Solar Tracking

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

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Fall Arrived Monday

     
      Fall arrived on Monday, around noon.

            We were driving to the coast to hike Cascade Head. The sky was cloudy, the air cool and damp. As we rounded the corner to Otis, and the Otis Café, alder leaves skittered across the road, soft gold against black. “Looks like fall,” the driver observed and we all agreed. But it was still August, so not yet!

            After lunch in the café, we headed up the hill. Cascade Head is one of the most beautiful hikes on the coast. It begins in coastal forest, deep with ferns, foxglove, fir trees. It climbs steadily up the headland, passes a misty grey alder grove, and breaks out onto the headland. On a clear day, you can see for miles down the coast and into the estuary at the base of the hill. Each step, from there on, brings on more breathtaking views. The panorama lures you on; the hill is steep. In the spring, wildflowers cover the grasslands and we have seen elk grazing on the point. On Monday, as we broke through, clouds moved in. “It smells like it could rain,” we observed. A few steps further on, we felt raindrops and the clouds looked more serious. Rain. We headed back under cover. Half an hour later, back at the car, rain  settled in.

 And with that, the summer ended. 


Cabbage and Apples: We ate cabbage and apples for dinner Monday night. I wasn’t quite ready to admit that it was cabbage season yet—I still want tomatoes and eggplants!—but that’s what there was. And, with some barley on the side, it was pretty darn tasty.

1 medium cabbage, cut finely
1 small onion, chopped
1 medium apple, chopped


Sautee the cabbage and onion with salt and pepper until almost done. Add the apple and cook for a few more moments. Add two or three tablespoons on good apple cider vinegar and stir. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Gardener? Or Urban Farmer?

   

  1. You find dried bean seeds in your pockets in December.
  2. There is hay in the car.
  3. You turn to binder twine and five gallon buckets rather than organic hemp twine and a trug.
  4. You talk compost with strangers.
  5. You indulge in “one more season” hose repair.
  6. You spend more time thinking about fencing than the White Flower Farm flower catalog.
  7. You realize, half way through a professional meeting, that you have dirt somewhere. Fingernails? Hand cracks? Knees?  No, not all three!
  8. You worry more about the crop of leeks and not one plant.
  9. Your crops come in pounds.
  10. You use your van as a ladder.
  11. You realize that it is, really, all about the soil, not the new, cool varieties in the front of the seed catalogs.



Old School Canned Grape Juice


We use the seedy, dark grapes that run up into the backyard trees for this juice. The darker, the better. This is an old recipe from my partner’s mom. It is best chilled and poured from an old glass pitcher, preferably pink.

Per Quart—endlessly flexible


1 cup of grapes pulled off the vine
¼ to 1/3 cup of sugar
Boiling water to half an inch of the top


Cap and process in steam canner for ten minutes. Allow to age for a month or so before drinking.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Planning for Preserving



  1. Survey what you already eat. Sounds obvious, but it is essential. If you can, save grocery receipts for six months to a year so that you have a real strong feel what you do—and do not—eat. This eliminates the 60 jars of jam on the shelf phenomena. Yeah, jam is easy and tasty and yeah, those blackberries are free for the picking—and may  be you are even saving the Pacific Northwest from being totally overrun by their vines by harvesting, but still, if you eat four jars of jam a year now, you are not going to suddenly eat thirty just because you made them yourself. I know—I had to stop making jam for four years to eat down the surplus. And no, you shouldn’t bring them to the potluck on Saturday night, either, as three other people are already bringing blackberry crisps. You know it’s true. 
  2. Don’t Horde.  This is the opposite problem of making too many jars of jam. You make just three pints of pickled plums because it is the first year, and, because you are waiting for a special occasion, you never eat them all winter. A more extreme case—I went camping with a friend. We both brought along our half pint jars of tomato chutney that had been a Christmas present from a co-worker. We laughed. At the end of the two week trip, we both still had the chutney. Seriously, after all that work, EAT!
  3. Preserve the surplus. If there is a lot of something, save it for winter, even if it was not on your list. Many fruit trees, especially the wild ones in alley, produce heavily every other year. Take advantage of the surplus on a good year, just in case the source is gone the next. I’ve made three types of cucumber pickles this year because Sunbow had a surplus of big cucumbers. (It is the year of gigantism, after all.)  If I do not horde—see above—we should discover some new favorite snacks this winter.  The corollary of this rule is: Distribute the surplus. If you have too much, pass it on. It is good garden karma.
  4. Invest in two good preserving books.  You need one book for basic, don’t try and can in the compost pile, information. I really like Putting Food By. It feels like it was written by women from the mid-west, simple, practical, and solid. It is not fancy, but it is clear. The Ball Canning jar people have also put out a basic canning book. My other favorites are The Joy of Pickling and The Joy of Jams, Jellies, and Other Sweet Preserves. Maybe it is because the author lives about thirty miles from here, but she has recipes for all of the produce that appears on my table. Too many plums…let’s see what the Joy has to say about that….jam? leather? pickled? all three?
  5. Buy basic equipment—keep it simple.  I use my tongs and funnel all the time, even when not preserving. I have a couple of solid potholders and cutting boards, which also double as trivets under hot pans. The most important piece of equipment I own is my steam canner.  I spotted it in the Territorial seed catalog one day over lunch.  I called Cottage Grove. The women who answer the phones at Territorial are great;  one assured me that she had been using one all season and it cut way down on processing time. Imagine no longer waiting for the big pot of water to boil! Or dumping out said hot pot when you are done or when a jar breaks during processing!  Electricity savings! Small batch canning! Rather than making pickles, grape juice, and 12 quarts of peaches in one day, I can run one batch of salsa and call it good.  The steam canner works for anything you would put through a water bath, but not for low-acid foods that need a pressure canning (ie. green beans). Best investment ever.

Remember—now it the time to plan to eat locally all year.

Roasted Tomatoes. We eat sixty half pints of these every year!

Slice sauce tomatoes in half or in thirds, aiming for about a half inch thick slices. Lay face down on a sheet pan—no oil needed. Place in 350 degree oven for about forty minutes, until  seriously relaxed. A little charring is ok. Scoop into half pint jars and process in steam canner for 30 minutes. Use on pizzas, as pasta sauce, in soups, etc. all winter long. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Master Gardeners are coming...oh, dear.

            The Oregon Master Gardeners are coming to our homestead on Thursday evening. It is a fund-raiser for the Sustainability Collation, requested by the gardeners, who come to Corvallis every year for a grand three-day pow-wow of workshops, discussions, and info sharing.  I agreed to the tour back in June, when everything was lovely and lush…and now, in the last week, the grass went dormant and beige and the potatoes turned yellow, dropped down, and began dying back for the season. AND I cleared out the comfrey, lemon balm, and other wild herbs from under the hazelnut tree so that the fence could be rebuilt. Now there’s bare dirt, looking like concrete, in what should be the bee yard. All of this would be fine—except that the Master Gardeners are coming on Thursday. That, as a friend said, puts a little pressure on. So, I took a survey:

Yard Disasters:
·        Dormant grass.
·        Potato beds (this is mixed. I believe it’s a good crop under there…).
·        Large gaps in the beds, especially where we ate that 10 inch broccoli a few weeks ago.
·        Bare earth in the back, giving chickens a bad name.
·        Out of control compost piles. Yes, there are several.
·        Blue bed flowers have gone by.
·        Sidewalk flower bed is dry.
·        Tools of the trade are everywhere!
·        We seriously need to recycle a pile of junk.
·        Buckwheat mulch never came up in the garlic bed. The space has been taken over by amaranth, which is a vibrant deep red and quite stunning.

Yard Benefits:
·        The new fence is gorgeous.
·        Nice tomatoes!
·        Huge collards. And the Coeur de Beof Cabbage is quite striking.
·        Boston Marrow is very cool.
·        There are berries and apples everywhere.
·        The design of the beds and trellis is quite nice.
·        Quality mulch.
·        The shed is tidy.
·        There are fall crops in one bed.
·        We’ve begun putting food by for the season.
·        The round brick bed out front looks good for the first time in years.

I think we’re about even. So, I’ll rake the dormant grass, put away the hoses for the evening, and talk about the changing seasons, how, after Lammastide, the Earth shifts toward Harvest and away from growth. And, maybe, Mark can get the compost area under control for the night.


Rapid Applesauce, with food mill

Usually, when I am processing apples, they sort into three piles—fresh eaters, sliced for drying, and applesauce. Applesauce apples are the bruised and slightly insect eaten fruit, the ones that need to be seriously trimmed and cubed before they are edible. I work through then three piles at once on the outdoor table, slicing some for the dryer while tossing chunks of others into the big pot. The food mill makes a huge difference in this process; I no longer peel and core the apples before cooking!

Start with a large pot of apples, just cut into chunks. Don’t peal or core. Add an inch or so of water and cook down into a bubbly mush. Cool. Push through the food mill using the largest sieve and return to the pot. Add sugar and spices—I usually add about ¾ cup of sugar for five to six pints of sauce, as well as a tablespoon on cinnamon and maybe a bit of allspice—and cook for another ten minutes or so. Ladle hot applesauce into pint jars, leaving half inch of space at the top and process in steam canner for thirty minutes.

The combination of food mill and steam canner has turned an all afternoon task into something that can be easily completed in an hour.





            

Friday, August 2, 2013

Sunday Night Suppers-- July

Cod, new potatoes, broccoli, beans, chard and zucchini

Roasted Cauliflower with tomatoes, peas and rice











Indian potatoes, broccoli

As always, bold means locally grown, usually from the back yard in summer! We repainted the backyard dining table a few weeks ago. It is now green on top, with red legs and yellow underneath.