Solar Tracking

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

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Permaculture is organized around  the concept of zones—putting things most often needed closet to the house. It works best, of course, when you have a clean slate to work with (which we did) and when the “zone three” of your yard is not also the floodplain for the entire neighborhood.  However, we have done the best that we could with the concept. Raspberries, Sungold tomatoes, and the bay tree are right outside the door. The dining table is in the back alcove, protected from sun and wind, five steps from the kitchen. Blueberry bushes catch your sweater when you walk by after putting your bike away. A little further out into the yard are the vegetable gardens and the afternoon reading seats, and then the chickens and bees occupy the far corners of the yard, which would be zone three. Then we move further outward; work, library, movies, and groceries are all a short walk from home.

We visited a further zone this weekend. I think of it as zone five--the trails that ring Corvallis. MacDonald Forest, Fitton Green, Finely Wildlife refuge, and the arboretum are a huge part of our lives and we walk through them in all weathers. This weekend, we climbed to the top of Mary’s Peak, our local four thousand foot mountain, highest point in the Coast range, and indicator of when to plant beans (when the snow is no longer visible from the soccer fields).

The hike leaves from Conner’s Camp, about 2500 feet high on the shoulder of the mountain. It leads through a Cathedral forest of tall straight Douglas Firs with a heavy understory of vine maple, fairy bells, and ferns. From the trail, we can catch glimpses of the hazy valley below, but the walk is silent. The trail climbs steadily  for several miles and we know every step. As we walk, we watch for the patch of coral root orchid that lurks in the shadow of one huge tree, the first monkey flowers of the season at a seep, and the anemones that wink in the darker shadows. I keep the plant list and each flower is, after ten years of this hike, an old friend. There are other landmarks as well, like the bench where the chickadee eyed Maureen’s hair for a nest last year and the steps right before the last steep ascent before the parking lot.

It is always a shock to climb from the woods to the car-filled lot near the peak. There is a road to the top, which we have taken several times, and it is a popular afternoon drive. The wind whips across the empty spaces and everyone scrambles for a jacket. Right where the trail emerges, yellow and purple violets mingle. After a quick stop at the outhouse, we head for the alpine gardens of the peak. Red penstemmons, purple phlox, and yellow wallflowers huge the ground in a carpet of color. We join the groups at the top, settle into a protected area, dig out lunch and plant books, and settle in for a rest. Some days, we can see the ocean and Mount Hood; other days, we can barely see the trail. Sunday, it was partly cloudy, so the valley lay before us on one side, the clear-cut patchwork of forest on the other.  We could see, however, our entire watershed, which is always a deeply rooted feeling.

After lunch, we descend. There are always a few plants we missed on the way up to be noticed and recorded, but the mood is more subdued. We have been to High Places once more, looked over our corner of the world, and are heading downhill towards dinner. Life is good.

 Beet Greens and Ricotta Pie


Make a pie shell. While you are at it and covered in flour, make two so you can have a rhubarb and blackberry pie as well.

Chop a large bunch of beet or chard  greens fairly finely. Chop an onion. Satee both until tender. Add salt, pepper, and a bit of nutmeg.

Mix about four ounces of ricotta cheese, 2 eggs, and about half a cup of milk. Mix into the veg. Pour into the pie shell and bake at a 350 degree oven until done, about 45 minutes.


Saturday, May 10, 2014

Greens for Dinner, again. (and again. and again...)

            We had a small dinner rebellion last week. Mark came home, hungry and damp, and asked what was for dinner. When I told him greens and polenta, his face fell. Normally he loves polenta and greens—the balance of creamy, cheesey, soft cornmeal flecked with dried tomatoes and basil
and the sharp and garlicy tang of the mustard and kale greens, but tonight…he was not a happy camper. “Could we go to the store,” he asked quietly, “and get some broccoli…and maybe a little sliced turkey?” We did, and we picked up some ice cream, too. Dinner was fine—and we ate the greens the next night.

What to do with various leafy greens…

Chard:
            Gratin
            Pasta with dried cherries and toast walnuts and parmesan cheese
            Shells with chard and chickpeas
            Frittata
            Tart with ricotta and eggs

Arugula:
            Pizza
            Gnocchi
            Salad

Collards:
            Black eyed peas
            Soup with beans
           

Kale:
            With squash in lasagna
            Sautéed with leeks and garlic
            Tomato and barley soup
            With feta and pasta
            With chickpeas in soup
            Pie
            Quiche
            Lentil soup

Any and all greens, mixed together:
            With beans on toast
            With peanut sauce and rice
            In quiche and frittata
            With tofu

           


Friday, May 2, 2014

Chicken in the Mist
By May, the patterns of  the garden are established for the year. Everything is in the ground, or has been started on the potting bench, and we are just watching for growth—of crops, of weeds, of grass.

May Work List

·       Start winter crops and leave on the potting bench.
·       Replace winter-killed annuals and perennials in pots.
·       Late in the month, when all of the snow is off of Mary’s Peak, plant beans directly in the ground.
·       String up the trellis for beans and climbing flowers.
·       Move the peepsters in and out every morning and evening.
·       Mow and trim.
·       Harvest asparagus.
·       Make signs for new crops.
·       Preserve rhubarb; rhubarb red currant jam is excellent.
·       Clean out some of the dead greens from early season bulbs.
·       Turn off the heat and clean out the filter for the last time.
·       Take long walks watching for wildflowers; they are glorious this year!
·       Move the coop onto the last garden bed and fence the chickens out of the main yard.
·       Work on the compost pile.
·       Clean out the van for summer camping trips. Get a tune-up and oil change.

·       Admire.

Rhubarb and Red Currant Jam

7.5 cups of rhubarb, chopped
zest of two oranges
2/3 cup of orange juice
3 cups of sugar

Put all of this in a non-reactive pot, stir and wait until the juices release. Boil gently for 15 minutes.

Add 
2 cups of red currants (I always have a bag from last summer in the freezer.)
1 t of nutmeg

cook until gel stage. Place in clean jars and process in steam canner for ten minutes to seal.