Monday, August 30, 2010

Banking Food For The Off-Season

Today I harvested about 3 quarts of Sungold cherry tomatoes. I washed them, cut them in half and put them into small containers and popped them into the freezer. They are destined to be thawed on dim days and tossed with hot pasta, or stirred into risotto, or spun into salsa.

I also reaped about 2 quarts of blueberries. Washed and frozen too.

And since I have so much garlic this year, and so much of it was harvested a little too late, and was splitting apart, I decided to roast up a big pan full and hopefully freeze it for later use. As a sneak preview we schmeared some onto crusty baguette, drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with coarse salt and pepper.

The garlic can be thawed and spread on bread, stirred into soups and sauces. This may turn out to be one of my best ideas ever. It's got to be better that dried out cloves before the new crop is ready to dig up.

And I trimmed all of the excess leaves off the tomato plants, along with any fruit that didn't look mature. I really just want the plants to ripen any exiting fruit.

But what I really need to do is plant some salad greens. I may have left it a little too late, but it's worth a try. Who knows what kind of weather the next few weeks will bring. If the rest of the summer is any indication it should be changeable and unpredictable. At least we can count on that.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

On The Table Tonight

Here's what came out of the garden today for dinner. The first real tomato, an Ox Heart. So far this year we've only had a few Sungold cherry tomatoes. Some basil and oregano to go with it. A couple of yellow summer squash, some green beans, and a couple of spiny cucumbers.

And maybe on the menu in a few months will be this beauty, a Fairy Tale Pumpkin. It's about the diameter of a plate right now. I also took a photo of the leaves, which I find particularly beautiful. They have splotches of silvery coloring on the leaves and they actually do seem to reflect light. And when they are in shadow they look almost like moonlight. But maybe I've just been out in the sun too long.

Speaking of sun, there is a rumor afoot that we may be heading into 4-5 days of 90 degree plus weather. Maybe that will help with some of the green tomatoes.

School Gardens

A few weeks I participated in a tour of school gardens. The gardens were, of course, beautiful and inspiring. What they had in common was adding a richness to the educational experience of the students. Much of the work in the garden incorporated math, science and team building exercises. In this way the lessons come alive for the students much more than if they are simply reading about something.

Some of them were run by paid coordinators, some by parents and some by teachers. And the gardens are part of a larger program called Farm to School, designed to educate kids about healthy, unprocessed foods and to teach them where food comes from.

One of the schools had a scratch kitchen where food from the garden was prepared and offered for lunches. Most schools only warm up food that is prepared elsewhere at a distribution center.

Some of the gardens were funded with grants, some with fundraisers, some by PTA money. Many of them have artwork adorning the garden spaces.

One of the gardens was created on a de-paved black top area, and shares the space with a community garden, where neighbors and parents can tend small plots.

What all of the gardens have in common was dedicated, passionate people who saw the value in exposing kids to the miracles of growing some of your own food and giving the kids a sense of their place in the natural world.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Three Little Hens Go To Summer Camp

For various reasons I came to the decision to try and find a home for my 3 hens. They have been laying sporadically and I was really counting on high production this summer. Eggs were the main reason I originally wanted chickens. The entertainment and the manure for the compost were just gravy, so to speak.

And they have become very noisy, especially Queenie the Barred Rock. She starts squawking as soon as the sun came up and has taught herself how to crow like a rooster. And I've been thinking about redesigning the coop to be more accessible and easier for my neighbors to manage whenever I go out of town.

So I decided to take a break from chicken keeping and maybe start again next year with a new coop and some new chicks. I wasn't sure how difficult it might be to place 3 adult hens. They are 2.5 years old. So I posted an ad on the chicken board for my area and I had an offer within 24 hours from a specialty poultry farm called C & L Farms.

So now it was time for me to take them to their new home. I figured I could take them in separate boxes, hoping the darkness might keep them calm. Queenie and Scarlet went happily into their chicken carriers, aka cardboard boxes, excited about their new adventure no doubt. But The Fonz, my Black Australorp took me 5 tries and we were both the worse for wear afterward.

When I got to C&L I was certain I had found a good 2nd home for them. Exotic roosters strutted around the front yard and I could see all sorts of fancy birds in pens, Quail, Guinea Hens, Ducks, etc. They also raise goats and pigs at C & L.

Curtis, the owner took each of my hens out of their boxes, told them they were pretty birds and assured each of them that he had just the boyfriend for them. He intends to breed them for a while and then keep them for laying, unless he finds a customer who wants to keep grown chickens.

Now my girls are country girls instead of city girls and they have already outlived most of the chicken population in this country, since most battery hens are butchered after just one year of intensive egg laying, stimulated by round the clock daylight.

I thought I'd be more sentimental about parting with them, since they really were like pets for a while. But for me a chicken is really more like an employee than a pet, and if I stick with this analogy, I guess I had to let them go on to pursue other opportunities. Not exactly fired, since I found them a new gig.