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Winter Preparations – Working Toward a Comfortable Winter

Winter Preparations – Working Toward a Comfortable Winter

Winter Preparations

Winter preparations have started. It feels like we must be far behind because here it is early October and we haven’t touched a stick of firewood. Steve dropped a few big trees in the new food plot over the summer, and he dragged them to the field between the high tunnels, but there they sit. He cut and I split and stacked this winter’s firewood last year. I thought I’d do next year’s this year but the majority of it is going to wait until spring. Using the empty high tunnel to dry and store firewood has been one of the best things we’ve done here. It’s warm, the air flows well and the wood dries fast.

What’s on the winter prep list?

  • Move firewood
  • Split firewood for winter 17/18
  • Harvest a deer or two
  • Process the meat chickens and one duck in early November
  • Process the turkeys the weekend before Thanksgiving (or sooner if the jerks won’t say in their pen)
  • Cover the basement windows with insulation
  • Frame the new raised beds in the high tunnel
  • Move the topsoil I decided to hold off on (horrid weed problem) into the new raised beds
  • Muck the hen house
  • Cover the hen house windows with poly

There’s a bear in the freezer now, lots of preserves put up, veggies, mushrooms and fruits frozen, and herbs and hot peppers dehydrated.

Firewood

Out of everything on the list I like firewood the best. This is this winter’s wood. It was cut, split and stacked to dry in the high tunnel last year. It’s lightweight now and won’t take a lot of effort to move five cords into the wood shed, onto the back porch, and fill the rack in the living room. There’s something about the mindless repetition of firewood that appeals to me. Pick it up, put it on the splitter, pull the lever to split the wood, wait, grab the top piece with one hand and flip the bottom piece with the other hand, pull the lever, wait, let the split wood drop, drop the top piece onto the cold metal frame, pull the lever, throw those two pieces into the stack. Mindless but mindful at the same time. One wrong move can send me to the ER (once) or the doctor (once). Being careful and mindful while letting my mind wander is a good thing. I get a lot of damned good writing done in my head while I’m splitting firewood that unfortunately usually doesn’t make it to paper or laptop before it’s mostly forgotten.

winter preparations, firewood, high tunnel

Poultry

As much as I won’t enjoy slaughtering and butchering the chickens and turkeys, I’m ready for it. They’ve lived good lives on grass and soil, taking dust baths under the sun on 70° October days, eating grasshoppers and weed seeds. The turkeys have learned how to trample down the side of their electronet fence and are wandering all over the place. I sent a pic of seven wandering turkeys and a text to Steve that said “they better taste good” this afternoon. I used the tractor’s bucket and a chain to move the hog panels, and I’ll put them back up near the hen house. That will keep them contained…unless they realize they can fly over, and then I’ll clip their wings. I don’t remember turkeys ever being such a pain as these seven, not even when we had 25 or more at a time.

winter preparations, English Shepherd, broad breasted white turkeysThe meat chickens are manure machines that fertilize the lawn and part of the garden, their tractor having to be moved daily even if they’re in it only overnight. They’re going to continue to live good lives until early November for the chickens and the Sunday before Thanksgiving for the turkeys.

Propane was delivered this week. We have a small hot air, propane fired furnace in the basement for back up when we’re not at home to fill the wood stove, or like this fall when it’s really too warm for a fire but too cool to not have some sort of heat. We’re used to $600 a year for propane to heat our hot water and occasionally run that furnace. The bill today was $115 for two months. That can’t happen again in October. That’s craziness.

Winter Preparations?

I’m more physically prepared for winter than I am mentally. I want it to stay just like the last three days – warm and dry, sunny and breezy, cold enough in the morning for a fire that burns hot and fast for an hour to take out the chill – for the next 364 days…or until I decide I want it to be colder. The new moon and clear sky of autumn are incredible. The gazillion stars at night are stunning. The constellations are easy to see on these gorgeous nights. Winter preparations are time and work well spent while I spend these gorgeous autumn days outdoors.

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Downsizing Our Garden

Downsizing Our Garden

Downsizing Our Garden

Days of Kristin and Taylor living at home, growing for farmers markets and restaurants, and huge gardens are over. The girls have their own gardens now, Kristin in containers on two porches outside of Boston, and Taylor in a 4′ x 8′ raised bed at her duplex in western Maine. I’m growing three pounds of bush beans for us but as little as they’re home these days the timing of loading them up with fresh vegetables is tricky. Downsizing our garden is in order.

I’ve started the work of major downsizing. Is that an oxymoron? I’ve decreased the garden space considerably but not in ways I’m doing now. I ordered a Victoria rhubarb from Fedco this year. Since that needed to be planted I thought I might as well dig up and divide my best producing but old and roots-dying rhubarb. A little time on the tractor with the rototiller and seven holes later, I have a new bed that’s weed free and will stay that way now, and a lot of rhubarb to give away. There were other plants in the box from Fedco that have been neglected and were in need of planting – immediately. A mock orange bush I probably killed by letting it dry out, six Rugosa roses, and three grape vines are settled into the nursery spot. I planted a monarda I forgot I ordered in the perennial garden. Sage and oregano were transplanted into the kitchen herb garden and two rows, about 30 feet rather than 500 feet, of potatoes have been planted.

dividing rhubarb, divide rhubarb, Victoria Rhubarb, Fedco Seeds, downsizing our gardenIt was 80°, five over my oh-my-gawd I’m dying of heat stroke limit, but the breeze was strong enough to keep the black flies away and the humidity was a dry 57%. Perfect. I kept working. Three plum, three pear, two apple and peach tree along with two hazelnut bushes have been fertilized. And then I pulled weeds.

Steve came home from work with great news. He ordered seven yards of topsoil for me. Just for me! Seven yards of soil. It’s mine, all mine! And his, of course. I’m going to level some ground, build flower gardens around the garden shed, fill raised beds I haven’t yet made, and fill containers I do have. It’s going to be delivered today.

how to plant potatoes, downsizing our garden

We went to Gleason’s Cove on Sunday afternoon and came home with two bins of rockweed. I’m going to use it today to mulch the peppers I still need to plant in the high tunnel. It will help with weed control and will feed the micro herd in the soil as it breaks down.

This doesn’t sound like downsizing our garden, does it? Some of the topsoil will be used to level off the space between the edge of the lawn and where the soil drops into the garden. It’s dropped from years of rototilling. One garden is disappearing completely. I’ll rototill it many times this summer to kill the hairy galinsoga that’s taken over, then will seed it with grass. The edge of the big plot will also be leveled off to make it safe for the riding lawnmower and seeded with Dutch White clover. The last eight feet of the small plot in the backyard will be filled in and seeded, and when I move the horseradish and asparagus that far end of the garden will be returned to lawn.

Instead of more than 100 tomato plants, this year there are 16. There will be no beets for pickled and canned beets this year. I put up two or three year’s worth last year. I’ve planted a few for the greens. No turnips until later in the season when the weather will be cool enough to hit them with frost and turn them sweet. The second wave of broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage and the first round of Brussels sprouts are still six week away from transplanting. There won’t be a continuous supple from early July into November this year. Hundreds of plants have become dozens now that we’re downsizing our garden. Two adults can eat only so much even though we’re huge veggie eaters.

My tree order next year will be for ornamentals and one American chestnut. The voles killed one of the chestnuts over the winter. The perennial flower garden in front of the house is full now and there isn’t room to enlarge so I’ll start on the back yard. I have ideas of how I want the backyard and field to look in five and ten years but nothing concrete yet. With less work putting food up and downsizing our garden there’s more time for landscaping.

Potato Leek Mushroom Soup Recipe

Potato Leek Mushroom Soup Recipe

Potato Leek Mushroom Soup Recipe

Potato Leek Mushroom soup is one of my favorite meals. We started our day in the soaking wet outdoors, turkey hunting as soon as the downpour ended. A whipped up this soup (again, it’s one of our favorites so I make it often) to have for lunch before we go out to fish.

I usually use only potatoes and leeks but there were mushrooms waiting to be used when I made this soup last week so I sauteed them with the leeks. Best Potato Leek Mushroom soup I’ve ever made.

Adjust the recipe to suit your tastes. You don’t have to stick to it, and if you do make changes I’d love to hear what you do. I enjoy trying variations in most everything I cook.

One pound leek shanks
6-7 medium Yukon Gold potatoes. Other varieties will work as long as they are starchy.
One pound fresh mushrooms. I used Portabello
Cream, milk or Half & Half, up to a half gallon
Kosher salt
Pepper
Olive oil

Scrub potatoes, cut into chunks and simmer in just enough water to cover them, until soft.
Strip an outer layer or two of the leeks. Remove the green tops and save for soup stock. If you’re running short on shanks you can use the soft green part. Your soup will have a green tint and still taste great.
Clean mushrooms with a paper towel, slice.
Saute leeks and mushrooms in olive oil until the leeks are soft.
When potatoes are cooked (don’t drain the water), add leeks and mushrooms. Blend with an immersion blender or mixer, adding the milk, cream or Half & Half as you go. If you like a rustic soup you should stop mixing while there are still chunks of potatoes and mushrooms. Add salt and pepper to taste.

 

Spring Greens & Fresh Eggs Recipe

Spring Greens & Fresh Eggs Recipe

Spring Greens & Fresh Eggs Recipe

I love food. I love most everything that goes into putting food on our table. Planting seeds, transplanting, watering, even weeding, picking, cleaning, preparing. Eating. This afternoon I had the first spring greens for lunch. Kale, spinach and chives. I didn’t think to pluck a few dandelion greens and green garlic. From the hen house, a fresh duck egg, laid this morning. Food I grow and raise and am responsible for. Organic and free range aren’t marketing buzz words here. The chives are generations divided and gone to seed, once belonging to Mum. She passed away 17 years ago but some of her plants are still going strong. The chives, they have meaning beyond nourishment and flavor.

Having a tiny stomach (gastric sleeve) means I eat the equivalent of a small banana at each meal. When you can’t have a lot of food you want food with a lot of flavor. What could I cook that would fill me up, which is easy to do now, and taste so good, so hardy, so satisfying, that I’d want more?

I gathered the kale, a few spinach leaves and the chives and came back to the kitchen. You don’t need to stick to these exact measurements or ingredients for this recipe. If it sounds good and you have it, use it. Here’s what I used and how I prepared my lunch.

chives, spring greens
chives, red onion, ginger paste, spring greens
chopped kale, red onion, spinach, spring greens
spring greens, mushroom
spring greens, duck egg, kale
deglaze, pan, wine, spring greens
Deglaze, wine, spring greens
dragonfly farm & winery, dragonfly wine, deglaze, spring greens
spring greens, duck eggs, deglazeSpring Greens & Duck Egg

1 duck egg. If you’re local and don’t have duck eggs, come see me. If not, use what you have.
Fresh chives
2 C chopped kale
1/2 C baby spinach
1/8 C red onion, sliced or diced
1 or 2 button mushrooms, sliced or diced
1 T ginger paste
1 T Tamari
1 T Sesame Oil
1 splash of Wine
1/4 C Shredded cheddar or other cheese

Snip the chives into 1/4″ pieces and chop the kale into bite-sized pieces. Add the kale, onion, ginger paste, mushroom and sesame oil. Saute until the kale is soft, then add spinach and Tamari. Spinach will be soft in about a minute. Pull the mixture together and make a well in the center. Crack the egg into the well. Turn off the heat**. If you want the entire egg white to cook you’ll want to cover the pan. **If you want the yolk to cook you’ll cover the pan, wait a minute, then turn off the heat.

When the egg is as cooked as you like, slide a spatula under everything. When it’s loose, slide it onto a plate. Deglaze the pan with a splash of wine. Grate the cheese over the egg and spring greens. When the wine has reduced and cleaned up the delicious bits on the pan, pour it over the top.

You won’t need salt thanks to the Tamari. A little pepper might be nice on spring greens!

Skillet Roasted Asparagus Recipe – My Favorite!

Skillet Roasted Asparagus Recipe – My Favorite!

Skillet Roasted Asparagus Recipe

Skillet roasted asparagus is my favorite way to prepare one of my favorite vegetables. It’s easy, looks a little fancy, and it tastes better than a simple recipe should taste. I thought I’d post this early this week in case you want to try it for Easter dinner.

I’m hoping to have fresh asparagus a little earlier than usual this year. We never have our fill ofit before we have to stop cutting and let the plants regenerate energy for sustainability. I’m going to expand the asparagus bed again this year. It’s simple. You dig a trench, work lots of rich compost into the soil, and plant. As the plant grows you cover it with a little soil. The hardest part of growing asparagus is keeping the bed weeded. I didn’t realize how important this is until I weeded a horribly neglected bed in August and had a flush of fresh spears.

Skillet Roasted Asparagus is so delicious you'll want thirds. Click To Tweet
Five ingredients, a few minutes, and the best roasted asparagus I’ve ever eaten.
skillet roasted asparagus
roasted asparagus, skillet roasted asparagus
Skillet Roasted Asparagus, asparagus recipe

Skillet Roasted Asparagus

Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Serves: 6

Ingredients
  • 1 pound asparagus
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1-2 tbls lime juice
  • 1 tbl Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Mix the olive oil, lime juice, salt and one-half of the cheese. Let sit for 20-30 minutes. Taste the mix. Adjust to suit your tastes.
  2. Heat the oven to 425°.
  3. Snap the woody ends off the asparagus. TIP: grab a handful at a time and snap. They’ll snap where they should and you’ll save a lot of time. If you need to wash the asparagus be sure to dry it completely.
  4. Heat the cast iron skillet on the stove top until a drop of olive oil sizzles. Turn off the heat. Place the asparagus in the skillet, pour oil over the spears, and sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top. Bake for 10 minutes.
  5. Move the asparagus to a serving dish and top with the oil mix. Scrape the cheese bits out so you don’t miss any of the deliciousness. Soak up the oak with a piece of crusty sourdough bread!

Skillet roasted asparagus, my favorite early June vegetable dish!