Shopping for Topsoil, Compost, and Mulch

Today’s fun was a massive purchase of topsoil, compost, and mulch from The Rockpile, which is one of my favorite local garden and landscape supply stores. The shopping list: 10 cubic yards of their Premium topsoil blend (a mix of locally sourced topsoil, sand, and leaf compost), 10 cubic yards of compost, and another 15 cubic yards of mulch. The good black mulch for the front yard, to look nice, and the “organic brown” for the backyard, where I’m more focused on sheer “keep the weeds down” functionality than on “let’s wow the neighbors”.

About half the topsoil and compost is going to enhance and raise my main vegetable garden, as that area ends up with a lot of standing water after heavy rainstorms, and needs more building up  than than I can generate from my compost pile!  The rest will go towards adding fruit trees and building new planting beds in the front and back yards. I’m looking also at filling in a little along the north side of the house, where the land slopes down from the house towards our swale/drainage ditch.  I want to turn that area into a small path with plantings to the sides.

While I was there I also ordered two tons of decorative blue granite “river pebbles” to fill in  the edging between my back patio and the house.  I suspect there will be plenty extra, but I have no doubt I can “find a spot”. 🙂

I’m planning on five separate deliveries, so that I don’t kill myself trying to deal with all of it at once. For reference: 1 cubic yard of topsoil = about 13 wheelbarrow-fulls. I’m calling this my springtime exercise program.

The Rockpile, Avon, Ohio - photo of garden center building with flower pots and flowers in front.

The Rockpile – Garden Center and Landscape Supplies in Avon, Ohio

(Note: I do not receive promotional consideration for this post. I just like The Rockpile and I believe in supporting local businesses. I did receive permission from them to use their photo).

Squirrel with Mushrooms and Leeks

My sister knows that I love wild game but have a hard time finding it here in northern Ohio, so she will often bring a cooler filled with goodies when she comes down to visit. This time the
gift box included a pair of squirrels. I was more in the mood for rice than potatoes, I had a jar of dried mushrooms in the pantry, and I had just picked up some nice looking leeks at the grocery store. This is the result.

If you haven’t tried squirrel, my impression is that it tastes like very gamy dark meat chicken. There’s not a huge amount of meat on a squirrel: 2 squirrels gave me around a cup and a half of meat, plus a little pile of scraps to make the cat very, very happy.


2 to 4 squirrels, cut up (like you would a chicken: cut the legs off of the back)
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
1 large leek, white stem only, halved and sliced into 1/2 inch ribbons. t(I save the green leafy par for making soups or stocks)
1 cup dried mushroom blend, soaked in water to cover for 15 minutes
1 8 oz package fresh white or crimini mushrooms, sliced
2 cups chicken broth

1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

Flour or cornstarch to thicken
Milk or half and half


Add olive oil, garlic, onions, leeks, and fresh mushrooms to dutch oven and saute until onions start to become translucent.

Add squirrel and red wine.

Saute, stirring well. Add a little more olive oil if needed. Note: braising meat usually says that you start by sauteing  it in oil “until browned”. I didn’t wait that long. I just stirred it a bit until the meat started to look a little less red and a little more gray. Does squirrel even brown?

Add dried mushrooms along with the soak water, chicken broth, sea salt, and pepper to pan.

Bring to boil, then lower the heat  and simmer until squirrel is falling off the bone, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Remove squirrel, let cool, and remove meat from bone. Add the meat back into the pot OR reserve the meat and add it individually to the plate. (Do this if there’s not a lot of meat relative to the quantity of broth and vegetables).

Optional: Thicken the broth to your preferred consistency, and/or add milk or half and half  to make it “cream of mushroom and leek with squirrel”.

Serve over rice or sweet potato.

Crockpot Italian Sausage with Peppers and Onions in Tomato Sauce

This recipe is from my sister-in-law Marsha, who is amazing in the kitchen.


2-3 pounds of sweet Italian sausage. Use sausage from a real Italian store if possible, you will taste the difference.
2 jars of spaghetti sauce, to cover. Use your favorite brand and flavor.
Sliced green, yellow and red peppers. At least 2 of each, quantity depends on how many people you are feeding, and how much you want to eat.
2 large onions, sliced. More if you like.
Italian seasoning (she didn’t give quantities, but I’d start with two tablespoons)

Optional: shredded carrots, garlic.

Also optional, but a good idea: add meatballs, because why not? (not the pre-cooked kind)


Add all ingredients to crockpot, cook on low for 8 hours.

Easy “Onion Soup Mix” Meatloaf

This is about as easy as meatloaf gets. Makes two meatloafs


3 lbs ground beef (I use 85% lean)
2 cups panko bread crumbs (Can substitute regular bread crumbs or oatmeal)
2 1/2 cups spaghetti sauce (Whatever brand and flavor you like best).
2 eggs
1 large chopped onion

1 package onion soup mix (I like Lipton, but use whatever brand you like)
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Ketchup to cover completely (I use Heinz, but again, use your favorite brand or even make your own)!

Preheat oven to 375
In a large bowl, thoroughly mix all ingredients together except ketchup. I use a strong wooden spoon, or even just go ahead and use your hands.
Divide in half and put half each in two bread pans.

Thickly top with ketchup. Top of meatloaf should be completely covered. I’ve never measured, I just squeeze it out.
Place on middle rack in oven, cook for 1 1/2 hours.
Insert baster at corner of bread-pan, remove excess grease.
Let cool for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Makes 2 meatloafs. Can serve hot or cold.

Serving ideas
Traditional: serve with mashed potatoes and gravy on the side.
My favorite: gravy on the mashies, more ketchup on the meatloaf.

Leftovers: There’s nothing like a meatloaf sandwich on your favorite bread, topped with mayonnaise.

Potluck Potato Salad with Kielbasa and Eggs

I love this potato salad.
It’s a fantastic late summer recipe, made with new potatoes, garlic, and herbs fresh harvested from the garden. Add kielbasa from the local farm market and free-range brown eggs from your neighbor’s backyard hens, and it becomes heavenly…

Bonus: it’s a hit at potlucks or cookouts.


12 medium red potatoes, cut into chunks
4 hard boiled eggs, coarsely chopped
1 medium red onion, finely chopped

1/4 cup malt vinegar (can substitute cider vinegar if you don’t have malt vinegar).
3/4 cup mayonnaise (I used Kraft Olive Oil Mayo)
3/4 cup sour cream

1 tsp black peper
1 tbsp garlic – minced (around 3 or 4 cloves, depending on size)
1/2 cup celery, finely chopped including leaves. I use the celery hearts, but any part is fine.
2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped chives


1 pound kielbasa or smoked sausage, quartered lengthwise then sliced into 1/4 inch thick slices. (So they are shaped like teensy slices of pizza)


Boil potatoes until just done to tenderness: when you stab them with a fork, the fork should go in easily. Drain, let cool to room temperature. Save the cooking water to use later in a soup or for feeding a sourdough.

If using kielbasa, saute the kielbasa in a lightly oiled pan until browned, let cool. If you have a cast iron skillet, use that, it’s the best.

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.

Try not to eat it all before bringing it to the pot-luck.

I haven’t tried it this way, but I bet this would be unbelievable made with muffaletta (Italian Olive Salad)