has caused us to really adjust our seed starting plans in this new year.
No, not the snow per se, but the general winter weather we’ve seen so far.
Wildly strong winds have prohibited us from installing plastic around our outdoor growing area. Subzero arctic temperatures…umm…no way could use an outdoor growing area in these conditions (no heat source installed yet so all would’ve frozen solid). The risk of losing power at any time during these weird winter storms (freezing rain, sleet, snow and strong winds). No power = the loss of water, heat and any means of supporting new seedlings.
With all of that uncontrollable nature stuff going on, we have had to improvise. First, seed starting has been delayed two weeks while plan B was initiated. A little cash was invested to slightly winterize a gutted space within the farmhouse. This step was important for living conditions and future seed starting processes…the gutted space houses our water source! So, with a couple of frantic days insulating we managed to get the gutted space from an average of 20 degrees F to 50 just before the really cold days hit! Yay! No frozen water pipes!
Lastly, we’ve set up a space in our main living area for germination of seeds. We have heat piped into this room and a little space to work. Once seeds germinate, they’ll move into the plan B room and then on outside.
So….here is what is in the works:
- install lighting in plan B area and prep for transfer of germinated flats
- install plastic on outdoor growing area
- install heat source in outdoor growing area (meant only for really cold nights)
- install tables in outdoor growing area
- continue cranking out the seeding!
We enjoyed a new game over the weekend. Want to play? It’s like “Where’s Waldo?” only we’re calling it where’s peewee?
Still not convinced? How about a little help on the last pic? Let’s zoom in and enhance….
Still not convinced?
A few weeks ago, we were home bound due to some seriously blustery conditions – winds, sub-zero temps, and a mix of sleet and flurries.
Soooooo….what to do?
As a holiday gift to ourselves, we ordered a Marcato Atlas 150 pasta maker…that arrived just in time.
Following Chef Anne Burrell’s All-purpose pasta dough recipe, we prepared our dough.
This recipe was simple to follow and made a nice, soft dough.
The pasta machine is awesome. Easy. Has two cutter options. Overall, it made for a fun winter day.
And the taste? DELICIOUS!!!
We’ve been having some recent ups and downs in our weather. Anything from blustery, below zero conditions to absolutely sunny and pleasant. Oddly enough, very little, if any, snow so far.
It has been strange…exciting…and confusing.
On one of the blustery weekends, we had some freezing rain that persisted throughout the day on all of the trees, creating a cool, crystalline world.
The sun would peak through the clouds and the trees would just SPARKLE. Our little phone photos didn’t quite capture the effect, but you will hopefully get the idea.
Fast forward to this past weekend, and we enjoyed sunshine a temps in the low to mid 60s. Yes, sixties! Trees are starting to bud out (worrisome for the fruit trees), daffodils are peeking through the soil…it is almost mid-February and some things are getting a little confused.
Could be an interesting growing season. May be a drier one…
So sorry for the radio silence. Awkward. Boring. It isn’t that nothing has been going on…or that too much has happened. Instead, we’ve fallen somewhere in the middle.
We did a small piece of travel and caught up with some farming friends.
Had a big stretch of garden planning and placing of orders (seeds are arriving each day, by the way).
As always, multiple jobs to boost our infrastructure are underway, all at once, with the ultimate challenge being how we find the time to fully complete at least one or two.
The pig is ever growing in size as is our future heifer…both with new housing / fencing needs.
Winterizing the garden is….STILL going on (oopsy on my end).
And…oddly enough, you can sense the impending change of seasons.
How about you? What excitement have you seen?
Here are my potato harvest helpers from this afternoon…
The photos say it all…
We had sunshine and warmer temperatures today. Enough of a warm-up to finally thaw the ground.
Thank goodness! The pantry was getting low, and it was time for a harvest…
Our winter favorites…carrots. Crisp. Crunchy and oh, so sweet. Napoli, Nelson and Romance.
Hanging on under row cover, Hakurei salad turnips.
Also hanging on under row covers, Chioggia and Red Ace beets.
Finally! A resupply of potatoes – French Fingerling, Red Gold and Kennebecs. YUM!
A very good day today.
It has been a little while since our last post, but strong cold spells tend to put a halt to one’s outdoor efforts and ambitions.
So, while the ground is frozen and the temperatures fall…what is left to do for prepping a garden?
Yes, this post is not at all exciting. There are no fun photos. Little actual activity. But this part of garden preparations is just as important as all the physical stuff.
Here is what is going on right now while we try to keep warm and snug inside…
1. Crop rotation. Being a visual person, I always have to sketch out what has been where and the next spot it can go. Crop rotation is an essential challenge. To help minimize accumulation of pests or depletion of soil nutrients, we try our best not to put crops from the same family in the same spot year after year. With our current setup, we should be able to perform a 4 year rotation, meaning, for instance, that it should take 4 years of moving around the garden before tomato plants make it back to the spot where we first planted them.
2. Crop plan. Once the crop rotations are smoothed out, the crop plan pretty much is developed. Another important component to developing this plan, however, is the results of the previous season. No need including something that we couldn’t grow well or that didn’t sell. All of that harvest and sales data was entered into a spreadsheet over the fall. For the tentative crop plan, again…I have to have a picture, so I map out the layout and where everything is supposed to be located in all the fields. Closely coupled with the crop plan is the seed starting schedule, the planting schedule and the succession plant. I feel pretty good about the seed starting schedule (though we will be testing a new growing area this year). The planting and succession calendars don’t always work out how I like. Still, it is always good to at least have a plan.
3. Seeds and supplies. Currently in the works are the season’s seeds and supplies orders. At this point in time, all of the information comes together to plan what we want to grow in the 2015 season. We have to consider all the seasons, all our successes and anything we want to experiment (there always has to be something new to try).
It is at this point that feedback is valuable and influential. So…with that in mind…
are there items you’d like to see us grow? Are there things we should stop growing?
What are your garden plans?
Well, our first big meal of 2015 is in the books…and it was pretty good.
Hoppin’ John – southern dish traditionally made of black-eyed peas or cowpeas. Black-eyed peas are considered to be lucky and saved many a hungry resident of Civil War days. Beans are considered a humble food, simple. Dry beans, looking like coins and expanding with cooking, also are considered a symbol around the world of money and increasing wealth.
I found a highly rated recipe on Food Network from Emeril Lagasse, and I would concur with the ratings…
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large ham hock (I used some leftover smoked ham I found in the freezer)
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup green pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 pound black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and rinsed
1 quart chicken stock
Bay leaf (I used two)
1 teaspoon dry thyme leaves (I had fresh and used about 6 sprigs with the leaves pulled off)
Salt, black pepper, and cayenne
3 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
3 cups steamed white rice
Heat oil in a large soup pot, add the ham hock and sear on all sides for 4 minutes. Add the onion, celery, green pepper, and garlic, cook for 4 minutes. Add the black-eyed peas, stock, bay leaves, thyme, and seasonings. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the peas are creamy and tender, stir occasionally. If the liquid evaporates, add more water or stock. Adjust seasonings, and garnish with green onions. Serve over rice. (I had no liquid evaporate. I used a potato masher and mashed some of the beans to make it creamier)
Next up, Sautéed Pork Tenderloin
The richness and fat of pork symbolize wealth and prosperity. The rooting and pushing forward behaviors of pigs also symbolizes progress.
I thawed some tenderloin medallions I had cut and vacuum sealed last month. I seasoned the medallions with salt, pepper, and a little garlic and onion powders. 1 tablespoon of butter was heated in a skillet and the medallions were browned (about 3-4 minutes a side) then removed/set aside, placed in the microwave to keep warm. To the skillet the following were added and mixed until heated through: 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard. The sauce was poured over the medallions which were then garnished with fresh parsley.
Now for some Sautéed Collard Greens
For most, the folded, green leaves of veggies such as cabbage, kale, collards and such look like money. Greens are eaten across the world for hopes of financial well-being.
Fresh collards from the garden were cleaned, rolled then cut into ribbons. Some of the smoke ham was cubed. 1 medium onion was sliced. 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter was melted in a wok. The onions and ham were added and cooked for about a minute. The greens were added in stages and cooked to a wilt. A little salt and pepper were added to taste.
Finally, for sweet success, some Cornbread
Cakes of all kinds are served around the world on New Year’s Day and serve as symbols of sustenance, richness, and treasures. Cornbread’s golden color is a symbol of wealth (gold). For southern New Year’s cooks, an old saying sums it all up:
“Peas for pennies, greens for dollars, and cornbread for gold.”
I used another Food Network recipe for honey cornbread muffins:
Honey Cornbread Muffins
Recipe courtesy of Patrick and Gina Neely
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
1/2 stick butter, melted
1/4 cup honey
Special equipment: paper muffin cups and a 12-cup muffin tin NOTE – I did not make muffins but put batter into a 9″x9″ cake pan.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Into a large bowl, mix the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the whole milk, eggs, butter, and honey. Add the wet to the dry ingredients and stir until just mixed. I added the batter to a greased 9×9 bake pan.
Place muffin paper liners in a 12-cup muffin tin. Evenly divide the cornbread mixture into the papers. Bake for 15 minutes, until golden. Then add a little pat of butter and enjoy!
Happy New Year!
We hope that everyone had a good time welcoming in 2015 and send you all our best wishes for a promising new year.
For some good luck…
the blackeye peas soaked overnight and are ready for making Hoppin’ John (all recipes will follow if they meet the taste tests)…
The pork tenderloin is seasoned with salt and pepper (it will be pan sautéed in butter followed by a sauce of mustard, Worcestershire and lemon juice prepared with the pan juices), rice is in the cooker (for the Hoppin’ John), collards are cleaned and chopped (pan sautéed in butter with a little of the ham hock and onions), and the cornbread is ready to spend a little time in the oven…
Have any special traditions?
How cool is it to be nearing January but still able to eat fresh vegetables?
It’s pretty super cool.
Tonight we had a harvest meal. Simple. Just a basic vegetable medley sauté. What was so special about it is that 99% of the produce was freshly picked from the garden or stored from an earlier harvest…carrots, turnips, Tokyo bekana, potatoes, cabbage, onions and garlic. Only purchased items were butter and celery.
So wonderful to have one last head of savoy cabbage mixed with the sweet and delicate Tokyo bekana.
Can’t beat the taste! Here’s to the simple pleasures and to looking forward to the next growing season…it won’t be long.
I love this time of year. It is a time of reflection. Of thanksgiving. Of blessings and community. It is a time of family, friends and fellowship.
We, at Pear Tree Hill Farm, are feeling very fortunate at the close of this year. We are thankful to have such great support, to have hard work reveal its rewards, and to ponder all the wonders that next year will bring.
To everyone out there, during this holiday season, we wish you joy and love, relaxation and fun, safety and comfort and all the best in the coming New Year.
Refreshed, rejuvenated and ready for 2015.
It was a damp, dreary, rainy Saturday that kept us working inside.
But Sunday….a beautiful, crisp, sunny day that DEMANDED we be OUTside.
It was a productive Sunday of garden work. Yes, I know. What garden work? It is almost officially winter! We’ve already had killing frosts and snow! What in the world could there be left to do?
Well, only all the stuff I have YET to do.
So, the pepper plants that I finally pulled last weekend were finally hauled out of the garden yesterday.
The zinnias, long past their last blooms and gone to seed, were all pulled with the plants placed along our outer fence board (in hopes that there might be some self-seeding in our permanent flower border).
I am well passed the time for dispensing more cover crop seed :(, so two straw bales were man-handed (by this woman) into position for unrolling. Let the mulching begin! Winter garden goal = no bare earth exposed (woefully late on meeting this garden goal).
Of course, I had excellent help with the mulching…
And I thought that I was queen and conquerer of the straw bales…
Spreading straw is fun…for puppies.
Stuffy nose, runny eyes and itchy everywhere later, we called it quits due to a social call and a wicked wind that had whipped up, threatening to thin my straw mulch and scatter it hither yon, and well beyond my control.
After lunch, we used the last of our daylight to do some landscaping around the house (much needed). And then decided we should catch our breath…by the fire pit…
(Where’s Franklin? Well, he went to bed…cold and tired from a busy day, he buried deep under cover and was snoozing in the warm comfort of inside).
Hope you had a nice Sunday, too.
I finally attempted a version of a risotto last night. It was easy and tasty, though I would make a few changes for the next batch.
Here is the recipe I used as a foundation, my changes are noted in parenthesis and italics:
Easy Parmesan “Risotto”
Recipe courtesy of Ina Garten
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
5 cups simmering chicken stock, preferably homemade, divided (of course, I had no homemade stock. I used a natural chicken broth I had on hand.)
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (I used Asiago only because I am hoarding our delicious chunk of parmesan)
1/2 cup dry white wine (most of our wines are zingy but not dry, I have a photo of what I used)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
2 teaspoons kosher salt (this part I would change – I used 1 1/2 tsp, and it was too much. I’d decrease this amount to just 1 or even 1/2 depending upon the cheese. A good bit of salt came from the cheese.)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup frozen peas (I used fresh broccoli broken down into tiny florets, diced onion and garlic. I put these fresh veggies in the reserved cup of broth and simmered so that they were steamed and soft by the time they were added to the rice)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. (I was just home from work. I used our convection bake setting).
Place the rice and 4 cups of the chicken stock (my broth was not simmering. Jeez, I jut got home from work! One cup was cold (from the fridge) and 3 cups were room temp – none of this temp difference seemed to matter) in a Dutch oven, such as Le Creuset. Cover and bake for 45 minutes (using the convection setting, I baked for just over 30 minutes…may be 35 minutes), until most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente (my pot had a glass top, so I could see the liquid status). Remove from the oven, add the remaining cup of chicken stock (also had the steamed broccoli florets, onion and garlic), the Parmesan (asiago), wine, butter, salt (SERIOUSLY, cut the amount of salt you add to the recipe…this batch was a little too salty even though I used less than the recipe called for), and pepper, and stir vigorously for 2 to 3 minutes, until the rice is thick and creamy. Add the peas (clearly, did not use peas) and stir until heated through. Serve hot.
2010, Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That?, All Rights Reserved
So, I didn’t really have a nice, dry white wine. The reds we have are too full bodied. A friend, however, dropped off this lovely rose’ that surprised us by not being sweet but a little dry. I used this wine:
Clearly, used the wine for the recipe and beyond.
This risotto was easy, only demanded attention at the end, but was too salty. Use caution with that seasoning depending upon the cheese that you use. Adding fresh veggies to the reserved, simmering broth worked great to get the fresh veggies cooked (but not mushy) in time for addition to the main pot. All in all, a good recipe that I think could be adapted to other flavors.
Here is what a mess of hot peppers look like after some time in the dehydrator…
I love all the colors along with the different shapes and sizes. This mix has habanero, poblano, serrano, and Hungarian hot wax.