Tag Archives: humor

Yikes! We Have Thrips!

18 Jun
by Deanne

Before my Saturday morning cup of tea this conversation happened between Steve and I.

Steve:  We have thrips.

Me:  That sounds bad, really bad.  What are thrips?

When we set out to grow a few crops in our raised bed gardens, we knew that there was a strong possibility of bugs and other pests finding a home among our plants. But Steve didn’t want to rely on chemicals for pest control. He wanted to take a more organic approach and see how the plants grew and what issues came up before attacking the vegetable patch.

Now we know that thrips like our bean plants.  Like all things in life, the good (fresh vegetables for our FarmerChef creations) sometimes comes with the bad (pests that want a bite of our crop too!) but luckily we’re able learn and A photo of thripsadapt as we go…figuring out a way to turn bad to good.

During this chapter of our journey, we are learning that tiny thrips survive by puncturing a plant and sucking up the contents.  These hungry guys are known by some other names, some of which are bit more poetic…corn lice, thunderbugs, thunderblights and my favorite, thunderflies—not to be confused with thunder thighs, a different kind of pest…caused by not enough exercise for my flabby legs. ;)

Our first plan of attack is to spray a homemade insecticidal soap. Steve sprayed it on this morning.  From everything we are reading, we’ll have to apply it more than once.  And so our battle with thrips commences.

Francine, beware, according to this BBC article they are found in the UK too.

Have you ever had thrips?  Do you have any tips for getting rid of them?


Happy Hedgehog Day!

2 Feb
by Francine

Here in the US, today is Groundhog Day, the one day a year we allow a rodent to predict our weather and the only time of year when every copy of Groundhog Day is checked out from the library.

My crafty grandma decided to celebrate the day by making hedgehog cookies. Photo of 3 hedgehogs

Aren’t they as cute as can be!?

The cookies are made with ground pecans and gluten-free flour. The recipe is one she snipped from a magazine. 

They are as tasty as they are cute, but I find myself not wanting to eat any. I try to nibble as carefully as possible. 

Hope you had a Happy Ground or Hedge Hog Day!

PS. Thanks for indulging me while I post a silly amount of cute cookie pictures. A photo of the cookies

Thanksgiving Decorations = A Tasty Snack

31 Jan
by Francine

A photo of the roasted seedsIn early fall, our kind farming friends gave us many pumpkin-y things to decorate the restaurant. When Christmas took over the restaurant, I brought the harvest to our living room.

A few weeks ago I realized, I should probably remove the harvest decorations since there was snow on the ground and our neighbor had already removed his outdoor Christmas lights.

Instead of just throwing away the squashes, I wanted to get the seeds out of them so I could have a snack.

Never one to be deterred by a thick skinned squash, I decided to crack them open by dropping them on the kitchen floor.  (I should mention that our kitchen floor is old linoleum and that no one is in love with the state of our kitchen…it’s constantly mentioned that it needs a facelift.) I do not recommend this method of opening gourds or squash if you have lovely wood floors or if someone in your house is trying to take a nap.A photo of the cracked gourds

Once the squash cracked open a bit (it took quite a few times of ‘dropping’ on the floor), I used a knife to wedge it open some more and scoop out the seeds.

Then I rinsed the seeds, salted them and toasted them in the oven. Crunchy and yum!

There were five different kinds of squash and gourds. I tossed all the seeds into one bowl.  I couldn’t really tasty a difference between them except for the seeds of the turban squash…they were very big and not too crunchy.

But I do have a warning… Photo of an unpleasant squash*For more information on this bitter orange guy see the comments.

Do you have a method for opening gourds and slightly dried out squash that is more sophisticated than “drop repeatedly on the floor”? If so, I’d love to hear!

Do you like toasted squash seeds?  Do you season them with anything other than salt?

Happy cracking!

One day sunny, windy snow the next…

11 Jan

Yesterday was the last in a series of spring-like days here in Minnesota (at least for a few days).  The days have been so spring-like that tiny green spinach leaves could be found close to the soil, under the dead and dried out leaves.Photo from Jan 10And today it’s like the abominable snow monster moved into the neighborhood, began blowing up his air mattress and knocking on our doors, trying to introduce himself.

Oh Minnesota winter, you’re always full of surprises…not that I mind, riding my bicycle in January is always a treat. I just feel bad for our cool weather crops, they don’t know if they should grow or sleep.

What’s the winter weather like in your neck of the woods? Has he paid you a visit this winter?

Giggles on a Sunday Afternoon

20 Nov

In the quest for all things local, one can run the risk of sounding like this couple.

But it’s always good to laugh, even if it’s at yourself. :)

What to do with all this squash? part IV

7 Nov

A Winter Squash Series: Ambercup Squash

by Francine

Squash is plentiful, long lasting, festive and somewhat of a puzzle. It can be difficult to get through it’s sometimes-thick skin and figure out what to do with it. I decided to figure out this puzzle by picking up four wee squashes at the farmers’ market a few weeks ago. I’ve been researching each one and looking for recipes that are more than cut in half, scrape seeds, bake and top with butter. Stay tuned to find out what I did with each squash, as well as some fun facts.A photo of Ambercup squashLast week, I shared my experience of preparing a thick skinned, pumpkin-like squash while I was living in China. Today I’ll share with you the recipe for Ambercup Squash with Sweet Beef, prepared and adapted using this recipe as a guide.

Ambercup Squash with Sweet Beef


  • 1 Ambercup squash, cubed and peeled
  • 1/2 pound of beef, preferably top sirloin steak, thinly sliced
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4-5 spring onions, chopped
  • vegetable oil, for stir-frying

For the beef marinade:

  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. corn starch

For the sauce:

A photo of the dish

First, it’s difficult to cut this squash. Remember all the fun I had cutting a similar squash on my kitchen floor when I was living in China?  Well…I learned from my previous experience. :) First, poke the squash with a knife to make some holes, then microwave it for 30 seconds or longer (depending on your microwave’s settings), but be careful because you don’t want it to start cooking. 

I put mine in for 30 seconds. This helped soften it, but only slightly. I got the knife in and attempted to halve it, but I was stuck. I called my brother for help. He looked at the knife sticking out of the small pumpkin, laughed and used his strength to split it. (Perhaps it would have been good to soften it a bit more so I could split it using my own strength, but hey, that’s what brothers are for.)

Once halved, scoop out the densely packed seeds and cut into 8 slices. You don’t have to peel them now; you can more easily remove the peel after they’ve been boiled.

Boil the slices until they are softened and pokeable with a fork. Don’t over boil them because you do not want mushy squash ruining your stir fry. Drain the squash slices, rinse with cold water and allow to cool.

A photo of the dishWhile the squash slices are simmering begin marinating the beef. The beef needs to be thin and either cubed or cut into small strips. Mix the marinade of soy sauce, rice vinegar and corn starch. It should marinate at least 15 minutes to soften the meat a bit. If you do it well ahead of time, be sure to store it in the fridge.

Once the squash is cooled, it’s time to peel off the skin. Unfortunately the skin didn’t peel off as easily as I’d hoped. I had to use a pairing knife to peel the now soft skin. It isn’t difficult, it just takes a bit of time. While peeling, you can roughly cube the squash.

(Iknow there might be an easier way to cut, peel and soften Ambercup squash. I’m just sharing the way I did it. If you’ve had success with a particular method, please share below in the comments. I’d love to hear!)

Next put a little cooking oil in a large frying pan or a wok. Add the marinated beef and stir fry for a few minutes, you want the outside to begin changing color but only just. This is a Chinese cooking technique that helps keep meat tender when stir frying. Once the meat is lightly cooked, remove and place in a dish (don’t worry, we’ll cook it more later).

Finely chop garlic cloves and cut the white and light green parts of green onions into 1/2 inch sections. (We didn’t have any green onions so I used some chives from our garden.)

Mix the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl: soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, brown sugar, Shaoxing cooking wine, oyster sauce and corn starch. Once mixed, taste to see if you like it. If you think it needs more flavor you can add more of that ingredient. (I think this sauce should be more sweet than salty, but that’s just my preference.)A closeup photo

Add a bit more oil to the pan and add the garlic and the squash. Sauté for a few minutes, but be careful not to break apart the chunks of squash. Then add the beef and stir fry altogether.

After a few minutes add the sauce. Stir everything together and allow the beef to cook. You can add a little water if you want your sauce to be juicier and if you want it to thicker just add a bit more corn starch.

That’s it! Garnish t with sesame seeds and cilantro and serve it with a side of steamed rice. My family members enjoyed eating something different and I loved the colors.

Have you ever prepared a squash-y stir fry?

What to do with all this Squash? Part III

2 Nov

A Winter Squash Series: Squash-y Memories from Living in China

by Francine

The tiny ambercup squash looks like a baby pumpkin; it also looks a lot like the pumpkin I encountered when I was living in Dalian, China. I picked one up from the vegetable market near my apartment building in Fall 2009. I was feeling festive so I drew a little smile on it. But when I decided to cook it, I realized this little guy was no pumpkin.A photo of the pumpkin I got in Dalian

The skin was nearly impossible for me to cut through. I vividly remember kneeling on my kitchen floor, bracing a cutting board with my knee and trying to keep a round pumpkin from rolling away while wielding a large knife. (It probably wasn’t the safest way to cut something, thankfully the knife was somewhat dull.) The thing that’s important is that I managed to chop that little pumpkin into chunks. I tried peeling it too, but I gave up and decided to boil it, afterwards the skin easily peeled off. I may have I made pumpkin soup, but can’t really remember.

After that experience, I learned the word for the winter squash I had prepared—nan gua (南瓜) which translated means pumpkin. After clicking through multiple Wikipedia pages and ‘winter squash varieties’ Google searches, the best I can ascertain is that nan gua is more exactly a Red Kuri Squash or maybe a Golden Nugget Squash aka Oriental Pumpkin.

While I was in China, I didn’t end up preparing another nan gua, probably because my arms were still sore.  I did get to taste it again, when my Chinese friend ordered a pumpkin and meat dish for lunch.  It was a tasty, saucy, stir fried dish with bright orange chunks in it…a lovely thing to try on a chilly January afternoon.A photo of the cutting process

When I was trying to decide what to do with  the Ambercup squash I got from the farmers’ market, I thought, hmm… this looks a lot like that nan gua I hacked away at on my kitchen floor. As I searched for what to do with Ambercup squash, I also Google image searched 南瓜 since they could be squash twins. I came across a photo of nan gua and beef along with an accompanying recipe in Chinese.

I plugged the recipe into Google translate and then did a bit of my own translating because after reading “until cooked pumpkin, sung out,” I was pretty sure I wasn’t supposed to sing show tunes to get my cooked pumpkin out of the pan. The translation of the author’s description of nan gua is equally humorous, “a pumpkin is simply iron, I use chopped bones, sword, and get tired to grimace in pain be considered open.” I definitely grimaced in pain to get that nan gua open. Although I didn’t use chopped bones, I suppose I could’ve chopped off my knee bone.A photo of Nan Gua

Funny translations aside, I did make Nan Gua Beef with Ambercup squash. It was enjoyed by my family atop steamed rice. Next time, I’ll share the recipe and some tips I learned while preparing Ambercup squash—a little squash with a very thick skin, you could even say it’s ‘simply iron’.