Year Round Greens

You know you are a homesteader when things like poop that doesn’t have to be composted excites you.  Alpaca poo isn’t “hot” like other types of manure so it doesn’t have to be composted for six months.  We filled a wheel barrel full of alpaca droppings and took it over to one of the raised beds to spread.

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Now in November I had every intention of getting every bed cleaned out properly, covering them with compost then mulch for their long winter’s nap.  A good kink in my shoulder decided otherwise.  It would have been nice to have it all done, but it will surely wait for me, I decided.  So, on the bed that we started putting manure on, I noted emerald green from the patch of otherwise browned kale, chard, and collards.  Tiny Swiss chard leaves, two inches high were trying with all their might to grow.  It certainly was an epiphany for me.  If I cover the greens well with loose straw next year, I could be harvesting well into January!  That is without the help of a greenhouse, hoop house, or cold frame.  An easy way to extend the season.

Since I did not expect any more greens after November, I had been diligently snipping greens and freezing them.  No blanching necessary.  I have no desire to eat slimy food…ever.  All you do is pack sandwich bags with greens, release the air, and zip closed.  Put in freezer.  Now, the next day it will be frozen solid.  Don’t let it thaw!  Just crush it between your fingers so that the greens are crumbles.  When you need greens, crush the ones on top more and sprinkle handfuls into whatever you are cooking.  Replace the rest in freezer immediately.

I have been putting greens in all kinds of soups, in omelets, scrambled eggs, on potatoes to be roasted, and in sautés.  There are innumerable ways to use greens and the nutrients are especially desired this time of year.  The perfect blend of calcium and magnesium to make it bio-available, iron, A, C, E, and K, full of anti-oxidants and cancer killing properties.

Greens are one of the foods that I would have with me if I were trapped on an island…along with margaritas.  Is that a food?

Greens in the Window (and helpful cats)

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I sure love greens, especially in the winter time with all the rich, heavy foods around.  I never liked greens much growing up because I only had the frozen or canned, therefore soggy, variety.  Fresh greens crisped in the oven for 10 minutes at 350 degrees with a little olive oil and garlic is my idea of amazing food.  Added to soup, or on top of toast with barely a sauté is amazing too.  Oh, then there is folded into omelets, frittatas, and sprinkled on top of pizza.  Well, you get the point.  I still have some kale, chard, and collard greens in the garden, but they are looking a little rough this time of year.  I may cover them with straw and see if I can extend their season.  However, insurance is in the window.

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Pick up some seeds from your garden center and grow your own!  I so carefully planted a packet of spinach and one of kale in a pot and placed it on the shelf in the window covered with a zip lock bag so it could germinate greenhouse style.  (I put a five foot folding table in front of the south window then place a tiered shelf on the table to add space for more pots.)  Ichabod Crane (who loves trouble) knocked the whole pot over in his failed attempt to jump onto the shelf.  Fresh potting soil, and sadly, seeds were everywhere!  I was pretty mad, the cats hid from my yelling for awhile.  After I vacuumed the soil up, I replanted the pot with chard and lettuce and moved it to the west window away from furry monsters.

Frankie (the orange tabby) and Ichabod enjoy a lively game of chess.

Frankie (the orange tabby) and Ichabod enjoy a lively game of chess.

I loosely cover the pot with plastic of some sort, saran wrap or even a freezer bag, until the seeds germinate.  Keep the pots moist but don’t wash away the seeds!  In no time at all you will be harvesting baby greens for your meals.  That burst of chlorophyll enlivening your body.  After you get the greens going, they like water every third day or so in the house.

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To my surprise there are seedlings coming up everywhere in the south window!  In the Rosemary pot, in the tomatoes…seems greens really want to grow.  It’s easy to get your own indoor garden growing!   Just don’t let the cats help.

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?

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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.

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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.

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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…..”