January 30, 2024

Garden Notes: January 2024


  • 6th: 1.29"
  • 9th: 4.35"
  • 12th: 0.89"
  • 16th: 0.14"
  • 23rd: 0.04"
  • 24th: 0.26"
  • 25th: 1.68"
  • 26th: 0.11"
  • 27th: 1.93"
  • 31st: 0.07"
  • Total: 10.76 inches
  • range of nighttime lows: 10 to 60°F (-12 to 15°C)
  • range of daytime highs: 40 to 71°F (4 to 21°C)
Weather Notes
  • Warm temps coincide with rainy days, cold temps with clear weather.
  • What the temps don't reflect is the wind, which has been blustery and bitter. Even on mild days it's often not appealing to work outside. 
Garden Notes
  • It's too cold for things to grow, so after finishing up mulching the beds, I've been working on the weediest aisles, scraping the weeds and old mulch. Then I put down a new layer of cardboard and fresh wood chips. Not sure if I'll finish the entire garden, but I like working there on nice days.
  • Other than that . . .
Jan. 7th: we ate the last of our 2023 fall tomatoes. I saved the seed.

Greenhouse Notes
  • 12 outside, 25 in the greenhouse
  • 31 and sunny outside, 74 in the greenhouse
  • One thing that's really thriving in the greenhouse is the volunteer chickweed.
Chickweed in the front pot. broccoli behind.

Temporary growing table with kale and lettuce.
  • lettuce
  • turnips
  • Jerusalem artichokes
Greenhouse lettuce. Not enough for  salads, but enough for our Sunday burgers.

Nicely sized sunchokes from a patch I didn't dig last winter.

Pantry salad: canned green beans, cherry tomatoes preserved in olive oil and
vinegar, and black olives. The oil and vinegar from the tomatoes is the dressing.


  • thyme
  • lambs ear
  • echinacea

The goal with the transplanting to to disassemble one of my front yard herb beds. While I really like having it, there's a battle every year to keep the wire grass at bay. That and the dozens of acorn seedlings that come with the wood chip mulch. Neither is conducive for the easy growing of perennials. We will likely try some annuals in the bed next summer.

That wraps up our January. How about you?

January 23, 2024

Fermented Cole Slaw

This has become one of our favorite side dishes. 

It's tasty and another great way to get probiotics into our diet. And, it's quick to make.

Technically, it isn't fermented as the finally product, so the name may be somewhat misleading. I start with previously made kimchi or sauerkraut to which I've added shredded carrots.

Nowadays, I usually ferment a mixture of vegetables together in the same jar: cabbage, carrots, daikon, Jerusalem artichokes, turnips, onion, ginger, etc., whatever I have on hand. Of most fermented foods, Dan would eat some dutifully for health, but request only "a little bit." One day while I was draining some kimchi, I decided to add a little mayonnaise and serve it as cole slaw. 

After a taste, Dan wanted a larger helping and it's been a standard ever since. I find we eat more of it when prepared this way. 

A bonus is that it takes so much less mayo to make it this way. My original cole slaw recipe calls for mayonnaise and pickle juice, which we always found too tart and so I would add a small spoonful of honey or sugar. My sauerkraut, kimchi, etc., are rarely too sour. If it is, I simply rinse it some before serving. Another plus, this recipe is ready to eat after mixing, whereas my from-scratch cole slaw tasted better if it sat at least several hours or overnight in the fridge. And, of course, there are no probiotics in traditional cole slaw. 

In some ways, I think of this recipe as a transition food. If one doesn't grow up with particular foods, they often aren't cared for as much as what we're used to. For example, if we grow up on white bread, 100% homemade whole wheat isn't as enjoyable (which is probably why they add a ton of sugar to commercial whole wheat bakery products.) When I started making a 50/50 white and whole wheat flour bread, the family liked it. I've gradually shifted the amounts to favor more whole wheat, but still keeping it acceptable to Dan. The fermented cole slaw helps with the transition from traditional cole slaw to lacto-fermented foods. My old 'something is better than nothing' approach.

Does anyone else use transition foods for themselves or their families? I'd be interested in more ideas.

Fermented Cole Slaw © January 2024 by

January 17, 2024

Freezing Temps & How the Greenhouse Is Doing

While nowhere near record breaking, this morning's low put the greenhouse to the test. 

  • outside low: 12°F (-11°C)
  • inside the goat barn: 22°F (-5.5°C)
  • inside the greenhouse: 25°F (-4°C)

The result was freeze damage to my warm weather plants: cherry tomato, green peppers, and potatoes. None of this is a surprise, of course. What has been a surprise is that previously, everything survived an outdoor low of 20°F (-6.6°C).

At this point, the only heat the greenhouse gets is residual from the house. It has three glass window walls with the fourth wall being the exterior wall of my sewing room. I don't know how much this actually helps, but I suspect it's better than if the greenhouse was freestanding with four glass walls. 

So there's my baseline. Hopefully, we'll be able to increase the survival odds with some other ideas. 

January 11, 2024

Dehydrating Cranberries

Right after the holidays, seasonal food items that we like go on clearance. There are several things that I look for and stock up on, like molasses and dried dates. This year I bought several bags of fresh cranberries for 99 each.

I especially enjoy dried cranberries on my breakfast granola when there's no fresh fruit in season, and I thought it would be nice to make some without the stuff commercial processors like to add.

I consulted my two books on dehydrating foods to compare instructions.

Mary Bell's Complete Dehydrator Cookbook and
Making & Using Dried Foods by Phyllis Hobson

I always like to look at more than one source for projects, to compare notes and possibly pick up unique tips. Their directions were similar and started with popping the raw cranberries into boiling water until the skins cracked. (No pic). Then they went into a bowl where I coated them with honey.

Then it was onto the mesh dehydrator screens.

Both sources recommended a low heat for 10 to 12 hours. What I found however, was that mine still weren't dried in that time. I had to repeat the drying several times. While it took a long time, I ran the dehydrator at night so we benefited from its little bit of heat in the kitchen come morning.

I removed the dried ones along the way and eventually got them all done! 

When I tasted them, however, I was dismayed that the honey didn't help sweeten them at all. So when I put them into a half-gallon jar, I sprinkled with unbleached sugar. 

My final yield was 5 cups.

Because of how long it took, I doubt I'll try these again. And I will probably save these for baking, rather than eating on my granola. But I'm glad I gave them a try anyway.

January 4, 2024

Post-Holiday Winter Project List

January and February are our hunker down months. Except for the daffodils, almost everything is dormant, and while we do get some mild days, it's often too cold to enjoy outside activities. That makes January and February a good time to turn to needful indoor projects. Here's what my list looks like:

Mending. I have a huge basket piled high with mending! Admittedly, our lifestyle is rough on clothes, and mending usually gets put off in favor of the garden and food preservation. This month I plan to start tackling that pile.

Kitchen. I can't believe it's been seven years since we finished our kitchen remodel. The initial organization and set-up was done with thought and care, but as the years go by disorder sets in, and I find myself analyzing how to organize better. Plus I have a lot of shelves . . .

Photo from November 2012.

. . . which in a 100-year-old house heated with wood means a lot of dust. Everything gets dusted periodically, but the kitchen needs a deep clean and I need to sort through the shelf and cabinet contents and reorganize. 

Front bedroom (currently our storage room). I actually made a lot of progress on our storage areas last summer, when we finished one more room of the house for my studio/sewing room. I did an initial unpacking and purge, and managed to reduce storage space from two rooms to one. I feel that it's time to tackle that remaining room. 

One disadvantage we have, is that we don't have a basement, garage, nor a readily accessible attic or crawl space. These are typical storage areas that we've had to do without. That means that during our slow repair, remodel, and room shuffle, we've designated rooms to use for storage until we get the house done. After 15 years, we're down to one room! And that's the room I want to declutter and organize this winter.

I confess I have an ulterior motive. 

My Glimakra floor loom

This loom was disassembled when we started renovating, and has been left that way for storage. At the moment, I don't know if I can manage to carve out space for it now, but I'd really like to. I have a hankering to weave some rugs and blankets, and this is the loom to do it. The room won't be finished this winter, but Dan said as long as he has room to work around the loom, it would be okay. 

So there's my list. How about you? Do you have winter project plans, or maybe you just plan to take it easy. Care to share?

January 1, 2024

2024 Homestead Bundle: 3 Day New Year's Deal

Almost every year I participate in some sort of homestead bundle, and this year is no exception. I even updated a chapter from an almost out-of-print book, as my offering to the bundle.

Click or tap for a closer look-see

This bundle is offered by Permies.com and includes more than 35 resources for $35. That's less than a dollar each, all available for instant download. This price is for 70 hours only; after that the price will go up to $65. 

What you get:
  • backyard forest gardening eBook
  • fermentation mini-course
  • cheese making webinar
  • earth bag architecture eBook
  • building a permaculture community eBook
  • communication in community eBook
  • aquaponics eBook
  • how to evaluate solar panel potential eBook
  • restoration agriculture Permaculture Voices video presentation
  • sourdough eCookbook
  • growing you own insulation webinar
  • 12 issues of Tiny House Digital Magazine
  • Chèvre making eBook
  • how to make a spinning wheel from bike parts plans
  • cooking with what you have eBook
  • rainwater harvesting eBook
  • honeybees (that's mine!) eBook
  • seed breeding and epigenetics webinar
  • regenerative agroforestry eBook
  • 2 issues of Permaculture Design digital magazine
  • Gaia's Garden and Toby Hemenway podcasts
  • rocket ovens movie
  • truly passive greenhouse movie
  • replacing irrigation with permaculture webinar
  • tour of Wheaton Labs movie (featuring 65 low tech things)
  • 45 low tech things webinar
  • farm animal relationships from Permies Permaculture Design Course video collection
  • market garden playing cards e-book

For pictures, descriptions, and more information click here. Sale ends Jan. 3 at 11 p.m. M.T.

Click here to get yours.