Spring Harvest

I had a wonderful day yesterday, planting and foraging in the garden, and enjoying the first substantial harvests for the year.  Yes, we’ve picked things here and there, some salads and herbs, but we are finally seeing the fruits of all our March, April and May labors, providing a June feast! 

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You may remember our post about growing potatoes in stackable boxes…yesterday I pulled the forms and found early spring potatoes.  They are crunchier when harvested freshly and become softer and creamier when cooked.    Here they are lightly boiled and then fried in Spectrum Organics Palm Oil Shortening.

 

Red Norland Spring Potatoes

Red Norland Spring Potatoes

The children enjoyed juice from the first batch of Nanking Bush Cherries.  Since the berries are difficult to pit, we boil them in water to release their juices, add a little organic sugar and the children pour this over ice cubes for a refreshing drink.  The additional benefit of Nanking Bush Cherries is that they make a wonderful edible shrub or privacy hedge :)

Picking Nanking Bush Cherries

Picking Nanking Bush Cherries

While we’ve already been enjoying the butter head lettuce Four Seasons, yesterday I harvested our first white Radicchio and they two combined made a delightful and completely non-bitter salad.  Four Seasons is showing off with its brilliant  red accents.

White Radicchio and Lettuce of Four Seasons

White Radicchio and Lettuce of Four Seasons

The Chicken is a broiler raised here on our farm.  It spent over six hours on the smoker yesterday with fresh herbs – thyme, sage and oregano – placed under its skin and in the cavity.   It makes a tender supper and amazing chicken salad. 

Smoked Chicken with Herbs

Smoked Chicken with Herbs

I hope these will encourage those who haven’t yet given gardening at try! 

 

 

Sustainable Seed Company Code!

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Go to this post for the newest code!  2015 Code!

Spring arrived late for most of us on the Eastern sideboard of the U.S., and our gardens have not progressed very far yet. So it may come as a surprise that it’s almost time for fall planting!

In Eliot Coleman’s excellent book Four Season Harvest (in our amazon store), he provides extensive charts for varieties of vegetables that are winter hardy and ideal for extending your growing and harvesting season. Additional charts show planting times for each vegetable – and guess what? We are only two weeks away from the first planting times for our zone! Uh oh!

First, take a look at the handy map on page 208 which shows the last frost date for your area, give or take a few days. For us, it shows October 10, but being on a southern exposure we tend to be a bit warmer. Going to Table 16 Planting Dates for an Extended Harvest on page 206 we scan across to the October 10 column and find that beans, beets, cabbage, and all sort of other plants should be planted in June for an extended harvest. Referring to the tables on page 94 shows that planting cold frame crops for fall and winter consumption starts in June as well.

Fortunately, the nice people over at Sustainable Seed Company can help. Once again, they are providing a discount code for Meduseld readers. You can get your root parsley, lettuce and swiss chard, radicchio, mache’ and cabbages from a trusted organic source.  Use the discount code Meduseld0614 (no spaces) for a ten percent discount off any order over $20.00!  Code is good until June 14, 2014.

And according to Theo Bill at Sustainable Seed Co… “Do you have any followers who are bigger growers?  I.e., might order a 1/4 lb. or more of things?  If so, perhaps you might  include a link to our bulk page?  We have over 750 varieties available in larger sizes for the larger gardens.  Don’t know, but if that’s the case, the bulk page is here:  http://sustainableseedco.com/bulk-heirloom-seed/  Otherwise, just the homepage (http://sustainableseedco.com) is good for a link.”

 

Long Island Project Assist Autism Knit-a-Thon – Yarn on Sale!

Meduseld has donated yarn for the 6th Annual Long Island Project Assist Knit-a-thon.  Here is the description from The Village Knitter group on Ravelry.

Sunday, June 8th Knit-a-Thon! Long Island Project Assist will be sponsoring their Sixth Annual Knit-a-Thon at the shop to raise awareness and donations for the developmentally disabled and autistic population they service. Come join us or make a donation directly online. Long Island Project Assist supports the YAI Network and works hard to ensure that people with developmental and learning disabilities have access to the support and services that they need to live productive, independent and healthy lives.

In honor of the event, the two yarns Meduseld has donated will be on sale in the Meduseld store.  They are two of the sport weight Romney yarns in Monet’s Reflection  and  Monet’s Winter Sunset.  Normally $13.50 a skein, they are now only $10.00 each until June 10, 2014, or until stock runs out, whichever occurs first.

If you’d like to donate directly to the Knit-A-Thon, use this link.

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Meals at Meduseld – Rotisserie Chicken Recipe

This is a recipe for a very easy and flavorful chicken.

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The first step is to make a marinade.  Blend:

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup Balsamic Vinegar

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 heaping tablespoon Herbes de Provence

Opinion differs on the exact ingredients in an Herbes de Provence mix, but the one I use contains marjoram/oregano, lavender, rosemary, thyme and tarragon.

Place this mix in a large bowl, and marinate a large broiler chicken for several hours, turning and basting periodically so that all sides receive the marinade.

Truss the chicken with cotton string.  It is important to tie the wings and legs close to the body so that they do not move around on the rotisserie, causing it to go out of balance as it turns.

Place the chicken in the rotisserie and cook for 2-3 hours (depending on the size of your bird) at 400 degrees until done. 

I have a very basic West Bend model.  It does a superb job and even handles our large 6-7 lb chickens.

 

2014 Lambs for Sale

Meduseld had lovely lambs again this spring and we are making some of them available for those who would like to purchase diverse breeds with good fleeces.

Blue-eyed Friesian Cross

Blue-eyed Friesian Cross

Breeds represented include Romney and Romney crosses, Dorset Down Crosses, Friesian crosses, and Jacobs.  The Romney are known for their luxurious shiny wool.  The Dorset Downs are not to be confused with Dorset meat sheep.  The Dorset Downs produce an exceptionally soft wool.  The Friesian are dairy sheep with soft, shorter fleeces and they have contributed to the soft yarn made here.  Finally, the Jacobs and Jacob crosses show the characteristic spots as well as resistance to parasites.

Romney

Romney

Some of these are extremely tame bottle fed babies, and others have been raised here by their mothers.   White, black and spotted sheep are available.  All have been wormed.  Prices range from $100 to $350.

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Please call (304) 496-9502 to set up an appointment to see our lambs!

 

 

 

 

Pond Question

I received a question about what we use in our pond to solve fish illnesses such as Ick and fungi.   Since the honey bees drink freely from this pond it is important to use products that are compatible with their health as well, and antibiotic-based “cures” don’t seem compatible.  Fortunately, I have found these all natural products for fish, and am putting them in our amazon store.  They are made with herbal extracts such as tea tree oil. 

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Look closely, and you can see the honey bees drinking from the new pond, using the plants as little islands or “flotation devices.”

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How to Create a Pond with Waterfall

Last week I shared my plans for adding to our permaculture garden, including installing a pond.  This weekend we got our project underway.  I am going to set out the steps for placing your own pond.  This will be a picture-intensive article, so it may take longer to load up.

Prepare your site by clearing it, and assess the area for soil conditions and how level or unlevel the ground is.  Our location is not level at all, and we are going to take advantage of this height change by creating a small waterfall effect at the upper end.  The upper layer of soil is not rocky, but below I quickly hit shale.  This is going to have to be removed with a pick and shovel.

Here I have started digging out the area in the approximate shape of the pond. 

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Sloan is placing the pond form in the hole to mark areas that need to be dug.  Marking paint, available at hardware stores, is a very handy tool for this. 

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This project became a family affair, with everyone clamoring to help dig.  If you look on the ground, you can make out the marking paint showing the areas that need to be dug deeper.

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It is very important to keep returning the pond form to the hole and check it for accuracy of shape and being level.  Using a large level check how the pond lays in both directions.  A pond that is out of level will not hold as much water, and looks wrong.   If your level is not large enough to span the pond, you can use a 2×4 like this in order to verify the height on all sides of the pond.

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It is a constant process of digging and checking.  Please don’t skip this step!

Dig a few inches deeper than you need in order to accommodate the pond.  This is so that you can place sand in the bottom of the hole.  You can also use “stone dust,” a fine crushed stone that is very stable.  Once again verify that your surface is level.

 

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Now it’s time to permanently place the pond.  It is necessary to start filling it gradually before you backfill around the pond, otherwise the pond will rise out of the ground slightly as you fill dirt around it.  Here we have started filling with water, and Sloan is making final adjustments with the level before the pond becomes too heavy with water to shift anymore.

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Now the entire pond edges have been back-filled and we can start placing the two cascade/waterfall “ponds.”  These will be set in concrete so that they do not shift.

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We’d like to have a small cascade so that the water is aerated as it falls into the pond.  Using a Quickcrete mix, we begin to set the cascades.  Mix the concrete mix with water to the consistency of toothpaste and set the first cascade.  Make sure you check the level, and weight it with some stones or block so that it does not “heave” as the concrete sets.

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Place some decorative stones around your base now.  Here we have placed the second level.

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Now it is time to test the water pump.   I chose a pump from Lowes that is capable of pumping almost eight feet up.  While our cascade is not that tall, I did not want to use a smaller pump since I know this will be running 24/7. We’re testing to make sure the cascade is the way we want it, before the concrete dries!

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Finally, the fun part – making the pond look like an element in nature by surrounding it with stones and plants.  You can place rocks around the edges, but we wanted to disguise the plastic edges of the pond somewhat and give the fish areas with cover.  You can see that the stones overlap the edges, making the pond blend in better and giving it a more authentic feel.  Here is the pond on the same day, now filled with water, plants even some goldfish!

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If you’d like to have a pond like this installed, don’t hesitate to conttact our other compnay, Culver Design Build, Inc.  We’d be glad to help creat a bit of paradise in your yard.

Garden Expansion 2014

Undaunted by the 26 degree temperatures for last night, I sat and drew out plans for the  garden expansion.

We have two hoop houses near the house, and they have served the rotation of winter plants, chickens and this spring, bottle lambs.  The hoop house that bordered the garden has been my source of winter herbs.  I had an enormous rosemary plant, lemon thyme and sage that I could enjoy all winter.  Until this brutal winter at least, when even under their protection the plants succumbed to the bitter cold.

I have decided to relocate that hoop house and add that area to the existing permaculture garden.  The family enjoys this garden so much, and its maintenance is so easy, that expanding it seems like a wonderful way to add to it, diversify the plants even further, and add some movement to it – the movement is water!  A pond with a waterfall!  Hopefully, this will bring more birds and frogs, which will help with insect populations.  The garden has also become so enjoyable that we want a place where we can sit and appreciate it.

It’s best to put ideas into a plan, so with glass of wine in one hand and pen in the other, I sat last night and started drawing.  This sketch is not to scale, but you can recognize the maze-like elements of the existing garden.  The goal is to add growing area for plants, a pond, and a sitting area.  It would also be a plus to add a small tool shed. 

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Here is a picture of the garden edge with the hoop house being dismantled.  You can see the abrupt end and the bean stakes from last year.  we are going to move these and extend the path.  Here is the current state, and in the next picture I have marked the approximate area where we will place the future pond.  A pond is not merely ornamental.  It provides water for bees and birds.  It also becomes the place for mosquitoes to place their larvae, which are promptly eaten by foraging Koi and goldfish.  Despite living in a very remote location with several ponds, we have no mosquitoes!

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The stone at the right tip is "Point A" for reference

The stone at the right tip is “Point A” for reference

 

The garden slopes gradually downhill, which is perfect in order to make a cascading waterfall.

Here is the inside of the hoop house as it is being taken apart. 

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You can make out the remains of some of the herbs that were destroyed by the excessively cold winter.  This will all be incorporated into the garden.  The middle of this hoop house will become a small patio for a bistro set.

We have selected our pond and it is on hold at Lowes.  Here is a link to it.  Pond Liner  It is a large, 270 gallon capacity pond.  Its dimensions are approximately 7’x7′, which should fit neatly into the area I have designated for it.

 

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Surrounding the pond will be perennial vegetables such as asparagus (they have lovely ferns most of the year) and rhubarb, which some would actually call a fruit.  I will also transplant banana trees from the conservatory each year to give the sitting area a tropical feel as well as some shade. 

I will keep you posted on the progress with photos and instructions, especially for seating the pond liner correctly, and for installing the waterfall/cascade effect.