Sunday, January 27, 2008

2008 Garden: Planning Stages

It's that time of year again. The snow still blankets the ground, the compost bins are frozen solid, but we've started making plans for this years garden. It really began a few weeks ago when the first seed catalogues arrived but now we are moving full steam ahead. Our seed orders are placed and some of the seeds have already arrived.

Almost everything this year was ordered from Dominion Seed House or Terra Edibles. What wasn't ordered from these two suppliers are left over seeds from last year's garden. Dominion Seed House delivered everything except the live plants almost a month ago. We placed the order with Terra Edibles last week so we are still waiting for those seeds to arrive.

I love the taste of fresh from the field corn and even though I swore I wasn't going to plant corn again, I have to try one more time. I've been doing some reading on the Three Sisters method of planting corn, beans, and squash in the same bed and have decided to give it a try this year. Instead of squash we're going to try a variety of melon suited to our short hot summers. That pretty much takes up most if not all of one vegetable bed.

The other beds will be planted with two variety of beets, a spring and fall crop of spinach, and several varieties of snap and dry beans. I haven't quite worked out where everything is going to be planted yet and I suspect I won't truly know until we turn the soil and begin planting seeds. The blue barrels we used for potatoes last year will be home to sweet potatoes and possibly cabbage if there is enough room for both. We have herbs slated for the various growing flower boxes, as well as a box or two of Scarlet Creepers, a heirloom variety of climbing flat bean that can be eaten green as a snap bean or allowed to dry as a whole bean.

We also decided to add three variety of apples to the yard. One dwarf "Honey Crisp" and two columnar apple trees, a "Crimson Red" and an "Ultra Spartan". None of these trees are supposed to get larger than 6 feet and the columnar apples grow their fruit along of the column of the main branch making it perfect for planting nearer the house. At least that is what the catalogue says. I guess we'll see once the live trees are shipped to us in May or June. I do know I am looking forward to growing our own apples though it may be a year or two before we get fruit.

Finally, we decided to try sowing Morel Mushrooms in the wild area out back. If the mushroom spore take and the growing conditions are good we'll have a small colony of Morels that we can forage from, throughout the summer months, in about a year. This is something new of us and we are not sure exactly what to expect, but it will be fun finding out about growing mushrooms. If this experiment works out perhaps we'll look at growing other kinds of edible mushrooms next year.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Whole Grains

Everyone knows, or at least I hope everyone knows, that flour comes from ground up grain. But, did you know that whole grains make a delicious addition to your meal?

We decided to add cooked whole grains to some of our meals when we found small packages of various grains at Homestead Organics located in Berwick, Ontario. We started conservatively with a couple of different flours and whole Quinoa to test the waters so to speak.

The flours took a little getting used to, and in most cases have to be added to regular wheat flour to make breads as they don't have enough gluten by themselves. Kamut flour is very similar in texture to corn meal and tasted great substituted into a corn muffin recipe in place of the corn meal. Spelt can be used as a replacement for wheat flour but is quite sticky. The solution is to use less liquid or to add more flour to the recipe.

The Quinoa was a different animal. Being a whole grain I had no idea how to cook it or to serve it. So I cruised over to Recipe'zaar where I was able to locate several recipes for cold salads. I used a recipe I found there as a jumping off point and soon discovered a recipe that PeterC and I both enjoy as a side dish and as a light meal in itself.

Quinoa Salad
2 cps cold cooked Quinoa
2 tsp powdered garlic
2 tsp grey sea salt
1 tsp ground pepper
1/4 cp diced green onions
1/4 cp raisins
1/4 cp dried cranberries
1/4 cp chopped walnuts or almonds
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice

Add all ingredients except the olive oil and lemon juice and mix well. Add the olive oil and lemon juice and mix to coat. Serve as a side or eat as a light meal.

Now we have happily added whole rye, wheat, kamut, spelt, and kasha - which is toasted buckwheat kernels, to our must try list. It is interesting to note that the latest Small Farm Canada magazine has an article on growing grains in your backyard, and includes a recipe or two that we want to try. Maybe when plans for the garden get finalized this year, we'll include a small section of grain as well.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Careful what you wish for...

I knew I should have been more careful when I wished for an extended power outage. Earlier this week we had a terrific wind storm that took out a lot of power lines. Our power went out at 10:00 am and didn't come back up until after I had gone to bed, sometime after 9:00pm. As before food and heat wasn't a problem but the sump pump being out was a problem.

The weather has been quite warm over the last couple of weeks. So warm, in fact, that our cellar sump pump runs several times a day. When the power went down, the sump pump couldn't work. Needless to say the water began rising. Now, we know this is a likely problem so all our storage shelves are off the floor but with enough rain, wind, and snow melt the cellar could easily become a swimming pool if the power goes off for much longer than it did this week.

We looked at several options but in the end we decided a generator would be a good choice. The generator will run the sump pump, and in the case of a truly long term power outage will let us keep the freezer running as well. Nothing will ruin my week like loosing several weeks worth of food because the freezer thawed out. If we do decided to build a new home off grid we will have to look at permanent alternative power sources to run the freezer; solar, wind, or both perhaps.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Another Drawing

I decided to challenge my drawing abilities, and get some practice in at the same time, by drawing another section of the reference photo from the last post. This time I chose a section with more spheres and I made the drawing larger so I could work in more detail. It took me about 12 hours to complete this drawing and I was definitely getting tired by the end of it.

In other parts of my life it has been fairly quiet. I've had some time off from work for the holidays, which explains the amount of time I've spent drawing. I've also made loose plans for the garden, baked some sourdough bread, working with some new grain flours in the process, and in general just tried to relax.

Quiet time is coming to an end though. Soon it will be time to start seriously planning out the garden space, planting seeds, and making summer renovation plans. Until then I will try to keep my life in order and stay busy with work, in and out of the home.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Passing the Time

I pass my free time in a lot of different ways. Last night, while watching some seriously B-grade horror movies, I drew up this little pen and ink drawing. The reference photo came from Wetcanvas, a really cool artist site that hosts a reference image library. This drawing is about 4 x 5 inches in my sketch book.