Friday, January 27, 2012

our homestead: readying my greenhouse for spring

Worms still working hard in the worm bin.
Loosening the soil and spreading compost in the greenhouse.
The sun came out of hiding again yesterday, so despite the cold, I decided to get some work done in the greenhouse that I'd been meaning to do for a while now. Ever so often over the winter, I've been casually adding small pails of compost, egg shells and coffee grounds to the soil in my greenhouse, trying to build it back up for spring. Yesterday, I decided it was time to do a more thorough job and haul my entire worm bin (which I keep outside my dryer vent to give my worms a little warmth) and a few full buckets of compost from my other compost keeper, down to the greenhouse. *Phew* that was a workout. I dug three trenches down the length of my greenhouse and then scattered the worm castings, worm juice (rich and black) and compost down each row. Then, I covered each row with dirt from between the evenly loosen the soil around the greenhouse bed. I plan to keep adding a little bit of compost each week to get my soil ready for when it's time to transplant my tomato plants. I foresee this will be in about a month and a half depending on how big my starts grow on the windowsills and nighttime temperatures. The alfalfa lining the sides of my greenhouse used to have sod underneath it and I used these as pathways last summer. I checked underneath the piles of alfalfa and the sod has now been transformed into dark planting dirt (due to the weight of the alfalfa grass). This year I plan to have my walkway going somewhat down the center of the greenhouse, so that I can use more surface area for planting. I look forward to seeing how much this bed will build up over the years as I care for it. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

DIY almanac: My favorite way to cook kale

My co-op was just delivered some beautiful, beautiful mixed kale braising greens from Highwater Farm of Mt. Vernon, Washington. Their kale is so very fresh and  flavorful- you can almost taste the rainwater and the soil minerals that helped it grow. I brought home a pillow-sized bag of it...and it's empty already. Kale is so good when cooked in a hot pan with a little olive oil and minced garlic, or when transformed into a hearty winter salad with chopped fuji apples and steamed beets (mmm!). Kale chips are amazing too- whether baked or dehydrated...I'll be sure to post a recipe someday, but for now, here's my very favorite way to cook kale. So simple: 

First, you'll want a good few handfuls of kale.
Then you'll want to bring chicken stock, the juice of one lemon and parmesan into the mix. 
Warm your chicken stock and lemon juice in a nice sized pan over medium-low heat. Then toss in your kale.
Lightly cook and stir until just al dente. I like my greens to still have a little bit of crunch left to them. 
Serve with a generous garnish of parmesan and enjoy your brothy kale goodness. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

our homestead: snow and seedlings

Snow on the slough
 It was sunny with blue skies today. Quite a stark difference from the wintery weather we had this past week. We had buckets of snow cloak the whole area...up to 6 or 7 inches at my house and nearly a foot or more at my mom's. My cousin from Spokane is in town right now as well, so she's been my partner in crime these past few days as we've been trying to evade getting cabin fever. I heard they received a few feet of snow on her side of the mountains too. I spent my snowed-in days by walking along the river with my dogs (this was Banjo's first snow), concocting far too chocolatey hot cocoa on my stove, stealthily sledding down my neighbor's hill at night and rolling up giant snowmen with my cousin and watching a marathon of movies while feasting on crockpot stews. 

Even with snow on the ground, I've also been busy taking care of baby tomato seedlings! Yes! I have tomatoes once again growing on my windowsills, except this year I've invested in heating mats to speed up their germination (ooh lala!) and am growing them in some fancy-schmancy certified organic potting soil. These seedlings originate from the very same seeds I saved from the tomatoes I grew last year: heirloom pink brandywine and evergreen. I'm nerdily ecstatic that they are actually growing as funny as that sounds...although that's usually the same reaction I have every time something I plant in the ground starts peeking up out of the soil with its green little nose. Never gets old for me. I'm awaiting some 'cherry fall' trailing tomato seeds to arrive in my mailbox. I'm going to experiment and  try to make some hanging baskets this year with them.
My cousin visiting Mercedes at my mom's house
My cousin's snow man...check out that mustache
Banjo and Oswald playing in the snow
An apple tree peeking over the levy
Baby tomatoes

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

our homestead: a winter walk on the slough

I took my boys, Oswald and Banjo, out for a dusky walk on the slough today. As I headed down a ridge and looked below, I noticed my woodcutter neighbor now has three small brown pigs in a pen made of wood pallets. These pigs are replacing the giant pig that used to lounge in this pen. As I continued on, another neighbor's cattle (most of them are black but there are a few shaggy long-horned ones) were out grazing by the road, moo-ing at us as we passed. Me and the pups walked all the way to the river, to have our path crossed overhead by a triangle of swans, followed by my neighbor driving down the road on his red tractor.  He was heading over to feed the cows and they all came and swarmed him as soon as he entered the gate to the field. Oswald, Banjo and I relaxed on the river bank for a little while, watching the water slowly move past. We always look for otters peaking up when we come down here...saw two last time. Didn't see any today though.