Garden Work- January in Northern California

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I always want to shout out to everyone- This is the time ! These are the moments to create everything you want in your garden for spring, right NOW ! What you do right now determines how your garden will do and look all year.

It is time to plant, and transplant new shrubs and bare root trees and roses. It’s also when balled and burlap conifers get shipped from Oregon and Washington. They are available right now in your nurseries. Think hard about how you want your garden to look this year. Are there plants you want to add ? Divide ? Is the winter form and structure pleasing in your garden ? Do you want more evergreens ? Are you happy with the shapes and heights of your plants ? Do you need help pruning ?

It’s time to cut back, prune, fruit trees, roses, all deciduous shrubs and trees. I’m planting and dividing perennials for spring and summer color and bloom. In our Northern California climate, growth usually begins in early February, seeds can be ordered for planting then. Mulching all the beds with a thick layer of compost ( amending the soil should be done at least once a year). I often put chips all over the perennial beds and this thick mulch, now too. Or if I have spring annuals in place mulch those beds too. Fruit trees benefit from a thick layer of compost, then chips just make sure the base is not covered. The compost helps decompose any fungus trapped in leaves on the ground. I also start putting out an organic all purpose fertilizer now. I like the California Organics 7-10-7 . I only need to apply it once a year because of all the compost I also add.
You might want to put in irrigation under the chips, so you don’t have to see the unsightly lines, that has to be done now too. If you’re really on top of it you can check irrigation, but I usually wait till March for that.

On our homestead, we do a lot of cleaning up with fires now. Areas where we fell trees for firewood, or trees just fell, can be handled easily this way.

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Pizza Night Wednesday January 15 – 6 o’ clock

Come to the farm for pizza night. We have a farmer who is experienced at cooking pizzas in a wood fired oven here, so we are doing it ! Another week of it. Come if you like, bring toppings and drink of your choice. See the farm, enjoy vegetables from the gardens.

Just come there will be plenty. Salad and vegetarian fare as well.

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Stone Soup -cooking from the garden, whatever the season

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I’m afraid I’m quite boring in my use of spices, although most of the spices I use come straight from the garden. My husband and kids don’t like spicy food much or strange herbs, even curries. So my standby is a good base of fresh veggies, whatever is currently growing, plus an onion usually parsley or celery. Lately I love the herb sage especially with Chicken, Rabbit or pork. Thyme, oregano, rosemary, chives usually always fresh from the garden or ones I dried from the garden. I’m not exotic in my spice choices but it makes good home cooked food.
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Today I’m making a soup, we’ve had a week of lot’s of sickness going around, finished with me, the nursemaid getting the flu. Soup sounds really good to all of us.

My soup base today-varies with season
1 lg. onion diced
green garlic from the garden 5-6 sliced well into the green
carrots a large bunch from the garden-diced
1 lg. parsnip scrubbed- diced
parsley, stems and all-when it’s fresh the stems are delicious-1 large bunch minced
1 bunch of fresh thyme chopped
dried sage a lg. pinch
salt and pepper to taste

I always saute veggies first in my trusty cast iron skillet before adding to the soup pot
saute in 3/4 cube of butter (yes, this is a lot, you can use less, but adds lot’s of flavor)
First I add in the onions while I’m prepping the other veggies, then the garlic and the carrots, parsnip, thyme -after a saute and the onions are translucent add to soup pot

Add water- today I’m making chicken soup with either potatoes or barley or if I felt better some home made noodles. So I’ll add the organic, washed chicken- without innards- plus whatever else I’m putting in the soup
Bring to a slight boil, turn down to a simmer cook one hour, never let it boil! Take out the chicken, let it cool and take the meat off the bones. Add it back into soup- adjust seasonings. I’m going to add a large bunch of swiss chard at this point, Reheat to serving temp.

Summer canning
Summer canning

You could have also made cauliflower soup this way- pureeing the base with the potatoes. Or crispy bacon, clams and cream for clam chowder.
Or add in beef stock or wine( instead of water) and chunks of browned, floured meat for a stew. Or tomatoes sauce(instead of water), cooked white beans and sausage .

I love to cook food from our garden. You have to be creative to use what’s in season and make substitutions for recipes. But have fun with imagining what you can make. Then try to figure out how to make it from ingredients at hand. Don’t forget the bread with the soup !
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Kids on the Farm

I love what farm life offers kids. Time to remember just how to have fun with everything. Make your own toys. Learning all kinds of body skills and capabilities in the midst of a working family.

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Putting Up Tomatoes

I had One day to relax after cooking for twenty two people all local food three meals a day. The cob workshop was fun here, but exhausting. So what happens the next week ? My husband shows up with twelve huge boxes of the most beautiful, splendid tomatoes. Grown by his brother at their “home place”, Mom and Pops; in sunny hot Geyserville. Usually we’ve been putting up about 50-60 quarts of tomato sauce, salsa and spaghetti sauce, all we need for the year. We typically do this over two to three different harvest periods. This is manageable. But the last week we put up 92 quarts, all at once, plus about 35 pints and half pints of tomato sauce, enchilada sauce and salsa. Also some oven roasted tomatoes for the freezer ( yum! pizza ). My friend Maria help all one day my husband helped the whole time and more. Whew.

My mother in law confirmed that if your jars are washed, sterilized, hot, packed with boiling hot sauce, placed with a boiled hot lid, water bathed for the time specified, that everything should be fine, provided the lids seal. Store in a cool place. I know that I’m doing the easy canning, not meat, fish or green beans, but the higher acid foods like tomatoes.

I now have many questions about canning.

When do you need to use a pressure canner?
How do you use a pressure canner ?
How to you make pie filling ?
What else can you do with apples? I know- apple butter, apple sauce, chutney.
What if I want to can dried tomatoes in olive oil ? Maybe some garlic ?
How do you can soups ?

I will reread my BALL jar caning book and my other caning resources, anyone have any other feedback ?

Rural farming

Rural farming

The economies of farming kept eluding me till I realize again and again that it’s not about financial returns, making lots of money, or what seems a fair wage for my hours. Instead it’s about quality of life, and a community alive . A community that lives for each other, with each other, not pitted in competition against each other. If one. Fails we all fail, shall be our motto. Maybe one might end up with more holdings than another, but not at the expense of the others. Money and wage does not define the life, instead ones respect and value within society . Are you well loved? 
Here in Italy, everything happens around the small town center. People visit and watch, young and old have a place. They support each other because they realize their inter-relatedness. The importance of all, encouraged by the diversity, not despairing in it. My grandmother used to say the world or god was like a large sun, all the rays different but all important to the whole. 
  Here they build their houses , very small apartments, close together, approx. five feet between, stories high. Keeping privacy with their shutters, but close to everything. The gardens are terraced up extreme,y steep hills in this coastal Chinque Terra  region. The wine grapes bent over trellis that shade the greens growing underneath. Olive trees planted on these steep slopes that have been producing the local oil for generations. A self sufficient area with fish, local vegetables, wine, oil and fruit. The meaning of life is satisfaction in great food, a lively community to share glories and tragedy, beautiful days in a beautiful place close to earth and god .

Food For A Community

Summer Garden Roseman Creek Ranch

Today, reading and thinking about rural cultures that still have an agricultural base. Where local food is produced by small farms and you can buy and eat seasonal vegetables, fruit and even meat and local dairy products . Where a farmer or rancher can sell a quarter of a cow that was killed there on the farm, in it’s own pasture. Where a small farmer could make money on a dairy cow, selling milk, cream, buttermilk and cheese. Why can’t our food policy , many policies, be based on size ? That someone with eight cows to milk doesn’t have to conform to the same standards as a dairy with 35 plus cows ? Why can’t we make policies to help sustain a rural culture, businesses that are economically viable in a rural area ? See it as a way to enrich our community, make it solid. Try to support it even if it’s not as cheap as it’s tax subsidized big box store.

Today,inspired by a book about Italy I’m reading, and realizing the wood fired oven had stayed hotter than usual after baking bread yesterday, since it was fired mid week. I made a beautiful pie out of summer’s fruit frozen in the freezer. The huckleberries and boysenberries made a wonderful tart-sweet combination.Then I put a pot of cannelli beans pre-cooked in bay leaves, rosemary and parsley, covered with tomatoes canned from last summer ( we put up 60 quarts ), wine, local sausage, and seasonings. Now finishing off and stirring in chard and kale out of the garden. I have this big pot of bean stew, a beautiful huge loaf of my sourdough bread and a great pie. Why can’t I put a sign out at the bottom of the road for Katie’s Trattoria ??? That’s what you can do in Italy or France. Rural areas like this should encourage such industry.

Let’s cook together !