A Fools Errand: Planting Garlic in Spring

 

 If you google “planting garlic in the Spring in Oregon,” the most frequent advice that comes back is, “don’t.”  Apparently, garlic needs the long, cold winter to develop a root system to create big, juicy bulbs for your roasting or tomato sauce pleasure.  Unfortunately, as is often our style, we saw the organic seed garlic and bought it, and then looked up those minor details of such things as when you put it in the ground.

We have three garden beds up the back of the house that were sorely neglected, so we decided to broad fork, weed and plant two of them out with garlic, with the justification that even if the garlic is a failure, at least those beds won’t be wasted. Here’s how we planted it out, using a combination of advice from Organic Gardening and my favorite blogger Erica from Northwest Edible Life (notice that her post, written in October, says to plant that day). 

The first step was to gently break the cloves from the bulb, doing whatever I could to keep the papery skin on.

garlic clove

The next step was to soak the garlic cloves in a seaweed and baking soda mix, of 1 tbsp each to 1 quart of water. We used three quarts for each of our garlic varietals: Nootka Rose, Late Italian Purple, and St. Helens.garlic cloves soaking I left them to soak while we 

To start, here is how the beds looked when we started.  

weedy garden bed

weedy garden bed

So, using a combination of our Meadow Creature Broadfork, our garden fork, and my hori hori knife, Anthony and I turned the beds into this:

weed free bedAs you can see on my face, being almost 9 months pregnant and broadforking/weeding a garden bed is kind of a lot of work.  I look forward to the day when bending over a garden bed doesn’t feel like an Olympic workout.

After we got out every damn weed and blade of grass, we raked in some organic compost that we picked up at our local feed store. 

composted garden bed

After that, the beds were ready to plant.  Once again, I used my hori hori knife (Even though this was my first gardening project, I can easily see that this will become my favorite, indispensable tool) to dig the holes. Also, once I realized my profound lack of depth perception extended to distance between holes, I used the handy ruler on the back of the knife to measure the bulbs six inches apart. If I weren’t lazy and had cleared out the third bed this was autumn, I would have done them inches apart on all sides, but considering it’s spring and they probably won’t grow that big anyway, I stuck with six inches. 

garlic bed prepared

After that, all that was left to do was drop in the garlic gloves, flatter side down. 

IMG 1719

After we did that, we covered the beds with straw that we found in the chicken coop on the property, and I proceeded to sleep for about 4 hours.

Hopefully, in 4-6 weeks, we’ll see some garlic greens/scapes, which would be awesome as I love to cook with them when I can (only taking a few as it’s not great for garlic growth, from what I’ve read.)

Oh, and in case anyone was wondering what Chewy was doing while I was planting said garlic?

naughtiest dog in the world

Discovering the joys of digging up a lawn the way only a city dog can.  My fault.

What are you excited to plant this season?
If you’re not planning on planting, what are you excited to eat this season? 

They’re Here!!

daffodils

The daffodils are starting to bloom!  I am so, so happy. 

Weekend Highlights

It’s hard to believe that but a few months ago, my weekends were spent in New York City, either going to Central Park, or to a restaurant, or to the movies. Don’t get me wrong, we did plenty of cooking, canning, and other delightful homesteading activities, but now it just feels more real, as to accomplish our goals, we actually have to do it, rather than just, “wow, that’s fun!”

On Saturday, Anthony and I woke up bright and early to take care of the chicks (this is daily, of course, but it’s still fun. It’s wild how big they’ve gotten in a week. I’ll write more about setting up their brooder this week, but so far it’s been working great. However, soon we’ll have to move them out, as they are getting a bit crowded.  

Chicks

Because our heat system absolutely sucks (cadet, electric heaters) we’ve decided to invest in replacing our fireplace which makes the room colder, with a wood-burning stove insert.  To do that, we also decided to refinish our fireplace facade, which was white painted brick.  The reason we’ve decided to do that now, is that if we were to do it later, we’d have to pull out the fireplace, which sounds like a huge waste of money.  So, we decided to splurge in a massive way, and get the facade refinished now.  I’ll do a larger post on this later, but one thing we’re doing to help is creating the mantle from a disassembled barn from two properties down.  

Anthony finishing the board

He sanded, I finished it (not the whole thing, yet).  It looks amazing, and I can’t wait to see it above our fireplace.

reclaimed wood mantle

Anthony also put together a red wagon, which can pull very heavy things. Considering how much wood we bought from the barn being torn down, I can tell this is going to be crazy useful.

red wagon being built

While he was doing this, I washed the car, which was getting necessary as the dirt was thicker than the paint.  While I wouldn’t necessarily have a Prius be the first pick of a farm vehicle, it’s getting the job done in an impressive way. 

Sunday, I woke up and headed to Prenatal yoga.  I really enjoy this Iyengar class, and find it definitely helps my soreness as well as helps me feel more aligned mentally and physically.  Then, we went to the Hillsdale Farmer’s market, which was awesome. I forgot to take as many pictures as I intended, but here are a few highlights.

Super natural

Olympic Provisions

Oregon shellfish

The local clams looked so wonderful that we decided to do linguine vongole for dinner.    Unfortunately, after the market I started feeling a bit off, so we headed home so I could get some rest. Hopefully, today will be so I can start my seedlings! 

Linguine vongole

What did you do this weekend?

Welcome to the (Hen) House!

When I was about 10, my mom and I went on a whim to a pet store.  Already, I’m sure you can guess this was a truly terrible idea.  We walked out with Mitzi, a 4 month old dachshund who had been living in the 2’ x 2’ box for a month.  She was needy, adorable, and totally batshit crazy.  I’ll never forget my mom calling my dad on the way home, saying, “I just did a really, really, really, really, really bad thing.”

Mitzi the dachsund

(Photo curtesy of my mom, Terry Berenson, San Diego animal photographer extraordinaire!)

That line has become a joke in our family, although I never expected to use it myself – this time, for coming home with seven small chicks. 

chicks

In all fairness, we knew we were going to get chicks, and had been planning on it for years. However, we also planned to wait on adding any new animals to the “flock” until baby van der Hoorn is born in oh, 5 weeks.  But, one look at these speckled sussex chicks, and we couldn’t resist picking up 6.  Plus the one extra unknown breed, named Rando Calchickian, because, hey, she would have been left all alone without them!

chick

Unfortunately, one of our chicks failed to thrive and died after 3 days.  It was heartbreaking, especially because there was nothing we could do – we tried sugar water and all the usual treatments, but unfortunately chicks just aren’t as hearty as other young animals, particularly before they’re feathered. 

chick

However, the remaining six seem to be as hearty as can be.  They are ridiculously silly, adorable, and fairly loud. I do look forward to having our bathroom no longer smell of pine shavings (covering the paper towel you see in the photo above), but for now, it’s quite fun to go hang out with the girls on the edge of the tub.

As we learn more, I’ll post more about the process. However, if you have the chicken itch, I couldn’t recommend Harvey Ussery’s book, The Small Scale Poultry Flock, more.  I’ve read parts of it over and over, and it really tells you everything you could possibly want to do with chicks, chickens, and other fowl.

Have a great weekend!

Butternut squash, feta and satay chicken pizza (Grain-free)

I have been feeling a profound sense of writing avoidance. Not even writer’s block, as that would imply some attempt at writing. No, friends, this is just simply avoiding even opening blogging software.  I was starting to feel really down in the mouth about it, and then I read a great passage from Ben Hewitt, a badass blogger:

I’ve posted a lot of pretty low quality work here. Out of all the writing I’ve done here, I can recall only a handful of posts that I believe qualify as truly good writing, though I realize that I’m not always the best judge of my own work. That doesn’t mean there’s no value in the other posts, since the quality of the writing is only one component of the work I do here, though it might be the component that’s most important to me. And in truth, part of the value of the lesser quality posts is precisely that they’re lesser quality: I’ve come to understand that it’s impossible for me to produce good writing without producing a lot of less-good writing. Which is to say, the latter is part-and-parcel of the former. They cannot be separated. One is dependent on the other, it is the contrast between the two that makes each of them what they are. Like happiness and sadness, I suppose. Fullness and emptiness, coldness and warmth.

I found my heart opening when I read this, and it made me want to rededicate myself to the act of writing, even if just for the sake of writing crap to eventually, hopefully, write something useful. However, still unsure what to write about, I decided to stall even more, to make dinner.

And I have to tell you, dinner was great.  Anthony wanted a classic pizza from his childhood, and I delivered, with a grain-free crust, delicious toppings, and help from about 10 episodes of 30 Rock.

Cheese and butternut squash

Anthony’s version of a classic pizza is a feta, butternut squash, spinach and satay chicken. Now, please don’t misunderstand me: I think this is a totally bizarre combination, especially as my version of a classic pizza is a pizza margarita.  However, it tastes damn good, and gets in healthy fats, vegetables, and proteins. It’s a longer recipe, though, especially if you make all the components from scratch.  If you do, I’d give yourself a couple of hours to include cleaning, etc. 

A few notes:

I roasted the butternuts squash in advance, which definitely helped make this rather multi-step pizza a bit more streamlined.  

pizza

The crust was inspired by The Curious Coconut’s AIP pizza crust.  Her dinner rolls are fantastic, but unfortunately, I must have misfollowed the recipe, as the pizza crust did not work at all for me. I tried just using gelatin, but for me, it was mostly just flour. I had to add 3 eggs to get the desirably consistency. Ideally, I would have used 2.5 eggs, as I had to also add a bit of extra tapioca to find that non-sticky balance.  Plenty of others have had tons of success according to the comments, and I am so pregnant that I have forgotten why I have opened the fridge more times than I can count and left the house without shoes, so take my errors with a grain of salt. I’ll have to try it again as written soon.

I love making things from scratch, so I made the satay sauce from homemade almond butter. It was totally delicious, took less than 5 minutes with the vitamix (homemade almond butter takes much longer with a lower-powered blender, so be warned), and was way, way cheaper than buying any pre-bottled, most-likely filler-filled satay sauce from the grocery store. 

satay sauce

Just note, however, that all these components made the meal take a long time to come together. Worth it, in my opinion, but probably best saved for a weekend.

Anthony’s “Famous” Feta, Butternut Squash and Satay Chicken Pizza.

Primal (with modification), Grain-Free, Gluten-Free

Prep-time: 30 minutes

Cook-time: 30 minutes

Total time: One hour

Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

Crust:

Curious Coconut’s pizza crust, without the nutritional yeast.  If it looks like pizza dough, congratulations! You were able to follow a recipe I could not.  If it looks like a bowl of flour, add 2-3 eggs until it looks like pizza dough.

Satay sauce:

  • 2 heaping tablespoons almond, sunflower, or other nut butter
  • 2 tablespoons tamari, or coconut aminos for primal
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic or garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Optional stevia or agave for an added layer of sweetness (didn’t use but have in the past)
Other toppings:
  • 1 small Roasted butternut squash (or peeled, cubed, placed on baking sheet in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for about 30-40 minutes until beautifully crispy and delicious)
  • Baby spinach leaf
  • 1 cup feta cheese, cubed or shredded
  • Preferably free-range, pastured chicken thighs, skin and bones removed, cubed
  • Olive oil
Preparation:
  1. Prepare crust according to instructions on Curious Coconut’s website. Add eggs if necessary.
  2. Preheat oven to 350.
  3. Prepare satay sauce by whisking together (technically, I always use a fork – gets the clumps out) almond butter, tamari, rice wine vinegar, garlic, pepper flakes, and optional stevia. Set aside.
  4. Sauté chicken in just enough fat to keep it from sticking.  Pour over satay sauce, and cook until chicken is is fully cooked, about 5-8 minutes, depending on the size of the cubes.
  5. On the pizza crust, add a bit of olive oil to the base, then some green spinach leaves, then the cheese, then the butternut squash, then the chicken.
  6. Bake at 350 for 7-10 minutes, or until pizza looks ready to eat!pizza

 Enjoy.  

The Creative Process

Ira Glass is one of my heroes.  The host of This American Life, I have been listening to this man talk on NPR all over the world since I was seven years old.  

Ira Glass

Some of my fondest memories are of listening to him in the car with my dad, or during runs training for triathlons.  When I turned on Radio National in Australia and TAL happened to be on, I started crying.  I was so happy to have something that made me feel at home. 

Because my sister and brother-in-law are both well known actors, and my father was a movie producer, I’ve had the opportunity to meet lots of fun and interesting people, like Jon Bon Jovi, Harrison Ford, and Art Garfunkel.  I was able to meet all of them and view them as people.  However, when I saw Ira Glass on the subway, I freaked out.  Like, a drooling teenager.  I yelled, as I was getting off the subway “Oh my GOSH!!! I LOVE YOU!  I’VE LOVED YOU SINCE I WAS 5!”  And he smiled and said thanks.  I was high for a week.

Anyway, Ira Glass, who has created one of the most successful radio shows in the past century, as well as shows for television and stage, seems to be one of the most down to earth people ever, and a source for really good creative advice. I highly recommend watching this 2 minute video from him on the creative process. 

In writing this blog, I am actively trying to figure out what direction I want to take with it.  Is it a “lifestyle” blog? A farming blog? A healthy living blog? I truly have no idea. All I know is that writing makes me feel wonderful.  That other people’s blogs have been a source of light in times of darkness, guidance in times of fear, and laughter in times of sadness.  And that the story of starting a farm when you don’t know shit about farming will at least be amusing, if not always educational. So, I’ll do my best to just keep writing. We’ll see what happens. 

 

 

Sponsored Post: Sound A Bugle! Or At Least, Send a Note…

This post is sponsored by Minted. All opinions are my own, and I genuinely think that their products are absolutely beautiful and unique. 

My mom is an example of an absolutely classy lady. Don’t get me wrong, she’s hilarious and easy-going, but she’s also a model of poise, grace, and excellent manners.

me and mom

One of the lessons she drilled into my head from an early age is the importance of always sending a hand-written thank you note for any gift or invitation received.  It’s an extra touch that always makes people smile, and who doesn’t like to receive a card in the mail?

My mom always has beautiful stationary, embossed with her name, ready to write and send, as well as a collection of cards for any occasion. She writes beautifully, and a card from her is always a delight to receive.

While I try to remember to write notes for everything, and I usually do, most of the time my stationary is more of the discount shelf variety.  One of the most delightful parts of wedding shopping was buying personalized stationary with our names on it, and getting to look at it every time I…err, we…wrote a thank you. And now, I get to stationary shop again, to get a birth announcement for Baby van der Hoorn!

While I know that sending an e-mailed birth announcement is a more cost-effective option, there is nothing like getting a beautiful photo of a new baby in the mail.  I treasure friends’ birth announcements and holiday cards, and am so excited to send out one of our own in a few short months.

When searching for options, one of the first places I knew I’d look is Minted, after seeing the fabulous designs on Kath Eats Real Food over the years.  Minted is an online stationary art, and home decor marketplace marketplace that highlights the work of independent artists who create and design gorgeous stationary and artworks to be sold through the website.  It’s highly curated, and while the designs are all unique, all of them are absolutely beautiful and of a highly elegant caliber. They have a new collection of drool-worthy save-the-dates that I wish I had known about when I was getting married.

NewImage

One thing I love about Minted is that every card, piece of artwork, or even piece of material available for purchase credits the artist and allows you to learn about them. It takes part of the anonymity out of buying a product online, and allows the artist, instead of just their products, to be highlighted.

They have too many choices for birth announcements that I have no idea how to pick, but here are some of my favorites. All of their cards can be sent on 100% recycled paper, so it’s a more sustainable option for those occasions when an e-mail just won’t do.  I’ll be sure to share when we send them out!

Mod baby announcement

bandwannouncement

Telegram baby announcement

Questions:

  • What are your favorite birth announcements?
  • What’s the most creative save-the-dates you’ve seen?

Winter Light

Nothing beats the look of winter light in our back yard.  It feels like fairy land.

IMG 3212

Wood? We Got Wood

This post is not at all sponsored by the Firewood Guys, I just believe in supporting awesome local businesses and these guys are fantastic. 

Firewood, courtesy of The Firewood Guys.

firewood dump.MOV

My beautiful friend Brady recently told me the urban dweller equivalent for “red-neck” is a “city-ot” (like idiot, obviously.) While neither term is flattering, in this case, each day I am learning how incredibly different the knowledge base is for city life versus rural life. A great example of this is firewood. Originally, my assumption was that it’s wood thats sole purpose is to be set on fire. How much could there be to know? As it turns out, quite a bit.

First of all, you hear a lot of horror stories about firewood when you lurk in the firewood forums (lesson number 2: firewood discussion forums exist.) You see, an innocent looking block of wood is not so simple as it appears. Not only does the type of wood matter (more on that later), but seasoning matters too. For anyone who has ever had a fireplace and bought or chopped their own wood, I am sure you are rolling your eyes at the moment, but for us novices, seasoning is how wood has been dried and weathered to make it ideal for burning. As it turns out, no or too little seasoning means lots of smoke and little fire and heat, which is kind of the opposite reason to burn wood.

firewood

Ideally, wood chopped down this year is seasoned for at minimum 8 months, and ideally for a year or more, by being exposed to wind and sun.  Of course, it’s pretty hard to tell just from looking at wood if this has been done, and the stories of people buying a cord of wood (8’ x 4’ x 4’, aka, a crap-ton) only to find it smokes out the house from being improperly seasoned are common, and extremely frustrating for those who do. We were lucky enough to have our neighbors tell us all about this, or else we would probably have bought a cheaper option and been infuriated at the consequences.

The Firewood Guys have rave reviews on Angie’s List, which was the main reason we called them.  There reviews are completely well deserved. I admitted my novice-hood to the the receptionist, who talked me through the different types of wood.

firewood types

We ended up going with maple, as it’s hot and long-burning. As mentioned, we’re planning on getting a wood stove insert, so we wanted wood that burned hot and long. Here was the pricing from The Firewood Guys:

firewood guys

So, we called, shivering our bums off on Sunday, and they delivered at 10:00am on Monday.  Their delivery charge was $2 per mile outside of Battleground, WA, so we expected a $70 or so delivery charge.  Imagine how pleased we were when the kind man who made the delivery, whose name now escapes me, said he found a shorter route, so our delivery would only be considered 20 miles!

pregnant lady stacking firewood When he dumped the wood (which you can see in the video above) it made a beautiful, hollow, drum-like sound – the sound of well-seasoned wood. He also took the time to chat with us about how we can harvest our own wood and season it well for next season.  After he left, he gave us a call back – I assumed something went wrong with the credit card payment, but instead, he wanted to clarify his own advice for seasoning and storage.  Now that’s awesome customer care!

maple wood stacked

We’re also fairly certain, after stacking (which is really a workout for a 30-week pregnant lady!) they gave us a good amount more than a cord of wood.  We’ve been enjoying a hot, low-smoke fire every night, and cannot wait to get our wood insert, so we can really feel the heat.

Money Matters: New Home Owners

It’s been almost 3 weeks since we’ve been here in Hillsboro, and life has zoomed on by, as we not only set up our new home, but learn all sorts of country lessons that most certainly did not apply to our Harlem life.  It’s an adjustment, but I can say with certainty that I have never been happier than I am when I am home, with my wonderful husband, looney dog, and a roaring fire. Or out tending our “compost” (a small heap covered with cardboard and leaves) or just watching the sun fade through the trees.

new back yard

Our new backyard

However, we’ve also had to come face to face with the reality of our new life fairly quickly, as many unexpected expenses have come up that simply didn’t apply when renting an apartment, ordering Seamless, and enjoying hot water that was our landlord’s responsibility.  So, here are some lessons we’ve learned fairly quickly in the past three weeks. 

Pretty much everything ranges from fairly to extremely expensive. This may just be as a first time homeowner, but damn, owning a house is mind-bogglingly expensive. Add that to the responsibility of owning and tending 13-acres, and “hemorrhaging” would be a good word to attach to our bank account.  I know these expenses will slow down as we get more skills (and we’re trying to learn from everyone we hire how to do basic skills like maintain our heat and trim back our trees) and as time goes on, but for now, ouch. 

It’s really hard to decide what’s worth the cost. So many purchases are of things and services we’ve never had to consider before, and it means making a lot of choices about what is necessity, versus what is investment, versus what is waste.  Tools are a great example – we know we want to build a lot of our own infrastructure, such as garden beds and chicken coops, and it’s a balance to decide if investing in truly fabulous tools is worth the additional cost over entry-level.  Same thing applies to what wood to use for garden beds, soil amendments, seeds, season extenders – every expense adds up, and it’s so hard to know what’s a need versus what’s a “would be nice.” One take away from this, however, is I will never have the audacity to call a vegetable at the farmers market expensive ever again.  Gardening organically is very costly.

Recommendations are solid gold. It is so challenging to find and be sure of companies and services.  We’ve been using Angie’s List, which has been so helpful to find people, but by far the best recommendations are from locals and neighbors. Our next-door neighbor recommended a service for mower repairs which seems totally great, and family friends from the areas referred us to an architect and contractor for eventual renovations we want to do, and they have been fantastic.  

Anthony on a tractor

Anthony on our new (well, new to us – it came with the property) ride on mower. 

What’s also great is the reputation of good services seem to get around. For example, we would like to replace our terrible fireplace with a wood insert so it actually warms the room as an alternative heat source. So, we found Eric, from All Fuel Installation and Service, just from calling around to different companies, and he’s been wonderful throughout the whole process. What was funny is that when we told other various contractors who we were working with, they all knew of the company and had nothing but good things to say about it.  So great!

Creativity is a necessity to saving. When trying to figure out how to save money, being creative has been essential. For instance, for us, canning is really important and saved us tons of money, even in New York buying produce direct from farmers markets. However, our 1981 electric coil stove is far too rickety and unpredictable for pressure canning, which is how we save our beans, stock, and squash.  Our first instinct was to replace the stove (which is something we’d want to do anyway, as the stove is old enough that there is no indication that it is at all hot, so feels rather dangerous), but we know long-run we’d prefer a gas stove, and don’t want to spend the money to do the plumbing and purchasing yet. So, instead, we brainstormed alternatives, and bought a $50 outdoor patio stove that connects to propane, and will do our pressure canning in the (open) garage.  

bayou stove

We did the same thing for starting our seedlings – initially, we were planning on a set up that included grow lights ($$$$, even just using normal fluorescent lights) shelving, and heat mats. This turned out to be an upfront cost of at least $600, which just seemed like madness. So, instead, we decided that we’ll do a simple outdoor hoop-house, that should cost about $300 to assemble, uses no electricity, and will extend the season in both directions. W’ll keep you posted on how that goes. (We may also do a small setup just for heat loving plants like tomatoes and eggplants, after reading Erica’s post on the matter.)

hoop house

(source)

Bulk is Boss. This is most likely not new news to anyone. However, one of the great things about living out in the country is that all of a sudden, large bulk purchases make heaps more sense then they did in our little apartment.  For buying soil (a necessity this year, and something we hope we’ll never have to do again, as we’ll be making our own compost and nitrogen rich soil amendments via chicken poop to help enrich our soil in the years to come), it’s way more cost effective to buy a truckload (around $800 for 18 cubic yards, which is about as much as we anticipate we’ll need) rather than by the bag (around $24,210 for the same amount, and that is not a typo.)

soil

(Source)

Another example of this is meat. Pastured, GMO-free, organic, humanely raised meat is very important to us, but it’s also very expensive.  The best way around this is to buy a quarter or a half of an animal, which lowers the cost to be about the same as it would be in the supermarket for dramatically better meat. We just bought half a Gloucester Old Spot pig from Melisa at Misty Morning Farms, a sustainably-operated farm in nearby Deer Island, and not only is it cost effective, but we get to decide exactly which cuts we’d like. 

Gloucester Spot Pigs

(source)

Humor and Gratitude is Everything. Sometimes, I genuinely want to cry when I see our hard-earned savings account dwindling so quickly.  It’s moments like that when I choose to focus on being so grateful for everything that we have, that we can afford to take care of ourselves and our land, our incredibly supportive friends and family, and for all our blessings. It’s also times like this when Anthony reminds me not to take life so seriously, by basically being a giant goofball.

Chewy Vader