or a combo of cinnamon, ground cloves, nutmeg and allspice
2 cups white sugar

Wet mix
1/2 cup Lodi applesauce
1 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups peeled, cored, diced Lodi apples
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1 cup golden or regular raisins
1/3 cup chopped dates

Whisk together all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

In another bowl, whisk together applesauce, oil and eggs.

Add remaining ingredients to wet mix. Add wet mix to dry, stirring just until combined. The batter will be very dry. Place in 2 small bread pans that have been well greased and floured.

Bake in 350 degree oven for about an hour. Allow to cool in pans for at least 1/2 hour. Remove from pans very carefully.

Marcheta *the "Apple Lady" strikes again!


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Beautiful Sight...

 
It's no secret that we had a long, cold winter. We had some concern that we might not have much of an apple crop this year.
 
Well, well, well...just looky here! These blooms tell a different story :) Every tree bloomed its little heart out. Just goes to show, what do we know about anything? Nature, if anything, is always surprising.
 
 
 
 
When I left for a trip to Florida earlier this month, the trees were barren in the still cold and drizzly Ohio climate, despite being early May. Winter just did not want to give in.

Gazing upon these fragrant blooms the morning after I returned gave me a sense of what Dorothy must have felt like when she opened her farmhouse door and stepped into the Technicolor world of Oz.

 
 
This lovely poem by Susan Kelly-Dewitt expresses how wonderful it is to see blossoms after a long winter:
 

Apple Blossoms

One evening in winter
when nothing has been enough,
when the days are too short,
 
the nights too long
and cheerless, the secret
and docile buds of the apple
 
blossoms begin their quick
ascent to light. Night
after interminable night

the sugars pucker and swell
into green slips, green
silks. And just as you find

yourself at the end
of winter’s long, cold
rope, the blossoms open

like pink thimbles
and that black dollop
of shine called
 
bumblebee stumbles in.
 
 
Marcheta *stumbling in