Low Tunnel Update

IMG_20141011_190339283_HDRThis weekend the snow was gone and it peaked 50 degrees.  The soil in the cold frames was warmed up a bit (55 degrees from 40) so I planted some lettuce, claytonia, spinach and kale in there (winter varieties).

The low tunnels have been secured since we put them in. They have carried a load of snow and withheld some wicked winds. I was dying to know how things were doing in there. Plus it was sunny and warm with a bit of rain in the forecast for the afternoon so it was perfect timing to open them up for the day.

Here is what I saw!

Brocolini & broccoli, collards and brussel sprouts…

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brussel sprouts

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Cabbages…purple, green and pok choi

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Every one looks happy and growing except the cauliflowers. They are growing, but their leaves are turning white– not yellow but white. Hopefully a little research will tell me what they are lacking and experiencing.

They all enjoyed the warmth and the gentle rain in the afternoon. We covered them back up to protect them from the 40 + MPH winds we are expecting today. I am happy to see they are doing well. It was fun to peak for a bit!

Happy Unleashing!

FGU

Here Comes the Fall Garden!

As promised, I began my transition into fall yesterday on Oct. 1.  I am not 100% official yet, but have made some necessary moves in the right direction.  This morning for example, I am drinking hot apple cider tea. It is wonderfully “fallish”.

I do still have tomatoes, zucchini, green beans, yellow squash, beets and peppers… BUT the pumpkins are looking good and they are prepping for their appearance in a pie on Thanksgiving. AND we have begun to prep our fall garden!

Hubby has spent the last couple days clearing a new area at BSA (Big Sky Acres) for our fall and winter growing.  This area is closer to our house and will allow us easier access in the snow. Last year it was quite a trek to the gardens once the snow and ice hit. This bed he is prepping is 75 x 45. We are going to use low tunnels for the first time! Another Farmgirl Passage for me! I am SO excited.

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Each tunnel will house a 3 ft. x 20 ft. area of plants. There will be approximately 4 ft. between beds. We will use electrical conduit and frost cloth held down by bricks to enclose the spaces. Last year I used the same frost cloth in our garden for spinach, arugula and kale. It worked great in our area and we were still harvesting in January in the snow. It was incredible to eat so fresh in the dead of winter (even when we were snowed in!)

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We are really thrilled about expanding and using hoops to build low tunnels. I am hoping that I can grow broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower in the tunnels along with spinach and greens. In the spring (March) I will use the tunnels to get an early start on spring veggies. I have not done that before either. I have started summer crops in the pole barn and then planted in June, but planting in the ground in March and harvesting some greens, brussel sprouts and peas in May sounds really exciting! My ultimate goal is to be gardening year around. (can you tell that Eliot Coleman is my hero and who I want to be when I grow up?)

I have been hardening off our fall green babies and they are ready to hit the dirt! (literally) They are so cute…

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Seeds are selected for other things that will be growing like spinach, kale, lettuce, fava beans and a sundry of other yummy veggies!

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It was really fun out there last evening and watching my hubby prep this area. He is so good at prepping my gardens and he gets so happy working outside! Jasmine is enjoying hanging out in our new area also.You can see the first strip I will be planting later today. Isn’t it so pretty? (and hubby is not bad either :-))

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I will keep you posted as these get built out and hopefully down the road I will share some pictures of veggies getting picked in the snow!

Do any of you use low tunnels and garden all four seasons? Advice or tips are appreciated! (and begged for actually).

Happy Unleashing,

FGU

 

 

Fall Farro

Fall Farro

Have you tried farro?  I had never heard of it until about 5 years ago.  And once I tried it, I was sold!  Grains sometimes get a bad rap, but I love grains and most of the time will prefer a grain over another side accompaniment.

So what is farro?  It is a grain derived from various types of wheat dependent upon the variety.  The the best explanation I found is from Ancient Grains for Modern Meals , by Maria Speck, who writes that the term farro is “commonly used when referring to three ancient wheat varieties first cultivated in the Fertile Crescent and still grown in Italy:farro piccolo (also known by the German einkorn), farro medio (also known as emmer, the Hebrew word for mother), and farro grande (also known as spelt).”

All I know is that it is easy to cook, chewy to bite into (not mushy), and it is from Italy, so that makes it seem really awesome to eat in my book.

In my effort to eat seasonally, I took some farro out last night to see what we could do with the veggies from the garden and CSA.  This is what I came up with and it was MIGHTY good.

What you need:

  • Farro (you will follow the container’s directions)
  • 3-4 cloves, garlic
  • Olive oil
  • 2 bunches kale
  • 1 bunch chard
  • 3 sweet potatoes (you could use another type of squash)
  • 1/4 cup pinenuts
  • Small handful of dried cranberries
  • Lemon juice, fresh from 1 lemon
  • Splash of balsamic
  • Goat cheese
  • S&P

Here we go:

Start with smashing 3 – 4 cloves of garlic and begin to soften them up in some olive oil over low heat.  I love using low here as it won’t brown the garlic (making it bitter).  It takes a few minutes longer to get it going, but I can chopped while it is filling the kitchen with great fragrance.

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Start chopping.  I chopped 2 bunches of kale & 1  bunch of swish chard and  diced into 1 inch pieces, 3 sweet potatoes. You can vary these amounts.  This recipe is a creative mishmash of what you have on hand, so don’t feel tied to this!  After the slicing and dicing is complete, set the kale/chard aside and drizzle the sweet potatoes with olive oil and salt and pepper.  Toss it around, put the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet at 400 degrees and set the timer for 30 minutes. 

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At this point I started my farro. Mine cooked in 20 minutes so this was the perfect time to start it.  Yours may be different so read your directions and start it when appropriate.  You want it done by the time the potatoes are done, because that is when you will throw this all together. 🙂

Toast about 1/4 cup of pine nuts (or a little more if you nibble on them like I do!).  I simply toast over medium heat in a little skillet.  Keep close by as they will burn (personal experience speaking).  When they are done, turn off the burner.  I added a small handful of dried cranberries here.  They do not need to cook, I just wanted them together so I wouldn’t forget them.

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At this point, your garlic should be soft and looking good.  Toss in the kale and chard into the garlic and olive oil over medium low heat continue to toss it around. It should get bright and soften, but don’t cook it to the point of mushy greens.

Squeeze one lemon for it’s juice.  I do this through a strainer and into a bowl so seeds are caught.  This will be used at the end; I just wanted it ready to rock when needed.   TIP: did you know you can freeze lemons?  Whenever I get lemons, I freeze a couple of them.  One, they are easy to zest from the freezer and you can use it over and over since it is frozen and will not go bad now that you have broken into it.  Two, if you think ahead and take the lemon out about 45 minutes before squeezing it, you will get TONS of juice from that little thawed guy.

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By now your farro is done and drained.  Toss it in with the greens and garlic.  Remove your potatoes from the oven and toss them in there also. YUMMY!  We are almost there!

After everything is all tossed and getting friendly with each other, hit it with the lemon juice, a splash of balsamic and some freshly crumbled goat cheese (because it is just good on everything!)

Fall Farro

I hope that you try this; it is fantastic and healthy! And super simple; it took me longer to write the post than cook the meal. 🙂

 

Buona tavola!  (good eating)

 

More Gardening- Just Do It!

Me in the TruckOne gardening season is coming to a close and I really just wanted to keep it going.  Then after tapping into books by Elliot Coleman and others, I see that it doesn’t have to end. But being a novice, I am not even sure what all this means– seems I can extend the season or over winter garden or use cold frames or frost blankets or plant stuff now for spring.

Well, I don’t really know about all these things, but then again I knew nothing in the spring either when we started gardening either, so once again I am just going to for it!  And that means, I am reading as much as I can, calling people with questions but bottom line is I am JUST DOING IT and we will see what happens.

Two of the summer beds are almost completely cleaned up now.  But the peppers…oh the peppers.  Most are pulled up but there are 6 that are still producing.  Some of these will hit the dehydrator.

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The basil is beautiful.  One plant is pulled and dehydrator.  The others will continue to dress our meals until I pull them right before frost and make a bunch of pesto to freeze.DSCN3490

We picked our last tomatoes this weekend and ate the last yesterday (except for the canned ones). It was bittersweet eating the last of them.  They were still so so yummy.  I do not believe I will be able to do grocery store tomatoes during the winter.  I will just wait until I can pick them again next summer.  There was nothing like it!

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The little yellow pear tomatoes just kept on going even after pulled for compost!  So I sat on the ground for a bit and picked out the flawless little guys.  They are still so yummy.  Who knew they would just keep on going even after pulled and tossed aside.

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Bed 3 still has some carrots in it.  They are yellow and red and orange and so, so pretty.  I fixed them for my mom and dad this weekend and they were amazed at the colors.  They tasted incredible too!  Bed 3 also has some late summer things in it that I planted in August.  Lettuce, spinach, kale, collards.  Those are looking good right now and we have started to eat from this bed again.

The other bed (#2) still has pumpkins which are about ready to come off.  These two beds will get cover crop.  It is a mix of seeds that will help condition our soil which we are in need of since we are the first to work this land. I love that I did not even know what the term cover crop was 6 months ago and now I am buying it and planting it!

SO, we need more!  More garden beds!

We prepped 5 new beds for fall, winter, next spring… for whatever.  They are now prepped and ready to go. Beds 4 & 5 were planted about a month ago.  Spinach, Corn Salad and Kale  are in there.  They are smaller than the others as they are 7×12 but perfect for these greens. The little plants here are about 2 -3 inches now. They are looking happy growing in these brand new beds.

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We really want to expand our tomatoes next year and try corn and give the squash some more room.  So with that in mind we prepped 3 more beds.  One bed which is 25 x 33 is done and is planted with cover crop.  This will help prepped the soil for the tomatoes in the spring.  The bed is also in mostly sunshine and I think that will be good for the tomatoes as well.  I am also trying to rotate stuff since I understand that is good for the soil. The others are fairly large also and have arugula, onions, spinach,  and fava beans.

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I planted some garlic also, following MJF great instructions. We use so much garlic, I am excited to have our own next year.  I planted 40 cloves.  It is now covered with straw like a little hiding present.  I can’t wait to uncover it next year to see what I have in there!

I love, love, love Johnny’s Selected Seeds.  Their catalog is more than a means to purchase seeds.  There is so much info about the seeds, varieties and planting info.  There staff is great too and has spent some time with me in helping me decipher much of what I don’t understand! So I ordered my stuff based on things that were supposed to be cold tolerant. I was so thrilled when my box came!

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I also got frost blankets.  The maternal side of me is going to love tucking my babies in at night when frost is in the forecast. 🙂

So how long will I be able to eat from my gardens?  What will come up?  What will fail?  What will be a major success?  The answer is simply “I don’t know”.  It is the same answer I had in the spring.  But there really are not failures, only learnings. I am learning a lot from the successes and challenges.

I am really thrilled to have gone for it and continued planting.  I love it so much.  It is not all about the outcome but the journey.  And that is already a success!

Happy unleashing today!

 

Food From Seeds

I am the first to admit that I am a novice at gardening.  I have grown a few things in my life, but at a small scale.  Herbs in pots on the deck I am definitely good at.  Gardening food that we are going to eat at mealtime is a new, exciting experience.

We built some raised bed gardens last year following the Square Food Gardening methodology.  I loved it and it was just the right start.  We are committed to growing organically, so learning the best ways to fight weeds, add nutrition to the plants and keep bugs away has been a real learning experience and will continue to be for years to come.

This winter, we started some seeds inside.  In a short period of time we had so many starters that we felt like it was overtaking us in our basement under the florescent lights that we set up for the little guys! 🙂

In April, we set our new babies outside and we are now reaping the benefits.  We are eating from our garden and what a thrill that is.  Here are some pictures of our beautiful food!

Red Romaine    Berry      Chard     Kale

  Red Romaine             Strawberry (look close)        Rainbow Chard                    Kale

We intend to begin gardening into the ground this year with our new tiller and our acreage.  I will share more pics and experiences as we move forward.

Do you garden?  What is your favorite to plant and eat?  Do you have tips for growing organically?