Solar Tracking

Solar Tracking
How low can you go? Snow and ice and cancelled school.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sunday Night Suppers, May



Rhubarb and blackberry  Pie


Rice and asparagus with garlic

Rice, sag paneer with tofu, asparagus










Rice, black beans, carrots and zucchini










Tomato and Kale soup with barley, whole wheat bread, new peas and asparagus


As always, Bold indicates locally grown, often from the back yard.
 It was a good year for asparagus.



 Tomato Kale soup with barley:

Start about 2/3 of a cup of barley cooking in a small pan.

Saute an onion with a little salt. When the onion is soft, add the barley and 2 half pint jars of roasted tomatoes and a handful of sundried tomatoes.  Toss in a couple of bay leaves-- we have a small tree right outside the dining room door. Add four cups of chopped kale. It's best to take a little more time and cut it up fairly fine so that it does not slobber down the sides of the bowl...Season with salt, cayenne pepper, dill, and maybe some feta cheese.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Spring Clouds


       
    Spring in the Willamette Valley is cool and misty, kind of peaceful. It’s good. Plants sprout and grow, students and teachers stay focused, night noise is at a minimum until June, when most of the college kids go elsewhere for the summer. The trails have dried out enough to walk on, but they are not summer dusty. Gardeners have time to set up the irrigation system and mulch it in before it is really needed, at least in theory.   A person can spend the afternoon staring into space and not feel guilty about it—after all, starting an outside project, like repainting the yellow curb marker, will clearly bring on a downpour. Better to think about it for a little longer and keep the grass dry.
            This year has been a little weird. The rains stopped about three weeks ago and the sun came out. At first, we were all thrilled. Warmth! Sun! Tan! Warmth! Light! But then, reality set in. The pile of papers on my desk grew deeper, day after day, when I left school to watch the bees, rather than staying in to grade.  Kids started the “can we go out?!” chorus in early May, which is never a good thing, then they shut their brains off. I poked my fingers into the soil, and it was dry. I’ve been watering some plants. The blooms fell off of the apple tree before the fruit was fully pollinated, I am afraid. It feels, wrong, somehow, to have sun for a week straight in early May.
            The weather shifted back to normal this weekend. It’s been cloudy, with downpours and drizzles, for several days. The light is muted and slow. I need an extra layer, a sweater or an ancient flannel shirt, when I sit down to read, barefoot. The grass is damp. The cool weather crops are thriving. A dove calls over the neighborhood in the morning while we drink a second cup of tea, contemplate the world, and drowse.


Rhubarb and Blackberry Pie

 This is a one crust and crisp topping pie….

6-7 stalks of rhubarb
1.5 c of blackberries from the far back of the freezer
.75 c of sugar, usually white
a pinch of cinnamon

Toss together, and put in the pie crust

Topping:
1 c oatmeal
.5 c flour
.75 c of sugar, usually brown
.33 c of butter or margrine or both together

Squish together with your fingers and pack lightly on the top of the fruit

Bake at 350 until bubbly, about 45 minutes.

Eat with vanilla ice cream.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Betty Lou is... Billy Lee?


       
    Denial is a powerful thing….for weeks, we have been looking at the peeps as they grew into peepsters and pondering Betty Lou. She was bigger than the other Barred Rock; her comb was a brighter red and more pronounced; her peep chest butts were more forceful than the others. But, I just thought “She was born a few days earlier.” Or “She has a stronger personality than the Buff Orpingtons. Barred Rocks are a more aggressive chicken, after all.” I never thought—is she a he?

You would think we would notice sooner, but it’s been a busy few weeks and the peeps are just a small part of the daily routine. Take them out in the big blue tub at seven in the morning and pop them, one by one, into the cold frame under the plum tree. Make breakfast, pack lunch, go to school and take another whack at the huge pile of junior assignments on my desk. Come home, make dinner, check the transplants in the garden, read a bit, move peeps in when it is growing dark so that they are easy to catch.

  Yesterday, however, the whole situation came to  the forefront of my attention. I moved the hoop of fencing that they run in to the far back yard, right against the chicken run, thinking that eventual flock integration might go more smoothly if they saw each other first (hope springs eternal in raising chickens). This meant that The Ladies, Gladys and Henny, were exposed to the peepsters for the first time and they were Not Happy. They squawked “My Yard! My Yard!” for five hours, until they finally lost their voices and were distracted by an overgrown sprouting and flowering broccoli plant.  It was a long morning. Meanwhile, the peepsters ran around singing “peeps just want to have fun” while snapping at flies, shredding newspaper, playing King of The Blue Tub, and munching on their own broccoli plant.

At dinner, Mark raised the issue—how do we know we have a rooster? I fetched our Raising Chickens book from 1975 and we studied the notes. By eight weeks, it read, you will see wattles and comb. Hmmm….we walked to the back. There they were. “Looks like wattles to me,” Mark observed.  “I think Betty Lou is Billy Lee,” I added. “Now what?”  We went back to dinner. We don’t want a rooster; there is enough noise in the neighborhood already. We want eggs.

Maybe, I thought as I popped them back inside last night, we are wrong….maybe Billy is Betty…just a little bigger than the others. But, I doubt it. Those wattles are pretty red.


Breakfast Granola—basic recipe from The Sunlight Café, with variations



This is breakfast at least twice a week with homemade yogurt. All ingredients are measured roughly and subject to change!


3 c.   oatmeal
1 c.  barley flakes
1 c. sunflower seeds
1 c. of pumpkin  or sesame seeds
1 c. of nuts—almonds, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts….
.5 c oat bran
1.5 t salt
1 T cinnamon

Toss dry stuff together in a BIG bowl.

Add: .25 c of oil
            .5 c of honey
            1 t vanilla

Toss again, then spread on a sheet pan. Bake in 350 oven until lightly browned, turn, bake for about five minutes longer until golden brown. The last bit goes quickly, so keep an eye of it.

Remove. Spread .25 c brown sugar over it all and stir. Add a handful or two of  small dried fruit, like cherries, raisins, or blueberries. Nibble while it cools.  Store in a couple of quart mason jars.


Monday, May 6, 2013

Sunday Night Suppers-- April

Rhubarb Cake--potluck supper

Beets and chard, cabbage with tuna

Sweet potatoes, sprouting broccoli, rice




Saturday, May 4, 2013

Crop Rotation with Chickens


   
        It’s not easy to plan a large veg garden around a chicken tractor. When we first acquired two hens, we had three 4 by 10 foot beds and they could settle in by November if need be and stay until late March. Now we have nine beds, mostly 10 by 4 but several 8 by 4, and it has grown more complicated. The key is to remember your harvest dates, rather than trying to rotate the cole crops every three years. This year, the arrangement looks something like this:

Bed A: dried beans, probably Indian Woman, and some edamane beans
Bed B: Spring crops—mustard, peas, lettuce, radishes, kale, broccoli. All of which will be eaten by July (or August, if the kale lasts that long).
Bed C: Garlic and ceremonial wheat, to be replaced by sprouting broccoli and fall cabbage.
Bed D and E: potatoes.
Bed F: pole beans and yellow wax beans

Turn the corner and move up the other side, to….

Bed G: vines—zucchini, squash, pumpkins, cucumbers
Bed H: Summer crops—chard, lettuce, beets, collards, fennel bulbs, and more broccoli
Bed I: Alliums and roots—scallions, leeks, beets, carrots, parsnips (if they sprout).

Tomatoes and peppers grow out front  where the driveway used to be in black tubs.

Next year, each shifts over bed, so garlic is planted where the potatoes were this year, etc.

The chicken coop will be placed on the spring crop bed in early September, when I go back to school and they can no longer run all over the yard anyways. A month later, all of the beds will be covered in leaves for the winter.

This system works well for us because it leaves beds free at predictable times. When I tried to plant by crop, there were always a few random plants still producing right when the bed needed to be chicken  tractored.


Weekend Breakfasts….

Pancakes—from the 1955 Betty Crocker’s cookbook

1.5 cups of flour—half wheat, half low gluten white
1 t BP
.5 t BS
.5 t  salt

1.25 cups of buttermilk
1 egg
2T oil

Add berries from the freezer….This is just enough for two people, at least in our house.

Waffles—from Molly Katsen’s Sunlight Café

 PREHEAT THE WAFFLE IRON!

1 c rolled oats
1 c flour (I sometimes use half whole wheat)
.5 c oat bran
.75 t salt
1 t BP
.25 t BS
2 T sugar

1.5 c buttermilk
.5 c water or milk
2 eggs
3 T oil

Once again, add berries from the freezer to the batter, esp. raspberries.