Monday, February 23, 2015

Harvest Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden!  This CSA box has salad greens, carrots, beets, potatoes, rutabaga, kohlrabi, celery root, black radishes,  garlic, shallots, some onions, dry beans, and the last of the pumpkins.

Field Notes.  Ken continues to monitor the temperature in the greenhouses.  Meanwhile he has begun planting full season crops.  Onions are popping up.  They emerge from the soil folded and then like a Rockettes kick line they boing open!  No matter how many times I have seen this, it always amazes me.  And it reminds me that spring is just around the corner.  Seeds have arrived and are sorted by plant type and plant date - we are ready to go!

For years people have asked Ken to teach gardening, and plans are under way!  We will keep you posted.

From the Kitchen. We are still using the wood cook stove, to make soups and stews mid day or evening with meat and root vegetables like minced celery root, carrots, rutabagas, potatoes.  For variety I have been pulling vegetables from the freezer for medleys - frozen peas with root cellar carrots cut julienne or frozen broccoli with sauteed shallots, for example.  

I also make "sprout slaw"  with grated carrots, black radishes, and minced shallots.  I use a home made mayonnaise as the base for the dressing. 

We also head to the pantry for dried nettles to add to soups or we go to the sunny window and trim greens from roots I have set in a dish of water.

With egg season starting, there is custard.

This is my challenge time for cooking as there is less new crops to add to the mix.  I also look at how well we could do the local food challenge THIS time of year rather than August when it is so easy.  Take on the challenge!

'Til March 11th, Judith

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Dry Sweet Corn

This last season had many cold nights.  As a result we had some tiny second ears instead of good sized second ears that can be sold.  So Ken decided to dry them.  

Last week I needed space and they were dry enough to shell off.  So I have a jar of dried corn and a bushel of husks.  Ken will burn the husks to ash for a pottery glaze and we will eat the corn, of course!

Making Wine

We grow some fruit - strawberries, raspberries, melons, apples, plums, Nanking bush cherries, elderberries.  And with all fruit, there are some culls - fruit that is soft from rain or apples with a soft spot.  Those fruits go into something processed - like applesauce or plum jam, vinegar, or wine.

Last season we had a new pest in the raspberries and that meant more culls.  I froze them and last week I started making wine.  Many people make a large five gallon batch of wine in a carboy, but I like to make smaller and varied batches.  Here is a dry raspberry, a sweet raspberry and a honey based raspberry melomel.  This morning I moved from primary fermentation in five gallon buckets to gallon jars with air locks for the secondary fermentation. As I siphoned them off, Ken asked if I would be "drunk before noon" as he remembers a time when I made several large batches and bottled all at one time!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Harvest Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden! This CSA box has greens, the last of the cabbage and squash, potatoes, carrots, kohlrabi, rutabaga, radish, onions, shallots, garlic, and the last of the cabbage and squash.

Field Notes.  Ken  monitors greenhouse temperatures in February.  Soon he will be seeding and transplanting - it all depends on the weather.  This year seems less sunny than usual and so there has been less solar gain. 

Ken has started planting full season crops that he will later transplant in field or green house depending on crop.  Although he has been planting greens right along for our winter harvest, these full season crops make it clear that winter's power is waning and soon it will be spring.  There are many different markers for this from Groundhog Day to Candlemas to St Brigid's Day to the Celtic Imbolc.  Now, during the midway point between solstice and equinox is a very dramatic time.  Days are lengthening at a rapid , noticeable rate.  

From the Kitchen.  Chicken.  Last Friday we reduced the late hatch cockerel population.  We like late summer hatched chickens as they start laying now.  Spring hatched chickens start laying eggs in fall just as the days are getting shorter and then they slow down until now.  Eggs have a season and it is starting now.  think Easter, think Easter bunny.  When we look at feed costs and egg production that late hatch seems to make more sense.  The down side is the males reach an age where they need thinning in late winter.

So we have been making chicken broth.  This is nothing new, but right now studies are being published on the health benefits of bone broth.  And it makes great soup.  last night invited friends for dinner and I served a humble chicken soup.  I sauteed potato onions and minced celery root with some turmeric in the Dutch oven, added broth, carrots, rutabaga, daikon, potatoes, minced garlic,  and simmered with some smoked paprika, thyme, and savory. Just before serving I added meat picked from the bones and frozen peas.  I served with corn bread and salad and Ken's kim chi.  I got compliments at each course.

For dessert I cored apples and baked with tahini (sesame butter) and maple syrup and herb tea from the  garden - a blend of lemon balm, nettles, mint, and red clover.

Tonight I am pressure canning the remaining broth for future use.
'Til February 25th, Judith

Clay Classes

Ken has started teaching clay classes after a long hiatus.

We had a great time Saturdays mornings this January and here are some of the final projects

Pottery - some of the many steps in making a pot

When most people think of making pottery, they think of throwing or turning a pot on the wheel.  That is only one step of many.  

Most of Ken's pots have a foot.  They are trimmed once the clay is leather hard

Ken makes many pots with lids.  That means he throws a pot and throws a lid for the pot.  Often he throws lids "off the hump" which means he makes many lids from one large piece of centered clay.

He throws the lid, and measures it, and cuts it from the hump and 

places it on the ware board.

Later when the clay has dried some, he fits lids to pots.  

Next he trims the lids.  And puts a handle on each lid.  

He rolls out a coil, cuts and forms it,

Then he puts some watery clay called slip on the lid.  With the slip and firm pressure, the two pieces of clay will bond.  

He puts the handle on the lid and presses it on and then into shape so it will be easy to grip. 

Sometimes the pot also has handles.  He makes and using some slip and firm pressure he puts handles on pots.

Or if it is a cup he does a pulled handle

This is all done with foot power on a treadle wheel.  

Next Ken places pots under plastic so the dry evenly.  Then after he signs them, they are bisqued, glazed, fired and cleaned for sale.  

Many steps and each one affects the outcome of how the piece turns out.

Weaving Season

I love winter.  Many people complain, but I do not.  I sometimes express amazement like last year's constant snow cover and deep piles of snow or when in January 1994 the thermometer was below the 40 below mark!  Each season brings different activities on this homestead.  Late winter Ken starts planting full season crops like onions.  Spring brings planting and transplanting in greenhouses.  Summer starts harvest and preservation.  Fall brings harvest and storing crops in the root cellar and cold storage.  

So what does winter bring?  For Ken winter is a combination of planting mini greens, clearing and cleaning spaces, and making pottery.  For me winter brings tax prep, seed orders, root cellar and window box harvests, cleaning and clearing space, and weaving.


I fell into weaving - a friend called to tell me about a loom in the Twin Cities going cheap.  We went in and bought it.  I enjoy sewing and other tasks with fiber, so why not?  Ken put it together, a friend showed me how to make string heddles, Ken made some missing wood pieces, I took a class at the Weavers Guild in Minneapolis and that was it.

Now I am working on my second loom acquisition a sturdy rug loom with the capability of a long warp to weave many rugs.  I had LOTS of denim so I warped it in a series of colors I thought would enhance denim and I took a dyeing class at the Weavers Guild and over dyed some denim.  Last year I had a bad rip in the apron I patched and patched again recently and it seems to be holding.

Here are some views of what I am working on right now.  Denim and over dyed denim on an ORCO rug loom Ken got for me by bidding a bit higher than I was willing to bid  at an auction years ago