Thursday, October 23, 2014

You should...

You should plant paperwhites now. In the humdrum of winter you won't regret having fragrant flowers blooming in your home. You can get bulbs, like these Ziva Paperwhites, already pre-chilled at your local nursery and they will bloom in 6-10wks or you can pot them up, like I did. I put these or hyacinths in the fridge and take the pots out 1 week at a time to have a succession of blooms over winter. Pre-chill for 9-14 weeks. Occasionally check on them and give them a little water, but not too much so the bulbs don't rot.
Wrap in a plastic bag, close the box & tape shut.
Check on them every couple of weeks.
When the tops start breaking through you'll need to pull them out.

You should...notice Fall right now. It's been spectacular. Cool temps, no frost, good rains.The colors are outrageous.
Pond by Foggy Bottom Refuge
 Cups of spiderwebs in the Asparagus
Devil's Walking Stick- Aralia spinosa
 The sky and the leaves oh my!
 Nature watch with Smokey
 Panicled Aster
Symphyotrichum lanceolatum
Harebell in the wheelbarrel

Drummond's Aster
Blooms after Short's Aster
 Symphyotrichum drummondii

You from the end of the season deals now
Tent sale= Mr Poppins Winterberry bush $10
and 6 Blueberries, $2.75 each. 

You should go outside and see something that you've never seen before. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

No Frost in Sight

Almost done with my latest growing space- the geodesic & geothermal dome. After a lot of searching for best designs for hoophouses I came upon the geodesic dome. They aren't new to me. Once when I was thinking about building a home I looked at geodesic kit homes. I still like them, but I can't beat the construction of my 1851 home. Once I saw the price tag on these geodesic greenspaces I looked into making my own. Of course they require a lot of precise wood cutting and geometry, which I was actually kind of excited about doing. Still looking I came across a very cheap way of building them with PVC, but surmised that wouldn't last long and then I had an epiphany. Many google searches later I couldn't find anyone who had this idea: buy a child's climbing dome! It's cheap (in greenhouse terms), well constructed and should last a very long time (and could have a dual purpose-climbing). 
 Hubs and I stacked 2 layers of concrete blocks to add height to the
five foot tall dome. 
I used zipties to strap the plastic to the climbing handles.
 I used a door I had from my last hoophouse (now deconstructed).
I dug foot space about 2 feet into the soil. The purpose is
to have a cold air sink and to take advantage of the geothermal
warmth of the soil below.
Cool air sinks. Warm air rises. 

 We had about 3 inches of rain last week so I
tossed some cardboard down until I get some rock in.
Hopefully you can see how the space is below grade.
The dome is 10ft in diameter and with my foot space I have
about 8 ft of head space. 

 In the space- collards, leeks, shallots, pansies, hyacinths, mizuna, chard, kale.
Lettuces, cilantro, spinach, flowers (experimental) are still in the flats. 

 The chicken wire is for when I raise the plastic sides
for ventilation and so the chickens don't get in.

 Guttation (above): when the stomata close at night and
the soil is heavy with water, root pressure builds and forces the
excess water out of the hydathodes (water ducts) on the edges of the 
leaves. This is not dew. 
 Collards, Alliums and Chard.
Outside the Dome:
 Tronchuda: Leafing cabbage

 The nasturtiums are very happy with this weather. 
No frost yet and none in sight.
 One of my new Asters. 
 A rambling squash
 My hidden cottage

 The hedge.
 A few of the pumpkins we grew this year.

Happy Fall with no frost in sight!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Small Batch Time

I made way for a fall seeding of various greens and pulled a few under performing tomato plants on site. I plucked the small green maters left on them because I can't seem to just let them go. Mom dropped off about 1.5lbs of tomatillos. Veg production is on the decline as the days get cooler and shorter, so it's prime time for small batch canning.

Small batch canning consists of canning one or two jars. If you can time it right you could do different types of stuff- like these pickles and salsa at the same time. Just make sure both require the same time in the hot water bath or pull some out early if one requires less time. The nice thing about small batches is it can be done quickly and without canning materials. There is a nice site called Food In Jars. The author also has a book, called Preserving By the Pint. I haven't read it, but the link above has many small batch recipes worth checking out. Today I made a Salsa Verde based on her recipe, but I roasted everything (not just the garlic & tomas).

I picked, prepped and made these in less than an hour. 15 minutes in the water bath.
 Dill Pickled Green Tomatoes

 Roasted Salsa Verde

 Post Hot Water Bath

Got my first and probably last flush of Shishitos today. I had to restart from seed 3 times. My fault. I plan to collect some seed and try to overwinter the few plants I do have in pots. Looking forward to roasting these.

Coming projects
I got this hairbrained idea to build a new geodesic greenhouse using a climbing playground set as the top. It's in the mail. Ha. This should be interesting.... pics and comments to come.

Thursday, September 4, 2014


We've crossed over the Labor Day bridge and entered the doors of Sooncomefall. It's that weird time when part of the week is in the 90's and the other is in the 70's. You may see the first Sycamore leaves on the ground and Buckeyes and Pin Oak acorns start to drop. The garden is still bursting at the seams, but you've got winter on your mind. Must prep. 

If you haven't saturated all of your garden space, now is the time for Interplanting. 

This summer I planted cilantro & celery seed in this pot. I hardly even noticed a celery plant in here
until the cilantro threw in the towel. Now this celery is doing fabulously 
and will probably overwinter in a cold frame or hoophouse.

I interplanted below this Bell Pepper plant. 
I'll probably replant these seedlings when they are big enough.
It's hard to tell but there are little kale seedlings here. 

I dug up a new bed in hope of making this 1 of several cold frames
along the south side of the garage. 
Aside from seeding here- kale, pak choi, spinach & carrots, I stuck these
4 cauliflower plants from Dintelmann's. 

Interplanted broccoli between the tomatoes, habaneros and bell peppers

Another new cleaned up space for a future
cold frame. Planted by row: cilantro, turnip, mixed carrots,
dwarf siberian kale, parsley root, rutabaga, collard and purple carrots.
south side of garage

What's in Bloom
 Rigid Goldenrod & Brown Eyed Susans

 Short's Aster

Gray Goldenrod with Bumble

Putting Up or Putting By
Roasted tomato, garlic, onion, pepper & jalapeno salsa
into the freezer

It's THAT time again. I'm always mentally ready for the next season.
Let's see if I can get the garden ready. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


I picked the garden before we left for our 9 day vaca to the mountains of NC. Things had gotten pretty dry before we left and I was slightly worried about what may collapse while I was away. While I love vacation I feel a sense of needing to be home- to take care of the critters and plants. Three inches of rain brought an abundance of peppers, eggplant, okra and cracking tomatoes. Uh oh. Better get to work.
Can't rest if I want the larder stocked for winter.

1 batch just tomatoes & salt.
1 batch Peach & Blackberry jam
1 batch Strawberry and Blackberry jam

Red Okra & Eggplant
May have to pickle this giant okra
This recipe sounds good, minus the sugar. 
Good food in Asheville, NC inspired our first meals back home. I was thankful that I didn't have to run to the grocery store to feed us. I did run to the local farm to pick up some peaches and while I was there -blackberries, eggs, sweet potatoes and sweet corn. 
 Sauted corn, onions & peppers 
for brown rice, black bean, cheese burritoes
with chive & tomato salsa.
Fresh Food Fast

With this ridiculously cool weather I was in the mood for comfort food and a taste of the south so heated up some pre-cooked and frozen Sage Pinto Beans, served over Peppered Cornbread with a side of Crunchy Baked Okra.  I subbed soy milk for the buttermilk, but any milk would suffice. I also soaked the okra in the wet mix for an hour. No particular reason- just prepped early. I worked out well. The okra was so tender. 
The meal was a hit. 

First Fall Plantings
I weeded and hoed up a small area on the south side of the garage and planted- spinach, carrots, kale, pak choi, chard and a meslun mix. If it stays cool (and this week is in the low 80s again) these should do ok. 

When Good Gardens go Wild
 There was actually order in this madness

 Cosmos & Elephant Amaranth
Red Okra flower being
swallowed up by pumpkin vines
You can tell okra is related to hibiscus!

I know it's only a singlet, but it makes me pretty happy to see this Monarch has found the tropical milkweed I planted for it. I have several native species with only the butterfly weed in bloom presently, but this bfly is happily feeding on the non-native tropical variety. 

Closing thoughts
I subscribe to a garden blogger in Ireland. It struck me that she commented about the wars & terror going on. When I came home from vacay I had an overwhelming sense of happiness. Everything was green and lush and for a moment or maybe 9 days I had a sense of seeing the good. When I returned home I found out a young, unarmed black man was gunned down by a police officer in a nearby community and looting and violence have followed. The break from news media combined with constant fresh air, good food and exercise had momentarily undone the barrage of bad news in the world. While a half a world away, that blogger and I are on the same planet, trying to find some good in the world, while constantly being reminded of the bad. I missed my furry & feathered friends. I missed my garden. But I loved my vacation. And I love being back home.