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Dr. Milk & Ms. Hyde

November 6, 2014

Mild mannered milk cow twenty days a month…

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Possessed demon one day a month!

The most recent monthly rodeo convinced me to quit chasing unicorns and to get on with plan B.  Plan A you ask?  Well, first I’ll borrow a quote from a respected milk cow owner, “too old for young heifers!”  I’m not getting any younger, growing your own family cow takes years.  If everything, and I mean everything, goes exactly as planned.  In two years and 9 months, you’ll get your first drop of milk.  Plan A was a plan that a friend and I cooked up which started with procuring some semen from an old style Guernsey bull, we wanted less stature and more stockiness.  So slow forward a couple of years and breeding of her Jersey, and my Jane several different times…no deal.  Or actually no calf.  We found lots of excuses reasons why each AI attempt didn’t work.  But in the back of my mind, was hmmm, what if, what if, this semen had lost something between various owners.  Thawed, etc., who knows when something as fragile as straws of bull semen get shipped several times and stored.

Jane’s third heat and subsequent artificial insemination a month ago appeared to go off without a hitch.  Until she came back into heat :(   The “Gheela Monster” was back.  (The “G” is not silent in this nickname.)   That niggling little thought (okay it was a big thought actually), I could screw around, pun intended, and keep trying for that small stature old style Guernsey, or cue the milk bucket to the head sound, I could just breed her to the perfectly good Guernsey bull in the tank.  Duh.

Reese

Reese

I love this little guy to pieces, if he was a heifer I would be over the moon.  No more chasing unicorns, just a full sister to Reese.  So all you peeps out there keeping track of Her Janeness, fingers crossed for a successful breeding, and if it’s a heifer great, but the real need is just a pregnant cow.

Continuing Education

November 5, 2014
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An excellent stocking stuffer for that cook in your household!  I snagged a copy at the library, but I am adding this to my bookshelf.

The Last Week of October in Photos

November 4, 2014
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Pileated woodpecker dining on King apples

Pileated woodpecker dining on King apples

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he loves me...

he loves me…

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Complementary Colors

November 1, 2014

This year I used both the red and green mulch in the greenhouse.  I have to say I can’t see any real difference between the two.  The red is said to increase yields by 20%, the green is said to increase yields because of added warming.

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Not wanting to tempt fate too much, I planted most of the tomatoes into the red mulch, and transplanted peppers, melons, cucumbers and some tomatoes into the green mulch.  The tomato plants in the green mulch rows were just as prolific as the red, leading me to believe that heat generation from the mulch is helping me more than intensified red light to the tomato plants early in the growing season.

In the home garden mulches like this certainly have a place in much the same way row cover is used for frost protection or insect barrier.  Once we pulled all the plants and cleaned up any spoiled tomatoes, we were able to salvage the mulch carefully for use again for the next season.

time to finish picking peppers

time to finish picking peppers

If there one thing I don’t like about the red mulch it’s somewhat tricky to see that first ripe tomato when you’re peering into the foliage and have your hopes up.  Other than that, I would rank plastic mulch in the garden tool category right up there with irrigation and row cover.

A Good Day for This

October 31, 2014

Not looking forward to the end of Daylight Savings Time this weekend…since I don’t believe we are getting an extra hour of daylight like I just heard on the news…

This is what I’m doing today, this old blog post is still a good one since I found an errant round steak that needed using up.

Fall and Winter Vegetables

October 30, 2014

Instead of living in the garden like we do in the summer, fall is the time to just visit the garden.  The soil is so wet, I cringe every time we harvest.

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So harvests are done maybe on weekly basis now, if that.  It’s cool enough that root crops keep well on the shady side of the porch.

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It’s also still warm enough with no frost in sight, that I haven’t installed the short, easy to drain hoses yet either.

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It’s a little early for good flavor in the rutabagas since it has been so warm, but the short days are commanding winter-type dishes now.

Winterkeeper beet, Brilliant celeriac, Bandit leek, Red Cored Chantenay carrot, Gilfeather turnip(rutabaga), Joan rutabaga.

Winterkeeper beet, Brilliant celeriac, Bandit leek, Red Cored Chantenay carrot, Gilfeather turnip(rutabaga), Joan rutabaga.

One only has to see celeriac roots to see why it is such a good candidate for dry land gardening.  If that plant can’t gather up available moisture, I don’t know what will.  The leeks were the only vegetable in this array grown with supplemental irrigation.

Diablo F1 Brussels sprouts

Diablo F1 Brussels sprouts

Still in the garden are some other miscellaneous late fall plants.  Cold weather helps the flavor immensely.  I’m thinking by Thanksgiving we will be ready for some of these sprouts.  Personally I think there is some room for hybrid varieties of vegetables in my garden.  I have no desire to save seed from many vegetables because I just don’t have the space.  Growing hybrids is okay, especially when you get predictable results.

Kossak F1 kohlrabi

Kossak F1 kohlrabi

Another great hybrid, Kossak kohlrabi, these can get huge like Lutz beets and still be sweet and tender.  Well worth growing if you like kohlrabi.

Wild Garden Chicory

Wild Garden Chicory

And there is room too for open-pollinated experimentation.  Wild Garden Chicories is a great blend, and a good source of winter hardy greens.

Halloween or True Detective?

Halloween or True Detective?

You just have to remember to have fun while you garden…

 

 

 

That Squash Again

October 29, 2014

Who knew squash and pie would elicit questions.  My big confession is that recipes are just where I start.  What came first the recipe or the pantry?  I have no idea anymore.  Farm food is an extension of my life, of what I do every day.  What’s for dinner?  Don’t ask, it will appear.  On tap for today was Cream of Sauerkraut soup, a request actually.  But, I came back to the house after moving the cows with a bag of fresh mushrooms. So tonight we’re having mushrooms.  Cream of sauerkraut soup will be good on another day, the kraut will keep.

Sweet Meat winter squash

Sweet Meat winter squash

A farm kitchen and the farm meals are just an extension of the farmers themselves.  The winter squash we grow is a good example.  The only part that isn’t used is the stem.  That goes into the compost bucket for chickens.  I am sure they don’t notice it, it just becomes carbon in the deep bedding and eventually ends up in the garden again, or in the pasture.

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Since the squash keeps so well in its raw state, I cook a squash over a week’s time, throughout the winter and into the spring until we tire of squash.  I grow so many, not so much for the humans, but for the hens and the dogs.  I know, feeding squash to dogs?  They love it.  Plus they never complain about my cooking and they are good listeners.  Dogs are funny like that.  And the hens?  You want good yolk color in the winter?  Feed your hens winter squash, kale is good too, but those red yolks I get are from the beta carotene in the squash mostly.  One a week will feed twenty hens a good dose of beta carotene and turn that into stupendous eggs for you.

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To get the squash into usable form for me in the kitchen I make “canned pumpkin” every week.  To do that, I start by busting off the stem usually with the knife handle, then I proceed to cut the squash in half.  If you break off the stem, you expose the weak point of the squash.  Cutting around the equator or starting at the blossom end is a good way to gut yourself in the kitchen.  It helps too to place the squash on towel so it’s not so apt to slip.  I start my cut there at the stem hole because the squash will sit squarely (roundly?) on the cutting board while you wrestle with it.  I’m not kidding, these things are tough.  Sometime I just chop them with the axe while I’m building a fire but most of the time I break them down in the kitchen.

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I keep cutting until I get to the bottom on one side, and then I turn the squash and repeat the same cutting on the other side.

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You will hear or feel the squash rind pop or release when you have made it all the way through.

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At this point you can pry it open with your hands and continue cutting or just break what little rind you haven’t cut yet.

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Now I have just taken nature’s perfect package and damaged it.  I don’t want to cook a 15 pound squash in one day, so I only cook part of it, about a quarter of it actually.  Many times your kitchen tools determine what you can do, it’s that way with the “pumpkin pie.”  It starts with my 5 quart kettle I steam the squash in.  I like to steam the squash, it’s faster than roasting, and it stays moist for any kind of dish I want to make.  Baking is okay but it seems to take longer than I want, and time is money with an oven.

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By now, I know just how big of hunk to cut off the squash half, basically I am cutting the squash like a cantaloupe and slicing off wedges until I have enough to fill my steamer basket.  Too much and the lid won’t fit and the squash won’t cook properly.  I cook the squash flesh side down until a knife or fork easily penetrates the skin.  Around 40 minutes at medium high heat.  Remove the pan from the heat and set it aside until cools.

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To prepare my slices for cooking I remove the seeds and pulp with a paring knife.  The seeds are great roasted, or you can save them for seed if the squash meets your criteria for seed saving.  This one is one of my oddballs, weird shape and it was oozing a pitch-like substance at harvest so I won’t be saving these seeds for planting but if we don’t eat them, they may go into Jane’s dinner dish, or I might just send them to the hens.  Zero waste.

To store the rest of the uncooked squash, leave the seed cavity intact until you plan to cook the squash.  It will keep better.  You can put plastic wrap on it and refrigerate, or you can just leave it on the counter until your ready.  Our house is cool, so I can get away with that for a few days.  If it was more convenient you could cook the squash in its entirety and freeze in containers that suit your recipes.  I never do that since freezer space is at a premium here and the squash keeps so good it seems futile to me.  Like the broth I make each week, if it’s in the fridge I am compelled to use it in my cooking, once I commit something to the freezer it’s pretty much gone to me unless we’re talking meat, butter or raspberries!

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So now that I have my steamed squash, or “canned pumpkin” I can proceed to the eating.  Keeping with the idea of waste not, want not, I scoop the flesh away from the skin and put into a container for the refrigeration.  The skin and a little pulp goes into a container for dog food.  The dogs love the squash along with their other food items.

At this point I can use the cooked squash in any recipe calling for pumpkin or squash.  We consume most of ours as…squash.  One of my favorite lunches is Cheese Henge, I heat the squash with a little butter until it’s warm through and then stick cheddar cheese sticks in it.  They melt a bit, and the salt and sweet go down good.  My kid started calling it Cheese Henge when she was little and the name stuck.  But really it’s just weird food, made possible by the convenience of having precooked squash in the fridge.

As for the pie, that really depends too on what’s on hand.  I get out the big 4 quart pyrex bowl, add up to about 4 cups of squash, sugar, spices, vanilla and as many eggs as I have on the counter up to about 6, mix all that together and then add milk or cream until I think the bowl will fill the pie dish, mix and then pour.  Sometimes I have more, so I bake the extra as custard in custard cups.  Farm kitchen pie.  Too simple for a recipe, and very forgiving I might add.

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