Day 31: Glog, Grog or Wassail

Today Fr. Peck has us blogging about holiday drinks.  I am going to freelance a little because I think for Christmas this year I will debut our new homemade wine.  Our grapevine this year – its second full year – produced grapes.  As we did last year, my good friend Al and I foraged for wild grapes (this being New England they were concord grapes) throughout the area, and we took in a pretty decent haul which we combined with the several bunches I harvested from the house grapevine.  Al took some to make jam, and I used the rest to make wine (Prez being the chemist in the family did most of the work).  We ended up with about several gallongs worth, total, of sweet wine.  Besides the Christmas supply, the rest will be used for communion wine since it is sweet red wine.  My challenge to Orthodox readers: go beyond making prosphoro.  Make wine! 🙂

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December 20th, 2014 by Fr. Greg

Sprouting Celery

Today is the third day of spring, but who’s counting?  I grew up in New England until the age of 18 and then spent ten years in Virginia; my body has never adjusted back to the weather up here.  After picking up gardening a few years ago I found a new frustration – the seemingly endless winter compounded by the desire to get back out there and garden.  My coping mechanisms this time of year include planning the garden as well as sprouting seeds or roots with the hope of planting them in May.  The picture below features one of these sprouting attempts that doubles as a project for the girls – the bottom of a celery plant, normally discarded, was put by the girls in a shallow plate with water.  You can see the results; our next step, once the sprouts have grown, will be to plant it in a pot and then ultimately transfer it outside, perhaps in a cloche before the weather truly warms up.  The picture also shows a ginger root (on the left) which is also starting to sprout.  Just out of the picture on the right are lemon seeds that have sprouted, and by the window in the garage I have an onion which we discovered with a shoot coming out of it.  I planted the onion and put it by the window, and after a day or two of sun the shoot turned green.  As always, stay tuned…

photo-9

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March 22nd, 2013 by Fr. Greg

Chamomile

Our garden has grown tremendously in the month or so since I planted it, and I am overdue for an update.  One of the pleasant surprises each spring is what may pop up without being planted.  This year the major crop was chamomile.  Huge bunches sprang up and I successfully moved almost all of them to the hill behind our house.  Soon after we harvested the flowers and dried them, and now I have been drinking chamomile tea (actually chamomile mixed with rooibos, a very tasty combination) every night ever since.  Here are a few photos of Vaia helping with the harvest and replanting:

 

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June 30th, 2012 by Fr. Greg

More Garden

Welcome new readers!  My good friend Fr. Peter Preble, noticing my appalling lack of initiative in blogging, has called me out on Facebook and Twitter and thrown down the gauntlet, with the challenge being to blog regularly.  Challenge accepted!  I notice the times when I do blog consistently are when there is some oversight, such as Fr. Peck‘s 40 Days of Blogging challenge every Advent.

So…back to the garden.  My previous post outlined the main planting.  I have since added a few things:

-I excitedly bought a “curry plant” which, upon reading the fine print, turns out not to be something that will give me an ingredient for curry powder but rather a plant whose leaves are used in potpourri and decorative arrangements.  This actually worked out rather nicely – I am trying to fill up the hill above the retaining wall in our backyard and this stuff looks to spread around.

-I planted some parsley, cilantro and rosemary for the container portion of the garden.  I don’t do much grilling but when I do I plan to use the rosemary – it seems to have anticarcinogenic properties among many other beneficial uses.  I replanted my thyme plant but sadly do not have any sage, so I can’t complete the parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme quartet.

-I added a few less exciting things to the garden like bell peppers but also added some old school lemon cucumbers as well as some decorative gourds, with the thought that the girls will like them and we can put them on the front porch or whatever.  Actually, can they be consumed?  Let’s see…my internet searches have turned up mostly things like “no, they are just for decoration” and a few recipes as well as remarks saying that there is very little to consume in any case with most of them.  I am going to go with “no” for now unless convinced otherwise.

The final thing I bought was a trellis or cage for the cucumber section.  I tend to pack a lot of plants in a fairly small area, and before you know it the garden is a jumbled mess, with the cucumber and pumpkin plants snaking themselves all over the place.  I actually have to lift up leaves to find cucumbers when they are ready.  So I bought this contraption, which can either be folded into a squared cylinder like a tomato cage or folded out into one long wall or sheet, as a way of clearing up the confusion on the ground.  One of my gardening gurus told me that cucumbers love to climb.  I at first had my doubts – wouldn’t the cukes get to heavy and fall off?  Then again, with the pickling cucumbers that I prefer to grow, you actually want to harvest before they get really big, because then they are very seedy inside.  I will post pictures once I rig up the contraction – probably in a few weeks when the plants begin to take off.

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June 6th, 2012 by Fr. Greg

Garden Time

I like to plant my beloved garden each year the week before Memorial Day, and on Friday I managed to drop one daughter off at school, take the other with me to The Farmer’s Daughter in Auburn, get my seedlings, come home, move stuff that had already sprouted, put in the new plants, and go get V. when school got out at noon.  Not bad!  Here is the breakdown:

This year several plants took with no help or planning from me.  I ended up with some big chamomile plants that I transferred to the hill in back of our house (we have already begun harvesting and drying the flowers to make tea).  Some cilantro and oregano sprouted as well, and several months ago I put cloches over them to help them grow.  Our strawberry patch, always an early yielder, is doing quite well and we have been enjoying delicious strawberries every day.  The mint and thyme came back on its own, as they always do, and again I have several mystery plants which are likely garlic or onions.  The blueberries are in the green stage, so that is promising, and I planted a raspberry bush.  The famed apple tree sadly did not survive the construction project last year but I hope to find a successor tree.  My lettuce bed is doing well, with mustard and mesclun growing.  These grow fast and I hope to have a good turnover and yield into the fall.  Finally, in retrieving nutrient-rich dirt from my compost bin I found some sprouted garlics; we must have thrown an old garlic in there and at some point they sprouted.  I replanted them in the garden and several are thriving.

As for the stuff I planted Friday:

-Now that I am a veteran gardener I thought I would add some variety to what I usually grow, so for new stuff this year I have yellow onions, small eggplants, zucchini (everyone grows this but I have never done it), spaghetti squash, jalapeno peppers…I am sure I am forgetting something.

-Returning favorites include different kinds of tomatoes with basil planted among them to keep the pests away (this totally works).  I also have a tomato plant in the Topsy-Turvy.  I have my usual “pepper patch” with habanero and cayenne (long red slim) peppers joining the new jalapeno plants.  The cayenne plants yield into mid/late fall.  Other staples include cucumbers and pumpkins.

I will be getting more stuff this week, including more herbs and some other plants for the main garden.  I also have a potato bag and hope to grow some potatoes – we will see.

 

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May 27th, 2012 by Fr. Greg

The Garden Is Fully Operational

The Wednesday before Memorial Day I planted our garden (you can see how behind I am in blogging, since it is almost mid-June) and things are going well.  I still need to get more herbs but for now here is what I have:

-Pickling cucumbers – this is usually a high-yield crop.

-Cayenne, habanero and bell peppers.  The cayennes are usually high yield well into the fall.  This is my first year growing habaneros.

-Buttercrunch lettuce and escarole.  The lettuce grows like crazy and I will probably plant and reap several harvests – they have a quick turn-around time.

-Tomato plants with basil planted in between to keep pests away.

-Pumpkin.

-Spinach and kale.

-Rosemary, parsley, thyme and Greek oregano.

-Strawberries.  Last year our plant grew all over the ground on the side of the house but with no yield.  I cut the branches off and took the pot indoors for the winter.  All of the branches took in the ground and we have been getting strawberries every day.

-The usual blueberry bushes and apple tree.  I didn’t plant musk melons this year – the experiment is over, and was a disaster.

-Some mystery plants.  I thought they were chives, which seem to just pop up here and there.  But they got huge and are getting ready to flower.  What are they?  Decorative onions?  Mutant garlic?  We will see.

That is it for now.  I will update with pictures when the rain stops.

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June 11th, 2011 by Fr. Greg

Garden Round-Up

The other day I blogged about creativity and acting in the image of God, and I mentioned gardening as one of the ways to be creative.  Even though it is early-mid December it got me thinking about my garden and how much I miss waking up every day in the spring, summer and early fall and working on the garden.  Whether it is watering, planting, picking crops, or just messing around and doing a whole lotta nothing out there, my time spent in the garden is truly rejuvenating to the spirit.  I realized I had not done my traditional wrap-up article on how things went, so here goes:

I had several tomato plants, including one in a topsy-turvy upside down thing.  I started from seed outside rather than from seedlings, so they never really got to be huge, but I did get a steady stream of small, rather ugly but organic tomatoes.  Next year seedlings.  We had several pumpkin plants stretching across the yard and over a thicket of plants, and we got three jack-o-lanter pumpkins (interestingly, this kind of pumpkin is yellow rather than the deep orange you associate with the name) of various sizes.  Definitely a success.  The blueberry bushes were disasters.  Last year we had endless, delicious blueberries.  This year we had about five and they were tart.  My gardening guru Karen says that it is probably because I never pruned the bushes; therefore, one of my late fall activities has been pruning them for next year.

The apple tree, on the other hand, yielded like the blueberry bushes did last year.  We had apples all summer long, and they were delicious.  The same with cayenne peppers – I was harvesting these all summer, and as winter approached I still had 30 or so green ones going.  I took them in, put them in a plastic bag so they could ripe, dried them out, and ground them into crushed red pepper, just like what you put on pizza or pasta.  I also had a steady flow of pickling cukes all summer.  They grew like crazy, and I harvested them when they got to a certain size so they wouldn’t get too seedy.  Eventually they all died out due to some thing that gets to the plants, but definitely a success.

I tried yet again to grow musk melons (similar to cantaloupe, which is not actually grown in the US) and had little luck – three small, rather bland ones that broke off early.  Apparently these guys need constant sunlight, and that just isn’t happening here in New England.  Garlic was a disaster because I didn’t cut off the flower and the stalk ended up breaking from the weight.  I planted a few potatoes that had eyes all over them, and this too didn’t really work out.  They were almost an afterthought – next year I will try harder.  The strawberry plant grew like crazy but no fruit – my understanding is it has to do this and then next year it will yield.

Later in the season I got two packets of lettuce seeds and planted buttercrunch and romaine lettuce.  Unbelievable – I had heads popping up within a week, and each day we were able to harvest a fresh head.  The buttercrunch worked out better than the romaine, and they both grew well into the fall, just like the peppers.  Next year I am definitely expanding the lettuce section.

What am I leaving out?  Let’s see…we had many potted herbs and spices, and they all did well – mint, chamomile, basil, Greek basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, and…I forget the others, although I recall that there were two different kinds of mint.  And we had our usual harvest from the crabapple tree.  No surprise chives this year – last year some grew late in the season in an abandoned pot.

So how will I fill the gardening void over the winter?  By switching gears.  We plan to cook up another batch of homebrew soon – Russian Imperial Stout, a powerful beer that is very appropriate for a cold New England winter.  I have the mushroom log, which has been a disappointment, soaking, so we will see how that goes.  At some point we will make cheese and vinegar – I have kits for both – and I may try to make wine.  And, if Fr. Peter can convince me,  I will try to cook up a batch of mead.  I also plan to start the garden indoors in February by growing some seeds.  So all things considered, I should be kept well occupied with this stuff until I am back out there again in the dirt.

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December 9th, 2010 by Fr. Greg