Homesteading In The Pacific Northwest

Monday, January 31, 2011

Braised Lamb Shanks with Garlic Polenta...

This is a great fall/winter recipe...I'm hoping that next year most of the veggies will come from what I preserve out of my garden....


For the Lamb Shanks:
2 lamb shanks
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, halved and sliced
4 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
3 garlic cloves,minced
1 cup white wine ( I use Barefoot Chardonnay)
1 cup chicken broth
2 cups fresh or canned diced peeled tomatoes
A sprig of fresh rosemary
A handful of fresh parsley
1 fresh (or dried) bay leaf
grated peel of one lemon

For the Polenta:
3 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup milk
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
3/4 cup coarsely ground cornmeal (I use Bob's Red Mill)
6 tbsp grated, good quality Parmesan cheese

In a large heavy pot heat oil over medium-high heat. Brown lamb shanks  in oil and transfer to a plate.  Lower heat to medium. Add onion, carrots and garlic to pot and saute until onions are translucent.  Add remaining ingredients to pot and stir.  Return lamb shanks to pot, bring to a simmer and cover.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until lamb is "fall off the bone" tender...about 2 hours.

About 45 minutes before the lamb is done, start the polenta:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly butter a medium sized baking dish.  Bring first 4 ingredients to a boil in a saucepan.  Gradually add the cornmeal, whisking until smooth with each addition.  Reduce heat to low and cook until cornmeal is soft and mixture is creamy, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat and stir in 4 tbsp of the Parmesan cheese.  Transfer to the buttered dish and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan.  Bake until polenta is golden brown, about 30 minutes.

When lamb shanks are tender , remove them to a plate and tent with foil.  Turn up the heat and and boil the juices in the pot until thickened.  Spoon some polenta onto a serving plate or bowl, add a lamb shank and spoon pan juices and cooked vegetables over.  Garnish with more fresh parsley if desired.

Serves 2 ( with leftovers if the lamb shanks are as big as the ones I've been getting recently at QFC :)



Harvest Monday....And Three More Raised Beds!

This will be the last harvest from the fall/winter bed....we have taken the cover off and are disassembling the bed in preparation for some landscaping work.  We are supposed to get an Arctic Blast tonight...temps down into the low 20s... so I harvested all that was still growing, enough lettuce for a nice salad and Asian greens for a stir fry.

 I'm joining other bloggers over at Daphne's Dandelions as we share our weekly's fun to see what others are harvesting and what they are cooking up with it...check it out!

And on to the new raised beds!  I'm hoping to push my spring planting along very early with hoops and row covers.  Mike finished up the last three raised beds for the backyard on Saturday...

This what it looked like after we took out the old beds....

Mike built the boxes in his shop and then we carried them out to the yard. Here Mike is installing the hoops....

And here are the finished beds (why does this photo remind me of 1960's television???  OH! Westward Ho!  Circle the wagons! )  The bed in the foreground is going to be for my indeterminate tomatoes and will have trellises with a high hoop cover installed later in the season.

The center bed is going to be my pea patch and the last one will have Asian greens.  I'll be planting these up very soon with what I have started in the greenhouse....



Thursday, January 27, 2011

Garden Chores....

I'm almost finished with the three Square Foot Garden beds in the backyard (to be referred to as Backyard 1, 2 and 3 from this point on) ...

I need to get more brackets to hold the PVC for the hoops for the middle bed and paint the end corner brackets ( I'm waiting for a sunny day for the painting...don't worry, I'm not holding my breath :)  The bed closest to the house is going to be my kitchen herb garden; rosemary, thyme, parsley, sage and a few others with some lettuces and early peas mixed in.  The other two beds will vary with the season but I hope that all will work for fall and winter gardening.  Mike and I will be working on putting the three 4 x 8 foot beds (to be referred to as Backyard 4, 5 and 6) together this evening and I'll hopefully get the hoops attached and then get them filled up with soil this weekend.

Mike (aka FitzGyver) finished up two potato boxes for me.  They are so pretty is almost a shame to get them dirty.......

I read about these last year on Sinfonian's Square Foot Garden Blog .  I tried using wire cages last year, which were ok, but had their drawbacks (sharp edges and the soil washed away in heavy rains).  I'm planning on having a total of four boxes plus a small raised bed for Yukon Golds down by the lake this summer. 

The seeds I started in the greenhouse over the weekend are coming along nicely...

I'll be starting more this weekend...hopefully my order from Territorial Seeds will be here tomorrow....



Monday, January 24, 2011

Ewuuuh! PU! Gag...cough...

No photo to go with this post...but I wish I could post a link to the smell!  YUCK!

I was out working on the new raised bed in between rain squalls...and our young pup, Carly, was out in the yard with minute she was there, then: POOF!  She was gone...I thought I had found all the spots where she could get under the fence, but apparently not.

I spent the better part of an hour looking for her when she finally answered my call and came running from next door...covered in pitch and some kind of black slime that smelled like dead fish....OMG!  I realized that she'd been rolling in otter poop!!!  GAG!

So little Pepe Le Pew has had one bath and she still stinks...I'm heading for my herbal cabinet to put together a rinse for the next bath...I'm thinking peppermint and pennyroyal might do the trick...

All of a sudden having otters living next door isn't so cute after all...

Harvest Monday....and a New Raised Bed

It's been a pretty good week for my winter raised bed...first the Asian Greens for yakisoba:

And then a bunch of lettuce for a taco salad:

You can see what other gardeners have harvested, or how they are using their harvest at Daphne's Dandelions.

Over the weekend the plans for combining more "Edible Landscaping" with our raised beds started becoming reality.  Jo's Boys (I love calling them that...I was particularly fond of that Alcott book :), Alex and Johnny, came and lent some muscle to the project and many huckleberries were moved and a big ugly juniper went to meet it's maker.  Best of all, Mike started work on the new raised beds for next to the lake!  Mike has come up with a great design; easy to put together and quite attractive.  I've started a page with full details of how to build it and hope to have it finished soon.

Here it is partially constructed in the garage...

And here it is going into it's new home next to the lake. I was able to build it over the soil from the previously existing bed and it looks like I'll be able to keep what was already planted alive. I was afraid I would have to harvest it all.

I like the look of the natural cedar next to the water...the plan is for the lakeside landscaping to blend in as naturally as possible with our rustic setting.



Saturday, January 22, 2011

Otter Update...

I just realized that I haven't posted the most recent otter sightings!

This one was about a week ago....

And this one was sometime before was the first time I've ever see three of them...all curled up and keeping warm on the dock next door to us...

I've been seeing them out fishing almost every day recently...and so has Carly!  Now she KNOWS there are monsters living under the dock next door...bark, bark, bark, bark...sigh.....



Friday, January 21, 2011

Caught Up....

I spent some time in my little greenhouse yesterday morning and got caught up on my seed starting.  I made 4 trays of soil blocks (144!) and planted chard, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach and more peas.

I was cruising through Johnny's Select Seeds web site the other day and watched a video on making soil blocks.  I realized that I wasn't getting the soil mix wet enough...and that I could space the blocks a lot closer in the tray (notice how many more blocks I got in the trays on the top two shelves).

I also planted some onions and leeks in my old wooden crates...

I'm trying a new bunching onion, Shimonita,  from Territorial Seed Company and a Summer Leek from Irish Eyes...

And a harvest update from the experimental winter bed:

Tatsoi, Joi Choi, Orange Mini Cabbage and some radishes all went very nicely in a bowl of yakisoba...

The recipe is on You Tube..." Cooking With Dog".... I really love this lady and her dog...great, easy Japanese recipes....



Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I'm Incorrigible....

I admit it.  I just can't wait for spring...So I'm rushing things a bit and hoping that new "year round gardening" techniques will continue to work in cold, soggy Washington.  The experimental winter vegetable bed did well, so I am starting my first "spring" bed today...January 18.

Just a few pea plants and lettuces (and the herbs that were already in the bed).

I'm going to compare the growth rates of the plants put out into their covered beds to those left in the greenhouse longer and then transplanted out. 

And here's the bed with its' raincoat on....Mike will help me do a more permanent
job on the covering this weekend....



Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Hurry Spring!

It's January 11 and we are expected to get more snow tonight and tomorrow here in Western Washington.  But that isn't keeping me out of my garden.  Mike built me a great plant cart for starting my seedlings in the greenhouse...

I saw a metal cart online...they wanted $899 for it!  Mike made this one out of wood and some old light fixtures.  I love it!

I'm really sold on the soil block maker I bought from Johnny's Selected Seeds last makes transplanting the seedlings so much easier...and no extra cost or waste with the plastic pots!

This is a tray of lavender and chamomile about 5 days after planting...

The seedling heat mats really speed up germination time and keep my seedlings warm in my "cool" greenhouse...

...I do have a small heater in there but it only comes on when the temperature really drops; the heat from the mats and the lights seems to be enough to keep the plants happy.

 I've already transplanted some of the seedlings into wooden boxes to wait for it to be time to go into their covered beds...we go over 10 hours of daylight here about the middle of February, so that's my target date.

And an update on the covered winter beds is in order...

 This was the lakeside bed after our first snow just before Thanksgiving.  I'm using only one 40 watt light to keep the bed from freezing...and here's a picture of the plants inside taken today...

 They've come through sub-freezing temperatures just fine!  It's actually time to harvest some of them...