Suburban Homestead

Amid the labyrinth of power lines and close proximity to our neighbors, we are slowly but surely developing for ourselves a bit of a suburban homestead paradise all our own.  When we took possession of this property four years ago, we were given a perfectly blank slate to work with because the previous owners had just filled in their in-ground pool.  This left us with a lovely, flat, fenced-in canvas that we are now able to glean a great deal of food from.

{Before.  Late July 2012.}

The gardening space we previously had contains 12 4X8 foot raised beds and one 4X16 foot raised bed.  Then just outside that space we have a smattering of lavender and rhubarb and some heirloom perennial flowers.  Last year we added 2 apple trees, an asparagus and strawberry patch, raspberry bramble and an herb garden to the mix.

And now, here we are…

I am so thrilled by how the space turned out.  I must say I was a little skeptical for a while there, when the vision in my head did not seem to match what lay before me.  But with a bit of digging, a little building and a whole lot of hauling, I am satisfied to say the very least.

We used the beautiful circa 1850 barn timbers I mentioned in a previous post to create a more permanent border for the existing asparagus and strawberry patch.  We used the remaining timbers to create a brand new perennial vegetable bed that will soon be home to more rhubarb (rhubarb wine here I come!), asparagus and Jerusalem artichokes.

We then added three additional 4X8 foot raised beds and one 4X4 bed.  This fall these beds will be loaded with cold hardy annual vegetables that we then hope to cover with a hoop house of some sort.  We are crossing our fingers this will give us delicious, fresh vegetables year round.  We also plan to add some gorgeous tree stumps around the fire pit for prime seating for those s’more-roasting evenings right around the corner.

Garden Renovation

We have yet another project in the works.  In an effort to add more perennial and annual growing space, we are again (for the forth year in a row) expanding our garden.

We are trying to keep renovation costs to a minimum so we are repurposing materials we already had on our property.  We were also lucky enough to obtain reclaimed timbers from an old barn to create some raised beds.  (Remember the ones we were going to use for a new dining room floor?  Enter new idea.)

As you can see, it is definitely still a work in progress.  Hopefully, I will have pictures of the completed project soon.

Jerusalem Artichokes

After reading an article in Mother Earth News a few weeks ago, I felt inspired to try a new veggie!  The article discussed a variety of perennial vegetables, in addition to asparagus and rhubarb which tend to be the perennial veggies that people are most familiar with, but the one that caught my eye was the Jerusalem artichoke.  I was very intrigued by these perennial tubers.  Jerusalem artichokes (also known as sunchokes because they produce beautiful yellow flowers similar to a sunflower) can prepared in much the same fashion as a potato.

I was thrilled when I walked into my natural foods store yesterday and found a giant basket of Jerusalem artichokes nestled in amongst the locally grown kale and spinach!  I grabbed a bag of these little guys and headed home with an idea in my mind to create some form of soup with them.

So yesterday, with a tiny two-year old sous chef by my side, I started my experimental run with Jerusalem artichoke soup.

I first put 4 tablespoons of butter in a stock pot.  After the butter was melted I threw in one diced yellow onion and 2 diced leeks.

I cooked these veggies down until tender.  Then I added 10 medium Jerusalem artichokes that I had diced (I left the peels on for added nutrition).  I then covered all of the veggies with about 2 quarts of pork stock that I had on hand.  I then covered the pot, and let the veggies simmer for about 20 minutes.

While the veggies simmered, I fried up a pound of bacon. (A note…my girls ate about 2 strips each, so it ended up being a bit less than a pound of bacon that I actually ended up putting in the soup 🙂 )  When the bacon was cool enough the handle, I chopped it up into bite-sized pieces.

Once the Jerusalem artichokes were tender, I ran an immersion blender through the soup.  Then I added 1/2 cup heavy cream and 8 oz Havarti cheese (shredded).  After the dairy was incorporated, I added the chopped bacon to the soup.  I flavored with salt and pepper from there are viola…Jersusalem artichoke soup!

I hope you enjoy this great little veggie that has gone unnoticed for so long here in our house.  The soup had a very similar texture to that of potato soup, but with a slightly sweeter taste.  I would say that this experiment turned out to be a success.