It is around 52 degrees outside here in Caledonia, Wisconsin in the middle of December, and I had a bountiful harvest in our yard. From our low tunnel, I harvested Swiss chard, collards, arugula, thyme, and a little Tatsoi. The carrots are also looking good, but I haven’t harvested any recently.
One large rogue arugula plant is still growing like crazy and has sweetened up with the colder temps we previously had. It is kind of amazing that a month or so ago it was rather bitter and hot, but now it is tasting pretty good!
Other salad greens in the low tunnel are still going a bit slow, I guess I should have started them a little earlier. If we keep getting warm days like this, perhaps they’ll get a growth spurt before it gets too cold again.
The other amazing bounty that popped up this past week are the oyster mushrooms. They started producing like crazy on dying ash tree near our pond. I had a friend positively ID them for me, and then tried a small slice… sautéed in a little butter. It tasted great, and so far I’m still alive! (A little joke between another friend who is also new to foraging. And yes we are careful to ID them before trying them.)
It is so nice to be able to get fresh greens right from our yard, even in winter. I usually dread the thought of having to buy organic greens from the local chain grocery store which are usually in poor shape, but sometimes have to. The co-op in Milwaukee has much better produce, but it is still great to get it straight from our yard!
It has been a busy summer getting ready for my art exhibition for the Racine Art Museum, and I’m glad to finally have more time to work in the gardens. Last week I was finally able to seed the veggie garden with cold hardy plants for our winter low tunnel. I also harvested the first Swiss Chard from the plants I seeded back in July, and we began harvesting turnips, garlic, shallots, and potatoes. The tomatoes are also finally coming on strong and I harvested our first ripe tomato!
We initially hadn’t planned to even try to get a garden started this year. We had just bought the house in March and planned on spending a year observing the sun and shade, and watching what plants came up in all of the existing gardens. But we just couldn’t go a year without growing some of our own food! So, already into June I dug and seeded our first garden at the new house.
We had signed up for a CSA and figured we’d have plenty from the half share we purchased, but figured we’d try growing a few things to supplement the CSA share. Well, it is kind of good that we did get our garden in because the CSA share unfortunately hasn’t been that fulfilling. Had I started our garden a month and a half earlier, and planted a bit more, I know we would have grown far more than our share has given us. Nice farm and folks, but I’d rather buy from the farmers market where I can see the quality that I’m getting. Maybe I have higher standards that some since I had farmed for a small CSA back in the Boulder, Colorado area and I tried to give the CSA members the best quality and value I could.
We will be adding more vegetable gardens and starting a small orchard in 2016 and look forward to growing more of our own food.
We have to give credit to the previous owner for the amazing perennial gardens we have around our land. The other night I was walking around checking out what new plants were blooming and was floored when I saw all of this color.
We have a ton of raspberries growing in our woods (no sign of berries yet) and one patch was blocking sun from getting to the nettles we planted, so it was time to trim them back. I saved the leaves of the plants I trimmed and put them on the dehydrator so we have them for tea.
Raspberry leaf is generally known as a female tonic for menstrual cramps and during child birth, but some also say it is a mild and safe medicinal food which is also used to treat diarrhea, colds, and stomach complaints.
It is nice to be able to actually use a plant that gets trimmed back instead of just adding it to the compost. Hopefully the nettles will grow larger with the extra sun they will now be getting. And hopefully some of the raspberry plants will actually bear some fruit!
After moving to our new home, we had planned to just spend the year observing the nearly three acres of land before breaking out the shovels and digging more gardens. Observe, take notes, work on the permaculture design for the property, and then get digging late fall or next spring.
The previous owners had already put in thousands of square feet of gardens, but they are mainly ornamental, with some edibles like chives and garlic mixed in, as well as some plants with medicinal value. Since we do want to keep the existing gardens pretty much as they are, adding new gardens for vegetables, culinary herbs and medicinal plants is the next step for us.
So, back to that idea of taking the year to observe before doing anything… well, we are itching to start (vegetable) gardening! We joined a CSA this year but it is just too hard to go a year without having our own garden. After I spent a day mapping the sun and shade in the yard, Jessica & I decided on a couple spots where we could enlarge existing garden beds to at least get ready for fall crops. Time to start digging!
When we moved from Colorado back to Wisconsin there were some medicinal plants we were going to miss. Osha (Ligusticum porteri) was one of the more unique and special plants. Osha primarily grows in the Rocky Mountains between 7,000 and 10,000 feet in aspen groves. Being elevation challenged here in Wisconsin we figured it wouldn’t be possible to grow it here.
Jessica had a few seeds she brought with her when we left Colorado and decided to plant them at our old house in Kenosha last year. Since it is a sacred plant, it was more of a sort of blessing for our house.
The other day we were at the old house doing one last cleaning before it sold and Jessica found that the Osha had sprouted next to an ornamental evergreen shrub! What timing! We carefully dug it up to bring with us to the new house. (We figured the new owner would think it was a weed and pull it out anyway.)
It will be interesting to see how the osha does here at around 700 feet elevation as opposed to 7,000. We hope it makes it and produced seed so we can start more plants and have yet another at-risk plant growing on our land. I’ll keep you posted!