April Garden Tour

Things are starting to bloom and grow around here, and I have managed to get a few things planted in between the rain showers. We have already had 24 inches of rain so far this year, even more that the 22 inches we had by this time last year. That has made working the soil and planting things a challenge to say the least. I have finally gotten the cold frame beds planted, starting with kale I set out in late March. I have Prizm, Starbor, Darkibor and White Russian planted there, and it is time to weed and mulch with straw. Other than White Russian these are all fairly short curly types.

cold frame bed with kale

cold frame bed with kale

A few days later I made a new cold frame bottom and situated it on the south side of the greenhouse where it would warm up quickly. I planted it in kohlrabi, including favorites like Konan and Kolibri plus test varieties like Beas, Korist and Terek. They have made a lot of growth since then but aren’t starting to bulb up just yet. I haven’t made a lid for the frame yet, and covered it with bird netting to keep the deer and other mammals from getting to the plants.

bed with kohlrabi

bed with kohlrabi

I planted another cold frame bed just two weeks ago, and those plants are taking off quickly. It’s a mix of greens including Senposai, Komatsuna, Spigariello, mizuna and mild mustard greens. And I planted the last bed in lettuce just yesterday, but didn’t get a photo.

bed with mixed greens

bed with mixed greens

Red Kingdom is a beautiful red mizuna with broad, mild tasting leaves. It’s a 2016 AAS Winner and is slow to flower in my spring garden when many Asian greens are prone to bolting.

mizuna Red Kingdom

mizuna Red Kingdom

In the main garden, all I have planted so far is one bed of brassicas and the alliums I planted last fall. I have mulched the brassicas with shredded paper and I will cover that with straw soon. I find the paper/straw combination works well in spring when there are a lot of annual weeds popping up. I got the bed worked up and those plants set out on April 9th, just in time before more rain came.

Piracicaba broccoli seedling

Piracicaba broccoli seedling

The greenhouse is starting to fill up with seedlings. I still have one bed planted in kale plants that overwintered and are giving us lots of rapini. And I have lettuce coming along nicely in there in containers that should keep us supplied until that I just planted outside is ready to start cutting.

greenhouse in April

greenhouse in April

And speaking of growing, the baby bluebirds are growing up fast in the PVC nest box! Four of six eggs hatched, and the parents have been busy keeping them fed. I managed to sneak a peek the other day when they were away.

baby bluebirds

baby bluebirds

I’ll close with a pic of our azaleas blooming. This is probably the best show they have put on since we planted them back in 2010. Hopefully the rain won’t beat them back too badly while they are in their prime.

azaleas in bloom

azaleas in bloom

I hope you have enjoyed this quick tour of what’s growing around here in late April. I’ll be back soon with more happenings from Happy Acres!

Posted in Gardening | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Harvest Monday April 22, 2019

Welcome to Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. We’re still in the ‘between’ garden season here, where the winter veggies are slowing down and the spring crops are starting to come in. We’ve gotten about a pound of asparagus so far, and recent rains should really get it popping up. The kale rapini is winding down, but I got about a half pound of it last week and it has really been a treat. The Western Front and True Siberian kale plants have made a lot of rapini. We’re still eating kale leaves too but I didn’t cut any last week.

kale rapini and asparagus

kale rapini and asparagus

I had a flat of lettuce seedlings that needed thinning last week, and they had gotten large enough to save them and use them in a salad. Had they been smaller they would have wound up on the compost pile, but these were plenty big enough to serve as ‘baby’ lettuce. I got several cups of them, and we enjoyed them one day on a salad we had for lunch. I’m not a fan of wasting food and these were certainly worth the minimal effort to clean them up.

lettuce thinnings

lettuce thinnings

Meanwhile, I cut a bit more of the winter planted lettuce from the greenhouse. This is Salanova Red Butter, along with a bit of Tango that had re-sprouted after I cut the main head a couple of weeks ago.

Salanova Red Butter lettuce

Salanova Red Butter lettuce

Also from the greenhouse I made a big cutting of parsley to make a tabouli salad. The parsley plants in there are getting ready to bolt, so they won’t be around much longer. Until then we have lots of parsley to enjoy. I don’t dry it because I think it loses it’s flavor, plus we pretty much have the fresh version available year round.

parsley for tabouli

parsley for tabouli

And I continue to cut microgreens as needed. This is the Mild Microgreens Mix from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. I started more microgreens last week to keep the harvests growing. This time I made my own mix using seeds for collards, Tokyo Bekana and some old lettuce seed I had on hand.

mild microgreen mix

mild microgreen mix

In the future harvests department, the Patio Baby and Fairy Tale eggplants I started early and potted up into containers are doing well. I have three growing in pots and one in a grow bag. These should give us an early taste of eggplant at least a month before the ones planted in the main garden start fruiting. Both of these varieties are AAS Winners and do quite well in containers. I brought them in on Saturday night when a bit of frost was forecast, but hopefully that will be the last frost of the season.

container grown eggplant

container grown eggplant

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to share, add your name and blog link to Mr Linky below. And be sure and check out what everyone is harvesting!

 


Posted in Harvest Monday | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Harvest Monday April 15, 2019

Welcome to Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. It’s officially asparagus season here, and that is welcome news! The paparazzi were out early one morning to witness the first harvest of the season. It wasn’t a lot, but it was sure tasty!

first asparagus harvest of 2019

first asparagus harvest of 2019

asparagus

asparagus

More spears are slowly coming up, and once the weather warms up a tad more they should really get going. Lynda got the asparagus beds weeded and mulched before the first spears came up, and she has it looking great. She used cardboard around the edges, shredded paper down the rows, sheets of newspaper for the walkways between the beds, and then covered it all with straw. I can only wish I had the main garden looking like that!

asparagus beds after mulching

asparagus beds after mulching

I’m still cutting the winter lettuce in the greenhouse. There’s not much left, and hopefully the ones I planted a few weeks ago will be ready to join the party soon.

Mirlo and Pele lettuce

Mirlo and Pele lettuce

The kale rapini has been the surprise star here lately. We’ve been roasting it for about 10 minutes in a 400°F oven. I also like to give it a quick saute with a bit of olive oil. The one in the below photo is from Western Front kale, and the flower shoots come with a few leaves attached. They crisp up like kale chips when roasted, so it’s almost like two veggies in one – kale chips and rapini!

kale rapini

kale rapini

I pulled the rest of the curly kale I had growing in a cold frame bed to make room for a new planting of greens. There’s two pounds of leaves in the tubtrug, and it was enough to share with a couple of friends as well as have plenty for ourselves.

curly kale

curly kale

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to share, add your name and blog link to Mr Linky below. And be sure and check out what everyone is harvesting!


Posted in Harvest Monday | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Photo Friday: 9 Years of Bread Baking

It’s hard to believe, but my wife and I have been baking all our own bread for 9 years now. Both of us had baked a lot of bread before that time, but we had never tried to bake all of our bread. My wife got on a kick baking bread from the no-knead recipes in Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day books. One of our favorite things was when she made grissini breadsticks using the cracked wheat dough. They are just the thing to go with salad or a bowl of soup. Some of my other favorites she made were the Olive Spelt buns, the Chocolate Espresso muffins, and the Honey Raisin English muffins.

crispy grissini breadsticks

crispy grissini breadsticks

One bread I baked back in 2010 was the Pain de Campagne. This rustic loaf in the photo below was a blend of whole wheat, rye and unbleached bread flours and had a wonderful tangy flavor. The recipe came from Rustic European Breads From Your Bread Machine. It was not actually baked in the bread machine, though it was used to knead and ferment the dough.

Pain Campagne loaf

Pain Campagne loaf

In the years since, I have baked a number of recipes from the King Arthur Flour website.  They have a lot of bread recipes there, and I can rely on them to be well-tested so they perform as described. Their recipes are often a starting point for my own creations. My version of their recipe for Moomie’s Famous Burger Buns is something I still make quite often, and it is my go-to recipe for buns. I’ve baked these so many times in the last 9 years I could almost do it in my sleep!

fresh from the oven Moomies Famous Burger Buns

fresh from the oven Moomies Famous Burger Buns

My Dark Rye Potato Rolls and Buns recipe is adapted from the King Arthur Flour Potato-Onion Rye Rolls recipe. I skipped the onions and tweaked the other ingredients for my version, and I bake these buns all the time and put them in the freezer for later use.

Dark Rye Buns

Dark Rye Buns

I got the recipe for Dark & Soft Restaurant Dinner Rolls from the KA Whole Grain Baking book, which I liked so much I actually did a book review on it back in 2011. These rolls are much like the individual loaves of dark bread some restaurants serve with a meal, especially when you bake them into a mini loaf shape. They are soft and tender, mildly sweet, and you’d never know they contain 40% whole wheat flour.

Dark & Soft Restaurant Dinner Rolls

Dark & Soft Restaurant Dinner Rolls

Somewhere along the way I began developing my own recipes. One thing I wanted early on was a recipe that could be used with a variety of whole grains, both cooked and uncooked. It took almost two years, but I finally came up with a recipe that I really liked and shared it here on my blog. Whole Grain Bread works well with all kind of added grains, and my success with that recipe led me to create others.

Whole Grain Bread

Whole Grain Bread

My Multi-Grain Seeded Dinner Rolls recipe was adapted from that Whole Grain Bread recipe. I make these quite often, and they are a tasty companion to a bowl of soup. I also take them to carry-in dinners where they are always a hit with the bread lovers. They have a mix of millet, sunflower and sesame seeds both inside and out.

Multi-Grain Seeded Dinner Rolls

Multi-Grain Seeded Dinner Rolls

And then there are flatbreads! I’ve got several recipes for pita bread I make, and though it’s hard to pick a favorite, one I make quite often is the Whole Wheat Sourdough Pita Bread. These flatbreads are good for pocket bread, or turned into pita chips. They’re also just the right size for an individual pizza.

Whole Wheat Sourdough Pita Bread

Whole Wheat Sourdough Pita Bread

And speaking of sourdough, for the last few years I’ve been baking a lot of naturally leavened bread. To get started, I captured my own wild yeasts back in 2011, and I’ve managed to keep that culture going ever since. I followed instructions in the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking book, and you can find similar information in this King Arthur blog article: How to make your own sourdough starter. I used a whole grain rye flour to get mine going, but I now feed my culture with a 50/50 blend of whole wheat and KA bread flour.

active, bubbly sourdough starter

active, bubbly sourdough starter

Since then, I’ve tried a number of different naturally leavened bread recipes from quite a few different sources, but lately my go-to sourdough bread is adapted from a recipe at Breadtopia: Artisan Sourdough No-Knead Bread. I scaled it up 50% from the original, and cut the hydration level a bit to make it easier to handle. I bake the loaf in their Breadtopia Clay Baker, and I have both the Batard and Oblong bakers which see quite a bit of use. They make for a crispy crust, and breads get a great oven spring.

No-Knead Sourdough Bread

No-Knead Sourdough Bread

I’m still creating bread recipes too. I haven’t shared my formula for Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread or Rye Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread, but they will be coming soon. I make these two a lot for sandwiches. I also have a Kamut Sandwich  Bread that is my take on King Arthur Flour’s Golden Kamut Bread.

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

My latest bake is another recent recipe from Breadtopia, their Naturally Leavened Einkorn Bread. This one is made from 100% einkorn flour, which I ground fresh using our Nutrimill grinder. This made a dense but flavorful loaf, and should be good for toasting and other sandwich use.

Naturally Leavened Einkorn Bread

Naturally Leavened Einkorn Bread

I hope you have enjoyed this photo tour of a few of the breads we have baked here in the last 9 years. I can only imagine what baking fun we will have in the next 9 years! If you are interested, you can see most of my bread recipes on my recipe pages. I’ll be back soon with more happenings from Happy Acres.

Posted in Photo Friday | Tagged , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Harvest Monday April 8, 2019

Welcome to Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related.There are a few new players in the harvest basket this week, plus some familiar faces. I cut a big batch of overwintered parsley from the greenhouse, with a few sprigs of mint added. They both went into a tabouli salad I made last week that had lots of parsley and a little bit of bulgur. Most of the parsley is a variety called Splendid, a flat leaf type from Wild Garden Seed with a great flavor. I saved out a little of the parsley to make a yogurt based Green Goddess style dressing that went on a bowl dish I cooked up one night for dinner.

parsley and mint for tabouli

parsley and mint for tabouli

I also cut the rest of a batch of mizuna microgreens. The microgreens have been so useful, especially at a time when the other harvests are quite small. Some of these went on a sprout sandwich I made for lunch one day.

mizuna microgreens

mizuna microgreens

I continue to cut lettuce from the greenhouse plantings. This batch is Salanova Red Butter, which has a great buttery texture to the leaves and decent reddish color for a greenhouse-grown lettuce.

Salanova Red Butter lettuce

Salanova Red Butter lettuce

I cut a bit more kale rapini and side shoots from the purple Sprouting broccoli. We are loving both of these seasonal treats. There’s not a whole lot of them at one time, but just enough to use in some sort of dish or as a side veggie.

kale rapini and purple sprouting broccoli

kale rapini and purple sprouting broccoli

This time I put them together  and roasted them briefly to go in the above mentioned bowl creation. First I browned cubes of tofu in olive oil until crispy, then removed from the skillet and drained. I added cauliflower ‘rice’ to the leftover oil and cooked for a few minutes, long enough to soften it a bit but not enough to make it soggy. Meanwhile, I roasted carrots in the oven and added the rapini and PSB to the pan at the last. I topped it with yogurt sauce blended up with avocado, chives and parsley, thinned with lemon juice, olive oil and vinegar. We often bake our tofu before adding to a dish, but the pan-frying is another treatment I really like as well.

Crispy Tofu Bowl

Crispy Tofu Bowl

And I cut more curly kale from a cold frame bed. I am ready to clean the bed out and plant something else, so I pulled two plants for this harvest. There’s about seven or eight plants left in there, so we will be eating on it for a while longer.

Starbor kale

Starbor kale

In the future harvests department, my wife found the first asparagus coming up in the beds. She has been working hard to get the area weeded and mulched and has it looking great, just in time for the harvests to start. Last year we cut 24 pounds of spears in an 8 week period. It is a good thing we love our asparagus!

first asparagus of 2019

first asparagus of 2019

Finally, in non harvest news, mama bluebird has been busy, and she wound up with 6 eggs in the nest. I have seen her in there on the eggs, so I will not sneak any more looks until they have hatched. If all of them hatch, it will be a nest box full of baby bluebirds for sure.

bluebird eggs

bluebird eggs

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to share, add your name and blog link to Mr Linky below. And be sure and check out what everyone is harvesting!


Posted in Harvest Monday | Tagged , , , , , , , | 9 Comments