Composting



We have eBay and Amazon gift cards just burning holes in our pockets after Christmas. What to do? What to do? Wii games? Books? Wolf urine? UFO Detector (Only $149.95! Bargain if you ask me!) Nope. Keith has been looking up tumbling composters. (Although I may have to send him that link for the UFO detector. Oh the fun we would have!) I have been using a composting bucket in the kitchen for years. I line it with eco bags from Gardener’s Supply catalog. When it is full, I fling it into the pile outside. The problem is, the pile gets sort of nasty in the Winter since the weeds aren’t covering up the stuff I throw down there.

There are all types of composters. Tumbling ones that turn with a crank, bins that sit side by side, rolling composters. So many choices, we’re like kids in a candy store (only it’s a website and we’re middle-aged.) (Ugh! Really? I guess yeah, we are. Damn.) We have been putting off buying one for a few years now because of the cost. Some are over $200. Then, I did the math on how many bags of compost I purchased to keep mounding over the potatoes, not to mention the guilt I felt by adding all those plastic bags that contained the compost to the landfill, and I think we’ll bite the bullet this year and are glad to have the gift cards.

With the use of the compost bucket in the house (into which I put paper towels too), and the fact that we recycle as much as we can, (and, ok, I will admit it, I have been known to wash, dry and reuse ziploc bags. I’m not cheap! I just can’t live with putting them in the landfill) we usually don’t have that much garbage. They really only need to come every 2 weeks to pick up the trash. Now our big decision is, what kind to get.

Exciting, right? I swear sometimes, I just can’t stand how thrilling this all is. Tune in next time for the continuing stoooooooory (of a cat, who’s gone to the dogs. PLEASE tell me you got that. Please. Poor Mark Hamill. So typecast.)

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Welcome to sex ed. Of course, as soon as I say, “Sex Ed” in my mind, I flash back immediately to…you’ll never guess (unless we went to high school together, and, if we did, you’re thinking the same thing I am) Mr. Hummer’s sex ed class. Yup. The kids called him Hummer. I think his last name was Holmes. He looked like Terry Bradshaw, but with less hair.

He was the school wrestling coach and always wore gym clothes to class. He was a goofy guy who somehow, got the job of teaching sex ed. 

Anyhoo, back from memory lane, it is time for sex ed on the DaisyPatch. Gather ’round kids. I may require permission slips for this one, it gets a bit graphic.

These pumpkins continue to amaze me. I will measure to be sure (the PUMPKINS, I will measure the PUMPKINS, get your minds out of the gutter!), but it looks like the vines are over 10 feet long. There’s also an errant compost pile pumpkin. How did I throw one away? Keith thinks that a seed might have taken root from some of our judicious composting. I like that theory. More random surprises in the patch to marvel at. I was thinking about relocating it, but I’m unsure how to dig it up because it’s roots start at the bottom of the little hill I throw the compost down into. No muck boot tall enough is going to protect me from that gore if I were to try to scramble down and dig it up. I might leave it there for an experiment. Which does better?  The bat-shit, Tiger-Bloom, Sex-Panther-fertilized pumpkins (i.e. purchased fertilizer) OR the rotten-leftover, garden-scrap, grass-clipping-fertilized compost pumpkins. We shall see. (5 points if you caught the Anchorman reference. “60% of the time it works every time.”)

Anyway, where were we? Right, sex ed. Yeah, so, Mr. DaisyPatch has been doing some reading on what to expect from (and how to fertilize – see above) giant pumpkins. He found out there are male and female flowers. Huh? I mean, I took biology and I know that, if you don’t buy self-pollinating fruit trees, you have to make sure you get male and female (right? Ok, I just had to look that up to be sure so I didn’t sound like an idiot. Yes, some trees are just male and others are just female. Thanks to an eHow article by Danielle Hill, “Dioecious plants are those species that have male and female flowers on separate plants. By contrast, monoecious species may have male and female flowers growing off a single plant. For reproduction to occur, one dioecious plant must be growing close to another plant of the opposite sex. Read more here.) and the same with holly bushes to get the red berries, however, this surprised me. I don’t recall any other veggies having the anomaly. It might be the case, but, well, I wasn’t aware of it. (And, if I’m going to be brutally honest here, I have no f’ing desire to read about the sex life of plants. I mean, could anything be more BORING?) (Wait! I did just go and read about the sex life of plants! Shit…)

Apparently, the female flowers have, well, a bulbous sort of…ahem…thing under the flower. That is the baby pumpkin.

The male flowers (below) need to pollinate the female flowers in order for the baby pumpkin to grow.

Otherwise, after the female flower falls off and dies, that baby pumpkin on the vine will wither and die as well instead of continuing to grow into a jack-o-lantern. Here’s the fun part for the gardener. Ready?

If you don’t have honey bees to do the pollinating, you gotta get out there and do it yourself. With your hands. Smearing the male parts onto the female parts (how would Mr. Hummer have worded this? I can tell you that a similar act was described by him in sex ed class and I am STILL shuddering in horror and NOW it is happening in my pumpkin patch? I need to go to church and be washed of these thoughts. My mind is wandering now to a gritty pumpkin porn with a bad plot line and poor lighting. I am SO having nightmares tonight.)

So there it is. Pumpkin sex. Happening out in our yard, under our very noses. I am so grateful for honey bees. So grateful.


DaisyPatch Farm.

Thanks to Mrs. Cheever’s neighbors, there is now a law in North Hampton that, with less than 4 acres of property, we can have, “…no more than 12 poultry per lot and…husbandry of poultry that includes one or more roosters shall require a Conditional Use Permit as provided under subparagraph 4, below…

4.  The following process shall be used…

a. An application shall be submitted to the planning board…

b. Boring

c. The Planning Board shall conduct a public hearing for which proper notice has been given to abutters and the public. (Read…they notify our neighbors that we want a rooster so that our neighbors can come to the public hearing and dispute. Yes. THAT is what this says.)

d. The Planning Board shall have authority to impose reasonable conditions of approval that the board deems appropriate (huh?)

e. Boring, something about fees that didn’t make sense cuz no dollar figures were listed. Whatever.

f. Animal Density…something about best management practices for manure handling based upon the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture manual entited, “Best Management Practices for Handling of Compost, Fertilizer and Manure” (which shall, from here on in, be called the SHIT SHEET).

g. Burden of Proof. Blah blah blah stating you need to demonstrate and specify the manner in which the operation shall be conducted in compliance with THIS pamphlet and that rule and this law and that law AND to demonstrate that the Animal Husbandry operation shall not cause pollution, soil degradation, unreasonable odor, unreasonable noise and disturbance of the peace. (No mess, no smell, no noise, did you hear us? We said NO NOISE! Get it, stupid?)

ARE YOU F’ING KIDDING ME?

So, let’s say it all together, shall we? On three. One. Two. Three. “Thanks Mrs. Cheever’s neighbors.”

It makes one little homesteader-wanna-be consider just walking away from the idea of getting little cluckers altogether. (She folds her arms, sticks her lips out in a pout and stomps her foot. But I want an Ooompa Loompa NOW.)

Jaws set in determination, we figuratively stuck out our tongues, said, “Nana nana boo boo” and set out during the rainy (well, depressingly drizzly) Saturday of Memorial Weekend to look at chicken coops that were for sale in the area. (Craig’s List. It’s not just for massages and murders.) (Ok, that was wrong. Very wrong, but I am laughing so hard I had a coughing fit and so I think I’m keeping it.)

One was used and a decent price, but, well, a bit beat up (too hard). One was brand new, a guy custom built them, but seemed rickety (too soft). One was brand new, perfect size, shape and super sturdy. AND it was built by the Amish (juuuuust right). (I mean, thems good builders, right?) Alas, we have no truck. (Yes, we have no bananas.) So, it stayed at Agway and we went home. We weren’t ready anyway. Homework. I must do much homework.

This past Friday afternoon, I came home after work and sat at the breakfast bar. DaisyMae was quite happy I was home and would NOT leave me alone. So, without even taking my post-commute-pee (it’s a 50 minute drive I’ll have you know), I grabbed the orange soccer ball and tried to walk without tripping on the INSANE dog as we headed out to the back yard, asking Keith if he wanted to come play with us. You know, bulldog in the middle. It’s a great game. Also, Keith and I could walk the yard and plan on where the coop could go.

Several minutes of soccer passed (DaisyMae is a very good guard), and I noticed sticks and leaves all through the yard from the windstorm the night before. Why Keith was filming this little game of ball was beyond me, but I thought I’d share it. Click here.

I have the best hubby ever.


It has been too long, so…without further ado, my too much snow haiku…ahem… (OH MY GOD! That rhymed! Yeah, baby, this post is startin’ off good.)

We have too much snow

Just way too much goddamned snow

Dreaming of the beach

(As my intelligent and devoted readers know, I am pretty hard on myself. It is time to admit that haiku sucked. I know I gave you a good beginning what with the rhyme and everything, but then let you down with that sham of a poem. Dispicable (please go back, read that sentence again, and say, “Dispicable” in your spittiest Daffy Duck. I will wait. Did you do it? Did you get the lisp in the ‘s’ as spitty as possible? Ok, then. Moving on. This way please.))

Today, I am finally getting to the much anticipated theoretical discussion of, “What defines Edible?” As you may recall (you forgot, didn’t you?) a few posts ago, I mentioned that I was going to discuss this topic because I was starting to question what “Edible” really meant. No, I am not talking about chopping up corrugated cardboard to sprinkle on your salad, I’m talking about the lettuce greens I had picked from underneath the frost blankets outside.

You see, at that time (before Mother Nature decided to dump large amounts of snow on us every weekend and every Tuesday for a month now and cause roof collapses all around New England and the topic of discussions to shift dramatically from the normal, “How’s your snowplow?” to “We’ve got ice dams”) I was picking lots of baby greens from underneath those frost blankets I purchased from Gardener’s Supply.

They were doing really well. They were. Salad every night with little dressing made of grew-it-myself pride. Then, it started to get colder. And colder. They were supposed to provide cold protection to 24 degrees. We had some 15 degree nights for a while there, and one or two nights in the negative numbers. Yet, they still survived. Sort of.

You see, when a piece of lettuce freezes, it isn’t pretty. You’ve all done it, somehow, it gets too cold in the fridge crisper and you take out a little bag of, well, what can only be desscribed as brown snot sort of clinging to a translucent and very wimpy piece of lettuce.

And, here begins the debate.

Before, when I bought it from the grocery store and just put it in the fridge, only to be frozen or forgotten or both, I would throw it away when I found it. Yeah. Cuz that’s what you do with food that has gone bad, right? Well, we all know about my hoarding tendencies. I knew the end was near. Not in the Chicken Little sense, just that, pretty soon, we weren’t going to be able to get to the garden (in case you’re wondering, the end is NOW. The gardens are buried under, what looks like, 4 feet of snow and there is no way in God’s white earth that I am trying to dig them out to get 6 lettuce leaves). So, I picked a lot of lettuce each time I went out. A big ole bag full of baby lettuce.

But, as it got colder,  they sort of got paler and uglier and a bit more frost-bitten. I definitely noted that the leaves toward the end of the beds were worse off than the ones in the center, under the peak of the domes basically. But I still picked them. And washed them. And served them. And ate them.

Why? Purchased lettuce would have hit the pail without even a moment’s thought. (Actually, we do compost, so they would have hit the compost pail – you gotta follow that link if you haven’t read that post, it is one of my funnier ones if I do say so myself.) (I did say so myself, it’s just me and Peber here in the kitchen, unsuspecting little bugger doesn’t know he’s getting shots today. Anyhoo…) Why? Could it be I don’t want to waste? Could it be that, since I grew the lettuce, I trusted the lettuce? How bad could a little cold burn taste? Could it be that I’m regressing into the dark depths of a hoarding tendency that is just so twisted and demented, that I will serve spoiled food to myself and my husband? (Well, NO! Of course not, but that one episode of Hoarders where that lady had like, fridges of spoiled, contaminated food, sort of came to mind. I am not that bad, honest. It was just a few pieces of ugly lettuce!)

See, not so bad.  A little yellow, perhaps a little spotty, but overall, not bad for eating fresh greens from the garden in January in New Hampshire. I think that eating this lettuce is like, wearing that sweater you knit, even though the left arm is a bit too long. Or, enjoying the picnic table you made, even though it wobbles. Sort of that “I made it myself” stubbornness. (Stubbornosity? Stubbornity? Stubborn Identity?)

So, now it is all gone, the gardens are buried and we’re back to buying greens at Hannaford. We do still have tomato sauce, lotsa garlic, dried herbs, frozen carrots, frozen onion and celery from last year. Oh, and the zucchini from 2 years ago that I still have carefully hoarded in the basement freezer for a rainy day.

Sigh.

Next post…who the hell knows. You can probably just view it on A&E on Mondays at 10, 9 central as some gentle-voiced, slim lady who looks good without makeup asks me how I FEEL when someone throws away the zucchini in the freezer.


As I sat at the breakfast bar watching Keith prepare an evening snack last night (carbs were necessary, we were still recovering from the New Year’s Eve party), I was hit by a sudden thought, “It’s January 1st, 2011,” I said. “Yup” was his reply.

It was a short exchange, but full of meaning. Interesting, I didn’t ask it as a question. I just said it out loud as I realized it. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, I do not stay up until 2AM drinking champagne with best friends very often (although, hm, that sounds sort of nice. Add that to the resolution list!) 2010 flew by. It brought many ups and many downs, but overall, I am grateful and thankful for all that we have – health, home, friends, jobs, each other (yes, I am a sap and just choked up a little as I type this. Those who know me will not be suprised. Those who are just getting to know me through this little blog – let me introduce myself. My name is Jenn, and I am a sap. When Mr. Brady scolded Marcia for sneaking around when she was grounded, but she actually was mailing her nomination for him for Father of the Year, I bawled like a colicky infant. If someone gets engaged, even in a movie, forgedduboudit! Get the tissues.)

As I look forward to the new year in front of me, I find myself doing what I always do at this time. You know the resolutions, every magazine in the grocery check-out aisle around this time of year feeds to our desire to change, “Lose 10 Pounds in 7 Days Just by Changing Your Shampoo” or “Pluck Your Way to a Happier, Healthier You With These Revolutionary Tweezers” and of course, “Reduce Stress Like a Celebrity, Only Legally. Page 79 Shows You How.”

These aren’t the type of resolutions I want to make (although, one too many cookies has been ingested, so perhaps meneeds to rethink this…)

Anyway, changes will be along the lines of frugality and self-sufficiency. We plan to expand our little homestead, hopefully being able to build the coop and get chickens this year. (Yes, it’s definitely about eggs and meat, but I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that a small part of me wants to say “Dorking Cock” on a daily basis. It makes me giggle.)

I think I’m pretty good at it, but I would like to continue to recognize the beauty in every day and be thankful for what we have.

I would like to waste less. If we don’t eat it, it’ll go in the compost pile to be used on the garden. (And, yes, dear Erica, this does mean I plan to wash more ZipLoc bags than ever. I am NOT crazy, I just can’t stand the thought of all that plastic in the landfill just because I wanted convenience.)

I want to try more things…new plant varieties, new sports, new hobbies. I tried stained glass last year, but Keith tried to get me on the mountain bike with no luck, maybe this year is the year.

I am not going to go overboard here. I am realistic. These plans sound pretty good for now, although, maybe I’ll go get some of those tweezers…Happy New Year. Thanks for visiting the Daisy Patch.

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For those of you who need pictures, here are a few…

Basement Basil

Pineapple Sage

Flower Bud on a Christmas Cactus

DaisyMae


It has been a busy weekend at the Patch. I was outside from 7:30A to 5P yesterday (with a few water breaks and a blog break in the middle) to pull the tomato leaves affected by early blight.

For those of you who don’t know about early blight, it is a fungus, Alternaria solani, which germinates in damp, warm weather (which we’ve had!) Anyway, it germinates in 1/2 hour to 2 hours and spreads quickly. The leaves get spots, usually starting at the bottom, then the leaves turn yellow and start to die off. This usually happens right at the time the fruit is setting. With no leaves, the plant can’t usually survive, or the tomatoes get hit by sun and sort of burn, called Sun Scald. (I’ve become quite knowledgeable on this topic in the last 48 hours, not to mention I lived up close and personal with it for 10 hours yesterday.) Anyway, this fungus is NOT GOOD! That is our food for the Winter.

Hopefully this little guy will keep watch over things.

On a good note, the Edamame looks good!

Time to Harvest the Garlic!

The garlic is resting in the shade on the hammock. I plan to let the soil on them dry a little bit, brush off the soil, and wash them if I need to with a gentle spray from the hose. Then, everything I read leads me to understand that I need to treat them super carefully so they can store properly and not rot. We don’t have a root cellar, so once they’re cured, we may have to keep them upstairs in the pantry.

As all of this food starts to come in, we need to catch up with it. We have a gallon bag filled with green beans that I need to blanch and freeze. The last of the lettuce needs to be enjoyed, husk cherries, peas, cherry tomatoes…all need to get ingested or frozen.

Let’s hope I’m saying the same about tomatoes at the end of the month.


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.

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