It’s challenging to keep up with processing the succesful harvest extras from the spring garden while trying to get the summer garden going. But that’s what I wanted: Lots of food that can be stored and used later. Like Homesteading Lite…. turning seeds into groceries all while having a full time job and a family.
(Am I insane?)
My beautiful chard had been getting neglected. Mature stalks, speading out and lying on the ground until I’d rip them off and toss them to the ladies in the chicken coop. Until today. Today I planned to blanch and freeze my kale, make chard stem pickles, and use the chard leaves for dinner along with the few turnips that surprised me this morning.
(Yeah, I’m insane. )
So the kale is still in the garden, getting blissfully soaked by a quick downpour. But I did manage to do up the chard. Made pickles and chopped, blanched, and came up with a single flat gallon bag to freeze.
Dinner is Hamburger Helper and store bought corn on the cob that had been hanging out in the fridge for a week. Also Gordon is cooking while I sit blogging and watching the boys play a video game with hopelessly chard-stained fingernails and uncleaned toilets calling my name.
I’m hoping the pickles turn out good. There was no water in the brine, only vinegar. And the vinegar seems a little overwhelming at this point. Maybe it’s just that I’m used to the fermented vinegar-less kind. This is the recipe I decided to try:
It took a lot of time and effort to expand from this:
And I had a few setbacks — mostly because I got overly excited and started things too early. Also I had some sloppy technique in the seed starts and I had to do some replanting.
I got discouraged a time or ten and worried that our labor efforts and money spent on fencing would be for naught. But as late as it is, compared to everyone else’s gardens in the area and compared to how big my few plants were this time last year, it’s coming along one little leaf at a time. I have lots of healthy babies and lots of room for them. The goal in expanding was to grow enough food to can and freeze some.
After I poured fish fertilizer on the newly transplanted baby tomatoes and was giving the rest to the ancient brussel sprout plants, I noticed a few caterpillar guys on my carrot tops. At that moment I also realized that the chickens were infiltrating the baby tomatoes to scratch in the (very undercooked) compost we just put down. I immediately plucked off the caterpillar guys and tossed them to the chickens, trying to distract the birds and eradicate the vegan predators at once. So ingenious!
Then I took the last caterpillar in to show my kids (and torture my eldest by putting it on his head) and then have a caterpillar photo shoot. I left the little wormy guy in some weeds with a “Bye, Falicia” and then went in the house.
So after a little while I googled this guy and realized he’s a baby black swallowtail butterfly, an important pollinator. Damn it! What have I done? I ran out to rescue him from the weeds and put him back in the carrots. Then I looked for his siblings and found only one, half squished in a bootprint. (So I finished that one off.)
Upon returning into the house I told Gordon what had happened. I told him that I really need to take a moment to educate myself before I just get scared and then go around immediately killing things. He chuckled and said, “Yeah, quit acting like a man.”
The veg garden is going to have to endure on its own at least for tonight (they’re crucifers after all) but we’re attempting to save the herbs with a warmed tent.
Tonight is supposed to drop below 25 for an hour or two, tomorrow we’re expecting a hard freeze, and I’m not certain about Thursday night, except that it too will suck.
I think the basil is already dead and the chives may be too, but we still have baby dill, cilantro, parsley, summer savory and peppermint that are worth saving. Not to mention the new rebirth of the balm, sage and oregano.
We didn’t work on the fence this weekend. Saturday was a pretty lazy day since we partied like rockstars Friday night. (The Wilmington trip reminded us how to have crazy fun, so we have been making a point to do that.) But Sunday we did manage to till up the garden some more and I put down a few radish and cabbage seeds (since they were right about cabbages not wanting to be transplanted) and also a bunch of turnip seeds my dad sent me.
I also got a lot of my main summer garden seeded. Timing is a bit weird since we are going to Florida for a few days mid-April, but I think (hope) I’ve got it figured out. (Except for how the chickens are supposed to fend for themselves, so I should probably work om that soon.)
And while I was off wildly dating (and then lazily recovering) some cold weather came and killed the zinnias:
And some basil died too. But I’m not going to replant the basil until later. And the zinnias, eh well they probably wouldn’t have liked that ridiculously thick mulch anyway (gotta figure something out in the beds around the house).
But the mullein and calendula made it alright:
My Sunday productivity also allowed me to transplant several baby dianthus next to the baby forget-me-not around my mom’s tree.
The dianthus are supposed to be black with white trim. I’m excited to see them.
As of two days ago, my early season babies are in the ground. Gordon and Eddie tore up a pretty big area of the back yard over the last month or so. Then for three evenings in a row, Silas and I shoveled and hacked and hoed until dark, to get a 13×15 area ready for the cool season transplants. We left the few kale and brussels sprouts that are still thriving from our fall planting. (Brussel sprouts are slow mofos! I seeded these in August and now finally have sprouts that are smaller than gumballs.)
88 new plants: Lettuce mix, mustard, baby bok choy, chard, curly kale, and black magic kale.
My first planting of baby bok choy and chinese cabbage bolted in their plug pots (live and learn, right?) So instead of composting them, I offered them up to the chicken garden for: Immediate Destruction.
The new, bigger area is for the summer stuff. It still needs a lot of love before it’s ready to host plants. The area beyond the planted section is our expansion.
It needs a fence to protect it from woodland creatures as well as my three dinosaurs and fast furry dragon. We started on it too.
It’s going to be awesome!
Better than last year’s:
This weekend I also transplanted about 25 baby herbs and flowers. Some dill, peppermint, zinnias (that apparently don’t like to ne transplanted so we’ll see), forget-me-nots, mullein, and calendula. My whole body is sore. That’s OK, I’ll waste away at my desk all week, exhausting my mind and resting my body instead.
I also weeded around my little memorial tree in the herb garden area with the help of my girls.
When I was ready for them to leave me so I could plant, I used Eddie’s suggestion of how to deal with a T-Rex: hold still or move very slowly. It worked! If they noticed me enough to start moving toward me, I’d just become a statue and soon enough they’d get distracted by something better and would leave me alone. Pretty cool chicken skills!
To invest in something – your money, your time, your learning, your effort and care – and then to take risks with it, is either stupid or brave or maybe it’s science. Well whatever it is, it happens every single go-round with this gardening thing.
You do your research, plan your steps, make your purchases, set it all up for success. But once you actually begin and cross that threshold, shit happens. It’s inevitable and so therefore is the risk factor. What to do now? Something or nothing? It’s a risk either way. And so here you are: weeks into a project where time really matters, staring into the face of a likely failure that could definitely affect everything going forward into the season.
Gardening is not for the faint of heart.
If you gardened your whole adult life, from the time you are 25 to the time you are 75, you would only get 50 practice runs. Imagine that in the context of a musician or an athlete. Nobody would be any good. So here we are, the make it or break it lot, the do or die bunch, the “eh fuck it, there’s always next year” sort.
There will be failure, death (of the plant sort), trial and oh-so-much error. It’s just how it goes. In order to do it, you have to be willing to lose what you’ve worked for because chances are pretty good that you may.
So here I am. Brave woman. Disturbing roots and replanting seedlings deeply. Hoping my Chinese Cabbage doesn’t immediately bolt when I put it into the garden (I read that was a thing). Hoping my skinny leggy mustard greens and bok choy don’t rot when I bury them better.
But truth be told, I’ve never had any problems with transplanting anything. The good broccoli plants I have now (that did survive the ice and snow, by the way) were initially leggy newborns that I re-planted up to their scrawny necks. So maybe I’m not that risky and brave. Maybe I have a bit of experience on my side. Either way, this old lady gets a feeling that teeters between exhilaration and terror during these dealings.
To elaborate on the ice/snow storm frozen broccoli/brussels outcome, we have some burned leaves but that seems to be it. Maybe the ice coating protected my green babies, but we got down to 12 degrees F two nights in a row and everything survived.
(Notice how healthy and green the weeds look. Wtf.)
Back to my present endeavors.
Three trays now hold various brassicas, herbs, and flowers. Here’s what I’ve got going so far:
And here is their normal home:
I was working with two lights initially and just added the other three a few days ago. Hopefully it helps with future legginess because I estimate having three more 50 cell trays before spring comes.
…I’m curious to see what happens to my garden after this. The kale, brussels sprouts, and broccoli have done very well up to now. We’ve been into the twenties on several occasions, but have never had precipitation. Also tomorrow night is supposed to drop to around 10. I’m in zone 7b and will soon find out just how much my babies can take.
I honestly planned on spending most of the day on the couch today. It’s staycation day 4 of 4 and I wasn’t going to cook or anything – maybe just play with some seeds along with cuddling with kiddos. But my brave little chickens have been leaving the yard and when I went to hunt them down, I couldn’t in good conscience waste the beautiful warm weather. So with Silas’ help, I built the chicken garden.
The chicken garden’s purpose is to beautify the chicken coop / herb garden area while providing a place to grow things the chickens may like to eat. It surrounds the coop on three sides. I used about 120 reclaimed bricks that we are fortunate enough to have lying around, and soil from last summer’s potted vegetable garden.
I placed the large-holed bricks near the coop, in hopes that I can grow a single climbing edible in each (like a snow pea or nasturtium), to nourish and entertain the girls while they are confined.
Then, because I’m all into fermenting these days and because apparently fermented chicken feed has magical properties, I mixed up a batch to “cook”.
This concoction is their normal feed crumbles, black oil sunflower seeds, and some flax seeds. I covered it with water and I’m going to wait for it to start bubbling, adding water when it expands.
And now I’m going to play with seeds. My new journal for 2017 came today, so let the planning begin!