Sunday, November 21, 2010

November 21 2010

Yes: it's been a long time since I've written. Those of you who are on Face Book know that about three weeks ago I found a tick bite with the classic Lyme Disease rash on it and had it confirmed by the doctor. It's been a long, hard three weeks and I'm just starting to feel well enough to function. Not fully mind you but some and enough to start getting about and getting some work done.

Today was the first day I've gotten back out to The Garden. A lot has happened:

~ The two tomato plants that were left in the green house died from freezing. It's still not too cold in there yet but still too cold for tomatoes. Same thing happened to the peppers and the basil. It's the basil I'll miss the most. I have a ton of tomatoes frozen but I'll miss my fresh basil.  I've never had too much luck growing it in the house. I did freeze some though: enough for a few pestos over the coming months.

~ All the leaves on the trees fell overnight all at once; not just in the yard but the whole hollow I live in. Kind of sad. It's still beautiful of course, particularly as the oak leaves are still clinging with a very nice burnt sienna color contrasting the green from the pines and furs mixed with all the gray tones of the trees.

~ So far the main vegetable beds are the same: still lots of kale, leeks and swiss chard. The french sorrel is still growing I noticed so I might actually get some before the snows come. Which btw: could be any time now. We did have our first dusting of snow but just a little but it's been a warm Autumn and that could change suddenly.

Each morning the garden plants have a covering of frost on them. Rather pretty actually in the morning light.

~ As you can see from the picture above one of the main things I did today was tuck the greenhouse bed in for the upcoming Winter.

What you see here are the tops of old garden arbors (lower sections rusted out) that work fantastically for hoops to keep the plastic up. Underneath the plastic is spun polyester cloth; folded over so there are actually two layers. I have smaller hoops near the swiss chard and a fennel plant I'm seeing if I can grow over Winter to keep the cloth from weighing them down: but it's ok for it to rest on the other smaller, emerging plants.

What this does is; the hoop house/ greenhouse brings the climate down about one zone. So instead of zone 5b (ish) I'm zone 6b inside. The plastic over the beds brings it down another zone to 6 ish and the cloth, under the pastic, brings it down hopefully further. Each layer to have over the plants brings the climate down a bit more. How far down I don't know yet and hope to be able to calculate that.

I purchased a min/max thermometer so I can monitor the temperature inside the greenhouse compared to outside throughout the winter.

But I can say that my past few Winters have proven this works very well. Thanks to Helen and Scot Nearing and Elliot Coleman for all their diligent work and books on the subject of winter gardening in New England.

~ The lettuce mix, spinach and arugula that I planted before the fateful encounter with the tick have their second set of leaves and I should have lettuce to eat in a few more weeks or even less.

Today I also planted:
More Lettuce mix
Cosmic Purple Carrots
Nantes Carrots
Belle Isle Cress
Te You Flowering Broccoli

The bed is mostly full now so all I have to do is water it when it dries and then harvest during the warm part of the day. (if you try to harvest when it's still frozen inside you'll destroy the plants; you have to wait for the air in the greenhouse to come above freezing then it's safe to touch the plants).

~ I haven't done much cooking in the last few weeks. Something else I plan on getting back into now that I feel a bit more human. I need to get out tomorrow and harvest some more leeks I think and have plans for Cauliflower and Parmesan Soup:

Gently boil in very little water or steam a head of cauliflower; until just tender (don't over cook or it will taste like over cooked cabbage; undercooked is better then over)
Grate some Parmesan Romano cheese. About a cup to a cup and a half. More if you like.
Strain and save the water.
Puree the cauliflower in a food processor, blender or hand mill.
Put it back in the pot and add enough water so that it's thinner but not watery.
About the same consistency as potato and leek soup.
Add the cheese and stir on medium heat until melted into the soup; don't boil it.
Add more cooking water or plain water if you ran out until you get the consistency you like.
Salt and pepper to taste.

I had this the first time at Tratoria Rustica in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. If you are ever in the area you have to go there. Some of the best Tiramisu is there too.

My opinion is you can tell a really good restaurant by their side dishes. The main dish is important of course, but if you wind up raving about the side vegetables as much as the main course you know they have a good chef staff.

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