Hard Winter Lessons

Not so appetizing…

I’ve taken lots of pictures, and learned lots of things, but I didn’t get any lettuce out of the deal this winter, or tomatoes either. The freeze this past weekend was the death of my last few lettuce starters, which looked so promising just a few days ago.

My husband suggested that I should try growing Romaine in the winter time, instead of the fragile curly leaf varieties that I tried because I still had those seeds. So, I am planning on starting some Romaine seeds, but, it is already almost spring, so I won’t count these starters as a winter crop.

Continue reading
Image

Transplanting Day

Today I moved my tender tomato starters into pots and put them under a grow light in my kitchen window. I’ve done all that I can do for them. Now I’ll have to see if it was enough to get back some love.

I also put my lettuce starters in one of my “salad bowls” in the mini-greenhouse on our south facing deck. I covered them with, appropriately, a salad bowl inside the greenhouse, because it’s supposed to freeze tonight.

Lettuce covered against the freeze with a salad bowl. Each layer creates a warmer environment. The greenhouse is zipped up now, collecting heat for tonight….

Image

Winter Tomato Woes

So far my winter tomato romance has all been in my head. I would probably tell someone else to eat seasonally; enjoy tomatoes in summer. But I am infatuated with the idea of fresh, tasty tomato with our dinner salad. Despite the negative feedback, I have not given up. I am still doing what I can to cultivate a relationship between me and my heirloom tomatoes that’s more than a summer romance.

Not looking too good…
Continue reading
Image

Chicken Coop Update

The first thing was to put metal panels on the roof.

A few years ago our chicken coop was assaulted by falling trees. It held up well considering that it was unable to defend itself. My remarkably capable husband managed to dispose of those trees single handedly. Well, he used both of his hands, and some homespun engineering. We didn’t notice at the time that one of the floor joists had been damaged by the weight of the fall. The roof was also leaking in places. I’m planning on incubating some chicks for the Spring but the coop had holes in the floor. So, after a few years of patches and workarounds, the time had arrived for a chicken coop update.

He covered the floor with some leftover roofing material.

My husband was the one in charge of that project, of course. The first thing he did was to cover the roof with metal panels to prevent leaks. The next step was to tear out the rotted flooring. He decided to use what we had around. So, he covered the new plywood floor with some leftover roofing material, to protect it from moisture.

Dry leaves on the floor of the coop.

We have an overflow of dirt that we’ve been spreading on the floor, so we’re switching to dry leaves. We have plenty of those piled up along a perimeter fence that need to get raked up anyway….

These curtains haven’t been working out so well.

We’ve been using some old coffee bean sacks for curtains for the nesting boxes. But the loose weave hasn’t worked out very well. They fall down and we reattach them way too often. If a box doesn’t have a curtain, the ladies don’t use it to lay eggs in. I figured I could handle this part of the project. I picked up an old curtain from the Goodwill Clearance Center. I tore it in half and nailed it up on the reinforced side, and then cut slits for each box. Time will tell if this works better.

Designer coop curtains.
Image

Houseplants in Silhouette

Avocado trees, lucky Bamboo, Amaryllis and a reverse hanging plant in a bay window facing east at dusk.

I couldn’t just let those avocado trees die in the compost heap in winter time. It’s bad luck to let a bamboo plant die. Amaryllis keep multiplying and I have to keep dividing them. That’s how I get windows full of plants.

Image

Baking Bread on Sunday

I have been using this book for more than a year now, and tried almost every recipe. The ciabatta loaves are one of my favorites.

Our family schedule has changed in a way that has made it difficult for me to bake bread during the week. So now, Sunday is the day that I make sure to indulge my love of fresh sourdough bread. Most of what I know about baking sourdough bread comes from Jim Lahey’s Sullivan Street Bakery Cookbook. I have baked a few duds along the way. Patience is definitely the main ingredient. Yesterday, however, I came close to achieving perfection!

Instead of covering with a damp cloth, I put my dough in the bottom oven with the light on and a pan of warm water.

I keep my biga, (a drier, thriftier form of sourdough starter,) alive in my refrigerator. Since I didn’t remember to start some dough on Saturday night, I chose a recipe that doesn’t take as long to rise that I could still start on Sunday morning. Mr. Lahey offers two ways to make the ciabatta dough, the slow, no mix method, or the fast, use your mixer method. I used my mixer. After three hours I had a glass bowl full of bubbly bread dough that I turned out onto a board, folded in half, and cut into two loaves. I left them to rise for three hours in my bottom oven.

Continue reading