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Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

This morning I was making all sorts of excuses for not going outside to work in the garden.  It was supposed to hit 80+ degrees today, and there was no way I was working outside in that heat.  After making this decision, I was looking on Facebook,  and saw that a friend was lamenting the need of a truck that she didn’t have.  I called her and made arrangements to use dad’s truck to help her out.  We picked up her compost, got it unloaded, chatted for a while, and I headed home.

Once I got home, the weather really wasn’t oppressive, I was already dirty and dressed for dirty, and the large area I’ve been saving for tomatoes was calling to me.  It had weeds beginning, and that wasn’t going to be good, if they got a foothold.  So I started in.  Hoe to disrupt the weeds, rake to remove the big weeds, dump rabbit manure, rake out to a smooth layer, water, layer with straw, water…beautiful beds!

I put cardboard in the walkways, to reduce weed growth, which if all goes well, I will cover with wood chips to further keep the weeds down.


My garlic is the best it’s ever been.   I think it’s because I mulched when I planted.
I did another layer as weeds were starting to grow up.

I then set to watering, weeding, mulching.  I got all kinds of things done, and it’s looking much like a garden.  I have a couple more areas to prep, and I need to plant the tomatoes in the newly prepped beds, but a couple more good days and I think I’ll be on to maintenance, and harvesting!

The brown patches will have carrots, onions, zucchini (3 kinds),
Summer Squash, and Bush Beans, once the seeds pop through.

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For the past few days I’ve been mentally scolding myself for not getting my garden in.  It has been so very hot and humid, I’m not great in the heat, and even worse in humidity.  I was so sad to think Summer had already arrived and figured we were just in for hot weather.

That was kind of silly really, since I live in NH and have my entire life, so by now I should know that our weather is nothing if it isn’t varied.  Our winters can have a day in the 60’s and our summers can have a day in the 50’s.  Sure enough today the temps were cool enough that I was able to garden all day long, in a long sleeve shirt!  The sun was out, but hidden behind clouds, the weather was warm, with lovely breezes, very low humidity, the perfect day for gardening really.

Add to all that the fact that I was able to hit the garden at 7am!  So what does this have to do with Procrastination?  If I had put on my big girl panties and went out last week to plant, like I was lamenting not having done, I would have been miserable.  Instead, I fussed about the weather, ignored the garden, and was rewarded with the perfect day. See, I would probably stop procrastinating if it didn’t, so often, pay off.

So, what did I spend the day in the garden doing?  I made some new beds, planted 95% of the seeds I planned on planting, and started transplanting seedlings.  My peppers really did well this year.  I started them from seed and am proud of how strong and vibrant they look.

Nellie helped in the garden today.  Other than walking in the herb garden twice, and breaking her lead rope, all was pretty smooth and quite fun.  There is something very pastoral about the addition of a cow to a homestead.  She’s better than a weed whacker.  She cleaned up the grasses that were growing near the foundation of the house, the stairs, the herb bed and along the fence.

She broke her lead rope when she got frustrated with some some flies decided to take off in a run, and I had her lead in my hand.  In hindsight, It’s probably good that the lead broke, because if I had held on, I might have gone much further than I intended.  She bolted and then went immediately to the tall grass…she’s really got a one track mind, for the most part.  I led her to her barn with what was left of her lead.  She did seem to be asking my why she was going in so early.  I’m going to Tractor Supply tomorrow, to pick up a new one, but she’s barn bound until then.

The garden looks great.  It does feel good to look back on a hard day’s work and see so clearly what you accomplished.

I made notes, as I planted, this time too, so I know what varieties are where.  I always want to do that, but try to do it from memory the next day and it doesn’t usually work out so well.  This year I wrote each time I planted something.  It’s messy, but legible and I can put it in an easier to read format in the next couple days.  I’m trying to do a better job with journaling what we are doing on the homestead.  Basic things, such as what we planted, what the yields were, which varieties worked out best.  For example,  today I concluded that Winter Spinach bolts earlier than Renegade, even if we pick on them frequently.  I will save Winter Spinach for planting in Fall, next year, and plant Renegade in the Spring.

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I finally got around to making one small batch of Violet Jam.  I used syrup as the sweetener, and it tastes good, but lost it’s bright magenta color, as a result.  I feel as though Spring can continue on, as I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy both fiddleheads and violets.  I don’t want Spring to make way for Summer just yet, but I don’t feel a sense of urgency to gather.  This will free me up to move into the garden…hopefully.  I did spend time this afternoon potting up all the great plants I bought through the Strafford County Conservation District Plant Sale.  We got apple, peach and pear trees, hazelnut starts, Concord Grapes, Elderberries, Black Currents and a couple pussy willows.  We will have fruit and nuts in a few years.  I’m so bad at buying things that I have to wait so long to benefit from, but my friend pointed out if you don’t at least start them, you will never have your own fruit.  I took that good counsel and have officially “started”.

The permaculture group had a swap tonight, with a focus on plants, though there were other fun treats that were moved about as well.  I brought some  fiddleheads, peppers, a small jar of violet syrup and some basil.  I came home with rhubarb, comfrey, mullein, 2 different varieties of eggplant seedlings, mangle beet seeds, bell pepper seedlings.  It was fun to chat with everyone, and the trading was fabulous.  It’s a great group of people, with a wide range of experience, knowledge and interests.  A great way to spend an evening.

Well, off to bed early tonight, in anticipation of my favorite place to bring the girls…the Tidewater School May Faire.  It’s a fund raiser for the Waldorf School in Eliot Maine.  I have several friends and acquaintances who have children who attend the school, and between them and my own experience with the events the school has hosted or participated in, I’m immensely impressed.  We are very happy homeschooling our girls, and Eowyn has taken very well to “working on lessons and projects” with Mom and Dad, but Tidewater certainly seems like a lovely place to be a child.

The May Faire is taking place at Tuttle’s Farm in Dover NH.  I’m a little sad it’s not on the lovely school grounds, but excited to go to the new venue.  I think I might be more excited than Eowyn, in fact.

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Okay, bear with me here. I have a fabulous book recommendation, but it’s title is unconventional.  I’m sure the author very much intended this to be the case, but as with many things that we really should be more comfortable with, we aren’t.

The book entitled, Holy Shit: Managing Manure To Save Mankind, is all about manure.  Gene Logsdon is a lifelong farmer, writer, and manure expert.  The book gets to the heart of local farming.  Food and Manure go hand in hand, when done well, and when they aren’t holding hands we all suffer.  The local food movement has a great root in this area, and many people are learning more than they ever thought they would about where their food comes from, how it’s raised or grown and what goes into the cycle.  I am 2 chapters away from finishing this book, and to show you how awesome I think it is, I only bought it last week, and do not find reading it conducive to knitting, which means I chose to read this instead of knitting.  The book is very informative and also super amusing.

Some of our local farms are finding that combining livestock with field veggies is beneficial in many ways.  Not only does it diversify the farm, spreading the risk of farming over more products, like if your tomatoes are hit with blight, your chickens will still be laying eggs, or your pigs will still be putting meat on the bone.  Field grown veggies, in New England is a wild ride, with all the various possible reasons for loss.  A cold snap in Spring after the buds have come on, can wipe out an Apple Crop, a summer of rain can destroy the squash crop, as the field gets too wet for the gourds and they rot on the vine, or cool rain for weeks at a time can usher in blight and make tomatoes scarce.  Raising animals isn’t without challenges, and they can have their own set of concerns, but a well managed, heritage flock or herd, can weather a great many things.

Besides the diversification, a great asset to animals on the farm is manure.  Manure is something we often take for granted, and that truth is the basis for Logsdon’s book.  Waste should not be seen as, well, waste, or something to dispose of, but rather a bi-product/value added/ benefit of raising animals.  If you raise animals you have the best source of fertility for your land.  If you do so, in conjunction with field crops, you are maximizing that fertility.

Understanding how to manage manure will give you a greater understanding of, and appreciation for, the farmers that are working so hard to keep their loop closed, by not buying in fertilizers for their fields.  As a home gardener, it will give you practical insights into how you can utilize manure in your own little plot, and it might inspire you to raise some of your own manure creating critters, like chickens, or even better, rabbits.

If you are local and think raising rabbits for meat or manure would be beneficial for your garden, I’m teaching a class on how to get started with raising them for my local permaculture group on August 20 from 1-3.  You can find out more here: Rabbit Husbandry 101

As for Logsdon’s book, Holy Shit: Managing Manure To Save Mankind you can buy it in either paperback, or for the  kindle, on Amazon.

You can hear him in an interview with Robin Young on NHPR’s Here & Now.

If you live locally and want to support farms that are incorporating the principles of utilizing manure from their farms on their fields, check out Brookford Farm and New Roots Farm. I’ve had  great conversations with the farmers at both farms about their philosophies and how they are using their animals to provide consumers with nutrient dense veggies, as well as humanely raised meat…all with the biproduct of manure at the center of their operation.

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What a week…or so!  I got very tied up with work.  I’m running a sale, and over the weekend had a show…oops.  Didn’t think that through.  The upside is that I managed to do both, pretty well, I just had to drop everything else.  But I’m back to life as usual…whatever that might be.

What you’ve missed around the farm:

Maybelle kindled a litter of 6 big beautiful babies.  I was so proud of her.  One wriggled away from the group, and got too cold, so there are only 5, but she’s an amazing mom.  Really the best mom I’ve seen through here!  Needless to say, I really like that rabbit.

Mama Muscovy#1 hatched 3 ducklings on Wednesday, the 20th. A little sad about the numbers, but it was the first batch of the season, so hopefully the other two Mama’s have better luck.  This mama will have at least one more chance for another clutch later this summer.

Mama Muscovy #2 is about a week from hatching, and Mama Muscovy #3 just went on her nest of about 9 eggs Wednesday the 20th.

No chickens have decided to go broody yet, so there are no new chicks on the horizon.

The peas are up!  The spinach is putting on their first set of real leaves, as are the radishes.  The lettuce and beets are up!  My bed of neglected garlic from last year has garlic popping up all over.  I’m interested to see what that produces.  My planted garlic, properly spaced, with straw mulch is up now, too.

The seedlings, mainly tomatoes, basil and peppers, with some miscellaneous goodies like tomatillos and ground cherries, are doing great!

What you missed in the kitchen:

Not my kitchen, but Sunday April 17, the day after the show, I had the most amazing breakfast made from local ingredients.  Sharon and Ken invited myself and a few other friends over for brunch.  We talked about local farming, the ups the downs, what can be done, education that could be spread, all while enjoying some amazing dishes!  Baked goods with local honey and maple sweeteners, local flour, eggs, shrimp…it was delicious.  All of it.  We even had sugar that was made by one of the guests.  She just returned from a 10 day field trip with a local school to Costa Rica.  She harvested and processed sugar cane and brough that along with coffee she roasted.  Not local, but done with local hands, and we all enjoyed the special treat.

My own kitchen has been fairly lonely, but I did pull some sourdough out of the fridge.  I had placed a cup of Irma in the refrigerator last month, and exactly one month later, I pulled it out, put it in a bowl with water and flour and it was bubbling in no time!  I’m so excited to have such a hearty sourdough starter.  I have big, crazy plans for that starter, very soon.

I enjoyed scambled eggs topped with tat soi and arugula micro greens and some diced chives for lunch.  What a great Spring meal, and all from my yard.  I don’t think that will ever stop being a good feeling.

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Seeds arrived today!  I got them from my favorite seed company, High Mowing Seeds, in Vermont, and I picked up a few from Sustainable Seed Company.  I ended up at Sustainable Seed Company when looking for Organic Quinoa seeds, and they had a couple other things that interested me, that High Mowing didn’t have, like parsnips.  I got two kinds, All American and Hallow Crown.  Along with my pretty small order of 6 packets of seeds they sent a free package too!  What a nice surprise.  It’s Lolla Rosa Darky Lettuce.  It’s a loosleaf head variety that is slow to bolt.  It’s a dark Magenta color, and will look beautiful at the end of my walk with some flowers in my big green pot.  I’m excited.

In my excitement I broke out my metal trays and the soil blocker, and screwed together our seed starting shelves!  I now have 3 trays of seeds done.  There is a tray each of San Marzano Tomatoes, Moskovich Tomatoes and my favorite pepper, the Corno di Toro.  I still have 3 kinds of tomatoes and a pepper variety to start, along with some herbs.  I’m also planting a tray or two of microgreens since I’m itching for green, fresh food, and the lights will be set up anyway.

I kind of got a bit of the microgreen bug because I enjoyed some freshly cut arugula microgreens on my mac and cheese tonight and that was so yummy.  Our mac and cheese is usually a mix of pasta, cheese, butter, milk and other random goodies.  Tonight it was sauteed onions, scrambled hamburger and diced carrots, so when I threw the microgreens on top it just seemed right.

They are predicting some ridiculous amount of snow tonight.  At the park today, some parents were declaring the total was to be between 6 and 12 inches.  Maybe, maybe not, but I did need to secure the low tunnels so that they don’t become filled with snow.  I took care of the bed that has all the peas, and started to secure the other one that was empty.  Then I decided that if Iplanted the bed, before I secured it, it could sit there with snow covering it, germinating away.  That seemed more time efficient as well as less bothersome than letting the snow come, clearing off the beds and planting the seeds.  So around 6pm I dragged out the overwintered hose, filled the blue water barrels, that I neglected to fill in the fall, and planted two kinds of spinach, 2 kinds of radishes, lettuce and beets. Watered, covered, secured and was putting away the hose when the cold snowy rain started.  Now I can sit in the house tomorrow, with the woodstove keeping my seeds warm, while I cuddle up with the kids, reading, coloring, crafting and knowing that my early Spring planting has a very good start.

Spring is here whether Mother Nature is on board or not.

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I have been working on a knitting project that, while I’m excited about it, is just Knit a row, Purl a row, continue…forever.  The gauge is 6 sts to the inch, the sweater is for me, this is going to be a lot of stitches.  I figure that it would be a good time to crack open a good book.  I can read and knit, if the pattern isn’t complicated.  After learning how handy it is to read on my computer using either Kindle or Nook for PC, I was super excited.  The problem with reading while knitting is that you have to stop knitting to turn the page, and since I prop the book in my recipe book holder it takes a little effort to do this.  The problem is that it takes away from knitting.  Reading on a computer, while really not romantic, is very efficient.  I simply set my cursor on the “next” arrow and tap the mouse pad from time to time.  Easy.

I turned to my Facebook friends for a recommendation and found out my friends like very intense books.  I was recommended The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Help, TORMENT – A Novel of Dark Horror, and Sarah’s Key.  They all look good, but they also all look intense.  So when my friend Jennifer recommended The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love, I decided that was the one I’d try.  It’s a memoir of farming.  I could use some farming inspiration. It’s, of course, not just about farming, it’s also about self discovery and falling in love.  I’m finding it to be a fun combo of the three, and it’s been great fun.

After pouring over the Homegrown Whole Grains: Grow, Harvest, and Cook Wheat, Barley, Oats, Rice, Corn and More, for the past several weeks, I decided which grain I’m going to try this year.  Quinoa.  It seems that it would be amenable to growing in this area, it seems to be easy to harvest, at least on the easy end of the whole grains, and we really like it.  The fact that it’s gluten free, and the plants are edible and really pretty also weighed in on the plus side.  I have a friend who is grown oats and my dairy farm, Brookford, grows two kinds of wheat and sells the flour, so this would round out my choices rather nicely.  Quinoa is great as a cereal grain, as well as a nice side dish or base for a summer salad.  I am excited to give it a try.

I have ordered my Quinoa seeds, a pack of each of the three varieties that the site carried.  I also ordered my normal seed order from High Mowing Seeds and my tree/shrub order from the Strafford County Conservation District Plant Sale.  I’m getting Peach, Apple and Pear Trees, along with Black Currents, Elderberries, and Grapes.  Lots of fruit!  I’m excited.  Sure the only thing that’s likely to fruit at all this year, is maybe the Elderberries, but in the next couple years we will have fruit, and that’s something to look forward to.

I watched a great video of Luke from Brookford Farm talking about his farm, and how it works.  It’s the first video on the page, and I think it will be interesting to folks who live nearby, but also to others who don’t just to see how a farm ecosystem can work.  I just can’t say enough good stuff about the Mahoney’s and those that work with them on that farm.  I’m so thankful to have them in my community of  food growers.

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