Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Garden Geegaws

It's cold and dreary. Wanna have some fun and see my collection of fine garden art (tongue in cheek)?  Come on in and have a look!

When there's not much of interest in the garden, you can always count on garden geegaws to provide a little something for the eye to rest on. I love the funny expressions on these little owl faces.

Some of my best garden geegaws have been gifts from people who share my love for garden whimsy. The giver of this wonderful Christmas gift knows that I definitely dig the earth! The bright colors of this weather smart obelisk really stand out in the gray winter landscape. It's so cheery, don't you think? 

This was a fun and unexpected gift from a friend who knows how much I like chickens. How cute is this little fairy garden sized chicken coop! The front door and side chicken entrances both open and close. There's even a little egg box inside the coop. Totally adorable!

This wind chime was given to me so long ago that the wood has become home to a wonderful variety of colorful fungus. It's held up surprisingly well considering it must be at least 10-15 years old.

The garden geegaws that hold up the best in the garden are made of metal. Bigger than life lizards and insects are fun to scatter around the garden. I really can't get enough of these and I'm always on the lookout from a new one that catches my fancy.

I like the look of rusted metal pieces, but two of my favorites are colorful metal animals. The first animal is Roger the rooster. He pulls guard duty at the chicken coop. I still remember when we first installed him. The hens didn't like him at all. Now, I don't think them give him a second thought. 

The second of my colorful animals in this peacock that lives in the front garden. I just realized this guy doesn't have a name. What a terrible oversight. What shall I name him? Phil? Percy? Peter! That's it! He looks like a Peter. Peter the Peacock. 

Glass probably isn't the best choice of material for garden art. I've broken more gazing balls than you can rain hail down upon, but this lovely glass wind chime is guaranteed by the artist. The drift wood is mixed with glass from recycled wine bottles. Very clever, and she will re-string it or make repairs if there are any mishaps down the road.

Speaking of broken glass, one of my large bottle trees keeled over during the last heavy rain. Only one of the bottles broke, which I think is a small miracle. A nearby tree kept the bottles from completely smashing into the ground. We got the bottle tree standing back up again, so no real harm was done.

Here's our latest bottle tree made out of a dead cedar tree. The bottles have been inserted onto rebar which was installed into the tree stump in a whirling pattern. I need to drink more riesling in blue bottles to finish the job. Challenge accepted.

This heron statue is a practical geegaw that tricks other herons into thinking that our garden pond is already occupied. The popular wisdom is that a heron will not fish at a garden pond that is already taken by another heron. This has worked amazingly well with two caveats. First, you must move the statue around from time to time to make it seem real, and second, all bets are off during mating season, when your statue might actually attract a nearby heron looking for love.

Lately, when I walk by this fairy door, I imagine the fairies have shut it up tight against the cold. Even though it's been unseasonably chilly lately, I feel like the magic of spring time is right around the corner. The garden fairies will be out in full force before you know it. Until then, keep warm my friends!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Aliens in the Garden

There are aliens out in the garden! But, don't worry, these aliens come in peace.

Kohlrabi look beautiful in the garden with their lush foliage and crazy bulbous stem. They are super easy to grow, produce quickly, and the pests hardly bother with them at all.

If you don't grow kohlrabi in your own garden, you can sometimes find them at local farmers markets. If you're lucky, you'll be able to locate fresh ones with the leaves still attached.

To prepare the kohlrabi, remove the leaves and save them to use as you would most any winter green.

Kohlrabi are incredibly versatile in the kitchen. They have a lightly sweet, mild flavor that is wonderful roasted, stir fried, shredded as slaw, or turned into my new favorite dish, kohlrabi cakes.

To prepare the kohlrabi, start by slicing off the top and the bottom. 

Cutting the kohlrabi down the middle exposes the moist, white edible flesh inside.

I like to use a paring knife to remove the fibrous outer peeling.

When peeled, the large pieces can be easily shredded or diced.

For the kohlrabi cakes, I'll be shredding the white flesh into a large bowl.

My kohlrabi is very large, so I'll be adjusting this recipe as I go to account for it's size. I started with 4 small hen eggs from some of my newer layers, but I ended up adding 2 more later to get the consistency I was looking for. 

Beat the eggs well in a separate bowl or at the edge of the bowl with the kohlrabi in it, if you want to reduce the dirty dishes.

I ended up using 1 1/2 cups of Italian style bread crumbs. Add your bread crumbs a little at time. You can always add more, but it's hard to take them out.

Mix well with a fork or use your hands for a little fun. When your done, the kohlrabi, eggs and breadcrumbs should be combined to the consistency of a very moist meatloaf. 

The key to making these kohlrabi patties is to keep them small. With the oil good and hot over a medium heat, make a ball with the dough in your hands, press flat, and gently slide into the oil. Watch out you don't burn your fingers!

Keeping the patties small will make it easier to turn them later and allow them to cook through. I like to use a flipper to turn them, but I place a fork on the top side to keep them from making a messy splash down in the oil.

In hot oil, the patties will cook in about 3 minutes on each side.

These kohlrabi cakes are wonderful with fresh lemon. Bon Appetite!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

My Girls Love Market Day

Sunday is market day! That's when I harvest the freshest and best looking produce in my garden and take my wares to the Hope Farmer's Market. Produce has to arrive at the market by 10:30 a.m., so as soon as the coffee is drunk, it's time to grab my high tech harvest wagon and head to the garden for an inspection.

The last remaining kohlrabi from my first planting are ready for harvest. A succession planting was done to ensure I'll have kohlrabi straight through the spring.

Warm temperatures are causing my purple cauliflower to expand rapidly. Most people prefer a tight head of cauliflower, so the looser ones will find their way to my table.

This year I did not blanch my cauliflower by tying the leaves around the head to keep the head white and pristine. Most of the heads still look great, but some had some minor staining. 

The kale is doing great this year. This dinosaur kale (Brassica oleracea) does best at the market, because it does not easily wilt and looks great all day.

The rutabaga are not as big as I'd like, so they can wait another week to two before they go to market.

I have lots of multiplying onions, but no time to deal with them this morning. I like to replant 1 out of 4 onions when I harvest to ensure production continues on. Replanting takes a little time, so they can wait till next week.

The produce that's ready to go to the market gets loaded into the wagon, while all the excess leaves get loaded into the wheelbarrow for my girls (i.e. my chickens).

"Market Day! We love market day!" says my hungry hens.

That's quite a pile of produce girls! Enjoy!

Cabbage that needs a little spritzing goes off to my high tech washing and drying station.

Finally, my hubby, who is king of crating, boxes up the goods for transport and loads them into the car.

My produce is harvested and delivered to the market in a matter of just a few hours. That's fresh! If you're in Austin, Texas and looking for the freshest, tastiest produce, stop by and see us on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Yard to Market booth.