Archive for April, 2016

Ramps

Posted on April 28, 2016 by Leave a comment

Separated from the soil and ready to clean

Separated from the soil and ready to clean

Ramps (also called wild leeks) (Allium tricoccum) are a forest plant which grows in “patches” in the eastern United States. Our ramps grow in the mainly deciduous forest of western NY state. The ramps are in the onion family and taste similar to cultivated onions and garlic. We are fortunate to have them growing on our property, however we only harvest a few every couple years. They are really a novelty, in our opinion, for culinary use. This year we incorporated them into venison cheeseburgers and they were quite good. Some gourmet celebrity chefs could probably convince you they were the best tasting thing since Kale, but it is basically just a wild onion, and tastes like an onion.

Ramps growing in the Spring in the western NY forest

Ramps growing in the Spring in the western NY forest

We do enjoy seeing them grow in our forest, and we are glad they are a continuing part of our environment. They flower and go to seed shortly after they pop up in the spring. Then they go dormant, die back, and disappear from the forest floor until the following Spring, when they reappear. We believe mother nature has timed their life cycle this way because they come up before the leaves are on the trees, take advantage of the sunlight, and then go dormant after the trees are in full foliage. The spring is usually a damp time of year and the summer can be dry so the ramps survive this way by being dormant when the soil is dry and the other forest trees suck up all the available moisture. Energy and moisture is saved in the onion like bulb.

When first dug, the roots are intertwined with the soil

When first dug, the roots are intertwined with the soil

The ramps reproduce from seeds. The plant flowers in the early summer by sending up a leafless flower stalk. After the foliage has gone dormant, the plant flowers and seeds develop, falling near the mother plant later in the summer. Not every plant will flower. The seeds germinate when conditions are right in late summer or early fall. Not all the seeds will germinate and live.

This year we were lucky and the soil was quite dry when we dug our ramps. The soil crumbled away from the roots easily after we dug one shovel full. We separated the soil so it would stay in the woods. We tried to cut the roots off, but it seemed easier to just “snap” them off. A single ramp plant can be many years old and develop a root “stub” which is relatively easy to snap off.

Hauling the Ramps back to the kitchen

Hauling the Ramps back to the kitchen

Since the ramps are quite a way out in the woods we took our tractor and wagon to go harvest the ramps. Now we are ready to take them back to the house and the kitchen where we will prepare them to eat.

Ramps ready for your favorite recipe or fresh chopped in a sandwich or salad

Ramps ready for your favorite recipe or fresh chopped in a sandwich or salad

If you should happen to go out to the forest to harvest some ramps, please remember this is a wild plant treasure that does not reproduce easily. It is important not to harvest more than 30% of the “patch”. That way you will always leave more than you take. Not every year is a good growing year for the ramps so it is important that you leave enough so the patch can continue to grow. If you want to make the effort to go back to the patch in late summer to harvest seeds and plant them, you may be able to start another patch in another spot in the forest. In some locations the ramps are being over harvested and are in danger of being eliminated from their home range. Harvest sustainably!!

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Replace your shock absorbers and restore your original ride

Posted on April 13, 2016 by Leave a comment

Replacing shock absorbers is something we rarely think about, but as vehicles are lasting longer, sometimes several hundred thousand miles, you can reclaim some of the original “ride” by replacing them. For a car it may be an optional decision for a while, but for a truck it may be a “must do” in order to carry or pull a load safely. Replacing shocks is part of routine maintenance and should be a planned expense. This is important to consider if you recently purchased a used vehicle or have a vehicle that you plant to keep for several more years.

Shock absorber design varies depending on the vehicle design and purpose

Shock absorber design varies depending on the vehicle design and purpose

What do shock absorbers do?
Shock absorbers have two basic purposes as a part of your vehicle. Both are very important. They control the movement of the suspension and springs. They also keep the tires in direct contact with the road surface.

Shock absorbers effect the ride of your vehicle. When you first buy your vehicle, one of the characteristics you evaluate is the ride; how the vehicle reacts when you go over a bump, a speed bump, a pot hole or grooves in a highway. Generally you want a “smooth” ride. As the shock absorbers “wear” over time or actually break, your ride becomes less desirable.

Some signs your vehicle needs to have the shock absorbers replaced include, uneven tire wear, vibrations, longer stopping distance, rattling and rocking over bumps, nose dives and swerves during breaking, or in mild wind it veers and slides.

When to replace shocks?
From reading several articles about when to replace shock absorbers, it is recommended to evaluate your ride more than a recommended milage interval such as 50,000 miles. Most shock absorbers are designed to last longer than that. However, as your vehicle approaches 100,000 miles, you should start to evaluate your ride to see if it can be improved. For a truck owner, you need to evaluate how the truck is used. If it is used lightly the shocks will last longer, but if you are carrying a lot of heavy loads or pulling a trailer, the shocks should be replaced more often. You would not want to have a shock failure while hauling or pulling a load.

Most shocks can be replaced at a car dealer with original equipment, a car care center, or you can replace your own, if you have the tools and know how to do it. There is no alignment required after replacing shocks on most vehicles. There may be a price advantage having your shocks replaced at a car care center, based on our experience.

Some shock absorbers are adjustable

Some shock absorbers are adjustable

Adjustable Shocks:
We recently decided to have our shocks replaced on a 3/4 ton Ford F-250 pick-up truck (4 wheel drive) with 125,000 miles. The shocks were not causing a real problem for this lightly used truck, however we anticipated fully loading the truck and driving it about 2000 miles. Since we wanted this lightly used truck to have a smooth ride loaded and a smooth ride unloaded, we decided install adjustable shocks. We chose the same brand as the original equipment, with the adjustable option. There are settings from 1 to 9. A setting of 1 – 3 for no load or a light load and settings of 7 – 9 for heavy loads or towing. The medium settings for medium loads. The adjustment is made manually on the shocks we purchased. We pre-ordered the shocks form an off road specialty shop and they did the installation as well. The local FordĀ® dealership did not seem informed about options outside original equipment.

This shock absorber adjusts from 1 - 9

This shock absorber adjusts from 1 – 9

We encourage you to think about the status of your shock absorbers and plan for their replacement in your routine maintenance schedule.

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Rhubarb Pie From Garden to Slice!

Posted on April 7, 2016 by Leave a comment

Rhubarb plants growing in the garden

Rhubarb plants growing in the garden

From my earliest childhood I have enjoyed rhubarb pie. My mother grew it in her garden and we have grown it in several gardens as our address has changed. Rhubarb is one of the few perennial vegetables and is relatively easy to grow. The stalks are the only part of the rhubarb plant eaten. The leaves are poisonous. To harvest, just pull or cut the stalk away from the crown of the plant and cut the stalk a couple inches away from the leaf.

4 to 6 large stalks make a nice pie

4 to 6 large stalks make a nice pie

There are quite a few ways to make pies with rhubarb as the main ingredient. we are sharing the recipe for a Rhubarb Pie with Tapioca and Orange Zest. We are including instructions for a 4 cup and a 5 cup rhubarb pie. We make the bigger pie if we have a pie pan for the larger pie. This is an easy pie to make.

Rhubarb Pie with Tapioca and Orange Zest

Ingredients for a 4 cup pie:

4 Cups of rhubarb cut in 1/3 to 3/4 inch slices
2 Eggs
1 1/4 Cups of sugar (a little more if you have a sweet tooth)
1/3 Cup plus, 1 TBS of tapioca
1 Two crust package of store bought or homemade pie shells
2 TBS of Orange Zest
1 TBS of Sugar

Rhubarb ready to make a pie

Rhubarb ready to make a pie

Ingredients for a 5 cup pie:

5 Cups of rhubarb cut in 1/3 to 3/4 inch slices
2 Eggs
1 1/2 Cups of sugar (a little more if you have a sweet tooth)
1/2 Cup of tapioca
1 Two crust package of store bought or homemade pie shells
2 TBS, plus one teaspoon of Orange Zest
1 TBS Sugar

Note: There are 3 teaspoons in a Tablespoon

Bottom pie crust and sliced rhubarb ready!

Bottom pie crust and sliced rhubarb ready!

Putting it all together: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
1) Place the bottom crust in the pie pan so it is ready to accept the filling.
2) Cut the rhubarb in 1/3 to 3/4 inch slices. The size slices depends a little on the size of the rhubarb stalks, which can vary greatly in size. Cut and measure the exact amount of cups into a medium bowl. Then pour the sliced rhubarb in the bottom of the pie pan and distribute evenly.
3) Grate the orange zest from a fresh orange.
4) In another medium bowl, combine the sugar, tapioca, and orange zest and uniformly mix.
5) Add the two eggs to the mix and blend together completely.
6) Pour the mixture evenly over the rhubarb so it settles in between the rhubarb slices
7) Put on the top crust. We used a lattice crust.
8) Spread the top crust on a flat surface and cut the crust in strips 1/2 to 3/4 inch wide with a butter knife.
9) Alternate the strips one at a time.
10) Lift the alternate strips to place the next strip, as pictured.
11) When your strips are in place sprinkle the sugar over the top of the lattice crust.
12) Place the pie in your preheated oven at 400 degrees. After 15 minutes reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 30 to 40 minutes for the 4 cup pie and 40 to 50 minutes for the 5 cup pie.

Sugar & Tapioca mixed and orange zest grated

Sugar & Tapioca mixed and orange zest grated

The egg, sugar, tapioca & orange zest is ready to pour over the rhubarb

The egg, sugar, tapioca & orange zest is ready to pour over the rhubarb

Start the lattice by slicing in 1/2 to 3/4 inch strips

Start the lattice by slicing in 1/2 to 3/4 inch strips

Fold the alternate strips back to overlap the next strip

Fold the alternate strips back to overlap the next strip

Ready for the oven!

Ready for the oven!

Just out of the oven!

Just out of the oven!

The tapioca soaks up the moisture!

The tapioca soaks up the moisture!

A nice slice of rhubarb pie!

A nice slice of rhubarb pie!

Rhubarb pie is great with serving additions like vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, a slice of extra sharp cheddar cheese, or any of your other favorite pie toppings!!

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