Thursday, April 18, 2013

Had to Bring the Plants Inside


 We have gotten several big snowstorms. The yard has about 18" of snow and the temps have dropped below freezing several nights. If you click on the picture, you can see an orange 5-gallon bucket, that's almost buried!

 When it started getting cold we still had the plants in the greenhouse. Then I added a 60-watt bulb in a lamp at the bottom of the greenhouse. It was keeping it about 10 degrees warmer than the outside air with no harm to the plants.

Then we got the snow and it got much colder. I had to bring the plants inside till it warms up a bit.
 The plants are coming up nicely.

 Here are some cucumbers and on the right tomatillos.

Here are some tomatoes, (the pic to the right).
I planted mostly Roma's with some beefsteak and cherry tomatoes.

 Here is the spinach, very cute, curly leaves. I'm hoping to keep this alive all summer, cutting only the outside leaves for eating.

 Here is my corn. Yes, I know corn is usually sewn outside but I see it in the nurseries so why can't I do it? I'll get a longer growing season that way. That doesn't mean that much for corn, it has no trouble reproducing within our growing season. It's more important for watermelons and celery, crops that take longer to produce usable food. When you live in an area that limits your growing time, it's good to start veggies early to insure you'll actually get a crop. I like to plant everything I can in trays, including carrots, which are usually sewn outdoors. I break the rules sometimes, when it comes to planting. If I can make it work, why not? Pushing the boundaries, that what we gardeners do.

They were all planted the same day, April 5.
Unfortunately these got dry and the cucumbers in the back are wilted. These in the front need to be transplanted.

 These are purple carrots and red carrots. I thought some multicolored carrots would be fun this year.
The celery is in this tray, next to the cucumber, and is starting to come up.

 These are the cucumbers that were in the tray above, all transplanted. Some of the holes had two plants so I ended up with 16 healthy little plants. Back under the lights with you! I wish I had a light stand to give them all some light. The natural light from outside will take over once it warms up and I can put them back out.

 I've got a huge pot of chicken stock boiling on the stove. Perfect activity for a snowy few days, besides baking of course. 
I save chicken bones and parts like the back that we don't cook. I throw them in a big zip type bag and freeze them until I have 3 or 4 chicken’s worth of parts. I cook it 3 days and end up with broth that looks like beef broth it's so rich. The recipes that I make with this broth have so much flavor that it inspires me to do it this way again. It's so worth the work!

The pot on the left is the pot I started with. It usually takes this plus my big crock-pot to do this much broth. This time I thought I'd just use this big canner and finally have enough room for enough water.
So let me first say that many people say that you only need a couple of hours to make broth. I have made broth in a couple hours and it's fine, but that's it, just fine. Not nearly as flavorful as this method, which I read somewhere and can't remember where.
You can do this with as many chickens worth of bones as you have, one is easy.

 Put all the frozen chicken parts and bones into your pot and cover with water. You need a couple of inches at the top for boiling so don't fill it too full, like the smaller pot above. Add veggies next, I used about 6 carrots, 3 onions, 3 stalks of celery, a head and a half of garlic, 4 mushrooms, a couple bay leaves and salt and seasoned pepper.

Bring it to a full boil then turn it down 1 or 2 notches so as to keep the boil active. Now walk away and do your other chores. When you walk through the kitchen and notice the water level has gone down a couple inches, then add water to your original line. It's not something that needs to be timed. It can boil down a great deal; just add water when you notice. (Please don't leave the house with this cooking unless you put it in a crock pot.) At night I turn off the heat and let it set on the stove or set it in the garage with the lid, because it's cold in there right now, then just turn on the heat when I get up. What makes this better than most is the boiling down and adding of water. Each time it does that, it makes the broth richer, with more flavors. It really works! What I like to do after the 3 days, is to strain all the bones and stuff out of it and cook it down even more, concentrating the flavor even more. You can skip this step but if you do your broth won't taste as good.
I usually freeze my broth in plastic bowls. I like to put some in ice cube trays, pop them out and keep in a bag in the freezer, for the times you only need a couple tablespoons of broth. This is the fastest soup maker ever. Throw the block of broth in a pan and while it's heating up you can cut up your favorite veggies, noodles, rice, tofu or whatever, throw them in and you have soup that tastes like it cooked all day. It's a great way to clean out the frig; just throw in your leftovers with some broth!  It's a wonderful thing to have on hand. My granddaughter loves soup so I can make her some, very easily, in just a few minutes (3 ice cube broths, tofu, peas and some noodles and she's a happy camper).

So my 3 days has begun. I'll show you how it turns out with an update.

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