Sunday, January 10, 2016

Winter reading

Add another must have book to my list:
One of our fellow gardeners gave us this book for Christmas.  After I started reading, I found a highlighter to use.  There are already notes in the margin.  I can tell that our copy will be dog eared before the holidays roll around next year.

Eliot Coleman has been around a long time in the organic world. He started market farming in the 70's and has been experimenting with expanding the harvest season ever since.  He relates these experiments in this book, explaining what they have tried and why they decide for or against any one trial (well, multiple trials)  The book contains charts from decades of trial and error that can be applied in any area.

I have picked up his previous books in past years, flipped through them and returned them to the library.   I continued this personal trend in the later days of December, quickly setting it aside for other books the holidays brought me.  But the enthusiasm with which the book was gifted made me look a second time.  Our friend, in his excitement, called Chris and stopped by work to see me - well, to see if we had started reading it yet.  After that I have yet to put it - or my highlighter - down.  It has been the topic at the dinner table.  Chris plans add his own colour after I finish.

We all have the ability to garden year around in our Ppatch, and our friend has already set up a cold frame this last fall to follow Mr. Coleman's advice.  He has spinach, chard and kale to harvest from now and is eager to have us join in the endeavor and compare notes.

This video from PBS is a good overview.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

How much to grow?

Also in the photo is no knead anadama bread for dinner tomorrow.
So I spent an hour or so between these books and the Google trying to figure out just how many plants we need in our garden this year.  Chris has decided to make this year's garden the most productive.  The plan is no running out of salsa in January.  No buying frozen peas in December. No buying onions or potatoes period.

Great theory.

But it is hard to figure out how much we need.  There are a few charts online - but I don't think we need 20 bush bean AND 20 pole bean plants per person.  The same chart says 12 broccoli plants for a family of four,  I don't think that is enough.

Other advice is to keep track of what you buy the previous year.

The only thing I know I purchase once a month is 10-20# of potatoes 5-10# of yellow onions and 5# of carrots.  Everything else is fluid.  Broccoli, green beans, snap peas and asparagus depending on time of year and price.

And then there is tomato sauce, pasta sauce, vegetable soup, sun-dried tomatoes and pesto .  I make them from scratch if I can, purchase if I don't.  How many plants = ingredients?

But I believe I have come up with a simple plan.  We will just plant all the seeds we have.

Great theory.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

New Goals

Since we did nothing on our 2015 goal list, it transferred quite nicely to 2016.

With changes, however.

 I removed getting 2 cords of wood - until we have a fireplace insert for actual heat having wood to heat the house this goal is pointless.  But I would like to have good storage for the wood we do have.  The free racks made with 1x1's we have are breaking and we have tied them to the deck to keep them from leaning.

I also removed 1/2 of a local pig & making ham and bacon.  We still want to do both of these things, but it is not really a focus.

I also would like a proper garden shed.  We are thinking build on the east wall of Chris's blacksmith and tool shop.  Right now we are using the old playhouse chicken coop - needless to say the lawnmower does not fit.  Heck - I barely fit, so tools do not often get put away.

Plant a hedgerow.  We wish to separate our upper yard into a traditional suburban oasis from our lower yard (urban farm)  A hedgerow of various flowering shrubs could give us a physical barrier that we need.

The last thing added to the list, building a garage, is a long shot.  But, to get a couple of mini dairy goats (notice they are not even on the goal list) We need to move the tools and the smithy somewhere.  Our parking area could fit 3 bays.  We could even plan it for solar power.  But unless a bag of cash falls from the sky . . .

Friday, January 1, 2016

Welcome New Year

By the time Christmas rolled around, I was ready for a new beginning.  The family seemed to feel the same so on December 26 we all worked together to take the tree and all decorations down (except the Christmas cards - we (well, I) love to see our friends and family a little longer.  I never did transition the burlap wreath on the front door to Christmas from Thanksgiving theme, but it too came down.

Today we had brunch about noon.  Leftover prime rib slices from Christmas with eggs and homefries.  We let the girls have one last sleep in for the winter break from school.  (Tomorrow they will  be woken up at 7ish)

I, as usual wrote my to do list on the chalkboard - and surprisingly did quite a lot on it.  Including walking Riley about 3 1/2 miles around Ketring Lake (I think that was a surprise to both of us!) while Chris was prepping the potatoes.

After eating, Chris and I worked on our garden plan for this year.  We did not get our fall planting (except for garlic) done, but we will plant kale, swiss chard etc as soon as we have a nice day without snow on the ground.  
 My only serious goal this year is to stay on top of the garden for a REAL harvest that we can eat throughout the winter

In other news, this hens got a mirror today.

With the rooster (sadly) at his new home irritating other people's neighbors, I felt they needed something to combat winter boredom.  I had read about using a mirror and Chris has been moving this one in its gilded plastic frame from house to house for at least 25 years.  So instead of donating it (it had not been hung yet in the nearly six years we have been here)

Speaking of the hens, we are getting 6-8 eggs a day from our 8 girls.  Not bad for winter.  The light has been on near constant the last few weeks as it has been cloudy during the day and in the single digits at night.  I hung an egg count list on the fridge to track the eggs and see what they are costing us after feed and straw costs.  The electricity has been lumped into the house expense for now.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Family Christmas outing

Colorado has a lot of things to see and do.  So this month I decided to take advantage of our living here and have a year long staycation.  Every month we will do one outing.  I was inspired by a children's book The 12 days of Christmas in Colorado.  There are other versions for other states.

So this month was see the lights in Larimer Square in Denver.  We took the light rail and I think we all had a good time.
Jenn and Chris on the light rail

Indica and Rhiannon on the carousel at the Pavilion on the 16th St. Mall

Indica and Chris with one of the many cow statues in downtown Denver.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

DIY Vegetable stock

About $70 worth of stock if I bought it at my local grocery store.  

Yesterday Chris took 8 gallon bags of frozen vegetable odds and ends that would otherwise be trash/compost and put them in our huge stockpot and covered them with water where they simmered all day.

And I mean odds and ends.  Onion skins, carrot peels and ends, parsley stems, celery tops the paper from garlic, stems of mushrooms, apple cores the ends of tomatoes and the tops of leeks.  Some whole carrots and celery that were rubbery 'cause they hadn't been stored properly and mushrooms that were just this side of slimy.  Pretty much any vegetable that does not have a strong flavor (read cabbage, asparagus etc) went into Ziploc bags and into the freezer until we got tired of moving them when looking for ground beef.

When I got home from work I added a bottle of chardonnay (oaked - not our favorite to drink) a handful of mixed peppercorns and a few bay leaves.  We left it on low overnight - a bare simmer (if you have a pilot light on a gas stove that will be enough)  Like meat stock we don't boil, just simmer.

When I got home from taking the youngest to roller derby practice, Chris was ladeling strained stock into clean jars to pressure can. Each jar received a tsp of salt before going into the canner - just to enhance flavor.  All the directions say follow the times/pressure for meat stock - so 13lbs of pressure for 25 minutes for our altitude.  It took just under 2 hours (2 batches) to can 14 qts.

In the few years I have been canning stock I have had only one jar go bad and it was pretty obvious when I brought it upstairs from the pantry.  Mold floating on top told me to dump it.  Turned out that lid had never sealed so I tossed it also.

But stock is almost $5 a quart at the store so using a little common sense and some time is totally worth it. Oh and I will pay for 5 gallons of water from Denver Water.  Still a deal.

Friday, December 11, 2015

We named him Randy

This mule deer was bow hunted by our now 80 yr old neighbor.