Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Catching up: Easter

For Easter this year we made our own dyes. Yellow was turmeric, red was beets, blue was red cabbage and purple was mulberry juice. We also tried coffee, but that only turned them brown, making our efforts to save four dozen white eggs a little pointless, so we didn't use it very much. For green we tried nettle infusion, but it was a little muddy. I made some nice greens with the red cabbage and turmeric, too. I've never liked soaking the eggs in food coloring, but the artistic side of me loves the bright colors, so we've always done it that way. I didn't think natural dyes would be as pretty or colorful, but I was astounded at how lovely the eggs turned out. They were not as vivid as the commercial dyes, but they were more suited to Easter, being very soft and subtle and pastel.

The blue was an amazing robin's egg blue or a perfect spring sky blue, and the mulberries were a beautiful violet. You can tell the two eggs Mirin dyed at a friend's house with regular food coloring. The colors are very bright, but have a sort of chemical look to them next to the other eggs. I have to say, these lovely naturally-dyed eggs were hard to find. They easily blended into nature. The Easter bunny (ahem) had a great time finding flowers and fallen leaves that matched the egg colors perfectly.

After we were done dyeing all the eggs I soaked strips of white muslin in the dye for a maypole. They turned out so beautiful. I couldn't believe how intensely bright they turned out.
They've faded a bit in the months I've kept them. I crocheted a little mini rug out of them, since we will probably want to dye new ones next year. Maybe someday I will have a big rug of them if I keep adding to it.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Ms. Matilda

New cows!!

We have a new cow. Her name is Matilda. It's kind of my fault that we got her. I was just feeling so sad that we won't have much milk this year. Neither Ellie nor Geranium were pregnant (Geranium still LOOKS like she could be pregnant), and I just peeked at Craig's list to see if there were any Jersey cows for sale, and there were tons and tons. Matilda was the best one we found, and we're so glad to welcome her and her calf, who is a steer. I managed to convince Ethan because he had for months now been talking about finding a beef steer. She is a really nice cow, and her milk is really good. I didn't actually know there were nice cows out there until I met Ms. Matilda. Geranium is so evil-tempered (even without horns) and Isla is well-behaved only if there are oats involved.

Catching up--the cucumbers and beans

This was late in the evening, so the lighting wasn't great. It was just such a pretty collection of colors. I love the patty pan squash, they are so tasty and so pretty. I stuffed the squash blossoms with basil, garlic and ricotta cheese and battered them with an eggy batter and fried them.

This was our first beans, tomatillos and eggplant.

Do you see how many beans we got?? They were so pretty. One thing I didn't realize was that Tanya's Pink Pod and Red Swan beans are the same color. I was thinking of the Borlotti beans I grew last year when I ordered them. In the distance are the Suyo long cucumbers. They have such an interesting shape.

I wish I had gotten more pictures of the watermelons. We are still getting watermelons off the vines, but they are declining. I grew three different kinds this year: Yellow Moon and Stars (has yellow flesh), Strawberry (red inside--it's a Florida variety), and White Wonder, which has been my favorite. It has very crisp, white flesh inside and is really lovely. The rind is very thin, which must be why you never see any white watermelons in the stores. I made a beautiful watermelon salad with all three colors, and we are currently making three-toned watermelon Popsicles in the freezer!

I don't have any photos, but we also got a bunch of Golden Jenny melons, which look like little cantaloupes. They are orange inside, and very fragrant and sweet. We also got a bunch of Silverline melons, which are so pretty and silver-striped with sweet, white flesh. The Ice Cream or Green Machine melons were my favorite. They are greenish yellow on the outside when ripe, and not very fragrant, so it was hard for me to tell if they were ready or not. But the inside is sweet, green and crispy and strangely like the texture of ice cream. The Collective Farm Woman melons from Baker's Creek just got ripe. We've gotten only three so far. They are supposed to be an early melon, but have been the next to last to get ripe. They're from the Ukraine, I think, so maybe Florida just doesn't agree with them or something. They were very tasty. They looked like any old cantaloupe from the store, but were green and orange inside and very good, although the sweet part was mostly in the center. There are still the Delice De La Table melons, one of which rotted, tragically. I need to find a better way to keep the weeds down so I can actually find the melons. I'm thinking weed guard paper next year.

I've just been marveling about how amazing it is to be able to pick out unusual seeds from all over the world with varieties I had never seen or heard of and to grow them and get to taste them. I've been so enjoying my garden, almost to the point of obsession. When people ask about how my garden is going, I just can't help going on and on about it, and then I realize I'm boring everyone and manage to come to a stopping place.


I planted the Seed Saver's Exchange sunflower collection this year. I love the variation in the different kinds of sunflowers. We've had bursting bouquets on our table since they started blooming. (The ugly metal-roofed thing in the back is the old cow shelter from the winter--we never moved it out).

Here is the left side of the garden, just before the pole beans.

And this is the corn, pumpkins and cosmos. It's been a very colorful garden this year.

The Summer Garden Season

This is the last harvest I photographed. The pumpkins were finally coming in--those are the Thelma Sander's Sweet Potato pumpkins and a Winter Luxury Pie pumpkin. They are both so delicious. Since then we've also gotten some massive Blue Hubbard pumpkins and several very nice Galeux D'Eysines, though I haven't taken pictures of them. The tomatoes are still getting ripe, but the pumpkins are mostly over now.

The Okra was just in, with all four kinds this year. Hill County Red, Burgundy, Jade and Silver Queen. I liked all the varieties, but Ethan only likes the Jade kind. It all tastes about the same, but he just likes it to be green.

I love the State Fair zinnias. The are huge and gorgeous, and they last forever in a vase. I am definitely growing these next year.

Catching up

Has it really been a month and a half since I've posted?? Where does the time go?! Since May, lots has happened. It's gotten really, really hot (and dry). This year the summer rains seem to have ceased to exist, unfortunately.

Cloud had her little lamb. He was adorable, while he lasted. We are giving the sheep to our friend Dan in a month or so. They have been such a pain. The lamb is not like the baby goats. He did not recognize his mother apart from Big Dumpling or the dog (unbelievably dumb), which meant that when the stupid dog would get out to go play on the other side of the fence, he would, too. He and the dog were missing one day, and we were sure we had lost him, but then we found them a quarter of a mile away, near the road, and brought them back. Only a week after that, they were missing again, and this time we just couldn't find them. The dog came back, but the lamb didn't. He was so tiny he just slipped right through the 3-strand electric fencing, despite the 7,000 volts. Sad, but then the sheep have been giving us problems all year--like pink eye, and then poor Big Dumpling hasn't been the same since she went to the other farm. I got the Pat Colby lick from Countryside Naturals this time, instead of the usual Fertrell mineral mix, because I think they need more copper. The goats have been so much easier to deal with, shockingly.

And the next bit is that the garden has been fabulous this year. I've never had so much food. Ethan has been complaining a bit about how much he's been expected to eat (he's a meat-and-potatoes-only kind of guy). This was the first, first little harvest of squash blossoms and summer squash and a couple of cucumbers.