Making Pot Pies

Fall                                                       Waxing Autumn Moon

We had our final straight from the garden meal last night.  Roasted potatoes, onions, fennel, carrots and a lone beet.  Raspberries for dessert.  Marinated chicken for protein, not from here.

Today I cut up the leeks, cooked some chicken breasts, carrots, celery, peas and corn (none of these ours), and cooked the leeks in salt water for five minutes.  After shredding the chicken, a roux thickened the broth with the vegetables.  The shredded chicken went in the pie crust, then the leeks (our own), and after that the thickened broth and vegetables.

A rolled out pie crust for a top to the pies and they went in the oven.  4 chicken/leek pot pies, frozen now, treats we can have when we get back from South America along with raspberry pie.

Had an aha about our garden while cutting up the leeks.  We’re not feeding ourselves in any significant way with our garden, though we do eat several meals a year with our own produce and fruit.  What we can grow, and the leeks, garlic, heirloom tomatoes and heirloom potatoes are good examples, are specialty vegetables that, even if we wanted them, probably wouldn’t be available and would certainly not be available fresh from the garden.

We preserve tomatoes, store potatoes and onions, garlic and honey.  Kate makes currant jam and wild grape jelly.  We have raspberry pies frozen and now the chicken/leek pot pies.  We also freeze chard and spinach.  Our garden supplements our diet in ways that would not be possible without it.

It also gives us a joint project, a place we can work together, while keeping us in touch with the Great Wheel and the ways of the vegetative world.  We get a lot from our garden.

Bee and Garden Diary

Mid-Summer                                                                                          Waning Garlic Moon

Today I performed partial hive box reversals in all three colonies.  The second hive box of three gets rotated to the bottom and the first or bottom box rotates up to take its place.  This means that all the hive boxes have to be moved, so it is a labor intensive activity, especially so now that some honey has begun to be stored.  One hive box was very heavy, my back a bit reluctant.  Having done that I checked the top box on colony 1 and the top two honey supers in colonies 2 and 3.  None of these have much honey.

Since I put queen excluders on 2 and 3, I pulled those off, intending to leave them off for a couple of days.  At the hobby bee-keeper meetings I’m told this is a common way to get the bees to move up into the honey supers.  I’ll put the queen excluders back on maybe Wednesday.  Since I reversed the bottom and second hive boxes, there’s not much chance the queen will get up there.

So far the bee season seems to have hurdled the early cold and rain and settled into a more normal pattern.

The potatoes and leeks both have mounds around their stalks now, blanching for the leeks and more space for the potato plants to produce tubers.  A lot of gardening tasks are very time sensitive and these were among them.  When the potato plants flower (now), they begin to set the tubers.  As the leeks grow, only the parts covered by soil will blanch, turn white, and be useful for cooking.  As the young apples begin to grow, the bags have to go on before the apple maggots come out to play.  Also now.

The bees, too, require definite care and different kinds of care all through early spring and summer, then less attention around now, when the honey flow begins.  Later in August will come extraction, then preparation of colony 1 for overwintering.  Gonna try one more time.  Colonies 2 and 3 will move out near the truck lane, into the sunny part.  That’s for next year.

Our tomato plants started from seed have begun to mature, though they are far behind the two plants Kate bought at the green barn.  Those plants have blooms and green tomatoes.  It remains to be seen whether we’ll get any tomatoes from the others.

We’ve harvested one full planting of spinach, several of lettuce, some sugar snap peas and just this week, lots of strawberries.  We have onions, carrots, beets, more lettuce and spinach, plus pole and bush beans all underway.  There are cherries and plums in the orchard in addition to the apples and the raspberry canes are in good mid-season form.  We’re going to have a good season as we continue to learn how to use our garden to complement and supplement what we buy at the grocery store.

A Garden, Some Latin, Ai Weiwei

Beltane                                                     New Last Frost Moon

The potatoes are in the ground.  The lettuce has two leaves, as does the spinach, a few beets have emerged.  The leeks look a bit droopy, but they’ll pick up.  The garlic is well over 6 inches now as it makes the final push for harvest in late June, early July.  None of the carrots have germinated yet and most of the beets have not either. The onion sets we planted havecropped-free-ai-weiwei mostly begun to show green.  The bees show up now around the property, working as we do, tending the plants in their own, intimate way.  The gooseberries we transplanted look very healthy.  The daffodils are a carpet of yellow and white.  A few scylla out front brighten up the walk with their blue.

Most of today went into Diana and Actaeon.  I’m down to verse 227, the finish line is 250.  I’m close and moving faster now than I was.  One of the things I’ve learned is that doing this at a pace which would allow you to complete a project in a reasonable time frame would require real skill.  I’m a hobby Ovidist, to be a Latin scholar would take decades.  Who knows though?  I might make it.  When I finish this first tale in the Metamorphosis, I’m going to have some kind of celebration.

Buddy Mark Odegard has come up with three remarkable designs for a Free Ai Weiwei t-shirt.   Here’s an example and the one most seem to prefer:

Workin’ Outside

Spring                                                                Waning Bee Hiving Moon

The bees buzzed around their new homes while Mark, Kate and I worked in the garden.  Mark cleaned up a bunch of junk that always seemed just a bit too much after finishing up other work.  Place looks less like we’re the poor cousins of the Beverly Hillbillies.  I finished the early spring planting, adding a succession planting of spinach, golden beets and Fordhook kale plus lettuce and Early Blood beets.  Kate did her weed destructor thing clearing out space for transplanting gooseberries.

A good morning’s work.  We ate lunch at the Panda Buffet, a sort of thresher’s breakfast.  Now it’s time for a nap.

Week’s End

Spring                                                          Waxing Bee Hiving Moon

Kate and Annie (her sister) are off to Omaha, Kansas City and various quilt shops in between.  When asked what they do on the bus (she’s done this before), she said, “Talk.”  Me, “No quilt-road-tripsinging, no poker, no beer?”  Nope.

Brother Mark is here, decompressing from a tough six months, and inhaling American culture, “Something there, but being brought forward from far back in the mind.”  He’s not been back to the US in over 20 years.

Today is the first day I’ve had any lengthy time to myself this whole week.  Gonna spend it doing Latin.

The kale and chard starts have germinated; the tomatoes have yet to break the surface.  All this is under the lights.  I’ve not checked the beets, spinach and lettuce planted outside earlier in the week, but they should get started in the not too distant future.

Next weekend the bees should arrive, so there are bee related chores this week:  cleaning frames and hive boxes, moving everything to the orchard, checking the honey supers.  The smoker needs cleaning out, too, a lot of soot collects over the course of a season.  Tomorrow I have advanced bee keeping, open only to those who have kept bees at least a full season or two.

But, since this is Minnesota, first we may have to have some snow.

Garden Diary: April 10, 2011

Spring                                                                Waxing Bee Hiving Moon

The outside gardening season has begun.  Kate and I worked in the vegetable garden together this morning.  She (I’m in destructo mode) cleaned out beds, cut down raspberry canes, weeded and  pruned.  I worked more composted manure into the beds, then planted American Spinach, Golden Beets and Lettuce.  I also prepared beds for the leeks and the potatoes.  potato planting 2010The leeks will go in the next week, already begun inside, and the potatoes will go out a bit after they arrive, probably late week after next.  The garlic, strawberries, rhubarb, asparagus, raspberries and a few stray onions have a jump on the season, as do a couple of perennial herbs.  When they come, I’ll drop in the carrots and beans and peas.  Feels good to have the outdoor garden started.

I plan to be more conscientious about planting successive crops of beets, lettuce, spinach, kale and chard, so we can harvest, preserve and eat those throughout the year.  We’ll also pay more attention to the harvesting of beans, peas and asparagus especially.

Mark went to bed around 6:00 pm last night and is still asleep.  No wonder since it’s midnight in Bangkok right now.  He’s had a tough last six months, but I can see he will get past it.

Another Northern Summer Day

Summer                             Full Strawberry Moon

The full strawberry moon, evocative.  Our strawberries have wound down  for this season, but we enjoyed them while they ripened.  I had blueberries on cereal this morning, blueberries from our patch.  Finished the  planting for a third harvest:  beans, spinach, swiss chard, beets:  golden and detroit red and carrots.

Kate has been picking  currants like a woman possessed.  She has I don’t know how many and won’t rest until all five bushes are clean.  That’s a lot of currants.  Last year I couldn’t even spell currant and now I have more than I know what to do with.

The whole garden, including the bees, has proved a bit much this year.  The longer season didn’t help, it got stuff off to an early start, ahead of me.  Plugging away though.  I’ll probably get back to even about time to put the sucker to bed for the winter.

Hilo helped me plant, each hour with her more precious now that we know her days will wink out in the not too distant future.

Queens, Vegetables and Latin

Spring                                         Full Flower Moon

Under the full flower moon I inspected my new colony of bees.  In this instance I checked the frames for larvae.  I couldn’t tell if they were there or not.  This is important because it indicates the presence or absence of a laying queen.  I’ll check again on Saturday.  The queen excluder went into the overwintered colony.  The queen excluder prevents her from moving either up or down in this instance.

On the weekend when I try my first division, I’ll take the hive box with no new larvae (the queen is not there since it takes larvae four days to appear) and put it on a new hive stand and bottom board.  Then, I’ll slow release a new queen.  That is, I’ll put a mini-marshmallow in the end of her cage, suspend the cage between the two central frames and let the queen eat her way out or the worker bees eat their way into her.  This makes her acceptance more likely.

One undignified note.  A bee crawled up my pants leg and stung me on my butt.  Boy did I howl.  Jumped around.  OUCH.

After the bees I spent time in the garden planting dill, basil, marigolds, radicchio, foxglove, spinach, swiss chard, kale, golden and red beets.  A few more bags of composted manure went onto the raised beds, too.

The garden worked preceded a session with my Latin tutor.  He’s good, supportive but demanding.  I like that.  This was not my best week.  I did this work a couple of weeks ago and had not gone over it again, so I sounded somewhat like the village idiot.  Being a good student is important to me, so I promised Greg I would do better next week.  He said, “Be a good boy, you mean?”  Yes, that’s exactly what I meant.  Geez.  Even at 63.