Homestead Review: January-February 2016


There’s a new element in the journal this month; we’re calling it the Homestead Review. It’s intended as a catch-all place for things that don’t quite fit into the monthly journal, which is composed mainly of new recipes, current events, and seasonal happenings. Sometimes we’ll use it to call attention to recipes we may have published in seasons past, which are once again relevant. Sometimes we’ll use it to let you know what we’re planting in the demonstration garden, or what we are planning for in the months ahead. And sometimes we might just have something to say about the way light is hitting the land, or the way that last storm swept through the redwoods, or the changing landscape around us.

Like the leftovers in the fridge, that sometimes lead to the most delicious, creative meals, we hope that this will be a place to combine many different elements into new and delicious arrangements. We’ll be continuing to evolve and grow this and other elements of the website as the months pass, and look forward to discovering, and rediscovering, the best of the past, the present, and the future with you. In the spirit of new growth and old traditions, we proudly present the first installment of The Homestead Review.

January-February 2016 Homestead Review

Muddy boots and lacey valentines, bare-root trees and tomato seeds. February is a funny month, and I don’t just mean the silent “R” that lurks in the middle of the word. It’s a bare month; bare root season has begun, and the nursery down here at the Feed and Farm is full of bare brown branches. All the promise and potential of the season seems to be sleeping, in slim twigs and damp earth and dreams of summer harvests.

Yet it’s time, somehow, to think ahead to summer again. To hold the thought of golden summer against the wet gray now. Savor the welcome rains, while they last, but don’t forget how fast spring comes on, when she comes, all sprout and blossom and oh shoot, is it already time to turn in compost again?! 

If you are interested in starting seeds for the summer garden, now is the time to start some staples, protected and warm for the first few weeks indoors.Tomatoes and peppers and other solanums, particularly, need a long time to grow strong enough to withstand cool nighttime temperatures. Though it seems a long way off, summer will creep just a little closer when you tuck those seeds into the soil in a warm greenhouse or on bright windowsill.

We just tucked a few rows of garlic into the demonstration garden, early, cold-tolerant staples that they are. Some red lettuce that we let go to seed last year is peeking up between the rows of established plants. There's room to let it grow, for now. The peas are climbing higher and higher, and just beginning to show the first of their white blossoms. Chard is glowing, bright and red and yellow, tucked beneath the legumes, and bachelor buttons are showing up early this year, springing up after the recent rains from seed that fell from last summers blooms. The blueberries, meanwhile, seem stuck somewhere between fall and spring; still covered in their brilliant fall foliage, but already beginning to push new growth from their tips.

Asparagus season is just around the corner, too. The crowns just arrived in our nursery last week. The mere thought has us peering into the dark back corners of the pantry, searching for one last jar of Pickled Asparagus. What, we ate it all? Gotta remember to make more, this year.

This is what we call Planning For Preservation.

Look at your records from last year, if you kept any, to ensure that you start the right quantities and varieties. We’ve talked about this before, in our piece from last year on Keeping A Homestead Journal. Take a look, if you’re interested in exploring ways to track your progress. Thumbing through the (jam-spotted, dirt-streaked) pages of last years’ homestead journals is strangely mesmerizing. The record of triumphs and follies, experiments and results, is both comforting and inspiring. It anchors us firmly in the present, feeling the tug of strong threads that pull both ahead and back. Each season begins with lessons from the last one, and dreams for the next. Curl up with a cuppa—perhaps some chai?--and dig in.

Outside, it’s gray skies. Mushrooms hidden in the duff, brassicas and root crops crowd the market shelves. Just when the seasonal menu seems to be all rutabegas, potatoes, and brussels sprouts…in burst the citrus! A blast of bright and welcome color, sweet scented flowers and fruits that ripen even in this coolest of seasons.

Lemons and mandarins, oranges and grapefruits, all borne on neat, glossy trees, which never lose their leaves. You won’t find ‘em bareroot, but this is still a good time to get them in the ground, and get that much closer to making marmalades from your very own tree. The journal this month has an awesome recipe for Blood Orange Port Marmalade, and way back when in September, we published another gem, the Lemon Lavender Marmalade. Spread either of these beauties on a piece of crusty Sourdough toast, or pair them with Mozzarella, or Chevre, or Lemon Cheese...or heck, just make up a platter of all these things. If only there were some more Pickled Asparagus...

But still, it's a meal fit for kings. Let it rest warm in your belly, while you get out into the garden, or tidy up the kitchen in preparation for the next project. Bustle around. Let some bone broth simmer on the woodstove. Set a new batch of sauerkraut fermenting on the counter. It’s what we spend our days doing, when we’re not down at the Feed and Farm. And we know it’s what you like to do, too. It’s a funny kind of friendship, we have here, us and you. It’s modern (the internet!) and ancient (shared recipes). We’re with you, on the screen, in your kitchens, in the taste of food that nourishes both of us. You're with us, down at the Feed and Farm, in a classroom at the Farmer’s Markets or at the old Alba Schoolhouse. It’s funny. It’s February. We’re glad we’re all here, together.

Aww. Happy Valentines Day, dears. Happy February.

Over to You...

It’s part of our mission here at Mountain Feed to help you make delicious, sustainable, homemade food more often. Stop by and say hello on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest. Or, as always, you can do it the old fashioned way and come by the store to speak with one of our in-house experts.