Thursday, April 30, 2009

Saturday, April 25, 2009

We aren't the spring chickens

We aren't the spring chickens that so many "adapting in place" farmer/bloggers are these days, having gone through our youthful back-to-the-land number in the 1970s and 80s. Our reference shelf shows it. These are mostly older tomes. We have a few newer things draped on chairs around the house, such as Sharon Astyk and Eliot Coleman, but Carla Emery, Ruth Stout, Jeanne Tetrault, and Sherry Thomas remain among our standbys, along with J.I. Rodale.

Our neighbors to one side have circled the wagons -- a great many RVs all hooked on to the old farmhouse; and they've clearly pooled resources in such a way that we don't see evidence of any of them getting out much ... things seem kind of volatile over there, so we keep to our own side of that fence. On the other side, to our west, have lived, for all the years we've been here, a venerable WW II vet with his music teacher spouse; he has come down with some serious old-age issues and packed himself off to a good rest home, and she is sticking with the homestead a while longer.

We used to exchange services with one another; he would weed-whack our foundation and fence lines and we would mow their grass. We've asked the Mrs. if we might keep mowing and start taking off their clippings, which we know to be organic, for our garden and orchard and this is working out quite well.

Here is our place from her back yard; looking across the "willow coppice" and the creek to the south and west sides of the house. You can see, from left to right, the well-house with its solar hot water pre-heater, dining room window with long-plank bird feeder, high albedo roof and walls, creek bridge, and, through trees, the barn.

From the same area, in our "back forty," the view to the south.

Today I am distributing clippings on the pathways between the beds, and moving hoses to begin the watering season. It keeps threatening to rain but holding off, and cracks are appearing in the clay soil, not a good sign for the plants and seedlings already set out. Busy, busy -- but with enough time to enjoy the advancing season.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Spring bread

Whole wheat; whole spelt; rolled oats; rye; buckwheat; rolled wheat berries; fresh chopped bigleaf maple flowers, leeks, kale, chard, broccoli leaf, elephant garlic greens, "walking" onion greens, dandelion greens; 32 oz. of pot-liquor (water from steamed veggies); honey; agave nectar; sea salt; fresh free-run duck egg; home-dried Bing cherries; flax seeds; baker's yeast. Raise once in the bowl; cut, roll out and shape loaves, place in greased Pyrex or stoneware dishes, set in oven, raise to desired shape, bake at 325 for one hour.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Early spring tour

Let's take an early spring tour ... First, we have the bigleaf maple blooming ... if you look closely you can see the bracts are protruding from calyxes -- I separate the one from the other when harvesting, and the pollen-rich flowers go into breads, soups, salads, griddle cakes, souffles, and quiche.

These onions, shown here with an elephant garlic and a Swiss chard plant, wintered over and are getting ready to bloom.

Planting. I'm too old to do this without sitting down or kneeling on padding, and am pretty much married to the gardener's kneeler these days. Compost/potting soil in the bucket is spread in the holes in the mulch, and things like spinach, turnips, carrots, chard, peas, kohlrabi, lettuce, and kale seeds are spread over the "hill", misted, and then gently covered with more potting soil. This gets around the problem of very cold, very wet garden soil underneath the beds. Later, I'll loosen the deeper soil around the plants with a deep-digging fork, but no tilling or spading is planned. I made the right-angled trowel this morning, after seeing one in Eliot Coleman's book (which I strongly recommend). The trowel seems much improved, at least for the way I like to do things.

Sylvester and Sweet Susannah sun themselves along the property line, behind the new pear and cherry trees. An Araucana forages in the foreground.

The Annies (Ancona ducklings) go for a walk.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Pennies on the dollar

At this time every year, the big-leaf maples (acer macrophylum) will bud, and produce their flowers. Most people I've talked to don't seem to know this, but the pendulous, lime-green bracts can make an edible and nutritious meal. Good tasting, even, if you don't have it every day. I'd describe it as broccoli with a hint of wood smoke.

We have a fairly large one over the driveway, just in front of the garage, which shades our annual orgy of firewood-splitting, and for about a week -- maybe two -- I'll climb a ladder daily and collect a colander full.

I give the bracts a thorough immersive washing, as they attract a small black beetle-y insect that's not as tasty (don't ask).

Here I'm making up my lunches for the next work week.

At right, maple blossoms. At left, kale, leeks, elephant garlic greens, walking-onion greens, chard, and a broccoli leaf, all from around the winter garden. In the steamer there is short-grain whole rice, which takes about forty minutes.

I'll mix all but the rice with home-dried Amish Paste tomatoes, local tofu, and hard-boiled duck eggs (left over from the annual egg hunt).

We'll steam the diced-up stems of the alliums with the tofu and eggs, for about ten minutes, then add everything else, shredded, with three minutes to go, seasoned to taste.

Refrigerate separately from the rice, combining in a container some half-veg mix, half rice to go, each day. Refrigerate at work, zap for lunch. The rice seems to go yucky faster if pre-mixed, so that's why I wait to add it each morning. If I want my rice even fresher, I'll make half as much and make another batch come Wednesday.

The leftover steamer water goes into a pitcher to dole out for soups, breads, dressings, gravies, hot drinks, souffles, pancakes, and lattkes. If too much of this veg-water accumulates to keep well, I pour off some into the compost.

People tell me I'm not a very good cook, and it's true; I don't have much of a knack and seem to resist learning to do better. But I'm fascinated with low-to-no-cost cuisine and feel that we're possibly coming to a time when we may, most of us, need to know how to eat for pennies on the dollar.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Shelter for the Annies

Beloved dyes duck eggs for children to find tomorrow

So much to do! The weather is still unstable, but today we have been able to mow, spread clippings around beds and fruit trees, weed, chase escaped chickens out of the garden (so much wreckage in ten minutes! Agggh!), rake the mulch back into the beds, replant the scratched-out onion sets, harvest kale and leeks, water in the new quince trees, and do projects.

Beloved's projects were to build a new pen for the Rosies (8 Rhode Island Reds) under the nesting boxes, giving them lots more room; and moving the Annies (10 Ancona ducklings) out to the barn and into the space vacated by the Rosies. Now she's dyeing duck eggs for the annual Easter Egg Hunt.

My projects were to "mud" (with joint compound) the new patched areas (done during week, in the evenings) in the dining room ceiling; put handles on the sides of the truck canopy, bolted through the 2X2s, for the kayak straps; and build an outside pen and shelter for the Annies, because they are growing fast and shan't stay in the rabbit cages much longer.

For this, we want something that can be used either as a duck shelter or chicken tractor -- as in portable. I leaned a full sheet of 3/8 CDX plywood against the wall of the house, measured to the walkway, and cut two triangular pieces 32X38X48 inches for the side walls. Two scrap pieces of 2X2 were sufficient for the framing, with drywall screws through the roof piece and then wall pieces at right angles to the roof, resulting in a kind of lean-to. Four sections of old garden hose made handles, by putting drywall screws through them into the roof, and a coat of light semi-gloss green paint on outside surfaces completed the carpentry.

As soon as it dried in a bit of sun, I found I could carry the whole thing myself, so I did, and took it into the area where the pen is to be, and set it in its place, then drove the t-posts and set up the fencing. Hardware cloth across the front of the shelter, with a door in it for the ducklings, completed the project. Their new yard is about fifteen by eighteen feet -- but they may not move in for over a week yet. Sorry! no picture -- night came -- maybe tomorrow?


'K, here 'tis. Not pretty, but if it is raccoon-proof it will do the job ...

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Real daylight

Sun! The babies are going for their first walk in real daylight.

Yes, it's a busy time. I hope to move a fence to protect some of the new fruit trees, and mow over in the coppice for grass clippings to bring to the garden beds.