Sunday, March 29, 2009

Joe's Garden Winter Vegetable Soup Recipe

The last couple of winters I have been making winter soups based largely on vegetables from our garden that keep well in our basement. The following is one of my favorites.

1 cup of dried beans (I have found pintos, Indian woman, and Jacob's Cattle work well, all of which I grow. The Jacob's Cattle do have a tendency to break down some, but are still identifiable in the soup.) If you don't have the dried beans, 2.5 cups or 20oz of canned beans are equivalent(drained).
1 Lb of potatoes
3 smallish bay leaves
2 Lbs frozen tomatoes Or a 32 oz can of diced or whole tomatoes
1 cup of chopped onion
One fourth cup of chopped celery
One medium large carrot - chopped

5 smallish chopped garlic cloves
One half teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups of vegetarian bouillon
One eighth teaspoon of hot pepper sauce (or to taste-tolerance)
One fourth teaspoon thyme

Soften the beans in your favorite manner. I usually bring to boil in water four times the volume of the beans, then simmer for ten minutes and let sit for 4 hours. Then I might simmer again until they reach the softness I like. The beans should wind up plump so that when you bite down on them the inside seems to burst through the skin into your mouth - delicious and not achievable from factory processed cooked beans in a can. Drain the beans.

Heat slowly the frozen tomatoes and remove the skins with a fork as they warm and as they allow themselves to be released from the pulp. Timing is important, because if you wait too long, the skin will not separate easily from the underlying pulp. Do it quickly, as soon as the frost leaves the tomato. Of course, if you are using store bought tomatoes, this is not a problem, but you would do well to pick through the can and sort out any skins and stem scars that remain in the canned tomatoes otherwise they add a somewhat bitter taste.

Peel, if you desire, and cube the potatoes to a size for the soup. Rinse them and bring to a boil for ten minutes with the bay leaves. Drain the potatoes. If you use the high starch type(baking or Idaho) of potatoes, there will be some crumbling which will naturally thicken the soup. I often combine some of the high starch with some of the firmer salad type (reds) potatoes. This leaves the firmer ones with more integrity and the crumbly ones for a natural thickening.

Heat the bouillon to simmering and add tomatoes with their liquid, potatoes with the bay leaves, and beans.

Meanwhile, Saute the onions, celery, and carrot in olive oil until the onions are translucent. Add the Garlic, cumin, salt, pepper sauce, thyme and finish sauteing for 30 sec. or one minute until the garlic is aromatic and ingredients are mixed.

Combine all ingredients and simmer for one hour until flavors blended.

The soup can be thickened somewhat by taking some of the beans and/or potatoes and blending them. You can also make the soup more hearty by adding more beans, potatoes, and/or carrots.


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Spring Peepers

We are visiting our granddaughter in Northampton, MA. Last night I went on an evening run to buy some cat food for the family's two cats. As I stepped out of the car at the Stop and Shop parking lot, I was greeted by a magnificent din which rattled my tinnitus addled ears - Spring Peepers! Every year, at the first hearing, I am amazed that I have forgotten this annual mating cacophony shaking winter out of the air! Whatever last brutality Winter throws at us now, it will be a last gasp. The silent dark has lost its grip for this season.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Chicken Tractor

The last few days I have been constructing a 'Chicken Tractor' in the old Horse Barn. So, what is a Chicken Tractor? It is a small pen for chickens that can be easily moved along the ground. It has an open bottom so that the chickens can scratch, peck, and feed on bugs, grasses, weeds, and seeds in a natural way from the open ground. It turns out that they can get from 10% to 20% of their nutritional needs from this kind of pasturing and it is a healthy natural varied diet that provides supplemental nutritional benefit over and above the standard commercial chicken feed - which they still need. It is called a tractor because it is designed to be placed over garden beds where the chickens directly deposit their droppings as fertilizer for the garden. The Gardener/Poultry grower gives the chickens plenty of litter for bedding which they can pick through which also helps build up the organic material in the soil. The heavy load of nitrogen in the chicken droppings helps make the organic litter available for the garden as soon as the chicken tractor moves on to the next placement. It is a neat system - happy chickens, good chicken nutrition, organic fertilizer for the garden; and, eggs, broilers, and garden vegetables for me, my friends, family, and cabin renters!
This first chicken tractor is designed for 4 laying hens which I'm getting from my niece. As a result of being for laying hens, it is a little heavier with a nesting platform and nesting boxes. There is a little over 4 sq ft per bird with two nesting boxes. That is on the generous side according to all the how-to books. But it still is relatively easy to move along. The Chicken Tractor has a big door on one side that allows access for cleaning and feeding as well as egress for the birds to range outside during the day when they are in a place where they won't be destructive and they are safe from predation or disturbance. We'll see how it goes.
For awhile the chickens will be in the tractor parked in my garden shed where they will be a little more protected from the elements. I'm getting them in April 12th and it can still be pretty cold and even snowy at that time. Soon after that, though, they will be able to go to work in the garden.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Lone Goose

Today a lone Goose found enough open water to land in the brook behind the barns across the road from our house - a sure harbinger of Spring. Yesterday, a lone male redwing was calling loudly enough from a tree to lure me from the barn where I was building my first Chicken Tractor. The ground is still completely covered with snow, but the last few days have been up into the 40s and very pleasant and sunny.

Saturday, March 7, 2009


The place of snowmobiles on Forest Preserve Lands in the Adirondack Park continues to be a rumbling beneath the surface in the North Country. In 2006 the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation adopted a Snowmobile Plan for the Adirondack Park. I have spent the last few days ruminating about some of the features of this plan that might radically alter use of the Forest Preserve Lands. There are some good features to the DEC's plan including trying to move some current snowmobile trails from the interior of large tracts of Forest Preserve Lands to more peripheral areas. However, there are some very scary precedent setting proposals in the plan.
The most disturbing part is the creation of a new category of snowmobile trail called 'Community Connector' trails. Since 1895 the Constitution of New York State has set aside State owned lands in the Adirondack Park as Forever Wild Forest Lands to be kept and preserved as such. The Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (page 19) requires snowmobile trails to have the character of a foot trail, yet these Community Connector trails could hardly be considered part of anyone's definition of Wild Forest Lands or a foot trail. These 'Community Connector' trails would:
  • Require grading of the trail surface to remove any protrusion of rock or tree stump more than 6 inches above ground level.
  • be 9 - 12 feet wide,
  • Require the grading of any steep slopes the trail parallels, moving enough earth and rocks to create a 9 - 12 foot wide level bench for the snowmobiles and groomers to travel.
  • Provide for possible 'cuts and fills' of trail irregularities of up to 2 feet in cut or fill or combination of the two.
  • allow small excavators and/or skidsteers (a four wheel drive tractor with a loader or blade) to be used to grade trails,
  • have branches of trees bordering the trail trimmed to a height of 12 feet,
  • require 9 foot wide bridges over gullies, wet spots, and streams,
  • be mechanically groomed by large tracked tractors, which are illegal according to the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (APSLMP),
  • have a long sight plane and gentle banked sweeping curves (seems like a highway, doesn't it?) so that the snowmobiles could reach their speed capabilities, with anticipated travel speeds of approximately 40 mph, even with two-way traffic. Snowmobiles travel up to 80 MPH, hopefully they will not travel that fast, although there is no speed limit only safety education.
  • be designed to promote tourism and economic opportunities for local communities. It should be noted that the APSLMP specifically states that snowmobile use should not be encouraged, yet the plan's goal is to promote snowmobile tourism on Forest Preserve Forever Wild lands.
I'm working to convince people that this kind of presence of snowmobiles on Forest Preserve Lands does not leave a wild forest in its wake! The most startling thing about this is that the State of New York, which is supposed to be the steward of the Adirondack Park and especially the Forever Wild Forest Preserve, is actually proposing this!