In February, my mind turns to the garden and Spring. There is a shift that happens, a changing of the light, and my brain responds to the cue: get out the garden books, order your seeds, make (possibly extravagant) plans. And even when brief spring-like moments are replaced with very wintry storms I still know that Spring is on its way.
I’ve been plotting the veggie garden rotation, and making a calendar of when and how to start seeds. The rotation thing always seems a bit complicated to me. It shouldn’t be, and in the books it looks easy – just move each crop from bed to bed – but in reality, or in *our* reality, it stumps me a bit. Probably because I always want to grow more of a certain kind of vegetable and so you can’t just do an even rotation. It’s more complicated. Fortunately, of course, the main thing is to keep things moving, and whether or not it all follows the strict recommendations is probably not the end of the world. Also, I’m making it sounds as if we are perfectionist gardeners or something, when really, if we manage to get things in and maybe even do a bit of weeding this year, it will be an accomplishment.
On a stormy day I sometimes cover the coffee table with brown paper and set Little R up with crayons and pencils. I like the large-scale aspect, and of course the location near the stove. Inevitably I end up there too, maybe trying to get something productive done or maybe just drawing by the fire. Yesterday I was trying to plot the vegetable garden and took the opportunity to sketch out a plan on the table. I filled in the beds with crayons drawings of the veg as Little R hovered over me. No sooner was the garden complete than all Little R’s farm animals moved in to snack. Cheeky critters! (But that reminds me, we’ve got to fence the chickens out of our plot this year.)
I love creating meals from the garden. It gives me such pleasure to survey what is growing, and then decide how I can use it in a meal. I generally like cooking anyway, but we all have our days when it seems slightly depressing that ANOTHER meal needs making. Fortunately, using garden produce excites me enough, and becomes enough of a “creative” act to snap me out of that.
Last night I made a quick pizza. I used the garlic scape pesto as a sauce. I then featured the first tiny yellow zucchini and some zucchini flowers. I must say, I had a very brief moment of hesitation before I picked all the little growing zucchini. But it was oh so brief, because I know that in a month we will be unable to cope with ALL THE ZUCCHINI.
I tossed on some onion and some shredded swiss chard. The swiss chard is doing marvellously, as it seems the leaf miners are not at all an issue later in the season. So we find ourselves with an abundance of chard and I’m always trying to shoe-horn it in to meals. Bit of feta, bit of old cheddar. And just when the pizza came out of the oven I laid on some basil leaves.
Satisfying to make, and satisfying to eat!
(Yes, I’m still alive. Post are few and far between, I know!)
The plot from the bathroom window.
There has been a lot going on this spring and it has made getting a vegetable garden going at Good Cheer a little tricky! The ground was plowed for us (incidentally, on the day Ruth was born!) but we couldn’t find anybody to till it. And of course, we were unable to get to it right away. We had a big garden planned, and I had researched rotation schedules and all that, but in the end we had to just make do. Gary valiantly hacked away at the ground until there was a plot decent enough for us to plant in and then we bought some transplants. I really had very little to do with any of it, as I was otherwise occupied, but one day, when I can put the baby in, I look forward to getting “stuck in”.
So it was not the grand start we had in mind but it’s a start nonetheless. These are our first scratchings in the earth where in years to come we hope to see a large, productive garden.
I think it is fair to say that the theme of today’s post should be “neglect”. First, the poor blog has been neglected, for various good, and not so good reasons, that I won’t get into (excuses, excuses). Next, the “allotment”….remember that?? Well, that was certainly neglected. Ditto for the reasons. Fortunately most of what was in there was quite happy to forge on alone. (Though it must be mentioned that I know we lost some nice cauliflower for want of love and attention.) Today I was thinking of it, guiltily, and thought I should venture over to see if anything was salvageable. It’s raining, which seems fitting, for penance.
When we got there we found that the red cabbage had done quite well, and so we have three big heads to do something with. The leeks, though still thin, are definitely usable. I dug some but left some in the ground for later. I tried to take a picture of our takings but everything is so wet that a peek inside the produce bag will have to do. I don’t have recipes in mind for the cabbage, but I’m sure a leek and potato soup is in order for tomorrow.
Today we nipped over to Halifax Seed and bought some veggies to plant in the allotment. I must confess I had plans to start more things myself this year but I got distracted, and there wasn’t space and so on. So we will just put that behind us. The things I DID start, my leeks, are sulking and have not done anything since I planted them out, which isn’t promising. I’ve decided to give them a little longer and then I may grub them up and plant lettuce or something. The peas are coming along fine and we got them staked up, so they look a little less chaotic.
Today we planted: tomatoes, small squash, cucumbers, broccoli, red cabbage, cauliflower and a bit of dill. I’ve still got a little space to plant some beans. Last year I grew many brassicas: broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, several kinds of cabbage and kohlrabi. It is wise not to grow brassicas where others grew the year before, so I had a bit of a challenge organizing and finding space for everything. My cabbages last year were not a great success. They grew well but were plagued with various pests and in the end very little was edible. I was going to forgo cabbage completely seeing as it is so cheap to buy, and also with the logic that anything that has to sit in the garden all season is more likely to get eaten or infested by somebody than things I can harvest in a “cut and come again” fashion. But in the end I thought I’d try some red cabbage, and see if I can get on top of the pests.
I did a fair bit of cooking yesterday. I made some baked beans in the slow cooker – delicious and ever so easy to make! They also freeze very well so after we scoffed some for supper and Gary took some for lunch, we had enough left over to freeze for some evening in the future. We had a lot of veg in the fridge which I wanted to get a start on – things from the market on Saturday and some from the allotment. I cooked up a big pot of vegetable soup, which I blended (we were given a fantastic hand-held blender so I do that a lot these days!) and will add some cheese and milk to when we are ready to eat it. Incidentally, I am really enjoying the vegetable bouillon cubes I made and am getting through them. They don’t have quite the kick of the store bought cubes, but this is probably because they taste of vegetables, not salt! I find it encourages me to find other ways to add flavour, and once you get used to a slightly more subtle soup, it’s very nice. I will have to make another batch while we can still get the vegetables.
And finally, I struggled into a buttercup squash and improvised some squash, honey and cranberry muffins. They are funny, squat little fellows, but pleasantly moist, and healthy I’m sure, so we’ll call them a success.
I just returned from the Partners for Care Farmers’ Market. (They don’t state the hours but I read somewhere it is from 10-2.) I have been hearing about this all summer and I’m glad I finally got a chance to go. It’s mostly made up of folks who are down at the Halifax Farmers Market on Saturday so I saw quite a few familiar faces. It’s popular and busy but being outside stops it from feeling crowded.
I was thinking only the other day that sometimes it seems like we need to go to the market for NOW, and then go again to get food to freeze. So I took this opportunity to buy food for the freezer; tomatoes, raspberries, blue berries, broccoli and swiss chard. But though I focused on freezer produce I also picked up my favourite yogurt from Fox Hill (seriously, if you haven’t tried this you haven’t tried yogurt), a lovely loaf of sour dough bread and apple juice that was apples at 7:30 this morning! Lovely little outing on a beautiful fall morning.
This evening I’m making my own vegetable bouillon cubes. The recipe is from Rodale’s Complete Book of Home Freezing. I borrowed it from the library when we got our freezer and have been continually renewing the loan. I’m quite excited about bouillon cubes. I do use the store bought ones, and often have call for them but I prefer homemade stock for understandable reasons. The flavour of homemade stock is subtle, but I feel like my taste buds adapt and start to notice the real flavours, not just salt. I’ve frozen my own but can never seem to make enough and I’m hoping that if I make a few batches of these I will easily be able to add flavour to soups and other dishes. You freeze them in ice-cube trays and one cube flavours one cup of liquid. It calls for a lot of vegetables, but makes a large number of cubes, so I hope it’s worth it. The vegetables are from Saturday’s trip to the market. I was in a bit of a hurry or I confess I’d probably have arranged them in a colour wheel….
Just back from a rewarding, all be it HOT, visit to the “allotment”. (This is the piece of ground allotted to us in my parents garden to grow vegetables.) I’ve been over every day for the past week to water, which is a change from the wet beginnings this year. Things are growing well! It’s a little cluttered, and the whole things was definitely not overly planned, but I’m very pleased to be harvesting and eating our own vegetables. In terms of outcomes I was chiefly concerned that there would be SOME success so I would feel encouraged to keep gardening, and I definitely accomplished that. We’ve already been eating peas, zucchini, onions and cucumbers. Today’s harvest: Kohlrabi, Rainbow chard, two lovely big broccoli and some leftover onions I found while planting another row of Swiss Chard. Oh, and another big cucumber not pictured!
Broccoli with Cheese Sauce for supper! Are these not handsome broccoli??
Month of Local Eating: a Manifesto!
1. Discover what local food is available and from where.
2. Be creative with making meals and filling in gaps.
3. Develop good shopping habits that support local food to carry on throughout the year.
4. Make a big effort! We’ve got lots of good intentions but it’s easy to be swayed by convenience. The Month of Local Eating challenge is fun and can make fulfilling our good intentions exciting!
5. Share. Find time to share with others our local food experience.
6. Treasure, savour and enjoy the local bounty.
August 1st marks the beginning of our Month of Local Eating. This was something we did last year and quite enjoyed, so we thought we’d have another go. The goal is to buy nothing but local food for the whole month. In general, we try to eat local as much as we can, but we make a fair number of exceptions. My experience last year was that when September rolled around, there was no big sigh of relief, and we didn’t find ourselves rushing out to buy items we thought we’d miss. We had begun to feel comfortable in a different way of eating, and were able to keep a large part of that going. This is what I call a success! So this August is to boost our enthusiasm and commitment and become reacquainted with the process.
(Pekoe is in support of the manifesto.)
Maybe throughout the month I’ll share other thoughts and observations, in bite-sized pieces.