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Saturday, April 23, 2016

Season's Beginnings II

 One of the most exciting things happening in the garden this spring is the plethora of blossoms on some of my fruit trees.  I'm so excited to see what kind of a harvest we will have.  This is a pear tree.
 Those beehives in the background may be part of the success this year.
 A promising bud on an apple tree.

 I decided to try for myself the newly popular honeyberry. I purchased three bushes. There are two things that make this seem like a good idea.  Honeyberries are extremely cold hardy, reaching into zone 2. Also, unlike blueberries, they don't require a highly acidic soil. We have alkaline soil and, despite my efforts to change the pH of my soil, my blueberries haven't thrived. I'm looking forward to seeing if this berry will be a good fit for us.
 More Apple blossoms coming on.
 The elderberry bush is thriving!
 This old girl is quite the trooper. Puffle is five years old (as are my five other hens) and still looks lovely. She lays eggs and tenderly tends them. I'm still trying to figure out how to put the young pullets in with the older hens.  I have a few more weeks to figure it out.
 This is the first year that our plum tree is going crazy with blossoms. Its hard not to get excited!
 A shot of the other plum varieties grafted onto the same stock.
One of the currant bushes....

There is so much happening, I know there will be many more photo opportunities soon. - Nanette

Season's Beginnings

These colors, though! We had our first harvest yesterday. It was small, but exciting. (Its seems  early for lilacs, but I'll take them anytime!)
 The produce transferred beautifully to our breakfast this morning. I made these omelets from our own chicken eggs, a bit of orange pepper and the asparagus and chives from yesterday's harvest. At the end I added a bit of goat cheese and some vegetarian sausages. The crazy thing is the deep yellow of these eggs.  Each dish represents one whole egg and two whites, and it was still this rich color!
 I finished adding on to the asparagus bed this year. It has only two rows and I'd love to add more, but there is no more room. The first row is well established now, this being its 3rd season. It has just begun to push up spears, but I'm already impressed with the size, quantity, and quality.
The rhubarb bushes belong to our friend and neighbor, but we're allowed free picking. Looks like it is off to a great start.
 The starts under the lights are doing well. I was delighted to find a liquid kelp to add to the watering can. Kelp stimulates root growth and makes a strong and richly colored plant.
 These onion starts need to go in the ground tomorrow, if possible. I hope I can untangle them without too much damage!
 This is the garlic bed I planted last fall, mulched with leaves. It is loving our warm days and growing heartily.
 I'm experimenting with potato boxes this year. I spent the winter months pouring over information about potato boxes and have noted that the results are mixed. One tidbit I found is that you have to have an indeterminate potato. German Butterball is one variety that is indeterminate, so that is what went into these boxes.  We'll see how it turns out. (Many thanks to the Wood Artist for making the boxes for me. There are four more boxes waiting to be added as the spuds grow.)
Just in case, I also planted two rows using my favorite method. I lay the cut potatoes on the prepared bed (that is a light sprinkling of ash on the row). After this went a thick layer of well rotted hay and some straw. As they grow, I'll add compost and straw. I love how easy this method makes harvesting potatoes.  You just rake away the toppings and there are the little treasures. Then you till in the toppings and voila! You've just added a ton of organic matter to your garden. 

There are other exciting developments around the garden, but this post is long enough.  I'll have to do a "Part II". - Nanette

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Spring Snippets

We had a mild winter, but spring is feeling very, well, long. Now that The Wood Artist is home from the Bakken, we're going to do a garden again.  The rest was needed, but does it ever feel good to touch the potting soil, read the seed descriptions, and open up the 10-year journal once again.

The tomatoes are up and I'm excited to taste an old favorite, Paul Robeson, as well as two new varieties. 

Granny Cantrell  caught my eye when I was researching heirloom seeds for a WWII Victory Garden project for  Humanities classes I teach to 3rd and 4th graders. Here's the description from the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed catalog:

     "This meaty beefstake-type tomato is named after  Lettie Cantrell, who received seeds from a soldier returning from Germany during World War II. She grew this tomato in the hills of Eastern Kentucky for many years. This was her favorite tomato and the only one she grew. Each year she saved seeds from the largest tomatoes, some of which reached 2 1/2 lbs. Our growers find it quite productive. Ahh! What a flavor! This variety was named best tasting tomato of the year at the 2006 Heirloom Garden Show in our taste testing contest.

Indigo Cream Berries Tomato is a cherry type tomato that boasted a stunning photo in the Territorial Seed Catalog. It is supposed to be tasty and the beauty is simply breathtaking. I can't wait to include it in my summer salads.

Those are the only tomatoes I'm starting under my grow lights. I'll round out the garden with a paste tomato and my favorite orange cherry tomato from my local friends' nurseries.



My alliums are looking a bit too willowy. I hope they beef up before it is time to transplant. I usually buy onion plants from Territorial, but I decided to save money and try growing from seed. That means I had to give up some tried and true varieties (I'll really miss my Red Zepplins.)

Here's what I picked:

Southport White Globe:  Its a long-day onion, so should go well in my northern garden. I love cooking with white onions and was excited that it is among the best keepers of white onions.

Brunswick: A red/purple onion also supposed to keep well. Flattened a bit.

Noordhollandse Bloedrode: (Don't ask me to say that!) Here's what the Baker Creek seed packet says: "(Dutch Red) Long-day type - The name translates as North Holland Blood Red, and these beauties are indeed a lovely, shiny ox-blood red. Large, slightly flattened onion are very pungent, which makes them good keepers in spite of their rather thick neck. They can also be grown for scallions as they often are in Holland. A good variety for Northern gardeners." I think I'll try them for scallions and keepers.

I'm also growing Giant Musselburgh Leeks. I love growing leeks, but I'm a bit worried that I didn't start them in time to get a good harvest this summer. Amazingly, even in my brutal climate, I've had them overwinter a couple of times.

Totally new to me this year will be shallots. I've been experimenting with cooking with shallots a bit and really love the flavor. Zebrune Shallot is how I chose to jump into the experience. Listen to this crazy description from Baker Creek:

      "Gorgeous heirloom French eschalion or 'banana' type shallot yields plump, long, torpedo-shaped bulbs. Bulbs are tinged with pink. The flesh is very mild and sweet, and large yields may be had starting the first year from an early planting. Excellent keeping quality makes these gourmet shallots useful over a very long season!"

Good grief! How can you not be taken in with that kind of a description!

I wasn't going to do cabbage starts this year, but Baker Creek sends these crazy good "Free Gift" packets and, well, I couldn't let them go to waste.

I planted several hot pepper and sweet pepper varieties, but none of them have come up yet.  Maybe I'll do a post on them later. - Nanette



Saturday, March 12, 2016

Wagon Train, Part 4

I love this patriotic shot.
 When I first started this story, I said that I would do three parts. But, I couldn't bear to skip some of these.  I'll just breeze through some of these snapshots of fun and new friends. 
These horses are wearing a special netting to keep off the bugs.

On the buckboard one last time.

Peace

New friends

Believe it or not, the motion of the wagon lulls you to sleep!

Prairie Conversations

Two Friends, Two Horses, and a Corn Field

Laughing Water Directing a Play

Are These Teamsters Going to Get Their Lines Right?

Nothing Better than a Bunch of Friends on the Prairie

Good Conversation

Doesn't Get Better Than this for This Boy

Strangers One Day, Practical Jokes the Next

Laughing Water and Nanette with our Amazing Teamster, Mark

Wagon Train, Part 3

 My favorite place in our wagon was the buckboard.  I didn't get there often because we all had to share. It was cool and breezy and surprisingly relaxing.
Here, The Wood Artist and Mr. Blueberry Eyes consult with Uncle Russ on some important matter.
 This little spot made you feel like you were right on the shores of Silver Lake with Laura Ingalls. The breeze blew the tall prairie grass (and it truly came above my waist).
By the time the wagons stopped for the day, we were tired!  Here, Laughing Water rests her feet.
 What wagon train would be complete without a river fording? Granted, ours was not quite the scary adventure that it was for many of the people on the Oregon Trail, but it was a bit of water.
Here we are waiting our turn....
 Just about to go down.  I must say, I was a bit nervous.
I got several more picturess, but they are blurry from the jolting of the wagon wheels.
 One afternoon, we formed the circle early and pitched camp. Shortly after lunch a rain storm came through and we dashed for the dryness of our tents.  The soft rain lulled me to sleep and I slept for three hours. When I awoke, the camp was in full celebration mode.  We played old fashioned games like sack races and tug-of war.
Someone brought all the supplies and showed us how to make rag dolls.  We made home made ice cream and tossed Indian fry bread in a great vat of oil and then rolled them in cinnamon sugar.
 That night we had a trading post and traded little goodies we had made or brought from our home town.  Here, Mr. Blueberry Eyes trades some of his deer antler buttons for a British flag with Mrs. Bridgewater. (Yes, she did come all the way from England for the wagon train.)
People dressed in high prairie finery and a good time was had by all.

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