Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Winter Wonderland

This was taken in the first few hours of blizzard before the wind picked up.....
it was just gorgeous out there!  An unusual sight to have lost the visual depth of the woods to snow.  A few lone juncos were the only birds out and about.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas gardening friends! I hope your day is filled with plentiful food, good drink, and LOVE.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A New Favorite Salad

I went to a potluck dinner this week, and someone brought a most delicious salad.  It was so delicious that I just had to go and make it immediately, and I think it will be a part of the Christmas Day menu.  I thought I would share it with you all.  Pecans were substituted for walnuts, and next time around I will be sure to keep the squash pieces nice and small, maybe more like 1/2-3/4 inch dice.  My photo is not very impressive, the salad was tossed and served in my salad spinner with dinner this evening.....and this is all that was left when I thought to take a picture:

In other news, my daughter had her first haircut (at three-and-a-half), and we have been forced to do some window replacement on our 15 year old house (GGRRR!) due to rotten sills, (due to the worst windows ever manufactured)- so it has been an exciting week.  I won't even tell you how many more windows we have left to replace.  If the previous owners are ever within arms reach I will slap them.  Hard.

Luckily the wee one was very happy with her 'trim', and wanted to show everyone her lock of lopped off hair.

"The Super" is pictured above assessing the situation. 
 We have some paint samples up on the wall, cause ya know....might as well paint the damn room since we are already making a mess of things.  I am thinking the bright blue, second from the bottom.
The men are getting ready to rip out the old and are assessing the extent of the rot, things were still looking bright at this point:
And then, not so much.
Two of the three windows had leaked for long enough that there was rot to be fixed in the siding.  Luckily the sides of the house are shakes, things won't be this easy if there is rot on the front of the house as well.  (I didn't take a picture of the 'before', I am not looking to remember the sight of my naked house, plumbing and framing exposed to all.)

And now for the big reveal........

Phew, thank-goodness for good help.  Three down, too many &*#*ing more to go.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Some Garden Sketches

I have been trying to lay out the coming year's garden.  Now that the new beds are in things can be tweaked and finalized.  This first sketch was done in attempt to squeeze in lots of tomatoes.  I think the plants would be too closely spaced the way I have it laid out.  This first sketch contains the following:
Garlic- 2 beds
Berries- 2 beds
Greens- 3 small plots
Peas- 2 beds
The remainder of the space is filled by rhubarb, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and a couple of green bean and pepper plants.  The potatoes will be in grow bags and another small raised bed that resides outside the fence.  

Of coarse, the new garden looks a bit different then this initial sketch.  We did add a new long bed in front, but in a different spot/different dimensions, and we will be adding another bed which will function as a permanent grow house/cold frame come Spring.  

Okay, on to the second round of sketches, the ones I will likely tweak and plant by (these are for my 3 available 3'5" x 6' beds).  Oh, and please ignore my directional notations, they are not correct for what I currently have in place.  The beds I have available run East/West; I have not drawn up the new bed however, which does in fact run North/South....so I have some slight revisions to do.

Bed 1: tomato, pepper, basil, and greens.

Bed 2: tomato, eggplant, basil, and more greens.

Bed 3: peas.  

Back to the drawing boards for me, it would be grand to get proper sketches done asap so I can get on with my non-gardening life for a few short weeks before it is time for January/February seed starting.  I need to run outside and measure the new beds.  Brrrrr.

How is your garden planning going?  

Monday, December 6, 2010

Wrapping up the old year, planning for the new!

I have taken a bit of a blog-acation.  It has been nice, though I am feeling very out of touch with my fellow garden bloggers.  Hope you all are doing well, staying healthy, and enjoying the seed catalogs as they stream in.

I did some ordering this past week, it was all about tubers.  Sweet and 'Irish' potatoes have been checked off the list.  Georgia Jets and Vardaman (a bush variety) were ordered for sweets, Swedish Peanut Fingerling, Caribe, and Red Cloud for the standard potato varieties.  I started with a few more pounds of seed for this past year's crop, but as I have mentioned just a few (wink, wink) times in the past I am short on space going forth.....so the varieties and total pounds of seed were slashed for 2011.  But no worries, I plan on going back to full scale potato production for 2012, so that helps make it a little less painful.

Still deliberating over eggplant varieties.  Oh, also ordered some Red Baron onion sets to plant in the new garlic bed.  I believe I grew this variety from seed in the past, but the sets were available from Moose Tubers (my potato source) so I went for it.  It will be good for the soil biology to have something growing in it until garlic planting time.

Here is the dirt on the potato varieties from Fedco/Moose Tubers:

Swedish Peanut
These fingerlings were the pleasant surprise in our potato patch this year. We’ve come to expect that our late-season fingerlings will be troubled by rhizoctonia, but these proved otherwise. One September, we pulled ten plants and filled a bushel with spotless thumb-sized spuds, even late in the season. As for taste, it is the only potato that we let ourselves eat before it goes to market. Dry and golden flesh; this year’s pick for “really soaking up the butter.” Seed in short supply; order earlyBACK!

An early digger, and a nice size. Its brilliant purple skin fades in storage, but you won’t have any left to store! For a summer barbecue, make your potato salad shout with Caribe, Red Gold, and a Yukon or two. Even though its name, pronounced ca-REE-bay, invokes the Caribbean, it was released by AgCanada in 1984 to grow in the Maritime provinces so it’s also well suited to our northeastern climate. Caribe has a creamy flavor, a medium-dry texture, and snow-white flesh. You can dig them late into the season, just make sure you hill well, and you will get some gigantors. Medium-sized plants are high yielding with purplish blue flowers. Resistant to scab and storage rot.

Red Cloud
An excellent choice for a red storage potato. With super-dry flesh, your mouth will water as you mash and fluff these pearly white potaters. Named for the Oglala Sioux chief, you will find these plants equally burly, resisting scab, early blight, hollow heart, heat stress, and drought. These plants are medium sized, with spreading vines and dark violet flowers. Supply limited; order earlyBACK!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Leftover Turkey: Its still all about the sauce.

A couple of months ago I made cranberry sauce for the first time.  It was easy, it tasted divine, and we have been needing some turkey to go with it for some time now.  For more on that (including the recipe), go here.  So, we have some turkey, a vegetable pie, and cranberry sauce for a couple of nights.  But now it is time to deal with the leftovers.  I only had about 2 cups of turkey left, so I decided to make a salad out of it, and the guest star is..........THE SAUCE!

I winged the recipe based off of things seen and eaten in the past.  Turkey, mayo, celery, salt, pepper, thyme, sage, nuts (I used raw cashews because it was all I had, but walnuts or pecans are also good), and the leftover cranberry sauce.  Yum.  The chunks and spicy-sweet flavor totally make the salad.  This is, in my opinion, way better than any turkey salad with dried cranberries in it.  It is a bit more like a turkey & stuffing sandwich in flavor, probably due to the similar sweetness form a sauced cranberry vs. a dried.  I think it will become a permanent way to use up turkey in my house.  Just thought I would share.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving everyone!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

An update....

I am still reading, still educating myself and I came across this blog, with a post titled Keep Mansanto out of your garden,  which has Johnny's Seminis seed list cut way down from the 2009 data I had read a few days ago.  This makes me happy.  One reader's comment really struck me and I want to share it with you:

Mark M. -  "I think it’s great that people are making wise consumer choices, and I’m comforted that so many people are reacting with their hard earned dollars to avoid Monsanto products. But your use of the phrase Monsanto-Seminis is a bit misleading.
Seminis was previously owned by an eccentric Mexican billionaire, who sought to buy up many, many seed production companies from around the world, not just in North America. Some of these (Peto Seeds, for instance) had been in operation for decades prior to Seminis’ purchase of them. The fields (and farmers) that grew seeds for Peto, now just grew them for Seminis. Same high quality, often organically grown, and this trade allowed for seed farmers to make a competitive buck growing and breeding top-of-the-line vegetable seeds. Seminis actually promoted genetic diversity in seeds, and came to control production on (as you say) some of the golden standards in garden seeds.
There is no question that Monsanto has purchased and now controls Seminis, but Seminis operates as a division of Monsanto, and still relies on contracts with the same grower families that provided seeds for Peto and so many others. Seminis sells seeds. Monsanto’s chemical divisions sell the GM products, and after all, Monsanto is a chemical company, just like Bayer and Syngenta, and many others who have invested in seed production.
So the misleading element here is to suggest that small seed companies that still carry the Seminis products are somehow on the payroll or in cahoots with Monsanto – which is inaccurate. Also inaccurate is the general assumption that all these seeds are suddenly genetically modified. Of course they’re not! They’ve made money over the years because of good breeding, not laboratory tampering. A blinkered boycott of all Seminis products will simply put a lot of farming families out of business. This is not a defense of Monsanto, but your readers should be better informed before they jump on the bandwagon that paints Monsanto (tellingly deleted above) as the Devil.
It might be a poster child for evil corporatism and dubious science – that’s not my beef. But be aware that if you’re wearing denim right now, or if you own a pair of jeans bought in the last ten years, you’re wearing Monsanto’s roundup-ready cotton, and you’ve paid for it. And it is industrially grown crops like cotton (as well as soy – for those of you who enjoy tofu, miso, etc…) that directly contribute money to Monsanto, unlike buying a packet of garden seeds that benefits Seminis (by possibly a penny) and the growers who produce the seeds.
I hear these discussions all the time, and really think the conversation should be expanded and kept in check. Again, informed consumers can make a difference, which is a good thing. Partially informed consumers just make partially informed choices.
For the record, I do not work for Seminis and would never apologize for Monsanto – I’m just trying to shine a more full-spectrum light on this very common debate that is raging about garden seeds."

This mention of denim and other food products is what I have been fighting with myself over, why punish myself and Johnny's over a measly packet of seeds when there are so many other objects I don't boycott?  But it was the farmer part that got me.  Seminis was/is known for growing high quality seeds, and if there are good farmers behind those seeds I don't want to punish them either.  I think my decision has been made.  I love seed saving, but I also love the development of new varieties, especially those that will put more food on my family's table.  That is after all why I do this gardening thing.  Now back to the catalogs!  ;)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Food for Thought, The Morality of Buying Seeds

You know the saying "ignorance is bliss"?  Well I tend to believe in that one 100%.  Take for instance  my latest 'discovery'........when googling Hansel and Fairytale in an effort to decide on which seed variety to order from Johnny's Selected Seeds, I came across a list of 40 varieties that Seminis supplied to them in 2009, and both varieties were on it.  As you may already know Seminis is Mansanto owned.  I knew Johnny's had one leg in bed with Mansanto from this connection, but I also knew the majority of their seeds come from other sources, and they have been making an effort to replace the Seminis varieties with an alternatives when they can, so it was not enough to scare me away from an otherwise fantastic company.  The bottom line is that Johnny's is there to provide seeds to us consumers, and if small farmers and home gardeners want and love Fairytale Eggplant, than somebody is going to sell the seed to us, and I am glad they do.  It is all about choices people, and I like having them.

  (Reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle made me look into this quite a while back.  I am huge Kingsolver fan, but I think she unfairly exaggerated the connection between Mansanto and many small seed companies in her book.  For anyone interested in learning more about this there is some reading to be done, I will post links at the bottom of the page.)

So here is where my conscience comes into play.......I have been ordering from various seed sources over the years, and I tend to spread my seed buying dollars around.  Baker Creek, Fedco, and Johnny's are my top three favorites and I frequent them the most when adding to my 'personal stash'.  Johnny's is the only one with big "M" tie, the others refuse to play that game......but Johnny's also offers many F1 varieties the other catalogs don't, and for a small gardener like me, that is advantageous.  So this coming year I am short on space, more than usual.  And I know I can only grow one eggplant.  So I want a dwarf, high yielding variety- and guess who owns all the patents on that category?  Yup.  Seminis/Mansanto.  And now I know.

So you might say 'well duh, just order something else'.  And I probably will do this, or just use OP seed I already have and expect lower yields from my single plant.  But then I got to thinking about all of those veggies I buy at farm stands and farmer's markets.  I know I have bought these little AAS winning hybrid eggplants in the past.  What else am I buying from Mansanto, knowingly or not?

Anything non-organic that comes in a box or bag has an almost certain chance of coming from Mansanto corn, soy, or canola.  The *&%! is in everything.  Which brings me back around to voting everyday with my dollar.  I choose pay more for organic food because I care where it comes from, care what was put out in the environment in order to grow it, and I don't want to feed GMO crap to my kids, period.  But lets be honest, I have no-name brand canola oil in the cabinet and occasionally a bag of Doritos makes it into the shopping cart.  So do I avoid the seed variety I want because the $2.00 I spend on it has some percentage being kicked back to the big monster for royalties on the patent on principle, or do I support a local seed company I believe in, and grow the dang veggies I want?  And now that I have been connecting all the dots, do I ask growers where the seed comes from before buying their produce at the market?  One could certainly get carried away with all of this.  What do you think?  Where do you stand with all of this, does it even concern you?

Further reading/Food for Thought:

Monday, November 15, 2010

Thank-Goodness for Recycled Materials

Occasionally over the years a truck bed full of discarded cobbles gets delivered to my yard.  That makes me VERY happy.  Then there is Manny (I refer to him as 'my fairy-garden father' in my own head).  His tree-cutting labor, advice, and piles of delivered loam and compost have helped every landscape project we have ever done come together better.  He is the deliverer of juicy summertime watermelons too.  Oh, and that box of potatoes you all saw back in the recent pantry post.  I mention Manny because his piles of dirt once again helped us out this weekend as we created some planting space in (and outside) the garden.

As anyone who read my last post knows, I am running out of planting space for next year.  We bought more fence to expand the growing area.  We sketched out and staked out some various bed options, and this what we decided on yesterday:

A long run utilizing most of the newly created space, with room for the permanent coldframe(s) left at the end.

And a new allium bed, which had to go outside of the fence.  I will deal with keeping dogs out come spring, most likely with an inexpensive, low, mesh fencing/border type material.  We made sure to lay the cobbles in a way that allow us to add one more standard fence panel and enclose it with the rest of the garden if need be in the future.  Utilizing the cobbles and donated dirt/compost meant building these beds required no out of pocket cost (YAY!) other than the peat I will need to go out and buy this week in order to keep building the 'lasagna' layers.  That is a very good thing.

So, to sum it all up we ran two new cobble beds that still need fillin' and hillin'.  The dirt will require hilling within the cobbles so I can get 6-8 inches of depth in the beds.  Here is a shot of the whole garden from above (note the extra fence panel at the back-right corner along the edge of the cobbles, that is where we may need to move the border to next year):

This new square footage will allow me to grow more than peas and greens for next year (though not much more), and in 2012 I will be in good shape when I sow my garlic in the new allium bed vs the  space it is in now.  (I hope to post a sowing list and planting sketches soon for my own reference.)

To think this is what we started with a couple of years ago; much smaller, yet somehow I still grew quite a variety.  I guess my blog title was a bit of an omen, lol:

I am so thankful for the ability to keep my garden growing.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Mulling Over Garden Plans & A Permanent Coldframe

Yesterday was beautiful, and we spent the day doing yard and garden clean-up.  The dahlias and glads were dug, more mulch was laid in the garden beds, and some raspberries were transplanted.  We mulled over the new square footage available after a recent increase to the perimeter of the fence, and the digging up of a few raspberries.

Right now I am thinking that I want one new bed to built as a permanent 3.5 x 6 foot coldfarme some time between now and February so it can be put to use come March.  Also, we will create a long narrow raised bed over the coming days/weeks using the lasagna method (no frames for now) and see how much sun it gets, and how it fits my gardening needs before making a permanent raised bed structure next year, or the year fater.  The fence was quite costly, and building a new coldframe will not be inexpensive either, so I have already sunk more money than I would like into the garden going into the 2011 season.

I found a large A-frame style coldframe I really like , there is a photo of it here.  The other option is to use the one I already have, and build another small unit next to it; if going with this plan both frames would need to be set on a raised structure of some sort since there currently there is only lawn in it's destined area.

Here is the currant frame seen below sitting atop a raised bed, there are some pea greens growing in there now.  No matter the design, I plan on having multiple covers to change out seasonally such as plastic, shade cloth, and row cover or bug netting so that cole crops can be grown directly in place with some pest protection, and seedlings can be raised through the warmer months for transplant into the main beds at later dates.  If my garden wasn't over the septic system I would dig the coldframe into the earth a bit for better temperature regulation, but I unfortunately don't have that option.

I have been sketching up various planting plans for next year, and anyway I slice it I just don't have much space available.  Right now I have only 63 square feet of bed unoccupied going into the 2011 season.  Y-Y-Y-YIKES!  The new beds will help some, but I will still only be around 100 square feet in total.  This reduced square footage means I have to plant much less than I have in the past.  Like 4 tomatoes instead of 12.  One pepper instead of 5 or 6.  No carrots, or cucumbers.  :( 

I plan on sowing garlic around the inside of the fence line next fall (yes, that means creating yet another raised bed, and I am kicking myself for not coming up with this idea a month ago, but it will free up 32 square feet of space for other crops).  If I get a nice blueberry and strawberry harvest come summer I will likely keep them in the vegetable garden permanently.   If critters still get all my berries I will move them back out or quit attempting to grow them in the first place.  We buy so much fruit, from a financial stand point it makes sense to sacrifice vegetable production in effort to buy less fruit at the farmstand, as the veggies are less expensive.

I need to go back through my old posts and try to remember how I layered the materials when we made new beds this Spring.  The soil in the sweet potato bed is the best of any of the raised beds as far as tilth goes, and all of the newer beds seemed to supply plenty of nutrients for first year beds as well.  I know peat, straw, cardboard, dog and rabbit feed, compost, and soil went in among other things, but the details are fuzzy.  Time to head back out to the garden and start shoveling some dirt!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Finn and Loch, this ones for you!

Erin over at Garden Now-Think Later mentioned wishing there was an alpaca farm locally so she could show her boys.  We are lucky enough to have a wonderful hobby farm nearby, and went on a field-trip there in August so I thought I would post pictures here for her boys to see, a little alpaca show-and-tell.  Absolutely nothing 'garden' about this post.  :)

Here are 2 females trying to stay cool.  Both are pregnant, but the white one was literally due when we were there, if you look at their bellies you can see the difference.  
(Sadly she had a stillbirth days later, the owner believes due to the nasty heat.)

The other alpacas were kept separate from the two expecting gals.  Here they are coming over to greet us, they knew treats were coming!  (This was also where the spitting event took place... for those that don't know, alpacas spit a fine stinky mist in the air when hot and bothered.  We were inside the fence and somebody was feeling a bit crowded and shot one off into the alpaca crowd.  They scattered in a hurry.  Luckily no small children were trampled (or caught in the mist), but we promptly vacated the area, lol.)

We all got a kick out this fella seen above, he just couldn't be bothered to stand. 
 There are different grades of alpaca fur, and some animals are naturally softer than others.  In addition to this the coarseness etc. the feel of the fiber differs from where the fur was harvested from (neck, side, leg).  Some is quite soft, and other areas are quite scratchy, only the finest grades are used for clothing.
You can see how soft that yarn was- fuzzy, silky, and super-cozy!  An example of something made with the coarse fibers next.....

I will post a few more pictures of the animals and their barn, they were so fun to see.  Hope you enjoyed the pictures guys.  :)

 This alpaca wanted to see what was going on next door....he may have been checking in on the ladies.

(Erin- I mentioned that communal potty spot on your blog, one was here in the barn and they stood there FOREVER eliminating; then the next one would move in to the 'dung pile'.  Potty talk, boys dig it.)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Let it......snow!

**(I must ask that you pardon my picture.  I had oral surgery on Friday and am heavily medicated, lol,- so I found the nearest window and snapped a quick photo.)**

We went from a late first frost, to an early first snow fall.
 My daughter said she heard Santa's reindeer last night.  
My son started shouting "Yay!  Christmas is here!".
I am thinking about the lack of straw cover on my strawberries.
The white stuff has caused quite a ruckus in my house this morning.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

New Plans and Storage Crops

I have been sketching out plans for the 2011 garden already since we need to build some new beds, and I am still lacking space (of course- is it ever enough?).  This means I must prioritize what I want to grow, and weigh that against what I should grow.  Taking stock of what I have sitting in my pantry yesterday was insightful, and it will help me assign crop space for next year .  There is a decent amount of food put by in canning jars and freezer bags as well, though much of it is fruit we picked elsewhere.  I have herbs, kale, green beans, tomatoes/tomato products, pesto, raspberries, and currants from my own garden stashed in the freezer.  Relishes, sauces, jams etc. are on the shelves, but it is the for a pantry I am interested in.  Those high calorie, get-you-through-the-winter roots.

Here she is, my mixed bag of tricks "pantry":
 China, stem-ware, animal chow, and dirty vegetables!

Now for the walk through.....what is left of my globe onions:
(I am not going to bother growing these next year,
 space is at a premium and onions I can buy anywhere.)
Garlic braids are hanging, and I also have an allium drawer with shallots, a few heads of garlic,
 and more red onions, some of them globe, some of them a long heirloom variety:
(Onions are not my best crop.)
Next are the potatoes, and they are everywhere.  The bag holds my fingerlings, 
and the box holds potatoes from a friend's garden.
This drawer has Purple Viking, Keuka Gold, Red Cloud, and Russets:
And that is it.  No winter squashes from my garden unfortunately.  I have made peace with the need to just buy them from others.  A friend and I split a bushel of butternuts from a local farm, so I have a small stash to admire and cook up as I please (and an acorn with a price tag, sigh):

So would you all make my week and post what you have for storage crops, and how you store them?
Canned goods and stocked freezers are always fun to see too.
Share your thoughts on the amounts you grow, what you are pleased with, and what you would like to improve upon.  Winter will quickly be upon us and we will dreaming of digging the earth again come spring, so link your posts in the comments section and show us whatcha got!!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

First Frost

It feels like November in New England.  The fire is burning, 

cozy boots are on,

the bird feeder has been filled,

and the trees are looking bare.


we had our first frost last night.  Soon I will be digging dahlias-  YAY!

Looks like my timing was just right yesterday when I harvested some more rosemary, sage, and chives for freezing.  (For more information on that go here.) I also picked some orange thyme and threw them in the container as they were rather than stripping the leaves.  Lazy gardener.

 I tried my hand at rosemary propagation (again).  Last year my first attempt at rosemary cuttings failed, but it was a bit haphazard.  This year I did it the "right way", no shortcuts.  Fingers crossed.

The pots were filled with a 50/50 mix of peat and a perlite substitute (I had some vermiculite mixture on hand).  Then 2-3 inch cuttings were taken and stripped of bottom leaves before being dipped in rooting hormone.

In the pot they went and the tops were pinched back to promote branching.  I have them under a cloche in attempt to keep them from being dried to a crispy death by the wood stove.

Yesterday was a busy day on the homestead.  The kitchen was put to good use with a pot of lentil-vegetable soup on the stove-top, and a chard tart, roasted potatoes, and Halloween Cookies in the oven.

(Chard Trat Recipe HERE.)

LaRatte Fingerlings & Baby Georgia Jets

A concentrating three year old.

I love cooking a meal centered around home grown produce!

I also took stock of my current stash from the garden.  The results are not bad, but I will post on that another day- this entry is lengthy enough already!!  While writing this my son spied a bird through one of the sky-lights....this thing is big and beautiful!  It doesn't appear to be a Red Tail (our usual hawk in the trees) at first glance, we will need to do a bit of investigation. The quality is not great, but that is what happens when you zoom through a screened bathroom sky-light.  Majestic isn't it?

(Here is another shot for scale, this was a good sized hawk sitting in a tree that dwarfs my 2 story house.)