Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Frustrated Gardener or (What to do on a snowy day in Spring?)

Alright, maybe it isn't really spring but I have been trying to push it. I have even been out in the garden weeding and cleaning it up and just trying to get ready for when I can really do something serious there. So today? What to do? Make paper pots for starting seeds. Really very easy.

First find a can of something with a diameter the size you want to make your pots. It shouldn't be more that about six inches since that would probably be more of a challenge than you want to deal with. In fact if you need six inch pots use the bottom half of a paper half gallon milk container with the top cut off.

 My favorite size can was a can of pineapple. Take one sheet of newspaper and lay it flat on a table. Don't unfold it.  Fold it in half again length wise so it is about 5 inches wide and 30 or so inches long. Take your can and set it on the paper so there is about 1 1/2 inches of paper hanging over the bottom. Roll the paper up jelly roll style around the can until the paper forms a tube. Tape it together to hold it. Fold the overlap over the bottom to form a pot and dampen the paper. Set the can upright and push down on the paper bottom to get a good crease. Now you can either slip the paper pot off the can or leave it on until it drys.  When dry, fill with potting soil and plant your seeds. Make sure you set your pots in a water proof tray so you can water them without ruining your window sills or where ever you have them setting. When your plants are ready for the garden, just plant them paper and all. It will decompose and add to the compost of your soil. You can open up the bottom of the pot if you want to just to give your plant easier access.

So I am sitting here watching the snow come down and thinking maybe I should go start a new jar of sprouts. At this time of year it is the closest thing to having fresh produce as I can think of since I don't have a greenhouse. Simple to do too if you have a wide mouth canning jar. Make sure to sterilize the jar. You can get the sprouting seeds in the bulk food section of many grocery stores or your local food co-op. Soak 1 1/2 Tbls. of seed in water over night. Drain the next day and let them sprout in your window. Just make sure you rinse them 3-4 times a day to keep them healthy to eat. They will take about 5 days to grow. You can get a screened jar lid from your co-op store or just use a paper towel rubber banded to the rim of the jar between rinses to keep dust out. When they have reached good size you will want to dump them into a big bowl of water and skim off the hulls and unsprouted seed.

Maybe next year I can convince the man to build me a greenhouse.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Harbinger Of Spring

Beware the eyes of ...... POTATOES! Yes the spuds in my garage are growing eyes. Looking for fertile ground in which to grow their offspring. I can't wait. The potatoes I got out of the garden last year were the best I have ever tasted and I knew there were no chemicals on them. The farm co-op had potatoes already so I bought mine. Last year I waited and had to take what they had. This year I bought Yukon Gold, Purple Majesty, and Chieftain (buttery gold, purple, and red potatoes respectively). I can taste them already.

Another sign of spring? Apparently the first three months of the year we have a type of  hawk (a small one fortunately) that spends time in this neck of the woods. We had a very close call with one yesterday. I happened to look out of my kitchen window as I so often do to check on my girls, just in time to see a small hawk take down my little 1 1/2 lb. bantam rooster. I don't think I have moved that fast since my kids were tiny and in trouble. I was out the door, across the deck, and to the edge of the property in a flash. That nasty little bird was dragging my poor boy across the ground in an attempt to get his "dinner" away from the screaming, crazy, WILD thing coming at him. It left without its meal and I picked up what I thought was going to be a very dead rooster bleeding and in shock. Needless to say he ended up in the house where I cleaned his wounds and kept him warm until he regained his composure and his balance. He wasn't walking too good. Kept falling on his face. After spreading a towel out we propped him up with rolled towels on one of the kids beds. And carefully fed him water with a medicine dropper. Would you believe that tough little guy was outside bossing his ladies around an hour later? He does have some battle scars though. He is missing quite a few feathers at the base of his tail and his comb and wattles are bruised and bloody. (you can click on the pictures for a closer view) I think I will keep the flock closer to the house for a few months and not let them out of the run unless I am with them in the garden. That will make them mad at me but better than being bird food.

So the last post I was about to make a prime rib roasted in Kosher salt for Candlemas. Well it turned out so yummy that I am doing it for Valentines day. I even got feed back from a parent of one of the kids friends that was here for that meal. Guess she went home raving about it. The next roast is almost twice the size. It is really very easy to do. Especially if you have an oven with a meat probe that keeps track of the internal temperature. My family likes beef rare. So I cook it to an internal temperature of  125 degrees then take it out and let it sit for 20 or 30 minutes with a piece of foil over it and a tea towel. It keeps cooking, sets the juices and comes out perfect. 135 is medium rare. Here is how its done.
Buy a prime rib that has had the bones cut off and re-tied back onto the roast. Set the probe in the roast according to manufactures directions. (If you don't have a probe you will have to use a meat thermometer near the end). Using a pan that is at least 3 to 4 inches deep pour a thick layer (1 to 2 inches) of course Kosher salt (not table salt) and set roast bone side down in it gently seating it into the salt. Pour lots of salt over the roast building up the sides until the meat is completely covered. You can use a little water sprinkled on the salt to help pack the salt on. Just cover the roast kind of like burying your spouse or significant other in the sand. (ha)! Roast at 325 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes per pound or until your thermometer registers the correct temperature.

This sounds like a really scary recipe to try especially with such an expensive cut of meat but it is really easy and really yummy. There are a lot of recipes on Just search salt roasted or salt encrusted prime rib. Some cook it longer at a lower temperature and some higher for a shorter time. Some even season the roast before burying it with things such as Lipton onion soup mix. I wont go there but I did season mine with an apple wood smoked salt and some fresh ground pepper. So here are some pics of my roast. YUM!

Make sure you take all the salt off before slicing and serving. Really worth a try so DO IT!
P.S-Did you know you can click on any of these pictures to see them larger? Let me know how yours turns out.
Next post I will be making pots for seed starts. I want a little jump on the tomato season this year.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Candlemas and Sebastapols

Before I get going on this post I just want to thank every one that responded with book and movie titles. I now have a replenished list and more to learn.

Some years ago on one of my BIG birthdays I decided to never have another birthday. Instead, just to appease those who insist on doing something to commemorate this joyous occasion, I found another holiday to take its place. It isn't that I don't appreciate being thought of on that special day. I just refuse to get any older. If you go looking for holidays you can find something listed on nearly everyday of the year. My birthday just happens to be on Candlemas. Now I suppose some of you are asking just what is Candlemas? It is supposed to be a celebration of new beginnings. There are several ways to do this some Christian in origin some tied to agriculture and some the black arts. You can find lots of different explanations on the internet. The one I like the best is Pennsylvania Dutch in origin. This day is the half way mark between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox and in many traditions is considered the beginning of spring. Celebrating the awakening of the ground, new beginnings, germination of seeds, end of winter etc.  It is also where the ground hog tradition came from. I can handle that. Since I am a gardener I like the new beginning thing. According to my brother it is also a time when covens of witches initiate new members. Maybe he's trying to tell me something?  I think I will leave that last one out. To commemorate the occasion you can put candles in the windows, eat pancakes, and start seeds indoors. I put candles in the windows at Christmas time so I just leave them there until the day after Candlemas. Thank you electronic candles. Pancakes made from last years grain harvest are suppose to symbolize the sun and abundant crops or something. My brother is making me a waffle brunch that day and that is close enough to pancakes for me especially since I like waffles better. Since pancakes are suppose to symbolize the sun lets hope his waffles are round.
 Lummi Island geese
My Sebastapol
What I am really excited about is ordering this years birds from a hatchery. I have all the chickens I have room for so I am going to finally get Sebastapol geese. I will most likely get some ducks to fill out the order and my two mallard Khaki Campbells will get some girl friends but the geese are what I really want. I had a pair of them when I lived on Lummi Island. One of them is happily living on a beautiful farm on Lopez Island and I am thankful to them for taking her (and the other three regular geese) in since she had a bad leg. (which miraculously healed overnight when all the other geese on that farm were re-homed). Little faker.... Hate to mention to the man that there may be a honey do in his future. I may need a bigger pen to keep them all safe at night or when I'm not home.

I have decided to order my birds from Metzer Farms this time. They are located in California and have some beautiful birds AND I can order sexed birds! If you are interested use this link.
You may even get John Metzer answering your phone call like I did the other day. Nice to see a business owner that is truly involved and willing to do the same things asked of his workers. I like that.

Sebastapol geese are the gentlest most beautiful things ever. If you want to see some stunning pictures of these geese I highly recommend everyone to see the pictures taken at Cottage Rose Birds and Blossoms. These pictures must have been taken professionally because they are beautiful. Just click on the link here then click on White Sebastapol in the menu located under the header.

So I have decided also to make my own Candlemas dinner. We will have a prime rib that I have in the freezer (bought on sale) roasted in course ground kosher salt. I've done this once before and the roast was to die for. A restaurant I worked for use to do this and prime rib night was always sold out. Seldom did the employees ever get a taste.

I'm also going to do a new salad. Recipe follows. If the roast turns out I will post that on the next blog along with pictures.

Spinach Salad with Cranberries and Warm Honey Dressing
  1/2 lb. bacon, chopped
baby spinach leaves, washed (about 8 cups)
4 hard boiled eggs, sliced
1 cup shredded swiss cheese
1/2 cup lightly toasted pecans
1/2 cup dried cranberries
3 Tbsp. honey
3 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1 cup sour cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Saute' bacon until just beginning to crisp. Remove bacon to paper towel to drain. Reserve 1/3 cup of the drippings in the pan.
     Arrange spinach on individual serving plates or put in a serving bowl. Place egg slices over the spinach and sprinkle the cheese, bacon and pecans over the spinach.

     Place the pan with the bacon drippings over medium heat and then heat the honey in a microwave oven until melted. Stir the vinegar into the honey then slowly stir the mixture into the bacon drippings. Remove from heat and gradually stir in the sour cream. Season with salt and pepper. Immediately pour over arranged salad, garnish with cranberries and serve.

This salad was really yummy. Even the kids ate it.