Tag: food

It’s a Jungle Out There!

DSCN1199It has been so hot! Too hot to go out and weed, until this morning, and now we have a jungle forming in the garden. At long last the plants are starting to kick it into gear. We had things in seedling form for two months; they just didn’t grow. It was discouraging. We came back from California, expecting a noticeable change and there was very little. UGH!

We had thought the problem was that the compost was getting too hot for the little seedlings, because it does get very dry. We spread straw all over before we left for graduation, hoping that the whole garden would look better when we returned. Not so. We resigned ourselves to getting rid of the noxious weeds this year and little, if any produce. Next year!! (sounds just like my farmer uncles)

DH is a soil man, and he was perplexed. All that wonderful compost and things looked terrible…he finally decided that it might have been a nitrogen fixing problem with the compost. That, and the cardboard we laid to deal with the noxious weeds, might have been too much for the little seedlings. The pure compost was busy fixing (I don’t understand that, so I can’t explain it) and until it was finished, the plants couldn’t get the nitrogen they needed.

The areas that weren’t in raised beds started growing first, especially the tomatoes which

we had really babied along. (It takes A LOT of tomatoes to make a quart of tomato sauce!)  Some of the corn was actually “knee high by the 4th of July” which I understand is necessary to get corn.  (The buckets are to collect extra rain water when we get it.) Some of the corn, (it’s very spotty) is as tall as me now, and I found a baby squash this morning while weeding.

DSCN1205However, the canteloupe, which was an after thought and where we used our little bit of personal compost was going crazy!




Earlier this week I noticed that one pepper plant DSCN1198in the raised bed had suddenly turned a darker green and was sprouting leaves everywhere, also buds…hurrah! He’s the dark one in the lower left.

The green beans are starting to pick up steam now, after looking sickly since May, even with the second planting I did.



The sprinkling of carrots is taking off, though the onions and garlic are likely a lost cause for the year, as are the turnips, rutebegas and cabbage. We may have a chance now with some beets, and a replanting of spinach should be fine.


Get this, though, the lettuce started growing this week. DH keeps reminding me that this is God’s garden, and He will provide the food we are supposed to have from it. If not from here, it will come from somewhere else.


Seeing this lettuce is a delight; it is called baby romaine, and I was really looking forward to salads. Maybe I’ll get some just when the tomatoes are going, and maybe a lone cucumber or two. (another fail, though one plant is determined, it is only 2-3 inches tall, but is sporting one very nice bloom.)

SOME of the sunflowers have gone crazy now…look at this monster! They are still pretty short, but some are literally growing close to an inch a day I think!


The grapes are in their glory! They are now four years old, and they have literally covered their corner of the fence. We have grapes in visible clumps, getting bigger by the day, and looking VERY happy. There will be plenty for eating fresh, maybe a batch of jam, and some juice. We will attempt to do raisins, but with the crazy little birds, that might not work so well. We’ll try. No photos of this, they are just a huge wall of leaves!

Too bad I took all the pictures before I spent an hour weeding. By sunset, it will look much better out there, with all the contraband dried up! You probably noticed that we have what looks like grass every where. That is the straw sprouting…its wheat. We  pull the larger clumps and just lay them on the ground, for extra nitrogen. In the fall we will let whatever is left go, and collect the stems. Last year I actually ground a bit up for whole wheat flour, I think I gathered up maybe a cup of wheat kernels, which grinds into a cup of flour.


Garden Update June 9

If you want to compare from the last report, you can go here. Progress is slow, or at lest seems slow to me! We have survived two 90 degree days along with NO rain. The grass on the front lawn is crunchy again. We did get a 1/2 inch of rain, and a thunderstorm with .2, but there has been a lot of hoses moving in an effort to get the seedlings to the point that they can be mulched before we leave for graduation.

The big news for this report is that the grass is up! Not a lot yet, but a definite twinge of green, especially in the shaded area. I am guardedly optimistic, that we will have lawn by the end of the summer, though sooner would be so nice.

At this point the only no shows are the pumpkins and the strawberry cuttings; I think the pumpkin seeds were not good, either immature, or didn’t like the freezer, and the strawberries may not be OK in the barrels. We may have to do real plants in order to get them what they need.  The beets and garlic are not doing well, not sure they will make it, but we can hope.

The morning sun is so bright, it is hard to get good contrast, but hopefully you get the idea! We are still too early to yell Hurrah, but there’s definitely hope for many of the beds now. South Dakota summers can turn on a dime, and we could still get a heat blast that dries those seedlings beyond help. We’ve lost a lot already, but hopefully these will hang on, especially with the straw coming in this weekend for a little shelter from the hot sun and wind. (15 mph all day with hot temps is difficult to fight!)

How’s your garden growing?


Transition Land–The Benefit of Hard Labor, Etc.

Yes I was a weepy girl a couple of weeks ago…the cure was some more time, and a lot of hard labor, and probably a big dose of sunshine☀️. I couldn’t tell you if one is more necessary than the other, they are too interrelated. Or, maybe its the satisfaction from nearly finishing a huge job. First, I must credit DH, because he did the heavy lifting…literally! We were both exhausted, and filthy,  but we managed to complete the most important tasks before the rain began again this past week, and in spite of horrible weather, my spirits are excellent. The fence is up and only the door is left!


In fact, I haven’t really thought about my old career these past two weeks! Conclusion: I have either turned the corner or have finally embraced a summer vacation. I don’t really care which at this moment, I am just pleased to be content. I know I am, because I’ve spent the past two rainy days in the sewing room, and I don’t usually sew more advanced stuff unless I am in a good place mentally. Quilting is therapy, but garment construction, for me, requires a different mood. I have also begun turning over new projects in my mind, which is another healthy sign, as is an interest in experimenting in the kitchen.

Yes, I have more BIG TASKS on my list, but as I have caught up over the past month, those big tasks are getting more manageable. Now we are down to things like washing the curtains and washing the outside windows. Oh yes, and cleaning out the linen closet.

Outside, there is huge pile of firewood to move, and then yard renovation. I have waged war on the dandelions in the front yard, and at the moment, I am winning! And the nasty pile you see in the first picture, well it has been re-purposed; the materials have all been put to use and this space is going to become the new woodpile/privacy hedge. That means that there will be some shaded lawn in the backyard again, which makes me very happy.


Still a ways to go, but we will be done by the weekend I think! In retrospect, I believe that all that manual labor was exactly what I needed, along with the satisfaction of seeing a big change in our backyard.

Lefse – It’s Not Just for Christmas!

Although that seems to be the only time of the year that I make it! In truth, my Norwegian grandparents probably ate it every week. They  most likely swapped between lefse, plain flat brød, and grov brød. I don’t make it often, but I do hate to see the lefse griddle hanging out in the back of the closet…it looks lonely and unloved.

So, let’s make some lefse! I’m no expert, just counting on my DNA and a few sessions with my host grandmas in Norway and my auntie after college. We start with…potatoes.

I usually do half of a five pound bag.  Boil the potatoes in water with a little salt, just like you would for dinner. I usually quarter or eighth mine, depending on how big they were. This batch was big so I did eighths. Boil them until they are done (fork tender).

For about 2.5 pounds of potatoes (red or white, it doesn’t matter), mix in

  • 1/2 cup milk or cream
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • Salt to taste

Mash them ALOT. You want them smooth. Some recipes call for heavy cream…I used table cream, and I’m almost certain my aunt used whole milk. Definitely use real butter! My aunt just stashed the leftover boiled and mashed potatoes until her mixing bowl was pretty full, which let her move directly to the lefse making.

Now you get to rest! Let the potatoes cool down, put a lid on the bowl, and stow them in the fridge overnight. They are OK for up to three days this way.

Now it’s Day 2; time for the fun!

Traditionally, lefse is baked an a large flat griddle. I have my mom’s lefse baker from Bethany Heritage Grill. You can order them online. A large flat griddle will work, or a cast iron griddle, we are looking for a baking temperature of 425 degrees F or (220 C). 

Other helpful tools is a cross hatch rolling pin, seen below, and there is also a grooved rolling pin, both available online. The experts use both, and I am not an expert, so I use a regular rolling pin and my beloved cross hatch, which I brought home with me from Norway. Helpful tool #2 is a pastry cloth. I don’t have one of those either, so I use an old flour sack type towel. Finally, helpful tool #3 is a lefse stick, also available on line. Alas, I don’t have one of those either, so I use a fork and a yard stick. See, I’m living proof that improvising can work!

Now that you are aware of the tools that will help you deter disaster, it is time to begin. Remove the potatoes from the fridge and use a heavy duty spoon to break up the potato mixture. Add 2 cups of flour and mix it in. It will look terrible, but give the potatoes a little time. Dump it out and give it a knead or two or three for good measure, then start making large fist sized balls. If it feels sticky, add another 1/2 cup of flour, so you can shape the dough.

I got 20 good sized balls out of this batch. By the time I had rolled them all out, I had used just under 4 cups of flour for the total batch. When you start rolling, think “pie crust.” Because I don’t have a pastry cloth, I start by rolling on the table, then transfer to the towel. I’m terrible at rolling, so I do what works for me. You are going to roll these out to about a 14 inch round, so they will be VERY thin. Keep that in mind and be generous with the flour!

Once you have the round rolled out, you will need to transfer it to the griddle. This is where the lefse stick comes in! I lay my stick on the dough, and the bring the towel over the top. Pull the towel back, and gently lift the lefse to the griddle. You will lay the bottom half out, then roll the rest off the stick.

While that lefse is baking, you can start rolling the next one. You know it is done, when you see brown spots on the cooking side, and it looks kind of dry. The edges will also get a little bit crisp. Using the fork if necessary to get the stick under the lefse, gently flip it over and bake the other side.

Baked lefses can be stacked on a clean cotton towel, just fold it over to keep them from drying out while you bake the others. Once the batch is done, you can fold each lefse in half, and again, to make a quarter circle. Stack them and put them in air tight bags. Leave some out to enjoy now, and freeze the rest for later. I like mine with some butter and a little bit of sugar sprinkled on them, rolled up. One lefse is usually 2-4 servings; as a kid we were only allowed a quarter of a lefse during coffee time, but the adults got halves…we always tried to sneak seconds!img_0905

My Bestemor


That would translate to grandma in English! Josephine Marie Pederson was born in Wisconsin, but her family moved back to Norway when she was nine months old. She lived on a farm near Mo, up in Nordland, right on the Arctic Circle. She immigrated to the U.S. when she was 25, eventually married my Grandpa Gustav Jacobson, and had nine children, of which my mom was #8; the first to speak English before Norwegian.

I never met my Grandma, she passed away when my mom was 25. She was born in 1883, and died in 1950. I have pictures of a small woman with a strong jaw and glasses…knitting. Evidently, she read books while she knitted, and didn’t even look up to count stitches. She was very fast; she probably had to be with nine kids to keep in socks and mittens! My mom said she did beautiful handwork, though most of it had been finished before she was married.

When my bachelor uncle died, the aunties emptied the old farmstead and divided up any items that my Grandma had made, and my mom drew the lot for the pile with the hardanger in it. This peice, pictured above, is over 100 years old, and is stunning! Since receiving it from my mother, it has mostly lived in my cedar chest, coming out for special occasions. There is a corner that needs repaired, so I don’t use it often. My hope is to recreate the pattern and make a twin for my sister.

While I never met my Grandma, I did have a spectacular opportunity to experience my Norske heritage as an International 4-H Youth Exchange Representative right after college. During those six months I absorbed as much handwork as I could, learning how to knit, crochet, sew hardanger, craft a bund, and prepare lefse, flatbrod, blotkake and even speak Norwegian–badly.

My Nordland bunad, shown above,  has a linen blouse, a dress made from a heavy, coarse wool, with an apron and shawl made from cotton and linen. The collar and cuffs have white work that mimics the pattern on the skirt. The sewing construction included square cut sleeves with a square godet in the underarm and a pleating technique that is very measured, To gather in fullness at the shoulders and cuffs of the blouse and the waistband of the skirt. My mother helped me by embroidering the leaves on the skirt. Though her arthritic fingers hampered her once fine abilities, it is the only sample I have of her stitching, so I treasure it all the same.

While in Norway, I learned that roots really do run deep…my second cousin picked me out of a crowd of 100 at camp, because I looked like a Jacobson. Even more surprising, my host families thought I’d learned Nowegian at home, because my accent was from Nordland! Crazy stuff!! I will be forever grateful to my host moms who made sure I learned the important cultural things they thought my grandma would have deemed important to pass on. That included baking, which you can enjoy through my host mom Aud’s blog.

Those modern ladies ensured that I would be able to pass on my Grandma Jacobson’s heritage to my daughters. Ironically, my eldest attended St. Olaf College, a small liberal arts school in Minnesota founded by Norwegian farmers who didn’t speak English, and my youngest has a dear friend at her college that is Norwegian! And so it goes…



Snow Storms and Freshly Baked Bread

Lots of people bake, and they bake better than I do, but I don’t care. The smell of warm bread on a cold snowy day is just divine. Today I baked bread. I don’t do it often, but we’ve decided to try to bake more of our bread instead of always buying it at the grocery store. Our family has a bread machine, but we prefer the look of a traditional loaf, so we never really got past the first round of “yippee, we’ve got a bread machine.”  A couple of years ago my husband started using the dough feature on the machine, because he doesn’t seem to have the touch for kneading, but he loves home baked bread. And, because he is a true scientist, he fixed all the recipes so they would work in the machine. So, we have these great recipes lying around, and now we have committed to making better use of them. After all, flour is a whole lot cheaper than a ready made loaf.

This morning I decided that I could do four loaves before the day was too far gone, and it sounded so comforting…snow outside, temps in the single digits or low teens, and we could be cozy inside with fresh bread in time for lunch. Sounds good to me! I yanked out the book and chose a white bread with olive oil, and a maple brown bread.  I used the bread machine for the white bread, and even considered leaving it in the machine to bake, but I couldn’t resist making my own loaves, so I took it out and formed them up just like Mom taught me. Make a think rectangle with the dough, then roll it up (about 3 times), then tuck the ends into the pan. Since it was so cold, I put the oven on warm and set them on top to rise. I’m sure thats’s no-no, but it always works for me.

While they were on the rise, I started on the maple brown bread,  which is a Taste of Home recipe sans bread machine. It has maple syrup, coffee and an egg in it. I mixed that up, and had it nearly kneaded when I realized I had not put the oil in….remember I said there were plenty of people better at baking than me. What to do…I don’t know if it worked, but I just spread my dough out and  poured a bit of oil on it, and kept kneading. It took me about 5 rounds to do it, but I think it is probably ok. Kneading is good for the soul and generally good for the bread.

My next mistake was my oven temperature. We have an OLD oven, and the temperature marks have worn off, so you have to count the marks. I baked the first two loaves at 300 degrees for 30 minutes before I realized my mistake. So, I baked them another 15 minutes at 375, and when they were a little brown and sounded hollow I pulled them out. Because of the extra time involved, I was short a pan; thankfully the frigid air assisted in a quick cool down, and the final loaf was in the pan.

When I put the maple loaves into the oven, I tried a white loaf, and it survived its unconventional baking just fine. Alas, the maple loaves are pretty dark, again because the oven dial. I guess I know what my next project will be…