Homesteading In The Pacific Northwest

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Logwood ... again ...


Thursday, May 2, 2013

... and then a berry patch ...

I do love getting packages in the mail from Raintree Nursery!  

This time it's  two blueberry patches (chosen specifically for cross pollination and a full season of bearing), strawberries, raspberries and blackberries.  Look at how well the plants from Raintree are packaged!  Here are some of the blackberries ...

...each in it's own protected pot.

My "Garden Fairy" is back in town and has started cleared out the weeds so I can start work on the "Lake Garden".  It's going to be a combination Edible and Ornamental Garden ...
I have my work cut out for me ...

This is going to be fun!  


Saturday, April 20, 2013

And then, having nothing else to do, I planted an orchard ...

7 dwarf and semi-dwarf fruit trees chosen for the Pacific Northwest from Raintree Nursery.

2 apples and 2 pears so they will cross pollinate ... the cherry, plum and peach self pollinate.


The light at the end of the tunnel ... updated ...

Planted March 11 ... Peas (Cascadia), Lettuce (Merlot and Red Sails) and Radishes (French Breakfast).  Looking good the first week of April!


Update: 4/20/2013

Right on schedule ... I need to harvest this bed to have room to plant tomatoes at the end of May.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Potatoes In The Rain ...

I was browsing through some of my favorite gardening blogs yesterday and I came across
a great post Erica's "Northwest Edible Life ... How To Make A Heavy Duty Potato Cage""

Looking at her post I realized that I had the best luck with my potatoes the
 second year I planted them, when I did something similar ....

I didn't do it this way again because I used sphagnum moss to line the cages and it was expensive ... Erica's idea of using weed cloth instead is brilliant!

So yesterday, in the rain, (because it's going to rain for the next week ... or maybe month)
 I went out and planted potatoes!

I cut some old tomato cages in half ...

... pushed the cut wire ends into the soil ...

... lined them with weed cloth (see instructions here), added some soil to the bottom and then the potatoes (Yukon Golds and Red Norlunds from Irish Eyes)...

I made 6 cages ....

I'm really looking forward to seeing how this turns out ... Thanks Erica!


Sunday, March 31, 2013

Square Foot Gardening with a Planting Jig

It's March 31 and I am spending most of the day out in the garden.  I've just finished direct sowing the carrots and beets.   What's amazing is that I am doing it in the sun on a very warm day.  In March.  In Washington!  The gardening gods are smiling today :)

This is my "root vegetable" bed.  It is deeper than the other beds and has a permanently installed soil warmer cable.   I plugged it in three days ago and now the soil is up to 70 degrees and ready for planting.  I'll keep the cable plugged in for another 10 days or so, until most of the carrots have sprouted.  You'll notice off to the left the drip system that I drained and set aside at the end of the "dry" season.  What I've found works well for hooking it all up again is to get the seeds and/or transplants into the  bed and then string the drip system for the best coverage.

I'm using the planting jigs FitzGyver made for me last year.  They really make it easy to plant a Square Foot Garden.  I place one seed in each hole ....

... cover the holes with a thin layer of vermiculite ...

...remove the jig ...

...and then gently firm the seed and vermiculite in to the soil.

I used a 16 plants per square foot jig for the carrots and a 9 plants per square for the beets in the back of the bed.


The Colors of Logwood

I am finding myself drawn more and more to the natural colors of the fibers paired
 with the muted tones of natural dyes.


Mixed Blue Faced Leicester and Tussah silk (undyed)


Saturday, January 12, 2013

White Bean Soup In A Jar(s)

It was cold and damp earlier in the week and some bean soup with cornbread sounded like a good plan for dinner.  As long as I had all the ingredients out I decided to make up some jars to have for the next time.

The Ingredients
For the jars:
3 cups white beans (I used Cannelini since that is what I grow; you could use Great Northerns or Navy beans as well)
Freeze dried onions (1 tbsp), celery (2 tbsp) and carrots (2 tbsp)
Thyme (1 tsp), sage (1/2 tsp), celery seed (1/2 tsp), granulated garlic (1 tsp), ground black pepper (1/2 tsp), and 2 bay leaves

At time of cooking:
1 quart chicken stock (I could add bouillon to the spice mix but but the ingredients in bouillon are nasty!)
1/2 pint canned ham

For the bean and veggie jars:
Place 3 cups of beans into a quart canning jar.  Place the freeze dried veggies and herbs into a small plastic sandwich bag and place the bag on top of the beans.

Put a lid on the jar, vacuum and seal with a Foodsaver (you could add an O2 absorber ... I don't if I'm pretty sure I will be using this within a year).

Now our ingredients look like this ... just 3 jars.

There are two ways of going about cooking the soup.  The traditional way ...
Place beans in a large stock pot with water to cover 2 inches above beans; cover and let soak 8 hours or overnight. Drain, discarding the water. Add 2 quarts of water and 1 quart chicken stock to the beans.  Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 2 hours or until beans are tender, stirring occasionally. Use a potato masher to break up some of the beans to make a thick soup. Add the contents of the plastic bag and the jar of ham and cook for another 1/2 hour.  Serve with cornbread (recipe coming soon.)

And then there's the quick way ... just about an hour from start to finish.  Place the dry beans in a 6 quart pressure cooker ...

Follow the directions for cooking dry beans that come with your cooker.  I use the one above made by Presto.  I fill the post half full with water and add 1 tbsp olive oil (keeps the beans from frothing up and blocking the steam valve).  I put the cover on, bring up to pressure on high heat and cook the beans for 20 minutes.  Remove the pot from the heat and let the pressure drop and drain the beans.  The beans look like this ...

Add 1 quart of water, 1 quart of chicken stock and the use a potato masher to break up the beans.  Add the contents of the plastic bag and the jar of ham.  Cook on medium for another half hour to 45 minutes.  Serve with cornbread.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

My Super Easy Artisan Bread Idea!

Originally Published Nov. 27, 2012

Updated Jan. 9, 2013

I love bread.  Good bread.  Crisp crust on the outside and chewy inside.  But I don't like the additives in most bakery breads ... YUCK!  When I first found Jim Lahey's "No Knead Artisan Bread" recipe I was ecstatic!  Now I could make my own, but .... I often forgot to start the dough the day before I wanted to have the bread (I'm an old fart ... memory is an issue) and dumping that super soft dough into the hot pot was always a case of hit or miss (and missing was messy!).

Next I found the "5 Minutes A Day" Artisan Bread recipe.  This one eliminates the memory issue (the dough can stay in the fridge for up to two weeks) but the sliding the dough off a pizza peel onto a hot stone was easier said than done and the hot water into a hot pan in the oven was tricky.

Last week, as I was preparing for Thanksgiving I was getting out my turkey roasting pan and an idea started to form ... what if I combined the No Knead method with the 5 Minute method?  YES!! It works!

So here is Deb's "Super Easy Artisan Bread" recipe.

3 cups warm water
6 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 tbsp instant yeast

(this is essentially the "5 Minute" recipe except it was way too salty so I cut the amount of added salt)

Dump all of the ingredients into a mixer bowl and mix on slow speed just until all the ingredients are combined and form a soft dough ...

Transfer the dough to a 5 quart container and cover leaving one corner open (the piece of foil on my container is to remind me.  If you close the container completely condensation will form on the lid and drip down onto the dough making it slimy).  Set the container somewhere warm to rise for 2 hours (it can go longer ... I've forgotten and left it overnight.  The bread was fine, just a little denser).

After 2 hours it should look like this ...

At this point you can pull out a chunk of dough and start a loaf or refrigerate the dough for up to 2 weeks, baking a loaf whenever you choose ... it will take about 1 hour from the time you start until your loaf comes out of the oven ... really!

This is the dough the next day ... I have sprinkled quite a bit of flour on a work surface and plopped a chunk of dough on it ...

I formed the dough into a loaf shape ...

... placed a piece of parchment paper onto a cookie sheet ...

 ... and set the loaf on the paper (I set the work surface with the flour aside ... I'm going to use it later). I then set the oven to 450 degrees, set a baking stone on the top oven rack, set the lid from my turkey roaster on top of the stone and closed the oven door.

I set a timer for 30 minutes.  When the timer went off I sprinkled the rest of the flour onto the risen loaf and made 4 slashes in the dough with a serrated knife (this allows the dough to expand as it is baking).

At this point I opened the oven door and (using pot holders) set the roaster lid aside (I just set it down onto the open oven door).   I slid the parchment paper with the loaf from the cookie sheet onto the hot baking stone (no cornmeal, no pizza peels and no trying to transfer sticky bread dough into a hot pot!)

I set the roaster pan lid over the loaf ...

... set the timer for another 30 minutes (and when it went off I lifted the roaster lid off of the stone and set my bread on a rack to cool.

Isn't it beautiful?

For a round loaf I formed the dough into a ball ...

... let it raise for 30 minutes while the over warmed up, then dusted the loaf with flour and slashed the top into a tic-tac-toe pattern...

... transferred the dough onto the hot baking stone and covered with the hot lid (actually I used the bottom of the roaster for this loaf ... when I baked the first round loaf the top came out flat and I realized that the round loaf rises higher and had hit the top of the lid while baking.  Not a problem ... the bottom of the roaster works fine).

After 30 minutes I removed the bread from the oven and set it onto a rack to cool ...

Ta Dah!

Update: Jan. 9, 2013

We've had some foul weather lately with power outages and I got to thinking about this bread.  I am now baking almost all of our bread  myself but if the power goes out the generator will not run the oven on my stove.  So I wondered about baking it in the fire place and yesterday I gave it a try.  

I let the fire burn down to a good layer of coals and then moved them over to the right of the fireplace.  I set the lid of a larger Dutch over on top of the coals (makes it easier to lift the baking oven  out of the hearth) and set a small Dutch oven with its' lid in to preheat for 30 minutes while the loaf rose.  

Wearing heavy welder's gloves (I had these to use with my kiln when I'm enameling) I lifted the Dutch out of the fireplace, removed the lid and set the raised loaf into the pot.  I set the pot back into the fireplace.  After 15 minutes I checked it and decided to turn the pot around (I could tell that the right side was cooking faster).  After another 15 minutes I removed the Dutch oven from the fireplace and ...

Ta Dah!  A perfect loaf of bread :)

And since I already had the fireplace all set up for cooking I decided to start a mess of ribs ...

... but that will be another story ;)

1) The recipe makes 3-4 smallish loaves (perfect for the two of us here).  If you make larger loaves increase the baking time by 5 - 10 minutes.
2) During our cool winter months here in Western Washington I am able to store the dough container outside on the porch so it doesn't take up room in the fridge.
3) For Thanksgiving Dinner I formed the dough into a dozen small balls (about halfway between a golf ball and a tennis ball), set them in a group in the middle of a piece of parchment, let raise, slashed as for the round loaf above and baked for 20 minutes ... perfect dinner rolls!