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The Edible Garden Project 2015 – part 4

Here comes the protein!

eggschickens-2 chickens-12 chickens-16 chickens-15Last week we bought three lovely chicken ladies and became proper urban farmers! They are so plump and adorable and I finally understand what chicken lovers mean when they say that chickens are funny. They are actually hilarious! They remind me of John Cleese doing his funny walk. And they are so soft! I love them already. We have been working a lot on the Chicken Coop this week, which was humid, damp and dirty. My kids and I did a big clean-up, painted some oil on the surface of the coop and built a brand new chicken coop door. We built them a nest in an old metal bucket and added a wooden egg (to trick them that this is where they should lay their eggs). And then it was finally time to go and get the chickens. We bought them for 8€ each at a local farm and considering that they will give us about 800 eggs a year, this is a very good deal. We are not planning to keep them in that cage. They will be free-range chickens, foraging and exploring the back of our garden, where the compost conveniently is located. So that’s it: we now have fresh and pretty much free eggs, the best fertiliser for our future plants and three cute pets to enjoy.

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In the Fall and Winter garden, everything is looking fine too. The broccoli and the carrots are growing inside a fleece tent and I hope it should protect them from possible early frost. We will still have a small amount of salads, a small pumpkin, chard and radishes to harvest, but just in case, I’m growing a few salad and chard plants inside, to harvest during the coldest months. We are still fine with vegetables though, the entire freezer is full of zucchinis from this summer. Our three zucchini plants were very productive! chickens-11 chickens-9 chickens-8 chickens-5 chickens-4 chickens-3


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Garden food – How to Sprout Lentils

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What to do with those dried lentils in your pantry… Sprout them! Add then them to salads, eat them as a snack, add them to smoothies or use them as micro greens in the winter (if you can’t grow your own salad due lack of light). They have a mild and slightly nutty flavour. Delicious! And so healthy… Try doing it with the kids: they will love seeing it grow so fast!

I’m cautious to what goes into my body nowadays, especially since I became a vegetarian two years ago. I like to eat “real food”, by that I mean that I avoid processed food, even for vegetarians and vegans. I want to make all the food I eat by myself. I buy organic produce, or grow as much as I can in my garden, I buy local and seasonal. I never thought it was difficult to quit the meat though, as there are so much delicious stuff to replace it with. And replacing the meat really helps our health and also the environment. What’s also interesting is that blood tests I’ve done lately shows that my iron and protein levels are so much better now since before, when I still ate meat.

Anyway, my new favourite source of protein nowadays are lentils and beans. I make salads with boiled lentils together with chopped red onions and add a really tasty sesame dressing (2 tbsp brown sugar, 2 tbsp Japanese soya sauce, 4 tbsp toasted sesame seeds and 4 tbsp tahini sauce). Or you can make this quick salad dish above from sprouted lentils: a chopped up apple from the garden, sprouted lentils, cherry tomatoes and some basil leaves. And again, the sesame dressing. Yummie!

 

 

 

You need:

– a big glass jar

– a rubberband

– a loosely woven piece of cloth (like cheese cloth, but any cover that lets out water will do, a small sieve for example).

– lentils: black, red, green… any kind will do.

 

How to do it:

– rinse and put the lentils in your jar.

– add water almost to the top, grab the cheese cloth and attach it on the top with the rubber band. Keep it close by so that you don’t forget about them. I keep my jars in the kitchen, by the window, as that’s where I am several times per day.

– in the morning, add water through the fabric, and shake them lightly, then remove the water again. They need to constantly stay moist, but not wet.

– keep adding water, shake and remove for a few days. Morning and night will do. It will take about 2-3 days until your sprouts are ready to eat, but you can leave them to grow as big as you want them.


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The Edible Garden Project 2015 – part 3

Planting a fall and winter garden.

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Our Edible garden project is definitely a work-in-progress project now and we are slowly moving forward. After a huge fight with wild Strawberry runners I managed to empty almost the entire vegetable bed (apart from a few Calendulas that I left behind on purpose). I saved the Strawberry plants and a few runners to plant in my new Strawberry border along the fence by the terrace. After some deep digging and with added manure I planted Carrots, Beets, Chives, Garlic, some salads and some Rainbow chard. I never succeeded very well with Carrots, but after my studies this year, I finally found out why: you need to confuse Mr. Carrotfly! He is a clever little bug and he finds the Carrot seedlings and eat them before you even see them above ground! So for this fall/ winter garden I came prepared: I added some Chives plants and also some Chives and Dill seeds in the ground (hopefully something will come up before the frost comes.) Chives is a perennial so it will come back year after year to protect my Carrots. Yeay!

So, moving on to the other vegetable bed where I planted a few Broccoli and Artichoke seedlings that I planted from seeds in June. Artichokes can grow as a perennial here in Belgium, but I should have planted them in the spring already to be able to enjoy them next summer. Artichokes are just like Rhubarbs: they have to be left alone the first year to be able to come back as perennials. If you harvest them they will not come back the year after and the year after that and so on. So, it’s an experiment with the Artichokes, we’ll see… Oh, and don’t you think my baby Rhubarb is the cutest thing ever? I love Rhubarbs, it will be extremely hard not to harvest it next summer. I will need to ask my neighbour for a mature plant that I can harvest from immediately as well.

 

 

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We did a major harvest last week, but there are some vegetables that stay on as long as they are producing. I was getting tired of the Lemon balm and Mint spreading out their roots all over the place, so I put them in pots for now. I hope that they will stay happy there with some mulching over the winter. I re-planted Peas in a wine crate in July and they are now growing steady and I should be able to harvest some pods for salads already next week. The Rainbow Chard that I planted in June are growing so big now, that I thinned a few out and planted them in the bigger vegetable beds instead. The three Courgettes that I planted out in June are still producing 2-3 zucchinis/ courgettes per week now! As I didn’t have a lot of space this year, I hope you can see that I’m growing them upwards, on bamboo sticks. It works really great 🙂 Finally, my son really wanted a Jack o’Lantern Pumpkin for Halloween. But he told me in early July so I really didn’t think anything would come out of it if we planted. Still, I let him plant a few seeds just for fun and to my surprise one of the Pumpkin plants is growing fast now and is already growing a Pumpkin! It’s only about 8 cm wide, but there is still another month until Halloween so maybe, maybe… 

By the way, growing vegetables with kids is so much fun! I love seeing their expressions when they see the result of their planting and as they water and watch the plants grow. I can’t wait to get the chickens… It will be such a great experience for them.

 

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I also finished my Strawberry border this week! The Strawberries look a little sad, but it’s only because they haven’t rooted yet. I added the little Citronella tree here as well. The smell will keep the mosquitos away from the terrace I hope. A also store-bought a Rosemary and a Thyme, both herbs are frequently used in our kitchen.

 

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Now all we need to do is a rain-dance like my daughter here, so that this fall and winter garden will grow well and produce lots and lots of delicious and healthy vegetables!