Temporary Abundance of Eggs

We’re getting all the girls and boys (poultry) lined up for producing some incubatable eggs – breedings that will result in meaty birds or replacement layers and brooders. 

In the mean time, waiting for indiscrete fertilized eggs to pass, we’re being forced to consume a lot of eggs.  Ultimately it isn’t a problem, but so far as food monotony goes, we’re almost there…

Bet reminded me that we had come across aged eggnog too late for last year’s egg glut but we were going to try it for this year’s.  We were nearly out of eggs by the time the holidays and “eggnog season” rolled around or at least so low that using a dozen to make eggnog seemed extravagant.   But using the glut we have now, to make an aged nog, that supposedly only gets better with aging…  Merry Christmas!

I’ve done my research, there are a few recipes out there, some use only the yolk and then next winter when you use it you add in whipped egg white.  Yeah, the point would be enjoying eggnog when the hens are enjoying not producing.  Next.  Then there are the ones that add dairy and the ones that don’t.    

My head began to spin with the multitude of combinations until I found a couple of folks who stated that as long as the alcohol content is 20% then spoilage is of no concern.  Perfect.  Now I can just come up with my own recipe for eggnog and we can decide if we want to add the dairy now or when we serve it.  The resident Dairy Princess is very temperamental, some holidays we have milk still and some holidays she decides she is drying the crew up. So she will have to decide.

Just about to get up to start the process but the reluctance to get out of my cocoon on a chilly rainy day and I allowed my mind to wander to other milky eggy alcoholly concoctions.  March!  Irish month!  Bailey’s Cream! 

I hate the prebottled stuff and the idea of ingesting manufactured sweetened condensed milk and chocolate syrup (which is fake chocolate, just in case you didn’t know that little tidbit Dear Reader, I didn’t for a long time) does not interest me in the least.  Okay, it would interest me if someone came over with a cake and a bottle of Bailey’s premade or “homemade”, either one.   But since that isn’t going to happen, not wanting to go out and get those less than desirable items not to mention the instant coffee, I push back in the recesses and remembered someone had posted somewhere that they made condensed milk.  Perfect.  And I know I can make chocolate syrup like no body’s business. 

So off we go to the kitchen Dear Reader!  I am done outside for the day! 

I did my bit in the garden already, weeded a few beds, firmed up some hoops, rolled up one side for ventilation on another hoop, moved things out to harden off, tidied up, consolidated baby pea plants that came up sparsely, thinned out carrots, and made a muck mess digging a trench to drain water off a couple of beds.  Returned to the barnyard and moved some turkeys over the asparagus beds, tidied up, looked in on things in the Hippy Hot Hut and finally couldn’t stand the soggy feet I was sporting. Hosed off the mud from my boots, my legs and my butt.  My boots are drying, my pants are drying, my coat is drying, hopefully my brain is drying.

To the kitchen!  To come up with some delicious ways to preserve the egg harvest! And have eggless Bailey’s by Saint Patrick’s day and an egg version for Easter!

Categories: Christmas, Easter, Eggs, Thanksgiving | 2 Comments

Raising Grain

Did you read that as raising cain, Dear Reader? Well usually, I am, but today it’s just grain. Yup, I’m off on another horticulture adventure. This time I’m attempting to be a grain grower.  Today was the big shove off, the bon voyage party happened.

3 – 160 sq. ft  beds planted, one to barley, one to oats and one to spring wheat.  Not sure I’ll see any production from the spring wheat, but we’ll see. Not many folks in this area are into growing grains, none that I have come across any way.  So I’m figuring things out from info that is out there for the general growing audience.  The Puget Sound Basin is a funny little area though, so I know I’m up for “failures” in some aspects and lots of tweaking in others.

Even after more years that I could count (or more like wanna count out loud) I still have yet to figure out what the heck other gardeners (in books) mean by “early spring” or even late spring, fall, summer, mid summer, they are all bizarre vague references to times I’m not sure really exist on a calendar.   So even though the “directions” say early spring, and it isn’t spring yet, I went for it.  One book said, “early spring, even as the snow is melting” Uh, yeah, that could be January or April here. Or even January AND April, so I just decided today was the day, before it rained so much more that I needed the canoe to get to the garden. 

Because of the sogginess of the soil just under the surface of the beds, (my feet were in standing water several places on the path today while I worked) I just barely scuffed up the surface. (the beauty of raised beds) I didn’t have weeds to contend with because all the beds had been previously tilled and shaped, back when it was dry enough to handle the tractor and tiller. 

Instead of doing as the book on small scale grain raising suggested, planting in tidy rows across the bed, I broadcast the seed for each.  I had Elisabet help me cover the 4 foot wide beds with floating row cover.  Mostly to keep the birds from eating all the grains and it will help the seed germinate and grab hold of the soil without being beat to death by the rains that will continue to come I’m sure.

All totaled it took two hours, a basic garden rock rake, a previously tilled garden bed, and a day that didn’t pour down rainm and a half pound of each of the grain seeds purchased from Johnny’s Select Seeds out of Maine, .  The barley is the Conlon hulless variety, the wheat, Glenn Hard Red Spring Wheat and the oats, just an unnamed variety of hulless oats.

Well lunch break is very much done and I’ve got some more shifting to do down at the Hippy Hot Hut so that I can start some more seeds.  I moved out more flats of onions and the lettuce and brassicas, took them out to the Center Hoop in the Market Garden.  But more on those later. Have a great day Dear Reader, I’m enjoying the momentary absence of rain.  Greatly.

Categories: Farming, Grain, Row Cover, Winter | 1 Comment

Winter Knitting

CIMG9093

I just now used this potholder. It was knitted up this last month and I was fairly disappointed in the design so it just sat by my knitting waiting to undergo scrutiny on what all needs to be changed.  But just now I needed to grab the tea kettle off of the wood stove and it was handy and thicker than my shirttail.  I love it!

I loved using it so much just now that I had to stop doing what I was doing Dear Reader, and tell you all about it!

There are lots of things I will be changing when I make another one very much like this one.  But the thickness (it is knitted in the round, so it is double thick) and the flexibility over stuffed quilted fabric…I love! 

I knitted several potholders over the last three months and I truly love the whole process of creating them.  Today was the first time I actually put the one I am keeping (because it is a bit of a mess) to use.  Well, other than flapping the ones I did make together, pantomiming actual use, kind of like testing it out before I gave them away.

 

DSC_8462

These are three of my first potholders I made from a pattern found on Drops Yarn.   These snowmen all went out as Christmas presents to my three married daughters.  Two more snowmen, not shown, also went out: my first one and the only one done exactly (okay, nearly) as the pattern said, went to a niece; and one made with a bright lime green hat went to our friends the Bowermans. Those two not pictured had the crocheted edging that was called for, where the ones above have attached i-cord for edging.

It was fun to give them as gifts and so pleasing to knit, most likely I will make more again next year, but the whole point to making these potholders has been to learn colorwork.

I’ve been meaning to learn color stranded knitting, especially after having learned how to do Swedish twinned knitting, but push came to shove when Bet posted, er, pinned on Pinterest (I do not pinterest, I have enough magazines with hoped for recipes and patterns and DIY’s marked with post-its to last an actual “Completer” a short life-time) these amazing mittens and claimed that she would have them by next year. You can go see her “pin”, I can’t for the life of me get an image here of it.

If you went to see it, you can see where the pattern for the top potholder came from.  As I made up my first snowman potholder all I could think of was making up my own stranded colorwork patterns.  As I worked more and more I went right past the fantasy of making Bet her wished for mittens and right on to sweaters.  Oh, I’ll make the mittens, the gauntlet has been thrown down.  If you went to Bet’s pin page, you may have notices that she said, “These will be my mittens for Next Year”.  She did not accidentally capitalize the “N” in next and the “Y” in year.

We have an ongoing joke around here Dear Reader, I may have even wrote about it out-right or you may have picked up on it, Bet’s and my anthem that often rings out around here after a  perceived failure or on the heals of realizing an idea that comes too late for right now, “Next Year”.  Our constant repeating of our anthem finally culminated in our promise to ourselves to make a “Next Yearbook” (pun on Yearbook intended) filled with all the things we promise to do better or just actually do.  Apparently the making of said book should be the first page!

My first attempt at a my own stranded color pattern were three evergreen trees like the three snowmen. (No pics, it too went out quickly like my very first snowman to another niece.) Learned a lot on that one about translation from the chart into actual knitting.  In the sky above the trees, the gold stars turned into several small flocks of gold birds.  Yikes!

CIMG9094

The robin that I did was slightly modified and with something completely different on the back.  And as you can see if you went to the picture of Bet’s-wished-for mittens, I changed up the branches for an all over background pattern.  Yeah, don’t like the “check” so that  will change back to branches.  I also tried a three color cast on, wow doggy did it get tight tension.  The pulled together top isn’t a photo distortion, it is a knitting tension distortion.  That will need to be fixed.

CIMG9092

This is the back of the robin. The pattern was a compilation of some stranded colorwork motifs that I wanted to try and a few I invented.  Most stranded colorwork is done with two colors, but of course that can’t do for me, I wanted to tackle three colors all at once, nearly immediately.  No one said it couldn’t be done (as if that would have even stopped me) and the original robin on the mittens were clearly done working three colors across the rows that included the robin and his branches.  So, of course I figured I could too.

Between learning stranded color knitting, three stranded colors, attached i-cord, attached two color i-cord and making my own patterns, I’ve learned a ton, and made myself a little tool as well.

Somewhere in the whole learning stranded colorwork, I did read about how you need to keep your background color and your image color in certain positions.  Side note: Most people do stranded colorwork (often just called fair isle, incorrectly) using both hands to hold the two working yarns.  I cannot, without completely ruining the flow of my knitting, use my right-hand, and I am supposedly, right handed.  When I first began knitting again as an adult, I taught myself pik knit or continental knitting, simply because I knew if there was not a better way than “throwing” the yarn, I would not be able to become a real knitter.  Trust me, I take that word “throw” to a whole nuther level Dear Reader, throw usually includes the needles as well.

I could not for the life of me figure out even from tutorials on Drops on stranded colorwork continental style, how to keep the two colors separate for background and image.  And my first snowman taught me that I really did need to.  It wasn’t until I read someone’s blog about some other knitting problem that I came across a tool called the Norwegian Thimble.  I actually found a couple of styles on Amazon, but even ordering speedy get here as quick as possible, it wouldn’t get to me that night so… I made my own.

CIMG9105

Ta-da.  I cut the finger off of a dollar store knit glove in our Glove Box and put stitch markers into the fabric to act as my thread holders.  How do I remember where the background thread goes?  Blue = B = background yarn. The pink and white are insignificant colors, just different from B.

CIMG9103

The potholders are knitted in the round, my preferred method of knitting.  The sides then are closed but the bottom and top are open, the original pattern called for stitching them together with a yarn needle and then bordering the whole pot-holder in a crocheted shell.  I don’t mind doing either but…

CIMG9102

I figured since I like putting an i-cord loop in the corner for hanging, surely I could put i-cord all the way around.  So I searched until I found attached i-cord.

CIMG9101

Sure enough, it’s doable.  And because you pick up stitches, to make the i-cord attach, you can pick up two stitches, one from each side of the opening, and make the attached i-cord also close the openings.  My adventures into attached i-cord and certainly-there-must-be-i-cord-using-more-than-one-color musings, I found candy-cane i-cord and attached it!

CIMG9098

All pretty much making my latest design pretty Christmassy with the whole Scandahovian Dala Horse thing going and yet,

CIMG9096

very St. Valentiney as well.  Which works great in my world since several certain selections of my Christmas décor stays out until after St. Valentine and the burning desire for snow. But, all that quirky business for another post if, I haven’t already told you about my crazy trickle out decorations and slowly put away bit by bit, thing I do.

Well Dear Reader, I loved telling you about what I was doing all November, December and January instead of writing.  But now, I really must get back to making sense of all my seed packets and deciding how many of what tomato and pepper seeds varieties I plant the day after tomorrow when it warms up enough for the Hippy Hot Hut to get my seeds off to a good start.

CIMG9120

I think the petunias I planted January 26th are a fail, in spite of bottom heat mats,

CIMG9124

wood stove going twenty-four hours and a propane heater at night right next to the seed bench.

CIMG9110

The onions came up fine and

CIMG9113

even the begonias are bustin’ out (little pink nibs in the center of the pic).  But all that for another post, soon Dear Reader, soon.  I admit, I gotta get this no-writing bus turned around and turned around quick.  I don’t like not writing.

Categories: Christmas, Fiber arts, Propagation, St. Valentine, Winter | 2 Comments

First Days of February

A Joyus Candlemas Day

to to all those who have come to see the Light. 

I love the day’s Candlemas moniker, it always reminds me that He is my light.  Not being born Jewish, I am by the original meaning, a Gentile.  And even though I was born to believing parents, a strong Christian heritage, I was still a Gentile and in need of His Light, very much the Gentile Simeon spoke of when he said,

“Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace,
According to Your word;
For my eyes have seen Your salvation
Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,
A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel.”

Truly through Christ I have come to and become able to understand the Father.  The path was lit and the pages of His word illuminated, with Light.

 

Farmin’ News

A few rhymes for the day:

If Candlemas day be dry and fair
The half o’ winters to come and mair
If Candlemas day be wet and foul
The half o’ winter’s gane at Yule.

You do know that really it only means that no matter what we are half way through winter today?  Oh that crazy Ground Hog Day tradition, sometimes it is fun to join in all the silliness and maybe watch the movie at least once, (if it isn’t Super Bowl day and your team is in it for the second time in the team’s life).  But really for here in the Puget Sound area, we don’t really have much of a winter.  What is winter here actually stays far beyond the six weeks it has left according to the calendar  or the ground hog.  We don’t have a pack of snow to melt, though we may finally get some about April 13th or later.  Our first snow is as likely to coincide with our last frost date as any other weather oddity.  But it is fun to note the weather today and wonder what the next six will be like.

Here is a poignant, if not another terribly obvious proverb for the day:

Half your wood,
Half your hay
You must have
On Candlemas Day!

If I get the whole prediction thing, it goes something like, whatever today is like, the rest of winter won’t be like that.  Well today is a pretty nice day, started frosty and foggy, it is still overcast, thirty minutes to game time, (gotta get this finished before the game starts) but I love it, ‘cuz for me I love starting something on a great note and February is startin’ on a high one.

Yesterday, was a great first day of the month.  February is always the month that I really get into winter gardening.  And here, in the Puget Sound region winter gardening most certainly can include weeding.  As long as the soil isn’t too saturated, that you disturb it as little as possible it is a great time to weed. 

And weed I did! 

The asparagus bed is so neglected.  Certainly not because we don’t absolutely love asparagus but more likely it gets buried at the bottom of the roundtuit pile, then when thought of it is too late to do any vigorous weeding because the crowns have been awakened and the tender tips are so vulnerable to being broken.  Then once the tips are up and a little emergency weeding is done and weeding while harvesting is over, it easily slips onto the roundtuit pile once again.

I have determined that everyday that the ground isn’t frozen, I will be weeding for no less than four hours in the asparagus beds and then I will turn that same time to the raspberry beds once the asparagus is all done.  Based on what I’ve already done I have approximately 22 hours of weeding left in the asparagus and I would imagine that the raspberries will take about 27 hours of weeding.  Hopefully I will have enough nonfrozen days (I’ll need about 13 if I’m by myself) to get it done, because I also need to relocate all our strawberry plants, and move an oak tree… .

Frozen days will be devoted to starting seeds, up potting as needed, taking cuttings from fuchsias and geraniums, and dividing, repotting and stooling chrysanthemums.  

All this while helping Dirt and Bet with lambing and kidding, and that ain’t no joke.  Especially when it happens in the middle of the night. 

I do believe I am grateful for the blessing of rest during the lovely relaxing holiday months of December and January, where the biggest farm biz pressure was getting seeds inventoried, organized and ordered.  Done.  Well a bit of organizing is still needed, but mornings will be cold, chilly and dark this month and more time is freed up this month with the end of the holidays, the end of football and decidedly the end of watching most of the tv programs we have watched in the past.

Lent doesn’t start for another month but Bet and I decided that we didn’t need the conviction of Lent to cause us to stop watching the garbage that Hollywood keeps feeding us.   Actually I barely watch when I do, mostly I’m “working” on something, I’ve become and obsessed knitter, or the whole seed project. or emails (ugh), but we figure our work might actually be more productive without the distraction of the pure foolishness that is television.  Nothing like reading other people’s in depth facebook discussion of a popular show to place a glaring light on how stupid watching tv or even movies can really be.

Well I’m wrappin’ this thing up so I can settle into the game, now that I have suffered through all the pregame nonsense.   Gotta make sure the body is ready to sit for an hour and a half before it has to get up.  And then for the last half of the game.  Because yes, I am a fan!  A Twelfth Man.

See you on the other side Dear Reader, I hope your team wins, (as long as you’ve picked the Hawks)  But most of all,  a glorious Candlemas Day to you and yours.

Categories: Farming, God the Father Son and Holy Spirit | 2 Comments

I’m Cold, Working, Thirsty…

I don’t want to drink coffee while working,

I don’t really want cold water while I’m outside – I’m cold enough.

I’ve been putting a cinnamon stick in my Earl Grey, just the right amount of spice for a chi-hater-spice-appreciator.  But like the coffee, I’m not wanting to drink tea while working.

I actually like drinking a mug of just plain hot water. (My mother did this when I was a child but most of the time she put just a touch of cream in it – I’m not there yet.)

So all those wants and needs, and not wants, and I’m  liking the idea of slightly flavored water, and hot for being out in the cold.

Cinnamon water in skinny thermos, turns pink quick, later cupful is a lovely warm tawny color and not to pungent.

Cinnamon water in skinny thermos, turns pink quick, later cupful is a lovely warm tawny color and not to pungent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m going to stick a piece of cinnamon in my skinny thermos and stick it in my vest pocket.

The first sips were great, now to see if leaving it in will be too much….

 

 

Well Dear Reader, I left the whole stick in the little thermos, stuck it in my pocket, and drank from it frequently over the time span of two hours.  It never became too strong, though it was finally very dark in color, and certainly deeper in flavor.  I’m thinkin’ I have a hit on my hands.  Well, a hit with me any way. And I love that I am finally using my little thermos for something constructive.  Now to try a chunk of whole nutmeg…

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

I Knew It!

I would just like to pat myself on the back once again, for being intuitively ahead of the game…

The Best Time for Your Coffee.  an article from NeuroscienceDC blog.

 

My Findings

Over a year ago, I switched from drinking coffee as soon as I got up, (or better yet, getting up to someone handing me coffee in bed) to having a coffee break at 10 a.m..

It has made some surprising differences:  I drink less (coffee), am more awake earlier, have a profoundly natural sleep schedule.  All things I greatly lacked until a year ago.

I have no idea how much to attribute to my new coffee time, or if eating clean, real food also contributes to the changes.

Since I’ve committed to eating nearly 80%, or better, seasonally and locally, avoiding nearly all commercially processed foods, including ingredients for homemade foods, eating naturally home fermented foods like pickles, sauerkraut, relishes, going to bed at nine p.m. (or earlier), eating regularly scheduled meals, and having my daily coffee at 10 a.m..  I feel way better, my skin is clearer, less aches and pains, less gut aches and bloating, and the big two changes – no more asthma attacks and no migraines.

Let me clarify on the two big changes. I have had headaches and in the whole year, I think I have had two migraines, but back in the good ol’ days I would have one or two migraines a week, if I was real careful I could get down to maybe only three a month.

I did have a slight asthma attack just recently, I walked into a small building that had just been drywalled. Considering that this summer I was chuckin’ bales of hay over my head and only became slightly out of breath and wheezy, when before I always had to have my inhaler with me, in case I ran into some bothersome particulate like dust, mold or smoke, or worked to fast, I say that was a remarkable change.

And again, I can’t contribute all the changes to having a scheduled coffee break at 10, I have made lots of changes.  But I do love that science backs me up on one of the changes that I just intuitively knew would be beneficial. 

 

Some Other Related Differences Noted

I also recently read on a coffee-haters blog that deferring your first cup of coffee to later in the morning assisted in actually eating breakfast.  A nasty habit I certainly had, I have always been a breakfast lover (I love all food at all times) and a breakfast skipper.  My old self would skip breakfast and lunch, as long as I had a cup of coffee somewhere handy to sip, hot or cold or typically luke warm.

I knew it was a horrid habit.  And often I would go on diet regimes that forced me to eat at least three scheduled meals.  And those diets were good, I always lost weight. And felt better.  But in all the years of changing my diet and changing my schedule none of it caused my asthma and migraines to go away. 

Another interesting finding: on the weekend when Dirt causes me to sleep in and lounge around, I like having my coffee early, in my morning groggy state, in bed, while I go over seed catalogs, or listen to NPR Puzzleman.  Dirt doesn’t drink coffee by the way, but loves to indulge my habit and happily makes my coffee and brings it back to bed while we continue to lounge and listen.  Along with the whole backflipped schedule and drinking coffee in bed, when we do get up, Dirt makes breakfast.   We’ve done this weekend thing for nearly ever, and in spite of the awesome weekday schedule, continue to do this.

I used to think I couldn’t eat certain things in the morning – his weekend breakfasts always wiped me out and made me perfectly non-functional for hours.  But I am beginning to think it is the coffee too early in my system.  Bet, is the usual breakfast maker and coffee-break meal fixer, and she can make the same stuff for early weekday breakfast as I thought I couldn’t deal with.  And no repercussions.  Especially if we also do not have a black tea with early breakfast but instead have an herbal tea or just hot water.

So, I’ll give Lil’Miss Coffee-Hater that one for sure, coffee apparently is not good in my gut and system first thing in the morning, and now with this NeuroscienceDC article scientifically backing up the better time for coffee as far as brain function, I’m thrilled I have already made the change and maybe I need to ask Dirt to bring me a lovely light tea for weekend mornings in bed, then I can dive face first into his hashbrowns, eggs and pancakes. And come up working!

 

Categories: Change, Dirt, Health | 3 Comments

Jesus, Captain of My Soul

I know and hear daily of huge historical strides having been and being made by self-directed men.  Men who lean on and live by the words and concept, “I am the captain of my soul.”  We’ve probably all heard that quote a few times, especially this week.  Life coaches and self-improvement masters from all walks, quote and requote and expound self mastery.

How crazy it is then, to continue to lean on God’s understanding, and reflect daily on “Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”  “.. do all things, though Him who strengthens…”

I am satisfied if most all the world thinks me crazy.

I’m concerned and believe we play with a dangerous fire when we try to weave the two together.  I’m sure that “Christian Self-Mastery” books are skilled at making it sound like you can.

Certainly, if our soul is found shipwrecked and torn apart we can look at our own navigation and steering then, the Word warns us so,  “holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith,”.  And certainly there is plenty for us to “do”, the New Testament is a fairly good sized book, filled with commandments and directives for us to heed. But the captain?

Jesus is the Captain of my soul. 

I am nothing without him.  Helpless and alone.  Lost, afraid, naked. But in Him? Paul says, and we should all be able to say, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.  In any and every circumstance,  I have learned the secret of facing circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

I’m quite certain that we can trot through life thinking that we have done all that we have done. That our education, our upbringing, our job, our determination, our drive,  has gotten us all the good we have.  Some of us think this harder and more adamantly than others.  But in reality? In truth?  Our very flesh, the air that we breathe, the food we eat, is held together, exists and feeds us, only by the grace of God.  And He is full of grace.

 

 

Categories: Advent, God the Father Son and Holy Spirit | 4 Comments

Onion House

DSC_8280_edited-1

 

Dirt, Bet and I finished up the onion hoop house on Sunday.  I really did help, when they needed me, otherwise I was down in the carrot hoop house (I call it Carrot Barn) weeding and thinning baby carrots.

As soon as they were done, they headed off to kill roosters and turkeys and I stayed behind to begin planting the onions that had come from Dixondale last Friday.

When they arrived I took them out of the box.  Actually  I opened the box, took them out and looked at them, rearranged them in the box, left the top open and then made sure they were in a nice cool spot in the Market Shed.  I figured that counted for “remove plants immediately!”

DSC_8282_edited-1 DSC_8284_edited-1DSC_8285_edited-1 DSC_8287_edited-1

So when the onion hoop was done I went down to the “compound” and retrieved the box of onions and all the things I figured I needed:  scale to weigh out the lime, some fish bone meal (all that I had left, which won’t be enough), the water can to deliver the liquid seaweed left over from soaking the planting garlic from last weekend, and the bucket of liquid seaweed.

Dear Reader, do you know how to haul a liquid so it doesn’t spill?  Besides putting on the lid, I mean.  Sometimes those lids can be a pain in the toosh, and sometimes you can’t find a lid.  So do you know how not to have the liquid slosh out?  Put a plastic bag in the bucket, put the liquid in, tie the bag and off you go, no spills, no slosh.

I also brought a knee board in the front loader with me.  Dirt didn’t want to come back out and fasten the plastic film to the outside bottom edge, he fastened it before I planted, lazy bum.  So I knew I would need a way to reach to the “back side” of the beds. Oh and I grabbed the “spacer” from the Tool Hoop where the bags of lime live.

DSC_8288_edited-1 DSC_8290_edited-1

DSC_8289_edited-1 DSC_8292_edited-1

The spacer is how I get the onion plants so nicely spaced.  In the past we have abandoned the spacer for other methods.  I wasn’t happy in the long run, so I’ve gone back to the spacer. 

I move the spacer along the bed, press down on the slats so the fixed dibbles make holes in the soil, lift straight up out of the holes, place the spacer, press, lift, place, press, lift… until the whole bed has nicely spaced holes. 

After the holes are made, I put the knee board over the inside half of the bed, holes and all.  With my weight evenly distributed over the whole knee board, the holes are barely disturbed and the bed is still a lovely soft planting bed.  It is actually better for the soil to not be too fluffy.  Way better than deep foot prints here and there.

So all the overwinter onions are in now.  (Well, not all.  because I can’t chuck anything that could possible produce something, all the itty bitties that didn’t fit in the onion hoop will be randomly planted in the carrot hoop.) Now all I have to do is make sure that the onions think they are still in Texas.  Which might not be all that hard in the lovely little hoop.  Texas and the Puget Sound, where we live, actually are in the same hardiness zone. 

Yup.  Zone 8.  But hardiness zones don’t tell the whole horticulture story.  Hardiness zones are based on average lows an area receives, that is what effects most plants’ ability to survive the winter season, so a gardener knows if they can expect to see the plant in the spring – hardiness.  Here in the Puget Sound, next to the Pacific Ocean we are warm. Ish.

With the mountains at our backs we are wet.  The wet is sorta the issue.  In order to be wet, come clouds.  So… even though it doesn’t get any colder than it does in Texas, it most likely is a bit cloudier.  So the hoop makes up for that difference and any difference in prolonged cold. 

This is our first year growing short day onions during the winter.  I have grown long day sweet onions overwinter, it gives them an awesome start.  But, I’m typically a rule follower.  Hey now!  I try!  And so when the garden books said, “in the north, you can only grow long day onions”, I believed them.  Though I toyed with a few things that broke some people’s rules, unless someone of “authority” said I could break the rule, In the past I’ve tried not to.

So when I read in Elliot Coleman’s book, Winter Harvest Handbook, that he grows short day onions in hoops in Maine, yep, MAINE!, I knew then I easily could.  Short on hoops last year, I just wasn’t ready to make the leap.  But this year.  Durn tootin’

Especially because I find more and more reasons why onions should no longer be thought of as flavoring or a condiment but should be largely included in nearly every meal, I need to be able to produce more onions, and nearly year ‘round.

I love onions and I love the nutritional healing powerhouse they are.  Even more so when they are grown in real dirt by real people for real people.

Categories: Hoop Houses, Onions | 2 Comments

From the Squash Closet

DSC_7960_edited-1Oh the season of winter squash, if we’re lucky, the season can last from October to January hopefully to February, maybe even March with some of the better storing squash. 

But the height of the season is now. 

Most of the winter squash have cured making them store longer but also enhancing the flavor and texture of most all of them. What a delight to the senses and a nutritional boon as we go into cold and flu and overeating season.

All squash and pumpkins are from the same genus, curcurbitacaea, and within that there are four species that make up the world of winter squash and pumpkins in American gardens, one of which is nearly impossible to grow in the Puget Sound region, Cucurbita mixta.

At VF&G we try our best to grow a few varieties of each of the three species we can grow here because each bring just a little twist to the table in flavor and nutrition, not to mention the variety of color and shapes to delight the eyes and heart in the garden and storage shed.  

 

 

Moschata

Of the remaining three, moschata are the most difficult to grow in our area, they are typically 100 plus days to maturity, and those 100 days need to have some warmth to them.   But they are terrific when we can manage to get them to mature. Well worth the work involved of pushing the limits of our growing season. The moschata group have the highest level of vitamin A and a delightful taste.

DSC_8238_edited-1 DSC_8193_edited-1 

DSC_8155_edited-1 DSC_8184_edited-1

The ones we’ve had fairly good success with are, Barbara Butternut, Buffy, Musque d Provence, Chiriman, (top to bottom above).  

 

Pepo –

Cucurbita pepo include what we normally think of as pumpkins, gourds and all the summer squash.  In contrast to  moschata, these, for the most part, are the easiest to grow here and obviously because it includes pumpkins, gourds and summer squash, it is a big group.

CIMG4578_edited-2 DSC_8162_edited-1

DSC_8161_edited-1 DSC_8206_edited-1

Pumpkins for carving, pumpkins for seeds and lots of pumpkin for pie, custard, soup, casseroles… Can you say orange?

DSC_8180_edited-1 DSC_8186_edited-1

DSC_8190_edited-1 DSC_8178_edited-1

Sweet Dumpling, Hooligan; Thelma Saunders Sweet Potato Squash, an acorn type; spaghetti squash, are pepos we appreciate growing, if not for ourselves, for those we love (LeeAnn hates stringy squash ie spaghetti, so strongly she can’t get over it even when it is meant to be stringy, but her girls seem to like them, go figure).

 

Maxima –

This has to be our favorite specie.  These include buttercups, kabocha and hubbard types, along with the bumpily orange and orange pinks that get dubbed pumpkins.  They can be a bit drier than others, but smooth. Sweet Meat is the least dry of this group and a Pacific Northwest original.

DSC_8171 DSC_8176_edited-1

DSC_8218_edited-1 DSC_8217_edited-1

Confection, Bonbon, Gold Nugget, Sweet Meat, and Cha-cha (pictured below) are the ones we grew this year.  In the past we’ve grown some of the bumpily ones, like Galeux D’eysines. 

 

Nutritional Benefits 

DSC_8166_edited-1

High levels of vitamin A and pectins make cucurbits a great anti-inflammatory food.  Normally thought of as a starchy vegetable and in the past shunned by dieters, but because of the type of starch, pectin, squash aids in keeping the sugar levels in the body steady and guards insulin.  So a definite bonus for those looking to stay or get slim or those dealing with diabetes or prediabetes.

 

Methods of Cooking

Baking allows you to cook the squash or pumpkin without peeling, then you just scoop.  The little pepo – dumpling and hooligan can actually be baked whole then opened and gutted.

DSC_7893 DSC_7887

DSC_7899 DSC_7900

The rest should be opened at least in half, cleaned out and then baked.  We flip ours face down Steaming goes quicker in cooking time but sometimes peeling a giant ball can be a bit daunting.  Though I have also had fairly good luck steaming with the shell on and then peeling, similar to baking but admittedly quicker. When cooking a pumpkin to make puree for making baked goods often it is best to bake rather than steam to keep it on the dryer side.  

 

 

Family Recipes

Mom’s pumpkin recipes and what comes to mind?  Pumpkin pie.  But we don’t always have the time to do the whole crust thing, so the very very next thing to pumpkin pie is pumpkin custard. 

And then we’re off like a rocket with ideas. Michelle, my second oldest daughter, found a recipe for an oatmeal pumpkin baked breakfast thing.  The recipe had the word pie in it but it really wasn’t a pie. It looks a lot like pumpkin custard with oatmeal in it.  She and my youngest have both made it and have reported it to be delicious.

We’ve made pumpkin ice cream and pumpkin pancakes.

Pumpkin Custard

And Thai Pumpkin Custard – which was really custard baked in a pumpkin. CIMG7499_edited-1 And it looks so cool! Served and sliced. But what is really wonderful is the forgotten world of the savory side of pumpkins and squash. We can see mom putting a chunk of baked squash on our plate, or a mountain of smashed squash with a snow cap of butter melting down. But certainly that is not all there is and once turned loose on the dinner menu there is hardly any left for baked goods.

First on that list?  Pumpkin or squash soup.  Creamy or made with stock. A pureed delight lightened with cream and then with a favorite seafood and a little parmesan cheese – heaven.  Or chunked, with ham, beans, onions…

DSC_7334

And nothin’ but nothin’ beats throwing chunks of squash – a mix of them even – in a big pan of roasting vegetables: onions, garlic, peppers, fingerling potatoes, turnips… And yes, we have used pumpkin puree in Mac and Cheese, it was actually delightful. That dish and the parm in the soup and you soon realize that squash and cheese can be buddies.

The idea that winter squash is a nutritional powerhouse has caught on so much so that the internet is busting at the seams with ideas.  Be careful though, a few of the recipes I came across had to be modified.  After the initial glance, I could see failure ahead, and on some of them the failure wasn’t so apparent.  But rarely is a cooking or baking failure a complete failure, and almost all the the recipes I have come across are great stimulus for the imagination.

DSC_7909

Looking for a chili using mole sauce as the base, I was surprised to see pumpkin in a very authentic recipe.  I made Oaxacan Mole Negro as a chili for Halloween using a bit of roasted squash and pureed toasted pumpkin seeds.  Not a main player, the squash and pumpkin, but integral.  I loved it and it was well received by a chocolate hater, so I figured it was successful.

Speaking of chocolate and then thinking back again on the abandoned baked goods, I’ve also spotted recipes using grated raw squash, much like zucchini in technique if not flavor.  I haven’t tried it, if you have, Dear Reader, let me know how it was.  

Categories: Squash & Pumpkins | 1 Comment

What Does the Farmer Say?

I’m sure those of you connected to the internet, oops, guess that’s all of you, have seen “What Does the Fox Say?”.  I found it hilarious, at a time when I needed a good chortle, tear streaming chortle. 

My good friend sent me “What Does the Farmer Say” it was cute but I had yet to see the original fox version.  Is that proper to say, “original version”?  It sounds rather weird doesn’t it.  Any who, I loved the first answer to the question, “what does the farmer say?,”  “work, work, work, work”. 

DSC_8104

It just so happens that, yes, we’ve been working like fairly typical farmers: wrapping up the last season, growing in this season, and preparing for the next two seasons.

 

The Wrap on Summer

DSC_7996_edited-1

We’re steadily cutting back all the tender perennials for wintering over in the Hippy Hot Hut.  Evaluating who is worth saving and who just needs to be ditched, er-um, become soil. 

Dirt has finished with potato harvest, the last crop to come in for storage.  The last of them are curing, this weekend we’ll bag them up in clean burlap bags and they will be stored with many bags we have in storage already. 

DSC_8012_edited-1

With summer crops stored fresh, or pickled, a few canned or frozen, the left over vegetation, vines and stalks, remaining on the beds is getting thrown to various animals for food or tilled in to feed the soil and the soil dwellers, worms and microbes.  Feed the soil, feed the crops.

Growing in this Season

The current growing crops’ biggest issues right now are slugs.  Ugh.  I feel infested.   And of course weeds, but I never worry too much about weeds.

And staying ahead of killing freezes and decimating winds and rain with floating row covers and our poly tunnels, or hoop houses is what we usually call them.  They have a lot of names out there, but the main thing is that they are great season extenders.  A person could either look at is as getting extra months from a growing season or going up a horticulture zone plus a bit extra.

DSC_8053_edited-1

In among the summer hoop crops a few winter crop were sown.  Those crops are already growing under poly tunnels, some have already failed, we’ll be putting in others in their stead.

DSC_8098_edited-1

Not all tunnels had winter crops put in them, one was needed elsewhere.  We’re going to be moving a poly tunnel over some beds that hold Brussels, broccoli and kales.  It will extend their season, November and December, possibly January, on into January and February for sure, maybe even jump on into the next season, March.

Preparing for the Next Two Seasons

Another poly tunnel will be moving this weekend, or next, as we plant the onions that arrived, planted as plants now, grown in a frost free area and they will be harvested in the middle of our spring season.

DSC_8045_edited-1

The summer beds have been vacated, I’ve tilled up a storm.  Before the storm.  A mild one predicted for tomorrow I believe.  We’ll see. Sometimes reading weather forecast just seems so futile.  But most of what we do day by day is decided by weather forecast, so I continue to read. 

In the time we had, the majority of beds are tilled and some are planted to green manure and grain crops.  Late as usual.  But one place I read about planting overwintered grains was that you had to wait until a solid frost.  Well we haven’t had one yet.  Not even a threat of one. 

Which is why there are still fuchsias, geraniums, brugmansias and such sitting around the farm in their summer pots waiting to go into their winter home, for protection and a little plant spa rejuvenation.

DSC_8038_edited-1

By next weekend, when all the plants are inside so they can be beautiful in the spring, the overwinter crops planted, the empty beds tilled or reserved for winter turkey forage ready for early spring planting, then it’ll be time to circle back ‘round and weed, de-slug and protect the winter season beds. And when the weather is really gross, we’ll begin to set up for seed starting in the Hippy Hot Hut, oh and rounding up lambing supplies.  What do the farmers say?

                                                                                                                                                                     

Categories: Autumn, Crops, Seasons, Soil, Weather | 4 Comments