Our First Winter Garden

I thought I would give you all a break from my chicken talk, and focus for a moment, instead, on our bountiful winter garden.  Gardening can give one a really unique perspective on life.  The wins, the losses, the pruning of the vines.  You begin to understand some of God’s more questionable maneuvers or at least see them in a different light.

First off, I need to confess a few things.  No matter how much you wish for compliance, not all of your family members are going to be as excited or helpful as you are about this garden.  You may get lucky and have a few happy helpers, but you are going to get a lot of whining and moaning too, unless everyone involved is over 25!!  In my little utopian fantasy, I saw all 8 of us planting and picking, laughing and enjoying each other’s company and keeping pace.  This is why I hardly watch movies anymore. They set you up for failure!

Secondly, it is important to plant crops at the appropriate time for your area. This year, we planted the following: broccoli, garlic, onions, carrots, radishes, beets, turnips greens, mustard greens, kale, spinach, red leaf lettuce, baby butter heads, arugula, spicy Cali greens, cabbage, kohlrabi, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, Alaska and assorted peas and beans, sweet potatoes and purple, red and white potatoes.

In the beginning...

In the beginning…

Our pig rooted up the sweet potatoes right away, so that ended that quick! Our chickens will not let the majority of our broccoli rise above 2 inches. We only have about a quarter of the broccoli still thriving that we began with. And that is only because the chickens are full by the time they get to that point in the first row.

Right now, the broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts are dormant. But we expect to have a great March-April harvest! The onions and garlic will be ready to pick about that time as well.

My dad tested the soil and added nitrogen and other nutrients to boost the soil content for the seeds to sprout. Through out the season, mulch, saw dust and a little miracle grow was added to encourage the best results. The first crop to produce a harvest was the radishes. We know now to stagger planting radishes, so they are not all ready at the same time.

Our harvest of radishes produced several big mamma-jammas

Our harvest of radishes produced several big mamma-jammas

Everything was coming up roses! Our hearts (dad’s and mine, mostly) danced in delight as all the leafy greens sparkled in the sunlight. We began to enjoy baby greens as well. I had never eaten greens before, after being forced to eat them as a child (do y’all remember canned Popeye’s Spinach?! Blech!). But as with so many other culinary delights, my taste buds have matured and I gave greens another try. I’ve grown to like them too, especially when I use the recipe my sister gave me.

One day, I might be kind enough to share my winter garden recipes with you, as through experimenting, I have really pleased our palates this fall/winter.

in full bloom

in full bloom

Things changed after the freeze snaps began. Within the first or second snap, we lost our entire summer garden. This was to be expected on one hand, but on another, the tomatoes had really started making a comeback. Boy, was that a heartbreaking day. Dad and I silently folded the clothes we had covered the tomatoes, butternut squash, eggplants, and a plethora of peppers with as we silently mourned our summer friends.

After the third freeze, all but the Alaska peas survived (like duh, haha!) in our bean and pea field, so we set the boys to move the loops to the winter garden. In the winter garden, the spinach was not fairing well. Even with the covering we provided that delicate crop, the spinach just couldn’t handle the unseasonably frigid Texas temps.

They are still hanging in there, but the leaves are all spotted brown with what I believe to be freeze-burn.

The kale are a different story. They just seem to get more lush and beautiful as the snaps come. They are native to Siberia, so that also makes sense! We recently enjoyed kale and beet chips, but I usually put kale in soups, and quiches. Not too much either, because it is a strong flavor not all enjoy. I especially like it in a sausage potato soup. But that’s just me!

Frosty, Happy-Happy-Happy Kale

Frosty, Happy-Happy-Happy Kale

As for beets, we planted them for Mama. The chips were bearable, but I’m not a beet fan and never will be. Now if we are talking beet dye…that’s a whole other ball game!!

By this time, we were enjoying our lettuces, as well as turnips, which can be used like a water chestnut in stir fries, and is a MARVELOUSLY surprising filler in meatloaf!! Try it, I dare ya! I think turnips are so pretty. We are growing the purple-top variety and it looks like a shiny baseball, only half purple and half white. I love baseball! But that’s not really relevant here.

I don't use this word often...but is this some sexy lettuce or what?!!!

I don’t use this word often…but is this some sexy lettuce or what?!!!

IMG_4813

Our rabbits LOVE Rocket Arugula

Our rabbits LOVE Rocket Arugula

Next were the kohlrabi and carrots. I use kohlrabi like broccoli, which it is very similar to, in taste and texture. I learned to treat it like a potato, peeling the skin off before cooking it. It’s great in stews, stirfries, blanched…like I said, think broccoli. At first our carrots were not that sweet, but as they’ve grown and as the cold days have lingered, they are getting better and better!

The night before the “polar vortex” touched Texas, the boys covered the hoops over the winter veggies. Up until this point, aside from the spinach, we had not covered the winter garden. It was a pure pleasure to see our veggies thrive in such cold conditions, but after having a cabbage head turn to mush due to a surprise freeze, dad was done taking chances!

We did not eat our cabbage for New Year's Day, but they will be ready to enjoy in the near future

We did not eat our cabbage for New Year’s Day, but they will be ready to enjoy in the near future

Did I mention our potatoes? Dad dug most of them up after the second or third freeze. The ones that were not affected were delicious, but immature…winter really isn’t the time for peas, beans, nor potatoes.

I am hoping that this new year brings new attitudes around the farm concerning farm work. I realize I drug my children and husband onto this farm with high hopes and great expectations, but I also know nothing is impossible with God! I feel like these experiences can only enhance and enrich their lives as well as nutritionally providing the best for them.

I’ll admit, it’s kind of ridiculous of me to have expected a smooth transition, but it’s slowly getting better. Everyone is slowly getting with the program, each in their own ways and own fields.

I want to thank you for stopping by my blog today. I hope you leave with new knowledge and with a smile…and I hope ya come back now, ya hear?!!

Until then, Vaya con Dios!

This is the Crazy Chicken Lady signing OUT!!

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