I really hope we don’t get a frost over the next 2 nights, but just in case…..
One for the onions, one for the carrots, or something like that. Really, though I’m a little anxious to get planting, this weather has been a really good things for our future fruit this year. Last year at this time, everything was blooming, and as a result we were left with out some of our favorite fruits including service berries, cherries and grapes. Other trees that took a hit last year were the walnuts. Mother nature knows what she is doing, and I feel it’s going to be a great year for some of the early bearing fruits….can’t wait!
Garlic is growing in the cold frame along with some other tasty treats…. like cauliflower!
Strawberries are blooming in the greenhouse. It takes an average of 21 days from bloom to berry.
Cabbage, Kale, Broccoli and Kohlrabi patiently wait for the ground to warm up so they can go outside.
The Pepper plants will need to wait longer, but they are not ready to go yet.
I really am looking forward to a great season full of yumminess!
Beautiful day today, mild and sunny. I went for a walk with Liane and we happened across some lovely beets! We were giddy picking for supper near the end of winter!
We boiled the beets just long enough for the skins to peel easily, about 10 minutes. While the beets were boiling, I added some olive oil to a skillet and diced 1 onion to saute in the skillet. We peeled and cubed the beets adding them to the skillet with a cup of the beet water and the following ingredients.
1/2t white pepper
2T curry paste
1/4c sesame seeds
1 stick of cinnamon broken into large pieces
I sauteed these ingredients in the skillet with the beets. Then I added 1 1/2 c yogurt and stirred the yogurt with the beets and onion.
Everyone had seconds!
Using Compost In Your Garden
The NOP has recognized raw compost as a potentially hazardous material. One of the reasons why it could be hazardous is because raw compost may contain food borne illness that could spread to garden products intended for food. If you intend to use raw compost on your garden, please refer to the standards the NOP has placed. Think about it, if you tossed food into the compost, it was probably inedible, or close to it. Would you eat or want to eat food that has come in contact with other inedible foods? There are methods to discern weather or not compost has fully decomposed, and these practices are thoroughly followed on our farm, but it takes time and record keeping that most people just don’t do. To be safe and not spread food borne illness to your veggie garden, you should heed the reccommendations implied by the NOP for compost your gardens.
For a complete article of using compost in organic gardening please visit- http://www.extension.org/pages/18567/making-and-using-compost-for-organic-farming.
Pasteurizing compost can also help prevent other problems from occurring.
Pasteurizing Compost does have its disadvantages too.
Worm castings are not considered to be raw compost material, and therefore may be used at any stage of plant growth for plants intended for human consumption.
I use our outdoor wood furnace to cook our compost. I have a few barrels around that were once used for drinking water for the military. I set the barrel on the wood fire and fill it about a third of the way full with moist compost. I use a shovel to keep it stirred, kind of like soup. If I don’t keep it stirred, it will burn, and burnt compost is not very good to use. After it has reached a temp of 180 degrees, I take it out and let it cool. It is a sort of pasteurization. The soil that comes out is nearly sterile.
I pasteurize my compost just for germinating seeds. I use compost all over my farm for other purposes, and I don’t bother to heat it.
Some times, weed seeds can blow onto or get into the compost and they love it. The heat seems to stop most unwanted seeds’ viability.
If any plant pathogens are present in the compost, they are taken care of during the sterilization process. Some seedlings are particularly susceptible to soil pathogens and this results in damping off. Damping off is a term used to describe seeds that do not germinate, or seedlings that suddenly die before they get their true leaves. There are other conditions that contribute to damping off such as cool or cold soil temperatures, and too much moisture, but there are also tiny little monsters existing that cause damping off as well. Some of the pathogens which I am referring are botrytis, pythium, fusarium, and rhizoctonia solani. While I don’t know if my compost contains these pathogens, I’d rather not find out the hard way. Usually, with transplants, signs show up in time to take care of the affected plants. With seeds, I may never see them germinate without this vital precaution.
We are using Silas’ worm castings to mix in our seed starting soil. Silas has been raising composting worms for a year now, and he has quite the collection of red wigglers to show for it.
Last year, Levi and I did an experiment to see if worm castings improved the quality of the plants we were starting in the green house. We experimented with sunflowers, because that is Levi’s favorite plant to grow.
We used 4 different mixes and preparations to start the sunflowers, and were happiest with the soil mix that included worm castings. From that point forward, we have been using worm castings to start our seeds. The top left corner are seedlings with worm castings in the soil. Clockwise we have plain peat moss mixed with vermiculite, down from that is uncooked compost (note the weed issue, among other things) and at the bottom left is plain sterilized compost without worm castings added.
What a difference worms make when you are trying to grow healthy plants for food!
Timely enough, we have seed catalogs pouring in through the mail box and lots of great old and new varieties are grabbing my attention. From artichokes to Zucchini, I have a hard time deciding what to grow that’s new, and looking over my notes from last year, where to place my favorites, the best performers.
Some are very limited on space, and may even be limited to what can grow in containers. While others have yards that they can turn into gardens. Some cities are developing community gardens, that for a small fee you can plant a small garden. What ever the location, observe it. How much sunlight does it get in a day? Does water flow over it, or soak into the soil? Is any vegetation growing now? I highly recommend taking soil samples and sending them for analysis. You can find a lot of information about who does this through your local Cooperative Extension Office, and there are offices all over the country.
If your site is shady, don’t let this discourage you, many edible plants grow in the shade. Some people will say that a site for a garden needs at least 6 hours of direct sunlight, but I have grown plants in as little as dappled, diffused light all day long. You won’t get the prize pumpkin in this type of garden, but the sweetest strawberries grow in shade as well as many members of the mint family, alliums, ginger and ginseng too.
This seems obvious, but for the longest time, I was the only person in the house that liked tomatoes. I only needed one tomato plant on my back porch garden when I was just growing for my family. Planting 12 plants was sort of silly, and most of those tomatoes went to compost. Think about what you buy at the store. If you always purchase peas, plan on trying to grow your own instead. Are you a salad eater? Onions and garlic are common kitchen staples, and are also very easy to grow in our climate. Make a list of veggies that you always eat, and you will have a good start on what to plant this spring.
This is something that I teach all of our interns. As we are going through the season, I always refer to sections of the garden by plant family, so at least they can walk away with this very necessary info for a successful garden. Why is this important? Well, plants that are related often require the same type of growing conditions such as; light, water, nutrient requirements, soil conditions as well as attract the same types of harmful insects and disease. By knowing the plant families you can plan your garden for the most efficient use of water, insect and disease control. Also you can easily avoid consecutive plantings in the same area, thus extending and aiding the life of the soil through crop rotation from year to year.
Here are just a few examples of plant family categories:
Allium- Onion, Leek, Garlic, Chive
Brassica- Cabbage, Broccoli, Kale, Turnip and Mustard
Cucurburitaceae- Squash, Melon, Gourd, Pumpkin, Cucumber
Legume-Peas, Beans, Alfalfa, Peanuts
Solanaceae-Potato, Tomato, Peppers, Eggplant, Tomatillo, and Okra
Obviously this is short list of some of the most planted veggies in our area. There are so many more and there are volumes of books available for more detailed list of plant families, I’m only hoping to cover the basics here.
Once you have an idea of what you would like to grow and how much space you intend to use, make a map. Research your favorite veggies to see what type of soil they prefer, and check with your soil test results to see if you need anything extra to help your garden do it’s best. When you get your plan map, you can adjust the quantities to fill the space. Most seed catalogs tell you how many plants will fit in a given space. I like to use Johnny’s Selected Seeds because the information they provide in their catalog is very detailed as far as how many seeds I need to purchase. Besides, I have also found their seeds to be top performers in our greenhouse in side by side comparisons.
Keeping plant families close is a sure way to help with garden maintenance. It also helps with the very next step, companion plantings. Companion planting is combining different plant varieties in close proximity to help aid in the desired crop’s growth. Companion plants may assist in nutrient uptake, as well as pest management.
Here is a short list of companion plants-
Allium- Lettuce, Carrot, Strawberry
Brassica- Legumes, Aromatic herbs, Cucumber
Cucurberit- Legumes, Aromatic Herbs, Brassica
Legumes- Brassica, Corn, Cucurberit,
Solanaceae- Basil, Celery, Beans, Spinach, Radish
I simply fill much of the empty space with companion plants, to help with biodiversity, plant growth and insect resistance, and efficiently use my garden space.
You can use seed websites and catalogs to explore new varieties. The best seeds in my garden are always free, or at least collected from previous years, but I always love trying something new. I recommend reading reviews from other gardeners about the plants you want to try. Some don’t yield as much, and other top performers aren’t as tasty as I would like. I have found that I can learn so much from reading the reviews of particular varieties before I invest my money and my back to it.
Cattails are truly a gift to have on our farm. Year round nutrition can be found with these native plants in all forms from roots to shoots, pollen and pods too. Comfort and function accompany cattail lore as the fluffy seeds insulated clothing and blankets, while the reeds and leaves were used for making baskets and containers.
Where cattails are found it is said that no man will go hungry. Perhaps if we started with this time of year, and throughout winter, the roots can be dug and eaten in a variety of ways. I recommend that young roots are used. The larger they get, the more fibrous and woody they become. I have stir fried cattail roots with dandelion roots and wild garlic for a satisfying and nutritious root skillet.
In the spring, the young green shoots are tender and tasty in all sorts of ways. I eat them raw in salads, and cooked in everything I can add a little spring green to. It goes well in rice, pasta, soups and stews.
As summer emerges, the young pods that will later become the notorious “cat tail” shape that we all know can be picked while still green. They can be roasted or boiled and husked like an ear of corn and eaten much like an ear of corn.
Later on the brown cat tail blooms start to pollinate. The yellow pollen can be gathered by simply shaking the yellow dust into a bag. Golden cattail pancakes can be made with any amount of cattail pollen, add flour to the pollen to make 2 cups. Add 5 teaspoons of baking powder, 2 cups of milk and 2 tablespoons of oil. Mix well then drop 1/4 cup of batter at a time onto a hot skillet with butter or oil. Turn the pancakes when they start popping bubbles on top. Serve with your own syrup or apple butter.
After the pollination the fertile seeds will emerge from the spires with white tufts. These fluffy seeds can be used for stuffing pillows, blankets, mittens and slippers. This is also just about the right time to harvest the reeds and stems for making baskets with.
What a great plant!
It has been a while since I posted last. A short break does the mind wonders sometimes. I have been spending time knitting, making kiln fired ornaments, and helping out with wreath making. The wreaths that we normally do are total mixes of all natural, fresh picked greens. I like to throw in herbs such as artemesia, lavender, rosemary and thyme for fragrance and color. Our american holly trees had a great year this year, and are loaded with beautiful plump red berries.
We use juniper for garland, just because it makes a nice, flexible and full band. Also, we use “machines” to make the wreaths and garland. The tools are not electric powered, and are rather primitive, but work fine for the amount that we make. We are making 10′ garland and 10 and 16 inch wreaths. We are taking orders for different sizes, but these are the most common.
While making the wreaths, we use several different tree varieties. This makes our wreaths ornate, without the use of a bow.
But if bells and bows are more your style, then by all means:
I hope everyone has a wonder holiday season!
I made a delicious spaghetti sauce last evening that included pumpkin in the sauce. I slow roasted the pumkin, onion and peppers in the oven at 300 degrees. On the stove top I had some tomatoes, garlic, basil and oregano simmering until the roasted veggies were done. I pureed everything together and it turned out way better than I expected, and my family raved about it! I actually had to boil more noodels for seconds, which I wasn’t expecting, but such is life in the experimental kitchen.
2 peppers with seeds removed and sliced in half 1 onion 1/2 a pie pumpkin seeds removed, and saved for the next recipe 5 tomatoes peeled 1 tablespoon minced garlic 2 tablespoons of oregano leaves 1/4 cup of basil salt and pepper to taste In a roasting pan place onion, peppers and pumpkin face down, I add a little water to keep them from drying while roasting. Roast these veggies until the pumkin is soft, about 1 hour. In the mean time, place the remaining ingredients on the stove and simmer for the same amount of time. When all ingredients are done, mix in small batches in the food processor and puree until all ingredients are combined. Serve over spaghetti noodles or rice.
We all snacked on the seeds while we waited for the spaghetti sauce to cook. This is my usual recipe, but I have added garlic powder, cinnamon or cardamon for extra flavor. Pumpkin seeds Olive oil Sea Salt On a cookie sheet place the pumpkin seeds. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Roast at 300 degrees for about 20 minutes.
Here’s my relationship with pie- I love to eat it, but making it is a very different story. My mom started making pies long after I was out of the house, as my younger siblings grew more independent. The pie crust is intimidating to me, as far as time investment goes, so I usually cheat and buy store made pie crusts- that’s my confession. I have no trouble throwing together nearly anything from scratch, but pie crust is a hurdle that I may cross one day, just not today!
I will give you a recipe that makes a wonderful pie filling, but the crust is entirely up to you. If you have a favorite recipe, by all means use it. Or you can opt for the easier softer way of purchasing your favorite brand of ready made crust like I do.
1 roasted pumpkin mashed (instructions for roasting are in the first recipe)
1 cup of sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 can evaporated milk
Blend ingredients together and pour into pie shells. I believe you will get 2 9 inch pies from this recipe, depending on the size of the pumpkin. You could also make lots of little serving pies with the filling if you like, but the baking time will be much shorter.
Bake at 425 for the first 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350 and bake for an additional 45 minutes for a 9 inch pie, 20 minutes for a single serve pie.
What we are getting this week
7. Salad blend of lettuce, kale and baby chard
9. Basil and Oregano Herbs for recipe
Have a great week!
I almost forgot to tell you about our exciting “guest” CSA treat we are receiving this week! Please allow me to Introduce to you Caleb Brown http://handmadetea.com/
Caleb and I met through a mutual friend last winter, and the discussion of tea ingredients bloomed into a wonderful trade! Caleb is using some of our herbs in his blends, and I requested a mix for our share holders of herbs that came right from our farm. Caleb is a fine tea artist! He takes great care to mix his ingredients with absolute exquisite taste in mind. He goes through great lengths to create an experience with his teas. And he sources his ingredients from the best places on earth, and we are honored to be one of those sources.
I thought of our share holders as I was preparing our dried herbs. I thought you all might enjoy yet another harvest in a different way. Enjoy it!