Rediscovering Chives

One of the simpler and most enjoyable tasks is going out to the garden and cutting chives.

It’s one of those morning chores that you do casually while having your coffee.

Use fresh chives when you want to add the flavor of onion without it being overpowering.

They are extremely useful when cooking. You can  use regular onion or garlic chives with a lot of your favorite recipes.

We use them in our omelets.  Whisk up some eggs, a little sea salt and fresh ground pepper for your omelet, mix in a small amount of cream cheese or chevre  (goat cheese)  then toss in some fresh chives and you’ve got the makings for a delicious and healthy breakfast.

Chives are indispensable in Chinese cooking and I use them all the time. Great in salads and they go great with tomatoes. 

This little jewel of a plant also gives beautiful blooms every season as well. Chives are in the same family as garlic and onions.

They’re simple to grow and maintain, and if you keep cutting them they’ll continue to give you an endless supply through the summer.

Isn’t it time for you to re-discover this gem of a plant and incorporate it in your daily cooking? Why…. yes it is.

I Love Being Called Papa!

Whole-Family-in-Park-300x200Years ago when I had my 4 children, I never thought of Laurie and I being grandparents. I was so busy in my career and trying to provide for my kids that I just didn’t think about my future with grand-kids. I wish I had, because it would have brought me a sense of joy, excitement, anticipation and motivation for the day when my sons and daughters called and said “Hey Dad, I’m having a baby”

I love when that phone rings with the awesome news that I’ve heard now 14 wonderful times. I don’t know why I get goose bumps thinking about GRAND-KIDS, but I do.

What a bargain grandchildren are! I give them my loose change, and they give me a million dollars’ worth of pleasure. ~Gene Perret

My wife and I are so blessed to have kids who give us kids. I wish I had been as attentive to my children as they are to theirs but I come from a different generation where Dads just didn’t do as much. Of course I have a wife that is the epitome of a mother and grandmother. She cared for my kids in a most excellent way. She always impeccably dressed them and they were always clean and well fed. (She makes a real DELICIOUS APPLE PIE). I went to work everyday knowing that they were loved beyond measure.

As they grew I knew they would be great husbands, wives, fathers, and mothers because of the training my wife gave them, and they have become just that.  I have grand-kids who are now loved beyond measure and they will in-turn become great adults and fathers, mothers, etc etc.

So I love being “Papa”.

Jack, my oldest daughters first born loves ketchup. He always says “Papa you are the best cook and you make me food because you love me”. That could not be a truer statement. Not the “best cook” part but that I love him.

We’ve have been cutting out all fructose corn syrup in our diets, which of course is in a lot of foods we eat everyday.  So my daughter has been very reluctant to buy ketchup, which has caused Jack such distress because he will have ketchup on EVERYTHING.

We prepare many of our foods from what we can grow on the farm or purchase from organic sources.  We like to make or can our foods from scratch. We make our own butter, mayonnaise,  apple sauce, pie fillings, keifer, kombucha, lard, chicken stock, and much much more. We eat pork from our own pasture raised heritage  pigs, free range chickens, when we can and our own eggs. We  believe in farm raised foods, healthy, wholesome and local farm raised or at least local.

So I thought why not trying to make our own ketchup. How could I possibly deny Jack who says “I’m the best cook and I make food for him because I love him”.

Well, to make a long story short….. too late…. I used the recipe from Ball and made some ketchup for him.

Needless to say it turned out great. I now have a happy kid who loves his Papa and I am still “HIS” best cook and he knows I love him.

Yes I love to be a Papa.

Homemade Tomato Ketchup

adapted from a Ball Blue Book recipe


4 quarts red-ripe tomatoes, peeled, cored, and chopped, with most of seeds removed (about 8-10 pounds)
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped sweet red pepper
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp whole allspice
1 tsp mustard seed
1 stick cinnamon
1 cup white sugar
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar (with 5% acidity)


1. Cook tomatoes, onions, and peppers in a non-reactive pan until soft (about 10 minutes). Press through a food mill or sieve. If you don’t mind a few more seeds, you can process in a blender instead.
2. Cook rapidly until volume is reduced by half, about 1 hour.
3. Tie whole spices in a cheesecloth bag; add with sugar and salt to tomato mixture. Cook gently about 25 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove spice bag.
4. Add vinegar, cook until very thick. As mixture thickens, lower heat andstir frequently to prevent sticking. This will take an additional 1 to 1-1/2 hours.
5. Pour hot into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Adjust caps. Process 10 minutes in boiling water bath.
6. Store sealed jars in a cool dry place, where they should keep for up to a year. Store opened jars in the refrigerator for up to one month.

Servings: 48
Yield: About 3 pints.

It takes a while but it’s worth it because you know what’s in it…. good ingredients…. and love!

A Three Fold Cord

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:12.

This scripture has never been more applicable than our situation at Garden Spot Farms. We have been so blessed to have Richard and Susan Greif in Laurie’s and my life.

This year they have been so gracious along with Chad and Amanda to lease us the land we need to open our market garden so aptly named Garden Spot Farms because the Greif Legacy Farm is located on Garden Spot Rd.

It’s wonderful to have such an opportunity for building a business. Farming is not a done deal and and takes more than luck. Hard work, support and faith can get the job done…. yes a little luck would help as well.

Not only have the Greifs leased us the space but the support has been phenomenal. Richard has provided support in so many ways. His knowledge of equipment and engineering is unsurpassed by anyone I know. Susan who is sooo comfortable around farm life and animals and has more ideas than you can shake a stick at. Not that I would shake a stick at her!

Chad, Richard and Susan’s son, and my son-law, is becoming such a great resource. He is purposeful and methodical in his ways and is an awesome asset when it comes to long term planning. He is a great father to my grand-children and a good husband to my daughter Amanda.

Amanda I can say without hesitation is a wonderful mom. She uses every situation to teach her kids the values needed to face tomorrows challenges. Always gracious making us delicious farm victuals and providing a place for R and R.

Laurie and I could not be happier with what God has given us. Friends, family, support, faith, strength and vision. Everyone gives what God has given to them.

This should be an AWESOME year for Laurie and I.

STOP Eating that Yogurt!

Crockpot Yogurt

Wow, I sure was happy to discover this recipe from a friend of mine. I do like yogurt but 1. it’s expensive and 2. I like having control over what I’m making for us to eat.  So when I started making this Foolproof Yogurt I was to say the least… HAPPY!

The best thing about this IMHO, is I can make it with THE CROCK POT! Yes, you heard right… THE CROCK POT!

Let’s start by talking $$$.

1 Gallon of milk about $3.00 will make approximately 21 – 6 oz. servings. That’s .14 per serving. I know yogurt prices vary, but I see prices around $2.00. If you purchased 21 servings at the store you’ll end up paying approx $42.00. That my friend is a HUGE savings.

Now let’s talk about controlling what goes into THE CROCK POT YOGURT!  Is there an echo in here?

The simple ingredients consist of milk and yogurt starter (saved from your last batch) That’s it folks, nothing else. I like that.

Ok? Good so far? Let’s do it.

Homemade yogurt is very simple and dependable to make at home.

If you like Greek yogurt which is the way we eat it, just let most of the whey drain from your batch The more whey you strain off the firmer the yogurt becomes.

Sometimes we drain most of the whey from yogurt, and we end up with yogurt like cheese and we use it as cream cheese.

Just a note that homemade yogurt does not have the same firm consistency you buy from the store . But store stuff is thickened pectin, milk solids and other stuff.

Just a final thought “improvise” and you may not get the results you’re looking for. Follow the directions closely if you want success. (Until you become an CROCK POT YOGURT expert) Enough with THE CROCK POT YOGURT in caps!

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 Gallon of Milk any type
  • 2 Tbs. yogurt starter the starter must have both of the active and live cultures of lactobacillus bulgaricus and streptococcus thermophilus. You can start for the first time with a store bought yogurt. Just make sure you read the label.
  • Electric Crock Pot
  • Some Type of Cooking or Dairy Thermometer
  • A Whisk
  • A Colander
  • Muslin, cheesecloth or any clean woven cloth
  • Bath Towel
  • Oven or Other Draft Free Warm Location

Here’s How to Do It: 

I usually start my yogurt around 3:00 pm so that I can tuck it into the oven around 9 or 10 pm at night. Place the gallon of milk into the crock pot and cover. Heat the milk slowly until the milk is between 180°F – 190°F. It is vital to heat the milk to at least 180°F. This can take as long as 3 hours when heating gently on low.

The only bacteria you want growing in the milk will be the lactobacillus bulgaricus and streptococcus thermophiles that you add when you inoculate the milk. This is an especially important step with raw milk. So make sure you heat it to the correct temp.

Allow the milk to cool naturally and undisturbed to a temperature of 110°F. It takes about 3 ½ to 4 hours to cool to that temperature. It is critical to the success of the yogurt that you catch the milk at 110°F.  110°F is the ideal temperature for inoculating yogurt.

A temperature any higher can kill the bacteria, too cool, the bacteria will not thrive.

Milk Skin can form on non- homogenized milk. The skin should be carefully and completely removed. If you don’t remove all of the milk skin you’ll get flakes in the final product.

Remove about 1 cup of warm milk into a separate cup. Add 2 tablespoons of starter to the milk. 2 tablespoons are all you need.

Gently using a whisk, thoroughly stir the starter in the cup of milk to inoculate it.

Next pour the inoculated milk into the crock pot and stir gently going from side to side. Some people say not to stir in a circle. I use a method like folding batter moving across the length of the crock.

Gently lift the covered crock out of the electric base and put it in a cool oven. Lay the bath towel snugly around the crock and DO NOT DISTURB overnight or for about 10 – 12 hours.

An oven with a pilot light or electric light turned on works great. No peeking! Keep the oven door closed. Even opening the door can cause your yogurt to fail.

After 10 or 12 hours your yogurt should be solid with a layer of whey on the top.

If you like a thicker yogurt now is the time to drain or pour off the whey.

Pour your yogurt into a cheesecloth lined colander that has been set on top of a large pot. BTW. if you use regular cheesecloth double or triple the layers.

We collect the whey in the pot and give it our Large Black Pigs. They love it.

Place the yogurt in the fridge and begin draining the whey. If you like your yogurt with more of a tang, then let it drain on your counter. We don’t like it that way so we refrigerate it.

It takes about 2 hours of draining to make a thick natural yogurt, and about 3 or 4 hours to make Greek style yogurt. Once the yogurt is the way you like it, carefully pour your yogurt into some kind of a covered dish.

I also store my yogurt in a refrigerator. It keeps it sweet tasting. If you like it tart, leave it out for 24 hours.

It’s time to enjoy your yogurt, Greek yogurt or yogurt cheese. Remember though…. save a little starter for your next go around.

Add some fruit, pure maple syrup or granola. You control what goes in…. you save money for you family. So go out and buy and make some of THE CROCK POT YOGURT. (sorry I couldn’t resist. It’s the kid in me)

The Season of New LIfe

Earth teach me to forget myself as melted snow forgets its life. Earth teach me resignation as the leaves which die in the fall. Earth teach me courage as the tree which stands all alone. Earth teach me regeneration as the seed which rises in the spring.    William Alexander

What a great quote. Watching the seasons has taught me a thing or two. I’m always trying to learn more about Mother Nature through observation. (a few books help as well!)

One interesting fact I’ve come across in regards to planting in the Pacific N.W. specifically the Inland Empire, is observing the lilacs in our area to determine when to plant certain vegetables.
Plant root crops when the lilacs are in bud.
Plant cold hardy veggies when the lilacs begin to leaf
Plant frost tender vegetables when lilacs are past full bloom.
Good information unless your trying to beat the season by forcing early crops using  a hoop house and floating row covers. NO it’s not cheating!
How ever you plan your garden it sure is an awesome thing to see spring in the N.W.
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