Time to Get Preserving

7 07 2012

from the garden

It may have been a slow start but the berries have come in droves the last few weeks. Strawberries are about two weeks late this year and are overlapping raspberries and early blueberries so now is the time to get those canning supplies ready! Jams, jellies, pie fillings, and sauces are waiting to be made.

I am an organizer, can’t help it, so canning season is yet another reason to get my organization on. Being prepared for canning is a crucial component of creating a safe, delicious, quality product; it’s not just for the type A personality!

I have a rolling cart that all my canning supplies go on so I can roll it into my (small) kitchen when I need them and into the pantry when I don’t. It makes things easier to keep track of and restock when supplies are low. Getting into the middle of a canning project and not having enough pectin, lids, or vinegar is incredibly frustrating.

* Keep your kitchen clean
* Dedicate a set of towels, dishrags, and cutting boards for canning only
* Get your wooden spoons, bubble freers, kettles, measuring cups, and the like out and ready.
* Check your jars for cracks or chips, recycle or use battered ones for freezing
* Check rings. If they’re rusty, out they go.
* Replace your pectin; it stays good for about a year. I love Pamona’s pectin (when not using the apple pectin I made the year before) which uses calcium instead of sugar as the gelling agent allowing the use of honey, agave, stevia, fruit juice and the like as sweetener in ANY amount desired. It can be found in small boxes at Fred Meyer or in small AND bulk quantities to share with friends at the Vancouver Food Cooperative online store (www.vancouverfood.coop).
* Stock up on vinegar for quick pickling: white, balsamic, wine as long as it has a minimum of 5% acidity!
* Invest in that new pickling crock or canner; you know you want to.
* Have your pressure canner dial, rings, and condition checked with the WSU Master Food Preservers BEFORE canning this year. It literally could save your life.

This is just the beginning of canning season with pints and quarts of pickled jalepenos, green beans, blueberry pie filling, spaghetti sauce, salsa, peaches, mushrooms, applesauce, raspberry jam, and crabapple jelly to come! I hope to see you at a waterbath, pressure canning, or pickling class this summer!





UFS 4 years later

11 06 2012

Urban Farm School celebrated its 4th anniversary May 1.  Four years and so much, and so little, has changed.  In looking through the archives, revisiting the vision and the goals of UFS I came across this post from July 2008.  It is as true today as it was then.

In 1941 during WWII, the Department of Agriculture informed the public that if they want fresh fruits and vegetables in their kitchen they should plant a “victory garden.” Over the next couple of years everyday Americans, some who didn’t know the difference between a hoe and a spade, planted gardens. They planted in backyards, vacant lots, and rooftops. Cities turned over unused public property to food production planted by eager patriotic citizens.

By 1943 these everyday Americans had started over 20 million victory gardens! The Department of Agriculture estimates these gardens produced an estimated 8-9 million tons of food and nearly 50% of all the fresh vegetables consumed in the USA at that time.

Tom Brokaw called this generation of Americans “The Greatest Generation.” They were a people who saw an evil in the world and rose up. They could not cross seas to fight the battle like theirs fathers, sons, brothers, husbands, and boyfriends. So they armed themselves with shovels and trowels and began their own fight. Here was something every man, woman, old and young could do to defeat Hitler and his armies . . .

We need a victory too! Victory against a poisoned environment, global warming, tainted food, food grown with pesticides, genetically modified seeds, and inhumane and toxic conditions for pickers. These are just a few of the atrocities we know about! At Urban Farm School we believe one of the most simple, affordable, life-changing, and politically subversive things you can do is to plant a vegetable garden.

Plant a parking strip paradise, convert your lawn into an edible outpost, sow some salad seeds in a container. You might not have space for a traditional vegetable garden, perfectly square with tidy little rows. Experiment, get creative, think outside the raised bed!

I have grown to be thankful for the high gas prices, the food cost increases and the other ills of our present food systems. Why? Because humans when faced with adversity wake up and rise up.

Humanity driven by desperation, love, and common sense is on the verge of getting much more creative in how it lives, believes, and shares -David James Duncan, author God Laughs and Plays

Urban Farm School exists to help you in your efforts. Let’s get creative together as we plant, live, believe, and share that which we are passionate about





In Like a Lion . . .

21 03 2012

 
Time to Plant?!
 
Have you been paying attention?  Slender shoots of green are poking up everywhere – crocus, chives, daffodils, even tulips have decided to chime in early this year.  After last year’s miserable  string of spring, summer, and autumn seasons gardener’s in the Clark County area are all holding their breaths for a good growing season. 
 

We are in transition in the garden right now. it’s the annual battle of patience between last years crops finishing, the variable weather, and the planting itch. those glorious 60 degree days lull us into a sense of hope and planting bravado and then the reality that it is still WINTER sets in with low snow levels and wind.

March is the magic month when the pruning has been finished and those seeds that came in the mail can finally go in the ground.  Sweet, snow, and sugar snap peas, brassicas, cold lettuces, and root crops can all be put in the is month.  Keep the mulch on the garden to suppress weeds and protect from those surprise frosts.  Watch the weather and look for windows of temperatures over 40 degrees and those magical stretches of overcast without serious rain. 

This is not the time of year to be tilling or prepping the entire garden.  Place single transplants and early seeds without disturbing the majority of the garden.  Use cloches or row covers when frost threatens and to protect from long periods of rain.   Remember, cool weather + rain + early season = slugs.  Waking up to transplants eaten to the ground is a disheartening way to start the year.

Be patient, just because March is that first possiblity for planting outdoors doesn’t necessarily mean planting will happen.  As always, mother nature and the weather will rule when and what can be planted.

Still haven’t gotten to those fruit trees?  One benefit of the snow is it has put fruit trees in stasis.  Need a little extra help or guidance?  Join Mountain View High School Horticulture and COV Urban Forestry for a hands-on pruning workshop Tuesday, March 27, 5-7pm.  Workshop is free but space is limited, RSVP (360) 487-8308, jessica.antoine@cityofvancouver.us





The Sun is Shining . . . but Wait Awhile

4 02 2012

Get out there and prune!


We always seem to get this great burst of sunshine and moderate temperatures in February, a gift I say, from Mother Nature allowing us a glimpse out of the darkness of winter and into the spring days ahead. The key, my friends, is to remember it’s a GLIMPSE. Don’t go crazy out there and start pulling back mulch and planting your spring seeds yet. YES, absolutely if you have a coldframe or some other garden protection get those brassicas started! But for those everyday people with an itch to plant, wait awhile, the weather isn’t ready to cooperate fully yet.

It IS time to get out there and prune though. Apples, pears, blueberries, and the like are all ready for their seasonal trim. If you are lucky enough to have a resistant peach give it awhile more, they don’t rebound well when pruned and then hit by a hard frost. Take a look at your tree and make a plan before you make any cuts. Tying different colored ribbon to limbs helps mark those that stay and those that go. Remember, the rule of thumb is no more than a third of the tree can be pruned at a time, but don’t be afraid to make the necessary choices especially in shaping new trees. The choices you make now will effect future growth, disease resistance, production, and yield. Make sure you have sharpened your loppers and pruners before starting as a sharp, clean cut is one of the keys to a good pruning job. Carry a bottle of rubbing alcohol in your back pocket and clean the blades between trees. One of the quickest ways to spread disease is through cross-contamination. Check for breakage and split limbs, they’ve gotta go as they are a doorway for pest and disease.

Need a “how to” on pruning? Check out Urban Abundances Fruit Tree Stewards Program, you give them a few hours in the community and they teach you the proper techniques to pruning! A fair trade if there ever was one. http://www.myurbanabundance.org/

Check out the Fruit Tree info and publications from the WSU Master Gardeners at: http://gardening.wsu.edu/text/treef.htm 

No matter your garden decision, to plant, not to plant, prune now in the sunshine or wait until next week and do it in the rain, GET OUT THERE and enjoy this window of wonderful weather we have been granted once again this February.





11 09 2011

It is the end of summer, the depths of harvesting, tomatoes in our region are just hitting their stride with the abundance that accompanies them: salsa, plum and stewed tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, and soups. It is easy to get burned out this time of year, throw your hands up and declare a truce with the garden bounty. YOU WILL PREVAIL! Many this time of year are starting to take the garden down, preparing for autumn and winter. If you have preserved, donated, and shared all you want start preparing your garden for it’s winter’s slumber.

This is a critical time of year in any garden when it is easy to let things fall by the wayside. It is critical to nip disease and pest issues in the bud NOW instead of letting them overwinter and appear in force once again in the spring. Taking the time to prepare your soil now will save you many headaches next year. Although early autumn is a busy time of year for us all ~ school, autumn sports, last vacations, remember your garden in your priority list as well.

A few pointers to get you started:
* if it is diseased or infested with pests, out it goes, and not into the compost pile but OUT it goes
* pick up and dispose of fallen/rotting fruit and veg as it keeps the big and tiny pests away
* as you harvest your crops either plant a new crop or cover crop such as fava beans, winter wheat, or austrian peas, or mulch heavily to keep the weeds at bay, the rains from compacting the soil, and the micro and macro-organisms happy through the winter
* if you haven’t done so already, make a list and/or map of what was planted where; you will need it when planning for next year, rotating your crops at least every four years
* as the leaves fall rake and save them in a bin of their own so you have a ready stash of fairly dry browns at hand during the wet winter months.

As always, take advantage of the UFS private garden consultations. We’re here to help you find the potential in your space no matter the size or location.





9 07 2011

raspberrytasticness

Waterbath Canning Class: Thursday, July 14, 6 to 8pm, Camas
Pressure Canning Class: Tuesday, July 19, 6 to 8pm, Vancouver

Classes are limited to 10 people, $25/person includes materials. E-mail to reserve your spot or host your own canning or pickling party! urbanfarmschool@gmail.com

Waterbath canning: Fruits (peaches, pears, etc.), jams, jellies, pie fillings, tomatoes, salsa
Pressure canning: Meats, fish, soup, broth and stock, green beans, and other vegetables
Pickling and Fermentation: Quick and traditional crock pickles, sauerkraut, asparagus, dilly beans, asian pears, peaches, etc.

It may have been a slow start but the berries have come in droves the last few weeks. Strawberries are about two weeks late this year and are overlapping raspberries and early blueberries so now is the time to get those canning supplies ready! Jams, jellies, pie fillings, and sauces are waiting to be made.

I am an organizer, can’t help it, so canning season is yet another reason to get my organization on. Being prepared for canning is a crucial component of creating a safe, delicious, quality product; it’s not just for the type A personality!

I have a rolling cart that all my canning supplies go on so I can roll it into my (small) kitchen when I need them and into the pantry when I don’t. It makes things easier to keep track of and restock when supplies are low. Getting into the middle of a canning project and not having enough pectin, lids, or vinegar is incredibly frustrating.

* Keep your kitchen clean
* Dedicate a set of towels, dishrags, and cutting boards for canning only
* Get your wooden spoons, bubble freers, kettles, measuring cups, and the like out and ready.
* Check your jars for cracks or chips, recycle or use battered ones for freezing
* Check rings. If they’re rusty, out they go.
* Replace your pectin; it stays good for about a year. I love Pamona’s pectin (when not using the apple pectin I made the year before) which uses calcium instead of sugar as the gelling agent allowing the use of honey, agave, stevia, fruit juice and the like as sweetener in ANY amount desired. It can be found in small boxes at Fred Meyer or in small AND bulk quantities to share with friends at the Vancouver Food Cooperative online store (www.vancouverfood.coop).
* Stock up on vinegar for quick pickling: white, balsamic, wine as long as it has a minimum of 5% acidity!
* Invest in that new pickling crock or canner; you know you want to.
* Have your pressure canner dial, rings, and condition checked with the WSU Master Food Preservers BEFORE canning this year. It literally could save your life.

This is just the beginning of canning season with pints and quarts of pickled jalepenos, green beans, blueberry pie filling, spaghetti sauce, salsa, peaches, mushrooms, applesauce, raspberry jam, and crabapple jelly to come! I hope to see you at a waterbath, pressure canning, or pickling class this summer!





summer upon us

16 06 2011

glorious rhubarb

It has been yet another slow start to summer this year. The brassicas are just now showing their true colors, giant heads of broccoli coming into their own these last weeks, peas, greens, herbs, strawberries, and RHUBARB all showing their color and lending themselves to quick snacks, dinner, canning.

Rhubarb is something near and dear to my heart. A start given to me by my grandparents in-law, planted originally more than 40 years ago, is one of my favourite early season canning opportunities. It is a beautiful, strong, thick, non-fiberous rhubarb with deep red color, huge leaves, and produces from March through September.

Rhubarb is a vegetable but once again, thanks to the courts of the the 1940s, is considered a fruit in the US. The leaves are toxic but make a great mulch in garden beds. When ready to harvest, stalks will be firm ranging in size from thumb-width to writst-width, deep red in color. Do not cut rhubarb, instead tug firmly at the stalk near the ground; it will crack slightly and cleanly seperate from the main plant. If a flower has started to form or is starting to bud the stalk is spent and should not be used for cooking or canning.

With the summer solstice upon us celebrate with rhubarb and the opening of all the local farmer’s markets. Traditionally, we’re planting all the warm season vegetables but keep in mind evenings are still cool and variable daily temperatures mean that peppers, tomatoes, eggplant and other warm veg needs protection.








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