Archive for ◊ November, 2010 ◊

Author: mandyrose
• Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

Breakfast here tends to be pretty local.  There are no packaged cereal boxes in our kitchen.

Veggie hash with eggs

Veggie hash with eggs

There are bulk rolled oats and steelcut oats, but honestly oatmeal is not my favorite, and breakfast usually involves  other things.  In the summer, autumn, and early winter, very often we have some sort of a veggie hash with a couple of eggs.  Veggies are whatever is available right out of the garden, but often uses peppers, a cole crop such as broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, or kale, and a onion of some sort.  Cheese on top is nice.  Homegrown potatoes are frequently part of it, sometimes as hashbrowns, sometimes refried from leftover boiled potatoes, or chopped and broiled quickly in the oven.  Our brussels sprouts have come in heavily and nicely this time of year, and a typical breakfast side is a quick steam of a couple handfuls of halved brussels sprouts with butter and balsamic vinegar.  It’s easy to get enough greens every day when they are part of breakfast too.

We’ve been doing well keeping up with making yogurt.

It is so nice to have yogurt that minimizes contact with plastic.  Local raw milk that stores in a glass bottle, and a glass container for culturing and storing the yogurt.  I have a hard time looking at the yogurt aisle in grocery stores, and seeing what a healthy food has been reduced to, and what an impact on the environment its packaging is having.  There is no need, and it is so sad, to contemplate the waste of the individually packaged yogurts, and the crazy overpackaging of a few tablespoons of heavily sweetened yogurt to appeal to kids.  The yogurt we make at home is heavenly-tasting, high quality, and free of plastic and landfill dependency.  If we want it sweet, adding maple syrup and canned pears, plums, peaches, or frozen berries, or homemade jam does the trick, and tastes so much better than flavored packaged yogurt.  When we were in Canada, I found some good yogurt (or…yogourt!) that tasted like the yogurts in Germany.  I brought it home and cultured it and was able to keep the culture from that one package going for a long time, with delicious results.

Lacto-fermented red pepper pickle

I guess we don’t have much of the ordinary imported fruit either.  Bananas, citrus, etc, have become rare.  Berries and canned fruits are local, and berries almost invariably handpicked from the wild or a local farm, and frozen. This summer we had a bumper crop of gorgeous blackberries (blackberries, not black raspberries!) from a weedy patch of brambles about 50 feet from our backdoor, that yielded all we could eat fresh, and at least two quarts of frozen berries.  A local diet doesn’t have to be deficient on vitamin C and antioxidants, just because imported citrus is a treat, rather than a staple.

Another way to access Vitamin C is through lactofermentation of certain veggies.  One of our favorite lacto-fermented pickles uses a lot of red bell peppers - a great source of C.  I can understand how foreign it must seem to think of eating vegetable kraut with breakfast, for those whose breakfast is cereal.  But it is delicious with potatoes and eggs, and as convenient to quickly grab out of the refrigerator.  For me, it is as foreign now to imagine pouring out boxed cereal and putting processed milk from a plastic jug on it and eating that.

The thing is - everything tastes so good!  It’s not as though we are torturing ourselves through a breakfast of some weirdly home-fermented stuff combined with choking down our daily greens.  So often we look at each other and just say, “oh, THIS is soo good..”  It is a high-quality, low sugar, usually low-glutin, easily digestible, low on environmental impact, and hugely satisfying way to have breakfast.

Author: mandyrose
• Saturday, November 20th, 2010

That smorgasboard seems to sum up the week!   On our porch is a chicken in a cage, and two planters full of celery plants.  We butchered 17 meat chickens while enduring a communal cold, and something has been simmering on the stove almost all day every day.  I’ve had a bit of a break from work this week, and tried to use it for autumn catch-up, even while nursing a cold.

The young chicken on the porch in a cage has a broken leg. Total mystery how that came to be, she just turned up hopping on one foot with the other hanging, obviously broken.  Chickens are relentless at picking on someone who’s injured, and her companions turned bullies immediately.  She had to be separated from them to not be killed by pecking.  Between the options of putting her down, or going to the vet and ending up with a $500 chicken, I decided I couldn’t do either, and would try splinting her leg as best I could, and leave the rest up to her and the higher powers.  She has a break right in or above the equivalent of the ankle on a chicken.  She’s been doing great in her little homemade cast for the past week -immobilization made it comfortable, and she rests and eats and seems to be healing.  She is one of our new Aracauna pullets for next years’ laying flock; I was not happy about this damage.

On one particularly cold clammy afternoon, I made myself go out even with a throbbing head and runny nose and dig the celery to save it from hard freezing.  We are not as advanced with hoophouses/winter shelters this year as I had hoped we’d be.  We have a wonderful harvest of celery… finally!  It puttered all through the hot dry summer, but has grown to loveliness now in this last cool but not cold 2 months.  I harvested down as much as I can keep in the refrigerator, dug about 15 of the best plants, and replanted them in planters to bring in under cover.  They will keep on producing useable celery for us for a little while.  You just can’t make really good soup without celery, and yet it is on the list of the most pesticide-poisoned veggies you can get (and not easy to wash or peel!).  It’s so nice to grow our own, but it takes some strategizing to have it available more than only 1/3 of the year.

We’re filling our freezer with 6-9 months supply of homegrown pastured chicken, and traded some of the chicken for half a grass-fed organic lamb raised a few miles away.  I’ve been making stocks from boiled bones, from some organic grassfed beef we had in the freezer, and now from the chicken bones.  It is amazing stuff - lovely color, tasty, so full of gelatin and chondroitin that it gels up strongly in the refrigerator.  Making really good soups while we have colds has been wonderful.  Here’s one that disappeared really quickly…it was soooo good:  That rich chicken broth, our own Snowcap beans, and our veggies, including onions, leeks, celery, wax beans, garlic, and kale.

When the stockpot hasn’t been occupied with broth and soup, I’ve made a batch of quince jelly, and one of Green Tomato Chutney.  The chutney turned out really spectacularly.  Green tomatoes, apple, quince, red bell pepper, hot pepper, onions all get chopped and simmered in a pot with raisins, mustard seed, curry powder, cinnamon, cardamon, allspice, and ginger, some sugar, and some vinegar.  I use maple sugar/turbinado/sorghum when I can.  Oh, it was delicious this time!

Author: mandyrose
• Saturday, November 13th, 2010

photo by Paul

Ain’t she lovely?

It’s been the season of the moult here.  Chickens moult about once a year, meaning they shed a good deal of their feathers, lay kindof low, and (usually) cease laying eggs.  Our egg production has shrunk until we haven’t any extra to sell, and probably won’t from now until late January or February.

It always seems crazy to me that moulting has to occur at the time of year when it’s getting cold…. those poorly-clad shivery-looking bare chickens in the cool breezes of November tug at my heart.  But I suppose it does make sense.  Their feathers grow back by the depths of winter when they really need them, and then in spring and summer, during chick hatching season, hens absolutely need their feathers for incubating eggs and warming little chicks.

This hen’s moult has been more severe-looking than many of them are.  Most just look rumpled and untidily ragged, but this poor girl lost more.  Many of the other chickens in the photo have already gone through their moults, and are sporting nice new feathers for winter.

There seem to be two ways to spell “moult”, or “molt”.  I like the UK way, adding in extra letters.  We had to choose which way to spell it here, and, not necessarily to be unnAmurkun or anything, we went for the Brit way.  This girl is, after all, a Speckled Sussex.

Category: Chickens  | 3 Comments
Author: mandyrose
• Saturday, November 06th, 2010

Today’s post is the yearly addition to “The Garden” page.  At this time of year as we clean up the garden I think back over the successes, failures, and lessons, and try to keep records on it before moving on.  Here’s this year’s summary:

2010 Season’s End Summary:

This was a fantastic year for growing heat-loving produce, and not great for growing the cool-weather crops.  Spring was early and hot, and while the lettuce and spinach season ended early and abruptly, the tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant got an early start, and needed unusually little frost protection.  Some things I had come to take for granted, because they did so well the past two years, were close to a failure this year:  Cabbage, carrots, kholrabi, beets and rutabegas, namely.  Cabbage I had a deluge of last year, so I didn’t work so hard on it this year, and had almost none. Carrots and Kholrabi get direct-seeded, and it seemed the ground was too hot and dry.  I planted/replanted carrots no less than 5 times and amazingly had complete failures each time.  I didn’t get them in early enough, and after that it just was too hot for the slow little seeds, and I was too busy to fuss over them daily. Seems like it was the same for rutabega, parsnip, savory, and beets.  Likewise, the fall greens - it was too hot in the end of the summer - lettuces planted in late August that would normally be gorgeous in late September were bolting at the beginning of October.

The tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash and potatoes though, Oh My!  We had bumper crops on all fronts.  We sold a lot of tomatoes.  I have longed to grow Rosa Bianca eggplant for several years, failed to get much for 2 years, but had big success this year.

Two pests were heavily present this year that are usually not this much of a bother:  Cabbage butterfly worms, and Tomato Hornworms.  The cabbage worms don’t limit themselves to cabbage, but are quite happy feasting on brussels sprouts, kale, and broccoli as well.  Tomato hornworms…were not something I had ever had in the garden until I found *one* last year.  This year - dozens.  Many people mentioned the phenomenon of record numbers of this pest this year in their gardens. As usual, our treatments were handpicking and squishing, drowning, or feeding to the chickens.

Here’s the produce roll call:

Wild successes: Spring lettuce, spinach, and greens (8 or 10 lettuces.  AnueAnue and Oreilles du Diable were surprise favorites); Dakota Black Popcorn!; Dragonwood’s own breeding of Cherry Tomato; Most tomatoes (about 8 varieties); Eggplants (3 varieties); Kale (3 varieties); Onions (3 varieties); Shallots (thanks Wayne!); Potatoes (oh, multiple varieties); Thai hot peppers; Sweet peppers (4-5 varieties); Green Beans(4 varieties); Tomatillos; Squashes (5-6 varieties); Summer Squash/Zucchini (6-7 varieties); Chives, Basil, Dill, Mint, Sage; Cucumbers(1 variety);

Moderate successes:  Garlic (good amount, but missed a harvesting date and many went past the beautiful point); Brussels Sprouts (2 varieties); Shell Beans (1 variety); Leeks (2-3 varieties); Swiss Chard (3 varieties), Mache, Cilantro; Endive (1var.); Pumpkins (3-4 varieties); Arugula (didn’t plant enough); Celery (1 variety, lots for us, none good enough to sell); Peas (several varieties, sugar snap, snow, and shelling; didn’t plant enough); Rhubarb; Aparagus; Green onions;

Disappointments: Okra (seeded too late); Carrots; Radiccio; Ground cherries; Turnips; Watermelon(never seem to work for me); Nasturtiums; Broccoli; Maple syrup - short season.

Total failures: Lacinato Kale; All carrots; most of 3 varieties of Cabbage; Fall-planted lettuces and spinach; Summer Savory; Rutabega; Beets; Muskmelon; Also apples and cherries - bloomed to early in the hot spring?

Oddity: Parsnips plantings failed like the carrots, but I had let enough parsnip seed spread on its own in the garden, that we ended up with enough self-seeded parsnips for our own uses!  Same for Dill.

Notes to Self:

Soak carrot seeds before planting.

Plant parsnips and rutabegas earlier.

Use row covers on the brassicas.

More people like arugula than I thought.

Don’t crowd the okra!  :)

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Author: mandyrose
• Thursday, November 04th, 2010

We’ve planted about 480 cloves of garlic so far.   For me, it’s  usually just not garlic planting unless it involves  a last-minute rush to finish planting as freezing rain sprinkles down and the ground is threatening to freeze soon.  This year though, I did it a little differently, and we had that lovely global warming 70-degree October weather that made garlic planting truly pleasurable for a change.  I got much of it planted in the last couple weeks, but now cold has settled in, and the last 200 - 250 I planned on look like they’ll follow the freezing rain tradition.

Maybe planting would go faster if for me it really was just about popping them in the ground, but instead, it’s all mixed up with clearing beds, building the compost heap, amending soil from the old compost heap, and starting the rough plan of next year’s crop rotation.  Garlic goes in now, stays there all winter, comes up in the spring, and gets harvested in July, so it’s a commitment to the beds it’s planted in that will have to be honored in April, May, and June.

The seed garlic comes from my own harvest this past July.  Every year, the biggest, strongest, best-keeping bulbs are saved, and are neither sold, nor eaten.  In mid- to late-October, and early November, they are split up into the cloves, the best cloves chosen, and they are replanted in a process not unlike planting crocus or daffodil bulbs at this time of year.  Over the course of some years of this culling we’ve ended up with some nice garlic stock.

This year we ended up with some garlic bulbils too.  These are the tiny replicas of the garlic that grow on top of the stem in the scape. I cut off some of the scapes a little late, and forgot them in the back of the refrigerator.  They continued growing and produced good-sized bulbils.  So this fall’s experiment is to plant the bulbils and see if we can work toward some more garlic stock from them.  They will be tiny for a couple years at least, so it’s a long term experiment!

Tiny Bulbils of Garlic

Planted Bulbil Bed - teensy pearls barely visible in the rows

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