Cold Frame Countdown

Summer is nearly here, and the cold frames are at maximum production:

Working Cold Frames, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

We’ve built three cold frames so far this year.  The first was built and sown in February with radishes, lettuce, onions, and carrots.  The second two were constructed in April, and were sown at the new moon with a) corn and sunflowers; b) spinach, arugula, cilantro, snap peas, and marjoram.

First Cold Frame: Radish Cornucopia, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

I’ve learned to incorporate radishes into more dishes than I ever imagined possible – nothing like a healthy radish surplus to help you get creative.  The spinach and arugula are now vigorous enough that I can pick leaves each day and they are replenished by the following evening.  The lettuce seems a little slow-moving, but that doesn’t worry me: there’s plenty more on the way!  Now that the cold frames are built, we will have a leg-up for winter and spring.  I’ll begin planting them around August to secure fresh vegetables long past the typical growing months.

Spinach and Arugula Cold Frame, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Another added benefit of cold frames: they are bunny and deer proof (unless, of course, you have some REALLY determined bunnies).  I’ve been keeping the corn-and-sunflowers cold frame closed most days and all nights to keep things really warm for vigorous growth; the other two cold frames have been spending all days open, and temperate nights too.  This is important because keeping them too warm would cause the spinach, radishes, arugula, cilantro, and others to “bolt” to flowers.

Corn and Sunflowers Cold Frame, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

As you can see in these images, our sunflowers are just about ready for transplanting, and the corn will definitely be “knee-high by the fourth of July”.  In fact, these pictures were taken a week ago, and today everything has doubled from what’s shown here.  While it’s true that corn is one of many vegetables which does best when direct-sown, I chose this approach to help the plants along until the ground warms enough for planting.  The plan for the corn is two-fold: some of them will relocate to a new west-facing garden area currently being prepped, and others will be tested with the three sisters method when I plant the pumpkins and melons.

Sunflowers and Corn Sprouts, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

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Spring Plant Starts

Spring Plant Starts, © Copyright 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

A quick peek ahead at what’s to come at AppleJade: here you can see my plant starts enjoying a little sunshine outdoors thanks to this nice, warm weekend. Not pictured here are the cold frames under construction. I am preparing some step-by-step instructions to help you build your own. More soon!

Bread Machine Basics: One Good Loaf

Happy Loaf, © Copyright 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Since my first bread machine post I’ve enjoyed the chance to successfully prepare several loaves of bread. I’ve learned a few troubleshooting techniques, and I’ve settled in to a comfortable groove which begins each Monday with bread baking among my other week-starting activities.

My very first loaf tasted nice enough, but it rose high and then fell in the middle. At first, I wasn’t sure what to think, but then I remembered that the clear, simple user manual includes a useful table at the back: the Troubleshooting Guide. Listed there are several recommendations for adjustments in ingredients, portions, and techniques in order to correct ill-fated bread loaves. I have since reduced the water in my recipes by a few tablespoons, and my loaves come out perfect every time.

I started with the simple white bread recipe offered in the manual, and quickly found that I prefer a modified version of the Italian Herb Bread recipe for my daily bread. This recipe uses olive oil rather than butter, no dry milk, and less sugar. Take out the herbs and add in garlic powder, onion powder, ginger, and nutmeg – all in tiny quantities – and I find myself with a simple loaf that easily accompanies most meals.

Now that I have an easy confidence with loaves, it’s time to try the next step: dough. The user manual for my bread machine includes simple techniques for dough making so that I can try my first homemade croissant: my goal for next week.

Ahead at AppleJade: cold frames have returned to Jade’s house, vegetables are sprouting on the fridge, and affordable home improvements are being planned. I look forward to sharing more!

Bread Machine Basics, Take One

Bread Machine Take One, © Copyright 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

For Christmas my mother provided me with an exciting kitchen tool: a bread machine.  (Thanks Mom!)

I’ve been trying to learn how to make breads and pastries for several years.  While I have finally mastered sauces, cookies, and many main course dishes, I seem to fail with most breads.  Perhaps it is because of my casual measuring methods.  Perhaps it’s my lacking upper-arm strength.  Ultimately, I’m inclined to believe that my real trouble with breads is that I haven’t had enough success to a) build confidence and b) understand the real mechanics of bread.

Mom knows I’ve been trying to learn to do things for myself in the kitchen, and most folks know that if there was ever a time to tighten the belt and save money, it’s now.  My goal with this new bread machine is to learn to successfully make homemade breads and other goodies that I would normally pay more to purchase prepared at the grocery store.

Shown here is my new ZOJIRUSHI Home Bake Supreme.  Mom knows her stuff:  this machine also makes jams, cake breads, sourdough starters, and bread doughs for pizza and such.  This morning under a dark 5am sky, I carefully combined the ingredients for a Basic White Bread in the prescribed order, and pushed “Start.”  This might not be the handmade, elbow-greased bread to which I ultimately aspire, but it’s a start.  Plus, my bread is being made while I get to work around the house… not a bad deal!

I’ll follow up to share my successes (or challenges) as I familiarize myself with my new bread machine.  Your comments and experiences are welcome!

Snow-Gardens

Snowed-In Vegetable Garden, © Copyright 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Greetings from snowy, cloudy Washington!  As I’m sure you concluded by my disappearance, I had very little time for gardening or blogging during the second half of 2008.  Fortunately, I returned home to Washington just in time to see four feet of snow fall!  We have enjoyed a beautiful kickoff to winter, and now that I know I’m home to stay I can begin preparations for spring.

The garden, as you can see, has been under a heavy snow blanket.  That snow provides excellent insulation, and beneath it the strawberries and herbs are all healthy and green.  Preparations are underway for a) green houses, b) cold frames, c) indoor vegetable starts, and d) direct-sowing of cold crops.  I look forward to sharing my garden adventures with you in the coming year, and invite you to join me as I pursue a self-sustaining lifestyle here in the forests of the Pacific Northwest.

May we all enjoy a healthy, productive, and “green” year!

Sun-Gardens

Greetings from sunny, southern California!  Blogging will be light until the autumn while I travel, but I will be sure to stop in from time to time and share garden finds and recipes.

Later this year we’ll check back in on the Kitsap garden and see what comes up!

Raw Potential

Gardening can benefit from a healthy combination of vision, creativity, and random surprise.  For me, gardening serves the dual purpose of helping me to discover things about myself while I slowly learn about the green world.  This summer I have been extracting my garden from weeds and tree sprouts.  In these pictures you can see what I’ve uncovered so far.  It may not look like much, but all I see is endless potential!

 

 

 

 

 

The strawberry harvest was excellent.  This small patch yielded about 2-3 cups of fruit for 3-4 weeks (making for some delicious, vitamin-packed margaritas!).  In a few more weeks the blackberries will begin to ripen, and I’m confident that I’ll have enough for pies and freezing.  I will relocate a few plants to increase my yields next year.

 

  

The herbs bring back a strong sense of nostalgia as they work their way back into my meals.  Certain herbs and spices remind me of places I have lived (and grown) or visited.  Lemon rosemary reminds me of Kitsap, Washington.  Greek oregano will probably always remind me of Chester County, PA.  I have already taken cuttings of the herbs so that they too can be relocated around the property.  I also found time to plant a couple tomatoes and an Anaheim chili pepper – I’ll show you what they’re doing next week.

 

While the wild plants had to be removed to make room for planted vegetables, I’ve made sure to leave many in place.  These wildflowers are an important attractant for bees and butterflies (and besides that, I like them).  The rest of the garden is slowly being cultivated into soft, open beds like the one you see here.  This is where I will be sowing seeds for cold-hearty plants which will likely survive the temperate Washington winter even outside of the coldframe.

 

 

 

 

 

And speaking of cold frames, now that we have completed new gates for the garden, cold frames are the new weekend projects.  Stay tuned for diagrams, pictures, and step-by-step instructions for you to build you own cold frame in time for autumn and winter planting!