Archive for the ‘F(Ph)arming’ Category

Our First Garlic Braids

The garlic was ready to harvest this week!  It’s the final part of the glorious garlic cycle:  Cloves planted in the fall, harvested some early bulbs for their tender garlic greens in pesto, and chopped off the flower scapes for the grill.  I thought I’d try my hand at making garlic braids this year.  I found this fabulous youtube tutorial for hard neck garlic and here are the results!  I feel so crafty!

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Our Garden Plan… Now Almost Completely Planted

Danger of frost is not officially over in our area until later May, but the forecast predicts fair weather this week and the dogwoods are blooming, so it’s time to sow!  Here’s the plan…

We’re trying something new this year for us, but the concept originally came from the Native Americans: The Three Sisters. It’s an interplanting of corn, beans, and squash. The corn provides the poles for the beans to climb, the beans provide necessary Nitrogen for future plantings, and the squash shades out weed competition. Together they all provide balanced nutrition.

This summer we are growing a modern sweet corn and a traditional Indian corn, cranberry beans and snap peas, edible pumpkins and ornamental gourds. Corn is one of those crops that our CSA doesn’t provide and besides, for the sweetest sweet corn, you need to have the water boiling before you go out to harvest it.  Because of cross pollination of multiple varieties, we do not plan on saving our seeds this year. We’re just experimenting because I’ve heard that corn is difficult to grow without spraying.

To get started with The Three Sisters, first prepare your full sun garden beds with compost.  Depending on the soil in your area, you may want to create traditional mounds for better drainage. Because our soil is quite sandy and already well-drained, the extra irrigation for mounds would be water wasteful. Instead, we sow on level ground, but still follow the pattern needed for corn pollination and the companion planting benefits.

In the lore of the three sisters, it’s traditional to bury fish remains under the mound in which the plants are grouped. In honor of this tradition, we saved the remains of our grilled Sardines and I suppose you can guess where the leftovers are currently composting! Ick.

There seem to be two philosophies on how to proceed with planting. I’ve found that some sources recommend only planting the corn first until it has a 4″ head start or it will be overwhelmed by the beans and squash. Others recommend simultaneous planting, but keeping vigilant to make sure the corn has room by redirecting wayward bean and squash vines. We’re trying the latter option this year and we’ll let you know the outcome.  We used the little flags to help keep everything according to plan.

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Here’s the other side of the garden where our berry bushes and perennials live.  We interplanted sunflowers, chard, and arugala today.

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We also repotted out lemon tree this afternoon.  It overwinters inside and nearly dies every year, but somehow pulls through.  It’s the best (and only) way to get local citrus where we live.

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We just need to get our seedlings into the ground and we are completely planted for the Spring season.

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I hope everyone had as nice a Mother’s Day.  I’m very grateful for this beautiful and productive day with my family at home.

Rhubarb Compote with Honey, Maple Syrup, and Tarragon

Wandering the garden shortly after dawn with the chickens is perhaps an unusual way to start the weekend in suburbia and one that might receive some grumblings at that, but for me it’s heaven. It’s also a way to peruse the breakfast buffet. Hmm, I think I’ll choose some rhubarb. The chickens choose the leaf hoppers escaping off the rhubarb. We’re all happy.

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On the way inside, I eye the tarragon that overwintered in a pot by the door. Wouldn’t that be a nice combination? The tart from the rhubarb and delicate anise-like flavor of the tarragon in a naturally sweetened compote. Rhubarb is our only local “fruit” this time of year and will be perfect over our homemade breakfasts of yogurt, pancakes, or waffles.

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Rhubarb Compote with Honey, Maple Syrup, and Tarragon
  • Rhubarb stems, cut into 1/2-1″ slices, enough to fill a medium saucepan approximately 3/4 full
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup honey (or more to taste)
  • tarragon sprig (Optional)

Add the rhubarb and maple syrup to a medium saucepan.

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Bring rhubarb and maple syrup to a gentle simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the honey and tarragon.

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Allow to the compote to stand until just warm and serve over pancakes, waffles, or ice-cream or cool completely and serve over yogurt or spread on toast like jam. Store unused compote in the refrigerator. It will thicken when cooled. Remove tarragon sprig before serving.

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May Showers and Spring Flowers Bring Summer Fruit

A pause in the rain allowed me to pause and photograph the orchard flowers en route  to collect eggs from our poor wet chickens.  Our small orchard was planted long before we moved to our home and we’ve expanded upon the original.  It’s nice to know that although the original owners are gone, their garden continues to thrive.  Between competition from wild birds and my refusal to spray, we’ll see what what fruits the summer season will actually yield. In the meantime, however, it is beautiful and I continue to hope for warm berries in the summer sun and autumnal fruit pies.

We have apples from 30+ year old trees…

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Pears from the same 30+ year old orchard…

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Blueberries transplanted from my Great-Grandmother’s garden…

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Raspberries newly planted from autumn garden center clearance racks waiting for some sunshine to burst into bloom…

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Sometimes it’s not just about the soil, produce, sun and rain, but the stories behind the garden. Do you have any garden stories, histories or memories to share?

Sprouts!

Although it hasn’t been sunny and warm for days, we still have some active sprouts sprouting. I started seeds late this year in an effort to find that balance between starting early indoors without the poor things getting leggy and in desperate need of transplant. This year’s indoor assortment is mostly frost-phobic herbs; everything else was or will be directly sown soon.

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Mystery in the Henhouse

When I opened the nesting boxes to collect the eggs this afternoon, I was confronted with a broken one.  We’ve never had this happen before. Who did it? Why? Was it accidental or the dreaded egg-eating habit? The two halves, while cracked and crushed, don’t appear to have been ingested. The litter and shells were also wet with the gooey interior, so I’m not sure if it was sampled.  Hmm.  Why? Why? Why?  I think I’m going to discount my husband’s theory that they’re having a Marxist May Day revolution.  Any other ideas?

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Asparagus Bread Pudding

This recipe was adapted from The Feast Nearby: How I lost my job, buried a marriage, and found my way by keeping chickens, foraging, preserving, bartering, and eating locally (all on forty dollars a week) by Robin Mather.

I like the idea of local on a budget. After two years in the ground, my asparagus are finally up and ready for a light harvest. They need to be harvested daily because they grow so fast. Either snap them off by hand or cut them with a knife.

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Of course, the eggs are from my flock. The bread would have been tossed to the chickens today if I hadn’t stumbled upon this recipe whilst reading last night. They don’t seem to like old bread much so it’s up to us to “waste not, want not.”

Asparagus Bread Pudding

  • a bunch of asparagus, tough ends removed, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1/2 loaf stale baguette, crusts removed and cut into 1/2″ slices
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup grated romano cheese

Arrange the slices of baguette in one layer in a casserole dish. Top with asparagus.

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Whisk together the eggs, milk, and cheese and pour over top. Cover and refrigerate for 6-24 hours. When you are ready to bake, remove from the refrigerator allow to sit on the counter while the oven preheats to 350F. Bake for about an hour or until the middle is set and top golden brown.

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