Archive for June, 2011

Looking Ahead

So we’ve neared the end of the season of sowing. We’ve worked the soil, planted the seeds, nurtured the sprouts, and though there are many many hours of weeding still to do, the majority of the work is complete. The plants themselves are inspected at least once, typically twice each day to check for growth, needs, pests and disease. All that time I’ve been spending perusing seed catalogs, reading books on the best planting methods and placement, searching for new and unique varieties of veggies and anxiously watching the calendar and the weather for the green light to plant is available. And I’ve moved on.

Now.

Now that the sprouts have turned into real plants and I’m beginning to see the first glimpses of actual produce, I am looking ahead to harvest. What will I do with all the food that will, seeimingly overnight, spring from the earth (not to mention all the goodies showing up at the farmer’s markets these days)?
So all my gardening books have been replaced with preserving books. Canning, pickling, freezing, drying, root cellaring – we’re planning a little bit of everything.
And now my head is swimming with possibilities:
Jam
Jelly
Preserves
Salsa
Sauces
Chutney
Relish
Pickles

Every book I pick up has more recipes that make me squeal with excitment. Peach Lavender Jam, Pepper Jelly, Spicy Pesto, Dilly beans…

Do any of you have a favorite preserved summer veggie recipe?

The bond

Over the course of the past couple of months I’ve developed a routine with the ducks. The morning brings the excited pair out of their run so they may forage around the yard. They have been ritually quacking to bid us farewell and to welcome us home. Finally, in the evening I issue them under the cover of the run so any pesky racoons in the area can’t get to them. For the beginning of their lives I was a stay at home duck dad due to unemployment. I’ve now taken on a new job keeping me away all day. The white crested has shown me the bond we’ve developed by lowering her head to the ground and extending her neck. It gave me the most wonderful visual for the phrase “stick your neck out for someone.” This duck obviously has developed a trust that I will not injure her. I approached slowly and extended my hand and she didn’t run away as she had done thousands of times before. She must have seen me pet the dog because that’s what she wanted. I touched the soft feathers on her back and lightly moved toward her tail. I repeated several times, starting closer to her head each time and she still didn’t move. Now, I can even grab her bill and clean the down out of her cute little duck nostrils. The blue swede hasn’t let me pet her yet but she might be close. This concludes our broadcast day. Stay tuned for more on duck psychology and the ecology of the Garrett farm.

The Mighty Squash

I know it may seem that the tomatoes have been an obsession of mine lately. And while that is partially accurate, it’s really only part of the picture. I’ve been very excited at the prospect of growing, drying, freezing and/or canning my own produce, and the lovely tomato will be my first attempts at doing that on a large scale. I will also admit, that I am REALLY looking forward to simmering a giant pot of delicious sauce this winter (with fruit from my own yard) to use in lasagna, on pasta, as a dipper for my homemade cheese bread, and more.
So yes. I love tomateos.

But the truth is, I get just as excited about any and all of the magnificent edibles that make an appearance in our space. And lately my thoughts have been taken over by the Mighty (Winter) Squash Seedlings.  There’s something so inspiring about those broad, thick seed leaves as they thrust their hardy green selves through the dense clay soil we have here at our place.
It’s always fun here, because once I’ve finished sowing squash seeds in their designated spots, I always feel an urge to keep planting. So I’ll take the small paper envelope full of the smooth flat seeds and just start poking the seeds anywhere I find a bit of space. Invariably, I forget about at least some of them. Or I give up hope that they’ll ever sprout.
Then one day as I’m making my daily rounds, I’ll see it. That distinct pair of wide leaves pushing their way up through the earth.  And as the plant continues to grow, and grow, and grow, and grow, I give thanks. Such a hardy and amazing plant!
And then. Then comes the time we get to harvest the beautiful little package that is squash. Wide, narrow, tall, squat – they come in all different sizes and colors and densities, even. But without fail, they are opened up, scooped out and marveled over. Delicious, nutrient dense and versatile, these suckers make great soups, sides, breads, cakes, snacks (even the seeds!), and pies. 
Just when I think they can’t get any better… I realize that in order to keep these beauties from going bad so we can enjoy them through the fall and winter months all we have to do is…. keep them!! No canning, no drying, no freezing necessary.

Astounding.

The Stage Manager

I like to think of myself as the person who makes the garden possible. As Jessica’s husband, I’m responsible for making space in the earth for her tomatoes. Okay, more than just tomatoes but it seems her enthusiasm for the fruit is dominating her thoughts lately. My motivation stems from the realistic, growing cheaper food and living on it; to the fantastic, having an impenetrable compound to sustain prolonged zombie attack. But with the CDC stating there’s a possibility of zombie attack and the current economic recession that’s good enough to justify my efforts. In any event, I want to possess the skills necessary to live without modern conveniences like electricity and motor vehicles. This is why part of my study includes rendering animal fat into oil for lamps and construction of a root cellar for installation under my 8 x 13 shed. It isn’t just about growing food for me. It’s about answering the question, “Am I a survivor?” The other area that falls to me is taking care of the animals. So far it only includes dog, ducks, and a rabbit. Someday, hopefully, my chores will include a goat, bees, chickens, and about half-dozen rabbits for eating. Currently our rabbit is a friend. And our motto here on the farm is, “We don’t eat our friends.” This motto is mostly so the dog knows not to fetch me a duck and shake the stuffing out of it but is a good rule for people too.

TOMATOES!!!!!!!

As I promised, this post is all about tomatoes. I will admit, I am thoroughly addicted. I love so many things about growing tomatoes, but this year we’re looking for two things: unique flavor and prolific canning-worthy fruit.

So…. here’s the line-up for the 2011 Tomato Team:

Amish Paste
Japanese Black Trifele
Italian Heirloom
Green Zebra
Ananas Noire
Roma
Mortgage Lifter
Genovese costoluto
Russian Black Plum (if it survives the lastest duck attack)

My “Garden”

My garden is not pretty. It is not terribly organized. It’s not even really a garden so much as a troupe of plant life camped out in any usable space in our plot of earth. And I’m okay with that. I love walking the grounds every day, finding new growth (and sustenance) all around me – literally! I love the relationship I’ve created between myself and the plants. I toss a little bit of poop and compost and water their way and in turn they gift me their fruit, their seeds, their leaves, their stems, their roots.
Even the weeds and I have a standing agreement – as long as they are not crowding out food-bearers or physically hurting me, they can stay. Sure I launch a pretty menacing campaign each spring, but in the end I always back down. Though it’s often with some feelings of failure, I have come to embrace my laissez faire gardening. It’s working for me.
And now I bid you adeiu.
Next post topic: TOMATOES!!! (yep, i’m addicted)