Wednesday, December 29, 2010
We have had over 5 feet of snow in December. At first it highlighted the raised beds nicely, and then erased them completely.
The garden shed remains snug and tidy, like a little gingerbread cottage.
On Christmas Eve, the U.S. Mail brought a huge bundle of colorful seed catalogs. Usually we don't see them until after New Years Day. A fellow gardener, whose wife is a Postmaster, tells of her holding out on him as his seed catalogs sit in the back of her post office with their date stamp taunting him. Few things bring more joy and light to a gardener's winter home than those vibrant wish books.
As usual, I get a notepad and start jotting down ideas. Then I compare my wish list to my more practical shopping list written in August. Of course you have to allow yourself one or two impractical experiments each year. This year mine will be Blue Podded Peas.
Actually, this is sort of a practical experiment since you already know my views of being able to distinguish pickable parts from non-pickable parts. And the peas will fit nicely into my spring planting. Since the garden was under construction last spring, we missed out on all those early vegetables: Onions, Carrots, Peas, Lettuce, Chard etc. So that will be my focus this year.
I can not tell you how much I look forward to the start of gardening season. There will be no rototilling. No waiting for the mud to subside. No fence to put up. No rows to measure and mark. All I will have to do is stroll down the sidewalk, kneel beside my tidy little beds, already high and dry and prepared for planting, and poke the seeds in. Then I'll probably add a layer of fresh compost and voila'... instant garden!
I have already broken my list down by seed company. First I go for the specific varieties and harder to find items. Then I compare prices on similar items. Finally I fill up the gaps with the common things rounding out each order to make the most of shipping rates. You also have to watch for coupons. I am always suckered into Gurney's $25 offer. .... finally, you have to take into account the seed swap.
On my last post, Julie asked where she would find just a few seeds of sweet corn instead of half a pound. Well, some seeds keep quite well for a couple of years. Others are great for swapping and sharing with friends. For instance, in our neighborhood, Bob and Trish do the onion order. Shelly and I let Bob know what we want, and relinquish some control to his wisdom as Bob and Trish are far more experienced with Onions at this point. I've had great luck with the onion plants they have gotten me. I generally have extra of several kinds of seeds, and am happy to distribute my excess to anyone interested. If you still don't want a larger quantity of seeds, your best bet is to buy them off the seed displays at Garden stores and Big Box stores as those are packaged in much smaller quantities. I often pick some up when they are discounted to try varieties I would not have thought to order.
And some seed swapping is much more far reaching than the neighbors. Several people have expressed interest in planting my PaPaw's Barlow Jap tomatoes. I am still quite tickled to send out a dozen for free whenever anyone asks. And, as good seed trading etiquette dictates, they always reciprocate with a list of varieties they have to trade should I be interested. That's where my Blue Podded Peas are coming from!
I've been keeping an eye out on the gardening forums to see where the Barlow Jap has migrated through swapping and reswapping. So far, they have been grown in OH, PA, AL, NC and KY. Last week I sent some to TX and TN. And they have also jumped the pond and have been grown in Germany and South Africa. Now PaPaw would really get a kick out of that!
Friday, December 17, 2010
Looks like she stole the idea from my seed packet fence markers! Maybe I'll have to make some myself and do a complete garden themed tree. Of course, the seed packet thing has been done before. These are two blown glass ornaments I bought back in 2008 from Smith and Hawken. The best parts about these is that they feature the Card Seed Co packets from a town near here.
Friday, December 3, 2010
After a break to create a Christmas centerpiece I began to bake. 350 degrees 8-10 minutes and DON'T burn them. Burnt ginger cookies are no good. (The recipe actually says this). A little trial and error and I settle on 9 minutes. My hands soon have that familiar sheen of lard.
I roll and press, remembering to double strike them to get extra sugar on them. They are soft cookies, and not burning the bottom means they will still be soft when you take them off the sheet. After 4 dozen I perfect the technique of getting them off without smooshing the sides and only have to eat four rejects. After 5 dozen I am considering putting the rest of the dough back outside and saving it for cookie day at Mom's.
After 6 dozen I lose count and begin to run out of room on the dining room table. After 7 dozen I decide I 've been on my feet all day and the peanut butter balls can wait until Sunday as well. The Kitchenaid, now cool to the touch, goes back in the cupboard. After 8 dozen I am looking at the rest of the dough and figuring maybe I should just throw it out. I scrape the last from the bowl and do a final count. Including the ones I broke and had to eat, 106 cookies. That's 8.8 dozen. Whewww!
They are sort of pretty all laid out on the table. Their sugary tops glimmer in a Christmasey sort of way. I think back over my childhood. Grandma almost always had these cookies in the jar. I would guess she made a batch like that once or twice a month. If she didn't make these, it was peanut butter cookies. What a lot of work. But completely worth it.
Monday, November 29, 2010
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Then I strain the water through several layers of high quality cheese cloth which can be washed out to reuse again and again. Then, you rinse the stock pot, return the liquid to the pot, and the pot to the heat. Next you add the sugar. We use two cups because we like it sweet. After the sugar is fully dissolved, you can turn off the heat and add the wine and grain alcohol.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
And the little Astrachan apple trees are growing by leaps and bounds. Next spring we'll take the tubes off and stake and fence them instead.
Now is also the time to putter about with soil conditions. There appears to be a calcium deficiency, as evidenced by our blossom end rot. Adding bone meal at the roots kept it at bay, but I went to the feed store and bought a couple of bags of ground oyster shell grit and spread it liberally. It will have all winter to leach through the soil, and in the spring, we'll work it in as we plant.
Monday, September 27, 2010
Then we rounded up Mike, and got out the little tractor for some more mulching. The gates were carefully measured so that the smaller tractor, complete with belly mower, can fit through with a little room to spare. We used up about half of our composted horse manure, throwing down a layer of an inch or so to hold the leaves in place, and get the composting started.
And now a little word about pests. This was my view out the window in the morning... 5 turkey jakes, and our truant fawn. He is the child of a doe who just wreaks havoc on our landscaping. Most of the summer I saw him with his grandmother and her two fawns. But quite often he would run through on his own. Why? Because his mother, the no good floozy, was busy wandering about eating my perennials and being a lousy parent. And still he's up to no good, running with the bachelor turkeys. His mother has a price on her head this season. And I expect nothing but trouble in the future from this little guy.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
The garden was beginning to look a little rough with bacterial spec taking over several of the tomato plants, and leaves littering the walk. I started last week picking green tomatoes, and there are ALOT of them. Although they have stopped ripening on the vine in this cooler weather, they will continue to ripen in the dark after you pick them. The ones that don't get made into fried green tomatoes (my favorite dish while watching football) should be individually wrapped in newspaper so they will ripen, and you can continue to enjoy tomatoes for a couple of months. My mother has been known to stretch her tomato season as far as December!
First I went through and removed all of the twisty ties and tags. Next, you pick whatever you intend on saving. Then I began a vigorous pruning, removing all the foliage until all I had left were tomato trunks inside the supports. After the supports were removed, we pulled the roots out. I took the poles out of the pole beans, leaving large, spineless, blobs of foliage.
We filled the tractor bucket with most of the tomato waste and put that on the burn pile. The beans, clover, marigolds, and basil were destined for the compost pile. We have filled this compost tube several times this summer, and it breaks down at an amazing rate leaving plenty of head room. Here's a picture of Tim doing the "marigold stomp" trying to get the last wheelbarrow in. We have plenty of rain fore casted for this week, and I guarantee that tube full of garden trimmings will be reduced by half in a week.
We tried out best to rake up all of the fallen tomatoes, but I guarantee you there will be plenty of Sungold volunteers next year, just like this one which popped up in Mike and Shelly's cucumber bed mid-summer.
When it was all said and done, we were left with a row of parsnips and my fall garden which consists of beans, peas and carrots. I also have half a bed planted with lettuce that is just beginning to poke through the soil.
The garden looks much bigger with all of the beds empty.
Even with the garden gone, we now have to deal with a glut of produce. The best recipe to cope with this is Ratatouille which combines tomatoes, eggplants and summer squash among other things. Really it's a perfect dish for a day like this. Tim calls it "Rototiller" which is a pretty descript name since you chop up everything you find in the garden before you run the tiller through. I mean, what else do you do with a dozen Little Fingers eggplants?
My mother is very good at dealing with these garden combinations. She makes the recipes up as she goes, and she can turn this menagerie...
Into a meal like this....
And furthermore, her husband has adventurous taste buds, and he will eat it.
2 onion, sliced into thin rings
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium eggplant, cubed
2 zucchini, cubed
2 medium yellow squash, cubed
2 green bell peppers, seeded and cubed
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 chopped red bell pepper
4 roma (plum) tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
4 sprigs fresh thyme
salt and pepper to taste
Heat 1 1/2 tablespoon of the oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until soft.
In a large skillet, heat 1 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and saute the zucchini in batches until slightly browned on all sides. Remove the zucchini and place in the pot with the onions and garlic.
Saute all the remaining vegetables one batch at a time, adding 1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil to the skillet each time you add a new set of vegetables. Once each batch has been sauteed add them to the large pot as was done in step 2.
Season with salt and pepper. Add the bay leaf and thyme and cover the pot. Cook over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes.
Add the chopped tomatoes and parsley to the large pot, cook another 10-15 minutes. Stir occasionally.
Remove the bay leaf and adjust seasoning.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
It has doubled in size, and Tim has finished the walkway and the deck so that we don't have mud splashing up on the siding, and we aren't tracking in all kinds of dirt. You can't imagine how much dirt sticks to dewy work boots. Because of the electric lines being dug in, there has been a nice patch of dirt right in front of the door for months.
See the apple tree in the tube in the foreground? That is one of the scions I sent down to Horse Creek back in the spring of 2009. It is growing by leaps and bounds and we had to add to the tube to keep the deer from trimming it. The second one is in the foreground of the picture below and is growing, but not as vigorously.
The gravel right behind the shed will be part of the chicken run, and the mulched area is my "perennial foods" garden where I relocated my strawberries, rhubarb and horseradish. Next spring I will add a row of asparagus. I decided to leave my first asparagus bed where it was to see if it can't make a go of it since it seems to be improving now in year 3. The Rhubarb has more than quadrupled in size since transplanting, and the Horseradish has come back to life.
I have a few neat garden collectables to display in here, but we haven't gotten around to cutseying it up yet.