Saturday, March 27, 2010

gardens 2010-general update

Today was another beautiful but very windy day never the less I still had to get some plants in the ground. We work within a very small window for spring cole crops to be in   or they don't do well because of the summer heat. Not that it gets overly hot here like in many places but we do have a long season of hot weather that begins in  early June. It is supposed to rain again tomorrow which would delay planting until later this week   and then we would be pushing our limits on some of the crops.

So in 30 mph winds that couldn't pick a direction to blow from and higher gusts I was out leveling  my planting area in the front garden and laying down my feed bag weed barriers. I would love for one of the days we use them for it to be calm and serene out,  this trying to lay them flat and get soil on them quick enough so they don't blow away is a tough job. Anywho, I got the rest of my cabbage babies in the ground  as well as the 25 or so broccoli plants. A few were a bit tiny for transplant but I threw them in anyway. If  they don't make it I will plant some herbs in its spot after our last  frost date.

I was also able to get a couple small beds of  a few types of lettuce in  along with some red and white scallions and a "magic dragon stir fry mix". I really don't know what all the magic dragon contains  but from looking at the seeds it appears to be  cabbage or other cole crop types.  In the GH I planted a few  mung beans and I started four paprika seeds. These will probably  be the only peppers I grow this year, if the seed germinates. Last year I tried a couple times with this same seed and had no luck.

All the tomatoes are now in their little grow cups. In total we have 99 plantlings. Actually it is probably more like 95 but ummm... well... uhh... I looked at my baby  containers labeled eggplant and since I have never grown an eggplant I had no idea what the seedling was supposed to look like. To me the seedling looked  an awful lot like a tomato so I labeled it as  a candy tomato, which even if it was a tomato it wasn't that type. If it was a tomato it would be a super bush tomato, but that little oops  is  a completely different story.  Any way, we have some where around a 100  tomato plants growing and looking pretty good. I will take some cuttings off the mother plant in the loft  in the next couple weeks too, hopefully  we will have a most excellent harvest of tomatoes this year. Oh and by the way, I planted several more eggplant seeds in a  well marked container of their own just to see what the plantlings look like  and because I wasn't pleased with the amount of original seeds that germinated.

The onions are growing nicely as are all the peas. The spinach, turnips, radishes etc are all coming in nicely too, finally. I was beginning to worry  but  was successfully fighting off any urges to reseed any of the beds. The mustard and mesclun mix plants that are seeding are now flowering. They are  pretty even though they are quite plain. I think the only thing we are waiting to sprout that has been planted thus far are the potatoes  and some carrots aside from what I planted today.

Things will be fairly slow in the gardens from now until the last week  of April. Although most of our weather from here on out is nice we still do get the occasional frost  until then. I may try and plant some corn  in a  couple of weeks  in hopes that it won't germinate until the last frost date has passed. A net friend of mine that commercial farms does this in  Minnesota so I see no reason why I can't or shouldn't be able to do it in Ga.

Friday, March 26, 2010

caramel dumplings

This is a sickeningly sweet but very good recipe for a frugal minded dessert. It uses all LTS( long term storage) ingredients so is easy to take on a camping trip or if you are caught off guard and need a dessert on a moments notice. I like this served with fresh fruit  but it also  serves well with ice cream or whipped cream.

1 1/4 cup self-rising flour*
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3-1/2 cup milk

2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. In mixing bowl cut butter into flour until crumbly. Stir in sugar, milk and vanilla; mix well. Set aside.
  2. Combine all ingredients for sauce in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat.
  3. Drop tablespoonfuls of dumpling dough into simmering sauce. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Serve warm with sweetened whipped cream or ice cream.
Makes 4 servings.
* Or substitute 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder, and 3/4 teaspoon salt.

gardens 2010- tobacco update

I went to check on the plants in the loft today and re-pot  some tomatoes when I noticed the tobacco seedlings are all coming up. They were planted 13 days ago today. Looks to be a pretty good germination rate but  it is  hard to tell as yet because they are so tiny.  Tobacco is a very slow starter but once it gets growing  good  it grows very  quickly.

These babies will stay in the trays they are in now until they are a little over an inch tall and then will be transferred into grow cups  for  a few weeks before going to the garden plot. If I remember correctly last year it was about two weeks before they reached  the point of transplantation. The seedlings in the picture are probably pretty close to life size. Look hard as they are hard to see. I tried to blow them up but my camera just isn't made for taking pictures of microscopic things.

signs of spring-quince blossoms

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

2010 GH-spring/summer experiment

  Though I grow  seedlings during the summer months in the greenhouse,  until last year it mostly sat empty from the first of May until September or so. I had  assumed it was simply too hot for anything to do well in there. Last year however, I tossed a few extra black eye pea seeds in one of the beds  and ignored them while I let them bake in the hot summer sun beating down  upon  them. To my amazement not only did they grow in there, they did surprisingly well.

After seeing how well the neglected peas did in there and after having a horrendous year   in the gardens we decided that the GH was no longer going to be just a cool weather fun project, season extender and seed starting area.  Our greenhouse was going to become an integral part of our gardening plans around the homestead. It was going to become a place  where no matter the weather outside was doing we could grow a small but nice selection of food crops, that while they may not be able to sustain us, they could provide a good portion of our meals.

After having a  winter season of learning  and growing  a few crops successfully we expanded the in ground growing area in the GH late this winter. We now have about 50 sf of bed space in the ground with another table bed of 10 sf. The remaining area has a shelving unit for seedlings and several  sf of floor space for container plants. My plan is to have 10 or so different types of plants growing  in there at all times depending on the season.

This winter we grew, lettuces, a few herbs,  greens, onions, cabbage  and peas. A few weeks back I sowed some more peas, chinese cabbage, onions, spinach and potato. As each crop is played out or harvested, I will amend the soil and replant the area with something else  on through the year.  Today I  moved a couple of the plants that I had started up in the loft down to the GH and planted them in a bed.

Three roma tomatoes, 2 boston pickling cukes, one lemon squash and 10 okra seeds went into the  a 14 sf area today. I  plan to   move a dwarf zuchinni down as well as plant some watermelon and  asian beans in the next few days and from there  will have to see what else I can cram into the space I have.

Here are a couple pics of the beds this afternoon. I thought I had more downloaded than I do but am too tired to mess with them tonight as I actually helped move wood today.  I was also viciously attacked by the wheel barrow but that's a whole other post.

signs of spring-dandelion

                                a dandelion poking its head through the oregano patch.There were actually three dandies that I found today, this one just amused me because of where it was growing.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

super simple sour dough cinnamon rolls

Lately I have given up measuring ingredients of any sort.  I have always been an eye baller and non recipe using sort of person  but up until the last few times of making bread or rolls I was measuring  things for those recipes. I think maybe I  have finally gotten comfortable enough in my dough making abilities that I  just started chucking the ingredients in and ending up with whatever I end up with.  Most of the time  this works splendidly but on the rare occasion I end up with way too much dough  and since we like our sweet things around here I had to come up with something dessert like to make  from the left over bread dough.  My solution has  been to make super simple  cinnamon rolls  of the leftovers and boy I have been  busting out some pretty ones lately.

All I do to make them is  take my left over bread dough and roll it out into a large rectangular(sorta) shape.The thinner you roll it  the more swirls of cinnamon there will be through the rolls.  Next I grab the brown sugar  and take a couple handfuls and pat it on to the dough as best as I can, covering the surface  with a thin layer. I then grab the  cinnamon shaker and shake it  over the  brown sugar. Sometimes I add some raisins that I have hydrated and drained. When it looks like enough I stop shaking and begin to roll the dough length wise as tightly as possible. When done  rolling I fold over the two ends and make it so the filling cant ooze out as I cut them into  rolls. Next, I slice the log into  pieces. A very sharp knife works best so that  you don't flatten the log while cutting.   I then  heavily butter a pie pan and place the slices of roll in the pan and flatten slightly. Let them raise  another couple hours as you would bread dough.

Since I have been  half baking mine on the wood stove, I place another buttered pie  pan  inverted over the top and  "bake" on the wood stove top. About half way through I flip the  two pans and cook the tops of the rolls  so that they cook evenly.  For those that use an oven I would think that 20-30 minutes in a 350 degree oven would suit.

After removing from oven  glaze with you favorite glaze. When we are in the mood for sweet and more sweet I top them with a confectionery sugar/lemon glaze . For a creamier less sweet topping a cream cheese/confectionery topping does nicely.  For a sickeningly rich type dessert  add some half and half or heavy cream  for the last 5-10 minutes of cooking, serve hot  and ladle the creamy goodness over the top of the rolls. The rolls  in the photo below are topped with a cream cheese brown sugar glaze.

Monday, March 22, 2010

lacto fermented soda-part 3

After a week of sitting on the counter  fermenting, we finally bottled up the soda the other day.  Taste your soda daily before bottling. When the flavor  suits you it is time to bottle it up. The longer it sits, the less sweet it will be. When filling the bottles strain and funnel into your bottles. Fill to about two inches below the rim. Your soda is then ready to cap.If you are not using a capper and conventional glass bottles, this  process is the same.

 This was the first time that we have used anything close to conventional for bottling the soda. A friend of ours brews his own beer but is going to go to using a kegerator rather than  filling individual bottles. He has donated me the use of his capper, caps  and  3 cases of recycled glass bottles.

The  capping unit  is a counter model colonna capper.  It has an  adjustable shelf on which to set the bottles then you simply  set the cap on top and pull the handle. You can feel when the seal is made. Then all you do is lift the handle, tilt the bottle and remove.

Once the soda is capped allow  it to sit on the counter for a few more days  to continue carbonating.  Chill in fridge and serve over ice. It is a refreshingly. nice soda  that has a  little ZING  to it. Our next batch  will be sassafras  flavored soda and I can't wait to try it as I really enjoy anything made of it. I have recently run across a fermented grapefruit soda that cuts many of the steps out of it. I am hoping to try that recipe  after our next town trip when I can pick up a grapefruit or two.

monday's mountain musings

Two days ago we were wearing shorts, had 70 degrees and gorgeous weather. This morning we woke up to snow and 32 degrees. Of course  yesterday we had gail force winds, hail and  heavy rain. Ah well, you know what they say in Ga (and every other state), if you don't like the weather wait ten minutes. I do believe it is supposed to be back to 60 tomorrow.

Last week during our glimpse of summer we did manage to get  quite a lot done around the homestead. Potatoes and cabbage got planted,wood got moved, worms got a new mansion, garden beds got tilled and  some of the compost was  moved.  My cuke in the loft had a baby and we harvested a couple more tomatoes. A couple nice meals of greens were had as well as a few more turnips and herbs harvested for usei n our menu. All in all the last week  has been quite productive on all fronts. Hopefully this craptacular weather we have had yesterday and today will  move out quickly and  we can get back to spring. It is officially spring now isn't it?

This weeks plans are to continue moving compost,wood and   re-potting all the tomato babies. I am making rolls today on the wood stove, may as well put it to as much use as we can while it is going. Will also cook up a kettle of beans, some pasta, rice and a pile of potatoes so that we have them  later in the week for quick, easy, mostly made  meals.  Once the tomatoes are re-potted  they will all be kicked to the greenhouse  and the loft and balcony will   be an experimental grow area   for the remainder of the year.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

silent sunday

                                                                three wooden crosses