Jacob’s Homemade Bread

After getting rave reviews at the June 26th Community Teaching Garden potluck, Jacob’s homemade bread recipe was deemed to be a necessary addition  for the growing CTG recipe collection.  So without further ado, here it is in ‘Jacob lingo’:

Jacob Mushlin’s Homemade Bread:

Pot Luck -- Jacob gets a bit excited sometimes!
Jacob’s future cookbook cover

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups water (warmer than wrist)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons yeast (2 packets)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
  • 6 cups flour

Instructions:

Combine ingredients and then allow to rise for 2 hours with a non-airtight lid on in the oven with the light on (aka a warmish place).

It’s now ready to bake, but flavor improves with a minimum refrigeration of 3 hours. It can stay refrigerated for a week, but not much longer.

On baking day you’ll dust the dough with flour and pull off a grapefruit-sized clump. You may need to dust your hands for this part. You are NOT kneading it. Just fold the “corners” underneath, producing a pillow on the top and the bunched corners on the bottom. Lightly cover a pizza peel or cutting board with corn meal (steel-cut oats). Let it rest for 40 minutes before baking. It may or may not rise.

20 minutes into resting, preheat the oven to 450. If you have a pizza stone (you should totally get one), start it in a cold oven.

Also include a baking pan under or beside the stone. As the bread is added to the hot oven, pour a cup of cold water on the baking sheet and close the oven. The steam is important, according to the people who actually know how to do this.

Bake 30 minutes or until the loaves are golden. They should have a crispy crack when thumped.

Let cool, then eat it and high-five.

 

CTG 2014 Week 12: July 19th to July 24th- Forest Gardening and Tree Planting with Meghan Giroux, Garlic Harvest, & Garden Upkeep

Topics:

  • Guest Speaker MeghanGiroux on Forest Gardening
    • Soils
    • Guilds
    • Replicating the architecture of a forest
  • ‘How to Plant a Tree’
    • Espaliering fruit trees

Activities:

  • Harvesting garlic (TT)
  • Planting the forest garden at Tommy Thompson
  • Weeding & general garden upkeep
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Sydney and a monster zucchini

What a week to spend at the Community Teaching Gardens!  Our 12th week of the program saw the arrival of a new garden shed at the Ethan Allen Homestead site, a wonderfully informative discussion on ‘Forest Gardening’ by Meghan Giroux, some bountiful harvests (garlic, finally!!), and some amazing sunsets.  As the beds continue to burst with life our gardeners are leaving each class with arms laden with delicious-looking veggies and proud smiles.  We are sure to see some of these garden-grown delights infused into the dishes at our next CTG potluck this Saturday!

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Some lovely cabbage
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Tomatoes, finally!

 

Forest Gardening with Meghan Giroux:

On Monday, both of our CTG classes gathered at the Tommy Thompson Community Garden to delve into the realm of Forest Gardening, a topic presented to all by Meghan Giroux of Vermont Edible Landscapes.  Meghan, a native Vermonter, arrived to the scene with a truck laden with plants ranging from a Mesabi Cherry Tree to some echinacea and plenty of compost.   The talk began with a brief introduction of the topic of ‘Forest Gardening’, an ecological way of growing polycultures (many plants) that mimic the structure and function of a natural forest.   The goal of forest gardening lies in decreasing inputs and maximizing outputs as the system functions like a natural ecosystem.  As Meghan guided us through her lesson, she noted that paying attention to design and architecture is key in creating a forest garden that will maximize the growing space above and below ground.  The various types of plants she kindly donated exemplified this as they formed a guild, or a grouping of plants that all offered a unique function thus benefitting one another and maximizing their success as a whole living unit.   Some examples of the guild that Meghan helped to create included the Siberian Pea Shrub, a leguminous species that provides atmospheric nitrogen fixation, and comfrey, a dynamic accumulator that selectively accumulates mineral nutrients and adds them to the topsoil each year.  Prior to her planting demo, Meghan gave a brief crash course on soils and how to test it, build soil fertility and topsoil, and continue to maintain soil health long-term.   With too short of a time period to share her extensive, impressive knowledge, Meghan suggested the following resources for learning more about forest gardening:

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The pieces to our forest garden, kindly donated by Meghan Giroux of VEL
Meghan
Our wonderful instructor

How to Plant a Tree With Meghan Giroux:

In addition to her extremely interesting discussion, Meghan led the students in a hands-on planting activity.  With shovels and compost in hand, the students worked alongside one another planting the wide array of species Meghan brought along.   Thus, a quick lesson in how to plant trees was in order when the Mesabi Cherry went into the ground.  Although she calls her style unconventional, Meghan described the tree planting process to be at least a year long as it is important to prepare the site prior to actually planting by adding straw, compost, woodchips, and gypsum.  After overwintering, this process naturally gets rid of grass while also creating a foundation that mimics what is happening in a forest floor.   Other important tips included breaking up the walls of the planting hole if they become compacted during the digging process and topdressing the planted tree with compost rather than filling the hole, this allows the roots to seek native soils.  Meghan’s final instruction addressed questions about pruning, which should take place in winter and late summer.  The pruning technique of espaliering offers a great solution for our newest garden addition, as well as several other species of fruit trees, as it helps contain tree growth to a singular plane.     We’re sure our young forest garden will certainly prove to have a highly productive future in the Tommy Thompson garden, thanks Meghan!

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Tree planting lesson
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Wednesday’s class finishing up the forest garden

This week was rounded out with the much-anticipated garlic harvest on both Monday and Wednesday evening, and the final steps of planting the forest garden.  Next week brings the upcoming CTG potluck and another exciting special event, stay tuned for the updates!

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Garlic harvest!

 

CTG 2014 Week 11: July 12th to July 18th – Happy Harvesting & Garden Care

Activities:

  • Harvesting veggies
  • Pest Control
  • Weeding
  • General garden care
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Budding Broccoli

It’s official ladies and gentlemen, the Community Teaching Garden program has now reached  the halfway point as our students and staff members have completed 11 weeks together in the gardens.  The amount of greenery and increasing amount of harvestable crops are certainly proof that hard work, time, teamwork, and of course some  gentle loving care can have some truly amazing results in the garden.  It’s an indescribable feeling to see the look in our students’ eyes as they pull exceptional veggies out of their plots in utter amazement of their success.  As we enter the second-half of the CTG program, most class time has started to be dominated by independent work and general garden upkeep, and our students have started to become so much more comfortable and confident in their work each and every day.

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Getting excited over the cabbage
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Soon-to-be squash

On Monday, the Ethan Allen Homestead class arrived to an exciting harvest day.  Exclamations of excitement were heard several times as our students tended to their gardens, and Melanie proudly announced the arrival of a ripe zucchini, the first of the season!  The brassicas, which have been carefully cared for and watched as they’ve matured also sported some ripe veggies, including a head of broccoli and Jackie’s impressive head of cabbage.  Midst some light-hearted chatter, our gardeners continued weeding, harvesting, and watering until the evenings class came to a close.  They are very excited for the ripe surprises that next week may bring!

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Harvesting the last of the peas

On Wednesday evening, the Tommy Thompson class got right to work tending their own gardens as well as those of the absent students by adjusting trellises and watering.  A giant pile of shelling peas was harvested prior to pulling up a row of wilting pea plants in the communal bed, and two ripe zucchinis were found midst all of the greenery.   A quick look at the onions proved that they too will soon be ready as they’ve begun to bulge out of their soil-filled beds.   As always, the potato beds were carefully inspected for those pesky Colorado Potato Beetles, which proved to be significantly less in numbers thanks to the determined monitoring of the students and Denise!

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Zucchini at Tommy Thompson
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Alexa diligently working

A huge thank you is also in order for our wonderful CTG volunteers who have been extremely helpful in sprucing up the garden each week- they’re looking fabulous!  Stay tuned for next week as we harvest some more delicious crops and hear from Meghan Giroux from Vermont Edible Landscapes during her talk on forest gardening!

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Beet greens

CTG 2014 Week 10: July 5th-July 10th- Fungal Disease Control, Harvesting Veggies, & General Garden Maintanence

Topics:

  • Dealing with fungal diseases
  • ‘How do squash develop?’

Activities:

  • Harvesting radishes, sugar snap & shelling peas, and lettuce
  • Weeding!
  • Identifying & monitoring pests: Colorado Potato Beetles & Japanese Beetles
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Shelley in her garden kingdom

As we approach the half -way mark of the 22-week Community Teaching Garden program, the gardens are quite literally bursting with life!  The repeatedly wet weather has left a vibrant forest of green in our students’ garden plots, and each class there are more and more veggies and herbs to be harvested.  This week, our students relished in the amount of sugar snap and shelling peas they were able to munch on while weeding away in the garden.  Lynne, our photography and social media extraordinaire,  also had quite an impressive harvest of gorgeous radishes at Monday evening’s class at the Ethan Allen Homestead.  We are eagerly awaiting for the growing tomatoes and peppers to shed their green hues and ripen…. I foresee some salsas in our future!

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It’s gettin’ hot in here with these serranos
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Ripening Tomatoes

Dealing with Fungal Diseases:

Just like pests, fungal diseases are a potentially frustrating obstacle any gardener will face.  In both Monday and Wednesday’s classes, Denise came prepared to address the fungal diseases that were sure to, or already had begun to, infringe on the health of the growing curcurbids (i.e. squash, cucumbers).   As with pest control, dealing with fungal diseases using organic methods requires some creativity and seemingly unconventional resources.   That being said, Denise came armed and ready to class with two spray bottles, one filled with very diluted cow’s milk and the other with diluted baking soda, and then instructed the students to spray their veggies.   As Denise explained, the milk mixture provides a layer of protein over the leaves of the given plants, thus making it more difficult for the fungal diseases to penetrate.  Likewise, the baking soda combination has been said to change the chemistry of the disease, reducing its effectiveness in the process.   Fungal diseases can really be a pain to deal with, but there are some other preventative measures that can be taken, including:

  • Pay attention to spacing when planting, allowing for air flow prevents spread of diseases
  • Use clean tools, not sanitizing tools after use on diseased plants can contribute to spreading the unwanted affliction
  • Avoid monocultures
  • Keep your plants and soils healthy with the proper pH, regular watering, proper sunlight etc.
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Shelling peas are finally ready!

‘How do squash develop?’:

One of our students asked the above question as we discussed the growth of the yellowy-orange squash blossoms in the communal beds.  This prompt turned into a teaching moment for the class as we discussed the development of the actual fruits of the squash plant and its reproductive parts.   Squash have both male and female parts, which present as those lovely-looking flowers on a maturing plant.  It is at the base of a fertilized female flower that the squash itself begins to develop.  The male flowers look quite similar to their female counterparts but do not produce fruit, rather they are the blossoms that are often prized for their culinary purposes.

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Dewy brassicas
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Identifying Japanese Beetles, aka ‘The Generalists’

The CTG students really got deep into the dirt this week between some great harvesting and serious weeding.  We also encountered our first Japanese beetles, which we will continue to keep a close eye on!  Cheers to another rewarding week gardening and growing together!

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A mini orchard of carrot tops

CTG 2014 Week 9: June 28th to July 3rd – No-Till Tour at Tommy Thompson, Battling Pesky Pests, and Garden Upkeep

Topics:

  • The Tommy Thompson No-Till Plots: A tour & discussion guided by Ron Krupp
  • Pest Control: Monitoring and eradicating the Colorado Potato Beetle
  • Hilling Potatoes

Activities:

  • General garden upkeep
  • Filling in leeks (EA)
  • Weeding!
Hello, gorgeous!
Hello, gorgeous!

As we all have daydreamed about the arriving holiday, which includes a day off of work (for some), BBQs, family and friends, and of course fireworks, the CTG gardens and their flourishing crops have certainly caught some of the great energy.  Now in their ninth week of the Community Teaching Garden program, our students have most certainly begun proving they’ve accrued some valuable knowledge.  It’s quite amazing to see how so many of them have begun to self-direct themselves as soon as they step in the garden and get right to work weeding, watering, harvesting, and caring for their robust veggies with great zeal.    Our recent tour of the no-till sites at the Tommy Thompson, led by the knowledgable Ron Krupp, definitely provided further inspiration for our gardeners to continue in their gardening ventures and cherish the learning experiences that will surely arise season to season.

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Who says trellises can’t be chic?
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Three Sister’s Garden in progress!

The Tommy Thompson No-Till Sites: A tour & discussion led by Ron Krupp

It is quite apparent to any who have visited the Tommy Thompson Community Garden that this oasis in Burlington’s Intervale is a unique gardening hub bursting with a strong sense of community, several extremely experienced gardeners and their techniques, and of course some amazing crops.   This Wednesday the CTG class was fortunate enough to receive a very interesting and informative tour of the no-till plots at the Tommy Thompson site from long-time gardener and author Ron Krupp.   As Ron explained, many of the plots in the no-till site have been gardened for several years by the same green-thumbs, including himself, and as the time has passed these gardens have expanded into some really exceptional landscapes.  Our tour began with a look at the recently tilled plots that are under the care of those participating in New Farms for New Americans, which welcome visitors to the garden with their flourishing Three Sister’s Gardens and diverse set of crops.  Next up was a detailed tour and explanation of Ron’s own garden, which was bursting with various kinds of veggies, some gorgeous poppies, culinary and medicinal herbs, and even some wild edible weeds like Lamb’s Quarters.   As he guided us through his crops, Ron stressed his appreciation for utilizing heirloom and wild varieties of the crops he cultivates because of the better supply of nutrients they offer. Ron’s tour continued on with some explanations of some of his own and his neighbors experiments and methods, including using old windows as cold frames for starting plants throughout the season, the uses and benefits of water compost, and lasagna gardening (yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like).    We can’t thank Ron enough for sharing his invaluable knowledge with us, it’s wonderful to know we have such great gardening neighbors!  If you are interested in learning more from the master himself,  check out Ron’s very entertaining books, The Woodchuck’s Guide to Gardening and Lifting the Yolk.  THe Woodchuck’s Guide to Gardening is currently available via the VCGN office, for more information visit: http://vcgn.org/woodchuck/

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Learning from the master
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Touring

Pest Control: Monitoring & Eradicating the Colorado Potato Beetle

Any experienced gardener knows that pests are apt to cause some strife more than once throughout the growing season, and this this reality is now being experienced by our own CTG students.  As Denise forewarned, pests like the Colorado Potato Beetle will surely wreak havoc on one’s crops if they aren’t closely monitored and disposed of on a regular basis.  Thus, it was without surprise that yet again we were tasked with eradicating the newly hatched larvae that were having a hay-day on our potato plants.  Pest control is certainly more time consuming when using organic gardening methods, and so it is important to be meticulous when managing pest populations.  Midst squeals of disgust and some sighs of sympathy, our students plucked beetles from leaves and placed them in jars of water.  Although we left no bug in sight, we will be sure to routinely check our potatoes in the weeks to follow to prohibit and deter further infestations.

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This is war…
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We love good compost, aka ‘Black Gold’.

Hilling Potatoes:

As our potato plants have begun to mature, Denise introduced the concept of ‘hilling’ to our Wednesday evening class.  Hilling potatoes often occurs when the plants have reached 8-10″ in height and is a method used to bring more soil around the base of the plant where the tubers will develop.  Using hoes, our students built the soil up around the plants being careful not to disrupt the establish root systems.  I think its safe to say there may be some potato salads in our CTG potluck future!

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Nice work, ladies!

With our week coming to a close, we are grateful to have some much needed precipitation for the gardens after a VERY hot week.    We hope you all enjoy the holiday, and don’t forget to include some fresh garden ingredients in your celebratory meals!

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Yet another beautiful sunset at the Intervale