Thursday, May 28, 2015

Hot Weather Suppers: Lettuce Wraps to the Rescue!


I love Food Network and have watched cooks on there make lettuce wraps for years with a kind of annoyed curiosity. I mean, I get it. You put sandwich guts in lettuce, roll it up and eat it. Until I finally plunked down nearly $5 for a head of bibb butterhead lettuce, I did not appreciate this humble, healthful and quick meal option. I was hooked! It was good timing when I tried it because I had not placed my seed order yet. I chose Blush Butterhead Cos lettuce and have been so impressed by it's growth, flavor and versatility. The outer leaves are like a butterhead and great for wraps while the hearts are more cos or romaine like and are perfect for salads. It's flavor truly is a bit 'buttery' and not watery or bitter. LOVE IT.


This week has been hot and I may have mentioned before how I feel about heat. We are not friends. Add in the humidity and I am a bear. When suppertime rolls around all I want to do it jump into the fridge when I open it to fish out something, anything that doesn't need to be cooked! Well, that lettuce is worth it's weight in gold this week and we are had egg salad lettuce wraps! Our first nearly exclusive homegrown meal ever! It would only have been better had there been a beautiful juicy red tomato to slice over it. Maybe in another month or so because...


I saw my first buds on an Amish Paste yesterday! Not open but there they were, little buds a growin'!


The Lord is certainly blessing the garden this year!

May Gardening Synopsis: The Barn Garden



May went so fast! May was also warm and is finishing up with a week of 80+ degree days! The garden has responded to these temperatures with gusto in the growth department. All of the seeds except the potatoes are up after only a week including the corn.

Black Seeded Simpson lettuce

Cucumbers

Corn shoot

Chard

Zucchini

I also put some extra onions in a pallet...


...and I seeded the pole beans today.



Along with Kentucky Wonder for fresh eating and canning I am growing True Red Cranberry for dried beans this year. They are actually native to Maine grown by our Natives and first settlers and are said to be perfect baking beans. I was mostly interesting in the fact that they are good for dried beans yet a pole growth habit seeing as most dried beans are bush which I am not so much a fan of. I'm excited to try this out!

I only have the pumpkins and squash left to plant which I am pre-sprouting because some of the seeds were old. After that I will just be tending, harvesting, and planting lettuce and greens as needed until the end of the summer when fall crops need to be put in.

Happy gardening!


This post was shared on Green Thumb Thursday blog hop.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Make It Do or Do Without : Being Creative in the Garden

Clear Dawn onions

I love me a good challenge of the mind. It takes me until I put seeds in the ground until I have a final garden plan and even then I have been known to rip those poor little plants out and move them if I change my mind. I am also no stranger to unrealized dreams and my Back to Eden garden is one of them this year... again. It just wasn't going to work out. So, instead of whining and giving up I was determined to make a garden happen despite having no garden. But, what makes it a garden? Is it the dirt? Plants? Little rows and sickly manicured edges? I think the world is a garden so shall we not be so narrow minded on the guidelines?

The new yet temporary garden next to the barn


I am a fan of raised beds. I just like them. In my last post I had said I was going to use Bagsters to make instant raised beds and while that was a great idea it meant $60 was going just to a container. I wanted to spend that money of some awesome compost instead (more on that in a sec). So, I had remembered reading about raised beds and how some of the most simple ones were just dirt piled up into a garden bed. As in no box. Just dirt. Sounds messy doesn't it? How does the dirt not wash off with rain and watering? That is what I thought to myself when I first conceived the idea. Now I have made one of these beds and while it is neither perfect nor ideal, it will do.

New raised bed, 16'x 4'(ish)


It's uneven and it bugs me, but I am letting that go. It is 2 feet shorter than I intended, but I am letting that go too. It will grow food and that is the point! This is for one year I have the rest of my life to have perfect little boxes and my Back to Eden garden (which I may reconsider... what to do!). For now I have a free form raised bed planted with popcorn, cucumbers, onions, kale, chard, and lettuce.



Over here we have a potato bed made of mulch hay bales! Aren't I cleaver?

Rednecking it!


And, once again my tomatoes are in pots. Peppers too. Such is life.


Amish Paste tomato plant... does any one know if curled leaves are normal?


I will elaborate a bit on my soil. I have a horse and chickens and every year we pile up what is left from the winter and it sits and turns to compost which is turned at the end of the summer as we clean up the paddock. By the next spring it looks like dark rich dirt. We have sand in the paddock to help with dust, mud and it gives the horse a nice rolling area so quite a bit of sand gets worked into the piles as well. Therefore my compost is sand infused which is a stellar combination of light and rich, water retaining and free draining. While I believe that this soil has plenty of nutrition to see my plants through, there is no harm in adding a bit more right? So, after eyeing the bags and wondering for the last year or more I am giving Coast of Maine organic composts a try! I am using the Quoddy Blend Lobster Compost as a top dressing for the large bed and the soon to be smaller 12' bed which will have beans and squash/pumpkins. I'm using the Penobscot Blend Compost and Peat as a top dressing for the potato bed and I put a good 2-3 inches in the top of the tomato and pepper pots. I have read a lot of good things and I seriously doubt that it will be a waste. I will be excited to see if it makes a difference. If I had a very large garden and needed to amend them every year with these products it would become expensive. But, if they are able to be added every few years with good success than I would see it a worth while investment in addition to my own manure compost. Diversity in soil is the key! To learn more about the composts just hit up Coast of Maine's website.

New pile is on the left, the old on the right.

What the finished compost looks like



I'm not meaning to sound like a commercial, but I love to support Maine products! Most of our state is sustained by small businesses and how can I not get behind one like this? It's recycling, organics and it nurtures one of my very favorite things... gardens!

Chickens dust bathing and enjoying the sun


The little farm girl in her Carhartt overalls

I'll be trying to keep this updated during the growing season! I love reading everyone else's garden blogs so I will try to contribute regularly too.


Til next time!


This post was shared on Green Thumb Thursday blog hop.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

How Grows It?


Pretty good I must say. I was having some anxiety that things weren't growing well at all and then I looked at the pictures from the last post and I realized things have indeed been growing well. Except for the spinach which I ripped out and fed to the chickens yesterday. After having germinated weeks ago, many plants had just begun to grow their first true leaves. They were wasting precious greenhouse real estate so, they had to go. In their place I plugged in 6 Melissa Savoy Cabbage which was needing more space. I gave the chickens all the very small brassicas that had been frost damaged and re-planted the large healthy ones in my largest bed. Now I am left with 3 Gustus Brussels Sprouts, 4 Thompson Broccoli and 2 Snow Crown Cauliflower. I have more of everything but the savoy cabbage started that I will nurse along until more space opens up when the peas and lettuce finish.


Melissa Savoy Cabbage

Gustus Brussels Sprouts

Thompson Broccoli

3' x 7' bed containing beets, carrots, lacinato kale, rainbow chard, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.

Early Wonder Tall Top Beet

Rainbow chard that is still growing slow.

Scarlet Keeper Carrots

The Blush Butter Cos lettuce is huge! It is also so incredibly beautiful. It will pain me to pull it up and eat it! But, I am looking forward to having butter lettuce to make wraps with that didn't cost nearly $5 a head. A few are nearly large enough to be harvested, perhaps in another week.


The Lincoln peas are climbing up the brush now and I will stop watering them until they are starting to set pods. I have been deep watering them weekly but I started to notice lots of lush leaf growth and not so much climbing. Too much watering can have this effect.


I potted my calendula, chamomile, sage, oregano and stevia and they now are sitting just outside the greenhouse and putting on some nice new growth. Sitting with them is a pretty little mini rose that my brother gave me for Mother's Day which needs a bigger pot.


All of the tomatoes had to be brutally pinched of all their sun scorched leaves. I wasn't patient enough to gently harden them but instead just moved them to the greenhouse during an ideal stretch of weather. Though it was warm and there was no cold stress, the sun was too strong even filtered through the greenhouse and the leaves started to yellow and wither in some places. I knew they would be fine because once adjusted they were starting to produce suckers and new top growth that was a lush darker green. I now have them sitting in the 5 gallon black pots out of the greenhouse to get some extra heat during the day and to make it easy to bring back in should we be threatened with a frost. Doubtful at this point but, it's Maine, you never know. These little babies will be put in their final pots for the summer next week(end). I am anxious to try a new compost that I have been eyeing at the feed store since last year. A local company makes it called Coast of Maine (who make organic gardening products from local sources). Their Lobster Compost is the one I want to try as well as their fish bone meal for the tomatoes to prevent blossom end rot. I'd also like to try using a fish emulsion fertilizer during planting to give everything an immediate boost. Our growing season is so short here that I don't want to waste a minute!


I had thought that I was going to get my Back to Eden garden started this year but, yet again, I will need to wait. Because of this I have been forced to be creative! I am going to be making instant temporary raised beds out of 2 Bagster dumpsters. You know, the dumpsters in a bag that you can get from Home Depot. They are only $30 each and are 8' x 4'. So, for $60 I will have raised beds that need little more prep than being filled, amended and planted. No heavy lumber or whacking my thumb with a hammer. Simple. I'm so excited to try this idea. Yeah, it's a little red neck, but you know what? I so don't care. I am just thankful for a solution to growing my garden.


After I "get the garden in" I will do another post. Til then, enjoy the rest of spring!

Monday, May 4, 2015

April Gardening Synopsis

Blush Butter Cos lettuce

April was weird. Just strange and out of sorts. The weather had been cold then warm then really cold then just annoyingly in the 50's... frustrating is what April was. The greenhouse is alive but growing slowly. I wish that the onions were farther along than they are but hopefully they will catch up soon so I might have a decent crop once in the ground.


I have new cole crop starts that will be for both me and joining a few other vegetable starts as a give away in a fundraiser supporting Maine midwives gaining licensure. I also have a few medicinal and culinary herbs that are doing great so far.


The tomatoes are still in the basement under lights but will soon be out in the greenhouse. They are growing quite rapidly! The peppers are slower growing of course but I have a feeling they will take off when the heat comes. I will likely pot them in the black containers to make sure they get lots of heat. I think them growing in the greenhouse last year prevented them from getting enough sun which stunted them. I really need a decent pepper crop with the amount of salsa and hot sauce we go through!

The tomatoes look a little yellow tinted in these pictures but I think that is just the light! They were yellowing just a bit before I potted them on but I think it just because I waited way to long to do so and they ran out of nutrients. They have recovered fine and are ready to be hardened off. According to the almanac we have passed our last frost date but should we have an unexpected one the greenhouse will protect them fine.


The chickens have been free ranging at will but will now be going in a pen for the summer. The poop is getting out of hand!

My Partridge Cochin hen


So there you are! April was weird, lol. I am going to be getting insanely busy in the next few months so likely posts will be erratic but I will shoot for at least once a month to update. Between getting the house finished, the garden, 3 young children, church, helping host a parents support group and a summer apprenticeship with a local midwife I am in for an eventful summer! Pray for my poor brain to keep up!


Til next time!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Springtime Madness Begins


"While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not cease." -Genesis 8:22 (ESV)

During the winter it's easy to forget God's works in nature because it's bare, cold and where I live it is snowy. What could possibly be happening? But, then the snow starts to melt and I know that even though there is an obscene amount of mud at first, the earth will drink it in and keep it for when the plants need it in the summer. At least that's what the wild plants can look forward to. As much as I like my raised beds, for our long term goals of food independence, the method is somewhat restrictive and expensive. After watching the Back to Eden film again and mentally taking stock of what we have available, the B2E method of gardening really seems to be the smartest approach. I just need to find a place for it on our lot! We have a pretty good pile of fully composted horse manure that will be the base and I will find some wood chips somewhere.

The seedling hotel

The greenhouse is back up and running at about 50%. I still have a couple beds including the big one to get watered up and ready for seeds. Two of the small beds have been seeded with peas and spinach so I am anxiously waiting for little seedlings to pop up! It got up to 68°F in the greenhouse on Sunday with full sun, so with a few more sunny days they should be up. In another week I will put the onion, cole crop and chard seedlings out during the day to start to harden so they can stay out full time.

Poorly germinated onion starts... see the big bauld space in the middle?


Speaking of seedlings, my onions had a really horrible germination rate this year! I thought perhaps it was my fault but when I went back on Fedco Seeds website to see if they had more available it had that variety discounted. So, I am thinking that they may be having general germination problems with it this year. I will email them to let them know my out come and will be ordering a different variety that is a cross of the Copra I have and another onion. These seeds are open pollinated or "heirloom" as most have come to know them as, so I will be able to save seed from them. As a side note: I fully support Fedco. They are a Maine company who get seed from real growers and this is a seed co-op which means they basically are sharing seeds with their customers! I am not at all upset by my onion seeds poor performance because I know they are real seeds that were collected by people who care. My cousin in Michigan gets her seeds from them and if she keeps going back then I know I'm in the right place! Prices are also great and I get free shipping because I am local.

Everything else is nice and healthy!


Along with my new onion seed I will be getting a few other things. I haven't quiet decided on them all but as of right now I am planning on a storage carrot and some winter spinach that I hope to nurse along in the greenhouse this winter with the lacinato kale. My large deep bed in there will get insulated and heavily mulched and hopefully with enough snow to insulate the actual greenhouse we will have greens all winter long. This is optimistic though because it will get down to -10°F at night in January at least a few times most years. Guess we will see!

Tomatoes


I am incredibly thankful for the abundance of eggs we have been getting! I have been selling eggs again and even used 5 dozen to get credit toward my feed cost last week (my feed store buys eggs from small farms to sell to customers at no profit to them). I just opened a new bag of feed for them Monday, so I am going to see how many days it takes for them to go through it and how many eggs in that amount of time to get an average cost per dozen. My hope is in another year or two to do what Paul from B2E does and feed the chickens on nothing but yard and garden waste/produce. My flock right now gets most of my kitchen vegetable waste so it will be a fairly easy transition for them I think. I will then use the compost they make in their run on the garden. I will likely then reduce the price of my eggs because they will basically be free to produce. My heart says to someday make good food easily accessible to those who need it and I truly want to make that happen! I have had that dream for a while, may the Lord make it so. :-)

Just waiting for the peppers now. They might need a few days near the wood stove to come up

Sorry this post is a few days late, but as the title says, the madness is beginning. More spring is ahead! Til next time!