Thursday, April 11, 2013

Just Kidding Around

Spinach is good
Actually I just wanted to post pictures of my kids today. The garden has been as fun for them as it has been for us. They love our mini-farm and help us every day with seeding, planting, and gardening.

The kiddos have spent countless hours playing outside, looking for bugs, finding treasure, and getting dirty.

So yeah to sunshine, springtime, and happy children!

Dog house, Silvio's house
A tire swing for Jayma
Mulch Mountain

Playing in the creek

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Balls of Energy

Here is a quick and easy recipe for a healthy and energy-packed snack.

No baking and kid-friendly!

They don't melt or spoil and are great for fueling up before exercising. And they taste much better than the energy gels or shots you get at the store. 

Chop and mix in the food processor 12 pitted dates until it makes a sticky paste.

Finely chop 1/4 cup dried cranberries and 1/4 cup dried apricots.

Add them to the date paste and mix some more.

Coarsely chop 1/4 cup of walnuts and 1/8 cup raw sesame seeds and incorporate them to the mixture.

Roll them into little balls and gently roll them in shredded coconut. If the balls are a little dry you can add some honey to the coconut.

Make sure to make small balls, these things are rich! My batch made about two dozen.

You can add others dried fruit, nuts, or seeds to taste (i.e. raisins, flax seeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds, mini choc chips, peanuts, etc).

Store in a cool, dry place.

Thanks for the idea Mariana!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Dried Herbs and Homemade Spices

Garden Herbs!

As the weather cooled down and the growing season drew to an end, the sudden reality of  'no more fresh veggies' suddenly dawned on me. I did spent a rather large amount of time freezing, canning, and drying everything that came out of the garden. I was doing great expect in one department. My last project of 2012 was to experiment with drying some of the herbs and spices. The plan is for these to last me until I can grow some fresh basil again this summer.

We planted and collected a very large amount of basil, tarragon, parsley, and cilantro, which we used abundantly during the summer months. Even though I put basil in everything I could not keep up with our basil plants.

Fresh basil is delicious with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, and olive oil. But dried basil works better in tomato sauces, sprinkled on eggs and veggies, etc. No matter what, basil is by far the herb/spice I use the most. So I decided to dry the extra basil leaves using the same technique as my sundried tomatoes. I just laid them all out on a baking pan in the sun and covered them with a sheet of glass. Tomatoes might take a while to dry but herbs take no time. I was very meticulous for my first batch, removing all the stems and placing them flat on the baking sheet, without touching each other. By batch five, I was just dumping bags of basil and letting them dry.

Fresh basil leaves
You can then use a mortar and pestle or just crush the dried leaves between your fingers and then store them in a cool dry place with your regular spices. Remember to first wash all fresh herbs and then gently pat them dry before actively drying them.

Although not nearly in the same quantities, I also had a few other herbs. Parsley ended being easier to collect in big bunches, tie it up, and let it hang to dry. When you want to use it you can either crush it up and store it away or just let it hang and tear some off when you need to.

Cilantro does not do as well when dried, I ended up chopping it up and freezing it in ice cube trays with some water in them. When you need some cilantro, just grab an ice cube. This will keep the fresh flavor of cilantro so you can use it in salsa etc.

Rosemary is by far the easiest to collect, it grows wild all over the southwest!

From left to right: Basil, parsley, tarragon, and rosemary.

Rojo caliente!

Another ingredient we had a lot of was the almighty Thai Red Chili. Let me tell you folks, it is potent. I like my salsa hot and will dash a little tabasco on my eggs, but boy that is nothing compared to the hotness of these little red chilis. We only had three small plants, but they produced hundreds of these little suckers. I didn't know what to do with them but didn't want them to go to waste.

I let them dry for weeks on a shelf and almost forgot them. I finally ended up removing the stems and some of the seeds and ground them all up in my mixer. Tada! Chili powder. Just a pinch of that in your tacos or curry and you are all set. Or you can package them in cute mason jars and give them away to unsuspecting friends.


Make sure to really clean that mixer before using it again...

"Rojo caliente" chili powder

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Dead-Air Space

I know I've discussed this already, but there is so much waste in packaging. Wrapping and packaging of food is unavoidable. I am not anti-plastic. But some items border on the ridiculous.

I'm more than happy to buy my fish in a plastic vacuum pack for example. But wrapping fruit in individual styrofoam trays is annoying, useless, and a complete waste. It does not help the fruit stay any fresher and it prevents me from actually handling the fruit and see if it is of good quality etc.

Trader Joe's overpackages most of their produce so that you can only buy three little zucchini at a time. And how about those hydroponic lettuces sold in plastic shells?

What is up with the single banana wrapping, it already has the perfect packaging: biodegradable, ergonomic, anti-microbial, and hopefully chemical-free. It's called a banana peel...

So many products justify this by saying the added air in the bag of cereal is to keep the cheerios from getting crushed. How many times have I opened a bag of chips and peered inside thinking "what the heck?" Some companies purposely package certain products to make it appear like there is more inside, it's borderline false-advertising.My kids love the Stretch Island fruit leather bars. They are healthy, great snacks, and cheap when you buy them in large quantities at Costco. Here is my one complaint though, this is what it looks like when you actually compare the box to what is actually inside, there is so much wasted packaging!!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


 I guess it has been a few months since I wrote anything, so time to check in again! It's been cold, and muddy, and snowy and frankly I enjoyed my fireplace and my paperbacks too much to want to be outdoorsy.

But my intrepid husband Jim happily kept on being a farmer all winter long. So although Antigua Farms has been hibernating over the Winter, but it has also been gearing up for the Spring.

 More posts to come on some of the last few fall and winter projects, but in the meantime here is a quick recap of the last few months:
October and November '12
In the last few months, the productive Antigua crew has been busy shoveling, fixing, and adding to the farm. Thomas and his Karma Farm crew acquired a new (and quite loud I might add) goat. We also organized a Halloween brush burning and soup sipping evening that included lots of guitar strumming as well. The warm fall weather allowed us to enjoy loads of veggies well into November, with our very last batch of carrots harvested December 7th!

Quick and easy 'recycled-fence' for the corn field
Jim and Silvio building the chicken coop

Water cistern in progress
Anti-Javelina terrorism security system

Last supper

December '12
We (and by we I mean Jim and Frank) spent most of the month of December amending the garden beds with mulch, leaves, and grass. Bags of raked leaves were scoured throughout town and the goats happily pooped all over the winterized garden.

Two full rows of garlic were planted and covered with hay. The warm greenhouse was used to grow grass and sprouts for use as chicken feed. Yogurt pots were saved meticulously for future seed starts. The snow showers could not stop Frank, who planted and harvested winter greens including lettuce, spinach, broccoli, and arugula.

Mini garlic shoots
Dillan seeding bean sprouts in the greenhouse
Baby spinach
Frank putting the final touches on the raised beds
January and February '13
We (and this time I did help) built a fence to separate the farm from the stone house. Although our tenants love the goats they welcomed the extra privacy! Jim finished building the water tank and connecting the gutters so we could take advantage of the rain storms and snowy weather. Muddy and feral kids were spotted on several occasions. Several raised beds were built and amended with mucho horse manure. There was also lots and lots of cleaning, cutting, and raking!

Clean goat pen and new fence!

Jim's think tank

Still in progress are a 'pot garden' for vines and climbing plants, a tree house, a compostable toilet area, an larger corn field, and actual chickens in the chicken coop. Two cute lil' baby goats are due in the Spring too, so stay tuned for more exciting news!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Flower Power

Growing a food garden means more than just a plot full of vegetables. We've had weeds up the wazoo but some of them are actuallyquite colorful. And the blooms from our veggies have been gorgeous, and in some cases, edible. Here is a collection of pictures from our unexpected flower garden.

Scarlet Mallow- technically a weed.

Morning Glory- definitely a weed.

Little sunflower, can you spot the bee?

Arugula blooms-
add them to salads for a colorful, peppery, touch.

Tomatillo bloom
Alfafa blooms- pollinators love them!

Anyone know what this is?

Amaranth- seeds were a staple food source
in the prehistoric southwest

Squash blossoms-
considered a delicacy when stuffed and fried!

Eggplant blooms

The almighty sunflower

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

I say Tomato...

We have had a hard time trying to grow tomatoes this year. We originally started with at least 10 different varieties this Spring, including Beefsteak tomatoes, Coeur de Boeuf from France, Black Krim, Tommy Toe, Indian Moon, Prescott heirlooms, etc. Unfortunately many of the seeds did not germinate in the greenhouse, others did not survive the transplant process, and many others developed some weird fungus or got eaten by weird bugs.

At any rate, I did not think this was going to be the 'year of the tomato' at Antigua Farms. Luckily, even with over 50 plants dying, we are now getting loads of tomatoes in from the garden. I've made ratatouille, soup, ketchup, marinara sauce, casseroles, salsa, and salads. And now my family is officially tomatoed out.

Mini mini cherry tomatoes

There have actually been so many tomatoes that I've had to think of ways to process and store them. So here are some pros and cons from my tomato storage wars:

1. Canning
Pros: No energy used to store. Long shelf life. Ready to eat out of the jar. Cons: Time-consuming. And do not look up botulism on the internet...

2. Freezing
Pros: Whole tomatoes, soup, sauce; it can all get dumped in the freezer.
Cons: Freezer burn, defrosting takes time, lots of wasted electricity.

3. Drying
Pros: Quick and easy to do. Versatile. Takes up very little storage space.
Cons: Can get moldy if not stored properly.

Sundried tomatoes are a winner!

Verdict is in: if you have too many tomatoes, just make your own sundried ones! You can invest in a dehydrator ($30-$50), you can dry tomatoes in your oven but that means your oven is on all day, or you can do it the super easy way.

Just slice your tomatoes lengthwise (Romas seem to work best) and remove the seeds. Place them directly on a baking sheet. Park your car in the sun and let the tomatoes sit on the dashboard  for a day or two and voila!

Make sure you store them in a dry place and check that the leftover moisture from the tomatoes, if any, does not get trapped in the bag or jar. You can also sprinkle the tomatoes with salt, herbs, or dunk them in vinegar before letting them dry out. Sundried tomatoes are really sweet and can go in everything; salads, omelettes, pizza, casseroles, etc.

New projects for next year?!!

Square tomatoes for better shipping and storage*

Bioengineered, anti-aging, purple tomatoes**

GMO tomatoes with mutated fish genes***



Monday, September 17, 2012

Carrottes Rigolotes

The Great Carrot Expedition of 2012
The best part of having a garden is finding cool and unusual veggies. We are so used to having all our produce always looking the same way, it's fun and refreshing to find some funky vegetables!

Carrots have been particularly exciting, especially for our kids, who go carrot hunting. They love the surprise-factor of grabing a bunch of greens and seeing what pops out. They love them so much, they eat them JUST after picking them, still covered in dirt!

We've had an insane amount of tomatoes (more on that later) and have had to come up with a lot of different ways of preparing and storing them. Well we've also gotten a ton of carrots, and I thought we'd have to start pickling them, which frankly does not sound that appetizing. But so far, we just eat them as we pick them.

In my opinion, there is no better way to enjoy a carrot than to just steam it and eat it with a little butter and salt (or you can ask my kids for their "carrots and dirt" recipe). Here are some of the cool and unusual carrots we've gotten lately:

Rainbow carrots

Hogwarts carrot

Jayma's 'Rabbit' carrot