Heat wave

Written by karen on June 19th, 2016

I suppose you’ve heard that there is a heat wave, and if you are in the southwest, you may be experiencing it too.

I just looked at our temperature gauge, and it’s 111 degrees in the shade outside, and 86 degrees inside (with no air conditioning). I guess we built our house ok.

The greenhouse is up to 138 degrees, but things inside are looking good. Edamame, eggplant, radishes, and chiles all seem to like the heat. And of course, I water every day.

I did laundry today, and the clothes on the line were dry faster than they’d be in the dryer I think. Simple solar power.

What is saving us right now is the fact that the nights are still cool. We open the windows as soon as the sun is down, and by morning, the house is quite cool.

We’re supposed to be in the low 100s for the foreseeable future. (We’re glad we’re not in Phoenix where temps are over 120.) Keep cool.

 

Onions

Written by karen on June 12th, 2016

Having eaten all the tomatoes, the voles and rabbits moved on to the onions. Here’s an example of what they did a couple nights ago (I hope whatever ate this got very sick):

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So despite the fact that the onions were not really ready to be harvested, I decided to pull them to save what I could. There were a fair number that did well and will be good eats:

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There were some others that weren’t really mature enough so I replanted them in other places to see if they might grow further. We will also eat some of the smaller ones as “spring onions.” I will also be making a red wine onion confit this week. Yum!

The variety that did the best by far was the Texas Early White.

On the weather front, we’ve started getting some sporadic storms, which seem to me like early monsoons. (We don’t normally get monsoons until early July.) As the rain picks up, this should help the garden considerably and also the pest problems.

And this week for the first time, I sold everything I took to the farmers market, which included 8 bags of greens.

 

Farmers market today

Written by karen on June 3rd, 2016

Well, today we were the farmers market with no other vendors showing up for various reasons. Fortunately, we took our biggest selection of food yet:

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There were somewhat fewer customers than usual but we still sold a lot. The ebb and flow of customers, as well as the variation of what they buy (sometimes I sell only wheat bread, sometimes only white; sometimes the sweet breakfast breads sell out quickly; other times I take some home), is still a mystery to me. We do have some seasonal residents here who leave for summer, and so it will be interesting to see if the numbers continue to be down. The number of vendors is also a factor.

Highlights for this week are that we took 8 big bags of greens to market this week (and even had a couple bags more to keep for ourselves) and that all the toum sold out. We offered samples of it, which were very popular. I’m thinking of more things like this that might fit into the little 5.5 oz. souffle cup containers we have. So far we’ve done pesto and toum, and pico de gallo is soon to come.

Things about the farmers market that make me happy: increasing access to good, healthy food here; spending a couple hours each week sitting under the shade of a big tree talking with nice people about food; having people ask me “who grew this?” or “who baked this?;” having people tell me their plans for what they’ve bought (a woman today bought some lemon cake and told me she was going to share it this evening with her husband for their anniversary); and giving away and/or taking home and eating whatever we don’t sell.

 

 

Toum

Written by karen on May 30th, 2016

We love the show “Splendid Table” (“the show for people who love to eat”…yeah, that’s us). Awhile back,they had a show on something called toum, a Lebanese garlic paste that was described as being light and fluffy like whipped egg whites. We knew we’d have to make it some time.

This week, we just harvested our garlic. And when we do that, there are always a few bulbs that get scuffed or something and need to be used sooner rather than later. Perfect opportunity!

While this toum sounded a little fussy to make, it wasn’t that hard. Only a few  ingredients: lots of garlic, canola oil, salt, lemon juice, and water. And the results — oh my, this stuff is amazing!

Toum can be used as a dip, for garlic bread, as a sandwich spread, in marinades or sauces, in eggs, or in soups, just to mention a few possibilities.

This will be for sale at this week’s farmers market. Very gourmet.

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Working on a new project

Written by karen on May 29th, 2016

Stay tuned for more details as this takes shape.

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Spring greens

Written by karen on May 27th, 2016

This week I remembered to take a picture when the beds were uncovered.

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The greenhouse is looking good as well.

eggplants and peppers

eggplants and peppers

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chard and edamame

green beans

green beans

 

 

Finally

Written by karen on May 19th, 2016

We’ve had more than our share of struggles with the garden this year — beds of greens munched to the ground multiple times despite being covered, artichoke plants eaten beyond recovery, even the lemon grass got mowed down by something (most likely deer), a whole bed of tomato starts eaten down by the vole.

We keep trying though and are finally having some success. The new greenhouse is doing great, and we could be harvesting from it within a couple weeks. I also tried a new setup for greens in our regular beds where I put down a sheet of agribon (row cover) and then covered that with two layers of insect netting (the same stuff that we cover the hoops with — which has been getting chewed through and dug under — but this time I put it right on the ground with lots of rocks on the edges). This has worked well. I suspect that the animals either haven’t figured out what’s under there or they can’t easily get in. Probably both. At least for now.

Today we had our first harvest big enough to sell some of — arugula, tat soi, and lettuce all coming in strong. It will be nice to have our produce at the market this week in addition to bread, other baked goods, and pesto.

arugula

 

Garden update

Written by karen on May 1st, 2016

Challenges with the rodents continue, but a seed library meeting on Friday motivated me to double down and work harder on the garden. This weekend I replanted a bed of greens and covered it more securely (I hope). I also planted cover crop in two beds that were hit hard with rodent tunnels last fall, deciding to try to enrich the soil and not worry about what eats the plants. (And if this goes well, I may sneak in a few edible plants as things grow up.) You’d think the animals would be happy eating this and not bother the other things, but it doesn’t seem to work that way.

We harvested our first few garlic as well. We only finished last year’s garlic about a month ago (and are finding store bought garlic to be quite inferior) so we are almost to the point of growing enough to last a whole year.

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We are eating asparagus and strawberries from the garden, and the onions are looking very good.

I’m also realizing that the new greenhouse may be our best shot at food this summer. It was getting very hot in there last week (over 100 degrees, even when it was only in the 70s outside), so we made some adjustments — a new fan, shade cloth on the ceiling, and some nice new screen doors (thanks to the friend who originally had the greenhouse). It’s much better now.

I now have green beans, edamame, chard, radishes, and cucumbers growing in it. And just yesterday, lettuce germinated! (Yay…I didn’t know if the soil was cool enough.) Peppers and eggplants are also going in this week.

I am doing all this with the knowledge that this might not survive the hottest part of summer, but I am hopeful. Farming is indeed an act of faith.

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The cussingest project ever

Written by karen on April 18th, 2016

Back in December, a friend of ours said he was getting rid of a small greenhouse and asked us if we wanted it. “Sure,” we said, especially with all the recent damage to our gardens from critters. A more sheltered environment sounded very appealing.

So in January, we went out to move this greenhouse. It was a very cold and windy day, and the greenhouse didn’t come down easy. It clearly wasn’t meant to be disassembled and reassembled. Also, the plastic material in the panels was beginning to fall apart. (Not coincidentally, the greenhouse was seven years old, which was the duration of the warranty.) The sound of the plastic panels breaking as we did this made me cringe, and by the end of the day, my hands and feet were numb with cold. Even taken apart, the parts barely fit in our truck bed, and we had to drive very slowly partly with Brad in the back.

This was the first of many times, we reconsidered the decision to proceed with this.

As with any construction here, we had to consider high winds, so the first thing we did was plan to pour a partial concrete slab to anchor the greenhouse to so it wouldn’t blow away. We also dug out the whole area that would be the interior beds in the greenhouse so we could filter all the dirt. (This is a standard part of making beds here because of all the rocks in our soil.) We also decided to put wire mesh hardware cloth about 6 inches below the floor of the beds to try to prevent rodents from tunneling in. All of this was quite a bit of work.

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the site before we began

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the dissembled greenhouse (ugh)

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concrete done and screening down

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filtering dirt

Next, we began putting together various pieces of the structure. Of course, being spring, we had some windy days during this and so had to use various bracing and hope for the best.

Along the way, more plastic broke, and it was evident that the roof needed to be completely replaced. We considered several options (the same corrugated polycarbonate material as the original manufacturer, sheet plastic, clear corrugated roofing material, etc.), and ultimately decided to go with clear corrugated. Though it wasn’t cheap, it was easy to work with and seems like it will be very durable. Eventually, we are likely to be replacing the material in the walls as well and may use the same material.

Four months from beginning to end, we finished it this weekend.

One concern we have is that the greenhouse may get too hot and kill what’s growing in it. We installed a new vent to try to forestall this and may put in additional screening and shade cloth as well.

For now, I am very eager to get things growing in here. It’s the time of the year for lots of new little seedlings to go in so the timing is great. Stay tuned for updates.

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finished

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inside, including shelving

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clear new roof

 

Off and running

Written by karen on April 8th, 2016

So our new farmers market started last week to great fanfare. We had great attendance and sold nearly everything we took. It’s a little early in the year for much from the garden so I took a lot of microgreens, bread, and other baked goods.

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There were so many people there the first week that I wondered if anyone would come the next week. But then this week was just as good. A little different traffic pattern — a few less people and nearly everyone in the first 20 minutes or so — but we sold just as much. The community has shown great support.

This week I added dried beans, focaccia, and pizza dough to what we were selling. (Others are selling asparagus, but we’re opting to eat all of ours. :) One thing I’m seeing clearly is that prepared food sells faster than anything.

It will be good to have more produce available to sell as we get more into the summer.