Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Using the margins

Go out to where either your greens have made a whole lot of big side foliage you don't use at table, or have gone to seed producing volunteers (volunteer chard shown), and gather about forty leaves.

Stuff your Excelsior or Excalibur or solar dehydrator with them. 

When they're brittle, fish them out and strip dry matter from midribs. Clean up and crumble to desired consistency. Dry can (bake) in jars and open to use as needed. Good for up to five years in our experience.

Kale, collards, chard, beets, spinach, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, dandelions, false dandelions, lamb's quarters, turnip, arugula, garlic, onions, young bean leaves or knotweed leaves, chicory, plantain, nettles, maple and lilac flowers, nasturtiums, kohlrabi, lettuce, and tatsoi, along with herbs to taste can all be included in this. The more variety, the better nutrition, and they all taste about the same in this form.

You could live a long time, comparatively speaking, if shut in by a pandemic, for example, on just twenty pounds of dried veggie crumbly and a hundred pounds of rice. Be sure you have also secured a supply of water.

You could, with a little acquired knowledge and some persistence, do this entirely with foraged weeds even if you have no garden.

Use in breads, soups, frittatas, quiches, on meats, on potatoes, in eggs, power drinks, hot cereals, salads, wilted salads, stir fries, etc. Also can be added to feeds such as poultry feeds.

Caveat: spinach and amaranths contain a lot of oxalic acid and so there are those who should not consume them in quantity.

See also:



Friday, July 24, 2015

Into the woods

We took a break between the heat waves to try out "Tessa," the new teardrop trailer.

Last summer we went tent camping and I think it it was for the last time! Old bones and all that. So we asked a local builder to provide us with a roof and walls -- with cabinets, 12V and 110V wiring, a galley, and a set of wheels -- for an honest to goodness mattress.

The trailer works as expected and the journey, a quiet one to a quiet place not far away, went well.

We have provisioned Tessa for emergency trips, such as evacuation in case of a wildfire reaching Stony Run, which could happen under the current conditions. And, as she fits in the garage with room to spare for the old Saturn, she adds a guest bedroom if needed, with its own kitchen. So she's part of the resilience plan.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Still sweet

The Stupice tomatoes are rolling in, along with yellow and green zucchini and assorted cucumbers. But we have never, ever been so dry. The air even tastes funny, like our tongues are turning into raisins. We drink water till we're in danger of rolling over and bursting and still feel thirsty. The plants look like they feel the same way -- though the beds, where we opened and lifted the soil with the broadfork, seem to be not as unhappy as everywhere else.

Fruit trees, especially the young ones, are hurting. I can only get water to them twice a week in five gallon buckets, and it prefers to run away across the glass-hard earth. I should have poked around with the broadfork when the soil was muck, but it's a bit late for that now. I'll try hammering in a rebar here and there and then pulling it out.

Meanwhile, I can shade their root collars with mulch. I'm wandering round the place with a sugar cane knife, cutting whatever doesn't seem needed where it is, especially knotweed, and transporting a bundle of vegetation to each of some forty fruit trees one by one, to deposit on the east, south and west sides of the small tree trunks. Chickens will tear such stuff away unless it is secured under substantial stones or inside a ring of hardware cloth or something, but most of these trees are in duck or human territory and the mulch is relatively secure.

All the greens, even the Red Russian kale, which we count on to make it through winter, are trying to bolt, so I am gathering about forty leaves daily for the poultry and another forty for the dehydrator. These will make about half a quart of dried flakes (I'm better at those than chips) per load (it's a nine-tray Excalibur) overnight. The solar dryers I made take two to three days and are a bit hard on the back -- need to rebuild them sometime -- so I'm happy to have the electric model at present.

We still have not lifted the potatoes, due to the hardened ground. Sometimes I take a chair out to the path, near their bed, and sit, musing on what's below.

Maybe there's nothing there. Gophers have to live too, I suppose.

I can't stay long. Even between the heatwaves, the sun seems unbearable in the afternoons. I wander over to the early green beans, which we're supposed to be done eating -- the remainder are for seed. Maybe just a couple that haven't filled out yet. Can't hurt, can it?

Ah. Still sweet.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Watching the swallows dip and reel

Another heat wave; I go out at dawn or in short twenty minute shifts to do anything much. You can see the garden is very mature for mid-July. So are the weeds.

The soaker hose bought this year both fell apart after a couple of weeks' dragging around. So I'm using the last of those bought ten years ago (!!) which holds up much better. A clue to the collapse of industrial civilization.

For lunch, I'm cutting a single leaf of Fordhook Giant chard.

Ours were grown from saved seed. Fordhook dates from the 1920s and was a Burpee developed strain. The stems are to my mind even better than the greens. It transplants well. It does prefer well composted loose soil and lots of water. You'll find it tolerates both sun and shade and lasts through most of our summers and most of our winters. Goes to seed prolifically and volunteers grow true to form. The seed companies say it grows to 18" high but they are being modest. Many specimens grow to over three feet not counting those that bolt in heat waves.

Cut it up and separate the greens from the huge midrib.

Steam the midrib pieces for twenty minutes, then add the greens for another ten.

Butter and salt to taste. Go outside and eat while watching the swallows dip and reel.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Some to give away

This young lady has appeared among the blackberries a month ahead of schedule, along with the blackberries, which attract protein to her web: symbiotic. The ladybug was also after the prey insects but blundered into the threads and became prey as well. It's an opportunistic world out there.

I suspected the ladybug would give the babies something to eat when they hatched out; and, sure enough a week later, there they were, arrayed in a rough circle around the edges of mom's prey-garden, each waiting for a gnat or cranefly for school lunchies.

We try to leave well enough alone round here, which can entail slowing down so as not to intrude on unseen activities too much. The gopher snakes have arrived, about two years behind the gophers. The wasps along our eaves are busy in the garden collecting pests; the barn spiders are roping in the flies that breed in the chicken bedding. So we don't mess with cobwebs, yellow-jacket ground nests, snake burrows and such unless we have to. And I do think we're seeing a reduction in aphids, cucumber beetles, cabbage loopers, and codling moth worms.

The Himalaya berries that provide bug juice for garden spiders and ladybugs grow on second-year canes that were runners the year before. All our runners were killed down to the roots by the freeze of December 2013 (minus ten below!) and made no fruit last year; but last year's bushes were all runners and so this year it looks like it will be a bumper crop. Most are not ready for picking yet but the trick with these so early in the season is to look for the tip one of each bunch, which takes the lead in making sugars.

Zukes, cucumbers and tomatoes look like they will have a long season, and the winter squashes have set fruit. We've eaten green beans all month but will now refrain, so as to collect seed for next year. It's not a terrible hardship but does require more forethought than the harvesting of sweet corn. A fifty foot by three foot bed planted with over 150 stalks of corn (maize) can all be eaten except for one good ear. That one should be air dried -- we hang ours in the kitchen -- and will provide much more than enough seeds to repeat the performance. You will have enough to give away.

There's not much point in living as if the air I breathe was put there just for me, now is there? So whatever you do, consider doing it in such a fashion that you have some for you and yours, some for your "pests" (on whom your predators depend), some to put by, and some to give away.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

For now

In these early-September-like conditions, one thinks a great deal about mulch and water, and sometimes falls behind on harvesting. I still don't have the dried broadbeans in their jars, and already some zukes and cukes are getting past me.

It's all right about the oversized vegs as they are much appreciated sliced and tossed into the poultry zones.

Several beds have been left fallow (i.e., grown up in drought-tolerant weeds). The area outside the garden fence shown here at lower right was once rife with lettuces, tomatoes, zinnias, cosmos and even hollyhocks. Not this year. We only have the one well.

The corn is already head high and beans are in production. The contrast here between mulch and potato bed looks attractive at this resolution but the bed has become a weedy nightmare and haven for gophers. Might not be a good spud year. I'd lift them now but the ground is like iron.

The soaker hoses are running about six hours a day and it's not enough. At dawn and again in the evening I spray around, about five minutes to the bed, with the pistol-grip nozzle and that seems to help.

The house has done its best with the white roof, burlap window shades, tarps and hops vines but for the first time ever we broke down and bought an A/C. We're very ashamed but we're in our sixties, so ... Soylent Green should probably be a thing. It's the smallest unit we could find, and we've blocked off the living room and kitchen with sheets to confine the cooling to an area it can handle.

I've moved the cooking out to the potting shed, converted most lamps to seven-watt LEDs, am re-using the house water on trees and vegs, and am sitting out the afternoons in the dark living room, hydrating.

Today, though, they say it will only reach 88F. Maybe the worst is over. For now.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

These things can wait

It has been over 90F out, and sometimes 100F, for over a month, seems like. The ground is complaining mightily, and now trees are beginning to shrink away from the sun. We anticipated this for several years and were more often wrong than right, but this year the garden's timing -- with things planted in March and April that traditionally are planted on Memorial Day weekend hereabouts -- has been impeccable.

So we are bringing in green beans, runners, zukes, cukes and tomatoes, and I have even eaten a ripe apple. The garden pests have also cranked their calendar forward, but for once we have the jump on them. Also, the predators seemed to know this was happening, and hatched out ahead of the pests and were waiting for them. There are orb weavers everywhere, and I have seen one munching a grasshopper nymph.

Daughter came by, intent on doing something holiday-like, so we loaded the kayaks on the pickup, which had not been done all year (!!) and made our way over to the reservoir.

Favas need shelling. Mulch needs to be cut and laid. Some marigolds want planting. Tomatoes in tubs need shifting. Weeds are going like gangbusters. But sometimes these things can wait.