Blessings and Bugs; 3 parts
August 8, 2011, 4:16 pm
Filed under: Home Sweet Home, Saving the Harvest, The Movement

A very unfortunate thing has occurred in my neck of the woods…that neck being the warm womb called the MonkeyHouse. My husband knows the wheres, hows, ins and outs…but the crux of the matter is….the majority of our collard plants….c’est morte.

Dead. It’s almost like it happened overnight, and yet…the foreboading of such fate has been with us all season. First it was far too cold, then too rainy, then entirely too hot. We couldn’t control the insects naturally, which meant– they were uncontrolled. And we missed more market days vending than ever before.

Did we get too big for our britches? We did amp up production on kale, and reduce the amount of chard we usually sell. Adjustments that are made annually to sufficiently respond to market demands. We did diversify our own crops that we grow for personal consumption much more, but that wasn’t it. For some reason, we may never know, God gave us an obstacle–a hurdle– to slow us down.

Friday evening when I cam home from work, MonkeyMan was completely submerged in the blues. Crestfallen. Bereft with despair. It was one of those moments  that happens, all the time, in a marriage. In a situation where you would otherwise feel totally helpless to do anything for the other person…you just pull it together. You have to because that is what you are there for, so emotionally you reach for that adrenaline shot and lift the car off the baby.

With my husband, a gentle and caring pep talk usually steers him right on track. We stood outside and lamented at our luck, the withered and decomposing plants, and fought for the courage to place the tragedy into Mother Nature’s hands.

Monkeyman forgot his phone Saturday, so when he arrived home I was surprised to see that he was laden with sacks of potatoes, cantaloupes, tomatoes, sweet corn….you name it. An abundance of wealth on a day of sorrow. Turns out, when the other vendors discovered our malady, they offered up encouragement to us…in the form of food. We spent all weekend putting up things for the winter and realizing that there really is a silver lining, especially when you aren’t expecting it. “In times of hunger, you offered me food.”

I am really proud of our community, and extremely grateful to be a part of it. These are people who have stepped outside the cold and ignorant realm of modern convenience, and into the heart of giving and sharing and helping. I realized that when you do good things, good things do happen to you, and when you treat your neighbors with respect and generosity, it is offered to you in turn.

We aren’t lost souls on a sinking ship. It may be easier to be cruel, and look the other way, but what if you just…..stopped? What if you woke up one morning and started all over again, looking people in the eye, smiling, and offering help and empathy where it is needed? Living a simple life can often be a life of love and joy, even in times of hardship.


And more onions (the part 2)
July 25, 2011, 2:56 pm
Filed under: Saving the Harvest

It may be glaringly self-evident that the post I just added was actually written last week; my onion picture snafu-d everything and I had to terminate typing and just publish the post…and that made me crabby so I said screw it and took a breather.

But this weekend was truly a weekend to beat all weekends in terms of food storage. Good grief. I spent Friday night, Saturday and Sunday most of the day putting up greens and onions. We magically discovered as of yesterday (by accident) that a great many of our carrots are rarin to go…and so add to that a big bag of freshly scrubbed carrots. MonkeyMan has been a weeding fool the last two weeks (we do everything by hand) and thus the beds, Nader and Gore respectfully– look amazing. I have to move my mint patch as it has crept into the collards in Nader, and the basil floweth over, so we bestowed a small bundle to our neighbors. Even my rasberries are taking off.

I have never had the greenest of thumbs–save for my beets and carrots. Therefore when my sister in law gave me some cuttings from her rasberry bushes several years ago, I was reluctant that they would take. You see, my sister in law (who is a really beautiful and amazing person in every respect) also grows beautiful and amazing rasberries. Every Christmas we anxiously await her homemade rasberry jam that she gives out to all the adults as a gift. I love homemade gifts, especially food, and its become a really cool tradition in my husbands family to share our talents and the gems of our garden post harvest.

But I do not kid myself into thinking that I would have the luck of rasberries myself. In fact, it really intimidated me, and so maybe I didn’t try so hard to make it work.

However, that is where MonkeyMan swoops in and saves the day. He is a stubborn Taurus and –like a bull– took the situation by the reigns and planted me a deep strong row of rasberry bushes, once again from his sister’s cuttings. Tomorrow I will be sure to include a picture.

We also have –every variety of onion you could ever imagine, including delicious sweet little pearl onions. This weekend I remembered to clean some and pickle them. You can pickle them exactly the same way that you do the beets, and then you either eat them plain of incorporate them into a Gibson. A Gibson is just like a martini except you substitute pickled onion for the olive. Icy cold gin or vodka ( I never use vermouth-but you can) strained into a stemmed glass and annointed with the onion speared onto a toothpick. Very cool– especially if you serve at a party where you can explain that you are using homegrown onions.

MonkeyMan and I realized the other day that the amount of meals we are eating that are over 50% from our garden or local trusted chemical free vendors — its growwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwing (no pun intended). This is an amazing feeling and it only makes me want to get more crazy and pure with my eating habits. Its a lot like becomming a vegetarian and then realizing that the transition to vegan isnt that hard, it feels natural and exciting.

I told MonkeyMan the other day that I must be a weirdo because I find cleaning and putting up onions (we freeze them) to be fun. Or maybe I am just the most boring person in the world….but perception….really IS 9/10 of reality. And sometimes it’s the whole hog.

My onions can beat up your onions-Part 1
July 25, 2011, 2:37 pm
Filed under: Saving the Harvest

No posts the last two days….work has me swamped and its taking a toll on my nerves. Luckily– its Thursday. I am seriously thinking that Saturday might wind up being another ‘blueberry pancakes in bed praying for Real Housewives of New York marathon’ morning, but who is to say. Sometimes my blues magically disappear at the start of a sunshiney summer weekend.

I am hereby declaring Fridays my ‘tackle important issues’ day, like the activism I am involved in, the political causes I support…all of them truthfully surrounding environmental issues…wildlife preservation….food…etc. But it sorta looks like everything else I write is going to be about eating local chemical free food, and self sufficient living. I only last week (don’t laugh) realized that my husband and I are more or less part of the locavore movement (I hadn’t known what that meant) and so that changes things, opens up my access to information and researching topics that directly effect us as a home and business.

So…in respect to local food, I am going to impart the events that took place last night. When I arrived home after work my husband was busy putting up more onions, as this is our first year growing onions and discovering either they are insanely easy to grow, we are really good at it, or both. The groovy thing about onions too is that they are natural pesticides when grown along other plants — they discourage the presence of the cabbage moth for example…which as collard growers, the nasty bugger is very destructive. Well — last night we had about –golly …this many onions:


Medieval Snacks Aplenty
July 13, 2011, 4:55 pm
Filed under: Saving the Harvest

My favorite smell is dirt. That probably comes as no surprise to anyone, in fact, I even have a cologne called Dirt that smells like — you guessed it! And oddly enough I also like the — err taste– of dirt. Not dirt persay but that really earthy, grassy, ‘I have been in soil or a lake’ taste. In fact I love it. I am convinced that in addition to my love of huge goblets of wine (thats a love-hate relationship let me tell you) and meat-pies, and pickled things, I must have had a wild and whoolly good time during my past life in the Middle Ages. Until I was unceremoniously decapitated for stealing chickens or being unable to bear a man-child to a violent King or something. Those are just good guesses, but I am certain I WAS alive at that time.

So, one of my favvvvvvvvvvorite things to grow are beets. And it’s wild, the beets totally know that I adore them and it REALLY affects the way that they grow! I hate to brag but my beets are gorgeous.

In the heyday of Andy Warhol he hung out with this groovy chick named Ultra Violet, and true to her namesake she had a vivid mane of voilet-hued hair. She discovered that it was very difficult to maintain such an unnatural color to the extent that she wanted to, and being photographed and out in public constantly she had to look pristene at all times. Thus she developed a daily ritual of soaking her locks in beet juice, as a daily color enhancing rinse. I read this in my early twenties as a proudly demented punk rocker (with…you guessed it…purple hair) and as my hair was long and wavy and didn’t hold the color well either I followed Ultra’s lead and adopted the same trick to brighten my tresses. I also used Kool-Aid but that is another story. Well the moral of the story is– it works. And it also stains your hands, your bathtub, your skin, and makes you smell like dirt. The last part didn’t bother me. However, I digress……

Sunday, MonkeyMan was kind enough to not only pick my ripened bed of baby beets but to re-seed the bed with a very exciting varietal called Bull’s Blood (hey anything with blood in the name must be a wowzer right??) So last night I peered into the fridge while prepping supper and I determined I better get a leg up on those beets. I have– over the years- gone the whole start to finish pickling process, only to discover that I am the only one who likes pickled beets, and unless I invite over a couple adventurous eaters for late summer brunch those puppies are gonna go to waste. So I have fashioned a quick and easy method (ok ok its not MY method lots of folk do this) of temporary pickling that doesnt require a sealed jar for pantry storage, you just have to keep them refrigerated like pickles. But its quick, easy and works really well for the solo beet enthusiast.

While I was making dinner, I took a moment to clean the beets. I trimmed off both ends and washed them by bulk in a collander while a pot of water boiled on the stove. Then I boiled them while I finished making dinner — about 25 minutes, but the beets were very small. If they were larger they would have needed about an hour. These were roughly ping pong ball sized. After I finished cooking. I turned them off but left them in the water. By the time we were done eating they had cooled enough to peel.

I think the best way to peel them is after they have boiled and they are rather soft. The skin is not palitable and you will never want to eat it, its tough and when the beets are young, the skin can be prickly. The water softens it up and you can just roll the skin off with your fingers or in a towel. This took about 5 minutes to do them all and then I rinsed them very good.

Next, I poured them into a mason jar. These were small enough that it only took one jar. Then I filled the jar with white vingegar, about 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of pickling salt, 1 tsp of whole allspice, and 1 broken cinnamon stick. If you have it whole cloves are great here, and bay leaf. I had bay leaf, but my husband was downstairs and I need him to open the jar for me so I ommitted it. I gave the jar a good shake and then placed it in the fridge. I am thinking in one week they will be perfect.

MonkeyMan told me recently that if you just do one thing every evening after your regular job that makes you feel accomplished that you are accomplished; you have that feeling of satisfaction that comes with completing a rote task. When I sit in my cube all day, crunching numbers and communing only with a computer, I can lose track of my purpose, and feel like a drone. It’s a necessary evil, our jobs, but what keeps us truly in touch with ourselves? I grew these beets, I pickled them, and maybe soon I will share them with beet-loving friends. Its like a little circle of happy, and so very simple. But these kind of things keep my feet on the ground, and my nose sniffing the dirt, where it is supposed to be 🙂

Too many Zukes
July 7, 2011, 1:37 pm
Filed under: Recipes and Ideas, Saving the Harvest

I have to apologize I just realized that I am doing a really ratty job of proof-reading here; so if anyone went out and tried to kernal out their corn yesterday with a ‘nice’ — you have me alone to blame.

I won’t lie I am still in a funk this week. Its grey outside, and I have the blahs. So this may not be the most titillating post but its the only interesting thing going on right now, other than the fact that MonkeyMan cleaned the bathtub last night. Yes its a Sid and Nancy life at the MonkeyHouse.

We have three huge zucchinis that desperately need to get eaten. For those of you hoping that my sludgy mood catapults me into a spontaneous porn post here, I hate to disappoint you but, no. So I came up with this weirdo idea earlier in the week- mostly derived from the fact that I really did not want to go to the grocery store after work and I really did not want to eat any meat.

My husband will tell you that I am a quiche fanatic. I always have a couple of ready made pie crusts in the freezer. I think he silently hopes that I will just make whatever I am going to make and leave him out of it, or actually make a real pie someday (which I have MonkeyMan, its was strawberry rhubarb, you gobbled it down and I am the Queen). But before I digress further I had the notion that I would try to fashion some sort of an all veggie quiche-like savory pie thing using one of these monster zukes. On a side note — we do not grow zucchini anymore because our neighbors are always giving them to us. So we use the space for other oddities.

I started off using a hand held grater to grate the zucchini. My plan was to then squeeze out the moisture which is essential. After that I kind of didnt have a clue. Well I discovered almost immediately that this was going to result in a pile of mush, so I started to dice it instead in about 1/2 inch cubes. This produced a lot. And then I had to figure out what to do about the moisture factor, so I heated some extra virgin olive oil in a skillet and decided to sear it, with chopped yellow onion and one chopped tomato. This worked great and smelled fantastic but it began to reduce. I started to be afraid I wouldnt have enough, and seasoning was also an issue, so I dashed out to the front yard and grabbed a fistful of basil, ran back into the house and minced a little clove of fresh garlic and tossed that in.

I needed some bulk so I opened up the fridge to see what we had and realized that we had a big bag of flat leaf kale. This stuff is pretty interesting; it has amazing color (deep dark green with kind of a blueish hue) and a mild flavor, much less cabbagey than the curly leaf variety. After I filled the pie sheel with the ratatouille like stuff, I whisked 3 free range eggs, about 1/2 cup heavy cream seasoned with salt and black pepper and 1/2 cup grated cheddar with 1/2 cup grated mozzerella and poured that over the vegetables, then I pressed in the chopped kale. I topped the whole thing off with breadcrumbs and baked at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes.

It turned out really perfect. In fact, maybe one of my better quiche-like creations…and I found a new fun way to use kale.

Now if you will politely excuse me, I am off to find some sugar and caffiene to appropriately rattle me out of this funk.

Odds and Ends
July 5, 2011, 2:48 pm
Filed under: Recipes and Ideas, Saving the Harvest

Here we are, back at work after the long weekend, and frankly I feel like shit. I ate entirely too many animal products in my ugly-American Fourth of July stupor, and I am terrribly ashamed of myself. I feel bloated and cranky and wasted. I had earnestly hoped to return to vegetarianism at the the start of summer, and even eliminate dairy products as they adversely effect my mood and –zappo. Nothing -nil-nitch-nada. The grill has been afire aplenty. The only good thing I can ever so slightly impart is that most of our meat is purchased from local farmers we know, who practice humane and organic methods but even that is sorry to say- -weak. I guess MonkeyGrrrl is having a blah day.

However, one really exciting thing DID occur this weekend and when I tell you you are going to be utterly convinced of the total mind numbing boredom of my life. But thats okay, I really am excited that we cleaned out our freezer.


Maybe because Saturday MonkeyMan and I put up corn. We really have it down to a science AND an art. It took us like — 45 minutes to put up 2 dozen ears of corn for the winter. And we had fun doing it. If you enjoy fresh sweet corn and have a deep freeze — here it is. I can’t tell you how happy you will be, how proud and satisfied you will be, if you do this.

We have a huge deck that wraps around the back of our house and that is where most of this process takes place. First you shuck the corn. Don’t look at me like that with that dumbfounded stare. Shuck just means rem0ve the husks and silk, and at this time I also chop of any blemished ends. While you are doing this is it wise to get a huge pot of boiling water going on the stove. When the water nears a boil, take a cooler and fill it with ice and water. Now– here is where we have a trick that works awesome. The Mister and I fill big plastic bottles with water and put them into our freezer to encourage a very low internal temperature. Using these recycled vessels in the water in place of ice is much more efficient and conserves water also. You want to barely blanch the ears of corn, so…three minutes is really all you take. After three minutes you need to plunge the corn into the ice water immediately to stop the cooking process. This all has to do with the conversion process in corn of sugar to starch…or something like that. There is a lot of chemistry in cooking, which is rad, but I don’t pretend to know all of it. I get bored easily and tune out.

Anyhoo, after the corn has cooled down in the cold water bath, I take it back outside to the deck where I have a cutting board and sharp nice. If you have a bread knife use it. Otherwise the odds of cutting yourself on a slippery ear of corn is HIGH. In long strokes cut the corn off the stalk and place the cobs in a bin for your compost heap. If you have dogs beware — they are going to want to snatch out a cob or two for munching. This is not bad for them but last year I saw what happened when one of our pootches tried to pass a cob after binging on them and it wasnt pretty. Its not always easy to determine the difference between good and bad fiber.

Since its just the two of us, we pack the corn into little sandwich bags, and then take like 6 of them and place them into a big freezer bag, which discourages freezer burn.

I think our neighbors think that we are crazy. I mean– why would two thirty somethings want to live like it is the 1800’s…right? And the crazy part is…we were laughing and joking and having a blast. I mean– even our arguing about methodology was hilarious; I am the worst bossy-pants in the kitchen EVAAAAAAA and yet, MonkeyMan just uses that as fuel for teasing me endlessly, and we just end up in verbal fits of hysteria. I think at one point I had him crying he was cracking up so bad.

And it not only cost us nothing, it made us wealthier in spirit and in home. Putting up corn for the winter– who knew?

Greener Pastures
June 28, 2011, 4:06 pm
Filed under: Activism, Home Sweet Home, How I got Here, Saving the Harvest, The Movement

This very first post will serve as an introduction of sorts. I am Mrs. Gibbons. My husband (and I…sometimes hehehehe) run a local, home-owned and operated small business called Gibbons Greens. We specialize in chemical free collard greeens, kale, and swiss chard, but we also grow an endless bounty of fresh and natural goodies for our own consumption. What makes us a bit unusual? Oh, several things, but for starters? We live in the city. Our garm, or farden (whatever you prefer) encompasses the front, side and back of our double lot yard. In addition to our wee business, we are part of a small but growing community of young(ish) local producers who attempt sustainable living. My feeble, but sincere, offering here will be a glimpse at the life of two crazy thirty somethings living life a completely different way; shucking a good portion of society’s technologically dependent ‘norms’ in favor of a slower pace. We have a lot of adventures to share around the garm, and a lot of philosophies and ideas too. Ever wonder what a day in the life of your grandmother from Kansas might of been, and thats a taste of summer at the MonkeyHouse. Yup thats us, just silly monkeys who love fresh veggies. And while most of our livelihood depends upon the food we grow, we also cook, can, dry, and preserve our food for the winter. This all sounds mighty boring right now….but this is just the pilot. Come along and follow us on our journey of doing something totally different. Trust me, we are having a lot of fun.

What comes next? The Monkey Philosophy…….