Friday, December 15, 2017

Christmas break 2017

A patch of celery flopped over in the frost
Poor frosty celery--it perked up the next day with the thaw
After a productive gardening year, I'm taking my break with pride this Christmas.  I easily met my target of five months without buying vegetables, providing my family with plenty of good variety from the garden the entire time.  I've broken last year's record for food produced too;  I'll post the full year's total next month.

I can hardly believe it's that time again.  I'll be taking the rest of December off blogging:  and gardening too, no doubt--it's cold!  I'll be back here on 2 January, 2018, with the food totals for December but unlike this time last year, there are already a few things on the vegetable tally.

Merry Christmas and happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The end of the line for celery?

After some hard frosts and a light dusting of snow, my celery looked pretty sad yesterday:  all wilted and limp.  I went to take a photo, but had to charge batteries first, and they only finished after dark (the sun sets around 3.45 PM now).  I'm sure you can imagine how they looked, all slumped in the snow.

I dug up half of them and asked the husband to trim and wash them while I emptied the contents of the chicken house.  I thought I gave him the easy job, but as it turned out, I finished way before he did!  But the happy result is that we have a drawer in the fridge filled to the brim with celery, which will probably last for the rest of the month if it doesn't go moldy before we can use it all.  It's a lot of celery.

I left the other half in the ground because a) I knew we didn't have room to keep it in the fridge, and b) I'm hoping it can perk up again once it thaws out.  But if it doesn't make it after all, it still gave us a good run;  we've been eating celery regularly since October, and it's been a relatively easy and trouble-free vegetable to grow.  I'll definitely grow it again in 2018.

I spread that chicken manure on the old Roots bed, where the celery was.  Next year it should be the Potatoes bed according to the rotation specified in The Complete Book of Self Sufficiency, but as I'm not doing a dedicated potato bed in 2018, it'll be the Misc bed, with a corner of it the Holding bed.

Friday, December 8, 2017

How I dry greens for winter use

I use:
  • A sewing needle threaded with a long piece of sewing thread.
  • Two nails about a meter apart in my kitchen wall, close to the ceiling, but far from the stove or other direct heat source.
A handful of nasturtium leaves
Take some fresh greens
Take a handful of greens, trimmed of their stems (and mid-ribs, such as on chard leaves) and stack them together.  I have some nasturtium greens here.
A needle poking into a handful of nasturtium leaves
Pierce with a threaded needle
 With the threaded sewing needle, carefully pierce through the center of the stack.
A needle poking out of the other side of a handful of nasturtium leaves
Right through the center
 Pull the needle through the stack and along the thread.  Continue doing this with all the leaves.
Nasturtium leaves on a string
Keep going
Carefully spread out the leaves on the thread, making sure not to tear them off accidently.
Wrapping the thread around a nail on the wall
Don't let it slip off
When all the greens are threaded, wind the ends of the thread around each nail to secure.  I even leave the needle on the end of the thread so I can reuse it for the next lot once these ones are dry.
A garland of nasturtium leaves hanging on a wall
Very decorative--the curtain hides our fuse box
Let dry fully (it takes two weeks in cool weather, but less than a week in the warmth), then slide the leaves off the thread into a labeled container:  I use a clean glass jar, but ziploc bags also work fine.  I try to crumble the leaves a little as I put them in the jar, but it's not necessary.

To use:  add to soups, sauces and stews as normal, allowing for a little extra cooking time so that the greens may rehydrate.  In my experience, chard and nasturtium greens each taste the same whether fresh or from dried.  Further experiments are needed for other greens in the future, such as young kale and sorrel.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

November 2017 garden notes

Three cauliflower seedlings growing in a container, surrounded by crushed eggshells
Cauliflowers for next summer with self-watering jug, Nov 2017

Roots

Still beets in the ground, but mostly just leaf, no real root.  None harvested in November.

Been eating plenty of celery throughout the month of November, though it started looking a little sad by the end of the month:  frost maybe?

Winter grazing rye sown earlier was scratched up by escaped chickens.

No sign of garlic and shallot bulbs sprouting yet.

Peas and beans

Pulled out runner beans and hung up the vines in the garage, to finish ripening/drying the pods.

Broad beans planted out at the beginning of the month and starting to sprout by the end.

Brassicas

Brussels sprouts small and purple sprouting broccoli big, but none harvested in November.

Kale and spring cabbages in the ground had some damage by escaped chickens;  cabbages in the cold frame looking big and lush, starting to form heads.  Cauliflower in planters also had some damage, but still growing well in the cold frame.  None of these harvested.

Also a little chicken damage to winter cabbages.  Picked a few outer leaves this month.

Harvested two rutabagas/swedes and two turnips, all small but tasty.  None left worth eating.

Miscellaneous

Harvested the last few tomatillos in November.  Harvested four more pumpkins, with two still left on the vine at the end of the month (they are close to the house and fairly protected from frost).

Leeks growing slowly still.  None harvested.

Picked a small amount of miners and lambs lettuces this month and three heads of forced chicory for a salad.  Trying to force one more crop from the chicory for December.

Potatoes

Ate most of the potatoes in storage, but still a few left at the end of November.  Although we had a good harvest this year (and they made up the bulk of garden veg for this month), I probably won't dedicate a full bed to them next year.

Fruit

Picked a few yellow raspberries this month.  Mulched all soft fruit with used chicken bedding (straw and manure) and/or fallen leaves.

Perennials and herbs

Mulched artichoke, asparagus and rhubarb with chicken bedding.

Still a little growth on chives and thyme this month, but everything else finished/gone dormant.

Friday, December 1, 2017

November 2017 Food Totals

Close up of a pear growing amongst leaves
Williams pear, Nov 2017
Vegetables:

282 oz potatoes
34.5 oz celery
23 oz chard
10 oz tomatillos
12.5 oz bean sprouts
1 oz onion
2.5 oz chicory heads
1 oz salad greens (miners and lambs lettuces, arugula)
10 oz rutabaga (swede) and greens
10.5 oz cabbage
1.5 oz turnip

3 pumpkins (small)

Does not include fresh herbs which were too small a quantity to weigh, i.e. less than 0.5 oz, or the above 3 pumpkins which were unweighed. 

Total: 388.5 oz, or just over 24 lb

Note:  I weigh all my vegetables after preparation:  peeling, trimming, etc. 

Fruit:

5 yellow raspberries

Eggs:

Total: 65 eggs from 10 hens
Total feed bought: 2 bags layers pellets (40kg total)

Preserves:

1/3 of a large jar dried chard leaves
1/3 of a large jar dried nasturtium leaves
5 large jars and 2 medium jars green tomato salsa (tomatoes and garlic from my garden, peppers and onions bought)

Homebrew:  

Cider still fermenting
No new homebrew begun

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

We are what we eat: sprouts

Mung bean sprouts, November 2017
With an old pickle jar, and using a piece of muslin and a rubber band, I've made my own sprouting jar.  I first sprouted some old, excess seed from my seed collection:  some arugula and random brassica (I think it might have been broccoli) which I'd grown and harvested myself.  Not all of it sprouted--age, I suspect--but what did was very tasty, very zingy.  I pretty much ate it all straight from the jar. 

I later branched out into pumpkin seed (from my own grown pumpkin), but ended up giving it to the chickens.  It didn't sprout very well, but they enjoyed the soaked, partially sprouted seeds.  Incidently, I bought my chickens some scratch grains with the intention of soaking/sprouting them too, but haven't got around to it yet.

Above are mung bean sprouts, the seeds of which I bought on special.  Though they've been taking about 10-14 days to grow big enough for my liking, they're very tasty both raw and cooked.  In fact, if I see them on special again I'll definitely buy extra.  I was surprised at how much bulk they produce from each little seed.

Sprouts have been an easy, trouble-free way to get greens in winter.  I'm sure I've got some more excess seed in my stash--maybe I'll see if I can try sprouting chard and kale.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Thanksgiving from the garden, 2017

A peeled, halved pumpkin on a chopping board
Preparing a garden pumpkin, November 2017
We hosted Thanksgiving here this year, with ourselves and another family, a total of four adults and three children.  It was my turn to cook the turkey, so our guests brought the vegetables;  I made a big batch of mashed garden potatoes as part of my contribution.

I also made a pumpkin pie using our own chicken's eggs, though not with the above pictured pumpkin (it went into a lovely pork and vegetable stew).  As mentioned previously, I was a bit disappointed in my pumpkins this year--late forming and small;  at least the flavor was good. 

Additionally there was a selection of our homebrew on offer:  last year's rhubarb wine and the two year old elderberry wine (though that vintage has been hit and miss--the bottle we opened ended up being a little too rough for drinking though fine for cooking).  It made for a very happy Thanksgiving!

About the festive bird:  while I bought one this year, I'm hoping that in years to come we can raise our own bird.  At the moment we have two big, meaty cockerels out back--both of which look like good eating!  But they are hopefully going to be breeding stock, as part of our goal in a self-sustaining flock, so we're not eating them just yet.  Perhaps next year we'll have half a dozen fat cockerels ready for eating.

It was a lovely meal, and I'm glad I could serve food from my own garden.