Showing posts from January, 2012

Winter Greens Update

It's been a while since I've written, but that's because there just isn't very much going on in a Massachusetts garden in the middle of January. We've been having a pretty mild winter: Last weekend we were able to go skating on the pond, but this past week temperatures were back up into (at least) the forties, and the Winter Carnival that was supposed to take place this weekend was cancelled.

I'm ambivalent about our weird winter. On one hand, it's a bummer not to have at least a little snow to sled on or a frozen pond to skate on, and I do love the gift of a snow day or two to break up the monotony of winter. On the other hand, it's been great not to have to shovel, to be getting out of school on time in June (so far, so good), and to have mild weather for our remaining garden greens.

After the final January clean-up of the garden, we were left with only some kale, mache, and a tiny group of spinach seedings that sprouted too late to get very big befo…

Stupid, Stupid Wind

… flowers dead lie wither'd on the ground, As broken glass no cement can redress … 
~Shakespeare, Poem XIII

Hmm … where's the rest of the cold frame? There should be three more glass panes on that one, and now the baby mache is all exposed to temperatures in the teens (and, today, some snow). If you look carefully, you can see some bits of white in the quadrant behind the cold frames. Let's walk back there and take a closer look:

Well, crap. I don't know what the biggest problem is: the likely ruination of that cold frame's mache crop, the definite destruction of the glass panes, or the suckiness that will be the clean up of all those bits of glass out of the gravel paths. Oh, and out of the leaf mulch over the garlic bed in the spring:

Now, that must have been some wind. Why is it so windy here? This is the fourth or fifth time since we've lived here that we woke up to backyard destruction after a windy night … and that's not including power outages.  
As K…

How to Fake a Yocco's Dog

This holiday weekend it was too cold to do anything even remotely garden related. We're talking 3 degrees when we woke up Saturday morning, and the wind chill was like 10 below. We had ice on the inside of our oldest windows! Last time we had extreme temperatures, I offered a Pennsylvania-inspired recipe. That seems like a good semi-annual tradition, so, in honor of the coldest day of the year so far, I present this delicious specimen:

I know you are thinking that this looks like an ordinary, undressed hot dog. Au contraire! That is a replica of Allentown's finest: a Yocco's Dog.

For those of you not born and bred in the Lehigh Valley, Yocco's is "The Hot Dog King," and has been since 1922. It's a totally old-school hot dog place run by the Iacocca family (yes, that Iacocca family), and it's the kind of place where you'd better know what you want when you get to the front of the line and not waste anyone's time asking for ketchup instead of m…

Of Chicken Stock and Arugula

One of the last things we picked from the garden was arugula. It is pretty hardy and stays fairly sweet (as sweet as arugula can be, anyway) in the cold temperatures of late autumn. I forgot to mention another use for it:

This is a chicken soup that Kirk made, and at the last minute he added some of our freshly picked arugula. It was delicious! I have to say, I found this kind of surprising. The idea of mushy greens in a soup sounded pretty terrible to me (think about a bad Italian Wedding soup, for example, or maybe cabbage in a soup — blecch). The secret here was adding the greens shortly before serving to keep it fresh: I'm not sure how well the arugula would hold up if you added it to the soup pot with all the other ingredients.

Another reason this soup was so good is because Kirk makes his own stock. This involves saving up the carcasses of whole roasting chickens and boiling them down with herbs and vegetables. I believe this particular bowl of soup came from the bits of ch…

Roasted Beets

When we closed down the garden a couple weekends ago, I forgot to mention that we also pulled some beets. Throughout the fall we had mostly been using the beets for salad greens (their red stems are pretty, and they offer a different flavor), but we pulled the roots of all that were left. You may also recall that we had a fire to warm us while we worked outside that January day:

So what could be better than roasted beets? Kirk washed them off, wrapped them in foil, and tucked the packet in among the smoldering bits of wood that had fallen through the grate in the fire bowl:

As you can see above, this was hardly a great, roaring fire. The beets were added near its end, and it had died down to mostly coals rather than flames while the beets were roasting. Kirk figured we'd let the fire burn out, and he'd grab the foil packet later in the afternoon when it had cooled (so as not to worry about burning his fingers or having to find any of our old fireplace tools).



Good News, Bad News

Yesterday, January 7, it hit 55 degrees. It was a lovely day for a walk and for puttering around. On my way down to the mailbox to send a DVD back to Netflix, I noticed this in the perennial border:

Siberian iris shoots have been popping up throughout this warm autumn — anywhere there was a bit of root left from all my perennial border renovations this summer, those tough little guys sent up tiny new leaves. But if you look more closely, you'll see something else:

Yep, that's a tulip. In January. In Massachusetts. So I gave a much closer look to the border, and there's also new growth on what should be a dormant delphinium:

Some daffodils are also making an early appearance:

So the good news here is that the goddamn squirrels didn't get all of my bulbs in their digging frenzy earlier this fall. That had been a very real fear. There are tulips poking their noses out all over the border, so a whole lot survived the marauding hordes.
But that's kind of the bad news t…

The Great Brussels Sprout Experiment: Results

Since the garden is shut down for the winter, the Brussels sprouts have been picked and the plants pulled out: The experiment is over. You can review the progress of this weird vegetable here and here. Over the weekend we dismantled the greenhouse tunnel that had been protecting them, and here is what we had:

On the bright side, these plants were in good shape — no signs at all of any frostbite. As members of the cabbage family they should be fairly hardy, and having them in the tunnel definitely worked to keep them alive.

As you can see by their size, though, not freezing isn't exactly the same as growing. There just wasn't enough warmth and sunlight in December to encourage those tiny sprouts to get any bigger. So the tunnel is a great place to store Brussels sprouts, but I think we'd need a heated greenhouse to ripen them further.

The solution to that issue is obviously to plant them earlier in the season. I’m thinking they need perhaps an extra month, which would mean…

Hola, 2012: Pork and Sauerkraut


Adiós, 2011: January Harvest

Thus sometimes hath the brightest day a cloud; And after summer evermore succeeds Barren winter, with his wrathful nipping cold: So cares and joys abound, as seasons fleet.
~Henry VI, Part II, Act 2, scene 4

Today we went out to close down the garden for the winter. Why, you ask, did we not take care of this yesterday, when it was a sunny 50 degrees outside? Because we were hungover, that's why. So today, as temperatures just kept dropping, we lit a fire and got to work. Tomorrow night it's supposed to get down to single digits, so this is it for the 2011 garden.

As you can see above, Kirk pulled out our arugula cold-hardiness experiment. He did manage to salvage many perfectly fine leaves — mostly new growth low to the ground. Down came the tunnels around the broccoli that we salvaged after the last big winds uncovered the tunnels and let them freeze. We packed away the PVC and the plastic for next year, when we'll have something much sturdier designed. We pulled out all the…