Posted in Farming

Farming by the Moon and Canning Jar Cloches

It is both exciting and daunting to be farming in a slightly different climate.  We went up one zone and added at least a month to our growing season.  I am attempting Brussels sprouts, artichokes, and sweet potatoes with my new found month.  It is quite hot here in the summer though so this is really all a big learning curve.  As soon as I thought I was pretty dang good at gardening, the new landscape will again be a firm teacher.

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I have been farming according to the Farmer’s Almanac and have been very intrigued by my findings.  As the moon is waxing the above ground crops are put in.  Promptly following the recommended days of planting were three days of rain.  As the moon was waning we planted our potatoes dutifully on the days specified and it was followed by rain.  The statistics and patterns of the earth’s cycles recorded for so very long make it pretty accurate to tell the weather and the best time to plant.  It is a nice way to up our odds in the garden.

cloche

I started seeds in the special little plugs but ran out of money to get one size bigger and the plants were suffocating in their cramped quarters.  When I was speaking at the Sustainability Fair a few weeks ago a woman mentioned that she puts her tomato and pepper plants under canning jars for two weeks and that they do amazing.  “They don’t burn up?” I asked.  She was surprised herself.  She first put the seedlings under the canning jar cloches and forgot them.  When she came back from vacation two weeks later expecting the worst, they were blooming frantically and joyfully under their inexpensive greenhouses.  So, here I am with Brussels and artichokes and a bit early yet to actually put them out but this is all a lovely experiment anyways with these vegetables so let us try it.  Under the free cloches they went and I shall keep you posted on the findings!

cloches

Posted in Food/Wine (and preserving)

Desperately Seeking Fresh Vegetables (and a fine Brussels recipe)

lettuce

I stared at the dusty jars lining the warped shelves in the basement.  They still feel like a blessing but at the moment were seeming more and more like a curse.  I swear if I have to eat one more jar of green beans…or peas…or corn…or beets…or…

I understand that hunger doesn’t care.  If I lived before grocery stores, out on an old homestead, or if I didn’t have a hundred bucks to spare, that food would be tasting real good right now.  But it is late February, too early for anything fresh, and my mind was dreaming of food that has not even been planted yet!

We have been fabulous at eating seasonally.  We ate almost all the potatoes, lots of carrots, onions, jar after jar of items I preserved, frozen vegetables and fruits.  I have been creative.  I have added fresh herbs from the windowsill.  We ate all but one pumpkin.  I need a radish.

radishes 2

We picked up Maryjane and Emily (You know your life has changed when going to the health food store in town is the highlight of the week.) and off we went to Vitamin Cottage.  The pretty rows of product lulled us into a sense of summer and freshness.  I caught sight of the Brussels sprouts, as large as two golf balls side by side, and giggled like Gollum finding his Precious as I loaded up a bag.  I did a little jig in front of the ruby red orbs of radishes.  Maryjane held a piece of broccoli she had snagged as her mother walked by the green trees (what my kids used to call broccoli).  Emily pointed out various mouthwatering vegetables as we told the baby how she is going to love vegetables.  Doug walked over with crisp apples.  We put kale in our basket, Roma tomatoes, boxes of salad.  Large grapes for fresh chicken salad.  Long, elegant leeks to go into humble potato soup.  We felt like royalty.  Everything was organic, but I do not know where it was grown.  Certainly not around here.

I woke up yesterday and cut up two radishes even before the coffee was made.  I sprinkled them with a bit of smoked sea salt and popped them in my mouth.  I smothered a few with butter.  They held the crisp edge I was looking for.  They are not near as good as the earthy, spicy radishes that will come out of my garden beds in a few month’s time, but they were very suitable for a long winter of mushy green beans.  (Which tasted amazing, by the way, all through the cold winter months.)  Last night we had salad with homemade croutons and the melt in your mouth giant Brussels spouts.

Soon we will be back to frozen eggplant, and gelatinous peas (which tasted amazing, by the way, all through the cold winter months.  I need to repeat that so y’all aren’t tempted to not start canning.  It is great, and it is really fun going to the grocery store in the basement.)  I just needed a taste of spring.  I’ll be saving up for a green house!

brussels sprouts

Melt in Your Mouth Brussels Sprouts

This recipe was adapted from a recipe in the “Vegan Soul Kitchen” by the great Bryant Terry.  He would be disappointed in me for the addition of bacon.

Fry up two slices of bacon, drain on paper towel and when cool, break into small pieces.

Drizzle pan with a few tablespoons of olive oil and a tablespoon of bacon drippings.

Trim off the end and cut in half a bunch of Brussels sprouts, enough to fill your skillet with a single layer of halves face down.  About a pound.

Sear for four minutes or so until nice and slightly blackened.

Add 1 cup of rich broth.

Cover tightly and braise over medium high heat for 12 minutes.

Add 1/4 cup of white wine (I like Chardonnay) and a few tablespoons of lemon or regular thyme, fresh preferably.

Continue braising for five minutes.  Taste and add salt and pepper if desired.  Top with bacon.

I would show you a picture but we ate them too fast.  Sorry.

Posted in Farming

Early Crops for Spring

radishes

“Take me home, country roads, to the place…I belooongg!”  I was belting out my favorite John Denver song while tilling the sweet ground.  The few inches of leaves (from my neighbor’s trash last fall) and compost that I put on before the fierce winter weather did the ground good.  It is dark and fragrant.  The moisture stayed in many parts of it.  This winter has been the most moisture we have received here in a long time and though I am still cold, it is nice to have so much damp ground.  The pastures last year were so dry that hay spiked in price, animals went hungry, people panicked.  The air is sweet with cool snow.

I raked back the majority of the unbroken-down mulch to the side.  I gently tufted the soil with a rake, not turning it (too many nice microorganisms workin’ for a livin’ down there!), just loosening the top.  Mulch will return once the plants are up.

I made an impromptu chart on the back of an index card during a sudden moment of gardening inspiration in January.  I listed all the seeds to be planted in April (my early crops), all the ones that are planted third week of May (summer crops), and the ones that will be replanted the end of July and August (late crops….same as the early crops).  I have eleven raised beds so I had to do some fancy finagling to get everything to fit.  So I gave each bed a number and set to work jotting down what should be planted where.  What will have time to finish growing in order to put in summer crops?  Where will I have space to put in late crops and still have room for perennials and medicinal herbs?

chard

Collard greens, Swiss chard, two kinds of kale, radishes, and two kinds of lettuce went into bed 1 which will be followed by tomatoes and peppers with greens continuously grown around them.

In a brief moment of gardening brilliance I set  up three tomato cages and planted peas around the perimeter in a circle in lieu of a trellis.  The peas and a few red potatoes and the most beautiful scarlet carrots went into bed 3 to be followed by soybeans and lettuce.

dragon carrots

The limited potatoes are because I purchased them from the nursery then left them on the car floor.  Where they were then trampled by various teenager’s feet and piles of this and that.  The remaining potatoes are shriveling and look rather pathetic but I still intend to plant them today in the potato barrels.

Cabbage and cauliflower went into bed 4 nestled in with surprise onion shoots from last year.  I don’t have the heart to pull them out.  I will be lucky if the delicious cabbage and cauliflower ever transpire, we have a short growing season and bugs that love them so I don’t have anything planned for bed 4.  Just a nice, long luxurious growing season for the cruciferous delicacies I love.

cauliflower

The garlic is coming up with frost burned tips, slow but sure.  I do hope they make it!  One cannot survive in the kitchen without a smidge of garlic.

Onions went in to bed 8.  The possibly dead…possibly sleeping…Cabernet Sauvignon grape vine slumbers (hopefully) next to them.  And in a fit of ridiculous hopefulness, Brussels sprout seeds joined the onions in bed.

brussels

The snow gently covered them for the last two days since I planted.  Today should shine bright and cool.  We will be nearing temperatures in the 70’s by the weekend and early germinated shoots ought to be sticking their heads up to peek at their new world.  I will have my face to the sun, singing, “Take me home, country roads…..”