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Home Gardens Uncategorized

November in the Garden

*Note: In light of the election results, seasonal rhythms, gardening, and food might seem unimportant.  My thoughts: to most effectively champion the causes we believe in, it is crucial that we stay grounded, healthy, inspired, and strong.  When we take time to nourish ourselves, we will find greater success in our work to make the world a better place.*

November is the month to finish up any last “to-dos” in the garden.  Though many of the tasks could be done in the spring, checking them off the list in November is a great way to close the growing season and set yourself up for an easy start to the next one.  November is also a more relaxing time to preserve any last vegetables and fruits from the garden, enjoy stored harvest, relax by the cozy fireplace, and take a bath!

I’m feeling tired but pleased after our first year gardening at our new home.  Years spent as cow pasture, Southern facing slopes, loamy soil, and high ground water all contributed to a huge harvest yield.  Of course, hours and hours of spring time weeding and early summer pest control helped too.

before-garden-to-bed
The garden after our first hard frost

We put the garden to bed this past weekend.  This involved pulling dead material out of the garden and piling it into a compost heap, thoroughly weeding the beds that work best for early spring planting, and covering bare rows and paths with grass clippings and hay.  Our garden site is exposed, so covering the beds with mulch will help keep our topsoil in place and protect it from being washed or blown away by the winter elements.

fallen-and-standing
The fallen (unripe tomatoes and watermelon) and the standing (kale and Brussels sprouts)
compost-heap
Dead plant material to be composted
after-garden-to-bed
Cleaned up and mulched garden rows, garnished with flourishing kale and hanging-on calendula and fennel.

In order to completely clean out their row, I harvested the last few cabbage to make kimchi.  The next day I chopped and pounded the cabbages along with ginger, garlic, turmeric, hot pepper, black pepper, and salt.  img_6813

After all that pounding, I decided to rest.  Out of curiosity, I started scanning back through this blog, reminiscing about the growing season and remembering the projects, harvests, and beautiful scenes from the past year.  What a surprise to discover last November tenth’s post: November in the Garden and Kitchen.  The subject?: Putting the garden to bed and making kimchi!  For me, this serves as a happy reminder of how settled into our new home and environment we are.  Today I am grateful to feel in synch with the natural rhythms of the home, yard, garden, field and forest I call home.

Categories
Home Gardens Recipes Uncategorized

End-of-the-Season Recipes

oct-harvest

It’s the end of the growing season, but it isn’t quite time to rest.  With the bulk of our harvest frozen, canned, dried, and fermented, it’s time to deal with the left overs: the harvest that didn’t get processed during the peak of the season.  Though these “ugly” fruits and veggies are now gaining recognition in the mainstream (not everything comes out looking perfect!), they’ve always been part of harvesting and cooking for home gardeners.  I have fun examining the motley selection of veggies occupying my kitchen counters and refrigerator space, determining how they could be combined in delicious ways.  It takes some creativity at this time of year!

Sometimes end-of-season produce is a bit worse for the wear.  This weekend I prepared several gallons of sauerkraut from some cabbages that were admittedly acting as slug hotels in the garden.  After removing the holey outer leaves, however, wonderful fall sweetened crisp cabbage was revealed.  Yum!

cutting-cabbage1

It is also an important time of year to monitor harvest stores in the basement and attic.  Any veggies that show sign of rot or discoloration should be used first.  As last night’s dinner highlighted, blemished squash, onions, and other veggies are often perfectly delicious.   They don’t stay good for long, however, so it’s good to enjoy them right away while they’re still tasty.

Butternut squash

Thankfully, some plants are happy to be outside in the frost and colder weather.  Most of the brassicas: kale, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli, get sweeter and more tender after it has frosted.  For now I’ll happily leave them outside and will be ready to enjoy them when I see counters and fridge shelves empty and need to go get vegetables in order to prepare for our next meal.

Find great recipes for fall harvest from some of my previous blog posts:  Sauerkraut, pumpkin, chard, winter squash, frost sweetened kale, and Brussels sprouts.  Enjoy!

Winter-Kale-brussels-harvest

Categories
Home Gardens Uncategorized

October in the Garden

autumn-breakfast
Autumn breakfast treat: chai, cider donut, and cinnamon apples

Fall is certainly in the air.  Colors have changed dramatically in the last week, and we are now in peak foliage in the Champlain Valley.  According to our climate zone, we were supposed to get a frost by October 1st.  However, the end of the growing season has been unusually long and the garden is still going strong.

We are learning more about our property’s micro climate and have been surprised to have escaped several frosts that nipped our nearby neighbors.  Last Friday temperatures were projected to dip below freezing, so we did a big harvest and covered up the plants we wanted to save.  The next morning revealed a frost so light that even the basil was spared.  Our airy southern sloping garden seems to keep frost from forming on the plants when temperatures hover around freezing!  Though I am excited for the ongoing bounty, I’m also starting to feel tired and ready for the growing season to come to an end.

frost-harvest
Big pre-frost harvest – so many watermelons, peppers, and butternut squashes this year!
survived-the-frost
We escaped another frost! Blankets drying and garden still going strong.

Foliage isn’t waiting around for freezing temperatures.  In the past week, trees in our area have turned dramatically.  The hills are tinged with reds, oranges and yellows.  Forest walks are stunning and smell richly of fallen leaves.  Vibrant colors surround us.

changing-colors
Sugar maple beauty: from green to red in a week.
autumn-house
Our house peeks through the foliage – the view as I make the final decent down Mt. Philo.
autumn-colors
A few fall forest scenes.
mid-oct-meal-prep
Mid-October pesto and veggies!

In the kitchen, it seems like it is still August.  We continue to have bountiful peppers, broccoli, beans, leafy greens, tomatoes, and fruit to play with.  We certainly got our fill this season.  Soon we will transition to winter jackets, squash, parsnips, and frost-sweetened kale and Brussels sprouts.  I’m ready!

Categories
Home Gardens Musings Personal Sustainability: How-To

November in the Garden and Kitchen

Though we did have some cold windy weather and deep frosts, our first two November weekends have been clear and sunny.  Perfect for wrapping things up in the garden!  At our new house, we had part of our field tilled, hoed rows, and spread straw on top of everything.  We’re hoping that the garden will be in good shape for a first planting in the spring.  No doubt we’ll have lots of grass weeding ahead of us, but we’re off to a good start!

Ready to chop cabbage on a beautiful cutting board made by a friend
Ready to chop cabbage on a beautiful cutting board made by a friend
Moving up in the world: My dad made me a sauerkraut tamper with his lathe!
Moving up in the world: My dad made me a sauerkraut tamper with his lathe!

This past weekend I finally had time to turn our end-of-season harvests of kohlrabi, cabbage, and carrots into pickles, sauerkraut, and kimchi.  I was excited to be able to use Vermont-grown ginger for the first time in my kimchi!  Maybe I’ll have to add it to our crop list next year.  I happily pounded away at the sliced cabbage with my new tamper and smasher: happy results of my dad’s recent experimentation on his new lathe.  Finally, in a team effort, we erected a fence around our new garden to deter the rabbits and herds of deer that pass through our land on their way from Mt. Philo to Lewis Creek.  It feels good to have all of our outdoor chores crossed off the list.  Bring on the snow – I’m ready for sledding season to start on our sunny slope of Mt. Philo!

Want to make Sauerkraut?  I lay out all the steps in this blog post.

Have other veggies from your last harvest that you’d like to ferment or pickle?  Check out this blog post.

Kimchi from all Vermont-grown veggies ready for the fridge and chopped cabbage on its way to becoming sauerkraut.
Kimchi from all Vermont-grown veggies ready for the fridge and chopped cabbage on its way to becoming sauerkraut.
Our new garden and garden fence!
Our new garden and garden fence!
Categories
Children and Nature Home Gardens School Gardens

Seeds!

Seeds surround us as we transition from summer to winter.  For gardeners, this means that it’s the perfect time to save seeds to plant next year.   Try letting some of your leafy vegetables, like lettuce and cilantro, flower and make seeds for you to harvest and save.  For young nature explorers, this means it’s the perfect time to build burdock structures, make wishes on milkweed seeds, find out how far a thrown “helicopter seed” can travel, and create acorn cracking factories by the forest edge.  Children can also participate in seed saving for the next spring – equipped with an envelope, you’d be amazed by how many seeds can be found in a fall garden or meadow.  For teachers, there are opportunities to investigate life cycles, parts of a seed, and ways that seeds travel through hands-on outdoor exploration and discovery.

Seeds in the garden: sunflower and cilantro/corriander
Seeds in the garden: sunflower and cilantro/coriander
Hitchhiking and velcro seeds: burdock
Hitchhiking and velcro seeds: burdock
Flower seeds: bachelor button and calendula
Flower seeds: bachelor button and calendula
Helicopter seeds: Box Elder Tree
Helicopter seeds: box elder tree
Parachute and wishing seeds: Dandelion and milkweed
Parachute and wishing seeds: dandelion and milkweed
Categories
Home Gardens Recipes School Gardens

Apple and Squash Recipes and Activities

vermont foliage

I love the flavors of fall: apple sauce with cinnamon, pumpkin pie, butternut squash bisque, toasted pumpkin and squash seeds… my list could go on for a long time!  October is also a time when temperatures get cold and days get shorter – afternoon cooking or baking projects are the perfect cozy warm activities for kids after school.  When making apple sauce or getting the seeds out of a pumpkin, many hands certainly do make light work! Click on the links below for some of my favorite fall recipes and kitchen projects:

our-apple-sauce

Making Applesauce with Kids

Butternut squash

Spicing up Squash

Boiling Pie Pumpkins

Favorite Easy Pumpkin Recipes

Categories
Children and Nature

Fall in the Forest

This past weekend I took some time to browse through past blog entries.  I noticed certain seasonal rituals and appreciations repeat themselves year after year.  Every fall, right about now, I renew my love of the forest and trees.

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As an adult on an elementary school calendar, September is always a month full of new beginnings, logistics to sort out, and rhythms to establish.  This is often hard work!  By October, my students have settled in and are ready for exploration further from home base, bigger projects, and the chance to enjoy the last sunny warm afternoons before winter sets in.  The forest is a perfect place for all of this.  For me, spending time in the forest is calming and rejuvenating – it reminds me of things to be grateful for, puts recent stressors in context, and stimulates my senses.

Here are some past forest-themed blog posts for you to browse.  Enjoy!

Making a discoveryChildren and Nature: The Forest ~ Why spending time outside, especially in forests, is crucial for children… “Upon entering the woods, the temperature drops noticeably.  The sounds change – whispering leaves and the occasional bird chirp blocks any outside noises from coming in.  Our foot steps are quiet on the soft needle-carpeted forest floor.  The smell of moist leaves, moss, and bark filters into our noses…”  (read more)

Mossy RoofForts and Fairy Houses ~ Discoveries and lessons learned from forest play… “We’ve discovered things that would never be possible (or allowed) in a classroom.  Different thicknesses of sticks make different sounds when banged against the trunk of a mature tree.  Pine needles make for a soft landing after tripping over a raised root.  TONS of different mushrooms and fungi grow on the forest floor after a few days of rain, and most of them are really slimy.  Pine sap is the perfect glue, but it’s better to keep it off our clothes…” (read more)

Foliage Games and Activities ~ Fun ideas for educators looking for active hands-on ways to teach students about leaves, trees, foliage, and the changing of seasons.  (read more)

Fairy-House6Zooming In: Fairy and Snail Houses ~ Fun photos and observations after several fairy and snail house building sessions with children… “Outdoor educators take note!  Fairy, gnome, and snail house building ties right into lessons on observation, habitat, ecosystems,  community, and respect for nature.  Building miniature things will lead students to observe the intricate details of pinecones, the barbs of burdocks, the veining of leaves, and much much more…” (read more) 

Welcome to the Woodlands Clubhouse ~ How the creation of a fort in the woods engaged a challenging mixed-age group of students for months after school.  (read more)

Stumps make steps and chairs for our fort

A Woodlands Playground ~ Great photos and ideas for adding natural forest elements to play spaces for children of all ages. (read more)

Ticks and Poison Ivy Season ~ Adults are increasingly fearful of the dangers of being in nature… “There are many possible dangers associated with all the activities we do every day, including playing and working outside.  I strongly believe, however, that the benefits of time spent outside far outweigh the risks…” (read more)

Categories
Home Gardens Personal Sustainability: How-To

Scenes of a Fall Kitchen

Our harvest season keeps on going and going and going.  We’ve had no freezing temperatures since covering up our favorite garden plants for the first frost nearly a month ago.  There’s been summery harvest dinners, bags of lettuce and boxes of berries delivered to neighbors, and second chances to preserve more of our bounty.

In the fall we celebrate several birthdays in our home, giving us a lot of opportunities to smother special desserts with fresh raspberries.  For my birthday, Dad carved stone weights for two new crock pots!  When he says that our kitchen is alive, he’s not exaggerating.  Between my fermenting veggies and kombucha, Dad’s bubbling country wines and bread, and Mom’s various food projects, there’s often a lot going on.  Check out some scenes from our fall kitchen below:

New-Crock-and-Cover
Making kimchi in my new crock pot. Dad carved the lid for me!
Our favorite flourless chocolate cake smothered in raspberries
Our favorite flourless chocolate cake smothered in raspberries
Shredded peppers, onions, and zucchinis ready for a naturally fermented relish
Shredded peppers, onions, and zucchinis ready for a naturally fermented relish
A sink full of kale, ready to be steamed and frozen
A sink full of kale, ready to be steamed and frozen
Some "projects" in progress
Some “projects” in progress (sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi, and cider vinegar)
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Musings

This is why I miss living in VT in the fall…

I recently posted a photo on facebook that seemed to strike a nerve.  The caption? “This is why I miss living in Vermont in the fall.”  To make my nostalgia worse (or better?), my dad sends me periodic photo updates as the seasons change, harvest is taken in, and places grow and mature.  I asked him to send a few more so I could share them on my blog – in this case, pictures do truly speak better than words.  Thanks Dad!

Photos by Terry Dinnan in Charlotte, VT