Thursday, March 8, 2018

Onions and leeks are started

Here we go for this year. This are the trays with onions and leeks starting. This is the first year I am trying to start them from seeds instead of buying started plants. The onions are named "Blush". They are a pink skinned variety which has been popular in France for centuries, but not very common in this country. The leeks are a variety named "Large American flag", but also known as "Giant Musselburgh". I totally prefer the earlier name, and will call them by it. They are listed as an heirloom variety from 1870. That was about the earliest leek variety I could find.

We have had a great deal of rain the last couple weeks, and all the gardens are flooded. I hope the barley lived through it, but at the moment I can't even see any of the plants. we grew some barley last year, but it was not enough to make a dish for 50 people so I saved it for seed this year. I decided to plant it in the fall and hope for an early crop. We will see when the soil warms up some more whether that is going to work.

In the mean time, I started some turnips and cabbage in the greenhouse in the fall last year. I was hoping the unheated greenhouse would stay warm enough to keep them growing. We suffered a real brutal cold snap, and the door of the greenhouse blew open. I thought all the plants had died, but found the turnips did live through it. Most of the cabbage died, but there are about 7 plants still alive. I need to stop by and weed them. so sometime in the spring we will have turnips and cabbage if I manage to catch the cabbage before it bolts in the warm termperatures.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

The garlic is up

It might not look like much yet, but I consider this a win. My son is a professional farmer. He plants the field right next to the plot I use as a garden. This year he planted that field in garlic. The day after he and his crew were done planting I was walking over to the greenhouse when I crossed over the area they had been separating the garlic cloves to plant. In among the papery outer covering there were a few cloves that had been dropped or were considered to small to worry about. In the true manner of a medieval style gleaning, I picked up the abandoned cloves and planted them myself. There had been a freeze overnight so the cloves had gotten very cold, and I was afraid they had been frozen and killed. Therefore when I saw some of them coming up, I was thrilled. The fact that they are coming up in February is another matter. I am sure we will have an end to the unseasonable warmth any day, and the tops will die off again. Hopefully, some of them will live to grow up though.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Initial Plans for a Winter Feast

Last year I decided to try growing all the food for a medieval feast for about 50 people. I did cook for a small event in the fall after working in the garden and barnyard for most of the summer. I learned a great deal.

I decided to take what I learned last year and try it again. This time I am going to try to follow along on this blog.

One of the things I did not address last year, was the difference between heirloom varieties of vegetables and the modern ones. I was more interested in getting produce that I could count on. So this year I took more time looking up available varieties of heirloom vegetables. Not all vegetables have heirloom varieties available, and lots of heirlooms only date back to the 1800s. My guess is that Keeping heirloom varieties was probably not nearly as important as producing new varieties for many years. After looking through many sites online, and catalogs, I found some varieties listed as being around for many generations.

I am looking to work on a feast this year in January (I guess that is actually next year). The vegetables I pick need to be dried, or kept in the ground until January in Massachusetts. I will probably cheat on a couple and freeze them. The following picture shows the seeds that I have gotten so far. The two columns on the right are heirloom seeds including two runner beans, turnips, peas, cabbage, leeks, onions, gourds and kale. I am also looking to produce beets, carrots, parsnips, wax beans, watermelon and kohlrabi.

When I searched for pictures of vegetables from pre-1600, I was surprised at the number of still life paintings I found from the mid to late 16th Century. Many of the vegetables looked very similar to modern varieties. I was especially taken with the cabbages. The tacuinum Sanitatis shows pictures of cabbage harvest which show a loose leaf variety, but the 16th Century painters clearly depict head cabbages, including purple cabbage.

Last year we grew hull-less barley, but we did not get enough to use in the feast. we decided to grow a winter crop of barley using the seeds we harvested. The barley came up beautifully in the fall, and we are hoping to see a good harvest this year. I will be starting the onion and leek seeds in about a week indoors. I am not terribly confident about starting them from seeds, but I figure if I screw it up I can still order plants.

I am looking forward to a full year of planting weeding and harvesting.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Harvest festival - part 1

It has been a long time since I have last posted. I have been busy working with the scribal community for the last couple years, but now I am undertaking a new project that I want to document.

I am very excited about a plan that has been hatched out. I have decided to cook the feast at a Harvest Festival event. We are going to grow as much of the food as we can during this summer. I enjoy gardening, and farming so I thought this would be right up my alley. This is however, the first time I have cooked in the SCA. I will admit I specifically looked for recipes that used vegetables that I know I could grow. I didn't want to get too exotic on my first attempt at cooking a feast.

Having gotten some advice on the recipes, I have chosen the following as a stepping off point for the food.

1st course:
Gourd and pork soup (I am substituting squash this time around eventhough I know it is new world)
Cheese and bread

2nd course:
Chykens in Hocchee
Parsnips and Carrots

3rd course:
Pies of Paris
Pottage of Raisins

From this list we can produce Parsnips, carrots, onions, garlic, leeks, Barley, spinach, collard greens, mustard greens, kale, thyme, marjoram, sage, parsley, gourds (actually squash) and chickens. We also plan on making the cheeses and isolating our own sea salt. The bread will be made by us (and here I mean others in the barony), but we are buying the ingredients.

We will also need to procure a few items including: beef, pork, apples, raisins, spices, dates, currants and grapes. The people in my barony wanted me to grow a cow and a pig too, but I drew the line there.

So for the first step. I have started the thyme, marjoram and sage seeds in the house to get them ready for the planting season. They are doing well. I should thin some of the thyme plants.

We have also planted the onion and leek plants and the barley seed. I will follow the garden progress in the upcoming months.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Primative Sheep Rovings

I decided I should post on my latest project of trying to spin as many primatve sheep breeds as I can get my hands on. I had the opportunity to attend the Dutchess County fibar festival last weekend in New York state. There were a great number of merchants from all over the country which specialized in fiber, mostly wool. I am still slightly boggled by the shear volume of yarns in many colors, weights and contents. The beautiful fall colors were a great backdrop.

I was, however, looking for some rovings from primative breeds. I have a list in mind for some of the breeds I would like to try including: Icelandic, Shetland, Jacob, Manx Loaghtan, Karakul, Soay, Heberdean and Merino. I realize there are other breeds out there that have been around for a long time, but these are the ones I want to start with. I had already had the opportunity to spin Shetland, Karakul and merino. When we got to the show, I was also introduced to the breed of North Ronaldsay sheep. I was lucky enough to score some rovings from North Ronaldsay, Jacob, Heberdean and Icelandic.
This picture shows some of the rovings I purchased. Starting at the dark one on the top left and proceeding clockwise they are: Heberdean, a mixed color ball of Jacob, a light grey North Ronaldsay, a moorit Icelandic and a white lamb Icelandic. As you can see from the picture I have already started spinning some of the white Icelandic and the N. Ronaldsay. I went to the show with a friend of mine who also has some Soay and Manx Loaghtan at home, and promised to ive me a small amount to play with.
I am going to spin them all on a drop spindle. At this point I am most familiar with a top whorl spindle so I will be using those eventhough I am trying to replicate a medieval mindset and top whorls were not that common. That is what I learned on, and therefore I am going to use them for now so the differences in the yarn will not be due to my learning a new technique. 
There are some very obvious differences that are immediately apparent just from handling the rovings. The Heberdean and the Karakul are both very harsh, scratchy wool, clearly useful in making rugs, blankets or heavy outerwear. The Karakul was so scratchy, it was painful to drape around my neck. On the other extreme, the Merino is very soft. The specific Merino I had did not take dye very well though.
Anyway, there is a lot of spinning, and dyeing to do to compare these varieties. I look forward to working with them in the near future. 

two new scrolls

I had the opportunity to do two Anglo Saxon scrolls. The first one was a Pelican scroll for Godric of Hamtun. It is a replica of one of the Stockholm Codex Aureus pages. Unfortunately, I did not take a picture of this one before I sent it out. It had a great deal of gold leave since I had chosen to replicate one of the decorated text pages. This scroll was number 43 for the A&S 50 challenge.

The second scroll was patterened after a page I have saved on my computer under the name Anglo Illuminate. I do not have a link to the original page though, and I do not remember the provenence of this piece. This scroll was a county scroll for Avelina Keyes after she stepped down as our queen. I believe she specifically asked for me to do one after seeing the previous scroll. Since her personna is early period she was hoping for something early. That is why I chose the Anglo Saxon piece. This piece is #44.