Sunday, August 29, 2010

A trip to the Aldo Leopold Foundation Center in Baraboo Wi

Up in Baraboo Wisconsin you can find the Aldo Leopold Center.  We managed a brief visit to this new facility that celebrates the legacy of Aldo Leopold, "...conservationist, forester, philosopher, educator, writer, and outdoor enthusiast."

It's a pretty amazing story, how a man, and his family were able to transform a barren sandy dustbowl farm into a low land prairie. They planted among other things, thirty thousand pine trees in the course of 10 years.

Central to his philosophy is  the idea that community extends not just to man and his creations, but also to the soil, to trees, to wildlife, what he broadly referred to as "the land."

While his story is fascinating, what I  found particularly interesting was the efforts to make the center as green as possible. They succeeded and they were awarded a Platinum Leed energy certification. I think sustainable gardening  has a natural association with sustainable living in general. This building was built using the timber planted years ago by the Leopolds.

This is the main exhibit space. The timbers are all property grown.

Here is some beam detail from near the reception area.

In addition to using site grown lumber, they make extensive use of photovoltaic systems. There are 198 panels on the roof producing 50 thousand kilowatt  hours of energy a year. Enough to power about 5 average homes in the area!

While looking at the roof I also spied a passive solar water heating system.

From the sun to the earth, the center makes use of available resources, resources that are older than humankind.  For heating and cooling the Center makes extensive use of passive geothermal technologies with both earth tubes for fresh air as well as running glycol through the concrete floors after circulating it in pipes in the ground. Using the constant temperature of the earth means there is a much smaller heating or cooling delta. For example, the the compared to the outside air with ranges from -20F to 95F, air that has traveled through the 600 linear foot and 5000 square foot system has a minimum temperature of 17F and a maximum of 74F. That's a reduction of about 50 degrees of heating.The air tubes are very subtle. Inside the building, air grates blend in with the decor.

Outside and air intake blends with the prairie plants.

The center takes aesthetic advantage of the prairie, and the prairie style buildings fit right in.

As I walked around the grounds, the natural beauty was everywhere.

This little frog was taking refuge in the shade. At first I was not sure it was real, but it blinked, and on closer inspection I could see it breathing.

We wrapped up the visit, and I left impressed with Aldo Leopold's vision and desire to create a legacy that would not come to fruition in his lifetime. The thought of land stewardship is an old one that is becoming more important as populations grow and green spaces become more rare.

Being green may involve recycling that plastic bottle,  but it can be so much more than that. Aldo Leopold set an example that not many of us could possibly replicate, but his passion and impact are inspiration to do what we can.

Until next time, Keep Digging & Eat Well!

The Gastronomic Gardener
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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Attempted catch of "Extra Crispy

Tonight was the night, I wanted to get Extra Crispy into a safer place - though "he" seems perfectly content here. I think he should be with his own kind.

One little problem - he is quite high in the rose bushes. I might need a ladder. I enlisted some help - the beautiful bride and the homeowner where the vegetable garden and six other chickens are.

Turns out Extra Crispy is going to get another few days of freedom. It was too high the rose bushes to capture without using a ladder which, put into the flower bed would have sunk like the Titanic!

We'll go fishing for a few days and reevaluate.

Stay tuned!

Until next time Keep Digging and Eat Well!

The Gastronomic Gardener
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"Golden" salsa

I have these beautiful yellow Roma Tomatoes. I though a yelllow salsa would be cool!

After following the steps here: SALSA I ended up with this.

It's more green than gold, but should be delicious anyway! Hmmm Enchilada's?

I need to get back to the simmering tomato sauce that is going into jars tonight.

Until next time, Eat Well and Keep Digging!

The Gastronomic Gardener
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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Chicken updates go digital...

So here is the exchange between my wife and I regarding "Extra Crispy" the name I've adopted from a reader. It was out this morning when I left for work.  She had school, so was on a different schedule than I. I got a text message on  my phone.

Darling: Chicken is gone.

Clearly this is not enough information for me....

Me: Left, captured, eaten or just gone?

Darling:  Gone

Me: OK

Still not satisfied....

Me: How hard did you look?

Darling: Went in back, and in alley, and filled the feeders

Well, chickens are a jungle bird and adept at hiding, and given that it has food (the bird feeder) and shelter ( the ferns and the rose bushes) I was skeptical that it had flown the coop so to speak.

Three hours later....

Darling: He is back!

Me: OK  ox

I have to be nice right?

When I got home, it was already roosting. I made a half hearted attempt to get close but Extra Crispy is too cagey for me when it is still light out.  Anyway, I feel good about where it is spending the night. It should be safe.

The Gastronomic Gardener
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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Chicken on the run!

Bringing you up to date. Yesterday I was bring out the canning pot and I noticed a bird under our feeder. I did not have a clear view because of a fence and plants. I did notice it was walking not hopping. I went to the driveway and took a look.

And what to my wondering eyes should appear but a little chicken still losing its down! I could hardly believe it! I ran inside and grabbed the camera, and was able to get a few pictures. What I was not prepared for was how fast it is. One circle of me walking around the car and I quickly abandoned any idea that I might capture it easily.

Sorta like Bigfoot. There are pictures, but they are fuzzy and can they be verified?

I read up on how to catch a chicken that might not want to be captured. The funniest suggestion was to feed it some lightly vodka dressed bread. Allegedly it will eat it and fall into a stupor enough to be handled easily. It works on people right? OK maybe not.

Tonight I came home and it was still here, taking refuge under the rose bushes. Smart little pullet.

I went inside and puttered for a bit when I cam back out, it was roosting in the rose bushes. Again, pretty smart, of the ground and protected by thorns. But at least it is not moving. I managed a few more clearer shots. Sasquatch confirmed!

Why is it when I see wild life, they are looking at me like I am the bad guy? Whattya looking at?

Oh no, take a picture of my good side!

So there it stays. I don't know the gender, but it could use a name. Any suggestions?

I am not going to be around for the weekend. Hopefully we will be able to capture it and transport it to the veggie plot where it might make some friends.

Stay tuned!

Until later. Keep Digging and Eat Well. But not this little chicken please.

The Gastronomic Gardener
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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday Morning Bounty

I've not been out to the vegetable plot in a bit so  I needed to go see what was happening, harvest anything ripe, thin the radishes and beets that I've put in for a fall crop. I also had the usual bucket of kitchen scraps for the compost heap as well as the milled skins and seeds from the tomato sauce I made yesterday. That was intended for the chickens.

I like the idea of growing the tomatoes, giving seeds and skins to the chickens, who then make eggs, and contribute to compost heap when their coop is cleaned. Closing the loop and not a garbage can in sight!

I haven't shown you the garden recently but this time I remembered the camera. As I got ready to pull out of the drive, I saw some sunflowers, volunteers from the bird seed no doubt, but they were looking cheerfully jaunty, so I snapped a picture.

After arriving on site and dumping the bucket into the compost pile, I treated the chickens aka "the girls" to the skins and seeds of yesterdays tomatoes.  They are quite funny as they will run up to you and beg, and are generally pretty vocal. This quieted them as they feasted.

Here is the whole garden, it is very shaggy and overgrown but is producing  (a little garden humor for you!) quite well.

The eggplants are happy - the Japanese eggplants keep producing and the globe eggplants are getting there too. Despite the leaf damage the fruits are lovely.

The cherry tomatoes keep going - the homeowner claims these as they are his favorite.

The golden Romas were so vigorous they pulled down their support!

The acorn squash are enjoying themselves - we'll have plenty I think. And I  like that they will keep for months!

After all the photography it was time to do some harvesting. I was surprised at the amount of green beans, the plants look a bit ragged but they keep going strong. Also picked tomatoes, peppers, green beans, Indian cucumbers, and a few eggplant. Another good haul. I'm looking forward to making some golden salsa!

After picking I went over to the big box store, picked up some more canning supplies (on sale) - a little lunch and I'm going to tackle the out of control perennial garden!

Until next time, Keep digging & eat well!

The Gastronomic Gardener
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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Critters in the garden

One aspect of gardening, other than pretty flowers or delicious vegetables, is providing habitat for our friends that fly, hop, or even slither.  A garden with varied plantings provide shelter and food for our animal friends.

This morning as I had my morning coffee the yard was alive with happy little animals. I managed to capture a few with my camera but the hummingbird was too fast for me

These guys are voracious! I just filled the feeders 2 days ago!

The squirrel is a funny guy, unless he's raiding the bird feeder. He has his own food supply.

I like the cardinal - seems to say "Whattya looking at?" in the second picture.

Finally a cottontail rabbit, after years of not seeing many they are making a small comeback in the area.

Plant a garden, attract new friends!

Until next time, Keep digging and Eat well! (Just not your friends!)

The Gastronomic Gardener
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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Saturday harvest

The wife and a girlfriend were getting their hair done, so  I popped over to the veggie plot. The tomatoes are doing well, the cherry peppers.. oh heck  a  picture is worth a thousand words.

Clock wise from top, Okra (from the homeowner), Butternut Squash, farm fresh eggs (also from the homeowner), tomatoes  gold romas, cherry peppers and romas. Total tomato weight 12 lbs 5 oz.  More salsa and maybe some sauce.

Keep digging and eat well!

The Gastronomic Gardener
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Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday the 13th! Golden plums, clematis, and hops - Oh My!

After a long day in the office (contract reviews and negotiations are draining) I came home, made a beverage and took a quick walk around.

Golden romas hiding among the fading foliage. No blossom end rot here!

A few of the 4th of July - they are not 4" nor 4oz as advertised, but they are sweet and delicious. The large amount of rain caused some to split.

A stroll to the back garden reveals a late blooming clematis. What a treat! Some insect damage but not bad.

The hops on the pergola. Besides beer anyone have any cooking ideas? They smell delicious.

So there we have it, the tomatoes will be plucked in the morning.

The Gastronomic Gardener is off to the Carniceria to see if he can pick up some backfat for bratwurst. The butcher shoppe failed me.

Keep digging and eat well!

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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Saturday harvest and replant

It has been about a week since my wife and I made it over to the vegetable plot. Since the last time we have had a few heavy rains and I wasn't sure what to expect. 

Aside from the clouds of mosquitos we found the growth remained impressive, the tomatoes are sprawled across the walkways, a great mix of beefsteak, plum and cherry.

The plan was to harvest what we could and plant some more late harvest crops, beets, radish and  bush beans.

The bush beans are blooming again so we'll let them be and see what happens.

We harvested the remaining beets and carrots. I know some people let the carrots stay in the ground into winter but I think it gets too cold here, besides I needed the row space, so we pulled them. Throw in some  cherry peppers, jalapenos, some weak onions and a whole bunch of tomatoes and we have quite the  haul.

After harvesting the organic jewelry, we put in some more beets, and french breakfast radishes as planned.

After providing some produce to the land owner this is what we brought home.

Stay tuned while we put some of these up. I'm planning to blanch and freeze the carrots, pickle the beets, and  can up some salsa.

Keep digging & eat well!

David P. Offutt
The Gastronomic Gardener
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