Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Spring dirt

There is something about the dirt.  The smell of it, the curiosities of random organisms crawling through it.  Young and old alike revel in different ways with it, but enjoy it all the same. I was digging in a side patch of garden, and saw something gray scurry by.  It wasn't a mouse, probably a vole, but it instantly sent me in a scream of, "ahhhh!!!! get it! get it!"  which instantly made everyone run close, but alas within those .025 seconds, it had run off to locations unknown.  Honestly, it was hilarious, exciting and a bit unnerving wondering where it went and how it might affect the future of the garden.  However, now the kids are armed with a story of "something gray and furry lurks in this corner" in addition to the stories they make up about the "bunny rabbit that lives under the deck". 

 Upon seeing mommy digging in the dirt, they all grabbed shovels and followed suit.  Even the neighbor's nephew came over to get his shoes muddied (much to his mother's dismay).  Everytime they upturned another shovelful, I'd hear excited yells of "wormies! WORMIES!!!!"  and "ROLY POLY!"   sometimes a wonder filled "It's cute."  The wee ones were busy digging their own stories.

The little 3 yr olds shovelling dirt.  I told them the bucket was full and the contents were not retaining, but they threw caution to the wind and piled on the dirt!  Little scamps!  When I asked what the peanut shells were for, they replied "food for the worms".   Ha...!

Checking for more worms or roly polies.

And here I am on the other side of the house turning in the compost, and leaves with the soil. 
I guess even at this age, finding big worms is exciting.  The only difference is I just smile and keep it to myself... that is unless I find a ginormous one.  Then it calls for "AAAAAAA!! Kids!!! GIANT WORMIE!"  and the fountain of youth goes on.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Addendum to the backyard and Dream Orchard

So we meet again, springtime.

Last weekend, I spent some hours painting the backyard fence.  The girls and I went to Home Depot to see what colors were in the OOPS PAINT shelf.  There happened to be a dented can of "house and fence paint" for $7, and it was not yet tinted.  SCORE!  I let the girls pick what color our fence should be, and they gave varied answers from blue to black.  We settled on a chestnut, and so it was tinted.

Fast forward a few hours, and the white primer is on the fence, and the tendinitis is kicking in.  Wow, hey, the fence sure looks good white.  I should just leave it.  Why change perfection, y'know!?
Since we bought the can of Chestnut, I negotiated with myself to paint the posts Chestnut.
I also bought a package of eye screws, and every single post (8' apart) will have an eye screw put into it.

  It aint much, but it's home ^____________^
also: you can see that I don't have a big back yard at all.

Then, I'll plant a red, black, or yellow raspberry at the bottom of every post.  I'm hoping that'll be some way to tame them, and keep them a relative distance from one another. 
Speaking of taming the shrew... er shrub, I saw at my buddy Ed's house, he twists the stems together so the raspberry or blackberry plant is a freestanding tower.  Pretty cool!  Knowledge is power, kids!

Ah knowledge, let's use that segue to discuss MidFEx.   
I found out about MidFEx a couple years ago while googling home orchards.  It's a community of very knowledgeable gardeners who are deeply involved in grafting, pruning, and most importantly experimental fruit trees.  That means, raising natives and rare species, grafting/root stocks, or making five fruits on one tree.  I'm sure there's a great deal more to glean that just those topics, but I will soon find out, for I am sending in my membership monies on the morrow.  I can't wait to learn how to graft and prune my way to gardening greatness!  Case in point, the neighbor's crab apple tree has sent a sucker underground to my side of the fence. While at first, I was somewhat annoyed and planned to chop/dig it out, I thought...woah woah wait!  I could totally graft apple scions to that crab-apple root stock.  HELL YES!   That would be SO PUNK! So guerrilla grafting! So.... aaaawesome! ::evil cackle::  yes, yes, it's all coming to plan swimmingly.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Lending a Hand to Neighbors. Friendship and Urban Homesteading

A few weeks ago, I've had the pleasure of meeting two really nice people.
Aaron and Sam. Two urban homesteaders who also live in my village.

They also operate Oschner Farms which showcases heirloom vegetables, and rare tobaccos.  They had a traditional CSA last year which produced hundreds of pounds of organic and local kale, onions, juicy summer tomatoes, kohlrabi, eggplants and many more.  I had the pleasure of seeing their land and some overwintered vegetables while visiting their farm last weekend.

A photo from last year's CSA baskets from Oschner Farms.

 Since meeting them, we have completely hit it off like kindred spirits of the farming sort.  That being said, one thing we homesteaders do exceptionally well is lend a hand.  Aaron was in the midst of a large ramp harvest, and had thousands of seedlings that needed transplanting.  I told him I would love to give them a hand, and bring the whole fam over.  Through conversation, it became known that Aaron and Sam were good cooks with actual restaurant culinary experience.

Then, I told him I could bring even more hands to lighten the load if there was food involved.
IT IS WRITTEN, SO IT SHALL BE DONE!  In conclusion, last Sunday we went over to Oschner farms and transplanted seedlings with Sam while Aaron was harvesting ramps. 

Aaron in the midst of a ramp harvesting frenzy

Meanwhile back at the ranch... quite literally.

The kids, and our good buddies were transplanting seedlings from seedling tray to 4" pots with popsicle sticks.  When the seedling trays were brought out, my daughter Momsi said "Are those peppers?"
Sam exclaimed, "yes!" and complimented Momsi on her ability to identify seedlings.

Proud Momma Moment:
THAT'S MY BABY!!!!!!!!


This may or may not be correct form, but the vermiculite mix was too crumbly to remove an entire cell. The seed starter mix was a combination of Vermiculite, peat, and magical sea goodies. Either way, the art of transplanting seedlings with popsicle sticks is a method I've seen even in 1970's gardening books. 
This was a long lost art form in revival, I'm telling you!

Here is a picture of the pots we filled, and transplanted.

It worked out swimmingly. Good friendships were made that day with some very good people.
 By the time Aaron had come back from ramping, we were all out of pots, and ready for the much anticipated dinner of smoked pork shoulder on pretzel buns (with a chipotle raspberry BBQ sauce), and rainbow cole slaw.  They even made us some potato soup with shittake mushrooms and ramps. All made from scratch!  It was a nice warm up from working in the brisk weather.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Hasty and Tasty Dandelion Kimchi

Hey all, so- as promised, here's the steps to making really really yummy kimchi out of your dandelions.

In this picture, my mom is cutting the bigger dandelions in half.  We washed it a few times, and cleaned them (yes, even though we did that already at my house).  It took me a week to amass four large bags of dandelions and during that time, some of the baby leaves have turned brown.

Here we moved location into the sun, and I told my mom "I need to have my foot present in a photo so my readers don't think I'm just making my poor mother do all this work".  Her reaction :)

Okay there it is! all cleaned and slightly damp from a rinsing.

To this, you want to add salt.  That bag says "Coarse sea salt", but I want to say "pickling salt" is okay, too. At this point, we are trying to draw moisture out of the dandelions.  Let them sit for an hour or two with a good scattering of the salt through it... like a steak.

Now they are all wilted, and the moisture is pooled at the bottom.  Some of the moisture came from the rinse we did and some of it came from the dandelions.

Here we are washing the salt off of it.  At this point, we gave it a taste and my mother exclaimed "AIGOOOO!! Too salty!".  You may also have this problem, as my mothers instructions just eyeballed the sea salt with no measurements.  That is ok.  This recipe is forgiving.   We are going to have our kimchi sit in some water while we make the rest of the stuff. That way, we will draw out the excess of salt.

Upper left: Upside down bag of Chili pepper powder, Vietnamese fish sauce, Bear brand Flour,and Tone's sea salt. (you could use the same sea salt/pickling salt from earlier).

A good amount of chili pepper powder into a large bowl.  And add fish sauce and mix with your hand.

In a saucepan put in a quart to 1.5 qts water

In a bowl, mix Bear Brand flour, some salt, and water.  If your dandelion greens are very salty, don't add salt here. If they're just at the point where it's nicely salted, just add a little salt to the flour mixture.
 This is applying the same principle as corn starch. If you don't mix it with water and just add it to the hot water, you will end up with chunks.

When the water in saucepan has come to a furious boil, whisk the saucepan,
and pour the flour water mixture. Keep whisking as it turns thick
(kind of like when you've added milk to a roux... )
After all flour is dissolved, and it is as smooth as vanilla pudding, put it aside and let it cool.
We put it outside to speed the process, as it was a breezy day.

In this chopping board, you see cut scallions, and the bowl of chili powder and fish sauce.  We are about to blend Whole garlic cloves, and ginger in just enough water to cover.

Add puree'd ginger and garlic to the fish sauce bowl.
Add scallions to fish sauce bowl.

Here we are taking the wilted dandelions that sat in fresh water because we accidentally made it too salty earlier.  We tasted it to make sure it was salty like when making salty pickles...  I will tell you there is a bitter finish to the dandelions, but it truly goes away or significantly reduces once the fermentation is over.

Here's the "glue" as my mom calls it on the left. That is the Bear brand flour that was whisked into the water.
The right has the bowl of everything else.

The dandelion greens are placed into a tub where I will ferment it for a couple of days.
This is just a large plastic tub with a lid.  For those of you in the know, this is a tub from a Kimchi refrigerator.  HARDCORE!
Pour in everything from the fish sauce bowl.

Now, pour in a good amount of the glue. I want to say we actually didn't use all of it. It's basically  a binder or as she called it "glue" to make all the seasonings stick to the dandelions.

Mix it all up by hand.  As the old Jewish grandmas have told me, it's not Latkes unless it's got a little grandma knuckle in it...  This isn't kimchi unless it's got "Mommy hand taste" in it. I am serious! Go ask your Korean friends! This no shens!

  Then we put the lid on it, and put it somewhere in the house for a few days.  I left mine on the kitchen counter for 3 days.  I advise not putting it in the bedroom, because people will wonder who died or the bathroom, because of that episode of mythbusters about toothbrushes in the bathroom.

When you taste it after three days, it may or may not be at the "Peak" of kimchiness, but at that point I put it in the mason jars and put it in my fridge, because it will always continue to ferment in your refrigerator.
Eat with rice, and enjoy! stores for about a month, and you will taste the transition in the taste as it gets older.  It may have lost the bitter finish, but it is replaced by one that is truly flowery tasting.

Wait, what's that you say?  I never put any amounts, or measurements?  Hey... You're right.
Welp, That's how many of these grandma recipes go.
We'll just have to try it until we get the measurement right.  It all depends if you want it spicier, and your quantity of dandelions....   But at least you get the gist of the process and the ingredients involved.