Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inaguration Day

Today starts a new day in the history of our country. Like any Inauguration Day we come to the event full of hope for the future of our country. This time we are being asked to give. To volunteer our time and talents. As gardeners we can volunteer by sharing our knowledge or by sharing some of the food we grow. The Winnebago Master Gardeners have joined in to help with a national program called PLANT A ROW. This is an easy way for us to get involved and help feed the hungry. Another way to use your talents is to volunteer in the Boone County Conservation District Cultural Heritage Gardens. There are plenty of weeds to go around. You can also volunteer at the Boone County Conservation District helping with prairie restoration, building projects and a host of other needs. To volunteer, contact Bev Kalas, Volunteer Coordinator at 815-547-7935

You can also donate open pollinated heirloom seeds to the gardens. We are always looking for new (old) varieties.

Wherever and however you volunteer, remember that by working together we can make a difference.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Gardens in Winter

It is cold, bitter cold today. There was a thaw a few weeks ago and a lot of the snow melted. What was left behind was a dirty gray mess. Then it got bitter cold and all the melted snow turned to ice. Pretty it was not. Last night we got a nice dusting of snow. Not so much as to be hours of shoveling but enough to make everything look clean and fresh.
I decided today was the day I would go out and take pictures of the gardens in winter. No one had disturbed the snow yet. So off I went camera in hand. The first picture I took is of the Murray cabin. The Scottish gardens are located behind the Murray cabin.

I walked over to the site of our Norwegian garden next. This garden is huge! It is the full size that a normal family in the 1800's would have planted to feed themselves. As you can see in the picture one of our shovels is out there standing guard. One of our volunteers had been in the garden digging up some root crops right before Thanksgiving and left the shovel there for us to collect. We forgot and there it stands frozen in the ice and snow. In the background you can see the Newhouse cabin. It was built by a Norwegian family in the 1830's. It was also moved to our site in the 1980's.

I walked over to the Potawatomi Garden area where the wigwam, drying rack, tobacco circle and sweat lodge are located. It was there that I discovered the sheet of ice lurking under the snow. I was down so fast I couldn't even react. I was sore for days!

I decided to head into the office after that and sat next to the pellet stove and thawed out. I will wait till we get another snowfall before I venture out again.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Mystery Squash

This is the mystery squash,. It was planted last spring and after a group of children visited the gardens we noticed that some of our tags had disappeared. Then we noticed squash growing in with the Noir de Carmes Cantelope. We identified the extremely large green striped squash as Cushaw but this one has us stumped. It has a pale orange skin with webbing on it almost like a cantelope or melon. As you can see it has a beautiful bright interior with lots of seeds. I cooked it in the oven then pureed the flesh and it has a very good taste. I made a low fat pumpkin loaf which turned out very tasty. I think it might be a Winter Luxury Pie Pumpkin. Does anyone agree?
Low Fat Mystery Pumkin Loaf
1 cup organic or sucanut sugar 1tsp. baking soda
1 cup cooked pumkin 1tsp. baking powder
1/4 cup canola oil 1/2 tsp. salt
3 egg whites 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3 Tbsp. low fat milk 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
2 cups sifted unbleached, unenriched flour 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Combine sugar, pumpkin, oil, egg whites and milk. Mix well. Add dry ingredients. Blend well. Stir in nuts. Pour into a well greased large loaf pan or 4 small loaf pans. Bake in 350F oven for 1 hour for large loaf.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

January is planning month

January is planning month in the gardens. We are busy looking at seed catalogs, processing seeds that we harvested and packaging them for our seed sale in February. We get a portion of the seeds we plant in our gardens from Baker Creek Seeds and Seed Savers. We also have seeds sent to us from friends and volunteers. The remainder we process from the gardens.
We are busy writing letters and planning for special events this year. We are going to be adding new events and updating the old events. We will be applying for grants and looking for garden sponsors. With all this to do the month should fly by.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Today is the first day of the blog journey for the Heritage Gardens. We thought it would be interesting to share with you what the garden year is like. There is a lot of planning as well as planting that goes on. It is interesting and hard work. There is great joy in standing in a garden surrounded by plants that you have grown from seed, tending and watching till they burst from the soil. There is great frustration when you are trying to weed and the mosquitoes are sucking your blood. There is great sorrow when your entire crop of heirloom corn is destroyed overnight by raccoons. Taken as a whole it is worth the time and effort to see the beautiful heirloom vegetables, fruits and herbs. To know that we are planting the same crops that were planted over a hundred years ago. To research and learn about the people who lived here for hundreds of years and who watched as new people came to settle the land. To read about the people who came here with nothing but what they could carry in their wagons, to a new and frightening home in the 'wilderness'. We are all connected.
Every time I walk in the gardens I am reminded of the past. I am part of the legacy left by the people who lived here. I wander around the cabins, there are two, and wonder what life was like for the families who built them. I walk to the wigwam and long for a time when life was closer to nature. But I do not delude myself into thinking it was easy or romantic. It was a hard life, dangerous.
We try to keep alive the stories of the people who lived in Boone County through the gardens. By doing so we hope to also educate future generations on the joys of working along side the natural world while growing food that is healthy and has minimal impact on the environment.