Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter: Such a Joyful Day

What a nice Easter we had here at Farm Dover. The only thing missing was Mary, who is busy finishing up her senior year at MICA in Baltimore.

Friday, March 29, 2013

My Lasagna Garden

While Ed's focus seems to be on watching an inordinate amount of NCAA basketball, I prefer to spend my time planning my garden. If a game gets really exciting, I've given him orders to call me in to watch the last minute or two.

This morning, I attempted to create my first lasagna garden. It's something new I'm experimenting with this year on just a small portion of my big garden. It's a no-dig, no-till, organic gardening method that I am hoping will discourage the humongous weeds that overtook the far side of my garden last summer. Maggie is my number one encourager and was out there this morning helping get me organized.

Even though I plan to grow all kinds of things that will find their way into a pan of lasagna, the name refers to the method of building the garden by adding layers of organic material that will "cook down" over time, resulting (I hope) in rich, fluffy soil.

Like with lasagna, we started with a base (sauce) of compost, that we spread straight on top of the dead-weed portion of my garden. We followed it with water-soaked cardboard (the noodles). Then added another layer of compost (sauce).

From there, it was followed by 8 inches or so of straw (filling), followed by another layer of compost (sauce) and a final layer of straw (cheese).  Here's what it looks like at ground level.

I'm planning to let it cook down for a couple of months before planting anything in it – perhaps a crop or two in late summer. If it works, I hope to expand it to a larger portion of the garden, and eventually, I'm thinking, it would be great to have the whole garden done this way. Time will tell. I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, I'm searching my favorite cooking blogs and cookbooks for vegetable lasagna recipes.  I've asked the Easter Bunny to bring me Deborah Madison's new cookbook called Vegetable Literacy. I bet she's got a good one in it.

I think I hear Ed calling me. Evidently the Michigan/Kansas game is getting excited. Better go check it out.

Loaves & Fishes

A Simple Good Friday Dinner

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Beep. Beep. We're Back...

Just back from a trip to Big Bend National Park (in southwest Texas, bordered on the south by the Rio Grande). From doing our part to keep Austin weird, to adding more than a dozen birds to our life list, to remembering the Alamo, touring LBJ's ranch and Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, the trip was all around a grand success. More later, just wanted you to know that we are happily home.

beep. beep.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

There is something growing in our basement

The tomato, kale, chard, marigolds, lettuce, cilantro, parsley and basil seeds are planted and tucked under strange lights in the basement. Big thanks to Maggie.

Dover Road: Pretty as a Picture

Our half-mile gravel drive spills out at Dover Road. The narrow country road has never looked lovelier than this morning with the daffodils in bloom, the sky blue, and Dover Baptist, striking in its white clapboard simplicity.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Cheer, cheer, cheer

At least that is what this bird's song sounded like to me...

Good Land, Good Living, Good People

I love our Fridays at Farm Dover. Weather permitting, we work outside for a couple of hours and then head to town in the truck. (Town being Shelbyville, not Louisville.) We run errands along the way.

First stop today was the Shelby Country Recycling Center. Every couple of weeks we load up the pickup with our recyclables, separated into glass, plastic, cans, slick paper, newspaper and cardboard and drop them off at the 7th Street North center. I love this place. It is always neat and orderly; the staff cheerful; and I feel like I've done a small good deed for the environment.

Next stop: McKinley's Bread Shop and Deli. Located on Main Street, it's our favorite place for soup and and a sandwich. The ladies behind the counter always remember that Ed likes a strawberry shake "to go," so they watch to see when we are about finished with our lunch before heading to the back kitchen to hand dip a shake for him.

From there, we usually walk down the street to the Sixth and Main Coffeehouse to pick up a take-home brownie or scone and to browse their book collection – a wall full of new and used books, with a particularly nice Kentucky section.

We then take care of any other downtown business. Today, we mailed a package at the post office, renewed our truck license and picked out two audio books at the library before heading over to Rural King for jumper cables and Kroger groceries. Sometimes we'll walk through the Main Street antique stores, searching for first-edition books, cast iron cookware, baskets, or anything else that we just can't live without.

Once we finished our Shelbyville errands, we headed back to Simpsonville, via US 60, stopping at Metzger's Country Store for three bales of hay for the garden. Then it was on to Cottrell Farm Equipment Inc. for some bar oil and help getting the chain saw back in working order. Cottrell's is one of my favorite places in Shelby Country. It is an old-fashioned, family-run business and seems like everyone in the family works there, including the Cottrell brothers and most of their sons, Renee (daughter-in-law), Connie (mother). We bought our zero-turn mower, our chainsaw, our trimmer, and chainsaw protective pants there. In return, they have given us two bright orange STIHL bill caps and a ridiculous amount of advice. I'm sure when we leave the shop, they break out laughing at our lack of farm equipment knowledge.

I recently learned that Shelby County's motto is: "Good Land, Good Living, Good People." I concur with all three claims.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Starting seeds vs baking cookies. Cookies win.

I've spent the last few weeks dreaming of our spring vegetable and flower garden. My dream sequence goes something like this: read every bit of copy in a whole stack of seed catalogs – drool over the options available and turn down the corners of the pages that peak my interest; organize last year's seeds that may still be viable; make a complicated Microsoft Word table of what goes in which garden, the seed source, and whether it needs to be started indoors, or if it can be direct sown; order seeds. The dream phase is over. Time to wake up and get to actual work.

Yesterday, being a warm and sunny afternoon, Jack helped me spread compost over the big garden and in our two raised beds. Together, we planted a gooseberry bush that has languished in a Tupperware® bucket all winter and then Jack spread Holly Care, an all-natural organic fertilizer for acid-loving plants, on the hydrangeas next to the cottage. 

This morning, being a cold and rainy morning, I turned my attention to getting some seeds started. First things first. I opened the small box that came in this week's mail from Johnny's Selected Seeds.  

Inside were packets of peas, bush beans, beets, sweet peppers, hot peppers, radishes, tomatoes (3 heirloom kinds) zucchini, and carrots. Also included were poppies, sunflowers, zinnias, and marigolds – for my cutting garden. In addition to the seeds from Johnny's, I'm also planting ones left over from last year: kale, spinach, lettuces (5 kinds), swiss chard, sweet potatoes, gold potatoes, jerusalem artichokes. Still to consider are the herbs that I'm planning to grow: parsley, thyme, dill, cilantro, rosemary, oregano and mint.

Just reading this list, I'm beginning to realize that perhaps I've been a bit optimistic about the size and diversity of my garden, but I can't bear the thought of eliminating even one of these plants. 

My plan was to work outside on the porch, getting the seeds started that could not be directly sown into my garden. For my birthday, Maggie bought me a grow light that we've installed in the basement. The plan is to get a head start on growing plants from seeds by exposing them to 16 hours a day of fake sunlight. I anticipated this afternoon's work to include filling black plastic cell flats with a seed starter mix that I bought at Fresh Start Garden Supply in Louisville and then planting individual seeds in each cell, identifying them as I go along. Sounds like a pleasant way to spend the afternoon, does it not?

But I just came in from getting things set up and it is very cold and windy out there. So, I think I'll change direction and instead make a batch of granola and dried cranberry chocolate chip cookies to ship to Mary for her Spring Break road trip. 

The seeds will just have to wait for a warmer day... To be continued


Granola and Dried Cranberry Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups granola
1/4 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl with an electric mixer cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, beating until combined well, and beat in vanilla. Beat in flour mixture and stir in remaining ingredients. Drop dough by rounded tablespoons 2 inches apart onto buttered baking sheets and bake in batches in middle of oven 12 to 15 inches, or until golden. Cool cookies on racks. Cookies keep in airtight containers 5 days. 

makes 36 cookies 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

If someday you can't find me...

Our marathon of tree planting has been temporarily interrupted by three inches of overnight snow. I'm using the snow day to catch up on bill paying, bread making, and sitting by the fire reading some poetry.

For my birthday, Ed gave me A Thousand Mornings, a small collection of poems by Mary Oliver. I like her poetry. It is easy to read, not too serious. I read somewhere that her creativity is stirred by nature, and Oliver, an avid walker, often pursues inspiration on foot. I'm not a poet, but every day, on every walk, I am inspired by my observances of the natural world here at Farm Dover.

Some of her poems are so light that they remind me of the Shel Siverstein ones we read to the children when they were young. Here's one that cheered me today. It's called Green, Green is my Sister's House.

Don't you dare climb that tree
or even try, they said, or you will be
sent away to the hospital of the
very foolish, if not the other one.
And I suppose, considering my age, 
it was fair advice.

But the tree is a sister to me, she
lives alone in a green cottage
high in the air and I know what
would happen, she'd clap her green hands,
she'd shake her green hair, she'd 
welcome me. Truly

I try to be good but sometimes 
a person just has to break out and
act like the wild and springy thing
one used to be. It's impossible not
to remember wild and want it back. So

if someday you can't find me you might 
look into that tree or – of course
it's possible – under it.


Friday, March 1, 2013

What a privilege!

Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?”
- Tom Sawyer

Look what got to delivered to our doorstep. No, they are not body bags. They are tree bags!

In them are 10 each of Kentucky Cofeetrees, Eastern Redbuds, Chinese Chestnuts, Shellbark Hickories, Shagbark Hickories, Will Oaks, Red Shumard Oaks, Pecans, Blackgums, Flowering Dogwoods, Pawpaws, Persimmons, Wild Plum, Sassafras, River Birches, Yellow-Poplar and 100 Black Walnuts.

Through the Kentucky Department of Forestry, we ordered 250 seedlings. That's a lot of little trees to plant. Over the next week Ed and I will be out digging holes, placing the seedling roots in them, filling with dirt and tamping them down. Then we will mark them with orange tape. I can never tell if this is helpful to us or if just causes the deer and rabbits to take a second look and a nibble.

Like Tom Sawyer, I can promise that planting trees is as much of a privilege as whitewashing a board fence. Let me know if you want to give it a try.

In Like a Lion

What a gray and dreary week it has been. Today, March 1, roared in like a lion.

I've got my fingers crossed that the month will go out like a lamb.