The Importance of Visits from Polar Low Pressures, aka Vortex

NPR ran a story this morning about what media outlets have started calling a polar vortexIt’s an ordinary and important occurrence that has been recently been given a new label to make it newsworthy. But as the report says:

Such temperature shifts serve a purpose, says Steven Nelson of the National Weather Service.

“These cold intrusions, cold fronts, are really restoring the balance in the temperature and moisture across the earth’s surface,” he says

The story got me to thinking that turning these cold fronts, or winter in general, into a thing deserving of our ire is like calling sleep or weekends or vacations something that deserves our ire because the need for their restorative actions disrupts our regular routine. But then, that’s the point, isn’t it.

And for those who point out that cold weather kills many people each year so shouldn’t we hate it, we might ask why it is that a wealthy nation can’t find a way to assure everyone has their basic needs of food, shelter, etc. met. Maybe the weather too often is a scapegoat for what is really a social, political, and economic problem.

If we are to live sustainably, we need to better appreciate the rhythms of nature and appreciate the restorative aspects that are so desperately needed by the more-than-human and humans alike!

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The joy of gardening: harvesting lettuce during a light snow


I waited until noon today when the temperature was up to 28 to check on the fall garden and harvest some lettuce.


A few big snowflakes were falling as I picked almost a pound. What a treat! And it looks to be a good 4-5 time that left still.


This is the first year trying the Johnny’s Select greenhouse plastic for low hoops, so no idea how much will survive the next several days of teens and 20s. Time will tell.


I did accidentally discover that the side that I accidentally buried with wood chips last week did better than the side where the edge odd the plastic just laid on the ground. So now I buried both edges.

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Roasted Rabbit with Apples and Leeks

10629635_10204416863518280_4506439529153979811_nThis recipe, adapted from Grit Barnyard Series: Guide to Backyard Rabbits, page 46, was out of this world! We served it with winter squash, beets, and mash potatoes.

  • 1 rabbit, cut into 7 pieces (4 legs, back, and 2 side bacon pieces)
  • Chicken breast (for non-rabbit eaters)
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon ground fennel
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt (scant)
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 slice bacon, cut into 6 pieces
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 cup sliced leeks, white part only
  • 1 small apple, cored and sliced
  1. Place oven rack in upper-third position. Heat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Remove rabbit from refrigerator, rinse under tepid water and pat dry. Cover and set aside for 30 minutes in a shallow baking dish (large enough for all pieces to be placed in a single layer)
  3. In small bowl, combine butter, paprika, fennel, salt and garlic
  4. Pour butter and spice mixture over meat, making sure all pieces are coated.
  5. Place bacon piece atop each rabbit piece. Roast rabbit for 20 minutes, or until browned
  6. Turn meat pieces over. Add side bacon and chicken breast. Pour in white wine and scatter leeks in pan. Baste meat, and cook for another 8-10 minutes.
  7. Scatter apple pieces and cook for an additional 15-20 minutes, or until rabbit is done (165 degrees).
  8. Remove from oven and let rest for 5-10 minutes before serving
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Garlic and Winter Naps

“True gardeners never cease to garden…” In advance of the hard freeze yesterday we started tucking in the strawberries and perennial herbs for their winter’s nap. And along with new tulip and daffodil bulbs, we planted garlic. Garlic can be planted right up until the ground is frozen. Once in the ground, it gets covered with a thick layer of mulch. And then it’s time for an early winter nap. Come spring, garlic will be there, pushing it’s leaves up and growing succulent cloves that only those who have eaten fresh grown garlic can fully appreciate. Weed and water periodically, and by late June or early July the tops will have turned brown, the bulbs get harvested, and the bed is ready for a planting of summer or fall crops.

For more on growing garlic, here’s a few sources:

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October 2014 Harvest

Amazingly, November is upon us. As I look out the window at the first hard frost on the ground, it’s amazing to reflect on what a wonderful harvest it’s been this year. October saw our first harvest of sweet potatoes. We lost about 1/3rd of the crop to a very cute family of shrews. On the other hand, we still harvested 35 pounds of sweet potatoes, and the shrews are aggressive eaters of grubs, which otherwise would have potentially damaged many other crops. I think it’s a fair trade.

Here’s our totals by produce (harvest for October 2012 in parentheses).

  • Beets: 2 lb 0 oz (0 lb 4 oz)
  • Brussel Sprouts: 0 lb 5 oz (0 lb 0 oz)
  • Carrots: 0 lb 9 oz (0 lb 3 oz)
  • Chard: 4 lb 10 oz (2 lb 5 oz)
  • Eggs: 13 lb 7 oz (0 lb 0 oz)
  • Kale: 0 lb 0 oz (1 lb 5 oz)
  • Leeks: 2 lb 0 oz (0 lb 0 oz)
  • Lettuce: 0 lb 10 oz (3 lb 5 oz)
  • Potatoes: 0 lb 0 oz (14 lb 7 oz)
  • Sweet Peppers: 0 lb 14 oz (0 lb 6 oz)
  • Tomatoes: 0 lb 0 oz (20 lb 3 oz)
  • Radishes: 0 lb 6 oz(0 lb 0 oz)
  • Spinach: 0 lb 0 oz (0 lb 4 oz)
  • Sweet Potatoes: 35 lb 15 oz (0 lb 0 oz)
  • Turnips: 0 lb 9 oz (1 lb 5 oz)
  • Winter Squash: 1 lb 7 oz (0 lb 0 oz)

Total: 63 lb 1 oz (43 lb 12 oz)

Our season total is now 542 lb 11 oz! We’ll soon have another rabbit harvest, the bulk of our Leek and Brussel Sprouts are still awaiting harvest, and we have a wide variety of cold-hardy crops planted late September just starting to become ready for harvest. Yum!

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Crops for Fall and Winter Harvest

15204329229_aeddf72004_kWe’ve got our 2 fall and winter harvest beds planted now. I’m trying out new hoops using EMT metal pipe and Tufflite plastic to compliment the normal Agribon-19 that I use. With a warmer-than-normal October-December expected, there’s reason to hope we’ll have harvest through the whole of that period. After some research, here are crops recommended by Johnny Seeds that we’re trying out.


  • Tyee Spinach
  • Red Kitten Spinach
  • Winter Density Lettuce
  • Rouge D’ Hiver Lettuce
  • Ruby Sky Lettuce
  • Red Sails Lettuce
  • Skyphos Lettuce
  • Arugula
  • Bright Lights Swiss Chard
  • + Winterbor Kale
  • + Toscano Kale
  • + Red Russian Kale
  • + Vit Corn Mache

Root Crops

  • Red Meat Radish
  • Easter Egg Radish
  • French Breakfast Radish
  • D’ Avignon Radish
  • + Scarlet Queen Turnip
  • + Hakurei Turnip
  • + Purple Top White Globe Turnip
  • + Napoli Carrot
  • Winner Kohlrabi
  • Javelin Parsnip
  • Guardsman Bunching Onion
  • Red Ace Beet
  • Bull’s Blood Beet
  • + King Richard Leek


  • Oregon Giant Snow Pea
  • – Calipso Cilantro
  • – Giant of Italy Parsley
  • + Nautic Brussels Sprouts
  • + Happy Rich Chinese Broccoli

+ Hardy varieties can withstand temperatures as low as 20°F before being killed.

– Some herbs will remain usable with cover into the winter

Semi-hardy plants (others on the list) can survive repeated light frosts without cover.

Nothing grows with <10 hours light – mid-November to mid-January – even under cover

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September 2014 Harvest

We crossed 100 pounds once again this month — just barely, but we crossed it! Compared to September 2012, when we harvested 19 lb, 9oz, we’re looking at quite a dramatic difference!

We’ve gone from 122 eggs last month, to 129 eggs this month. Another good harvest of rabbit meat. The last of the potatoes, tomatoes, and beans were harvested this month, but next month still promises a good harvest of sweet potatoes, beets, greens, and the like.

Here’s our totals by produce (harvest for September 2012 in parentheses).

  • Apples 0 lb. 11 oz. (N/A)
  • Basil 0 lb. 9 oz. (0 lb. 0 oz.)
  • Beans 7 lb. 6 oz. (0 lb. 5 oz.)
  • Beets 1 lb. 5 oz. (0 lb. 0 oz.)
  • Carrots 0 lb. 0 oz. (1 lb. 6 oz.)
  • Chard 2 lb. 14 oz. (0 lb. 0 oz.)
  • Eggs 12 lb. 14 oz. (0 lb. 0 oz.)
  • Kohlrabi 0 lb. 2 oz. (0 lb. 0 oz.)
  • Leeks 1 lb. 0 oz. (1 lb. 12 oz.)
  • Lettuce 1 lb. 4 oz. (2 lb. 2 oz.)
  • Peppers (Jalapeno) 1 lb. 4 oz. (0 lb. 0 oz.)
  • Peppers (Sweet) 1 lb. 15 oz. (0 lb. 0 oz.)
  • Potatoes 32 lb. 12 oz. (5 lb. 12 oz.)
  • Rabbit 22 lb. 9 oz. (N/A)
  • Squash (Summer) 0 lb. 15 oz. (0 lb. 0 oz.)
  • Squash (Winter) 8 lb. 6 oz. (N/A)
  • Tomatoes 6 lb. 6 oz. (6 lb. 0 oz.)
  • Turnips 0 lb. 4 oz. (1 lb. 12 oz.)

Total: 102 lb. 6 oz. (19 lb. 9 oz.)

For the year, the top five producers by weight are potatoes at 94 lb. 0 oz. (51 lb. 0 oz. in 2012), tomatoes at 69 lb. 8 oz (75 lb. 14 oz. in 2012), rabbit at 69 lb. 6 oz, summer squash at 66 lb. 2 oz (27 lb. 10 oz.), and lettuce at 34 lb. 3 oz. (21 lb. 5 oz.).  We’re at 479 lb. 10 oz. for the year. We will definitely cross 500 pounds for the year once those sweet potatoes are harvested, and now that the fall/winter harvests are picking up. Plus, when we land back in the states, the first of the Brussels Sprouts will be ready for harvest! YUM!!

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