Swiss Chard Harvest

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:

http://heartbeetkitchen.com/2013/canningpreserving/pickled-swiss-chard-stems/

Next day update: 

Pickles are already great! Not too much vinegar. Subtly sweet and sriracha-

2017’s Late Start Summer Garden

It took a lot of time and effort to expand from this:

2016 Summer Garden

To 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.

Tomato Town
Too Many Watermelons
Wendell and the Mystery Squash
Mystery Squash

I’m a Pollinator Killer!

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.”

Ha. 

The Inside Dirt

There’s another kind of dirt I’m touching now. It’s every bit as organic as the dirt of my official quest. I’m digging deep and unearthing a powerful soul. This part was always known to me, but was never really seen for long. She’d get brushed away with cynicism or smothered with guilt or buried under embarassment. And well, she’s not really lovely or good or any other kind of sugary spice.

But – –

She’s a fucking badass and I’m beginning to like her.

Three Frigid Nights Ahead

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. 

Good night, little troopers!

Spring Left (or Winter is Coming)

(See what I did there?)

It’s pretty. For now. Before the carnage is revealed.

I forgot to tarp the girls and they’re a little pissed off about it.

I did cover the herb garden, as well as the lettuce and newborn carrots. I suppose I shall see what actually happens.

The snow makes Wendell fast.

And then we had snow cones made from real snow!

(Aaannnd super awesome Game of Thrones date night happened this week:)

Winter is Coming

Play Hard Work Hard

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:

Dead as a door nail
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.

Hello Monday Morning (sigh)

Not Asking for Permission Anymore

This post is about my day job.

Nobody is going to give me power. It already exists; I just have to claim it. 

In this case it means developing a system, and communicating with and accepting help from others in order to implement it. And in the meantime, culture shifts will hopefully have occurred to help improve how the organization handles things in the future.  That doesn’t seem so bad, does it? 

Unfortunately, I’ve recently and vehemently expressed the need for such a system and asked my boss for help in developing one. He rejected me with comforting (but truth-slanted) words and a pat on the head. This isn’t some frivolity; this is me being able to be effective at my job. And me doing my job means having a reasonable amount of control over cash. Right now (and for the entire 7 years that I’ve been there) my department has been granted enough power to handle unpaid invoices like housekeeping handles dirty towels: Stack ’em up until we can filter them through the wash. Basically the departments spend (sort of based on their budgets which are always too big because of overestimated revenue) and then We (accounting) figure out a way to pay the bills and then instruct Them (departments) to slow down spending way too late. No control, no security. 

Controlling the cash is my job. I’m the Controller. I haven’t been doing that very integral part of my job at all (except to the extent that I let payables go way into arrears and yell at people about spending) for 7 years.

Have I been given the means to perform my job well? Hell no. Does that matter to me anymore? No it doesn’t. I’m going to do my job, or I’m going to get fired trying. There is risk involved with what I’m doing right now. I may very well get fired. If rumor holds true, the controller before me got fired when he quit rolling over. But you know what?  If I get fired, that’s OK.  I’ll get another stupid job that pisses me off and stresses me out.  I do know this: keeping my head down and being obediently ineffective is the wrong thing to do. For the both the organization and for me. I’m not asking for permission anymore.

The Garden!

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. 

Mapping it out in my pajamas

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:

Spring Planting February 2016

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!

Sometimes We all Need a Little Concrete in our Lives

Gordon and I made our escape to Wilmington, NC for the weekend without our children. We’ve been married for nearly 13 years and this is only the 4th time we’ve been away together. I told this to a woman I work with (while explaining how I would in no way be available to deal with anything work-related this weekened) and she looked at me with the most serious face and asked me, “Are you a loser?” LOL. I guess that’s a legitimate question coming from a suburbanite who socializies with other adults and who cares about things like “fashion”. But yeah, even I need to play in the city world now and again. I just never seem to know it without some prodding.

One cool irony is that the first pub we checked out happened to be an old converted seed store.  Felt right at home with a local pint in my hand while staring at a sign about morning glories.

It’s such a cool city.  Lots of history, lots of fun.  Not expensive.  Hip without being pretentious.

Did I mention that we did this without the children? And that it’s been like FOREVER? I had maybe close to no gray hair last time we escaped. So we did it up: a little crazy – but mostly just total silliness. It was great fun.

A Couple of Badasses