Warning: this posting could save your life!!!

Salad Greens in Cold Frames

Many of you remember in late 2010, I built and planted cold frames in my backyard after reading Eliot Coleman’s book “Four Season Harvest”. I wanted to see if I could also have fresh greens year round living in Zone 6. I didn’t realize just how wonderful it is to have these fresh lettuces and greens and the different flavors that they have. They are, or seem, much more tasty than those that you can get at the grocery. And there is certainly so much more variety than I can buy locally. At least in my local grocery store.

This spring, one of my favorites was this salad green mix called Elegance Greens Mix from Johnny’s Seeds. This mix included Pac Choi, Red MustardMizuna, and leaf broccoli. In addition to this mix, I also have a deer tongue lettuce, a butternut lettuce, a romaine and claytonia and spinach and chard. All of which, when you cut and mix them in a bowl with some salt, pepper and olive oil are unbeatable.

So last week sometime, I cam across a Facebook posting about a documentary called Forks over Knives and added it to my Netflix que. It is a documentary that discusses a strictly plant based diet and how if we were all to switch to this that many of our diseases would disappear and certainly our obesity rates would plummet. In the film, one of the scientists did a decade long study comparing the diets and disease rates in other countries as compared to the US. Many of the countries didn’t have the same diseases that we have here in the states and now that many of them are adopting the western diets they are now seeing the diseases come into their populations.

In the film, they follow at least three people who have serious health problems and you watch as they spend time with a physician who helps them eliminate their meds by changing how they eat. The physicians actually take them shopping and show them how to prepare the foods. Each of the people lose weight, feel more energetic and aren’t dependent on a pill to change how they live. I think that we have become so dependent on medicines to help us to fix our health that it never occurs to us to just try to change our diets. Or eliminate things from our diets. The food industry as well as the drug industries are making money from our dependence on all their products. I would much rather give my money to Johnny’s Seeds for my lettuces and vegetables than to the drug companies and for genetically modified foods.

I have been trying to shed a few pounds with the upcoming wedding of my youngest son and had been trying to eat as many of the lettuces up before the summer heat takes over and takes them away for a few months. I have been also using the spinach in smoothies that I make for myself in the evenings as a healthy snack. I use a sugar free vanilla ice cream, just a scoop or two, a couple of dollops of fat free yogurt, a handful of almonds, about a cup of frozen blueberries and a couple of handfuls of fresh spinach leaves. When the mix is blended I throw in ice cubes to give it a frozen drink feel and I have to say it is yummy. After watching FOK though, I think that I need to find an alternative to the ice cream and yogurt.

I’m not sure that I can totally go to a full plant based diet, but I know that I can cut back on the my meat intake. I know that if all of us were to have even a couple of days a week that we eliminate meat that our planet would be better off. The film goes into some of the statistics of ratios of cows on our planet to people and the aspects of taking care of all those animals.

I highly recommend this documentary! It certainly opened my eyes to myths that I think we all have about some of our foods and what effect they have on us. And I certainly wish that many parents of small children could see this and the kind of future that they may be facing in a world where it seems our food is not so good for us anymore.

In the meantime, I’m going to check out the recipes and see if I can find something yummy for lunch to have with my salads. Anybody want to join me?

Making Dilly Beans July 15, 2011

In the spring, I was reading some gardening blogs and came across these beautiful canning jars made by Weck. They are European canning jars that have apparently been around forever yet I was unfamiliar with them and fell in love with their shapes and simplicity. They are pricey compared to the American classic Ball jars but I wanted a few of them so I bought a selection of them here and when they came I was excited to put some of my homegrown vegetables in them this summer. As I see my tomato vines becoming trees, full of fruit, I’m thinking tomatoes for the winter months in some of these beautiful jars. Maybe some salsa. I also have an abundance of cabbage that is really tasty that Herb has been looking into chow chow recipes that would also be pretty in these jars.

So when I had picked a larger mess of beans than we could eat, ( ever wonder where the phrase “mess of” vegetables came from?) I decided to look into putting some of them up in the Weck jars. After some internet searching, I discovered that I needed to do pressure cooking on the jars to properly can the green beans and to avoid botulism. We have a pressure cooker but not one large enough to do the jars in.  I also came across a forum about Weck jars stating they were uncomfortable doing pressure canning with these jars. This meant that I needed to find a recipe that involved the water bath sealing method of canning.

I located a dilly bean recipe and adjusted it to my needs given that I wasn’t using the Ball jar version of canning. So I have included the recipe in case you want to try out a bit of canning.

I didn’t get photos of the filling of the hot liquid into the jars because there was a bit of panic at that point in the kitchen but basically I used a ladle and funnel to get the liquid in there and then carefully centered the rubber rings ( they get put into a pan of hot water to soften them up) onto the glass lids, and clicked the clips onto the lids. Three clips per lid. I let the jars cool overnight and the next day took the clips off and tested to make sure the lids had sealed. Gladly, all of them had sealed but if they hadn’t, the directions say that you can put them back into the water bath and try again.

So now, I am just waiting on the tomatoes to ripen up and become plentiful so that I can put them into the round version of the jars. YUM!

 

 

 

 

 

Another site to purchase Weck jars is here.

Dilly Green Beans

Garden Party in September

Thomas and Belle are getting married in October of this year. So a few weeks ago they called to say they wanted to invite their friends from DC out to our house for a pot luck backyard picnic. Needless to say, Herb and I went into gardener mode and started working on the yard. We have been extremely lucky so far that we have had lots of regular rain so that the yard isn’t brown like it was this time last year. I have ordered seeds to plant flowers about and tried to look at the date and back up from there so that I would have things blooming by the September 24th date that they have given us. I’m not hopeful that I will have the look that I want but the yard being green is probably all I can really hope for. We have, over the years, had to deal with high water rates and using rain water for my flower beds to keep the perennials alive and so we are used to the additional care that goes into keeping things green. Having a cistern and rainbarrels really help.

At this point, I should back up and give a history of the yard. We have now lived here for 16 years and when we moved in the yard looked like a landing strip. Long straight and narrow. There are sidewalks almost all the way around the perimeter of the yard and there were three outbuildings, one of which we housed a rabbit for many years to use the poop as a fertilizer. That building finally got so bad that it had to come down and all that is left is a concrete foundation of sorts that I have put a simple patio area on and my makeshift greenhouse. After 16 years of labor, the yard is finally starting to look mature and is a real joy to spend time in so I am sure that is why the kids wanted to have a party in the backyard. The building you see in the photo was an old garage and is now called “man’s world”. (No real explanation needed). There is another building beside the patio up closer to the house that I hope to take down in the coming year and replace with a studio to get all the hobby stuff out of the house and into my own space.

Last September, I began a series of cold frame gardens that are now doing well, all things considered. The fact that I didn’t know if it would work and the experimentation of trying to grow greens through the winter has me excited to give it another try this coming winter. We have thoroughly enjoyed lots butterhead lettuce and arugula and now have carrots, celeriac, and tomatoes and green beans and berries coming on. Even a couple of cucumbers and I’ve planted some gourds for the fall for some color for our tables.

I have had problems with ground hogs coming into the yard from my neighbors yard and, together with that neighbor, we have trapped about 6 total and given them the heave ho. I also went to Lowes and purchased some chicken wire fencing, which will come down before the backyard party to try and keep the greens that are still surviving the heat from getting eaten up by “someone” besides us.

Now Appearing….seedlings!

I have baby seedlings in my seed flats in the makeshift greenhouse. I wanted to share the little guys with you.

Since I built the greenhouse, we have had windy days with 50 MPH winds and aside from having to push the staples back into the ground and run a strip of duct tape in a few places, it has survived. I know, I’m amazed too.

Then we had a downpour and the mud to get to it was pretty bad so I moved some of the stepping stones from my garden areas to give me some safe places to step.

stepping stones

The seeds that are making their debut are tomatoes, basil, cucumbers, alyssum, calendula, green tassel amaranth, foxgloves, primrose, cleome & zinnias. I have some seeds that need to be direct seeding into the garden because they don’t transplant well. And it won’t be long before I can put the peas out so that we can have a few fresh peas in the spring.

We have had several really pretty days that have allowed me to work on my flower beds to get them ready for the new plants. And a couple of days the temperatures inside the greenhouse have been well over 100 degrees so I have to be careful that I allow some air flow into it to keep it from cooking my new little seedlings. So far, they are loving the heat and show no signs of wilting, but I am keeping a watchful eye on them.

I have purchased some larger compostable pots to transplant the seedlings into once they reach the stage where they need a bigger space. I have tried to avoid plastic pots. While they are recyclable, I would prefer using something that I can just plant into the ground to avoid the plant having the shock of transplanting.

Foxgloves

So far everyone is happy and hoping that the wind doesn’t return. We just started March though and it is the windy month so we’ll see how the little plastic covered house holds up.

My Makeshift Greenhouse

Spring is just around the corner and I always get excited about starting my plants. Sometimes too soon. A couple of years ago I had built a bean arbor from some rebar and cattle fence and it was really handy to grow beans on because you could just walk under the arbor and pick the beans and not have to deal so much with the vines. Last fall, as I was building my cold frames, and needed some shade to work up my compost for the boxes, I used my boys’ old trampoline as a shade structure under that same arbor. That got me thinking that I could enclose the arbor and use it to start seeds in a makeshift greenhouse. A few online purchases later from greenhouse suppliers, I have a small greenhouse that I have started my spring flowers and tomatoes. Here is how I did it…

First, I moved the arbor to the location that we have tried unsuccessfully to grow potatoes  and moved a table I had built to work on inside the frame. Perfect fit.

arbor with table inside

Then, I had the idea to sew the plastic to create a tent to cover the arbor. This idea was eventually scrapped due to 50 mph winds that decided to use the seams as perforations and take the tent off the frame.

attempting to sew the cover

After having a frustrating start, I started over, this time without the wind and a roll of duct tape. Much better. I used binder clips to clip the plastic to the frame to fit the frame like a dressmaker and cut from there. Better fit and held in place.

white duct tape

I am lucky enough to have an electrical outlet close by that is in a flexible conduit and it fits into one corner so that I could purchase a small greenhouse heater to keep the temperature consistent as the spring gets closer. The heater has a thermostat and a tip safety feature so that it is a very safe little guy and blows a quiet stream of warm air into the little room. I had an old door that fit perfectly onto the bottom shelf of the table so that I can keep the heater up off the ground and in a protected space.

power

Once every thing was in place I could start the seeds. Today I started zinnias, calendulas, basil, amaranth, false queen annes lace, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Now it is a waiting game to see if the wind allows it to stay put and the seeds to emerge.

Dayton Convection Heater

My sources for supplies were Charley’s Green House and Johnny’s Seeds. I spent roughly $250 for all the supplies and now have a place to start seeds for a few years to come.