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Gardening & Fordhook Swiss Chard


Swiss ChardI love to garden. I love the way the garden changes so quickly throughout the year, marking the seasons and changing on its own as if by magic. I love the variety of vegetables that come from such tiny seeds and how two that look alike hide amazingly different plants.

Early in the spring the garden is a potential – nothing in itself, but waiting to be told what it will become. Then comes the thrill of seeing seedlings poking out of the earth. Right now my garden is a jungle (both from the profusion of greenery and the humidity!). If I’m brave enough, I can hunt through this jungle to find an entire meal for the family or simply hide in-between the five foot tall rows and lose myself in another world, one that I have grown myself.

One thing I haven’t particularly enjoyed is the storing and using of the vegetables I grow in the garden, especially things that I decided I would try out this time because they grow so well in our area. I love eating everything from our garden and the kids and I have often spent a morning grazing on treats from the garden so much we don’t eat lunch until three o’clock. All of us love picking cherry tomatoes and popping them into our mouths still warm from the sun or pulling out radishes, stopping only long enough to dip them into water before devouring them. I don’t think a single pea has made it inside the house this summer and strawberries are constantly fought over.

What is difficult, however, is the Swiss Chard. This was a new experiment this summer and the plant has loved my garden more than any other plant. Every time I harvest a bundle, another starts to grow back by the next morning. I love using this in stir-fry, chicken fried rice, and quiches, but storing this stuff has given me quite a headache. I thought I would share my learning about this plant.

I’ve finally decided I have to put up some of this for the winter to see if it brightens our winter soups as much as everyone says online. The claim is that it can replace spinach in any recipe, so I’m going to learn if this is true. Hopefully my family will put up with this experiment as they have with so many others!

I’ve been growing Fordhook Giant Chard, which is a variety with white stems that are edible. To store I’ve simply chopped the chard into one inch thick strips, submerged in boiling water for three minutes and soaked in ice water for another two to three minutes. From there, the chard was drained and store in freezer bags for the winter soup. I’ll write later this year to tell you if it’s as good as the claims. I don’t think Ive read about anyone who froze chard and wrote about it later as they were eating it! This will be a true test!

We’ll Weather the Weather Whatever the Weather

 Weather StationAs proprietors of a business in a small town, we’ve discovered that we have a direct connection to the events of not only the town but our county and several others nearby. Invariably, the weather becomes a topic of discussion in most if not all of our day to day interactions – and why shouldn’t it? The conditions outdoors are important to all of us, though the specifics may be as varied as concern for snow in the morning commute to the daily tracking of rainfall for crop growth. No matter who you are, at least once this winter, you’ve already wondered “just how cold IS it today?”

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology and the low cost of overseas manufacturing, you can answer that question for yourself for a very small investment. Our family has used a basic indoor/outdoor thermometer for years, a quick and simple way to verify – yes, it really is eight below, or one hundred and twelve over, depending on your situation. We were surprised to see the number of rain gauges that seem to grace every house here in the midwest – in growing country, the amount of rainfall holds much more attention than the temperature.

We decided that, as observers of nature and discussors of all things local, we should upgrade our weather information system and move from the world of “I heard a little more than 1 inch came down last night up north” over to “well, we got 1.24 inches between the hours of 2am and 6am”. Some basic searching on google proved that there were a number of ways to upgrade our local weather station, as varied as the simple indoor/outdoor thermometers of our youth, to elaborate multi-thousand dollar systems complete with doplar radars and cold-war era ICBMs. Needless to say, the best option for us was somewhere in the middle, toward the low end. The system we settled on was a model from Ambient Weather, the WS-2080.

User friendly and simple to install, the WS-2080 has been very fun to use. Providing quite a bit of weather related information, including temperature, barometric pressure, windspeed and direction, humidity and rainfall amounts, we’ve taken a big step forward in noting the current conditions around us. The included software made it easy for us to track and store the data, and even upload it to our own website as well as report to nationally known weather sites like Weather Underground.

The system we’ve used has had the simplicty of a wireless communication system, so we didn’t need to run wires from the station to the display/computer. This worked very well while the station was on the ground while I was getting everything set up, but has presented a bit of problem after I put it in it’s final resting place on the roof of our building. Apparently the beauty of our historic stamped tin ceilings conflicts with the wireless transmission of the station, and at the moment we’re only in contact with it about 75% of the time. Hopefully I’ll have a solution soon.

Do you have a weather station? Ever considered becoming the local authority on temperature and windchill? Tell us your story!

It’s Been A While


Harveys Ribbon CuttingYou might have noticed a prolonged absence in recent months here at Our Happy Homestead. We’d like to take a second to share the exciting things we’ve been going through – now has a retail store front! Since the last time we talked, we moved our company to a small town in Kansas, renamed it to Harvey’s LLC (more on that later) and opened Harvey’s Coffee & Kitchen. We’ve purchased an old building in Downtown Osborne, renovated it, set up a coffee shop, deli and retail environment to compliment our web store and blog here at Our Happy Homestead.

You’ll be seeing quite a few changes and improvements in the weeks and months ahead – now that the hardest parts of our new location opening have passed, the website and blog are back in the spotlight. Keep your eyes open for our new Harvey’s branding and contact information as well as some exciting new product offerings that our new store will be helping to deliver.

Rest assured that while Harvey’s and OurHappyHomestead are working hard to bring you new information, products and opportunities, the folks behind the scenes are the same; Jesi and Dave are still hard at work on your behalf! We’re looking forward to the new things that 2011 will bring us as we continue on the journey to self-sufficiency.

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