Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Winter returns

It has already been an odd winter.  November was more like December usually is - cold snowy and sometimes sunny.  

Then December was like November usually is - warmer, grey and rain or snow.

Well, this week winter returned.  Last night was below zero and the high today was in the single digits.

But the snow is just beautiful.  And we have enough wood and so we go out, do things, and come back inside.

Saga of the Splitter

We like to have plenty of wood ready to use for the cook stove and the wood stove and the kiln.  Ken cuts dead and dry, then we split if need be, stack and when the weather permits, continue this as an outdoor activity.

This fall Ken had some pressing tasks he wanted to complete, and he did. H got four out building roofs repaired and all that remains is to finish some sliders and egg box lids for the north coop. But that meant we were a bit behind on the wood.  November was terribly cold, and I was a bit nervous (there is always kiln wood in a real pinch).  

Then December was quite warm - more like November.  So Ken brought some dead and dry wood into the yard and he bucked it up to cook stove and wood stove lengths.  

But we had some problems with the splitter - it has now been to the shop three times and is not yet working.  Seems the engine - 50's or 60's vintage - may not be worth repairing.

But we have some wood bucked and ready to split - and there is always the kiln wood that we could buzz up in a pinch

Winter Laundry

North lines that I use for sheets and pants
We have a well and work to conserve water.  And we try to use as little propane and electricity as possible.  so when we do laundry we use an old wringer washer - Ken runs the washer and I hang it outside - even in winter

East lines with Big Red in the clothes pin box
This week on Monday we had a beautiful sunny afternoon in the 20's with no wind.  Perfect!  We did laundry and I got some help from Big Red with the clothes pins.  It gets like a board, then freeze dries and then I bring it in and place over a bar near the cook stove for the final bake!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Harvest Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden (and root cellar)!  This box has some greens for salad and braising, cabbage, potatoes, leeks and onions, garlic, shallots, squash, carrots and beets, black or daikon radish,  kohlrabi, and turnips.

Field Notes.  Ken was out mulching the strawberries this week.  And he is keeping the greenhouse doors clear so he can get in and out of them.  We may have some last greens to harvest from the mobile high tunnel this week; it all depends on the weather.
Much of Ken's work right now is planting for micro greens. 
Unfortunately with the lack of sunshine the greens are growing slower than usual once we move them to the windows.  

I have sprouts going by the cook stove as well

I have just about completed the seed order.  Last year our favorite seed company's product just did not germinate consistently.  That is part of the reason for low yields on several crops like the red onions and sweet corn.  Another part was weather.  I have ordered some seed from a new to us, but tried and true company for 2015.

From the Kitchen.  Ken has been in the kitchen early mornings and later in the evening as we have longer nights and shorter days.  He has made several batches of cultured vegetables - the same process as sauerkraut.  Cultured vegetables contain high amounts of vitamin c and pro biotics like those found in yogurt.  They will be ready soon.  

He has also been baking - pies; here is what happens to the pumpkins with a soft spot
and a wonderful carrot, leek, cabbage au gratin.
I have been browning a shank, adding leek or onion, garlic, dried herbs like savory and thyme, soup stock and barley.  After a long slow simmer on the cook stove I add rutabaga, turnip, and carrot chunks for a hearty stew.

Right now we have zero egg production - the chickens take a break during the cold and dark.  But in spring during peak egg season  Ken made some eggnog using George Washington's recipe, And so we tip our glass, and wish you a Happy Holiday Season.  'Til Next Year - just a few weeks away-, Ken and Judith

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Ken in the Kitchen

Ken has been making cultured vegetables - here he is making gingered carrots. We both like them in cold weather as ginger is a warming spice.  Gingered carrots are also delicious with Asian dishes as a condiment.

Cultured vegetables, fermented vegetables and lacto fermented vegetables are different names for vegetables that have been scrubbed and either salted like sauerkraut or brined with salt water for large solid vegetables.  Salt is a preservative and the process of fermenting vegetables creates pro biotics similar to those found in high quality yogurt - but without the dairy.  Cultured vegetables also provide vitamin c that would be lost if the vegetables were cooked.

Ken creates several varieties - some large pieces, others sliced.

Some like carrots and require the additional step of peeling.

Some batches have cayenne pepper, so they are hot and others are not

Soon these will be ready.  Waiting is the most difficult part

And with the "Leftovers"

With longer nights and shorter days, Ken moves into the kitchen.  Of the two of us, he is the more creative cook, and often I am happy to act as sous chef  for him.  When he made cultured vegetables recently he made a batch of gingered carrots. 

 After making the batch of gingered carrots he asked me to clean up the small and twisted pieces for a casserole.  He made a baked carrot dish with onion, cabbage, cream and a topping of cheese

On the side he served cooked potatoes that he put through the ricer and then browned.  One was enough for both of us so we reheated the second one for breakfast the next morning.  Delicious

Greens from Root Tops

This is a great beginning gardener or "kid project."  After you rinse off a root, cut the top (stem end) at the shoulders, place in a low dish of water in a sunny window and after a few days, the green tops start.

This works for just about every root - although we aren't partial to carrot tops - beets, turnips, celeriac, rutabagas.  I pick the greens and then usually there is at least one more crop from the energy from the piece of root.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Harvest Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden!  This week's CSA box has greens for salad or braising, leeks, garlic,squash or pumpkin, potatoes, black radish, rutabaga, turnips, cabbage, shallots. winter tomatoes,  and carrots.

Field Notes. Unseasonably cold weather signals that the season for outdoor greens is coming to a close.  We grow micro greens in winter and have green storage cabbage, too.  Ken has been making cultured vegetables: sauerkraut, gingered carrots, fall roots, and beets.  These vegetables plus salt create probiotics and preserve the vitamin C that would be lost with heat in cooking or canning. 

He has been planting greens for next month as well.  With the short days plants start and grow slowly.  Organic grower Eliot Coleman calls this the Persephone season after the Greek goddess. She was abducted by Hades of the Underworld and so her mother Demeter, goddess of the harvest sets soil and crops to rest and sleep until her return in spring.  Coleman contends that little has enough light to grow, but some plants can be stored for winter use.

I have finished sorting seeds, and doing an inventory of what we have and soon will be ordering for next season.  I have received a few responses to my request for preferences.  Those lists help us prioritize  what to grow the next season.  We really appreciate the feedback.  Thank you.

From the Kitchen.  This year presented some real challenges.  We got late rain and the winter squash is not keeping as well as it usually does.   Ken has cooked, pureed and packed in ziploc bags for the freezer.  We have had squash pie a couple times and squash soup.  We both love squash and its beta carotene is an added health benefit

Ken also got some onions in the dehydrator as they, too, were not keeping as well as usual.  

Thank goodness for leeks.  They are sweet, smooth and can be used in any onion recipe.  I like to saute onions and add chopped braising greens or cabbage so it wilts and then add cream or vinegar or a dressing.  Years ago someone shared a recipe with sauteed onion or leek, wilted greens tossed with pasta and topped with a spicy dressing like Caesar or Italian garlic dressing.  They  also added olives or nuts.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Sauerkraut Day

Today we made sauerkraut.  Or maybe I should say Ken made sauerkraut with my help.  He brought up the storage cabbage - four large recycle tubs.  

I then pulled off any wilted leaves.

Then it was rinse and drain.

I moved them over to where Ken was shredding.

He has had this kraut cutter for more decades than I have known him!

We save the cabbage cores in a cool place for the next batch of soup stock.  This season it will be goose bones after we butcher them - once we get another warm spell and some pork bones from the locker

Then Ken weighs the shredded cabbage and adds salt...

...and juniper berries.

Then it goes down to the crock where Ken pushes it until the liquid rises above the cabbage, and then he places a weight over the kraut and covers it.  Fermentation time varies with the temperature.

The last batch just came out of the crock Sunday and is now in jars in the cooler. 

We took a field tip to get organic ginger root for the next batch of fermented vegetables - gingered carrots.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Experience Clay

Four Saturdays in January 2015. 9–11:30 a.m.
Ken Keppers, studio potter, teaches the basics –
Pinch, coil, and slab construction.  Wheels available.
Sign up for one or more classes at $20 rate per class
Or all four classes $65
Ken Keppers 
Turtle Lake, WI
(715) 986 – 4322