Monday, October 12, 2015

Veg patch

The season is definitely changing - the spiders and field mice are heading indoors.  But I´ve been outside working on something resembling a veg patch.  It´s still very much in the development stage, but practical before pretty.

Raised beds.  The one on the left is planted with garlic, the one on the right is waiting for something else, perhaps onions.  My MIL told me to plant onions.  Another, smaller hugel will go behind the second retaining wall.

These are transplanted starts of lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage.  I killed the brussels sprouts before I got them in the ground.  The woman at the farmer´s market assured me these would grow without plastic or row covers.  I have my doubts, but this is all an experiment anyway.

Spinach sprouting

Garlic up!  It may be too early here.  October is the target month in the Pacific northwest, which I´m using as my guide.  I may plant out some more in November to compare.

Hugelbed in front (could it have something to do with the mice?).  The next section is lasagna-style with cardboard over the grass.  Now, I´ve realized more than pasture grass, it´s really mostly weeds like nettle, mint, blackberry, and rushes.  Probably going to have to redo later. And it needs more soil.

In next section, I took off the weedy ground cover.  There is a thick layer of thatch with most of the weed runners that can be rolled back on itself like a carpet with a lot of work and leverage.  Then lasagna layers.  I suspect I´ll have to redo this one as well because of what I discovered digging the following section.

The last 2 raised beds had the weedy layer removed and then I dug down 18 inches.  About 10 inches down there is a layer of stone ranging from the size of my head to gravel.  It´s like there´s a Roman road under there.  Underneath that it turns to heavy clay.  So even if the lasagna works as advertised on the other sections, I´m not sure roots will ever penetrate that stony layer.  Anyway, it got the remains of the stinky anaerobic compost I had left in a plastic bin, and a bunch of dry grass the neighbors let me have, then cardboard and dirt.  It will be interesting to see how each section performs.

And V took pity on the poor, struggling Mencia grape vine that looked so, so pitiful in its container and built this fab planter for it.  Eventually we´ll put up supports and drape it along the house for shade in the traditional Galician fashion.

So for now I´ll be doing battle with weeds and the invading arachnid and rodent hordes.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Fresh Fig Tart

I had never eaten figs.  When they appeared by the bushel full at the farmer´s market, it seemed time to remedy that.

While sweet and enticingly soft and juicy, I have to say they were relatively flavorless eaten fresh.  So, with most of a kilo to get through, I happened upon Rick Stein´s recipe.  I´ve seen some of Mr. Stein´s cooking and travel shows and he seems like such a delightfully jolly fellow, curious and enthusiastic about all things edible. I adapted his recipe for a lack of marscapone by substituting cream cheese with a couple of tablespoons of grated lemon zest and some homemade yogurt to fill it out.

I used Smitten Kitchen´s non-shrinking crust recipe, and I did it without so much as a food processor.  As you can see, the crust is quite overdone, but in my defense, the oven shut off at some point early in the blind- baking stage and from then on I was improvising.  Covering the crust with protective foil during final baking didn´t give results and it turns out the back of the oven is hotter than the front.  Live and learn.

V liked it well enough.  The lemon cream saved the dessert - again, even after baking, the figs themselves didn´t speak to me.  I tried some of the black variety the next week, but still wasn´t bowled over by their flavor.  So, now I have two jars of fig compote in the fridge and figs have dropped to the bottom of the fruit tree list.

Monday, September 28, 2015

V´s new toy

V´s working his way through the remains of the downed apple tree with a new maul.  Poor tree was rotten from practically top to bottom.  The lichens have dye properties I´m thinking about trying.

We were reminded about the firewood by a week of wet chilly weather, but now Indian Summer is upon us once again, so I´m out in the garden. 

Happy Autumn Equinox!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Vendimia 2015

The vendimia is the grape harvest, currently going on all over Galicia.  Much to my surprise, the grape vines we tossed over a crumbling wall, did indeed produce grapes.  Some are still a little sour, but with the recent rain, the skins were splitting.  Probably going to make jam.  Maybe chutney, though we don´t eat chutney.
 Any other thoughts?

And the hugel is finished.  I fear I have created the world´s greatest critter condominim.  Needs some more dirt/compost on the top.

Friday, September 11, 2015


¨Que aproveche¨ is what you say in Spain, instead of ¨Bon Apetit¨.

The local tomatos are finally appearing in the farmer´s market, so I did up a batch of roasted tomatoes with garlic. I am surprised at the number of tomatoes it takes to make sauce.  Mental note - plant many, many sauce tomatoes.  Hampered by not owning a food mill, the skins plucked right off and the rest was mashable. I was planning to water bath these, but there wasn´t really enough, so I froze half and ate the rest.  It was delicious.

The rest of the harvest so far includes:  fallen pears, crab apples, pickled onions and blackberries.  The pears rotted almost immediately, since they´d blown down from the very top of the pear tree.  Still undecided what to do with the crabapples as they seem small to be peeling and coring.  The blackberries are tasty, but smallish and seedy.  I was going to make jam, but finally put them in the freezer to decide later.

In latest news, the birds have gotten most of the elderberries.  And the elder with the most left to ripen got taken out by one of our dead apple trees when it fell over in a windstorm.  Instead of making elderberry syrup, we´re now faced with splitting and stacking a lot of applewood.  I´ll have to investgate smoking something - bacon anyone?

And, inspired by the tomatoes,  I planted some cilantro and sweet basil seeds in pots.  They´re coming up very, very slowly and may not make it before frost.  Fingers crossed for future salsa and pesto.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Vacation 2

Gravel large and small, called zahorra, got spread in front of the barn entrance.  This is where the car will be parked, and the next load of firewood will get stacked along the wall.

There is a small shed space where we discovered a stone floor.  Plans now are to use it as a tool shed and then root cellar, if and when we have veggies and beer to store.

Then we decided to wade in on the woodpile of scrap from the house and barn that´s been sitting in the pasture for going on 5 years now.  A lot of it is turning to dust - perfect for hugelkultur beds.  This will be put in the terraces.  My only doubts are the nails they may have.

Some of the timbers seem reasonably sound and we´ll use them for raised beds, gates and plant support structures. I fancy a pergola.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Would you habor me?

Grim toll: A 100-metre long list containing the names of 17,306 migrants who have died attempting to reach Europe since 1993 was unfurled at the entrance of the European Parliament in April

"Would You Harbor Me?" -Dr. Ysaye Barnwell; Sweet Honey in the Rock. 

Would you harbor me? 
Would I harbor you? 
Would you harbor me? 
Would I harbor you? 

Would you harbor a Christian, a Muslim, a Jew 
a heretic, convict or spy? 
Would you harbor a run away woman, or child, 
a poet, a prophet, a king? 
Would you harbor an exile, or a refugee, a person living with AIDS? 
Would you harbor a Tubman, a Garrett, A Truth 
a fugitive or a slave? 
Would you harbor a Haitian, Korean or Czech, 
a lesbian or a gay? 

Would you harbor me? 
Would I harbor you? 
Would you harbor me? 
Would I harbor you? 

from Safe House: Still Looking by Y.M. Barnwell

Body washed up on the beach in Libya. - The Mediterranean’s grim tide