Most of the plants in my garden have long ago succumbed to the cold weather, but there are still a few hints of life around the farm if you know where to look. When I set out with my camera to document these hardy plants, I was pretty surprised to notice that my elderberry bush is beginning to set new shoots, in December. While I would have never expected this plant to begin growing when the sun is far away and the tempuratures are even lower, the whole process may hold some secrets to cloning elderberry bushes. I’ve tried in the past to clone the bushes in the spring, and now I’m thinking it may be best to attempt cloning while the canes are very cold.
When I got to the garden, I was hoping to see thriving Swiss Chard plants, but none were found. In fact most of the cool hardy plants in my winter garden are going to seed, with only my garlic, a few turnips and Brussels Sprouts left to display to green colors that keep me planting. I’m very happy to have the brussel sprouts doing so well, but I must admit these are my first plants, and I’m not quite sure what to expect from them, and even more importantly when to expect it. There are lots of little sprouts on these plants, and they taste good, but I don’t think they should be eaten just yet.
Moving away from the garden, I walked down to my rock garden, where I planted a second batch of garlic. I had planted an early crop of garlic in July (As Good a Time as Any), but I wanted to plant an additional batch at the correct time to ensure a healthy supply of garlic. I’m a huge fan of garlic, and this will hopefully be the best results I have with this tasty plant so far. To prepare the ground, I dug up some garden soil, mixed in some sandy silt from a nearby stream, then added lots of manure, epson salt, bio-char, and pot-ash to make this one of the most fertile beds of soil on the farm. After taking this picture I spread an inch thick layer of hay and straw to protect the bulbs from the bitter cold in February, and help block weeds from growing in the spring.
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Finding something to eat for one person often is very easy, but unhealthy. This little recipe to pretty easy to work through, and I imagine it’s quite healthy too. The ingredient list is short:
1.) One or Two hamburgers
2.) A chunk of butter
3.) One or Two large peppers
4.) A medium to large onion
5.) One roll of Pillsbury Bread sticks with Garlic.
6.) One small jar of spaghetti sauce.
7.) Shredded Cheese
8.) Olive Oil
9.) Optionally add minced garlic and other veggies such as tomatoes, celery, zucchini, etc.
To begin, cook the hamburger meat in a frying pan with a chunk of butter, carefully crushing the patty into ground meat with a spatula. Add in chopped onions and peppers when the meat is nearly cooked. At this point you could add other veggies and chunks of a garlic clove.
Next, place some aluminum foil over a cookie sheet, and spread some olive oil on the foil. Make sure to spread it around evenly. Unroll the bread sticks mix onto the foil. You may wish to cut the dough along the lines in order to make two smaller Stromboli.
Spread the spaghetti sauce on the uncooked dough, then add the chop meat and fried veggies, even distributing them. I’ve added some chopped up onion stems to the mixture, as well as lots of garlic salt and a bit of pepper.
Next, fold over the dough, and pitch it together. You may notice in the photo how I had used tomato paste and added Swiss chard to the mix. Don’t do that ! The paste and chard together made these Stromboli taste like a bar of iron.
When you’ve sealed up the pockets, place them in the oven and bake until the dough turns a nice brown. I long ago lost the temperature setting knob from my stove, so I’d recommend you use the same method I did, start with a low temp, and slowly turn it up till the dough cooks.
You may wish to add additional veggies to your Stromboli, but I’d recommend you cook them before placing them on the uncooked dough. The stove doesn’t cook the veggies in the amount of time it takes for the bread to darken.
Some things to remember:
1.) Do not use Tomato Paste in place of the Spaghetti sauce. It’s gross.
2.) Swiss Chard will overpower all of the other tastes, and in my opinion ruin the Stromboli.
3.) Use olive oil on the aluminum foil. Without this protection, the dough will stick to the foil and make a mess.
Hope you like this recipe as much as I did when I got it right !
I recently pulled up the results of my first experiment with garlic. The bulbs were no where near as large as those shown above, but the trial did prove that I could grow my favorite seasoning with garlic purchased from a grocery store, rather then the seriously over-priced bulbs sold in seed catalogs. I had been meaning to purchase some more garlic, but I’ve been trying to avoid most stores in an effort to save money.
The other day a co-worker had been coughing quite a bit, and since I’ve shortened a sickness or two with some raw garlic, I thought I would get some for her while on my lunch break. When I got to the garlic, I was amazed that it was only $3.49 /lb, so I got two pounds, figuring I could plant the majority of it, eat some, and still hopefully help my co-workers sickness retreat early. It seemed like a great idea, even though it’s still a bit early to plant.
The process began first with removing the papery outer layers of the bulb, and breaking it up into the individual cloves. You can see in the bottom of the photo how some of the cloves were trying to grow right on the store shelf. I was a bit surprised by the number of cloves that were contained in the bulbs, and the amount of time and coffee it required to separate them.
My Swiss chard plants from last spring have gone to seed, and after I harvested far more seed then I will ever need, I decided to turn the soil over, and plant the garlic here. I used the pick axe shown to dig deep into the ground, and chop up the larger clumps of dirt. This is the only tool short of a rototiller that would work for the task since the ground contains a good amount of clay, and can sometimes be quite challenging to dig in. The pick axe solves the problem quite well as long as you can supply enough elbow grease to keep it moving.
When the soil was loose, I decided to juice it up with some of the good stuff. I have piles of manure all over the farm, some as old as two years. This particular vintage was some year and a half old cow manure. I’m sure there will be lots of weeds which will be seeded from the manure, but the life it gives this garlic will be well worth the effort to keep them weed free.
As I was digging, the kids came over to help weed the garden, and not long afterwards my sister had joined them. I’ve been trying to get other people to
do my work for me, help out with different parts of the garden, and I talked Maurice into taking the photo of the sky above. Just as a fish would swim away with the bait, she started taking pictures of me and “Joker” planting the garlic cloves.
I had my finest garden attire on, and Joker was curious to see if I had any of the bacon left that I had shared with him earlier. Joker is the small kitten located behind my foot on the right side of the picture. He has an odd white marking ending at his mouth, that looks like the smiley face on the character “the Joker”, hence his name.
When planting garlic cloves, simply press the bottom end of the clove about half way down into the soil, without covering the clove.
After planting about three rows of garlic, I decided to add turnips (Purple Top White Globe) and beets (Gourmet Duo) since there was lots of room left. Finally, I moved the sprinkler into firing range, and let the rain fall. The seeds will take a minimum of 7 days to germinate and begin emerging as little plants from the soil, and I would imagine in the same amount of time the cloves will begin their vertical growth with little green spikes emerging from their tops.
I’ve gotten my first harvest of garlic, and although the bulbs are small, I’ve learned quite a bit from the process. When I planted these cloves, I used some dirt from the garden and covered it with a thin layer of compost. This seemed to work well enough, but after digging through the soil, I think next time I’ll use all compost as a growth medium. The garden dirt in the tire had become very dry, and felt almost like a solid brick of pottery, rather then dirt to grow food in. I guess I’m lucky any of these plants survived, never mind growing new bulbs.
I used a can of soda from my fridge to show the size of the bulbs, which brings up the old childhood joke: What kind of beer do gardeners drink ? Root Beer.
I caught this sight out of the corner of my eye while petting my niece’s puppy. These green sprouts are Daffodils which are beginning to grow a few weeks earlier then last year. I took a similar picture on March 7th 2010 for my post Signs of Spring.
As I think about the timing when these plants first grow, I’m reminded that last year at this time I was busy cloning grape vines, but this year I haven’t even pruned those vines. I better get my self into gear as soon as the cold returns, or I will lose the opportunity for the year.
It’s important to prune grape vines, as grapes will only grow out of the new green part of the vine. When you prune a grape vine, your reducing the amount of top growth that the roots need to supply with nutrients. Since the size of the roots are not changed, it is easier for the roots to supply ample nutrients and water to the new growth, which in turn encourages better grape production.
I’m very happy to see that my store-bought fall-planted garlic is still alive and well. I got these cloves at quite a discount compared to garlic bulbs in most gardening catalogs. I know these are not “Gourmet” garlic bulbs, but they are an important first trial before I invest in the much more expensive bulbs. If this garlic crop does well, I’ll begin diversifying with the more expensive bulbs.
I also have some work cut out for me this weekend. Above is one of the first of many piles of manure that I hope to place into the garden in the next few weeks. This particular pile is Goat Manure, which is very good for a garden, and contains very few seeds.
After planting some store purchased garlic a few weeks ago, I had some reservations about whether it would actually grow. The price was far cheaper then those cloves listed in seed catalogs, so I thought it was worth a try. I’m as delighted to see it grow as I was this spring when the first onion stalks arose out of the ground. It’s one thing to know the seeds will grow, and quite another to Actually See it Happen. There was a problem though…
Before releasing these scratching fiends, I placed protective wire around all of the plants in the garden which I hoped to harvest later. I didn’t think that about the garlic which I planted next to my walkway. The chickens have learned that I come up the walkway before feeding them at night, and they have been waiting for me the last few days. When I spotted one of them digging in my garlic bed, I knew I had more work ahead of me.
I found some old wire, and covered the four tires that make up my garlic beds. I then placed some stakes in the ground to hold the wire in place. This should keep them away from the bulb of the plant, but I will need a new plan once the stalks grow taller then the wire.
I’ll admit it, Saturday, I slept in, and really didn’t do much of anything other then take pictures for my sister. So when I awoke Sunday, I was rearing to go, and not in the mood to sit around. I got up and out early enough to catch the morning sun, finishing up with it’s daily burn off of the nights fog. You can still see some of the once all-encompassing cloud by the foot of the hills.
In the afternoon Sandy and Davie came over, and we finished harvesting the onions, and learned it’s a bit late in the season for them. Some of the Onion bulbs had begun to rot. Next year I’ll make it a point to finish picking them by the beginning or middle of August.
The string beans have collapsed half of the stick constructed trellis I made for them, and the beans shown are only about a third of the crop. Also shown are Okra, my least favorite garden food. The plants grew very well, and produced a healthy offering of seed pods.
The little Gardener’s Watermelons are just starting to ripen up. My sister Sandy discovered a great rule of thumb to tell when a melon is ripe: It’s ripe when the little worms and bugs just start to nibble a bit at the outer shell. Once they know it’s ripe, we should know it’s ripe. I also made it a point to show the 4 year old gardener that started these plants what he accomplished. When I asked him if he would do it again next year he said “No”, I replied “Why not ?”, to which he said “It takes tooooo long”. I guess the lack of instant gratification is a symbol of ones age.
At the end of the day, I decided to plant the Garlic a few weeks early. Garlic should be started early enough to give the plants time to build a basic set of roots before freezing temps set in. I’m hoping the early planting helps them grow nice big cloves. I’ve added several things to this soil to help out the plants, including bio-char and peat moss.