Archive for June, 2010

So, we have started work on building a greenhouse to effect our plan of harvesting vegetables during the fall and winter. Thought I’d show some in-process photos.

We are technically making a hoophouse, made of bent PVC arches and then greenhouse-gauge plastic sheeting which will go on in the fall. In the meantime, we’ll cover the arches with deer netting to keep out the squirrels.

First, we had to remove the wire fence that encircled the main plot, because we’re using the timber edging that’s in place as the baseboards for the arches. The garden did look quite different than I was used to after the fencing was gone. Here you can see the broccoli, with the garlic further down. The garlic greens are knocked over to let them cure for a week before we harvest the bulbs.

Here’s another view, from the other direction. Our hope for this thing is to follow Eliot Colman’s advice and use a greenhouse and row covers to extend our growing season into late fall and our harvesting season throughout the winter. And by selecting the right cold-tolerant variety and vegetables, we should be able to do all that without any artificial heat.

Most plans for hoophouse like this call for you to build a big rectangle of 2x10s to attach the bases of the arches to. We decided we would use the timbers that we installed as edging about seven or eight years ago. It’s been stable for this long; there doesn’t seem to be a strong reason to swap it out for something else. We’ll drive 30″ long base pipes into the ground next to the timbers where the arch bases will fit, and then go from there. Of course, on the side of the garden near the walk, the soil level is too high to attach anything to the inside of the edging timbers, so it required some digging out:

Got that done all along the edge, and will install the arches soon.

Later note: the dog decided that because the fence was gone she had obviously bee given free rein in the garden, so she trampled by onion and carrot bed pretty severely. We lost the green chive part of 75% of our onions (though the bulbs may still be okay) and the younger carrots may not pull through. [What was the phone number for Animal Control, again?] Milday is now locked in her dog run until a proper fence/barrier is in place once again.

More tomorrow.


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My Strange Broccoli

Hey there!

I don’t mean to be failblogging two days in a row, but now let’s turn our attention to my broccoli. This is my first time trying to grow the stuff, and judging by the height of the plants, it’s doing well:

The plants are strong, look healthy, and growing huge. Except for one problem….

There’s no broccoli in them.

Again, this is my first time growing them so maybe I don’t understand their life cycle correctly, but shouldn’t I at least see some nascent broccoli head somewhere in the plant? Here’s a shot looking down into the top of the plant:

There’s some new leaves growing there at the top of the stalk, but nothing that resembles broccoli. Here’s a view from the side:

Nice stout stalk, no broccoli head. I’ve composted them twice, kept them weeded and watered…any idea what is going on? Am I just being too anxious? Your thoughts/opinions/comments are welcome…

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Success and Not So Much

Sorry about the long gap in updating. I’ve been having a fair amount of garden success so far this year. Above is part of one harvest: onions and cilantro (pictured), along with lettuce and baby spinach. Pretty much, we’ve stopped buying salad fixin’s for the foreseeable future. The lettuce, carrots, onions, spinach, garlic, squash, tomatoes, peppers, herbs, and raspberries seem to be growing great, BUT…

Those are my strawberries. Note the scale. They’re tiny and not all that sweet. I don’t know if the rain gutter system I devised doesn’t allow good root expansion, or if they needed more fertilizer/compost because they used up what’s was present in the shallow trough. On the plus side, the squirrels haven’t bothered them (probably because they weren’t worth the trouble!).

You win some, you lose some.

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I’ve recently become enamored with a new recipe for hamburger/sandwich buns. The taste is great, they are incredibly soft and have a nice open crumb, and they freeze and thaw really well. I’ve made them twice now, and they’ve been easy and a success both times. Here’s the recipe:

15 oz. flour
8 oz. water
1 large egg
4T softened butter
2T honey
1/4 c. dry milk
1/4 c. mashed potato
1-1/2 tsp salt
2-1/4 tsp instant yeast

Mix everything but flour together, then added the flour gradually–you may use all 15 ounces, and you may not. You want the dough a bit “shaggy” and it should be fairly sticky at this point. Once it’s mixed pretty well, cover it with a damp towel and let it rest 25 minutes. Then come back and knead a bit to develop the gluten matrix. Again, it may be more sticky than you’re used to, but avoid adding too much flour because that will make the dough more dense and tough. Put back in the bowl and cover.

Let the bulk rise go about 1-1/2 to 2 hours, stretching and folding it once or twice during that time. It should double in size. Then, divide into 3-ounce balls and place on a cookie sheet that is either lightly oiled or covered with baking parchment. Let rise until they are the nearly the size you want them. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Humidify the oven by pouring water into a broiler pan or brownie pan in the bottom of the oven. Bake for 20 minutes or until browned nicely. Remove and brush with softened butter.

Yield: about 10 3-ounce rolls

If you try this recipe, let me know!

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