Independence Days Update: Cross-Quarter Day

admin February 2nd, 2011

Today is cross-quarter day aka Groundhog’s Day or Imbolc.  To understand cross-quarter day, just imagine the calendar divided into four parts.  Now quarter it again.  These cross- quarter points are traditional points of reference for seasons and holidays.  In Britain and in warmer places than mine, spring begins traditionally, with the vernal equinox at the mid-point of spring.

Let’s just say that in upstate NY, February 2 does not start spring, not even a little.  On the other hand, it does mark the point that humans and animals both begin getting really annoyed with winter ;-) .  I don’t usually allow myself this luxury until March, but for some reason this year I’m having a little trouble with it.  Meanwhile the goats are just plain cranky – they want grass, dammit.

The good news is that around now is also when I start in earnest getting ready for spring.  First the seed starting begins. I’ve already put some perennials on to stratify and seeded a few early herbs and flowers, mostly just to make the kids happy – they can’t wait to get things in the ground.  We’ve got lupine seedling and yarrows, and tiny sage leaves sticking up.  But the onions will begin in a week or two, as will any perennials I’m starting early for first year bloom, and then we move on to peppers and eggplant, so there’s hope yet.

Meanwhile, Arava and Bast are at least starting to show their pregnancies (they’ll be the first to be bred) and the junior does meet the goat of their dreams in a couple of weeks.  I’m hoping all the information for joining my vegetable and herb plant CSA will be up by the end of next week, and the herb CSA will follow.  We’ve got chicks coming in mid-February (they’ll live by the woodstove for the first few weeks) and will be boarding a friend’s baby goat (she won it as a prize!) soon.  So things are going on under the surface.

Our first home visit from the social worker is Tuesday, so we’re cleaning the house and trying to look like we’ve got our lives together ;-) .  I’ve got the garden calendar underway, and am working on marketing plans.   It is a good time for cutting wood, harvesting barks and enjoying peace and quiet, at least if we ever get any ;-) .

We’ve used up a lot of last year’s preserves and root cellar produce, and more has to be used.  Now is the time when we count jars on the fingers of one hand, and try to save things for special occasions -the last jar of raspberry jam, the last of kimchi, the last of whole tomatoes, the last hubbard squash.  Such things are bittersweet – we won’t miss them once spring comes in but they remind us why late winter and early spring were called “the starving time.”  We won’t starve, but we do feel that it is worth experiencing the sense of not having everything outside its time, and enduring some minor privation.  Still, eating store jam is privation enough ;-) .

Otherwise, we’re mostly dreaming of the real spring – of the days when we start taking daily peeper walks and the first green shoots pop up.  But that’s not for a while yet – under our 18 inch blanket of white, things are waiting, and so are we.

Plant something: Lupines, yarrow, sage, snapdragons.

Harvest something: Eggs, milk, sprouts

Preserve something: Not a thing

Waste not: We’ve been getting rid of some old expired canned goods by mixing them into dog food, otherwise the usual composting and feeding things to other things.

Want Not: Seed orders!!!  Woot!!!

Eat the Food: Lots of veggies getting towards their end, the last of everything.   Lots of stuffed cabbage, too, since we’re on a kick.

Build community food systems: Gave a bunch of radio interviews on food and gardens!  Am arranging a kosher slaughter workshop for my region, and starting up my CSAs!

How about you?

9 Responses to “Independence Days Update: Cross-Quarter Day”

  1. NM says:

    Doing a lot of yard work to turn most of the back yard into garden space; involves (stifling sob) cutting down a gigantic pine some idiot before us planted right on the property line; the trunk has already taken out the fence, and the neighbor is not pleased. But I love that tree. Also digging up and moving several other much smaller trees, to clear space, and cutting back the ridiculously overgrown arborvitae, to let some light into the place.
    Also researching greenhouses, seed varieties; just ordered some heirloom strawberries that are rare and hard to get and supposedly the best flavored berries ever (albeit disease-prone; this is an expensive experiment). And taking a night class on farming.
    No planting yet, or preserving or harvesting; have had to go back to eating store vegetables temporarily; not happy about it, but I keep reminding myself it is temporary.
    Lots of cooking; the last pie pumpkin, homemade yogurt, local eggs, breakfast of whole-wheat & barley banana walnut pancakes, to use up an overripe banana and get some fiber into husband; chard calzone, root vegetable hashbrowns, etc. Despite my efforts to use up preserved goods, the shelves are still quite full, but then it’s still six months to the next harvest, so maybe that isn’t so bad.

  2. Lynne says:

    We’re in a cold snap here and having a much colder winter than the last one (which was the warmest winter here on record, so not too surprising we’re colder). Nonetheless I planted seeds earlier this year than ever – made more homemade flats and am experimenting with “salads in a flat” – a mix of radish, greens and green onion, germinated indoors and then put outside in cold frames. I am craving fresh greens….

    Plant: Salads in a box x 2

    Harvest: eggs, sprouts

    Preserve: 0

    Waste not: Getting better at eating our home grown and preserved food – this is an ongoing process and has taken much more time than learning to grow it!

    Want not: Some flour, sugar

    Community: Nothing really, ordered and got seeds from a new small business, and am excited to try them; I think supporting small businesses counts here

    Eat: slow cooker meals featuring lots of our homegrown veg (potatoes, carrots, peas, corn, dried peppers, dried tomatoes, broccoli etc), pizza with the same, homemade syrups and local apples on pancakes made with homeground flour from local wheat…fruit cobbler with homegrown and local fruit, roasted homegrown veg potatoes, beets, carrots, sweet potatoes on braised greens (which had been frozen and were kind of mediocre)

  3. Nicole C says:

    Planting: I no longer bother with starting seeds; at best I gain a day or two on the harvest while expending a lot of work. I direct seed everything, using row covers in the fall when the hungry caterpillars are out. Soil temp was at 42 the other day but it’s not stable yet — but cold crop planting season will be here soon. Strawberries arrived yesterday and are going in this week.

    Harvest: Nada.

    Waste not, Preserve and Eat: I’ve been playing with grinding grain and bread recipes as well as my new Excalibur dehydrator this month. I still have ample butternut squash and sweet potatoes in the basement that I’m going to have to do something with in the next few weeks or they will probably go bad.

    Want not: Lots of dried beans and whole grains went into storage this month.

    Community: Not much, unless serial dating counts!

  4. Sara & Daryl: rural Alabama says:

    Blessed Bee everyone on this lovely first day of spring! Shehekinanu!

    Planted: Two 15 foot rows x 2.25 ft of red and yellow bulb onions. “Sowed in the snow”: winter wheat and red clover over most of my dry fields. If inoculating counts, then 60 Shiitake logs.
    Harvest: Cero.
    Preserve: Bean juice for stock. Pumpkin Coconut Thai soup.
    Waste not: Dumpster dove for wood and other things to build another structure.
    Want not: Got seeds? I do, from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange!
    Eat: Cooking up lots of soups and dried beans, and some of the last of the canned goods.
    Community Food: Hosted a Shiitake Mushroom inoculating weekend here at Common Ground; several old timers and some newbies. Attended a super-cool farming conference in Chattanooga, TN and learned some really cool stuff I’m gonna try out this year.

  5. Julie- New Zealand says:

    I’ve been enjoying your blogs for a while and thought I’d join the Independence Days bandwagon even though we’re in the midst of summer rather than the dark of winter. We live in a rural area close to a big city, we own 10 acres and are surrounded by other such farmlets (we call them lifestyle blocks). I am a SAHM to twins aged 6 and a 3 year old and we are looking for ways to produce a modest income for one of us from our land so I don’t have to go back to work! We grow about 70% of our fresh vegetables and a small portion of our fruit, and we currently have our own eggs, pork and lamb in the freezer with beef coming in the next few weeks. We still have a long way to go to our goal of providing the majority of our food needs but we are pleased with our progress so far.

    Planted: Carrots and lettuce
    Harvest: Beans, lettuce, tomatoes, zuchinni, pickles, carrots, blueberries, blackberries, beetroot, brocolli, strawberries
    Preserve: Beans and more beans blanched then frozen, peach cake for the freezer, zuchinni walnut loaves for freezer, Plum and blueberry jam, apricot jam, blueberries, stewed apple and blackberry for winter crumbles/pies, pickled gherkins, pickled beetroot
    Waste not: Found a few second hand treasures to furnish our newly renovated house and repurposed some materials from the old house to sew curtains.
    Want not: Yarn to feed my knitting addiction – there are worse things to be addicted to right? At least it’ll keep us warm in the winter….
    Eat: Heaps of beans, salads, zuchinni fritters/loaves/brownies, barbeque homekilled meat
    Community: Spending more time getting to know our neighbours and working out ways to help each other, no sense us all doing everything when pooling our skills could free up time and see us doing more of the things we enjoy.

  6. Sue says:

    Hope the large storm in north east US isn’t too devastating – with the massive category 5 cyclone Yasi in far north Queensland it does seem climate is going the way scientists predicted – larger, more destructive weather events.

    We have had a rather cool wet start to summer in southern Aus, so main harvest will be later – here’s what I have been up to.

    Planted: more beans, corn, peas, carrots, celeriac, beets, lettuce, loquat seed. Planted out potted choko.

    Harvest: beans, spuds (10kg incidently while weeding), zuch, a few ripe tomatoes, lots of greens (mangle leaves, chia, amaranth, tree kale, lettuce, basil, sage, lemon balm, lemongrass and camelia sinensis tips for making tea, lots of different berries, apricot, nectarine, rhubarb, plums, early apples, late orange and nashi.

    Waste not: got material for making a dehydrator from recycling yard – fly screen mesh, timber, laserlite sheet.

    Want not: did not drive to town today to stock up on bananas because they will be in short supply and expensive due to the cyclone. Did not buy ‘some different fruit’ for DD16 when I went to town on Monday (see above list) – Grrr teenagers.

    Eat: see harvest + eggs and lots of cans from a friend who cleaned out her pantry of near use by – tuna, fruit, biscuits etc.

    Community: had workng bee at sisters property to mulch her new trees – 2 truck loads of mulch.

  7. Claire says:

    St. Louis got a mix of freezing rain, sleet, and snow from the storm. Got some gorgeous pix of ice coating bronze fennel seedheads I’d left standing for the birds. Now on to chipping the mix of sleet and snow off the driveway before the next snow …

    Planted: milkweed, skullcap, and blue vervain seeds, to stratify. Small potato onion bulbs, in pots, put on the front porch for early greens.

    Harvested: nothing.

    Preserved: shelling out last year’s black bean harvest.

    Waste not: we accepted over 25 pounds each of grain sorghum and pinto beans left by the former resident of our Zen center. Proceeded to pass on some of each to friends.

    Want not: still have potatoes and storage radishes in the root cellar, though we have eaten the last of the bok choys and had to start buying green food again. But that didn’t happen till nearly mid-January, the latest so far. Still have kimchi and sauerkraut in the fridge.

    Community food systems: I’m working with a group to establish a new community garden in a suburb about 6 or 7 miles from home, within biking distance. A friend of ours lives there and he started the project.

    Eat the food: Cooked grain sorghum makes a good breakfast cereal and base for tabbouli – I cooked the grain in a crock pot. My DH made a pot of pinto beans in the crock pot.

  8. michelle says:

    Deep winter is the best time to study here. You are right Sharon about spring not being so close in this part of the world. it’s quite snowy over here in the finger lakes, but the sun shining today makes for a pretty landscape.

    This same time last winter I spent a lot of time reading about goat keeping. It’s the same this year, with great references including books: Natural Goat Care, blogs, including this one & a few more complete with instructions & videos. Fias Co farm is one of my favorites. I already use Molly’s Herbals for herbal worming treatments for my dog & chickens. I am almost ready to take the next step in getting the goats.

    Having mastered yogurt & making it regularly, I am moving on to kefir & buttermilk.Before the end of winter I hope to learn simple cheese making. Lots of reading on that subject too. I’m all ready with cultures & supplies.

    We heat with wood & the winter laundry routine is to start a load after 7pm (night time rates) & hang it to dry before going to bed. It is different timing than the summer laundry that gets started in the a.m. to get it hung outside as early as possible.

    To be conservative with energy we heat mostly the woodstove/ living area. There is only one heated bedroom out of 4 in the upper story. It & the bathroom have heat runs too.

    Egg supply is much better this winter than last. The Golden comet hens are new from last summer. I chose Khaki Campbell ducks last year too after reading that they are the best winter egg laying birds. It doesn’t seem to be true though. Not one duck egg all of January.

    I am always grateful for the foods we’ve canned or frozen. I have more flexibility in spending on bulk foods this time of year.
    Because wheat has longer storage than flour I’ve got 5# of 3 different types, all organic & learning to use each.

    There have been some helpful blog posts lately on seed saving and, important to me, seed storage. I just cleaned & sorted the poorly stored collection of seeds I had left in the shed that was ravaged by rodents. Though they enjoyed the organic edamame & pumpkin seed, not all was lost as I did store a few packages more securely. Lessons learned.

    With this years seed catalogs I’m planning & dreaming green as all gardeners are doing this time of year. The dang gmo & corn issues are motivating me to grow my own heirloom corn, just a little something I can do to support values contrary to the Monsanto type junk going on in the world.

    waste & want not: a productive month in January by getting the elderberries in the freezer made into syrup

    for crafting I have been using free scraps of tshirts to make into rag rugs, plastic bags into plarn to crochet into bigger, heavier farm market bags & hand sewing a hexagon quilt with no bought items.

    It is always interesting to see what others are accomplishing in this challenge!

  9. KC says:

    Here in central Virginia, it looks and feels like spring is around the corner. I keep saying “it’s time to plant peas!”, but I haven’t, yet. It might be time to take the plastic off of the low tunnels. I only seem to be harvesting every 10 days or so … mainly because it seems like a lot of work to take the plastic off the tunnels to get at the plants. Last year, it seemed easier. We are still eating from storage and from the garden. We haven’t had to buy any vegetables lately – except for onions.

    Plant something: just sprouts … but hope to plant onions (inside) and peas, favas , clover outside … soon.

    Harvest something: kale, collard, tatsoi, rutabaga, beets, carrots, leeks, parsnips.

    Preserve something: No

    Waste not: I cooked up the last of the butternut squash, today. It was still good, but next time I should try to eat it by December. I’ve been sprouting sunflower seeds, lentils and mung beans from the food storage (over 1 year old) and using up the dried milk from storage (in pancakes, etc.) I also made a big batch of granola – using oats and sunflowers from storage.

    Want Not: seeds are here and more on the way. I plan to put half of my seed order in a glass jar in the freezer to save for next year. I also ordered bulk oatstraw for tea.

    Eat the Food: Chicken soup with leeks and parsnips … yumm. I also added green beans from the freezer. I really like them – royalty purple pods are meaty beans and good in soups. We’ve been eating a lot of the frozen kale and its delicious. I had armloads of kale last spring and when I put it in the freezer, I didn’t know if we would be eating it – I thought that we would be eating fresh greens from the garden. Using the kale from the freezer is very convenient!. We have been eating southern meals – cowpeas, sweet potatoes, grits, okra from the freezer. Also october beans and tomatoes from the freezer. I froze lots of cherry tomatoes – whole and raw – and I love how they look and taste coming out of the freezer. Also the whole peppers. We have eaten all the peaches from the freezer and I used the last of the apples in apple crisp. We still have lots of potatoes and sweet potatoes in the root cellar. I’ve been making crustless sweet potato and squash pies. We still have tomatoes in the freezer (and canning jars). A little more peppers, okra, October beans, cowpeas and applesauce in the freezer – good for another couple months. We haven’t really started on the dehydrated okra, peppers, greens, or tomatoes, yet. They are good in soups, so I better start using them soon.

    Build community food systems: We are having a seed exchange at the farmers market this Saturday.

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