The big news of this week is rabbits. Yes, rabbits. The generosity of two different friends has seen us with two does and two rather nice used cages, all for free. We’re really liking them so far! I’m going to get a buck for them soon and then try breeding them. These are ‘meat mutts’ but they have very soft fur, so I’m guessing they have some Rex blood in them. They adore dandelion greens. I’d like to eventually move them into a colony type setup (combined with the chickens) but will have to see how much time and money that will cost to setup. I’ve got some draft plans I’m noodling on.
Getting used to the rabbits, as well as the craziness of a normal week, has seen me not making any notes during the week. The rest of the post will be told with pictures:
Saturday the forecast was very close to freezing, so I didn’t want to take a chance we’d actually get frost. I had planned on moving the tender trays of plants inside after dinner, but mid-afternoon we actually had snow for a short time so all day the living room looked like this:
The baby bunnies ventured out of their nest for the first time. We spent part of the afternoon watching some of their antics. The Alchemist captured this picture. The video she took was even cuter, showing the way its little ears were practically vibrating with how strong the wind was.
After dinner I used blankets to cover the tender annuals we planted in the front of the house and then glass jars as ‘hot caps’ to cover the baby squash and tomatoes in the ground on the side and back of the house.
The extended forecast warms up again and, given how late in May we are now, this should hopefully be the last frost scare. I’m fully expecting to have lost some plants at Homestead Buddy’s place, however, as he is much further from the moderating temperature of Lake Michigan and doesn’t have the urban heat island effect I benefit from as well. That’s why we hold seeds back and don’t plant everything in one go 🙂
Monday I got most of my surviving cucurbit transplants in the ground. Germination is much faster than in the ground this time of year but time will tell if they are healthier than direct seeded crops. I sowed a little more mesclun mix. The mesclun I sowed early in the spring will be ready for a first cutting in a few days. I made the first harvest of anything from the garden, about half a pound of rhubarb stalks.
Tuesday after Beta’s violin lesson I went to my sister’s house. She graciously let me pick a bunch of rhubarb and then take 4 crown divisions to plant. This gives us 7 rhubarb plants which, once established, will give us all the rhubarb we could want and then some. The one I picked from on Monday is probably the only one that will produce for us this year but we’ll see. The leaves on the transplants are a little wilty but rhubarb is hard to kill and should quickly bounce back.
Wednesday we went out to Homestead Buddy’s place for first time in two weeks. We had pretty good germination on the peas, some germination on the green beans. Almost all of the broccoli was happy. The zucchini was starting to sprout and we had two winter squash up. Most of the winter squash came up early and he had two frosts since we’ve been frost free. Oh well, we had a 75% chance of being frost free and getting early growth. I weeded and then seeded a bigger green bean patch.
We spent some time discussing where my bigger garden plot will go. It will be about 4,000 square feet to start, close to water, with potential expansion that doesn’t get in the way of his own expansion plans. We moved his rabbit tractors over to start knocking the grass down and adding fertility to the ground. I’m unsure whether I’ll just turn the ground over the hard way (by hand) or look into borrowing some equipment. I’d like to get it seeded into a cover crop or possibly into some easily weeded crops. Another friend that’s down the road may also give me some garden space, and he and I have talked about having him sell excess produce I have on a consignment-type basis.
The only pictures I took that day were of the kids petting and feeding his rabbits dandelions before we moved the tractors to the new ground.
Thursday and Friday were busy days, just not in the garden. Mostly I focused on watering. I also moved a few of my kale and flower seedlings out into a sunnier spot to start hardening off before transplanting.
Here’s some pictures to close out the week:
After trying a number of pie crust recipes, I’ve admitted to myself I just hate making pies. What I do enjoy, however, is a very similar dessert called a galette. Basically a rustic pie, the pastry is easy to handle and you’re not looking for the delicate flakiness of a traditional pie. You actually want a little heft to it, because you eat galette slices like a piece of pizza, not with a fork.
We buy tart cherries from a local orchard that’s a bit over an hour away. It’s a little hike but we’ve never had better cherries. Their picking season for fresh cherries is very short, about 10 days, but they typically have frozen cherries available year round. I recently bought 7 gallon bags when we ran out. We especially like their Balaton cherries, which is a Morello-type (dark) tart cherry from Hungary, as apposed to the bright red Montmorency-types. Montmorency cherries are a bit astringent for fresh eating, even for us, but we’ve come to love the Morello-types for their balance of sweet and tart. I think they have much more flavor than the Bing cherries available in the store, though no one grows sweet cherries commercially here, so I don’t know if truly fresh sweet cherries would change my mind about them.
Alpha eats them straight out of the freezer for a snack, I’m turning some into dried cherries in the Excalibur as I write this, and I’ve been making this delicious dessert on a weekly basis. Like most of my desserts, it’s not super sweet, so it can double as breakfast as well. I’m going to grab a piece with my morning coffee after I finish this post 😉
- 3/4cup white flour
- 1/2cup whole wheat flour
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
- 1/3 to 1/2cups ice water
- Pulse the butter, flours, sugar, salt, and cinnamon together in a food processor until the butter is in pea-sized chunks.
- Slowly pulse water into the dough until it comes together. Avoid adding water too fast, as a wet dough is very hard to roll out.
- Place a piece of parchment paper or pastry cloth down on your work surface and flour it well. I bake galettes in a 14″ greased pizza pan, rolling the dough out to roughly the width of the pan, then carefully transferring it to the pan.
- Put the pan in the fridge until the filling is ready.
- 4-5 cups of pitted Morello-type (dark red) pie cherries, frozen or fresh
- 1/2 cup sugar. If using Montmorency-type cherries, you may want to increase sugar slightly.
- 3 tbsp arrowroot flour or corn starch. Note: If using other binders, you may need to experiment a little to find the right consistency. Use your favorite cherry pie recipe as a guideline.
- Cook cherries in a medium pot, covered, on medium until they start to release juice.
- Uncover, reduce heat to medium-low, add sugar and starch. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the mixture starts to gel. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly as the oven preheats.
- Preheat oven to 375.
- Transfer filling to the center of the crust. Carefully fold the edges over. If you break the pastry and some juice leaks, it’s not the end of the world, it happens nearly every time to me. It will burn a little in the pan but the galette will still taste great.
- Bake for 50 minutes or until crust is lightly golden brown.
- Best served after chilling in the fridge for at least one hour.
If you make the recipe, share your thoughts in the comments. Enjoy!
Saturday the kids and I got out to the farmer’s market. Besides buying the season’s first asparagus and rhubarb (our asparagus needs one more year to establish and our better-established rhubarb isn’t ready for harvest yet) they helped me pick out some annuals to add a shot of color to the garden perimeter. They had a lot of fun getting involved, and helped me layout the design when we got home too.
I also bought some herbs: peppermint, chocolate mint, oregano, lemon balm, thyme. I started our basil a little late but it will be ready to transplant in a few weeks.
On Sunday morning before the Mother’s Day brunch my sister hosted I went through my tomato seedlings and picked out a few I thought were worth transplanting. I did a really bad job managing the transition from indoor to outdoor growing and killed 2/3 of my seedlings, and many of the rest aren’t in great condition. I’m hoping the strongest survivors will make it but they’re definitely behind where you want seedlings to be at this time of the year here.
The light Sunday morning was ideal for photography so I snapped quite a few shots. I brought out the SLR but knocked image size down a bit so I don’t have to deal with the labor of resizing images before posting. The files are still big but hopefully not so big that I run up my storage allowance too quickly.
Wednesday we went up to the same farm we get strawberries, apples, and pears from to buy some plants from their greenhouse. I got a few tomatoes, peppers, and then some more perennials. Before we left we spotted something that made me very happy.
Thursday became a cooking day. I made a cherry galette. My replacement grain mill grinds corn much better than the original design so I made my first batch of skillet cornbread in quite some time. I’m experimenting with granola bars again in an effort to mostly eliminate commercial snacks (and go through the obscene number of oats we have in inventory).
My last cooking experiment was making sauce from dried tomatoes. I used up the last jar of canned tomatoes this week and needed to move on to the 26 quarts of dried tomatoes we have. I rehydrated the tomatoes 1:1 in hot water, first bringing it to a boil then keeping it on medium low until the tomatoes looked plump. I ran them through our Squeezo food mill and then seasoned the sauce the way I always do:
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 2 tsp dry minced onion
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp dry basil
- 1/2 tsp dry oregano
- scant 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
The sauce only needed a little extra reduction (much of it provided by the onions rehydrating) before it was ready to jar up and put in the fridge. My plan, now that I have a good sense of the method, is to make it in several quart batches and then freeze in freezer-safe deli containers. Yield was about 75% of the water I started with so I have enough tomatoes left in the pantry to make about 17 quarts of sauce. At 1-2 quarts a week that should get us through until they’re back in season again.
Thursday night we spotted something very cool. My rabbit-proof fence must not have been very rabbit proof because I found a rabbit nest in one of our strawberry beds. The babies are about three weeks old: eyes open, full fur coats, and erect ears. They’ll be leaving the nest any day but for now their momma will return at dawn and dusk to nurse. I think I know where she was getting in and have fixed it but I’m leaving the gate open until the babies are ready to move on.
Weather for the next few days promises to be cold, rainy, with lows near freezing. Spring in Wisconsin tends to ping-pong around a lot and this year is no different. That said, I’m happy to have spent a good portion of the past week in the garden. It hasn’t fed our bodies yet this year but it has fed our souls.
I’ll close out this week with one last picture.
I haven’t kept very good track of everything done this week. Saturday was International Tabletop Day so we spent most of the day playing board games. Sunday Alpha and Beta made their First Communion. Tuesday I spent all day shopping for a second car (we found one). Late in the day Tuesday and most of Wednesday everyone besides me in the house was down with a stomach bug.
Most of what I’ve been doing is tending seedlings. Tomatoes, lettuce, kale, zucchini, cucumbers, cosmos, yarrow, chives, basil. I’m probably forgetting something. My tomatoes look only so-so this year, not sure why, but everything else seems good.
Monday we got out to Homestead Buddy’s place. I planted Waltham Butternut and Sweet Meat – Oregon Homestead in the massive hay pile I’ve shared about in a previous post. I held back enough seed of both that I can completely reseed in two weeks if there’s a frost or poor germination. I also planted peas, cucumber, some broccoli starts I’d saved, a bit of zucchini, and a small row of beans.
I did the best I could in getting some of the perennial weeds out of beds we’d prepared already, especially crabgrass and burdock.
The tarps we’d put down to smother the very grassy area hadn’t done much, as they were more transparent than we’d thought, and there wasn’t a lot of sun to insolate the soil with. It’s not the most regenerative practice, but we elected to spade the grass under and then retarp with thicker tarps. We’ll roll back the tarps as we plant new sections.
A few more pictures from my homestead on Tuesday:
Thursday the kids helped me plant some green beans and zucchini. These should bear right around when we get back from our trip Baltimore at the end of June. I’ve got a few more beds I will plant this coming week then I’ll save the rest for succession plantings. I also got the rest of the soaker hoses laid out. My plan was originally based on a mixture of 75, 50, and 25 foot hoses but Lee Valley was selling very high quality (double wall thickness) soakers in 50 foot lengths so I made the best of the layout. I made irrigation staples out of bulk 9 gauge wire. Rain has been consistent enough that I haven’t tested any of them out yet.
Friday it got up into the 80s for only the second time this year. I was beat after working in the garden most of the afternoon so I didn’t get to finish writing the post or taking any more pictures. I pulled the mulch off of the off-site garden I lost, reseeded it to grass, and carefully spread mulch over most of the beds that I’d seeded before we had the wood chips. Couple more to go still. The kids helped a lot with spreading it though it is awkward having three people fit around a wheelbarrow in my narrow paths.
I took these pictures on Saturday morning and they will give you an idea of how this week closed out. I think I will go back to using the dSLR for pictures next week, just reducing the megapixels on the camera side. (The only reason I haven’t been using the SLR is because of the labor involved in optimizing the file size for my storage allowance on WordPress.) The phone is convenient but the camera isn’t the best since the lens cover has cracks in it.