Monday, May 30, 2011

Independence Days 2011-2: Memorial Day Edition

Since the weather has held for the long holiday weekend -- it's been downright toasty under the hot sun! -- I've been able to get quite a bit done in the gardens. So it seemed like a good time to post an Independence Days update:

1. Plant something: Calypso beans, Noir des Carmes cantaloupe, Costata Romanesca zucchini, Italian parsley, Romanesco broccoli, Clear Dawn onions, Scarlet Queen turnips, Red Choi pac choi, Antares Oakleaf lettuce, golden chard, broccoli raab, basil, Alma Paprika peppers at the Southern Belle's garden; more basil and Peacevine cherry tomatoes, chamomile, anise hyssop at the Renaissance Man's garden

2. Harvest something: lemon balm, peppermint, rose petals from the Renaissance Man's garden; dill, cilantro, pac choi, chives, golden chard, radishes from the Southern Belle's garden; chamomile blossoms as well as chamomile and anise hyssop plants (to transplant) from the fabulous Jen's garden

3. Preserve something: dried lemon balm, spearmint, bronze fennel, peppermint, chocolate mint

4. Reduce waste (Waste not): baked a little less for market this past week, knowing that the holiday weekend would slow, not boost, sales

5. Preparation and storage (Want not): cleaned up more glass jars as I clean out some of last year's herbs; filled glass milk jugs for water storage

6. Build local food systems: continued work on Local Roots newsletter; attended meeting for bakers at the market; attended kitchen demo at Today's Kitchen Store and discussed plans for my class in July; swapped leftover bread for herbs, greens, cookies with three producer friends
; saved leftover tea rings for the Absent-Minded Professor to take to his staff meeting this week; gardened with My Adorable Nephews

7. Eat the food: eggs with chard and Swiss cheese; French toast; leftover veg rolls; new favorite: steamed asparagus with Asian peanut sauce, fresh cilantro, and either a wheat tortilla or pita; herbal iced tisanes; mixed greens salad with dried blueberries, blue cheese, hazelnuts, and a blueberry vinaigrette

And the weekend's not over yet!

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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Grow On...

After many days and many nights of rain, thunderstorms, gullywashers, and assorted other memorable weather events, we finally had an utterly gorgeous, sunny, warm day yesterday to kick off the holiday weekend.

And you know what that means: time to play catch up in the garden.

I started off my Saturday with a brief visit to Garden #1, at the Renaissance Man's home. The recent rain seemed to have washed out one of my cherry tomato seedlings, so I replaced it and added another, along with a little more basil. (Because you can never have enough basil...) While there, I harvested more lemon balm and peppermint for the dehydrator and checked on everything else. (Fingers crossed for strawberries this year!)

I had scheduled the afternoon and evening for time with the Southern Belle, the Absent-Minded Professor, and My Adorable Nephews in the hopes that we would make progress in Garden #2. The weather cooperated, and we got down to business!

The upper bed is well on its way with a bumper crop of hardneck garlic (planted last fall) growing strong. The first round of peas, green beans, radishes, and golden chard are coming up nicely, too, with carrots and parsnips as sluggish followers. The chives -- planted the first year we had the garden -- are about due for dividing this year! And a lone pac choi plant made it through the winter and is valiantly trying to uphold the genetic tradition by blooming and attempting to set seeds.

We added to this bed by planting mounds of Noir des Carmes cantaloupe (an heirloom variety that sounded irresistible) and Costata Romanesca zucchini, plus a row of Calypso beans for drying. My Adorable Nephews were enraptured by the "yin-yang" beans, and once I suggested they get their garden exploring kit (a gift I made for them a year or so ago), they saved a couple bean seeds in the jars I had provided, then wrote notes and drew pictures in their garden journals. (Mind you, these boys are almost-10 and 7 -- and they love the garden!)

While they made notes, I moved on to the lower bed, where the second round of peas and radishes and the first round of lettuce and pac choi are starting to take hold. The cilantro, an annual that perennially reseeds itself, is in its prime, and the dill is starting to appear as well. I added rows of Clear Dawn onion, Scarlet Queen turnips, Antares Oakleaf lettuce, Red Choi pac choi, more golden chard, and broccoli raab -- as well as three Romanesco broccoli seedlings. The boys took a breather from their journals to scatter broken eggshells over the rows where I planted greens. (Here's hoping that wards off the slugs!)

The first round of chard has grown enough that I was able to pick some leaves to add to our salad for dinner, along with fresh cilantro, dill, and pac choi leaves. I just love when I can start eating straight from the ground!

While the first round of snap peas are starting to bloom, they're not quite ready to produce pods yet. But they're a good step ahead of this second round, which will keep our snap pea harvest coming for a few more weeks!

As we worked in the garden, the Southern Belle weeding ahead of us, the Absent-Minded Professor planted tomatoes, basil, and peppers around the deck closer to the house. So if all goes well in the garden this year, we should have a good variety of food for the table!

I plan to get out to Garden #3 yet this holiday weekend for more work, if not much more planting. But I'm so glad to see things growing again!

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Awww, Dry Up!

I just checked this morning, and I think I might be starting to grow webs between my toes. It's been a wet, wild, and occasionally woolly late spring -- the last couple of weeks have had rain (often thunderstorms) predicted for nearly every day.

Many farmers and gardeners have been discouraged at how the weather has kept them from getting seeds and seedlings planted. Me, well, I've been lazy anyway, so it hasn't really slowed me down any further. And last Sunday I even got out to the garden (new plot, #3) in a fine mist to put in the first round of plantings.

Still, all this rain has brought on spring with a vengeance, and we've enjoyed lush colors (especially rich, deep greens) against those gray skies. The perennial herbs have put on an impressive growth spurt in recent weeks, so I've already started harvesting and drying them for herbal tisanes and for baking.

Since I'm not farming this year, I don't plan to keep up the separate farm blog and will instead post garden updates here. Again this year I have three garden plots, all shared with others:

#1 -- with the Renaissance Man, a small plot with room for ready-to-eat items and lots of herbs
#2 -- with the Southern Belle and My Adorable Nephews -- year 4!
#3 -- a new space tucked into the Contradance Callers' big fenced garden

And while I slacked off on the Independence Days challenge over the winter, I think it might be time to revive it again to get me back on track for this year. Here's the update for the past couple of weeks:

1. Plant something:
--Cascadia snap peas, Pirat lettuce, Five-Color Silverbeet chard, Prize Choy pac choi, Cherry Belle radishes, Tender and True parsnips, Maxibel Bush beans, Scarlet Nantes carrots at the Southern Belle's
--Chioggia and Golden Detroit beets, Soldier and Jacob's Cattle dry beans, Nectar carrots, Red Choi pac choi, Golden chard, Uncle David's Dakota Dessert squash, Alaska nasturtiums, Thompson and Romanesco broccoli, Roodnerf Brussels sprouts, Frigga savoy cabbage, broccoli raab, Harris Model parsnips, chamomile at the Contradance Callers'
--Peacevine cherry tomato seedlings, Alma Paprika pepper seedlings, broccoli, basil, cilantro, anise, chamomile at the Renaissance Man's

2. Harvest something: lemon balm, spearmint from the Renaissance Man's garden; rhubarb from the Contradance Callers' garden

3. Preserve something: dried lemon balm, spearmint, nettles, bronze fennel, parsley; froze rhubarb; started chive-parsley and thyme vinegars (from Herb Day at Local Roots); made parsley salt

4. Reduce waste (Waste not): Reusing leftover bread bags for my own storage; froze leftover buns from the market to go with frozen "burgers"; composting weekly

5. Preparation and storage (Want not): Restocked on flours and other grains, cheeses, almond paste (for croissants); cleaned up and stored glass jars for dried goods as well as for canning; started list of pantry items to restock; saved glass milk jugs for water storage

6. Build local food systems: Cooked in the demo kitchen at Local Roots for Herb Day, shared recipes; weekly barter of leftover bread for greens and herbs with a fellow producer; worked on June Local Roots newsletter; signed up to do a cooking demo at Today's Kitchen Store in July; shared leftover bread at a potluck and sent the remains home with other people

7. Eat the food: Lots of delicious asparagus! especially steamed and wrapped in homemade tortillas with cashew butter and cilantro; eggs with chard and Swiss cheese; French toast; leftover veg rolls; pizza with arugula

Not a bad start for late spring -- but there's more to do in coming months! Once it dries up, of course...

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Friday, May 06, 2011

Tortilla Not-So-Flats

I decided to try making whole wheat tortillas, just to see if it's something to add to my market repertoire. In this entire batch of 12, I didn't get a single round one -- lots of odd shapes and the occasional fold -- but they smell and taste good.

So I guess I'll keep trying!

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Mint to Be

I've had a hard time motivating myself to get out and work in the garden so far this year. Granted, we've had a lot of rainy days that have kept a lot of people out of gardens and fields, but I haven't taken advantage of many of the little windows of opportunity that have come my way.

Yesterday, though, the sun was shining, the breeze was warm(ish), and I finished baking early enough in the afternoon to allow me one of those wee windows. And by golly, I took it.

A couple of my new herbal tisane blends for the market have nearly sold out already, including one that uses spearmint, so I need to get the dehydrator out and start harvesting and drying herbs. So I headed over to the Renaissance Man's place to harvest spearmint since I am completely out of dried mint.

When last I checked, it didn't look like there was much to pick, but yesterday I managed to fill a good-sized basket with clippings -- which then translated to three pint jars stuffed full of sprigs. What fragrant bouquets!

Once I finish baking today, I intend to clear the kitchen table and set up the dehydrator. I also need to dry lots of nettles (for another tea blend), so I expect to have this thing humming before long. And then maybe while it's out, I can harvest the first peppermint and lemon balm, too.

And maybe... just maybe... next week I can get into the garden for more work!

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