Saturday, February 26, 2011

Italian Style Fish

This recipe was easy and had that good for you feeling. Wonderfully light and perfect served with greens. Very low fat filled with fresh goodness

Ingredients: serves 4
4 fillets of Orange Ruffy, Halibut, or Tilapia
1/2 c chopped Italian parsley
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 crushed red pepper
2 tbs minced shallot or onion
8 callamata olives quartered lengthwise
2 c diced tomatoes

1. Salt and pepper fish. Put olive oil (enough to really coat the bottom)in fry pan and get hot. Fry fish in hot pan (this will put a nice brown on the the fish) till opaque (about 3 minutes per side).
Set fillets on serving platter or plates.
2. In the same pan heat 1 tbs olive oil and 1 tbs butter. When melted and sizzling add parsley, shallot, crushed red pepper and garlic. Saute for 2 minutes.
3. Add olives and tomatoes. Cook until tomatoes are soft and the mixture is slightly saucy. You may with to add a few tbs of water during the process if you like it a little runnier. Spoon over fish and serve.

Cook's tip: Never add anything to cold olive oil on the stove. It will absorb it and get greasy. Using a hot pan will put a nice sear on things keeping juices in.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Turnips and the "Knowing"

For those of you in the Eugene area and for some of you out there in the nether sphere, a handful of sunny days have awakened something in you. Yes, spring is just around the corner! Its vitality has awakened in me the desire for vital foods fresh from the field. While it’s not exactly grim here at the farm, we have little out in the field.
Turnips in the field. Greens identification (left)

Yesterday I wandered out and took a look at what we had. Beets, chard, kale, arugula going to seed, garlic, and turnips. I pulled up some turnips and headed in. I’m new to turnips and so I consulted Mrs. Joy who informed me it was a perfect complement to fowl and whatever you could do to a potato, you could do to a turnip. She advised peeling down into the red zone to avoid bitterness and that over baking gave them a cabbagey taste. Hmmmm…
I thought for a moment, then opted for investigation. I decided to bake them for my initial journey with these plump rascals, so I peeled them. When I smelled their white flesh it had a sweet aroma with a hint of that parsnip spiciness. I chopped them into bite sized chunks and threw them into an 8x8 baking dish. I again smelled them and it came to me just like that: apples and coriander. Ya it was weird, but I’m into this inner knowing lately so I figured we have 500 of these, why not! I salted the turnips like I would potatoes, sprinkled with ground coriander, threw a cubed gala apple on top, and put them in at a very hot 400 degree oven.
About 40 minutes later I checked and they were almost done.

I grabbed a large amount of Kale and headed in. Usually we just steam the Kale and eat with a little Balsamic vinegar, but I wanted to do a little more and crown my turnips with it. I consulted the web and found an article with a woman who didn’t like Kale much; as a matter of fact she described it as scary! “Hmmmf! Enough of this, I am returning to the inner knowing!”

Turnips in the field. (right)

Don’t be afraid of Kale, it’s perfectly wonderful and so beautiful this time of year. I threw some oil in a pan with some chopped garlic and stared at my spice cabinet. "Trust the knowing, trust the knowing, trust…" I threw in a tablespoon of curry powder, ½ teaspoon of cumin, some fresh cracked pepper, ¼ teaspoon of chili powder, a dash of ground sage and hoped for the best as I stirred it into the oil. I had cut the Kale into large bite-sized pieces and as the fabulous aroma of my spice blend filled the kitchen, I tossed it in the pan with 1 cup of water. After it was steamed about half way to my liking I opted to lightly salt, throw in about 3 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar and just 2 ounces (about half one of those tiny cans) of tomato paste. I was feeling good, almost giddy in my adventure. As a matter of fact I lighted on the memory of just yesterday finding Black Eyed Susans throwing flowers at the base of their withered stalks and of the bee that came to visit me; the memories coupled with the freedom of the inner knowing were quite intoxicating.
I laid the turnip dish on the plate and piled it with Kale. When J and I sat down to eat I lost a bit of my confidence for a moment, but when we tasted it, what a delight. The flavors all blended so well! The turnips were incredible. They melted in your mouth and the occasional apple was scrumptious. I was so inspired, I wrote this blog post ... lol.
Turnips at table. Remove the skins into the
red zone to avoid bitterness. (below)

And the point to this diatribe? As we move into spring I strongly encourage you to grab its vital energy, something new for your table, and play with it. Trust your inner knowing and see what it shows you. Consider it vital to your mental condition to engage in a fresh way with your food.

Quote for life...

"When the world wearies and ceases to satisfy, there is always the garden."

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Building a Heated Seed Starts Box

If you are looking for something to spiffy up your greenhouse and liven things up, try using these plans to construct a heated seed box for starting your plants. This box is easy to construct and and with the incredible heated mat that stays at 75 degrees your seeds will jump up in quick fashion.

While all seeds do not like to be transplanted, some are fine with it. Start your seeds in this tray and when they are big enough move them to 4" pots. This design has part of the box not heated for seeds that like it cooler. You can make your's smaller and seed mats come in different sizes.
Seed starts give you a jump on the season and let you grow plants when you would normally just be doing your yearly prep and maintainance.

Materials list:
2 8'x4"x4" pine or treated
2 2' 2"x4" pieces
1 3/4" sheet plywood
4 brackets
2 2"x6"x6' pine or treated
2 3'x5' plastic sheeting
1 1/2" wood screws

Build the Tray:
We cut each 2"x6" board into a two foot and 4 foot piece.We then screwed the edges together as shown. Notice that we put the 2' piece on the inside to insure the inside was 24 inches.We cut the bottom to fit. We left one corner with only one screw in so that we could wedge the bottom on snuggly and then screw it in from the side. Once in we screwed the corner in tight.

Reinforce the bottom:
Uses scrap wood or new if you have it to reinforce the
bottom. We had 1"x2"pieces lying around so we used these. Again, crew them from the side. The gap that is left in the corners (between the plywood and sides) will add stability to the legs.

Secure the Legs
Secure the brackets to the box first using the screws. Next secure the legs. They will be a little unstable and there will be an overhang on the bracket.

See the overhanging bracket?
That's a good thing.
Hammer the bracket around the corner for a snug fit.

See how nicely that fits?
Make sure to screw it off.

Securing the Legs:
Carefully turn over the table, being careful not to jostle the legs. Screw the legs from the top with two or three more screws to give that final stability.

Line the bottom with plastic.
Staple the bottom down.

Insulate and add the mat:
We used a yoga mat--obviously not in use-- for our insulation. We put the heating mat (designed for plant trays) in and then affixed the cord with electrical staples to keep it from moving when we are digging around in the tray. We wanted there to be room at the other end for starts that don't like warmth on their roots.

Finish it up:
Now cover the table with the last piece of plastic. You will be able to wrap it all the way over the edge and under the bottom for a nice clean look. Carefully tack down the plastic on the bottom at the edges with a staple gun, being careful not to puncture the heat mat. Then pull down and over the edge, securing with the staple gun. Now sit back and enjoy your work.

Sugar Pod Peas

Peas up about 2 inches high

2 weeks of growth after sprouting
Time for support.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Rebuilding the Greenhouse

So we were inspired to get the greenhouse going with the acquisition of seed contracts. The greenhouses were put up 20 years ago and had fallen into disrepair over the last 7 years. When they were originally purchased they were used, so the poles were a little funky.
We began this project in the summer by using the tractor bucket to attempt to level the surrounding ground and take out some brambles. You can see from the picture how scary the area was. In January we really dug in (literally) and began prepping the site.
We needed to remove the excess chicken manure piles to another area because they were directly next to the greenhouse. We took off the ends of the greenhouse and drove the tractor in to scrape the ground. In January we were lucky enough (as we usually are here in Eugene) to get about 10 days of sunshine. This let the ground dry out and kept the tractor from getting stuck. J
We then went about resituating some of the pipes. They werenot exactly in line and some were lower than others.

It took considerable effort with the tractor to move them into better positions. Because the metal pipes had sat in their spots so long, there was little we could do to change their catawampus shapes, but we did succeed on squaring it up a bit.

Thanks to those of you who put your heads together to give us great ideas on accomplishing this! I spent one day putting together the frame around the base, using metal plates on both sides for stability. I then put down commercial grade landscape fabric that I stretched UNDER the outside boards and up the sides, securing it with a staple gun. We put the doors on the ends. A note here: We used the door from the last greenhouse as a pattern, HOWEVER, the door was not built square (as we discovered afterwards) and so the new door isn’t either. We won’t do that next time!
We used the tractor to dump round rock into the greenhouse from the sides. We chose round rock because it would be comfy on our feet and I like to be barefoot. It took only a few hours with the tractor and three of us raking. Isn’t it lovely?

We then laid the plastic out next to the greenhouse and doubled it over since this is a double poly greenhouse and cut it at the end once we were sure we had it halve dcorrectly. Note: avoid stepping on the plastic so as not to puncture or compromise it. It's harder than you think because there is soooo much of it! Getting it stretched over was easier than I had anticipated. J is 6 feet tall. He pulled the corner over the end as I pushed the sides up. He then made his way to the center and helped it over the top. After that it was downhill. We repeated this step with the second piece. After we made sure it was centered and even on both sides we cut the excess leaving a little over a foot of overhang on the sides and a lot of overhang on the ends.

I had used a table saw to cut treated 2x4s into ½ strips(creating batten). This was a considerable amount of savings as we got eight 2”x8’x1/2” strips for $2 instead of $20. We rolled up the edges and stapled them to the base. It is good to leave 12” of space between each board as you go.
The space will actually shorten as you work your way to the next board, but will leave enough room for you to work the plastic around each consecutive piece.

The feeling of the greenhouse with its fresh floor and soft round rock surrounded by freshly stretched poly is amazing! It feels like the world is my oyster—well at least the seed world!!!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

These are tulips coming up.
Unfortunately a gofer ate these in one fell swoop soon after the photo.  If you have whole areas of tulips not coming up, they may have been eaten by a critter with a sweet tooth.  


    This is a young daffodil that is from seed. It will bloom in a                                few years when the bulb is more established.  These volunteers are hardy and will naturalize producing clumps!

This is a double daffodil in bloom.

These are full grown daffodils.  They have naturalized and are adding to their numbers yearly.

Planting the bulbs a little deeper (like 6") will help daffodils naturalize.