Independence Days

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,

This past weekend was shamefully slow, on the independence days front, at least compared to last week.  Most of our Saturday afternoon was spent at Golden Heartland Alpacas.   It’s about an hour’s drive from here.  My DH had heard from a friend that they were having an open house, and we decided it would be fun.  And it was. 🙂  Here are some of the boys we saw.

1. Plant Something: I didn’t actually get to plant anything this week.  But I did spend a bit of time taking care of everything.  The tomatoes are all blooming now.  I am looking forward to eating them.  I really need to harvest the leeks.  They are very over grown, all with skapes.  The hard neck garlic is putting out skapes too.  So, I really need to cut them off.  I keep thinking that I will cook something with them, like pickle them.  Since I am short on time, maybe the best thing to do would be to simply saute them.  I could freeze some of what I saute, in useful amounts, for future use.
2. Harvest Something: nothing
3. Preserve Something: nothing
4. Waste Not: nothing
5. Want Not: I tried out a new bread recipe from Farmgirl Fare.  It was for oatmeal tosting bread.  It is really delicious, and does make great toast.  This recipe uses “old dough,” so I just used some of my sourdough starter.  Since the recipe also uses regular yeast, it rises very quickly (as compared with just the sourdough starter, which contains a slow-growing yeast), and I was able to make the bread in only a few hours.  It made three lovely loaves.  But, since I have a 30-year old Kitchen Aid mixer (my mom’s), I need to reduce the recipe to only two loaves.  The old Kitchen Aids have bowls that can handle only two loaves-worth of dough.  You can do enough dough for three loaves, but it crawls over the top of the dough hook and gets on the rotary mechanics.  I am definately going to make this again.  I am going to experiment with making it only with sourdough starter.  Since the starter is very slow-rising, I might use 4-cups of it (as opposed to 1-cup), to speed things up.
6. Build Community Food Systems: nothing
7. Eat the Food: nothing

Dear Gentle Reader,

It was a very busy weekend.  As usual, the week days are slow for me, since I have to work.  But the weekends are my favorite time.  This past weekend was lucky for me, since we got an extra day.  I got of Lots done.

1. Plant Something: Tons.  See here.

2. Harvest Something: nothing

3. Preserve Something: nothing again

4. Waste Not: well, I used up an awful lot of old leaves and rotting straw I had lying around to make my new garden bed.  But, nothing else.

5. Want Not: Worked on making more sourdough bread.  I am starting go get a routine, with feeding the starter, and incubating the dough in a warm oven (too speed things up).

6. Build Community Food Systems: nothing

7. Eat the Food: the bread from #5

How did you do?

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.

It was a slow week, as I has to work a lot.  It was frequently cold and rainy.  Today it is only in the 50s, with thunder storms.  Never the less, I was able to do the following:

Plant Something:  Planted more radishes.  I learned that the things leaving the little bites out of my radishes are a little lovely called a radish maggot.  Oh, hooray… so glad to have that problem…Not!  So, I meant to get some beneficial nematodes, but wasn’t able to hit the nursery that carries them.  Still, I transplanted my marigold,  pansy and shasta daisy starts.  Also, I direct seeded a LOT more marigolds around the edges of the gardens.  The Leeks are ready to harvest, but we are waiting until next weekend.  I got most of the wheat seedlings (from the straw mulch) out of the gardens.  Took most of a whole day.  My potoatoes are doing really well, I have them growing in “grow bags” from Gardener Supply Company.  I have completely filled one of the bags with straw and composted manure.  The other three bags are mostly full, but they are growing a little more slowly than the first bag.  But they should be more or less full by the end of next week, or maybe the week after that.

Harvest Something:  Radishes

Waste Not:  Lots of composting with kitchen and garden waste.

Prep/Want Not:  Ordered Mylar food storage bags and oxygen absorbers from USA Emergency Supply.  These will line some 6-gal buckets that I previously purchased.  We are shifting to buying some staples, like sugar, wheat, dent corn, beans and oats, in bulk.  It will save a lot of $$$.   I think I might have found a local farmer for the wheat, and maybe the corn.  I am going to experiment with growing a Mandan Indian dent corn this summer.  Also, I have a couple of heirloom beans that I am going to try out. 

Also, I am learning a new skill- baking bread with wild sourdough yeast.  It is a fair amount of work, as you have to maintain the culture, and baking a loaf of bread is usually a 2 or 3-day process (due to repeated ferments of the dough).  But it sure makes tasty bread. 

Build Community Food Systems:  Spent time in the garden with my 16-year old daughter, teaching her what was a weed and what was not, and discussing why we need to grow some of our own food, that we need to learn how to grow our own food now, what food availablility might be like in the commjing years, how much of our oil use goes into growing food and transporting it, and just having some nice mother-daughter time together.  It was a very nice Mother’s Day treat.  Plus, she was a really big help getting that wheat out of the gardens. 

I also discussed some of these issues with my husband.  Until lately, he has sort of been laughing under his breath and lovingly tolerating my need to do all of the Independence Days tasks.  But, he has begun to notice events in the news that foreshadow post Peak Oil trends and events; which is changing his thinking.  Also, he has begun to understand how buying in bulk and having a well stocked pantry can save money and is very convenient.

Eat the Food:  Of course, we ate the radishes.  In spite of the radish maggots, they were crisp and spicy.

Last night, I harvested my first radishes.  An entire 7.75 ounces of them.  Yay for me!

First Radishes

These are Cherry Belle radishes.  Aren’t they beautiful?  They taste great too.  Very peppery.  They were great on a sandwich.  Unfortunately, some were cracked and they all has little nibble-like spots on them. 

I’m not sure what that was.  Slugs under ground?  I am going to investigate how to grow great radishes.  I have more in the ground.  I have been planting them every couple of weeks.  I also planted Icecicle radishes, but they haven’t done very well yet.  They have great green tops, but the roots haven’t fattened up yet.  Maybe they will soon.

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