Our little garden group had a list of things we wanted to grow from our prior meetings and it
seemed pretty ambitious. In order to figure out how to make everything fit, we decided to
make a plan (we did not do this in year 1). Ms. K has had experience with planning gardens and
pulled together information like spacing and companion plantings (or neighboring plants that
weren’t good pairings) on the things we wanted to grow. She also recommended a 1 foot grid
planning structure. We used this grid method to basically make a map of the garden in 1 foot
by 1 foot squares with where the plants would go and how many could comfortably be planted
in each square. Because we are crazy planning engineering types, we also took the path of the
sun across the garden in relation to the surrounding trees into account. We considered this
along with which plants preferred direct sun or were OK with shade. It was all very thought
out, but we’ll see what mother nature thinks of all our detailed plans.
keeps a close eye of all goings-on in the household (and will probably photo-bomb other
pictures – see her photobomb of last year’s harvest). Apparently, farmer Pfeiff also has a taste
for micro-herbs, so the seedlings didn’t get very far before facing their first threat from a
predator. I had to re-arrange the placement to keep Pfeiffer from enjoying the herbs
extend the harvest a bit. Since Ms. A had a garage, we were able to make progress on this
regardless of the weather outside. I had found some information on a portable hoop house or
cold frame that I was very interested in for extending our growing season. Not only does it help during the growing season, but insulating the ground with a cold frame or even a plastic tarp will make the ground temperature warm up faster in the spring. A light-proof plastic covering will also help keep down weeds (both preventing light, and if they are started, it can get hot enough underneath the tarp to kill weedlings (is that a word?). I saw the original idea for a hoop house in a gardening book, and then used Google and Youtube to find something that looked simple enough for us tackle. https://youtu.be/AdE2L85l3f4 (PS - The math in this video is really bad … recommend figuring it out yourself and remembering that as long as the tubes are all the same length, it will work out OK).
The engineers got to work calculating materials required and making a shopping list for the trip to the home supply store. The most high-tech thing involved is an automatic vent to keep the hoop house from overheating. It is not powered by electricity, the louvers open and close by temperature thanks to a temperature-sensitive spring. It closes when it is cold to protect from frost and opens again around 50F (it can get pretty warm inside the plastic). Thinking back to blog post 2 on ways that gardening is beneficial, we really enjoyed building these things. If you have office jobs where it’s sometimes hard to get immediate feedback or see progress, building something with your hands can be very rewarding. What was once a pile of supplies, in the span of one afternoon or evening can become a structure that you can get use out of for months and hopefully multiple seasons. It was amazing how much it raised our moods in the dark cold early spring to start making tangible progress on the future garden.
The beans also allow us to extend the harvest by allowing us to dry them for use later when
there isn’t as much fresh produce around. We looked at several concepts we found online and
again went with something we thought we could build and disassemble and/or store relatively
easily – a folding A-frame concept.
veggies that are OK with cooler temps from seed. I started kale, collards, chard, spinach, and
the Badger Flame beets from row7seeds.com. The Habanada peppers had been started along
with the herbs in the 1 st seed starter kit.
modifications to Sondi Bruner’s recipe for a buckwheat risotto and it’s become a staple recipe for me as I’ve tried to adapt to healthier eating. If you joined us for our Eataly event and got excited about whole grains by one of our wonderful guest speakers, Maria Speck, this is another whole grain option to try. Buckwheat is actually not a wheat, but a seed, related to rhubarb and is gluten free and higher in protein than most grains. I first started eating it when I switched to soba noodles as an alternative to traditional pasta with a better macronutrient profile, it has a better consistency than some other “healthier noodles”. I started looking for other ways to consume this whole grain and came across buckwheat groats which are the whole seed (a tetrahedron shape – 4 triangular sides). Here it is used as a substitute for rice in a risotto recipe to develop a creamy consistency. I get mine in the bulk foods section of Whole Foods with the whole grains, beans and other things. I usually double the recipe so I can reheat for leftovers – it can also be reheated from frozen (and its better for you than most fast weeknight frozen options).
Buckwheat Risotto with Spinach, asparagus and Mushrooms
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup buckwheat groats
A little white wine (optional – traditional to risotto process, but not necessary
1 cup mushrooms, sliced – I usually use button mushrooms, but have used shitake and others as well
2 cups spinach, shredded – I usually just use a bag of baby spinach – wilts down nicely
1 green onion, chopped – can be omitted
½ tsp salt, or more to taste
2 cups vegetable stock – You can use all vegetable stock to keep it vegetarian, but I usually use a combination of chicken stock and mushroom stock for a deeper mushroom flavor (learned this from making traditional risotto). To make mushroom stock: Chop ~ ½ oz dried mushrooms (porcini and Portobello are common), add to ~ 2c hot water or stock in a measuring cup or small bowl and let sit while you proceed with other steps until the mushrooms are rehydrated and have flavored the stock – use the stock per the recipe
1 bunch of asparagus – tender parts only
Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese for garnish (optional)
1. Make the mushroom stock if you are choosing to do so and let sit while you perform the rest of the steps
2. In a medium-sized pot, sauté the onions and garlic in a bit of Olive oil until soft. Add the
buckwheat and stir it around until it gets coated by the onions and garlic.
3. Add the wine and stir until mostly absorbed by the grain
4. Add the mushrooms and ½ cup of stock (dried mushrooms and all if you are using mushroom stock) and stir. When all the liquid is absorbed, add another ½ cup of stock. Repeat until the buckwheat is tender, or until the stock has been used (you may not need to use all of it, though). If you do run out of stock getting the grain tender, water works.
5. Mix in the asparagus, spinach, and salt and stir. Cover and cook until the aspargas is tender
(probably only 5-10 minutes – save this until you are getting close to being ready with the rest
meal if you are trying to time it). Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Serve and garnish
with green onion and cheese if you choose to use them.