Over the Summer {Garden 2015}

The last time I posted about the garden seeds were just sprouting! We’ve had a full summer and a few frosts since. Only the hardy greens are left; the end of the season always revives my appreciation of having fresh veggies right outside the door. With the coolers temps here stews and braises are a welcome way to use those veggies too!

 

Sprout

DSCN9417I meant to post this over a week ago, before we went camping. Now that we’re back, and past the last frost date, it’s time for a second round of planting (after it stops raining!). A quick peek in the garden revealed that the seedlings are growing so fast you can almost watch them unfurling their leaves.DSCN9414The same lettuce (Black Seeded Simpson), just days later. You should see them now!

DSCN9533Carrots (scarlet Nantes ), and (edible pod) peas along the fence line for support….

DSCN9531DSCN9535                            A couple of mysteries sprouted up too, like this bunch of ?. At first, I wondered what they could be, I certainly wouldn’t plant so many seeds so close together. Then I recognized them….radishes, ah ha the kids planted those!DSCN9425Yay, the rhubarb crown made it through the winter! I’m looking forward to getting a few perennials growing around here. No sign of the asparagus yet, but I’ve read that their germination is quite slow and can be spotty.

DSCN9530Now to upload those camping photos….

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And so it begins….

DSCN9408 DSCN9385 DSCN9411 DSCN9409 DSCN9405 DSCN9364Finally, the sun is shining and we’re out working in the garden!

The garlic bulbs we planted last fall are sending up their green shoots, and the leeks and spring onions I left mulched are quickly reviving themselves after an icy slumber. Interestingly, three kale plants down at the end also made it through. These are a nice head start to having fresh greens but I don’t think I should plan on having it happen every year.

Mostly I’m digging out dandelions and pulling small weeds the wind blew in as seed last fall. A few sections are planted: peas, lettuce, carrots, turnips, cabbage, broccoli, leek (seeds for next year and about 50 transplanted for this year), celery, swiss chard, arugula, radishes,parsley and (finally I just did it) planted a bed of asparagus from seed. It’s the three-year plan.

Soon I’ll plant a few more things, do second plantings and (after the last frost) warm weather things like beans, cucumbers, sweet corn etc.

 

We also expanded the lower garden area and Struggling_along fenced it all in (very nicely I might add).

As for the cold frame, this year I’m going to try growing watermelon in there. Hopefully, this will keep them warm enough and will give them a head start. I’ve also noticed a few tiny celery plants have sprouted in there!

And so it begins…we tuck a few tiny seeds in the ground and wait.

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Using the Past to Plan the Future

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A bit too much snow still…..

I have finally added up last year’s garden totals. Spring is officially here- not that it looks or feels like Spring- and it’s time to start planning next year’s garden in earnest. Last year was the first time I kept track of the weight of (almost) everything that came out of the garden. As you may recall, we had to replant the garden last year because we lost some things (like the majority of the potatoes) to, mainly, the chickens. This year, all the fences are in place (and we have no goats) so hopefully losses will be kept to a minimum! Nonetheless, we didn’t do too bad and a few things did phenomenally. Still, I hope to plant more of most of the following things this year.

*to keep it simple I’ll just add a * to signify that at least a pound of this item was not weighed before we ate or gave away it – not counting snacking in the garden.

Radish- 1.5lb

Kale- 13lb*

Lettuce- 7.5lb

Spinach/Swiss Chard – 3.5lb*

Beet- thinnings only -1.25lb

Peas (sugar snap)- 2.25lb

Peas (shell peas in pod)- 6.87lb

Parsley- 1.68lb*

Basil- .5lb+

Onion- thinnings only- 1.25lb

Red Onions- 6

Pac Choy- 10oz*

Carrots-30lbs

Beets- 7 bunches

Broccoli- 1lb 10oz*

Arugula- 9oz*

Thyme- lots

Turnip- 5lb

Green Beans- 3lb

Patty Pan Squash-2lb

Cucumber- 5-6

Tomatoes- 2- 5 gal. pails

Potatoes- milk crate sized box full

Pumpkins- 50+

Celeriac- 4 large & 2- gal ziplock bags of small ones

Cauliflower- 7 heads

Cabbage- 3 or 4 medium heads

It would be interesting to figure out how much it would actually cost to buy all that!

Changes for next year:

Cucumbers just didn’t have enough time so starting some indoors this year, along with cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli, if I can find the room for them.

Do an earlier 2nd planting of broccoli, green beans, peas, and pac choy.

Carrots got us through half the year so double on those. More potatoes, onions and winter squash. Fall turnips, pac choy.

Try growing sweet potatoes. Finally get asparagus crowns, maybe raspberry canes?

Had trouble with flea beetles last year so planning on planting some mustard as a decoy crop.

 

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Cold Hardy Veggies

The fall gardens are thriving, but it won’t be too long before the ground freezes. Until then I’m relishing every trip to the garden. Fresh (and free) veggies! I let the chickens into the gardens to help clean them up and give the top layer of soil a stir (to help kill off insects  that over winter there, like flea beetles). They did a surprisingly zealous job, pecking most of the greens down to the stems! It’s a trade-off I’m willing to pay. Still lots of carrots, celeriac, kale, beets and leeks to get in before it’s too late!

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Tokyo and Rio

DSCN8218Our new little piggies, Tokyo and Rio, joined us this past weekend. For now they’re in the extra stall in the chicken camper while we close in the front of the pole barn. Tokyo is the pinker female on the left; Rio is on the right, he has more of a gray to his shin. They’re both red Tamworths.

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In other piggie news: Singapore is getting big! She’s done a fine job of rooting up her pen. I’ll be able to expand the garden there next year.

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Fall Garden Update

We got our first real frost last night, right on schedule (our average first frost date is 9/13). I was able to start cleaning out the garden this morning; with the huge tomato plants out of the way we can finally walk around a bit. Now I have a ton of green tomatoes!

I took these photos a few weeks ago, in part to help me draw up where I put everything this year. Soon I’ll be tallying just how much I harvested this year and planning out next year’s garden.

 

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In the Kitchen {Herbs}

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use Rosemary sprigs as flavorful skewers

 We’ve been enjoying fresh herbs from the garden, mainly parsley, thyme and basil right now, and drying some to use during the winter. They’re flavorful and it’s much cheaper than purchasing them at the store. When cooking just remember that dried herbs are about 3 times as strong as fresh. During the summer I use fresh herbs and during the winter I use dried; substituting one for the other as needed.

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  Parsley was one of the first things in the ground and it’s still going strong. I grow it in mini rows then I cut it and let it grow back again. This method is super easy and prolific!

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This year I tried planting thyme in amongst the carrots while Noah planted some thyme indoors. It’s astounding to compare the two. The outside plants are robust, dark green with large leaves; the indoor plants just don’t look like they’re doing as well. They are small, scraggly and pale. I pick as much fresh thyme as I like whenever I need it during  the summer. When I harvest the carrots I’ll harvest the thyme too and dry it. I use thyme a lot, especially on roasted meats and veggies. I use oregano nearly as often. I have a  container of oregano and two rosemary “trees” indoors too, and while they’re not quite as robust as they would be outside, they’re doing well enough until I can decide where I’m going to transplant the oregano (the rosemary I keep indoors because of our low winter temps). It’s a hard decision because, like mint, oregano has a tendency to spread and the longer it’s there the harder it is to remove.

As for the basil, I only pick a few leaves here and there so it will keep growing strong. Eventually, I’ll make some pesto and I’ll ferment a jar full (at least) as basil takes on a wonderful liquorice flavor when fermented. I also planted some sage and dill this year. It’s not ready for harvesting yet but I look forward to having some on hand for pickling, stuffing into fish, and maybe making up some gravlax!

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Slowly, I’m expanding the list of seasonings I grow instead of purchase. Other than salt and pepper the herbs above are my most used seasonings. I’ve also made onion and garlic powder by dehydrating them and then processing the dried veggies in a blender. The flavor is fantastic! I’d like to get some perennials going (maybe alongside those chives?)  and I wouldn’t mind trying to grow some chamomile (soon!)

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sharing with Fight Back Friday

The First Steps

 I try to use as much as I can from what we are able to produce for ourselves. We produce eggs, some of our meat, goats milk (for a few more days before they are off to a new home) and veggies. The garden just might be the largest source of our food, well, eggs are abundant and full of protein. Either way, the garden is certainly the cheapest, most varied and most convenient way to feed ourselves. I can be assured that our veggies are organically grown, and are clean and fresh.

DSCN6925When you grow your own food you’re part of the cycle. You plant the seeds, care for the plants, harvest the veggies. You know the struggles of pests, droughts or too much rain, and the joy of rain when you need it. You know the importance of beneficial insects (or reptiles, e.g. snakes and toads) who eat those pests and/or pollinate your plants. Food doesn’t just magically appear on the shelves nicely packaged. Real food involves dirt, animals, including insects, blood and guts, sweat and even some tears of frustration and loss. This is the reality of life.  DSCN6922

Perhaps even more importantly, is the link between our food and our freedom. We all need to eat but if we can’t produce anything to eat ourselves we are utterly dependent on those who do produce food and subject to their whims. To quote Gene Logsdon: “[We must] realize the danger of depending absolutely on politically motivated governmental processes for food, clothing and shelter. In the world we must live in from now on to produce our own food is the beginning of independence and to accept that responsibility is the first step toward real freedom.”

So we try. We’re nowhere near producing all of our own food but, we’re taking our first steps- and getting a little steadier on our feet. Our kids are learning that ultimately food sprouts from the earth, that sunshine and rain are equally important and that not all insects are “bad”. By growing our own food we avoid pesticides, GMOs, high fructose corn syrup and overly processed (and packaged) products. Here are a few ideas to get the most out of your garden.

  • Start small – don’t get overwhelmed.
  • Grow what you eat. You’ll know what to make with it and you won’t have to buy it.
  • Leafy greens grow quickly and are packed with vitamins. Plants like lettuce, spinach, and kale can be picked and will grow back repeatedly.
  • Plant more than once. Get two harvests, or more… arugula and radishes grow fast (about 30 days to harvest). This leaves lots  of room for trying again if you lose a planting to misfortune.
  • Thin your seedlings for larger and healthier plants. Some seedlings can be replanted further apart or eat those thinnings. Try beet seedlings in salad or, if the thinnings are older, use the greens as you would spinach or swiss chard. Onion thinnings are similar to chives or green onion tops, try them in a potato salad.
  • Examine what you’re tossing. I’ve always thought radish and carrot tops were suppose to be tossed. Not so! Radish tops can be roasted. Try this carrot top pesto next time you roast carrots.
  • Feed your scraps to your livestock. No livestock? How about a worm bin, or compost it.
  • Remember it all starts with the soil. Healthy soil = healthy plants.
  • Try, try again. Goats eat your plants? Chickens eat your seeds? Garden in too wet or too sunny of an area? And, that’s just in the last two years. A new (fenced!) garden area is paying off. There’s always more to learn- from failures and from successes.

 

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sharing with Fight Back Friday and Fat Tuesday and Farmgirl Friday

 

 

The Gardens

This year we have a small collection of gardens. I tend to refer to them as the Upper Garden, which were 2 former pig pens, and the Large Garden. The Large Garden was a section of field I covered with the goat barn’s contents when I cleaned it out last fall. I covered it with plastic over the winter. Definitely much easier than double-digging!

Here’s section 1 of the Upper Garden as of last week (see this post for an early May view):

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We’ve been enjoying a lot of kale….

DSCN6810and several plantings of radishes out of here. The boys love to pretend they’re rabbits and raid the garden. They like the kale but radishes are the rabbits’ favorite. Thank goodness they grow so fast.

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This section also has broccoli (which I’m in the process of thinning and planting into the Large garden) and peas.

DSCN6849 DSCN6847 The second section of the Upper Gardens has carrots, spinach, bush beans, lettuce, beets, parsley, cucumbers, basil, onions and a few tomatoes. The lettuce, parsley and onions need to be thinned soon. DSCN6796 DSCN6797 DSCN6798 DSCN6799As for the large garden, well, I had to fence and replant it due to the chickens.

DSCN6504The kids and I had a garden party and planted a bunch of starter plants my MIL and a family friend gave us. I’ve seeded a few areas too. In the blue plastic we’ve planted a bunch of pumpkins from my folks.

Singapore’s pen borders the Large garden. She’s good company and her roof is a great hang out spot for little ones.

DSCN6820 DSCN6821 Now we have tomatoes, peppers, celeriac, potatoes, basil, swiss chard, arugula, carrots, bush beans,cauliflower, broccoli, pole beans, melons ( watermelon & ? from the worm compost bin) and a whole mess of pumpkins. A few more things need to go in, like the celery from the cold frame, and of course, the fall plantings.

Everything is growing fast!

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It’s a boys’ life

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Sometimes you just have to stop and have some fun!

Struggling_along picked up some model rockets and boy, are they a blast! The boys love every bit of it, from setting it up to retrieval. To top it off the boys were elated to go camping out for the weekend; even little Ishmael spent a whole night out in the tent. We also had a fantastic cook out: steak, salad from the garden, and of course the traditional hot dogs and marshmallows (or s’mores) for those who wanted them.

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Summer, just the way it should be.

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Because We Like To Eat

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After a long winter I’m still feeling a bit spoiled when I gather our daily harvest: a half-gallon of goats milk and almost a dozen eggs. Now I can make a huge (9 eggs!) omelet for the whole family and not think twice about whether or not I’ll have enough eggs for the rest of the week.  Since the snow is gone the chickens are free ranging, upping the vitamin content of their eggs, and finding a good bit of their own food. Plus, they always get a pailful of kitchen scraps. The chickens see us coming and gather ’round for their treats.

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Indoors we have only a few types of seeds started. This is mostly due to the lack of space, or a least space that has decent lighting and is where little kids can’t (inevitably) spill the containers. We did start some sweet peppers (man, do we have some pepper eating fiends around here!) as well as cauliflower, a couple of cucumbers, and some melon.

To maximize our growing season, and space, I made a cold frame out of an old wood box and some windows that came out of the barn.  I filled it with composted bedding and a good inch thick layer of worm castings (plus worms) from our worm bin. We have mostly lettuce in there for now.

DSCN6270Then we have the old pig pens. I like planting in these because they’re well fertilized, fenced off from the goats and No Grass!

DSCN6224 So far we’ve started planting our cold tolerant plants: peas, spinach (or were those sprouting broccoli seeds?), kale and radishes. We’re still 3-4 weeks out from our last frost date so I don’t want to get too carried away.

Here’s hoping the garden will start producing before we’re completely sick and tired of eggs!

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It’s Autumn! Bring on the comfort food.

Foliage season is in full swing; mornings are a frosty 40 degrees. It’s time to cook up some comfort food. Finally we can start our day with hot cocoa and oatmeal and end it with a bowl of something warm, filling and delicious. For me, that list of possibilities is prioritized something like this: homemade mac ‘n cheese, clam chowder (potato corn chowder or potato leek soup for the non clam eaters in the family), chicken pot pie, butternut squash or carrot soup, beef stew, minestrone soup, shepard’s pie, chili…you get the idea.

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Umm chili…with some cornbread of course!

For some reason the majority of my family prefers boxed mac ‘n cheese (how can this be?!) so I’ve skipped right to the chowder, stews and chili.  The majority of these recipes are a super simple variation of onion, potato and chicken broth with perhaps some bacon, and some milk for creamed versions. A smattering of vegetables and a few seasonings are mainly what differentiates one dish from another, yet they always satisfy and somehow they don’t feel like the same old thing, well until spring that is.

I love creating from scratch. The closer I can come to producing each ingredient myself the happier I am. So I was especially pleased this year in cooking up a batch of potato leek soup. Homemade chicken broth, fresh from the garden leeks, and a few (for this year) store brought potatoes and we’re nearly there. Here’s basically how I make potato leek soup.

Fresh Off the Homestead Potato Leek Soup

Slice and rinse grit from 3-4 large leeks (more if yours are small). Saute leeks in butter, oil, or bacon drippings until soft. Add 8 peeled and chunked (about 2 inch pieces) potatoes, and 4 cups of chicken broth (homemade will give the most flavor but you can use store brought or water if needed). Simmer until potatoes are soft. Add 1 tsp salt. Mash potatoes with the back of the spoon till the soup is as thick or chunky as you like ( if you prefer a puree feel free to use a blender). Add about 1/2 cup cow, goat or even reconstituted powdered milk. If needed add up to 2 cups of boiled water to reach the right consistency. Serve with black pepper and top with some garden fresh minced chives, scallions or dill.

This is even better reheated, especially on a chilly day!

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homestead barn hop, make your own monday, melt in your mouth monday, slightly indulgent tuesday, fat tuesday, gluten free wednesday, real food wednesday,frugal days sustainable ways, fight back friday, farmgirl friday