Tiny Dragon Faces To Feed Us

One beautiful fourteen inch tall chickpea plant, bright fingered leaves of a legume…tiny dragon-faced flowers… she was the only survivor of last year’s chickpea experiment. She gave me six little chickpeas.

This year I have more hope and more experience, and a new plan. Soon the shelves in my greenhouse will be full of one gallon pots, planted with dry garbanzo seeds. They will get a full 100 days of growth. I will move the plants to a bed when they reach 5-6 inches tall and space them about six inches apart so they are close enough to support each other as the pods begin the weigh the leaves down. They will get more bare, poor soil; legumes live to give. Like my Mother Grape Vine – all of us, really – require a struggle to fruit.

The chickpea plants will get watered very little after they reach 4 inches tall. They will have a clear plastic tent and I promise to watch the weather for cold temperatures ~ snow in June; of course. The plants are frost tolerant and in fact they like things under 80 degrees. Four to six successful plants should provide me with lots of hummus ~ protein, fiber, vitamin C and all the benefits for my body of olive oil, cumin, lemon and the favorite bits: marinated artichoke, Kalamata olives, roasted red peppers, smoked trout, homemade basil pesto. Pita bread with just a few flakes of black pepper.

Various Hummus ~ Photo: foodwithfeeling.com

The Basics Into The Amazing: Basic Hummus

Add just a sprinkle of baking soda to the water

Low, long boil for the chickpeas from dried beans only

Beans are ready when the skins are peeling off in the water and they can be mashed with your fingers

Do not over cook

1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas (or one 15 oz can)

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

1 medium clove of garlic

½ tsp salt

½ cup tahini

If you have any question about your homemade tahini, this is the ingredient you want to spend money on.

Ground cumin

Olive oil

Cold water – dribble in to hummus to help make it smooth

Sesame flowers

And the second most important ingredient in Hummus: tahini. The flavor is so important that I may cheat and buy tahini. I will plant sesame seeds. I will harvest the seeds. Needs shift. Back in Grandma Helen’s day a woman would sit on the porch and remove the hulls of peas, beans and seeds. A cuisine meditation. Then women left the home to work. The cost of living climbed. Money bought the services of foreign women to prepare these kinds of things. Machines took the work.

But in “retirement” – which only means I don’t go into an office to work – I can sit in front of the woodstove next fall and remove the damp hulls from the sesame seeds. I will roast them and store them in jars in the dark cool shelves. If I can grow them….it’s all an experiment.

Nature knows. Sesame seed plants also want poor soil, dry conditions, no help. The two plants will be planted together. I will trim leaves from the chickpeas to release nitrogen into the soil for the sesame. The two will bloom almost together.

Basic Tahini:

Tahini can be made with hulled or unhulled seeds

Sesame Seeds

Soak the seeds, pat dry, remove the hulls by hand. Leaving the hulls on can give the end product a bitter taste.

To make the tahini you can hand grind or use a small food processor to create a cream of the seeds.

Drizzle oil into ground seeds. Olive oil is usually used, but try other oils like avocado.

Add salt to taste.

Pumpkin, pickled and frozen beets, pinto beans, chickpeas, sesame, garlic, grapes, chokecherries, currants, buffaloberries, rose hips, elderberries in “perfect timing” years…. It is always an experiment; the weather is never ever predictable. But there is such a full, sweet feeling working with the plants, preparing the fruits and seeds and the warm fragrance in the cabin when the meals are in the oven. I will always have a grocery list, but something more and something different every year makes the moment so much more full of comfort… compensation for the muck, the sore muscles, the scratches and scrapes, the never-quite-clean fingernails, the snowstorms…I’m planting the chickpeas in the next couple weeks, but I’m saving half of the seeds to make my first homemade hummus. Ill post a photo and how that experiment goes.

For now: the cows are still stuck near the shed in pools of MUCK. So it’s time to take them a little hay, some grains and try to move them away. The ducks go into their shelters when I ask them; they are just starting to lay (duck eggs make pumpkin custard so rich). And the snow drifts are just beginning to evaporate. Next week I will also be collecting more willow cuttings for new trees, planting some in the wet drain ditches and selling some to a long-time customer. And I might even get a chance to work on my paintings. Escape garden rules. Plant something to feed the family; plant something new to feed the mind; plant something that feeds your heart….but do it all inside, for now.

Soul of the Garden: Fava Beans and a Nice Chianti

Fava Bean Blooms: Signature “sweet pea” flower of all legumes

“I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.” One of the most frequently used lines from any movie ever made (The Silence of the Lambs; Sir Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter). Not only in the film arts but in the history of human cuisine, the fava bean has been and still is a staple for so much of the world.

Humans appreciated fava beans so much that they brought them home from the wild. Wild Vicia faba or Faba / Fava Beans were growing in the Lower Galilee of what is now Israel at least 14,000 years ago according to radiocarbon dating of plant material found at archeological sites. The first domestication has been found for Neolithic farmers 10,200 years ago. (Source: Caracuta, Science Reports, 2016)

Fava or Faba beans are a legume; when the beans are harvested the plant releases nitrogen from nodules in the roots and that nitrogen feeds surrounding plants. The bean is used to make falafel, similar to chickpeas, also known as garbanzo. An interesting twist in this relationship is that some humans have a genetic defect which causes red blood cell breakdown by a chemical in fava beans. It’s very rare and seems to be mainly in those of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern descent – the population that originally tamed the bean. It is believed to have caused 33,000 deaths in 2015.

Fava Beans

There are many reasons that humans were moved to bring the plants they gathered in the wild close to their dwellings. Those reasons may include: finding safety from predators – animal or other humans; closer to a water source to have more consistent growth and production; religious or cultural rules, such as women going out alone to gather food; and isolation driven by plagues, such as the Black Plague (Bubonic plague; bacterial; spread by fleas). Closer their shelters, the humans assisted those plants by cultivation. Observation and accident led to crop rotation, dried food, seed collection and intentional planting, and seasonal recognition ~ when to plant, when they flourish, harvest.

Chickpea / Garbanzo

I ran a test with Chickpeas last year, hoping to be able to make homemade hummus and falafel over winter. I found that they honestly need 100 days and hot dry weather. So this year I will be starting them inside, then to greenhouse until our temperatures get up into the 70 degrees F.

And a medical note: If you are on MAO inhibitors DO NOT eat liver, fava beans or wine. They cancel out the medications. This was an inside “joke” in The Silence of the Lambs: Dr. Lecter’s psychotic episodes could have been exacerbated by his diet.

No Denial:

~ Photo Source: Spanish National Research Council

No Denial:

Please do not think that I am not aware of the threats that are so close to home right now ~ COVID, loss of loved ones, loss of employment, loss of a sense of your reality in our democracy, general loss of trust and belief. As painful as this all is, please know that it is also a very rich time that will broaden hearts and minds, and will, alas, strengthen fears and prejudices and ignorance. But there is only so much you can do. The Earth Abides. Take refuge in knowledge, in personal action, in the earth, in natural processes beyond human behavior ~ except your own. I hope that the following series of posts will extend your feeling of time and fill the cold, dark hours with ideas and creation and a sense of the long view, to take back some of your sense of your own resilience. The Soul of the Garden posts look at the landscape, horticulture, gardening, the place of humans as part of the landscape… or the back yard. It is a Social Science perspective, informed by Earth and Botanical Sciences… interdisciplinary, interdependent. I hope these will not only distract you, but will lead you to a new sense of reality which is in your hands… you and the weather and the earth and the bugs, and bartering with your neighbors, and the crimson branches of the dogwood, and watercolors, acrylic paints, color pencils, and the snap and taste of fresh asparagus, and a grounded divinity that doesn’t blow smoke in your eyes or up your overalls, but ties your soul to its source. Here we go.

Alma del invernadero

Clear a corner. The greenhouse is a refuge, a temple, a secret garden, a retreat, an atelier, a salon, a wine tasting room, a place to watch rain drops run down the poly or glass, a snake and spider bug hunt, a place to bury your hands in potting soil, a biome of life… through the looking glass. Wine spritz, spiced cannabis tea, iced Turkish coffee… you’ve created another world. How will you populate it…

Food Forest Floor: Groundcovers ~ Nitrogen Fixers & ‘Weeds’

Food Forest Floor: Groundcovers ~ Nitrogen Fixers & ‘Weeds’.  What goes on the ground under a ‘food forest’? The truth is that the lowest tier of plants should be providing shade just inches above the surface. But when you are just starting a food forest the ground can be fairly bare. Here are some groundcover suggestions that will improve or preserve that top soil until the lush installation takes over. As for planting instructions: for the perennial, nitrogen fixing plants, scratch the surface of the soil with a rake and hand cast the perennial seed. Water to set into the marred ground. Water very lightly every day unless it rains. You could see sprouts within the first week. Watering will increase growth, but you can reduce to “when the ground is dry” once the plant is growing. For the annual ‘weeds’: find them in your favorite deserted lot. Look for pig weed, purslane, knotweed, low mallow. Collect in fall when seed sets in paper bags and spread on ground after winter snow is off. Keep the area mowed using chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, string trimmer or hand mower. Hand pull from immediately around the shrub and tree bases. Leave some groundcover flowers for all-season pollinators. #thegardenisnotclosed

Warm Chokecherry Rhubarb Cobbler in Winter: Start Here

Sorry it’s been so long! May and June are crazy busy months. But to have those warm winter treats from my own gardens I choose to work hard right now.. After seeing an increase in posts online about “food forests”, and living in The Wind Corridor of the Northern Rockies, I decided to do a series of videos on food forest/ windbreaks / hedgerows. We will look at trees and shrubs that do well in Central Wyoming, what “tiers” are, maintenance and management, and stories of success and failure. Feel free to Message, email or text with questions. Beautiful day; get outside #thegardenisnotclosed !!

 

 

Gooseberry: Time to Prune …

FB_IMG_1583540485169 Gooseberry fruit only develops on the underside of new wood. Watch those nasty little thorns, please. On branches that are well established and are woody, find potential leaf bud about 1/3 in from the end. Use sharp pruners. Cut at about a 45 degree angle at a point that will encourage the new wood to point up. This makes getting to the fruit – around those thorns! – alot easier. The bushes will be coming out of dormancy very soon now. But PLEEZE do not make yourself crazy by being afraid you are doing it wrong! Animals that browse and break wild gooseberry bushes don’t watch a video on YouTube first. As long as you don’t mow it to the ground, you will both survive. Now, Saturday morning, grab that coffee and enjoy this weather while it lasts … like the next 5 minutes …

Winter Tales From The Refuge

Further Tales From The Refuge: Recently someone asked me how winter was going at the farm. Well, actually winter just officially got here. Hasn’t seemed like it since fall. Some folks I know have measured what they think are record-breaking snow amounts in the Casper area for the late fall. The biggest problem with snow events like this is the snow drifts that form in three places between my cabin and Ten Mile Road. I can see the road; I can see it’s clear; but I can’t get there. I have to rely on others to help move the drifts and that is never comfortable for me. It was during one such drift problem that my furnace decided it was lonely and needed a nice man to pay some attention to it. I dealt with two repairmen and both were amazing. They were from Jim’s and Sheet Metal Specialties. And even on my present pre-Social Security budget the cost was completely reasonable. I am hoping that the regular temperature dips below freezing will kill off the majority of the grasshopper eggs. Let’s not go there. All the indoor projects are in-progress. The enclosed porch is now a cozy, sun-filled place for coffee in the morning with a view of the mountain. The kitchen is getting a face lift. And all of the logs inside the cabin are being cleaned with Murphy’s Oil Soap. I’ve used the woodstove more this year than ever before, going through all of the newspaper and firewood I had stored. When the weather allows, I drive out to the greasewood and collect dead and dry material. This reduces the fuel loading in the wilder areas of the property, and it doesn’t take very much of this wood to heat the stove up for the evening. Once the stove is heated and the flames have died I close all of the dampers and flue and keep the fan on. This keeps the cabin at about 64 degrees until bed. The ice hasn’t been good to Bridget either. She injured her front leg so she is spending this winter in the pen in the shed. Rough life: she gets cracked corn, COB and MSM with grass hay in the morning and grains and an alfalfa flake in the evening. I clean the pen and massage the leg and have placed an ACE bandage above the knee to give some support. Some days she stands on it just fine; other days she puts little or no weight on it all. Soft tissue damage is a long heal for anyone. I’m also using this ‘quality time’ when she is happily eating her cow candy to trim all of her hooves. But she won’t be going out as long as there is ice in the corral. I’m certain she will be a princess cow by the time this is all over. Maybe I should cut back on the massages and hair brushing. Those horns disqualify her for My Little Pony. As I do not have a water hydrant inside the shed, I carry a 5 gallon bucket to fill her tub twice a day. Now the whole point to this is that next week I will be 66 years old. I have been graced and blessed – so far – with good health. I am doing yoga every morning to warm up; ten pushups; planks for core work; jogging a quarter mile on the drive (weather permitting), climbing fences and opening gates, pitching hay twice a day, feeding and watering the ducks and geese and tending to Bridget. I wish I had a dime for every time someone has said “You’re a survivor; you are so self-sufficient!” Even I can’t do it all. I get hurt. I get exhausted. I castigate myself for not doing more, or doing it all better. But for now I cannot see doing anything else. I’m sure that one of these days I will be found, face down, frozen in a snowdrift (Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.) And when that happens please, please, please refrain from saying – all of you, at all times – that I died doing what I loved. I hate hearing that. There isn’t a single one of us who doesn’t want to die, ready to go, in a comfortable bed, tired, easing into the dust from which we came. Survivors only say that to hide their own discomfort. It’s 4pm. Time to tell the birds to go into their houses, pitch some more hay to the Black Angus girlz and pamper Bridget. That’s pretty much the day here until March. Soon cabin fever will set in heavily and either I will dream up some new classes for the spring or … fall face down in a snow drift… wish me luck.