Sunday, June 28, 2009


Compost makes up the major addition to our gardens fertility every year. The majority of that is in the form of aged chicken litter. You see I try and get the most out of everything we buy in and that includes the chicken feed as well. We mostly try to litter our chickens on cut and dried grass clippings but in the winter when they are not outside as much we need to supplement their litter with wood bedding. Usually two to three times a year I clean out the coop and drag the litter out behind the pole barn. Once it is out there I basically leave it to mellow for at least a year and sometimes two. I also add to the compost in and effort to increase the nutritional components. My main additions are charred wood, ash and burned bone.
We have a number of mature trees on our property and that means plenty of sticks for the burn barrel. I used to make charcoal just for the forge but now I make it for the garden as well. I ran across an article on Terra Preta some time ago and ever since I try to add charcoal to my soil when I have a surplus.
I also used that same burn barrel a few years back to dispose of several deer carcasses left over from deer hunting. I burned most of the deer bones by suspending them over the fire which was stoked by the fat from the bones and also some that was left over from the butchering. Afterwords I had an ash that was rich with bone fragments and I figured that would add more nutrients to the pile so I saved the ash and bone to add to the pile.
I also add leaves in the fall to the base of a new pile. Sometimes I also add coffee grounds as well to offset the alkaline nature of the wood ash. That is all. If I get a chance I may turn the pile once or twice a year but that is about it.
In addition to this I also keep a garden compost pile that gets most of the organic matter from the kitchen.

In unrelated news I made a batch of strawberry rhubarb jam this evening and this weekend I dried a ton of dill.

Friday, June 26, 2009

A Night At The Movies

Friday night Jess and I went out to see the movie Food inc. at the Lagoon theater. I have to say it was well made and entertaining film. I don't know that any of the information presented in the film would be new to anyone interested in organic or local foods. People who have read Michael Pollan or Eric Schlosser are pretty much already familiar with most of the material. I do think that it presents the information in a more visceral way. It is one thing to know that Monsanto defends their patents vigorously but quite another to see the face of a farm worker being legally deposed and economically destroyed in the process. It is one thing to know that food safety regulations to be woefully inadequate but it is quite another to see a mother pushing food safety legislation after the death of her child from a food borne illness. It is this more emotional connection that helps to motivate the viewer. But this isn't some PETA shock film designed to offend and scare the audience. The film does also have Joel Salatin and he is the films beacon of optimism and reform. His Polyface farm exists as an excellent example of what else can and should be done. Joel's effervescent personality and awesome hat raise the mood of the film. (seriously I need a hat like that!) If you have the time I recommend that you see the movie and bring someone who might otherwise not see it.

Also good review here from the Boston Globe.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Strawberry Jam

This spring we have had a bumper crop of strawberries. We had been eating most of them as a small snack when working in the garden or a small handfull after dinner as a treat. However the last few days we have been have been unable to sneak down to the garden much. So this afternoon Jess and I went and picked almost a gallon of strawberries from our little 4x4 patch. We decided that this would be a great time to put some away for winter use so we made a batch of strawberry preserves from the Bell Blue Book. we held back a bit of sugar and it appears to have been just a touch thin when I last checked on it but the spoonfull I tasted after we were done canning the rest was a delight.
We also made another batch of garlic scape pesto with walnuts. We made this one with a handfull of spinach as it is just about to bolt. It turned out great. I got the idea to add the spinach from the comments to this post over at Simple,Good and Tasty. We put most of it in the freezer for pasta suppers this winter.

Hope everyone had a great Father's day weekend and made the most out of the longest day of the year.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Miracle !

Well we actually have apricots!! I know you don't believe me but here is the photographic proof!
I guess there was a fortunate alignment of the stars or something because this is something truly new.



Well we are nearing the summer solstice already. And things are starting to happen in the garden. We have had a coolish and wettish June after a hot dry May. As a result the rhubarb is back and going well and the spinach has really taken off. We are starting to get strawberries as well. Probably about a cup a day or so. They taste wonderful straight from the plant. The scarlet runner beans are already showing their buds and I expect flowers this week. We had a lot of rain last week and today we are supposed to see temps in the 80's. It also looks like I may actually manage to grow a carrot or two this year, which would be a pleasant change from previous years. I am however starting to think that I need to find more perennials that I can divide to crop the entire yard with.
Also last night I started two batches of wine. One is a rhubarb and the other is raspberry and rhubarb.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Tour de farm

Last Sunday Jess and I went to Elgin for the first of the Tour De Farm dinners featuring a pork laden menu prepared by the Craftsmans' Mike Philips. All I can say is wow! The dinner was great. All the courses had some amount of pork from the Klein's Hidden Stream Farm. Ther is a link here to a small photo essay put up on the Tour De Farm site.


Pictures from the tour de farm

Sunday, June 7, 2009


I am afraid things are still just coming along in the garden. We did manage to harvest a few strawberries earlier this week. But for the most part the news from the garden has been kind of slow. May was a very dry month for us. Much drier than we usually see here in the spring. But it looks like a change has come now that we are in June as just yesterday we received over an inch of rain. Once we get the June sun back I predict we should practicaly be able to hear the garden growing at night.
We also added 2 more tomato plants. We picked up a pair of sungold cherry tomatos last weekend at the St Paul Farmers market. I am told that it is perhaps the tastiest of all hte cherry toms.

More to come.