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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Our best shot

In hopes of getting to do some farming this year, Risa is planning her campaign. Four more fruit trees have been added, and she's ordered some red-wine grapes, raspberries, more hops, two mulberry trees, and asparagus roots. No, she doesn't know where she's going to put all that. But apart from watering, which can be delegated, they don't need much input from her, should she have to go traveling yet again. She's realizing that many of the projects that occupied her in previous winters are done. A certain flexibilty, to which she is not at all accustomed, has crept into the schedule.

The potatoes in storage are looking good. As it is a la nina year, Risa's uncertain about laying down cardboard for the next potato patch, though. We kinda need a new spot because we hear if you are saving your own spuds you should move them from year to year. But in '97 there was a fast moving body of water, two feet deep, in the available location, for several terrifying days. We have not felt up to gardening there ever since, though the floods have not reached it the whole time.

So she's experimenting with a different approach. There is some black plastic on hand, in surprisingly good shape after more than a decade of heavy use in the Nineties, which hasn't been touched in ten years. She'll use this to kill a patch of grass in the flood zone (February, March). In six to eight weeks, this can be taken up, spuds laid on the ground, and the site covered with a deep layer of straw and grass clippings. Water often stays in the creek through June, and can be pumped for irrigation until it runs out. After that, the spuds will depend on the well along with the garden and poultry (the orchard gets recycled duck-pond water), but the early watering can be critical for the tubers here.

Then the plastic can be relocated to the garden (April, May) to warm the beds intended for summer crops, in an effort to heat the soil enough for seed generation. If it rains as much and as late as it did last year, the soil will be too cold and wet right into July. So this might be our best shot at working with summer crops.


As there is a surplus of potatoes and collards on hand this year, Risa has begun emphasizing colcannon on the menus. Irish farmers practically lived on the stuff in the winters up until the blight year (the Potato Famine). Boil or steam potatoes until soft, then mash them. We leave the skins in. Add some some water and olive oil or some cream if you are not lactose-intolerant or vegan, for smoothness if desired. Now add shredded, steamed kale, collards, beet greens, chard, or cabbage, to taste. Or all of the above. Mix thoroughly, with sea salt if you like, and melt in a pat or two of butter if you're as decadent as we are. Many recipes call for bacon bits and we do like a little ham fat in ours. This can sit in a bowl on a trivet on the wood stove till your sweetie comes home; it's a very forgiving recipe. Serve. Goes well with your home-canned apple juice.


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