Monthly Archives: February 2008

Seminal arrival

Our Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds order arrived today. Instead of the 60 seed packets we we expected, there were 78! It looks like we will be flush with tomatoes, green, yellow, orange, pink, and purple ones. Bea is very excited and started going through and taking notes for each variety from the catalog. Now comes the hard part… deciding when and how we will plant them. We will not be able to plant them all, and we still do not have the exact plan for the beds yet. So the next step is to determine which ones need to be started now, and get them in the plugs. I know onions and leeks are on the list, and we will start figuring out which things will be late summer plantings, rather than early spring.

A few of the varieties I am personally excited about:

  • Purple Tomatillos
  • Charentais (European melon)
  • Chichiquelite Huckleberry
  • Tal Jalepeno
  • Cherokee Chocolate tomato
  • White Wonder watermelon
  • Hartman’s Giant amaranth

Spring thoughts

I did finally order seeds. But not from any of the listed companies. I forgot to mention that I also requested a catalog from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, and when that catalog arrived, I was no longer interested in any of the others. All the seeds listed are open-pollinated, non-hybrid, heirloom seeds, collected from seed-savers and gardeners from around the world. So, what did we order? Having a very limited experience with gardening and the qualities of any varieties listed, we opted for the Medium Homestead package for northern climates that includes 25 vegetables and 60 varieties (60 seed packets total). So we really have no idea yet what we will be growing, and in a way, that will make our first year of gardening just that much more exciting. There are few, if any, items in the catalog that I would not want (most likely candidates are the summer squash and the beets), so chances are, we will be happy to have whatever pops up. What I don’t care for, Bea will probably love.

I have also brought the grow lights* into the kitchen and we are now waiting to see if the 6 basil plants and 2 cilantro will come up for some early fresh seasoning. At some point we may have to find a window for them, but first things first. I want to know how this grow light thing works, so I am experimenting with the seeds we have. It has only been a week, and not a peep. Other bloggers are reporting sprouts at 10 days for some of their seeds, so maybe we will see some green next week.

Next up is the chicken order. We will be getting 25 chicks, and I have picked out the breeds. It looks like we will mix it up with Rhode Island Reds, Silver/Gold Laced Wyandottes, Black Australorps, and Buff Orpingtons. We are planning on ordering straight runs of the Australorps, Orpingtons, and Wyandottes, but only ordering sexed pullets of the Reds. The reason for this is that we want to have a cock, but don’t want to be stuck with only one to pick from if we order it sexed. So we will order straight runs, cull the cockerels that don’t make the cut, and end up with the favorite cock to watch over the hens. Why no Red rooster? Reds tend to have quite aggressive cocks, and I prefer to keep my spurs at boot level. The next week or so will be spent preparing for the chicks (heat lamp, feeder, waterer, quarters), and plans for the coop and the run will kick into high gear after they arrive (in late March?). Each of the breeds is a good dual-purpose breed, so we should end up with 10-15 good layers, and 10-15 meaty frozen chickens in the freezer. We are hoping to let them run amok (I mean free range), but if it seems like they are getting into things (like the house, or the road), or easy prey for hawks and coyotes, they will be confined to their run.

It sounds like a lot. It is. Still not sure how it will all work out, but it will. Sun is out this weekend, so optimism levels are high.

If you happen to live in a (sub)urban area, the book Keep Chickens! by Barbara Kilarski might be helpful. Many towns allow for small numbers of chickens, and they require so little space, and take care of many table scraps. Oh yeah, and the eggs!

* Bea’s dad did some work for a couple and they asked if he had use for the grow stand and lights. He said he knew some one who did! They are a great couple and have also loaned us an awesome stereoscopic microscope (2 eyepieces = magnification with depth). Frito’s are pretty nasty up close. Anyway, we are very thankful and excited about the grow lights, and will be even more so once we see some sprouts.

Wheel

A while back Bea and I came to the realization that somehow, spending more money on food was more worthwhile than spending more money on non-food. Then we realized that we almost never had better meals when we ate out than we had at home. So, with the fiscal focus on food, and the reduced expenditure on eating out, we have been able to eat a lot better food. But it still seemed that we were getting an awful lot of packaging with this good food, and you know, I would rather not pay for, or have to throw away, packaging. So we started buying more good food in bulk. It started with rice, and then it was beans, lentils, bread, fresh organic fruit. Now it is cheese. It has been frustrating to drive by dairy after dairy, but never be able to find local cheese, let alone organic or raw cheese. I started looking online, and found that there is really only one place that can provide what we were looking for: Steve-n-Sons Grassfields. The price seemed steep at first, but as I thought about it, the cost made perfect sense. These were cows, eating exactly what they should eat, producing milk with all the nutrients that come from nature, without the extra processing that both kills beneficial bacteria, and reduces the nutritive content of the milk. Cheese has been one of the last hold-outs on our consistent march toward food with healthier origins (organic, naturally raised, raw, local). Only one grocery carries organic cheese, but it is $8/lb. and definitely not local or raw, and probably only organic in the loosest USDA sense. So when we found a source of somewhat local (still almost 150 miles away), raw, organic cheese, that would sell us a whole round, without a lot of extra packaging, for the same price, we knew it was time to switch.

Mmmm...  cheese!

The folks at Grassfields are very nice, and our round/wheel of Lamont Cheddar arrived today! We still have some cheese left in the fridge that we will eat before cutting into the wheel, but it is hard to wait! It is 13.5 lbs. total, and we will cut it into chunks to freeze. At $8/lb. + $13 shipping, it comes to just under $9/lb. It means we will eat cheese a little more slowly, but it is also stronger with more flavor, and we will need less of it. Quesadillas will have to wait until I can make my own “farmers” cheese. I do have a cheese kit, compliments of Bea’s brother, so that day may not be too far off…

That's not yo' cheese!

I guess I like dirt

I have never had a beet that I particularly liked. I just don’t eat dirt clods that look like they bleed.

But that was before this winter, and a recipe that came with some beets from a co-workers garden. I think it came from a Campbell’s cookbook (page 18), but I have copied it here in the way that we made it (more or less).

If I am cut, do I not bleed?

Creamy Beet Soup

A twist on traditional borscht. While usually served hot with yogurt, it is also tasty chilled (so I hear).

  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 3 Tbs. butter
  • 1 medium potato, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2-3 medium beets, sliced
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. snipped fresh dill, or 1 tsp. dried dill weed
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • Yogurt garnish

In a large sauce pan, over medium heat, cook onions in butter until tender. Add potato and garlic; cook 1 minute. Add beets and stock to saucepan; heat to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat 15 minutes or until potato is tender.

Place one-half beet mixture in blender or food processor. Cover and blend till smooth. Place blended soup aside and repeat with remaining beet mixture. Return soup to saucepan. Add dill, salt and pepper to taste. Serve with yogurt.

Out out damn spot!

This bodes well for Bea’s plans to grow some of these strange veggies in our garden(s) this year.