February 27, 2013

Seeds Sprouting Started

written by Yvonne

After only two weeks, a few seeds Tom planted have started to show signs of life.

I believe this is kale, but it's hard to tell because of the cryptic labeling 'system' Tom came up with.

In fairness, the system I came up with last year didn't work well either.  So I came up with yet another  labeling system.  We marked the front of each tray, then I crated a map of sorts, designating what seeds were in each pot.

Then I stuck the maps to the door of the outbuilding for easy reference from the greenhouse.

In each circle is the seed that was planted, and the planting date is listed at the bottom.  If we like this system, we may attach a wipe off or chalk board on the door for next year.

The following seeds were started in pots this weekend:

Tomato: Green Zebra
Tomato: Black Krim
Tomato: Cherry (black)
Tomato: Cherry (yellow)
Tomato: Solar Flair
Tomato: Bonny Best
Tomato: Opalka
Swiss Chard
Pepper: Hot Pasilla Bajio

I thought I'd straighten up the very disheveled hoop houses and check on our greens.

Yes, Honey is attached to me the whole time I do this work.  She's not ready to be off leash yet, but I want her to get used to being with us as we work in the garden.  The first few times I brought her out, she walked right into the beds so she has to, ya know, STOP doing that.

Olive set a good example for Honey on how NOT to walk on the beds.

Yes, she had to follow me everywhere.  :)

Time to take a break.

Right now more grass is growing in the beds than in the yard. But that's OK.  There's not much point in weeding them since we're going the Ruth Stout mulch-with-hay method very soon.  We'll just cover up the grass with a thick layer of hay and be done with it.

The bed with our winter greens has been under cover for many weeks of cold weather. Since it's not going to be as cold, and we have rain coming our way, I thought I'd uncover them and see what's been happening. Aw yea!! Spinach is ready to harvest!

And collards too! At the very end of this bed in an empty space, I planted three kinds of peas direct (no pots): Sugar Pod II, Snap Peas, and Big Red Ripper (cow peas).

We have a few more cabbages that will be ready soon as well.

There is no doubt that growing food and keep up with a garden is a LOT of work. And, it's true, it's no fun  to work in the garden when it's very cold and/or very hot. And, it's also true that it's not always convenient to have to manage our life around Mother Nature's schedule.  But as I was planting these tomato seeds, I became very awed by the fact that these little seeds were going to grow from this...

to this...

to this!

It really is amazing that these little, tiny seeds are going to grow into plants that produce food.  And the joy of harvesting the end result, and cooking food we grow from seeds is worth all the work and inconvenience.  I think having that moment was enough motivation for me for the rest of the year!

February 10, 2013

Welcome 2013!

Written by Yvonne

2012 was a very busy holiday season for us and thus, our blogging came to a screeching halt.  The garden still exists and we've been eating out of it, but we just haven't had time to blog.

Since the last post, Tom repaired the hoop houses which turned out to be essential since there have been a few weeks of nice cold weather. They really took a beating this winter. We had severe winds recently that really tore them up. As it turns out, with the Ruth Stout mulching system, we may not even need the hoop houses next year. (See more about this later in the post.)

We've been enjoying the most abundant crop of lettuce ever and pretty much handed a bag of lettuce to anyone who came to visit during the holidays.  Now, though, it's done for the season.

Because we planted spinach and collards so late, the only greens at our disposal were turnip, and we ate a fair share of those.  I'm just now starting to pull up a carrot or two.  They are small to medium sized and DELICIOUS.  The cabbage is getting big, but several were lost to the cold.  Garlic, spinach, collards, carrots, cabbage and a small plant of parsley are still in the ground and doing well.

Things that did not do well this Fall/Winter:
  • Beets
  • Winter Squash
  • Sweet Potatoes

The sweet potatoes we planted really didn't mature.  The roots grew, but true tubers never formed. Our best guess is that the soil in this area is very heavy clay (as you can see). And you are correct; that's not Olive. That's our new dog Honey. (What else would a beekeeper name a dog?!)  ;)  More about her later.

I pulled up the remaining turnips...

and we made turnip chips out of them. We sliced them up in the good ol' food processor...

then fried them in oil and...

well, they didn't turn out all that great.  They never really got crisp. We tried the oven-bake method on one batch, but they still didn't crisp up.

Now it's on to 2013! Something to look forward to when it's too cold to be outside is perusing through new seed catalogs and deciding what new things we want to plant.  We placed our seed order from two places this year: Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds in Missouri and Sow True Seeds in Asheville.

The Sow True Seeds came right away, but we're still waiting on Baker Creek.  We needed a LOT of seeds this year because we either used up what we had or the seeds were too old to mess with so we threw them out.

For Christmas, Tom gave me an out-of-print book by Ruth Stout called "Ruth Stout's No-Work Garden." We mentioned her in a previous blog post (4/25/11). She had a no-fuss method of gardening that relied heavily on mulching. After seeing her results and after reading her book, I'm sold!  We will begin using her method this Spring and of course, you'll have a front-row seat to see what that means and how it goes. One thing I gather from her book is that the first year may not produce great results, so we're setting low expectations for crops this year. But subsequent years will be less and less work each time.

I put the greenhouse cover back on so we could get seeds started ASAP.  We both agreed that we haven't really gotten a jump on Spring and Summer crops these past several years and this year we are committed to starting seeds much earlier (including tomatoes!).  Olive and Honey approve.

For anyone who doesn't know about our new dog Honey, here's her story.  She was a stray found on Christmas day by an acquaintance of mine. They have two cats and couldn't bring the dog into their home so she spend a week or so outside in the cold (it got down to 26 degrees on the coldest night) until a home could be found.  I brought her to our pack the day before New Year's Eve on a trial basis. After the first 48 hours, we were ready to give her back (knowing full well she'd be taken to the pound and put to her final resting place).  Still,  Tom couldn't help himself and named her Honey because she was the color of golden honey, and well, he's a beekeeper at. But we stuck it out, got some tips from Turk (Off Leash Dog Training) and things improved a little.  Things were rough-going between Olive and new dog for that whole first week.  Honey wasn't completely housebroken either.  Let's just say for the first week, nerves were frazzled; mine, Tom's and Olive's.  But each day we saw signs that made us think things were headed in the right direction:  she adjusted to a feeding and bathroom routine, she did better on walks, she and Olive seemed to find a better ways to play, we figured out how to feed them separately so no fights broke out, etc.

Now Honey is a full-fledged member of our pack. She's had her first lesson with Turk (with many more to come) and she and Olive are BFF's. As you can see, she's still on a leash when outside.  It will be a good while longer before she gets to run free, but that's OK. We need to be patient and do our homework to get her trained so she's safe and

Written by Tom

We have severe windstorms each spring no matter what, that much I've observed. And when I say windstorms, I'm talking about 40-65 mph winds. Tends to happen with the wild swings behind very warm spring days combined with still-winter cold nights. Last year our green house fell over, along with every seed tray, multiple times. I finally figured out a good method of securing the greenhouse: put two tent stakes into the ground on either side, and run a bungee cord from the stake to the top of the house. Works perfectly and survived the latest windstorm in which tornadoes were reported in Charlotte.

So ... what's a greenhouse without a temperature check? I got this handy dandy weather station for Christmas, thanks to my in-laws the Mahoneys and Yvonne who tipped them off. I've been wanting to know the temperature at my bee hives, which get all-day sun. I just knew it was different, and warmer, than what the weatherman and thermostat reported. Boy was I right. BUT, I realized the same was true for the greenhouse and I couldn't stand not knowing how much warmer a greenhouse is. So, I put the outside sensor from the weather station in the greenhouse for a test.

On a 51-degree day, the temp in the greenhouse rose and rose ... and kept rising. I honestly couldn't believe what I saw. As you can see below, on the top left-side of the readout for Feb. 3, the greenhouse temperature at 3:13 p.m. was 96 degrees F! On that same morning, the temperature outside the greenhouse was 27 degrees F. Wow.

And here's the temperature readout from our carport. Yep, 51 degrees, while the greenhouse was a-cookin'. I can't wait to start seeds there early!!!