Thursday, August 27, 2009

Fall garden goes in

Whew (wiping sweat from the brow). Just got done planting some lettuce, kale and chard in the available beds in the garden. Red Russian Kale, Bright Lights Chard, Seoul Ruby lettuce, Rouge D'Houvre lettuce... I think that was it for today. Yesterday I bought a bunch of galvanized wire from Seagrove Hardware store while I was picking up some veggies, meat and eggs from Green Acres Ranch and Edge of the World Farm; and today I used the wire to make hoops for row cover.
It seems to be working great - inexpensive way to keep the row covers off the plants, yet sturdy enough, and will be easy to store when not in use. I prepped the land by pulling out some basil and tomato plants that were on their last leg, loosened up the soil with a pitch fork and added a layer of composted cow manure. A sprinkling of wood ash and DE on top is supposed to keep the bugs in check. Hopefully. The row cover is supposed to help with that too. Previous experience shows that row cover is quite effective. Eventually some bugs and slugs will get under and live there, but the quantities are far less. Wood ash has to be used sparingly and DE has to be applied frequently. I have not noticed Neem Oil to be very helpful, and as it is harmful to bees, as well as pests, I will stay away from it from now on, I think.

Since the Habanero peppers are not popular with my CSA members - I end up taking them all home, as I can't stand waste. Last week the huge bowl full of cleaned Habaneros, Jalapenos and some other hot peppers boiled down along with some sweet bell's, tomato sauce, garlic and a mango and turned into delicious spicy hot sauce. So far the reviews have been 100% positive.

My eggplants have just not been happy this year. I don't quite know what the deal is. I've heard similar accounts from other gardeners this year. Must not be eggplant year. The peak in tomato production is over by now also. We'll keep getting them, but the biggest juiciest fruits are gone.

Well. More ground to prep for fall, more seeds to start and seedlings to transplant.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Markets of Estonia. Part 2. Farm Days

During the past few months I have had a chance to visit "Farm Days" twice. Robbins Farm Days in Robbins NC, and Jäneda Talupäevad in Jäneda, Estonia. While there were many differences - Estonians stay away from parades (most likely due to soviet times) while Americans love to show off their horses, tractors and cars... the main setup was similar: food vendors, people selling handicrafts, some musicians playing on the street, show of farm equipment etc. However - Estonians were showing the newest high tech big machinery available to farmers, while Americans seemed to dwell nostalgically in the past. (that is not qualitative statement just an observation).
I do have to say that food in Estonia was better. We ate boiled potatoes with gravy, black rye bread, a salad and something we call "kotlet" (basically meat loaf in small patties, fried in the skillet) off of ceramic plates, and had juice diluted with water ("morss") to chase it from glass cups, all of this was very "pocket friendly"; while in Robbins I treated my sister and kids to corn dogs and a plate of butterfly chips and 1 super sweet lemonade which cost us about 16 bucks... our food was on styrofoam plates, and a plastic cup... the alternatives were not much different.
The band we saw in Robbins was pretty good though!

Anyway, here are a few images from the event in Jäneda, Estonia.

Something exotic! We were excited to see those guys, until Maarja said:"Oh, I see them in Tartu all the time... they are not REALLY playing..."
Dried fish and onions! Yeah! Estonians eat a LOT of fish - dried, smoked, marinated, fried, salted...
This was a small company that offers an alternative to regular store bought bread, which is also of high quality. (Although, gone are the days when you could go to your local small store and buy fresh, warm, made-the-same-morning bread with crunchy crust and intoxicating aroma - and it was packaged right there in paper, not in plastic at the factory...)
All and all - we need more opportunities for moving food straight from the grower, baker or canner to the table, without the middlemen...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Markets of Estonia 1. Tartu.

If you lived in Estonia, you could not ignore the marketplaces in the summer time. They are in every bigger town. Most summer meals for city people come from the market place, which are preferred over grocery stores. Below is a picture of "mustikad" - wild blueberries, which were abundant in July and sold in each marketplace. Elen, my friend who we were visiting in Tartu, where this particular marketplace was, reminded me that when we were kids, we once took a long and arduous bicycle ride to the faraway woods from Elen's family's summerhouse, to pick wild blueberries. I only remember riding trough pouring rain for a long long time... but evidently we picked some blueberries and sold them to the "kokkuost" - an entity that bought up wild gathered berries and mushrooms to be sold later at the stores and markets.
Fresh local honey in many different flavors...
Wild Chanterelles were also abundant. Gorgeous mushroom, and oh so good just fried up with butter and a pinch of salt... eaten with some fresh new potatoes boiled and sprinkled with dill...
YUMMMMMMYYYY! Estonia DOES TOO have a cuisine!
Here are all the goodies next to each other - Chanterelles, blueberries, and fresh peas in the pod. The last were a hit with all the kids.
Overall view of all the goodness.
I was impressed with Tartu's marketplace. Clean, well organized, very well stocked. My friend Elen also buys organic produce straight from farmers , who come to Tartu once every 2 weeks or so. CSA's as such have not found their way to Estonia yet, but organic farmers seemed to be well organized and pulled together.

Oh what fun!

This is the time to be starting fall vegetable seeds. Actually, I think I could have pushed it and started a few weeks ago, but I played it safer. It's still very hot, and cool weather veggies may not survive the heat, once transplanted.
Our new deck in the back of the building is proving to be a wonderfully multifunctional space! Besides giving wheelchair accessibility to the building and providing a shaded outdoor "meeting" space it also has great cool shade underneath where seedlings have nearly ideal place for germinating! I sowed lettuce, spinach and chard seeds 2 days ago, and lettuces have already sprouted!!! In the spring it took at least a week, if I remember correctly. It may also have helped, that I kept the seeds in the freezer, and took them out just the night before.
Today I planted many different types of Brassicas - cabbages, broccoli, asian greens etc. Can't wait to eat 'em!

Monday, August 17, 2009

My Mother's Garden; Part 2

As promised - more pictures of Estonian gardens. I didn't have my camera handy all the time, to record how much Estonians still garden. Most people have carved out a plot somewhere next to their house, to grow some veggies and flowers. Most housing developments (remnants of the soviet time) have a community garden plot, available to anyone wishing to grow fresh produce.
People living in the city usually have some land in the countryside, where they spend most of their time in the summer, weeding and sweating, canning and preserving.

Next few pictures are of my mom's "across the creek" vegetable garden. As far as I can remember - this is the third location for the veggie garden. It has moved farther away from the house in the years, for various reasons, but still provides the family with all the needed veggies.
When we were there zucchini plants were still tiny, but already starting to produce. And lucky for Estonians - there are no Squash bugs!
Potatoes were not too happy this year. Same time (mid July) in NC farmers were picking potatoes already.
In Estonia they were just starting to bloom, and the long cold and wet spring had not been kind to young potato plants.
Cabbages, carrots, onions, beans - all sorts of cool weather vegetables... Neighbors from across the field also use a few rows of my parents land to grow their food.
Here's the view from the house towards the vegetable garden and fields. The wooden structure in the foreground is "kiik" - a sledge swing, a type of swing original to Estonia. In the olden days young people used to gather during the long summer nights around the "kiigeplats" - "swinging grounds" to swing, sing and dance and eye suitable marriage partners... my dad was the first in the village to build one of those swings after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The original kiik had to be replaced at one point as the beams eventually rotted. But we had many fun times swinging with other village kids, or gathering with family for summer solstice or other summer holidays on that particular "swinging ground".

Monday, August 10, 2009

We all love tomatoes!!!

Interesting ARTICLE in NYTimes about tomatoes, late blight, some choices we as growers make, and call to be more inclusive and diverse, as gardeners...

On another note - TONY my pal and our Biodiesel guru - fixed my USB ports last week! Yepeeee!
Apparently, on MAC's, if you take out the battery, it sort of reboots or resets everything... or something like that... anyway. I was finally able to put all the 600 photos on my I-Photo last week, and will start sharing our Estonia experiences soon:)

I would like to thank again the people who helped me out during this 3 weeks of vacation and enabled me to visit my family!!! Thanks Nancy for being such a flexible boss, and for understanding the need to recharge batteries! Thank you Tony, Gloria and Evan, for looking after the garden, and dealing with the mess I left behind! (The tomatoes got the better of me this year, and grew into a tangled mess, before I left...) Thanks for helping Rick and Henrietta, and Bill and Dianna to keep selling their produce and eggs. Thanks for picking, pruning, weed eating, killing the squash bugs etc. YA'll rock!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Local - food bill up for House vote

He doesn't know what the purpose of it is????!??!??!??!!
Click on the title to get to the article.

Can you guys help him out here?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Changing foodways

Another article highlighting Local meat becoming more mainstream through CSA's.

Youtube is quite a source for information, as well as entertainment - here is Michael Pollan talking about his book "Omnivore's Dilemma".

I Still have not been able to put pictures on my computer :((((( Hopefully sooner than later, as I have some delicious shots from Estonian farmers markets. While we were there - Chanterelles were being picked all over Estonia, and sold in markets - as well as grocery stores, alongside with local wild blueberries and wild strawberries. I am proud to see the foraging still going strong in Estonian mainstream, and people being very selective about locally grown (Since Estonia is so small - potatoes from southern counties are still relatively local in northern Estonia, compared to fruits and veggies coming from Spain or Ukraine)
Occasionally, however, you can see oddities like "Estonian" bananas being sold in the marketplace... Since local sells - people sometimes bypass reason... After all - we tend to trust labels more than our eyes or common knowledge...