Simple cookery

Cooking turnip (rutabaga)

This is about as simple as it gets this with a stove and a pot: turnips, simmering in water with a little salt. There’s a quite a bit, and I’m not sure what I’ll be doing with it afterwards, besides eating it—maybe freeze some. Possibilities, possibilities. They’re from Shannon‘s farm, harvested last fall—ironically, for local food, it made a 1500 km (930 mi) journey from field to table, but that was with me along for the ride. Anyhow, stretching the stored food while waiting for a new season’s fresh harvest!

Winter persists

Winter: snow on firewood

Wintry-looking winter is hanging around for a bit, with a little more snow adding to the fairly massive fall a few days ago. It’s already clear that we can expect anything, any time, from the weather, still, I was hoping for a bit of a warm and summery winter, like last year! Oh, well. The main stacks of firewood split last spring have been pretty much burnt down to the ground in all the cold snaps. Now, snow everywhere but not so cold. It’s an in-between feeling month of February, waiting is in the air…

The Intelligent Gardener

The Intelligent Gardener

More winter reading , and the buzzword is…”remineralization,” which here means carefully replacing missing soil minerals in a holistic way (as opposed to just topping up with this or that). The other keyphrase is what that leads to: “nutrient-dense food.” The book is The Intelligent Gardener by Steve Solomon, published only a couple of months ago. I heard about it chatting with Shannon, and read it while visiting their farm in Nova Scotia, last week or so. Only a few pages in, it became a kind of tipping point experience for me. Where I used to happily rely on cow manure and compost, thinking about soil chemistry only in bits and pieces, now I find myself suddenly quite FOCUSED on the arcane details of cation exchange capacity, sample extraction methods, and the like… Odd!

“Skepticism is a healthy attitude when it comes to taking garden advice,” says the preface, and then the book takes off on a kinda wild ride through Solomon’s world of soil and fertility, including interesting attacks on popular beliefs in organic growing, like the reverence for compost, and in general, the organic practices promoted by Rodale to millions of North American gardeners. The main purpose of the book, though, is to provide practical and easy-to-follow, soil test-based remineralization instructions. Which it does.

Definitely worth a read, and quite possibly a game-changer depending on how you manage your own garden dirt. More to follow…and my tubular soil sampling probe should soon be on its way!

The Food Dehydrator


The Nesco/American Harvest Food Dehydrator & Jerky Maker: a lil contraption purchased last summer, waiting for winter experimenting (thinking about the extra garlic). There’s of course some research to do, like the difference between drying and freeze-drying, what gets lost on the way, and how to test if it’s dry enough to store safely for a while (fruit should bend, but a dried pea when hit with a rolling pin should…shatter!?), the usual…stuff. Then, lots of garlic slicing!



Just snow. At least a foot down in the last few hours and still falling, fast and blowing a bit, but far from what I’d call a blizzard. Pretty! Next, warm and raining forecast for a couple days from now to take it all away. Up to a couple of years ago, I still hung on to the idea of an annual schedule for when to start and stop watching the daily weather that would mark the beginning and end of the growing season. Now, it’s take it as it comes, any time. Always exciting! (Where did the woodpile go?)

Dirt Farmer’s Dialogue

Dirt Farmers' Dialogue (book)

At the top of the winter reading book stack. From the 1970s. Bought by chance from a used book table in the trade show at an organic farming conference. Always fun to hear someone explain what they know and believe, in simple, articulate words. As opposed to…weasel words!

“When I am milking my cows in the barn early in the morning or when I am working in the field, sitting on a tractor for many hours with little interruption, sometimes with searchlights into the night, who is there to talk to? It is then that I have put questions to myself and tried to find the answers, and in writing about farming, why not retain this form?”

Um, why not! Dirt Farmer’s Dialogue, Carsten Jens Pank, B-D Press, 1976. More to follow…