Monday, February 27, 2012

Harvest Monday - February 27, 2012

I had a tiny harvest this week. An ounce of cilantro. The cilantro out in the main beds had gotten pretty ratty with the freezes and thaws, but the cilantro by the foundation is still beautiful. I've never had cilantro self seed as an overwintering crop before, but it has been very nice to be able to pick it whenever a want to.

I bought some tunnel clips from Pinetree. Total with shipping was 15.93. So that got added on to my tally. Again I have more negatives than positives.

Soon I'll have more negatives in the fruit tally too. I'll have to build my trellises for my fruit trees that are getting espaliered along the street. Technically that spot isn't mine. It belongs to the private way that is our road. But I'm responsible for its upkeep. So of course I planted mostly edibles. I do have one spot that has flowers in it for most of the year. In the fall I transitioned it to Asian greens since it is one of the few places in my yard that gets good sun in the fall.

  • Cilantro: 0.1 oz
  • Spent: $15.93
  • Yearly harvested: 3.21lbs
  • Yearly tally: -$554.47

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Thursday's Kitchen Cupboard

Two posts in one day is unusual for me, especially at this time of the year. But I thought I'd join Robin Jody this week. I hadn't prepared, so my photos are all from my meals today.

I started the day with a breakfast of zucchini bread, which is half whole wheat and has a lot of applesauce in it too.

Then I moved on to lunch. Lunch took a while to cook since I was making black bean and squash tacos. I didn't even have the pickled onions prepared in advance. So first I made pickled onions (my no solanum salsa substitute). Then I made the sauteed squash with cardamom, cinnamon, turmeric, and cumin. The black beans have cumin and lots of cilantro from the garden. The cilantro in the main beds is looking ragged, but the plants by the foundation are still a pretty green. The beans, squash, and onions were all from my stores. Sadly this is the last of my black beans. I really need to grow more next year.

I don't always make my own tortillas, but I try. They take a while to roll out. My mom had a tortilla press but I've never gotten one. That being said it still isn't hard. I use whole wheat and spelt. With white flour the gluten really activates too much and you have to let the dough rest in the fridge before rolling, but the whole grain version rolls out so much easier. Not to mention it is better for you.

Daphne's Spelt Tortillas

  • 1/2c whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 c splet flour
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 1/2 T olive oil
  • 1/3 c cold water

Mix everything together well. Divide into 8 balls. Roll out using extra flour to keep it from sticking. Cook on a heated cast iron skillet over high heat. You know when to turn it because the dough gets little bubbles in it. They cook very quickly. The tortillas I make are small, about 6" in diameter.

Dinner will be a chicken from the farmers market. I think it might be the last one in the freezer. I have lots of breasts, but no more whole chickens. In addition to the chicken we will have bread and some veggie. I've already started the bread that we will have. It is a rosemary and olive oil bread. The spices are all from the garden - rosemary, oregano, basil, and thyme. I'm thinking I'm going to have some frozen spinach with the meal, but it might end up being carrots.

I Swear It Is Spring

Yesterday it was so warm. It hit 57F(13C) and last night's low was 42F(5C). That isn't going to set any records, but the weather has been consistently above normal all winter long. The calendar says that it is February but I just don't believe it. I'm thinking the end of March. So I went out to plant some peas and spinach. I didn't use up any seed that I needed as history says it is way way too early to plant. In fact last year at this time I planted my peas on April 2nd which is 5 1/2 weeks away. I know I'm jumping the gun and the poor little seedlings might not survive. Then I'll replant at the appropriate time. But I just couldn't help myself.

So lets start at the beginning. Tuesday I looked at the long range forecast and it said the lowest temps for the next 10 days would be 26F (-4C). Highs would be in the 40s and 50s (4 to 14C). All the weather sites agreed. So I started to chit my seeds. I was only going to give them one day of a nice warm moist environment before I planted them out. But basically the seed was started and the die was cast.

Then I wake up Wednesday and look at the forecast. One of the sites says we will get into the teens this weekend for a low. Ack. I can protect the seed with row covers at 26F and keep the ground unfrozen pretty easily, but not with weather in the teens (-9C). But I have no choice at this point. The seed had been soaking for a day. It had to go into the ground.

The peas got planted first. First I put in the support poles. Peas hate their roots being disturbed and cutting them off with a T-post would be bad. So I always put the support poles in first. The last pole at the end of the 16' bed couldn't go in as the ground was still frozen as that part still doesn't get any sun. But I was only planting the first 6' of the bed which gets a few hours at this time of the year. I like to plant in two rows 6" (15 cm) apart. With the seed about 2"(5cm) apart. I never thin when they come up. Sometimes they come up thickly and sometimes they have to be reseeded. And since I remembered, I put some inoculant in the furrow. I poked each seed down about an inch under the soil. And last but not least, I put some bird netting over the freshly turned soil to keep out the cats. Good luck little seeds, you are going to need it.

Then it was on to the spinach beds. The first 8' of the bed was already planted with overwintered spinach. But there were a lot of chamomile weeds coming up as it was right next to my chamomile patch last year. I took the time to take out the dying leaves and all the weeds. Basically I cleaned up the bed. If history repeats itself, these plants will be a foot in diameter this spring. So small gaps I ignored, but there were a few huge gaps in the plants. I added some Olympia spinach seed in the gaps.

In addition I turned over and fertilized a 3' section of the bed nearest the fence, i.e. the part that doesn't yet get much sun at all yet. I only did 3' because that is all that was unfrozen. The sun is quickly getting higher, but it still is behind my neighbor's house most of the time. It feels like spring, but the arc of the sun says winter. I planted half in Space spinach and the half near the driveway in Olympia spinach. All this seed was last year's seed. So if it doesn't make it, I've got lots of seed I've bought for this year. In fact I didn't even do a germination test on it before I chitted. I just tossed all of last year seed into the container to moisten. I did bring in the left over seed though and I'll see how much it germinates and see if it has a chance or not.

The last chore I did yesterday was brick off the cats' litter box. I gave the cats the spot under the chimney of my fake fireplace when I created the garden. I have about 6 cats that are regular visitors to the garden. I don't want to discourage them, but I don't want them to poo in the garden either. Well they started encroaching farther and farther out into the bed near the sage plant. So I decided to let them know their limits. Also this way I can plant the front section in something pretty. I'm hoping the sweet alyssum reseeds itself this spring and I can transplant some there.

And as a side note, my garden purchases came. I rolled out the row cover and cut it into 15' lengths. This is the right size to cover my 4'x8' half beds. The fabric seemed a bit short for the 45' I bought. I laid the fabric out and stretched it tight. I marked 15'. Each one is a few inches short. I don't think it will matter though. I think there is enough to tack the ends down.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Harvest Monday - February 20, 2012

I've got nothing again this week for a harvest. The weather is warming up though so hopefully the spinach will start to grow. We might even get into the mid 50Fs(12C) this week. I've noticed the sun is getting higher too. I checked my beds recently and the beds that actually get some sun right now are already defrosted. This morning the top layer is frozen as the low last night was 26F(-4C), but they aren't frozen down deep. Just a thin crust. It is weird that our ground never really froze solid for any length of time. Usually it is frozen solid until mid March. But I'll use the warm weather to my advantage. I'm going to try so sow some seed this week outside. Unheard of here in February, but there is a first for everything.

Until then I'll keep eating from my stores. I've been using up the tatsoi harvested in January. And the orange is from my butternut squash.

The quiche has multiple personalities. The left side is for my veggie hating hubby. The right side has caramelized onions (from stores), kale from the garden (picked a while ago and finally used up), and oregano that I dried last summer. I love making quiche since I get to eat it for a couple of days afterward. And I love that I don't really have a recipe. I can throw in anything I want. I just make sure the egg to (soy) milk recipe is 1 egg to a 1/4c milk. I uses however much I need to fill the pie shell.

Last nights dinner included spinach and carrots frozen from last year. I have lots left still. And I've been eating zucchini bread for breakfast in the morning. Yum.

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.

Friday, February 17, 2012

More Planning

I had a few small sketches of parts of the garden on scrap paper, but hadn't really written it down. I decided with such a large garden I ought to write it down. It will help in future years to try to keep crops rotated. There is no way I can remember where I've put things in the past. So I got some large graph paper and wrote it all down.

It has things like all my rotations often written right above. In bed 3 above I was going to make it a solanum bed, but I decided to be more careful with my solanum issue. Now I just have one tomato and two peppers.

I'm still debating in bed 5 if the broccoli should be near the fence (bad fall sun) or the carrots should be there. I want my fall carrots. I have loved having my own this year. If I plant them near the fence then they will have to go in really early to have time to grow. There is no sun there in the fall.

My circle garden is getting the sweet potatoes. I figured they would have the best spot in the garden for them for the first year growing. I'm sure this is way too much space for them, but I'm going to plant that many any way. The east bed has a lot of rotations going on. I'm planting quick growing Asian greens in the spring. In June the sweet potatoes go in. Then in the fall I'm going to try to get a stand of spinach up to over winter. The west bed currently has Kale growing in it. Then it will transition to sweet potatoes in the summer and spinach in the fall. I hope it works.

Then I redid how many transplants I have to grow based on the new plan. I think I'm going to just try to grow the smaller Asian greens from seed like I do in the fall. It will require a lot less work on my part.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Harvest Monday - February 13, 2012

I've got no harvests this week, but I do have some expenditures. Not that long ago my MIL gave me a birthday gift of $500 for my 50th birthday. I was told to spend it on something that I wouldn't ordinarily. As I mentioned before, my mind immediately to the garden. Now the gift itself won't go on my tally especially since the command was "don't spend on something I would normally buy", but I went over the $500 and that amount will go on the tally. So here is what I got. Just to follow the law I'll say in advance that except where noted none of these companies have given me anything. And I don't even yet support them. That will only come if the products bought work well in the garden over the summer. I've got my fingers crossed.

The first bought was a Gardena sprinkler. Not just any sprinkler, but a fully adjustable one. It is the Cadillac of sprinklers. It has a built in timer. It has three adjustments. The flow can be adjusted. The length of the spray can be adjusted. The fan can be a wide fan or it can narrow down to 4.5m. My old sprinkler would only get long enough for the whole garden if I watered the side of the house and my neighbors car. So I never did. I had to water small bits of it at a time. My bed area is about 4.8m wide. Supposedly this baby can go that narrow and still do the whole length of the garden. It does have a flaw. It can't turn the corner to the circle bed. (Wouldn't it be cool to have a sprinkler that could do an L and was also so adjustable?). But for the main 8 beds that are 16'x4' it is perfect. Well if it works as promised. Price $89. And yes I'll love it if it works, and I would never ever buy it on my own.

The second thing I purchased was a row cover from Australia. I've been using Agribon and in our strong winds (ignore my weather station, the wind meter isn't working right) the fabric rips. It is common for me to go out and have to repair it many times over the season. And if I don't notice the rip, the moths get in. And they did once last summer. I also hated the long length of row cover. I had to lift too much. I had a cabbage butterfly get under once and getting it out once it flew to the other end was a pain. I practically had to take the whole thing off and let all the other butterflies out. So I wanted covers for half beds. So they would be 10' wide and 15' long. And I wanted three.

My second complaint about Agribon is that it sheds water. If the drops hit hard enough they will go through, but even with the lightest weight of fabric a lot of the water goes off the sides. And I grow greens under the row covers so they typically need more water than normal not less. The material that I'm getting is woven. I'm hoping it is more porous.

The third complaint about Agribon is that you can't see through it well. To see how my plants are doing I really have to lift it up. From the pictures this one seems to be more transparent. But I'll find out when I try it.

I liked their plastic clips too. Right now I've been using metal clips which are a bit abrasive and contribute to rips. My plastic tubing is between the small clips and the large clips, so he sent me samples to see which ones would work. Well the big ones don't hold at all. The small ones seem to hold well but they can't lock with my size of pipe (typical 10' lengths of 1/2" white PVC found in US home improvement stores). I bought the small ones and hope they work. They seem to go on and off quite easily. Total for 45' of row cover fabric (enough for three half beds) , 40 clips, plus he said he put an extra Jumbo Plus clip in my package because customers like to use it to bunch up fabric on the ends. Price: $220.94.

The last thing I ordered was some irrigation from Dripworks. I have a long thin bed that is a total pain. It has to be hand watered as it is only 2.5' wide and is along the road in front of our house. I would love not to water the main path in my veggie garden too. So I wanted some irrigation for the herb and sunflower bed there. And since it wasn't that much more I added enough fittings to do the two outer beds of the circle garden and some movable irrigation (ie not hooked into the mainline piping) for two of my 4'x8' beds. I figured I'd get enough to play if I wanted. I really don't want to set up irrigation for all of my beds. It just isn't worth it. Price: $260.

This makes a grand total of about $570. Since the gift was $500, I'll add $70 in my tally. And now I'm down $530.11. Ouch. But I know I'll make it up once the veggies started rolling in. Last year the expenditures were about $670 and I made it up in July. Though I have amortized a lot of costs, the first few years of a new garden are always the most expensive.

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.

Friday, February 10, 2012

On Seeds and Seedlings

I had an epiphany the other day as I was tossing out the germination test of the yellow mustard. I could find brown mustard seed in a store. Not in an American store. But I'm close to a lot of ethnic stores - one of the joys of living in an urban environment. An Indian grocery was just a half mile from the house. I get my ghee and some spices there. Surely they would have brown mustard as brown mustard is also called Indian mustard.

And indeed they did. I've started the germination test. The yellow mustard passed with flying colors (80-90%). My "seed packet" cost $1.99. For that price I got 200g of seed, which is almost half a pound. That $1.99 isn't going on my costs list however. It will give me a chance to play with making some mustard this spring. I only need a small, small bit of those seeds to grow some plants.

And speaking of plants, the onions are all up and thriving. Out of two and a half flats I have one empty block and one block with a plant that isn't thriving. I planted three seeds in each of the blocks and thinned them out. I tried to pick the sturdiest of the seedlings, though at this stage it is a little hard to tell. I can tell the ones that are struggling though and out they went. I figure in a week or two they will get their first hair cut.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Thursday's Kitchen Cupboard

Cooking has been a struggle these last five months. I'm still trying to learn how to eat without eating any solanums. There are things that I miss terribly. Pizza was one of them. I've got a pizza that is sauceless that I like, but it still isn't the same as one with sauce. Then there are the sloppy joes. I love sloppy joes, but they are of course covered in tomato sauce. I tried making ones with a more of a Chinese base. It was good, but still not the same.

Last week I so wanted to eat Mexican food. I LOVE Mexican food, but I can tell you that it is impossible to eat Mexican without tomatoes, tomatillos or chilies. They are so integral in the cooking. I used to make my own tortillas on a regular basis. I don't remember the last time I made them. My black beans have been languishing in my cupboard since they were picked in the fall.

I was looking for a black bean and squash soup to make, but ran across a recipe on the Food Network. Hmm black bean and squash tacos without tomatoes. I had to try them. They turned out quite good (with a few tweeks). Though the pickled shallots (I made pickled onions) that the recipe called for were nice, it wasn't quite as good as salsa. But it did have a bit of a kick and was a nice compliment to the rest of the meal. It got me to thinking. How could chutney taste on this dish?

So on Tuesday I whipped up some apple chutney. I wanted one with a lot of onions.

All that's left of the chutney, and I swear those are red onions and not worms. My chutney really looks disgusting doesn't it? I tastes delicious though.

Daphne's Apple Chutney

  • 1/2 c cider vinegar
  • 1/4 c brown sugar
  • 1 apple diced
  • 1 red garden onion sliced cut thinly
  • 1/4 c golden raisins
  • T mustard seed
  • 2 cloves garden garlic
  • T ginger wine slices **
  • 2 T ginger wine**
  • 1/4 t cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, black pepper, and salt
  • Pinch of allspice

Mix it all up in a pot and cook until the apples are soft, about 20 mins. I keep wondering if I should have left the mustard until the end.

** I had never heard of ginger wine until I started reading Norma's blog. I used to get a huge hunk of ginger, grate it and freeze it in teaspoon and tablespoon lumps. It worked OK that way. I always had ginger on hand. But it was downstairs in the freezer in the basement, which is a pain to get when you are in the middle of the making something. The texture left something to be desired but the taste was good. I'm hoping I like Norma's method better. I sliced my ginger on my mandolin very very thinly and put it in a quart canning jar with some sake. I wonder how long it will last?

The result was that it wasn't as good as the pickled onions. The reason was it was too sweet for the dish (and I don't make a very sweet chutney) and it didn't have enough of the vinegar bite to it. I like the idea of a chutney, but it has to be a bit more like pickled fruit and less like chutney. And the raisins have to go. I didn't like them in the dish at all. My next attempt will be with some mangos. Now I know apples and squash go well together. Are mangoes and squash as good?

Robin over at The Gardener of Eden hosts Thursday's Kitchen Cupboard. So head on over and join in.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


I keep thinking that growing any of the solanum family might be a bad thing this year. Right now in my plans I have one 4'x8' section relegated to them. A far cry from last years space which was six times that size. But 4'x8' is probably still way too much for me to be growing and stay healthy. So I've been thinking what I want in the space and after seeing all of Robin's posts about making mustard, I thought growing mustard seed might be fun.

So I looked up the different mustards. The typical yellow mustard ought to be easy. I have a jar of seed in my spice drawer. I'm testing right now if it is viable seed. I ought to know in a couple of days. If so it seems like a fine mustard to grow.

But for the brown mustard I'm going to need seed. Anyone have any recommendations? Brown mustard seed is Brassica juncea, which is grown for its edible leaves. I'm less interested in the leaves and all the catalogs tell you how the leaves are. I want to know how the seed is. But no ones describes that. If I can't find one grown for it seed, I can always just grow any Brassica juncea. So anyone out there have a clue about mustard seeds?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Harvest Monday - February 6th, 2012

You thought I would say no harvest didn't you. Well I had two harvests of three different things. The first harvest was some kale and sage. I was making a Tuscan bean soup with the small bit of Tarbais beans that I had. Yum.

Diced fresh sage

Then I debated what to make for the Superbowl. I decided on a recipe I saw. Black bean and squash tacos. With my solanine poisoning I don't get tacos. They all have tomatoes or chilies in them. This one didn't. So I sliced up my stored Redwing onions for the pickled onions (I don't have shallots); cooked up some of my butternut squash; made some refried black beans from my Trail of Tears beans. But I wanted cilantro in the beans. So I went outside. And yes the cilantro was still alive. I couldn't believe it. Amazing. I've never had cilantro grow through the winter before. It was slightly purple edged from the cold, but it still seemed quite happy. It wasn't in the recipe, but then who actually follows a recipe? The squash got some cardamom too even though that wasn't in the recipe. And next time I'm going to leave out the peppercorns in the pickled onions. Cracked pepper is good, but I hate biting into so many peppercorns.

  • Kale 0.50 lbs
  • Sage 0.01 lbs
  • Cilantro 0.04 lbs
  • Weekly total 0.56 lbs
  • Yearly total 3.15 lbs
  • Spent 32.80 (Pinetree for seeds and asparagus)
  • Still in the hole -469.11

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Weird Weather and Boring Statistics

Yesterday was a balmy 58.5F (15C). About a week ago we had a day that got to 55F. I'm supposed to be in the cold north where the ground freezes solid in mid November and doesn't thaw out until mid or late March. This year the ground has been freezing and thawing out since late December. This is so not normal, so I went and looked at my records.

January has been one strange month.We have had positively balmy weather. Last year the temperatures were pretty normal, but the snowfall was amazingly high. This year we've only gotten one snow storm that gave us enough snow to plow and it disappeared from the ground in just a couple of days. I was looking at the average temperatures between the two years. I have a weather station and 2011 is the first full year of records. Last year the average January temperature was 26.5F (-3C). This year was was 32.6F or barely over freezing.

I'm in zone 6b. This means my average low for the year is about -5F (-20.5C). Last year it was -3.3, which seems about right. This year so far the lowest temperature has been 5.5F. Will I be in zone 7b this year? This will be good for my figs since I never did get around to wrapping them like I'm supposed to in the winter. We do have all of February to go, but usually our lowest temperature happens in January.

In the last few years we have had some very weird weather swings. I know the weather changes from year to year but in 2009 we had the summer of record cold. Then 2010 we had the summer of record heat. Now in 2012 we are getting a winter warmer than any in my memory. What will the summer bring? I keep hoping for a normal year. Or is there no normal anymore?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

They're Baaack

I now officially have seedlings. Whoohoo! It took them about a week, but even last years seed germinated. Not every cell is up but most of them are. Above is Copra the most vigorous of the germinating onions. I tried to put three seeds in each cell since the seed was old, but it looks like in many, there are four coming up. Now THAT is vigorous germination. Either that or I can't count.

This is my Redwing plants. They are coming up fine too. But not so many in a cell.

And my Ailsa Craig is the slow poke in the bunch. They are coming up but slowly and feebly. They are supposed to be huge onions when they finally get big but as baby onions they have a lot to be desired.

And last time I showed my set up Mark was asking if it was to help harden off the seedlings. I answered there, but figured most of you haven't read it yet. So on to the plant vocabulary lesson. Plants grow more spindly and tall inside than they do if grown outside. Plants will change how they grow if they are touched. This could be by your hand, by the wind, or by the rain. The word for it is thigmomorphogenisis. If the plants get touched enough they will grow much more stocky and branch out sideways more. For onions I always just pet them. Yes I pet my plants. I just run my hand over them every day or two. For mixed plantings I'll use a fan as the mixed heights are harder to pet. I'll turn the fan on every couple days and let it run for a bit. If you want to read more about it there is a nice article on it. I warn you there is a lot of science involved.

But to answer the Mark's question, yes it helps to harden them off. Tall spindly indoor plants don't react well to being planted outdoors. My hope is that when I harden my plants off outside all that they need is to harden against the sun and the temperature fluctuations. I'm hoping they are mostly hardened off to the wind already. With the soil blocks they don't get a lot of root disturbance. So transplanting is a lot less stressful than it otherwise would be.