The Home Grown September Challenge is a Bliss-full Challenge.

I began the September Home Grown Challenge  almost two weeks ago and with only one 24 hour break,  when I went to Chicago, I have been dining in on home grown fresh food.  We are streaming along. The food is glorious.   I do buy the raw milk that I would usually get from Daisy from down the road but other than that we are eating food off the farm all day every day. I have only allowed myself  coffee, tea, (though drinks are not part of the home grown challenge yet), flour, olive oil, salt, balsamic vinegar and a little sugar.


Everything else is off the farm. Even this apple custard pie. It will be served  with whipped ricotta cheese flavoured with home grown honey.  Picking apples off the little trees  that I planted myself has a wonderful feeling of

The ricotta cheese was made the cheats way with 1 gallon of raw milk heated to the first bubble, 1/4 cup of home made apple cider vinegar and a little salt.  Stand, cool, strain, eat. Perfect. Today I will make a regular farmer’s cheese for the weekend pizzas.  This means I will have to add rennet to my allowed list.

I am spending more time in the kitchen but this is not unusual at this time of year.


Summer Sauce to eat with home made noodles. Thank goodness the chickens are laying so well. The meat freezer is almost empty awaiting its October replenishment.  Our only meat is lamb, which is not as exciting as it sounds so I am creating some fantastic vegetarian feasts.


The second to last row of potatoes is gone, I might make it to the end of the month but no further, so I am conserving them. My Irish eyes are crying.

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My answer to all this talk of autumn: My last planting of sunflowers has begun to flower.  Autumn is not here yet.


The bees have found their syrup.


Great Aunt Sis’s lamp stand. Finally come home to The Coupe.

My notes so far underline what I suspected, we are not growing enough of everything, we need more vegetables, better spacings and  less herbs  in the beds. Pots for herbs from now on. I am going to combine  and extend three of the smaller  gardens into one very big old fashioned garden, cutting down on the varieties.  Less staggering and more bulk planting. Less pretty, more food. Staggering plantings helps me keep fresh food in the kitchen, but I need fresh food in the kitchen as well as fresh food going into jars.

I also want to add carrots and parsnips to the gardens.

Having said that, I think I should be able to coast along to the end of the month eating what I grow quite easily.  I am the only one who is sticking to the home grown diet and it does not take much to feed one person. Though there won’t be much variety the food is absolutely clean, no preservatives or additives at all.  The portions will be smaller but are as high in nutrients as you can get.  Bliss. And we all eat too much anyway.

The next two weeks will be the challenge!!

You all have a lovely day. Take good care!

your friend on the farm, celi


98 Comments on “The Home Grown September Challenge is a Bliss-full Challenge.

  1. A slice of that lovely pie for breakfast, please? Promise I’ll do the washing-up!
    I’m totally jealous of your sunflowers…every time I plant them, the rabbits eat them when they’re tiny. Have a lovely day, C!

    • Oooooh! I’ll take a slice of the lovely pie too!!! Gluten Free crust for mine!!! It looks incredible!!!! Will go wonderfully with my morning coffee! Then off I go to make more eggplant parmesan for the freezer! 🙂

        • Gluten free pie crust:
          250g chilled cream cheese – chopped
          150g chilled butter – chopped
          2 cups gluten free flour
          1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
          Pinch of salt

          Rub the dry into the fats – or blitz it all in a food processor until it looks like breadcrumbs
          Add a little cold water (about a tablespoon) and mix till it all holds together
          Turn out onto a floured board, shape into a lump, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 15 minutes
          Roll out and blind bake at 200c for 10 – 15 minutes, then remove the weights and bake another 3 – 5 minutes until golden all over

          This recipe is from an Australian cook called Maggie Beer. She is famous for her fabulous pies – among other things 🙂

          • Hmm: Feel foolish ~ I am from Oz naturally and have adored Maggie Beer forever and did not have that recipe! I do not cook gluten free, but ’tis a very simple one to make anyways! Have just received a cask {!} of her verjuice which can’t wait to get into my recipes 🙂 !

    • I have a huge collection of old metal baskets and dishwashing racks,milk bins and dishwashER racks that I put over my plants when they are little.. we seem to have more rabbits than ever this year.. c

      • ah freezing the eggplant parmesan.. what an excellent idea mere. Now how would I make a gluten free crust with whats on the farmy? c

  2. The pie looks yummy and the sunflowers—-so perky and bright on this sunny and thank goodness cooler morning in North Iowa. Your home grown challenge is going so well. Good on ya!

  3. Well done you! I know what you mean about losing the “pretty” ornamental garden feeling for good food spacing. Something I struggle with even if I only have this tiny city plot. In my case it’s the commercially available bag of potatoes. There are too many of them to plant ornamentally and I never want to throw a bunch away. I’ve got an overabundance of herbs going on too, but they are in a super heated little raised bed completely south facing and baking against the garage wall and I can’t think of anything else which will take that heat except a few rose and a fig. You know, I used to make beautiful chèvre with goat milk and mushroom rennet. I wonder why I stopped making it? Mmm chèvre and figs… 🙂

    • mushroom rennet, must look into that.. hmm.. I love goats cheese, it would be the only reason to milk goats for me, but milking a cow AND goats seems a little over the top! Morning Veronica.. c

      • Morning C, wonder if that rennet can be made at home. I’ve no idea. Do you collect your own wild mushrooms? I do but I’ve grown up in a culture where it’s normal to identify and collect wild mushrooms. Actually, collecting wild food always sounds like a great idea. Do you have any time for that? It’s coming up to mushroom season here and they dry and store beautifully, (Except for the shaggy manes, they have to be cooked because they liquefy otherwise.)

        • There is no wild ANYTHING out here, every corner in the midwest is either mown, sprayed or cropped. Over here they buy abandoned farms so they can knock the buildings down and plant more GM corn. I have never even seen a wild mushroom here, of any kind. Or wild blackberries, or gnarly old orchards. The land has been assaulted by fake fertilisers which leach every iota of nutrient from the surrounding soil and increasingly strong aerial pesticides and fungicides, not to mention the round-up build-up in the ground and all the waterways. Osmosis deals with the rest. Nothing grows wild here Veronica. Not for miles and miles and miles. Sad aye. I would love to go finding wild food with you one day, sounds like somthing i would really enjoy too! c

              • Oh groan! Time to move to an organic island int he middle of nowhere with no ill winds blowing the pesticides around. Tuesday I wrote a post featuring magazine articles from the 1960’s about dunking logs in various chemical solutions to burn them in colour flames. I said I can’t believe how many things we used to do to try to kill ourselves and now Monsanto has taken that out of our hands. 😦

  4. I love it! Thought of you today when I was at the market buying things we can’t grow…such is city life. I do not think I could sustain this family with plantings on our polluted little balcony…but I can dream and live vicariously.

    • It would be hard with only a balcony but at least you know where you can buy local foods, that in itself is a dream! Just the research to find what is in season and being brought into town and finding it .. is a win! I lived in big cities for years! So I do know what you mean..c

    • I can’t find your comment Charlotte, but i sure it was lovely, i shall go and check spam, surely you did not end up in there.. c

  5. I really enjoy reading your blog! This is the way we live all the time…not in a challenge…so I find it most intersting that you are trying this way of life out and having such a great time! I can see that you are truly getting into it! It is hard work and the hours are long, but farm life is a great way to live. I married a farmer and before this major life …I was a Cali girl who shopped the farmers market in the Bay area of SF! I loved my life in CA. but when I met this wonderful man from the high plains…well…that is just the beginning of the story! I fell in love with not only him…but the way of life out here. I have never worked physically this hard in my life…not even working out in the gym everyday was this physical! 🙂 No comparison! LOL
    I am a research hound and recipe thief! I love your recipes and will be make the cheeses you have posted. I do make cheese for my cheesecakes by hanging plain Greek Yogurt in cheese cloth and letting it drain. Will purchase some rennet and try the farmers cheese. Thank you for sharing!
    Just finished freezing corn and canning tomato sauces! My salsa is in the jars ready for football and tomato soups are in the pantry ready to sip when our summer is over!!! Fall is breathing down the back of my neck!!! Brrrrrr……
    Still have the heirloom pumpkins and buttercup squash to can. Then I am done!!!! Will make my jellies, jams and preserves after the beans are harvested.
    Have a great day! Sincerely, Mere

    • Morning Mere and thank you for being so supportive. I grew up on a BEACH! So this life is far removed from my roots. No comparison, then big cities all my life until only 6 years ago when I came out here to marry and develop a real farm out of a industrially cropped flat field. So it has been a lot of work creating and establishing every SINGLE stage, right down to the fences, growing the grass (no forage here when I came), making gates, digging and planting every garden – there was not even ONE flower or bush – and rebuilding the interior of a ruined old barn and raising each animal including the milking cow and the beef cows from birth myself. Turning a broken down workshop into a hen house and importing the bees. Not to mention our home. So to get this far in this short a time is filling me with excitement. You are right I really do love this life. You must have the most beautiful collection of food in the cellar for winter. c

  6. It all looks yummy. But how could you manage without carrots and parsnips? The potatoes will be a problem, and I guess you’ll be eating a lot of home-made pasta. I can’t somehow see rice growing in Illinois! Could you make balsamic vinegar, I wonder?

    It’s gone all grey and miserable here and I’m fed up with being in bed.

    You have a nice day. Love, ViV

    • I could grow balsamic grapes (though it may be too cold) but i would have to wait 8 years for the vinegar to cure. I have definitely looked into it. i love balsamic. Just stay there in bed until you can’t bear it, I hope you have started your exercises to build those muscles back up though or is it too early? c

  7. It sounds like you are doing well on the challenge, and learning. Now you mentioned, lamb, which I’ve never eaten. But the college my son is now attending serves lamb. Yes. Incredible. Good eats for those college kids.

    I love all the fresh vegetables this time of year. Good thing I really love veggies.

    • Lamb and hogget are so easy to grow, just add grass! How wonderful that they serve it at the college.. I know of almost no person around here who has eaten or wants to try lamb. Thats why we have so much of it. We can’t even give it away! c

      • oh please send your lamb to me!!!! I love lamb (and Mutton). Roast with mint sauce, chops, Shepherd Pie, Lamb Shanks in stews and casseroles. What’s not to love? The thing I really miss is the traditional Roast Leg of Lamb at Easter, with Jersey new potatoes and spring peas! And a rich brown gravy. Here they have ham for Easter??? which is really not the same. Lamb is so really expensive here in VA. Although I have found a farmer that sells pasture raised and finished lamb an we are becoming good friends!

        • Tell your new farmer friend you will raise orphan lambs for him and he can pay you in kind. Bet you would do a great job and the little fellas would fit right in with your menagerie! imagine what the neighbours would say then!! However if it is cheaper for me to send you some frozen lamb i can do that too, just let me know. c

  8. Congratulations on your challenge so far! It’s certainly a great way to learn how to adjust your gardening practises. I altered mine slightly this year as in the past we’ve had far too many cabbages and caulis for the two of us and they also take up such a lot of room which can be used more efficiently – for more staggered plantings for instance. The problem that I have with staggered planting is remembering to do it at the height of the B an B season!
    Happy eating,

    • I am thinking of naming a day, Monday for instance, for when I either plant out or sow. I also just quietly need more control in the vegetable gardens, to date it has been Johns territory. he does the greens and the picking and I do the animals. But maybe I can just sneak more plantings in there, I do all the weeding anyway. We will see, i have to approach this carefully.. c

        • it is an excellent idea, i have a calender open on my desk at all times but that is because i am a bear of very little brain, if I don’t write it down i forget! c

      • Left over pastry from the other night, line with apples, and pour over the custard. Cook at 350 – 325 for an hour. Custard was um.. 3 eggs, 3/4 cup of milk, 2 big tablespoons honey or 1/4 cup of sugar. I grated nutmeg and lemon zest on top. As a side note. I always cook the pies on a hot pizza stone so the base cooks crunchy. and i am always in too much of a hurry to blind cook it first! My sister in law makes the same pie but with pears! Yum! c

        • OK I have ‘saved’ that to my “Real Food” file and will try it next weekend. This weekend I am being ‘Sociable’ and going to a cocktail party Saturday night and a Bridal Brunch on Sunday. The most I have been out all year LOL

        • Hah! Celi, I didn’t even have to ask! It looked so good, that everyone else wanted it too! Thanks for sharing! 😀
          The only suggestion I would have for you for gluten free flour would be to grow almonds. But they take an age to grow big enough to amount to much. Do they even grow where you are? If so, then perhaps you could barter with someone who has the established trees? Then it’s hulling and grinding them to a fine flour. There are many online recipes using almond flour, but perhaps Mere Frost will share a good one with us! 😀

  9. You know what is amazing as either vegetarian or lamb? CURRY! I love, love, love me some curry. It’s also easy to make (20 minutes start to finish) and can be frozen in ziplocs for later if you make a huge pot of it! I don’t know if you’re allowed spices from your cabinet for cooking but if you are, brew up a big pot of curry and feat on it for days with some rice or home-made bread!

    • We love curry too and eat a good curry at least once a week in the winter when i cook it on the wood stove, what is your favourite vegetarian curry? c

  10. A wonderful challenge. We’re far from self sufficient though at the moment most of our fruit and veg are from the garden, the meat is home reared or from local farms and our bread from home grown wheat. But with carrots, beetroot, beans, courgette, potatoes or tomatoes for supper every day, the rest of the family are pleading for something different. I shall obviously have to be more inventive.
    I can’t believe lamb is such a luxury. We have it all the time here in the UK.

      • I think you are pretty close.. this is why i am giving it a serious try, and really, it is great, with your big garden and the farm I am sure you would be surprised how long you could go without using bought stuff. But you are right about the boredom of the same ingredients every time.. we have to be clever! c

  11. The sunflower is my favorite photo. You have captured the promise of its potential.

    There are some truly wonderful vegetarian feasts to be had. We eat very little meat because girl-child is a vegetarian, and I don’t miss it very much.

  12. Cinders, we are finally back from Mich. and flying over the midwest really gives you an idea of how many huge tracts of land have been industrialized…is that a word? You having taken back your small parcel and turning it back into a healthy, productive, living, piece of earth is nothing short of wonderful and amazing! Was it just an abandoned farm when you and your John started your lives together there, or was it their farm that you have so beautifully transformed?
    I’m making your custard this week-end but with pears like you mentioned because we have so many right now…It looks delicious!!

    • fantastic, you should have told me i would have waved!! this was an old farmhands cottage, family owned, John had lived here 13 years .. alone.. before I came, so you can imagine! c

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  14. I can’t help smiling when I see a sunflower. You remind me of a sunflower yourself, Miss C.
    What I can’t understand is why fruit trees around here (suburbia) aren’t really producing healthy fruits. For instance, a peach tree on the corner, a pear tree next door, they drop generally rotten fruit. How is it your fruits and vegetables are so beautiful AND edible. Are they all pest-free?

    • No , we certainly are not pest free, organic is never pest free, I wonder why they are not fruiting, lack of water? hmm, that is a mystery.. c

  15. You are doing really well so far. Do you store potatoes for the winter? We have to harvest ours and figure out how to store them as we planted quite a bit compared to last year. Parsnips out of the garden is the best way. So good. I hated parsnips until we started growing them. A huge difference!

    • I would love to store potatoes in the basement if I could grow enough.. but it gets so hot, and potatoes hate hot feet! c

  16. Don’t the herbs go CRAZY when in the ground? I hate to kill a happy plant, but I have enough Oregano and Sage to supply most of my town. I’m happy-ish to see that the one plant I have that is ahead of yours is my sunflowers! Tho it seems my first-bloomed has gone mouldy and not to seed, poo – I was looking forward to feasting the birds on the seed-head when winter comes.

    • Oh! I forgot, I was going to ask if almond trees would grow in your zone? We usually do low-to-no carb and almond flour works nearly as good as wheat, especially for sweet pies. Fab with apple or pumpkin, anyway!

      • miserably almonds make my throat itch and then swallowing gets hard to do, so I do tend to stay clear of them, but I love the smell of them.. c

        • Oh, poo! I was just asking my son if anything bothers him like that, because walnuts and blue cheese make my tongue itch! Explaining that feeling to someone who’s never felt it is nearly impossible! That’s a real shame, I use ground almond as a replacement for breadcrumbs in so many things 😦

          • I use flax seed flour as my replacement, no itchy tongue and muddled talk! I understand the feeling, it is not nice!

  17. We are with you in spirit in your Sept challenge – I have just been loving the comments and contributions from the Farmy Lounge. While it’s not a challenge, in any sense of the word, we also a month or so ago, made a few changes to our habits so that farmers market produce is our predominant source of food, we’re eating up the freezer & pantry stash, making home made pizzas on a Friday night instead of getting takeaway, eating in instead of out, taking more lunches to work than ever – every day if we can… and we feel great and are so happy to have shrugged off the last of the illusions & apathy that had us patronizing supermarkets. Last weekend, for the first time ever, I turned 2 kgs tomatoes into crockpot tomato sauce with basil, garlic and onions inspired by your posts. It’s taken not much effort at all develop a new routine. The rewards are fantastic, and we are living better for less cost. An unexpected bonus of our increased DIY food efforts is the G.O. my partner, now is more involved in food prep, and spending time next each other at the kitchen bench. So, a huge thank you to you and the Farmy Commenters for helping me see how possible & desirable it is 🙂

    • Well that is just stunning, i feel a little tearful actually. kitchens do bring people together and the money you can save by taking your lunch to work is astronomical not to mention the health benefits.. I love that you think that the Fellowship and i have had an influence but i think you were well on your way. You are clever and so kind. Just that wild book you sent me says you love food! Anyone who loves real food is SO ahead of the game already! I bet your crock pot sauce is divine.. that scent in the winter is so uplifting.. c

      • I was doing a lot of reading and not much else… seeing it in action, people living it is what made the difference 🙂

  18. Sounds like the challenge is going wonderfully, how about growing chickpeas for flour? Here the flour of ground chickpeas is called besan but I think it is also called gram in other places. I think it will grow in your area, it is then dried and ground.

    A wee update on the piglets, they are now just over one month old and doing really well I think. However Baby has got a touch of the Charlottes going on. She has not become aggro just very pushy around feed time. Additionally she is getting out of places, again at feeding time, although so far she is respecting the electric fence. I have a quiet large pen where she and her little ones reside with fences made from roofing sheets that must be about 80cm high, I usually let her out into the bigger electirfied pen to feed but last night she plopped straight over the top of that and into her much larger electrified when I was bringing her her dinner. She tore a bit of the metal and was very lucky I think not to tear her teats, anyway only thing I can think to do with that is put some barb around the stop stop her. She has also taken against the dog, last week she broke into the garden then had fight with him poor old fella. It is making life very difficult and a bit stressful. One more week and she is back off to see the Boar so the babies can be weaned and the boys will be desexed. I am hoping that after weaning she will not be so food focused (she cannot be hungry I am feeding her too much for that and physically she is fine) or bored or whatever and she will calm down somewhat. I will have to wait to see because she is really to big to have around if she is going to be this pushy all of the time.

    • yeah.. barbed wire won’t stop her.. might be dangerous.. I left the piglets too long on Charlotte, maybe your Baby is ready to wean them, if they are strong and eating you can wean them from four weeks on (so i read) . (i went 8 .. WAY too long) and castrate those boys asap, the bigger they get the harder they are to hold and it hurts more. She is a good sow though, she has brought though all those piglets. I would wean them tomorrow, she wants out. All those babies can wear a girl down. When I weaned them i enticed Charlotte away, very fast, right out the back with a bucket of feed where it was quiet. She was gone before she knew it. Once she got some quiet she settled down a little. They do get big. Do you feel brave. i feel brave sometimes raising pigs! c

    • OH YES! I have piles still coming, and I am sure this teensy weensy cold snap will only be for the week. I would love to make a tomato sauce from a recipe made when all the vegetables were organic! Do you have a link?.. c

      • Well I think so yes! The Edmonds cookbook has the spine neatly taped and tied with a lovely blue ribbon.
        I send you my favourites with a little comment about each. Hope you enjoy.
        I have another oak seedling growing; I’m so pleased. On looking up the oak for you I found it was on endangered list; the lowest risk category fortunately.

  19. Your apple custard pie looks divine. I’m glad you’re learning to make the farmy more manageable and sustaining. The bees look happy. Love the sunflowers!

  20. Well, you are learning as time passes: what works, what does not and how to improve your self sufficiency year by year ~ must feel SO good!Perchance this time next year the whole family will be willing to go along . . . 🙂 ! Love those sunflowers also and stupidly wonder how you use them . . . ?

  21. It all sounds so healthy, as well as sustainable. I love the photo of the bee with golden wings, zooming in to the sugar water. Congratulations on a successful challenge: it’s certainly been a good trial run.

    • Do you have little pots of herbs in your RV.. I have always wondered if they would grow in a travelling environment.. c

  22. Think what you are doing is great, I wouldn’t get very far on a few tomatoes and courgettes:) Do you leave the heads on your sunflowers or harvest them to save the seeds for later in the year? This is the first time I have grown them with the birds in mind so any tips gratefully accepted:)

  23. That pie looks amazing! This challenge is really a wonderful way to get a good estimate of how much food you will need. It’s interesting how it takes so much more than one would think.

  24. I’m enjoying hearing about this home grown challenge. I grew potatoes . . . once. I barely had enough spuds for a single meal.

    We had a potato farm around the corner . . . Flock Farms . . . I bought my potatoes there ever after. 😉

  25. Oh we used to hoard those little red potatoes from the garden making them last as long as possible.
    Laughed at your analysis of what needs to be grown in the garden – sounds familiar!
    It all looks yummy

  26. Pingback: glory glory to… pizza | elladee_images

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