Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Winter coats

When the forecast is calling for 5 degrees -- and in our low-lying area temperatures often drop a few degrees colder than our forecast -- it's time to put some winter coats on some plants around the farm.  The citrangequat in the upper left photo is a cold hardy citrus that could probably withstand single digits, but it's still fairly young (and therefore more tender) and we didn't know how low temperatures would drop, so we took extra precautions by placing a bucket of water next to the little tree for a temperature buffer, and then covered it with a blanket and surrounded it with bags of pine straw.  To hedge our risks a little with our figs, we buried one bush several feet in leaves and wrapped a smaller bush in Christmas lights, but we didn't do anything for our other bushes.  We'd just taken our indoor Christmas tree down so it is quite festive to look out the window now to enjoy our lighted outdoor tree.  Then for our overwintering onion seedlings, we gave them a covering of hay -- it was a cutting that turned out too poor to use for feed -- on top of their glass cover. We'll transfer that hay to the strawberries or garlic for mulch soon.

Winter fare

A couple glimpses of our table these days:
A sauce of our dried peas over fried grit cakes with canned roasted tomatoes and canned pork sausage.  Wish there were some leftovers of this!
My mom in Michigan grows way better butternut squash than we do so we trade our sweet potatoes for her squash.  From our garden: cabbage sauteed in butter.  Our dried peas with our hominy over purchased millet.  To make homemade tortillas, we make hominy with our corn.  As we grind the hominy, we usually snack on some kernels, but we've just recently discovered how enjoyable hominy is added whole to other dishes like soups and sauces.  We hadn't foreseen how nice the al dente texture of the hominy would be in things.  Still experimenting.

Fuzzy kiwis

  People are often surprised to find out that fuzzy kiwis can fairly easily be grown in our part of North Carolina.  In the case of fuzzy kiwis, winter hardiness isn't so much the limitation as the fruits maturing enough before winter comes, so a cultivar that ripens early is important.  We helped our friend harvest kiwis from her vines in Wilkes County right before the first hard freeze this fall.  She sent us home with a generous amount that we've been storing in the fridge.  In the last couple weeks we've started pulling them out and letting them finish ripening for about a week at room temperature.  They're really a treat, especially this time of year when fresh, local-organic fruit is otherwise scarce.  You can only imagine how long this kiwi lasted after this photo was taken! If we had known what good potential there is in fuzzy kiwis we would have gotten started with our own vines sooner, but we only just realized the potential last fall (2012).