Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Making do

Yesterday was a perfect day for catching up. I transplanted about 100 kale plants into a bed, soon to be known as the Bed O'Kale, or the BLD bed (for breakfast, lunch and dinner, which is how I would eat kale).

It was also (drum roll please) tomato-planting day, and I decided to try something new. I used to have a soil block maker, but I got rid of it for reasons that are unclear to me now. Maybe something having to do with selling my lovely, beloved Diamant grain mill *at a substantial loss, never dreaming how the price would triple. . . Sigh. The decisions we make.

So I wasn't about to let a simple matter of not owning the right equipment stop me -- soil blocks it was going to be.

The first step was to moisten soil. Then I tried using a small drinking cup.

That seemed to work okay initially, but eventually the soil stuck really badly and they fell apart, even though I used my favorite bench scraper to convey them. I had to cast about for a better mold. Ideally, it would have some "eject" feature. Ah ha! Paper cup!A simple hole poked in the bottom would let me push the soil out.

They weren't perfect, by any means, but I figured they'd do okay.

Each one got two tomato seeds, since I was sowing fairly old seed. I'm sure, given my luck, that they'll grow perfectly and abundantly and I'll either feel like a murderer with nail scissors or spend a lot of time pulling them apart and transplanting them, ending up with way more tomatoes than I can handle. I'm trying to learn from experience! I don't want 25 tomatoes. . . 12 is plenty.

Each "block" (really a cone) got a bit of moist soil drizzled on the seeds, then lightly tapped to make contact. I covered the whole thing with a humidity dome and tucked it back under the lights. I have a mist attachment to a hose I could use to water, but it's only one flat; I'll probably use a spray bottle at first and then bottom-water them. They're sitting on a nursery flat, hopefully providing some bottom aeration without letting them completely collapse. It's an adventure, at least.

So if all goes well, we'll have a dozen San Marzano, a half dozen Roma VF, and enough tomato products to make ketchup and spaghetti sauce in addition to the regular canned tomato stuff I generally make. Now I have to keep the additional plantings to only ONE Cherokee Purple and ONE Early Girl.

Oh, and maybe two Principe Borghese. We're running low on dried tomatoes.

Today should be Pepper Day, but I wonder if there's enough room under the lights.

*If anyone is considering grain mill buying, this blog has some lovely and current reviews. I probably wouldn't get another Diamant based on it.

Monday, January 30, 2012

First Hive Checks

Don't click this link if bees aren't your thing.

Okay . . . I warned you. I hope this works! I couldn't embed the video, so I put it up on Youtube

My buddy Erika and her kids came over this weekend to do a quick hive check with me. With her help, I went quickly through all three hives. One had, in fact, died over the winter, as I suspected, while two were okay. But, bees being bees, one hive was booming, ready for a honey super, and the other one was okay.

This video that was shot by Erika is me going through the booming hive (which was the last one) while Nasir moves from being a little wary to an enthusiastic would-be beekeeper. Erika is going to have to hurry to get a hive for him!

Also, apologies. My neighbors were doing something inside the falling-down shed right behind where we were working, so there are construction noises during much of it. This is in no way a complete hive inspection. It's just a first peek for the spring, just making certain there was a viable queen (Nasir spotted the queen in the hive to the left in the video, when we were going through that one. Sharp eyes! Unfortunately, I didn't have a paint pen to mark her with). I made my assessment based on brood pattern, and looked to find out if they were in need of more space for expansion and swarm prevention.

I hope to figure out the video thing better and feature many more Adventures in the Hives.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Scenes of Winter

The month was so dry, and so cold. . . some plants persevered. . . some withered under the conditions.

It's difficult to believe that this pepper might pull through. I haven't pruned it back yet, just in case.

But spring can only be waiting to pop out, now that we've had a few good days of rain.

It's a gardener's discipline to let these tender spears alone; but this isn't the year for an asparagus harvest.

Today was a good day to transplant "Viroflay," "Gigante d'Inverno" and "Bloomsdale" spinach. Then, learning my lesson, I went back inside and promptly seeded another flat full.

What are you anticipating?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Apparently it's Annual

Sarafina says we do this every year, usually before Christmas, but sometimes at different times.

I'll just say that one of the only times I wish we had through-the-door ice on our refrigerator is when four of six of us come down with violent stomach bugs.


Monday, January 2, 2012

New year, new tasks

I used to wonder why so many farming stories included work on irrigation systems. Apparently, they were all true to life, because they require upkeep -- even our tiny backyard system does. Fortunately, I have competent farm help. Eric fixed the two broken places AND extended the one that no longer reached the reduced bed. Taz helped. A lot.

(Apparently a plumber's job list is never done. I hear him plunging the bathroom sink right now. What a great guy.)

Some of the volunteers I don't even remember planting, like this mustardy thing. I don't like these; they're too spicy for me. Maybe the chickens will.

Nasturtiums are easily the most giving and re-giving plant. Although I asked Ellie not to plant them, because they're invasive, she did. . . and I'm pulling them from the pathway already. And yes, I know they're edible. . . just not high on my list of "yummies."

Red Russian kale volunteers big enough to make up a dinner this week. Terrific. They are so much bigger than the lettuce I actually seeded at about the same time. Just goes to show that when they get to do their own thing, in my yard at least, they're generally very happy.

Cilantro Pathway furnished enough for a pot of Red Lentil and Lime soup this afternoon. Again, when I keep my hands off, things seem to go really well.

Sarafina even put in some time giving the asparagus a haircut. There were already some spear-like shoots. Hopefully this will tell it that it's winter and it should think about a spring resurgence.

Another sign of the times is my children risking their life and limbs to get the Christmas tree in the green bin. I think this picture is after it served as a sled down the front steps a number of times.

All that's left for this week is to draw the garden plan, taking into account where the already-sprouting seedlings will go, and then plant the rest. Fun times.