Just Kale Me Now

After I mentioned a few weeks back that I have been putting my overabundance of kale into smoothies the past several months, a few readers asked for a recipe for this concoction. There are myriad wonderful and healthful ways of making “green” smoothies, and I wouldn’t say mine is the most authentically “green.” But it is a straightforward affair and quite tasty to boot, so here I present

The Kale Smoothie, Illustrated

Makes two smoothies

Ingredients

  • 1 small handful of fresh kale (I prefer the tenderest “baby” leaves that are no more than about 3 inches wide)
  • 2 bananas
  • 1 1/2 cup kefir* or plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • 2/3 cup orange juice

*I have typically used Greek yogurt, but recently a neighbor gave me a kefir culture. There is now a bottomless pitcher of kefir in my fridge, most of which has gone into smoothies.

Steps

Divide all the ingredients between two large glasses, or put them together in a small pitcher or blender.

Using either the full blender or an immersion blender in the pitcher or the glasses (my preference), puree all the ingredients.

Lately I have been adding a handful of strawberries because they are ripening in my garden. They turn the smoothie a lovely pink.

Enjoy! The sweetie demonstrates.

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Filed under Feasting, Gardening

Emory Magazine: Recalculating the Cost of Living

I am pleased to share this essay, adapted from a blog post on the Southern Urban Homestead, now in the spring 2012 issue of Emory Magazine. I especially love the illustration. Check it out:

“Recalculating the Cost of Living,” Emory Magazine, Spring 2012

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Filed under Community and Citizenship, Conservation

A Wish Come True

Well, y’all, I did it! I installed a solar-powered rain barrel pump, my second wish on my wish list. It was surprisingly simple. Just plug in the battery, cut the hose to the proper length, connect a few wires, drop the hose and pump into the barrel, position the panel. Within two minutes I was pressing a button to see what would happen and I squirted myself with 13 psi of stinky rain barrel water. I laughed out loud with happy happy joy joy! What a wonderful way to celebrate Earth Day, don’t you think?

I have the solar panel anchored in the ground in a spot I think will get about 8 hours of sun in the morning through mid-afternoon, but I can move it if it doesn’t work. But here’s how it’s working now.

Now I start saving for beekeeping equipment. In the meantime, if you live near me, cover up your seedlings, because it’s supposed to get down in the thirties in the next few nights!

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On My Wish List

It isn’t like I don’t have enough to do, between a full-time job, a house, several gardens, ten chickens, a hyperactive Australian shepherd, a rather demanding and expressive calico cat, and a whole nother life as a musician. But I catch myself daydreaming about the same “I wants” over and over again. Some of them will come sooner and some in far-off futureland, but they all will become, at one point or another, part of my little claim in the homestead realm.

Honeybees: This one may come sooner than later. I’m still getting educated and will have to make some investments in equipment and bees, but I’d like to install a hive at my house, especially for the pollinators, and another one at my parents’ house up in the mountains where I grew up, so that I can have my sourwood honey. No, I haven’t discussed this with them. (Hi, Daddy! What do you think about some bees in the orchard?)

A solar-powered pump for my rain barrels: I love my 220 gallons of the wet, which I run into my garden via soaker hoses. But sometimes I’d like those hoses to flow with a little more oomph. And in my never-ending quest for energy independence, I want my oomph off the grid. Here’s the little gadget I long for. Look for it on a rain barrel near me before this growing season ends!


Angora Rabbits: You can hold them and snuggle them and comb and brush out their long, beautiful fur, which can then be spun into the softest yarn you’ve ever touched, which the can be knitted into the softest garments you have ever worn. Also, did you know that bunny poo can go straight from the bunny into the garden as an excellent fertilizer without risk of it being too “hot” for the vegetation? Bonus! I’m still doing my homework and research, and plus I probably should learn to spin.

Nigerian dwarf dairy goats: This one may be a longer-term project, like after I retire and therefore have plenty of time to care for and milk dairy goats every day. There are some definite challenges with goats, but then there is milk, cheese, more excellent poo, and general adorableness. They aren’t going to get scratched off my list any time soon.

What’s on your wish list?

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Filed under Feasting, Gardening, Making things

Put an egg on it.

Our hens are happy. They have lots of room to scratch and roam, a safe, comfortable, clean place to sleep at night, and an organic and very varied diet—especially right now, when they are getting lots of weeds and other goodies I have pulled from the garden. They also get regular affection, praise, and kitchen scraps from me.

Five yolks I used in some ice cream recently. The darker yolks are the result of lots of greens in the chickens' diet lately.

Happy hens lay excellent eggs. And because our eggs have been especially beautiful and delicious this year, I’ve been putting them on just about everything. Here’s what I mean.

You may remember this one from before–our post-Italy minestrone.

Homemade barley minestrone topped with grilled bread and lightly poached egg

This was back in the fall.

Bruschetta with my homemade baguette, toasted and rubbed with garlic. Topped with chard from the garden blanched and sauteed with a bit of garlic, then topped with gruyere and a poached egg and chives (from the garden).

This was back in January, right after I brought home some smoked salmon from a work trip to Seattle.

Slice of homemade bread with a schmear of cream cheese, smoked salmon, a soft-boiled egg, and capers

And this was two weekends ago.

Salad of mixed greens from the garden, topped with toasted pecans (from a tree near my house), pancetta from Pine Street Market, some fresh cheese, a vinaigrette of balsamic and olive oil we got in Italy, a poached egg, and a slice of homemade bread.

And this was just last week.

Salad of mixed garden greens, toasted pine nuts, parmesan cheese, same vinaigrette as above, oven roasted sweet potato spears (from Decatur Farmer's Market) with garlic, slice of homemade bread, and soft-boiled egg with black pepper.

Put an egg on it!

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Filed under Feasting, Flockkeeping

Overwintered

The mild winter this year has meant a winter greens bonanza in my garden. Back in August I started kale, swiss chard, salad mixes, beets, arugula, and cilantro. Everything came up and thrived through the winter. The parsley just re-seeded itself.

I’m a big believer in late-summer plantings of cool season vegetables. Allowing them to winter over—to get a start in the early fall warmth and then kind of stop growing with colder weather and go into hibernation—brings them back with a vigor you don’t see in crops seeded in the spring. It’s something we southern gardeners can do more easily than the northern ones, and we should take full advantage. This year, the growing didn’t really stop, however. Everything just got hardier and more persistent through the cool weather.

Then as made that early turn into spring, things started to go a little crazy. Really, it started with the cilantro.

The parsley saw what was going on and decided to get in on the act.

I really have no idea what to do with that much parsley. And that’s just one of the many mounds that have volunteered.

I have been harvesting baby kale all winter long and eating it mostly fresh in smoothies, but the warm weather has instigated a sudden growth spurt.

I have been picking pounds and pounds of Swiss chard—I think my best crop ever. Here’s what I came inside with last Saturday.

And the salad greens.

The arugula thrived through the winter but bolted when the warm temps hit. The chickens, however, have chowed down on arugula blossoms, not to mention all the weeds I have been pulling up. It has made their egg yolks richly yellow, almost orange. We have all feasted on the greens of this season!

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Filed under Flockkeeping, Gardening

Seedlings . . . Nothing More Than Seedlings . . .

Longtime readers of this blog may recall my unfortunate run-in with a rat in my potting shed a couple of years ago. Ultimately, it was Rat: 1, Me: 0. The damn critter dug up and ate all my tender seedlings under the grow lights. I tried protecting what was left with duct-taped plastic covers, but the sauna that created was too much for them.

Until I can varmint-proof my potting shed (and I’m working on that!), I have had to move my seedling production center indoors. And this year, so far, so good, though I realized a little too late that the flats were too far away from the light, so my seedlings are a little leggy, but they will be ok. Here is my set-up.

I outfitted an old plastic parson’s bench that was in my attic (thank you, grandparents!) with heating mats and grow lights. Each flat goes on a mat, under a light. The flats stay covered with the clear plastic lids and the lights stay off and the mats on all the time until we achieve sproutage, at which point the covers come off and the lights and mats go onto a timer. On for 12 hours, off for 12 hours.

At that point, I also set up a small fan to blow a gentle breeze onto the seedlings. Air circulation helps them become hardy. No hothouse vegetables tolerated in my rough-and-tumble garden!

As the second set of leaves appears on the seedlings, I move them to the garden window in my kitchen, where they receive direct sunlight. An open window on nice days encourages them to get more comfortable with outdoor environments. And I constantly check the soil for moisture—too much leads to dampening off; too little turns them into microscopic twigs.

And as they mature, I move them into my Growcamp, my little greenhouse/covered garden. There they will harden off—that means they will gradually become accustomed to outdoor life—and hang out until all danger of frost has passed and they can go into the ground.

Here’s what’s in my flats this year, by the way:

  • Three kinds of tomatoes
  • Two kinds of sweet peppers
  • Two kinds of hot peppers
  • Three kinds of basil
  • Two kinds of marigolds
  • Two kinds of zinnias
  • Pingtung Eggplant

Seeeeeeeedlings . . . whoah-oah-oah seeeeeeedlings . . .

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