Thursday, January 21, 2010

Sesame Crackers

I re-read Stephen King's The Stand a few weeks ago, and I noted that Mother Abigail says "I can still make my own cracker." as a sign of keeping her independance.

Then I see that an online friend has made some crackers. Is that possible?

Then I see a cooking show where they make crackers. That is possible.

I decide this is a sign that I am to make some crackers. Never done it before, but it is surprisingly rewarding. Completely organic and homemade. Some pics and then a recipe below.

Got the dry all ready.

Mixed, kneaded, cut, and ready to roll.

Baked to crispy, nutty goodness.

So without further delay, a Sesame Cracker Recipe:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Rack in the middle.

Mix the following dry ingredients:
5 oz whole wheat flour
5 oz all purpose flour
1/2 cup sesame seeds (not toasted)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder (aluminium free! in crackers aluminium makes them bitter)

Add 3 Tbsp olive oil and mix in pretty well.

Add 6 1/2 oz water and mix well (by hand)

Turn dough out onto a flour covered work surface and knead until well mixed (5 or 6 times did it for me)

Cut the dough into chunks between golf ball and tennis ball sized. Cover and let rise for 20 minutes.

Roll out thin and put on a cookie sheet, with parchment paper works well but isn't required. Several places I looked recommended 1/8 of an inch in thickness, but I found thinner (between an eighth and a sixteenth) was better and gave a more crisp cracker.

Cut into the size you want (in fact you don't have to cut them at all) and bake for 8 to 15 minutes depending on your oven. Pull them when they are golden brown.

Let them cool fully (maybe 15 minutes) and serve. I recommend some hummus and roasted red pepper.


They will keep for a week or two. You can also substitute or mix with other small seeds, like poppy seeds, if you want.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Ground Cover Between The Raised Beds

Another day home with a sick little boy. While he is napping I thought I would reach out and see if I could get some suggestions.

I have to put down some cover between my raised beds and along my walkway. It will also serve for a small setting/staging area. Here is the area I need to take care of:

I need something that serves the following needs:

1) Drain well and be able to walk on when wet without getting messy.

2) Comfortable to work on.

3) Not compact the soil beneath it too badly.

4) Look nice.

5) Low maintenance.

I keep thinking about different options and I cannot think of a single one that satisfies all the needs. I have looked at mulchs, gravel, trailings, glacier stone, pavers.

Thoughts? Suggestions? What has worked for you?

Garden Plans

Home sick today with Buddy. Got a little time to ruminate on the garden plans for next year.

So we are thinking of several points of focus this year:

1) Aroma Garden - The wife is planning an aroma garden for the right side of the yard (in front of the raspberries if you are familiar). Not sure what all this will include, so it will be a nice surprise.

2) Finish the Raised Beds - Still need to finish the ground cover, put in some trellises, get the setting area set up. Wondering on the ground cover. The original plan was something like this:

But this might be a pretty expensive, and I am worried that it might not actually be comfortable to walk on . I think I have enough there for another post, or 20 .

3) Fruit Trees - Really two separate issues here. Trees for the yard (apples, cherries, and if I can convince the wife, nuts), and dwarf/mini trees for pots that will have to come in over the winter (lemons, limes, pomegranates, Bay, camillia sinensis, ?). Lots of work to do on those. But the rewards!

4) Improve Fruit Beds - We need to VASTLY improve the soil in the strawberry beds and plant a new variety in the second one, more grapes, better delineation, protection and support for the blackberries, install the haskap, add a second cultivar of raspberries.

5) Soil Improvement - I almost want to call it soil breeding. I am really trying to change my paradigm to think of soil as living, not just an inert structural support that you can pour nutrients into. That is harder than one would think. Also, wondering how to improve the soil all around, under my trees, etc. Its going to be a LOT of work, but worth it.

6) Surprises - I have a few surprises for you and the wife, but that will have to wait.

Wonder what else will come our way.

Any ideas out there for ground cover for the walkway and in between the raised beds?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Why Garden?

Lately I have been wondering about what drives me to garden. There is no single coherent reason for me to garden. What makes me think about it is that for so many there is a specific reason they garden. As I think about my own motivations I decided that I would make a list of all the reasons to garden that I could think of.

Environmental - Reduce food miles, fewer pesticides, fewer petroleum fertilizers, learn organic methods, not wasting land and resources on lawn, a long list of reasons.

Religious - There are often religious reasons to garden. Christians can dedicate their garden to biblical principle/references. Need to grow those special hard to come by herbs and plants for that Wicca ceremony? The Mormon church has a requirement that you be prepared in the event of emergency which many interpret to include growing your own food if necessary.

Preperation - A number of people feel that there is a coming period of lawlessness or a period where all the food and resource distribution systems are going to fall apart. They want to be ready. They are often called (by themselves) Preppers.

Food - You can't buy it that tasty, you can't buy it that nutritious. You will never know more about the food you eat than if you grow it yourself. You can grow what you want to eat. You can grow things that you can't purchase.

Education - Kids, this is where your food comes from, this is how you grow it. This is what it takes. This is soil. No. Soil is NOT a structural medium, it is a living breathing thing that you share this planet with. No. Eating a little will not kill you.

Economy - You cannot get better food more economically. If you are careful and pay attention, and get a little practice. I am not saying its easy. I am saying its achievable. I have occasion to travel through the south side of Chicago sometimes, and when I see the food desert peppered with vacant lots where great gardens could grow, it breaks my heart. Fortunately, others are tougher, and they are doing something about it.

Culture/Tradition - Raise food you can't purchase in your local area that is important to your culture or family tradition.

Activity/Exercise - What better way to have some regular activity outdoors, especially if you aren't able to exercise vigorously at a gym. Walk, garden, be well.

Relaxation/Therapy - I, and a lot of others, find gardening relaxing. One of the most unfortunate things about gardening is that I find it impossible to garden with a cell phone. Wow. Tragic. For many, gardening is physical or another type of therapy.

Habit - Some people garden out of habit. I have a neighbor like this. One of my goals this year - shake it up a little for him. :)

Necessity - Some people garden because they have to. At a point not so long ago, most of us did.

Beauty - Because a garden is so Ever Loving Beautiful!!!!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Aroma Garden Plans

So, I quit smoking this summer. My wife quit this winter as well.

So, we were discussing how this would/could impact our gardening. We decided on a form of gardening celebration. How to do this? With an aroma garden. I am not sure this is a "real term", but its what we plan to do.

We are going to plant areas of the yard with plants that give off strong, good scents. Scents we can now fully enjoy.

New plants on our mind:

Anise Hyssop
Lemon Balm
Golden Marguerite

And the classics:

Charantais melons

But it still feels like we are missing something.

Any suggestions?

Monday, January 4, 2010

New Things For 2010

So, we are considering a number of new crops, but our big push this year is going to be miniature fruit trees, one item only recently available (at least to my knowledge), as well as new veggies. The veggies will wait until another post. First, the one I have been waiting for:

File:Lonicera coerulea a3.jpg

Haskap. Honeyberry. The edible berry of certain varieties of Honeysuckle. Pioneered by the University of Saskatchewan. Tasty, productive, cold tolerant. and the variety we are looking at gets eight feet high. It took a little convincing for the wife. But when I found a variety that grows 8 feet in height so it could also screen some utility boxes, we had a winner!

We also have three trees to replace:

Bing Cherry - Killed by rabbits ringing it. Evil Rabbits.

Tartarian Cherry - Killed by scale. And rabbits. Evil Rabbits.

Winesap Apple - Killed by rabbits. Evil, Evil Rabbits.

We have three trees we want grow in pots. This is because they are not cold hardy. By our Chicago definitions, they are not even cool hardy. We really want to grow these things.

Meyer Lemons - Sweet. Tasty. Awesome.

Kaffir Lime - Mainstay of Thai cuisine. Tasty!

Dwarf Pomegranate - I can only hope they taste as good as the full size.

This is going to be a GREAT year.