April 2010



Often, when Keith asks me what I’ve been up to, my response is, “Puttering.” That is my word for little errands. I have a tough time sitting still. That is why, when my friend introduced me to knitting, I felt like I had found the perfect indoor hobby for me (see her web page here – great resource for all things knitting as well as a fun hub for blogs she likes – The Daisy Patch has made it to this esteemed list!) But, this post isn’t about knitting.

I woke up yesterday morning at around 7 and set about Puttering. I donned the new mucks, went to the basement, checked on everything. Sadly, the Edamame does NOT look good. I think it missed a day of watering. So, I decided to plant some more seeds. I planted more Edamame, beans and some flowers. I watered the plants in the basement and then brought them outside to harden off on the eastern side of the house.

Hardening off gradually exposes seedlings to the elements to toughen them up a bit – wind, sun, rain, temperature fluctuations. On the eastern side of the house, they were exposed to a breeze and the warm morning sun, then, as the sun moved, it would get a little cooler. Good conditions.

I planted more lettuce, mache, arugula and spinach seeds in the Cook’s Garden (new name for the Side Garden/Kitchen Garden/Peber’s Point). These little guys are three weeks old. Succession planting is important because we’ll constantly have seedlings coming up and plants growing to replace the ones we harvest. As I’ve mentioned before, I have been dreaming of fresh lettuces from the garden and am going to town on planting a lot of salad greens.

Arugula microgreens

You might recall from Togethergoal, the tray of Arugula microgreens failed, so we didn’t have a chance to try them. I tried it yesterday. Yummy! Nice and peppery. Keith is going to make some Beef Carpaccio tonight and we’ll put some microgreens on it. I think that’ll be really good.

Drunken Woman lettuce.

I read about Drunken Woman lettuce in the seed catalog. We have loved every red speckled lettuce variety we’ve tried so I decided to order some. Besides, the name itself belongs in our garden. Here’s a link to someone’s blog describing this lettuce. I thought it was a nice post and the picture is great. Now that I see it in full splendor – 1) Yay! I can’t wait! and 2) Crap, I’ll have to thin it. That’s ok, lettuce seedlings are great in a salad.

What else did I do during my puttering? I watered the garlic. We ordered 3 different varieties of garlic last Fall and I took up the entire 12’x3′ bed in the Cook’s Garden to plant them. They look great.

Garlic

I can’t wait until we get scapes. Garlic Scapes are the shoot of a hard neck garlic variety. Here’s a better description and a small ode to the scape. The scapes end up in the saute pan or in pesto. Yumzy. Small concern – I have no idea if these are the varieties that send up scapes. We shall see. I hope so.

Back to the putter session. I weeded our small strawberry patch.

I put flowers in that pot last year and just decided this Spring to add the trellis. I think I’ll put a flowering climbing plant on it for some color. Gardener followers of the Patch – if you have any ideas, do share. Nasturtium?

I also visited our flowers. At the beginning of this post, I put some pictures of dwarf early tulips in the sun. This color is so different – it isn’t orange or peach, it is this wonderful translucent tangerine. Love these tulips.

Bleeding Heart

I watered the bean pot (you know, pot full of bean seeds and a trellis just waiting to support them) and then headed to the backyard. There, the mound of screened topsoil (4 cubic yards – more like a small mountain!) and the empty raised beds Keith built just looked at me.

You see, they weren’t in close proximity to each other. The delivery guy couldn’t go into our yard very far to dump the soil due to the wet weather we had been having. If he went very far, he might not have been able to get out of the mud. The first one (dirt) had to get into the second one (planter beds) somehow. That somehow was us.

Again, since we are basically weekend warriors, the soil pile just sat there during the week, getting rained on. So, I grabbed the shovel and started loading.

It has only been a month since gall bladder surgery and I was warned, “No heavy lifting for 6 weeks!” so at first, when talking about Mt. Dirt Everest, the plan was that I would load the wheelbarrel while Keith finished building the supports in the garden beds, and then I’d call him over to bring the wheelbarrow to the beds, then I’d unload with the shovel.

But he was inside and I was in Putter-mode, so I figured I’d start small – little 1/2 wheelbarrows. Fill with the shovel, bring the wheelbarrow to the garden bed, unload with the shovel. I did this a few times and then got the guts to lift the wheelbarrow to dump the soil into the bed. No pain, no ripped stitches or anything. Let’s go.

Muck, muck, muck, shovel, shovel, shovel, LIFT!, muck, muck, muck, HEAVE HO! Rinse and repeat. After 5 of these trips, Keith came outside and asked, “Whatcha been up to?” Puttering, my usual response. I went in, changed to tank top and shorts, (sassy look with mucks may I just tell you?), put the hair up, bandana on and grabbed a bottle of water.

As he drilled in the braces on the rest of the beds, I continued my attack on Mt. Dirt Everest. Every once in a while, we’d say something to each other, but it was mostly quiet work. He asked me if I thought I’d finish filling the beds today. “That’s the goal – it is supposed to rain tomorrow,” was my response.

When he finished, he grabbed a shovel and helped. We took turns. The loads I carried were 1/2 to 3/4 full and his were full. We took a few breaks during the day, heading inside for some water, choosing to skip lunch. It was good, satisfying team work. Once, I did hit his shovel with my shovel, sending shockwaves and a stab of pain into his shoulder for which I felt horrible and apologized profusely, but mostly, we worked in silence, tackling this togethergoal with determination. You know, like farmers who have to get the soil moved before a rainstorm turns it to mud? Like that.

It took us about 4.5 hours and who knows how many trips back and forth. I stopped counting. When we were done, we headed to the front yard , where Keith sat on the front steps and we talked a bit while I pulled some weeds under the lilac. There were a few more errands we wanted to do, hooking up hoses, weeding, spreading bark mulch – then I said the magic words, “We worked pretty hard today, let’s go get some lunch.”

It has become a ritual for us to finish up a particularly tough day of yard work at Margarita’s. I call it the “Board Room” because it seems all our planning happens over a glass of their Original on the rocks.

When we got home around 6:30, it was time for a nap. A full day of yard work and sunshine with 2 margaritas for dessert made me just want to lie down. So much for napping, I woke up this morning at 7 and feel sore as hell. Really sore as hell. I snuggled up to Keith and asked how he was. Sore as hell. I told him how great I thought yesterday was – we worked really hard, got a lot done, worked side by side, and ended the day with a nice time at the bar.

The only way to get the soreness out of your muscles is to use them, so I was back, mucking and puttering by 7:15. Now, to tackle those weeds and the rest of Mt. Bark Mulch before the rain comes.

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I’ve been mucking in and out every morning and every night putting a blanket on our lettuce seedlings. They’ve been surviving pretty solid frosts. Upon waking up this AM, I was nervous, the outside temp said 33. Uh oh. Donned the mucks, took of the blanket and they are JUST FINE.  Huh! Look at that, they ARE cold weather crops. Whoda thunk it? I think with the greenhouse cover and maybe a little heat (the good neighbor gave us a used wood stove), we definitely can have lettuce all Winter if they can make it through a 33-degree night. Sweet.

So, the mushroom thingy decided to give us mushrooms. Well, one mushroom.

It looks pretty good, actually.

And it isn’t small. It is bigger than the palm of my hand.

I wish I had a better camera to be able to show the gills underneath. Oh, I looked it up, ‘gills’ is the right word. Who knew?

Okay, okay, a better question is…”Who cares?” Actually, as we plan(t) for our future, I realize that I do. I plan on spending some time researching vitamin and mineral content of our crops  (ooh, farmer word!) so that maybe we can get nutrition from the backyard, not a bottle of supplements.

Exciting update: 69 garlic bulbs are doing VERY well. When we harvest them in June or early July, I plan on reusing the garden bed for a quick crop (there it is again!) of something before planting garlic again in the Fall. I wonder what it’ll be!

Stay tuned, I’ll make my Thai Spring Rolls using that mushroom and put up the recipe.


I got mucks!

They're called Bogs!

 

That is all. Thank you. Have a nice day.


Keith and Roy worked quite a bit on it the last few weekends and we are proud to say that Greenhouse #1 is up. No thanks to me. I’m still recuperating from gall bladder surgery and feeling the effects of the surprise kidney stone that decided to come for a visit a week after the surgery (insert low growl of frustration here).

First they put the plastic up and over.

The day was a bit breezy.

Then they had to tack it down.

You can see in this picture that Keith has been building more raised beds to go in the backyard…and yes, that fire pit still has to be moved.

While taking pictures, I came upon this little scene of PunkinHead (Keith calls him DumDum) and Betty. Note DumDum’s foot is OVER Betty’s neck. It was too cute NOT to include. Yes, Betty is still alive (she is 12.5 years old and technically, not even our cat).

Then this past weekend, Roy and Jen came over to do a bit more work. Well, Jen kept me company, Roy and Keith worked. Then, we took a break.

I’m happy to say that, despite the chilly day, with the sides rolled up, it was pretty nice inside. Below is a pic of the greenhouse all done. Note, the fire pit rocks have been moved.

It’s 7:30 at night as I write this post and didn’t realize until now that I hadn’t taken a picture of it, hence it is a little dark. But who cares? Really, the freeking thing is up and even has a few plants inside. It is supposed to get to 41 degrees tonight so we’re testing it out. The sides need a little bit of work. You can see they’re pinned down with a board. We plan on attaching the sides to steel pipes that can be rolled up and down kind of like a roller shade. This will help cool the house on warm days (65 degrees today and, with the sides up, it was pretty darn warm in there today) and ventilate.

Yes, it’ll get hot in the Summer. We don’t really want it for the Summer. We want it for the Winter – to have lettuce, spinach and other cool weather crops all Winter long. We want it to get a jump on Spring – we have over 200 plants in the basement right now and have had that grow lamp going constantly since January. I want to get off the grid, baby.

So, needless to say, we’re excited about it. Shall I admit now that I’m terrified? I just did. There are many reasons why. Is this an expensive experiment that’ll just turn into a storage shed in 3 years? Am I going to turn all the seedlings we’ve been nurturing (and eating, I used some Basil yesterday) into crispy sticks in our new backyard magnifying glass? Is it going to blow away in the next freakish windstorm? (If you aren’t from New Hampshire, let me just tell you that the last few windy storms have registered gusts up to 93 miles per hour 2 miles from here! I sat in the living room at midnight and just watched the balsam tree in our front yard, willing it to NOT fall into the house. It did not, thanks to my powers!)

I did mention early on that we were trying to start a backyard farm. Trying. Try. That means “attempt.” But you see, I don’t like to fail. I know, no one likes to fail, but I have this real weird fear of it. I know all the sayings, but it doesn’t change a thing. I don’t want this to NOT work.

Now, the DaisyPatch has seen some failures which I will admit here. The Verminator did not work out. For some odd reason that even makes me shake my head at myself, I was just fine with a bin full of worms in the basement. I was NOT fine (and neither was Keith, he did the dumping) with a bin full of worms AND spider eggs in the basement. FULL of spider eggs. (I just involuntarily scratched the back of my neck, may you feel the same creepy-crawly ickness that just took me over. OK, now I itch all over. Damn.) Shudder. Yeah, that bin got dumped in the Not-A-Compost-Pile.

The tray of Arugula microgreens did not work out. It didn’t have any drainage and we kept it too moist and it turned from a nice promising tray of seedlings to a strange, fuzzy tray of mold. Bye Bye. Into the Not-A-Compost-Pile.

More failures. The tobacco seeds didn’t grow. Now, we don’t smoke and we weren’t planning on smoking, but we thought it would be kind of funny to say we were growing tobacco. Nothing funny about them not starting.

The last failure that really pains me to admit – Some of the Guano burned the plants. WHAT! Your beloved bat shit BURNED the plants? Yes, you see, we got 2 different strengths of Guano and, well, more is better, right? AH, no. Some of the plants got greener and some of the plants got a bit crispy. They still have stems and like, maybe a leaf, but everything else on the plant (we’re beyond seedlings downstairs, some of these plants are in gallon pots, they’re so big) is a bit on the crusty side. Wish us luck as our shit-stricken plants get nursed back to health.

Somehow, these little failures don’t bother me. I mean, the fact that a bucket full of worms (and, bluh, spiders!) is no longer in my basement doesn’t make me lose sleep at night. The fact that some seeds didn’t make it, whatever. A few plants got too much shit…not a big deal. It’s the fear I can’t keep up with the whole program that gives me worry.

But, I have faith. Faith in Keith, faith in myself and faith in the greater being that is the two of us combined. We have a togethergoal. (That is now a word, I may use it again and you have my permission to use it as well.) This plan just evolved and, somehow, become OUR plan. The feeling that gives me squashes the fear, not all the way, but enough to have made me smile just a bit while I was typing.