Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Summer Harvests Have Begun!

This June has been one of the rainiest I can remember, but the rains have finally let up and it seems like summer is now in full swing. The veggies in the garden are growing fast, and so are the weeds, which we're struggling to catch up with. We're also getting to harvest the first crops of the season. We pulled all of our spinach and got three bags worth to freeze. We have peas coming on, and we have bunches of kale to be picked. And today we harvested the garlic. All of our softneck garlic rotted out over the winter, but the Romanian Red hardnecks grew pretty well. For some reason, some of them grew large scapes, which we cut only two weeks ago and made pesto out of, and some of them did not. When we dug the heads up today, the ones which had had scapes turned out to be very small, with apparently only two or three cloves each. But most of them grew to a respectable size, and they're all hanging in the kitchen to cure. I can't wait to taste them!

We've been meaning to put up some photos of the garden, but we keep forgetting to take the camera. It's been great having our big 20' x 40' plot to grow in this year, but it's also difficult to find the time to tend it since we can't just walk out the back door to it when we have a few extra minutes. Since it's also difficult to grab a few leaves of kale or a few pea pods for dinner, it's making more sense for us to harvest as much as we can when we're there and then preserve it.

Our good friend Pragmatiste surprised us this weekend with the awesome gift of this classic book on preserving, which is a complete reference on everything you need to know to can, freeze, cure, dry, and cellar, with plenty of scientific rationale. Now we should have no trouble keeping all of our veggies delicious and nutritious!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Just Hatched!

At 7:10 this morning the phone rang, just as we had been hoping it would. The lady at the post office was calling to let us know that our little baby chicks had arrived! We got there before they opened, but they were more than happy to let us in to claim our box of fluffy peepers. The Gardener got to take them home (as I grumpily had to go to the office) and he was given the responsibility of introducing them to their new digs, feeding and watering them.

We spent the day thinking up names for our eight little layers, and settled on Lorraine, Benedictina, Florentine, Frittata, Tikka, Pot Pie, Buck Buck, and Begok. All of them seem to be doing quite well, even though Frittata gave the Gardener a bit of a scare at first. Now she's even pushing the bigger ones around. The lighter colored ones (Flo, Lo, Bennie, and Fritta) are Rhode Island Reds. They get the fancy names because they behave more like ladies. The dark ones are Barred Plymouth Rocks, and they are plucky to say the least.

The coop should be arriving this week as well. It's travelling by boat from England and then into Philadelphia via Greyhound where we'll have to pick it up at the station. Kind of ridiculous, I know, but we've chosen the Omlet brand because their coops are particularly suburban friendly in their Ikea-like design, and we're hoping to stay on our neighbors' good sides.

In the meantime they'll stay warm, cozy, and safe in their custom built brooder. We've even rigged up a "chickam" so that we can keep an eye on them from our computers at work!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Homemade Snack Attack

We spent a good bit of yesterday out of the garden and in the kitchen (though we did find time to plant a few replacement tomatoes). The Gardeness baked up a whole wheat batard, attempting a tricky technique that we found on the Artisan Bread in Five blog. I have to say it turned out quite nice, though perfecting the crust is still giving us trouble. Earlier in the week she had picked up two quarts of strawberries from the West Grove Farmers Market. After finding a recipe for strawberry jam, we finally had a chance to play with our newly loaned canning gear and promptly turned the kitchen into a makeshift sauna.

The latest Mother Earth News has a little blurb about making butter and I remember doing something like that in elementary school with a mason jar filled with cream and marbles. So when the kitchen got a bit too hot, I tried to whip up a batch. I didn't have any marbles or cream so I filled a mason jar 3/4 with whole milk. About an hour of shaking later we had decent little chunk of creamy butter. Adding a dash of salt gave it a nice earthy richness.

You can't beat little homemade snacks like these... Unless you're really into lime-like stuff and giant Cheetos.

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