These People Cook 1,000 Thanksgiving Dinners From Scratch

I know amazing people. Their names are Ben and Niki Weldon. Every year for the last 15 years, starting when they were young, they have helped cook and serve Thanksgiving dinner for over a thousand people in Olmsted Falls, Ohio. This includes meals delivered to the homebound plus all nearby police and fire personnel working on the holiday.

On Thanksgiving day, each table is covered with a tablecloth and features a centerpiece. Maybe the diners can’t afford to provide a traditional homemade Thanksgiving meal for their families, maybe they don’t have anyone to share it with, or maybe they’re not healthy enough to cook their own holiday dinners. At this dinner they don’t ask questions—these people are their guests.

They buy 30 pumpkins, roast them, transform the pulp into tasty filling, and bake pies.

Lots of pies!

They peel 500 lbs. of potatoes

and mash them with real butter and cream.

They roast 40 turkeys

and make gallons of gravy

as well as 60 loaves of bread, gallons of soup, and lots of side dishes.

They don’t do this alone, they work alongside the same wonderful volunteers who’ve helped cook and serve this Thanksgiving meal year after year. The dinner, decorations, and deliveries couldn’t happen without them these dedicated people.

Last year, Ben and Niki were asked to take over as permanent organizers. They agreed even though much of the cost rests on their shoulders. They’re busy fixing up their first home and are parents of a beautiful baby girl but the Free Thanksgiving Dinner is also a priority for them.

Niki says,

Our goal is to provide not only the homemade meal, but also a place people can come together. This is what the holiday holds for us and how we give thanks for all that we have each year.

We are dedicated to continuing this tradition but looking to ease the financial burden of making this special meal. Please help us give thanks by giving to others.

If you’re inspired to help, here are some ways you can pitch in.

~Donate any amount through the dinner’s new fundraising page.

~Donate food, time, or funds by contacting Niki at

~ Like the Free Thanksgiving Dinner page on Facebook and share with your friends.

~Bid during the Facebook Online Auction to Benefit the Free Thanksgiving Dinner, November 3rd to 5th. Items up for grabs include West Park Station, Starbucks, Aladdin’s Eatery, Don’s Pomeroy House, Synergy Woods Paintball, Handmade By Nats, First Watch, and Eventide Photography.

“As we work to create light for others, we naturally light our own way.” ~Mary Anne Radmacher

Posted in community, compassion, gratitude, hope, local food, Thanksgiving, tradition | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In Defense of Beets (with recipes)

beet recipes, beet baby food, beet dip, fermented beets,

Wikimedia Commons

No, they don’t taste like dirt. Really.

Beets are beautiful. They’re packed with nutrition from root to leaves, including antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that aren’t found in more commonly consumed plant families.

Use the greens as you would fresh spinach, collards, chard, or kale. They’re more delicately flavored than many greens and add welcome color to salads. The roots, so dark and unpromising, shine with jewel-like color once the skin is removed. Use them in soups, salads, appetizers, smoothies, well, just about any way you can imagine. Here are a few unconventional suggestions.


beet fruit dip, tickled pink dip,

Tickled Pink Dip

Tickled Pink Dip

This bright concoction contains just enough beets to add lively color to your table. No one said you have to fess up about the ingredients.


1 small fresh beet peeled, chopped and cooked until tender, about a quarter cup total (if using canned beets, make sure your product contains no vinegar)

1 20 oz can crushed pineapple in juice, drained (reserve liquid) or 2 cups fresh pineapple, diced

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons or more honey, to taste

dollop of softened cream cheese or sour cream–optional


Process all ingredients in blender until smooth. Add a bit of the reserved pineapple juice if necessary to process. If more sweetness is desired, add additional honey to taste. If you choose to add the optional cream cheese or dairy, stir it in only slightly so it creates a swirl pattern.

Serve with fresh pineapple wedges, apple slices, strawberries or other firm fruit. Or add as a pink schmear over cream cheese slathered bagels, toast, or muffins.


Pickled Cauliflower & Beets

Pickled Cauliflower & Beets

The beets in this recipe turn cauliflower florets a lovely soft pink. Serve a few on top of a dark kale salad, alongside spicy ethnic food, next to a bright yellow omelet, wherever the color contrast makes for a pleasing culinary experience. They taste great and provide lots of probiotic goodness.


half a head of cauliflower, separated into small florets

2 large cooked beets, cut into six or more pieces

9 whole garlic cloves

3 bay leaves

1/2 teaspoon dill or pickling spice

3 small hot peppers, cayenne or jalapeno (optional), sliced in half

1 1/2 tablespoons pickling salt

1 quart water


Set out three quart mason jars (or a 3 quart fermenting container). Put equal amounts of cauliflower florets and beet pieces in each jar. To each jar, add 3 cloves of garlic, 1 bay leaf, a dash of dill or pickling spice, 2 pieces hot pepper, and 1/2 tablespoon pickling salt. Fill each jar with water to the rim.

Weight the contents to keep all solids under the liquids and screw lids on loosely. Place the jars in a pie pan or other plate to catch any seepage. Leave the jars at room temperature for five to seven days, tasting occasionally. When it has reached the stage of pickling sourness you prefer, cap the jars more firmly and store in the refrigerator.


Blushing Brownies

These brownies are a subversive way to add the fiber and nutrients of beets to dessert.

Blushing Brownies


1/2 cup all purpose or gluten-free flour

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup butter (or coconut oil) melted

1/3 cup cooked beets, pureed (see note)

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup chocolate chips or good quality chocolate broken in pieces

optional, 3/4 cup chocolate chips or good quality chocolate broken in pieces


  1. Preheat oven to 350 and spray a 9 x 9 pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Whisk together flour, cocoa, and sugar. Add bitter, beets, eggs, vanilla, and 1/2 cup chocolate chips—mixing after each addition until smooth.
  3. Flop batter into pan, spread evenly, and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until the center is somewhat firm to the touch.
  4. If you want them topped with chocolate, sprinkle the optional 3/4 cup of chocolate over the surface immediately after removing the pan from the oven. Cover the baking dish with a flat cookie sheet or tight covering of aluminum foil. Leave the cover in place for five minutes or so, then remove and spread the melted chocolate evenly over the brownies.

Note: I toss a 1/2 cup of chopped beets (additional, because chopped beets take up more room in a measuring cup than pureed beets) in the blender with the eggs and melted butter.



Fuschia-hued baby food.

Fuschia-hued baby food.

Beet & Apple Baby Food

There’s no real recipe for this. Roast or boil a beet just till it’s done (to preserve nutrients). Wash three or four organic apples, then chop. Toss apples and beets into a blender, whirling it all into a sweet fuschia delight. Keep blending till it’s smooth, or use a fine sieve for that purpose.

For very young babies, probably under seven months, you may want to cook the apples a bit. I don’t. Since I use a Vita-Mix, I don’t peel the apples either. Blended long enough the whole concoction is perfectly smooth without any added water and doesn’t contain any bits of peel. I freeze this in ice cube trays, then let a cube or two defrost for an hour before Olivia’s next meal.

All we are saying, Is give beets a chance.

All we are saying,
Is give beets a chance.

Posted in appetizer recipe, baby food recipe, dessert recipe, eating, fermented recipe, kitchen arts, snack recipe | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Good Gardening Intentions Not So Evident

good gardening intentions,

Warsaw University Botanical Garden plan

My gardens are made of the best intentions.

In the winter I flip through gardening catalogs and map out planting schemes. I read diverse and wonderful books like Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhousesand Invasive Plant Medicine: The Ecological Benefits and Healing Abilities of Invasives. I tell myself I’ll be a better gardener the next spring. More energetic, more diligent, more heat tolerant.

That doesn’t happen.

I intend to plant with deep reverence for seed and soil. And I start out that way. But somehow I always find myself hurrying to get one more row in before the sprinkling rain becomes a downpour. The seeds I so carefully saved dump out as I bend over like peasant women have done for eons. The dirt I thought reasonably crumbly is, instead, filled with clay-ish clods unlikely to make a hospitable home for new life.

Indoors it’s not much better. No one is more optimistic than I with my peat pots, grow lights, and warming trays. I talk to those seeds as I plant them, bless them as I mist them, greet sprouts with happy enthusiasm. Somehow between March starting and May setting out, those plants end up looking like the odd kids among their nursery-raised fellows.

Then the heat hits and my best intentions fail. This year, just as every other year, my not-so-well-maintained garden is a constant surprise. I mistake watermelon radish sprouts for weeds and pull them all out. The row I replanted, thinking the beets didn’t germinate, now contains both beets and arugula. Volunteer tomatoes and scarlet runner beans thrill me. Volunteer tomatillo plants plague me. The fig trees we planted against our stucco’d south-facing wall are thriving after a harsh winter, with actual figs ripening. The hardy kiwis we planted against a giant arbor are, embarrassingly, only a foot tall.

But the biggest delight is how much the garden doesn’t need me. My ministrations are marginal, hardly necessary next to nature’s real magic. Sure, I water pretty diligently from our rain barrel and pond. I weed a little every day, but not much, since hot weather makes me feel like keeling over. But I’m not remotely responsible for the riot of life growing around me. These flowers, vegetables, and weeds are all beautiful.

This time of year is truly nature’s long gift-giving holiday. Every day I come in with armfuls of produce. A basket of basil and garlic to make pesto. Cucumbers and tender squash for salad. Baskets of beans, potatoes, and kale to layer in a frittata with our hens’ eggs. A few tomatoes for salsa. Soon we’ll be canning day after day, filling shelves in the cellar with food that’ll last until late next summer. My good intentions may not be evident along the rows ragged with weeds, but Earth’s good intentions are abundantly obvious. For that I’m endlessly grateful.



Posted in gardening, gratitude, laziness, nature, weeds | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Gardener’s Quotes



“Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful. They are sunshine, food, and medicine for the soul.”  Luther Burbank



“A weed is but an unloved flower.”



“Garden: One of a vast number of free outdoor restaurants operated by
charity-minded amateurs in an effort to provide healthful, balanced
meals for insects, birds and animals.” Henry Beard



“Earth is here so kind, that just tickle her with a hoe and she laughs with a harvest.” Douglas William Jerrold



“Land, then, is not merely soil; it is a fountain of energy flowing through a circuit of soils, plants, and animals. ” Aldo Leopold



“I do some of my best thinking while pulling weeds.” Martha Smith



“Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.” May Sarton



“To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves.”  Mahatma Gandhi



“Cabbage: a familiar kitchen-garden vegetable about as large and wise as a man’s head.”  Ambrose Bierce



“In the garden I tend to drop my thoughts here and there. To the flowers I whisper the secrets I keep and the hopes I breathe. I know they are there to eavesdrop for the angels.” Dodinsky


“Gardening is the art that uses flowers and plants as paint,
and the soil and sky as canvas.”  Elizabeth Murray



“No greater thing is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.” Epictetus



“Shall I not have intelligence with the earth? Am I not partly leaves and vegetable mould myself?”  Henry David Thoreau


“When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant.”  unknown


Posted in gardening, photos, quotes, weeds | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

We Can’t Even Give Water Lilies Away…

About ten years ago my sister-in-law sweetly shared some water lilies from a small water feature in her yard. I think she gave us five. They’re beautiful. The flowers reach up in graceful blooms during the sunny part of the day and fold into themselves close to dusk.

Despite their delicate appearance, they’re hardy. The original five gradually self-propagated year after year. We can now watch frogs hop from lily pad to lily pad across many feet. We can now see well over 100 blooms. What we now have are too many water lilies.

We’ve tried adding sterile grass carp to the pond because they supposedly eat water lilies. No noticeable effect. We’ve tried raking the lilies to the side to pull out. Not effective enough. We’ve even tried offering them on Freecycle to anyone who wants them. Not a single taker. We don’t want to eliminate the plants, just cut down on the population. Since we’re a pesticide/herbicide free place we have no intention of poisoning them.

So unless you want to come on over for some free water lilies (lots of them) what has to happen is this. We’ll be wading in and digging out as many as we can to toss on a compost pile. Chances are it’ll be scene worth recording because I’m likely to fall down, tip over, and otherwise demonstrate my awkwardness. You will NOT be seeing footage of this!

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New Sculpture From Old Metal


Bit of Earth Farm sculpture, repurposed metal sculpture, junk sculpture,

Repurposed metal sculpture from Bit of Earth Farm.

Mark and Kirby just finished this piece, a six-foot-something tall gong repurposed from all sorts of metal. Here’s how it’s done.



1941 oxygen canister

grapeshot cannonball

farm implement disc

leftover steel gas line

steel rod

tow hook

lifting hook



Apply welding equipment. Mix in vast amounts of effort, time, and creativity. Add sweat.

Place in garden. Hit gong with cannonball as desired.


We’re grateful that our friends (and amazing artists) Steve and Debra Bures will be offering the piece for sale starting this weekend as they celebrate Elements Gallery‘s 25th year anniversary. You’ll want to visit the charming town of Peninsula as well as their enticing gallery. While you’re there, give the gong a hearty cannon ball thwack!

Elements Gallery, Peninsula Ohio

Here’s the gong in place, in front of their gallery.

Bit of Earth Farm, Elements Gallery, repurposed metal art,

Elements Gallery garden now gong-enhanced.


Posted in art, gratitude, repurposing | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Gee, That’s Huge

Picture this covered by fruit-bearing vines.

The man I love has an odd fondness for doing things in a big way. Not big as in loud or ostentatious. He’s simply a fan of what’s sturdy, made to last, and sized to handle whatever might happen. He’s had plenty of opportunity while fixing up our no longer falling down house. The back porch is now built on 6 x 6 rather than more standard 4 x 4. It has heavy beams and railings, plus a lovely blue metal ceiling. Chances are it’ll outlast the house.

Bit of Earth Farm porch

No photo does this sturdy porch justice.

Years ago I made fun of him for buying several giant stockpots (the largest holds 8 gallons). Turns out they’re essential for autumn canning days when we transform two bushels of apples into applesauce, a few gallons of grape juice into jelly, and the fruits of 30 or so tomato plants into marinara, stewed tomatoes, and salsa. The pot also holds enough chili or mulled cider for giant gatherings we love to host here, holidays as well as Odd Second Saturday Suppers.

One of our smaller stockpots on the right.

Yes, I made fun of the giant masher he bought too. But then, I cook at least 5 pounds of potatoes every time I make mashed potatoes, so it’s entirely useful.


Potato masher that dwarfs a spoon.

And then there’s this mallet. A few more and we could play a Paul Bunyan-sized game of croquet.


A mallet taller than our fire place.

So when we talked about a structure for hardy kiwi plants known for their vigorous climbing vines, I shouldn’t have been surprised at what he built.


Drilling post holes.

Putting sides together.

Putting sides together.

Making it level before putting cement around posts.

Soon, hardy kiwi fruits will be ripening!

It’s adorable in a huge way. It’s 24 feet, rising to a 12 foot, 9 inch peak. We call it an arbor, our daughter calls it Kiwihenge,  archaeologists may some day call it “what the heck?”





Posted in gardening, home repair | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments