Sunday, April 17, 2016

Nose to the Grindstone

Ed and I have had our noses to the grindstone all week. On Monday, we had 13 cubic yards of mulch delivered to Farm Dover. (Our pickup truck bed holds 1 cubic yard, so just imagine that times 13.) We are creating a bee garden, planted with native flowers that our honey bees and other native bees and butterflies will surely love. But before the plants can go in, we had to kill the fescue grass, put down layers of newspaper, and then top it with 2 inches of natural hardwood mulch. Believe me, it is much harder than it sounds.

On top of that, there was grass to cut, weeds to whip, potatoes to plant, strawberries to uncover, asparagus and radishes to harvest, beds to mulch, planters of Lilly of the Nile to divide and replant, ferns to haircut, roses to fertilize, and, of course, honeysuckle to battle.

In the middle of all this work, I managed to look up and around and noticed the solid yellow field just across the way on the adjacent farm. Like a siren of mythology, I heard it calling me to come explore. So, just as the sun was headed down and my work was mostly done, I climbed the barbed wire fence between our and our neighbor's property, closed my eyes and jumped, landing in another world. In honor of Earth Day this week, I invite you to come along and see what I saw....

Acres upon acres of canola flowers. Their subtly sweet fragrance engulfed me. Like Dorothy in Oz, I wanted to lay down in the field, and just nap for a bit. Obviously, I wasn't on Farm Dover anymore.

My lesson for the week: yes, there is work to be done and it must be done. But I mustn't forget to look up and look out, and go where I'm called.

Friday, April 8, 2016

I thought the day's weather would improve...

I'm trying to talk myself into going out to set up two new bee hives back behind the big garden. We are picking up two new 5-frame nucs (small honey bee colonies) with Italian marked queen bees tomorrow morning in Clarkson, Ky. Maggie is in L.A. working and so isn't available to guide us in how to install the bees into their Farm Dover hives. Fortunately, she sent us a YouTube video that shows in detail how to complete the transfer. Wish us luck.

In the meantime, I'm sitting in my study, sipping hot tea, watching the cold drizzling rain ping against the window and hoping it will quit before dark comes. I should have set up the new hives while I had the chance this morning, but SNOW was spitting from the grey sky and I thought the day would improve. Wrong.

I did take a walk around the farm this morning, mostly to pick the drooping daffodils before the temperature drops tonight to 27 degrees and freezes the tender blooms. While crossing the farm to get to the daffodils near the sink hole, I couldn't help but stop and snap a couple of pictures of the young maples unfurling their tiny red leaves and showcasing their helicopter seeds.

I'm trusting that the fruit trees will make it through the cold night. May drape a beach towel over the barrel of radishes – just to be on the safe side. You can find me sitting by the fire tonight, happy to be in for the evening.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Headed out for dinner

While Ed watched the news, I headed out for dinner. You are probably thinking that I was on my way to one of my favorite in-town restaurants. But instead, I pulled on my overalls and grabbed a metal bucket and took off for the creek that runs through Farm Dover. I was headed out to collect dinner by foraging along the creek bank. There was plenty to choose from.

I was inspired – and perhaps emboldened – by Samuel Thayer's guide to identifying, harvesting and preparing edible wild plants titled: Nature's Garden. In his book, he covers a small number of plant species in detail, replete with thorough preparation instructions and photos.

He cautions his readers to never eat a plant unless you are 100 percent positive of its identity. Oh how I love a good challenge!

He goes on to outline the five steps to positively identifying a plant. His steps include making a tentative identification, backing it up with a trusted reference comparison, cross-referencing with at least two more field guides to double and triple-check your identification and then go on a specimen search to ensure that you can find and identify the plant in diverse stages of growth and growing conditions. His last step involves being absolutely confident that you have identified the plant correctly, being sure enough to bet your life on it. Yikes!

Here's what I gathered in my bucket.

Chickweed. We have been eating it all week and have not died from it yet.
 I've served it raw and sauteed. 

Wild garlic. It has a hollow stem and strong oniony smell.
Mustard Garlic. Highly invasive, so I pulled these up roots and all. Stems are particularly good. 
Ramps. From our original creekside patch that Maggie planted five years ago.
Just this year, Ed and I planted 3 dozen ramp sprouts and about 50 ramp seeds.
The sprouts are sprouting! Not sure about the seeds. 

The bees love our dandelions and so do we. Be sure you harvest chemical-free plants.
A trio of purple: Purple Deadnettle, Violets, and Ground-Ivy

In Thayer's book, he writes about the time he and his wife went on a 30-day wild food diet. He says they didn't do it to prove that it can be done, since for most of human history, everybody was on a life-long wild diet. They didn't do it to prove that they could do it, as they had done it before. He says they did it because they wanted to focus on eating really good, healthy food and to feel the satisfaction of being self-sufficient. He says eating wild makes each meal an adventure, and so they did it for the excitement. 

So tonight's meal will be focused on really good, healthy (and super fresh) food. I'm thinking of making a big salad and a ramp omelette – with special thanks to friend Jackie for the farm fresh eggs. It will certainly be an adventure. Let's just hope I've identified all the fixings 100 percent correctly!