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The Permacultured Kitchen in February
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The Permacultured Kitchen in February

It is mid February, and I am sitting by the wood stove reflecting on the changes here at the farm since our decision to implement permaculture principles a couple of years ago. At first I thought that would mostly involve the garden and how we grow things – sustainably and organically. So no chemical pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers. That seemed evident enough. But today I am counting all the other ways we are altering our lifestyle. We are trying to become more resilient in our energy sources, insulation, water capture, use and storage, use of waste by reusing and composting, and being more responsible for the production of our food.  I really like to be able to grow and preserve much of the food we need through the winter, and have learned to grow herbs and medicinals and recognize them in the wild. This is a huge journey into self-sufficiency, but oh so rewarding.
We also have a number of ferments going, from sauerkraut to yogurt to kombucha to kefir, as well as many fruit wines from previous years.  Apple cider vinegar and red wine vinegar sit in their jars with their ‘mothers’ busy turning alcohol to acetic acid. Ferments have long been ways to preserve food and enhance their beneficial bacteria which also aid in our digestion. We are even making our own mozzarella by a pretty simple process of using milk cultured by rennet. 
In the winter, food consumes much of my thoughts. So it is fun to use canned and dried foods from the pantry, and frozen foods from summer to create the daily meals. The fruit crisp in the oven has canned apples, and frozen rhubarb, raspberries and rhubarb from our orchard rows in the big garden. A loaf of bread has just emerged brown and crispy from the pan, a product of wheat freshly ground this morning. Frozen deer meat, cold storage potatoes and carrots, dried and frozen greens, and some of the last onions and garlic from the bottom drawer in the kitchen will combine with a jar of tomatoes and a handful of dried herbs to create a tasty stew for supper. 
Composting can be kind of addictive, and I am finding that our compost heap near the barn has not lost its steam even in the winter. Now that we have chickens and rabbits, it is a perfect way to get a good compost pile going when we clean out their pens. We also compost a lot of horse manure in the summer after the paddocks are cleaned out. All that straw and manure seems to be in the right proportions of greens and browns (nitrogen and carbon) to get it going. Any kitchen scraps that the chickens and rabbits don’t want all go into the compost. In the summer all the garden prunings and grass clippings go in too. Create No Waste – a permaculture principle. Amazingly, our compost has hit 70 degrees C in the middle of February. Our little 6 year old Kian keeps track with a long probe compost thermometer for his ‘science experiment’. He is quite excited about it.  A few days ago I found a cat-sized hole dug in the side of the compost heap. It seems the barn cats had found the warm compost and decided to burrow in there. Which brings me to another Permaculture principle – Stacking Functions. This means to make any element in the system have more than one function.  So I found an old 5 gallon bucket and dug it into the side of the compost, lined it with a couple of feed sacks, and now the cats have a happy nest on a cold night.
 Reading and studying the seed and herb catalogues is a winter activity for all gardeners, plus perusing books and magazines for inspiration. Toby Hemenway’s book Gaia’s Garden is the most popular permaculture book in North America. I highly recommend it, having read it cover to cover a couple of times.  Winter is the time for gardeners to plan, to study, take a couple of courses, and get a head start on the coming season. This is also the time to learn from last summer’s successes and failures and plan accordingly. It is a real gift to gardeners in this challenging northern climate, that every year we get to start afresh!

3 Comments to The Permacultured Kitchen in February:

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cheap custom writings on June-13-13 5:14 AM
The year I started in high-school, we moved into a state-of-the-art school campus.
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Louise on June-15-13 12:19 PM
Edible Greens in the Garden and Forest by Louise Patterson Bruns First thing in the spring we are on the lookout for anything edible, anything green. It gladdens the heart to see the first buds on the rhubarb, emerging about the same time as the first hints of green on the roadsides and lawns, long before the leaves bud out on the trees, and flowers make their appearance once again. Rhubarb is the first, then little dandelion leaves, before the grass. Later comes other edible weeds such as plantain, chickweed, shepherd's purse and pigweed. Even sow thistle is a candidate for the salad bowl. And fireweed if you are lucky enough to have a stand of it nearby. It is a prolific edible herb, its fancy whorls of leaves emerging in a rush, so tender for the salad bowl. These herbs seem to be ready for picking long before the coveted lettuces and mustard greens we planted in rows in the garden. But in the garden there will be garlic greens and perennial onions and chives, so sudden and tall that you wonder at their ability to stand the cold and snow. But these are little bulb plants, like tulips. They put out their considerable root system in the fall, and are not easily deterred by a little snow or frost in April and May. Sorrel comes early, as does creeping thyme and oregano. Perennial ornamentals sometimes make the list of salad plants. Who knew you could eat hosta leaves, well sliced and chopped. Early leaves of Monarda or Bee Balm make a nice tea, reminding us of Earl Grey flavour.. Rhodiola rosea leaves are tasty little succulents. Then there are the self-seeding annuals that show up all over the place. Spinach, cress, parsnips, nasturtiums, fall-sown lettuces, cilantro, maybe even some parsley can soon grace the salads and sandwiches. A walk along the forest edge, on the shady north side, will yield some patches of nettle. This prickly herb needs gloves and a pair of scissors if you don't want to go around all day with stinging fingers. But nettles are highly nutritious, full of calcium and other minerals. Cooking in a soup, making into tea, frying in a batter, or drying till crisp cancels out the stingers. Nettles are fairly easy to propagate too, if you want to start a patch in a shady spot. Asparagus is one of spring's fairest gifts. This is a long-lived perennial, and it is well worth the effort to establish a row in the garden. A packet of seeds will give you dozens of plantlets that can be transplanted next year into a permanent row. Or you can buy two-year roots to get you started quicker. Then there are the culinary herbs. Some people have luck with lavender, and rosemary is a tender plant in our climate that prefers to come inside for the winter. Basil can even be persuaded to live through the winter in a sunny window or greenhouse. Basil likes to be warm all summer. I grow them all summer under old windows in a sheltered bed. The mints are generally hardy in a sheltered spot. We have prolific old English mint that thrives under the apple trees. Parsley – Italian flat leaf and moss-curled -do well in the garden, but are slow to germinate unless you can put them over a heating pad in the greenhouse, then transplant them out. Culinary sage is nice in a herb pot on the deck, but will not survive the winter, unlike our native sages which are extremely hardy. It is probably a life-long learning, to get to know our domestic and wild edibles, and the habits and preferences of each. But it is rewarding indeed to fill your gathering basket with unusual and delicious early greens. Just be sure to identify them properly, so you can use them with confidence. And in the summer we can add edible flowers to the salad, but that is another day.
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IT Governance Software on July-17-13 2:03 AM
The next time I read a blog, I hope that it makes me more happy as much as this one.
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