Grains from the garden!

January 9, 2013 § 2 Comments

Last April, J attended an intensive weekend workshop in Willits, California, on the Grow Biointensive method of gardening. He came home, eyes glittering, and declared, “We have to grow grains.”

We had already planted our cereal rye, dreaming of amber waves of grain and loaves of homemade bread.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We didn’t count on the birds eating most of our grain heads. We managed to salvage a handful of rye stalks with grain still intact.P1050376 J let them dry out for several months. Then the other day, he decided it was time to do something with the dried grain. He recruited his usual helper for the project.

Here they are threshing the grain.P1050368

The threshing separates the the grain part from the chaff. Below is a pile of grain and chaff, no longer connected, but still all mixed together.P1050378

Little m especially enjoyed the winnowing part. As she dropped handfuls of the stuff in front of a fan, the heavy grain would drop onto the tray below, the lighter chaff blowing past and onto the floor. Very messy and very fun.P1050390

From our efforts, we now have a small pile of rye grain. Not even close the amount we would need to make a loaf of bread.P1050402

We’re going to plant that pile of cereal rye in the next growing season. Hopefully we’ll get better at the growing process. I’m still dreaming of a homemade loaf of bread made from grain grown in our own backyard!

Drying parsley!

December 10, 2012 § 2 Comments

Our parsley patch is a bit overrun these days. My cousin Jenn gave me a small packet of maybe 10 parsley seeds. Instead of putting them in the little pot they came with, I threw them into one of our planter boxes. After some negligence, they began to grow bushy and wild, choking out the green onions! Wow! What could I do with all that parsley? I took a big cutting to get the planter box under control.

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After washing and patting dry my bushy green bouquet, I tore leaves from stems, and little m helped me lay them on the dehydrator’s drying trays.

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The drying process took about half the day. Once the leaves were brittle and dry, I poured them onto a chopping board, chopping them with a knife and crunching them with my fingers.P1030071

I’m sure the parsley plants will quickly grow back what they lost on the chopping block, so I’ll have to do this again in a couple months. So far we’ve used the flakes in soups and on roasted potatoes. Yum! Now I’m curious about drying other herbs….

Out of the garden and into the oven: kale chips

March 22, 2012 § 3 Comments

When I first heard about kale a few years ago in Ruth Yaron’s book Super Baby Foods, I was convinced our little girl could benefit from some super-porridge. We started buying kale, which we would cook up with lentils, oatmeal, and cheese. It made for a great baby breakfast, which she ate daily for many months.

We were also starting to get interested in growing our own food, and learned that leafy greens would grow well in our foggy SF microclimate. We decided to give it a try, and are now in our second successful season of growing lacinato (dinosaur) kale from seed.

One way we love to use our kale crop is to make it into chips. I heard about it through a friend’s blog.

They have since become a favorite in our home.

Here’s our how-to.

Get a bunch of kale. Lately we have been going out and picking a pile of kale leaves from our winter garden.

My sweet girl loves helping with the harvest.

Wash the kale and lay it out on a baking sheet. Spray the leaves with olive oil. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake at 275 for maybe 20 minutes, or until the leaves are nice and crispy.

Let cool. Then enjoy.

The whole family loves them. Highly recommend.

Time to plant some seeds!

March 2, 2012 § Leave a comment

It’s seed-planting time in our household. We have been gardening since October of 2009, and are learning more each season.

The first season, we chose seeds based on what we wanted to eat (including some sun and warm-weather-loving crops such as eggplants), threw them into the ground, and waited. We didn’t know what the plants would look like when they came up. Only a few sad scrawny plants were able to fight their way through the tangle of weeds.

J and I built several 3″ and 6″ seedling flats last year. Last weekend, J planted brussel sprouts, kale, broccoli, nappa cabbage, tomatoes, celery, and onions in 3″ flats. We mist the soil a couple times a day to keep them moist, and keep them on a warm germination mat until they sprout. Here are our onions starting to sprout:

We also had a special seed-planting time with the little m. She carefully decorated some small milk cartons for her sunflowers.

She’s been so excited watching her sunflowers start to spring up.

I’m looking forward to watching little m as she tends her flower patch this spring. She has already started coming out to water the plants with me. Love.

Out of the garden and into the soup!

February 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

I’ve been carefully watering and watching my turnips, and noticed one growing a little faster than the others. A couple of days ago, I noticed a little crack in that beautiful turnip. Time to pull him up!

He had strong green tops. Who knew you could eat the tops of turnips?

I gave him a good washing and chopping, then added him in with some potatoes and chicken that I was roasting for dinner. Next, I chopped up the turnip greens.

I pulled out a hambone from the freezer, then sat down and googled, “hambone soup turnip greens”. After reading through this recipe for inspiration, I came up with my own hambone soup recipe.

Hambone Soup

    • 1 hambone with some bonus meat on it
    • 1.5 cups of baked black beans (from my freezer)
    • 3 stalks of celery, chopped
    • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
    • 1 large onion, chopped
    • 1/4 cup of butter
    • 1.5 cups of greens (used turnip greens and kale)
    • 4 small potatoes, peeled and chopped
    • water

In a stockpot (mine is a 6-qt), melt the butter. Sauté the celery, carrots, and onions until they are nice and soft. Add the hambone, and cover with water. Throw in beans. Simmer for 1.5 hours, uncovered. Skim off any yuck from the top, and add the potatoes and greens. Simmer for 30 minutes more.

We ate ours with some brown rice and crusty sourdough bread. Delicious. Its highest praise – my daughter, who generally isn’t interested in dinner, loved the broth. WINNER!

I think the best part of the whole thing was that we were eating something from our own garden. Planting the seeds, watching them grow, and eating the greens of our first turnip of the season. I suppose it’s telling that this process is so exciting for us – it’s not a regular every-day part of our lives. Here’s to hoping it will be from now on.

Feeding our garbage to the wormies!

January 30, 2012 § 3 Comments

I posted recently about trying to find “green shapes” in my life – things that are wins on many fronts (example: biking is good for the earth, good for health, good for the soul – a green triangle). One green shape we put into place last month was that we set up a worm bin.

After seeing a worm bin in action at the little m’s rocking co-op preschool, I was inspired enough to actually have a worm bin. It was surprisingly pleasant – not smelly and gross like I had expected.

We did some research on then J began. He drilled a bunch of holes in a Rubbermaid bin we already owned, and sat it inside another.

Holes drilled around sides and top with 1/8" drill bit.

Into the bin went some great kitchen scraps – carrot peels, apple cores, some greens, along with some shredded cardboard and newspaper.

We purchased a pound of red wrigglers (you cannot use regular garden earthworms – they aren’t garbage dwellers) and loaded them into their new habitat.

Red worms purchased from Sloat Garden Center. That's J's hand holding them. I can't do it.

Our worms had a few troubles at first – we had some that didn’t make it. One of m’s preschool teachers gave me some ideas about what could be going on and loaned me a book called Worms Eat My Garbage. The worms needed more damp newspaper to balance things out.

Now, the worms are thriving. They are growing bigger and multiplying! We love that some of our food scraps will go back into the garden, building our soil. Happy worms, happy us, happy earth, happy plants…a win, win, win, win – a green rectangle!  WOO HOO!

Another win for the whole process is that the little m loves when we open up the bin and check on the worms. I hope my little ones continue to have that excitement and wonder over the amazing things in life. Things like worms eating garbage.

The Green Triangle

January 23, 2012 § 3 Comments

Hanging out during my workday break at m’s co-op preschool, I started chatting with one of the wonderful teachers. We talked a little about simple living, and she suggested a book to me called Living Simply With Children, written by Marie Sherlock. I can definitely relate to the ideas of this book.

One of the ideas that really struck me was in Chapter 14, when the author explains Ernest Callenbach’s Green Triangle theory.

“In Callenbach’s model, the points of the triangle are Health, Environment, and Money, and his hypothesis is that what benefits one of these three typically benefits the other two. A good example is riding your bicycle more. Good for your health (exercise), good for your pocketbook (savings on gas, parking, maintenance), and good for the earth (less pollution, less resource depletion). 

Those of us who embrace simple living believe that Callenbach’s Green Triangle can easily metamorphose into a square, a pentagon, even a hexagon and beyond.”  – p. 225

I LOVE this idea. A couple years ago I remember marveling at how God’s world order works. It seems that when we live as God wants us to, we please God, we are happier, and those around us are happier. A win-win-win. It seems so freeing – that we can look at ways to bless the earth, bless those around us, please God, and that it can end up leaving us happier/more fulfilled. I’m looking for these kinds of green shapes in my life. A few from recent times:

  • Making my kids some clothes out of our old worn out clothing – I love the creative process, the kids get “new” clothing, less trash is sent to the landfill, money is saved

I wore my white Gap long-sleeved t-shirt for years and years until it was out of shape and sad. I made this toddler shirt for m, and even kept the old label.

  • Starting a worm bin – the worms get food, our kitchen scraps are taken care of, little m likes observing the process, we get a wonderfully rich organic matter to add to our garden, we get better vegetables growing, two of our plastic bins have fresh new purpose

    Worms!! The bin was set up by J - it holds food scraps and torn newspaper.

  • Using cloth instead of disposable paper products – (cloth diapers, wipes, napkins, hankies, and even female sanitary products) – soft, durable, lint-free (I mean, who wants bits of tissue left anywhere?) and I’ve heard that cloth diapers can live a wonderful second life as cleaning rags

Our pile of hankies - 9"x11" rectangles of soft knit, cut from previously-loved t-shirts. When m has a runny nose she yells, "I need a HANKY!"

Okay, so some of the things listed sound totally disgusting. But once you get past some of that yuck, you can really do so  much. So freeing and fun!

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