Tag Archives: Summer squash

So Much For “S’pose”

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I spent yesterday morning freshening the upstairs rooms, making beds, running the vacuum cleaner, sweeping and mopping floors at Aunt Katie’s, in anticipation of company coming. Aunt Margaret, my cousin Gail and others were arriving on the afternoon ferry. I met the boat and stopped back at the farmhouse to visit for a bit. I promised I’d stop back today, before going to work.

We were supposed to – maybe –  get a frost last night. In anticipation, I’d gathered all the summer squash, zucchini, beans, peppers, tomatoes and Swiss chard that could be harvested yesterday afternoon. I went out in the evening and covered the tomato plants.

Today was supposed to be my day off, but I was asked to fill in for someone. I’m covering the dinner shift and don’t have to be there until four-thirty, so it still kind of feels like a day off.

I started my morning by checking on the garden. No frost! I took the covers off the tomatoes. Juggling coffee cup and gathering pail, I wandered the perimeter of the yard gathering enough berries for breakfast, then came in to get on with the day.

All of the produce I’d collected yesterday had to be dealt with…except for the Swiss chard, which I’d had with dinner last night.

First the tomatoes, peeled and chopped, go into the big kettle. Peppers next: one hot, one mild. I set aside the young beans for a side dish, but the larger ones, ends nipped off and roughly chopped, get added to the pot. Small squash – whether yellow, light green or dark – go back to the vegetable bin, too. Medium-sized get washed and set aside for grating. The large ones, cut into chunks, go into the kettle. There is still room, so I go back to the garden to cut some kale. I gather purslane, parsley and basil on the way back. All goes in to the soup pot. I add just enough water to prevent sticking and put it on the stove to simmer.

When the whole mix has stewed until it’s tender, I’ll chill it. Tomorrow, I’ll put it through the food mill, and store it, labelled “soup base” in quarts for the freezer. I use it instead of water to cook rice. I use it with other ingredients to make soups or sauces. It makes a great braising liquid. With only a bit of seasoning and a dollop of sour cream or yogurt, it stands on its own as a pureed soup. It’s flavor is always different, based on what ingredients went in, but it’s always good…and always easy.

Now for grated squash. I grow three types of summer squash and – though they all have slightly different flavors and textures – use them interchangeably in recipes. When I put them up, grated, for zucchini pancakes, zucchini-crust pizza or zucchini bread, I just mix them all together. I like the little flecks of yellow or light green, and they are similar enough in taste to work.

This is one of the few jobs I actually like my food processor for. Though I’ve regretted buying it almost from the moment I got it home, hate the amount of cupboard space it takes up, despise the many small pieces to wash and store, and feel I could easily live a full life without it, the food processor does make quick work of grating a mountain of summer squash. Six quarts, labelled and dated, were in the freezer by noon.

There were four cups left over when I ran out of containers. I’d make zucchini bread! My recipe – actually James Beard’s rendition of Carl Goh’s zucchini bread – calls for two cups of peeled, grated zucchini. Who peels zucchini? Not me! Since my mound of unpeeled, mixed squash measured four cups, I’d have to double the recipe. No problem.

I had six eggs broken and beaten before realizing I didn’t have four cups of sugar in the house.

Okay. Two and a half cups of sugar and one half cup of real maple syrup would have to do.

Two cups of oil seemed like a lot. Aunt Margaret, in her baking days, used to substitute applesauce for part of the oil in recipes.

No apple sauce in my house.

But (aha!), one small jar of yams. I ask myself, might mashed yams be – taste and texture-wise – about the same mushy sweetness as apple sauce? Maybe. One cup of oil, one cup of mashed yams.

Three cups of all-purpose flour means that I need six cups in my doubled recipe.

Yikes!

That ended up being two cups of all-purpose flour, three cups of whole wheat flour and one cup of brown rice flour.

Baking powder, baking soda and vanilla caused no issues.

I spilled the cinnamon, so that was a bit more than what the recipe called for.

I had no walnuts or filberts, but a generous cup of slivered almonds went in.

After filling two loaf pans, I decided to add a half-cupful of dried cranberries to the rest of the batter before filling the third loaf pan and the muffin cups.

Bake one hour, except for the muffins which finished sooner.

Delicious!

This was supposed to be Carl Goh’s zucchini bread as interpreted by James Beard.

I’m calling it mine!

Checking messages, I see I am now supposed to be at work by three-thirty or four. I still have to walk the dogs, refrigerate the soup base, wrap the zucchini bread, change clothes and get out of the house in time to stop at the farmhouse. So much for my supposed day off!

Not Quite Ready

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This is the front of my garden, looking south.

Eight tomatoes are planted between the cedar posts next to the wildflower bed (right now almost entirely poppies). Each pair of tomato plants shares a gallon milk jug. Each  jug is pierced with pin holes  along the base, and is buried to its neck between the plants. Filled daily from the hose, the water seeps out of the holes at the root zone. As the tomatoes grow, I’ll weave garden twine around them and the cedar posts to keep them upright and supported.

In front of the tomatoes, each bordered with rocks, is a small herb garden and, closest, a peony bed. A squash will grow in that tire near the tomatoes.

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Now, turning to the east, the long daylily bed is in line with the peonies, and separates the vegetable garden (visible here) from the perennial fruit and vegetable beds (not visible in these photos). Each half is made up of three large beds – 4′ wide x 12′ long – running north and south, and three small beds – 3′ wide x 6′ long – running east and west.

Raspberries, asparagus and blueberries each have a large bed to themselves, and strawberries fill the three small beds on the perennial side. Two semi-dwarf cherry trees also have their own space on that side of the garden.

The vegetable garden was a challenge this year. In fact, today – the 23rd of June – I just finished putting the last of my seeds in the ground. Pole beans are in the back bed, planted around the bamboo tepees. Salad greens are planted inside the tepees, for the shade offered there. Peppers – both sweet and hot – share the next bed with one hill of cucumbers and two hills of summer squash. The next bed is potatoes and kale. The closest small bed has Swiss Chard. The other two have zucchini and another type of squash.

Though I love fresh peas from the garden, it’s much too late to start them now. They like to grow when it’s cool. Radishes, too, would be bitter and tough growing in the heat of the summer. It’s also too late to start pumpkins or winter squash here on Beaver Island; the frost would kill them before they had time to ripen.

My garden is kind of a mash-up this year. I’m happy to have it planted, though, and looking forward to watching things grow.

As you can see, there is a lot of work yet to be done. The fence is still in disrepair, and the brush needs to be hauled away. The paths between the beds need to be weeded and raked smooth. I need to clear out the back corner of all the things that have been stored there. It’s really quite a mess. Pretty embarrassing, in fact. Certainly not ready for pictures. Except…

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This little bean plant burst up through the earth and showed herself this morning, in all of her leafy splendor.

I just couldn’t resist showing her off!

Winding Down

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Autumn.

The wind is shaking leaves from the trees so steadily it sometimes sounds like rain.

There’s a chill in the air. Nights have gotten downright cold! I’m not yet ready to turn on the propane, but I’ve conceded to having the electric heater on a low setting, just to take the chill off.

I’ve cut back the iris into little fans just above ground level and pulled the daylily stalks. I dug up and moved the last of the daylilies from the border. I’ve pulled up all of my tomato plants, stored their wire cages and turned over the soil. I cut out all the dead raspberry canes and pruned and thinned the rest. I cleared and prepared a bed for the rest of the strawberry plants.

I dug the last of the potatoes and brought in five small winter squash. I have a bag of mixed peppers in the refrigerator that I’ll dice and freeze tomorrow. I have beans, summer squash and plenty of berries in the freezer already. My aunt (bless her heart) canned tomatoes for me: twelve perfect quarts.

I moved my T-shirts and sleeveless shirts to the small dresser upstairs, and brought down my long sleeves and sweaters.

I bought yeast, though I haven’t had time or inclination to make a batch of bread yet. Home-made soup and warm, fresh bread is a weekly ritual in the months of cold weather.

The little gallery I worked at is now closed for the season. The restaurant at the Lodge served it’s last dinner of the season last Friday. I am now down to one job, at the Shamrock Restaurant and Pub downtown. Until next marking period, when I’ll teach two art classes at the school as well. Business is still steady, but it’s an easier pace than it was even two weeks ago.

I think I’m done with Jonathan Kellerman! His books were good summer reading, with characters that became familiar and story lines that were not overly strenuous. I’ve been looking over my bookshelf, and am ready for something quite different. I’ve already started The Chicken Chronicles by Alice Walker, and am thoroughly enjoying her beautiful prose. I’m looking forward to Sacre’ Bleu by Christopher Moore, his take on the Impressionist artists. I love his irreverent humor and imagination! Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin, Revelation in the Cave by Nancy Flinchbaugh and Yonnondio by Tillie Olsen are also on my stack.

I’ve been doing some rearranging and organizing in the studio. I have a few paintings underway that I’m anxious to finish, now that I have time for making art. I want to get the printing press adjusted and ready, too, as I plan to do some collagraph print-making this winter.

Autumn was always my mother’s favorite season. I didn’t understand it when I was younger. I liked Spring, with its new growth and fresh starts and Summer’s heat and busy-ness.

Now, I understand!