Today, I wore my Green Team cap and handed out kale chips in my local elementary school’s lunchroom. I had mixed the kale with lots of olive oil and salt and pepper and dehydrated the leaves at 110F overnight (10 hours). They were cri-ispy! A big bunch of kale shrank to just about enough to give every kid a taste.


I like taking the kids out to the gardens, and even helping them with recycling at lunch, but serving them the food that grew in their school garden is the best. Interesting too. At the school they sit at round tables, about eight kids a table. I visited each, offered, and maybe one kid would raise their hand. You know that kale, no matter how crispy and oily, is *green*. The horror! And some don’t know what kale is. But the one kid would take it and eat it and say it’s good and want more, and – hop – all the hands would shoot up.


Each table also got a ball jar with marigolds from the garden, and my fellow parent volunteer distributed the other veggies from the garden – rainbow carrots, tomatoes, broccoli, and herbs harvested by the first and second graders. Two hours and five grades later, all this was gone!


Well, 17 lbs is not bad for one and a half beds (4′x12′ total), in the shade and without topping up soil (I ran out). The red fingerlings were a bust, the yellow fingerlings did well, the idahoes did best. All seed potatoes were supermarket bought (organic) or came as sprouted (organic) potatoes from a friend.


All laid out:

A couple of weeks ago I had a nasty surprise. Workmen installed new oil tanks in our basement (one had started leaking; we have no gas on the street, and we heat very frugally with oil, but mostly with efficiently burned firewood). All was well. A week later I opened my freezer: everything was defrosted! The men had unplugged the freezer! I lost some meat and fish, but the hardest to lose were the soups, sauces, pesto and frozen dinners I had made with produce from the garden. I never really trusted freezing, and apparently I don’t need another power outage to confirm my apprehension. So, when I had all these surplus tomatoes, I decided to dry them in my ten-tray Excalibur.



I dry them beyond leathery to crispy. Amie eats them like candy, while she will usually only reluctantly eat a cherry tomato. The taste is super concentrated.

A friend called me up this morning from the orchard and asked if I wanted peaches! A peck of seconds for $8? Sure! I got two pecks and will be making peach butter and peaches in syrup.


What with the four pullets moving in, it was time to build a new roost. This one should house nine chickens.


Next up: add a nest box and an automatic door opener. The racket now starts at 6 am, and seeing as I go to sleep around midnight, I’d dearly love for the door to open by itself. We might build one ourselves, or buy a kit, don’t know yet. There are many choices out there!

It’s getting a little repetitious, but there were again many more tomatoes. The warm weather continues and there are still many fruits on the vines, so this may not be the last of ‘em.



I’m looking forward to next summer, when I’ll have the super sunny front patio to grow tomatoes, peppers (can you spot the red one) and eggplants. The crew starts work on it in a week or two.

I went into the bees just now and found very little honey, just four or so full frames. There are lots of frames half-filled, half-capped. The bees were hard at work there, though (at least I hope they were, and that they weren’t gorging on honey in preparation of a swarming!). So perhaps I just need to be a little more patient and I’ll get another ten or so frames from both hives.

The generation of hens – three two -year-olds, one one -year-old and four 6-month-old pullets – have been combined into one coop. There’s a quite a bit of pecking, but not too much. The poor one-year-old gets the worst of it. No eggs from the pullets yet.

I am so thankful to these chickens for many reasons, one of which follows. Amie had her kids’ birthday party on Sunday (we postponed it because in Summer many of her friends aren’t around) and I promised to make the heatwave cake. I had bought a dozen organic, free-range, extra large eggs at While Foods. What junk that was! The egg whites were like water, one whipping and the yolks turned beige. The first roll wasn’t up to my standards, so I made another one with an extra egg (that one failed because we just got a new-to-us range, and I must have pushed the wrong button; it was yummy but impossible to roll up). After french toast that morning, we had only 2 homegrown eggs left, but the hens laid three more, just in time for me to make one more roll, which was perfect. I’m happy I made that many, because the nine kids ate ALL THAT CAKE. It went so fast I didn’t get to take a picture.

School has started up again, which might mean that I’ll be able to blog more. No guarantees.
In the meantime, we get a harvest like this one almost every other day.


I’ll have lots of elderberries to make syrup from, and the cukes and zucchinis will — be –pickled. The tomatoes are still going strong, and with this current unseasonably hot weather (90 F on Tuesday and again tomorrow, and nothing much lower in between) I may still be looking at lots of big fruits.

We also harvested our first grapes. Not much, and tiny, but o so sweet and flavorful!


Ironic, that I didn’t intend to grow tomatoes – getting plenty of them from a local farmstand and from our CSA box – but that I put in just a few seedlings that a friend gave me, and some seedlings I grew to give away but never got to, and that now tomatoes are my most successful crop!

Today’s harvest:


That big one weighs a pound and a half! All three ripe ones are Paul Robesons, officially the only big tomato I’ve ever been able to grow to maturity. A day or two on the counter will bring out their blush. They’re divine raw, sliced, with salt and pepper, or mixed into a cucumber salad.

I keep finding lots of green tomatoes on the ground. They don’t go to waste: I fry them up. There is also always a ripe or near-ripe one that is half eaten. Those go to the chickens, who love them.

We had the clothesline out on Sunday to dry out some tarps, and it was graced by two dragonflies who really liked their perch: they let us photograph them from pretty up close, and whenever they flew off, they returned immediately, so we got to try the new camera’s macro function and lens.






Today we fired up the oven again and made pizza. We just wanted pizza so didn’t add the rocket stove to the mix for baking.

We found a good routine that doesn’t involve rushing. We burned a small fire for about 45 minutes, which was sufficient to bring the baking stone up to 850F: perfect for pizza! We then raked the coals to one side and made one pizza on the other side. When one side of the pizza was cooked, we rotated it. Then we took it out and, while we prepared the next pizza, we simply raked the coals back to the middle so it could regain a good temperature again.


We did that for three pizzas and it worked wonderfully. We could easily have made three more with that system and without having to add more sticks to the fire.



And here was today’s garden harvest:


Yesterday we built the rocket stove extension to our earth oven. The idea is to keep on pumping in heat after the fire in the oven has burned down to coals and you rake it aside to start cooking, and also to have more control over the temperature.

For the bottom part we just did what the Pragmatic Stoic did. Our only adjustment was an old grate that we had lying around instead of flashing.



Setup is gloriously fast: not counting our “Home Depot date,” where we had fun putting the chimney puzzle together, it took us fifteen minutes. And it was relatively cheap: cinder blocks go for $1.50 a piece, and all the chimney pieces came to about $30.

The cinder block part of the stove involves an open block, which they didn’t have at the Depot. So DH showed off his karate chop:


What do you think about that!


The top of the chimney has an inbuilt flue, which allows us to control the draft, and also to vent the first ashy smoke so it doesn’t go into the earth oven. It only takes a minute or so, though, to start burning really clean.


Once we’ve played around with it and see that it really does the job, we’ll include it in the third, decorative envelope of the oven. This will make the stove tighter as well as insulate it, giving it more oomph.

Then I lit the fire – I’m the fire starter and keeper in the family. It only takes sticks, burns hot, clean and fast, and unlike the earth oven fire, which uses larger pieces of wood, it needs to be fed constantly.


We played with the draft, opening and closing the flue, putting the lid on the chimney. While getting the hang of it the heat did some more drying out of the earth oven, which is still pretty wet. For that reason, we also lit a a fire in the oven. The difference between the blast-off rocket stove fire and the ponderous Jabba earth oven is amazing.


This short fire brought the top inside wall temp up to 800 F. There was a marked difference between the south side, which is much drier, and the north side wall, which is still visibly wet. Anyway, a lot more drying is needed, and tomorrow we’ll make another fire. We have pizza materials on hand.

Amie during all this time had fun with her aunt, who was visiting. They harvested the abundant cherry tomatoes.


They also lazed in the hammock. Look at those toes!