Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Just Propagation

I feel like a guilty Catholic. Has it really been since August since my last confession, ehr, blog? The end of the summer garden season did have me depressed, but a new season has inspired me. Instead of one incredibly long post to summarize the last few months I think I will break it down to small thematic ones. This week's obsession is vegetative or asexual propagation.

We cleared 2 apple trees from the orchard and then had some crazy wind bring down the plum last week. It was bittersweet. All of the new sunny space, coupled with a new knowledge of dwarfing fruit trees, has me giddy. What new stuff can I have?! I have one Chicago Hardy Fig in a pot (new this year) and one sad hardy (can't remember the variety) behind the garage (a couple years old). I've decided one of these will be planted in the orchard next year. Knowing the garage one will die back this winter I decided to cut the one branch and try to propagate it. 

Fig cutting how to:
Cut just below a node (where buds are/leaves attach-the knobby area).
Scrape a bit of the outer bark layer away, exposing the vascular cambium (where new roots should emerge).
Cut up a few nodes away- making a 4-5 inch cutting in total. (see below)
Dip scraped end in rooting hormone
Wrap loosely in moistened, squeezed of excess water, newspaper
Put in a labeled ziplock and leave on top of fridge (for warmth) Check in 2-3 weeks for roots. 
Once roots have formed they can be planted in pots.

Chicago Hardy Fig 
will bring in when it gets cold

 Wild Hydrangea- two methods
#1 I'm attempting 2 ways to asexually propagate Wild Hydrangea. The first method is an old fashioned and very simple way. I chose a stem in the direction of where I would like more hydrangeas to grow. This doesn't have to be the case. You could dig them up and move them once rooted, but I just want some next to the mother plant.
Scrape away a little of the outermost layer at each node and on the soil side- there were several
Bury the entire branch just under soil
Hold down with a couple of bricks or stones
Wait until spring/summer
If successful, new shrubs should emerge from each buried node.
Urey helping
#2 I cut a couple of younger branches off of the mother plant and brought them inside
I did the same thing as I did with the figs in terms of cutting, scraping and dipping in rooting hormone
Next, I put them in a glass of perlite & water. Label.
Hydrangea on right
Mulberry on left (only cut & dipped- did not scrape) in water only.

Yellow Raspberry Cuttings
Cut, scraped, dipped and put in a pot of compost
Will stay outside for the winter

Planting Fall Tree Seeds (not asexual)
I'd like to add more diversity of trees to our local nature park without having to buy trees, while also getting local ecotypes. I collected some acorns and hickory nuts on a recent hike.
Fall Tree Seed How to:
Plant about 2 inches deep in a pot of compost. Label
Leave outside over winter. I probably will cover with chicken wire to keep the squirrels from stealing.

List of cuttings I'd still like to make this winter:
Illinois Rose
Unknown, hippy rose
Clove currant

I've become slightly obsessed. I can't help but love free plants I've made on my own. 
Happy Propagating!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

On Rain, Weeds and Mosquitoes

I'm really disappointed in my gardening self this season. Things started off so well. A combination of plenty of rain (too much, perhaps), mosquitoes and working mornings kept me from keeping up with things- the weeds (mainly smartweed) and rambling vines (morning glories and pumpkins). It's a jungle of less than ideal proportions. I got back from vacay and expected to be inundated with tomatoes, but another 2 inches of rain landed whilst we were gone and the toms took another hit. Plus, it rained more last night with more in the forecast.

The first annual farmer's market is suffering from the same fate. The coordinator says people just don't have a lot to sell.

What is doing okay- the second planting of cucumbers seem to be doing well. The sweet potatoes and pumpkins are everywhere. I'm hoping my second zucchini planting will turn out (the first did not) Peppers are being smothered by vines, but otherwise producing. I really am thinking about a couple of interventions.
1) Raising the beds another block higher and
2) Putting concrete in the pathways
3) Rocking all paths/removing all grass around the garden area

So, this was my return vacation harvest.

 Made into a stew with an added can of chickpeas.

Needing to make space in the freezer- strawberry, blackberry 
and banana muffins
 Made these before vacay, but hadn't posted yet.
Eggplant balls with homemade sauce.

One of my fav meals: roasted veg, corn off the cob, roasted
white beans with garlic, rosemary and evo.

Fall Garden Plans
I also left town with lots of baby greens and they've mostly been mowed down by some nibbler. I have a flat (arugula, chinese broccoli, cilantro) planted on 7/18/15 moved out from the basement and yesterday started Perpetual Chard and Erbette Chard (a new one for me- Italian), also in the basement.  I also have another new green- Tree Collards. In addition, I'm going to grow lettuce in the basement for the winter and started one windowbox of seed on 8/17/15. The chard and collards I ordered from Bountiful Gardens, a new source for me. 
 Three tree collard cuttings came shipped like this:
These will not overwinter here, are otherwise perennial and do not
make seed, so you have to order them as cuttings. I moved them into the basement, as
they are going to have to spend the winter there anyway. They are beginning to leaf out, but I
haven't checked for roots yet. 

Food in Jars
I've scored on some more peaches from the local farm. I got a large flat of seconds for $3 and once again, they've wanted to give me a 2-for, but I passed this time. I have frozen white peaches still in the freezer. This morning I made 4.5 pints of peach jam, with pineapple juice and a little honey (no additional sugar). 

On Chickens
I found a hatchery (Meyer) closer than My Pet Chicken so I decided to order from them this time around (2nd gen of chicken rearing). I regret this decision. Within 24 hrs of receipt, one of the 6 died. So, then there were 5. And now we have come to find that of these, 2 are roos. While I do like them, it wasn't what I wanted and they are here to stay. I did order 2 No Crow collars, to be a good neighbor, but I haven't put them on yet. Poppy, now Papi, is crowing with assertion, but Matilda is still learning to crow. While on vacation Gertie, the Black Australorp (with the limp) passed on. So, we have 4 of the old hens, 3 new hens and 2 roos. 
 The rooster formerly known as Poppy.
Look at me (lower left hand corner) with "Matilda" 
in the back. It's a good thing I like them. 
The "girls" started free ranging this week (age 15wks).
The old hens are bossing them all around.

So, all of this is contributing to my crappy feeling upon return from our Door County, WI camping and hiking vacation. Well, not all of it. The food has been good, but I just generally feel blah. 

Trying to feel positive about a fall/winter garden. Hope the weather and time allows me to do better this season. Must have optimism...

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Odds and Ends

Summer weather overview: 1 warm week in the 90s, but the rest has been cool and rainy. Very weird. We had some crazy sky days as smoke from wild fires in Canada rode a polar vortex down to the Midwest US, blocking out some light of the sun and creating an eerie green haze for days. 
The cool and wet weather has resulted in lots of blight; fungal or bacterial- I'm not sure which, killing many gardener's tomato plants. No loss for me, thus far.

The tomatoes and beans are just coming in. First harvest: 
Black Plum, Sun Sugar and German Lunchbox with Burgundy Beans

Made this salad with an avocado vinaigrette or sauce that we ate on grilled tortillas with cheese. 
With the second day of tomato harvest I made this Turkish Shephard Salad and omg, is this good. I really liked the dill in it. Plus, the colors! Wow.
 I then mixed it with Freekah (roasted baby wheat)
and served it with arepas (Colombian corn cakes). Happy summer meal!

Made this self-feeder for the outside cats. First night the raccoons ate 3/4 of it and that was the end of that. Three young ones have been coming into the house via the cat door recently. They've discovered the inside cat food bowl is JUST inside this door! 3am feedings. AHHH! 

Repainted the bathroom as one of my spontaneous summer projects.
Got some new planters and replanted some old.
 Had 2 of these glass ornaments that came with air plants
in them. One of the air plants died so I replaced them with these orchids
that I found on the orphan rack at Lowe's. 

Got this cool retro planter (below) on the clearance rack at Target.
Not shown- planted today with 3 houseplant starts.
 I also found these hanging egg-shaped planters (below) on the
clearance rack and stuck in some starts left by 
my botany students. Pothos.

I make these every year when I chop down the Cupplant. If the stems aren't hollow, I poke a chopstick in it. My hope is to attract Mason bees. See the stem at the bottom with the grass hanging out? A small wasp has been visiting and doing this. Needless to say I am tickled pink that someone appreciates my efforts. 

In bloom
Plants at back porch.
I don't think I appreciated impatiens enough
until this year. This may just be the right spot for them.
Of course, the weather has been ideal.

Gray-headed coneflower
reseeded in the driveway.
Raspberry Wine Monarda
Particularly loved by the Carpenter Bees.

Wild food
A mushroom-hunting friend of mine came across a gold-mine of chanterelle mushrooms this weekend. We don't typically have them this late, but we've been in a perpetual spring (70/80s) this summer. She gave me an entire grocery bag of them! Talk about love. Tonight I made some bisque as it is cool enough for soup. 
 Oh, so good. Made in the crock pot.
Didn't think I'd be busting that out this summer.

I won't lie. I've been wearing long underwear to bed and we
don't have the AC on. It's that ridiculously nice.
The mosquitoes don't seem to mind. I guess they've loved the rain.

Happy Summer, folks. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Life Lessons from Potatoes

I was just having this conversation with a student yesterday- we don't appreciate enough our mistakes. There is something to learn in making them. Perhaps often. Or recognizing them often. Or looking for them often. This life lesson came to fruition today as I dug potatoes. And here's the thing- I didn't even plant these potatoes. The truth is I did a crappy job last year harvesting potatoes and those potatoes were going to let me know about it with delayed gratification. But I got the message today as my trowel turned black earth and revealed the hidden pearls of more than just nourishment.

Last year I planted these pathetic, wrinkled, old, little potatoes. When I went to harvest, perhaps later than I should have, I was hugely disappointed. Ugh. I give up. I'm not planting anymore potatoes. I suck at this.
I was sure of myself, as I am, maybe too often. 

This spring I noticed a few potato plants rising from that same earth. Ok, maybe I missed a couple. Then there were more. They weren't fed, I didn't plant them at the right time or the right depth. I hadn't even planted them, for crying out loud! They had ignored all of the proper lessons of potato planting handed down to me for generations. They did not follow the human rules.
And this is what I got:
First dig. First 4 feet. Probably 3x more to dig. 
WTF, potatoes?

Philosophical Life Lesson: How often do we ask ourselves- what have I learned from this? How often do we have our minds and eyes open or asked ourselves- why do I believe this? Is there a better way? What makes me think this? Am I doing this because this is the way it has always been done? Should I question my authority? Does believing something because I want it to be true impede me from finding a different answer? 
Sometimes what we think we know gets in the way of finding out what we can. 

Potato gardening lesson: maybe there is a better time than the time I was told to plant them. Maybe the depth isn't all that important. Maybe I can even plant them the year before I harvest and not the year of. What will I do differently this time? First, I'm going to plant potatoes again. In fact, I am going to plant potatoes at EXACTLY the wrong time of year, because I believe the potato has knowledge that I am clearly lacking. 
Find knowledge where you would never have thought to look.

I feel like such a spud.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Peaed Myself

Of course the peas are peaking the week we have temps in the mid-90s! Geesh. Don't give me no mid-90s until later June, please.  Good thing I could share them, because I'm eating peas in the garden, peas for snack, peas in meals, peas on the side. I think I've peaed myself to death. 

In food
And at the same time it is Black Raspberry season. My second planting that I did last year is really doing well, so we have lots this year.
 I rarely make desserts, but I can handle a scone as they
aren't too sweet. Plus, the blackberries were melded into the
dough so I didn't have to deal with my fear of dead fruit.
 Recipe from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook.
These were yummy, but I only got 1, because I live 
with a piggy.

Due to the heat and AC loathing I cooked as little as possible this week. Among the dishes was this
this Yum Woon Sen. It was suppose to have pork in it. I subbed tofu and added shredded carrots and more herbs- cilantro, thai basil and mint. It was very good. 

I also made Black Bean and Slaw tacos and Bowties with snap peas, ricotta and lemon. Both were excellent. I think I need to make these pancakes with black raspberries instead of strawberries. Strawberry season is wrapping up. 

In flower
 Scarlet Runner beans
and Swamp Milkweed.
Many thanks to Holly for more swamp milkweed babies.

In projects
The newest chicken coop/run is still in progress. The girls are still not allowed free range or even unsupervised time in the run (too many holes, too small babies, too many lurking cats). Two features I added to this coop are- the ramp has sand embedded in the paint to help them grip. I got this idea on a forum. Below the ramp I put an old litter box, drilled some holes in the bottom and filled with play sand. This has 2 purposes- the sand is grit for digesting food and they seem to consume a lot of it and it will double as a dust bath area.

The Speckle Sussexs go toe to toe in establishing
the pecking order (below)
 Poppy with sand on her beak (below)
She likes me best.
In critters
This moth was spotted almost blending in with the lavender walls of my bathroom. Here it is on the ceiling. I think it's a Raspberry Pyrausta, but those typically have white lines as well. Maybe they were rubbed off? There are few moths this color. The larva of this moth eat Monarda, which I have a lot of. I may post to BugGuide for another opinion. 

Merry Pea Season to all.

Saturday, June 6, 2015


I know it shouldn't bother me, but because I put up food for other seasons I come across A LOT of "prepper" blogs, videos and websites. I'm not that kind of prepper. Clearly we have something in common, though. I like to think of my interest as food independence, but not because of fear of war, global disaster or governmental conspiracy ideas. I just like good food and I equate that with fresh/ local and home grown.

There are several veg that I either don't grow, can't grow well or don't have the dedicated space for. Some of these veg include: asparagus, cabbage and broccoli. The nearest truck farm in town grows all of these well and inexpensively. So, yesterday I paid about $17 for all of this (sorry for the poor photo quality)
3 bundles of asparagus, 2 heads cabbage and 3 huge bunches of broc.

I wanted to process them quickly to preserve nutrients. So, here's what I did:

Broccoli: I quartered each large bunch and blanched in boiling water for 4 minutes, rinsed, dried and packed 3/4 in freezer bags. I love broc this way, because it is super easy to cook with from the freezer. The last 1/4 I chopped and put in the dehydrator. It didn't take long- one evening. I decided to dehydrate it because we are planning a camping trip at the end of the summer and I don't want to bring a cooler or lots of bulk and we will need some veg for our meals. I also chopped and dehydrated 1 box of button mushrooms. They took the same amount of time in the dehydrator. I bagged them and stuck them in the freezer. Now we can add these to rice, quinoa, noodles, pasta, etc
I know it shouldn't amaze me, but 1 huge head of broc and 1 box
of mushrooms really condenses upon dehydration as seen here.

Asparagus: Ok, I think this is where I may not be as satisfied with my preparation technique for this particular veg. I chopped, blanched for 2-3 min (maybe too long), rinsed, dried and froze. I have a feeling these will be kind of mushy, so I see this technique as being good for a dish where I might puree the veg- like soup, quiche (yes, I puree all my ingredients for quiche occasionally) or maybe a risotto- basically anywhere where the mush factor won't matter.

Cabbage: Probably my favorite way to preserve cabbage is by kraut. I had just read a blog where someone said something about glass not being ideal to use as it could break and I thought that was weird and then....I broke a quart jar smashing the kraut. I salvaged the kraut (we might die from cut throats-you read it here).
Thinly slice, added 1 Tbs of canning salt (because I didn't have my usual sea salt) to each head, shove some into a canning jar, smash with the end of of wooden spoon, add more, smash, etc until full and juices have risen to top. In one jar I added caraway seed, one has dried celery powder and the small one has whole coriander seed. This is 2 head's worth.

Scapes: Up until a couple of years ago I had no idea what scapes were or that anyone ate them. Last year I made pesto of them, put in ice cube trays, froze and tossed into a canning jar in the freezer. This was very good. You can use it in soups, sauces, pizza topping, quiche, etc. This year I decided to try the dilly bean pickling method. I read many people say they don't pickle the flowers, or curly tops, but never said why, so I chose to ignore them and include the flower buds. Perhaps I will learn why when the pickles are ready.
Chop scapes. Prepare a brine of 2 1/2 cups water, 2 1/2 cups white vinegar and 1/4 cup of canning salt. Into each pint jar- 1 tsp dill seed, 1 chili pepper, 1/4 tsp black pepper. Process in hot water bath for 10 min.
 This much pickles from this much scapes. 

Hubs and kiddo are off to a bee festival in Kentucky, so I'm enjoying the relative peace and solitude this weekend. My only added responsibility is babysitting the Queen Bee herself. Really. I'm babysitting bees.
Hubs ordered a Queen and they sent him 2. This is how they come packaged. I wonder if the mail people would freak if they knew what was in this envelope?
The queen and several workers come in this tiny wooden box, with 1 sugar cube. I've been instructed to give them 3 drops of water each day. This is just wild. I feel sorry for them in this tiny container. I know they will be free soon. 

Elvis may be the King of Rock and Roll, 
but I am the Queen.
-Little Richard

I like that.