Friday, December 26, 2008

Yes, I'm still Blogging

Should you come here looking for my continued blog posts, you can find them on my page on Transition Boulder at:
http://transitioncolorado.ning.com/profiles/blog/list?user=3bq3kofvpse5i
Transition Boulder is a sub-organization of a Ning social networking site called Transition Colorado and Transition United States. "Transition Initiatives" are a wordwide movement initiated by a Permaculturist in Ireland named Rob Hopkins. This is a response to the problems created by peak oil and climate change- essentially looking at ways in which communities can make themselves more self-reliant and reduce dependence on unsustainable practices such as shipment goods all over the planet. My garden is a large component of my personal involvement in reducing our carban footprint. Included in this a considerable change of diet and a great deal of learning about food storage and preparation. There is so much to learn!

Titles of posts since my most recent post here include:
Reluctant harvest and Local Quiche Recipe, Nov. 12, 2008
In my transition kitchen, Nov. 29, 2008
Under 10 hours a day- Greenhouse and Transition Kitchen report, Nov. 29, 2008
Trials and Tribulations of a Novice Greenhouse Keeper, Dec. 5, 2008
Greenhouse on Ice, Dec. 12, 2008
Birthday Tamales, Dec. 26, 2008

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Greenhouse on the moon- kale, kale and more kale

Last week we had our first hard frost. Tonight we'll have another one, although it should be warmer than the 19 degrees we had last week. At that temperature, many things that had been hanging on, ceased to do so. Unfortunately I had failed to take in the last of the tomatoes, trusting the greenhouse plastic we'd wrapped the bed in. In the morning I checked a couple of tomatoes and found them frozen solid. Oh well, the end was inevitable. The total take for our tomatoes this summer was 79 pounds. I'll round up to 80. In my larder are 12 pints of dried tomatoes that I will try very hard to leave alone for a while.
On that very cold night the greenhouse got down to 25 degrees and everybody looked a little shocked I admit (although in about a day everything had recovered). I had strung up a string of mini Christmas lights inside, and this was the equivalent to a 100 watt light bulb. Looking at my huge wilting greens, I thought over my plan not to heat the greenhouse at all and I decided the following:
The greenhouse has in it a great deal of mature, tasty vegi.s that are now becoming important to us as Cure Farm has now transitioned to their winter share and as this is the equivalent to a medium share, we are scaled down from the large share (plus two fruit shares) of the summer. I'm also no longer volunteering there and the volunteer days brought home vegi.s as well. Therefore, the vegi.s in my greenhouse constitute local produce that would cost money and carbon to replace. I decided therefore, to put an efficient little oil heater out in the greenhouse for the coldest periods so as to maintain the huge greens until we've harvested them down somewhat. I think that plants with younger, smaller leaves may be more frost hardy (particularly of types of vegetables I have growing) than these plants with huge leaves, although this is all a learning experience for me. In any case, we've started eating greens from the greenhouse in earnest now. My current staples include several types of kale (Red Russian, Siberian, Dinosaur), Swiss chard in different colors, and the occasional lovely large beet with it's stalks and greens. I'm sparing of the arugula, spinach and the leaks, and the turnip greens are only now big enough to start harvesting from. I have a little pok choi and broccoli- one broccoli plant in the greenhouse is producing and I'm waiting on a couple others.

I have not been running into any references to planting for greenhouses this time of year, so I feel very experimental putting seeds in the ground. So far (within the last few weeks) I've planted bunching onions, field peas, garlic cloves and corn salad. All have come up and are growing slowly but without issues. I have gone to the Farmer's Market once recently, and I've added walking onions to the garlic I get from Jay Hill every other week or so. Last weekend I bought 60 lb.s of apples from Ella Family Farms when Russ and I visited the harvest festival at Full Circle Farms. Apple sauce, apple juice, dried apples, apples in the root cellar and the fridge. This week I'll stock up on squashes from Munson as I do every year now. Squash is good in soup with the kale....

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Greenhouses don't build themselves

So here it is, the first cold, inclement weather of the fall. I'm delighted to sit inside right now and avoid the drizzle and the chill. It's just shy of 40 degrees F. outside, and it's 50 inside my greenhouse where I'm growing broccoli, several varieties of kale, Swiss chard, kohlrabi, turnip greens, bok choi, beets, bunching onions, walking onions, leeks, endive, arugula, cabbage and hopefully garlic greens (that is if the bulbs I planted send up shoots). It is possible that the approximatly 35 gallons of water I have stored in plastic containers inside, will help to moderate the climate in the greenhouse. I just finished it last week. Below is my account of greenhouse building.

As fall began to come in this September, seeing the changes in the light and in the length of the days, I decided that it was time to get serious about building that greenhouse. Certainly I must admit that I did not quite anticipate the level of effort needed for this project, or the number of days I would spend with such sore muscles as a consequence of my commitment, but certainly I'm not the first to take on a large project, thinking that it wouldn't be so very difficult. Doesn't this happen in construction all the time?

I think my mistake was perhaps to read in gardening books that describe the "simplest" of greenhouses that could be erected easily and quickly, and to actually believe that this was true. Relatively simple could describe the process I suppose. Perhaps the authors of these books do not live in places that present quite the challenges that one encounters in building greenhouses in Boulder. Maybe they none of them happen to be on the later side of 40 something....

In any case, my greatest challenges involved the necessity of building a structure that could stand up (I hope) to the velocity of the winds we get here in the winter. Certainly the solution to this involves investing more in the structural components and in anchoring them in the ground. Of course the minute one starts discussing anchoring anything in the ground, one must then consider the digging needed and the rocks and gravel to clear out in the process. Some folks just use a post-hole digger. Not in my yard you don't!

My plan was to make bows using PVC conduit pipes rather than PVC water pipes. Schedule 40 PVC conduit has thicker walls in its construction, and it's intended to stand up under UV exposure, so I decided to use that for the bows over the top. For the upright portions of the bows, I decided to use galvanized steel conduit. I installed these over 5/8 inch rebar that I buried approximately 18 inches in the ground and bolted to the sides of the two raised beds that would be enclosed by the greenhouse (see the picture above) and then bent at an angle as needed by the bows. I spaced these bows about two feet apart, which is recommended in snow country. Next, using a heavy gauge wire, I wired 10 foot sections of 1/2" rebar in the center top for the purlin and along the south side. By the time I had finished all this, the whole structure started to "hang together" somewhat and I felt more confident.

Next came the "end walls" with door frames and sills and the vents that I decided to put over the doors. Because I was using odd pieces of recycled lumbar and because I like to build in a rather organic, creative way, this was an entertaining and somewhat time-consuming experience. It also took longer because I decided to add a little root cellar, but that will be the subject of another post. My husband must receive credit here particularly because he volunteered his time and energy one day, and two 4 by 4's of cedar he'd been saving for something special, to build the East end wall pictured above. I also need to give him credit for coming out with the heavy iron bar and digging out the very nastiest rocks when I was fed up with them from time to time.

Once we had the end walls (just frames really) finished, I put up the plastic. This is 6 ml. UV treated greenhouse plastic that I decided to apply in two layers as it's more
durable this way. Cure Farm just replaced a similar plastic on their first hoop house and this had lasted 4 years. To hold the plastic to the bows, I used two diameters of black water hose that I cut into sections with a hack saw and slit longitudinally with tin snips. I positioned them over sections cut from old bicycle inner tubes to protect the plastic and improve their grip. It's important to have inner tube between the greenhouse plastic and the hose "clamps" because the hard plastic edges of the "clamps" can poke holes in the greenhouse plastic. Where the greenhouse plastic needed to be attached to wood, I bought fender washers and self-tapping pan head screws and these did an excellent job of both securing the plastic while distributing forces. It will be easy to take the plastic off in the spring if I want to. I'll see how well this arrangement holds up, but as I borrowed the idea from my observations of the greenhouses at Cure, I suspect we have a workable solution. Another solution I borrowed from Cure and in consultation with one of many references I've been reading, is a tie-down system to keep the plastic down for those really tremendous gusts of wind. I bought seat-belt webbing (you can buy this by the foot from Neptune Mountaineering in Boulder) and two short bungee cords. After installing lag screws in the bottom boards of the raised beds on either side of the greenhouse, I hooked on the bungee cords, ran the webbing over the greenhouse and tied it to the bungees. This is supposed to keep the plastic snug regardless of the natural shrinking and expanding it does with changes in air temperature.
So, after some weeks of struggle, the greenhouse is up. My favorite tools are now my hand-held jig saw, cordless drill, my level and measuring tape, a square, the pick axe and spade. I invested most in the greenhouse plastic and the hardware (lots and lots of carriage bolts, lag screws, washers and nuts in addition to the pan head screws and fender washers). This greenhouse is approximatly 10 x 12 ft. and cost considerably less than what I would have paid commercially. Next time I order plastic though, I will plan on looking for a supplier closer than the excellent resource I used on the West Coast. Shipping costs are rising fast and I expect they will continue to do so. It's not cheap shipping plastic.
I will be happy to take a little vacation now that the cold is upon us.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Finally a harvest picture

At last I have pictures, but with them I have technical problems, so we'll just have to swing with it. Here you see an example of my late summer harvest. The tomatoes are continuing, although with freezing weather threatening, it may not be much longer. Lots of green tomatoes to bring in. The total tomato take for the season is over 70 lb.s. Pictured to the right is my first potato harvest. This was devoured in one meal by my grateful family. To the right above are a native variety of bean (seed from Abbodonza). We have about a quart and are almost done with them out in the yard. Not bad...
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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Taking in the harvest

We are very, very busy these days. Having discovered just as the berries were coming ripe, that we have and Elderberry in our backyard, , we've been harvesting them daily, and making elderberry jam, elderberry fruit leather, elderberry juice, dried elderberries and frozen elderberries for the elderberry wine my husband and I will make this winter. Just as we've started getting a bit weary of the elderberry thing, our Concord grapes have ripened, so next will be Concord grape raisins, Concord grape juice, frozen Concord grapes for jam that I'll make later, Concord grape fruit leather, etc, etc.

Meanwhile, we've continued to harvest tomatoes. The pineapple tomatoes have continued unabated for weeks, as have the purple Cherokee. Now we're throwing in the San Marzano (a Roma variety) and the yellow pear tomatoes. So far we've harvested more than 40 lb.s of tomatoes. Meanwhile, Cure has been having a wonderful year for tomatoes and our weekly large share has included lots of cherry and heirloom tomatoes. In response, I give away tomatoes, encourage tomato-eating by family, and eat tomatoes (no kidding) at breakfast, lunch and dinner. I have never in my life had the opportunity to eat all the heirloom tomatoes I could possibly want for weeks on end, and I admit this is tomato heaven. Realizing though that we still have too many tomatoes and that we are going to miss then very much when they're done, I started experimenting with drying them in the oven a few days ago. The resulting dried tomatoes taste amazing- very sweet and tasty. They were so good in fact, that we decided to spring for a food dehydrator yesterday and will be drying tomatoes as fast as we can for as long as it takes.
Other projects in brief (I have to keep up putting up food in the kitchen...)
-I'm building a greenhouse frame to go over raised beds #3 and #4. Am about 1/2 of the way done with this.
-Digging out a section in the greenhouse, into which I will sink a plastic trash can that will have inside it a metal trash can with burlap bags for insulation between it and the plastic can. The lids will have insulation between them. This is to be my little root cellar! This is very exciting except for the digging part (that's about 1/2 done too). By the way, we needed the plastic trash can to keep out the water so the metal trash can doesn't rust out. We needed the metal trash can to keep the voles out of the food. Having the cellar in the greenhouse helps keep the cellar from freezing.
-Harvesting of potatoes (5 lb.s today), celeriac this week.
-Ongoing (daily) harvest of dry beans (scarlet runner, "trail of tears") , onions, beets, chard, New Zealand spinach, kale (several types) and amaranth. I get hungry, I go out and look around....
-Feeding chickens and ducks at Cure two times a week. This is particularly nice right now as the flock has really started to lay and we now receive eggs in trade for our labor. We've discovered how lovely duck eggs are...
-I continue to come help out on Thursday mornings at Cure. This is another source of food as we receive a bag of what's available in thanks for our efforts. It's getting pretty muddy now and I've finally waxed up all my shoes so I don't get wet feet. How not to get wet pants is another problem.
-New cooking skills include the food drying as well as first experiments with lactic fermentation. Although the pickled vegi.s are salty and I have to avoid salt, I can have these as a condiment in small portions and that's the intended use anyway. I'm very interested in figuring out how to make yogurt in quantities the family can use as yogurt is easy to make. I'm also interested in learning some cheese-making as this family loves cheese and we have no control over the milk used in the cheese we buy and the price is also going up. These activities will have to take a back seat to the greenhouse for the moment!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Wow, tomatoes and potatoes!

Ok, we had a period there with lots of rain and then some drainage issues because the farmer irrigating the meadow next to us had left the water running in the ditch closest to use for rather too long. I didn't have to water at all for at least a week, and certainly the garden looked a little oxygen-starved for a little while there. The rain stopped and the farmer was asked to turn off the water, and we have since been drying out. Unfortunately the combination of the water and the nice warm weather (in the low to mid 80's most days now) have been conducive to the proliferation of mosquitoes. Now when I go out to water, I'm watering my mosquitoes. Management has included getting well dressed before going out to the garden, dashing out for a couple garden chores such as harvesting and planting a couple seedlings, or just avoiding the garden altogether.



As the garden-avoidance approach has been the frequent choice, I found the first ripe pineapple tomato when it was past it's prime on the 26th of this month. I found two Purple Cherokee and two pineapple tomatoes (total weight of 3 lb.s 14 oz.!) that were ready to go on this date and I make a point of this because we have never had tomatoes ripen before October before. We've also never had tomatoes this large or this healthy. My thinking is that we got a jump on the season planting under plastic the way we did. This is also the first week that Cure has had any significant numbers of the heirloom tomatoes for the CSA, so I'm not far behind them.

We harvested our first fingerling potatoes (maybe a pound) this week and they were delicious! These were our first potatoes and the seed potatoes came from Cure Farm.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The New Bed and fall garden!

Finally we finished bed #4. Enthusiasm had flagged on all accounts, easily attributed to the mind-numbing heat for all of July, with the unfortunate addition of potentially West Nile carrying mosquitoes at the cool times of day when we would rather work, such as the early, mid and late evening. Certainly I neglect to mention the early morning, which would have potential, except that this household full of night owls hate to go to bed early, particularly when it's hot in the house by the end of the day and when we can't open up the windows and set up the fans to exhaust the hot air until 10:00 at night, we aren't getting to bed until after 11:00. Of course the really dedicated would be up at the crack of dawn and take a mid-afternoon siesta....

So the work schedule dropped off quite considerably, and as the time was coming to plant the fall garden, and as we needed the bed for the fall garden, we decided to put in a big push and get it done, and we pulled out the last big rock at about 6:30 pm on 8-8-08, picked up a yard and a half of "planter's mix" from a local garden supply, shoveled it out and wheel-barrowed it into the back yard and mixed it into the existing soil remaining in the bed minus the many rocks and gravel we'd removed. At about 10 pm, John and I were planting up most of the bed with seedlings we'd grown; watering, mulching with straw, putting in hoops and row cover for shade and hoping for the best, as we were leaving town for a week and would be leaving the garden in the hands of the boys. We finished up at about 11:30 pm and made our flight without difficulty the next day.

I talked with the boys daily while away, and Russ was watering every day with a little help from Brian. Nearly every seedling survived, although Russ did say that "Some things died..." the day before our return, and as I had no other information than that, I was a little nervous until I had a chance to go see for myself. I had taken the precaution of saving some seedlings in their seedling flats in the shade of the garden beds under the mature plants, and this was a good idea although I didn't have to re-plant more than two or three. The only other problem we've had since involved a rise in our local water table, flooding out the basement of a neighbor and causing the garden beds to stay saturated after a good two-day rain storm that dropped about 2 1/2 inches in two days. I had to go out periodically and dump out the water flooding the seedling flats, and although the established plants looked fine, the seedlings all looked a little oxygen starved for a couple of days. It's drying out gradually now, warm and dry again, and seedlings are perking up today.

Fall garden seedlings planted so far include:
Pac Choy, beets, 3 or 4 types of kale, chard (different types), orach, broccoli (2 types), and collard greens. More to follow as I can make room for them.

I'm presently watching the angle of the sun shift fairly rapidly, and planning the design for my green house. Soon I should pull out the remaining plants (except for Brussels sprouts) in former hoop house #1 and #2 and plant cover crops. I'm impressed with the rate of speed with which the garden changes in character as the season progresses.

The market outside my back door

I've decided that going out to the garden and deciding what to cook with each day, is really a very enjoyable way to "shop". These days I do this every morning, and am doing very little else by way of maintenance or shopping for that matter. Certainly a temporary state- but so very nice just the same. Actually I admit that I continue to transplant fall seedlings into the new bed. I also can't claim credit for all of our vegetables as we have a lovely large share from Cure every week, but I have more than reached my goal of supplementing this share with food from Whole Foods. Staples continue to be a problem, but we'll get there one day.



Meanwhile, I am regularly harvesting:

-Amaranth (one amaranth plant produces lots of greens, even by my standards!)

-Beets (I'm harvesting beets up to 2 inches in diameter with generally lovely tops although not without insect damage now and then)

-Swiss chard (another reliable producer of greens)

-New Zealand spinach (this took a long time and some good hot weather to get going- now it's producing regularly)

-Savoy cabbage

-Leeks

-Bunching onions

-Broccoli (the sprouting broccoli keeps sending up broccoli heads- I've had lots of these from the four plants I planted in the spring)

-Zucchini (almost daily- one good sized zucchini from one plant being marginalized by enormous tomato plants)

-Celeriac tops (We have lots and lots of celeriac. The tops, although fibrous, can be sliced up across the grain and added to add wonderful celery ambiance to salads, casseroles, soups, lasagna, etc.) Later I hope the roots will store well for fall or winter eating.

-Basil, chives, peppermint



Ripening currently:

-Tomatoes: San Marzano, Pineapple, Purple Cherokee, yellow pear. The largest tomatoes look to be about 2 1/2 inches in diameter. All green so far. One spare cherry tomato plant in back bed is ripening tomatoes now.

-Pumpkins: Russ' white pumpkin plant has two good-sized pumpkins and possibly a third coming along.

-Watermelons: Russ has two hanging from a trellis and they might be ready..

-Corn: Russ will determine what he wants to do with his ears of corn. Most stalks are producing two ears.

-Peppers: Not many, but big. Three on one small plant that never seemed very vigorous. The peppers are turning from green to red now.

-Potatoes: Not least of which include bonus potato plants that volunteered in my garden compost bin. These were potatoes that had sprouted in the vegetable bin in the fridge and subsequently composted, and I wouldn't have decided to let them go once I observed the characteristic foliage coming out of vents in the side of the bin, except that I realised that these were from potatoes grown in Colorado that I had gotten in the winter at Whole Foods and were likely locally adapted. Not so Idaho potatoes.... Anyway, the plants are vigorous and lurking inside the compost bin should be some lovely potatoes come harvest time...

-Beans: We have several varieties of beans planted in every location I could tuck them in and most have beans on them. We are planning on letting them dry on the vine and then cook with them in the winter. Cure provides us with more than enough fresh beans this time of year so we have no trouble leaving ours alone to mature and dry. As we've found that the "fresh" dry beans we've grown in our garden and those we've obtained at the farmer's market from Abbondonza have been much better than those we've gotten from Whole Foods given identical treatment (we pressure cook ours), and as the local supply is inadequate, I decided that this would be a protein-rich crop I could focus on producing. Next year I want to put up more trellis for beans and increase my production.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

August in the garden

Gradually the heat diminishes and the garden may by slowing down a bit. The tomatoes, beans, pumpkins, corn and amaranth require regular tending, either in the form of pruning or for trellising. I also weed (particularly for thistles and milkweed) and drag the hose around a great deal as it's been very, very dry.

Savoy cabbages, although beset by cabbage whites and their offspring, are heading well and very tasty. All that heat we had in July may have made their flavor a little stronger, but otherwise we are starting to harvest them now and they are very good.






Beans and morning glories are taking full advantage of the trellises and the corn is almost to the top of the trellis.

Onions, leeks, celeriac and amaranth in bed number 3. I have beets and chard mixed in as well, and although the alliums (onions and leeks) and chard are a little leggy, all are growing well together in their tight quarters.









Monday, July 14, 2008

Purslane and Greek amaranth soup

Greek amaranth (seeds from Seeds of Change) pictured in the middle ground in Russell's garden bed. According to Wikipedia, Common Purslane, which is also commonly referred to as Pigweed and with the Latin name of Portulaca oleracea, is used as a leaf vegetable in Europe and Asia. I have found it in my garden and at Cure Farm and have decided to try it. From my local perspective, it's slightly sour, salty flavor is a welcome treat here. Certainly I am always on the lookout for vegetables or fruits that can be grown here and which provide a sour flavor. Lemons don't come easy in this climate! Also according to Wikipedia, "Purslane contains more Omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetable plant" with 0.1 mg/g of EPA which is the same type of fatty acid normally found mostly in fish and some algae. It also contains a number of vitamins. Free, tasty and growing in the ground somewhere near you!
Amaranth has many, many virtues. My problem with my amaranth plants is that I really want to have some survive the summer so they can produce grain, but I also have discovered how tasty the rest of the plant is. According to Wikipedia, the greens "are a very good source of vitamins A, B6, C, riboflavin and a number of dietary minerals." Also of note is the moderately high content of oxalic acid, which inhibits the absorption of calcium and zinc. I'll have to watch that perhaps. In any case, very, very tasty when steamed or braised. And I mean the entire plant.

Boulder mid-JulyPurslane and Greek amaranth soup
Please note: I suggest certain vegetables, but feel free to add others if you wish and you have them. When I made this, I used only vegi's I had grown or foraged in my garden myself (with the exception of the garlic scapes). The amaranth grain I got from Whole Foods, who got it from Peru. I have plants in the ground for grain production for this fall. Not enough, but certainly a good start. I used coconut oil and balsamic vinegar. Both very imported.
-A good handful of amaranth greens (with stalks)
-A good handful of purslane
-Optional: chard or beet greens or cabbage- whatever's ready to eat out there..
-Chives or spring onions (or whatever allium family plant you have growing. Right now I could use bunching onions, red onions, or leeks from my garden.)
-Garlic scapes or young garlic (or mature garlic if that's in season right now.)
-Amaranth grain (pre-cooked with water)
-Feta (I used Haystack Mountain so it's local).
-Oil and vinegar of your choice.
Put about 2 cups of water in a saucepan. Wash greens and snip or chop them up and add to pot. Ditto with the onions or leeks if you have those. If you're using chives, wait to add those later. Add approximately 1/2 cup of amaranth to the pot. Chop up some feta and snip up or mince the garlic scapes or garlic and reserve these (along with the chives if you have those. Heat greens, amaranth and water almost to a simmer, stirring frequently and watching closely. You just want to wilt the greens a little. Pour soup into a bowl, add cheese and garlic (and chives). Add oil and vinegar to taste. Stir. Very good!

Pick axes, rock walkways, summer garden activities

Russ with the garden, his favorite pick axe and the compost bin we keep in our garden. There is something about the pick axe that "speaks" to young men (both of ours anyway). Perhaps it's the sharpness of the pick, combined with the weight of the thing, making it feel rather more like a weapon than shovel. Note that Russ is barefooted in this picture. Once this summer I went out to a window looking out over the garden and beheld my son in the fourth garden bed working with the pick axe in his boxer shorts and nothing else. This required some maternal intervention as the dress code for pickaxing involves the attire pictured plus shoes.




Here is my progress on a rock pathway between our second and third raised beds. I am only using rocks we have pulled from the ground in preparing the soil for the beds. My plan is to continue the pathway around the third bed and to build an inexpensive greenhouse around the bed and pathway. As many of the rocks in the pathway are quite large and heavy and largely buried with their tops just at the surface, this is a big job but my hope is that the thermal mass they provide will serve to passively increase the overall temperature and temperature stability within the greenhouse.



I pulled out the peas this week and turned under the cover crop behind them. Peas in dinners and lunches all week.





Russ proudly standing in front of his garden bed. He chooses to spend quite a bit of time out in the garden, searching for edible "volunteer" plants, bugs we consider pests (such as cabbage white caterpillars who do damage to our brassicas), observing his plants, winding bean vines and morning glories up his trellis and preparing soil (a.k.a. pickaxing rocks out of the dirt) for our latest bed project.





High summer harvests in my garden

This week I harvested: a big head of broccoli, a couple good-sized zucchini, a head of cabbage, chard, orach, New Zealand spinach, purslane, amaranth greens and stalks, chives, beets, red onions and bunching onions, a good-sized fennel bulb and tops, a kohlrabi, baby carrot thinnings and lots of peas. I have lots of basil, thyme, oregano, sage and a couple mints in good shape as well. Cure Farm provided lots of vegi.s and fruit with our one large CSA share and two fruit shares, and Russ and I always get a bag of vegi.s when we volunteer Thursday mornings.
What my garden provides now is variety, and prevents us from needing to supplement our CSA share with food bought elsewhere. I went to Whole Foods today to buy food for an upcoming road trip to Minnesota, checked out the vegetable section and happily left it empty handed. All I had to think about was what I had the garden "stocked with". Often my biggest problem is to decide when to harvest what, as many things can be harvested at different stages in their development. I have been able to plan ahead somewhat by asking folks at Cure how long their onions should hold out for instance, and with that information, leave my tempting onions and leeks in the ground (knowing that I'll have onions from Cure for a while, and saving mine for when Cure's are gone. Although actually on that order, the garlic that's coming in now can stand in for the onions in many dishes, so I can continue to hold off on the onions and leeks and see if they'll get any bigger...)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Hot garden, Fall garden

Oh so hot today! 100+. So hot the dogs want to stay in and so do we.
Last week, while volunteering at Cure I found myself thinning seedlings for their fall crops. I hadn't been planning on planting for a couple weeks at least, but decided that it was time. Ann Cure's comment was "It's not too late!" So this week I:
-Purchased more fluorescent fixtures and seedling trays and moved my seedling starting area down into the basement to improve odds that my cool season seeds will germinate and grow well (much cooler downstairs as we run the air conditioner rarely and it gets quite warm in other parts of the house).
-Planted in 72-cell seedling flats under lights down in the basement:
kohlrabi (more to start next week), Swiss chard (4 kinds), kale (6 kinds- 2 ornamental), broccoli (3 kinds), corn salad, spinach (2 kinds), claytonia (miner's lettuce), collard greens, fennel, wild arugula, lovage (it may be late, but I want to establish this as a perennial in my yard for the celery flavored stalks and potential medicianal uses), onions, cabbage (small, savoy), pak choi, endive, garlic chives (another plant to establish in the yard and in this case to provide a garlic flavored green early in the spring before the garlic scapes are up), beets (a mixture of types), orach and turnip greens.
-Harvested: beets, sweet onions (with tops), broccoli, cauliflower, chard, amaranth, orach. Next year I really should plant more broccoli and cauliflower as both are wonderful. The broccoli plants produce big side shoots if left in the ground after the first stalk is harvested.

-Prepped: Continued to read The Omnivore's Dilemma.

-Worked on local food systems: Volunteered twice at Cure Farm with youngest son. This week we harvested cherry tomatoes briefly and then spent hours weeding the tomatoes. This required less hoeing and more close work around plants and drip tape. I identified thistles, mallow, bind weed, purslane, lamb's quarters and grasses. Volunteer vetch at the farm is blooming.

-Tried and cooked something new: Tasted lamb's quarters and purslane in my garden. Hunted down and ate all the lamb's quarters in my yard as they are very tasty. Tried braising some amaranth as it's too bitter tasting for me raw. Once cooked a little the amaranth is very tasty so I hope my seedlings in the garden grow well. Re-learned the art of corn-tortilla making using a tortilla press and cast-iron griddle. Found a recipe for chapati on the Internet, using just whole wheat flour (that I can get from Weld county- Wheatland Farms), a little salt and oil. Very easy using the bread machine to do the kneading and simple to roll out with a rolling pin. Also very tasty!

-Built: trellis for raised bed #3. Used damaged wool to spin a compostable garden twine for the beans to grow on and used stakes cut from the stalks holding plumes of an ornamental tall grass plant in our garden last fall. We continue to prep. the soil and remove rocks from raised bed #4, although Russell is doing most of this work on his own, propelled by the fact that he earns video time by doing this. We have generally slowed down because of the heat...

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Days of beets, beans and amaranth

I'm posting this late, the date should be 6-26-08

This week I volunteered at Cure Farm (the CSA we're members of) on Thursday morning as usual. We had a crew of about 12 volunteers who planted melons and weeded chard and tomatoes. It was quite hot.

At home I:

-Transplanted beet and chard seedlings into new bed #3, weeded, put away most row covers, washed plastic for one hoop house, turned over the spring planted cover crop (vetch, field peas, oats), hand watered as needed, tied up tomatoes, added a couple of feet of walkway between new beds #2 and #3, considered where to put Greek amaranth seedlings. I also pulled out Seven-top turnip green plants. I have a couple Siberian kale plants still growing. One has gone to seed (little yellow flowers on tall stalks). Tons of bees on flowering milkweed in the garden and in the meadow beyond. Based on what I'm learning at Cure, I now recognize two more edible "weeds" in my garden- purslane and lamb's quarter. The lamb's quarter is really very tasty actually.

My greatest garden impression this week is of those plants that are growing rapidly to maturity right now, and which need to be planted either now or on an ongoing basis. As the weather is quite warm and the soil with it, I'm putting in beans everywhere I can. They germinate and emerge in about 3 days in most cases. My established amaranth seedlings, although slow to start, are now growing rapidly, so those I had as transplants needed to go into the ground as quickly as possible. Beets are amazing right now. Beets at both Cure and the farmer's market are just beautiful and so tasty. We've started harvesting our own and they're about 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter. The leaves have a little damage in places by and unidentified and very tiny bug, but they're tasty anyway (as are the stalks). As Cure will be harvesting beets in August, I decided that even though they are a cool season crop, I'll continue to plant them and find out how it goes...

7-5-08

Well, summer has definitely arrived. 99 degrees today by about noon when I got back from the farmer's market on my bike. As my commute to the market is on the Boulder Creek Path, I was impressed with the volume and swiftness of the water coming down the creek. Many people were out with dreams of drifting down the creek but I think many had also not considered the relative safety of the idea....

Last night we attended a party in Nederland and enjoyed their fireworks display. Bedtime was late for us all, and I admit that when I awoke with the plan to go to the farmer's market, it was very hard for me to drag myself out of bed to do so. I also really, really wanted to take the minivan to the farmer's market because I didn't want to ride my bike downtown. As I lay very comfortably in bed, I thought about the cost of the fuel, the potential cost of parking the car and of course the cost to the planet. I got up and rode my bike to the market.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

This week

Ok, this week I:

-Planted: lettuces (two kinds), beans and kyona mizuna, transplanted beets, amaranth and onions, weeded all beds as necessary and tied up pea vines.

-Harvested: broccoli, beets, Swiss chard, orach, turnip greens, kale. Pulled out now out-of-season kale, broccoli rabe and turnips to make way for above planting. Thinned carrots. Hand watered a great deal.

-Transplanted: sod into shady area to clear soil for 4th raised garden bed. Also started boys working soil and removing rocks from soil for 4th raised garden bed.

-Built: part of a walkway out of native rock between two raised beds (in a section that will be in my solar greenhouse once that's put together).

-Preserved: onions, dill and baby beets by experimentally drying them on window screen lined with parchment in our old Suburban parked on our West facing driveway.

-Prepped: Bought books such as The Omnivore's Dilemma. Purchased as used books via Amazon.com and spent extra to obtain books from closer locations (e.g. Nebraska instead of New York or Florida). Began studying up on solar drying- consulted with local permaculturist Sandy Cruz. Considered fruit options such as rhubarb. Ordered Egyptian walking onions to try to establish in our yard to increase our options in early spring (I hope..)

-Worked on local food systems: Volunteered twice at Cure Farm with youngest son. Weeded in their herb garden and weeded parsnips, fed 200 chickens and ducks once. Took my mom to the Farmer's Market and bought food to supplement the CSA this week.

-Stored/Managed reserves: Experimenting with storage options for dried foods (in sealed glass jar in basement under stairs).

-Cooked something new: Found rhubarb pie recipe (mom made a pie), used peels for rhubarb juice and rhubarb green tea.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Transplanting celeriac, the phoenix rises and other observations





Ah, the season marches on and I notice that farmers keeping blogs are many of them not posting these days. Too busy. As am I.
After what felt like countless hours spent laboring over the soil in our third raised bed, first pick-axing out the large and medium sized rocks, then breaking up the compacted clumps of soil and hand picking and sieving out as many pebbles as we could stand to pick and sieve (to a depth of about 18 inches below soil level), we then began scavenging soil from different areas in the yard, prepping where necessary, so as to raise the soil level in the bed to about 12 inches above garden level with compost added. This phase of the job got a boost with the addition of my eldest son Brian, who had finished up his finals at the University and lacking a summer job, agreed to help (occasionally) in the garden. Based upon my observations of both Brian and Russell at work, I have come to realize that a pick-ace of the right size is a hot item with young men. There's something very masculine about using a heavy implement to prize large rocks from the soil and failing that, bludgeoning them until they (at least in part) are crushed into rock powder. I prefer a mattock myself, although unfortunately I broke mine. Maybe I should have used the pick axe. Anyway, last week we finished bed number three. This was a big deal. It took a great deal of time to complete this one. We had various delays involving such things as rain and big puddles and a wedding to attend.
With 40 square feet of fresh garden bed to play with, I at last unloaded the cramped and rapidly growing celeriac from Hoop house #2, spacing each plant 12 inches apart in staggered rows in the new bed. As fate would have it, the weather immediately got hot- just under 90 degrees the following day, and when I went out to check the transplants under their floating row cover, I was treated to the delicious and ominous scent of cooked celery- finding all the tops of all plants (perhaps 20 of them) lying crisp on top of the mulch of straw I had put down when I planted them. Naturally I panicked somewhat and ran around pirating hoops from other beds and suspending the row cover over the bed to provide shade as best I could (lacking shade cloth) in hopes that the horse was not out of the barn as it appeared the case really was. The weather continued warm, but moderated, and I continued to water everything just in case what we had was a temporary case of transplant shock. After a couple of days of this, I started to notice new leaves sprouting from the center of each plant, and felt enough courage to trim off all the dead leaf stalks. At this point we have some new stalks and leaves standing up and I think that all will survive. My lesson here is that you never know. I am also learning some important lessons about transplanting seedlings when the weather can heat up.
Never transplant in the morning if you have any choice. Plant in the late afternoon when everything is done with the sun for the day. This gives some night time recovery time.
Always provide shade of some sort so as to reduce direct sun exposure the first few days (at least) after transplanting. Shade from above with ventilation from the sides is best I think. Hoops with shade cloth over the top do work well.
Mulch (especially a light colored straw) may be helpful in reducing or moderating soil temperatures and improve chances of recovery.
Don’t give up on what may look hopeless. Wait and see. Especially if you are transplanting plants with reasonable root systems.


Garden changes: Radishes have bolted. I discovered that even when bolting, parts of radishes continue to be tasty. When the radish plants had sent up stalks, the edible parts became stalks and flowers (which taste like radish). Spinach plants are bolting but still good to eat. To stall for time I’m cutting out the flower stalks with leaves and eating them. The Siberian kale is becoming bitter and starting to bolt.. My mom still likes it, but I find it too bitter. The same goes for the turnips and turnip greens. This is with temperatures moving into the mid to upper 80’s and 50’s at night and comes as no surprise. Arugula flowers. I have maturing cauliflower, broccoli and broccoli rabe. Although I have a hard time catching the rabe before the stalks flower, they’re tasty with flowers anyway. Savoy cabbages are starting to form cabbages. Cabbage White butterfly caterpillars are the culprits who have been chewing big holes in the leaves of the Brussels sprout and cabbage plants. Although I want to limit my use of salt in the garden, salt on the leaves is one treatment I can try, so I’ll try making a salt-water spray for the Brassicas being damaged. Potatoes started coming up about 1 ½ weeks ago and although they were initially attacked by flea beetles (I did put a little charcoal ash on the potato plants even though I want to limit ash because it increases alkalinity in the soil and we don’t need more of that here!) Peas are producing for almost a week now and daily Russell goes out and snacks on peas. Not many left for adults so because these are tasty and successful, I think next year we have to find a way to plant more! Chard is producing reasonably well although some leaves have bad patches that I have yet to diagnose. Working on that. The chard is very good though. So is the Red Russian kale which still has excellent flavor without bitterness. I keep harvesting outer leaves of what are now mature plants, when the leaves are no more than 12 inches long. Some of my beets and onions are about 1 ½ inches in diameter.
Other projects:
A trellis out of recycled peeler posts and lumber for Russell's bed.
A folding trellis out of recycled fence posts for the first bed. I found and adapted a plan I found on Mother Earth News.
Initial attempts at setting flattish rocks for garden pathways. Surely you wondered what we might do with some of our lovely rocks?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Simple Soup for CSA vegi.s

Our local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) weekly shares just started at Cure Farm and as we've been staying out of the grocery store just as much as possible and eating only vegetables we could obtain from our garden and from the farm stand at Cure farm (Cure has had braising mix and spinach for a while), I am delighted for the variety in our diet. On Wednesday we brought home Walla walla onions, beets, bok choy, etc. I came up with a really quick, enthusiastic soup for the beet greens and stocks, onions and their green tops.

Beet green and onion soup:
Put about a cup of any any pre-cooked grain you have on hand (quinioa, teff, amaranth, millet, bulger, rice, etc.) into a saucepan with about 2 cups of water. Add a about a half cup of a protein source (e.g. pre-cooked beans, chopped up hard-boiled egg, left-over salmon or chicken, a tablespoon of tahini or peanut butter- be creative).

Take one or two onions (depending on your appetite and the size of the onions) with greens, wash, slice off roots and the bulb of the onion(s) and snip up the greens with a pair of scissors. Slice up the bulb with a knife and put the sliced onion in the saucepan. If you have some, add some diced green chili's (I use mild, as low sodium as I can get). If you have mushrooms, slice some up and throw them in too.

Wash the beets greens and stalks. Hold the stalks together and snip them up with the scissors. You can alternatively use a knife to slice them up. I suggest slicing or sniping them into about 1/2 inch pieces. Keep snipping or slicing when you get to the greens. Throw these in the pot as well.

Turn on the heat, bring to a low simmer (or almost to a simmer) while stirring to just wilt the greens. Don't cook long at all as greens are easily over-cooked. Remove from heat. Serve in bowls with oil and vinegar of choice. Fresh ground pepper is a nice touch. If you aren't low-sodium you might want a little salt. In my opinion the fresh vegetables provide all the flavor necessary.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Crazy happy greens!

Well, a quick update. This week I've pulled in about 3 pounds of greens. These include the indefatigable Siberian and Red Russian kales, chard in different colors, field peas (from a couple small garden sections planted with a cover crop mix), baby radish plants, baby beets, orach, spinach, broccoli raab, small turnips and greens, mizuna, baby bunching onions, baby kohlrabi plants (thinnings) and chives. The kales and chives are the biggest producers so far, so it's nice to mix in other things for flavor.
Our important discoveries of the week:
Mizuna has a mild mustard flavor.
Field pea plants taste like peas.
Chive blossoms taste like very mild chives.
Everything I'm growing tastes wonderful in salads and soups.
Now that my husband and mom have discovered how good the vegi.s are, the greens disapear fast.

At last I have enough to share, and this week I gave away modest samples of my harvest to two neighbors and a friend.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Harvests are getting bigger and more frequent



Amazing actually, given how much time I'm spending on building garden beds in which to grow vegetables in! From left to right, we have chocolate mint, baby turnips, baby radish, spinach, chard, Siberian kale and red Russian kale, thinnings of various things, oyster mushrooms and chives (with edible flowers attached). I'm pulling in about this much every three days or so. Enough for me to make a wonderful lunch with the addition of some pressure-cooked dry beans, a grain, some oil and vinegar, a little fresh ground pepper...

Friday, May 16, 2008

The virtues of hardware

Well, as I’ve continued to build raised garden beds, I’ve tried very hard to limit myself to recycled materials. Unfortunately, the conditions in my back yard, in which rocks, gravel, sand and clay imitate some large and unfriendly layer cake, serve to reduce my chances of success following this approach. Having initially planned to follow the plan of my brother, developed and implemented by himself in Denmark- building beds without hardware, using two-by-four stakes to hold up the sides of the beds, I dug holes for stakes with great difficulty. My post-hole diggers, so useful in California, sit untouched in the garage because post-hole diggers depend upon soil that is made up of mostly soil (rather than mostly rock as in our case). With considerable labor, I can produce holes that are adequate generally, but which are just a little too shallow to hold the stakes vertical when bearing a load.
Backup plan number 2, involving rebar stakes, when safely executed, requires just as much hole digging in reality. When unsafely executed, purchase of an abundance of not-locally produced bandaids becomes necessary (plus the rebar and plastic caps for the rebar to prevent further industrial accidents suffered by unsuspecting individuals strolling out in the garden on some distant date after which the garden will be more a garden and less a construction zone).
Backup 3 involves lag screws purchased from the hardware store. Also some bolts, nuts and washers scavenged from our fairly well stocked garage. Using these with select power and hand tools, I was able to quickly knock together a sturdy box for my third raised bed. I’m so delighted by this that I must admit that I couldn't give a flying fig for where the lag screws came from. This is bad attitude I know, but whatever.
Next I get to dig out all the soil that sits under the box and get rocks out of it so that anything will grow in it.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Irrigation and cheap labor

These pictures are about a week old and everything is so much bigger now. I really can't keep up.

Garden bed with "Freezonian" peas (from the Victory Seed Co.)in back and sprouting broccoli in front. I've transplanted some of the broccoli since the picture was taken. Thus far Freezonian hasn't performed very impressively overall. Growing very, very slowly. Of course it may be comforting for us all to note that we've just had a very cold winter without much snow and that Spring has been awfully dodgy too. Given another Spring with less challenging conditions, or perhaps planted in a less windy location, Freezonian might perform better...

Further peas (Wando and Alaska) with mizuma and arugula.
Our current high-tech. watering system includes me running out with the hose. The kale in the picture below, has wilted and is about to be watered. As the weather has warmed, we have days that are too warm for the cool season crops and wilting happens (especially with the almost constant wind...) My solution in this case was to increase the height of the hoops and use floating row cover over them to act as a shade cloth and to cut the wind. This worked very well- no more wilting. Note also that I have a pretty healthy layer of straw to act as a mulch, cut down on water loss and prevent the soil from crusting. Weeds are easier to dislodge too. The burlap sacks serve the same function for bare earth between beds and other areas. Russ likes to go hunting for worms under the burlap sacks and is learning to put them back properly.



Just starting to lay out the third bed. Dogs investigating.




















The bed pictured above is basically a nursery bed, acting as a safe holding zone for leeks, onions, shallots, celeriac, cabbage, some turnips, beets and chard. I still find we have days when the wind is just so annoying that although I don't have to put down the plastic cover, I think the plants grow more quickly and are more healthy because I do. We're starting to lay out the third bed now, although we have to finish prepping the soil (and adding a little more) to the second bed. One of our dogs found me digging in the bottom of the second bed the other day, and suddenly found herself in the mood to help. She jumped in and started digging. As it worked out, I was tired of digging and found that I could get her to dig where I wanted, needing only to hold up a burlap sack to keep the soil from flying out of the bed. She dug for quite a while and loosened up most of the Northwestern corner of the bed. Dogs can be helpful in the garden...

Monday, May 5, 2008

Two raised beds with a side of vegetables


We completed raised bed number 2! Actually we have to do more soil prep. and moving, but we're almost there. Russ had the seemingly innocuous task of digging some rocks out of the new bed this weekend. Oh my, he dug up the biggest rocks we've encountered yet, requiring his dad to come help him actually haul the rocks out. We have ceremonially placed them in positions of honor flanking the new gate. And speaking of the gate, we decided to take some pains to dress it up a bit. As we very conveniently have aspen trees producing aspen suckers out in the meadow behind us, Russ and I were able to go cut some down and wire them into a pretty arch over the gate. We added aspen logs given us by a neighbor to give the entry a little more solidity. Whimsy we added with a bird house gourd we'd grown in California and which we converted into a bird house. Very organic, cottage garden look.
And, as the construction continues, the vegetables grow. We are currently enjoying the most perfect weather for growing greens. Hoop houses stay open at night as well as all day (ready to be re-covered should snow or really strong winds look likely). Everything is growing well now. Here's the list for the moment: peas, kohlrabi, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale (three varieties), spinach, beets, chard, radishes, turnips, mizuma, leeks, onions, chives, arugula, and carrots. Even the plants I started very early and transplanted out under hoops and plastic are looking good, although I admit that a little bug damage is going on. Perhaps slugs. I am having trouble keeping seedlings happy in the house. I forget to water something, or leave it too long on a hot windowsill and it cooks. Or maybe I forget to feed for too long. I think the real problem is my fatigue. The building is hard work for the moment.
I did figure out that attempts at ducking hard work do not pay. Having gotten quite tired of digging huge holes in which to sink 2 x 4's, when I laid out raised bed number 2, I buried 2 x 4's on one end and called in my husband with the huge sledge hammer to sink rebar stakes to hold up the sides of the other end (this was supposed to be easier). It was late in the afternoon and John and I were tired, so we of course had to learn a hard lesson. Never, never, ever hold a rebar stake steady while your mate bashes it with a sledge hammer. Just don't even think about it. I was lucky actually, as I was wearing gloves when I did this dumb thing. The sledge only hit my hand a glancing blow as it slipped off the rebar stake as John swung it down, and the result was a bit of laceration and bruising on my right little finger, but you know, really. Find some other adventure to have.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Cheesy garden gate...

I finally decided to get around to some kind of gate for the garden, having had a temporary piece of fencing stand in for one for some time. Of course the first order of business involved digging another hole and setting a reasonable fence post for the corner (we'd handled the other side a couple of weeks ago). Next I needed materials, and fortunately had on hand the remains of my eldest son's deconstructed waterbed box frame. The wood isn't choice, but I decided it would serve. I also had the piece of fencing from the previous temporary gate, poultry staples, a couple of cheap cabinet hinges, some wire and some galvanized screws. It took a couple of hours of concerted effort to throw the thing together, wiring the hinges to the metal fence post (lacking the lovely 4x4 or 4x6 in aged cedar that I would have cemented into the ground for posterity). The result is simple, square (rectangular actually, I mean the corners are square) and awfully functional considering what it's made out of and the somewhat indifferent carpentry involved. A proper portal. Sort of...




Friday, May 2, 2008

Little Harvests

Today I had to thin out a couple more brassicas from Hoop house #1. My harvest for today as pictured above, from left to right, are: basil, micro-mix, orach, a quart of alfalfa sprouts, one bunch of Siberian kale, and a little spinach. Not pictured are a hefty handful of chives from our crowded chive patch and some asparagus from just behind our back fence. Available resources in the yard also include chocolate peppermint, cat mint and the occasional dandelion. The current market price for my technically organic harvest today I estimate to be the following: basil- 50 cents, micro mix- unavailable, alfalfa sprouts- 3 dollars, kale- unavailable (equivalent kale of other variety would cost about $2.50), spinach- 25 cents, chives- $6.00, 5 spears of asparagus at perhaps $ 1.50. Total for today would be $13.75 not including the micro mix. I currently could harvest a similar amount daily for at least a week. In general we average about a fresh quart of sprouts daily of value ranging between $3.00 (e.g. alfalfa or red clover) and $6.00 (e.g. broccoli or broccoli rabe). Already we are reducing our food bill a little bit. This is "eaten up" rapidly because of the rising prices of staples, but I feel as if my efforts are providing some cushion for us. There must be some way to calculate the offset the food provides for our carbon footprint. I must look into that when I'm not working so hard building the garden and growing in the garden...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Continuing to eat more locally

Ok, tonight I turned out an almost entirely local dinner. Ok, so the onions came from Nevada, and the coconut oil although organic, did also come from the Philippines and Sri Lanka, but the rest of it I can brag about!
-Chicken from Wisdom Farm in Northern Colorado (Farmer's Market)
-Garlic sprouts from another Colorado farm (Farmer's Market)
-Ditto for the russet potatoes (Whole Foods)
-Mushrooms from Hazel Dell Mushrooms in Northern Colorado (Farmer's Market)
-“Micro-mix” from my family room
-Alfalfa sprouts and broccoli sprouts also from my family room
-US produced apple cider vinegar (Safeway)
I eat sprouts and some micro-mix with all my lunches and dinners these days. These in my view are a terrific backup for when the weather here becomes a gardener’s worse nightmare… In a few weeks I hope the shitake mushroom and oyster mushroom kits I have going, will actually produce mushrooms. I have to mist them several times a day (imagine the Olympic Rainforest and I’m the rain…) and this is a bit tedious- although I really love mushrooms so I think I should at least try….
Thank goodness for our lovely Farmer’s Market.
I have to register a Farmer’s Market compliant here now though. If one wants to get the best vegi’s at the Boulder Farmer’s Market (or in some cases, any vegi’s), one must arrive early. The folks that get to the Farmer’s Market early all live near to the market, or they drive their cars. If we want to both ride our bicycles and get there in time to beat some of the crowd to the vegi.s, we have to leave at the crack of dawn. Way too tempting to take the ol’ gas-guzzler. In fact, the opening day we rode our bicycles and got there too late to get any vegi.s. The folks from our CSA, Cure Farm, had sold out and left altogether by the time we arrived. The following week, Russ and I took the mini-van and got there early, were very lucky to find parking and got lots of vegi.s, etc. Wonder what we’ll want to do next Saturday?
The early bird gets the worm!
Our local newspaper after the opening day at the Market gave accurate, glowing descriptions of the farmers, and the crowds but failed to mention the large number of shoppers who had peddled to the market, and then even advertised the valet parking! Ack!
Happy Earth Day all!

Entrenched and growing

Ah, spring progresses. We continue to pick -axe rocks out of the ground. I’m getting just a bit weary of those rocks about now. In fact, as I labor over layer upon layer of rocks these days, I fantasize about jackhammers and backhoes and other heavy machinery….
We have now gotten the perforated pipe and irrigation pipes in part of the trench. Enough so that we have been able to laboriously collect the rocks that we had previously dumped in rock-collections at the margins of the lawn, and go dump the rocks back into the trench sans dirt. It seems as if it would be so easy to gather up the rocks that we had previously worked so hard to hack out of the ground. Actually, this gathering and dumping is energy consumptive and slow as well.
This last weekend I spent largely digging holes and setting posts for the first raised garden bed. It looks as if it’s constructed out of rather raw looking salvaged lumber (which it is), but once it has soil in it, other beds around it and plants growing in it, the effect will be more harmonious with the rest of the garden I think.. Also, as the holes for the wooden posts for the one bed took most of the weekend, I think I’ll try making the next bed with rebar for posts because technically the rebar can fracture the rocks and go through them rather than be stopped by them (this according to my husband John, who wields a mean sledge hammer).
The weather has been overall been getting warmer. Last week we had a day that got up to 80, although the warmest days are generally around 75.We’ve been getting lots of wind combined with low humidity. It feels too much like drought. I hate droughts… It’s hard to keep spring plants happy with so much wind and warm this early. The floating row cover is very helpful for this. Now I have row covers for everything and keep it on all the time. Observing how quickly the soil dries now between waterings because of the low relative humidity, warmth and the dratted wind, I now add straw mulch as well as seedlings get big enough to get sun as they come up through it. Plants don’t dry out so quickly and don’t look so distressed by the end of a warm windy day if they have some cover, even if the row cover was rippled in the wind all afternoon. I want to take it off so I can see the early spring garden growing, but now I’m content just to keep everything covered and happy. Even with the cover, I must hand water everything daily. Plans for drip irrigation continue to jell.
In hoop house #1, I have continued to gradually thin out plants as they size up. The Siberian kale, Red Russian kale, onions and Bloomsdale spinach all are quite vigorous with the largest plants about a foot across. In hoop house #2, I have beets, chard, turnips, a little broccoli, claytonia and miniature savoy cabbage coming up. Most have gotten their first true set of leaves and look quite healthy and unstressed. I’m waiting for the New Zealand spinach to come up both in hoop house #2 and outside in the garden. All peas are germinating now, with some plants up to 1 ½ inches tall and with their first tendrils extended. In the front yard I have a couple small beds with two varieties of peas and particularly attractive varieties of kohlrabi, kale and chard planted as a nod to the neighbors who have a pretty rock garden nearby. All of the front yard vegetables are coming up too.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Spring

We have a schedule dictated by the weather and it goes roughly like this:
-The weather gets fairly cold (30's, low 40's- not that cold) and it snows some. Perhaps a little sleet or rain will fall as well. I stay indoors and move some plants into South facing windows, and plant/transplant things as needed. I also do laundry and other house-bound things.
-Next, it warms up some and we have a day or so of melting and drying out. On those days it tends to be in the upper 40's or so and Russ and I run errands and take field trips on our bicycles.
-Then it warms up and we put on our sun hats, sunscreen, gloves, sunglasses, etc. and dive out into the yard to air out the hoop houses and water inside them and to dig in The Trench or prepare garden beds for planting or to plant. As soon as it warms up it tends to get quite windy and this urges us to work harder outside because all that warm air moving through is of course in front of the next cold front.
-Repeat.
This last week we had enough warm weather that I admit that I overdid it somewhat both with the bicycling and with the hauling and pick-axing and general garden effort, and looked forward to having a "down" period in which to catch my breath.
And so, for the current garden status report:
Hoop #1 continues to require thinning as the plants are starting to size up. Of particular note are the Siberian Kale, Orach, Yellow Chard and Bloomsdale Spinach. The Red Russian Kale is well represented, but seems less healthy than the others- I'll wait and see. Onions are coming in thickly and need thinning or transplanting.
Hoop #2 took a little vacation while I pulled myself together after the vole visits. Last week I planted New Zealand Spinach, Beets, Turnips, Broccoli. I noticed that 3 onions I'd planted weeks ago, had gone untouched by voles.
I have another mini-hoop+ plastic covered section in the garden in which I had transplanted Red Russian Kale and Yellow Chard from Hoop #1, and some good-sized Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts and Red Cabbage grown under lights and hardened off. These I transplanted about 2 weeks ago in my mini-hoop covered section, well mulched with straw and covered with floating row cover. These larger transplants have suffered! It freezes at night and they lose leaves to frostbite. If it warms up and I leave off the floating row cover, they desiccate in the wind. So far they have recovered, sending up new leaves and looking stronger given sufficient warmth, water and cover from the wind. I think overall, that it's best to seed the plants out in the hoop house rather than to transplant although my failures have been more related to hungry rodents than freezing nights and windy afternoons.
I've been preparing beds and planting out in the garden without cover and so far have planted 3 kinds of Peas ("Wando" started breaking soil yesterday), Turnip "7 top" and Purple Globe (both slowly coming up), Mizuna, Broccoli Rabe (coming up this week), Radishes, Chard, Beets and Carrots.
Indoors I have Onions, Leeks, a couple of Shallots, Celeric (looking a tad anemic), Tomatos, Fennel, Dill, Lavender, Sage and the last of the Cabbages, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts from the collection I keep sacrificing to the Hoop houses. I also through a bunch of old seeds mixed with other interesting options to make an indoor "micro-mix" in a seedling flat to see how it does. This is a mix of Chard, Mizuna, Corn Salad, Red Russian Kale, and Onions. Everything is coming up nicely.