Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Adventures In Grainland: Part 2- Quinoa

The quinoa we planted a few months back did tremendously well.  I have to say I am amazed by this plant.  Everything about it leaves me in love, from the high protein and nutrition content of the grain (16-23%) to the shockingly delicious green leaves (you can eat them raw in salad or saute them).  We barely tilled the soil, barely watered, and still got more than an abundant harvest.  And I know I don't have to say much about the beauty of this plant.  It is breathtaking.  You can be sure I will be planting this every year. A lot of it!

ready to harvest

I harvested the seed heads that had turned a variety of rainbow colors leaving the greenish heads to mature a bit longer.  I noticed that it looks like each plant produces a seed head that will make about one meal depending on how many people you are feeding.  This is can plan out approximately the number of days you want to feed your family by the number of seeds you put in the ground.  For our four person family I could see having enough grain on one plant for  a dinner and a bit left for breakfast as a warm porridge with honey and milk.  Yum. 

still a bit green

this grain is very versatile:  cook like rice, grind into flour, eat as a porridge, or pop like popcorn

After cutting off the heads it was time to hang them to dry.  (I am choosing to hang them on a drying rack with a cloth underneath to catch anything that falls.  You can also hang them in paper bags or over a large bin.)  I will leave them for a couple of weeks (I am estimating) and then remove the grain from the plant.  Quinoa must be rinsed many times before cooking due to the saponins in the outer seed coat. The rinsing water will be foamy almost like soapy water.  After rinsing well until the water runs clean, I will put them in my dehydrator on a low setting to dry then store in airtight glass jars.  You can also just leave the grain out to dry but be sure to leave it for several days at the same temperature it will be stored, before you put it into the containers. It is important to make sure the seeds are not damp. 

I'm so excited about this grain, I hope you get to experiment with growing some quinoa it in the future.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

An Early Harvest

It's looking like October around here.  We harvested some of the winter squash and have begun planting favas, potatoes, pole beans, lettuce, and all sorts of brassicas (we snuck in a little more corn too).  This being our first season of planting winter squash at this location, I started all the pumpkins, banana squash, kabocha, and butternut in early march.  Seeing that most were ready to harvest at the end of July, I think we could have even planted two consecutive crops. 

Our Gravenstein apple tree is laden with fruit and has started dropping apples.  We have just been collecting the fruit off of the ground but yesterday I gave her a couple of good shakes and this was the result. 


We are canning quart after quart of apple sauce and apple butter.  I don't add much to the apples just wash, cut, (I leave the skins on) and cook them down in a little water, my  favorite secret ingredient being organic brown rice syrup and maybe a bit of cinnamon.   I recently discovered Sorghum molasses which I find to be very tasty (and much cheaper than other natural sweeteners). 

Of course you can just process the apples plain, they are delicious that way too.  Another great tip that a friend taught me is when making an apple pie or crisp, pour a generous amount of homemade apple sauce or apple butter over the apple slices before adding the topping/crust.  The result is 100% yummier and very moist.

Much of the rest of the fruit here is still growing and ripening.  Here are some images of what we are looking forward to...

...happy August!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Wonderful Day

A big thanks to the Richmond Garden Club for coming out to our place yesterday.  The skies were blue and there was lots of interesting conversation, (so much so I did not even take one picture!)  We had a great time sharing our ideas, passions, and progress with everyone.  Hearing all of your feedback and suggestions is so valuable.  It feels good to have the local support of a like minded community.  We are eagerly awaiting future RGC events. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Little Cuteness To Go Around

Two new rabbits:  here's how the story goes. 
Mom really wants some (or even one) cute rabbit for a pet.  Dad says, "No way, too many animals already.  Let's not get in over our heads!"  In the process of convincing herself that pet rabbits are a good thing, she remembers the permaculture rule that every element of the environment must serve at least three purposes.  Hmmmm.

#1 Manure, of course. 
#2 Entertainment and companionship.
#3 Umm, cuteness factor?  (does that count?)

Yes, that is definitely good enough.  Being of the scheming sort, Mom devises a plan.  She finds a couple of beautiful American Blue rabbits and decides they would make a wonderful 8th birthday present for their son (who, by the way, is not very interested in adopting bunnies, he really wants a rock polisher, which he later receives).  She gets the rabbits, picks up an old hutch from a friend...

hutch before (thanks M!)
a little paint and voila...a new home for said bunnies now named Marshmallow and Sassafras.  After homemade baking and some extra kisses, Dad isn't really that mad.  And the boys are now quite fond of their new cuddly friends. 



First tub of manure I will add to the tomatoes and zucchini.
Rabbit manure doesn't have to compost before adding it to garden plants making it a great fertilizer.
This being the first time I have used rabbit manure, we shall see how it goes.
P.S.  Just in case you were wondering the bunnies don't spend all day in that little cage.  We let them out to run in the chicken tractor where they seem to delight in doing flips and eating grass.