Thursday, May 19, 2011
I've been talking a lot about the Boone Street urban farm and community garden that my friend Cheryl and I are starting. But to have a source of my own food near the house, Chicken Man and I are still gardening the small plot in the Remington community garden.
Here's a photo update!
While I was originally worried that the peas were spread way to thin, I think the plants are actually doing better with so much room between each plant. I think there was at least four to six inches between each sprout. Chicken Man put in wire tomato cages, and they do well with such a strong trellis.
For some reason there is one purple pea flower while all the other ones are white! A genetic anomaly, or do you think there is some other cross-bred pea in my garden?
One of the most vigorous plants is the potato plant in the foreground of the photo below. It actually was a volunteer from potatoes that I must have left in the ground from last year or the year before! I think they might even be purple potatoes but I'm not sure. I'm worried they will be tiny since they were last year, but the plants are looking good and so we'll see how they turn out.
Chicken-Man was sweet enough to find PVC pipe and bend it into a frame for the garden. We are tying strings to it to trellis peas and cucumbers, and in the fall I hope to drape clear plastic over it to make a mini-hoop house and grow greens, carrots, cabbage, and beets.
Some of the plants were seedlings, like the large heads of lettuce and broccoli. The plants in the middle are kale grown from seed. Swiss chard is also coming up in a few places:
Some of the areas look more sparse (the beets and carrots came in sort of sporadically.) But that's fine, since we put in tomato seedlings and those will grow in to fill the area. Cucumber seedlings are another plant that should take over once the weather heats up.
Luckily the rain has been absolutely perfect, and I haven't had to water or really do much of anything save thinning out some seedlings and doing a little bit of weeding. One of the main tasks with all of these greens is to check the underside of your leaves for insect egg sacs, which will help keep down the pests later on in the year.
I usually look for leaves that are slightly damaged, then look closely under the leaf for tiny little white specks. Just wipe off with a finger! I even found some kind of group of orange eggs on the underside of a potato leaf and took that leaf off as well.
Later on in the summer when harlequin bugs become a problem pest for greens, the eggs you find will be black and white.
Last year I had more beets and carrots coming up, peas again, volunteer fennel (I'm ripping that out this year), and a bunch of baby bok choy gone to seed:
As you can see, it gets a little easier to care for gardens as the years go by, as plants begin to sprout on their own, the soil gets enriched if you properly care for it, and you learn more about pest control and planting a variety of what you like.
If you don't succeed the first time, learn from it and use the lessons next year!
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
This past Saturday, Johns Hopkins University hosted a baking workshop by the King Arthur Flour company. There were many lovely Baltimore Foodmakers in attendance, a raffle with all kinds of goodies, a history of King Arthur, and an awesome sweet dough workshop.
The excited crowd (what's up foodmaking friends in the front row!):
For starters, it was great to come in from the rain and be greeted by plates of absolutely delicious fudge brownies and cookies!
After learning a bit about bread baking in general and the history of King Arthur flour, there was a demonstration on sweet dough and how to make a "false braid" pastry. I took photos so you can see the process!
The dough recipe was the same as the "Braided Lemon Bread" posted on the King Arthur website.
Making the dough (I really want a dough whisk now):
After the dough is rolled out, make indentations in it with your bench knife (which is another tool I really want now!) Make cuts along the outer portions as pictured:
Trim out the end pieces:
Fill with jam, custard filling, chocolate chips, or even savory fillings if you left the sugar out of your dough recipe. Take care not to over-fill or you will end up with a gooey mess. Make sure you leave a space around the filling in the middle. Fold in the end:
Then begin folding in the side fringes, overlapping each piece:
I was pretty jealous of the person who won this lovely baked good in the raffle! Although it did help that I received a plastic bench scraper of my own, free packets of yeast, a recipe pamphlet, a tote, and some free flour in the raffle. Yay!
Although so many of the King Arthur recipes still intimidate me, I have definitely been inspired to start baking again. I just have to find time to do it with all this gardening!
The good thing is, if you make a batch of dough ahead of time, it will get more flavorful if you leave it in the fridge and bake it the next night.
Monday, May 16, 2011
Lots of fun activities this mid-May weekend!
It has been raining heavily on and off a lot here, with intermittent beautiful sunshine between. Perfect for the many seedlings sprouting in the Remington and Boone Street gardens!
Lettuce, asparagus, and radishes are coming out of gardens in abundance right now, and carrots, beets, early potatoes and peas are on their way. Now is a great time to put in those warm-weather transplants as well like cucumbers, squash, melons, okra, grains, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers.
Seedlings about to go into the ground at Boone Street:
From left to right: peppers, basil, watermelon. Back rows: tomatoes and cucumbers.
I took some time to do errands, cook food, hang out with the ducks, and regroup this weekend. I did help out at Boone Street, but Cheryl and our friend Haroline did a lot more! Here they are checking out the community garden bed before we put in some seedlings:
Chicken Man worked on so many amazing projects at our house this weekend as well.
As you can see in the photo above, we finally got to take advantage of all this rain and built a rainbarrel!
Well, Chicken Man built it, which involved drilling an opening for the faucet fitting into the barrel, and opening the top of the bucket so the rain pours in. Mesh netting is tied over the top to prevent mosquitoes and other debris from getting into the water.
He also set up that great gutter system, which is zip-tied onto a very convenient chain link fence. The fence is also hopefully going to be a trellis for the hops, which I thought had died but came back this weekend!
Chicken-Man's other awesome project: a run for the chickens and ducks!
That's right, the little ducks have been let out into the general population. So far everyone has been quite nice, except for one Araucana who keeps terrorizing the mama Orpington and chasing the little ducks. The other White Orpington is still broody and hanging out in the nesting box all the time. Our daily egg count has gone from five to three, but that could also be due to the weather heating up.
Here they are enjoying their new pool that Chicken-Man got for them!
Chicken-Man forwarded some of the duck videos to the woman who gave us the fertilized eggs, and she replied and let us know the breeds!
"The puff head s a Grey Crested Swedish/Rouen mix. The one with the ring around the neck is an Indian runner/Rouen mix. The yellow is a Pekin/Rouen mix and the other I believe is a full blooded Rouen."
Sounds like she has a Rouen male!
The Grey Crested Swedish/Rouen mix is the silly duck with a mohawk who tends to be a crowd favorite. He (or she?) keeps getting into ridiculous predicaments. Like this one where it tried to climb up the fence and got stuck about a foot into the air:
And this one where it escaped the run and ran peeping around the yard:
Best of all though, they got to visit the fish pond in our friend's yard. They were afraid of the water when their chicken mama was nearby, but once they were on their own, they went crazy in the water!
Our friend Carey is a pie baking queen (omg, strawberry rhubarb) who also took some cute photos of the duckies in the pond, which is great because my camera is so terrible at dusk. Thank you Carey!
Special shoutout to foodmaking friends Wei-ting, Helen, and Liz who were also at the King Arthur workshop. I also ran into BaltimoreDIY reader and Baltimore Free Farmer A.G. to whom I gifted many of my zines this past weekend. It was great seeing you all!
Foodmaking fun that took place instead of me gardening at Boone Street: a cream of asparagus recipe from Lucie Snodgrass' stellar cookbook Dishing Up Maryland, and kimchi made from the Boone Street radishes.
Also, the rabbit kits have been born, but we haven't seen them yet since they are still in a nest of hair and hay and we don't want to disturb them. Hopefully we'll see them in a week or tw.
As far as blog development, soon I hope to change the pages on this site a bit, and create a page dedicated to the Boone Street Garden, the animals, and foodmaking so it's easier to track the development of particular projects.
For a bit of BaltimoreDIY nostalia and/or background, check out the May 2010 archived posts!
Friday, May 13, 2011
Yes, you got that right, the SWAT team! We had an interesting day picking our first harvest at the Boone Street community garden and urban farm!
Here I am with our first vegetable harvest of white and red radishes. That's Lolita, one of the neighbors and frequent garden visitor standing next to me. (You can also see her standing behind me on Day One of the garden! See top photo.)
So there we were, giddily snapping pictures of the radishes on Cheryl's cell phone. Immediately after this picture was taken, I turned my head...
And saw people running towards us with automatic weapons and full SWAT gear!
We ducked down next to Cheryl's car (you can see it in the background of the photo), and realized that police were waving us out of the area. The house right next to our row of radishes was being busted, and we had to run down the block past the police blockade!
I still don't really know what happened or if anyone was arrested or anything.
Luckily there was no altercation, and things were resolved without incident. The police went into the house, but since we were facing the back, we couldn't really see if anyone was taken out of the front. People were talking to the police, but things were quiet.
Cheryl and I just stood around outside of the police blockade with the rest of the neighbors, watching things. It was actually a good way to meet other people in the neighborhood!
The funny thing was, people were almost as curious and excited about the radishes as they were about the SWAT team. A lot of people didn't even know there were white radishes, and they were excited to hear that things were actually growing in the formerly abandoned lot.
At first I was really regretting that I didn't have my camera with me, but then I realized the police probably wouldn't have been to keen on me snapping pics of the raid. So at least we've got a photo of just before!
After everything calmed down, we went to our friend Dale Hargrave's garden to rent his tiller. You can see photos of his chicken coop and his tilled rows in Greenmount West here.
Dale has been gardening for almost 20 years in Baltimore City, and he's got peach trees, grapevines, roses, mint, vegetables, and more. Growing fruit really requires an investment of years, so it's a pleasure to tour a garden like that. He had a good laugh when we told him why we were delayed in coming to pick up the tiller!
So, we weren't able to get too much weeding and seeding done in the garden, but at least we've got a great first harvest story for the Boone Street Garden!
You can see the red radishes better in this photo, although we caught Lolita mid-blink:
Monday, May 9, 2011
Last Thursday we put the ducks in a box so we could clean out their area in the chicken coop. I hope you enjoy this slideshow of them running around in there!
You can also click on the Picasa icon in the lower right corner of the slideshow if you want to go directly to Picasa and view a larger slideshow there.
They are a little under one month old at this point and are just starting to get a little scraggly as their baby fuzz comes out and their real feathers grow in. Soon they will be independent of their chicken momma.
If you are new to BaltimoreDIY or need to catch up and want an update, here's a link to a video of the ducklings about a week and a half ago and at about two weeks old.
The yellow duck is getting a lot larger than the others so we're thinking it might be a Pekin. We have no idea what breed the others are.
So far the yellow and black one with the little cap on his head seems to be a crowd favorite! It's also been the bravest so far, and took a dip by itself in a neighbor's fish pond. The other ducks were nervous, likely because the hen wasn't getting anywhere near that water so they were confused by it and got out of the water as soon as they were put in it.
But of course, I have no favorites with the ducklings!
There have also been some rabbit mating adventures, in which our female Rex rabbit gave birth to a litter without us even realizing she was pregnant! The funny thing is, we are waiting on Ethel, our American Chinchilla rabbit, to see if she gives birth any day now, so this was totally unexpected. Unfortunately, like Ethel's first litter, the kits didn't survive. Is this a regular thing with first litters? I hope I don't sound cavalier glossing over this event, but it's not something I think most people want to read about. But still, I thought it was important to mention as part of the backyard barnyard adventures.
Quite a lot going on for BaltimoreDIY these days.
Thursday, May 5, 2011
Check out this giant sorrel!
I added my keys to the photo so you can see the scale. Much thanks to my Baltimore Foodmakers friend Brian for a most excellent barter. As an exchange for the sorrel, I brought over half a dozen homegrown eggs and some apple jerky.
The sorrel in its happy new home at the Boone Street garden (that's chamomile in the foreground):
As I have mentioned before, it's somewhat difficult to grow some perennial herbs from seed. If you want to grow things like lavender, oregano, sorrel, chamomile, etc. it is often easier to get a cutting of the original plant.
The Baltimore Foodmakers google group is often the place to go when you need kombucha or sourdough starters, a source for good Greek cheese, compost worms, or other esoteric food and gardening resources. So I sent out a question asking if anyone had established perennial herbs growing in their garden. There were so many great replies!
My friends Zeb and Helen shared some purple coneflower and another plant whose name I can't remember, but I think it sends up a stalk with purple flowers. The coneflower is on the left and the unknown flower-stalk plant is on the right:
All of the plants are going into a 'lasagna bed' that we made by layering cardboard, newspaper, wet leaves, and straw on top of the grass. All of those layers help kill the grass and weeds beneath, no tilling needed! Just dig a hole for the perennial and pop it in the ground.
We've also got a strawberry plant in there, and sorrel is another edible perennial. The purple coneflower and chamomile are excellent for tea. I also hope to add more perennial plants that are good for herbal teas.
Although many of these perennials spread voraciously, I'm hoping that growing them all together in one location will balance that out as they all have to compete for space. And if they want to spread beyond the lasagna bed, they'll have to compete with the crabgrass and dandelions!
The perennial bed has also provided us with the first harvest of the year: chamomile!
This blog post I found describes drying the flower heads with a dehydrator, but I usually just spread them out on a screen in a dark place for a few weeks and they are fine. I take the flower heads that have gone past maturity, and the white petals are either fully drooping or gone completely.
Clipping the flower blooms off the ends of the plant actually makes the plant grow even larger since it's not spending all of its energy on mature flower heads.
It's somewhat time intensive, but I hope to clip the heads off of chamomile, the tips of mint, and all sorts of other herbs every week or so to have a nice collection of dried herbal tea by next fall.
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
BaltimoreDIY readers have heard me talk about King Arthur Flour quite a bit.
How could I not love a flour company that is employee-owned and has been around since George Washington's first term in office?!
Their website is a really solid resource for bakers of all levels. Lots of recipes for everything from Cheese Penny crackers to to Pain Au Chocolate, and plenty of tips and primers to boot.
Bread baking is a mysterious art. I've been baking bread for a little over a year and I still feel like each loaf is a surpise (Here's a link to my first attempt posted on BaltimoreDIY if you're curious).
I suppose it would help if I did the same thing each time I baked a loaf. Practice does help figure things out in general though, like what the ideal dough should feel like when wet and that it tastes pretty yummy to sprinkle sesame and poppy seeds on the baking sheet to prevent the dough from sticking.
Having the right tools would help too. Soon I hope to pick up an unglazed stone slab from the Loading Dock or somewhere to use as a cheap baking stone.
I had heard of the King Arthur classes but never dreamed one would come to Baltimore. Well, we're in luck!
Saturday, May 14th there is going to be a King Arthur baking classes hosted by the Johns Hopkins Engineering Department.
No matter if you don't know the difference between a fougasse and vatnsdeigsbollur, if you're interested in learning more about baking at all, a class with King Arthur is a great place to start.
For Adults, College Students, and High School Students:
What: "Knead with Your Neighbors" We will be offering a special session just for adults, college students, and high school students! The event is kid-friendly, but the lesson is intended for adults.
Who: Any adult, college student, or high school student. We are inviting the whole community!
When: Saturday, May 14th from 11am to 1pm.
Where: Johns Hopkins University Campus at 3400 North Charles Street, Baltimore MD 21218
Building: Levering Hall (Building #27 on the campus map)
Room: Great Hall
Why: To learn the science, engineering and math of baking bread and to have fun!
Cost: Free but you should register here
Parking: There will be free parking available at the Wyman West Surface Parking Lot (Area #69 on the campus parking map)