Monday, June 10, 2013

Planting leeks

I LOVE potato leek soup, especially when the weather starts getting chilly in the fall.  Last year was our first time planting leeks and I think they will become a regular in the garden. They're  pretty easy to grow, a little weeding and just leave them alone. Pests don't seem to bother them either.

We started out seeds inside about 8-10 weeks before our last frost. They should be started in a tall container because those roots are going to be very long.

When ready to plant remove them from the pot and gently pull apart to separate the individual leeks. Rinse the roots and set into a cup of cool water until ready to plant.

I like to lay down some string or rope to mark my rows. It's helpful to keep me straight when I'm planting. This wouldn't be necessary if you are digging a trench to plant your leeks instead of this method.

Use a pencil to push a hole into the ground about 4 inches deep. Separate each hole by the length of the pencil and continue making holes down your row. (don't mind the foot prints left by my 5 yr old, right after I raked down the row)

use the top of the pencil to gently push the roots into the hole

After you've planted your row water them well to wash the soil in around the seedling. Plant any additional rows 6-8" apart.

Homemade herbal tincture: Dandelion root

If you looked at my garden, before we tilled for planting, you would think I had planted it with dandelion on purpose. It was full of them! So was my yard, but I don't mind them. How else does a 5 yr old get to bring Mommy flowers?

It is a surprisingly useful herb. The young leaves are good added to salad; the flowers can be brewed for tea or battered and fried for dandelion fritters; a yellow dye can be made from boiling the flowers; the root can be roasted, ground and brewed as a coffee substitute or made into an herbal tincture. Amazingly, researchers are even studying whether dandelion can kill some cancers!

Dandelion benefits:
  • a mild diuretic
  • stimulates and detoxes the liver
  • high in potassium and vitamin A  
  • mild laxative
  • Improves digestion 

To make a tincture, harvest the roots from an area that has not been treated with any chemicals such as weed killers.

Wash them well, chop, and place in a mason jar.

Fill the jar with Vodka until the chopped root is just covered. Close jar, label and date it. That's it!

Allow it to sit for 3 weeks, at room temperature, shaking the jar once a day. Strain the roots out with cheese cloth and put the tincture into a dark dropper bottle.

how to use:
take 1-3 ml (20 - 60 drops) in juice, tea or water, up to three times a day.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Babies, babies, babies!!

Well, not as many babies as I was hoping for...
This spring my chickens got creative in the places they would hide their eggs around our property. Once I found these nests (and couldn't save the eggs to eat because I didn't know how old they were) I figured I'd put them in my incubator and see what happens.

Now, first, I have one if these Hovabators with the wafer thermostat.
This thing drives me crazy. The thermostat is not very accurate, the temperature will fluctuate if the room temperature (or barometric pressure) fluctuates. Very frustrating. One day I will switch to a digital thermostat. If you're going to get an incubator make sure it is not a wafer thermostat! 

Moving on.

Three weeks later a couple eggs started to pip! yay! 
see the little crack on the middle egg!?
At the same time, my ducks were sitting on nests of their own. The day my incubator started hatching the first duck started hatching little ducklings! Ok, one duckling. Strange really, I've had ducks hatch over a dozen.  I'm hoping she'll continue sitting on the remaining eggs and hatch more.

One chick hatched in the incubator fine, one didn't survive to finish hatching, and one hatched with spraddle legs. (one leg wants to go straight back, the other doesn't seem to know where to go) I wrapped the legs with a bandaid like the site recommends. I am holding him occasionally to tuck his legs underneath where they should be, hoping his leg muscles will train to turn the right way. He doesn't mind cuddling with me for a little while, and will even tuck his head into my sweater.

 *sigh* see, I told you I hate that incubator.

Here is the one duckling and chick that I have under a heat lamp and doing quite well. Two ducks are still sitting on their nests,, I hope they have better luck than me.

*update 8/27/13 The same duck who hatched the little one above succeeded in hatching twelve little ones! She was determined all summer to sit on those eggs!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Fresh whole wheat bread

I love baking bread.... and it only took me 10 years to be good at it! hehe! There is nothing like a fresh warm loaf of bread with dinner. (or breakfast, or lunch,  or dessert)

First, let me introduce you to my Kitchenaid:
isn't she pretty!
...she will be doing all the manual labor, I hate kneading by hand.

I use to just make white bread util we invested in a motorized flour mill (with hand crank attachment for those post apocalyptic times) and started buying wheat berries. The bread is far superior in flavor, and much more nutritious. Big plus- the kids love it!

on to the recipe...

Country Wheat Bread

2 Tbsp (2 packages) yeast
2 C. warm water
1/2 C. sugar
1 Tbsp salt 
2 eggs
1/4 C. vegetable oil
6 - 6 1/2 C. fresh milled flour

In a stand mixer combine yeast, warm water, and sugar. Let sit a few minutes to proof the yeast. (ie: get bubbly)  Add the salt, eggs, and oil, and mix to combine. With mixer on low, slowly start adding flour until the dough cleans the side of the bowl but remains slightly tacky. Be careful not to make your dough to dry or your mixer may strain trying to mix it.
This is where the mixer really does the work. Keep it at a low speed (on the Kitchenaid, no higher than speed 2) and allow it to knead the dough for 5-10 minutes. 
Cover the bowl with a clean cloth and let rise,in a warm spot, until double. A good method is to turn your oven on to it's lowest teperature, around 170°. When the oven comes to temperature, turn it off and put the bowl with the dough in the oven with another bowl full of hot water. Keep the door closed until your rise is done. 
Divide your dough into 2 or 3 greased loaf pans. (depending on how big you like your loaves, the original recipe is meant for 2 but they get huge) Again allow to rise until double or loaves are the size you want. I see many recipes that say "rise 1 hour" but this time can vary a lot by the temperature of the room. So don't worry about the time, let them rise as long as they need, could be more, could be less.
Preheat your oven to 350°. Bake your loaves for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the pans to cool so the loaves don't become soggy.

The best part of fresh bread is getting to have a warm piece with butter! It goes great with any dinner and makes some really good sandwiches!

Packing the kids school lunches

My kids use to buy lunch at school but my daughter frequently said it wasn't enough for her, she was still hungry. (she's in a growing stage and has quite an appetite) I made a connection to this and the frequent headaches she was having. We decided to start packing lunch so we could choose what and how much they were having.
First I bought these soft sided coolers in the sports section at Walmart. They have a ton of room and are only $6!
Then I bought these Ziploc lunch containers from Amazon and, lucky for me, they just fit into the coolers.

Last I had to get a little crafty. I made these reusable snack bags from a pattern I found on Pinterest. (LOVE Pinterest)

The kids then helped me put together a list of lunches and snacks. The three lists are: the main dish, a healthy snach, and a treat. Now we have a list to refer to, especially when grocery shopping for lunch ingredients, and I know I'm giving them healthy foods and foods they like.
I choose from each list:

main dish:
  • sandwich 
  • taco
  • english muffin pizzas
  • casadia, with sour cream to dip
  • hot dog
  • chef salad 
  • sandwich sushi
  • corn dog muffins
  • PB & J (or PB and banana)
  • apple sandwich
  • hot thermos of soup or mac & cheese
  • grilled cheese 
  • meat and cheese roll ups
  • tortilla sandwich wrap
  • pasta salad
healthy snack (fruit/ veggie/ dairy):
  • sliced apple (treated with fruit fresh or lemon juice)
  • yogurt
  • whole banana
  • sliced kiwi
  • cubed watermelon/ cantaloupe, or honeydew 
  • baby carrots
  • cucumber, bell pepper, carrot sticks, with dressing to dip
  • side salad
  • celery sticks w/ peanut butter
  • hard boiled egg
  • pickle
  • grapes
  • nuts
  • apple sauce
  • fruit leathers (home made)
  • cherry tomatoes
  • potato chips
  • pretzels
  • granola bar
  • cookie
  • fruit & grain bar
  • pop corn
  • crackers
  • Cheez-Itz
  • salsa & corn chips
  • muffin
  • fig bars
  • apple cake
  • graham crackers
  • cracker/ cheese/ pepperoni
  • zucchini bread
  • jello
  • pudding

casadias w/ sour cream, 1/2 a banana, pudding,
and crackers w/ pepperoni and cheese.
ham & cheese sandwich, carrot sticks, jello, and pasta salad

left: cherry tomatoes, apple cinnamon chips, granola bar, ham & salami sandwich, snack size M & Ms
right: cherry tomatoes, apple cinnamon chips, chef salad, and snack size twix

pizza,  bell peppers, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, 1/2 a jam filled
muffin, and apple slices (treated with Fruit Fresh)

Now my kids love their lunches. My son doesn't want to buy lunch anymore and my daughter is no longer having headaches! 

What's planted in the garden

The garden is just getting under way. I'm excited for all the vegetables I'm going to have to sell at my road side stand.
This is the main garden...

It is surrounded by an 8 ft tall fence, because that is the only thing that will keep the deer out. They are determined little buggers. So are the rabbit, so we keep rocks around the bottom to prevent gaps. It's actually two pieces of 4 foot fencing, one on top of the other and fastened together with zip ties.

Planted so far are potatoes, garlic, lettuce, spinach, carrots, beets, green beans, cabbage, zucchini, patty pans, pickling cucumbers,  and salad cucumbers. We still have to plant the leeks and pumpkins. (Oh there's also an attempt at growing a grape plant, but if the spring frost keep hitting it it's going to be a loosing battle)
Along the outside of the garden is a raised bed with butternut squash in it. I'll be adding birdhouse gourds, and mini ornamental gourds. The deer don't mess with that stuff much.

This is a raised bed with strawberries that we build in a really rock corner of the garden. It was a good use of the space that we couldn't plant anything in before. 

This is our hoop house that we just built this year...

Heat loving plants won't grow in our cool climate. So we built this for them. It will also be good protection from heavy wind and rain. Planted are slicing tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, egg plant and watermelon (which I would never have thought I could grow) So far the plants look fantastic. With my husband's solar water system and drip irrigation hoses watering is easy. We may have to build more of these.
Outside of the hoop house is a row of sun flowers. I hope they grow, the seeds we bought didn't look so good.

We bought a few fruit trees this year. Our property has a bunch of, what I would call, wild apple trees. All different colors, sizes, flavors, some good, some bad. We added a Winesap apple, so we'll have one tree we can actually identify, and we know will have a good sweet flavor. Also two plum trees, and three pear trees.
Fewww, that's a lot of stuff, I hope I can keep up with it all!