Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Lemon Grass & Lemon Balm Seeds Planted

Lemon Grass - an essential herb
for Asian cuisine, the leaves and stems
can be used fresh or dried to impart a
distinct lemon flavor.  It also makes a
wonderful ingredient for hot teas.

Lemon Balm's most popular use is in
soothing herbal teas, where its
 lemon-scented  volatile oils are released.
The dried leaves are also a perfect
 ingredient for  potpourri and dream pillows.

Today is the day to plant my new herb seeds.  First the peppermint then the Lemon Grass and Lemon Balm.  I'm really excited about these as I love the look of grasses in the garden and can't wait to taste their lively lemon flavor in my tea. The seeds were purchased from Park Seed Company.

Peppermint Pots Planted

Peppermint Pots
Waiting for Seeds to Germinate
Pinhead-sized Peppermint Seeds
Since mint spreads like a weed, I put the peppermint seeds into two very large pots rather than planting them with the rest of the herbs.  They will stay on the front porch until they sprout and then I will move them out to the garden.  Really looking forward to peppermint tea.

The Viburnums are Blooming

My viburnums are beginning to come into bloom.  We have three different varieties here on our property and they bloom at slightly different times.  All of them, however, will be covered with red berries which will ripen to a dark purple.  The birds adore them.  They are so very lovely!  Want to know more about viburnums? 
Check out this link.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Experimenting with Old Seeds

This morning I filled a flat with potting soil and planted it with the contents of these two seed packages.  The Zinnias are from 2008 and the Cosmos are from 2006.  Who knows how many, if any, of these seeds will germinate.  We'll know more in a week or two.

Garden Progress

We worked half a day on both Friday and Saturday.  Here's what we were able to accomplish.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Homemade Butter - Now That's Local!

Using the cream from locally raised, grass fed Jersey Cows, today we made a lovely batch of beautiful, Acvitator X laden butter.  Just look at the picture comparing the "good stuff" to the anemic butter offered at the local grocery chain.
Shaken in a mason jar until the butter formed, then drained
 The buttermilk will be used for baking.

Our beautiful, golden butter on the right.
The anemic grocery story version on the left.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Furlough Rantings..

I'm covered with poison ivy rash and feeling quite irritaable, so I wrote this poem to vent about the upcoming furloughs.  The image pretty much sums it up.

(Cartoon: John Darkow, Columbia Daily Tribune)

We’ll cut your pay by 20%,
That’s what they said to me
It’s been signed into law – we have no choice
Here in the land of the free.

We know there is waste, yes, waste galore
But to cut all the waste would be “hard”
You see all the people who feed on this waste,
would hate us, and then we’d be barred.

Barred from the jobs that we’ve so come to love
The ones where we “serve” all you folks
And from which during crises we “recess” for weeks
Ignoring your pleas, sneers, and jokes.

So the easier way is to blame all our foes
Those parties – the ones we abhor
It makes no difference on which side we stand
Pointing fingers is what we adore
“They’re being unreasonable,” one side will accuse
And a similar volley comes forth
“My way or the highway,” we cry from on high
And rational discourse is scourned.

So you’re stuck they informed me
With wasteful expense - like bridges to nowhere and such
Those folks at Citizens Against Gov’t Waste
Can just hide in the bushes and watch
Watch while we take the easy way out
And penalize all of you schmucks.

All you folks who work hard every day of your lives
And struggle to make your ends meet
No matter how much you protest and complain
Our ineptitude still reigns supreme
So we’ll cut your pay while we golf and cavort
And we’ll leave it to you to survive
We’ve exempted ourselves with a process well-honed
Have no worries - we certain to thrive.

It’s really your fault – you must be aware
After all you’re the ones who did vote
We’ve structured this thing so there’s nowhere to turn
From each side you will surely be smote

Until you despair and throw us all out
And take back what you’ve given away
This waste and this graft will continue to shine
In the land of the free and the brave.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Christmas in April...more seeds arrive by mail!

Today's mail brought our cantaloupe, lemon balm, lemon grass, chamomile, and peppermint seeds.

When the camellias start to put off new growth, we will trim them back, save and dry the new growth, and combine the dried leaves  with peppermint and lemon grass to make a lovely tea.  Chamomile tea is on our "to do" list as well.

Monday, April 22, 2013

55 Degrees Outside; 65 Degrees Inside, 88 Degrees in the Cold Frames!

It is a cold, gray, cloudy day here.  The 28 degree temps this morning forced me to pull out my fleece and heavy socks.  But check out the temps in our new cold frames -- 88 degrees!  Downright tropical.

Frost on the Hot Tub

We had a late frost last night.  It was 28 degrees at 6 a.m. this morning.  Thank goodness for our coldframes as our little seedlings would probably have bitten the dust.  Each year our last frosts seem to come later and later and our first frosts in the fall are doing likewise.  The times they are a changin'.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Holy Smoke....aka Sunday Breakfast!

Hit and Run...

Yesterday, I set the newly-potted blueberry plants in front of the garage so that I could snap a picture of them and left them there so they would get the early morning sun.  What was I thinking?  Hubby drove out of the garage early this morning and ran them over!  Poor dears.  We tucked them back into their pots and they seem fine.  I did not take a picture of them in their most vulnerable and mangled state - after all, I'm not a news reporter.  But I am wondering - do they have trauma counselors for blueberries?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Carrots Planted

Yes, I know it is scary;
 computer drawing is
 not my forte!
Planted three squares of carrots this afternoon.  The seeds are getting a bit old so I sowed them heavily.  If they germinate, this should give us 36 carrots.  I covered them with a blanket of finely chopped leaves so the seeds won't wash away if it rains.  I've had good success with this method in the past.  In about three weeks, if all goes as planned, we will remove the leaves and see the seedlings poking through the soil.  They will be thinned to one carrot per every three square inches. I will plant carrots every week for the next three weeks and then start up again in late summer/early fall.

 I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the voles won't cross the landscape fabric barrier which we buried one foot deep all the way around the raised bed.

Blueberry Update

We received 3 Reka and 3 Bluecrop blueberry plants from Norse Farms this past Wednesday.  Heavy rains last night made it impossible for them to be planted them this weekend, so we had no choice but to put them into pots.  Here they are looking a bit frail, but hope springs eternal!


Dogwoods, devilish pea-stealing thieves, potatoes, and weeds...a garden update

Brocoli & Lettuce Seedlings
now in the coldframes
Walked out to garden yesterday morning and lo and behold, some evil creature (rabbit, deer, vole, troll,  garden gnome?) had consumed 95% of my pea seedlings.  Sadly we will harvest no peas from the garden this year.  However, having no time to mourn, we moved the cold frames to this bed and planted planted out our tiny brocoli and lettuce seedlings just in time for a major thunder storm.  They were snug and cozy while the storm raged about them.   Hopefully they will not suffer the same terrible fate as our lovely little pea plants. 

Before the storm hit, we were working like crazy to prepare more planting beds and did manage to get a nice bed created for the five yellow raspberry plants we received from Norse Farms in the mail two days ago.  I hope they flourish in their lovely new space.

Potatoes poking through the soil
More good news.  The potatoes are up and the onions we planted seem to be thriving.  We did lose about ten of the yellow onions; however, all the purple onions seem to be growing well.  The potato, strawberry, and onion/herb beds were all weeded.

There is much, much more to do.  But the garden looks happy after its manicure.

I saved the best for last...check out the Dogwood - now in full bloom.

Stay tuned, the Iris and Viburnums and roses will bloom next.

Friday, April 19, 2013

I think I can, I think I can....get 57 mpg!

Oh how I love my little red Prius!  During the cold, harsh days of winter it chugs along getting around 48 mpg (and we complain about it).  But during the spring and fall when temperatures stay between 55 and 75 degrees our gas mileage soars and averages around 55 mpg.  I was out running errands this morning and looked down to see 57.7 mpg!  Now I realize that summer temps are right around the corner and my mileage will drop to between 50 and 52 mpg which is still great, but my "little red engine that can" just gives me another reason to keep on loving Spring!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Breakfast from the Garden...the asparagus are up!

The Season's First Asparagus Spears!

The asparagus were very late to come up this year.  I was worried that, over the winter, the voles had eaten all the roots.  This morning I walked out to the garden and there they were poking up out of the ground.  A few were ready to harvest (1/4 lb.) so I sauteed them and had them for breakfast along with my farm fresh eggs and a few purple grapes. Yum!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

And now the Redbuds...

Consummately Captivating Camellias

I have never seen them this laden with blooms...and there are more opening every day!
The little dogwood to the left will soon be in full bloom.  What a sight it will be - stay tuned.
Consummately Captivating Camellias

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Oh Ye (oh wait that's me) of little faith...

On March 31 we planted 50, bare-root strawberry plants.  They were brown and lifeless and I must confess to more than a little doubt about their viability.  But I stuck with the plan, followed the directions and acted like I knew what I was doing....this is what they look like today.
Oh ye (oh wait that's me) of little faith.

I think that I shall never see...

I think that I shall never see
a seedling so beautiful as that of the pea.
When the winter is over, but the beds are still bare,
The little pea seedlings are the first to appear.
A speckle of green in a vast bed of brown,
The first glimpse of them makes me jump up and down.

You too can grow them, you have but to try.
When you spy you're first wee ones, you may be surprised
by an equally tiny, small tear in your eye.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Monday, April 8, 2013

Black Gold...by the truckload

Composted Horse Manure
We now have a truck load of composted (5 years) manure for the garden.  This is not the dump truck load I had hoped for - that manure turned out to be too fresh for immediate use.  However, I'm happy to have found this...love you Craigslist...for $20.  We have had no rain since Thursday.  Hopefully the soil will be dry enough to work the soil either tomorrow or Wednesday at the latest because there is rain forecast for Thursday.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Trimming the Budget by Line Drying Clothes...

Each dryer load costs us approximately $0.65 in electricity.  Since we run about 9 loads of wash per week, line drying our clothes saves us approximately $25 per month.  While on the surface this is not much money, our furlough budget is so tight that an extra $25 per month puts a bit more gas in my Prius.  So hang we will.

Blooming where you are planted..

My little peach - blooming through adversity!
Out in the garden this morning, I spied my little peach tree, totally neglected last year and now engulfed in a honeysuckle- vine stranglehold.  Though the vine engulfed the entire tree, it was nevertheless struggling to bloom.  I cleared off all the honeysuckle and could have sworn I heard the little tree sigh with relief.

Harden Not Your Soil....

I knew my failure to properly prepare my garden last winter would come back to haunt me.  It's April and I have garden beds to make ready, but it rained for hours yesterday (April showers) and the garden is literally under water.  The soil cannot be worked when it is too wet as all the air passages will be driven out and the end result will be hard, compacted soil....a soil which refuses to be penetrated by fresh air, clean water and the roots of tiny seedlings.

Soil is no different than the human heart.  Once assaulted and hardened, it takes years of TLC to soften it and return it to a place where it is willing and able to receive and absorb that which is good.

Habitual complaining.....

I have been so disgusted by our ineffective elected officials and their willingness to let good hardworking people suffer rather than do their jobs and trim the fat from our national budget.   This morning I read these quotes from Pope Francis regarding the dangers of constant complaining.  Then I looked out at my garden and the new life springing from the soil and considered the great time my family is having working together on this project and I realized that these ridiculous furloughs may turn out to be one of the nicest things we have ever lived through together.  Furlough Schmerlough!  I really needed to hear this message this morning.
They were afraid. All of the disciples were afraid,” he said. As they walked toward Emmaus and discussed everything that had happened, they were sad and complaining.“And the more they complained, the more they were closed in on themselves: They did not have a horizon before them, only a wall,” the pope said, according to Vatican Radio.The disciples had had such high hopes that Jesus would be the one who would redeem Israel, but they thought their hopes were destroyed, he said.“And they stewed, so to speak, their lives in the juice of their complaints and kept going on and on and on with the complaining,” the pope said. “I think that many times when difficult things happen, including when we are visited by the cross, we run the risk of closing ourselves off in complaints.”When all people can think of is how wrong things are going, Pope Francis said, the Lord is close, “but we don’t recognize him. He walks with us, but we don’t recognize him.”Like the disciples joined by the risen Lord on the road to Emmaus, people can hear beautiful things, but deep down, they continue to be afraid, the pope said.“Complaining seems safer. It’s something certain. This is my truth: failure,” he said.But the Gospel story shows how very patient Jesus is with the disciples, first listening to them and then explaining things step by step, until they see him.“Jesus does this with us, too,” the pope said. “Even in the darkest moments, he is always with us, walking with us.”Complaining and griping — about others and about things in one’s own life — is harmful “because it dashes hope. Don’t get into this game of a life of complaints,” he said.— The Catholic Sun

Friday, April 5, 2013

More Berries Ordered

I ordered 25 more strawberry plants, six blueberry plants, and five golden raspberry plants.  They will be shipped the week of April 15 - the beds should be ready by then.  We will have to build a trellis for the raspberries and a structure on which we can lay the bird netting.

Here is the write up on each variety from the Norse Farms website:
Reka (U.S. Patent Pending)Reka, an early season blueberry variety bred in New Zealand, is one of the fastest growing and most adaptable varieties we have seen. A very vigorous variety, it grows well in light sandy soils, peat and heavier clay loams and is more tolerant to wetter ground than many other varieties. Reka ripens the season as Duke, but the berries have better flavor. Fruit is an attractive dark-blue color and the plant produces large crops. Its winter hardiness is rated equivalent to Bluecrop.

Bluecrop  The leading commercial variety grown and is especially popular in New Jersey and Michigan. It produces high yields of large, bright blue berries that are firm and grow in large clusters. The berry flavor is superb, fresh or frozen. Bluecrop is known for its hardiness, vigor and consistent production. The plant grows to a height of 4-6 feet. 
Anne  U.S. Plant Patent #10,411Released by the cooperative breeding program of MD, NJ, VA and WI, Anne has special characteristics. Anne is a large-fruited fall bearer that ripens at the same time as Heritage. Fruit holds a pale yellow color and is proving to be highly productive. Anne's excellent size, appearance, and very sweet flavor make it an excellent choice for a yellow fall bearer .
Albion  U.S. Patent #16,228
Albion produces very large fruit that is mostly conical, very firm and red in color. Its flavor is very good for a day-neutral. To get the high yields it is capable of producing, this variety will need a stronger watering and nutrient program than any other everbearer. Wider plant spacing will deliver the largest berries.

Budget Trimming

We have always had a budget of sorts.  However, we started using YNAB (You Need a Budget) this past January.  Right now we're working hard to first pay off both cars and then will start building up our buffer.  Once the furloughs begin, there will be just barely enough to keep up with those living expenses which are absolute necessities, but without the YNAB system, we would be up the proverbial creek without a paddle.  You can read more about this great budget software on their website http://www.youneedabudget.com.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Love my soaking tub..

Greywater Irrigated Garden from
a California Study
Ok so I love to get up early, fill the tub, soak, say my morning prayers, read a little, and soak some more.  But yesterday morning, because I'm so focused on my garden, it occurred to me that an awful lot of water was being wasted each day.  I remembered reading somewhere about "greywater" being good for gardens and it didn't take long for me to find several greywater sites.  Now to find a way to siphon my soaking water out to the garden.

What is greywater?
Any washwater that has been used in the home, except water from toilets, is called greywater . Dish, shower, sink, and laundry water comprise 50-80% of residential "waste" water. This may be reused for other purposes, especially landscape irrigation.
(This is the definition common in Europe and Australia. Some jurisdictions in the US exclude kitchen sink water and diaper wash water from their definition of greywater . These are most accurately defined as "dark greywater ").  http://www.greywater.net/

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Vole Barriers

I had planned to line our new veggie beds with hardware cloth in order to deter voles.  However, the hardware cloth is very, very expensive.  So I've decided to test the barrier methods mentioned on this website...trenching and weed barrier.  Keep your fingers crossed.
Using Barriers
In some gardens, especially vegetable gardens, it is possible to make a trench around the garden, about a foot deep. This is more easily done right after the garden is tilled. Most voles, tunneling right beneath the surface, tend to turn back when they hit the trench and they are reluctant to cross on top of the ground. It helps to make a trench down to harder ground, if possible. Vigilance is necessary and gardeners should be on the lookout for new holes on the garden side of the trench. Rob has grown potatoes and parsnips in vole infested areas using this method. Mulch or straw should be avoided in vole problem areas.
In some cases, such as a bog garden or flower bed, it may be more effective to remove the soil and line the bog or bed with galvanized steel mesh (hardware cloth), a layer of rock, or heavy-duty weed barrier. Any barrier needs to be without underground openings and extend to the surface. (See our Bog Making web page for more details.) While voles can chew through weed cloth, they usually don't, especially if one patrols the perimeter and collapses any approaching tunnels. We havebog gardens protected in this fashion. Doubling or tripling a weed cloth layer helps. Again, avoid mulches and look for new entry tunnels. Snow can be a problem, since voles will travel quickly on top of the ground, under cover of snow.

Digging New Beds...

The boys were working on digging the new beds today.  Imagine my surprise when I received this e-mail greeting from the digging crew.  You have to look closely....can you see the greeting they dug into the soil?

It is amazing what two healthy teenage boys can do in one hour.  This freshly dug 16' x 4' bed has been dug down two feet and is waiting to be lined with hardware cloth and re-filled with amended soil.  Without the hardware cloth, the voles would be the only creatures reaping any kind of a harvest from our efforts.

One bed down....only eight more to go!

Spring..."the memorial of His abundant kindness.."