Saturday, March 26, 2011

Real Food Challenge-March 26, 2011

About 7 or 8 days into the Real Food Challenge we lost internet for over a week. I saw how dependent I was on my laptop for getting and sharing information. I love learning new things by reading other blogs and I have a long list of favorites. By the time we bought a new router and got back on line the mojo of posting about how we fared on the challenge was gone.

I think we did pretty good.

I baked breads. pies and cookies. I cooked all of our meals from scratch more or less. The less part refers to the few cans of ingredients I cooked with. Big cans of tomato puree ( my garden did not produce enough tomatoes to meet our needs) a big carton of chicken broth with herbs and wine that I poured into a stock-pot of chicken soup - (It needed more broth) out. and it was very good.

I reread my original post on the the Real Food Challenge. You can see it here. We'll for future eating, we put in a cold frame, I drawn out plans to expand the garden, Walt will oder more bees for a second hive and next week were going to a cooperative extension program on raising backyard chickens.

I have cooked big pots of good simple food. One of my favorite meals was Pork and Beans with Moose Bread - it was a good, very filling, inexpensive meal and it made a lot. I ended up freezing a few portions so son#2 could take to work. I found the original recipe for Moose Bread in Hobby Farms magazine, but modified it. If you make this you should also add 1 cup of milk because the recipe as written seemed too dry.

So we are continuing with this challenge and looking forward to making and eating real food. What are you eating?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Cold Frame

It's a beautiful late march day in the Mohawk Valley. 38 degrees but wind-chill makes it feel like 28. The snow is melted enough for me to make it out into the garden without putting on boots. I selected a few packages of seeds, put on a warm jacket, grabbed a shovel and garden rake and trudged out to check out the new cold frame.


Wonderful! I lifted and propped open the south-facing windows and touched the soil. Yep it was warm. I shovel in a little compost, though most of the compost pile was still under a blanket of snow. After a I raked the soil, I pressed-in a broom handle to make some furrows then I sprinkles in some seeds. I planed 'prize-leaf lettuce' a little 'white beet' and some 'cherry bell radish'. Now it's wait and see. I still have to find a thermometer - hopefully a min-max. Then in a few days, I'll plant the north side.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Simple Woman's Daybook -March 22, 2011


Outside My Window...
Grey again. Cloudy and 34 degrees. The household trash and recyclables bagged piled near the driveway waiting for the garbage truck to hall it away.

I am thinking...
About our kitchen garden and the new cold frame. Can't wait to plant spinach and lettuce seeds.. Wondering when the weather conditions will all me to do so.

I am thankful for...
All the talents that family members have. That we are also independent and like to do things for ourselves. Walt can fix broken appliances and build small structures He can do plumbing and electrical work. I know many old fashioned house hold skills. I cook, can, bake and even do a little sewing. We both garden and love the outdoors. Brian is a car mechanic and musician, Danny a creative writer, David a graphic artist, Katie is artistic and musical

From the kitchen...
leftovers: home made French bread, ham, meat-loaf, rice and two kinds of pie: peach and pumpkin.. Egg, ham and cheese sandwiches for breakfast.

I am wearing...
a simple pullover dress and a grey cotton bathrobe because the house is cold.

I am creating...
Plans for our garden, curtains for the apartment foyer

I am going...
Hopefully nowhere today. Need to stay home and tackle chores.

I am reading...
Lots of back issues of "Mother Earth News" and "Hobby Farm"

Around the house...
Tiny tomato, pepper, lavender and thyme plants growing under lights. Seed packages spread out on the desk, gardening notes and tips scribbled in an old notebook.

Saving Broccoli Seed

One of my favorite things...
Harbingers of spring... Canadian geese returning, pussy willows, robins and tiny snow drops

Pussy Willow

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week:
Chores: today tackle laundry mountain, winter sow (or is it now Spring Sow) some tomorrow can more potatoes, check the stored apples and dehydrate or can ( sauce, pie filling?).

A Picture I am sharing:
Yesterdays snowfall ... the day after a perfect early Spring Day

Monday, March 21, 2011

Harvest Monday 3/21/2011

We were enjoying a few Spring like days here in the Mohawk Valley.

Walt and I have been talking about 'extending the season'... using gardening techniques to plant earlier than you would for your zone and conditions and harvesting food much later than you normally would of. Our first steps to accomplishing this is to build a cold frame. Walt scrounged around the homestead for materials. We had some old farmhouse windows we had stacked in the garage. Walt also found some used lumber and particle board. Our only expenses were hinges we bought at at Lowe's. So now I have a new cold frame that cost us about $10.



The cold frame was placed on a raised bed that sits over a concrete pad. This was the site of my grandfathers outdoor fireplace. The concrete was too thick to break up so we built a raised bed over it. The only drawback is that only plants with a shallow root system can be planted there. That still leaves me with lots of options. spinach, lettuce, scallions, parsley, endive. arugala maybe even small cabbages and swiss chard.

While Walt with some help from David was building the cold-frame, I prepared the soil removing the weeds and plants growing there from a few years of neglect. I pulled out two white buckets of quack grass roots and other weeds that I don't want in the compost pile. I also was able to pull out 4 pounds of Jerusalem Artichoke tubers and 3/4 pounds of Horseradish roots. So almost 5 pounds of food for our 1st harvest of the season.

I gave about half of the horseradish to my next door neighbor and grated some of the remainder to enjoy with the ham for dinner. Horseradish is easy to make. Cut as many roots as you want to use into 1 inch pieces. Pop into a blender with a little white vinegar (apple cider vinegar is OK too). Blend it until the root is grated up fine. Add more vinegar if needed to easily grate. Be careful about opening the blender jar. I suggest doing it outside. Fresh horseradish is more potent that the bottles you buy at the store.

Jerusalem Artichoke is not a well known vegetable. It is some time sold in grocery store produce aisles as "sun chokes". Jerusalem Artichoke is not an artichoke - not even related. But it is a delicious "wild edible plant". The tubers taste like a cross between carrot and potatoes and can be eaten raw, boiled, baked or steamed. I even read about dehydrating slices of the tubers and grinding it into flour. Jerusalem Artichoke, unlike white potatoes are very good for diabetics.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

MARCH Chore List 2011

Nice day today. Spring is happening. The pussy willows have started bursting out about a week ago. Canadian Geese "Vs" move across the sky. Today I finally did some winter-sowing. Got out 24 containers. I swept out the deck and places some jugs against the hot-tub. Thats a nice sunny location and they are relatively safe from strong winds. The other jugs web against the south facing foundation.

This is what I wintersowed ...
Broccoli, Calabrese
Broccoli, Green Mountain
Broccoli, UNK
Cabbage, Late Flat Dutch
Chicory - Radichio Blend
Kale, Blue Scotch
Kale, Judy's
Kohlrabi, Purple Vienna
Leek, American Flag
Leek, Blau Gruner Winter
Onion, Evergreen Bunching
Onion, Lisbon Bunching
Onion, Red Burgundy
Spinach, Bloomsdale
Swiss Chard, Barese
Tomatillo, UNK
Columbine, Long Spurred
Maiden Pink
Malva, Zebra
Mexican Hat

Then I moved on to tackle the old grape vine. Grapes need to be pruned when they are dormant. I should have done this February, but the snow way so deep I couldn't easily get near it. Here's the problem... the grape vine (Concorde Grapes) is VERY old, and has been neglected for so long. I need to do a radical pruning but if I want fruit (I do) I have to keep some of lasts years growth. Grapes grow off the previous year's growth. I started by cutting out dead and damaged branches and anything smaller than a pencil in circumference. Then I studied the vines to decide what else to cut to give it proper structure. I need to remove many vines but I'm trying to keep enough so I can get a decent fruit harvest.

The next job was to prune the young fruit trees (3 apple). I cut off the suckers and a few wayward branches.

On the next nice day I will tackle the blackberry patch. I really HATE the blackberries. Oh don't get me wrong, I love the fruit ... but this is an invasive type Himalayan" Was here before I owned the place. And the lateral roots travel a distance from the mother plant causing a small patch to become a big nuisance. I'm cutting berry plants out of the veggie and flower beds constantly. Another thing... they have BIG thorns.

To punning berry bushes is easy as long as you have protective ware against the thorns. A cane has a two year cycle and fruit is produced on second year canes (last years growth). So early in the spring I cut out the canes that fruited last year. It's easy to tell... they are dead.

Internet lost, Internet found

It's had to blog without internet. Walt thought that it was the last big snow storm that fried something. At first it was slow and intermittent. We lost wireless and had internet though an ethernet connection on only one computer. Unfortunately, that computer was not mine. Besides not able to post about life here on the homestead I missed reading blogs on gardening, cooking, baking and homesteading skills. I resorted to reading old seed catalogs, back issues of Mother earth news and Hobby Farm and pulling old cookbooks off the shelves.
After many go rounds of resetting various devices and calling our ISP's customer service, we broke our no spending this month rule and bought a new router and bingo I'm back on line. YAY!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Real Food Challenge- week 1- FAIL

We don't eat much fast food. I'n fact we seldom go out to eat. The reason why is actually two fold. Not too many places come up to our standards. I'm thinking of a popular place in town. Last year was our first and only time there. The salad that came with the meal tasted like the bagged salad mixed that are common in todays grocery stores. We've all tasted this in our salads a faint plastic taste...Yuck! The other reason is money... We'd rather not spend it on a restaurant when when eat better at home. That said, I when I stopped in the office to drop something off to Walt, he asked me to stay and discuss important business decisions we needed to make. After an hour we were getting hungary and I had nothing at home that we could eat quickly. I did not even have any bread. Walt asked me to run to the Burger King down the road and pick up couple burgers so we could continue our meeting. I ordered a fish sandwich for myself and a whopper with cheese for him. we skipped the fries and soda and instead poured tea from the pot Walt almost always keeps brewing in the office "kitchen". One of our goals with the "Real Food Challenge" is to be prepared for the contingencies that happen with owning our kind of business. I need to find some food that can replace the meals that I usually fix at home .

Later that afternoon, he mentioned that it's been a long time since we had a date...and he wanted to take me out (and continue our earlier discussion) so we went off to his favorite restaurant - The Phoenician (Lebanese). At least the food there is good and all homemade: the a cucumber yogurt sauce, hummus, nice salad, rice pilaf, a vegetable stew called "worry beads', stuffed grape leaves. Except for the money we spent, I didn't feel guilty about eating there.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

It's Not Too Late

No, It's not too late ... it's also not too early either. What am I referring to ? I'm talking about sowing seeds here in here in zone 4. If you haven't yet gotten your WINTER SOWING done, you should do it now. If you're a gardener and haven't tried it, you should try it now.

What is winter sowing ? It's a method of sowing seed in containers like plastic gallon milk bottles. The containers become mini green houses. The prepared containers or "jugs" are placed in the snow and "forgotten" until conditions are right for the seeds to sprout. It's amazing to see little spouts in jugs when there is still snow on the ground. At some point when the garden is suitable - the little plants can be transplanted in the garden. The benefits of winter-sowing are twofold... lots of plants for the price of a pack of seeds and some potting soil... and the plants, though they may be small when you transplant them are very hardy and often out-perform nursery bought plants. Not all seeds can be winter-sown, but many flowers and vegetables do well with method.

Go to the " Winters Sowing" site to learn all about it. The site owner, Trudy is doing a great job showing others how to winter-sow. In fact, they are offering free tomato seeds if you want to try winter sowing.


Jugs filled with wintersown plants. I'm sorry I don't have a picture of Jugs in the snow but an internet search is sure to come up with some.


Close up of tiny winter-sown onion plants.


This is a day's harvest of heirloom winter-sown tomatoes.

What do you think about winter-sowing?