Welcome All! I'm a dreamer, I hope you are too! A Posse ad Esse, or From possibility to reality, is a general state of mind. I hope you'll share your possibilities with me as I will with you. Namaste~

May 27, 2009

Walking the front...

In keeping with my recent invite on the garden walk, I realized that I hadn't shown you any of the color that's been popping up in the front yard. I mean the bees do need to have a little something to bring them to us don't they?Can anyone identify this one? I've forgotten the name of it. Sure is a bright little bit of orange in the garden though.This is an Iris that a neighbor of ours offered to us last spring when she was thinning hers. You have to love freebies right?And speaking of freebies. These are a couple of our favorites (above and below). They're our never-never snapdragons. That's not an actual common name for them by the way, just a little something I came up with because, although in our climate snapdragons are considered annuals, these guys keep re-seeding themselves every year somewhere else in the yard. Get it? The "never never" stop coming back! It's fun every year to try to watch for them as they peek out between the other perennials.And not to be one to completely leave edibles out of the front yard of course, We have Tarragon that held over from last year.This one was a surprise for us both. I had no idea it had such cute little purplish blue flowers.
So, here's a question for all of you more experienced herb growers amongst us...do they bloom all summer? If so, do I need to prune off the old blooms. Any help is appreciated. Either way though this one will remain.

More is coming and some have passed but all are welcome in their time.
Best to you all!

May 25, 2009

First (real) Harvest

This weekend A~ and I had the chance to finally make our first significant harvest of the year. We did pull a few over wintered carrots a while back, but nothing to speak of. The Napa Cabbage that I planted on a whim early this spring have done fantastically.We actually had nine of them, but I had pulled one the day before to check out how it had headed up. All looked good so I pulled the other eight the next day.You know it's a good harvest when you need your wheel barrow to get it to the processing station (read: Garage sink added this year.) We're weighing everything again this year and these gave us a great start with a little shy of 34 pounds!

I've also been keeping a close eye on the first planting of broccoli. I've been worried about them bolting to flower and missing the "window" to harvest. The heads have been growing and getting bigger and I knew the day for some of them was coming soon.

Yesterday was a cool drizzly morning and I was finishing a couple of things up in the yard when I couldn't help but take this picture.Ain't that a sight? I harvested a few of the heads the next morning, a pounds worth. There should be more to come in the next week.
Here's the three heads I pulled all together.

I also managed to get most of the rest of the summer garden planted this weekend. I keep feeling like I'm behind on stuff but when I look back at notes from last year I realized I'm actually so far ahead that I only FEEL behind. Looks like it'll be a good year!

Hope all grows well in your gardens too.

May 20, 2009

The Garden Walk

Growing a garden takes commitment and a good bit of time. It's not a something for nothing proposition. Aside from the bursts of very hard work that come with planting and planning there's the maintenance. Weeding, watering and watching for that just right time to harvest.

It's that part, the maintenance part, where A~ and I have come up with a very pleasant way to keep up with it; our garden walks. Every night, nearly anyway, after I've come home from work and we've eaten dinner together she and I take the garden walk. And yes, we actually ask each other "You ready to take a garden walk?". So, after the last couple of weeks of hard work in the garden, planting, double digging, moving, rearranging and such, I thought I'd ask YOU.."You ready to take a garden walk with me?"First out the back door we notice that the sunflowers that A~ started from seed and has planted all over the garden for the bees to enjoy are coming along great.Next up is one of my test plants from last year. They're beets that are going to seed. What a gnarly looking plant!Here on the East facing part of the house where I only really get morning sun I've found that there's a great micro climate for growing my lettuce. Here's some Iceberg and Romaine.This is one of our new garden beds that we added to the South side of the house. I'm trying out the Three sisters here. Beans, squash and corn.You can see the sisters better in this pic.
Now then...sliding over to the south fence line we check out another new bed for this year, the Lasagna bed that I added in the Fall. Along it, I've planted some watermelons, peppers, Casaba melon, Eggplant, bush cucumbers and 12 Hamson determinate tomatoes of different sizes. I tried to make it a good mix of different types in order to get a good idea of how things do in this part of the yard.Going around the corner from the south side of the yard to the East one, I have eight Roma VF determinate tomatoes (not pictured) and then yet another patch of tomatoes. These are some Celebrity and Heartland tomatoes. Brussels sprouts and Swiss Chard here... First time for Brussels this year. They're looking healthy though.
Here in the slightly shadier area behind the pergola our raspberry and rhubarb patch has gone crazy this year. Oh yeah! Pies and jellies here we come... Don't believe me?
Well just beyond them is the strawberry patch. These three together, the raspberries, strawberries and rhubarb that is, make up what we call the "pie garden". Last year this little 3x10 patch yielded 25 lbs. Looks like this may be another great year.
I skipped a couple of beds obviously, well obvious to me anyway, but it was not on purpose. They both held Kohlrabi and some cabbage plants. Either way, I've move over to the north garden now, and here's the crop of the year, my peas. This is one of the beds that I planted approx 300 seeds in. So far they're all growing great.
I had the question of how they would be supported. I've decided to try two different ways. The first picture has literally no supports. They are completely self supported. This bunch have clung to a horizontal layer of strings that I tied around the trellis structure. Both are working fine so far. In fact...
They're starting to bloom!! But I need to continue or we'll never get done.
The next bed on the walk brings us to our cabbage and Broccoli plantings. It's got Napa Cabbage that I'm getting ready to harvest, and broccoli that is coming along great.
Check it out, Heads! We're so excited to try these out soon.
This was the bed that we grew our squash in last year. It's an odd sized one from the others, so we've decided to grow a mix of stuff in it. The left side are Sugar Snap peas and the other fern looking things are our multiple plantings of carrots for the summer.
Finally, one last bed of cold weather crops round out our original North side garden beds. This has more broccoli mixed with a bunch of Kale. I say original north side beds because we've had yet another expansion this year.
Ta-Da...The new north side Expansion. Four new 4x4 beds that will be holding indeterminate tomatoes, cucumbers, and beans this year. This was the previous location of my compost bins and all my junk that I collect for projects. I'll have to show you where those ended up on another post.
Now we're heading through the gate into the front yard. And this area is the very last bit of newly added garden space from this year. It's the potato and onion garden. These of course being the onions, and these...
being the potatoes! We just love watching these grow. I can't tell you why necessarily, but we both do. They're growing fantastically. Full, green and healthy. Just about ready for some mounding too. Stay tuned for more on that.
Well, that's about it for the food gardens. They're coming along well I think. I do want to finish off by closing out this idea of the garden walk. The point isn't just to walk around and admire, although that is admittedly a perk, but rather to check on things and make sure all is well. This routine of regularly checking on everything gives us the opportunity to pull a new weed here or there, and make sure we aren't starting to see a new pest infestation.
So get out and check on your gardens. Keep in tune with them and they'll reward you.
Till next time.

May 14, 2009

Aphid Invasion -or- The ladybug buffet

We did a little work in the front yard garden this weekend past. Mothers day does require a sacrifice of time and labor after all! Mamma should be proud of her house shouldn't she? When I got to this part of the garden, one of my favorite places by the way because it's all Columbines that self seed and get bigger every year, I was cleaning up and wondering why the flowers didn't look quite right this year. So I looked a little closer.Holy Crap! Infestation! The aphids are here and they were here in force!

Now it's not uncommon for me to get some aphids. Not even uncommon to find them out in force from time to time and I deal with the problems as they arise. This was by far the earliest and most intense infestation that I've ever had though.

At first glance I found that almost all the columbines on this side of the garden were under siege. In fact, I was about to break into the organic pesticide. I rarely ever do that, but this just seemed overwhelming. Before I did that, I looked a little closer and found something incredible. An ecosystem had developed right there.

Because of the abundant food supply, the ladybugs (Yes I know they're not bugs, they're beetles. That's the name I grew up with so that's what I call em ok?) had moved in and were reproducing like rabbits. They are natural predators to the aphid, so I thought it best to let them do their work. Also, I'm willing to sacrifice a few flowers in order to foster a healthy population of these beneficial insects for the rest of the season.

In that vein I decided to remove all the flower stalks from the plants and place them in a bucket, then off to the trash. They were the most infested part of the plant so I wanted to give the beetles a head start on clearing them up. Aphids don't fly, so I'm worried about them coming back. Don't worry, there were plenty left for the bugs to feed on.

WARNING...EXPLICIT photos follow...

But seriously, I found a regular lady bug orgy going on on some of the understory branches as I was pruning them.
I kind of felt a little peeping Tom-ish for taking these, but in the interest of education I'm willing to go the extra mile for you.And this is "The act". If you closely you'll see the two bodies of the beetles protruding from under their wing covers. And kids, that is how the birds and the beetles goes.. MMMM K?Here you can see the collection of yellow egg sacks lain neatly under a leaf and Mom heading off to eat more aphids no doubt.And this ugly little guy is a larvae of the Ladybird beetle. From this phase it'll go through a pupa phase and then emerge as the lady bug that we're all familiar with. So, if you see these guys crawling around the garden, they are your friend!

In the Short term, I had to make a concession to the aphids in that I gave up my flowers for this year. I have others. The bigger point is found in the long term view however. In that perspective I've helped to foster a natural ecosystem and life cycle that will benefit me and my garden later this year.

If the problem persists, I'll go to the next step which, to me, would be to entirely cut off all green growth and let the plant try again. For now though, I'll let nature do what it does, under my supervision of course. I'll keep you posted on how this develops.

All the best.

May 12, 2009

How NOT to start tomatoes

Ok, here we go. I have to say I read a lot of blogs, and often times I'm inspired by them to try things that I never would have thought of. I've seen beautiful heirlooms veggies that make me want to try new breeds. I've learned how to make yogurt and cheese from scratch, and I've been honored enough to have occasionally inspired others (their words not mine). Often times these kind of blogs are visited by new readers that are searching for answers to many of the same questions that inspired the authors to research answers and to post their solutions online in the first place. I know there was a time, and some times there still are times, when I would look at what someone or some family is able to accomplish and think "Man, these guys are awesome! They never screw things up!". It can be really disheartening when you're just starting off and you make some mistake you think is just stupid and you imagine that others don't make those kind of mistakes. You know what though, I bet they do. Goodness knows I do.

I may not advertise all my screw ups, and when I do make them I've learned to work hard to not make them again, but I learn from every one of them. In fact their often my best lessons. So, in the spirit of full disclosure, and so that perhaps someone can learn from my mistake. Here is a biggie for this year.No biggie right? It looks a little bit dry, maybe could use a little supplement or something, but not bad for a week and a half old tomato start right? Yeah, that would be true if it wasn't 6 and a half weeks old instead!And here's the rest of the family. A pathetic, ugly bunch of purplish-yellow leaved stunted failures!

So, yeah, the tomato starts that are going in the garden this week end are not from my super slick seed starter set up. but rather were picked up at a local family run nursery a couple of weeks ago. They're about 50/50 heirlooms and hybrids and they're doing very well and are hardening off as we speak.

What happened though? best I can guess it was a problem with the temperature. The cold weather seedlings that I started did great, couldn't have asked for better. However, as we all know, tomatoes are not cold tolerant plants. From my post-mortem research, I've learned that colder, moist temperatures can cause a lock-up of phosphorus in the soil that will cause a Phos. deficiency. As the plants started displaying their early symptoms, I tried a little more water. Not too much, as this causes a whole lot of other issues, but I didn't let them completely dry out either. This extra water in the cool climate of my basement was, I think, I culprit. The seedlings are still alive, but very stunted and unhealthy. I'm trying to keep them outside and see what happens, but I'm not counting on them at all this year.

So there you go, my biggest seedling failure to date. (See Irma, nothing to worry about, the peas are doing fantastic!) It's ugly, but not that big a deal really. I know I'm still learning a lot of things and every time I have these kinds of set backs I get a little better. Take heart if you've had failures too. They happen. Keep pressing forward and challenging your self.

I will!

May 11, 2009

Re-alignment... personal update.

Hi everyone, sorry for the silent treatment. It seems as though it's been a full week since I posted anything at all. I have to come clean with you, I've had a bit of a change in priority. When I began this blog it was so that I could have a voice of my own, a place where I could take the opportunity to sound off when I felt the need and to share my ideas and my plans. As I shared more, I read more, I got to know you and found myself a part of an incredible community of people. I love that. I look forward to hearing from you all every time I post something new and to sharing myself with you.

The downside is that I'm also a very goal oriented person. I like to be able to quantify what I'm doing, at least to myself and that sometimes gets in the way of my just being me. I started watching my statcounter every night and felt obligated to post every day, or at least nearly. I think I lost sight of the original intent and I've decided I need to re-align.

Because I never wanted to have the blog interfere with my family time, I began writing in the evenings after everyone was laying down. As I took on other writing obligations, like the Simple Green Frugal blog and GRIT magazine for instance, the evenings got longer. That and the fact that I was living with a camera around my neck whenever I was doing anything, so you can see it was getting a little out of perspective.

I'll still be posting, here and elsewhere, but as you've noticed it will be a little more intermittent. If I have something to say, I'll be here. If I think I have something valuable to add to a dialogue or something that I think will help someone else out, I'll add my two cents. I just won't be posting just to be posting.

I'm so thankful for everyone that comes here everyday, and to everyone with whom I've built such good friendships with. I look forward to continuing to hear from you and to hopefully adding so the urban farming, homesteading, Simple living community for much longer.
Now, with that in mind, here comes the down and dirty, my abismal failure. How NOT to grow tomatoes starts.


May 4, 2009

Just sort of...relaxing

The last couple of weeks have been that wonderful part of spring where the Earlier plants have already been planted, and the summer stuff isn't yet ready to go in the ground. The weather is cool, this year it's been wet too with a storm of some magnitude almost every other day, and inviting to go outside. Normally, I would be working hard to accomplish some of the goals that I have for the year, or to get some maintenance work done before the summer heat kicks in, but the regular storms have really put a damper on that. I'll no doubt have a lot of make-up work to do this week, as we should get at least a few days of partial to full sun and I'm far behind, but honestly I've been kind of enjoying the relaxation. That's all over though. I need to get hopping on an increasingly long list of to-do's. Worst part is that they're mostly all of my own creation!

I have to:
•Finish "rocking" the wall of the new side yard (south) terraced squash planting bed.
•Terrace the new side yard(south)location for the firewood hutch.
•Move the compost pile over and consolidate compost bins.
•Clean up side yard (north) and prep for new planting beds. (cold coolweather stuff)
•Begin teardown of existing Pergola Structure in preparation for new greenhouse construction.
•Build Chicken Tractor.
•Repair Sprinklers that were torn up last fall while adding fence.
•Add new low pressure irrigation system for new garden beds.

And that's just the short term list of To-Do's! I did manage to get a good bit done this afternoon on the cleaning up the North side of the house, but have a long way to go to get it complete.

I know it will get done but man oh man, just looking at a list like that and thinking to myself that I want it done by the first week in June preferrably and it can seem daunting! Baby steps P~ baby steps.

Next time I check in with you you'll have the dubious honor of witnessing the results of one of my more monumental failures. Sounds fun don't it?

Be well everyone...

May 1, 2009

Seeding Kohlrabi

I thought you might be interested in some kohlrabi that I have in the backyard garden that's going to seed.It didn't bold already mind you, this is kohlrabi from our late season crops that we put in last year. I didn't manage to get it into the ground early enough so I decided to just "let it ride" right on through the winter to see if it would go to seed in the spring. Well it has.Just by looking at it, you can see that this plant is a relative of broccoli and the other Cruciferous veggies or brassicas as we generally refer to them. They are referred to as Cruciferous due to the cross shaping of the pretty yellow flowers.
I have to say. Whether or not these ever set good seed or not, they are a welcomed addition to the yard with their plentiful plumage. They may just look like scraggy weeds to some, they look like potential to me... potential and just a hint of beauty.
Hope you all have a great weekend.