Saturday, February 21, 2009

Farmer MacGregor must have really been somethin'

Vegetable Garden Plans

Between our house and the green barn, we have a circle drive and in the middle of the circle drive I am going to develop a vegetable garden. The drawing below basically shows the curve of the driveway as it comes from the road to the right of the drawing and then bears to the left. The drive is actually an oval as it circles the drawing below. To the left of the proposed garden, we have a sixty foot Norway Spruce that takes up about a twenty foot diameter. Otherwise I would use the entire oval for the garden. Is that as clear as mud?

As you can see, I am being fairly basic this year and not stepping too far out of the ordinary. Each of the burgundy rectangles will be an 8' x 4' raised bed. We have such sandy soil that I am going to have to import some decent, loamy dirt to fill all of these beds. Later, I will add my own composted materials, which the chickens are at this very moment helping to create! I took 6 wheelbarrows of really good straw/manure out to the compost heap. I will focus a little more energy on creating a better compost system this spring/summer.

We want to freeze a lot of things this year so we can enjoy the garden well into next winter. We will have lots of green beans, and I saw a lady freezing tomatoes, instead of canning them. That looked easy and time-saving. We have a prolific pear tree and we are determined to can ALL of the pears this year. The grape arbor is a steady producer of three types of grape that I cook down and make juice. I then can this juice and as needed, I make up a batch of grape jelly. Another nice feature of the farm is an old crab apple tree that gave me 2 bushels of beautiful red apples last year. I still have several jars of that jelly down in the cellar. We also have our wild blackberries and raspberries that will be made into jams and syrup.

Three Sisters
Please note the green circle that says "3 Sisters." Native Americans planted these circular patches all around their villages and planted corn, climbing beans and squash together. The corn would go in first and as it started to get tall, the pole beans would go in. As the beans grew, they would climb up the cornstalks. The beans not only provide good food, but they put nitrogen into the soil. A week after the beans have started to grow, squash is planted around the edge of the circle and the runners are encouraged to grow into the circle. The squash, as it matures, has large leaves that keep weeds from taking over the garden. So, these Native Americans had some excellent thinking going on here! I am going to have three different squash plants growing in my circle: cinderella pumpkins, acorn squash and butternut squash. I have sweetcorn and several varieties of popcorn that I am going to try. The circle will be approximately 15' in diameter. (The drawing is not to scale)

Sunflowers Galore

Our daughter, Lesley, is getting married in our orchard this summer! As you can imagine, we are very excited!!

One of the projects she has requested is that we have lots of sunflowers on hand to help celebrate this great day. So, I have ordered 2,500 sunflower seeds, and I am going to plant every last one of them! This will take some planning, and some plowing. I am going to start about 200 of them in the basement under the grow lights, so we get an early start on the ones that will be planted as a backdrop to the ceremony.

I also have orders to grow some black pearl peppers, (which have black leaves and little black peppers that turn scarlet when ripe.), as well as a lot of coleus. I will plant these things everywhere and when the time comes for decorating and making things for the wedding, Lesley and Ruth (and no doubt moi) can get out the scissors and cut away to her/their/our/my heart's content!

Six Weeks Old
This is a Cochin/Maran combo. I have a feeling it is a rooster, as there are little nubs on the insides of the legs, which probably will be spurs. This little guy is so cute! He was docile and content to sit on my hand and look around at all the wonders that are outside of the brooder box.

Monday is hatch day at school where I have an incubator containing 37 eggs. Our school had a power outage one night for three hours, so I am not hopeful for a great hatch. I expect about 50% of the eggs to hatch, but you never know! I candled the eggs and every one seemed to be doing well. So, either this is a miracle batch, or I am really bad at candling. One of my students and I made a candler out of a powerful flashlight, but we found that the computer presenter's light was way better! I hope to gain a good number of brown egg layers from this batch. If not, then I will try again. $5.00 per dozen for the eggs, plus a small shipping fee! The eggs are Rhode Island Reds, Light Brahmas, and Black Sex Links, (or Black Stars).
I'll let you know!!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Mysteries at the Green Barn

Snowcanoes (like volcanoes)

I spotted these weird looking features as I was taking wheelbarrow loads of chicken s#%* to the compost heap. They looked so odd, that I ran into the house, grabbed Ruth's camera and spent a few minutes pretending to be a photographer. I even lay down in the snow to capture this image. The next photo reveals the origin of these strange snow structures.

Bishop the Barn Cat walked across the snow here when the snow was about 5" deep. As the snow packed down to about 3" in the warm sun, the snow left little protrusions around each track.

The Shroud of Dansville

What in the world!? I baked another loaf of rustic bread and when I pulled the bread off the parchment paper, I saw this! What do you see in the paper? I would like you to study it and let me know what you see.

Garden Plans Coming Soon!

My next post will be about my garden plans. I received my first batch of seeds in the mail already and am planning a garden with raised beds, bean trellises, chicken-proofing, and other things to make it look inviting. I would love to hear about your garden plans.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Shells, Chicks and Rustic Bread

Carl's Shells
My Blogger Friend Carl, (who won my Lucky Horseshoe Giveaway), was very kind and made a special trip out to an island near his home and played Beachcomber. He gathered enough shells for all of my third graders (and Ruth and me) to create a cool project. Stay tuned for the project!
(Carl also sent some other very cool items, and I am saving those for another post.)

Sauteed Scallops anyone?

Chicks Update
Broody has done a remarkable job of keeping her brood alive and kicking. They will be four weeks old this week. The white chick started sprouting some head tassels. She must be half Polish Crested!

Italian Rustic Bread
I have never made a loaf of bread from scratch before, except when we used to have a breadmaker and I would toss in a mix. Well, yesterday I bought some yeast and some bread flour and scrounged around for an interesting recipe. This one used a "Biga" that I made the day before. This bread did taste so good, it made us want to make some every weekend! I am no bread expert, and maybe some of the bubbles are a bit too big, but I think I have just found a new hobby.

Fresh Bread and Fresh Eggs

These are the good old days!

Ruth and I were talking about bread today and we wondered how did we Americans get so far away from great bread. Growing up in the 1960's we would buy ten loaves of white bread for a dollar, and toss eight of them in the freezer. They would all be gone by the next shopping day. Yummy!, white bread with oleo. A side note on the oleo: We lived in Wisconsin back in the 60's and oleo was white and it came with the yellow food coloring if you wanted to make it look like butter.

In 1928 the automatic bread slicer was invented by Otto Frederick Rohwedder, in Iowa. This invention, coupled with the need for speed, allowed housewives extra time each morning as they juggled making toast and making sandwiches for growing families on the go. Believe it or not, in 1943 there was a short-lived ban on selling sliced bread! Apparently the need for heavier wrapping and the extra cost for labor made it a target for cost-cutting measures during World War 2.

White bread has been considered a sign of luxury since the Middle Ages. The color of your bread was directly related to your social standing. The lighter your bread, the richer you were! Today, it is the opposite. We are willing to pay premium prices for whole grain breads.

If you Google French bread, or Italian bread, you will undoubtedly find loads of great-looking breads. If you Google American bread, I think you'll see the difference.

We used to live in Istanbul, Turkey (1985-1988) and our door man delivered two loaves of piping hot bread, directly from the bakery one building away for a whopping ten cents per loaf. Each morning, we would have the butter and honey, as well as the Turkish Olives ready for a delicious breakfast.

I think the winds of change are a-blowing across America in more ways than one. I think we are discovering good bread, and perhaps we will start to expect that our bread is not just filling, but also that is delicious!