Saturday, December 14, 2013

Ken , The Christmas Elf

Each year Ken seems to wrap up the garden later and later.  That puts the squeeze on his duties as a Christmas elf.  

But he is vigilant, and after apart of an afternoon, there you go.  There are still many steps - trimming the foot, bisque firing, and glazing and final firing.  But he is well on the way!

Local Food Challenge in Winter

Last January I started a local food challenge in winter.  Usually these local food challenges occur at peak local growing season during the summer - a great start. My contention is how do we eat local year around?  Ken and I committed to this years ago when our CSA reported the worst part was "going back to the store."  We began an extended and then a year around CSA.  WE hope to recapture the skills our grandparents had to raise and store crops for the whole year

Why bother?  Local food systems support the local economy.  Local food systems reduce dependence on highways, petroleum and anonymous food sources of unknown origin and quality.

There can be delicious local meals all year round.  Today, while Ken's midday meal was getting cold, I snapped a few photos.  The menu?  Local lamb from our fiends Evan and Sarah with garlic and rosemary condiment of grated horseradish and cream), 

roasted vegetables from our root cellar with herbs, 

and sauteed red onions with Brussels sprout tops with tamari.

Traded locally milk and lamb;
Purchased from afar: Celtic sea salt, black pepper, tamari, olive oil for the roasted vegetables
The rest from our garden

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

CSA Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden!  This box has salad greens, winter tomatoes, garlic, shallots, beets, carrots, kohlrabi. winter squash, potatoes and the last of the leeks and Brussels sprouts.

Field Notes.  Ken has been planting inside as the weather between Thanksgiving and the December box is pretty unpredictable.  There have been some years when we had greens from the hoopettes and greenhouses. 
fiber over greens in mobile high tunnel
Not this year.  Once temperatures drop below zero, one layer of plastic or even a layer of fiber and a layer of plastic over that are not enough for thing to survive.  So we have green from all the windows for this box.

We were really glad to get the snow before this spell of frigid weather.  I do feel bad about the difficult driving and other inconvenience snow can cause, but it is great for moisture and insulation in the garden.  The blanket of snow slows down the frost going down deeper into the soil.  The less the frost drops, the earlier we can get into the garden and field in spring.  And there is also less damage to perennial crops like asparagus and fall planted crops like garlic and shallots

Ken continues at garden tasks - he will mulch the garlic on Friday, he has repairs to do as well.  And he is switching focus to make some pottery orders so Santa can get them in time.  

from a few years back - once they all arrived

We also spend this time planning for next season and getting next year's harvest dates calendar ready.  I have done the seed inventory and gotten out the largest of the seed orders since we have found that late orders may mean the organic or our favorite varieties may be sold out!

From the Kitchen.  Baking and roasting are becoming the norm as the cook stove has been lit each morning and I keep it going much of the day.  I like the Russian banana potatoes for roasting.  And onions and beets and carrots.  I start the meat, and before it is done, I drain some of the cooking juices for gravy, and place the cleaned cut up vegetables in the roaster and then place the meat on top.

For small roasts, once they are done I remove them and put the vegetables in the pan with some olive oil and herbs and turn up the heat .  I like to stir often so everything browns more evenly.

Brussels sprouts are such a treat.  After it has gotten cold, they are sweeter and more flavorful.  I usually steam them with carrots cut into match sticks sized pieces, but recently Ken and I had them roasted.  They were good!  I would never have thought of that.  And friends are pickling them.  Any way you decide to prepare them, enjoy the end of this seasonal favorite.

We treat the tops of the plants like cabbage - they are tender and sweet like the cabbage hearts.  Here I sauteed a quarter of a red onion sliced into narrow wedges, added the chopped tops and cooked just until they turned brighter shade of green and wilted and then topped with tamari and mild vinegar.  Any dressing or vinegar or lemon juice would be tasty

And like the Brussels sprouts, the last of the leeks for 2013 are in this box.  I like leeks for their creamy texture.  Ken has told me he has an improved cleaning method.  He cuts off the roots, and then slices until he sees any hint of soil and THEN he cuts lengthwise to rinse.  He says it is much easier and faster.  I believe it and if I remember that is what I will try with the last of my leeks.

Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for the season. The next box is January 8th - Next Year!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Snow today, Cold tomorrow

We have been getting snow.  And freezing rain, and ice pellets, and slush.  It has made life difficult for people who need to travel by car on slippery roads.  I have pulled lots of wood for the cook stove,
gone out and cleared walk and greenhouse doors, cleared windows on the van, and been thankful.  The forecast is for very cold weather for this time of year.  That is tough on all the plants in greenhouses and perennials.  Snow will buffer that cold.

Today Ken plowed the drive.  And I got some nice photos out the door -
the garden

The kiln shed

trees near the garden

the garden

In addition to plowing Ken moved these cockerels from the greenhouse in the field 

to this small coop that he recently moved near the drive.  It is smaller, warmer, and closer for him to check on them

The rest of the day we started various inside jobs.  Tomorrow starts a blast of cold that seems earlier than usual.  We are so glad the snow came first.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Clearing Snow with Oscar

The snow has been falling.  Today as Ken was getting chains on tractors and plowing the drive I offered to walk out to check on the cockerels in the greenhouse in the field.  Oscar thought this was a great adventure.

First we went to the mobile high tunnel and shoveled out the door.  I left a shovel for the future 

Pretty nice inside

Then it was out to the field.  The walk was beautiful

Oscar had a great time

The field was also was covered in snow

I shoveled out that door and left a shovel for future use

The cockerels seemed pretty nonchalant - they had food and water, and it was 38 degrees inside the greenhouse

and Oscar likes chicken food

On the way back home Oscar kept going ahead

and waiting for me to catch up to him

Then I took a photo of the circle in the drive just because Ken loves how the snow sits on the bowling balls.

What beauty

Snow before the Cold

Ken got several fall tasks done before we got snow.  On Sunday Ken was out in the field mowing.  On Monday he got gypsum spread on the field.

And then the snow started.  We are glad to see it.  When I met Ken he told me the worst part of winter was trying to keep a car running and trying to get to destinations by car on time.  This is not such a big deal when one lives and works in the same place.  I do feel sorry for those who need to keep cars running and getting to destinations on time, but I am so glad it is snowing!

Why?   A blanket of snow on the ground before cold temperatures is a good thing - often the ground stays warm enough to slowly melt the snow from below and the moisture goes into the soil.  The snow also acts as insulation so the frost does not go so deep into the soil.  One year when we got early snow the frost never dropped.  This meant good moisture in spring and we could get into the fields early since we did not have to wait for the frost to lift out of the ground.

Moving the Coop

While I was canning one of the last batches of soup stock,  Ken was outside.

When I went to remove my jars from the pressure canner, here is what I saw! 

Ken had begun to move the coop.

Ken went around the driveway and set the coop near the kiln shed.

Now he has blocked and leveled it. Next Ken will remodel - renovate it and he plans to use it as a brooder coop.  Its close proximity to the kiln shed will make it easy to run an electric cord from the kiln for a light, and the location will make it easy for visitors to see the chicks