"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Summer's Over

The weather was not our friend this year but with a little luck and lots of work we managed a fairly good harvest. September - November are the months we work on pulling the majority of our crops out of the garden and getting them ready for the root cellar, freezer, dryer, etc...

The root cellar is our basement, we are lucky to live in an early 1900's cottage type house with a large cement basement that stays fairly cool year around. We keep potatoes,

carrots, beets,

kohlrabi, cabbage,

Belgian endive,

parsnips, turnips, apples, celery in the root cellar because the temperature and humidity is just about right for these crops. Squash,


and some of the tomatoes,

tomatillos, peppers,

eggplants are all kept in various parts of the house as it is less humid and has a more varied temperature range. Some of the tomatoes (Burpee Long Keeper) last all the way until spring if we are lucky. We also bring some pepper plants live in pots into the house in order to have peppers all the way into December.

We dry apples, pears, plums, tomatoes, walnuts, herbs, garlic, morel mushrooms, and beans.

Some are dried in the greenhouse and porch, but we do rely upon a food dryer for most of them as we have a very humid fall in our area that is not conducive to drying food.

The only herbs we freeze are basil and cilantro. We pick them, wash and dry the leaves as necessary, mix in a big bowl with a little olive oil and then pack them into freezer bags. This seems to make them keep better and allows us to easily separate the frozen leaves as needed. Tomatoes, tomatillos, ground cherries, and peppers are also frozen or made into sauce. Broccoli, beet greens, kale, garlic scapes and basil are made into a pesto and served over pasta. We also freeze some of the kale and use it in soups...it really freezes well and is an excellent addition to soups, omelets, or stir fry.

We freeze most of our berries

but are looking for alternatives to this as the berries make up about 60% of our freezer space. We had to use these two smaller freezers as a backup because our big one overfloweth, I suppose this is a good problem though , it's better to worry about not having enough space than not having enough stuff to fill my spaces.

Our goal is to eventually get away from the whole freezer thing, but we have not come up with a good solution to keeping almost 45 gallons of berries that we grow and gather from the wild each year.

If anyone has come up with a way to store berries in their natural state we would love to hear about it. We use them in smoothies for breakfast and would love to do away with freezing them but don't want the added sugar that canning would involve.

Below is a list I made several years ago to remind me not to forget any of my fall duties. The dates change according to the weather.


7/1 - 10/1- dry or freeze (basil & cilantro) herbs and make basil, broccoli pesto

9/01- pull beans for drying in greenhouse

9/15-25 - pull tomatoes (tomatoes in house for quick ripen and basement for slow ripen) and most peppers, tomatillos, ground cherries, and eggplants, pot up peppers to overwinter

9/15-25 - pick summer squash, check pear trees

9/25-10/1- pull and dry on porch, potatoes, winter squash, zucchini, cabbage, kohlrabi ( cabbage kohlrabi only if fearing frost, best to wait as long as possible) (remember that last November got really warm and I pulled cabbage, kohlrabi and potatoes to soon)

9/26-10/20- pick plums

10/1- get row covers ready

10/15-11/15- pot up for forcing, beets, dandelions, Belgian endive (do endive last), broccoli, cabbage plants, asparagus, parsley, and chard ...remember to bury extra greens in bags for the chickens

10/30-11/30- pot up rhubarb ( allow to frost for 3 weeks before bringing in ...see plant notes on forcing rhubarb)

10/1/-10/30- apples and cranberries

10/15- 11/01- pull carrots, pot up leeks, clean garden and greenhouse

11/01-11/15- cut back raspberry and grape vines

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Winter Greens

We plant over 30 "winter" salad greens, as we seem to be salad addicts, early in the spring all the way into October for greens to eat throughout the winter. Some of the greens we plant for winter fodder only last into December while others make it through until spring and provide us with fresh food 365 days a year. The Swiss chard and Russian kale in the pictures were planted in the spring and will be eaten throughout the winter.

Cold frames and row covers are used to protect the greens from the weather. They will freeze solid in the depths of winter but as long as they are protected from the elements they will do fine. Frequently we pick totally frozen salads in the winter and allow them to slowly thaw in a cool room before preparing... you honestly cannot tell the difference between mustard, kale, spinach, mache and a few others that have been thawed out from their fresh summer counterparts. Actually there is a difference in the brassicas, they taste much sweeter in the cold months.

Timing is everything though, some chard and kale get planted in spring so that they will have a stronger root system and provide bigger greens in March, April, and May when they come out of hibernation and some are planted in the late summer and early fall because the smaller leaves seem to withstand the cold much better. Big Swiss chard leaves will always turn to mush on us after a couple of heavy freeze and thaw cycles but the smaller chard leaves are much more hardy. Winter spinach, mache, mustard, turnip greens and chicory are always planted in the fall so that they will not go to seed before the cold sets in. Our garden is around 9-10,000 square feet and about 2,000 of that is used exclusively for winter greens.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

No Cow, What Now?

Both of us grew into adulthood on a diet that consisted of meals that included meat, dairy, and bread products two or more times a day as a large part of that meal. As time went on we had both gained excess weight and our health seemed to be changing for the worse. A few too many colds, a sore (strep) throat issue that would not go away, blood pressure elevated a bit. Small but obvious health "glitches."

We are both are extremely active and spend a lot of time gardening, hiking to our favorite mountain lakes, mountain biking, weightlifting, and have recently taken up running...we believe that physical strength and endurance is very important to one's overall well-being. As we wanted to continue in these endevours we decided that a dramatic change in our diet could be beneficial.

At the same time we were making a serious change in our lives regarding our ability to grow and gather most of our own food stuffs in order to escape the "system" and had made a goal to rely less, much less, on the "stupermarkets" and more upon what we could grow in our gardens or gather from nature. Time was spent researching health, nutrition and our ability to be food self-reliant. In the end, a conclusion was reached that a simple diet of mostly raw fruits and vegetables with less dairy, bread, and little if any meat would be best. It certainly was for us.

Meat was initially left out of our diet because in order for it to fit into our self-sufficient lifestyle we would have to raise our own and without going into details it would cost "us" a heck of a lot more to raise and feed a cow or pig than it does to grow as many vegetables as one could ever want. Neither of us were the type that could be detached and unaffected by raising then having to eat a family pet, as they would become to us, so it was an easy choice to make. Although we did adopt a flock of chickens that we barter garden produce and free rent for fresh eggs, all parties are quite content with this agreement.

After a couple years on this diet it became evident that it was the right choice. Excess pounds came off almost effortlessly and our health improved so much that we are still to this day utterly amazed at the changes that took place. We call it the "Muscle And Bone" diet because that is what is left after you get rid of all the fat and "unhealth" that comes from a standard American diet. So...do we sit around munching on carrot and celery sticks all day? Hardly. It is gourmet all the way for us. Fortunately we love to create meals and spend upwards of 2 hours a day doing so. Around 70-80% of what we eat consists of huge salads filled with as many as 50+ different types of greens,

grated carrots, beets, kohlrabi, turnips, and squash (yeah, raw grated squash) topped with onions, nuts, baked purple potatoes and sometimes fruit and berries are thrown in. We are able to eat this all year around fresh from our garden and root cellar. Many a breakfast is had with leftover salad and poached eggs thrown on top

or smoothies made from wild berries either gathered or grown. Once or twice a week we treat ourselves to a cooked meal which might be potato and kale soup,

baked squash,

homemade quesidillas, or garden fresh pizza.

Meal time is never dull at our house.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Hard Times In The Food Garden

Gazing out the window I watch the last of the leaves fall from the trees reluctant to admit this year's gardening season is really over. Weather made it our toughest year ever yet we have stored up enough to feed us through the long months that lie ahead.

An unrelenting North Idaho winter had us shoveling snow in May to allow for the planting of seeds. We sadly stood and watched under the barns tin roof as thunderous hail stones pelted our newly established crops into mush on the first of July forcing us to replant over half of the garden. August windstorms took out the runner beans, which were propped back up, more securely this time, and they went on to exceed our every expectation providing us with many gallons of fresh and dried beans.

At the same time the corn was once again flattened so we constructed a rope grid to hold it up. Unfortunately between the hail and wind the corn didn't fare as well as the beans and it became fodder for our chickens. Lucky chickens. Aphids, leaf miners, and slugs haunted our salad greens and we were forced to cut many of them back in order to regain control over the bugs.

Fortunately the chickens like them better with bugs...again, lucky chickens.

We share a sense of accomplishment and pride that we did not give in to defeat and persevered to endure whatever came our way. We took it on as a personal challenge to respect mother nature's unexpected and at times irritating ways but refused to give in - whatever she threw our way we came back with a fury of our own. Here are some personal notes for the first half of July.

Garden notes and observations 2008:

07/01/2008 65-90° Day started out great, sunny and nice, 6:00 PM massive thunderstorm with large pounding hail - laid waste to garden. Looks like we get to start all over again - too bad it's already JULY!! On the bright side, we can go ahead and pick some of the peppers we have been wanting because they are laying all over the ground.

07/09/2008 56-90° Well now I know that plants that have been totally demolished by hail and rain will continue to grow...carrots sprang back the fastest with new growth and you can hardly tell anything happened to them, green beans put out new leaves fairly fast, squash and zuc are starting to put out new growth also. Peas are recovering still and the cucumbers are slowly getting new buds...I did a lot of seed re-plants on those and they are all coming up now. Broccoli (especially peacock), cabbage, and brussels still look pretty bad but are alive. Tomatoes are starting to regrow fairly well...potatoes look OK and seem to be putting out new leaves...good thing I planted so many...also the beets are starting to grow new leaves. My biggest concern is that the stress of hail and heat is going to cause chard and kales to bolt prematurely....

07/14/2008 43-80° Windstorm came and knocked my already struggling peas in half...guess I will continue with re-plants and crossed fingers today....after I clean up the mess of course.

Related Posts with Thumbnails