Monday, February 12, 2018

Happy Valentine´s Day

Spain imported 185,2 million euros worth of cut flowers and plants in 2015, flowers sold mostly on occasions such as Valentine´s Day, Mother´s Day and Todos los Santos.  The majority of these come through Holland and are shipped in, even if they were grown in Spain originally.

Since the 1990´s, cheap imported flowers from South America and Africa have had an enormous impact on domestic production, both in the US and Europe.  Items imported from abroad are not required to meet the same labor and environmental standards as those grown domestically. The flowers in your typical supermarket bouquet, in other words, were likely tended by underpaid laborers exposed to harmful pesticides, preserved with chemicals, and cut days or even weeks earlier.

Needless to say, this is hardly beneficial to local economies or the environment.  And, much like the local food movement, Debra Prenzing and the Slow Flower movement have been working to raise awareness in the States of the impact of domestically produced flowers.  Their manifesto:

Slow Flowers commits to the following practices:
  • To recognize and respect the seasons by celebrating and designing with flowers when they naturally bloom
  • To reduce the transportation footprint of the flowers and foliage consumed in the marketplace by sourcing as locally as possible
  • To support flower farmers small and large by crediting them when possible through proper labeling at the wholesale and consumer level
  • To encourage sustainable and organic farming practices that respect people and the environment
  • To eliminate waste and the use of chemical products in the floral industry
 So, should you be of a mind to send someone some lovely flowers for Valentine´s, please consider asking for locally grown, be they American, British or Spanish grown flowers.  Grown not flown.

Some links:

Flowers from the Farm - UK

American Gown Flowers - CAG United States

Floret Flower Directory - US/Canada/Worldwide

Floritismo - Barcelona area Florist/Farm

FlowrswelcomeHome - Madrid area Florist/Farm

Special mention to Georgie Newbery at Common Farm Flowers in Wincanton, Somerset (I really, really want to go to one of her workshops this year).

Meanwhile, this is what it looked like here this morning.  Sigh.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Goals for 2018

New year, new goals (some old).

1.  Find and refurbish the well out back because...

2.  I´m going to try selling some flowers and herbs at the Sunday market.  On a very reduced scale, barely 1/8 of an acre at first, and if there´s any potential, grow from there.  Gallegos are famous for only spending money on what they can eat, hence the herbs, but these days, who wouldn´t want a little joy in a vase on the kitchen table?  And, even if I don´t sell so much as a single stem, all the infrastructure and soil building can be re-directed to veg, and as a bonus we´ll have the prettiest garden in the county.  Original Crazy Idea post from way back in 2012 here.

3.  Refurbish the barn.  I´ll still need a studio and some space for processing the flowers, stow tools, stack firewood, etc.

4.  Finish the laundry room/pantry with a sink and a countertop and some shelving.  As I gear up for more food preservation, I need room to store more stuff.

5.  Get Breo some training.  He´s now healthy and strong and acting up on walks again.  Also, we´re thinking about getting a second dog to give him someone to play with and tire him out a little.  But he´s not a great example of an obedient pet, which is entirely our fault, so some classes and guidance are going to be necessary first before he´s in charge of training a new companion.

Friday, January 19, 2018

2017 in Review

One of the few sunrises lately.  Since it mostly hasn´t stopped raining since the beginning of December, time to review how 2017 actually went (goals here).

1. Barn renovation - Nope.  Frankly, we didn´t have the money so it´s back on the list for 2018.

2. Garden - Expanded!  Tractor guy will be coming back when the water isn´t ankle deep out there.  Needless to say, it´s growing grass again.

3. Interior projects - Nope.  To be fair, we tried.  We´re still waiting for a quote for the hood installation from early December.  When prompted, the appliance guy said he ¨forgot¨ and then didn´t get back to us, again.  And when V tried to get additional trim pieces from the tile store in Madrid for the backsplash, turned out that no, contrary to what they told him over the phone, they didn´t have it in stock. This sort of thing happens a lot.

4. Experimenting - I did have a go at the dyeing, results were OK.  But no progress at all on the cheesemaking.  I should probably throw out all those enzymes and cultures in the freezer.  We did finally get a batch of beer brewed, and I made soap for Christmas gifts.

5. Water - Renovating the well is moving up to the top of the list.  Need to locate it again since it´s all overgrown and currently underwater.

6. Chickens - Nope, still no chooks.

7. Community - This is a good news / bad news one.  Good news - my former student actually got a job!  Thrilled for her.  She dropped by to catch up over the holidays and is doing really well.  Bad news, she moved to another town and we haven´t made any additional contacts.

Breo´s 2 surgeries put a real dent in the budget this year.  It´s great to see him getting back some of his old mobility now, but it kind of threw a wrench into the discretionary fund budget.  Also, it seemed like we were driving to the vet in Lugo every other day. That, and other circumstances impacted how much we could spend on infrastructure this year.  Fingers crossed that gets straightened out early in 2018 so we can make some progress.

What we did get done:

Planted some trees.  2 oaks, 1 lemon, 1 lime, 2 hazels, 1 cherry, 1 almond have survived.
Side Patio - turned the weedy, wet side area into a pretty space.  Need to re-arrange some plantings so they´re happier.
Veg - lots grew.  Battled new pests.  Improved yields.
Hosted the Inlaws for another successful stay in August.
Ate/preserved the veg.  Had one jar of tomato sauce that didn´t seal, but the rest has been good.  All the squashes have been delicious and are keeping surprisingly well.  Onions and garlic that were stored also kept well through December.  Made pickles, sauerkraut, ketchup and salsa.
Got Breo through his health issues.  He´s happy and energetic and always on the look out for those nefarious felines.

Coming up - plans for 2018!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Happy Holidays!

Wishing you and yours health and happiness in 2018!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Garbanzos with Pumpkin

And another pumpkin recipe.  This one comes from my MIL, who kept asking when the squashes would be ripe, back in August.  I´m sending her a couple of big ones for Christmas.

Olive oil
1 medium onion
Garlic cloves to taste
1 medium pepper - red or green
2 cups cubed squash or pumpkin
2 medium tomatoes or 1 can puree
1/2 cup white wine (optional)
2 tablespoons oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
1 jar prepared garbanzos
1 chorizo sausage (optional)

Saute the onion, a few garlic cloves, the green or red pepper in olive oil until soft.  Add the tomato and when back to simmering, the pumpkin.  Cook until soft, about half an hour.  At this point I add a glug of white wine and the salt and pepper, then the chorizo and bring back to simmer.  Let simmer about an hour, stirring occasionally, then add the oregano and drained garbanzos.  Remove the chorizo, slice, and replace. Cook another half an hour, adjust seasoning and serve.  You may find you have to add more liquid if it gets too thick.  If you leave out the chorizo, cooking time will be reduced accordingly.

Warm and filling for a winter lunch!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Pumpkin Muffins

I see a theme is developing. 

We had a week or so of below zero temperatures, then a storm from the north blew in with high winds and 5 inches of rain in less than a day, and now we´re alternating fog with drizzle, more rain later.  So, it´s basically impossible to do much outside, though I´m collecting fallen stuff for Christmas decorations when I´m out with the dog.

Back to my old favorite Smitten Kitchen.  Lovely pumpkin muffins, even though I burnt the entire first batch, it was my own fault for substituting ingredients and not watching the oven.

I used half brown sugar, and half brown bread flour that I get from Lidl, but the rest of the recipe was followed reasonably closely.  Got 18 muffins per batch and they do keep well.  We´re on day 3.

From the above link:
Pumpkin Muffins
Adapted from the American club, in Kohler, Wisconsin via Gourmet Magazine
New favorite adaptation 10/28/13, Sweet Potato Muffins: Roast a medium-to-large orange-fleshed sweet potato (pricked all over with a fork, at 350 for 45 minutes to an hour) until very tender. Let cool completely. (Can do this a day in advance; store in fridge.) Either mash or run potato flesh through a potato ricer. Measure 1 1/3 cup from this and continue with recipe below as printed.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (have successfully swapped whole wheat flour for half)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon pumpkin-pie spice (or 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon + 1/4 teaspoon fresh nutmeg + 1/4 teaspoon ginger + pinch of ground cloves and allspice)
1 cup (original recipe) to 1 1/3 cup (what I use these days; makes it even more rich) canned solid-pack pumpkin (from a 15 ounce can, not pumpkin pie filling, which is sweetened and spiced)
1/3 cup vegetable or another neutral cooking oil
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Put liners in 12 standard-sized muffin cups.
Stir or whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spice in small/medium bowl.
In a larger bowl, whisk together pumpkin, oil, eggs and 1 1/4 cups sugar. Add dry ingredients to wet and stir until just combined. Divide batter among muffin cups (each about 3/4 full).
Stir together last tablespoon of sugar and teaspoon of cinnamon. Sprinkle over each muffin.
Bake until puffed and golden brown and wooden pick or skewer inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.
Cool in pan on a rack five minutes, then transfer muffins from pan to rack and cool to warm or room temperature.
Do ahead: Most muffins don’t keep well, but these are excellent on Day 2 (after being stored in an airtight container at room temperature) and not bad at all on Day 3. If longer, I’d keep them in the freezer until needed.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Stuffed Pumpkin

A belated Thanksgiving lunch idea, since I have an abundance of pumpkins.  Recipe from Epicurious here.

My first idea was to use a Long Island cheese small enough to fit in the oven whole.  Unfortunately, it had a crack in the bottom that made it unworkable, and the rest are all too big.  So I turned to the small New England pie pumpkins I was saving for, well, pie.

My technique favors the rustic, so the bread, bacon and cheese were all in rather larger pieces than you might prefer.  I used equal amounts of gouda, cheddar and swiss cheese.  I added a sliced chorizo as well, although frankly I don´t think it needed it, the bacon would have been just fine.  This pumpkin made 4 generous portions.

I have questions about the logistics of baking a pumpkin for 2 hours just when you´d want the turkey to be cooking, but will leave that for others to figure out.  It did take just about 2 hours, with the top off of the pumpkin for the last 20 minutes or so.  And it sliced beautifully into halves and quarters for serving.

From the above link, with suggestions for serving and making vegetarian variations:


    • 1 pumpkin, about 3 pounds
    • Salt and freshly ground pepper
    • 1/4 pound stale bread, thinly sliced and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
    • 1/4 pound cheese, such as Gruyère, Emmenthal, cheddar, or a combination, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
    • 2-4 garlic cloves (to taste), split, germ removed, and coarsely chopped
    • 4 slices bacon, cooked until crisp, drained, and chopped (my addition)
    • About 1/4 cup snipped fresh chives or sliced scallions (my addition)
    • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme (my addition)
    • About 1/3 cup heavy cream
    • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg


    1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment, or find a Dutch oven with a diameter that's just a tiny bit larger than your pumpkin. If you bake the pumpkin in a casserole, it will keep its shape, but it might stick to the casserole, so you'll have to serve it from the pot—which is an appealingly homey way to serve it. If you bake it on a baking sheet, you can present it freestanding, but maneuvering a heavy stuffed pumpkin with a softened shell isn't so easy. However, since I love the way the unencumbered pumpkin looks in the center of the table, I've always taken my chances with the baked-on-a-sheet method, and so far, I've been lucky.
    2. Using a very sturdy knife—and caution—cut a cap out of the top of the pumpkin (think Halloween Jack-o-Lantern). It's easiest to work your knife around the top of the pumpkin at a 45-degree angle. You want to cut off enough of the top to make it easy for you to work inside the pumpkin. Clear away the seeds and strings from the cap and from inside the pumpkin. Season the inside of the pumpkin generously with salt and pepper, and put it on the baking sheet or in the pot.
    3. Toss the bread, cheese, garlic, bacon, and herbs together in a bowl. Season with pepper—you probably have enough salt from the bacon and cheese, but taste to be sure—and pack the mix into the pumpkin. The pumpkin should be well filled—you might have a little too much filling, or you might need to add to it. Stir the cream with the nutmeg and some salt and pepper and pour it into the pumpkin. Again, you might have too much or too little—you don't want the ingredients to swim in cream, but you do want them nicely moistened. (It's hard to go wrong here.)
    4. Put the cap in place and bake the pumpkin for about 2 hours—check after 90 minutes—or until everything inside the pumpkin is bubbling and the flesh of the pumpkin is tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a knife. Because the pumpkin will have exuded liquid, I like to remove the cap during the last 20 minutes or so, so that the liquid can bake away and the top of the stuffing can brown a little.
    5. When the pumpkin is ready, carefully, very carefully—it's heavy, hot, and wobbly—bring it to the table or transfer it to a platter that you'll bring to the table.
  1. Serving
    1. You have a choice—you can either spoon out portions of the filling, making sure to get a generous amount of pumpkin into the spoonful, or you can dig into the pumpkin with a big spoon, pull the pumpkin meat into the filling, and then mix everything up. I'm a fan of the pull-and-mix option. Served in hearty portions followed by a salad, the pumpkin is a perfect cold-weather main course; served in generous spoonfuls, it's just right alongside the Thanksgiving turkey.