PERMACULTURE ** Design Principle #8 – Keep an eye on the EDGES!

In gardening the edge is the intersection of two environments. For me in life it is where my artwork and studio intersect with the planning and caring for the gardens. This blog is an edge where my gardens and orchard intersect with readers who want to know more about permaculture and might be curious about garden inspired art. Edges are rich with possibilities.

As I plan my spring and summer gardens I’m reviewing the edges in my gardens and orchard. I’m asking myself where do I want to increase and decrease edges.

Sometimes I decrease or even eliminate an edge. This week I decreased and eliminated edges by sowing carrots, peas and spinach in the same bed. I maximized space by interplanting carrots that grow underground, spinach that grows on the surface and the peas that vine over the carrots and spinach. Interplanting confuses pests which normally have a field day attacking the traditional straight rows of peas, carrots and spinach of monoculture planting. Also it is said that carrots exude a substance that enhance the growth of peas, peas in turn fix nitrogen in the soil and provide shade for the spinach which keeps it cooler and prevents it from bolting. Decreasing and eliminating edges can have many benefits.

permaculture design principles_permaculture design principle 8

Edges in my garden!

Where the vegetable garden and the paved patio meet on the south side of my house is an edge where I can maximize the heat that collects in the shelter of the house. I use sun heated walls and the heat coming off the patio pavement to start plants earlier than I could in the back of the garden which is cooler because the edge there is in the shade from the hill behind the garden. In the cooler back part of the garden I plant lettuce in early summer for a late summer crop of lettuce that doesn’t bolt.

In the orchard I’ve planted raspberry, blackberry, boysenberry, currants, elderberry along the necessary fence that keeps the deer and wild turkeys out. The leafy foliage of vines and shrubs helps to block the harsh Santa Ana winds we get in Southern California from drying out the fruit trees and summer vegetables I grow in the orchard. By not allowing the orchard to dry out in the late summer and early fall I can conserve water and cut back on irrigation during the driest of months.

The edges in and around my gardens and orchard are messy; they are where stuff accumulates and change happens. Oak leaves piled up along fences get harvested for compost piles and mulch. Mixed plantings of chard, kale and arugula thrive in the somewhat shaded south east corner of the garden while the asparagus patch that never took off gets slowly converted into a productive raspberry patch from the raspberries planted along the east fence.

Not all edge action is encouraged. Bermuda grass in my garden beds is a source of frustration for me. If I ignore it for a month I find it

Bermuda grass_calendula_permaculture_ permaculture design principle 8

Bermuda grass creeping into the garden beds

creeping its way along the edges of the garden and choking garden pathways, insidiously sending out underground runners that infiltrate garden borders of calendula. The edge is where transition takes place even if it is transition from productive garden to covert Bermuda grass take over. Poison oak is another edge jumper I have to keep an eye on and remove from edges to close to the house even though I appreciate its fall beauty on the forested hillside behind the house.

Remember when planning your gardens that straight lines and smooth shapes (like perfect oval shaped ponds) reduce the amount of edge, while curved lines, berms, swales, dips and mounds increase edge. Edges are also increased by varying the height and depth of plantings and the addition a water source whether it is irrigation lines or ponds.

Have fun with your edges, be creative and remember to keep your eye on them. Watch for the unexpected!

 

GARDEN JOURNAL ** Predators Trying to Eat My Girls!

It started at 1:00 am this morning. My husband heard something outside; he jumped out of bed and grabbed his rifle. Its times like these that I realize that I had no idea what I was getting into when we moved to the back country. I am so not used to someone grabbing a rifle to solve a problem.

Its freezing, snow had been predicted, but we both dashed outside in just slippers and PJs. The first thing we saw was that I had left the coop open. Immediately the guilt set it in, but there was only time for action to see who we could save. I dashed back inside and grabbed the flashlight. While I held the door open and shined the flashlight into the coop …

Jack (my husband) points the gun and shoots! I don’t know what he’s shooting at but it’s not dead yet. He shoots again. My hand shakes, the flashlight beam wavers. I don’t like shooting, it scares me. The predator crawls to the open door and dies; it’s the biggest possum I have ever seen. My husband drags it out and we look to see how many of my six hens it got. One Rhode Island Red is dead. I feel terrible, but it gets worse. We count chickens, it looks like five girls (hens) made it through OK. We go back to bed.

It took forever to get warm and to get back to sleep.

Later, while having morning coffee, looking out the window at the coop, we were talking about what a crazy night it was and how upset our neighbors must be at shots being fired in the middle of the night. My husband felt bad about the hen. I was feeling bad about the hen and the possum. If I had not left the coop open the possum and the hen would still be alive. Then we saw this beautiful coyote come on to our property. Predictably my husband runs for the rifle. I shout, “No!” I have a real soft spot for coyotes. He does not; one killed his dog when he was a kid. I said the hens are safe in the coop and he should not shoot at the coyote. Why am I even having these conversations anyway?

We watched the coyote sniff around the coop and then wander off. I think fine, see chickens are safe and coyote is safe, win – win right? We sipped our coffee and I am going on and on about how beautiful the coyote was when the coyote streaks across the yard with one of my hens in its mouth!!!

We are both out the door and yelling before we can even think straight! The coyote drops the hen and dashes off. Of course, you guessed it, my husband and had gone for his rifle (again!) I yelled don’t shoot it. He’s not convinced that NOT shooting it is a good idea, but he knows I will freak if he shoots it dead so he fired off some shoots to scare it.

I went after the hen, yes I’m still in PJs and slippers and it’s starting to snow. The hen has disappeared. She is just gone. By time I got around the corner of the house she had vanished. I looked everywhere; followed the trail of feathers she was dropping until the trail ended. I was afraid that there was another coyote on the other side of the house who picked her up; anyway I looked for her, went inside put warm clothes on and looked some more, tramping around as it snowed.

After giving up all hope for any happy outcome what so ever, becoming resigned to the fact that I had failed my little flock of hens, not just once by leaving the coop open, but twice by not counting correctly after killing the possum and leaving one poor little hen wondering out by itself all night, I went back outside to sow some wildflower seeds. The snow had stopped and the ground was wet, a perfect time to sow wildflower seeds for flowers next spring and summer. I was in the front garden when I heard the best little noise ever, the soft clucking sound of a hen checking to see if I might have some treats. Yay! There she was, a bit battered, but overall in better shape than you would think after being  between a coyote’s teeth. So, she is back in her coop and I now understand why so many of my friends built chicken runs and do not free range their chickens anymore. I’m not sure what I will do. Certainly devise a better system to remember to close up the coop after the girls have gone in for the night – if I let them out during the day at all anymore.

Planting gardens that are more like small farms and orchards, having animals to care for and keep safe, making choices about eating a wild Thanksgiving turkey I had to pluck myself are all things that remind me that living in the back country is a lifestyle change that I embrace but not a lifestyle change I was really prepared for. I’m playing catch-up here, I read blogs by others that are trying to do what we are doing and they are encouraging.  We are 20 to 40 somethings and baby boomers, a small but growing group who are reclaiming the privilege of growing our own food. We make mistakes but we keep trying.

possum

Possum (not the one that got shot last night)

coyote

Coyote on the prowl!

 

 

PERMACULTURE ** Design Principle #7 – Start small, figure out what works, then repeat with necessary modifications

hugelkultur bed, broccoli

Broccoli currently growing in hugelkultur bed

Following this principle:

  • Reduces gardener overwhelm
  • Saves time, energy and money in the long run
  • Gives a feeling of accomplishment as one section at a time of the garden and/or orchard becomes functional rather than having a huge unfinished project that may or may not work when it’s done

Following this principle requires: PATIENCE!

I believe I have mentioned that patience is not one of my gardening virtues so the application of this principle was a challenge for me! I wanted to do it all, vegetable and native plant gardens, food forest, edible landscaping, berms and swales, a pond, livestock, solar panels …  All of this I wanted done in my first year at Green Owl Gardens!

sheet mulch

I really wish I had used 1/2 inch aviary wire under all the lovely sheet mulch!

Here are a couple of examples of when I have and have not practiced this principle starting at the very beginning when I started work on the vegetable garden. We moved to Julian on December 1st, 2009. I felt like I was already a month behind in getting the vegetable garden prepped for spring planting so instead of gathering data and talking to neighbors I jumped right in and laid down 500 feet of chicken wire over the grass lawn. I then laid down flattened cardboard boxes to smother the lawn, some green clippings, a six inch “layer of straw, an inch or two of compost and another thick layer of straw. THEN I met my neighbor who gently informed me that the land I live on is heavily populated with gophers who will squeeze right through the regular one inch mesh chicken wire I had used.  I did not tear it all up and start over; I went into denial and hoped for the best and consequently my first year vegetable garden was overrun by gophers.

Since then I’ve been digging out the original chicken wire and experimenting with raised, sunken

sunken beds

My friend Alden helping to dig sunken beds in the vegetable garden

and hugelkultur garden beds diligently lining each of the new beds with ½ inch wire hardware cloth or ½ mesh aviary wire (which looks like chicken wire but with a ½ inch mesh).  What I’ve learned from redoing my beds I will now apply this spring when I work on expanding my developing food forest down in the orchard.

Remember -“Use small scale, intensive systems. Start at your doorstep with the smallest system that will do the job … then repeat it with variations” Toby Hemenway – Gaia’s Garden

PERMACULTURE ** Design Principle #6 – Make MINIMAL CHANGES to achieve MAXIMUM EFFECT when working to improve a system

pop-up sprinkler conversion

Chard and tomato plants benefitting from sprinkler to drip line conversion

This principle makes great time and energy saving sense, but first, before I could put it into practice I had to understand what was meant by a “system”. To understand the term “system” in a gardening context, it helps me to think of the human body and the integrated systems that keep it functioning.  The digestive, nervous and immune systems all work together to sustain one living organism. Gardens, orchards, neighborhoods and cities flourish when viewed as integrated living systems rather than isolated, separate, unconnected components.

After wrapping my brain around what a “system” was I started experimenting. Observation of those experiments made it possible to identify key leverage points. I then made a few changes to get the maximum benefit from each system. These changes altered how each system worked together to support the productivity of the whole garden. This is not a onetime deal. I’m always looking for ways to simplify, improve and streamline systems to create sustainable integrated gardens, fruit tree guilds and wild lands.

Pop-up sprinkler conversion

Pop-up sprinkler converted to drip line irrigation

Often, when moving to a new garden location the systems that have been installed before our arrival are not designed to support sustainable gardening efforts. This was the case when I converted the existing 660 square foot backyard lawn into a vegetable garden. The lawn had a conventional pop-up sprinkler system installed which sprayed precious water into the air to be carried away by evaporation while creating an unhappy environment for veggies that do not like wet leaves. Happily, through the UC Master Gardener program, I had a class on irrigation options. I discovered I could convert the existing sprinkler system to drip line irrigation. With limited expense, using the existing pipes and timer, I was able to revamp the system to meet the needs of my vegetable garden. Considering the effort and waste of installing a whole new irrigation system I was happy to make this relatively small change that had a big effect on the amount of water being used and the overall health of the vegetable garden.

Identifying systems, observing them and making minimal changes for maximum benefit has made gardening easier and more productive for me overall!

 

PERMACULTURE ** Design Principle #5 – REDUNDANCY in the Garden is Good

Gardens that are riddled with redundancy thrive!

orbit timer_irrigationWHEN a key function such as getting water to the garden is supported by multiple elements such as:

  • Drip lines on timers
  • Rain barrels
  • Hoses, with adjustable spray nozzles, that are long enough to reach all parts of the garden

OR the key function of enriching your soil is supported by the elements of:

worms_red wigglers_ compost bin

Compost bin made with old wood pallets and red wiggler worms in a worm farm

  • Compost bins for kitchen scraps and shredded paper
  • A worm farm
  • Using poop from your small (or large) flock of chickens, geese or ducks

Then, if any one of these elements or functions fails, the whole system does not fall apart.

Even as I write I realize this principle planted right in the middle of the ten Permaculture design principles is in some ways redundant because I have already talked about some of these things in the first four principles.

Redundancy improves our chances of success. If I need to get up a 6am to get to the airport on time I set my cell phone alarm, the alarm on my nightstand and I raise the shades so the sun shines in my window. This insures that I will get up at 6am. The same applies in the garden.

When choosing plants and trees for gardens and orchards plant three or four different varieties of the same fruit or vegetable just in case one or two varieties fail. I also plant different varieties in different locations on our property so if one type of tomato in the garden gets a bad case of powdery mildew or an infestation of the tomato hornworms and the crop fails I still have the tomatoes I planted in the orchard. Of course if all goes well then I end up with a bumper crop of tomatoes and I am very busy canning, dehydrating and juicing!

Araucana_chickens_hens

Ameraucana Mix with Attitude

If you start a backyard flock of chickens for producing eggs and manure consider getting a variety of hens rather than just one breed. I have a Barred Rock, a Rhode Island Red, a Black Star, a Swedish Flower Hen, a Welsummer and two Ameraucana mixes (also called Easter Egger chickens)! Why have so many different breeds? Some of the hens lay later into the winter (the Barred Rock and Rhode Island Red), some lay blue eggs (Ameraucana mix) which are pretty, some of the hens are unique looking and are good layers (the Swedish Flower Hen) and so it goes. If you are not breeding chickens why not have a few different breeds?

Redundancy multiplies and strengthens the connections we build so our gardens thrive and produce abundant harvests.

 

 

GARDEN JOURNAL ** How to Make a Fruit Fly Trap

fruit fly trapAaaargh! I have Fruit flies!

Baskets full of apples and tomatoes are sitting on my kitchen counter (waiting to be cut up and put into the dehydrator) and I had the front door open during the Art Studio Tour. Swarms of fruit flies mistook the piles of fruit and open door as an invitation and they’re now flying all over my kitchen.  I used to have to go on a gross killing spree to get rid of these pests but now, thanks to Shanti, my husband’s daughter, teaching me how to make this super easy trap to catch the pests and relocate them back outside where they belong, I don’t have to resort death and destruction.

Here’s how to make it . . .

You simply take a jar (I prefer a wide mouth jar) and bait the trap with a few pieces of fruit at the bottom, then cover the top with clear plastic wrap, securing it with a rubber band. You poke several small holes (just big enough for a fruit fly to crawl through) into the clear plastic wrap.

The way it works . . .

The fruit flies smell the fruit, they crawl into the jar through the small holes BUT they can’t find their way out again, so they remain trapped in the jar. Once you have caught a bunch of flies take the jar outside open it up and release them. Be sure to close the door behind you so the flies don’t go back in the house! Yes, I left the door open behind me the first time I released them LOL. I don’t know why the flies can’t find their way out of the jar but this really works, if you ever have fruit flies give it a try!

 

PORTFOLIO ** Julian Arts Guild Studios & Galleries Tour 2013

I’m taking a week off from Garden blogging to focus on getting ready for the Julian Open Studio & Galleries Tour 2013

I hope to see you here in Julian October 19th and 20th!

Julian Arts Guild Studio Tour 2013

Maps for the tour can be purchased for $10 at my Studio (3833 Pine Hills Rd. Julian, CA 92036) Oct. 19th & 20th between 10am -4pm or at the Julian Chamber of Commerce 2129 Main Street, Julian, CA  92036 (760) 765-1857

PERMACULTURE ** Design Principle #4 – MULTITASK

elderberries

Example of Multitasking – Deciduous Elderberry bush shading the front porch in the heat of summer and early fall, providing elderberries, leaf drop for mulch and branches cut during pruning are used for staking young plants next spring

When designing your garden or edible landscape choose elements that overlap and fulfill as many necessary functions as possible.

An element is a feature of the garden that is incorporated into the overall design. It can be:

  • a tree, shrub or vine
  • a trellis, fence or chicken coop
  • a rainwater holding tank, a raised garden bed or pathways leading through the garden

Functions are what the element contributes to the whole. In what I think of as, conventional landscaping practice, a tree has only one function which is to create shade or to just look pretty which is fine BUT it can go so much further, be so much richer and exciting!

Yes, a tree can create shade AND if it is placed thoughtfully in the overall landscape design it can shade the sunny southern side of a house during hot summer months; if a deciduous tree is chosen the leaves will drop in the winter allowing the sun to warm the home during chilly winter months. Thoughtful placement saves energy and creates savings in air conditioning and heating bills. The leaf drop in the autumn creates mulch which holds moisture under the tree or goes to build compost piles of rich compost building material. If the tree chosen is a fruit or nut tree then, when it flowers in the spring, it attracts pollinators to pollinate not only its own flowers but other garden plants.

brandywine_Amish paste_principe borghese_sweet million

 

When the tree bears fruit or nuts it feeds you and wildlife. Sometimes we have to do things to encourage balance so the wildlife does not get all the fruit, but more on that in later posts. In permaculture, what I’m describing, is called “stacking” functions. In other words, each plant or structure does more than one job.

The, equally important, flip side of this coin is that each “function” or job to be done should be supported by more than one element. So if one fruit tree is good maybe three would be better! Plant three varieties that bear fruit early, middle and late in the season or if space does not permit buy a dwarf tree that has three fruit varieties grafted on to it.

Other examples of this side of the coin in my garden are:

  • I have rain barrels to water the plants on my patio but when the rain barrels are empty I have 1 gallon bottles of water I have saved when I run the water until it gets hot in my kitchen. I use this water to water house plants, my chickens and to water the patio plants when the rain barrels are empty.
  • This year I started with four varieties of tomatoes in a variety of locations. I planted Brandywine tomatoes in the vegetable garden, Principe Borghese tomatoes in the orchard (aka the budding food forest), Sweet Million cherry tomatoes in the front herb garden and Amish Paste tomatoes in the pear tree guild.  The tomatoes in the orchard were raided by squirrels and I had some problems keeping the tomatoes in the herb garden watered enough but the Brandywine and Amish paste tomatoes have done great!

Creating interwoven connections and stacking elements, both in time and space, builds a web that supports the whole gardening effort. Break one strand and the other threads hold the web together.

 

Seasonal Recipes ** New recipes for Kale Chips!

lacinato kale_dino kale_kale chips

Lacinato Kale (aka Dino Kale) and Red Russian Kale Fresh Picked!

What to do with all that kale that came in the last CSA (Community Supported Agriculture co-op box of vegetables) or in my case all the kale that just kept growing into 4 foot high bushes?

Making chips is my favorite thing to do with kale. I just created a new recipe using coconut oil. I can’t stop eating the chips! The recipe using olive oil is really good too. Be sure to adapt either of these recipes to both your taste and what you have on your kitchen or pantry shelves. If you don’t have Brazil nuts or macadamia nuts then cashews fill in fine for either recipe. I think almonds would work well with the first version and walnuts with the second as well. Some people are not a fan of nutritional yeast, if you don’t like it then delete it from the recipe. Also, I use whatever kale I have which for me is Lacinato kale (aka Dino kale) or Red Russian kale. All the kale I’ve used make great kale chips.

For both versions tart with 2 bunches of kale and remove the tough spine then tear into bite size pieces. Keep in mind that they will shrink in size as they dehydrate.

 

kale chips

Coconut Macadamia Nut Kale Chips

Version #1

In a blender or food processor chop fine:

  • 1 cup macadamia nuts
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast

In a small bowl stir together:

  • 3 T coconut oil
  • 2 T Nama Shoyu (unpasteurized soy sauce) or 1 tap. Salt

Massage into prepped kale

Sprinkle macadamia/nutritional yeast mixture into kale and coat kale evenly.

Lay kale out on dehydrator screens in a single layer or on cookies sheets and put in the oven.

If you have a dehydrator set it on 115 degrees for 4-6 hours. If you don’t have a dehydrator set oven on lowest setting and dehydrate in oven taking them out when they are crispy.

Version #2

Mix in blender or food processor :

  • 1 cup Brazil nuts
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast

In a small bowl stir together:

  • 3 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 T Brags liquid Aminos or 1 tsp. Salt

Massage into prepped kale

Sprinkle Brazil nut/garlic/nutritional yeast mixture into kale and coat kale evenly.

Lay kale out on dehydrator screens in a single layer or on cookies sheets and put in the oven.

If you have a dehydrator set it on 115 degrees for 4-6 hours. If you don’t have a dehydrator set oven on lowest setting and dehydrate in oven taking them out when they are crispy.

One last tip (and confession) – sometimes I don’t get around to putting my chips away right when the dehydrator goes off and they get a little soft. I’ve discovered that if I turn the dehydrator back on for another 20 minutes or so they crunchy comes back and then I put them away.

 

 

GARDEN JOURNAL ** Farewell to Our Coulter Pine Tree

Farewell to our Coulter Pine Tree

Farewell to our Coulter Pine Tree

Sometimes a tree grows in the wrong spot. It’s so pretty no one wants to cut it down, but it’s way too close to the house to be fire safe in mountains known for wild fires and the pine cones are so huge that if one fell on your head it could put you in the hospital. It was time to say good-bye to a beautiful 40 foot pine tree just outside our back door. It was taken down Wednesday by a pro, thank you Brett Hutchinson, arborist and tree lover, for doing a great job.

Good bye Coulter Pine, I’ll miss your shade in the summer and the way snow hung on your limbs in the winter, fortunately we have some of your seedlings sprouting in less threatening areas on the our property.

PERMACULTURE ** Design Principle #3 – IDENTIFY, COLLECT AND STORE

This principle applies to Water, Materials and  Energy

Rain gutters_Rain Barrels_Compost bin _Solar Hot Water Heater installation_

Rain gutters channeling rainwater into Rain Barrels, Compost Bin and Solar Hot Water Heater installation

Water – 

berms_berm_berm and swale_swale_swales

This berm and swale is designed to collect rainwater runoff from the hillside behind it. The water that is collected irrigates nearby apple trees.

For me, and for many gardeners, water is a key resource. We want to identify where it’s coming from and figure out how to divert it to where it’s needed. If possible we also want to collect and hold water for later use. We don’t want to watch precious water run down our driveways and off our properties!

Water comes in cycles. Sometimes there’s too much, and often, in southern California, there’s too little. I’m always looking for ways to conserve water.

In later posts I’ll go into many different ways to harvest water, from rain gutters channeling water into rain barrels, to the use of grey water (using water from your kitchen sink or clothes washer to water your trees), to building “berms and swales”. More on “berms and swales” later but you can check out the photo of the berm and swale we dug to catch rainfall that pours down the hill behind our house. The water I collect in the swale is held in by the berm on the downhill side. The water seeps into the ground and waters the two heirloom apple trees I have growing nearby.

Conserving water can be done on a very manageable scale by collecting rainwater in small rain barrels to water patio plants, or it can be done on a large scale, such as creating a pond, to water a vegetable garden during the summer!

Identifying and Collecting Materials –

Examples of identifying and collecting materials are the practice of composting both kitchen scraps and shredded paper in compost piles and/or worm bins and cutting down dead trees, storing the wood in summer and using it in the winter in the form of energy to heat your home if you have a fireplace or wood burning stove.

Energy –

For me, one of the most obvious examples for identifying and collecting energy is installing solar panels to generate electricity for our homes. The catch is the cost of a system, one that actually stores energy on site – a system that does not feed excess generated electricity back into the grid – is still cost prohibitive for most people. Solar energy fits the need to identify and collect energy from the sun but we are not yet able to store it economically, even so, installing solar panels certainly feels like a step in the right direction.

After we moved to our property the hot water heater broke and needed replacing so we decided to go with a solar hot water heater. I won’t even mention how long we were without hot water while we did the research to find the best solar hot water heater for our climate and one that was efficient and reliable, but I was up for a gold medal in the “heating water on the stove department” for dishes and baths – really!

Three years later, solar hot water heating has been a success, in collecting and storing energy to heat water. Also, it feels good both environmentally and economically to be off propane, which was the energy source for the old hot water heater. Of course, I almost had heart failure watching my husband and his son install the panel up on our second story roof, but everyone survived and they had a happy male bonding experience (I think).

No matter the size of your home or garden I encourage you to look around and see if there are things you can collect, store, and use later to lessen the need to use outside energy and resources.

One last word of caution based on my own experience – it’s important to find balance with this principle. I’m speaking to those (myself included) who tend to go over-board in the “collecting” department. Be realistic in regards to the space you have to store things in and the time frame in which the collected materials will be used!

 

GARDEN JOURNAL ** Preserving your harvest: 3 quick ways: Dry it! Ferment it! Freeze it!

3 Quick Ways to Preserve Your Harvest

3 Quick Ways to Preserve Your Harvest

I’m so happy to have all these tomatoes, all these apples and all this basil AND I’m in the middle of getting ready to be on the Julian Arts Guild Studio Tour October 19th and 20th, so I don’t have a lot of time. Here’s my answer . . . 3 quick ways to preserve what I just harvested.

GARDEN JOURNAL ** How to make “Sun-dried” Tomatoes

For all those great “sun-dried tomato” recipes I keep jars of dehydrated tomatoes on hand all winter. Simply slice the tomatoes, as thin as you can without having them fall apart, and put them on a drying rack. This can be done in the oven on a very low setting, in any type of dehydrator (you can often find the tower type at thrift stores) or invest in the Excalibur 9 tray food dehydrator, my favorite because I have so much to dry these days. Drying times will vary depending on the amount of humidity in the air and on the amount of heat you use (lower is always better keep the healthy enzymes in the tomatoes alive). If you invest in an Excalibur be sure to get the one with the built in the timer, it really comes in handy.

Making Sun-dried tomatoes

Dehydrating Tomatoes

Tomato slices ready to go into the dehydrator

Tomato slices ready to go into the dehydrator

GARDEN JOURNAL ** How to make Raw Apple Cider Vinegar

I’ve been experimenting with fermenting lately so I thought, since I have all these apples, I would try my hand at making raw apple cider vinegar. It seems pretty basic as long as you get Bragg’s raw apple cider vinegar for starter. You can find Bragg’s at health food stores.  Use Bragg’s because it has the live “mother” in it.  The “mother” is the ingredient that gets the fermenting process going successfully. I looked up making apple cider vinegar, and found that recipes varied from mixing ½ Bragg’s with ½ half apple juice (raw apple juice if you can get it) to ¼: ¾ ratio. I compromised on 1/3 Bragg’s:2/3 raw fresh juiced apple juice. I covered the jar with cheese cloth and put it on my hall pantry shelf (a shelf that stays cool and dark most of the time). It supposed to take about 2-3 months to turn into apple cider vinegar. We’ll see how it goes!

Juicing Apples to make Raw Apple Cider Vinegar

Juicing Apples to make Raw Apple Cider Vinegar

GARDEN JOURNAL ** How to make a Quick Basil Pesto

Making Fresh Basil Pesto

Making Fresh Basil Pesto -The glass of red wine is not part of the recipe but it goes well with the pesto once it’s done!

I made pesto with all the basil that needed to be picked now (or it was going to start flowering and go to seed).  The recipe I use is quick, versatile and easy to adapt to what I have on hand.

  • 1/3 cup pine nuts – Pine nuts are traditional and my favorite but they are hard to keep on my pantry shelf because we eat them up so fast around here. My second choice is walnuts and third choice is almonds. They all make tasty pesto.
  • 3 cloves of garlic – I’ve used elephant garlic, hard neck garlic and soft neck garlic. They all work, just keep in mind that some garlic is hotter or stronger than others, be sure you use one that is to your taste.

I put the nuts and garlic in the blender or food processor first to chop them up then I add:

  • 3 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves – It works best if you chop up the leaves a bit before tossing them in
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Now pour in 1/3 to 1/2 cup olive oil– I use organic cold pressed extra virgin oil which is what I keep on the shelf. Again, use what you have to make your pesto.

So at this point you may be asking “where’s the cheese?” If you are vegan you can make pesto without cheese, it tastes great! If you want traditional Basil Pesto then you’ll add Parmesan cheese.

If you’re going to use your pesto within in a week and not freezing it than add 1/3 to 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese depending on your taste. The Parmesan cheese can be pre-grated or you can buy a chunk and grate it by hand. IF you are freezing the pesto, to be used later into the fall and winter, then don’t add the cheese now. It’s better if you add the cheese after you thaw it out.

I freeze pesto in small containers and thaw it out to put on wraps, mix into zucchini dishes and if I slide off the gluten free diet I have it on pasta.

The original of this recipe can be found in the Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home cookbook