Category Archives: Vegetables

Thongs and the Wild Side

sea_kaleI opened 12 thongs on Christmas in front of family. Where has your brain just gone?! Not the thongs you wear, but rather cuttings from sea kale plants, also known as thongs. I’ve tried for three seasons straight to grow sea kale from seed and have struggled with transplanting, so this spring I’ll have a bit of a head start thanks to my sweet husband.

We spent Christmas in Glen Arbor, with a few stops out to the farm (good thing we bought a Prius). Both places are magical this time of year. The farm is especially quiet and venturing into the barn feels a bit like a retreat away from the the rest of the world. It’s calm, still, and filled with the curious sniffing of alpacas, eager for their pellets.

Glen Arbor, though technically quiet this time of year, is perched above Lake Michigan. The tide of wild winds come and go, making the occasional stillness seem nothing short of magical.  Before the big windstorm the other night, Chris and I stood on a high bluff and listened to the calm waters gently lap the shore. Despite the condominiums and houses being built here, the wild of this place survives.

It can scare us with its limitlessness, the way the vast ocean feels capable of swallowing a small boat whole, or it can have the opposite effect, as a playful echoing of our own desire to be free.

This morning greets me with bird song, blue skies, stillness, and green. And reminds me that life is like this ever-changing tide of wind and storm and calm; not something to be feared, but rather revered.

 

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Dried (Really) Goods

thereachThe food dehydrator finally arrived. We’ve been researching the best methods for food storage and it has quickly become one of our favorite tools for preserving the harvest. We can now make jerky, fruit leather, and dry fruit, veggies, and herbs to store for months.

You can even dry sauces and soups for later use (a helpful tip for avid drytomcampers/adventurers).

I wasn’t sure what the kids would think – Would our dried apples compete with the store-bought variety? If the toddler had anything to say about it, I think they exceeded all expectations.

I normally buy dried tomatoes – I love the flavor and texture and it sometimes makes a decent meat substitute. Not only do the tomatoes dry really well, they’re something of a work of art when finished.

applebottomBuying fruit leather at the co-op is a bit costly for this family. Making our own is not only fun, but a healthy alternative. We use a bit of honey to add some sweet to match any tart flavors on part of the berries and can now make good use of all of that autumn olive at the farm.

leverI don’t normally do plugs for commercial products but in this instance, with the limited number of options in our region for food-safe dehydration, this product makes a really nice (and quiet) addition to your food storage arsenal. The Nesco Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator FD-5A is one of the higher end models at the lower end of the total wattage spectrum. It’s a smallish unit with stackable trays (up to 12) and very quiet. Highly recommended, if solar isn’t a good option.

Healing Tree: the website

I’ve been brainstorming ideas to make this blog more effective and I’ve decided to build a website around topics discussed on the blog while maintaining the blog as a central forum for discussion and ideas.  The website will offer resources to folks new to permaculture and also those more familiar with the “do no harm” approach to farming, including helpful links and articles written by me and those more familiar with the process.  

Since we’re landless, we’ll be propagating a new kind of garden – with vital seeds of change – online!

Exactly.

The summer before Y2K, when everyone was talking about the collapse of the free world due to some unforeseen computer glitch, I was working on a small organic farm near home.  I noticed we were planting an extra crop of potatoes that year and when I asked the farmer about the surplus he responded, “In case there really is a Y2K disaster, we’ll have enough to feed the community.”  

Farming is all about community – it encourages balance and teaches people the value of natural resources, sustainability and relationships forged out of trust, hard work and a belief in the good life.  Today, on CNN, an article appeared highlighting this philanthropic farming philosophy.  Please visit CNN.com to read the full article on how one community is encouraging local back-yard growers to share in a responsibility to help and feed those in need.

Trees, bees and birdies

I’m investigating the usefulness of milkweed at the moment since we have an abundance of it on our property.  This time of the year, the plant (Common Milkweed) produces large purple to pink flowers.  It is highly toxic for most herbivores, so it makes a nice deer deterrent, but it attracts many beneficials including bees, humming birds and butterflies.

The monarch butterfly is dependent on the plant to aid in the production of its own toxic defenses which give it that lovely bright orange coloration.

More diversity in the edible forest garden means more niches for a varied number of insects and birds.  Since beneficials or non-harmful insects outnumber
“pests” nine to one, this diversity will help establish a virtual army of predators ready to pounce on any sudden infestations.  It’s a great way to protect our cherry, apple and nut trees naturally.

Just a reminder, we are raising funds for Healing Tree Farm.  If you are interested in learning more about the farm, click on the tabs located above or scroll down to “Raising Funds for Healing Tree” and see what costs go in to producing each guild.

Enjoy your weekend!

Cherries, apples, and berries, Oh my!

Okay, some revisions according to instinct for our cherries…  Thinking moving to Bing and Montmorency as they act as mutual pollinators, though I may still try a Stella to see how it compares in taste and value (compatible pollinator for the Bing).

As for apples, I’m determined to grow galas and have been told by several conventional farmers to grow Honeycrisp if I want a cash crop.  The trees are costly, but they’re a fantastic apple for taste, crispness and storage longevity.  And as an added pollinator, I’ll grow Red Delicious.

In other news, Liz emailed me to tell me she needs a huge pile of composted manure moved before her August wedding.  She’s offered to haul some of it for us!   Added bonus!

We’re also prepping for some berry beds (the shrub layers in our permaculture experiment).  I’m leaving a lot of this work to the girls since they’ve done such a good job growing strawberries in the most infertile soil ever.  We’ll also begin a blueberry layer near the deck and I’m thinking up ways to slow the wind a bit.  Maybe we should cover windbreaks next?  Any ideas?

Hay Day

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My daughter was thrilled to discover this tiny snake curled up beneath one of the strawbales we removed in order to apply the hay.

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Po-po setting hay in even segments over the manure.   And below, Po-po waters down the hay.  It’s important to keep the layers moist to spur those tiny decomposers into action.

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 Price breakdown:

  • Trailer-load manure: $50
  • Hay: $2.70/bale, six bales for $16.20
  • Straw: $3/bale, six bales for $18
  • Tarp for trailer: $30
  • Newspaper and labor: Free (and priceless)

Total: $114.20 for three garden beds, two flower beds, one tree and one guild.