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Bringing in the Sheaves (or braids)

October 11th, 2014

Yesterday I started bringing in the onion crop. They have been drying in the top of the garage for a month or so. This year they were harvested a bit later than last, they didn’t get blown over like they did last year. The results were much larger onions, which I’m pretty happy about.
onion braids 1
I only braid the smaller onions, the big ones are put into wooden boxes in a single layer and stowed away in the basement where it’s nice and cool. Usually they last through early June of the following year, just in time for spring onions and small fresh onions. This is my best onion harvest so far, I’m guessing I harvested around a hundred and fifty pounds of onions.
onion braids 2
Onions are one of my favorite crops to grow, I love nurturing them from tiny seeds. Perhaps I love growing them so much because I really love eating them. Pretty much every meal around here begins with the chopping of an onion!

What’s your favorite crop to grow?

Friday Favorite: All Things Cast Iron

October 10th, 2014

It’s no secret that I love cast iron, you’ve probably noticed that it crops up in many of my cooking photos. I use my old Griswold cast iron skillet more than any other piece of cookware I own. It was left in the first house my parents bought back when I was only a few months old, my mom gave it to me many years ago. It has been used daily ever since. I cook anything and everything in it!
cast iron
Most recently I found a cast iron muffin pan and a corn stick pan (which I can’t wait to use). The muffin pan is great, I really have been happy with the way it has cooked both muffins and eggs when I used it.

One of the things I love about cast iron is that it is so versatile, you can fry bacon and eggs for breakfast, a toasted cheese sandwich for lunch, tuna steak for dinner and a pandowdy for dessert.

cast iron 2

Whenever possible I use cast iron for cooking, mostly because I love the way it cooks and it’s non toxic. No worries about non-stick coating coming off. As a result of my love of cast iron I have collected various pieces including cast iron bread pans and a cast iron pizza pan that gets used as a skillet on the stove top and as a cookie sheet in the oven, along with a collection of smaller skillets and one very small dutch oven.

One of the reasons I love cast iron is that it’s durable, it will last you the rest of your life and you can pass it on to future generations. The skillet in the front below, was the one gifted to me by my mom. It’s a Griswold and nearest I can tell is that it was made sometime in the 1920’s. Cast iron will also replace your microwave and toaster in the kitchen, if you’re into downsizing and minimizing a cast iron skillet or two will go a long way in your efforts of pairing down in the kitchen. Leftovers heat up like a dream and you really can’t get a better piece of toast!
cast iron 3
I find a cast iron skillet to be so versatile, when I travel it goes with me, it’s the only pan I carry. My trusty Griswold has been across the country in just about every direction. It has cooked eggs for breakfast in over 30 different states.
camping cast iron
My skillet is even used as my popcorn popper!
cast iron 5
Cast iron cookware also cooks like a dream. If you keep the skillet properly seasoned you just can’t beat the way it cooks an egg, mushrooms, or a steak. It’s also a healthy option for cooking, because it’s not adding weird chemicals into your food like non-stick and another kinds of cookware does. You want to make sure you buy vintage cast iron or cookware that’s made by a reputable company if you’re buying new otherwise you may not be getting great quality.
cast iron 1
Another beautiful thing about cast iron is that is goes from stovetop, to oven, to table with ease. It heats evenly helping you cook food to perfection and then keeps it warm at the table, doing it all with classic beauty that can only be achieved with time and frequent use.
The newest additions to my cast iron collection are a few Staub enameled dutch ovens Staub enameled dutch ovens Mr Chiots got me for Christmas a few years ago. I must admit, they’re as great as I expected. They have pretty much made my stainless steel pots gather dust. They are essentially stove top slow cookers, I often have a pot of soup bubbling away in one during the cold months. If the wood burner is on they can take the heat and bubble away cooking dinner while the stove warms the house. They are also perfect for baking the perfect artisan bread, mimicking an expensive steam oven, they were the missing peace in my quest to making perfect crusty bread at home!
bread in cast iron
As you can see my love affair with cast iron began long ago and only growers stronger with each day. In fact I love it so much that my go-to gift for newlyweds is always a pair of cast iron skills, both a new one and a vintage one, along with this beautiful cast iron cookbook filled with beautiful recipes and tips and techniques for using cast iron. In the card I always mention the long lasting durable qualities of cast iron along with wishes that their relationship also stands the test of time like a cast iron skillet.

Are you a cast iron cookware lover? 

Fall Peas

October 9th, 2014

My fall peas are just reaching the point where they’re starting to fill out the pods. Truth be told I should have planted them a few weeks earlier, but I couldn’t since the garlic wasn’t ready to be harvested yet.
fall peas 1
When it comes to fall/winter gardening, the cool weather isn’t quite as big of a deal as the reduced daylight hours. Things are much slower to mature since they’re getting 3-5 fewer hours of sunlight. That’s definitely something to remember when sowing for a second harvest.
fall peas 2
I’m crossing my fingers that they’ll survive long enough to produce a decent crop for the freezer.

Do you have any fall/winter crops that are ready to harvest?

Gardening Goals

October 8th, 2014

I read a lot of books about gardening, most of my reading on the topic happens in the winter. Last year I purchased Salad Leaves For All Seasons: Organic Growing from Pot to Plot and read through it. I recently pulled it off my bookshelf to read again. This spring I decided that growing greens throughout the year was going to be my gardening goal.
Roxy Lettuce 1
This book is a fantastic guide for this process, with loads of information and recommendations. Of course I’ll need a winter structure of some sort, I designed a low tunnel/greenhouse/coldframe made with old sliding glass doors that we have collected. Eventually I’ll have a proper greenhouse, but that won’t happen for quite a while. Low tunnels are OK, but I find that they freeze solid to the ground and harvesting in the dead of winter is pretty much impossible.
My winter will be spend reading and researching, dreaming and planning, and developing a plan to eat greens from my garden 24 months out of the year. I’ll save more money if I grow greens than if I grow my own broccoli or peppers, so I’ll be allocating prime garden space to achieve my goal.

What gardening goals do you have for next season? 

Not Ready

October 7th, 2014

Usually I’m quite ready for the cold weather to come, this year I’m not quite there. While I am looking forward to fires, soups, and lots of needlework, I’m not quite ready for the warmth of the sun to leave. I’m not quite ready to trade my flip flops for wool socks. I’m not quite ready to have frosty fingers when I do my chores. I’m not quite ready for the short days.
warm toes
Lucky for me the afternoons are still sunny and fairly warm, warm enough to sit in a chair by the potager at noon without a sweater on. I’m soaking up the last little bit of vitamin D that I can, hopefully it lasts me through the winter.

Are you ready for the next season?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but just recently moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine.