Sunday, February 24, 2013

Transplanting Asparagus

I don't think I have ever written anything about our asparagus patch.  Maybe it is because I was ashamed of it.  I love asparagus and it was one of the first things I wanted to plant after we bought our acreage.  Tom does not like asparagus, but being the wonderful husband that he is, he worked up a bed and planted some just for me. 

Asparagus is a perennial plant and grows from a clump of roots which are planted 6 to 8 inches deep.  Once planted, the roots need a couple of years to become established.  You are not supposed to harvest the asparagus spears during this time period.  Left uncut, the spears grow into a pretty plant several feet tall that has fern-like foliage. 

Unfortunately, as time passed, bermuda grass slowly crept into the asparagus bed and took over.  The asparagus still came up through the grass every spring, but the spears were not as big and nice as they should have been because of competition with the grass.  

It has been my goal for several years now to dig up the asparagus and move it to one of our raised beds where it would be easier to take care of and keep the grass out.  I tend to have to "psych" myself up for things like this, especially if they are going to require a lot of work!  But a couple of weeks ago when we had a nice late-winter weekend, I decided I was ready to tackle the job.  And, what a job it was!   Each clump of roots was firmly entrenched in the ground and it was like digging up a small shrub to dig each one up.  I ended up having to call Tom to help me.  (The same thing happened to me when I tried to dig up some mint that I had planted in a bad place.  See )

So, here is a picture of some of the asparagus roots we dug up.  The long stick-like things attached to some of the roots are the dried-up remains of last years foliage.

The root clumps are quite large as shown in comparison to my work glove below.

The roots grow out in all directions from the crown.  The crown is what produces the spears that you cut and eat.  Here is a better picture where you can see the crown. 

We dug a couple of parallel trenches in one of the raised beds and spaced the asparagus roots about 18 inches apart. 

We added compost to the trench, too, and covered the bed with soil.   Here's what it looked like after we were finished. 

The asparagus spears should begin to appear in 4 to 6 weeks, but I'll have to be patient and wait a couple of years before I can begin to harvest them.  In the mean time, I'll just buy fresh asparagus from some of our fellow vendors at the farmers' market. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Funny Picture

Sometimes the pictures from our wildlife camera are just too funny to NOT post.  The following picture speaks for itself!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


I've shared with you some pictures of our bird feeders before.   After we got our new wildlife camera last fall, I put the old one on a tree near our birdbath and bird feeders.  Once a week or so, I bring it inside and see what kind of birds have been frequenting the feeders.

A while back, I caught the following series of pictures of the sunrise.  The camera is in our front yard and looks toward the east.  The scenery leaves something to be desired on that side of the house.  But the sunrise is spectacular!

We have a suet feeder and a sunflower seed feeder.

There are a couple of goldfinches on the sunflower feeder above.  Not sure what kind of bird is on the suet feeder.  That is a robin on the birdbath.

Not sure what Tom was doing.  He probably didn't know he was being filmed.  Whatever he had been doing, he was headed back to the house, probably to refill his travel mug that he is holding in his left hand. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Finished Sauerkraut and Recipes

I need to bring you up to date on my homemade sauerkraut that I told you about back in December.

I let the sauerkraut sit and ferment for about 3 weeks, tasting it every week.   I decided it was finished early in January and put it in jars to be stored in the refrigerator.  It made about 3 quarts.  Here is a picture of the finished sauerkraut.  This is a 2-quart jar of it.

I've made a couple of different recipes with it.  First, I made Reuben sandwiches which turned out very good.  All you need to make Reuben sandwiches is rye bread, pastrami, sauerkraut and thousand island dressing.  I buttered the bread and toasted it on each side in a skillet first.  Then I layered the pastrami and sauerkraut on top of one piece of bread and drizzled some thousand island dressing on top.  I topped that with the second piece of bread and then put the sandwich back in the skillet and warmed it on both sides.  Yum!

The other recipe was one that used bacon, sauerkraut, an apple and potatoes.  First, I fried a couple of pieces of bacon in my iron pot.  Then I added 2 tablespoons of flour to the drippings and cooked it for a minute or two until the flour started to brown, stirring often. 

Next, I added 3 to 4 cups of my homemade sauerkraut, 2 potatoes that had been peeled and cubed and a Granny Smith apple that had been cored and cubed.  Finally, I added about a cup of water and some chopped turkey bratwurst that I had cooked earlier in the week.  The recipe did not call for bratwurst and you could leave it out.  But, I thought it would be a good way to use up this leftover bratwurst, so I threw it in.

I let all this cook until the potatoes were tender.  The recipe called for caraway seed, but I didn't have any and left those out.  It did not seem to need any additional salt, so I just added some black pepper, although the recipe did not call for it.

This was a meal in itself.  So, I  served it alone, although it would have been good with some cornbread.

I guess you can tell from my description of this dish that I tend to take liberties with recipes. Sometimes this works and sometimes it does not.  In this case, it turned out pretty good.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Seedling Starting Time

It is hard to believe it is that time of year again.  Tom has been pouring over seed catalogs and ordering seed.  Today, I decided it was time to start pepper seeds.  Peppers take a little longer to grow than tomatoes.  So, we start them first.  If all goes well, they should be ready to plant by our first outdoor farmers' market in April.

I decided to try a different method for starting the seedlings than I have used in the past.  Prior to this, I have used clear plastic berry boxes.  Here is a link to how I did it using berry boxes:

This time I used "row flats".  You can by these from most seed catalogs, like Johnny's Select Seeds.  Here is a picture of a row flat, along with the tray it fits in and a cover that goes on top.

First, I filled the trays with a special seed starting medium that is very fine.  It had dried out over the year and I had to add water to it and mix it up with a paint stick before I could use it.  

Then, I filled the trays with the damp soil and got my seed starting "station" organized.  I always do this in our basement which serves as our utility room.  Note, coffee is a must! 

I stuck masking tape along the length of the tray and labeled the rows with the variety of pepper that was planted in each one, like this:

After all the rows were filled with seeds, I sprinkled the planting mixture over them, patted them down lightly and watered them.  Then, on went the lid.

Finally, I plugged in a heating mat and hung a light over it.

Then, I set the newly planted tray on the mat.

It will take the pepper seedlings several days to emerge.  We will have to check them everyday to make sure they do not dry out.  Once the seedlings are a few days old, then we will unplug the heat mat.  The lights are on a timer that is set to come on at 5:00 in the morning and go off at 8:00 at night.

After the seedlings being to get their second set of leaves, then they will be transplanted into individual pots.  That process is very time-consuming and Tom usually does it because he has more patience than I do!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Chef Salad and Homemade Dressing

Tom had a bag of mixed greens left over from the farmers' market this morning.   Since we only have a limited amount of space in the hoophouse where we are growing the greens this winter and they grow a lot slower in cold weather,  he rarely has any left over.  So, this was a treat to have a bag of greens that were already harvested, washed and ready to go.

I decided to make a chef salad for our lunch.  Here is a picture of it.

To the greens, I added a couple of sliced boiled eggs (from our chickens), some sliced black olives, some grated cheese and some shaved turkey.  The jar sitting beside it contains a poppy seed dressing that I like to make.  I started making my own salad dressing a few months ago when I realized that all the ones you buy in the store are loaded with preservatives and ingredients I couldn't pronounce. 

So I encourage you to start making your own.  It is easy to do and is much cheaper!  Here's a picture of the ingredients that I used for this dressing.  The recipe follows.

Mix the following together in a jar, screw on lid and shake well.

2 - 4 tablespoons of sugar (depending on your taste)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup oil (I add 1 tsp. Sesame oil for an oriental flavor, but not necessary)
1 teaspoon prepared mustard (I used Dijon, but plain old yellow mustard is fine)
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1/4 cup red wine vinegar 

I think you could substitute balsamic or apple cider vinegar, but I like to use red wine vinegar.  This is just super-easy to make.  Give it a try!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Pantyhose Plant Ties

Pantyhose appear to have gone the way of the dinosaur for the most part.  I've not seen anyone wearing them for a couple of years now since it became vogue to paint one's toenails and go bare-legged.  That is fine with me.  I never liked wearing them in the first place!  But I do have a few old pair that I have found an excellent use for.  Here's what you do.  Take a pair of pantyhose and cut the legs off of them.

Next, cut the leg into thin bands like this.

I've found many uses for these.  But, one of the best uses is as ties to hold up house plants, tomato plants, pepper plants or whatever you need to tie to a stake.

This is a picture of a tomato plant I had in a pot this summer that I moved into our little greenhouse last fall.  The nylon in the pantyhose is very strong and will last a long time.