I finally sucked it up and braved the frigid cold to go check on my cold frame. I haven't looked inside it since the temperature got down to -4 in December, mostly because I'm lazy and don't like to be cold. Inside, I found six living kale plants, two spinach, and one teeny little head of lettuce, all looking starved for fresh air, water, and general maintenance. I spent a bit of time (and actually warmed up quite a bit) clearing out all the frozen leaves, fluffing up the mulch, and watering.
I checked and turned the compost, which (happily) isn't a frozen block of rotting vegetation this year. I added some grass clippings and mixed it - I look forward to using our first barrel of compost in the garden this year. It's surprising to me just how much compost decreases in volume as it decomposes. For the past year and a half, we've put in bucket after bucketful of vegetable scraps, piles of weeds and carrot tops and grass clippings and leaves, and it's still only about 3/4 full - maybe the equivalent of two purchased bags of compost? Ideally, I need at least five bags to really bulk up the nutrient level in the garden this year, so to compost for a year and a half and only have this much is a little disappointing. But hey, at least it's compost, right?
It's not likely to get much below zero again this winter. It's been a surprisingly mild winter - and a short one, considering it didn't even get cold until Thanksgiving. And admittedly, I am SO not ready for spring yet. I love winter - I love the break it offers. I like curling up in the living room at night knowing my garden is still sleeping and that I have no work to do in it. But that's about to end - cold weather crops can go in the first week of February, and warm weather crops need to be seeded indoors two weeks later. Sheesh, time sure does fly.
In other news, we ate Jerusalem Artichokes for dinner last night as part of our Lewis and Clark study. Sacagawea likely dug these tubers (the roots of a particular type of sunflower) along the trail. Thanks to the great book Cooking on the Lewis and Clark Expedition by Mary Gunderson (which we've used extensively and I highly recommend), we learned to roast Jerusalem Artichokes at had them for a side dish with our dinner last night. (They're available at Vitamin Cottage, btw, in case you're in the market for trying new vegetables.) Surprisingly, they were actually pretty good, sort of like a potato but much sweeter. The kids and the hubby both devoured them.
I imagine these would store nicely through the winter, as most root veggies do. I've got a handful of them left, I might try tossing them in a stew or something. Anyway, hooray for trying new veggies - and for kids that are willing to taste just about anything you put in front of them!