Lettuce



So, the tomatoes aren’t ours, and the eggs aren’t ours (yet), and the blue cheese isn’t ours, but who cares? The lettuces, arugula and pansies are ours. I didn’t plant pansies this year, but they re-seeded and are growing on their own. The greens were planted in September and kept under the frost blanket all Winter. We put this little dish on the side of the Orange-Sesame Pork Chops that Keith made, added a baked potato and a glass of wine, and declared it a fantastic dinner!

Image


Another haiku because I know you enjoy them immensely. Ahem…

We made lasagne

With our own tomato sauce

It just tastes better

Keith taped a New Hampshire Chronicle episode about hydroponics. (On a small side note, Keith met Fritz Wetherbee at a restaurant a few years ago. Woo. Brush with stardom! Someday we’ll tell you about meeting Flava Flav in the airport!) There’s a place down the road in Hampton Falls called Tomato Joe’s Garden Supply where Joe sells hydroponics supplies. Methinks this might be our answer to the fungus problems we’ve been having (on the plants, people, on the plants! Sheesh.)

In Are We High…Tunnel? I told the story about my parent’s nursery in Vermont. They used to lease one of the plastic greenhouses to a guy who grew lettuce hydroponically. (I never really remembered that until we watched this episode.  Look at me being being all sentimental.) It looked like a big production, but I remember him saying there were fewer bugs. Hm. Could this be our solution?

I plan to check this shop out immediately. While wearing a wig. And sunglasses. And paying with cash. And parking my car three stores down and walking over. Because it is a hydroponics store and it is being watched via satellite, I am sure of it. (You know. The MAN. Shhh.)


Enjoy.


My “Yay it’s Spring” haiku… Ahem…

Yay. It is Springtime.
The sun warms up the garden
And I play in dirt

It rained one day last weekend. It was chilly the weekend before. This was the first weekend since our gardens woke up that we have been able to be outside both days. And we were. Outside. Both days. All day.

Being the weekend warriors that we are, we had a lot on the agenda. First, finish weeding all the front gardens and the kitchen garden. I got a lot done on the one sunny day last weekend, while Keith edged the beds, but I didn’t finish.

Next, spreading the bark mulch. All 10 yards of it. There was a lot. A whole lot. The size of a car, lot. It took up Keith’s parking space, that’s how lot.

Next, pretty. We wanted to add more color.

We got it all done this weekend. Edging, check. Weeding, check. Bark mulch, wow, but check. Pretty, yup, check. We bought blue pansies and yellow pansies and a heather plant (pink) and planted them in key spots that needed a splash. We even picked up after ourselves and put the equipment away (which is the last thing you want to do when you just want to go in and take a shower).

Ah, that feeling of satisfaction. That stand back, fold your arms and survey what you’ve accomplished kind of feeling. That, holy crap, I haven’t moved my muscles like this since last Fall, I can’t move, can you? feeling. (We are a little sore to say the least.)

But I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Different folks need different things. (“Whatchyou talkin’ ’bout, Willis?) Some need the adrenaline rush of putting the pedal to the metal and going top speed (and if you’re one of the folks who feels the need to hit the North Road hill off Route 1 at Mach 20 in order to get maximum speed on the straight-away, nearly killing me as I plant pansies by my mailbox, I swear I will throw my trowel through your front windshield next time I hear you picking up speed on the way down the hill, comprende?)

Others need to get in a plane and travel to an island, just to sit on a beach chair with an umbrella drink and not move for 6 nights, 7 days (although that REALLY sounds good right now, except I would be under the hut because I got a teensy sunburn today). (“Hey Mon. Everyting IRE? Two No Problems and a Rum and Coke please.)

Me, I just need dirt. I love the smell of it. I love that my kitchen and yard scraps make more of it. I love that it has POSSIBILITIES. I can plant tomatoes in it that I later squish to make sauce for pasta. I love that it feeds the maple tree that gave us sap to make syrup (mmm pancakes!) I love that I can plant a little speck of a seed, and dirt with some water will yield me a fragrant and tasty basil plant, or a large butternut squash that Keith can make into the most delicious soup, or a painted daisy that make me smile with it’s cheery pinkness.

Now, if you want to give me a fast car or a vacation, I surely won’t say, “Nay,” but I have everything I need to make me happy; the man I love working right next to me, a goofy dog and three cats waiting for me inside, and a little patch of dirt where I can putter. And make things grow.


DaisyPatch Farm – Glog Post. Forgive me Father for I have sinned. It has been three weeks since my last post.

Sorry for being gone so long. Life gets in the way of writing, no matter how good my intentions or my electronic to-do list with reminder alarms. I love writing this blog, however, so resolve to spend more time here. I suppose I should be able to do that considering it is April 1 and f’ing snowing outside. Not a small amount of snow, but a good covering of the thick slushy stuff too. Grr.

Really Mother Nature? I was going to rake the hay off the garden beds this weekend. (Hahahaha, I had a typo and almost raked the “gay” off the garden beds. How does one do that? Would I use a “gake?” Ok, ok, enough of that.) Anyway, where was I? Right, hay. So, as you probably have read in prior posts, because you are a DaisyPatch devotee and have read all my musings, you know we had 4+ feet of snow on the ground for most of the winter. Snow melts, pull back the frost blankets and lo and behold, lettuce. Alive. (Yes, I said, “lo and behold.” I know no one from the last few generations uses the phrase “lo and behold,” but I stand by my choice because I am an independent thinker and am ok in my own skin (she said defiantly, hands held on her hips in a Superman pose.))

Anyway, where was I? Right, lettuce. So, we have lettuce. And it is alive. It looks like crap, but it is alive. And we all know that we must put away our preconceived notions of pretty food when growing it ourselves and be ok with better, yet uglier food. So, what did I do with said lettuce? Yeah, it is still there and now we have more snow. Whatever. Now that I know it will withstand 4 feet of snow for 3 months, it can handle a goddamn weekend covered in a bit more snow whilst I stay inside in my snuggie and and read my first issue of Urban Farm (thanks big sis!)

Gake. God that’s funny.


It has been too long, so…without further ado, my too much snow haiku…ahem… (OH MY GOD! That rhymed! Yeah, baby, this post is startin’ off good.)

We have too much snow

Just way too much goddamned snow

Dreaming of the beach

(As my intelligent and devoted readers know, I am pretty hard on myself. It is time to admit that haiku sucked. I know I gave you a good beginning what with the rhyme and everything, but then let you down with that sham of a poem. Dispicable (please go back, read that sentence again, and say, “Dispicable” in your spittiest Daffy Duck. I will wait. Did you do it? Did you get the lisp in the ‘s’ as spitty as possible? Ok, then. Moving on. This way please.))

Today, I am finally getting to the much anticipated theoretical discussion of, “What defines Edible?” As you may recall (you forgot, didn’t you?) a few posts ago, I mentioned that I was going to discuss this topic because I was starting to question what “Edible” really meant. No, I am not talking about chopping up corrugated cardboard to sprinkle on your salad, I’m talking about the lettuce greens I had picked from underneath the frost blankets outside.

You see, at that time (before Mother Nature decided to dump large amounts of snow on us every weekend and every Tuesday for a month now and cause roof collapses all around New England and the topic of discussions to shift dramatically from the normal, “How’s your snowplow?” to “We’ve got ice dams”) I was picking lots of baby greens from underneath those frost blankets I purchased from Gardener’s Supply.

They were doing really well. They were. Salad every night with little dressing made of grew-it-myself pride. Then, it started to get colder. And colder. They were supposed to provide cold protection to 24 degrees. We had some 15 degree nights for a while there, and one or two nights in the negative numbers. Yet, they still survived. Sort of.

You see, when a piece of lettuce freezes, it isn’t pretty. You’ve all done it, somehow, it gets too cold in the fridge crisper and you take out a little bag of, well, what can only be desscribed as brown snot sort of clinging to a translucent and very wimpy piece of lettuce.

And, here begins the debate.

Before, when I bought it from the grocery store and just put it in the fridge, only to be frozen or forgotten or both, I would throw it away when I found it. Yeah. Cuz that’s what you do with food that has gone bad, right? Well, we all know about my hoarding tendencies. I knew the end was near. Not in the Chicken Little sense, just that, pretty soon, we weren’t going to be able to get to the garden (in case you’re wondering, the end is NOW. The gardens are buried under, what looks like, 4 feet of snow and there is no way in God’s white earth that I am trying to dig them out to get 6 lettuce leaves). So, I picked a lot of lettuce each time I went out. A big ole bag full of baby lettuce.

But, as it got colder,  they sort of got paler and uglier and a bit more frost-bitten. I definitely noted that the leaves toward the end of the beds were worse off than the ones in the center, under the peak of the domes basically. But I still picked them. And washed them. And served them. And ate them.

Why? Purchased lettuce would have hit the pail without even a moment’s thought. (Actually, we do compost, so they would have hit the compost pail – you gotta follow that link if you haven’t read that post, it is one of my funnier ones if I do say so myself.) (I did say so myself, it’s just me and Peber here in the kitchen, unsuspecting little bugger doesn’t know he’s getting shots today. Anyhoo…) Why? Could it be I don’t want to waste? Could it be that, since I grew the lettuce, I trusted the lettuce? How bad could a little cold burn taste? Could it be that I’m regressing into the dark depths of a hoarding tendency that is just so twisted and demented, that I will serve spoiled food to myself and my husband? (Well, NO! Of course not, but that one episode of Hoarders where that lady had like, fridges of spoiled, contaminated food, sort of came to mind. I am not that bad, honest. It was just a few pieces of ugly lettuce!)

See, not so bad.  A little yellow, perhaps a little spotty, but overall, not bad for eating fresh greens from the garden in January in New Hampshire. I think that eating this lettuce is like, wearing that sweater you knit, even though the left arm is a bit too long. Or, enjoying the picnic table you made, even though it wobbles. Sort of that “I made it myself” stubbornness. (Stubbornosity? Stubbornity? Stubborn Identity?)

So, now it is all gone, the gardens are buried and we’re back to buying greens at Hannaford. We do still have tomato sauce, lotsa garlic, dried herbs, frozen carrots, frozen onion and celery from last year. Oh, and the zucchini from 2 years ago that I still have carefully hoarded in the basement freezer for a rainy day.

Sigh.

Next post…who the hell knows. You can probably just view it on A&E on Mondays at 10, 9 central as some gentle-voiced, slim lady who looks good without makeup asks me how I FEEL when someone throws away the zucchini in the freezer.


My Seed Catalog haiku…ahem…

Oh Seed Catalogs!

With all your varieties

Can’t we get them all?

As I pore over seed brochures, I need to recall lessons from last year when we overcrowded things a bit. (Ok, more than “a bit”). We also realized that we want more varieties of things. How the hell are we supposed to accomodate more types of veggies? We didn’t really have too much go to waste (except during the tomato blight).

So, what is a homesteader to do? I think the solution is to plant more varieties, but fewer plants of each. This way, we can try more things. Also, I need to add some things to the list that I forgot last year:

  • Zucchini
  • Sugar Pumpkins
  • Butternut Squash
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • and of course…daisies (although not a vegetable, I do find it necessary to have some daisies considering our homestead is called The Daisy Patch)

I need to plant fewer of the following:

  • Basil (I know, can you believe it? We had so much though.)
  • Lettuce
  • Green Peppers
  • Husk Cherries (WHAT? But you love those! True, but they naturally re-seeded themselves and grew all over the damn property and by the side of the road, there is NO reason we have to start as any this year.)
  • Scallions
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Cucumbers – maybe just 1 less.

And more of…

  • Edamame (ONE LAST TIME and then THIS IS IT! If I don’t get them to work this year, I will NEVER try them again.)
  • Thyme
  • Salad tomatoes (We lost them to the blight and were left mostly with plum and Reistomate)
  • Potatoes

Now it is time for some new things. This is where I am stuck. I have no clue what we would like. We did not like Brussells Sprouts (thanks anyway, Doreen!) We did like Parsnips. So any recomendations for some newer things we might like? Please note they’ll need to be able to grow in the North East. Thanks!

And Merry Christmas (on a Christmas side note…I plan to bake like a fiend this week. I finished one knitting project, hope to finish another and still have some Christmas Shopping to do. It’s going to be a great week (I mean it – I love this stuff!))


My end of season haiku…ahem…

Yesterday was it

The gardens have been torn down

Choking a sniffle

I wonder why I’m so emotional about wrapping up the back gardens. Methinks several reasons. When the beds are so buried in snow that you would never have known they were even there, will I have a purpose? I mean, sure, my life has purpose, but I’ve had such focus for the last several months that it has become routine and, routine is well, comfortable. I actually liked coming in sore in the afternoons – that means I worked – toward something. Why is it so different than any other year? We’ve had gardens for years, what’s the difference? Well, they are bigger this year, that’s for sure. We also had a goal in mind with them – to produce as much food for the two of us for the present and to store for the Winter. Is that it? Now that we have done what we can to reach that goal and there’s nothing else we can do, I’m at a bit of a loss. I know I can plan for next year, we’re definitely going to make a lot of changes in what we plant, where and when.  I guess I just need to redirect my focus toward another goal. I’ll work on that.

 Meanwhile, technically, we didn’t tear down all the gardens, just the back gardens next to the greenhouse. We have a small surprise happening in the Kitchen Garden. You see, it’s all about zagging. Huh? Follow me on this…We had a small snafoo with the greenhouse. We ran out of greenhouse plastic when putting it on, so used cheap-ass plastic and it ended up getting sort of crispy in the sun this Summer. So, the good plastic goes over the top, we have fiberglass weatherproof board and a door on the back of the greenhouse and, well, nothing on the front. It was that cheap-ass plastic which has since ripped off/been torn down. Since we don’t have a truck to get more fiberglass, we’re waiting until BFF Roy can spare a day to come help (guy works a lot, bless him. If you need a Harley, we can put you in touch with him!) Meanwhile, it is mid-October and I should have the greenhouse plants planted by now. But, with no front to the greenhouse, that wasn’t going to happen. So, instead of zigging, we had to zag. (Did I mention learning lessons this Summer?)

I ordered some items from Gardener’s Supply (again, they’re not sponsoring me!) and have planned some low tunnels for the Kitchen Garden. The boxes arrived and sat in the kitchen for several days. Once Keith discovered my master plan, he took it upon himself and put it all together for me.

Mesclun mix (before)

Hoops are in.

With the frost cover

 

1 1 /2 beds done!

Hooray! So, since we weren’t able to plant Winter greens in the greenhouse, we’re going to try them like this. Technically, the Frost Blankets make it to 28 degrees, so I’m being realistic, but I bet we’ll b e able to extend the season a little bit anyway. But, we’ll mostly just be harvesting, there won’t be much weeding or planting. So, back to my purpose for the Winter…It needs to be something challenging, realistic and gives me the feeling of accomplishment. Maybe I’ll knit my first sweater.

It has been a busy weekend at the Patch. I was outside from 7:30A to 5P yesterday (with a few water breaks and a blog break in the middle) to pull the tomato leaves affected by early blight.

For those of you who don’t know about early blight, it is a fungus, Alternaria solani, which germinates in damp, warm weather (which we’ve had!) Anyway, it germinates in 1/2 hour to 2 hours and spreads quickly. The leaves get spots, usually starting at the bottom, then the leaves turn yellow and start to die off. This usually happens right at the time the fruit is setting. With no leaves, the plant can’t usually survive, or the tomatoes get hit by sun and sort of burn, called Sun Scald. (I’ve become quite knowledgeable on this topic in the last 48 hours, not to mention I lived up close and personal with it for 10 hours yesterday.) Anyway, this fungus is NOT GOOD! That is our food for the Winter.

Hopefully this little guy will keep watch over things.

On a good note, the Edamame looks good!

Time to Harvest the Garlic!

The garlic is resting in the shade on the hammock. I plan to let the soil on them dry a little bit, brush off the soil, and wash them if I need to with a gentle spray from the hose. Then, everything I read leads me to understand that I need to treat them super carefully so they can store properly and not rot. We don’t have a root cellar, so once they’re cured, we may have to keep them upstairs in the pantry.

As all of this food starts to come in, we need to catch up with it. We have a gallon bag filled with green beans that I need to blanch and freeze. The last of the lettuce needs to be enjoyed, husk cherries, peas, cherry tomatoes…all need to get ingested or frozen.

Let’s hope I’m saying the same about tomatoes at the end of the month.


My lettuce haiku…ahem…

Live long, lettuce leaves

We happily crunch salads

Made with love from thee

Our lettuce bed is looking great. In the past, I’ve always bought lettuce six-packs and planted them. I can’t recall how long it took them to bolt (non-gardening fans of the Patch – that is when the plant flowers and the leaves usually lose their flavor),  so now that I’m starting from seed, I figure I’ll just keep planting seeds every few weeks until I run out.  This year, however, I’ll pay attention to when it is no longer, “lettuce season” so I know what to expect next year.

We had a delish salad last night. Granted, with grocery store tomatoes (although ours aren’t far off!) but still! Slivers of parm cheese fresh off the block and some balsamic, it was nummy. Spinach, Mache, Arugula, Red Salad Bowl, Drunken Woman, Bibb.

There is one problem with freshly grown baby lettuce and greens. I planted the seeds very tightly and am thinning them to eat, leaving some to grow bigger. I pull them, roots and all, which is the goal, but a bunch of dirt comes up too. So I have 1/2 a bowl of lettuce and 1/2 a bowl of dirt. Rinsing them in our sink results in grit and sand in the disposal. Not good. Last night, I put a paper towel over the disposal, but I need to come up with a better plan. Rinse them outside perhaps? Any ideas would be welcome.

*

I’ve been reading a book called The Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman.

Hey, look, he’s wearing mucks!

This is going to be my bible, I can tell. The basic premise is, you can grow veggies in the Winter, you just need to find ones that like the cold. That’s fine, but I live in NEW HAMPSHIRE. It gets pretty cold here. I’m wearing a sweater right now and it’ll be June in 5 days. I bought it, though, because the author, Mr. Coleman, lives in Maine. Sweet. Maine is definitely colder than here. He describes cold frames, root cellars, greenhouse growing, etc. I am sure I’ll be mentioning this book in the future. I bring it up at this point because he starts salad greens in the Fall and harvests them all Winter long. THAT is what I want the greenhouse for.

*

Meanwhile, the strawberry flowers are crazy. When we first moved into this house, there was a small strawberry patch. I moved over 100 strawberry plants to a bigger patch to the side of the steps to the back deck. Slugs love strawberries, the little bastards, so we usually got only a few that didn’t have holes. When we rebuilt the deck a few years ago, the patch had to come up. I put the strawberries in pots just to be able to save them. Last year, when Keith and his brother built the Chef’s Garden (formerly the Side Garden and, for a brief, yet shining moment, Peber’s Point), Keith put in a section for the strawberries. They outgrew it already.

Last year, the strawberries did well. I would pick them every morning in June and early July on my way to the DJ (day job), sometimes eating the clean ones in the car, rinsing the rest went I got there and eating them with yogurt for breakfast. Seriously, what could be better? They were so good. If you do not have a strawberry plant, get one. I mean it. Grocery store strawberries, all big and heart-shaped have just NO flavor.  They are picked too early in order to make the trip to the store. Also, I firmly believe as do some other gardeners (I read as many garden blogs as I can! I want visitors, I need to be one too!), that the bigger the fruit or vegetable, the less flavor it has. (You know all those contest-winning veggies? They’ve been fertilized beyond the point of good flavor!) Anyway, ours are small/mid-sized and really fantastic. I have NO idea what variety…we inherited them.

Well, this year, the plants are spilling out of their bed, and they’re super “fluffy” is the only way I can describe them. I have a pot with flowers in the middle of the bed and the strawberry plants have pretty much engulfed it. I shouldn’t have bothered putting the flowers in.  So, as I sit here with growling tummy, I fantasize (well, “think fondly of,” “fantasize” might be a little melodramatic!)  of strawberry spinach salad.

Strawberry Spinach Salad

Baby spinach leaves, washed and spun; Fresh strawberries, sliced; Orange segments, cut into bite-sized pieces

Mix together

Dressing: Stir 1 tbsp dijon mustard with 3 tbsp honey, about 4 -5 tbsp balsamic vinegar, about 1/4 cup evoo, pinch of kosher salt and pinch of paprika. (Those measurements might need to be adjusted, I don’t measure. Basically, it is thick and dark. It should pour like pancake syrup). Put the dressing on last as it’ll make the salad soggy. Sprinkle with crushed cashews.

Enjoy!

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