Tag Archives: Meduseld

Lambs 2015

We have had some more lambs the last few days.  Here is an angelic darling born this morning.  Her mother is a Jacob-Shetland cross named Elsa, and her sire is Samson, a very friendly Romney.

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Here is another photo of Aslan, who was born a month ago.  He has already grown a good deal and is looking very fit.

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We have been liming the pastures and will be over-seeding them with mixed pasture grasses and legumes.  The legumes fix nitrogen in the soil and provide more diverse grazing for the sheep.  February and March are good months for doing this since with the thawing ground the animals can “hoof it in.”  In other words, the sheep’s hooves press the seeds into the ground and save us from having to till the seeds into the earth.

The groundhog saw his shadow last week, but I don’t believe him.  The birds are making spring calls outside already, and the geese have been mating on the pond.  Hoping for an early Spring :)

 

 

Eating Local and David Austin Roses

Pigs are an exception, since they can be a very dangerous animal to have around children.  We raised two pasture pigs several years ago.  We made a butcher appointment for them on the same day we found they had killed one of the newborn lambs.

Turning to the grocery stores for pork is not an option.  Eating meat from a CAFO (confined animal feeding operation) is not what we consider good nutrition.  Fortunately, there is a local farm that raises wonderful pastured pigs called Watermark Farm.  We picked our pig up this weekend from Gores Butcher and are delighted.  Last night we enjoyed this delightful pork loin cooked in mustard and Esther’s potatoes coated with butter and dill.  Beside being a wonderful meal it gave us satisfaction that we supported local families.  Additionally it reminded us how much we benefit from their hard labor.  We are grateful!

Watermark Farm Pork with Mustard Sauce

Watermark Farm Pork with Mustard Sauce

Dr. Mercola reported in his article today that the world’s top-soil will be depleted in 60 years at the rate that commercial agriculture is using it.  Please!  Support local farms that raise food sustainably!

January is the time when our mailbox fills with gardening catalogs, and it gives me such a surge of hope for Spring.  I am not a winter child and view snow and cold suspiciously.  Having lived in Brazil, I don’t see much need for the stuff.  One of the most inspiring catalogs was from David Austin Roses.  We have shown pictures of some of these stunning beauties in our garden.  This year, I am going to turn the front fenced yard into another herb garden and intersperse additional roses in these beds.  Now for the really good news!  They have a generous 25% off coupon code if you order by February 27!  It’s:

UFS

That’s it.  I don’t get a kickback or any revenue, but I do think they have lovely roses.  Go to their website for gorgeous pictures that are so heavenly you can almost smell them.  Their website is www.davidaustinroses.com

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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.”

 

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.

 

Early Signs of Spring

Spring is still dawdling although there are encouraging signs.  A hint of green is showing itself in the lawn and pastures, and buds are forming on fruit trees. 

Buds forming on apple tree

Buds forming on apple tree

Last night we enjoyed the delightful sound of tree frogs around the pond.  Get close to that pond at your own peril, though!  The geese have made their nests and do not welcome intruders!

Inside the conservatory Spring is well advanced.  Small vegetables are already forming.  We have selected parthenocarpic (self-pollinating) varieties so that we do not need a pollinator.

Zephyr Zucchini

Zephyr Zucchini

Some vegetables, such as beans, do not need a pollinator either.  Here are some pole beans in a hanging basket, ready to be harvested.

Assorted pole beans

Assorted pole beans

The Jabuticaba berries have grown so quickly you can see the change overnight.   These were not pollinated either, showing me that they will do well in the greenhouse environment, and I won’t have to pollinate these by hand with a small paint brush.

Jabuticaba berries

Jabuticaba berries

My gardenia bush normally blooms right around Easter.  Since Easter is late this year, these beauties are already in full bloom before the holiday, filling the conservatory with its sweet fragrance.

Gardenia

Gardenia

And, our experiment with growing potatoes indoors in stacking boxes is going rather well.  Here, we are already on the third layer, and the plants are still reaching up.  Since they have not set blossoms yet, I hope they are still putting out additional tuber shoots.

Potatoes in stackable boxes

Potatoes in stackable boxes

There are only two more days to use Meduseld’s exclusive discount at Sustainable Seed Company.  Remember to use Meduseld14 at checkout to get ten percent off your order!

 

 

 

 

 

Meals at Meduseld – Easy Mayonnaise

Thick, creamy mayonnaise

Thick, creamy mayonnaise

Making mayonnaise from scratch can be daunting.  The oil has to be incorporated very gradually into the eggs or it will separate.  I’ve avoided making it in the past because of the mess it would make with my blender.  Oil and eggs would spray all over the kitchen as I poured oil into the running blender.  What a mess!  It seemed to take more time to clean than to make the mayonnaise!

Recently, I decided I had to commit to making mayonnaise from scratch again.  The list of ingredients on the store brands, not to mention the exorbitant price, was enough to convince me to find a better way to make this delicious treat.  And did I ever find one!    A hand blender!

I have  an inexpensive Hamilton Beach hand blender (in Meduseld’s Amazon store) that I use for making Smokey Pumpkin Soup (recipe for that soon).  Using this nifty tool, you can make your mayonnaise in a wide mouth quart jar that can go straight in the refrigerator.  The only thing to clean is the hand blender attachment. 

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First, the list of ingredients for a very basic, thick and creamy mayonnaise.  Then I’ll provide some variations.

In the bottom of the jar, place:

4 egg yolks (try to get local free-range eggs for freshness)

scant teaspoon salt

Blend these together briefly.

With the blender running, very slowly pour a trickle of one cup oil into the jar.  Oil options are: olive, sunflower, grape seed, and blends of these and other oils.  I do not recommend using soy since it can increase estrogen levels (http://americannutritionassociation.org/newsletter/whole-soy-story).   This is very serious for men!

As you pour in the oil, you will notice that the mix will start to get thicker.  When you have added all the oil, you should have a thick mayonnaise.  Now, add two tablespoons apple cider vinegar and blend.  Voila!  It’s that easy!

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That is a very basic version, not unlike the brand Dukes.  It you want to add some flavor, you can mix one teaspoon mustard in with the eggs.  You can add seasonings such as herbs and garlic.  Or you can substitute half a freshly squeezed lemon for the vinegar.

Sustainable Seed Company – Discount Code

 UPDATE:  Sustainable Seed Co may be offering a new code!  Check for a new Blog Post February 2015!!!!!!!

Recently I wrote an article comparing seeds purchased from two different seed companies.  What proceeded was an interesting conversation with “Farmer John” of Sustainable Seed Company about seed dates, quality, and their commitment to their customers.  Not only did they offer to do everything in their power to make sure that I am content with their product and service, they want YOU to be happy too.

They are offering a ten-percent off code just for Meduseld blog readers!  Go the their website at sustainableseedco.com and use this code at checkout - Meduseld14 – no quotes and no spaces.  This code is good for readers of Meduseld’s blog only, and expires April 6, 2014.  Thanks much Farmer John for extending this offer!

While you are at their website, read up about their heirloom seed varieties and about their committment to sustainable agriculture.

Click here to go directly to their seed potato page!

And while we are discussing seeds, here is our own garden, which I have raked and trimmed, all prepared for planting.  First in will be onion sets, fava beans, and spinach.

Permaculture garden with key-hole beds ready for 2014 planting

Permaculture garden with key-hole beds ready for 2014 planting