Planting Potatoes

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We’ve planted our potatoes…and right on schedule too! Potatoes are one of our favorite and most satisfying crops to grow–it doesn’t really take a bunch of space to grow lots of them, and it is yet another opportunity to grow varieties that don’t appear in the local markets. They aren’t terribly fussy and it is so fun to reach into the ground and pull out handfuls of tender, delicious potatoes!

This year, we decided to go a step further and get heirloom seed potatoes that we couldn’t ordinarily find locally–in hopes of saving some to grow in future years and building up our own little collection. We chose three varieties offered by the Potato Garden, out of Austin Colorado. They had so many varieties, we were like kids in a candy store and it was hard to narrow it down to just a few. To be honest, we didn’t really have a system as we looked over all the offerings–we knew we wanted a red skin variety, a white-fleshed one, and that was about all the parameters we had.

We chose: Irish Cobbler (1876), French Fingerlings (1800’s) and Colorado Rose . This year, we’re planting potatoes back in traditional raised beds–have tried a wire “potato tower” last year and finding our yields diminished substantially. When the seed potatoes arrived, we cut them into smaller pieces–making sure there were a few “eyes” on each piece. Even though we are planting them in beds, we group them in “threes” for little hills or mounds as they grow. Since we are not a huge farming operations, we also plant them rather close together.  Each grouping is about an 8-inch triangle and the groupings are about 12-18 inches apart. They are planted in fertile, well composted beds with lots of humus added in for extra drainage–leaves, partially composted straw, etc. Then we put about 4 inches more humus over the top. As the potatoes grow and send up their stems and leaves, we’ll mound more leaves, straw and compost around and over to add more area for the potatoes to grow in.

Those of you who grow potatoes, may notice our method is really a combination of several–traditional, hilling, and mulching. It tends to work well in a climate with very wet spring and then dry, warm summers–good drainage in the spring  when we need it and then tubers planted close together so that as they grow, the combination of their canopy of leaves and the mulching will keep the soil cool and moist during the hot, dry season.

Of course, every year seems to be different, so we’re excited to see how the potatoes grow this year!

Sassy & Saucy

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What can we say? It’s Spring…and things and critters start to get a little sassy around here. Squirrels are leaping from tree branches, bees are buzzing the opening blossoms, and our own critters are feeling their oats as well.  As we are spending more and more time outside in the yard and garden, we’ve been capturing some of those saucy behaviors!

The picture above finds our cat, Bad Toby, taking a little siesta in the hens’ nest box.  Teri had opened up the door on a sunny afternoon–after all the girls had finished laying for the day, to air things out and add some fresh nesting material.  Toby found it to be an irresistible invitation. He preferred the same nest box the girls have been favoring too!

 

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As Teri likes to say, “there’s one in every crowd” when it comes to raising chicks–there is generally one chick who has the sticky bottom in the first few days and there is always one chick who starts the early perching and flying. In this batch, it is Blue Andy who finds her way to the highest spot in every location.

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Not to be outdone, little Buffy, the New Hampshire Red, practiced climbing up the ramp and jumping off–with a mighty (for her) squawk!

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Blue Andy’s feet are almost too big for balancing on the water fount–we wonder where she’ll fly up to perch next?

Cherry Bomb!

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Last year,  just about this time, we lost our bigger cherry tree. The weather was much like it is right now–rainy and windy. Fortunately, we do have a second, smaller and younger, cherry tree in our front yard and this one is blossoming now.  We love the fluffy, promising, faintly pink blossoms and while it doesn’t rival our old one, it is something! We’re wondering if we won’t get a few more cherries on this little whipper snapper too?

Growing Up

While the young chicks are still spending nights and cold days in the warm, protected brooder, they do have to get acclimated to life on the “outside.” This means time spent scratching the ground, pecking for bugs, and getting used to the sights and sounds of their future life. Here’s the class of 2014 romping in an enclosed area of the coop!

Blueberry Elderberry Pie

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We have been making an attempt to use up some of last Summer’s frozen bounty.  Even though the vegetables and fruits are frozen and well preserved–fresh from the garden–they do not last forever. Discovering a bit of a frozen blueberry stash, we’ve been having pancakes, smoothies, and sharing them with the chickens (the hens all time favorite treats are blueberries and cherries), but we couldn’t help but create a delicious pie too!

This pie is a combination of two somewhat tart berries–blueberries and elderberries and they make a simply scrumptious duo…

Blueberry Elderberry Pie

2 1/2 cups thawed, frozen blueberries (or fresh)

1 cup thawed, frozen blue elderberries (or fresh)

1/4 cup organic all purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar–white or brown

1 -2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon  ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon powdered ginger

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

pinch of sea salt

Butter

enough pie dough for a double-crust pie

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Combine berries, flour, sugar, lemon juice, seasonings and salt and toss together–well, but carefully so you don’t crush the berries. Prepare pie dough and divide in half.  Roll out one half to fit pie tin. Fill bottom crust with berry mixture and dollop with 1-2 Tablespoons butter, in pieces. Roll out remaining half of pie dough. Top berries with crust–round, spiral or lattice. Place pie on baking sheet (to catch any spills) and bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes to an hour–until crust is lightly brown and berries are bubbly. Allow to cool before serving.