Category Archives: Growing and gardening

Tomatoes in

It’s that time of year.

The tomatoes are installed in the greenhouse (today), and now I have to scrupulously keep the chickens out (lest this happen again), let the guineas in at night but not so soon that there are marauding chickens still about, keep an eye on closed/open doors for air and heat circulation, and watch the forecast like a hawk for frost temperature dips.  It’s a nervous time, while the tomatoes are still baby plants.

I swear planting is getting faster and more efficient every year though.

This is the transformational stage, between chicken winter habitat and summer food jungle:)

tap tap tap

The sap is running!  Last year we were largely robbed of the sugar season when winter ended a month early (just kidding!  Catastrophic frost in June!).

I completely failed to get taps in the trees on time last year.

This year, the sugar season is right on time, precisely timing the sugar moon.  I’ve got one tree tapped, the sap is flowing, and I’m even boiling it down!In the past I’ve tapped several trees and collected an awe-inspiring quantity of sap, and failed to boil any because in general I don’t even try to resist chugging it, cold, standing next to the tree (WOW!).

I made kombucha from it (wow), I boiled it to make tea, and soup, but not syrup.

Also I believed the horror stories of dripping walls and sauna reenactments from boiling sap indoors and vaporizing 39 out 40 parts water.  Doing it anyways.  I discovered something, maybe.  I was in and out of the house today turning the stove on when I was in and off when I left (window open), and whenever I returned to the cooled pot, there was a remarkable drop in the high water mark.  It seemed quite a bit was evaporating every time while it cooled, without the burner on.  So perhaps that’s a tiny bit more efficient?

But this time, I have a modest amount collected, (still chugging it from the bucket but with a little restraint), and I’m hoping for a quarter cup of syrup :D.  Maybe a half a cup:)

sprouts!

The year’s first shoots are always exciting.

Reliable, pedestrian kale races out of the gate, germinating in three days and fully unfolding cotyledons in <24 hours (pictured at two days old).

More exciting is licorice:

Hello!

Before too long every windowsill will be full of seedling flats, and I’ll be grumbling at how fast the tyrannical little shoots are pressuring me to pot them up.

I flaked all of February, the early planting, but I’m back on track now with my planting schedule (easier every year as most things are just a straight copy of last year’s schedule).  This week, lettuce and ground cherries.

Garlic and grass

Planted the garlic today.  On paper that’s half a month late, but by the weather, it’s just the right time.  The beds covered with hay look exactly the same after planting as before.  So many worms under the mulch!

I started some wheatgrass for the guineas.  I couldn’t remember if wheatgrass required soil or not, and I’m still not sure, so I’ll start trying it soil free.  I will also find out soon how many days it takes to become edible, and cycle trays through the windowsills.  Now we can spend all winter with the windowsills filled with start trays too.

Tomorrow is scheduled to be yard day for the chickens, so that should be fun and exciting.  I have to drape the greenhouse adjunct garden with bird net to thwart the sky predators and the guineas from escaping, and cut doors, and then they will have an outside yard they can come and go from.  I expect enthusiasm.

Boil ’em mash ’em stick ’em in a stew

I looked at the forecast and figured it was the last minute for getting the potatoes out of the ground.    It wasn’t.  They were plenty well tucked in and could have withstood much colder temps.  But they’re out now.First I take the blanket off.   Dig the potatoes…Oh look, I got a heart potato!  That wasn’t staged.  It really turned over the first forkful.  I got two heart potatoes today. Somebody’s been here first.  I don’t have anything against voles, particularly, but – that could change.  It’s hard to tell how much of the potato volume is lost, but there’s evidence of a pretty epic vole party.…and put the blanket back on!   Time for the garlic to in now.

pasture pigs

The wild birds are well fed.  They’ve been cleaning out my crop of sunflowers. From full to this, all in four days.  I grew them for them, but I hoped to ration them out a little better, and for my chickens to get some.

Makes me want to grow a field of them, but then the ravens will come and really clean them out.The pigs are moved again, now in the “pasture”, which is much easier to move the fence through.  Of course, they are hiding.It was a hot and  humid day (just before it got cold and very rainy), so they were in their brushy bit, covered with mud.

Double trouble

Occupied.

They were just hanging out, prepared to stay for the long haul.

This is not a problem I was expecting to have:The squashes  swarmed the fence, and the frost revealed the bounty.  Stuck to the fence.The frost wiped out the morning glories, too, and the zinnias.

Inky and Velvet are so beautiful (and so sweet).  Inky still insists (very, very determined) on going to bed in the tree, but she might give a little chicken hug (neck snuggle) when you move her.  She had Speckles with her one night, and one of the Five once (uhoh, where one goes the other four will also), but so far, she’s the only diehard tree rooster.In different lights they are green iridescent, or purple.  Just gorgeous.

Mr Tomato Head

Look at that tomato.  Eggs (normal and Silkie) are there for size context.  It’s very large.  A Persimmon.  They are so good.  The surprise of the year.  I was expecting a normal-large tomato, not one tomato the size of a loaf of bread!  Meaty, and delicious.  When the hens get a bucket of scraps, they pick out the orange persimmon bits first.

In the tomato fermenting pots, the process is rolling right along.  Look at that scum of mold – perfect.Outside, the morning glories have come, vining up with the volunteer tomatoes.  It seems late, but they objected to the early spring when I planted them.  The rest of the garden is turning senescent and ugly, but the morning glories are beautiful in the mess.

Tomato seeds

Pretty colours!  I set up to save seeds from most of the tomato varieties I grew this year.  They’ve each got annotation on size, flavour, and vine behavior (“disobedient”, “excessive suckers”)

Each tub has the ripest, spoiled on the vine where possible fruits, and they’re going to rot down into a soupy mess with a scum of mold on top, yay.  I may not keep them in the house for that.  Last time I was ferment-saving seeds I forgot about them in the camper and they were perfect.  Excellent germination. I’m excited to have learned that tomatoes grow true (yay!), and I’m not daunted that tomatoes require the seeds to be fermented to breach the protective jelly coating they hold around their seeds.  Easy!

What I am daunted by is the fruit flies.  I didn’t realize I was setting up a fruit fly farm.

Another first successful grow:ground cherries!  They’re so delicious, and look like pearly peach berries, in their little paper lanterns.