Archive for January, 2017

Potatoes in Cold Storage

Saturday, January 28th, 2017

Cold Storage in the Barn

It’s the end of January. We still have a lot of potatoes stored in the barn. Barn temperatures are often well below freezing but the potatoes are in good shape. Last fall, before I put the potatoes in storage, I modified my straw bale walls and replaced the bales on top with insulating foam panels. It was a good move. It’s way easier sliding off panels than wrestling straw bales when you need some potatoes. The barn stays cleaner and the potatoes seem to be in better shape than the last year.

Mover’s Blankets

Below the foam I placed some mover’s blankets, which are good insulators, to take up a lot of the gaps.

Shipping Crate Set in Straw Bales

The bales surround a wood shipping crate that has been re-purposed as a storage bin.

Potatoes in the Crate

The potato varieties are separated in the crate by walls made of scrap press-board. I mixed some loose straw in with the potatoes and that seems to be a plus in potato longevity.

Potatoes Ready to Cook

We’re pacing ourselves on potato consumption, trying to get most of them eaten before serious sprouting and shriveling sets in. Our improved above ground cold storage system is helping us enjoy all those good potatoes we grew.

Baked Sweet Potatoes with Mushroom Gravy

Thursday, January 26th, 2017

Sweet Potatoes with Mushroom Gravy

As you may have read before, Noel’s sweet potato harvest produced almost 125 pounds of edible roots.  He planted the same number of plants (18) that he has for the last several years but we had such significant rainfall throughout 2016 that the potatoes grew bigger, therefore increased our total poundage.

With that being said . . . we have a lot of sweet potato eating to do.  Since sweet potatoes are, well . . . sweet, I like to counter balance them with something savory.  This time I made a mushroom gravy. Here’s a link to a previous post on vegetarian gravy methods.   I also add other veggies to the gravy, such as baby bok choy or chopped collards.

Bake your scrubbed and fork pierced potatoes at 400 degrees until soft all the way through. Check with a fork or knife. Baking time depends on the size of the potato. Larger ones take about an hour. I start checking after one hour and at fifteen minute intervals for the big ones.  They can take an hour and a half or more.

Mushroom Gravy

Mushroom Gravy Ingredients:

2 T. unbleached flour

2 T. nutritional yeast

Dry roast/toast the flour and nutritional yeast  in a preheated (to medium) cast iron frying pan stirring constantly for 5 minutes.  Set aside.

2 T. olive oil

1 shallot, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 tsp. dried thyme or 1 tsp. fresh if you have it

2 cups sliced button or cremini mushrooms

2 oz. dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked and chopped or use fresh (I had 8 dried mushrooms)

1 T. tamari

1 T. liquid aminos

2 cups water (I used the shiitake soaking liquid plus enough water to make 2 cups)

Alternatively, use 2 cups vegetable broth and skip the tamari and liquid aminos.

Sauté shallots and garlic in olive oil for 2-3 minutes.  Add mushrooms and thyme and cook for another 5-10 minutes.  Blend the 2 cups liquid with the tamari, liquid aminos and  flour nutritional yeast mixture.  Pour over mushroom sauté and cook until bubbly and thickened.

Serve your gravy over a baked sweet potato and dig in!

 

Talking and Writing About Gardening

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

CobraHead Weeder and Cultivator

I started CobraHead to sell a tool I designed. I was quite sure my tool would be a help to a lot of gardeners. Since then, sales have proven what I knew when I started, the tool was a good one. Supposedly it was Emerson who said, “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.” I can assure you Ralph got it wrong. You can have a great product, but you have to sell it and sell it hard before anyone will even know it’s out there.

CobraHead Logo

 

 

Fifteen years into our CobraHead venture it’s obvious no one would know anything about the tool if I didn’t become a marketeer to extol its virtues to the public. Word of mouth happens, but it’s way too slow. You have to fuel the fire. There is so much noise out there and so many people claiming, just like me, that they’ve got something people need to buy. Selling is actually the most time consuming part of the business. Fortunately, I was a salesman before I started the company, and I‘ve learned a whole lot about marketing since we first launched.

Magazine Ad

 

We’ve chosen a relatively low key approach to marketing our company. Print advertising hasn’t been our best venue. We don’t do a lot of it. We’ve found many lower cost tools to get our message out. Maintaining a blog is quite inexpensive. Talking about gardening at trade shows and garden conferences can cost almost nothing and I often get paid for doing it. And while I almost never talk about my tools directly, the association and connection to our company through blogs and public appearances strengthens the perception that I’m a gardener who walks the talk.

The CobraHead Blog

Very early into our history, we found out about a group called the Garden Writers Association. We began attending their conferences with the specific purpose of getting tools into the hands of garden writers with the hope they would like the tool and mention it in their articles and talks. That has proved to be our most successful method of gaining publicity, but attending the conferences also taught us about writing and presenting. Now, while I hardly consider myself a garden writer, I really am one. It’s just not my full time job.

PowerPoint Slide Show

While I’m not on the speaker’s circuit, I’ll be giving three talks on gardening at our favorite garden show, the Madison Garden Expo, coming up in February. I’m talking about growing garlic, growing sweet potatoes, and the raised bed method of gardening that I employ. In none of these talks do I hard sell my tools, but they do generate sales for us at the show and after.

Facebook Page

Social media is the newest selling tool out there and it can be low cost. We maintain a Facebook page, but so far, Twitter, Pinterest, and other such venues are yet to be explored. It probably will be a while before we jump in with those.

Promoting CobraHead has taught me a lot about marketing and certainly has improved my gardening knowledge just by being associated with the garden industry and trying to figure out ways to become a stronger part of it. I’ve met hundreds of people in the industry and many of them are, like me, trying to show others the value of gardening. I’ve learned a lot from them.

CobraHead Weeder and Cultivator Chosen for the Top 8 Manual Weeders of 2017

Monday, January 16th, 2017

The CobraHead Weeder and Cultivator was chosen by Ezvid Wiki as the #2 garden weeder for 2017. That means we are #1 small hand weeder since their #1 selection is a stand up weeder for weeding the lawn.

Here’s the link: https://wiki.ezvid.com/best-manual-weeders