What’s in Season in December?

What’s in season in December? Not a whole lot!

December is a time for rest for you and for your garden. Take a break! It’s likely to be the only one you’ve had this year. Plus, January is right around the corner and those seed catalogs are going to start piling up before you know it!

Some of our favorite Seed sources:
Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co.
High Mowing Seeds
Johnny’s Selected Seeds
Seeds of Change
Southern Exposure
Sow True Seed

Happy Holidays from all of us at Owl Moon Farms!

What’s in season in November? Turnips!

photo credit: sheknows.com

photo credit: sheknows.com

Fast-growing turnips thrive in cool temperatures; hot weather makes the leaves tough and the roots woody and bitter. Ample moisture and temperatures of 50° to 70°F encourage rapid grown and a high-quality crop. Enjoy the roots and tops either raw or cooked.[1]

Thinking about growing turnips on your homestead?

Planting

Turnips thrive in well-drained, deeply worked soil on a sunny site.

Plant seeds outdoors 3 weeks before the last frost in spring. The soil must be at least 40°F for germination, which takes from 7 to 14 days. Fall crops of turnips are often sweeter and provide a longer harvest period than spring plantings. For a fall harvest, plant in midsummer about 2 months before the first frost.

Sow spring crops ¼ inch deep and fall crops ½ inch deep. Broadcast the seeds, and later thin them to 3 to 4 inches a part, or plant seeds in rows spaced 12 to 18 inches apart.

Growing guidelines: Keep the soil evenly moist to promote fast growth and the best flavor. When plants are 5 inches tall, apply mulch at least 2 inches thick. No extra fertilizer is needed in well-prepared soil.

Harvesting 

Harvest greens when they are large enough to pick. If you plan to harvest both leaves and roots from a single planting, remove only 2 or 3 leaves per plant. Small roots are the most tender, so pull when they are 1 to 3 inches in diameter. It’s easy to harvest small turnips growing in light garden soil simply by hand pulling them. For large storage roots, though, try loosening the soil by inserting a spading fork beside the row first.

Storage

To store the roots, twist off their tops, leaving ½ inch of stem. Place undamaged roots in a cool, dark place, such as a basement or root cellar. Don’t wash off soil that clings to roots: it helps protect roots in storage. They will keep for several months. You can also leave your fall crop in the ground until early winter (or throughout winter in mild climates) by covering them with a thick mulch.

What’s in Season in October? Pumpkins (of course)!

PumpkinsPumpkins and squash are believed to have originated in the ancient Americas. These early pumpkins were not the traditional round orange upright Jack-O-Lantern fruit we think of today when you hear the word pumpkin. They were a crooked neck variety, which stored well. Archeologists have determined that variations of squash and pumpkins were cultivated along river and creek banks along with sunflowers and beans. This took place long before the emergence of maize (corn). After maize was introduced, ancient farmers learned to grow squash with maize and beans using the “Three Sisters” tradition.[1]

Thinking about growing pumpkins on your homestead?

Planting

I think one of the most surprising and frustrating things about growing pumpkins I learned early (though not early enough) in my gardening career, is that pumpkins should be planted in the spring! Seems obvious to me now, but thinking of carving pumpkins in spring was a strange adjustment for me.

Pumpkins appreciate soil well supplied with organic matter. Mulching helps to control weeds that would be difficult to hoe out from the spreading vines. Don’t hurry to plant them. What you want is a well-developed storage crop, not a quick harvest. Planting at the end of May allows plenty of time in most areas.[2] Start pumpkins with a generous shovelful of compost or well-rotted manure in each hill. When the plant starts to develop vines, anticipate the squash borer by firming two or three shovelfuls of oil over several vine nodes to encourage auxiliary rooting. Most varieties need a kit if space; a hill will ramble over an 8-by-8 foot square of ground by summer’s end. Planting at the edge of the corn works well. The vines wander among the corn and help to discourage raccoons.[3]

Harvesting 

Pumpkins are ready to harvest when the stem has started to dry and the pumpkin skin has begun to harden. Leave about an inch of stem. Handle with care. Don’t carry them around by the stem; if it breaks off, the pumpkin won’t cure or store well. If the weather is dry and sunny, pumpkins can be cured in the field in about a week. Cover or move inside if a hard frost threatens.[4]

Saving Seeds

Collect seeds from fully ripened fruits that have developed a good hard rind. Halve the pumpkins, fork out the seeds, wash off the pulp, and dry the seeds for a week or so indoors. You’ll notice a few flat seeds. Since these lack embryos, they’ll never grow. You can winnow them off or, if you’re handling small batches of seeds, pick them out at planting time next year. British horticulturalist Lawrence Hills declares that pumpkin seeds improve with age – up to a point, of course.[3]

Storage

Pumpkins do well with more humidity than squash – 70 to 75 percent rather than 60 to 70 – because their skins are slightly more tender. Also for this reason, they don’t last quite as long in storage as do squash. High storage temperatures will make them stringy. Cook and use them in the fall or cut them in thin slices and dry them.[2]


[2] Root Cellaring, Mike and Nancy Bubel, 1991

[3] The New Seed-Starters Handbook, Nancy Bubel, 1988.

[4] The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, Edward C. Smith, 2009

Homemade Ramen Noodles

I thought it would be fun to share a simple homemade ramen recipe with you today, but as I started, I realized I needed to share another recipe with you at the same time.

Homemade Ramen Noodles

Ingredients
4 cups chicken stock*
1 tsp. Chinese Five Spice
1 tsp. salt
1 carrot, sliced thin
Chinese curly noodles
Chives
2-3 cloves garlic

Directions

  1. Add stock, spices, salt and carrot to a pot and bring to a boil.
  2. When the carrots seem almost cooked, add noodles and continue to boil for 3-4 minutes.
  3. When noodles are cooked through, add chives and garlic. Serve.

I have only ever found the curly noodles at Wegman’s, so let us know in the comments if you’ve come across them elsewhere. and the Chinese Five Spice is something I purchase in bulk from Frontier Co-op, though I’m sure you can buy it in smaller quantities in a well-stocked gourmet or whole food market. Or you could make your own!

*For about a year and a half (?) I’ve been making chicken stock with the carcass of a Farmer’s Market chicken. We roast the chicken first, or sometimes I just part it, and then use the bones, skin, neck, entrails – whatever is leftover – to make nutrient-rich, delicious chicken stock. There are lots of different ways to do it, and many recipes, but this is what works for us. And, like so many other “recipes,” I work with what I have and leave everything else out if I don’t have it. I think it’s still healthier than anything I could buy in the supermarket…

Homemade Chicken Stock

homemade chicken stock setup

Decanting 1 quart of stock

Ingredients
1 chicken carcass
water
2 carrots, chopped
1 onion, chopped

Directions

  1. Place the chicken carcass in a 6-quart crockpot and cover with water.
  2. Add chopped veggies and cook on low for 24 hours.
  3. Using a ladle, remove 1 quart stock and then add more water to the crockpot. {I use a fine mesh sieve to catch any of the chicken or veg bits and then add that sludge back to the pot. See photo.}
  4. Next day, same time, remove another quart of stock and add more water.
  5. I usually do it for a total of 3 quarts.

I’ve taken more each day and find that it gets very thin. Taking only 1 quart yields a dark, rich stock. We use the stock when cooking grains like rice or barley for dinner and as the base for soups. During the cold winter, it’s lovely to take a scoop, add some salt, and sip it like tea. Truly a homemade super food.

Ten Reasons to drink Bone Broth {chicken stock} from KitchenStewardship.com:

1. Immunity Boosting Fat
The yellow fat from pastured chickens holds immune boosting powers that are only the tip of the iceberg in the power of a properly prepared chicken stock to keep you from getting the next cold or other bug that flies through your house.

2. Warm Liquid is Soothing
It’s okay to mention the obvious. There are plenty of other immune-boosting strategies, like apple cider vinegar water, using lots of raw garlic, and taking fermented cod liver oil, but the soothing feel of a warm liquid on a cold day can’t be beat. (You’ll still want FCLO from Green Pasture for the Vitamins A and D and omega 3s, but you might not want to sip it as you sit at the computer!)

3. Super Mineral Boost
Bone broth contains minerals from the bones that are not only abundant but easy to assimilate into our bodies (unlike the whole mess with whole grains and phytic acid and such – see the soaking grains series for more info on that). Minerals that will help you stay in optimal health include:

  • calcium
  • magnesium
  • phosphorus
  • other trace minerals

SEVEN more reasons here!

What in the world am I doing?

It’s the end of August, and another summer not living on a farm is almost gone. In April we “moved to town,” and I tried to figure out how that could be a step in the right direction. Although our chickens are living on someone else’s farm and my neighbors are less than 100 feet away all around us, I do feel closer to realizing my farm dream. Since March I have been working for Barefoot Gardens, a small market garden within the borough limits of Doylestown, PA. Eric and Linda grow vegetables for the Farmer’s Market, a local food distributor and at least one restaurant. They grow everything from roots, to greens, to herbs, and flowers. Linda operates a small herbal shop in town where she is able to offer her clients medical advice as well as homegrown herbs and remedies.

Starting in March gave me an opportunity to see the growing season from the very start. I spent my first few weeks freezing my rump in the unheated greenhouse, seeding most of what we would be growing throughout the season. Lettuce, onions, and kale, and eventually tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. My fingers were numb, but all that quiet, one-on-one time allowed me to ask 100s of questions. Why this variety and not another? Why seed into this size tray and not the bigger one? How do you know when to transplant? Why a market-based CSA this year? On an on it went, for days, weeks!

In April and May we spent more time seeding and some time transplanting those little seedlings to the field. My first few beds were terrible, due to my inexperience, of course, but also the age of the seedlings. Many farmers experienced the same long, cool, wet spring we had, so getting transplants into the ground was often a race against the rain. My little Cauliflowers, Broccolis and Kohlrabis were too small to transplant into the 6-inch holes our transplanter made. Fortunately, my teacher was very patient and encouraging, and even though the Cauliflower and Broccoli were overcome by weeds and never harvested (!!!), the Kohlrabi was a huge success at market. As we started transplanting lettuce {1-inch blocks of soil}, we realized the 6-inch holes {filled with water} were just not going to work. So we devised a quick-fix out in the field. We raised the transplanter wheels so they wouldn’t pierce the ground, but we kept the water turned on. As we drove down the beds, the water trickled along and I was able to plug the tiny lettuces into the soil very easily. This method also allowed us to plant at a little closer spacing – we used 4″ spacing on one variety! I wouldn’t recommend that going forward though: our weeding tools were too wide to fit between the heads of lettuce. Depending on your tools, I wouldn’t recommend anything closer than 6″. The soil does have to be pretty soft to make that work effectively too – we tried in rain packed soil and were nearly breaking our fingers!

In June it was time to start harvesting. And weeding. And harvesting. And weeding. Luckily our crew grew from 2 to 6 people so all that work was spread out just a little. Our ages range from a freshman in college to a university english professor, and we have a great time together. I learned more about managing farm employees, managing the workload, and what a hot, humid summer can do to your plants – or rather your WEEDS! I got to pound 6-foot tomato stakes into the ground in 90+ degree weather. And then I got to see what happens when you don’t have time to string up those tomatoes! Harvesting from plants that are not trellised is my number one mistake to watch out for in the Owl Moon Farms Garden.

When the Farmer’s Market started I was responsible for posting the week’s Harvest List on the farm’s Facebook page. Posting the list on Thursday or Friday let the CSA customers know what to expect at market, and allowed them to plan to arrive early if necessary. One downside of a Market-based CSA is that your members are competing with the other market goers for the best selection of produce. Our market opens at 7am, so unless you’re a really early bird, you might miss something like Asparagus or Strawberries or even Lettuce which often sold out by 9:30am. We talked about putting out half of the veggies at 7 and half later, but that never really happened. Our market stand was always one of the busiest and we just didn’t have time to make a run back to the farm.

My other responsibility during the market season was to find, format and provide recipes for one or two veggies that were new to the stand. Many CSAs do something like this throughout their harvest season, either through a weekly newsletter {emailed or included in the share box}. With such a small team, Barefoot Gardens doesn’t have a history of consistent communication with CSA members, so if recipes were going to happen, I had to print them and bring them myself. Luckily, customers seemed to really appreciate it – especially if they hadn’t seen a particular vegetable before. “Oh, these are Fava Beans?!?! How should I cook them??” “Why, here’s a recipe to try!” I did Kohlrabi, Asparagus, Kale, Zucchini, Squash Blossoms and more.

So, even though I don’t live on my own farm yet, I’ve finally become a farmer, and it feels great. I’ve been seeding, planting, growing, harvesting, weeding, and composting two days a week since March and I feel confident that I could handle a fairly large garden plot.

What’s in season in August? Okra!

Okra, native to Africa and a beautiful relative of hibiscus, was brought to North America in the 1600s. This tropical plant quickly became popular in the Deep South both as a side dish and as a thickening for gumbo and stews. It can, however, thrive in any climate where corn will grow. Depending on the cultivar, the large-flowered, fast-growing plants reach 2 to 6 feet tall. Varieties with colorful stems and leaves, such as ‘Burgundy’, make attractive garden borders.

Thinking about growing okra in your garden?

Planting
Okra needs full sun. It will grow in ordinary garden soil but does best in fertile loam, particularly where a nitrogen-fixing crop, such as early peas, grew previously.

In short-season areas, start plants indoors 6 weeks before setting them out (3 to 4 weeks after the last frost date). Sow two seeds per peat pot and clip off the weaker seedling.

When seeding okra directly in the ground, wait until after the soil has warmed and the air temperature is at least 60F. Use fresh seed, and soak it overnight or nick each seed coat with a file to encourage germination. Sow seed ½ inch deep in light soil and 1 inch deep in heavy soil; spacing is 3 inches apart in rows 3 feet apart. Thin seedlings to 18 to 24 inches apart, always leaving the strongest of the young plants.

Growing Guidelines
When okra in 4 inches tall, mulch to keep out weeds ad conserve moisture. Water during dry spells. Every 3 to 4 weeks, side-dress with compost or feed with compost tea. In areas with long, hot summers, cut the plants back almost to ground level in midsummer to fertilize to produce a second crop.

Problems
Okra seldom succumbs to pests or diseases. Hand-pick any stinkbugs that appear; these light green, shield-shaped bugs cause misshapen pods. Fusarium wilt, a soilborne disease, is sometimes a problem in hot regions. If the disease causes leaves to yellow and wilt, pull and destroy affected plants. Crop rotation is the best preventive measure.

Harvesting
About 50 to 60 days after planting, edible pods will start to appear. They are tough when mature, so harvest daily with a sharp knife when they are no more than finger sized and when stems are still tender and easy to cut. Pick frequently and the plants will keep producing until killed by frost. Be sure to remove and compost any mature pods you might have missed earlier.
Many people find their skin is sensitive to the pods’ prickly spines, so wear gloves and long sleeves when harvesting, or plant a spineless variety such as ‘Clemson Spineless.’

Source: www.organicgardening.com

Need a recipe?

I made this last summer with over-ripe, tough fruit and it was still yummy! I will be trying it again this summer with the fresh, tender fruit and expect an even better result.

Pickled Okra
a canning recipe from Food in Jars, Marisa McClellan

Ingredients
3 cups apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons pickling salt
4 lemon slices
4 Tablespoons Pickling Spice, divided
2 pounds okra, washed and trimmed
4 garlic cloves, peeled

Directions

  1. Prepare a boiling water bath and 4 regular-mouth 1-pint jars.
  2. Combine the vinegar, 3 cups water, and pickling salt in a pot and bring the brine to a boil.
  3. Meanwhile, put a lemon slice and 1 tablespoon pickling spice in the bottom of each sterilized jar. Then pack the okra in, first laying them in so that the points are up. Then insert another layer with the points down, so that they interlock. Nestle 1 garlic clove among the okra in each jar.
  4. Slowly pour the hot brine over the okra in each jar, leaving ½-inch headspace. Gently tap the jars on a towel-lined countertop to help loosen any bubbles before using a wooden chopstick to dislodge any remaining bubbles. Check the headspace again and add more brine if necessary.
  5. Wipe the rims, apply the lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
  6. Let the pickles cure for at least 1 week before eating.