Dear Gentle Reader,

1. Plant Something:  It has been raining at least every other day.  On top of that, it has been in the upper ’80s.  So, I haven’t gotten to do too much in the way of planting.  I did do a lot of weeding.  And every time we had a big storm, the winds knocked everything down, and I tied it back up.  So, the fava beans have been tied up several times.  Saturday I staked off the corn.  Yesterday I staked up the cherry tomatoes.  This morning I staked up the slicer tomatoes. 

I planted four pots of H-19 Little Leaf Cukes (from Highmowing Seeds).  They are pickling cucumbers.  I picked them because they are resistant to Angular Leaf Spot, Anthracnose, Cucumber Mosaic Virus, Downy Mildew, Powdery Mildew, and Scab.  I am hoping that they do well, but I have only one in the garden.  I planted some others, but they got eaten by Bambi.  I also transplanted a Mexican Sour gherkin into a large pot.  I found that you can get all kinds of FREE growers pots at the nursery.  They have a huge bin where people drop their used pots off for recycling.  So, I picked up a bunch on Sunday.  Yay! 🙂

2. Harvest Something:  Garlic scapes.  A bunch of mint and a bunch of thyme.  It was great on pan-seared lamb chops.

3. Preserve Something:  nothing

4. Waste Not: Picked up growers pots for free from recycling at my local nursery.

5. Want Not: Still working on my sourdough bread baking skills.  I started adapting the sourdough recipe to oatmeal.  The first try was ok, but it needs work.

6. Build Community Food Systems:  Investigated which orchards and farms are actually near me (within the surrounding counties).  I e-mailed an orchard not too far away from here, and they still have PYO cherries for only $2.50/lb.  Is that a good price?  I’m not sure.  They also have apples, blueberries, raspberries, and asian pears.  So, I need to get my family geared up for some picking.

7. Eat the Food:  More sourdough bread; mint and thyme


Dear Gentle Reader,

I tried out a new (for me) bread recipe from Farmgirl Fare, for Susan’s Oatmeal Toasting Bread, and boy was it GOOD! 🙂  I am definately going to make it many more times.   Please go to the link above, for the basic recipe.  Susan likes to use old dough in her recipe, but since I had my sourdough starter I used about a cup of that instead.  The bread did not have a sourdough flavor, since it included regular yeast too.  The regular yeast made the dough rise very fast.  It seemed like in only about an hour or so, the dough was overflowing the bowl it was it (the first rise).

Looking pretty good here.  After I punched the dough down, I divided it into three pieces.   Since I have two small and one large pan, one of the pieces was a little larger than the others.  Next, I kneeded and shaped the dough into logs that fit the pans.  The dough was a little sticky, which probably meant it could have used a little more flour, but it was such a large amount (during the first kneading) that I got as much flour as I could into the dough, but had to stop because I was getting too tired.  Oh well.  After shaping, I placed each log in its respective pan, sprayed it lightly with canola oil spray, and loosely covered it with plastic wrap.  It rose until it looked like this.

The middle small loaf was starting to sag over its sides, so I thought I ought to get them into the oven.  This is how they turned out.

Look at that beautiful crust.  It had a great crust, with a soft, moist crumb. 

Most of the first loaf disappeared the first day, everyone liked it so much.  I had some for breakfast, this morning.  And it toasted up beautifully. 

So, what are some changes I might make.   First, I need to shorten my baking time, or oven temperature, or turn of the convection feature of my oven.  It was a tiny bit overdone.  Second, I used Smart Balance Spread, instead of butter.  I avoid butter, due to a milk fat allergy.  Also, it is good for people who have cholesterol difficulties, like the adults in our family.  Finally, I am going to experiment with using only my sourdough starter to leven this bread.  It will take longer, but it will be a great flavor and texture.

All in all, I recommend that you put Susan’s Oatmeal Toasting Bread on your To-Do list. 🙂

Plant Something:  This was a VERY busy weekend.  I got tons of planting done.  I planted almost all of the starts that I made last week, including the corn.  By the time I got around to planting it, the corn roots were all over the place.  Usually, the roots went through at least one other start.  So, I had to pull them apart.  Hopefully, it will be OK.  I tried to be really gentle.   I also was careful to make sure that the entire root got into the ground.  Here is what the finished bed looks like.

The planter box is 4×6′, so this is pretty close planting.  But I was reading about corn the other day, and it said that when planing small patches, it is really better to plant close together, so that as much of the corn as possible gets pollinated.  We shall see.  I also planted three pie pumpkin starts.  The red plastic cups, on the bottom right, as Jerusalem artichoke starts.  I need to plant them in grow bags next weekend.  Then, there are two kinds of garlic on the left.  Finally, I have lots of marigold and pansy starts planted around the edges.  Yipee!

In another of my four planter boxes, I planted my indeterminate tomatoes…

On the right are four Al Kufa tomatoes, a slicing tomato.  On the left are three cherry tomatoes.  I planted four yellow zucchini in the middle.  I still have some radishes going, and some tiny carrots.  But, I had to take out several radishes.  They had grown absolutely enormous, from all of the rain was have had recently.  Oh well.  I plan to plant more radishes and carrots with the tomatoes.  I sprayed with beneficial nematodes today (all the gardens and the yard).  In addition to taking care of fleas, the nematodes will take care of the radish maggots.  Apparently, there are lots of things the nematodes will take care of.  More on that in a later post.

My determinant tomatoes went into their SWCs.

As you can see, some of the SWCs still have fava beans growing in them.  That’s ok, since the tomatoes are small.  I just wrapped the beans around the tomato cages.  These SWCs come from Gardener’s Supply Company.  I have had them for several years.  I got them when I didn’t know how to make them myself, and when I had no yard.  In the fall, I clean them out and give them a rinse with bleach, to kill diseases.  The dirt goes into the compost pile.   The large SWC has two Amish Paste tomatoes.  The small SWCs have only one tomato.  I am making a permanent spot for the SWCs, since it was a mess having them out in the yard last year.  Today, I laid down weed-block fabric along the back of the garage.  Then, I began edging with some old bricks I found lying around.  And, then, I began putting town mulch on top of the weed-block.  I only had 1 bag of mulch, so I haven’t gotten too far.  But, eventually, this will be a pretty nice area that will be level and that drains well.  Also, this is the one area of the yard that gets lots of sun most of the day.  The rest of the yard, well most of it, has some shade from nearby trees.  So, I’m pretty happy about getting so far with this project. 🙂

In a third grow box, I planted four H1 Little Leaf cucumbers and red velvet okra.  Can’t wait for that fresh okra.  The H1 Little Leaf is an open pollinated pickling cucumber that is resistant to a lot of problems, like powdery mildew and bugs.  Yay!

I also have a garden on the side of the garage.  Eventually, the garden on the back will curve around the corner, to the side, and it will all be nicely mulched.  Anyway, in the side garden, I planted lots of mammoth sunflower starts, two blue Hubbard squash starts, and lots of Fiesta nasturtium starts.  Horray!  It is so windy here, that the sunflowers have to have some protection.  Otherwise they will get blown over.  The trellis for the Hubbards, which is an old folding painters ladder, will go in front of the sunflowers, to protect them some more. 

And finally, I transferred some mexican sour gherkins starts into pots.  Right now, they are tiny.  But they will make really fun pickles, since they look like tiny watermelons.  I think I first saw them on Tigerss in a Pickle.  Can’t wait to try them.

Harvest: none

Prep: I am learning to bake sourdough bread.  I baked two batches of bread.  It’s really great.

Eat: sourdough bread

Build: taught my daughter how to bake the bread.  Nothing else.

Well, we sure have has a lot of rain.  Almost a solid week of COLD rain, some high winds, and some hail.  That made it really difficult to get out and do things.  But, I managed to get a few things done.

Plant Something:  Since I couldn’t plant outside, I planted starts for the summer, in Jiffy Pellets, which are inside.  If it warms up, I’ll take them outside.  Then, I can avoid the trials and pitfalls of hardening off, which I am alway too impatient to do properly.  I planted the following as seeds: Royal Calais flint corn (an entire flat), Mexican sour gherkins and H-1 little leaf cucumbers, yellow zucchini, Mammoth and lemon sunflowers, nasturtiums, parsley, columbine, pie pumpkins, and probably some other things, but I forget what. 

Harvest Something:  none

Prep/Want Not:  I am learning to bake sourdough bread according to Peter Reinhart’s Crust and Crumb.  

I really am enjoying this book.  Baking artisan bread is very different from what I grew up with.  For one thing, every single kind of bread starts with a “preferment” of some kind, which may be a sourdough starter or some kind of a “sponge”.  The sourdough that I am working with is a very mild sourdough that is made with wild yeast that lives on the wheat, and therefore is in the flour.  It takes a couple of days to make the bread, but boy is it good.  It is moist, with a tender, very fine crumb.  I am going to keep practicing, so that this becomes routine.

Also, I took a trip to Costco, to purchase staples, including a 50-lb bag of bread flour.  The flour is now safely stored in a 6-gal. bucket with gama-seal lid and a zip-lock polymer liner to keep air out.  There was quite a bit more than could fit into the bucket, so I filled several large Tupperware containers.  I’ll use that first, before I break out the bucket.  I also stocked up on maccaroni, spaghetti, dried beans, etc.  And, I organized my basement pantry.  I just have some heavy-duty steel wire shelves in the basement, but it works great.  The shelving units roll on wheels, and are super heavy-duty, so I don’t have to worry about sagging shelves.  They can handle a lot of weight.

Build Community Food Systems:  Unfortunately, we were not able to go to the farmer’s market, due to the downpour.  Interestingly, I learned that our local farmer’s market was price-fixing, and the KS attorney general got involved, and made the knock it off.  I know that three  or four farmers were given the boot by the farmer’s market.  We say them protesting on the opening day.  I heard that these farmers wouldn’t fix their prices and complained about the price-fixing to the attorney general, or someone, and were kicked out because they complained.  I could have some of the details mixed up.  In any case, we are going to try some other farmer’s markets around here.  Maybe we can get better deals.

Eat the Food:  Well, that bread I baked sure go gobbled up quickly.  Other than that, nothing.