Sarah’s Kitchen Gardens

more meat

little chickens

When a friend called and asked for help taking a few young chickens off her hands, how could I refuse? Give these ones a month or two and they’ll be ready for dinner. Right now they’re just too cute – see the chirpy chirp video – but they’ll get big. These are roosters, unwanted hatchlings from a farm that raises egg-laying hens.

They’re different from the last meat birds I raised. These are Light Sussex, a dual-purpose bird, so they won’t get as big, but they also won’t be as awkward either. The white rocks I had were very heavy on the front, so they looked a bit clumsy and uncomfortable. These light sussex are pretty spry so far. Some pics and info on the Sussex breed show a few different varieties (scroll down on the linked page for very cute chickie pics!). They may not have as much breast meat on them, but that’s ok because I like the dark meat anyway. Here’s my lunch today:

chicken avocado mango salad

Dark chicken meat from the last batch of chickens in my backyard, mango, avocado, and other flavours. It’s not a very local salad, I know, but for me it’s more important to know that the meat is free of antibiotics, chemicals, hormones, etc. They were happy chickens allowed to scratch in the dirt and have space to live.

If you are interested in growing your own chicken in your kitchen garden, check out Backyard Chickens. It’s a very informative site that can probably answer most of your questions.

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projects

planning diagram

As I have less and less in the garden to take care of, I gain more and more projects in preparation of my business product lines and presentation. Lately I’ve been working on a few things at once, one of them being my display space for the Guelph Organic Conference.

So far (this may change) I’ve got a 4×4 Garden Patch on the floor, a 4×1 Balcony Planter on a 5×2 table, and a ladder set up with pots of plants on it. And hopefully some white xmas lights or rope lights too on the ladder. There’s a banner on the backdrop. Oh, and this is all in a 7×7 space.

I’ve started plants, hoping I can grow them to a reasonable, healthy-looking size using my indoor resources.

seedlings

That could be tricky. But, you never know until you try.

Last night we went to check out pricing for PVC pipe and plastic sheeting, because one greenhouse just isn’t enough for what I want to grow. I’ll need a second one in the later spring to house all the plants as I repot them into larger containers. It will basically be frost protection at that point – a ‘just-in-case’ shelter. Very temporary.

I’m also working on gift packages for Christmas (Little Bird Told Me Craft Sale), and have only one so far: ‘Sprouty Salad’. This will contain a pot, soil, composted fertilizer, misting spray bottle, a few other little things, and a package of seeds that contains a mix that will provide lots of flavour and crunch. I’m working on gathering the materials to plant one and see how it grows.

sprouty salad mix

My guess, I’ll need to package the radish seeds separately, because they grow faster than the lettuce. The idea is to eat them as sprouts, which takes only 4-5 days!

I’m also working on some new pin ideas in preparation for the sale and the show – but those are top secret for now.

pins

These are the ones from the first batch. I’m in the process of trying to figure out the best way to offer these for sale through the website – shopping cart services etc – so hopefully that will happen soon.

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walking onions

garlic planting

The garlic is planted! Above you can see it all laid out and ready for planting. I thought that might be more interesting than showing you the dirt afterwards. I counted – there are 33 cloves in the ground now. We’ll see how they do! This is my first year intentionally planting garlic, so wish me luck!

I also planted some ‘Walking Onions’, also known as Winter Onions or Egyptian Onions. They grow like normal onions until they sprout onion bulbs on top of their central stalk. If you let them go long enough, the little bulbs on the top of the stalk will also send out a stalk with bulbs on it, and so on…. hence the name ‘Walking Onions’.

walking onion bulbs

These are bulbs I saved from my own Walking Onions. I was originally given a few bulbs by a friend, and they have multiplied really well. They are in the ground now too – I planted them when I planted the garlic, because that’s what you’re supposed to do with them. That’s where the ‘Winter Onion’ name comes from.

The other name – ‘Egyptian Onion’ – I’m beginning to wonder about. When my hubby came home from the DR Congo he told me about a farm he visited while he was there; they grow manioc and peanuts and corn as staples, but also have some other crops too. He told me that they were having a really hard time with onions because the weather is always so hot there. It never gets cold enough for the onions to go to seed. They want the onions to go to seed because they don’t want to keep buying seeds – they want to save the seeds for themselves for their next crop. When he told me this, I immediately thought of my crazy onions with the bulbs on top —- of course! They would work. They would keep growing and forming bulbs, and the farm hands could keep harvesting the bulbs on top for the next crop. No need for seed. Maybe these have already existed on that continent in the past? That would explain the third name – ‘Egyptian Onion’. It would be really exciting to see if the farm can somehow get these onions from elsewhere on the continent and try them out!

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big box o’ beets

harvesting beets

Here’s my other helper. She told me she likes to destroy things and wanted to help pull the beets, so I seized the moment and got her a big box. I forked the beets so they would be easier to pull, and she came along behind me and pulled up every one. Quite quickly. Now I need to store them. I’m thinking blanch and freeze, tonight sometime probably.

These beets also fed us greens throughout the growing season; when I went to gather leaf lettuce I also grabbed a few beet leaves to add to the mix. There’s a healthy dose of vitamins A and K in beet greens, along with minerals that our bodies need. They’re a great addition to a salad. Some people like to boil them but I can’t always handle that kind of slop. In soup, that’s ok. In a stir fry, ya that’s ok too. But just boiled – I have to be in the right mood.

Lately I’ve been doing some cleanup around the yard, finishing projects that I started in the spring, and preparing for winter. There’s lots more to do, and I’m afraid it won’t get done before the snow flies. Some things really need to get done, like the shelves for my greenhouse and clearing the garden for fall tilling. Other things are not so urgent, but I’d really like to get them done, such as cleaning out the front garden beds so the house looks a little more presentable.

Fun stuff I’m working on includes getting ready for the Guelph Organic Conference (January 29 and 30 – it’s free to the public!! Yummy food samples and buttons to collect for the kids at University of Guelph), and the Little Bird Told Me Craft Sale at Little City Farm. December 11 – come and buy for your favourite gardener!! Or check out what the other vendors are selling, it’s not just garden stuff. Lots of beautiful art and beauty supplies and sewing and knitting…. and I’m sure there will be more. Here’s an excerpt from the website:

A Little Bird Told Me Craft Sale!
Sat, December 11, 10 am-4 pm.
Drop by our exciting craft sale to purchase unique, earth-friendly handmade gifts for the holiday season! Featuring 5 local crafters, and a beautiful array of handmade goods, including reconstructed wool clothing, children’s items (clothing, toys, quilts), jewellery, pottery, soaps, teas, vegan treats, infused oils, garden items, and more!

she loves it

pulling out the rutabaga

This is my daughter with her favourite vegetable, a rutabaga. I planted a whole (short) row of seeds, but only one made it through the ravages of weather and insects and rodents. It’s not large but it’s homegrown and we’re excited about it. Me, because I haven’t ever grown it before and it’s actually possible. She, because she can’t wait to eat it.

I don’t know why I have a hard time believing I can grow certain things. Perhaps because they were never grown in my childhood garden? Or maybe somewhere along the line I was told that it wouldn’t work very well. I tend to forget about my garden for stretches of time, so things that need more attention often suffer the consequences. Whatever the reason, living with self-doubt often leads to being pleasantly surprised when things work out. Like this beautiful purple veggie.

After we pulled it out of the ground, we cut off the extra root and the greens, and fed them to Velvet, our bunny.

velvet eating rutabaga greens

To watch a 12-second video click here.

Spoiler/cuteness alert: She loves it!

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horseradish

horseradish

Horseradish is one of my favourite things to eat on beef, so last summer on a whim I bought some from the grocery store and planted it in my garden. It was easier and cheaper than buying the roots online from a horseradish-root company. And if it didn’t work, well…. oh well. I like to try new things so it was fun just having the idea.

This year the horseradish grew very well – huge green leaves in my front garden – and now that the weather is turning a bit I wanted to see what was under the soil line. So I dug it up. You can see in the photo that it has multiple roots, mostly pretty skinny. I’m going to try and preserve it anyway, see what happens. I found an eHow article, and I’m going to give it a whirl. If you don’t hear anything about it after this, that probably means it didn’t turn out.
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hot stuff

chili pepper plant

Everybody should grow food in their backyard. Or on their balcony. Or in a window, like my brother and his wife did for a year or two. Even if it’s only enough for a snack. There are many reasons why I say this, and one of the most important has to do with our children. How will they know where their food comes from, unless we show them?

Here’s a story for you: picture my cute little nephew, one and a half years old. Says a few words, communicates well regardless of how many words he uses. Hefty boy, tough as nails – he has to be, he has an older brother – and very adventurous. My sister has a garden in her backyard – she has to, we have the same genes – and in it she has a chili pepper plant, pictured above. It’s a big beautiful plant, because her soil is good and so is the weather where she lives. Don’t those peppers look tasty? Bright red, they just call you to come and have a taste. So, that’s what my nephew does. Every time he gets into the garden. Takes a bite, spits it out, and says “hot”. Every time. He’s learning about chili peppers, hands-on!

So where does our food come from? Carrots don’t grow on trees and peppers don’t grow underground. Oranges don’t grow in our climate so they have to be shipped from somewhere warm, far away. Broccoli takes up way more space in the garden than the head you buy in the grocery store. Parsnips are not white carrots, apple trees take at least 5 years to produce fruit, lettuce likes growing in cool weather, and sugar snap peas are pure candy when eaten off the vine. If you sat and watched a pumpkin vine for a few hours, you would swear you saw it grow an inch. There are thousands of tomato varieties, but for some reason the ones you buy in a grocery store are tasteless. I think the next generation needs to know these things and more.

My children eat beans raw from the garden, but if I buy frozen ones they put up a big fight about eating them cooked. In the summer they snack on the cherry tomatoes and beans and peas and ground cherries in the garden, sometimes playing restaurant outside, or playing that they’re orphans (gasp) and need to scavenge for food. Such imagination, such healthy food entering their growing bodies, I love it.

It doesn’t matter the size of the garden, or what is grown, but everyone needs to grow something edible. At least once. And share it with someone younger.

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giving thanks

brussels ontario from the air

There’s nothing like 1,000 feet of altitude. It re-energizes and puts life in perspective in a way that a big thanksgiving dinner can’t. I love dinner, but flying in a wee airplane would be my choice if I had to choose between the two. My brother-in-law took up family members, a few at a time, for a bit of a spin in the Cessna 172 (4 seater) before dinner yesterday. What a treat – it’s been at least 9/10 years since I’ve been up in a plane that small!

The fall leaves were out in force, and many fields were cleared of crops and boasted perfectly straight lines – from disking or ploughing or seeding winter wheat? Not sure what. It was beautiful, though. We also flew over the local golf course, since he was going golfing the next morning and wanted to get the lay of the land beforehand. Such handy things, airplanes.

Airplanes also brought my hubby home safely from the DR Congo recently – so I guess airplanes are near the top of my thankful list this year. Also on the list are family and friends and all the usual suspects, but I’m feeling particularly thankful for the times I’ve spent with family and friends, not just the fact that I have them. Below is a photo of my girls and I, taken by my sister when we took our kids out for a hike at a favourite childhood conservation area – Mud Lake in Port Colborne. It was a fantastic time of exploring nature and being with family; another re-energizing experience.

exploring dead tree in water

We’ve spent time camping with friends this summer, which the whole family enjoyed, and we’ve worked on projects together. The greenhouse was a big one that I’m very thankful for – so many family members pitched in on that one.

I’m also thankful for the people in my life who have helped me decide to just give’er and do this “Sarah’s Kitchen Gardens” thing – and cut out all the extraneous miscellaneous superfluous jobs. I’m feeling more at peace with my direction in life, now that I’m following my passion for growing food and helping others grow food too.

And thanks to you who read this blog – I know somebody’s reading because it’s in the stats – even though there aren’t a lot of comments I know you’re out there. I appreciate you stopping by.

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meet velvet

velvet the bunny

This is the newest addition to our meat garden. Velvet, as the girls have decided to call her, is a meat rabbit who will become the mother of some tasty meals.

Don’t mind the patch of brown – she’s actually just pure white with grey nose, ears, and tail. She had some fun outside in the grass today and got herself a little bit dirty. She’s a cross between the California and New Zealand breeds, hence the grey bits from her California side.

She came from a friend who sold me on the idea of raising rabbits when she said they’re quiet and their waste is a lot less overpowering in stench than that of the chickens. They’re also very productive – it doesn’t take long to go from just born to ready for supper, and rabbits will breed a few times through the season.

So here we go – we’re going to give it a try!!

fermented foods

sauerkraut

I made some sauerkraut last week after a bit of a hiatus; my last few batches didn’t turn out so well and I was a bit discouraged by the lack of yummy eats after the days of fermentation. This batch turned out ok, although next time I think I’ll let it ferment a bit longer so it has a stronger flavour.

It’s super easy. Do you want to make some? Here’s what I did:

1. Find a medium-sized cabbage, some sea salt, caraway seeds, a big bowl, potato masher, big spoon, wide-mouth mason jars, a drip-catching pan that fits the jars, and a food processor with shredding attachment.

2. Take any yucky leaves off the cabbage. Take some nice ones off too, and save them for later.

3. Shred the cabbage with the food processor. If you don’t have a food processor, that’s really too bad because it makes this part a whole lot easier.

4. Put the cabbage in a big bowl and mix in 2 tablespoons or more of sea salt. And caraway seeds, if you like them in kraut. They’re optional.

5. Let it sit for awhile. Clean the food processor, check your email, like my facebook page….

6. Next, stomp it with the potato masher for a bit, until it’s really juicy. If you pile it all in the middle of the bowl and then press down with the masher, juice should ooze around the masher. Then you’re done mashing. Might take 8-10 minutes.

7. Get your big spoon and scoop it into the wide-mouth mason jars bit by bit, pressing down between every 1-2 scoops. Make sure it’s really pressed in there. Leave 2 inches from the tops of the jars.

8. Find those nice cabbage leaves you saved for later, and trim them so they’re a bit bigger than the size of the jar. Use them to cover the top of the sauerkraut, and sort of push down on them until the juice starts oozing around them.

9. Put the lids on, but don’t screw them down tight. They should be loose enough to allow leakage, if needed.

10. Put the jars in the pan designated to catch drips.

11. Leave them for 3 days. You’ll see the juice level rise in the jars as the lacto-bacteria ferment on the cabbage.

12. Taste and see if it’s strong enough for you – if not cover it back up and let it sit for a bit longer.

13. When you like the flavour, put it in the fridge and close the lid tightly. You want to prevent evaporation of the liquid at this point, and the ferment doesn’t need to have overflow capacity anymore.

14. Leave a comment for me and let me know how it went!

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Note: if something goes wrong, you will know. Sauerkraut should smell sour, not rotten. If it smells off to you, don’t eat it. If you’re not sure, ask someone who loves sauerkraut to smell it and taste it for you.

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