Category Archives: In the Garden
What is growing in the Kitchen Garden.
The sun rises on an icy pasture. This is my view as I stumble into my kitchen, hoping my hubby had made coffee before he left. Most mornings he has and this one is no exception. From my kitchen window I take in the fact that winter came overnight and when this happens, I am always in awe of how my little world is transformed. What was a muddy mess the day before, is now winter white. Would that my wardrobe be so transforming.
So I grab my shawl and a winter hat and slip on some boots and head out to capture the splendor and to see how the animals are faring. I love the textures that are revealed. And the air is so crisp. It is one thing to look out of the kitchen window. Quite another to feel the wind on your face and stop feeling your fingers as they struggle to click off a few. Add the crunch of your boots and your frosty breath streaming from your mouth and your body is now wearing winter. So take in my little views, hope you enjoy as much a I do. Afterwards…I still have chores, and dyeing to do. I hope I am feeling the same way.
I will admit it, I am not a fan of summer. I spend lots of time outside as I have to tend animals and a garden. But it become increasingly difficult this time of year, so some things do fall by the wayside-namely keeping a tidy garden. I do just enough not to be overtaken by weeds-but not much more. And I struggle daily with the watering-my garden always seems to need more than I give it so it is looking a bit haggard. That being said-it still is producing. My sweet 100 cherry tomatoes are more like sweet 1000’s. And I am now getting a good crop of peppers. And I even have harvested 4 cantaloupes this week.
As we have had the hottest and driest July that I can remember, I dread August even more. Our pastures still look like a moonscape. The few rains we have had have not made much of a dent. While I have added hay to the diet of the sheep and goats-they seem to be even more eager to get their grain rations-if that is possible.
I have altered my schedule to feed animals in the evening-when things cool a bit. After giving grain to the sheep-I have gotten in the habit of sitting on the crunchy grass with my flock to look them over and build our shepherd/sheep relationship. Some of the lambs now come over to be scratched-namely Wally (of course!) but also Hickory. And they even pay me in little lamby kisses. Such a treat for me as I love these little guys.
But still…I do need to venture out in the hot conditions to tend to the rabbits-keeping them cool with frozen 2 liter bottles of ice. And also making sure everyone has water and so on. Not to mention hanging out over hot pots of steaming yarn as I dye. I have never sweat so much in my life. At the end of the day-I cannot cool off fast enough and rid my body of salty sweat. (Maybe that is what the lambs are kissing off!)
Well-Fall is 6 weeks away…cannot get here fast enough! My kids are saddened that they start beck to school this week-I say-be happy you are in air conditioning.
Quick recipe for using up your squash-this is what I dream of in winter as I am planning my garden. And it is soooooo easy!
Slice 2 good-sized Summer Squash and slice 1 half of a sweet onion and put in a microwave safe casserole dish. Mix together. Add about 3-4 tablespoons of water. Slice 3 or 4 pats of real butter and place on top. Add salt and pepper to taste. Place in microwave on high for 8 minutes. Stir and there you have it-a lovely side dish for any meal in just a few minutes. Enjoy and stay cool!
Ok…I could bellyache about dealing with these issues-or I could offer solutions to how we handled this situation that perhaps others could use. Let me also say that I chose to live in the country and we are not a high priority on the grid and will from time to time deal with power outages. All the more likely that Dominion Virginia Power is not maintaining the infrastructure. I have it from an inside source that it is cheaper to call in workers and pay over-time to make band-aid repairs than keep the grid in good working order. Scarey-but we have to prepare. That being said…I love where I live-we chose our property well in that we have some valuable natural resources. We have 100-year-old huge shade trees over our house, barn and chicken coops. We have an 8 acre spring fed pond, we are up on a hill to catch what ever breezes might come our way. All these came to be very valuable in dealing with high heat and no running water (as we get our water by electric pump from our 2 wells.)
First lesson…use your fridge as an ice chest-load ice in the top as cold air falls-and it works-as long as you keep ice in there.Our small fridge worked like a champ as our many drinks were colder than when we do have power. Granted-this will not keep things frozen-but will keep things from spoiling.
Second lesson-Take frequent breaks. As we worked on moving animals closer to the pond and keeping rabbits clipped as close to the skin as possible, watering garden with pond water-we would stop every hour and drink something cold sitting in the shade under our walnut tree. We have these great Adirondack chairs and they became our camp station.
Lesson 3…Pond water is great for plants. We used the tractor and lots of buckets to make runs from the pond to the garden. I finally had resurrected my garden last Spring and I was not going to give it up without a fight. Speaking of water-another lesson is to keep an emergency supply on hand-and we do in these big jugs from an old water cooler I used to have. They each hold 5 gallons and we keep them filled and sealed and stored in a cool place.
Lesson 4-Have a cool meal idea on hand so that you do not have to fire up the stove. Mine is Cold Cucumber Soup. It is rich, comforting and refreshing. Ok-I lucked out in that right before we lost power-I had just made this huge batch as we have a bumper crop of cucumbers-my recipe follows.
Final Lesson…Find time for fun. In our misery as Kevin and I have been sweating through all these tasks-and just when we thought we could do no more-we eyed our pond and saw it through a new lens. What we were looking at was the biggest swimming pool ever. We are lucky in that it is spring fed-very deep and very clean. So we threw on our bathing suites-ok…pulled it on over a sticky sweaty body was a difficult thing-but we will not dwell there…and jumped in with our boogy boards usually reserved for beach trips. We floated in cool bliss for an hour. Never mind I forgot sun block-which I should have remembered as I burn easily-but I was so thankful to be cool and wet not from my own sweat.
We now have finally gotten back power-and the garden has received a proper watering-and I have finally gotten a good nights rest-I head out to the garden with my cup of coffee and it is a pleasure to see happy plants. Sanity can now return. Following are pics of a happy garden. And further down is that promised recipe.
And now our Cool Cucumber Soup-a great lunch or serve instead of a vegetable or salad with dinner.
Take about 3-3.5 pounds of cucumbers and peel them…
Then scoop out the seeds-I use a spoon…
Now you are going to combine the next ingredients along with the cucumbers in a blender or food processor. I did this in 2 batches…you will need 6 chopped green onions, 1 quart of buttermilk, 1 16 ounce carton of sour cream, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1 tsp of salt, 1/2 tsp of white or black pepper and also from the garden-1/2 cup of chopped parsley and 1 TBSP of dill…Blend well and then cover and place in the fridge at least 3 hours-over night is better…then ready to serve!
..at least I do. Have you ever been in a dream and all of a sudden you realize you are conscious of it and can actually make decisions as to what will happen in those dreams? Those are usually the ones where you can fly and the colors you see are more vivid than in real life. Or are they?
One of the advantages of having a good part of your day outside is breathing the fresh air. And on a farm-many tasks can be very repetitive. They take on a meditative quality. At those moments, I can sort of step out of my head, much like a dream and observe what is around me. It starts with sound, a bird’s song with a melody made up as it goes along, bees humming as they perform their occupation of gathering nectar, the sheep bellowing out a greeting or a “where the heck are ya?” in terms of a ewe to her lambs, maybe a rooster’s yodel. And yes there are machines too, like a neighbor’s tractor in the distance or an occasional car. I do take pleasure in deciphering the poetry and music that is happening around me.
Then the scents take on a featured role, musky wet damp earth, a sweat note of some blossom, wheat straw-like scent grass just mowed-all like a perfume that changes and evolves.
And as my eyes wander, they fall on tiny details, seemingly random patterns of pebbles under my feet in neutral shades of wheat, slate, tan bark, and Spanish tile; droplets of rain clinging to the tips of leaves in all shades of green and not so green; collections of petals that form a flower, a painting of color that defy any crayon box; fruit like precious jewels hidden beneath great fans of enormous leaves with pops of yellow-squash with matching flowers!
You might ask, “What magical task are you undertaking?” My meditation might be considered weeding to others. Our lives can be of our own design, like the dreams we can control.
Well, pull up a seat and hang out under out sprawling walnut trees overlooking the fishing pond beyond the sheep pasture. After a days work, I often relax here to gather my thoughts-do a piece of knitting or reading and enjoy a sip herbed iced tea or maybe some wine. In the evening during this late Spring, I can watch the lambs during this designated play time. They often run in sort of a lamb scrum-a tight bunch that moves as one being. Quite amusing as I count these little events as gifts from living here.
Sweet Tree Hill Farm is my work and my home. I live here in Central Virginia with my husband and 2 of my sons-who are teenagers. And we raise cashmere goats, angora rabbits and registered Shetland sheep. We are lucky to have growing here some lovely 100 year old pecan and walnut trees along with keifer pear trees and some grapes. In the footprint of a formal English garden, I have taken on a project of creating a Kitchen Garden. So among the foundation plants of box woods, a couple of crepe myrtles and some lillies, I have planted vegetables, herbs, melons and some cutting flowers. I will be sharing some ideas you might be able to use along with recipes for our garden bounty.
I have built barn shaped dye studio where I dye yarn for my wholesale business, Scarlet Fleece. I house there not only my dye equipment, but a drying area, a skeining, labeling and shipping area, and storage of yarn and dye. And we also are the USA distributor of Landscapes dye by Kraft Kolour of Australia so we store those there too.
We have created a nice life here. It can be hard, challenging and a bit scary as we try to make a living doing what we love. It is not a life for everyone, and we do most of the work ourselves-not a lot of hired hands here. But the satisfaction is enormous and I can’t imagine living any other way. So join me in future posts as I share wool farm life. It is crazy fun and I look forward to your future visits. We’ll save some tea for you.
Herbed Iced Tea
Into a kettle of just boiled water-drop 4 green tea bags and from the garden, bunch together spearmint sprigs along with lemon thyme. Drop that in the water and cover allowing to steep about 25 minutes. Remove herbs and tea bags and pour tea into a pitcher fulled with iced cubes. Put into the fridge until your guests arrive. Enjoy under the shade tree on a hot day.