Tuesday, November 22, 2011

raising broilers


we love having so much life right in our backyard. recently we added a flock of eight chickens to our small plot in a suburban neighborhood. we enjoy studying their unique personalities as they scratch at the dirt & eat fresh kale from our hands.



sometimes i wonder, though, why we do it all. in between the busyness of work & the hustle of life, we also add the daily chores of tending to the garden & feeding our animals. once the chores are finished (for the moment at least), i find refuge in the process of preparing a slow meal from the bounty of our home.


when we chose our flock, we made the decision to add broilers, or meat birds, along with our layers. it can be difficult to raise an animal so intimately & then take it's life so soon after. for our family, the choice to consume meat has been a conscious one. we only purchase ethically-raised meats from nearby farmers & their families. additionally, we believe the responsibility of eating meat includes slaughtering animals, if possible, on our own.

in food & faith, wendell berry is quoted in writing,

"we can [not] live harmlessly or strictly at our own expense; we depend upon other creatures and survive by their deaths. to live, we must daily break the body and shed the blood of creation. the point is, when we do this knowingly, lovingly, skillfully, reverently, it is a sacrament..."


we hope that raising, tending to & taking the life of our chickens will serve as a sacrament. as we feast with friends & family, there is confidence in knowing what's on our table & the sanctity of life this animal lived.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

my go-to salad for autumn: a recipe

autumn go-to salad

Each season I like to work on a seasonal salad, one that can be made over and over again with the ingredients in my pantry and in my crisper. I try to keep things simple but I always tend to include fresh fruit, dried fruit, and nuts. The dressing I've made for this salad is garlicky and delicious and stands up nicely against the greens.

The best thing about salads is that you can tweak them to suit your own tastes and your stash of produce. However, if you're like me, when you find one combination that you love, you'll make it over and over again. This is the salad that I've been making all autumn.

Shari's Autumn Salad

a mix of greens (I used baby kale, baby chard, frisee, radicchio, spinach and some hardier lettuces)
an apple (Use your favorite variety)
golden raisins
pecans
two garlic gloves
Dijon mustard
white balsamic vinegar
1/4 lemon
3 T olive oil

Fill a medium salad bowl with your greens. If any of the leaves are large, tear them into smaller pieces. Cut the apple into matchsticks (Peel or leave unpeeled, your choice). Add to greens. Add in a few handfuls of golden raisins. Chop a large handful of pecans and add those as well.

Dressing (Adapted slightly from Hugh Acheson's A New Turn in the South)
Add 3 TB olive oil to a bowl. Squeeze in a 1/4 of a lemon. Add a splash of white balsamic vinegar. Stir in a heaping teaspoon of whole grain Dijon mustard. Add two pressed garlic cloves (If you don't love garlic, reduce this amount or omit). Whisk together.

Add dressing to the greens and toss.

Do you have a favorite salad combination for autumn?

Monday, November 14, 2011

weekend garden notes


potatoes

my garden has been a bit neglected lately.  i was starting to think that i wouldn't even have the energy to get my garlic in (and i was trying to convince myself that i was okay with that).  this weekend we continued to have unseasonably warm weather and i forced myself to head over to my community garden to harvest my potatoes.  it was a bit disappointing (especially after i realized that i harvested fewer potatoes that i had planted in the first place!), but they will still be delicious.  i planted all blue, german butterball, and rose finn apple.  this year i tried a potato tower method, which was clearly not very successful.  i think a few of my problems were that my towers were too big around (about 3 feet in diameter) and i didn't keep them watered well enough.  if i try this again next year, i will definitely make them smaller.  what's your favorite way to plant potatoes?

garlic

i also managed to get my garlic in, which i know i will be really happy about come summer.  since i wasn't sure i was going to plant any, i hadn't purchased any new seed garlic.  i just used the garlic i grew this summer- german extra hardy and georgian fire.  i planted cloves from the largest bulbs and covered them with a pile of leaves, since i didn't have any hay or straw. 

kale

our kale is also still going strong, and now that whatever little bugs were munching on it all summer are gone, maybe we can actually enjoy some of it.  after ignoring my garden for the last two months or so, it felt so fulfilling to get in one last garden day before winter sets in.

Friday, November 11, 2011

leaves








our gardens have been covered in a beautiful multi-colored blanket.
the leaves seem to have come down all at once this week.
which is perfect timing for a weekend of leaf mulching i had planned.
unlike the rest of my neighbors you will not find me raking the leaves into the street
for the borough to take away.
you will find me however raking the leaves into piles from my own garden.
as well as stealing leaves from my neighbor's lawns and gathering them into huge piles to mow over and shred.
i then will spread the shredded leaves throughout our gardens as a mulch.
eventually the leaves break down and make a beautiful rich soil attracting worms and all sorts of micro-organisms.
i also throw a bunch of leaves in the chicken run.
the hens love to scratch away at them.
and the mixture of the broken down leaves and their manure makes an excellent compost.
but of course we save a big ole pile for some romping, throwing, and jumping in.
what fun would autumn be without leaves.

Friday, November 4, 2011

horseradish










the temps have slowly been dropping each night.
when i first wake up i look out to see if another frost has hit.
not because i want to see how many layers of woolens should be applied.
but rather i have been waiting patiently for the right moment to unearth a very special root growing in our garden. horseradish.

an herb, a condiment, a stimulant, and an excellent source of vitamin C, horseradish is one of my favorite flavors.

i bought a horseradish plant at the farmers market this spring and immediately planted it as soon as i got home.
although it prefers full sun it can tolerate part shade. it grew beautifully all summer long, putting out huge dark green leaves.

it could easily be mistaken for a weed. i like it's secretiveness in the garden.
a passerby might glance over it's large plain leaves but little do they know the jewel growing below.

the roots should be dug only when the plant is not actively growing, i.e., early in the spring as the crown is just starting to show a bit of green growth or in the fall after the second hard frost where it is said to taste better.

i was anxious to dig it up today to see just how much root there was hiding under there.
i was happily surprised to find quite a bit and the earthy, spicy smell was divine.
i left a bit of root still in the ground for next year.

i washed and peeled the root and then ground it up in the food processor with a bit of water. i then added it to a jar with a pinch of salt and a few dashes of white vinegar.

i am so excited about our homegrown horseradish.
i keep opening my fridge just to look at that jar.

maybe just because the secret has been revealed.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Leaves from the autumn garden



I'm not sure why exactly, but I absolutely love walking among the autumn leaves, looking at their shapes and colors, and gathering a few to take home. Sometimes they simply dry and curl up on my table, or I'll press one into my sketchbook, as I did earlier this week with a gingko. Other times I will draw and paint them. They are such inspiration to me. Perhaps my childhood in the mountains plays a role in this.

Anyway, this afternoon while walking through the garden I gathered a few. The grape leaves are falling from the vines, the red crab apples too. Some of the nasturtiums have frozen yet others remain strong. The spinach, lettuces, arugula, and radishes are flourishing right now, and the turnips, carrots, beets, broccoli, kale are doing well too. Soon the temperatures will remain low enough that we will need to build the cold frames. This winter we hope we can extend the growing season of the fall garden with the cold frames.

Do you use cold frames in the fall/winter?

Friday, October 28, 2011

a snow bouquet







we are bundled up here and ready for the snow.
yes you read right, SNOW!
i know for some of you this is no big deal.
but where we are snow in october is rare.
and possibly 10 inches, well that now is unheard of.
to say the little people around here are excited would be an understatement.
and the big people, well they are excited too.
we have brought in the potted plants,
harvested what was left,
stuffed the chicken coop with straw,
and put the walls on the rabbit hutch
to give the bunnies a bit more insulation.
but a little gnomey in our garden thought it most important to pick "a vase" as she calls it or a bouquet before the snow comes.
she chose a nasturtium (hard to believe nasturtiums are still growing when snow is on it's way),
a small chard leaf,
a sedum,
an anise hyssop flower
and a begonia.
so sweet, and quite beautiful
as it sits there on our windowsill
waiting for the first flake to fall.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

late october in the garden

tomatillo

snow is in the forecast for tomorrow. we keep having false alarms in the frost department, but we felt it was time to harvest our tomatillos. did you know that we didn't think we planted tomatillos this year? we were sent tomatillo seeds instead of the husk cherry seeds that we ordered. i'm not complaining. more salsa verde in our very near future. we also pulled out our matt's wild cherry tomato plants (finally!) and have an entire colander full of various shades of cherry tomatoes sitting by the sink.

garlic

it's time to plant garlic. many of you wrote to tell me that you are a bit intimidated by garlic. don't be! it's super easy to grow and doesn't have many pests. just simply break the bulb into cloves. don't peel them.

garlic planting

and plant them with the tip pointing up. i've read different opinions about spacing. 4-6 inches sounds good to me. at the farm, we plant them 8 inches apart because we have the room to do so. push the entire clove into the soil and cover. pat the soil down when you finish planting.

if you have a chance, enhance your soil with some aged manure or compost. at the farm, we add cheep cheep, which is supposed to be good for any plants in the allium family.

beehives

our hives are wrapped and ready for winter weather should it truly arrive tomorrow. mouse guards are in place, too. we're all set whether it snows or not.

Monday, October 24, 2011

an accidental abundance of gourds

gourds
 
gourds
 
freddie apparently likes gourds 

so here i am, with a pile of gourds.  i didn't intend to plant these, you see. this plant was supposed to be a crazy productive zucchini grown from seeds that my coworker saved from his crazy productive zucchini last year.  but, apparently it was some sort of hybrid and got cross-pollinated because this is what we both ended up with this year, instead of a boatload of zucchini. 

so i ask you, gardening friends, what in the world am i supposed to do with all of these gourds?  just put them in a bowl and let them look pretty? i'm gathering that's pretty much all gourds are good for, but i'm open to any and all suggestions.

(alternatively, i could feed them to my dog, because apparently he thinks they look mighty tasty!)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

backyard chicken workshop






chris and i have taught several different kinds of workshops, all related to our backyard.
but one of our favorites is backyard chickens.
we taught one on tuesday night at a local high school through a community class program.
we give a really fun slide presentation with all of our own photos.
we talk about coop designs, breed selection, chicken care basics and the wonderful benefits of keeping a small-scale backyard chicken coop.
this time we thought it would be fun to give a two part workshop,the second part being in our backyard.
we wanted people to see how small our space really is and what you can do in such a tiny space.
today participants came for the second part.
some brought their kids (who got the biggest kick out of petting the girls and feeding them sunflower seeds) as well as partners and spouses.
two women even went home to get their husbands and bring them back to talk to chris more about how to build themselves a coop like ours:)
it was such fun showing every one around
and sending them all off to come up with their own little backyard operation.