Overwintered Carrots

carrots

While planting the onion starts we have been growing this winter we discovered quite a few large carrots who had been in the ground since last season.

Vibrant neon red and purple carrots, that look delicious and ready to eat.

Just another reminder that leaving root vegetables in the ground is a natural and easy way to store them over the winter.

Nanking Cherry Harvest

We seem to have an unlimited supply of Nanking Cherries this year from two older shrubs (Prunus tomentosa).  We have been harvesting as quickly as possible and many of them have been canned as juice or jam.

This extremely hardy shrub is a heavy producer and very drought tolerant – it is a great option for attracting wildlife and bees.

Spring

Very exciting to see so many things coming to life this spring.

Lots of food growing right in the swales of our food forest.

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Walla Walla Onions growing in swales

 

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Red Cabbages doing well

 

These choke cherries went in last year and I wasn’t sure they had survived, but they are coming back with vigor this spring.  They are native to the area, so I expect them to do well.

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Choke Cherry

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Blackberries

Mulching Swales with Duck Bedding

The deep straw bedding we use for our ducks reached a compacted 18+ inches by spring.  Much of it is composting already, and it is full of duck “fertilizer”.  Here you can see the swales in our food forest after spreading the bedding out across them.  Our ducks seem to generate exactly the amount of used bedding required to cover our swales – perfect.

Engraved Egg Holder

Our seemingly unending duck egg supply led to a fun project today.  This egg holder is cut from solid Oak with a smooth channel the hold a dozen or so eggs, and a Six Hands Farm engraving.  A little stain helps the lettering stand out.  The channel is nicer than individual holes as it allows you to slide the eggs forward as you place the newest ones at the back each morning.

Building our Duck House

Over the fall I designed and built a shelter for our ducks in the corner of our food forest.  By placing it at the highest elevation in the food forest I am able to easily drain “enriched” duck water into the downhill swales each day.

The bulk of the structure is pressure treated 4×4, likely overkill, but I had extra posts from a fencing project ready to use.

I used a technique for notching and assembling the posts which was new to me, but that I am very happy with.  The posts are notched together at all joints allowing easy fastening with 3″ lag screws.

The notches are made by simply kerfing the lumber with a circular saw set to a depth half the thickness of the post.  I cut every half inch or so, then simply knock out the notch with the claw of my hammer.  Very efficient and fast to do in the field.

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Example of a kerfed and knocked out notch.

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Floor framing almost complete, all interlocking beams.

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2×4 roof framing and corner beams in.

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Walking in the door, you first pass a ramp over 2 foot of double meshed floor which will allow drainage from water containers and keep water separate from the deep straw bedding.

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A later shot with the door open, and the ducks all moved in.

 

Spring Tree Ordering Time!

Now is the time to have your orders in to tree nurseries for bare root trees in the spring.

We will be planting a significant number of trees around the property in 2016, but here is the list of trees pre-ordered for addition to our Phase 1 Food Forest.   Hopefully these encourage you to get some trees ordered for your property this winter!

  • Red Gravenstein Apple
  • Holstein Apple
  • Antonovka Apple Rootstock
  • Tomcot Apricot
  • Bing Cherry
  • Rainier cherry
  • Mango Paw Paw
  • Pennsylvania Golden Paw Paw
  • Chinese Chesnut

We’ve got several additional apples, paw paws and stone fruits.  We are also planting Antonovka root stock for future grafting.

Detailed Land Elevation Maps

A detailed understanding of your lands contour is critical to sustainable use of water.  We have been doing significant research lately on low-cost methods to obtain highly detailed contour maps of land.

Below is a contour map generated last week of Six Hands Farm.  It has 1 meter contour lines on top of an elevation gradient, which makes it easy to identify features of the property.  More or less detail can be provided, including deep-zooms into specific areas of interest, based on requirements.  (Click image to view larger size).

Contour Map

The data used to generate this map is accurate to around 5cm, it varies in accuracy a bit more in areas of high foliage/tree cover where is is harder to determine the actual ground elevation.

This data was captured via an aerial drone following an automated set of waypoints at 165ft altitude using a 12mp camera.  The total capture time for ~55 acres was under 25 minutes.  Lower altitudes can be used for higher accuracy.

Processing of the data was done using a variety of commercial and open source tools, and takes about 24 hours.

The low cost of these captures makes this data accessible to most land owners.  In a consulting setting this capture could be done for less than $1000 with a two day turnaround.

Pressure Canned Crushed Tomatoes

Canned Tomatoes

Today we pressure canned 20 pounds of freshly picked San Marzano tomatoes.  These are wonderful tomatoes for canning as they peel easily and contain far less seeds than most other varietals.

20 pounds of tomatoes yielded 8 quart jars, with no added liquid.

I process them in what I call ‘semi-crushed’ form.  After peeling and slicing them I crush them lightly to release enough juice for the canning process, while still leaving many large chunks.  They are the perfect consistency for using in soups, sauces or chili and will break down quickly when cooked.

These are peeled by briefly blanching and moving to an ice bath, after which the peelings can be rubbed off quickly.

They are brought to a boil for 5 minutes, and added to quart jars which contain 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, then put into the All American canner for 15 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure.

You can look up the cooking time details here.

You might be asking why acid must be added to canned tomatoes if you are using a pressure canner.  The answer is simple – You can cook them without adding acid if you want to do a standard low-acid vegetable canning cook time of 40 minutes.  This long cook time would destroy the texture and nutrient value of your tomatoes though, which is why most recipes you’ll see choose to compromise a shorter cook time with the addition of acid.