Monday, April 29, 2013

Needed Rain

A light rain fell throughout most of the day, with a total rainfall of about half an inch.  It has been dry, so I was glad to have the rain.    

A Barnevelder chicken stays off the wet ground, or perhaps she just enjoys the view 

It's almost blueberry time!

Flowering kale

We have two varieties of kale in this bed; dinosaur kale (foreground) and siberian kale (background).  We've enjoyed kale nearly every day since late February.  And naming kale "dinosaur kale" was a good marketing move.  My sons don't like siberian kale, only dinosaur kale.  

 The spinach is looking good

Radishes from last year's harvested seeds

It wasn't until last spring that I first tried radish greens.  I never knew anyone that ate them.  Growing more vegetables and frequenting farm stands has expanded not only our menu list but also our food preparation know how. 

My younger son gathers the eggs

Collecting the eggs used to be my older son's job (he's seven).  But he no longer thinks of it as fun, which is fine because it gave my younger son (he's four) the opportunity to take ownership of this task.  

Sunday, April 28, 2013

First Attempt at Baking Bagels: Success

I began baking bread fairly regularly last year.  This year, I bake two loaves of bread nearly every weekend. Along the way I have become comfortable enough that I understand the term, "until it looks right."  Yesterday I attempted my first batch of bagels.  Due to ingredients on hand, I had to improvise a little and didn't follow the recipe exactly.  But because I've become comfortable with basic bread I felt I could wing it and get by.  Other than all the bagels weren't the same shape, I got six thumbs up from the family.  My first grader even wants his school lunch to be a bagel sandwich.
Other than the aesthetics,these bagels turned out great

 Fried eggs on a homemade toasted bagel for breakfast

I usually make white bread, but a few weeks ago my wife found a recipe for honey oat bread.  I was happy to use honey, rather than sugar, as it is one more local ingredient.  I know there is information addressing honey as a sugar substitute in bread (the white bread I've been making uses about 4 tablespoons of sugar), but I never ventured to try it.  So, with a recommended recipe, I tried and the family liked.   

My older son shaping the dough into a loaf

When placing the dough to rise on the window rack, we saw a red-bellied woodpecker visiting the suet feeder. 
  Of all the birds that visit our feeders, the woodpeckers are my favorites.

Another week's worth of bread just out of the oven

We should be good on bread until next weekend.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

An Afternoon at Longwood Gardens

Today was a gorgeous sunny day.  We did a lot so I had to get up and get moving.  My younger son helped me plant more beans and then also helped with the watering.  This spring we've been using old juice containers to act as mini-greenhouses and also protect seedlings against rabbits and other critters.  So far the juice containers have worked well for spinach and beans.

After lunch we visited Longwood Gardens, which is about 45 miles (~73 km) from home.  I go to Longwood Gardens usually once or twice a year, though my wife and kids visit slightly more often.  The flowers were absolutely stunning.

Me and my older son

 This sundial is at the center of one of the gardens

I just love sundials.  They seem so simple until one considers the observations and calculations that must be made from a specific location in order for the sundial to be more than decorative.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Economic Indicators

News reports flood us daily with information on the overall state of the economy.  From currency fluctuations, jobs reports, and stock market speculations, making sense of it all is an ambitious goal.  But the one economic indicator that I truly understand is at the neighborhood level: the market value of one pound of honey is two dozen eggs.  A colleague of my wife's keeps bees.  We have chickens.  With extremely low volatility, trading eggs for honey benefits both families.  On one hand I can imagine how much simpler life may have been when all "purchases" were made in this manner.  The value of an egg is not going to plummet, and if it does, I can still eat an egg.  On the other hand, however, how may eggs will it take to pay for those needed home repairs...  

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Colors of Spring

  Last fall we planted tulip bulbs for the first time and eagerly awaited the arrival of spring, and with it a colorful change of seasons.  Unfortunately, we did have some issues with rabbits.  Our homemade, non-toxic  egg and water repellent, which reportedly does real well at keeping deer at bay, did not repel all of the rabbits.  So we put up a makeshift fence around the tulip bed and haven't had any further rabbit attacks.

My younger son says "Cheese" while standing next to the tulip bush.

And while not as vibrant a color, the green tomato plants are a sure sign of spring.  We moved our plants from the house to the covered beds last weekend.  Last summer was the first time I enjoyed tomatoes grown from seeds that I planted.  This year we planted several roma tomatoes and grape tomatoes.