Thursday, November 5, 2015

Fall doldrums

The end of the garden is near. The beans are gone, the squash is gone (except for the pumpkin, which I continue to baby along). I have TONS of green tomatoes but none of them appear to be ripening. Garlic is in and the sprouts are up. I haven't seen a sign of mushrooms, which makes me sad. Three plum tree starts are looking healthy and I harvested Jerusalem artichoke last week. My winter garden is in (peas are up and blooming) and most of the outdoor get-ready-for-winter chores are finished.

SO of course I bring my garden inside.

During the winter my indoor garden consists of all the stuff that was on the front porch until the cold weather hit--turmeric, ginger, oranges, lemons, a grapefruit tree, several christmas cactuses, geranium starts, lemon balm and yarrow. My amaryllis are in a box in the closet for next spring, and I am soaking black pepper seeds before I plant them. Hopefully by next spring I'll have a pepper vine.

This year I'm going to try something new. Last year I inherited (in a sense) a bunch of really big plant pots. The big ones that the nurseries plant trees in. So this year I will be starting apple trees to espalier against the back fence. I'll theoretically have three apple trees, although there may be room only for two. I want three, so I'll plant three. Maybe I should plant a pear in the middle instead of a third apple tree. :) The big composter will be moved into another area of the garden to make room for the trees. And if my sister never claims the apple tree she asked me to start for her, I'll use it.

I'm mean. :) And I love it.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

What it's like to work nights

Simplest ever fruit cocktail.

In each pint jar:

1/3 c peaches
1/3 c pears
1/3 c pineapple
1/3 c grapes
Add extra fruit to the 1/2 inch head space if necessary.
syrup to fill, make sure all air bubbles are out.

Water bath 25 minutes.

Sleep. Most people take it forgranted. We sleep (or don't) on a regular schedule without thinking much more about it.

In the last few months a lot of the things I've always done have disappeared from my view. I never thought that working nights would play such havoc with my life.

You're awake when everyone else is asleep
You're asleep when everyone else is awake
Your social life is limited to an hour or two a day, depending on your schedule
You can't do anything noisy, smelly, or social during the night hours
You can't do anything outside that requires light
Your circadian rhythm gets all messed up
It throws off your eating schedule
What you used to eat just feels wrong because your brain knows it's not breakfast/lunch/dinner time
You need blackout curtains
If you need to do anything during your "normal" sleep time, you have to adjust again
People who are awake during the day call you without thinking
The doorbell should be outlawed
People come to visit and you never know
The "tech team" isn't available during your work hours
You can't rely on the sun to wake up
You lose access to vitamin D
Everything you used to do in 18 hours now has to be done in 5

I've been doing a lot of canning, because that's something that can be done at night. My garden suffers, I never see my friends, many of my hobbies are out of bounds because they're things that need to be done during the day. I can't use a hammer or do laundry when everyone else is asleep, movies are OK if I watch them in my room (and I inevitably fall asleep). I can still read, and write, so that's comforting.

Oh, and I just got my proof copies for Spirit and Dark Spirit! So I finished the first (and possibly only) batch of fruit cocktail. Tonight I can cheese, sour cream, butter and cream cheese, and tomorrow I read. :)

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Agaricus Campestris

A while ago I mentioned that I want to grow mushrooms in the yard. Well a few weeks ago I learned that one of the mushrooms that always pops up in the spring is edible!

Agaricus Campestris, or the common meadow mushroom, has pink gills when immature, shading to dark chocolate brown at maturity. It's closely related to the small white mushrooms that are sold at grocery stores. The spore print is also dark brown. If you pinch or scratch the flesh and it turns colors (usually red or yellow) it's not campestris but some other kind. Other varieties also have a distinctive smell when crushed, but that can't be relied on since some people can't smell it. The smell is called "phenolic," whatever that means.

Eating related varieties that aren't edible will give you the runs, or make you throw up (or both) but is not technically dangerous. Another edible variety in the same family is the horse mushroom, which looks similar but is much larger. They're harder to identify. If they stain yellow but don't have pink gills when young, they might be a horse mushroom.

I had them for breakfast this morning. :) Fantastic in an omelet.

I'm going to try to start them under the grapevines.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Spring harvest

I harvested my ginger and turmeric today. I have tried to grow ginger in about every soil imaginable--compost, potting soil, sand, clay, and combinations of soils. The most I got was a single rhizome that let me try again. This last year I tried it two different ways--regular garden soil mix with sphegnum moss added in to break up the pack, and straight sphegnum moss.

Ginger harvest (2015). Soil on the left, sphegnum moss on the right. The sphegnum ginger grew larger in bulk but didn't have as many pieces.

I've tried turmeric almost as many ways, and the roots always died. Rotted, dried up, and last year a giant cutworm found it. This year I had two roots survive (not grow, but survive) so I put them in sphegnum moss as well in an attempt to save something. One of the parent roots is still solid but has no eyes. The other will go back in the moss to try again.

Turmeric harvest (2015)

Harvested and repotted all the turmeric (except the rhizome that didn't have any buds). I put the ginger in a mini greenhouse and I'll plant it later. I'll probably do a combination again, some in moss and some in soil.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Spring garden update #1

I just finished the first transplant for my seedling tomatoes and peppers. Into pots.

Last summer we finished the last piece of the planned garden extension, so our garden area has basically doubled. This means that not only can the tomatoes and potatoes be rotated a few years apart, but we have room for more stuff (which to me means I can experiment more).

The oats last year grew just fine, but they're very labor intensive. I'm keeping seeds in case they're needed in the future, but I can't spend hours threshing or lose half the harvest trying to winnow the chaff. The seed pods are so light, or so steamlined, that the wind blows away pods that still have oats in them. I tried using a number of different things to get the oats out, but nothing worked. The best was an old meat-grinder, but the oats jammed it up and it broke the oats so that, again, everything blew away when I tried to winnow the mess.

I need to try oats again some time, but not this year.

This year my "test" plot is a dry bean, called Idaho Pink. Beans are a good source of protein, and if we can grow beans rather than buying them, we're better off. At this point nearly everything growing in the yard is useful. Even the grass is used as a weed barrier. I'd like to get rid of the bushes in the front yard, maybe replace them with huckleberries.

I still want to do morels (mushrooms) under the oak, but there is some concern from various parties (not me) that the morels will "cross" with mushrooms already there and turn poisonous. Had to laugh at that. Mushrooms would be another good source of protein, but only if we know that what we're harvesting is edible. I was thinking of growing shitake mushrooms as well, but those will both have to wait. Unless I can find someone with spores...Hm... *heads off to Facebook*

Monday, February 9, 2015

1st Bonsai attempt

I've been thinking about bonsai for some time--not decorative bonsai, just using those techniques to keep a tree small.

I have a potted grapefruit tree that I started from a seed about five years ago, so I decided to try on that one. This is about the age that most of the sites I found suggested doing the first training, so I figured I might as well.

It has never been repotted and probably hasn't been watered as well as it should have been. Definitely not fertilized--I don't often use fertilizer.

First I cut off all the dead-wood. There wasn't much, but enough to make it difficult to work with the tree as a whole.

Then I cut the tree down to the point that I could actually work with it before I pulled it out of its pot.

It was seriously root-bound. I'm surprised that the roots weren't coming out of the holes.

It took a lot of work and a water bath to get most of the compacted soil out of the roots. The tap root had twisted itself up in a knot, but I got as close as possible and got it out of there.

I cleaned out the root mass, got rid of the very long, stringy roots, and trimmed the smaller roots inside so that there's room for soil in there.

I mixed the existing soil with composted steer manure (no, it doesn't stink) and put it back in its pot, spreading the roots out over the surface before I put the last third of the dirt back in.

The existing root-mass is smaller than I expected, so I did some more trimming after I had it settled back in its pot. Here's the before and after.

And no, that picture wasn't taken in 2007--I just don't bother to reset the clock on my camera every time I change batteries.

I have an apricot seedling I want to bonsai, but the information I found said it needs to be a minimum of two years old...By that time it will be five feet tall, so I keep looking for other information.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

My Hoop House Broke

There's been a lot of wind here in the last week. It generally comes down from the mountains (east) like this in early spring, round about the beginning of April. Instead it comes at the beginning of February.

So I went out this morning to check my hoop houses and this is what I found.

The plastic had split. When I went out yesterday there was the beginning of a small tear (about a foot long) and I taped it up, but the wind came again last night and used the edge of the tape (of all things!) to create a rip that went the full length of the hoop house.

So the plastic is drying out (it stays pretty wet in there) and I'm considering what to do now. I have plenty of small covers--technically I could put one over each of the plants and they might survive till spring. That hoop house is full of chinese cabbage, which I've never grown before, so I don't know how well it handles the cold.

On the other hand, I could either cut a new piece of plastic and discard the old one (which I do not want to do) or tape up the old one and hope it doesn't split again.

Decisions, decisions...

The other hoop house has the lettuce and spinach, and shows no sign of weakness. Note to self: Next time, buy higher quality plastic. :)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

GMO's (Part 4--the future)

Call me odd, but I don't own any part of this planet. I hold it as a responsibility, a gift and a trust, for the children of the future. Everything I do must be coached in those terms.

My personal and political choices, my views and beliefs, my business practices and interests, all affect this world. I cannot make a major corporation or a government change it's patterns of behavior. I can't force anyone to do what I think is right. Nor should I.

What I can do, I will.

I will be vocal about things that affect this world so that the children are left with good choices and healthy bodies. I will make as small a mark as possible, taking into consideration that I still need to live. Because I believe, strongly, that at the end of my life I will be held accountable for this stewardship.

The future is not to be taken lightly. I will not be here, but this does not mean I have any less responsibility for the results of my choices. Some people believe that what they do in this life ends with them and the future is none of their concern.

Fifty or one hundred years from now, will the seed stocks all be purchased from international corporations with patented gene complexes? I hope not. Will all choice of what we eat be gone, given over to those who are making a profit off of it? I hope not.

Whether GMO's are eventually proven to be safe or not, we still have to take into consideration the end result of the current trends. The corporations want their profit, and the government wants to continue collecting taxes on that profit. If the corporations are put ahead of the people, or even ahead of the will of the people, there will come a time when we have no more control. The control will be all in the hands of those who decide what we eat, what we wear, how we live. If we give up the right to decide a simple matter of labeling, it gives more power to those who want our money without accountability.

So do we allow the mega corporations to do as they please with our food supply?

They want to take our choices away, because face it--people with knowledge and choices are not going to mindlessly give all their food money to one mega corporation, and swallow the massive price increases that come with lack of competition.

Or maybe they will. I hope not.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

My garlic is sprouting!

Yes, another garlic post (ad nauseum).

I have a serious problem with this stuff. Either I have too little or too much. Still, much better to have too much than too little.

In the last few (say, five or ten) years I've started planting garlic. I tried growing it inside, but that didn't work well. Instead I save the largest cloves and plant 120 + outside each fall to grow through the winter. It's harvested in late June or early July.

So a few days ago I looked at my stored garlic and it was sprouting! In January?!

Good grief.

No one's been sick this year (at least not the kind of sick that garlic can help) and we haven't been cooking nearly as much. About once a month I sit down at the kitchen table and crush up a bunch of garlic in olive oil, then we cook with that. Simple and quick, still fresh, and SOOOO good.

So I have several pounds of garlic that are starting to sprout. I took a bunch of it to church to give away and I'm trying neighbors and friends, but I still have a lot. I'll keep searching out the sprouts and drying/crushing/giving them away.

I went looking online for ways to keep the stuff from sprouting, but apparently once garlic decides it's time to sprout nothing short of cooking or freezing will stop it.

One site said to keep it between 40 and 60 degrees, saying that temps lower than this will encourage sprouting and higher temps will delay spring sprouting. Nope. Sorry. Wrong answer. We keep our house at 68-72 degrees and it still starts sprouting in January.

Another site said keep it in the dark, but I've tried that as well with no luck.

I think the best answer was probably "There's really no way to do this, short of keeping the temperature at precisely 32 degrees, and even that is questionable." :)

My garlic outside is visible through six inches of snow, so obviously it's doing well. In spite of the "too much garlic" problem, I'm looking forward to my spring harvest.