"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

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Winter Salads and Ice Skates

Not much going on around here, took a picture of some salad greens I picked late yesterday afternoon. It never ceases to amaze me how resilient some of these plants can be to the cold weather. The snow has come and gone a couple times now, the weather has been as low as 10°F (-12.22°C) with most of the month's lows being in the 20° and under range yet we are still able to pick fresh salads from the garden on a daily basis. The amazing part is that nothing pictured above was from under our row covers, but from the outside garden. I'm like a little kid in a candy store, even after all these years it still surprises me so much that I show my wife particular greens as I go through and clean them and we marvel at their tenacity.

In other "exciting" news, the grandson is learning to ice skate...or was, it has since warmed and started raining so the 4" of ice is now covered with another of water. That's OK, we noticed a flaw in our plan as the boy obviously is in need of a full hockey mask lest he knock all his front teeth out...after all, two of those teeth are permanent now.:)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Rambling Thoughts and Speculation on Winter Gardening

"The gardening season officially begins on January 1st, and ends on December 31."- Marie Huston

I like Marie Huston's words. Gardening does not really have to come an abrupt halt as nature ushers in shorter days and colder temperatures but can continue right on through with a little thought towards what is being grown and how to protect it from the harshness of the weather. November going into December sets the stage for our ventures in winter gardening, often bringing with it frost, frozen ground, and snow. While much of the garden area lies dormant this time of year we are fortunate to still have a nice amount of tenacious, nutritious, and absolutely delicious edible plants at our disposal.

Experience has allowed us a better understanding of our ability to have a stable amount of fresh food available from the garden, with any luck, 365 days a year. Over time we have added an excellent selection of plants to our winter gardening portfolio, eventually figuring out that, in our gardens, diversity is the key to success. On any given year the winter weather and temperatures (USDA hardiness zone 5b) can fluctuate quite dramatically, some years are cold and dry others slightly warmer with lots of snow or more often it is a mix of both. In the winter of 2008/09 and 2010/11 we had massive amounts of snowfall while 2009/10 left us with none of this insulating coverage, only rain. All of these weather variances seem to affect individual cold hardy plants differently.

Mixed winter greens in the fall through early winter transition of 2008/09.

As mentioned in previous posts, when subjected to colder conditions some plants are actually able to concentrate or increase their sugar content which in turn serves them as a sort of natural antifreeze, helping them to withstand frosty and freezing conditions for extended periods of time..makes them taste better too. The slower the weather cools off the better the plants are able to acclimatize in this manner. It is not so much the chilly weather that will wear on these plants but all of the other elements combined such as cold, rain, snow, and wind that tends to break them down on a cellular level much faster than the cold alone. A simple protective cover makes a world of difference.

We use plastic covered hoops and cold frames over our slightly raised beds to help protect plants in the garden. This is nothing new, as far back as premedieval Rome (in a world without plastic) it has been rumored that linen cloth was soaked in tallow, resin, or linseed oil causing it to become translucent and thus allowing for both light and protection against the cold for both plants and people. Thin sheets of the mineral mica and Selenite were also used to protect plants in ancient Italy.

"Also, if it be worth the while, little wheels may be put under larger vases, that they may be brought out with less labour, and harboured in the house: but, notwithstanding, they ought to be covered with glasses, that in cold weather also, when the days are clear, they may be safely brought forth to the sun. By this method Tiberius was provided with cucumbers almost the whole year." - L. Junius Moderatus Columella AD 4-AD 70 (my take on the 1745 English Translation of De Re Rustica page 495 & 496.)

Some of this year's young red and green Italian chicory

Listed below are plants that we have found to be very cold hardy. Of course, on any given year some of these plants will thrive while others will fail depending upon the conditions nature provides them. The timing of when to plant is also important, too soon and they might bolt to seed or grow too large to fit under our covered rows and cold frames, planted too late and they will not mature to a desired stature. This particular facet has a lot of trial and error involved as each individual garden and the plants contained therein are so very different.

In our garden the plants are grouped in those direct seeded or transplanted in the spring (April-June), summer (July-August), and late-summer (mid August-early September). We do not have set dates for planting as the weather dictates this for us. For example, if it is extremely hot and dry in mid August I might wait for a few cool, cloudy, rainy days before planting my spinach. Putting the seeds in the fridge a couple weeks in advance also helps greatly with warm weather germination.

More early evidence of lettuce, chicory (succory), and other greens being grown all year round -

"After that the Romans began to devise a means of growing them at all seasons of the year, and even preserving them, for they were used in pottage as well as salads." - Hardwicke's science-gossip: an illustrated medium of interchange and Gossip for Students and Lovers of Nature, Volume 13 page 102

Cold Hardy Greens That We Grow -

Arugula - Including perennial Sylvetta and Grazia. Perennials planted in early spring, annual varieties late summer.

Asian Greens - We used to have good luck keeping Boc Choy well into the winter but have not grown it in recent years. That said, I do hope to focus more on this type of green going forward. Planted mid summer. Kitazawa Seed Company would appear to be a good source for a wide selection of Asian greens...I will be ordering from them for the first time this year.

Beet Greens - Many of the younger beet greens, before the roots ball up, especially those of Bull's Blood beets, are very cold hardy. Planted mid summer.

Blackberry - With leaves remaining green, often throughout the winter, this plant makes for a wonderful tea leaf or medicinal herb...excellent source of easily assimilated calcium.

Borage - Planted in the late summer and used as a salad green this plant holds up surprisingly well to freezing conditions.

Brussel Sprout - While we rarely are able to actually get any decent "sprouts" from our brussels I have noticed that the smaller plants hold up to the cold quite well managing many freeze and thaw cycles...we use them for their greens and early winter chicken food. Planted in the spring.

Cabbage - Savoy cabbage like Melissa are quite cold hardy, easily surviving temperatures in the low 20°'s and well into December in our garden. I'm experimenting with later/mid-summer planting times as I can see the potential for them to survive all the way through the winter. Just yesterday I picked some perfectly fine small headed red Ruby Ball cabbage that were frozen solid just days before. Planted in the late spring.

Calendula - There is (was, it has since melted as the temperatures have warmed) lots of snow on the ground as I write this and we have had numerous 20° something and below nights now...even so there is a calendula blooming under one of our row covers. I should involve them more in our winter garden as the greens are edible and the plant is obviously fairly cold hardy.

Celery - Thinner stalked celery seems to survive the winter under row covers fairly well, we have had luck with Varsity, Giant Red, and Parcel. Last year we kept a whole 4 x 8' row of mostly Giant Red alive all winter under a row cover and some of our Parcel survived with nothing but snow as insulating protection. Transplanted in the spring.

Chard - As with the beet greens we have had lots of luck overwintering younger Swiss Chard plants but not so much with the older/larger ones. Planted mid summer.

Chervil - A wonderful addition to the winter garden, ours get a red hue after a few months of cold but still retain that wonderful liquorice flavor. Planted mid summer.

Chickweed - More than a mere weed this plant is a nice refreshing addition to our winter salads...the chickens like it too. Pretty much plants itself.

Chicory - We have had great luck overwintering Frisée, various radiccio, Belgian and Batavian endive, Italian chicory (Catalogna), and even the common dandelion. For winter greens, Catalogna, Batavian, and Frisée are planted in mid summer all others in the early to late spring.

Collard Greens - The young plants thrive in the winter garden but are, unfortunately, especially attractive to slugs.

Cress- Holds up fairly well if kept under cover. Planted mid summer.

Curly Dock - A fantastic spinach substitute. We are overwintering this for the first time in a covered row this season and have high hopes for it's ability to provide really early spring leaves if protected from the elements.

Herbs - Common household herbs such as thyme, oregano, winter savory, some varieties of sage, lovage for early spring greens, French tarragon (dormant during winter), and many members of the mint family all manage the winter quite well, especially if they are covered.

Hesperis(Dame’s Rocket) - Very hardy plant that we are learning to make much better use of as a winter green. Not to be mistaken for another hardy short lived perennial flowering plant called foxglove "Digitalis" that might, as my grandson says, "kill you to death" if eaten accidentally and in any quantity. Use young plants or pruned older ones. Planted early to mid summer. Read more about this super tenacious plant here.

Kale- Along with turnips this is the plant we count on the most for a steady supply of winter greens. We have had luck with White and Red Russian, Dwarf Curled "Vates", Winterbor, Beedy's Camden, Lacinato (dinosaur), Lacinato Rainbow, and are experimenting with Redbor kale in this winter's garden. We have the best luck with younger smaller/thinner stalked plants. Planted in summer, early to mid July.

Lettuce - Winter hardy varieties like Tango and Winter Density Romaine will often provide greens well into the winter before the leaves are compromised but with any luck many will survive via their roots and come back in the early spring. See Dave's post for more lettuce and Asian green varieties that might be good candidates for the winter garden. We currently use a mix from saved seeds belonging to varieties I no longer keep track of. Planted mid to late summer.

Mache - While we have had mixed results in our garden most people seem to have really good luck overwintering this corn flavored green. Planted late summer.

Mallow- (young plants or pruned older ones) Both pink flowered M. Alcea and shorter stemmed Malva Moschata Alba with white flowers could care less about the cold weather...edible hollyhocks too. Planted early to mid summer.

Mustard - We have mostly grown Red Giant but there are other hardy varieties out there. Planted mid summer.

Nipplewort - (Lapsana communis) Now here is an edible weed that first showed itself in my garden two years ago, at first I fought it, mostly because for the life of me I couldn't figure out what it was, now I know, now we eat it.:) Seems to be very cold hardy and something I will be making much better use of in the future. Here is a recipe for this prolific plant.

Onions/Chives/ Garlic greens - Egyptian, scallions, garlic, and various chives will all provide one with more than a few nice shoots during the winter months. Our chives usually fade away in the winter but are one of the first greens to appear again in early spring. Planted early spring.

Parsley(we use curly leaf) - Very cold hardy well into the winter. Sometimes there are issues with mold but most plants provide us with greens all winter long. Planted early spring.

Pea greens - We have often grown fall planted pea greens to serve as an addition to our salads well into mid December as they can often handle temperatures in the low to mid 20's.

Plantain (various) - Not the tastiest green around but they certainly are hardy and resilient.

Prunella - Still experimenting with this plant but it does seem to be quite indifferent to the cold and is another healthful spinach substitute.

- We can't seem to grow a decent root no matter what we try but the greens will hold out well into winter. Planted late summer.

Rutabaga - Left in the garden, rutabaga will often lose its larger leaves but put out new growth during any warm periods. Some of the roots do rot but others manage the winter quite well. Planted in the spring or summer.

Salad Burnet - Needs nothing but a little snow to protect it. Planted in early spring.

Scorzonera - These perennial plants can be used for the roots or greens and are quite tolerant of the cold. Planted in early spring.

Sorrel - Our knowledge lies with overwintering French and Red Veined sorrel, both of which are extremely cold hardy. Planted in early spring and cut back after flowering or planted mid summer. Sheep and Wood sorrel make for nice spring greens but we have not purposely tried to use them during the winter months, although I would imagine that if planted at the proper time, before they are able to set seed, they would also prove to be useful.

Sowthistle (smooth/annual) - While not for everyone we enjoy the purplish colored leaves of this hardy plant in our early winter and summer salads. Planted mid to late summer.

Spinach - The Bloomingdale variety has done well for us, often providing greens all winter long. Planted mid to late summer depending upon the weather.

Turnip - We grow both Seven Top and Purple Top for their greens but are often surprised with small Purple Top turnips come spring as both these plants have an insatiable will to grow given any period of warmth, even in the depths of winter. Planted late summer.

Violets - I'm not sure about all of them but the wild purple flowered ones and violas that we grow can be picked and plucked for their mucilaginous leaves all winter. They are most efficient at planting themselves.

Common garden sage has no qualms about enduring wintry conditions

Most of our winter gardening experience lies in using plastic covered low tunnels and cold frames to protect the crops. Here are some links on various design tutorials that come to mind. More examples of cold frames, greenhouses, and hoophouses can be found on my sidebar.

Our own simple row covers (zone 5b)

Dan McMurray's row covers (zone 6/7)

Laura's row covers (zone 8b)

Thomas's mini hoop houses (zone 6a)

Herrick Kimball's whizbang row cover hoop system (zone 5a)

Eliot Coleman's quick hoops (zone 5)

Susy's garden hoops (zone 5)

Dave's cold frames (zone 6b)

Susan Robishaw's stackable cold frames (zone 4) - Sue also has a booklet out called "Frost Dancing - Tips from a Northern Gardener" that I have yet to read.

Another convenience of covered rows in a northern garden is access to thawed soil for planting early in the season. We are often able to direct seed or transplant spring greens even with a slow to melt covering of snow still on the ground. After a continuous 122 days below 40°F (4.44 °C) we started to get a bit antsy to get growing in this March 20th 2009 picture, the ground under the row covers remains warm to the touch while the surrounding earth is still partially frozen and covered in dirty white.

Here is a list of interesting reads on the subject of winter or cold climate gardening. Some deal more with cold hardy summer vegetables for northern gardens than actual winter crops but they all impart valuable information. The first three authors are the ones that focus the most on actual winter crops. I would love to hear any other suggestions for books to read on this subject.

Winter Gardening In The Maritime Northwest: Cool Season Crops For The Year-Round Gardener by Binda Colebrook

Four-Season Harvest and The Winter Harvest Handbook by Eliot Coleman - See how Eliot Coleman grows his crops at - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBKr9kPrpzU

The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener: How to Grow Your Own Food 365 Days a Year, No Matter Where You Live by Niki Jabbour - See more of her at - http://yearroundveggiegardener.blogspot.com/

Successful Cold Climate Gardening by Lewis Hill

Building And Using Our Sun-Heated Greenhouse: Grow Vegetables All Year-Round by Helen and Scott Nearing - See them in person at - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Czr3iJBY4z0&feature=related

The Solar Greenhouse Book edited by James C McCullagh

The Victorian Kitchen Garden by Jennifer Davis - An inspiring video series on this can be seen at - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXO4mAY8tGI

The New Northern Gardener by Jennifer Bennett

Organic Gardening in Cold Climates by Sandra Perrin

Growing Vegetables West of The Cascades by Steve Solomon - See the author at - http://www.youtube.com/user/Padresolvideos#p/u/20/IzNL2chyId4 and http://www.soilandhealth.org/05steve%27sfolder/05aboutmeindex.html

Greening The Garden A Guide To Sustainable Growing by Dan Jason (I love the philosophical aspect of this book) - There is an excellent video series on him at -http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMjGg9GeKPk

We begin setting up our hoops in early October just before the first frosts. This one contains Russian kale.

Some speculation. According to various sources increased potassium levels in the tissue of plant leaves "might" help to protect them during adverse weather conditions. Potassium is said to have a beneficial effect on how a plant assimulates or uses water and also aids in photosynthesis. Since frost damage often results from the dehydration of leaf tissue, increasing potassium could lead to better photosynthesis and acclimatization, thus protecting it from frost to a certain degree. While I have found no conclusive studies to back up this "cold hardiness theory" we do supply our garden, especially the winter crops, with plenty of potassium via wood ash as plants deficient in this mineral certainly would be more prone to cold weather damage.

Row of this year's Dwarf Curly Leaf kale

More speculation. Per a local climatologist that I follow, "Climate researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle recently said that their climate models are predicting increasing precipitation in the next decade in the northern latitudes. This should mean more snowy winter seasons across the Inland Empire and other regions of the U.S. near the Canadian border." Also, "European, Russian, and Japanese scientists are each predicting an increase in global cooling and expanding glaciers worldwide by 2014."

Check out this "cool" global temperature chart.

If this is true, both summer and winter gardening conditions will continue to prove increasingly challenging and having a good grasp on how to grow one's own food under these less than desirable circumstances will be of the utmost importance going forward. The snow in the pictures below has since dissipated as the weather warmed a bit last week, but it has once again started to cool off in the 20° and 30° range...I would have prefered to have kept the insulating coverage of snow but nature does not consult with me on such things.:) It will be interesting to see what the next couple months of winter will be like?

Purple and Seven Top turnips are one of our most important winter greens, some of them are already producing little turnips.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Jasper Hall

Life on a 42 acre, organic, permaculture inspired eden in Cooper’s Creek Valley, Australia.

(This one's for you Heiko)


Monday, November 7, 2011

Garden In Transition

The last of the root veggies have been put away and are snug as a bug in a rug.

Carrots are layered in coolers,

parsnips in totes

and endive in pots.

The summer garden has been put to rest, all covered in frosted leaves, weeds, and debris...but the winter gardening season has just begun.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Some Little Sweet Potatoes

A few days ago we harvested a modest amount of long, skinny, red and white sweet potatoes, they were absolutely beautiful...beauty being in the eye of the beholder of course.:) I can see that my endeavor to produce sizable sweets is going to be an ongoing multi-year challenge.

The potatoes were cultivated under a covered hoop for much of the summer but I believe this season's cold nighttime temperatures greatly limited tuber growth. Not a total failure though as a small 3' x 5' experimental plot still yielded a good 15 pounds of these tantalizing treasures that taste pretty darn amazing when roasted with a little olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Next Year's Firewood

This past May we had a tree fall on our house, we were standing right there as it happened...kind of scary. Lucky for us insurance more than covered the repair cost and I was able to fix the roof myself. So this week we took out seven large trees, two of which were totally dead and the other four had dead tops, as a preventative measure. Guess that takes care of next year's firewood...and then some. This will spare us and our poor old truck the challenge of driving winding mountain roads next spring in our annual trek for firewood. Always nice to be one step ahead of the game.

The tree I'm cutting on in this photo is a Grand Fir, Native Americans used the inner bark of this tree for treating colds and fever...interesting.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Potting Up Celery & Little Willie

Still frost free and our celery is potted up. In a another week or so it will be transferred to the root cellar for the winter, providing us with tasty stalks and leaves throughout the snowy months. Each pot contains 3-4 plants, 1/3 of whose foliage, preferably the less than desirable ones, are removed to compensate for root disturbance during the potting procedure. Only healthy plants that show no sign of bolting (sending up a round central stalk) to seed are chosen for winter storage. Most plants will not only survive the winter in our root cellar where they will continue producing, albeit somewhat more pale in comparison to the ones produced under sunlight, but can be planted back out into the garden in early spring for more fresh greens and eventually seed from chosen plants.

A new variety that we grew this year called Crisp & Tender, thanks to the seedy generosity of the kind soul at Kabun-Malay Kadazan girls blog, was a big hit with us. Unfortunately, we did not place it in the most ideal location as it was the last batch of celery planted this past spring and wound up in a slightly drier and shady location at the end of the row under a fir tree. Even so, the plants provided us with a plethora of slender and surprisingly dark green flavorful stalks...for sure we will be growing this variety again next season. We also grew Ventura, Giant Red, Utah, and a leaf celery called Parcel.

Sweet & Tender celery, all the way from Australia, thrived in our cool shady garden.

Also, meet Willie! This newest member of our family was found in the bushes almost two months ago. Hungry and emaciated the poor little guy took to us without complaint...he was so small. Little Willie has grown a lot, he likes to take dust baths with the chickens, greatly annoy the other cats, play in the garden, eat, eat some more, and sit on my lap while I am on the computer.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Michael Pilarski - Forest Gardens

Michael Pilarski is a wellspring of knowledge when it comes to creating edible forest gardens.

See more of Michael Pilarski at -




Thursday, October 13, 2011

Harvesting Beets & Greens

Beets were harvested this week and we were quite pleased with the results, about 70% of them filled out nicely, the rest were either damaged by mice or too small to bother with. Pictured in the cooler are some of the better looking greens that were set aside to be blanched and frozen. Interestingly, your average beet is supposed to take 55-80 days from the time it germinates to maturity, mine normally take between 90 and 120 days. The above beets were planted in mid-May and just recently reached a harvestable size.

The mice damage was my own fault, I should have been paying better attention and either hilled dirt around the roots in early September or set out mouse traps as this is often an issue we face in the fall. Near as I can tell the mice will not dig for roots and only snack on the parts remaining above the soil which makes beets, and sometimes carrots, an irresistible target for them. Gonna have to have a little chat with those cats about earning their keep...one of them even lives in our greenhouse during the summer and has apparently not been doing as good a job at rodent control as I had thought.

After harvesting, the tops are trimmed leaving about an inch of stem remaining, keeping some of the stem intact helps to keep them from spoiling. They are then placed into totes and coolers, layered in ever so slightly damp sandy soil, and stored in our root cellar. Beets are one of our longest storing root crops, some remaining in excellent eating condition for well over a year. This year's crop included Detroit Dark Red, Crosby's Egyptian, Lutz, Cylindria, Crapaudine, Boltardy, a few golden beets whose name slips me, and a new to us variety called Red Cloud (hybrid) that performed extremely well this year...wish I would have grown a few more of those.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Harvest Season Is Upon Us

All in all the garden has been good to us this year, recent harvests have yielded fairly decent amounts of food for winter storage. My little helper and I were blessed with over 400 lbs of potatoes from five rows totalling 160' in length, this is about a hundred pounds less than I had hoped for but more than enough to see us through the cold months...I just won't be sharing any with the chickens as had originally been planned. Next year we will plant more potatoes.

We track the weight of our tomatoes, potatoes, and onions to help us evaluate production, that coupled with the fact that since these crops are gathered in five gallon buckets it is just too easy not to.

Numerous different potato varieties were planted this season and all but one, Butterfinger , did well. Most of our spuds were small to medium in size...not a lot of big ones this time around. Pictured below are Russian Banana and Red Thumb. Russian Banana normally produces more potatoes per plant than any other variety we grow.

This year's potatoes were planted fairly intensively and yielded around 6-8 tubers per plant. They were planted 12" deep and I did not "hill them up" at all this summer. Because we have chosen to keep our aisle ways so very narrow, practically disappearing by mid-summer, it is difficult for me to hill up potatoes so I have found that deep planting makes up for this in our garden.

In 2012 I hope to experiment with more of a dryland farming technique with some of our potato crop that involves depending upon using only natural occurring rain water, wide spacing, and dirt/dust mulch to help with water retention. This will be done in an area separate from our main garden, we have a 3 acre field that is not cost effective to irrigate and need to start putting it to good use with something besides knapweed. For quite some time now one of my concerns has been that we are far too dependent upon irrigation and I would like to learn more about growing crops with less water and potatoes would seem to be a great dryland crop to experiment with. A fellow blogger , in a somewhat similar climate, has had great success with this type of farming and it would seem to be a much more sustainable manner in which to grow crops allowing us to shed some of our dependence on water pumped to us via electric power.

Our spring planted garlic experiment turned out all right, the cloves are a little on the small side but so is/was most everything else this year. We planted our garlic in the early spring because in previous winters too much snow cover has allowed voles unhindered access to a smorgasbord of fall planted bulbs and too little snow, coupled with lots of rain, has sometimes led to rotten garlic. I think I'll give the spring planting a try again next season and then decide which period of planting works best for us.

2011 was our best harvest ever with a couple hundred pounds of nice sized onions. We grew Stuttgarter, Yellow of Parma, Varsity, Jaune Paille Des Vertus, Utah, and a few Candy onions. I tried growing Walla Walla Sweets from starts again but they all shriveled up and died... probably due to our cold rainy spring weather. This will be the last time I will bother with that particular variety as they have rarely turned out for me.

The tomatoes did better than I had originally expected and should allow for a good amount of canned sauce which we will continue working on as they slowly finish ripening on our porch. Our 2011 tomato crop weighed in at close to 300 lbs, which is almost half of what we produced last year.

Our goal is to get an average yield of 5-10 lbs per plant, some will provide many more fruits some less. We grow a variety called De Tiganesti that provided nearly 20 lbs per plant whereas our Black Krim and Coastal Pride varieties only shared 4-5 tomatoes per plant with us...but their flavor more than made up for the lack of productivity.

We were very pleased with our peppers, especially considering the long cold spring we experienced, and have been freezing and eating them fresh since mid July. I picked the last few of them yesterday and will store them in the below bins until we use them up, if the weather remains cool they should keep just fine for a month or so.

The Grandson was more than happy to help pick apples, some of our trees are finally starting to produce decent amounts of fruit. The tree the boy is picking from is a Cortland. We are using these for storage and picked many pounds of mixed wild apples that were canned up as sauce.

These Spitzenberg apples have become one of my favorites for fresh eating. We were delighted to get around 40 lbs off this 6-7 year old tree.

Next up we will be harvesting beets, carrots, parsnips, cabbage, endive, celery, and so on.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


With the continuation of warm daytime temperatures and dry weather our tomatoes are finally starting to come into their own. Looks like the plants will produce a little better than I had originally thought if this warm weather holds out for another week or so. With hot days and clear cold nights frost has been showing itself in our bottom field so we will have to be diligent in watching the temperatures and pick all of the tomatoes ripe or not at the last minute as is usual for us this time of the year. Luckily our tomatoes are grown up the hill and under the protection of the trees which gives us a good 3-5°'s of leeway. Here are a few that I noticed on my way out of the garden last night.

Bursztyn is always a favorite with its very sweet yet tangy flavor.

Still waiting for Miracle of the Market to produce a ripe tomato but the fruits are filling out nicely. (Thanks Annie's Granny:)

Persey is another new to us variety (again, thanks to Annie's Granny) that has been performing well...we have been eating quite a few of these the past couple weeks.

Silvery Fir Tree continues to surprise us, the foliage is all but gone while the tomatoes finish ripening. Each plant of this variety I grew produced around 15 - 16 nice tomatoes...not bad for such a shrimpy little plant.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Sweet & Spicy


Our second crop of strawberries is coming on, not too many yet but they are of nice size and flavor. The ones above ended up in a smoothie...it was good.


I have been busy making our version of kimchi, the latest batch consisted of cucumbers, green beans, carrots, various cabbage, Tuscan kale, kohlrabi, Italian chicory, red amaranth leaves, onions, garlic, chives, green onions, green & black peppers (would have liked to have had some red peppers for color), and was flavored with spicy red pepper powder, paprika powder, plus a few tablespoons of grated ginger.

For every five pounds of processed veggies I added a very light 3 tablespoons of sea salt. The cabbage is mixed with the salt and pounded to release juices. I then included the rest of the veggies and spices, mixed well and packed into a crock, keeping the ingredients weighted down for approximately a week. One cup of water was also used in order to have enough brine to cover everything. Seven days later I transferred the fermented deliciousness into glass jars...15 lbs of veggies made 1 gallon plus a quart.

This can either be kept in a cool root cellar or one's refrigerator. Since I had to make it early this year in order to incorporate fresh green beans and cucumbers into the mix it is being stored in the refrigerator as the root cellar is not quite cold enough yet...last year our kimchi and sauerkraut stored well in the root cellar from October through May at which time I put the remaining jars in our refrigerator. It will easily keep over a year this way, we are still working to finish off last year's kimchi and it tastes just fine.

In looking at these jars I am reminded that a piece of wax paper should be added in order to keep the lids from corroding or rusting...oops.:) Also, after the first week or so in storage we always have to add a little more brine to keep everything covered.

Does anyone else enjoy the bold flavors of kimchi?

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Agro Rebel

"Nature's book always contains the truth; we must only learn to read it." - Sepp Holzer

I have been following the farming methods of Sepp Holzer for quite a few years now but only recently finished reading his most interesting book titled Sepp Holzer's Permaculture - A practical Guide to Small Scale, Integrative Farming and Gardening. The book is a fascinating account of how Austrian farmer Sepp Holzer has, over the past 40 years, transformed his over 100 acres of steep mountain sides into a virtual paradise filled with fruit trees, vegetables, and free ranging animals like the wooly Mangalitza, endangered Turopolje, and other pigs he uses to help clear and till the land.

Diversity instead of monoculture and working with nature rather than against it has allowed him to build a farm that thrives at altitudes ranging upwards of 5,000 ft above sea level with an average (mean) temperature of 39.5°...similar to the average in Duluth MN but with slightly warmer winters.

It's really quite amazing what he has accomplished in this boreal climate. Over 30,000 fruit trees, including citrus, apricot, peach, eucalyptus, fig, and kiwi fruit varieties, dot the landscape. His cherry harvest extends from June all the way into October because the trees are grown at varying altitudes. The Holzer family also enjoys working with unusual crops like primeval grains, mushrooms, and even raise fish in some 70 plus ponds that Sepp has created over the years...the epitome of permaculture. Take a look at the video below and you will see what I am talking about.

(Ohiofarmgirl - pig tilling can be seen at 40:45 minutes)

The movie can be viewed in a larger format at the below link↓...warning, if your computer is as pitifully slow as mine it might be hard to load.

More information can be found at -




And his previous book - The Rebel Farmer

Saturday, August 13, 2011


It's been a busy summer, the food gardens are coming along nicely but I am struggling to find time for this blog...you know, a day late and a dollar short type of thing when it comes to keeping it updated.:) I kind of feel like Old Dan Tucker -

"Get out the way for old Dan Tucker
He's too late to git his supper
Supper's over and dishes washed
Nothing left but a piece of squash"

Right...um...anyway, speaking of squash we are now officially overflowing in the summer variety, gold and green zucchini plus lots of little papaya pear squash.

Picked a couple gallons of Saskatoons and have been eating lots of thimbleberries while out on our morning runs.

The fruits on grandson's Sweetheart cherry tree are ripening and were ready just in time for his return from California.

Frogs too! But as we are not into the practice of eating frog legs we made the boy let this little fellow go.:)

I hacked another a 1600 sq. ft area of garden space out of the bush this spring and everything planted there seems to be thriving. Looking out into the forest I can see many more options for expansion...I'm already working on the next 2,000 square foot section.

Our White Stallions are once again leading the cucumber race, they always do...pickling some today and had a few fresh ones sliced over our salad last night...oh yeah - crisp and delicious.

Carrots are starting to form, much later than last season but I'm not complaining.

Onions are doing well too, slowly forming bulbs. We have two 50 foot rows planted this year and are down to our last basket in the root cellar from the previous season, this is the longest we have been able to store onions...most of the ones left are Jaune Paille Des Vertus, an old European variety that holds up remarkably well in storage.

- and introduced to me from a post on another blog (?) is this wonderful little Silvery Fir Tree tomato, I think we have three of them growing in this year's gardens and all are filling out nicely. I have a couple other standouts in the tomato department but for the most part it does not appear to be a good year for these enchanting fruits. Luckily, last year we canned like Old Dan Tucker with a red hot coal in his shoe and have more than enough sauce for this winter regardless of how the plants produce.

Peas were harvested a couple weeks ago and just yesterday we started pulling the fava beans. All the favas will be used as dry beans...they make the best refries and soup beans I have ever had.

That's me↓ pulling fava beans. After harvesting the plants are tilled right back into the soil, enriching it with nitrogen.

So much to say so little time, that's all for now but I'll be back soon enough with my thoughts on a most wonderful book and video revolving around permaculture I have recently been enjoying.
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