Thursday, November 28, 2013

Beyond the Garden

...and giving thanks

Most of our blog posts have been about our gardening adventures, for us, a four-season event. It begins with a  spring harvest of over-wintered veggies and foraging from emerging perennials like lovage, chives, and asparagus. This is followed by summer-long tending of the usual and classic garden varieties from cukes to zucchini. In fall there’s garlic planting, and setting up the cold frames and winter is about harvesting those hardy greens.

Although gardening is a big part of our lifestyle, there’s more to it. We’re wannabe homesteaders. Homesteading can include many do-it-yourself activities, and the one right now involves a sawmill. Due to the gracious generosity of a friend, we have borrowed a Wood Mizer band saw mill for cutting our trees into boards.

With big projects in our future we’ve had to take down some trees to make room. Some of these are sugar maples up to about eighteen inches in diameter. Way too precious to be burned as firewood, thanks to the sawmill they are now repurposed as one-inch thick planks. Maple boards may come in handy as they are good for floors, cupboards, and fine furnishings. The first batch of these are now stacked, to let them dry for a couple of years.

And the large pines, some over a hundred feet tall and more than two feet in diameter are too big, clumsy and heavy for the sawmill. These required an investment into a chain saw attachment to pare them into posts and beams. The chain saw mill, with a 36-inch bar, can handle twelve foot lengths that are needed for timber framing. Some eight by ten inch posts are now drying, with more to follow as the big trees come down.

Most of our homestead is forest, and forest will continue to occupy most of the property. When we do have to take down a tree, we don’t want to take it lightly. We want to see it put to good use. Native Americans used the forest with respect and dignity. When a birch tree was cut to provide bark to make a canoe, they thanked the tree for providing this resource. Though we need to remove some trees, we also want to do so with a spirit of respect and thankfulness. That’s our guiding force for everything we do here. -G.H.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

November's Garden, and Potato-Turnip Soup

There’s nothing better than a delicious bowl of steaming garden soup as the days become chilly and short. Even though most of the garden has been harvested and stored, undaunted by the frosty nights, there’s still perennial and hardy annual vegetables for the picking, and perfect for making that bowl of soup!
The lovage has suffered some slight wilt, but is still good to use.
Perennial onion has provided for us since spring, and yet endures.
Wild garlic has popped up after a summer's absence and offers its pungency for raw and cooked dishes.
Kale has come into its season; turning sweet with the frosty nights.
Giant red mustard, having reseeded itself to produce a second crop, provides a bright burgundy color for the autumn season along with a crisp, spicy flavor.
Fully grown turnip is left to reside in garden soil until a need for it arises.

These are excellent candidates for brewing a wholesome and flavorful soup stock. Add to them some freshly stored potatoes, carrots, and onions from the root cellar. 

Potato-Turnip Soup
This garden soup is luscious and rich.

1 tbsp of butter
Medium onion, chopped

3 medium potatoes
1 large turnip
3 large carrots

Any combination of ingredients plucked from the garden- I used perennial onion, wild garlic, a couple of leaves each of kale, red mustard and lovage, all chopped fine. 

1 tbsp each of dried marjoram and thyme
Sea salt, freshly ground pepper

1 tbsp of butter
Several slices of turkey bacon

3 or more cloves of finely minced fresh garlic

In a dutch oven, melt and heat 1 tbsp of butter until sizzling. Add the chopped onion and cook until the onion is browned. Dice the potatoes, turnip, and carrots into small pieces and add.

Add the finely chopped garden ingredients.

Add water until it is about two or three inches above the vegetables. As the soup cooks, add water as needed to make the soup to your preferred consistency. This soup can be made thin, or it can be thick and substantial.

Heat to a low simmer, then allow to cook until the vegetables are softened, one to two hours (or cook it in a crock pot on low for most of a day).

Keeping the soup on the heat, use a potato masher to finely mash the vegetables. This will thicken the soup; add water if it is too thick. Add minced garlic, marjoram, thyme, salt and pepper.

Cook the turkey bacon in 1 tbsp of butter and add it to the soup. Cook at a low simmer until flavors are incorporated, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Ladle into serving bowls, and top each bowl with a sprinkling of finely chopped garlic. A dollop of sour cream may be added also. -jmm