The time has changed, but don’t be deceived–real food projects and rewards still abound, and not only the spoils from the hunt (black powder season just arrived here). All of these pictures were taken this morning: The oregano still pushes the edges of one raised bed; garlic and onions are coming up; collards are growing inside and out, and even some tomatoes are hanging on (okay, they should have been picked several weeks ago, but sometimes it’s fun just to see what happens). Go ahead and get dirty today–you have an extra hour.
Archive for the ‘Gardening Almanac’ Category
Click on the following link to read an article from Mother Earth about growing onions. It’s time! Growing onions–Mother Earth News
You want to start gardening, but you’re not sure where to begin, or what vegetables are most trouble-free. This article gives you a few tips with specific suggestions. However, note the assumed limitation in the first sentence:
“To guarantee the success of your first garden, stick with the easy vegetables listed here, which grow well in minimally improved soil. (Over time, you can improve your soil by adding organic fertilizers and compost.)”
Rhetoricians might refer to “warranting assumptions” or “enthymemes,” when noting the flaw in this gardening argument. The unstated premise is that we have no choice but to toil in our unforgiving and unfriendly soil–(and don’t forget that it takes 7 years to make normal backyard dirt into decent garden soil). I don’t know if you have seven years to wait for a tomato, but I know I don’t. The answer? Think inside the box. The raised bed. Eat real food–this year.
It’s time to plant–at least around here. Get those peas ready, and check the Planting times pdf, courtesy of the Virginia Cooperative extension (and taxpayers), if you are nearby. If not, call your local extension agent, and he or she should have a similar chart. The Virginia chart assumes row planting in the spacing section; obviously those numbers don’t apply to raised beds.
With the balmy weather of Groundhog day, our thoughts surely turned again to spring–and seeds. So, should you be starting your seeds now? Probably very soon, but it depends what zone you’re in, primarily. Check the map above or go here to see it more closely and click on your state or region. Determine your last frost date and then count back the correct number of weeks for each vegetable. About.com has a good chart that shows this number for some common vegetables and flowers. Of course, we hope your culinary herbs and indoor plants are growing strong right now!
Why the long face? Not much green out there, huh? Or are you pondering your New Year’s resolutions?
We’ve got a suggestion–how about a promise to grow and eat more real food! Easy to say, no? And easy to do if you order a complete garden from us, but if you already have a garden and you want to try your hand at starting seeds, then you should begin your planning now. That’s right, even as you contemplate the most efficient ways of eradicating that deceptive ice from your stoop, thoughts of seeds and soil should be dancing in your head. Cabbages, Brussels sprouts, kale, collards and plants like that should be started from seed by the first week of February for Virginia. You don’t have much time!
But hey, take it easy. At any time you choose, you can simply buy more real food or buy the seedlings. And you get to enjoy the food. Too bad all resolutions aren’t so easy.
Worried about your chickens because it’s been so cold recently (at least here in Virginia)? You’re probably worrying way too much. And as we know, worrying is a good way to cause all kinds of problems. I’ve read in a number of places that the number one killer of houseplants is overwatering–the careful owners worry that the plant is not getting enough water, and then it begins to drown, and they water it even more to try to save it. I won’t even get into people who spoil their pets to such an extent that the pets need anti-depressants when the owners leave, or worse yet, overprotective parents who have “child fetishes” as George Carlin would say (check out “You’re all Diseased” by Carlin if you can find it). So, don’t worry about your chickens. Your chickens are happy if you’ve given them a good home, regular food, and fresh water–even down to negative temperatures. Read this article about chickens and cold in Mother Earth News. According to the article, it might even be bad to put heat lamps on them (unless completely necessary) because then the chickens get spoiled and don’t withstand the cold as well. Of course, the breed makes a difference, but all the ones we have at the homestead now (Welsummers, Wyandottes, and Orpingtons) are cold hardy. And as you can see, the peacocks don’t mind the cold either.
Well maybe your neighborhood won’t–any time soon, anyway–be as eco-friendly as this town in Sweden, which has nearly eliminated its consumption of fossil-fuels by harnessing the energy from farm and food waste. But it’s worth considering, and worth knowing about some of these pioneer movements. Of course, you can easily use some of the general ideas to help your own garden–for example, don’t forget that compost can produce an enormous amount of heat. Here at the Homestead, we often use compost to heat up the greenhouse or coldframes. Before you plant your coldframes, pack some well-turned compost beneath the bed, and you’ll be surprised what it can do!
It’s that time of year–Yes, there’s usually an eye-pleasing cornucopia of vittles and sweets, and the cooking shows suggest all form of inspired variations on a theme, but when I hear what people are actually fashioning in their kitchens, I’m often disappointed with the level of creativity . Do you really want me to eat stuffing again? Frankly, once a year is quite enough for something that tastes like spiced sawdust.
(Okay, I know that such a comment will inspire a number of incensed letters and a variety of recipes–bring them on–and any other creative holiday recipes you have! I’ll send them to everyone whose house I might visit, for exceptions do abound, even for stuffing–a notable one being the foie gras stuffing I enjoyed over Thanksgiving. Yet one can’t help but wonder if it might have been even tastier without the wet bread…).
Anyway, amid this flurry of unimaginative culinary drills, the cookie tin invariably joins the fray–often with delectable dolci, but often, too, with the same cookies as the last one, or the same cookies by a different name. We devour them again, of course. And after the gorging, what do you do with a hunk of thin metal painted with a snowman who eerily resembles your Uncle Joe?
All variety of things–they serve as great containers for anything that doesn’t need to sit on your counter–tea packets, shotgun shells, marbles, seed packets, anything–but the best use I’ve heard so far is for keeping your chickens’ water from freezing. That’s right, and it’s simple.
You can buy a thermostatically controlled stand for your metal waterer, but those will cost you upwards of 50-60$. All you need to do with the tin is drill a hole in the side (with a metal drill bit) large enough to run a cord through. Then get one of those worklights on a cord and thread the cord through the hole and plug it in (or run an extension cord from the other side). If you want to get really fancy, you can add your own thermostat, or a timer so that the light only goes on at night when it’s particularly cold. A low watt bulb is all you need to warm up the tin and keep the metal waterer from freezing (you probably don’t want to try this with a plastic waterer). Of course, take all necessary electrical precautions (such as putting a grommet around your metal hole), and consult a licensed electrician if you are uncertain. Good luck!