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Monday, April 12, 2010

What I've Been Up To, The Last Week Or So

Not much is going on, and not much is getting done, which is why I haven't posted in awhile.  The contractor came by last week and got the holes for the uprights dug, which promptly filled with rain.  Then he came by later in the week and pumped the water out of the holes and set the 4X4s in them and plumbed them up.  They'll be back next week to pump water out of the holes again and fill them full of concrete.

I finally got the asparagus planted.  I paid for twenty-five plants and the grower packed thirty, so I gave the last five to my neighbor whose husband has just built her a big planter box. I have planter box envy. It's really nice.  Anyway, the asparagus came with detailed planting instructions, which I passed on to Suni, with the advice that the new shoots are e*x*t*r*e*m*e*l*y fragile, which the instructions don't mention, so be careful.  I had only room for twenty-five plants in my asparagus bed, so Suni lucks out.

I emailed the nursery last week that none of the Tulameen raspberries are up, although almost all the Autumn Britten are up and have been for awhile, and they were planted on the same day.  Then over the weekend I notice that finally! two of the Tulameen are breaking the soil. I'm waiting to hear what the nursery says before I report that two are up- they may be the only two, after all.

I also direct seeded some carrots, beets, radishes and leeks into the beds, and built the planter box that goes on top of the flower bed and then planted a Wonderblue lilac in it.  Lilacs evidently need really good drainage and I wasn't about to take a chance on our clay, so I built a box to raise it up.  There were fence boards lying around because we are getting a new end of the fence and gate, so I recycled fence board. It should last a couple of years and then I can decide what to do next.

Then last, but not least in the getting-things-done department, I transplanted the rest of the seedlings from the styrofoam cell tray to larger quarters. I've decided that I don't like the styrofoam cell tray, because it's hard to dig delicate little seedlings out of it.  I like that you can cram a bunch of seedlings in together, but I'll look at reusable black plastic trays, like a flat of start cells, and see if those are better. At least when you're transplanting from a six pack from the nursery, it's easy to squeeze the plants out of those things.

Next stop in the garden: I need to prepare an area in the ground for and do some research on the Three Sisters.  The Three Sisters, if you've no idea, is a planting practice from the ever-wise Native Americans.  You plant corn, squash and beans in the same hill.   The corn provides a stalk for the beans to grow up, the beans fix nitrogen from the air for the corn and squash, and the squash leaves provide shade for the the corn and bean roots.  A perfect symbiotic relationship. I've been wanting to try it ever since learning about it, and almost passed it up because of the no legumes, no grains part of Steve's diet.  But I decided that it should be okay, as long as I don't serve it to him during the day.  I have one corn to plant called Quickie Hybrid, which is a sugar-enhanced hybrid and very early- only 64 days, and I have another open-pollinated corn called Golden Bantam, which is a high-yielding heirloom. It also has an excellent reputation for freezing on the  cob.  I'll only plant one kind of green bean, Roma II, which is a lovely flat Italian bean. I'll be freezing as much of those as I can- they are supposed to be excellent for freezing, and I dearly love this kind of green bean! For squash I'm planting some organic small sugar pumpkins, which is an heirloom variety and is supposed to make "mouth-watering pies". Which is funny, because all I need them to do is make pumpkin pies.  Steve doesn't like pumpkin pie (I think it's the ginger) and I love them (I think it's the delicious) and I'm tired of not having pumpkin pie, so I am growing my own and I'll be canning my own, and making, baking, and ultimately eating my own!!  The other squash is a beautiful gray squash with an impossibly orange interior, the seeds for which I got from Novella Carpenter of Farm City fame.  She generously passed out the Triamble seeds to anyone who wanted to try them, so I signed up.  If you haven't read Farm City, you should- it's a great read.

And speaking of freezing, I ordered our quarter steer this weekend as well.  This necessitates buying a freezer, but that was in the plans anyway.  Carman Ranch is in northeastern Oregon and they do humanely-raised, grass-fed cattle.  Steve and I have been wanting to do this for awhile, and I managed to time checking their website just right because the 2010 order form was available.  Cory is going to let me have livers, oxtails, and tongue, as well.  I know what you're thinking, but Steve likes tongue, so I'm going to learn how to cook it for him.  I may not learn to like it, but I'm going to learn to cook it properly.  Anyway- I'm really excited that in June, somewhere in Portland I'll be picking up a couple of boxes of frozen beef.  I'll be picking up my friends Dave and Carl at the airport on the same trip, so it'll be an interesting question of cramming luggage and beef into the back of the wagon.  If the boys travel the way they always do, which is very light-usually just a knapsack, there will be plenty of room.  And guess what?  When we get home, they can help me load the freezer.  After I make cocktails, of course.


Miriam said...

What's this about not much getting done? It sounds like you've been really busy! How lovely that it's all coming together - if you're anything like me you see all the things that remain to be done, but I hope you're also stopping to enjoy what you've accomplished, too!

How does the cost of buying a quarter-steer work out, compared with buying it piece by piece (if you can ever find beef of that quality in a store!). I've wondered about that, and about eating cuts of meat I might not otherwise buy. I admire your sense of adventure when it comes to cooking tongue!

Paula said...

It works out to $5.79 a pound. This is the finished price per pound- it's around $3.70 a pound hanging weight. The cost includes a $.60/lb processing fee at the meat cutter's, $65 on farm harvesting fee, and $20 delivery fee. $5.79 a pound is maybe a little pricey for hamburger, but it's a great price for steak! But for us, it's not all about the price, although honestly, if it were too prohibitive, it would price us out of the picture. They took a $100 deposit, which means the balance in June won't be so dear.

I'm glad they harvest on farm, which means they slaughter them at the ranch, rather than pack them onto a truck and stressing them out. Much more humane. It also means that they're never spending any time on a feed lot. This part is important to us. We've decided to be considerate carnivores- we haven't succeeded with everything yet, but this is the first step. A huge step.

I understand that grass fed beef is leaner than corn-fed, and takes a little care in cooking it, so the whole thing will be an adventure.

Toni aka irishlas said...

You'll love the grass fed beef. We've been buying local beef for a few years now and I tell you, it can't be beat. You will notice the difference in taste immediatley. We are also getting lamb and pork from the same farm. I will be getting my first locally raised pasture chickens sometime next month and the farm is letting my husband and I come and learn to slaughter. This way it will really tell if we will be up to raising and slaughtering our own. I'm a little "iffy" about this, but, I think it's a step we have to take if we truly want to be self sufficient. The plus side is we get taught correctly the first time and this way the hens will not suffer from our human error.

You've been quite busy! Raspberries have become one of my favorite berries. And wait until you start harvesting your own asparagus! This marked our fourth year and it has been abundant enough to eat fresh and to freeze some.
You know, this is all a lot of work, but, my oh my, the rewards of the labor can't be beat!

Paula said...

If I could find a local farm that did it all (beef, pork, chicken, and lamb), I'd give them all my meat money. That's cool that the farm is letting you come learn how to do it. I think it would be really different if you had say, twenty broilers that were all being fattened up to be dispatched, than if you were going to off one of three or four hens that you've had a couple of years. I understand that broilers are only a few months old when they come to weight, and there's certainly anonymity in numbers. I hope you'll post about that when you get to it!

Julie said...

Hi Paula,
Just found you through Novella's pop-up store link and thought it is wonderful how we all seem to be doing the same things(asparagus, carrots,leeks newspaper pots) in our own back yards across the continent. I'm on the BC coast but you could almost have been talking about my garden. Anyway your pumpkin pie plight made me think of something I did last year. I made mini pies in short canning jars (the type you use for say canned salmon) and then everyone can have their own mini-pie. You can even freeze them uncooked and cook them at another time. (Well maybe not pumpkin it is an egg custard and that cannot be frozen.)But fruit pies are ideal for this technique and can even be removed from the jar and plated.

Paula said...

What a great idea! And I'd try freezing it anyway, because lord knows you can get frozen pumpkin pie at the store. Yay! I'm getting pumpkin pie this year!! Think I'll do some cherry pies that way as well- another of Steve's dislikes. Good thing I planted a Montmorency cherry!! And here I was going to try to make wine with them....

Julie said...

See....I have a Montmorency cherry too!