Welcome to One-Quarter Acres

Here's a chronicle of life on a plot of land right smack in the suburbs in Minnesota, whose owners would much prefer to be in the middle of nowhere.

Friday, June 18, 2010


115Last year my garden was full of sunflowers that planted themselves, and this year is no different. One square of the garden is sunflowers - my daughter calls them the "sunflower family" - and then there are random sunflowers scattered about that I can't bear to yank out.

Sunflowers are some of my favorites. One of my favorite times of the year is when the sunflowers that line the highways in the metro area are blooming. How's that for blooming where you're planted?

I've also got at least one volunteer tomato plant in the garden. I suspect they are pear tomatoes, but I guess we'll find out soon enough.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Yards to Gardens

Yesterday I glanced at the newspaper and saw an article about Yards to Gardens. This website makes me very happy. It connects people with yards to people who need yards to garden. It also lists community garden spaces and provides a venue for sharing tools and expertise.

Read the article in the Star Tribune or visit the website (since the embedded map is giving me script errors) to see what's available in your area.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Ach, who needs health food?

Creamed spinach. Yesssss.
A big thank-you to my fairy god-gardener, who made this spinach happen.

Creamed spinach
Sure, you could have healthy spinach. Or you could have THIS spinach. And here's a tip: The sauce, sans spinach and with rehydrated sundried tomatoes makes an awesome pasta sauce.
2 T. butter
2 T. flour
Chopped garlic, scallions, shallots, onions - whatever you have on hand
1/2 c. milk
1/4 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. shredded or grated hard cheese, such as parmesan, romano, or asiago
2 T. cream cheese
1 lb. fresh spinach, blanched and chopped, or 1 bag frozen spinach, thawed
  1. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and garlic, etc. and cook for a few minutes.
  2. Whisk in the milk and cream and cook until very thick.
  3. Turn off the burner, add cheeses, and stir until melted.
  4. Add spinach and heat through.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Today I earned my PHD.

004Callister Farm, located in West Concord, Minnesota, held its second processing class today, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to attend (and equally grateful to have shared the experience with my friend Kate). If my memory serves, there were nine of us plus the Callisters, and each of us slaughtered, dressed, butchered, and packaged a chicken.

I was expecting more blood and guts and gore than what I got, but I'm not complaining. I stood and watched the chickens die, as I felt they were owed that, and although at times it was difficult to see people who were not skilled in slaughter doing the deed - myself included in that group - it was less difficult to watch the life go out of the chickens than I expected. As Kate pointed out before I stepped up to kill my bird, "These are happy chickens. They lived a good life." That was a speech I needed to hear at the time. It was a lot more difficult to dispatch a chicken than I expected; the feathers and skin provide more resistance than I thought they would.

Strangely enough, I thought the plucker was the worst part, with the thumping and speed and random glimpses of feet. But, boy, does it do a good job.

The farm is lovely and Lori Callister did a fantastic job teaching and encouraging us. Her stories and the family's dedication has solidified my desire to avoid mass-produced meat. Treating the birds with respect and care takes a lot of work, and that is something I need to support.

I've heard it said that anyone who eats meat should take part in the slaughtering process at least once to get an appreciation of where their food comes from. I heartily echo this sentiment, and hope the Callisters continue to offer this opportunity to interested individuals. My eyes were opened even further (and I have a chicken for my oven) for 40 bucks.

And if you need further proof that the Callisters treat their animals well, I offer this tidbit: I crouched down and opened my arms to one of the many layers scratching about the yard, saying, "C'mere, chicken," and it came to me and let me pick it up. I challenge you to find THAT at a Gold'n Plump farm.

Friday, June 11, 2010


128It is so easy for me to be lured into the trap of having beautiful things, even if I have perfectly serviceable unbeautiful ones already. But I am beginning to find the beauty in those things that have been used and worn. I would say something about the patina of a many-times-used prefold diaper, but that's venturing into the realm of weirdness.

These days, I am trying to replace those things that need replacing with handmade (thank you, Etsy) or used, and otherwise just dealing with something until it breaks.

One exception to this may just be my clothesline, for when it's laden with diaper laundry, it comes to my waist. It still makes a pretty picture and dries the laundry fine, but, I mean, c'mon.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

I has a baby pea! (garden progress as of June 5)

119 The peas are making little pea babies. The first one was discovered on Saturday. And then there was another yesterday. How adorable!

Here are some pictures of the garden boxes. Let's pretend I did a much better job weeding before taking these photos.

113Box #1 is chugging along. The spinach seems pretty happy, and the beans are REALLY happy. The cucumbers, likely victims of the dog, will be replaced with a couple of seedlings from Malmborg's. You will notice that all of the garden boxes now have a fence, which should prevent future dog-related tragedies.

114Box #2, home to melons that are actually sprouting (here's to hoping for fruit, for once), some sad-looking corn, a volunteer tomato plant, and not much else. I managed to get a zucchini to sprout. The tomato seedlings that went kaput will be replaced with Amish Paste and Cherokee Purple (my favorite tomato). Please remind me next year that I am horrible at starting seeds and kill them more often than not so, please, just buy them.

116Box #3 houses the "sunflower family," as my daughter calls it, along with pumpkins that are doing simply smashingly, more sad corn, and some other stuff, including brussels sprouts. I only had room for three brussels sprouts in my boxes so the other three seedlings are stuck by the also-sad rhubarb.

After a couple of very nice rainy days, the garden is about twice the size of these pictures, less than a week later.

Monday, June 7, 2010

You will thank me for this pizza recipe.

134The Penzey's catalog arrived in the mail the other day, and I was drawn to the homemade pizza recipe because the ingredients list included a 12 oz. can of beer. "Interesting," I thought. I get my yeast proofing and pull out the flour and start mixing things together, and upon reading, and re-reading, the recipe, find out that there is no beer used. So, thanks, Penzey's, for your poor editing, which led me to this amazing dough recipe. I found that I only needed about six and a half cups of flour, and swapped sugar for the honey so the baby could eat it. (And eat it he did - a slice and a half!)

Beerless pizza dough
If I had to hazard a guess, the beer was supposed to be for drinking. This makes two large or four medium pizza crusts.
2 c. warm water
2 T. yeast
2 T. sugar
6 c. all-purpose flour (may need a tad bit less or more)
4 T. olive oil
1 t. salt
Cornmeal for dusting
  1. Combine the water, yeast, and sugar in your mixing bowl. Allow bubbles to form.
  2. Add olive oil and salt, and begin adding flour. Continue to add flour until the dough is just past being sticky. 
  3. Knead by machine or hand until the dough is soft, smooth, and elastic.
  4. Place in bowl (I'm a rebel and use the same bowl I mixed in) and cover with a damp towel. Allow to rise 45-60 minutes or until doubled.
  5. Dust a pizza peel or other smooth, rimless surface with cornmeal. Roll out and/or stretch half or a quarter of the dough until it's the desired thickness. Place on the cornmeal and add toppings. Slide onto a baking stone in a 450 degree oven and cook about 10 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbly.
The top pizza was made with olive oil, roasted garlic, sauteed spinach and mushrooms, and fresh mozzarella. The bottom one, which I would marry if it were legal, began with grape tomatoes tossed with olive oil, bouquet garni, and salt, roasted in a 200 degree oven for a few hours, with fresh mozzarella slices on top, and sprinkled with torn basil after coming out of the oven. Bliss.


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