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Stuck in the middle

January 21, 2010

The jet stream is splitting thanks to El Nino, and we are happily in the dry part with storms heading north or south of us.

That means after feeding chores, I have some dry time to work in the garden.  Yippee!  Although working in the garden this time of year is just harvesting, it is nice to do the harvesting at a leisurely pace instead of trying to beat a rainstorm.  I confess, I am a Food Renegade and this post is part of the Fight Back Friday edition for January 22nd.  There is no cure… 😉

The dogs love to help… .

It’s helpful to have vegetable sniffing dogs, but actually they are hunting for voles, the main predator of some garden stored root crops.

Never underestimate the power of those noses.  While the dogs busied themselves with hunting, I got to work.

I dig vegetables each week from the “root cellar”  which is my garden.  I don’t weigh them, but I dig enough for the family cow, and for the house.  An estimate of the weight is approximately 60 pounds per week.

Celeriac for soups and any vegetable dish.  These roots have become a staple in our kitchen and the greens hold up all winter for celery flavoring.  My celery never makes it past 20°F.  So the stalks of fresh celeriac really have come through.

Rutabagas, especially good with celeriac in a gratin.

Beets for kvass, and eating.

Brussels sprouts which are still holding quite good with no protection.

I dug two loads today, most will go for the cow, and I can replenish my buckets that I store on the porch for easy access for cooking and snacks.

After washing the vegetables, I glean any tender greens for salads or cooking, and check for any blemished, or damaged vegetables.  Good ones  go to the house, blems go to the barn.

Black Spanish radishes, carrots, rutabagas.

The assortment.

The payoff.

Nothing better than relaxing in the stall with Della while she eats her dinner.  Hard to believe she is almost 12!

Next post:  more foodie fodder – root chopping, and hay.

29 Comments leave one →
  1. January 22, 2010 2:41 am

    Cool, you have carrot eating dogs too.. My personal suspicion is they day they work out those green tops hide carrots our harvest is going to go down substantially.

    Kind Regards

    • January 22, 2010 6:28 am

      simply belinda, they do like to help themselves to the carrots for sure, I do keep the rows covered with netting to keep out the deer and elk, but it is also to keep the dog boys out too! They love the carrots 🙂

  2. January 22, 2010 4:50 am

    You are so lucky to have all those root veg, and to dig them for a meal directly…. Question – do you normally get thaws such that they can actually be pulled easily, or does the ground freeze so the veg are trapped? I don’t have the means/space for this personally (yet!) but as information, I’m curious on this method vs. cool-dry-storage

    • January 22, 2010 6:38 am

      mangochild, our soil doesn’t really freeze very deep, and normally if we get weather cold enough for that, we have snow which keeps the ground from freezing. I do hill them with about 6 inches of soil to protect them from the freezing temps we do experience, and I did lose some carrots to freezing this December in one garden. But compared to packing everything into a root cellar, or preserving in some way, I think this provides us with the freshest vegetables possible, they will keep here in the soil until April. By that time I am ready to eat something else 🙂 Keeping the roots in the soil where they grew means they are still alive until I harvest, and are not losing moisture which means poorer quality. A huge factor for me is that the bulk of these roots are a grain replacement for my dairy cow, storing her winter roots would require a huge root cellar. I have no idea where I would build such a thing…

      In colder climates, entire straw bales, or hoop houses with an interior mini hoop providing double cover will achieve the same results, ala Eliot Coleman.

  3. January 22, 2010 5:13 am

    I love gardening but I have to say that I am glad that our season for gardening is only for a short period of time! I think nothing beats your home grown food! I thought that we would never get all of our veggies put up for the winter! I love the dog help, they are so pretty to look at to along with being helpers!

    • January 22, 2010 6:39 am

      Lisa, we are doing some gardening all the time here, but I love, love, love it.

      The dogs really do think they are helping – although the jury is still out on that one, but I like their company 🙂

  4. localnourishment permalink
    January 22, 2010 5:24 am

    Ooh! Do I see parsnips in “the assortment?” Are those easy to grow? What variety do you grow? They are getting hard to find here, pushed out by other veggies and I might have to try some because I love ’em!

    • January 22, 2010 7:37 am

      LN, yep those are parsnips, pretty easy to grow with minimum fertility requirements, but the soil needs to be deep.

      I’ve been growing several different types, to try to find the most productive. I saved seed last year from Harris Model, which have done real well here. These in the picture are Turga and Andover. Turga has a large top, and Andover is more slender and the Turga seemed less cold hardy showing a little damage from the December cold. If I find specimens that show the traits I want I will save those for planting out for seed this spring. An old time root vegetable that has fallen from favor is becoming a favorite again!

  5. January 22, 2010 8:12 am

    Love your dogs, they are so beautiful!

  6. January 22, 2010 8:45 am

    Love those stone steps in the background, and the bobsy twin dogs, so cute. Do you have any other advice for getting rid of the voles? I have one good dog but too many voles, should I get cats or gadgets, or garden in metal troughs? I’d be grateful for any extra advice on this matter, thanks Lorena

  7. January 22, 2010 9:13 am

    Lorena, the benefit of living on a volcano is that you can always find interesting rocks. The steps are shale, and the newel post is columnar basalt.

    The best way to keep the voles at bay is to not give them any cover. They love mulch and sod. Clean cultivation between rows keeps them away. I do not irrigate and keep my garden pretty weed free and use wide spacing. Cats, hawks and dogs do a great job of hunting them and watching were you plant the crops they savor helps too. Here they love to dine on carrots, beets, and root parsley, so I never plant those crops near the edge of the garden, and I alternate those crops with vegetables that they don’t care for, like parsnips and rutabagas. They are not absent in my garden by any means, but the damage is tolerable. Hope that helps.

  8. January 22, 2010 9:25 am

    Eye Candy! Love the dogs, love the spring-like feel of your post. SIGH


    • January 25, 2010 2:22 pm

      Linda, it has actually greened up a little in some places. It feels and looks good. Spring is on the way!

  9. peacefulacres permalink
    January 22, 2010 11:06 am

    Oh Della is so beautiful!

    I’m hoping to follow your “root cellaring” this year. I never learned to do this and I can’t wait to try. Your carrots and parsnips look so good and I can only imagine how sweet they taste!

    • January 25, 2010 2:21 pm

      Diane, they are pretty good, Della doesn’t seem to have a preference though for one or the other. Well, you know what they say, NEXT YEAR…

  10. January 22, 2010 1:03 pm

    That’s a darn fine looking cow!

  11. January 22, 2010 2:27 pm

    Jealous of your climate. Our ground is frozen hard and buried from Nov through March. Conventional root cellar it is for me!

    • January 25, 2010 2:20 pm

      Kevin, it is pretty balmy here right now, it can get cold, but nothing like you experience at least not for any long periods of time. However just over the mountain it changes considerably, high desert and very cold temps – I like the west side 🙂

  12. January 22, 2010 4:15 pm

    Nita – what variety of celeriac did you grow this year? I planted some but not enough to last us so I want to get more started now. And when did you start your celeriac seeds? Late spring? Or is that too late for a winter crop?

    I started my brussel sprouts too late this year and we have some but the stalks never got tall so there aren’t very many out there. I’m just going to steam all the plant leaves though. Sorry chickens!

    • January 22, 2010 11:31 pm

      Annette, I have had good luck with Diamant. I usually start them the first week of March in 200 cell flats and then transfer to 48 cell size and let them grow until planting out about Memorial Day or so depending on the weather. I don’t irrigate, so my bulbs never get as big as the store or farmers market fare, but they taste great and keep really well. I planted about 200 plants last year and I don’t think they will last … 😦

      My Rubine OP brussels were an embarrassment and OliverF1 was superb. I have to decide if I even want to bother with red ones at all, I have tried Falstaff too and it always just fizzles. 2010 may be my last year for OP red brussels. sigh.

  13. January 23, 2010 12:02 pm

    I have a chicken question:: My chickens are pecking each other and my uncle said when he was a boy, his mama used to put something on the chickens that kept them from pecking each other.. red in color and sort of waxy. I went online to see what I could find, but feel a little uninformed and not too sure what would work. Do you use anything for your hens?

    • January 23, 2010 4:33 pm

      Jenny, you can put any kind of barrier on the hen to help her heal. Household things things like vaseline or bag balm come to mind without spending any extra money. Usually hens start to peck each other when they are stressed for some reason. Most common are crowding, lack of protein in the feed, and boredom. Chickens are cannibals, and once they start pecking the victim may just give up until she is literally pecked to death. If you have to – isolate her until she heals a little and put on your thinking cap about what may have changed from the chickens point of view to stress them out. Hope this helps 🙂

  14. simplelifeinfrance permalink
    January 24, 2010 12:14 pm

    Oh-hoh! I’ve been wondering about creating a root cellar someday, but your idea of leaving the roots in the ground is, in fact, genius. I assume the growth slows or stops entirely once it gets really cold? Or do the roots just keep getting huge? I suppose that if they got too huge they would no longer be very tasty.

    • January 25, 2010 2:18 pm

      simpleinfrance, as long as your ground does not freeze for an extended period of time it works like a charm. The growth does stop, once late fall arrives. We live in the cloudy Pacific Northwest where rain is a frequent visitor and so are cloudy days. I plant most of my winter harvesting crops by the summer solstice at the latest or I am SOL when it comes time to eat!!

  15. January 24, 2010 10:26 pm

    Why do you need to chop the roots at all? My cows eat the whole thing without any preparation.

    • January 24, 2010 11:18 pm

      Bruce, I chop them to prevent choking – My beef cattle have access to windfall apples in the fall and we have never had one choke yet either – however, my dairy cow is too valuable to risk. Have you priced an trained, purebred milking cow lately? And I don’t mean one from the auction barn… I couldn’t replace her easily, and I would never forgive myself. I hate to admit it but she is as much pet as workmate.

      What roots have you gotten for your cow? I have only seen your posts about your gleaned pig foods.

  16. January 25, 2010 8:05 am

    I thought I was the only one that liked to relax with the animals! Nothing is better than a warm summer afternoon laying out in the pasture looking up at the clouds with the sound of Henrietta grazing nearby. A little too cold to do that sort of thing nowadays!

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