Sunday, April 28, 2019

Homestead Happenings on a Stay-at-home Sunday

It happens to the best of us.  We go to the Winter Farm Store and buy a bunch of onions, and then, a couple of months later, we realize the onions have started to sprout.  Despair not!  This can actually be a good thing.

A while back I read this book.  It was doomer fiction.  The protagonists in the story, knowing how fragile our lifestyles and infrastructure are, took steps to insulate themselves against the exact event they always knew would happen.  

But they also lived in a suburb (which begs the question, if they KNEW the shiznit was going to hit the fan, and that being in the suburbs would be very, very bad, why did they stay in the suburbs?  Shh ... it's fiction), where their neighbors were not quite so prepared.  

Immediately, they discount their neighbors as useless in this emergency, grab their bug-out paraphernalia, and get the heck out of Dodge.

I say, they were missing a valuable opportunity.

See, I have these onions.  They sprouted. 

I trimmed off the green sprouts and cut them into 1/4" pieces.  These will be used as a garnish for tacos or something.  Then, I peeled the brittle skins and pulled off the layers until I got to the heart of the onion.  Each one had a couple of root starts.  I planted those.  

What you see in the picture above is what I can use in meals now.  The root parts are in one of my container gardens.  Worst case, I've wasted garden space ... but since I could companion plant the container with lettuce, there'd be no wasted space, actually.  What's most likely to happen is that I have onion tops that I can trim for a few months, and then, I have some bulbs that I can store for use this winter.

That's what bothered me about that novel.  The neighbor, who was deemed useless, might have something that would be useful.  I realize it was a plot device, and very necessary to the overall theme - which is to show how we are woefully unprepared to such an event - as a society, in general.

But I tend to think, in real life, we would be surprised by what our neighbors can offer in an emergency situation, and with some reimagining, we could probably figure out how to find useful something that seems like it is past its prime.

Like these seeds.

If I direct sow them, I may or may not end up with a plant.  It's always a gamble, really.  There's very rarely 100% germination rate with seeds, but when one has such a small space in which needs to be grown so much, it's difficult to consider using old seeds in the garden, and chancing getting nothing.

But I'm not going to throw them away, either.

I decided to try sprouting them.

I have this fancy-smancy seed sprouting apparatus, but I've seen people use canning jars, too.  The goal is to get the seeds wet, but not submerged in water.  With my sprouter, I fill the top bowl with water.  Each of the clear bowls and the top bowl has a hole in one side.  I stack them all together.  Fill the top bowl with water, and then, when all of the water has drained through the four top bowls, I dump the bottom bowl.  Repeat daily until the seeds start to sprout.  The sprouts are ready to enjoy in about a week.  

Worst case, none of the seeds germinate.  I'm out nothing, except the time it took to fill up the water. 

Innovation and creativity are key to survival, and those things are what make us adaptable, successful, and ... well, human, right?  

Little Fire Faery was invited to her friend's senior prom.  She didn't ask us to go dress shopping.  She asked if I would take her fabric shopping, because she found a tutorial for a dress that she wanted to make.  That's what she's doing, as I type this.  She making a prom dress.  

Deus Ex Machina and Precious joke that they are practicing for the 2020 Homestead Olympics.  They're planning to compete in the log toss.  

I think she's exceptionally brave, and to me, it takes a great deal of talent and self-control to be on the receiving end of that log.  As much as I trust Deus Ex Machina, I would not be able to stand there while he threw a log at my face.  

My children humble me, and they continually inspire me to do better, to be better.  

Planting stuff, splitting and stacking firewood, sewing a prom dress ... not too bad a way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon.  It's a good life.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

New is Silver ... Old is Gold

I made my way out to the garden this morning.  It's cloudy, but warm. 

Oh, so warm! 

I'm still, mostly, in winter mode here.  We still have wood in the house for a fire, because the house still gets chilly enough that we need one - or want one.  Either way, the cold still seeps in, and I am surprised, on days like today, when I walk outside and my sweater is too much.

Tomorrow, I may need that sweater to be comfortable. 

That's life in the Spring, in Maine.

The perennials are sprouting all over the yard.  In the herb garden next to the driveway, I found the savory.  Bright green, highly aromatic leaves, pushing - tenaciously - against the leaf mulch I blanketed the bed with last fall.  The sweet, little herb rested under that blanket all winter, and now, it's throwing off the covers and stretching up to greet the sun.

Bee balm was poking its little head up, too, mostly in the crevices along the edges of the rock border. 

Deus Ex Machina is thrilled to note that the garlic we planted just a few weeks ago, is already poking up through the soil. 

Last year, I missed the fall planting of garlic.  I just waited too long - not as long as the year before, when I just barely got the garlic in the ground before winter - but last fall, I missed whatever sweet spot there might have been before the snow started to fly - in earnest - and the ground froze too solid for planting. 

The garlic I had harvested in mid-summer spent the winter in the cooler back room, but it had started going soft and sprouting.  So, we did what we do ... we planted it. 

We also planted the potatoes that had started to sprout, and I'll be planting the sprouting onions later today.

Very little goes to waste here at Chez Brown.

For breakfast, we made use of the abundance of eggs. 

Unlike their humans, the chickens here at Chez Brown are fully aware that it's spring, and they're celebrating with an abundance of egg-laying revelry.

The thing is, I feel like I'm still in winter mode.  Like being surprised by the warm weather, I'm still overwhelmed by the bounty in our backyard. 

Like most animals, chickens don't reproduce in the winter.  It's not the cold that keeps them from laying as much as it is lack of light.  So, when we're in the midst of the dark winter, they don't lay.  Some farmers give their chickens an artificial light source.  We never have.  We just know that, during the winter, we don't eat eggs.  Sometimes it's a drag to want something that requires eggs and to have to make a different plan.  But that's part of having a mostly local, mostly seasonal diet. 

We don't give our chickens artificial heat or light during the winter.  It's their down-time.  I don't know if it's better for them or not, but come spring, when the light returns and it starts to warm up a little, they become star providers.  Twelve chickens, all between the ages of one and seven years old, give us an average of seven eggs - per day.  That's a lot of eggs, especially when I'm still used to not having eggs at all.

Now that the chickens are in egg-mode, we can enjoy egg-heavy dishes, like German pancakes.  For those who've never had German pancakes, they're not like American pancakes, which are more like a French crepe.  German pancakes are like muffins, only not sweet, and they puff up and have a hollow center.

German pancakes are served with a filling or topping.

For the topping today, I decided to make applesauce, because we had a bunch of apples that were going soft.

It's that time of year, here.  Our long-storage foods are at the very end of their storage life, and they need to be used.  This morning, with our German pancakes, we had applesauce made from the last of the stored apples. 

Very little goes to waste here at Chez Brown.  Soft roots get planted for next years' crop.  Soft apples get baked or sauced. The apple peels go to the rabbits.  The cores will become vinegar or jelly, or they'll end up in the compost pile.

We've tried to adopt a lifestyle that produces less waste, and while we still put out a bag of garbage every couple of weeks, and our recycle bin always has something in it (we are, after all, still very much suburbanites), many things find a second life here.  Old clothes become rugs or skirts or underwear.  Old pallets become a floor.  Shoes are repaired.  Jars are reused. 

The octagonal fish tank stand that someone gave us becomes an end table with storage for our ski boots in the bottom.

We - as individuals and, especially, as a culture - can't afford to just keep throwing things away - there is no "away."  But the flip-side, the very selfish and ego-centric side, is that figuring out how to reuse a thing is incredibly empowering and fuels my creativity in ways that buying something new will never do.  

I'm planning my *new* garden, for this year, but I'm also welcoming back to the garden some old friends - those hardy perennials that have become part of our landscape here - herbs, flowers, bushes, and trees, that nourish us and our landscape.  

Welcome Spring!

And, if you have a favorite egg-based recipe, please feel free to share it in the comments ;)!