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, August 20, 2010

Gadgets make me happy on the inside.

Ah, kitchen gadgets. I do love you. I don't really go for the unitaskers, but there are some things I can't live without. My microplane for one (zesting has never been zestier). My Kitchen-Aid for another. I'm also fond of my plain ol' wooden lemon reamer, and my possibly-ridiculous-but-nonetheless-awesome ice cream maker.

I found two new loves today: Pickl-It jars, introduced to me by Alyssa and TATTLER reusable canning lids, which can be found at Egg|Plant Urban Farm Supply. Be still, my heart.

For those of you who are local to the Twin Cities of Minnesota, Alyssa is gathering orders for a co-op for the Pickl-It jars. We can get a decent discount if we order as a group. I look forward to being able to make sauerkraut that doesn't look like something out of a horror film.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Nothing says "happy birthday" like pastries.

077 If there's any time to make and consume butter-laden pastry without guilt, it's your birthday. Today is mine, so I started some dough last night and crafted some danish this morning. I've been looking for an excuse to do this for some time, and the fire burned even hotter once I put up that awesome apricot jam.

073This is my first time with danish pastry dough. The recipe didn't intimidate me in the least, but it probably should have once I started rolling things out and things started not going well at all. The butter softened very quickly, despite the temperature last night being lower than it had been in a couple of weeks. I sort of half-assed the rolling-out and only got it rolled an inch thick before I had to give up and stick it back in the fridge two out of the three times.

074This morning went a bit better. The dough had been refrigerated overnight and I was able to roll it out and get the round pastries done before things got too soft. I simply cut 1/2 inch strips, twirled them, and made a coil. (Tip: A smaller thickness of dough in the center will make them easier to fill.) I ended up with thirteen of those and four square pastries filled with cream cheese (cream cheese + a bit of sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla) AND apricot.

I'm pleased at how flaky the pastries were, even with my half-assed rolling. The filling's delicious as well, and I opted to leave off any sort of icing or sugar, as they're delicious enough on their own.

Happy birthday to my mouth!

Monday, August 9, 2010

A time to sow, a time to reap.

A time to yank out your stupid sweet corn and plant something else! Yeah!

I'm pondering fall crops. I don't want to waste my time with something that won't give a decent yield, so I'm considering planting garlic and spinach, and maybe nothing else. As usual, the Minnesota Extension office has good information on fall crops that are suitable for Minnesota.

The last paragraph intrigues me. Would it be awesome or folly or awesome folly to plant something like winter wheat? This site seems to suggest that I might have enough time to do it. I wonder if I'd actually get any wheat out of it. I could totally go all Laura Ingalls Wilder and get myself a coffee grinder and hole up in my father's store and spend my days of the long winter grinding wheat and braiding straw for the fire. (Hopefully just the wheat-grinding bit.)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

I'm not so sure I'm good at gardening.

This year I told myself, "You will learn about soil composition."

Yeah, that didn't happen.

I think I overplant like whoa. The square-foot gardening doesn't help, because it is just so tempting to fill every last square. This year I was "generous" and gave my tomatoes more than one square; they are supposed to have nine. I only managed to provide a teepee for one set of beans; the rest are climbing on the tomato cages, trellises, other plants, or reaching over to the chain-link fence and hanging out with the grapes and morning glories.

It all looks very pretty and wild, but it's not good from a production perspective. I'm getting a handful of beans every day, two ripe Amish paste tomatoes, lettuce that I didn't bother to harvest because the CSA box made me feel as if I was drowning in lettuce, and some teeny-tiny squash (like the potimarron in the photo) and watermelons and corn. When I was planting in rows, way back in the day, I got a lot more of a yield.

I think I may be pulling up the yellow beans and a few other things that just aren't performing well, to give the rest some breathing room. And next year I'll get the soil tested, I promise.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Maybe the stars will align this year and I'll finally get to make the circuit of the Twin Cities Parade of Coops. This year it's scheduled for Sunday, September 11 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with locations all over the metro. There's still time to add your coop if you've got some chickens in your backyard.

Here's all the details! Feel free to distribute (via print or web) at will.

And maybe you'll run into me, should those stars align and you decide you need to see some chickens. I'll be the weirdo in a dress going, "Hi, chicken ladies!" and "Chicka-chicka-chickens!" at all the birds.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The woman with the canner is after you, vegetables.

Ah, canning season. I love it. I work eight hours at my desk job, come home and get the babies fed and tucked into bed (or, rather, baby - my husband is kind enough to deal with the big girl most nights), and spend four hours in the kitchen, and this is what I call fun.

The Ball Blue Book of Preserving is my go-to recipe book for canned goods. It's a whole $8, but worth a whole lot more.
My first dilly beans, four pints worth. I found some lovely, thin, straight green beans at the farmer's market and jumped on those suckers.
9 quarts and 3 pints of dill pickles. I love the Ball recipe for dill pickles, with its bit of sugar. I added a clove of garlic to each jar in addition to big heads of dill. The cukes I found at the market were also nice and thin. I finally managed to pack pickles well, so there's more pickle than brine in each jar.
Six pints of bread and butter pickles. This time I did not use the incredible amount of onions the recipe calls for (3 small ones instead of 8 small ones) and cut the slices thinner than I did the last time I made pickles, which was two years ago. For some reason (impatience?) I had cut them a half-inch thick, which is quite awkward. Plus, the husband complained, and I am nothing if not accomodating, at least when it comes to the width of pickle slices.


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