Archives for the month of: June, 2009

Festive greetings from a weed friendly gardener! The garden is lush and green and the sweet clover, red clover and dwarf pack choy are adding their brilliant colors to the mix. The inflorescence of the grasses lends a nice artistry to the aspect when the wind gently tosses the grains about in the breeze. Lambs quarter, oxalis, Shepard’s purse, pigweed, smartweed, and the newly added purslane add a splendid biodiversity to the various vegetables, fruits and tubers patchworked around the garden. Not the picture of permaculture efficiency, but the artistic merit is entirely gratifying if one is not focused on economics. The sunsets have been breathtaking when not hidden behind storm clouds, and the brilliant yellow light that lays upon the landscape at dusk humbles one to stop in their tracks to absorb in appreciation.

neighborhood

Last night we had the great good fortune of experiencing the most wonderful in ambiance, camaraderie and flavor – satiating in an array of aspects. My father and I attended the Slow Food event at Paul Willis’ farm near Thornton, IA. Paul raises hogs for Niman Ranch and is entirely passionate and enthusiastic for the endeavors in which he invests his energy – consequently he attracts many of the same type of people. I was so fortunate to catch up with old friends and acquaint myself with new. Paul and Phyllis were great and gracious hosts, and the pot luck dinner provided by the energy of “local” efforts – both in measure of personal preparation and ingredients made for an entirely satisfying and gratifying experience.

 

paul

The evening wound up with a grand tour of the prairie and wetland on Paul’s property. Over 100 species of plants in one space is awe-striking and inspiring – the purples of Ohio Spiderwort and alfalfa to the yellow of the Golden Alexander and the white of the Yarrow, plus so many more that have already escape the grasp of my thought – ah, just instills a little peace in one’s bones that there are folks whose visions and actions are carrying us and pressing us on in the right direction.

Today, the market! The North Iowa Farmer’s Market to be exact. I continue to experiment with recipes and ingredients and presentation of my wares. You will find a variety of preserves abound on the table, as well as artisan homemade crackers and gluten-free treats that seemingly melt in your (well, mine, too, as I have deemed myself quality control!) mouth. For fresh produce I have wild greens (most commonly referred to as weeds, but I will post a couple recipes that will make you feel differently about these fabulous and nutritious alternative edibles!). I will finally have my jewelry for sale in addition to a hand crafted model-scale barn that was created by my stepfather. Always treats for tasting, and if you can’t join today, then perhaps tomorrow, as that will be the first of the Saturday markets in Mason City – you will find us downtown from 8-11am in the parking lot just west of City Hall; 10 1st St NW.

crackers

“We abuse land because we see it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”  — Aldo Leopold
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Oh, I must start with expressing my deepest apologies for my lack of diligence in keeping everyone up with the growing of the garden. The past week has been on the verge of personally challenging, and that is what I am using as my excuse to ignore the computer. Trust me, though, I fuss about the garden and in the yard and am always brainstorming the latest and greatest blog entry – it just hasn’t hit the press until today is all. 🙂

the garden

 So, this is one of the most recent photos of the garden in all her glory. Notice how green it is? Well, I let the perfectionist in me go a little wild last week and she was a weeding fool (at least in the eastern third)! Yes, it’s still a major mental hurdle, allowing the biodiversity to flourish instead of keeping the grounds pristine and neat and tidy – even though I believe with all my heart in the beauty and functionality of the philosophy allowing weeds to enjoy a realm to thrive in as well. And, as luck would have it, weeds have been my best seller at the farmer’s market. These plant I embrace as a culinary delicacy, and a healthful addition, but it’s a bit challenging I have discovered to encourage others to see the rationality of that explanation. So, I resort to purporting the health benefits and describing flavors, and there have been a handful of takers. Last week I purveyed a wild greens blend of lamb’s quarter (spinach flavor), oxalis (horseradish flavor) and pineapple weed. I also tried to sell my gorgeous French heirloom romaine lettuce, Rouge d’Hiver, without much luck – my family is eating phenomenally well as a result! 🙂

rat tail radish blossom The rat-tail radishes are big and blossoming. They really steal the show. I’m so excited to try the unique radishes that grow like green beans. Because my garden is so eclectic I have been brainstorming ways to market it better. It seems that most of the markets in the area that I have attended demand the standard fare, and people tend to shy away from things they are unfamiliar with as a general rule. As a result I have come to the conclusion that I need to find the folks that are culinarily adventurous, embrace them completely and invite them to become a part of what I am dubbing the “Gourmet CSA” – if you are looking for the standard in spring greens, for your carrots to be orange and for your corn to be yellow, you can find unlimited resources – but if you want to sink your teeth into the sweetest cob of Japanese sweet corn, if you want to wow your friends with purple carrots in your salad, if you want to make a green tomato sauce from ripe tomatoes, well, Ame de la Terre is where you will find it! I also plan to include in CSA boxes the homemade and healthful delights I have been experimenting with in the kitchen – like the wheat and flax seed crackers, the gluten and dairy free Italian herb crackers, whole grain based treats, and recipes to play with for those interesting garden finds. So, if you are interested in participating in this type of CSA, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I’m hoping it is the kind of thing that can go year round with things like preserved tomatoes and root cellar items… as well as my push for a greenhouse for continued growing. It’s certainly a work in progress!

barrel lilly

… as is the entire yard. This is a photo of one of the beautiful tiger lillies given to me by a friend. I have lined the entire ditch between the driveway and the runway with the lillies acquired from Clear Lake and from my grandparents’ place north of Crystal Lake, plus I stuck in some phlox and other unknown-to-me-perennials in the hopes that mowing will soon become a thing of the past. If you see my father, please tell him what a good idea it would be to replace the lawn with short grass prairie… this is one of my big pushes of the moment! The hostas in the trees are flourishing and competing nicely with the abundant Canadian thistles and nettles – they can be such health hazards. 🙂

mirror

Nature continues to be my salvation. Gladfelter yet mesmerizes – the other day alone I watched a blue wing teal with her heard of ducklings scattering across the pond, saw this mirrored reflection (prior to being manipulated by my photo program!) at dusk and while I was out of the truck to snap this moment, was greeted by two muskrats swimming about in curiosity.  I have also started kayaking once again on Crystal Lake, and what a phenomenal outlet that is becoming – I am immediately reminded of the charm of that haven – yesterday morning on my paddle I saw two pairs of wood ducks, a pair of cardinals, a muskrat and a mink! The mink was the most adorable creature as he moved smoothly out onto the jetty and took up his lookout position peering out from behind a rock with only his head in view – he noticed that I had a beat on him, and he high tailed it back to the safety of the trees. Ah, nature, you are amazing!

“When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure.”
— Peter Marshall

Well, first and foremost, my first experience at the North Iowa Farmer’s Market in Mason City was phenomenal. I was dead on into the sunshine, which, minus the incessant need to squint, was wonderful – Vitamin D in full force. I had a lot of folks enjoying the samples for taste testing, and the surprise hit was the pineapple weed I had harvested that grows wild in the garden and various other spots around the farm. Pineapple weed is ubiquitous throughout the US, and I first learned of it’s medicinal properties when I was studying edible wild foods in Southeast Alaska. It  has been used for medicinal purposes, including for relief of gastrointestinal upset, infected sores, fevers, and postpartum anemia. The plant, when bruised, then rubbed on skin, provides a effective, yet temporary insect repellent. Quite a novelty! It can also be steeped to make a lovely tea.

Bird watching at Gladfelter has been so gratifying lately. To my surprise (as well as my father and brother’s) there have been a couple of speckle bellied geese hanging out – I literally stopped the truck just to gawk! Oh, anyone who knows me knows this is nothing new, however – on the way back home I did the same thing to watch Eastern Kingbirds – the only bird in this part of the country with a white terminal tail band. There have been mallards, blue wings and grebes also all enjoying the haven of the marsh.speckle bellies

I’m trying to get caught back up with my supply of preserves for the coming weeks’ markets, and also experimented with a recipe for dried drunken cherries. They are done; now they must sit a month or two before going into homemade ice cream. I made rhubarb-apple butter, jalepeno-strawberry jam and maple spiced sweet potato butter so far. I plan on having some homemade crackers this week as well, AND roasted garlic-oregano pasta. Mmm! 🙂 cherries

 

The garden itself is growing beautifully… both in flora and size! This week I expanded it by 30′ to the south to allow for plenty of room for squash and sweet potatoes – well, I’m having to contemplate the sweet potatoes and where they will take up residence, as that chunk is filling up quickly! I have planted Oaxacan green dent corn (for tamales), sesame seeds, brown soybeans, flowers, lots of squash and melons, purple string beans, gherkins, a couple beds of lettuce, and blue and Japanese sweet corn – all surrounded by a fabulous border of Dad’s special game blend (leftovers! millet, sorghum, buckwheat, field peas, soybeans) and a flowering mix of red clover, sunflowers, borage, coreopsis, cleome, coneflower and marigolds – the pollinators are going to LOVE it! Everything is mulched, and now it’s time to attend to the original portion and remulch and harvest the dwarf Pak Choy… maybe some radishes – I couldn’t help myself and ate one right out of the garden yesterday – delicious!seed mix

Last, but not least in the slightest – we have 13 new additions at Mom’s. And they are SO cute… let’s hope a bunch are hens so we will soon have our very own fabulous farm fresh eggs! There is just no going back. Mom has been diligently doting over them like a good mother hen.mom with chick

 

Since the weather forecasters aren’t particularly accurate this week so far, I am going to indulge in hanging out at my nephew’s first baseball game of the season that starts in a half hour… then it will be back the garden – I will post photos from there soon – ALSO, I am creating a website for the garden as well, and more info on that will follow in the near future.