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Moon dates, mulching and manure

We thank you Lord for Grainews readers, For unseen friends and all good deeders, Joy of the garden to the canola field, Gardeners and farmers… grant an abundant yield.

DECADES AGO

… I listened to “The Good Deed Club” for children each Saturday on CBC radio sponsored by the T. Eaton Co. The program always opened with the same theme song. I certainly still remember the melody, so let’s see if I can recall a reasonable replica of the words:

“Do a good deed every day,

Obey the Golden Rule,

Never say an angry word,

Nor be unkind or cruel,

Spread a ray of happiness,

At home, at play, at school,

And you’ll find there’s sunshine everywhere,

Obey the Golden Rule.”

During that time, I acquired a friend named Curtis. His name always reminded me that I had an obligation and responsibility to be courteous (Curt-ee-us). A good deed is never lost. Those who sow courtesy reap friendship; and those who plant kindness gather the same unto themselves. Also reminds me of a song I often sang during my youth: “Sow ’em on the mountain, Reapin’ in the valley (three times), You’re gonna reap just what you sow.”

SPEAKING OF SOWING

… it’s that time of year, isn’t it! Aren’t the great outdoors wonderful? So what have you already direct seeded in some warmed-up soil in the flower and vegetable garden? If nothing, it’s time to get crackin’ and we know that doesn’t apply to eggs only. Just like the Golden Rule, everyone ought to have their own list of gardening rules. One of my favourites is Rule No. 1 because it allows the gardener to ignore all the other rules at least once. For example you might say: I am an expert at growing potatoes; especially at eating them. (Did you get the punch line?)

This Grainews issue is dated May 7, so let’s start with planting potatoes according to the moon. Some recommended “spud” dates are: May 8, 9, 10, 13, 14, 15, 18, 19 and 20. Hopefully, you’ve already pre-sprouted your seed potato. Before planting, remember to roll them first inside a paper bag containing some powdered garden sulphur. Shake off any excess. Also, buy a few booklets of those once-upon-a-time so-called penny matches. Place a couple of unlit matches in the hole on the underside of each planted potato. If you’ve had trouble with potato scab in the past, sulphur in match tips will help.

Have you ever thought of rain and lightning as fertilizing agents? As scary as it is when lightning strikes the earth, large amounts of nitrogen are charged into the ground. Rain produces nitrogen, as does sulphur that also comes down with the rain. Next time after a thunderstorm, notice how plants, particularly grass look greener. It’s true! They really do become greener from electrically charged air freeing up much of its nitrogen content in rainwater.

MULCH GARDENING IS ANOTHER WAY

… to plant potatoes. Just make a little indentation on top of the soil, set the seed potato so it stays in place and pile a layer of mulch, dry leaves, straw or combination 25 cm (10 inches) deep on top. There will be some settling so more mulch can be added as the season progresses. Mulch gardeners (including myself) claim great success growing spuds this way. All you have to do is pull back the dressing at harvest time and gather clean potatoes. Potato beetles will be fewer as well.

You can create an enriched mulch growing site on a plot of ground without ever cultivating, tilling, plowing, hoeing or raking. The first year, regularly cover the chosen area with layers of fruit and vegetable kitchen scraps, dry grass clippings, dried leaves, plant debris, shredded newspaper, shredded rags and well-aged cow manure then water it down. All are valuable at creating compost. The following season, dig small holes in the aged mulch and set out tomato transplants, peppers or melons. Experience the most vigorous vegetables you’ve ever grown.

By the way, the moon planting dates mentioned earlier are also ideal for seeding beets, carrots, parsnip, radishes and onion sets. Do you keep track or a written record of how many birds, plants, insects and animals cross your garden path? It’s really quite amazing and remarkable how much life the Creator has endowed on so small a piece of ground.

COW MANURE BY ANY OTHER NAME

… is still cow s—. This is an ode to cow manure and other byproducts called waste. I am a folklorist from a way back and there’s a folklore belief that few are aware of. But first let me ask: Why is it we can’t write what most everyone says? Cow dung and cow s— are both four-letter words with the exact same meaning.

The best all-round manure is released from cows and useful both fresh or dried because it’s what the experts call “cold manure.” (That really means it ferments slowly.) Nitrogen content of cow deposits is low; unlike chicken, goat, horse, rabbit or sheep manures. Pig excrement needs to be well composted in order to begin losing some of its frightful odour.

To suggest that waste deposited by a cow would help heal a cut or wound was laughed at as folklore fantasy and blown into oblivion by anyone with a firm opinion. There are accounts and stories that fresh cow waste was applied to battle wounds during the First World War when nothing else was available. Be it myth or factual, science is now catching up and has taken a look at it. Researchers are saying yes… cow manure does indeed contain healing elements including specific essential protein substances, trace minerals and vitamin B12 manufactured in the cow’s stomach. The purpose of this little story puts into proper perspective what we call waste, rubbish, garbage, manure, scraps and byproducts of plants. Wastes are a natural part of the life cycle and food chain. Decay is ongoing and a necessary prelude to life. Did you know vitamin B12 was first discovered in dry chicken litter?

SAUERKRAUT AND RAISIN BUNS

Time for a bite to eat and a cup of rosehips tea. I’m eager to try ’em, so count me in! There’ll always be an interest in food and sharing of recipes as long as human beings enjoy eating. Readers sometimes guide me when it comes to my subject material. Most contact me by email, some telephone and even a few write via Canada Post.

Back in early March, I received a letter from “S.M.” at Pilot Mound, Manitoba. She requests her name be withheld. S.M. sent along her recipe for Raisin Buns (I call ’em Baked Perogies) made with sauerkraut and raisin filling and I share it with Grainews readers now.

INGREDIENTS and METHOD

1 tablespoon yeast

1/4 cup warm water

3/4 cup scalded milk

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 egg, beaten

1/4 cup olive oil

3-1/2 to 4 cups spelt flour

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir in warm milk, sugar, salt, egg and olive oil. Add flour and knead 5 minutes. Let rise 2 hours.

Roll out dough; cut into small squares (or size to suit) and place some filling on top. Pinch edges to seal and let rise until double in size; approximately 1 hour. Bake at 180 C (350 F) for 15 to 20 minutes.

Filling:

4 cups sauerkraut

1/2 cup raisins

Pour boiling water on raisins, soak 10 minutes then drain and stir into sauerkraut.

Thank you S.M. at Pilot Mound, Man.

Here’s a brief insight re spelt flour. It is one of the most popular and widely available non-wheat flours. Spelt is a cereal grain in the wheat family that has been cultivated for thousands of years — originally in Iran, then Europe and only in the past century has spelt been cultivated here in North America. It is similar in appearance to wheat but has a much harder outer shell.

This ancient grain is not gluten free. Spelt and spelt flour are not for people with celiac disease or anyone on a gluten-free diet. Some health food and pure food stores may carry gluten-free spelt flour.

Also, allow me to send an expression of thanks for a trio of recipes received from the files of one Mr. Ralph Clark at Lauder, Man. They include Baked Apple Butter, Boston Baked Beans and Chili Sauce. †

About the author

Columnist

Ted Meseyton

This is Ted Meseyton the Singing Gardener and Grow-It Poet from Portage la Prairie, Man. I salute all gardeners and farmers who help make our world a little safer and more ecologically balanced, and who toil to provide health-giving produce to others who cannot produce their own. It takes all sorts to make a world. One half of the world doesn’t know how the other half lives. The best physicians are Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet and Dr. Merryman.

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