Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New Garden Year Anticipation

The ever insatiable desire to garden is probably greatest in this lull of short days or am I ever garden full? I've made my first seed & plant orders this week:
Pinetree Garden Seeds- lots of veg stuff
Stark Brothers Nursery: 2 Honeyberries (Cinderella & Borealis), 3 Red Gooseberries (Hinnonmaki), 3 Anne Golden Raspberries and 3 Royalty Purple Raspberries~ to go in orchard beds and in the old garden, which is now the semi-permanent plant garden.

I've been thumbing through the tomatoes- what to add, what to keep. I've pretty much decided to continue the focus on Roma-sized, a couple cherries and a couple beefsteaks. I don't need much for mater or pepper seeds and I've decided 40 tomato plants will be the goal and filling almost 1 entire row in the garden. They are the most used and versatile fruits of the garden. This morning I started my pepper seeds with the technique I started using last year (baggy method on heat). I'm reusing last year's baggies and see 12/25 written on them. I guess I get the pepper itch this time of year. The pots of chilies are doing very well. All have kept their greenery. They are yellowing a bit and the Chiltepins have ripe fruits. 

Winter weather
Winter has been relatively mild so I've had days here and there to do a little yard work- still raking, cutting dead stems & tossing some seeds here and there. Tonight it is suppose to be around 14F, which will be our coldest night yet. The Dome still hasn't gotten below freezing, but maybe I should pick lots of chard tonight just in case. We can have it with our favorite roasted beans & sweet potato gratin. 

Yesterday morning was absolutely gorgeous. The world was sepia & frost. 

Winter Solstice Excursion
I know I posted on the Solstice already, but it was before our hike to Salt Lick Nature Preserve, where we hiked the Salt Lick & Johnson Trail loop (5 miles). 
 Kentucky Coffee Tree pods
dangle over the cliff

 Salt Lick Trail

 Playing with Puffballs

 Looking up from the Johnson Trail

Wild Yam

 KY Coffee Tree pods
and seeds extracted below
We scarified and planted along the creek at the Nature Park
KY CT are not abundant and declining.
We hope this helps.

Food Stuff
Made this soup & froze for later eating. 
It was very tasty and almost all of the ingredients
came from the garden (fresh or frozen).
 Chard, White Bean and Potato Soup

Totally Homegrown Breakfast
 Potatoes, Corbachi peppers, green onions, thyme & an 
egg from Rosa

Jerusalem Artichokes
made them like hashbrowns
I'm hoping to establish another bed of these.

Five weeks + < 1 packet of seed + < 2 square feet of space = first Indoor Salad
I picked this salad this morning from the basement.
It's pretty amazing what you can grow for very little in a small space
and without much money. I cut this first salad hoping for further ones from the same pots.
I guess I'll have to see how many salads for 3 I can grow from this planting.
I attempted to grow this another winter years ago and realized I left the lights
on too long. This one was done at 8 hours, which seems to be a good number. 

The setup.

I think this motivates me to start another round. 
5 weeks to grow a salad isn't bad.
I'm also starting some spring greens for the Dome greenhouse. 

A rare visitor for us: Red Bellied Woodpecker
The regular Downy Woodpecker had
to wait her turn for the first time.

I gave Hubs a Trail Cam. Maybe I will have future night critter posts in addition to the day active ones.

Wishing you garden bounty in 2015!
-The Perpetual Gardener

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter Solstice

Tomorrow day length will be 1 whole second more than today. And then 4 seconds, 6, 8, 12.... It's an exiting time and another day to reflect on what the sun's energy gives to us both directly and indirectly. It's a day to be in her presence and plant seeds which will feed from her in the longer days to come. We plan on taking a hike. Hubs and I enjoyed a quiet Solstice Dinner together with some foods yet from the garden and I took some time to plant a few seeds until my hands were too cold to work.

Solstice Meal
 Solstice feels a little like the more appropriate New Year for me. I decided to make some light & healthy North African fare.  
 A cucumber salad with tomatoes still from the garden.
They are shriveling so these will be the end soon. This
also contains green onions & parsley still growing outdoors.
 Fattoosh (w/o the pita bread)

Lentil Salad w/ tomatoes, parsley, garlic and peppers (from the garden).
This was very good. Salatat 'Adas

I also made Hareera (Moroccan Veg Soup) that is traditionally eaten at sundown during Ramadan and a Zucchini and Yogurt spread on pita bread. All were delish. 

And for the Celebratory Cocktail:

 Winter Warmer

Orange Cake with Dark Chocolate Ganache

Very yummy

 I collected some Common Milkweed seeds from the side of the road in town this summer. Knowing that Milkweeds are notoriously difficult to transplant due to their long taproot and wanting to make sure they do not have to compete with nearby plants, while putting them in an existing bed....I came up with this solution. Well, I hope it works.
 I took some 2 gal plastic pots, removed the bottom and slit up the sides.

 Dug a hole and partially buried the pot.
Filled the pot with the native soil.
 And planted the seeds directly in the potted soil.
My plan is to remove the potted ring when the plants have
established themselves. This method will also help me
find and monitor the plants, while they receive the necessary stratification
time outdoors and in their native soil. 

There was a nice article regarding the importance of snags (dead or dying trees). The author suggested we need to see more of these in landscapes, not just wild places. According to the article snags support up to 1,000 species; providing habitat, food and shelter. In addition 35 native bird species use these trees. Our Sugar Maple is slowly dying. The last 2 years we trimmed away some of the fragile branches- particularly ones that could land on our house. The intent, however, is to leave the bulk of this tree for wildlife.
The article is here
Dying Sugar Maple in the
woodland garden

Worshiping the Sun from Indoors:
Growing Alfalfa Sprouts

Various plants reaching for the light

Narcissus in bloom

Other outsidies
 Henry's Garnet Itea still holding leaves
The Fragrant Viburnum's leaves finally dropped this week. 

and Coral Bells
still green 

This year's Solstice tree.
A Chinese Juniper loaded with berries

Happy Winter and Cheers to longer days.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Time in the Winter Garden

I spent a couple of hours in the yard this morning. That ended when the lawn mower choked on a vine. Deal with that later. It was cool enough that I needed to bundle up to do some work, but warm enough that the layers came off as I worked. Other than the start of winter- temps in the 20s and an early, but brief snow, the rest has been what I would call mild. Still plenty of green, maybe not enough sun. Perks of winter gardening include:

  • getting some fresh air
  • vitamin D
  • exercise that isn't routine
  • you can see some weeds that would normally be camouflaged like this one:
I find about a half-dozen of these every winter-spring. It's the best time to find them as they are evergreen. This is Euonymous or Winter Creeper and it sucks. This is the nicest way I can say it. Birds eat the seeds, poop from perched in my hedge and next I find these about the beds. If left alone it will quickly smother the ground and climb the trees and kill everything in its path. This is also the time to find young honeysuckle shrubs, which are also still green and suck too. Both are relatively easy to pull when young and the ground isn't frozen. 

I also found several Wild Cherry saplings. Still having their leaves or
finding upright sticks are easy to see in the winter bed. Pull or snip at the base. 

 Winter is also a great time to find nests. I'm not
sure what this belongs to, but I'm watching. It's on
the Wafer Ash.

And for finding fungi

And for digging
The ground is soft from the rain a couple of weeks ago. 
I've been wanting to build a short wall here to keep
the bed from eroding into the ditch.  

And I'm still raking. Raked and mowed this area 
this morning. Still working on this bed. I want to raise it more,
add a few more daffodils and more diversity of
native plants. 

In my bed cleaning I accidentally pulled some of these 
Jerusalem Artichokes. No biggie. Looks like we'll be having
artichoke pancakes. 

Winter Food
 celery and fennel
from the Dome garden
 Rainbow Chard (slug munched)
from the Dome garden

 Parsnips and a fat carrot
(both from last spring plantings) 

All put into some minestrone. 
It was colorful AND tasty.
All but three ingredients were from my garden (noodles, garbonzo beans and capers). Plus salt. Does that count? From the garden: garlic, onion, the aforementioned and a quart of tomatoes with herbs. 

Winter Foods
Even though they aren't as good as fresh from the garden, stored green tomatoes are really special to still be eating in December. It's sad that they are still better than store bought. 

Geodesic Dome Garden update
The concept is working better than planned. It hasn't been below freezing a single night in the Dome so far. Because of this the soil has not frozen and because of that I have munchers I didn't anticipate. Slugs and a shocker- caterpillars! I really thought the caterpillars would die. I had no idea they had the capacity to withstand winter. They seem to just slow down a bit. Does this result in larger spring butterflies? Do I sacrifice my kale all winter to find out? I just might. My curiosity just might win over my desire to eat kale. I almost fed one to the chickens the other day. Nope- just going to wait it out. 

Not quite a Garden project, but kinda
I've always wanted a pantry. Maybe because I'm a food hoarder or maybe because I like closets of food more than closets of clothes. So, this is one of my winter break projects. I'm almost done with the inner shelves. I have a salvaged door. And then I need to figure out the covering. Maybe pallet wood. Maybe a mix of salvaged materials. We'll see. But it's tied to the garden because it's where the garden is preserved in jars. 
 Pantry in progress.

Winter Break
I'm hoping to divide my winter break between inside and outside projects. I have lots of soil and bed prepping to do, some snipping and sawing and imagining plans for next year's gardens and maybe a new chicken coop for spring chicks. My original 6, now 5, are going on 6yrs and only occasionally laying. I think I need to have a 3-year rotation plan, where every 3 years I get 3 chicks to keep production going. I also considered quail, but not sure I like the idea of keeping them caged and 5 quail eggs = 1 chicken egg. But, they do have a lovely call. Ah well, it gives me something to dream about. 

On the bad days we stare outside and dream.