Wednesday, January 30, 2013

2013 Has Officially Begun

Doesn't the year always start when you put your first seeds in the ground? Or in my case the first seeds in potting soil. Yesterday I finally made up my planting schedule. It isn't hard. I made a spreadsheet years ago. Whenever I get seeds I put into the spreadsheet how long I want to grow them as transplants and how long before or after the last frost they go in the ground. The spreadsheet automatically calculates the day to plant the seeds be it indoors or out. I don't use the numbers as gospel. I give or take depending on the year or how I think things are going or just if I feel like planting that day. The spreadsheet told me that I should have planted my onions on January 24th. So I looked for my planting trays.

What I found was a pile of dirty trays. Oh ick. So I spent quite a while cleaning them all up. Most people will tell you to use chlorine, but I don't have any. I don't like chlorine so I just use detergent and water. Afterwards I didn't feel like planting anymore. But today was another day and I finally got to it.

I planted up a whole tray of Copra and a half a tray of Redwing and Ailsa Craig. Each tray has room for 72 one and a half inch soil blocks. I know from experience that that number will be more than enough to fill my onion beds. I'll be able to toss out the small and sickly seedlings.

As you can see I grow my plants under lights. Onions are day length sensitive so for now I'll have them on for 12 hours a day. Usually for plants I use a 15 hour daylight cycle, but that would confuse the heck out of my long day onions. They would think it was time to start bulbing up.

I do a couple of things to help along the seedlings. I sprinkle the tops with cinnamon. The hope is that it keeps down the damping off. Occasionally I have trouble with damping off, but very rarely. Also to help with that and to make it easier for the seed, I cover the seeds with vermiculite instead of potting soil. I find that seeds come up much better when covered that way. Once I was done I covered everything with plastic wrap. That will stay on until I see the first little sprout start to come up. I can't wait.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Harvest Monday, January 28th, 2013

Most of my dinners aren't going to win any cooking contests. My husband likes his meals plain and I'm usually fine with that. But I do get a lot of my preserved produce into them. The hamburger has bread and butter pickles and mustard, both from the garden. The bun is homemade, but all store bought ingredients. The Boston baked beans have the garden's Jacob's Cattle beans in them. The garden squash is simply pureed and the garden kale had a touch of balsamic vinaigrette. I don't win any art contests with this one either do I? Mark has such pretty dinner photos. I've got my sides plopped individually on the plate.

Last night was pretty similar. I made baked chicken. The sides were baked sweet potatoes and broccoli, both garden grown, both plain. I made some rosemary and olive oil bread with dried herbs from the garden. And shockingly enough I incorporated a harvest. YES! A harvest in January! OK so it was just rosemary. The rosemary is an evergreen plant so I can harvest anytime. It didn't go in the bread as I like to used dried for that. I put some sprigs on the chicken when it was baking. Yummy. You would think I would have a photo of it or maybe even weigh it. But nope. I got nothing.

So you can seem my typical dinners in the winter. Well you can see one of them. I'm using my stored produce up slowly. I try to have an orange (carrots, squash, sweet potatoes) and a green (kale, spinach, broccoli, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, celery, zucchini) vegetable at each dinner. It doesn't always happen. I tend not to use any orange ones on my pizzas. Some stirfries just get bok choy and onions. Lunches have mostly been garden based bean soups or leftovers.

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.

Note: I hope I didn't lose anyone as I was playing with my linkies and lost the first version.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Harvest Monday, January 21st, 2013

Wow this post almost didn't get out. I'm writing this on Friday and almost forgot to get it done before I left. I'll be back early Monday (today for all of you), but after I usually post. Hopefully I'll get a chance to clear the Linky before Monday. I usually travel with some way to connect to the net but sometimes it doesn't work out. I used to be able to create new empty Linkys every week, but now I have to reuse old ones and clear them which is a PITA since I HAVE to be connected to do it. Anyway if I don't get to it, just add your new links to the bottom and I'll get rid of the older ones as soon as I return.

No harvests this week. I should have gone out and harvested my spinach during the thaw, but I never got around to it and now it is covered in snow again. However I did get around to fixing up my sidebar tally. I'm now in 2013 mode. I've changed some of my categories. I split the greens into greens and Asian greens as greens is such a huge category. I also split the cucurbits into four different categories (melon, cukes, winter and summer squash). They were also a large group. As for the tally itself, you can see I'm already down by $361.93 in the veggie garden and $82.06 in the fruit garden. For the fruits it is larger than last year because I expect actual fruit from some of my trees this year which means more expenses to protect them. For the veggie garden the expenses are pretty normal maybe even a bit low. Here is how it breaks down so far.

My major expenses are my amortized costs at $321.28 this year. These contain things like my composters, wood, hardware, and dirt to get the garden up, supports for the plants like bamboo and cages. I usually buy my fertilizer in bulk from the Northeast Organic Farmers Association (NOFA), and I mailed in my order the other day. It also contains things like netting, sprays (dormant oil for the fruit trees and some soap spray since my aphids were so so bad last year) and potting mix. Fort V potting soil which is just the best. You don't have to be a member or a farmer to join the buy. You end up with discounts off the normal prices and no shipping costs. Though you do have to drive in to pick it up one day in March. There are lots of pick up places all over Massachusetts. I amortize these costs over two years since I buy at least enough fertilizer for that long.

I've also ordered from Fedco for my seeds at $42. I'll be ordering from Norse Farms for my fruit bushes. I want two blueberries to put in my freed up 4'x 8' bed plus I want to add some currents which I've never grown. I want two red ones and a pink one. I'm going to remove two plants from my border where I grow my chamomile and zinnias. I'm going to remove the anise hyssop. I haven't used it though I should. And the invasive seedlings are driving me crazy. And this is from someone that has lemon balm growing in her garden. The other plant I'm going to get rid of is my bleeding heart. I'm going to move it to a shadier spot where we need plants desperately. I'm hoping it can still bloom there as the shade is very very dark.

The third was inspired by a photo. I wish I could copy it but I don't have permission. So go to this page and scroll down to the bottom. I've never seen a current done as this kind of espalier. I've seen fans which are pretty. But this gives me space I hadn't had before. I want to plant my current basically under my compost pile area and train it along the top of my white picket fence. I want to use Rovada which has very large fruit and very long trains of fruit. It would be so pretty against the white. The question becomes can I keep the plant in check (I'm thinking it wants to spread more than be on single stem) and will it get long enough to cover the fence well? I hope so. It might totally clash on the other side with purple and orange flowers, but do I care? Oh I think not.

Update: I'm home and I have fixed the Linky so it only shows recent ones.

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.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Harvest Monday, January 14th, 2012

Miracle of miracles. I had a harvest in mid January. Cilantro - 1.5 oz. Ok so it isn't the largest of harvests, but it is something. We are in the middle of an unusual January thaw. Now it isn't strange for the snow to melt during the winter. Usually with rainy weather. All last week we had temps in the 40Fs. Then yesterday we had a high of 52F and last night only got down to 51F. Pretty amazing since the warm weather lasted so long. But the snow will come back. Wednesday we will get flurries again.

My black beans prompted my harvest. I wanted more Gallo Pinto for breakfast (shown above before mixing in the cilantro). Since I was cooking black beans there was no need to stop with one dish. I made a black bean and squash soup that also used cilantro. I really liked its taste. I would never have thought of putting cabbage into a black bean and squash soup, but it really works.

And now that I've had a harvest, it reminds me to fix my side bar tally. 2012 is past. Hopefully I'll get to that this week.

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.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Cutting the Mustard

I have no clue where the term "cut the mustard" came from, but mustard is a hard little seed. I don't have a spice mill (yet), and my mini food processor can't handle being on all that long. So I soaked mine in vinegar to soften them up before using my processor. I only meant to do it for a few days, maybe a week. But after a month it was still soaking in the fridge. So I finally got it done. Mustard is actually very easy to make. Provided of course that you use powdered mustard or have the appropriate appliance to cut your mustard or powder it as the case may be.

Though we only use the traditional yellow mustard on occasion. I did make a version of that. It does come out different when you don't powder your mustard in advance. It is much more rustic. However I don't like the use of the white vinegar. I think cider vinegar would be much better. The white is too pushy.

The second one I made was a typical brown mustard, which is one of my favorite types of mustards. I didn't have the Oriental mustard seed which would have made it spicier, but I liked it quite a lot.

The third was a honey mustard. I just took the brown mustard and mixed in honey in about a 2:1 ration of mustard to honey. So not too sweet. All three mustards are nice. Most of the recipes tell you to let them mellow for a couple of weeks in the fridge, but I'd had them in vinegar in the fridge for a month and I thought that plenty. They are slightly spicier than the versions you find in the market, but not much more. I'm still hoping to play around with different kinds of mustards in the future. Thyme seems pretty popular, but I'd love trying one with allspice. And also one with beer. And if I ever get fruit from my trees, I'd love to try a peach mustard. The flavors seem like they ought to mix well. I'm not sure my other fruit would be a good pairing. The idea of strawberries or blueberries with mustard doesn't sound all that good.

For lunch today I had my honey mustard on a bagel and turkey sandwich. Yummy. As sides I had a bean salad (black beans and turnips from the garden) and some bread and butter pickles that I canned last summer. Does anyone else like making mustard? Do you have favorite recipes?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Harvest Monday, January 7th, 2013

I should have done my final tally post for the year last week, but I totally forgot about it. So I will do it today.

Total $2174.53 712.78 LBS
Alliums 146.46 50.14
Asparagus 1.38 0.24
Beans 93.96 31.90
Broccoli 56.95 22.78
Carrot 76.78 35.96
Corn 38.81 30.64
Cucurbit 319.38 156.27
Greens 784.73 239.68
Herbs 196.29 15.24
Peas 114.14 20.42
Other Root 34.59 15.38
Sweet Potatoes 196.24 65.41
Tomato 114.83 28.71

As you can see I grew a LOT of greens last year. Over two hundred pounds. I do love my greens. It was the most given away of any of my vegetables. But it is also the one that I most want to make sure I have, so this coming growing year I'm going to have the same space in growing greens. One difference in distribution is that I'm going to try to grow more more efficiently and get an extra plot of dried beans out of my mix. So I will have two of my 4'x8' beds in pole beans and one in bush beans. The bush beans will be my fastest producer of dried beans (Tiger's Eye) and will be followed by greens. And then later in the year a greens bed will be switched into bush dried beans as a succession crop. I've got my fingers crossed that the rotations will work out.

I also have too many sweet potatoes. I like them, but I just don't want to have to eat them every day. So I'm going to give one bed to them instead of two. The extra bed will be put into blueberries. If anyone knows of a high production blueberry I'd love to hear about it. And as many of you have guessed I'm not growing even one tomato plant again this year. The solanums have been banned. For those that don't know me, I've got a bad sensitivity to that family of crops, so I can't eat them.

My tally pages are kept in a spreadsheet to make the calculations easier. But I have many pages with different information like when they need to be started indoors and such. One page is for notes for the next year. The biggest note I have is for my onions. One of my readers diagnosed my problem as onion fly. The symptoms fit perfectly. So I did a little research. I'll probably have to cover them with a row cover when they come out. In our area they have three hatchings usually. The first starts at 700 growing degree days. Cornell keeps track of the GDDs for the northeast. So when it starts to get close to 700 I'll be putting on that cover. I already watch the GDD for the squash vine borer.

I'm still eating from my stores. I had two parties this last week. I brought mashed sweet potatoes (sweet potatoes) and rosemary bread (rosemary) to New Year's. The other was my birthday party. I put out some pickled garden veggies. I made rosemary bread (again with rosemary from the garden), and a vegetable platter with a tzatziki dip. The platter had salad turnips and carrots from the garden. They used up the last of the fresh carrots. And the dip used my garlic and dill. I certainly made other things. I made another soup and brought up spinach, kale, and cooked carrots from the freezer. It is really the start of not using anything but storage veggies. I have a little bit of Asian greens left, but not much. Right now I'm confident that I'll make it into March at least without additional outside veggies, but time will tell.

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.