Tuesday, June 24, 2008

This week

Ok, this week I:

-Planted: lettuces (two kinds), beans and kyona mizuna, transplanted beets, amaranth and onions, weeded all beds as necessary and tied up pea vines.

-Harvested: broccoli, beets, Swiss chard, orach, turnip greens, kale. Pulled out now out-of-season kale, broccoli rabe and turnips to make way for above planting. Thinned carrots. Hand watered a great deal.

-Transplanted: sod into shady area to clear soil for 4th raised garden bed. Also started boys working soil and removing rocks from soil for 4th raised garden bed.

-Built: part of a walkway out of native rock between two raised beds (in a section that will be in my solar greenhouse once that's put together).

-Preserved: onions, dill and baby beets by experimentally drying them on window screen lined with parchment in our old Suburban parked on our West facing driveway.

-Prepped: Bought books such as The Omnivore's Dilemma. Purchased as used books via Amazon.com and spent extra to obtain books from closer locations (e.g. Nebraska instead of New York or Florida). Began studying up on solar drying- consulted with local permaculturist Sandy Cruz. Considered fruit options such as rhubarb. Ordered Egyptian walking onions to try to establish in our yard to increase our options in early spring (I hope..)

-Worked on local food systems: Volunteered twice at Cure Farm with youngest son. Weeded in their herb garden and weeded parsnips, fed 200 chickens and ducks once. Took my mom to the Farmer's Market and bought food to supplement the CSA this week.

-Stored/Managed reserves: Experimenting with storage options for dried foods (in sealed glass jar in basement under stairs).

-Cooked something new: Found rhubarb pie recipe (mom made a pie), used peels for rhubarb juice and rhubarb green tea.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Transplanting celeriac, the phoenix rises and other observations

Ah, the season marches on and I notice that farmers keeping blogs are many of them not posting these days. Too busy. As am I.
After what felt like countless hours spent laboring over the soil in our third raised bed, first pick-axing out the large and medium sized rocks, then breaking up the compacted clumps of soil and hand picking and sieving out as many pebbles as we could stand to pick and sieve (to a depth of about 18 inches below soil level), we then began scavenging soil from different areas in the yard, prepping where necessary, so as to raise the soil level in the bed to about 12 inches above garden level with compost added. This phase of the job got a boost with the addition of my eldest son Brian, who had finished up his finals at the University and lacking a summer job, agreed to help (occasionally) in the garden. Based upon my observations of both Brian and Russell at work, I have come to realize that a pick-ace of the right size is a hot item with young men. There's something very masculine about using a heavy implement to prize large rocks from the soil and failing that, bludgeoning them until they (at least in part) are crushed into rock powder. I prefer a mattock myself, although unfortunately I broke mine. Maybe I should have used the pick axe. Anyway, last week we finished bed number three. This was a big deal. It took a great deal of time to complete this one. We had various delays involving such things as rain and big puddles and a wedding to attend.
With 40 square feet of fresh garden bed to play with, I at last unloaded the cramped and rapidly growing celeriac from Hoop house #2, spacing each plant 12 inches apart in staggered rows in the new bed. As fate would have it, the weather immediately got hot- just under 90 degrees the following day, and when I went out to check the transplants under their floating row cover, I was treated to the delicious and ominous scent of cooked celery- finding all the tops of all plants (perhaps 20 of them) lying crisp on top of the mulch of straw I had put down when I planted them. Naturally I panicked somewhat and ran around pirating hoops from other beds and suspending the row cover over the bed to provide shade as best I could (lacking shade cloth) in hopes that the horse was not out of the barn as it appeared the case really was. The weather continued warm, but moderated, and I continued to water everything just in case what we had was a temporary case of transplant shock. After a couple of days of this, I started to notice new leaves sprouting from the center of each plant, and felt enough courage to trim off all the dead leaf stalks. At this point we have some new stalks and leaves standing up and I think that all will survive. My lesson here is that you never know. I am also learning some important lessons about transplanting seedlings when the weather can heat up.
Never transplant in the morning if you have any choice. Plant in the late afternoon when everything is done with the sun for the day. This gives some night time recovery time.
Always provide shade of some sort so as to reduce direct sun exposure the first few days (at least) after transplanting. Shade from above with ventilation from the sides is best I think. Hoops with shade cloth over the top do work well.
Mulch (especially a light colored straw) may be helpful in reducing or moderating soil temperatures and improve chances of recovery.
Don’t give up on what may look hopeless. Wait and see. Especially if you are transplanting plants with reasonable root systems.

Garden changes: Radishes have bolted. I discovered that even when bolting, parts of radishes continue to be tasty. When the radish plants had sent up stalks, the edible parts became stalks and flowers (which taste like radish). Spinach plants are bolting but still good to eat. To stall for time I’m cutting out the flower stalks with leaves and eating them. The Siberian kale is becoming bitter and starting to bolt.. My mom still likes it, but I find it too bitter. The same goes for the turnips and turnip greens. This is with temperatures moving into the mid to upper 80’s and 50’s at night and comes as no surprise. Arugula flowers. I have maturing cauliflower, broccoli and broccoli rabe. Although I have a hard time catching the rabe before the stalks flower, they’re tasty with flowers anyway. Savoy cabbages are starting to form cabbages. Cabbage White butterfly caterpillars are the culprits who have been chewing big holes in the leaves of the Brussels sprout and cabbage plants. Although I want to limit my use of salt in the garden, salt on the leaves is one treatment I can try, so I’ll try making a salt-water spray for the Brassicas being damaged. Potatoes started coming up about 1 ½ weeks ago and although they were initially attacked by flea beetles (I did put a little charcoal ash on the potato plants even though I want to limit ash because it increases alkalinity in the soil and we don’t need more of that here!) Peas are producing for almost a week now and daily Russell goes out and snacks on peas. Not many left for adults so because these are tasty and successful, I think next year we have to find a way to plant more! Chard is producing reasonably well although some leaves have bad patches that I have yet to diagnose. Working on that. The chard is very good though. So is the Red Russian kale which still has excellent flavor without bitterness. I keep harvesting outer leaves of what are now mature plants, when the leaves are no more than 12 inches long. Some of my beets and onions are about 1 ½ inches in diameter.
Other projects:
A trellis out of recycled peeler posts and lumber for Russell's bed.
A folding trellis out of recycled fence posts for the first bed. I found and adapted a plan I found on Mother Earth News.
Initial attempts at setting flattish rocks for garden pathways. Surely you wondered what we might do with some of our lovely rocks?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Simple Soup for CSA vegi.s

Our local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) weekly shares just started at Cure Farm and as we've been staying out of the grocery store just as much as possible and eating only vegetables we could obtain from our garden and from the farm stand at Cure farm (Cure has had braising mix and spinach for a while), I am delighted for the variety in our diet. On Wednesday we brought home Walla walla onions, beets, bok choy, etc. I came up with a really quick, enthusiastic soup for the beet greens and stocks, onions and their green tops.

Beet green and onion soup:
Put about a cup of any any pre-cooked grain you have on hand (quinioa, teff, amaranth, millet, bulger, rice, etc.) into a saucepan with about 2 cups of water. Add a about a half cup of a protein source (e.g. pre-cooked beans, chopped up hard-boiled egg, left-over salmon or chicken, a tablespoon of tahini or peanut butter- be creative).

Take one or two onions (depending on your appetite and the size of the onions) with greens, wash, slice off roots and the bulb of the onion(s) and snip up the greens with a pair of scissors. Slice up the bulb with a knife and put the sliced onion in the saucepan. If you have some, add some diced green chili's (I use mild, as low sodium as I can get). If you have mushrooms, slice some up and throw them in too.

Wash the beets greens and stalks. Hold the stalks together and snip them up with the scissors. You can alternatively use a knife to slice them up. I suggest slicing or sniping them into about 1/2 inch pieces. Keep snipping or slicing when you get to the greens. Throw these in the pot as well.

Turn on the heat, bring to a low simmer (or almost to a simmer) while stirring to just wilt the greens. Don't cook long at all as greens are easily over-cooked. Remove from heat. Serve in bowls with oil and vinegar of choice. Fresh ground pepper is a nice touch. If you aren't low-sodium you might want a little salt. In my opinion the fresh vegetables provide all the flavor necessary.