The New Home Economics


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Overwintering parsnips

Look what I found in my garden! Our first freeze of the fall was quite late (around Halloween), so my window for harvesting parsnips after the freeze and before significant snow fell (early December) was actually rather short.  There were a couple left that I never got around to harvesting.

They chilled out under several feet of snow all winter, but their foliage looked bright green and healthy when the snow was finally gone.

They’re just as knobbly and misshapen as the ones I picked last fall, but they tasted great mashed.  So how do you overwinter parsnips?  Simple: just forget about them, leave them in the ground, and then pull them out in the spring.  If you don’t have any snow I suppose you might pile some leaves on top.

I made a dramatic announcement to the family that these would be our last parsnips for over a year, since we’re not growing them this year.  The family pointed out I could theoretically buy some at the co-op.  They would probably look nicer, too.

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How to: inexpensive garden trellis

We made a trellis for the garden last fall, but my post about it was rather light on details. We built 3 more of them during our spring break, so here are detailed building and installation instructions.

Materials for 1 straight trellis:
Three 2 in. x 2 in. x 8 ft. pieces of cedar
Welded wire fencing (like this or this), 4 ft. x 6-7 ft. (we bought a whole roll)
Two 3 in. pieces of copper tubing
Two 6 in. heavy duty wood screws (like these)

Materials for 1 corner trellis:
Above materials, plus one more cedar 2x2x8

For the straight trellis, cut one of the pieces of cedar into two 44 in. lengths. Using a power miter box (chop saw) cut a 45 degree angle into the bottom of each of the other two 8 ft. pieces (to make them pointy at the bottom). Lay out your pieces like this:

Fasten the pieces together with standard decking screws:

Next, roll out your fencing and cut to size with a wire snips:

Staple the fencing to the cedar posts:

Finished straight trellis:

(see the pointy bottoms?)  Now for the corner trellis variation:

For this, you have three 8 ft. pieces and four 21 in. pieces. Lay it out and fasten the outside corners with the decking screws, but only fasten one side to the center piece.  It’s much easier to staple the fence on when the structure can be laid out flat on the ground.

After you’ve stapled on the fencing, flip the whole thing over and fold it up.  Fasten the final screws and you’re done building.  We had to then store these in the garage for two more weeks while we waited for the snow to melt.  Today we finally installed them!

Pound them into the ground about six inches with a mallet, about 4 inches from the foundation.

Make sure they fit in the spot where you want them because this is a permanent installation!  Attach them to the house using the copper tubing and 6 in. screws, like this:

The copper tube protects the screw and makes things look a little nicer.

Total cost for the straight trellis: around $30. Corner trellis, about $36, depending on the price of cedar. Please, use cedar if you plan to grow edibles on these!  It’s significantly more expensive than green-treated, yes, but you don’t want any chemicals leaching into your vegetable garden.  I’m not 100% anti-green-treated lumber — can’t afford to be — but where edibles are concerned it’s worth it.

So, so jazzed about these trellises. I plan to plant cucumbers, two different varieties of pole beans (including Christmas Lima Beans!) and hops on them. Yay!  Questions? Bonus points to anyone who guesses correctly how many drills Adam actually owns.


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Starting seeds outdoors

Last year I started some seeds outdoors, after hearing about it from a fellow Master Gardener. Some of my seeds never sprouted, and some of my containers ended up full of airborne weeds. I think I maybe got one cabbage plant out of the experiment.

As a result, I wasn’t too keen on trying it again this year. BUT!  Now I finally got a little more information on this topic from a podcast by North Shore Community Radio, of all random things. The show, called Northern Gardener, featured a lot of awesome, useful information, and darnit if the hosts don’t sound exactly like Marge Gunderson.

I realize now that I made some key mistakes. For one, I should have stuck with plants from hardier seeds — plants that might typically re-seed themselves anyway. Secondly, I should have very carefully labelled everything so I would know exactly what each thing was. Third, I should have used translucent/transparent containers instead of opaque ones.  I think that large water jug was too opaque.

So, lesson learned.  I may try this again.  If you have the inclination, this podcast and accompanying list of recommended plants is highly recommended.


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Recipe: collard greens and bacon

It’s been a long time since we bought a new cookbook. Nourishing Traditions was our most recent acquisition, nearly two years ago. That book now informs a lot of the cooking that we do, but we don’t make the actual recipes from it very often. We’ve had some hits and misses.

I do not expect to have any misses from Starting With Ingredients. The book is organized in a novel way — pick an ingredient, then see 4-5 recipes where that ingredient shines. This is not exactly a Betty Crocker cookbook — the recipes are very gourmet with a vigorous nod toward traditional ingredients and methods.  Adam made the glazed carrots recipe recently and it called for duck fat. (And we had it on hand, how awesome is that?)

Anyway, here’s a sample recipe that we modified/simplified a bit. Originally it called for pancetta and a variety of greens including dandelion, but we just used collard greens and bacon.  Keeping it simple, right?

Collard greens with bacon
2 bunches collard greens
1/4 lb bacon (4-5 slices)
1 large onion
2 T. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)

1. Wash, de-stem, and chop the greens. Steam until wilted. Set aside.

2. Fry the bacon. Remove the bacon from the fat and set aside. Sauté the onion in the bacon fat until transparent. Add the greens and apple cider vinegar, toss to coat.  Roughly chop the bacon and sprinkle on top of the greens. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.

We served this over risotto, but I think any simple grain would do.  Anytime the three-year-olds eat greens willingly, I call it a successful recipe.