December 30, 2022

Garden Notes: December 2022


  • 3rd: 0.25"
  • 5th: 0.7"
  • 6th: 1.0"
  • 7th: 0.2"
  • 8th: 0.05"
  • 9th: 0.3"
  • 10th: drizzle
  • 11th: 0.1"
  • 14th: 0.8"
  • 15th: 2.0"
  • 22nd: 0.125"
  • 30th: 0.1"
  • 31st: 0.25"
  • Total so far: 5.875 inches

Not Rain (and not measurable)

  • 20th: light sleet
  • 22nd: swirling snowflakes


  • range of nighttime lows: 7 to 53°F (-14 to 12°C)
  • range of daytime highs: 23 to 69°F (-5 to 20.5°C)

Weather Notes:

The infamous frigid front blasted in during the early morning hours of the 23rd. It was 45°F (7°C) at midnight, but by sunrise it had dropped to 26°F (-3°C) and kept on dropping. By the next morning, the thermometer registered 7°F (-14°C). The frozen cold lasted for about five days before returning to more typical (for us) winter weather. And that was enough to freeze my winter garden dead. Some years are like that.


Most of these photos were taken before our deep freeze.  

Daikon radishes

Hopniss (ground nuts)

Lettuce and kale

Jerusalem artichokes


The turnips didn't come from the garden. Rather, these came out of the pasture. Dan planted a deer plot mix last August for a cover crop and winter foraging for the goats. Besides grasses, the mix included daikon, turnips, and forage mustard. So we benefit from it too. 

Turnips growing in the pasture.

When the forecast predicted temps in the teens and below, I went out and harvested as many as I could to store in the pantry. Repeated freezing and thawing will turn them to mush. 

All of the largest turnips from the pasture.

Last summer, I planted squash in our pasture mix. The goats completely ignored it, and I harvested squashes for us to eat. We had diversity in the pasture and good things to eat too. This is helping me to view our entire homestead as a food growing system with multiple benefits.


We enjoyed fresh greens in early December.

Sauteed greens (daikon, turnip, mustard,
kale, and collards) with grated sweet potato.

With the greens all frozen out, we'll have to rely on canned greens. But we can still enjoy fresh root crops.

Turnips roasted with sweet potato

I managed to get a half-gallon of kimchi made before the freeze. Now, I wish I'd made at least a gallon or more.

Kimchi: daikon roots and leaves, cabbage,
 turnips, Jerusalem artichoke, and ginger.

We eat kimchi as a side dish or as a slaw-like salad. I experimented with sauerkraut, and discovered that it takes only a small amount of mayonnaise to make a kraut slaw( compared to making cole slaw with raw cabbage). Kimchi slaw makes a tasty salad too.

Kimchi slaw

Warmer weather and rain is in the forecast for the tail end of the month. I'll update my December rainfall records after that. 

I don't reckon anybody in the northern hemisphere has a garden left. Unless, someone is greenhouse growing? Hopefully, everyone's pantry is full. 

December 26, 2022

2022 Year in Review

A look back at the projects we've worked on and other memorable events this year. The links will take you to the original blog posts.


In January, we started working on swales.

Beginnings of our first swale at the top of the garden.

We have a long hot, dry spell every summer, which takes its toll on plants. In the past, we've relied on rainwater collection and irrigation, but the better plan is to hydrate the ground so thoroughly that not as much watering is needed. The garden swale pictured above was the first in an ongoing swale project.


Planting hostas in my forest garden

Indoor projects included a lot of canning.


We made our spring project list and Dan converted an old piano into a desk.

Eventually, this will become a communication station.


Kidding commenced in April with twins born on the 21st and Caroline's single on the 23rd.

One of twin bucklings.

We also started on another swale for the pasture.

The preliminary step was to move that big pile of dirt!


Our last kid of the season was born on May 9th.

We made a little progress on the pasture swale before the tractor conked out.

And we upgraded our solar with higher amp-hour batteries.


We added four turkey poults to the homestead. Initially, they resided in the chicken tractor.

Jersey Buff turkey poults

Then a skunk dug its way in and killed three of them. We had trouble replacing them with that particular breed, and so got two Spanish Blacks to replace them.

It was definitely a poultry month because we also bought a replacement for the Muscovy drake that had previous disappeared.


We built our first hugelkultur below the garden.

Close-up of our first hugelkultur build.

And we built a greywater filtration bed as an experiment.

It drains into the pasture swale.


Picking and preserving dominated my to-do list.

Cherry tomatoes, okra, and bell pepper.

It was a hot and humid month, so the outdoor project pace slowed down to suit. We did some research and discussion towards replacing our wood heat stove with a masonry stove.

Experimenting with the placement of a batch box firebox.

The appeal of rocket mass heaters is that because they have a built-in thermal mass, they use a lot less wood! (The fire heats the thermal mass, and the thermal mass heats the house.)

In the barnyard, ducklings!

We had 17 ducklings this year.


I made ketchup and tomato powder with our surplus cherry tomatoes.


The big project this month was planning and making a start on a greenhouse.

A greenhouse has been on the potential project list for years.


Home milled lumber and some of the windows for the greenhouse.

I continued my experiments in food dehydration, focusing on food powders. 

Instant mashed potato powder.


Cold, rainy weather early in the month slowed our outdoor work pace, but Dan managed to make some progress on the greenhouse.

First windows in.

Then, the frigid front moved in. I haven't been especially consistent at recording our daily highs and lows in the past, but I believe our 7°F (-14°C) low on Christmas Eve tops (bottoms?) our previous record of 10°F (-12°C) in February 2015. Our first winter here (2009) was extremely cold and the kitchen would be in the mid-40s F when we got up in the morning. But then, my perception is tinted by the fact that we hadn't yet upgraded our old windows and insulation. Replacing them with energy efficient windows and adding insulation helped a lot!

Anyway, "real" winter arrived, just in time for the holidays. Which was pretty good timing, I think, because it meant we could enjoy a relaxed Christmas weekend without feeling guilty for taking the time off!

December 23, 2022

A Christmas Wish for My Readers

It is with heartfelt gratitude that I want to thank everyone who reads my blog and participates in its many conversations. Thank you to everyone who reads my books and tells me how much they encourage you. 

These kindnesses are a wonderful gift to me.

If you celebrate the Reason for the season, then I encourage you to take heart and not worry or fret over the world.

Cultivate contentment and nurture the habit of giving the gift of kindness wherever you can.

Merry Christmas everybody!

December 19, 2022

Holiday Recipe: Tortilla Pinwheels

Tis' the season not only for soup, but now, for festive snack foods. Here's one I made recently, after years of forgetting about them.

Tortilla Pinwheels

I used to make these as a holiday appetizer when my kids were little. They were much requested for holiday family get-togethers. When I stopped buying cream cheese, I stopped making them. One day I found myself wondering what to do with my abundance of ricotta cheese. which I use it to make gnocchi, gelato, biscuits, and salad dressing (all of those links will take you to the recipes!) As I mulled it over, the pinwheels came to mind; why couldn't I substitute ricotta for the cream cheese? I could and I did, and it put this item back on the menu. Easy and tasty.

Tortilla Pinwheels

  • Cream cheese or ricotta, softened (could also use chevre)
  • Salsa or picante sauce
  • Flour tortillas
Blend the ricotta (or cream cheese) and salsa to a spreadable consistency. Spread onto the tortillas and roll them up. Refrigerate overnight. Before serving, slice into pinwheels and serve. A bowl of extra salsa on the side can be used for dipping if desired.

I used to serve them with toothpicks for an appetizer or snack food. They were always a hit.

December 15, 2022

Greenhouse Project: Weather Permitting

Progress on the greenhouse has been slow this month. When it isn't raining, it's foggy, soggy, and overcast, so that nothing dries out. But we have had a few really nice days. For the record, here's a photo update showing Dan's progress since my last greenhouse project update, about a month ago.

The openings are sized for the windows below.

New windows from our builders' surplus warehouse, $10 each.

First window in

December 12, 2022

Recipe: Rubaboo (Pemmican Soup)

As promised at the end of my Pemmican blog post, here's my first cooking experiment with my pemmican. This is rubaboo or pemmican soup. The recipe is based on a description in the book Forty Years in Canada by Col. Samuel B. Steele. It was published in the early 1900s, and of pemmican, he says,

"It was cooked in two ways in the west; one a stew of pemmican, water, flour and, if they could be secured, wild onions or preserved potatoes. This was called 'rubaboo.'"

That's not exactly a recipe, but it's description enough for a plain cook to figure out that it's made with a few basic ingredients plus whatever is at hand. I started mine with pemmican, potato, turnips, carrot, and onions.

Not pictured: flour and salt.

As a one-pot meal, it's easy to make; just simmer until the veggies are tender. Toward the end I took the notion to add some chopped fresh kale leaves too.

A more authentic meal would likely serve it with hardtack, but alas, hardtack is something I haven't tried my hand at making yet (but it's on the list). I served it for lunch with the closest modern equivalent - plain saltines.

What did we think? We liked it! Obviously, it's a very versatile recipe with endless possibilities. I think too, that this is the more prudent use of our pemmican, which is very dense in protein and calories. Rubaboo stretches out a small amount for many meals. Since pemmican is shelf-stable, it's an excellent way to preserve and store meat for hard times situations.