This is one of my favorite times of the year: the first harvests are coming in. For greens, we are eating kale, lettuce, chard and good king Henry, New Zealand spinach, mache, minutina, and celery. All the herbs – parsley, rosemary, sage, etc. are ready. The malabar spinach is almost ready and it’s a lovely climber that is colonizing the trelises that the unfortunate peas never climbed (we had only a pound or so, the bunnies ate the rest). The potatoes – from organic potatoes I bought at the supermarket – are growing like weeds. So are the tomato vines. No ripe tomatoes yet, though.

I’ve also started putting up. Yesterday I made a pile of basil from my garden, our CSA and the Farmers Market and made 8 jars of pesto (to freeze). I assembled rhubarb from the garden with some from the Farmers Market and red currants from a friend’s garden and canned 8 jars of rhubarb-red currant preserves. I’m tasting the white currants in my garden every day to get them when they’re just ripe. There are also grapes growing, lots of them, but those will take longer. If all the little nubbin figs on our one remaining tree make it, we’ll have twenty or so figs.

The chickens are laying four eggs a day. And there are four of them. Toothless, who got injured and started limping, then getting pecked on even more ruthlessly, went for a spa at my friend Katharina’s place while we were away. I didn’t want my intrepid chicken sitters to have to deal with a bloody, or worse, chicken. Toothless has her own little coop there to relax and recover.

Tomorrow I plan to go into my hives and take a full super off the strongest one (which swarmed during the week we were away!). I almost fell over when I lifted it off: full of honey! I’ll add a new super to that one and also one to the less strong hive. Both hives are making new queens.

Speaking of honey. I am enjoying the raspberry melomel I made a little over a year ago. It is mellow and tasty and not too alcoholic.

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But where were we all last week? Hanging out with this crazy bunch…

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… in the rain forest of Panama!

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More about that in some other post. I need to go water the garden, because it’s dry here.

My friend and fellow blogger Kath did a garden survey and inspired me to do the same. It was getting a bit darker on an already gloomy day and everything is still covered in yellow pollen dust, but I managed to snap some pictures.

We begin with Amie and the little chickens. They are now 8-9 weeks old and are spending the warmer days in the mini-coop, which sits in the chicken yard, but I still bring them in each evening. Amie loves “training” them. In this picture she is teaching Jenny to walk straight. (Jenny, by the way, may turn out to be a Kenny – thanks, Kath!).

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This while the other three looked on:

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More chicken fun:

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More serious:

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Out of the chicken yard, into the veg garden. The first thing you meet is the bunny gate. Bunnies ate two whole beds of dry beans. Because our CSA box has so many greens and tomatoes, etc., but never any beans, I planted lots of beans. (The bunnies liked only the dry beans, not the haricots, so they’re still going strong.) They also stripped the new blueberry bushes. Those too I fenced in – pictures of that later:

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The giant lovage, the lovely poppy a friend gave me behind it.

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Sage in bloom:

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Elderflowers:

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Lettuce, radichetta, onions and kale finally taking off:

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Raspberries in the making:

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We took the plastic off the hoop house for cleaning and will only remount it in Fall to extend the season. It will be good to have it off for the Summer, so the rain can thoroughly drench the beds and I don’t need to fight the overheating in there:

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We leave the veg garden and go into the back, where only a few unripe currants are still on the bush. This year, though, I’m very happy with how the currants have grown, finally:

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The kiwi vines are already humongous and it isn’t even Summer yet. The females have flowers again, many more of them than last year:

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I hope Anna’s hunch is correct (at Walden Effect) that these Ananasnayas are self-fertile, because I’d love some fruit from these two monsters:

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Our grape vines are making tiny grapes:

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Yesterday Wayland Walks, a very active offshoot of Transition Wayland, arranged a long mushroom walk with author/adventurer/mycologist Lawrence, aka Larry, Millman (picture). It was packed with discoveries, learning and humor, as Larry has a great way of sharing his knowledge and is a fountain of mushroom lore.

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It had rained just before the walk so I had fresh mushrooms growing on the wood chips in my garden paths. I plucked one and brought it, and Larry identified it as…

King Stropheria, aka Winecap

Well. That’s the mycelium I purchased and then “sowed” in 2012 (blog post here) and that never materialized, where I had sowed them, at least. So I doubt this is that mycelium, but somehow that’s what was growing on these wood chips.

Larry called them “Grade B Edibles,” but he couldn’t dampen my joy. My mycology hobbyist neighbor had said not to eat them (she never eats the gilled mushrooms, as the majority aren’t edible). Larry would say: they might edible, but they might be the last thing you eat. But so these are edible.

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I plucked another one this morning and made this spore print of it. Wild!

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This has been/still is a hard winter. It’s been one snow storm after another, with long stretches of below freezing temperatures.  Three weeks ago I caught a bug which developed into pneumonia – hence the silence here – and now that I’ finally up and about, Amie caught something as well. That’s how it goes. The winter was hard on the bees as well: all three colonies are dead of starvation in boxes still half full of capped honey.  They just didn’t have the chance to break cluster and move toward the honey.

But things are stirring. Before yesterday’s snow flurries we actually saw dirt. Then it got covered up again, but all that should be washed away by tonight’s rain and tomorrow we may see some outdoor activities. I plan to wash all the seedling trays and pots so I can start the basement garden. If I’m up for it, I’ll also clean out the chicken coop: there’s some good compost in there after months of deep litter.

A couple of days ago I (hot-water-bath) canned the sauerkraut that had been fermenting in big jars on my counter for seven weeks. I usually don’t can kraut as it pasteurizes it (duh!) and kills off all the good bugs. Still, I had too much of it to keep in the fridge, and as I’m the only one who eats it round here, I decided to reserve one jar for the fridge and can the rest.  I hope the canning doesn’t make it too soggy. I like it crunchy.

 

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This afternoon, taking advantage of the warmer weather and the abeyance of snow/rain, I spent a good three hours splitting, moving and stacking close to 1/4 cord of firewood. While I was at it I conversed with the chickens, whose coop is next to the woodpile and the chopping block (eek).

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Two friends happened by to admire my ax form and give me gifts! A. gave me a huge bag of carrots she and her family pulled at our CSA Farm’s carrot pull last weekend, and R. brought me a pumpkin she grew in her garden. I moved all the split wood to the porch and then the sun set.

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I came in and started a fire in the stove, which sealed the deal: a hot shower was in order to wash away the sweat, dust, wood splinters, soot and muscle stiffening. I give thanks for hard work, the reward of warmth, and friendship.

 

 

Last week I ran over to our local High School where they planted lots of rose rugosa. The hips were perfect after a few frosts.

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I came home with about three pints, then did some research. Turns out that:

  1. Rosehips are packed with vitamin C, calcium and vitamin E (especially the seeds).
  2. The hairs that surround the seeds are the trouble. I can attest to the fact that  the hairs are itchy to the skin.  They are actually made into itching powder. I can only imagine how they would irritate your throat and insides if ingested. That said, some people don’t bother removing them.

First I cut the hips in two, which was pleasantly time consuming and possibly not necessary, but I thought it would speed up drying and make the seeds and hairs more exposed for extraction later on.  I spread them out on two racks to dry near the wood stove.

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After a few days they weren’t fully dry yet. I tried removing the seeds by hand, but who has time for that! Also, in this state, it’s tough to appreciate how many hairs there are, and by hand you wouldn’t get them all out.

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Into the blender they went! I blended on low, not wanting to pulverize the flesh to the same size as the hairs, because then I wouldn’t be able to strain them.

As you can see in the video, there are more hairs than you think!

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I sieved this mess, keeping the seeds, which are packed with vitamin E. I don’t know what to do with them yet. The hairs truly stick to everything. Wipe the counter tops!

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The blending and sieving removed most of the seeds, but much of the hairs still remain, stuck to the flesh in tufts.  They’re easier to pick out, but I’m going to let them dry a little more, then repeat the process, with more pulsing.

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I’ve not decided yet whether to make rose hip jelly, or powder for tea.

Today I had planned to clean the house. It badly needs a vacuum and a scrub. But before I could get started, a friend called and said she wanted to go on a walk that my group, Transition Wayland, was organizing though Wayland Walks. Wayland Walks is a great spin-off,  run by two of our core group members. They set up a walk every month, each one with a new theme (Full Moon, Wild Edibles, Walk on Water, etc.). Exceptionally, this one wasn’t local, but a half hour drive away. We used to have cranberry bogs in Wayland, but no longer.

As we drove toward Wachussett Reservoir, the clouds drifted away. By the time we got there, the sun shone on the water. We couldn’t believe our luck! And there were the berries. What a delight! As Amie said: “They like to play hide and seek!” Who knew cranberry plants were so tiny – well, they’re actually quite extensive, but you only see the “uprights,” the branches that poke three or four inches up above the ground. The real meat of the plant is the tangle of underground runners. You can walk forever and still be stepping on the same plant. The berries are hidden low in the brush: you have to almost get down to their level to spot most of them, and rake the foliage with your fingers.

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We picked for hours, Amie with her friend, her friend’s sister with her friend, the adults mostly by themselves. Before two others arrived, the kids were in the majority, which was a joy to behold. Their squeals of delight and their laughter was wonderful. The adults were quieter, no less intent on collecting. There was a lovely, meditative quality to the picking: focused on the bright or darker red, hidden in the red foliage. Kneeling down, water soaking the knees of my jeans. The slow loss of sensation in my fingertips, a creeping clumsiness there, dropping berries…

We picked quite a few berries, gaining real appreciation for cranberry harvesting. In certain situations, the Native Americans and those after them would flood the bog so the berries would float, making them easier to find and scoop up out of the water.  We donated all but a couple of handfuls to a Veterans Thanksgiving dinner.

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 Look at those intrepid pickers and their harvest!

By then the sun was setting and we were all cold. Two of the girls had found the warmth in the car and wouldn’t come out for the picture.

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