Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Planting bush beans--still learning

I tried to start a row of bush beans a few weeks ago. Every single bean failed to germinate. I'm sure I didn't know it was going to be so hot that week. If I remember correctly the temperatures were in the upper 90s and they were in full sun. I know now that I just didn't keep them watered enough and the moisture was evaporating so fast out of that upper layer of soil that the seeds had no chance. You would think I would have learned how to water seedlings by now?!

A few days ago, Daniel gave it another try. This time he planted 3 rows and then covered them with a layer of wheat straw to help prevent moisture loss. Lots of the beans have already sprouted. Hopefully we will have a big late harvest of green beans in September.
The lilies pictured below were planted in the yard when we got here. Daniel transplanted them to a nice spot near the vegetables and they are a joy to walk by while out checking on the garden.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Squash harvest, recipe idea, and question

Daniel brought in these beautiful squash this week. There are 6 butternut that are 1 1/2 to 2 pounds each and 2 trombone squash that are about 2 1/2 pounds each. I haven't decided what to do with the trombone squash but I need to figure it out fast because these are just the first 2 of many to come:) I've read different things about them. Apparently they can be cooked like a summer squash and, if cured, can be stored like a winter squash. I'll post more when I figure that out...anybody ever grown these?

I have several butternut squash soup recipes but I wanted to do something with them besides that this week since the heat index has been in the 100s and we certainly don't need to be warmed any more by soup in the evening! I found this great recipe for mashed potatoes that included butternut squash. I got the idea from a cookbook called 50 Best Mashed Potatoes

Basically all you do is make mashed potatoes as normal (boiling potatoes and adding butter, milk, and seasonings) but use butternut squash in place of about half of the potatoes. The recipe says to bake the squash but I boiled it.

1 butternut squash (1-2 lbs) pealed and cubed
1-2 pounds potatoes cubed
butter and milk (I used plain almond milk and a little bit of soy sour cream) to taste
seasonings -- I use salt, garlic powder, onion powder, parsley flakes, and fresh pepper

Boil potatoes and squash until tender. Mash together. Add liquid and seasonings. Enjoy!

Please respond with your favorite way to cook squash.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Compost: Orientation

Imagine that someone walked into your kitchen, compiled a miscellany of ingredients, dumped them in a bowl, stirred once, let it sit, and then proclaimed that they had produced food. Would they be correct? Well, it depends on our food standards. Is it edible? Probably. Is it better than nothing? Absolutely. But wouldn’t we wonder why the individual hadn’t composed with more care? Examples can be multiplied but without need. While many of us would eat such a product were it all we had, and be thankful for needs met, we’d all rather eat the stuff that was produced with care and energy. It is care that makes food good. It is care that produces the order and value we find in recipes, instruments, and ingredients in the kitchen so productive of good food. If such is not the case, then there must be good where there is no care. But such is not the case.

Now, there are two kinds of cared for things. There are the things which receive their care naturally or from within the natural order, and there are things which receive their care artificially or by art. While avocado receives its care from the tree that also may receive its care from the sun, rain, and earth, guacamole receives its care by art.

What can we deduce from the fact that something needs care? At least four things can be deduced: First, care is only necessary for a being for which things can go better or worse. So, if compost needs care, it is because it is something for which things can go better or worse. From this knowledge we infer that there is hierarchy or scale. Measurement is implicit in the terms “better” and “worse”. At the top of any scale we find flourishing or perfection, and as we approach the bottom we meet the descending conditions of barely adequate, inadequate, and failing.
Second, that something requires care means that there is knowledge to be gained about the cared for object. At his trial, reported by Plato in the Apology, Socrates famously asks his accuser whether the many or the expert is best suited to care for horses. The answer is obvious. The expert is so suited because of his knowledge. Minimally one must know what brings the object of care into a state of either flourishing or failing. Otherwise care will only happen fortuitously, and it certainly can’t be expected. So, let’s recognize that where there is knowledge to be had ignorance is a possibility. The overcoming of ignorance is a part of proper care.
Third, if compost can be in better or worse conditions then it must be of a certain nature. It is its nature, and our familiarity with its nature, which our knowledge will be about. Recognition that compost has a nature allows one to approach composting with the expectation of being confronted by “the other”, something which will resist us if mistreated, and something for which we must at least be ready to conform ourselves to if we are to be in relation to it. Compost can be managed and cared for, but it cannot be molded into whatever. It will resist. This is because it, like other things of the same sort, has a nature.
Last, care is a good, because it brings its object into good condition and makes its work good. And where there is good to be brought about virtue is required that it might be realized in the right way and to the fullest extent. The virtues of prudence, temperance, and their children consistency, open-mindedness, patience, and many others are no more expendable where care is required than the object of care itself. Often it is not knowledge of what care requires that is lacking but virtue. We notice this often where knowledge is plentiful and yet what is known is not sufficient to bring about flourishing.
And isn’t this the heaviest introduction to compost? Does it not weigh more than it is worth? By no means. It has not been said that compost requires tons of care or tons of knowledge. In fact, much of the work is done by partners who work for what we would consider very little. I speak loosely but lovingly of microbes and micro-arthropods. But unless our attitude and orientation are fixed properly in the beginning we will be under the illusion that compost will produce on its own what can only be brought about in proportion to care. Any home economy has a hierarchy of care distributed by those who govern it. Once integrated well into a home economy, which requires wisdom, compost will thrive and contribute what it can to the health of that which it influences. In the next posts I will cover separately ingredients, tools, and methods. Come back, check in, and if my knowledge is deficient, my methods vicious, or my care wanting, by all means improve me! But first, before discussing technique, materials, and ingredients, let’s remember what brings it all together and makes it good: CARE.
Picture of one of our backyard garden harvests this week.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Two corrections

Daniel reminded me that we did cover the garlic over the winter.

Also realized that the garlic will probably last longer than a month. We only use a few cloves a day and so those 33 bulbs plus a few that are still in the ground will last a lot longer than a month.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Garlic Harvest

We braided 33 bulbs (4 pounds) of garlic this weekend.

Garlic is such a great crop--it doesn't require much care and does well in our sandy soil. We bought the garlic seed from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange last year and planted the cloves back in November. It grew when hardly anything else would grow all winter with no protection. When its stems started to die and fall over a few weeks ago we knew it was time to harvest. After pulling them out of the ground we set them out in a cool dry place on an old window screen so they could dry out completely. Now I've got them hanging in the kitchen and we will be using them almost daily for the nest month or so.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Our Garden Today

This is a picture of our main garden taken from the bottom of the yard. We are growing potatoes, onions, garlic, brussels sprouts, and cabbage, broccoli, turnips, collards, swiss chard, and kale--all left over from our Spring garden. The summer vegetables got a later start this year because we gave a lot of space to that Spring garden. The summer veggies that we are growing are 4 kinds of squash (yellow, zucchini, butternut, trombone), pole beans, 3 varieties of tomatoes (cherry and slicing), eggplant, okra, sweet potatoes, and cucumber. Our herbs are basil, dill, parsley, rosemary, sage, and mint. The perennial vegetables we are trying this year are taro, Jerusalem artichoke, and asparagus. We also have figs, blueberries, wild blackberries, and loquat trees. In addition, we are nursing 1 peach tree and 2 apple trees back to life after being neglected by the previous owner.

Here's a blurry picture of our harvest from this week.
* 3 pounds collards
* 3.5 pounds kale
* 11 pounds potatoes
* 4 pounds bok choi
* 14 ounces chard
* 1.5 pounds beets

This is our first experience with multiplier onions and we are very happy with their success. We began harvesting them last week and they are curing in the shed now.

These beets are another vegetable that we've grown successfully for the first time this year.

Our one gardenia bush is blooming in the front yard. I love to bring one flower inside and let its scent fill the entire house.

Several different lilies are blooming around the yard. Daniel moved these to spread them out among the blueberries.

Friday, May 28, 2010

A Leafy Green Meal Plan

It has been a fun challenge to figure out how to fit all these greens that we have been growing into our meals. To begin with, I wash and rinse greens every day and that is quite a process. I've learned that taking the rib out of collards, kale and turnips make them a lot easier to eat--especially for the girls. Another thing I've figured out is that it is more efficient to go ahead and prepare all of the greens at once. For example, in the past I would only wash the kale that I would be using for the specific meal. Now if I wash and trim all 2 pounds at once then dinner prep is quick and we have left over greens that we can eat the next day.

So this is how I do it now. First I cut out the rib if necessary. Then I let them soak in a sink of cold water for about 10 minutes. Then depending how dirty the leaves are I might do that again. I then take them out (inspecting for bugs on each leaf since I am neurotic about not eating bugs) and dry them in the salad spinner. Then I bag them in a clean bag so they are ready for the meal.

I've never really cooked with bok choi before this year. I've found that the stalks can be used just like celery. I chop them up and add them to salads, sandwiches and cold salads like potato salad and chick pea salad.  If you are going to cook them with the leaves then they need to cook about twice as long (cook ribs 3 min. then add leaves for another 3).

Here's a meal plan for a typical week during this season:

Sunday--Spicy Chick Pea dish and salad
Monday--Tofu and sauteed kale lasagna and salad
Tuesday--Burritos with black beans, rice, sauteed collards, olives, avocados, salsa and vegan sour cream on top
Wednesday--Harvest bowl with cornbread, leftover black beans, mashed potatoes and turnips, and avocado.
Thursday--Coconut milk and curry stir fry with tofu, bok choi, mushrooms and salad
Friday--Cashew cheese macaroni with sauteed swish chard
Saturday--Cold chick pea salad sandwiches