Saturday, April 16, 2011

From the Firepit to the Crock Pot

This week has been more work and experimentation around here. In the past week we have planted more than 50 shrubs, trees, have planted more grape vines and have started vegetables from seed in the garden.  It has been a busy week, but the weather was finally cutting us a break and we didn't want to waste a minute of the relative warmth.  Of course, with the Spring warm up comes the pine pollen and everything around here is GREEN!
Planting Tiny Cherry Trees
For the past couple of months we have been working our way through the overgrown undergrowth of the woods, using the "Merry Rough Terrain" mower, hand powered loppers, and chainsaws,  We have dragged LOADS of cut underbrush out, forming piles all around the yard.  Eventually, these piles were destined for the burn pile.  Well eventually arrived yesterday late afternoon.

Still Loads of Vines to Conquer
Tug-o-War -- Joe vs the Vine
that would strangle the little pine
The weather was perfect for a brush fire -- clear, with no wind.  We'd outfitted the tractor with a pair of "forks" onto which Joe mounted a pallet.  The result was basically a much larger scoop than the front end loader by itself.  Yesterday we tried the forks for the first time, and, while we will need to make some adjustments to the pallet mounting, for a first run, it went very well.  In about two hours we had burned more brush than we would have been able to burn in a whole day, had we been dragging the piles over to the burn pit by hand. About a dozen piles later, we called it quits, the darkness having set in, making tractoring in and about the woods not such a great idea.
Tractor with her new forks and pallet
Heading to pick up a load of brush
Scooping up the brush, a whole pile at once

Transporting brush pile to the burn pit
Unloading the first brush pile into the burn pit
Adding my two cents worth....

Started out with two piles....

Ended up pushing the two together into one

Ready with the rake

Still, we were very happy with our progress.  A couple more burns like that and we will have the brush under control. Of course, today, the wind was blowing and  any thoughts we'd had of getting another burn completed before the big storm hits us tomorrow were dashed.  Another day will have to do.

Our seeds, sown last weekend have been making their way through germination and rewarding us with tiny seedlings.  Already about half of the seeds we started indoors have sprouted.  In the garden, the pea plants and spinach are growing nicely and the asparagus is really popping up.  It takes a little imagination, but this place should really be hopping with growth this summer.
Kohlrabi really popped up fast

Bachelor Buttons are raring to grow
This evening I decided to experiment with the crock pot again.  Using mini loaf pans, I created mini lasagnas, using all of my regular ingredients. I have long ago quit pre-cooking the noodles, preferring the end result when using the noodles uncooked.  In all, my normal recipe for a regular size lasagna made 5 minis.  I had to break each noodle in half for a perfect fit in the tiny loaf pans.  Once all of my ingredients were layered, literally to the to tops of the pans, I covered them with foil and "baked" them, two at a time, in the crock pot.  In the crock pot I paced an upside down flat tin, and about 1/2 cup of water.  I placed the two mini lasagnas on the upside down tin, covered the crock pot and baked them on HI for just over an hour.
1/2 of a mini loaf -- we ate two minis between us
The results were excellent!  I will freeze the extra minis and we'll have them another time.  So far, I have been thrilled with the results of variety of experiments I've tried in this crock pot.  From bread to cakes, from soups to lasagnas, you just can't beat it.  Of course, if I were trying to feed more than two, I'd have to use multiple crock pots to bake all the lasagnas to be ready at the same time, but certainly, for the two of us, it works well.  I am enjoying the experimentation and wonder, when I do actually have an oven in which to bake again, whether I will use it!

Young fig trees and thornless blackberry plants
awaiting planting

Inspecting the carnations
planted in the Earth Boxes


Gorges Smythe said...

Looks like you'll have a really nice place when everything starts blooming and bearing!

Sharon said...

Lots of burning - wonder what all you could do with those ashes? Make lye for soap? Spread in some of the garden?

Your seeds have started to go to town!

I'm thinking of doing the dry noodles for lasagna, myself, after buying a kit for lasagna and there were dry noodles in it, sure makes it easier! Looks delish!

niels said...

wow, reading this, I'm longing after going back to my Danish farmhouse, although it is great to be in California! but just doing all that stuff in setting up a nice fire, clearing, making great food in crock pots, trying out things out door, it just sounds like paradise, enjoy !