Sunday, January 17, 2016

Snow- a dusting.

Forget about the El Nino/Climate Change perpetual fallish winter we've been enjoying. It's now Winter. Having never had roosters and winter together before I feel like I've failed miserably and been a crappy animal protector. The Roos both got frostbite. Papi has only had a couple of points on his comb injured, but Mattilda took it bad. Both comb and wattles are significantly burned. I suspect he will lose his points and wattle skin (whatever it is officially called, I have no idea). I would take a picture, but I'm horrified. Hubs and I reinforced the coop by surrounding it with straw bales. The inside of the coop was about 10 degrees warmer than outside temp and no drafts this morn, so I am happy with that. Tonight it is suppose to get down to 5F. Hens are much hardier than Roos. Lesson learned. I've never had a problem with my girls.

Not the best pic., but what is in the black plastic pot on the other side of the chicken-fence is a Aristolochia (Dutchman's Pipevine-native) I am tempting to propagate. Fill pot with dirt, rest nodes of vines on top of soil, top with a brick. Hopefully roots will grow from the node and I will have some new plants come spring.

I've really been babying these cuttings along. They are now in a ziplock bag (in this pot). I'm not sure if they will ever root, but they are hanging on. Scarlet Honeysuckle (native)

 Sea Oats/ River Oats collected from yard. Tossed on top of soil in this cat litter container.

Lid isn't completely cut off, creating a mini-greenhouse for
the seedlings. Stored outside for cold-moist stratification. 

 These sweets started to sprout so I potted them up.
Put soil on top. I will use these in the summer garden. 
I haven't bought sweet potato starts in 3 years. These
are Georgia Jet, which seem to do well for me. Growing
in the basement under shop lights.

Have thought on and off about doing this- bottle edging. It's begun. I guess I'll need to drink more.

Hubs made me some "new" planters from old tires. 
I fell in love with these when I first saw them in
a school garden in South Africa. They had a bunch of different
shapes and sizes- all painted in bright colors.

Made a few trellises from collected sticks & wild grape vine.

What else do you do when winter begins and you're stuck indoors? 
Mile High Blackberry Muffins

Black Raspberry-Lime Muffin Cookies

Eggplant Pad Phet
w/eggplant & peppers (frozen) and chard (fresh)

Hen of the Woods Mushroom Soup
Peaches canned in honey
Spinach salad

This is a must keep peach recipe! 
I thought canned peaches surely would be awful,
but that's just not true! Plus the syrup makes
for a nice cocktail mixer. ; )

Thank you dear chickens for continuing
to give me breakfast throughout this horrible cold. 
Peppers, Onions, Mushrooms.

Final notes
Raised beds have extra blankets and I am leaving them covered on the coldest days. Inside the geohoop all is lovely and green. I'm harvesting corn salad for the ladies. I'm waiting to start picking a lot from the other greens when the days start getting over 10 hours long ~ Jan 24th I believe. Then growth should start picking up. Started 4 kinds of Milkweed in tall pots outside- Showy, Common, Poke and Sullivant's. Pepper seedlings are coming up. I started a few perennials- yarrow, P coneflowers, blanket flower, dianthus- no germination yet. Kale & Bok Choy started in the garage have germinated. The new "Pollinator Palooza" seed mix was sown on 1/14/16 in the new compost/bed. I need to take pics of that and post. 
If things stay this cold there won't be a lot going on outside for me. I don't mind working outside in the cold, but when the ground is frozen, it's cold AND gray or cold and windy- then I am stuck indoors. Cold and sunny or cold and not windy- I'm all good. 

We've been having a lot of wonderful sunrises. I'll just have to enjoy those for now.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Mom! She's doing it again!

Gardening. In Winter. Again. Because I may have an addiction. Plus there's Climate Change and El Nino.

Unseasonably warm early winter (tied for warmest year on record, warmest November/December and wettest- 2015 for the region (61 inches) ~40inches is the norm) kept me at it. 3-4 days of continuous rain caused a lot of flood damage, levee breaches in the MO-Il area. Luckily, we are on higher ground.

Planting in December & January?
Nature taught me to plant potatoes in fall/winter. Nature corrected what I thought I knew- what I had been taught about planting taters. I've since read others who are doing it. My dad still says I'm doing it wrong, but he should know I don't listen well. So, these 15 sprouting in the pantry were the first to go out in a 10'x3' bed topped with 6 inches of leaves.
 Garden Row 1 (above)

In row 3 were potatoes unharvested. I wanted to move them
because I had taters in this bed 2 years, so I dug and this is what I found:
 Potatoes DO grow in winter (here). 
You could even leave them for occasional harvest so long
as the ground doesn't freeze and become impossible to dig.
 It never fails that I unearth a toad whilst
winter gardening and I feel awful about it.
It was a gorgeous sunny day in the 40s. This one
slowly opened eyes, a worm slithered around without
occasion and I plunked a tater in the hole and covered him or her 
back up. Hope she/he is fine. 
 You can easily tell the purple taters by the sprouts.

Dug taters (41) were planted in Row 2 and strawed. I still have
some left. I'm thinking I'm going to plant more in row 1. I cleaned more 
of that bed this morning. 

I can't remember if I mentioned this, but I made this terrible discovery that plants could be purchased through Amazon. What?! Yeah, and I found 3 I had to have for cheap. This is information I shouldn't have. So, I bought a native honeysuckle shrub, Diervilla Kodiak Orange, a Caryopteris- Beyond Midnight and Sunny Anniversary Abelia. I planted the Diervilla and Abelia out and the Caryopteris is in the garage window for protection until spring. I'm impressed with the seller.  

I took cuttings of a butterfly bush. I'm hoping to plant
these in the orchard without the chickens killing them.
 The garage window with sheltered plants- catnip, butterfly bush cuttings, 
caryopteris, a blueberry, verbena bonariensis. All is well here. (below)

 The pineapple is finally rooting!

The coleus cuttings are nuts. 
I'll probably need to trim the leaves back soon.

The geranium cuttings are flowering!
 Geranium cutting roots (below). 
 The fig cuttings, taken in November have rooted in the bags
on top of the fridge and were transplanted into this pot (below). 
That was too easy. Now the dilemma to plant in pots or in ground. 

This winter parsnip was shredded with carrots and
put in a wrap. Yum. It was spicy!

Still killing grass...
Kiddo and I turned over the soil along this side (42 ft long) of the property &
garden to plant in native grass/wildflower seeds. Pollinator Palooza is
the mix, from Prairie Moon Nursery. I decided to do this
after reading 5-10% of the garden should be in flowers- to attract both
beneficial and non-bene insects. Non-benes, because the good ones
need something to eat, right? 

The asparagus and blueberries beds were cleaned
and mulched.

*Not pictured- the pepper seeds I started in baggies germinated in 5 days! I transplanted them into soil yesterday. 

Veg pancakes, fav roasted beans and the obvious.

So glad I bought this fresh and prepped if for the
freezer/winter from the local farm last spring! 
Gorgeous broc.
 With mushrooms and tofu.

 Walnut, lemon, parm, parsley...
 tossed with Angel Hair

These are going into muffins today!

Trouble coming?
I bought this at my school's plant sale and was told it was a tropical passion vine. It isn't. Ha. It grew super fast and tall, covering the garage, didn't bloom and then failed to die. This is what it looks like today. So, naturally I am worried. I'm wondering if it isn't P. caerulea, from S America. It can be aggressive in the south. I've posted to an Illinois Botany group to see if anyone has experience with it. It may have to die. 

A closing shot

The Kitchen Window in Winter

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Keeping Active: Winter Gardening

I love being outside, moving, being productive, making projects for myself and especially when any of this involves gardening. In Britain they call their entire yard their garden. They don't have yards, so when I say I am gardening, you may consider it yard work.

Final Final Harvests
Of course, we are finally experiencing nightly frosts, but there were several threatening days in October and November where I would dig up, cover or harvest whatever remained. I had several "final" tomato harvests. The real one came the third week of November, when we finally got down to 25 F on Friday night/Sat morn.
We are still eating tomatoes that have ripened since the killer frost.

 The above tomatoes were all harvested green and
allowed to ripen in the beer flat in the kitchen (where I could see them daily). 
As they ripen, we eat them. They aren't as good as vine-ripe, but always beat the
flavor of store toms. 

In the geodome house, I decided to harvest all of the eggplant and cut the plants back. I'm curious
to see if they will make it through the winter. I've never had the soil freeze in there, but I have had frosts.
I know greenhouse culture depends more on the difference between high and low temperature, rather than just one or the other. There is a moderating effect. So far, the plants are still healthy looking. 
Final eggplant harvest from dome.

Final pumpkin, pepper and tomato harvest.
I love this pumpkin. It is super productive, even in part shade and
nothing stops it. I've been saving seeds for 3 years. It was
originally from a Autumn Harvest Mix from Pinetree Garden Seeds
so I have no idea what it could be. If anyone has thoughts, please let me know. 

I don't normally pick bouquets, but when I know the flowers are going
to die, I allow it. 
Red Salvia below
 This Salvia was purchased by mistake or
mislabeled in the catalog. I thought I was buying
a different one. Normally, I do not care for this kind of
annual salvia, BUT I didn't know they grew as anything other 
than dwarf. Apparently, the old fashioned ones grew into large (3+feet) shrubs.
This ended up a beautiful, healthy and productive plant, so...I saved seeds and changed my mind.
Seed from Pinetree (with wrong photograph in catalog)

Chickens: The 3 young girls (Mavis, Petunia and Ruby) plus Rosa are laying like crazy! I'm consistently getting 2 eggs per day, even with the shorter days. We are getting some "double yokers" too. See the one on the left? 
Left- double. Right- single.
The single yoke eggs seem smaller than they should be,
but that's okay by me. 

Rooster update:
Mattilda decided one day to stop liking the kiddo. He has attacked her and chased her down the street. If you TRY to read anything on the internet to help with learning rooster language and recovery 98% of what you will read is- make him soup. This is not an acceptable response. Clearly we just aren't understanding each other, so I've made it my responsibility to learn rooster behavior. I'd say 50% of the time I go in the orchard/chicken yard, he pecks my foot. 
Things that are helpful- hold him for awhile and he stays away and Papi keeps him away from me. Give him treats. Treats don't come from other roosters, so why fight me? Walk slowly. Don't look at him. Don't make eye contact. Pretend you don't even know he is there. I've contemplated building him his own coop, but then I feel horrible about the idea of confining him for life. If I could find a person who has only females and wanted him (not to eat) I would probably give him up, because I think he would be happier. For now, he stays and we accept and learn. I really need a book about chicken behavior- if anyone has a source, let me know.

I'm still working on redoing the orchard/chicken yard, which includes new fruit trees (new trimming/dwarfing method), raised beds for permanent food plants and pots (for bees, natives/perennials and things for chickens to eat).
The raised beds/cold frames are made from fencing, which is 6ft long pine. It's super cheap and easy to work with. Not sure how long it will last, however. Below is a cold frame of kale, gailan, chinese cabbage and lettuce. The cover is an old shower door. 
 Below is a long view of the beds in progress. You can
see the geodome in the upper right corner and 2 new blueberry
plants in the lower right corner. One bed is made from
cabinet doors (white). I plan to have things like perpetual chard (already in),
Good King Henry and some other permanent food crops in these. 
 GKH needs a cold spell to germinate, so I sowed it in 
cells and it is in one of these frames, under glass.

 Working on a retention wall. I lose soil to erosion down this slope 
to the drain. Hoping this will help with the slow process of raising this bed.
Green shrubs are Boxwoods and I just added a Holly by the pole (see below).
I plan on topping these 16 x 8 x 6 blocks with something more decorative (brick, natural rock).
New Holly.
Two were planted along this bed for winter interest, screen, 
protection and food source for birds.

Another slow project is this bed behind the garage. 
I transplanted some natives- Joe Pye Weed, Gray Goldenrod and
Short's Aster behind here and recently added these
fallen branches to create a border. 
 Other plants back here: Coralberry, Blackberry, hydrangea, 
concord grape, pecan tree

More projects with fencing:
I built these 1 x 1 foot boxes each from just 1 6 ft fence board.
They are 5 1/2 inches deep, which is great for staring native seeds, 
which have deep roots. I was looking into plastic deep cells for starting seeds, when
this idea came to me. It's cheaper and sustainable. I've started Aromatic Aster seeds in one.
The next one will either be- N Sea Oats or Button Blazing Star. I only have 2 at present, but
want to sew more seeds so....more to come


Growing on:
 Red Trumpet Honeysuckle still greenish
Below: Shallots and parsley
 Multiplier Onions up and green (below)
 Garlic up and green (below)

Gardening still happening:
Transplanting (gray goldenrod)

 Seed collecting (Senna above)
Planning (always). I think I want
a dry native plant in here next year
Maybe Purple Prairie Clover?

Other things you can do now: 
Plant bulbs (yes, still) and they are on sale now. 
Prune- a great time as you can see the bones of the trees
Plant/transplant perennials while the ground is still soft
Mulch- still raking leaves? Spread wood mulch
Construct- to get ready for spring gardening
Plan, plan, plan (my fav part!)
Seed catalogs are arriving.... plan, order too much and
Start seeds! Especially perennials or slow growing things (like peppers-due to my cool basement)

Speaking of which:
The makings of a pizza with homegrown toms

Vegan Pasta Primavera
(really super good- a nutritional yeast sauce)
Who knew?

A dal pancake. So yummy. Not from the garden, however.
 November: preserved Hen of the Woods 
 Veg tacos

Gardening is an under-appreciated activity in many ways- one of which is for exercise. I was pleasantly surprised to find out how many calories I burn compared to my husband's purposeful gym visits or race events. I'm burning more than him, getting Vitamin D, creating food for me or wildlife, creating a pleasant and therapeutic space and accomplishing something other than burning calories for the sake of burning calories. I hate gyms. I don't care for routine. I also think this is cheaper than a gym membership. You can do it without a lot of special gadgets/clothing. I wonder if more people would consider it if it were promoted seriously? 
Anyway, I obviously love it and I hope you do too.

Happy Winter Gardening.