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Sunday, 22 November 2015
Let's Squash This!
Topic: Harvest Hills Farm activity

Let's Squash this, right now!

If your last load from the garden looks something like a bunch of orange, green and yellow things--you have your hard squashes ready for winter. And you will likely need a couple of good ideas for those hard squashes: pumpkin, assorted winter squashes, spaghetti squash, etc.


Butternut and pumpkin soups are easy “go-to's.” Pumpkin pie is a classic. And you likely have some good recipes already for these. (Remember too that pumpkin is an excellent food for your dogs whenever they have a little dietary problem, cook them some pumpkin!)

I'd like to share two good recipes for using Spaghetti squash.

First, a quick inservice on cooking the squash. I favor poking a couple of holes in the squash with a skewer and baking it in the oven at 350 degrees for 40-60 minutes depending on the size. Bake it until the sides seem “un-firm” to pressure, not really “soft” but compressible to firm finger pressure. If you note, the squash is virtually impenetrable with a knife until it's cooked. After it's baked, you can cut the squash easily through the center. Allow to cool a little, so as not to burn your fingers, then scoop out the seeds. After the seeds are discarded (or saved for the chickens), the flesh comes out in typical spaghetti-like strands. You are then ready to use the cooked squash in your recipes.

You can also pat excess water from the squash and freeze in ziplock freezer bags for later use!

And remember you do not have to get tricky to have a wonderful vegetable dish. Cooked squash simply buttered and seasoned with salt, pepper and chopped parsley is a wonderfully clean, high fiber, healthy side dish!




Here's one recipe for Layered Spaghetti Squash Casserole--

You'll need a casserole dish, one roasted medium sized spaghetti squash, a 16 oz jar of tomato OR Alfedo pasta sauce, 8 oz. Mozzarella cheese.

  1. Butter a casserole dish

  2. Place cooked, and patted dry, spaghetti squash on the bottom

  3. Top with ½ of the pasta sauce and 4 oz. mozzarella cheese.

  4. Repeat with a layer of spaghetti squash

  5. Repeat with remaining pasta sauce and cheese.

  6. Bake at 350 degrees about 30-40 minutes until fully heated through and cheese is melted.

Another Option for Spaghetti Squash might be to substitute it for bean sprouts in EGG FOO Yung.

Who doesn't love a healthy version of this classic Cantonese dish?




Here's a quick version of EGG FOO YUNG.

  1. Beat together 6 fresh eggs

  2. Add chopped Chinese vegetables -typically snow peas, carrots, green onion, green and red pepper, and optional diced small cooked shrimp.

  3. Add about 1 cup of cooked and dry spaghetti squash, which has been cut into smaller pieces.

  4. Heat olive oil with a little sesame oil in a skillet.

  5. Drop by ladleful and fry, turning once.

  6. Sprinkle with soy sauce or make a light gravy with chicken broth and cornstarch.



Posted by Karen at 18:24 CST
Updated: Sunday, 22 November 2015 18:32 CST
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Friday, 17 April 2015
It's Spring!
Topic: Harvest Hills Farm activity

Harvest Hills Farm Activity—It's Spring!

The entire environment can change so quickly with lengthening of daylight hours and temperatures that stay above freezing

I thought my readers would enjoy seeing some pictures of the activity around the farm in April, especially sunrise on Easter morning, the new lambs, the greening of the fields, the new nests...

The lambs are born, the first calf has just been born. The chicken coops are cleaned out.

The seeds are started in the greenhouse. Next week the potatoes go in the ground, to be followed by direct sown seeds a couple weeks thereafter.







Let me also remind you to:

Check our website to reserve your culinary beef order NOW

and watch the website for December availability of culinary lamb!

Don't wait too long to get your reservation in!

Website: www.harvesthillsfarm.org

Email: agoodharvest.usa@gmail.com

Posted by Karen at 15:39 CDT
Updated: Friday, 17 April 2015 15:42 CDT
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Friday, 21 November 2014
Perfect Soup for a Wintry Day
Topic: Harvest Hills Farm activity

Once upon a wintery Autumn... 

Unseasonably early, bitter, winter-style weather has hit most of the country. Jo Daviess County is no exception. Many autumnal plans and expectations have gone undone. We're feeding hay to the sheep, cattle and horses since the grass is frozen and under a snow cover. We might get a reprieve in the next week or two but, for the most part, Autumn is gone for the year.

The kale froze, I hoped for fresh kale from the garden for Thanksgiving, as well as other greens—that would have been a plan in the usual year. Thankfully, all the winter squash and pumpkins were pulled in before the deep freezing began. And I potted up a couple of Rosemary plants to keep going indoors for fresh cuttings, one of the few herbs that don't work as well when dried.

I'm happy that I chose to prep and freeze so many peppers when they were abundant. And that my sister decided one Summer afternoon to pick and prep, bread and fry, then freeze, some of our eggplant to make a future “eggplant parmesan,” with our homemade canned marinara sauce, along with some dried herbs from the garden.

We have two types of “refrigerator pickles” in the refrigerator from a couple of Summer afternoon quick and fun projects. Apple filling was made from our apples and frozen during one of those late Summer afternoons, too! Thinking about all of the food projects we accomplished during the Summer, you might think we anticipated this weather!

Now, this dismal, chilling weather calls for cooking. And a homey, humble --but protein- and vitamin-packed-- soup should be on the stove.

Why not plan a pot of Beef and Vegetable Soup that's quick and hearty?




Beef and Vegetable Soup

1 lb. Chuck, cut into bite sized pieces

(I had a 3 lb chuck pot roast, used 1 lb for the soup and rest as a pot roast)

Saute in 1-2 Tbsp olive oil with ½ tsp chopped garlic until browned.

Add: 1 large stalk celery, diced

3 medium carrots, sliced

1 cup deveined and chopped kale leaves

28 oz. can petite diced tomatoes and the juice

(you can also substitute a 14.5 oz. can of tomatoes and 16 oz. beef broth, if you prefer)

1 quart of water

Season with;

1 tsp. each: salt, onion powder, dried basil (or Italian blend herbs), dried parsley, dried thyme

Several grinds of black pepper

Add: 1 bay leaf, but remember to remove from soup before serving.

Bring to a boil, then reduce to low simmer and cover. Simmer at least an hour until meat and vegetables are tender. Add additional water as needed. Adjust seasonings as desired. 



Posted by Karen at 13:26 CST
Updated: Friday, 21 November 2014 13:30 CST
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Saturday, 19 April 2014
From Antarctica to Ireland in a week!
Topic: Harvest Hills Farm activity

Happy Easter and Happy Spring to Everyone!

 It's amazing how quickly one week of Spring weather can turn "tundra" into greenery--I know there's much more coming, but I thought I'd shoot a few scenes around the Farm to give you an idea about it's annual renewal. 













There are plenty of goldfinches around the backyard...













 And rooster with hens in the barnyard! 














A barn interior ready for Spring! 














Lots of loafing cattle (we're still feeding hay of course, but who can resist an afternoon nap in greening pastures....)













or under some pine trees?













Zoey, our llama, seems up for a photo op!













 The Shepherds love their 'Gator rounds of the Farm














Especially when there are some surprises...


Again, the neighbor's Charolais bull invaded my herd for a one night stand... 

 But he is a cutie...Happy Spring!

Posted by Karen at 15:52 CDT
Updated: Saturday, 19 April 2014 16:03 CDT
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Monday, 6 January 2014
And then it got worse...
Topic: Harvest Hills Farm activity

Unbelievably cold this morning--in fact they said on the TV that it's the coldest recorded since 1884. My front porch temperature is minus 19, they say the wind chill is minus 50, that wind has been howling all night and continues, the wind turbine is spinning like a top. I upped the clothing to do chores this morning to : 3 shirts, 2 jackets, leggings, pants and thermal bibbed overalls, logger hat, scarf, thermal gloves, wool socks, and continued grippers on the work shoes. All animals and chickens doing amazingly well, but none are interested in leaving their wind-sheltered positions. That's the secret of their success I suspect.

You are definitely stuck indoors. It's the perfect day to make a pot of Corn Chowder, something kids and adults will appreciate.

You likely have everything in the house and you can SUBSTITUTE almost everything to make it work for you. For instance, in my recipe, I didn't have frozen corn but did have frozen mixed vegetables so that's what I used! No frozen--use canned--or even fresh, just cook them longer.

No ham? Use bacon.  

In fact,if you don't have a can of cream-styled corn, you can double your mixed vegetables and run the immersion blender through the pot of soup a couple of times to give it a creamy appearance. 

And if you don't have chicken broth, then use vegetable broth!

I think you get the idea--today is a soup day and chowder's a great plan. 

 Corn Chowder


In a medium soup pot, start by cooking 2 stalks of minced celery, 1 small chopped onion and 1 cup of diced ham in 2-3 Tbsp olive oil (leftover ham from New Year's Day?)

(No ham? Substitute 4-6 pieces of chopped, cooked bacon-cook this separately and drain off fat, then add to soup pot.)

Now add 32 oz Chicken Broth, 1 diced potato, 8 oz. (1/2 bag) or 1 can of drained corn (or like me, substitute frozen mixed vegetable blend with corn). Add 1 Tbsp. parsley, a little garlic powder, salt and pepper to your taste. Simmer for about 30 minutes until potato is soft.

Add 1 can of Cream-styled Corn and  heat through. 

If you'd like a thicker soup, you can add 1/2 cup of dehydrated potato flakes.









Posted by Karen at 08:42 CST
Updated: Monday, 6 January 2014 09:06 CST
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Monday, 30 December 2013
Wintertime at the Farm
Topic: Harvest Hills Farm activity

Wintertime around the Farm

In the past week, we've experienced an ice storm, heavy snow, a hoar frost, temperatures down to -11 and up to 47...it's wintertime in Jo Daviess County, Illinois.

Here are some photos showing the fields, vineyard and outdoor infrastructure under the ice, snow and frost. The ice and snow you will recognize, no doubt. But it's rare to have the perfect conditions for a hoar frost which covers every surface of thing outdoors with a delicate fuzzy coat of icy dew.



















The Ice coating branches, above and to right

















Then the snow--this is the actual color of the atmosphere during the snowfall- 


 Some photos from the morning of the hoar frost.




I know we are all forced inside by the wintry conditions and weather alerts cautioning wind chills and frost bite. But I'd like to inspire you to force yourself to bundle up, put on the “grippers” if icy, or snowboots, or if very ambitious—the cross-country skies!--and take a nature walk, just for the fun of it. It doesn't have to be further than the perimeter of your backyard or once around the block. It will wake up your ancient brain and stimulate both sides of your cerebrum as you simply experience and observe. You can indeed “communicate” with nature simply by being “in it” provided you use your senses and are open to their input without putting up excuses about why you can't go outside or don't have time.

And, walking the dog doesn't count! The dog's communicating with nature, not you--and you are meanwhile distracted with a task. So, likewise, going out to fill the birdfeeder or feed the barnyard animals also doesn't count as a personal encounter with nature. Go out without a task in mind.

And, if you truly can't leave the house, then park yourself by an unobstructed window and spend some time. You might see something interesting, like these guineafowl at your birdfeeder.


Like the Nike advertising advises: just do it!

Posted by Karen at 13:44 CST
Updated: Monday, 30 December 2013 19:06 CST
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Sunday, 27 October 2013
Our New Addition--Zoey the Llama
Topic: Harvest Hills Farm activity
Meet Zoey!
...or "Zoey Monster" as she is referred to by her former foster family.


We recently started a flock of sheep with 11 ewe lambs. You can see them in the background behind her.Needless to say, we were nervous parents of lambs, especially when the coyotes howl in the dead of night and the sheep barn feels miles away. We really wanted a guardian animal to live with them and a llama is a perfect choice.


I went to my favorite source for adoptions first, that's www.petfinder.com where many of my friends and family have started when they want to rescue an animal. That resource led us to Southeast Llama Rescue. 
Southeast Llama Rescue  actually has multiple satellite foster farms all over the United States. Looking through the available llamas, we couldn't help but think that Zoey would be a good fit for us. She was at a foster farm in central Illinois which was about to receive another shipment of 16 llamas the following day, so we were lucky to see her before that farm's busy following day. We all might have gotten lost in that llama explosion.
She's won our hearts and seems right at home with her paddock and barn. However, I can see she is yearning to roam the many fenced pasture areas the sheep have available. For the first few days however, she'll need to stay close to understand this is her new forever home.

Thank you Southeast Llama Rescue . We just love this redhead!

Posted by Karen at 13:51 CDT
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Saturday, 12 October 2013
Welcome the new Ewes!
Topic: Harvest Hills Farm activity

Sometimes I wonder if it's possible to start a blog with something other than, "it's been so busy around here."


And then I remember we're on a Farm and it's still Harvest time. Yes, the grapes are in, most of this year's steer are sold. The Summer interns are long back to school and August's Vacation Bible School and the family reunion seem like a decade ago.

Thankfully the hay's all in (fourth cutting tucked up in the barn today) and lots of the garden has been blanched or cooked or eaten or given away. Winter squash will be dispersed to family and friends this week. 

Today, we still managed to harvest a bunch of herbs and they're in the dehydrator for their overnight drying--to be made into some blends tomorrow, hopefully.

And , after Church tomorrow, maybe we'll get another batch of potatoes up--if not, then certainly this coming week! OK--we probably have another couple of weeks' worth of gardening to contend with.

But, the high point of this week for me was the arrival of the Ewe lambs.

Meet this amazing group of girls who will be the foundation of our Katahdin meat sheep. We'll raise them in strict accordance with the Animal Welfare Approved, American Grassfed Association rules so they can provide our customers with quality lamb in the future. 





Definitely cute--go ahead and get attached--these girls are going to be around for years to come! 






Posted by Karen at 21:52 CDT
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Sunday, 21 July 2013
Colorful Summer!
Topic: Harvest Hills Farm activity
Colorful Summer!
In the middle of winter, I always look at my wardrobe and realize I am wearing black, navy, dark brown, maroon--maybe a hint of gold or dark green--you know the drill...
And then I might glance at the colorful aquas and lilacs and peachy  bright colors of Summer and say to myself--how could I EVER think of wearing those colors???
But Summer eventually rolls around and I find myself wondering how the heck I could think black was a good idea for a blouse or dress during the day.
Same with your plate--Summer screams COLOR!!!


Your dinner plate should be looking like this if your garden is starting to produce. And, if you don't have a garden, then the local produce section at your store or Farmers' Market should be bulging at the seams with a variety of veggies and herbs.  
For today's blog, let's look at the Ratatouille--about 12N on the plate. I'll save my comments on kale and indrect-grilled chicken and Southwestern salad for another entry. 
Ratatouille is basically a stewed squash, tomato and herb concoction packed with nutirents. Cooking it is simple--and, in a way, it's like chili--every pot is unique and depends upon your tastes and what you've got around.
Saute together 4-6 cloves of chopped garlic and 1 chopped onion in about 3-4 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet.
Add: 1-2 diced/chopped green peppers--though you can substitiute sweet banana peppers if you'd like --which I did since my green peppers aren't ready yet. 
Add: Summer Squash, Zucchini squash,  eggplant--smaller sized, no seeds, thin skin OK otherwise, peel it.-cut into cubes or small chucks. Any/all of the above. I did not have eggplant so this version is just yellow Summer and green zucchini squash.
Add: skinned and seeded diced fresh tomatoes- at least 2 large, or 1 can of diced tomatoes .
Keep cooking in your large skillet pan on medium heat.
Add plenty of chopped fresh or dried herbs to taste--here you either can use an Italian blend or herbs de Provence (preferred--if you want the most authentic taste)--but like chili, it's ultimately about YOUR taste preferences.
Add: dried red pepper flakes and salt to taste.
Continue to cook until the vegetables are"stewed"--add oil if needed during your cooking if you think it's needed. 
Add: chopped black olives?, capers?  
This dish can be served hot, room temperature, or chilled. Delicious any way. it also makes a great main course with some cheese and bread on the side.  
Start thinking  COLOR !

Posted by Karen at 21:42 CDT
Updated: Sunday, 21 July 2013 21:53 CDT
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Thursday, 6 June 2013
Miscellaneous Farm Updates
Topic: Harvest Hills Farm activity

I know I risk  criticism by starting blogs with--"it's been really busy around here" more than once a year. But it seems to be a repeating theme.

Below is a picture of "Orange Tag 102"--a 3 year old Black Angus cow who had one successful pregnancy last year and just delivered her latest calf...literally about 2 hours before this picture was taken 


We're just about done calving. Free range animals give birth in their pastures. And, we don't ever interfere with the natural process unless there's a problem. Instead we "round" on the herd multiple times a day looking for any behavior changes or problems with calves.


For instance, when we checked on the herd this morning, we saw Orange Tag 102 grazing away from the rest of the herd. She was several acres away from the rest of the cattle, eating contentedly and, as we would find out, waiting for the impending birth. So we inspected her closely, noted distended udders and returned a couple of hours later to find her with calf born, and placenta pending. We left her privately and returned an hour later to photograph Mama and Baby--the picture you see above. Though again--since everything was fine--we stayed back far enough to not create any anxiety in the mother with her newborn. Everything was fine so there was no need to interfere. We'll re-check the cow and calf pair again in a couple of hours.


On another one of our inspections a couple of weeks earlier, my husband noted that another calf was not gaining weight as anticipated. A call to the vet ensued, the calf and mother were examined and it was determined that the mother was not producing enough milk for the baby. That baby is now in our barn as a "bottle calf" which we will feed until she's ready for weaning and will re-enter the herd.


Cute thing, isn't she? Thankfully it's a girl, so we CAN get attached because she will be with us for her whole life. Another bottle calf we had a few years ago was also a female and is in the herd. Little Ma, as we called her, really can't be distinguished from her cohort group of (now) cows.


Other great news on the farm: we have two amazing summer interns working and learning with us this Summer!

Nguyen is an Animal Sciences major and Jack is a Crop Sciences/Agribusiness major, both are University of Illinois College of Agriculture students. Our cattle, chickens, vineyard, garden and hayfields are going to be spoiled with their attention!





Posted by Karen at 17:45 CDT
Updated: Thursday, 6 June 2013 18:18 CDT
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