Spring Harvest

I went out yesterday and gathered in some green harvest…

Stonycroft

Fresh from the bed, first asparagus of the season

 

Greenhouse produce

Dad’s Pac Choi is huge!

The Pac Choi won’t last much longer, as temps in the greenhouse near 100 every day. Dad rolled up the sidewalls yesterday, but the lettuce and greens will bolt within a week, I’d guess. Frost-free date for NH is officially June 1, but we could risk planting out sooner than that, especially peas, whcih don’t mind cold feet. Not sure how the peas he planted in the greenhouse will cope with the heat, though!

And we will have strawberries within a week… I saw ripening ones in the greenhouse while I was picking. Yum!

 

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Ham and Egg Sandwich

I have a confession. Although I do love to cook, I hate to cook just for me. Which means that on days when the kids are at school, and Dad’s at work, I don’t eat a whole lot, and what I do is better not mentioned.

Since Dad’s home for the next couple of weeks nursing a broken ankle, I find myself cooking regularly to take care of him. Pair that with a nice little hen who’s taken to laying her daily egg on the front porch (so handy to collect in the morning!) and today’s menu for lunch was logical.

Farm Fare: fresh, fast, and filling.

 

I fried up a couple of eggs, (on the cast iron griddle, natch) a few slices of ham, and cut a handful of micro-greens from the flat in the kitchen. Dad had mustard on his, I put homemade pickle relish on mine. They were so easy and good. Dad’s comment, “Next time on homemade bread with our own ham!” Sure, Dad…

Growing your own micro-greens for sandwiches, salads, and garnishes is super easy. We took a flat, filled it 2/3 of the way with pro-mix potting soil, and then spread the seeds out on that thickly. A dusting of potting soil on top of that, water, then cover with an empty flat turned upside-down. The cover forces the seedlings to grow leggy, for easy harvest. Once the first set of true-leaves appears, in about two weeks, shear with scissors at soil level and use. You can rinse, but it’s not necessary since the potting soil is sterile.

Our greens today were a mix of lettuce and I believe radish greens. There are any number of possible variations possible. Salad in February in New England, so satisfying! Best of all, you don’t need a greenhouse.

December Greenhouse

“tis the season to renovate the greenhouse and prepare it for next season’s crops. We haven’t done anything with it for a month or so since we finally had a hard enough frost to freeze it. But even with the waning daylight hours and cold weather over the last couple of days, it was nice out there for a while. Dad is putting in a bigger, better hydroponic system to grow lettuce, spinach, watercress and what-not. We are lining and will be flooding the trough under the central path. This will help keep the greenhouse from freezing, as the water retains the heat from the day, releasing it in the night slowly.

We also set up a shelf for start trays, as we will begin starting seeds as early as late January. Under that is a series of glass-covered cold-frames. Greenhouses within greenhouses to give us an even earlier start. The greenhouse isn’t heated, although Dad does have a nifty solar exchange system that forces hot air under the beds from the top of the tunnel, heating the soil.

Laying heavy black plastic in the trough.

Thin wall pipes for hydroponics. Water barrels for added mass heat storage under.

Trough. Once it's flooded we can trim the plastic and deck over it.

Installing a shelf for seed trays. Cold frames below it, with in-ground plantings.

Gladiolus corms from last year, they can't freeze, so we lift them and plant them again in the spring.

Dad has a nucleus hive in the greenhouse temporarily, and one of his girls escaped.

Everbearing strawberries planted in-ground. They will start blooming again when it warms up a little.

Summer is Dead – Long live Fall!

We are bringing in what harvest we have, preparing for the first Frost, which technically could come any day now in New Hampshire. September first is the first day of Fall for me, whatever the actual date may be. Because we lost the tomatoes in the greenhouse to blight, Dad has pulled them out and replaced them with the everbearing strawberries that were not thriving in pots. The pigs uprooted most of my garden, but they left the basil alone. Note for future – pigs hate basil.

 

The basil is now massive bushes waist high to me and heavily leafed. One of them was knocked over in our recent storm, so I cut it at the base and brought it in. I will make pesto with some, and take the rest to the library and find good homes for it.

 

We picked the last tomatoes out of the greenhouse, only a basketful. Compared to last year when we had that much daily through August, this was sad. I will make tomato sauce and salsa with it. While we were in there, we picked catnip. I showed Glady how to hang it to dry. We cleaned the leaves off the lower stem, tied it with a bit of string and hung it from a hook in the ceiling out of direct sunlight. That easy, and it will be completely dry in less than a week. She wants to make cat toys out of it.

 

We are about to enjoy an end-of-season treat, fried green tomatoes. I thinly sliced two medium sized green tomatoes, then dredged them in some flour which had salt and pepper mixed into it. Then we fried them in a cast-iron skillet with melted butter until they were crispy and browned slightly. Salty, tart, and satisfying. 

Cooking From the Garden II

I added fresh rosemary, thyme, basil, and minced garlic to my dough.

 

Continuing the theme of cooking with what I harvested, I made Focaccia Bread for lunch. Fresh herbs, ripe tomatoes, and some shredded summer squash on herby-garlicky dough was delicious!

Fresh, really ripe tomatoes. The ones in the center are called Chocolate Drops, an heirloom plum variety.

 

Focaccia Bread

 

  • 5 1/2 c all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp white sugar
  • 4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 c warm water (105-115 degrees)
Basic Toppings
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • parmesan cheese (grated, not the nasty powdered kind)
This is the most basic version of the dough, to which you can add things to your heart’s delight, and top with whatever floats your boat.
Put the warm water, sugar, and yeast together in a large measuring cup. In the bowl, mix all the dry ingredients, and add any herbs and spices you wan tat this point. Don’t add too much “wet” stuff, like tomatoes or vegetables, save those for the toppings as they will throw off the moisture content of the dough. Mix in the yeast liquid and knead for 4-5 minutes, either by hand or in the kitchen aid.
Cut the dough into thirds and grease cookie sheets with olive oil. Oil your hands, and squish and pat the dough out until it is about a quarter inch thick. drizzle on more olive oil and put toppings on as desired. I used sliced ripe tomatoes, more fresh herbs, shredded summer squash and pamesan cheese because that was what I had on hand. Bake at 425 degrees for 20-25 mintues, or until the cheese is golden brown. I don’t use the cheese with a heavy hand – they aren’t pizza!  Also, I don’t bother rising the dough for this recipe – this is a get-it-on-the -table recipe.

It looks so pretty it's almost a shame to bake it.

 

Crispy, savoury, and the tomatoes are incredibly sweet.

Cooking from the Garden

When I came in this morning from chores, I had a basket full of goodies. Eggs, blueberries, summer squash, basil, tomatoes and raspberries. I had a couple of very large zucchini, and that made me think of zucchini bread. I wanted to kick up the standard Zucchini bread recipe a little, so I threw in a cup of crushed pineapple and the blueberries (there were about a cup from my home bushes).

The morning's eggs. Four different colors, four hens.

Zucchini Bread

  • 6 c all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 c vegetable oil
  • 4 c white sugar
  • 2 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 4 c grated zucchini
  • 1 c crushed pineapple
  • 1 c fresh blueberries

Ready to go into the oven!

I put all the dry ingredients in a bowl, then mixed in the wet ones until all the flour was wet and integrated into the batter. I worked gently to not break the blueberries. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease five loaf pans. Fill them about a third full and put in the oven for an hour. Test with a toothpick or bamboo skewer. When it comes out clean they are done. Cool on a rack before removing from pans to keep the loaves intact. Loaves may be double wrapped in saran wrap when cool, and frozen, where they will keep for months.

Golden brown and smelling so yummy!

 

The blueberries and pineapple added a nice tanginess.

Mother of All Blueberry Bushes

Measuring and marking for the barn.

Mica breaks ground for his blacksmith shop, which will occupy the first bay of the barn.

 

We started out early today, as it’s another hot one. It was up to about 100 degrees yesterday, might hit that much again today. It did rain last night, and started off overcast today, which let us all work until close to one before knocking off for the afternoon. Dad and Mica are putting in the footings for the first tmodule of the garage. I headed off to pick black raspberries, and was up to my waist in brambles when Dad bellowed for me to come up. So I fought my way free of the prickles and headed to the garden, where he announced that BoPop would not be able to take Johann to Lowes for the Junior Builder workshop so could I please take him, in fifteen minutes. Oh, and could you pick up 6 bags of ‘crete while you’re there? Ok… So I head out with Johann, and as we got there Bopop showed up, having successfully started his car. I had the pleasure of watching my little man and his Great-grandfather build a pair of binoculars together. That was fun!

From one generation to the next… these two cross the gap of four generations.

 

After I got back to the house, I fed the guys lunch and watched them muck about with concrete for a bit before taking off to pick more berries. They did their best to get the footings level and square.

 

Mixing small batches of 'crete

 

We poured footings for the corner posts in sono-tubes.

 

I went down in the pasture, intending to start at the northern most berry bushes and work my way back to the house, but I found the mother of all blueberry bushes and picked it clean until my bucket was full. A gallon of berries off one highbush berry bush. Whew! It got hot, but I wasn’t going to give up until I had it clean.

Wild blueberries are small but good.

 

Tons of little berries!

 

beautiful as a bunch of flowers!

 

Black Raspberries.

Changing the Face of the Garden

We hired a guy with an excavator to help us remake the garden. The third of an acre we use as a garden and which was a truck garden decades before we moved into this house slopes slightly to the north. It has been overgrown for years, even the part that we had used as a market garden fifteeen years ago. The wild plum thicket betwen the garden and the house had been spreading unchecked for the twenty years we have lived here. The Farm Lane that was once a road to the back of the asture and into the woods had been unkempt and slowly sinking into the dirt. And the barn we plan to build in this coming year needed a flat place to be built on. All that, and we were hoping for a pond.

We hired Jim, a local guy, for ten hours, which was ample for what needed to be done. He did an superb job leveling the barn and garden pad (where we may build a second greenhouse) and an interesting job on the pond. We aren’t sure he’s dug a pond before, and we weren’t able to be here when he was doing it. But we will make it work.

Dad measuring and marking for the excavator.

 

Johann on the farm lane, which is partially obscured by the plum thicket.

 

Johann in the weeds by the greenhouse. Easily four to five feet tall!

 

Jim, the guy on the ground, was our operator.

 

The Farm Lane open again. We can now drive into the garden.

 

The Excavator was able to uproot entire trees.

 

The biggest Rocks from the garden became a play structure.

 

The first day the kids (and Dad!) were glued to the action.

 

First day of excavation.Looking down at the lane and barn pad, which abuts the lane.

 

The leveled pad for the garden, and possibly future greenhouse.

 

Smooth and runnable!

 

Pond puddle. It's about ten feet deep, but not much wider than that.

 

Looking from the pasture up to the road, now an open area easy to navigate and build on.

 

Early Morning Blueberries

Pippa Picking wild blueberries. The orange tag marks the berry bush

 

We went out to pick berries at 6:30 this morning because I haven’t picked in days and I was anxious not to lose my berry crop.  Pippa joined me right after I went out and we picked until just after 8. We got two quarts of blueberries and about a pint of raspberries and didn’t make a dent, so I will be picking again later today.

highbush blueberries

 

Bowl and doily spiderweb, the spider runs around on the underneath of the web and pulls prey through.

 

I kept the berries separate today... and those are domestic berries on top of the blueberries.

Excitement and Raspberries

It’s been an interesting day… very quiet at the moment, as the kids are off at a friend’s party. But about 10 am, Dad came in and announced that the guy with the excavator was coming this afternoon to clean the farm lane, the pad for the second greenhouse, and the pad for the shops. Oh, good grief!

Half my raspberry patch is going under the pad for the second greenhouse, and hadn’t been picked the last couple of days. So up I jump from trying to write (I was stuck, anyway) and holler for the kids to grab buckets and get out there with me. We picked over a gallon today out of the patch, and there is still more to pick later when I have more energy again. Sadly, some of them will be gone after tomorrow (they dropped off the excavator, but won’t start til tomorrow.) so I picked those first. I’m unhappy about losing such a productive patch, but the work needs to be done. It will change the landscape of the garden from giant weed-patch back into garden, first of all, and is the lynch-pin to getting the blacksmith shop built and operational.

Dad wading out to mark the greenhouse pad.

This mass of goldenrod, raspberries (mostly wild) and bindweed covers where a decade ago there was a thriving market garden. This time next year I hope to see it garden again.

Where in the weeds is Johann Gregory?

Even the wild raspberries are huge this year.

I’d taken this picture to show how big the berries are this year, but it also illustrates how I pick. I pull up the vine gently and pick from underneath. Gently is the key word there, as ripe raspberries are none too firmly attached, and if you yank they will fall off. Raspberries grow on second-year vines, and they lend to lie down as if tired by the time they bear ripe fruit. I don’t know if it’s the weight of the snow over the winter, the weight of the fruit, or both, but fresh canes grow straight up and bearing canes lie down unless supported. With the Pickin’ Patch we are keeping off by the bees, we will run wires up the row from 4×4 posts and that will keep the canes upright and pickable a whole lot easier.

Now THAT's raspberry iced tea!

We were out there in the hot sun, and I was holding my cup and picking as you saw… with the result that a whole lot of stuff fell in my cup. I don’t care about leaves, bugs I fish out, but after I’d dropped a couple berries in it gave me an idea! They were delicious, too. 🙂

Bug houses

There were a couple of bugs hiding in that flower. If you don’t like bugs, or snakes, or slugs and snails, don’t go berry picking. Find somebody like me who likes the little critters, and ask me to come pick your patch. I’ll get some berries and so will you without widlife encounters. I didn’t get a picture of the fat garter snake – she was too fast for me.

We had more snails than I realized in all that wet greenery.

Lots of berries… most of them unripe, and gone after tomorrow.

When the guys came to drop off the excavator, I was stuck by the resemblance of one of them to the guy in Grumpy Old Men. Neither of them are spring chickens, but they’ve been doing this longer than I’ve been alive, so I’ll keep my mouth shut and my ears open and maybe learn a thing or two.

It is as wide as the Farm Lane. Should do the job - we only hired the guy for ten hours.

After picking for close to four hours, we pulled about 6 quarts of berries out today. I will head out to pick the kids up shortly and when I get home may pick some more. I may not get any writing done, but I’ll have some fun. There are few things I enjoy more than being out in the berry patch.

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