Growing Pickles

It was time to put these babies in the ground before they started coming all over each other.

The seeds came from last year’s parade pickles, which ended up being very good producers. I used the same fermenting technique that you use with tomatoes. The germination rate was high, maybe 75%. Last year I didn’t start them until mid may, so these are a good bit earlier. The only concern I have with them being so early is that the pollinators may not be out in force when they’re ready for them.

I’m very pleased with this setup. The plants will be strung to the low part of the fence to train them upward. When building the trench I found the soil to be soft and holding moisture, (also quite toad occupied). The plants should do well here. This was okra’s home last year and those plants went crazy.

Scout harrassing an unearthed toad

We currently have 32 cucumber plants. Last year 30 was the plan, but at transplant time, we only had about 18. I was still able to do a good bit of pickling, but not as much as I would have liked. (On the other hand, I still have a few jars of pickled okra and a gallon bag of frozen pieces so I’d be ok with a few less of those.)

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Pappy the Killjoy and my Tomato Issues

Here are my baby tomatoes

And here are the new seed varieties planted just yesterday

And here are the extra hybrids that I couldn’t bear to thin because they germinated so well and because they’re Park’s Celebrity for goodness sakes!

Not Okra

(The okra was yellow from the indoor lighting and I have a million more seeds so I yanked them to make room for these beauties.)

And here are my extra Russian Queens because I just found out that they’re pretty rare here in the states, so I couldn’t kill them either.

So yeah. I have a lot of frigging baby tomatoes and really don’t know what I’m going to do with them.

But what I do know is that I want to build a large heirloom collection, one that I can turn into seeds or plants for sale.

So I tell this to my dad (Pappy, as my kids call him). And he tells me, “You didn’t separate anything so you have a lot of crossbreeding going on and you won’t know what it is anyway.”

But tomatoes pollinate themselves. It’s like masturbation pollination. They don’t need bees like the squash and cukes do. They don’t accidentally cross, right? You have to work for a hybrid, yeah? I started googling, hoping that he was wrong —

Well fuck.

What am I going to do now? I have 5 varieties of tomatoes that I think are heirloom, but are probably really not. A couple that I first grew in 2016 and then again in 2017. Seeds that I was so proud of. Seeds that would be even better this year because they’re used to my soil and my growing habits. Strong healthy seeds grown from and for this place. My seeds.

My adventure down the somewhat depressing rabbit hole taught me that the varieties I’ve bought this year can be kept true through careful bagging of the blossoms. (What a pain in the ass!) But I’m not sure what to do about the others. Be surprised this year I guess. Bag those blossoms anyway? Yeah probably.

Well at least now I found the courage to thin out my other “heirlooms”.

R.I.P. “German Johnson” & “Black Krim”

My varieties (italics means they’re probably/possibly corrupted):

  • Black Krim 2016 & 2017
  • German Johnson 2017
  • Golden Sunburst 2016
  • Russian Queen 2017
  • Red Currant 2016 & 2017
  • Warren’s Yellow Cherry 2018
  • Chocolate Cherry 2018
  • Pineapple 2018
  • Big Rainbow 2018
  • Kellogg’s Breakfast 2018
  • Costoluto Genovese 2018

I have a random cherry tomato that volunteered itself in my compost last spring and I saved those seeds too. I call those Generosity Cherries because along with them being volunteers, they are large and prolific and germinated much sooner than all the others. I wonder if they may be a parent of the grocery store vine tomatoes.

I guess the worst case scenario is that I now have six funky mystery tomatoes I can play with and name.

Cool.

Spring Gardens

Spring gardens are pretty easy. Cooler temps mean fewer weeds and pests, making the spring garden a less daunting introduction to the season.

My helpers, Wendell and Scout
Collards

Previously I have had cabbage worms bothering my kale, but not so far this year. Since putting the plants in the ground, we have consistently gotten about an inch of rain a week, so I haven’t had to water more than a couple of times. I’ve also only fertilized once with liquid fish fertilzer and then yesterday used organic granules on the collards and kale. Maybe my plants would be bigger if I’d pumped them full of miracle grow, but organic gardening on the cheap is my thing. I want to produce a lot of food while using few resources. And any amendments I do use should enrich the long term quality of the soil.

I’m grateful that this garden and I have been really lucky. Everything is growing beautifully right now.

Strawberries
Broccoli
Mizuna, lettuce, and kale
A friendly little face
Lots of room to grow!

1/21 leafy greens seeds started (84 days); 2/17 transplanted, also snowpea seeds and green onion seeds; 3/11 strawberry bare roots in (35 days), also beet carrot & turnip seeds

April Flowers

Sometimes it’s nice just to go around admiring and sniffing, especially at the end of a hectic day.

This damn mess sure boasts some amazing beauty.

Pink dogwood flowers
New leaves on the pink dogwood/mess
Our scraggly little driveway apple tree
Sweet smelling apple blossoms
White dogwood
White dogwood flowers

I love spring!

Summer Seeds, Winter Temps

Yesterday I planted 4 trays with a total of 244 cells. Lots of everything:

  • 8 tomato varieties
  • 6 pepper varieties
  • Eggplants
  • Pickles
  • Okra
  • Watermelon
  • Annual herbs
  • Various flowers

I soaked many of the seeds overnight, using a handy dandy styrofoam egg carton. It worked great, but you have to be very careful not to overfill or slosh the carton around otherwise everything could easily get mixed up.

I filled the cells a little more than halfway with regular potting soil and soaked them as best as I could, first by bottom watering overnight (fail) then by drizzling a gallon of water over them.

Next came the seed starting mix, which is difficult to wet in the little pots and shrinks substantially when you finally do get it wet. So I filled a plastic 3 quart container with the mix, watered it down, stirred it around, and repeated until the container was full. Each tray needed an entire container. I ran out of my new Jiffy professional organic mix and was happy to find my leftover Burpee organic mix. (But the Jiffy seemed a bit nicer to mess with…less stringy coconut crap).

Then came the seedy fun.

So it only took about 4 hours or so, but all the babies are tucked in ready to rock and roll!

I’ve got this shit all figured out!


I was running late this morning so I didn’t stick the babies out in the sun. And really, they don’t need any sun yet.

But it’s really very cool outside and in the basement. Doesn’t feel much like spring at all. So out of curiosity I stuck a digital meat thermometer in the soil. I got readings between 55 and 57 degrees. A quick google search let me know that ain’t going to cut it. (I don’t got this shit fugured out apparently.)

My 2017 germination issues make a lot of sense now.

Babies got moved upstairs for the night.


I scored 6 new varieties of heirloom seeds from Park today for $1 each with no shipping. Dreams of infinite seeds and plants from that $6 investment stoked the fire in my farmer’s heart and oiled the gears of my calculating mind. Then that huge oversight of required germination temperature reminded me that I’m still a very young student. But like some chick on this documentary I watched one time said, “If you grow for 30 years, it’s only 30 tries. Imagine trying to be an expert musician after 30 tries.” Or something like that.

Next year when I’m a farmer I’ll buy some heat mats.


I bought some heat mats from Amazon with same-day shipping.  🙂

Marigold’s First Egg

Our pretty little Welsummer laid her very first egg today. It is tiny and lovely but weighed in at a surprising 47 grams. Clementine’s first egg was only 41 grams.

It’s only slightly larger than the other two “first eggs” that I’ve kept in the fridge for over a year. The old ones are light and seemingly hollow now. They sound like glass when tapped. I hope I never break one in the house. I’m sure they’re rank.

First Eggs

Good job, sweet girl!

Marigold almost didn’t make it: Part 1 Part 2

Clementine photo bomb
Rosie Photo Bomb

Soggy Snotty Sunday of Strawberries

It was another drizzly day in the garden. My bare root strawberries came in from Park Seed yesterday so after a 12 hour soak, they were ready to hit the dirt.

Park (lovely company that it is) sent 27 roots instead of 25, but holy cow strawberries take up a lot of room! I used up roughly 112 square feet of precious garden space for 20 plants, stuck 5 up by the house, and put 2 in a pot for my mother-in-law. (Evidently I’m still a newbie since I’m surprised by this.)

During the first hour after I gave the area a quick till, I realized that I’m probably not actually yet well enough to be laboring out in 45 degree rain. And the level of soggy muddiness was even a bit disgusting to me. Here I am showing off my mud and misery as well as the patch of potential.

Ta-Da! Amazing, isn’t it?

I still have the weird smell of the bare roots in my nose.

I also planted my seeds for root veg today: carrots, beets, and turnips. Moon is a waning crescent in Capricorn, which is an earth sign so a-ok for planting roots and yeah, I’m doing that this year. And here is a shot of how the rest of everything is growing.

By the time I came in, Gordon had a lovely pot of spicy delicious chili ready to eat. Now I’m lounging around sipping some echinacea lemongrass tea, hoping that my body can continue to recover from the bad cold I had last week, even though I abused it somewhat today.

Among the Dirt and Creatures

For a moment today my existence was perfect. Here in simplicity and solitude it revealed itself:

It was cold and rainy and I was out in the garden still sick with a virus. I noticed cutworms had tried to kill another seedling. But the victim, a baby collard, survived with two of its main leaves. I took the nearest tool that had been left out leaning against the pecan tree. It was Silas’ tiny yellow hoe. Hacking around the young plant, I happily unearthed the offending cutworm, in all of its dirt-coloredness. I contemplated how best to kill it without inadvertently stomping it back into the muddy soil and without maliciously popping it between my fingers. I decided to toss it to the hens. As I approached the coop with the intent of nourishing our cute fluffy food source with the enemy of another food source, a deep knowing came over me. I was the caretaker; the sower and the reaper, in sync with life and death and able to tip the patterns of existence toward our favor. Confirmation of my belonging among the dirt and plants and creatures and rain.

Chicken Omelette

No, silly not an omelette with chicken in it — An omelette made for the chickens!

I worked late Tuesday and forgot to get any offerings from the girls. So yesterday at least one of the three eggs was clearly a leftover. Whenever that happens (although I know in real life that leftover egg is completely safe and fine), I just cook the batch up for the girls.

Today’s gormet recipe:

  • 3 beaten farm semi-fresh eggs
  • Crushed eggshells
  • Strawberry tops leftover from packing Silas’ lunch
  • Roughly chopped garlic from a bulb that’s been growing on top of the microvave

Mix it all together, add a splash of water, and microvave for 2 and a half minutes, stirring once.

Garnish with Silas’ leftover Cheerios and — *muah* Magnifique!

Yum!

A Good Day

Clad in the turtle dress made more than twenty years ago by the hands of my mother and me, today I labored in love.

Stinky organic fish fertilizer nourished the children.

The garden shed is once again in functional form.

The truck topper storage was relocated.

And a grassroots protest took place.

It was a good day.