Friday, April 22, 2011

The Great Seedling Count

Hi, I know I haven't been around much this month- busy busy around here!!!  I've been having lots of fun planting seeds and here is what I have coming up so far at my house:
100ish Tomatoes
150ish Eggplant (What was I thinking???)
100ish Peppers (hot and milds but no bells yet- I KNOW I have those seeds somewhere!!)
30ish Red Cabbage
3 Comfrey
40ish Jerusaleum Artichoke (they are getting over 3' tall)
12ish Spinach

I have a great friend who has started Brussell Sprouts, Cabbages- red, green and cone, Tomatoes and lots of other goodies for me. 

Seeded 9 Yellow Nasturtiums today (pretty and edible)
1 comfrey growing outside under glass cloche- didn't dare put them all outside in case they all died
The Jerusaleum Artichokes I had put outside never came up- Hoping they will but worried they rotted (the ground is very wet).
65 of the peppers that growing are Jalapeno's.  I'll use some for us but most will be dried for the chickens- They love them!!!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Beets- Beet Pulp- Growing Beets

There is a growing trend of buying beet pulp to feed to livestock.  I don't really understand this trend.  Beets are extremely easy to grow either inside or outside.  They are truly almost bombproof, do well in partial sun/shade. 

Beets do well in a sunny window inside the home.  I get a cardboard box- the cases that Powerade/soups come on work really well- put the box in a trashbag (the 13 gallon inside bags work well) then toss a whole bunch of potting soil (about a gallon) onto the bag/cardboard flat.  Plant seeds, water, put in a sunny window and wait.  In about a month you will be able to start harvesting your beets for either yourself or your animals.  I prefer this method over rubbermaid containers due to the flats being fairly shallow and wide/long.  The plastic containers would work well too.  Just make sure to water sparingly. 

Even easier would be to plant a raised bed/container right next to your animals pen.  Then practice the pull and place method- pull up a plant or two and place into your animals cage/pen.   This is what I do with Mangel beets.  Mangel beets can be grown inside, but they get so large that I prefer to grow them outside.  They should be planted in an enclosure as deer/rabbits/etc LOVE mangels, at least they do mine.  Don't feed mangels till after they've gone through a good frost as it makes them sweeter. 

I feed 1 reg beet per rabbit per day or 1 mangel beet (after frosts) per communal pen per day.  Baby bunnies don't get beets till they are at least a month old, and even then I don't add the popples to the rations list.  So they will only get one or two bites of beet per day- not enough to upset their tummies.

Carrot Experiment- A Success!!!

I had some carrots in storage that had started growing so I potted them up in January (I had the itch- baddddd). They are doing great and now a couple have flower buds on them!!! Once they begin flowering they'll go outside during the day so the pollinators can get to them. I think I'll have seeds in a few months- which will give me plenty of time to grow carrots from their seed this year.

So, although carrots are biannuals, you can get seed and grow them yearly.
Oh, and they make really pretty houseplants in a southfacing window.  Easily as pretty as ferns, if not prettier.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Snow is Fun NOT

We've got about 6 inches of snow so far (on top of the existing snow) in Northernmost Central PA (on NY Border). We're fine. Our new (to us) truck is climbing our hill like a champ.

Eh- spoke too soon- the truck slid in the snow and DH is off to buy another set of chains (I know we have chains- or at least we used to have multiple sets- gotta love how *stuff* disappears) to yank the truck out since it's off the driveway and in danger of rolling. We have another truck and a tractor that can yank it out, just can't find the chains........ Life on a mountaintop is fun!!

I have complete faith in my husband, I know he'll figure out the right solution to this problem.   And the next set of chains we buy are gonna stay locked up in the truck!!

UPDATE:  It took 2 guys 4 hours to get the truck (then the tractor and then FIL's Jeep) unstuck but it worked!!  Sooooo Happy!!!!!  Now the guys are having a well-deserved coffee break!!

Kinda hard to tell but the truck is 1/2 off the driveway 

 FIL's Jeep stuck in the driveway

 The springs are still running
 Tractors tires frozen to the ground, Mark winching tractor free
 Digging out the Jeep
 Obie on the freshly shoveled porch watching Daddy and Grandpa

Monday, February 21, 2011

Urban Homesteading

Growing up I was lucky enough to live in Hawaii and be raised by an urban homesteader.   We may have lived in military housing, but mama always had a gorgeous orchid garden in the front yard and a veg garden in the backyard.   We had to practice organic methods as mama is incredibly sensitive to all forms of chemicals so I have grown up learning organic/non-chemical gardening techniques.   My brother and I had great fun foraging for bananas, coconuts, mangoes, guavas, etc straight off the trees.  We didn't know it was called foraging, but we were good at it. 

I come from a long line of Urban Homesteaders, grandpa and grandma (on my mom's side) had 7 kids and lived in town but still managed a HUGE garden that supplied most of their veggies and a good bit of fruit every year.  My great grandparents (on my mom's side) ran a greenhouse and a huge garden in the town I live in now.  They did this on less than 3 acres.  My grandparents on my fathers side were farmers. 

I'm not sure if I'm an Urban Homesteader or not.   I (technically) live in a tiny town, but on 26 acres of which only about 5 is usable for us.  We live on the south side of a mountain which makes for some amazing views but we can still hear the traffic from mainstreet.  I have a garden which will be greatly enlarged this year.  This years experimental plants will be Amaranth and other grains.  I have about 60 or so chickens, 5 geese, 10 rabbits, 4 dogs, 3 cats, 2 ferrets and a pet snapping turtle so I definitely have mini livestock.  This year we plan on getting a couple pigs and dwarf nigerian dairy goats.   The only reason we are allowed our livestock is due to a very old clause stating that if we have more than 5 acres we can have them in town.  We recycle.  We reuse stuff as much as possible. 

My garden bible is called "How to Grow Vegetables and Fruits by the Organic Method" by J.I. Rodale.  I'm guesstimating that it came out in the early 60's, but I'm not positive.  I cannot recommend this book highly enough for the Urban Homesteader.  It is one of the earliest known writings preaching organic growing, biodynamic/french intensive gardening, and is HUGE on the powers of mulching.  It has many examples of people who now would be known as urban homesteaders.  These urban homesteaders considered themselves gardeners who lived on mini homesteads.    I was lucky enough to inherit this book from my grandfather-in-law, a noted gardener in a small town.  Using this books gardening principles, grandpa and grandma would "put up" over 2000 jars of canned and a freezer full of frozen veggies and fruits they grew in their small yard.  They had over 30 blueberry bushes, 4 apple trees, 2 cherry trees, and a couple pear trees squeezed around the perimeter of their 2 large gardens.  I consider them them the standard I aspire to, not the Dervaes's.  And in true homesteading spirit- you can buy the book, gently used on Amazon for as little as $1.21 (plus shipping and handling).   And (unlike some sites), you will actually learn how to garden, not just look at pretty pictures.  Oh, and the book won't be constantly begging you for money so it can stay home and garden.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Ganders a bit Confused

I have 5 Toulouse. They are great!! They're hilarious to watch, keep hawks and eagles from stealing chickens (just by the geese being in the yard), aren't cuddly friendly but not outright mean to us, but heaven help anyone or thing that comes into our yard uninvited (by them) and they don't invite anyone/thing in the yard.  Oh and the males are rooster killing machines. This all started when the ganders started fighting each other for dominance. I think that because the chickens and geese were raised together, the ganders are a bit confused by who to battle for dominance.  The ganders (2) are just turning a year old and are too big for their britches and are brats. Obviously they aren't allowed to freerange together anymore......

Interestingly, they were also killing the roosters by color. I have lots of different breeds and (admittedly) too many roosters, but still.  The ganders went after white roosters first, then the red, then the brown.  Took awhile to figure out that it was the geese doing it, thought it was a dog for awhile. Also weird that all my favorite roosters are still alive- of each color/breed.   I still have all of the barred rock and cuckoo marans roos, I think I figured out what was going on before they got around to blaxk and white striped roos.  Oh and they never killed a hen, not a single hen.  And I've got some pretty bossy hens....

But- the geese are awesome and aren't going anywhere anytime soon. Oh, and they come when called too.   It's the only "trick" I've been able to teach them.

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Distinct Lack of Snow!!

It was a GORGEOUS day today in PA!  The snow is gone, the car made it up the driveway for the first time in a month, and I got to play in the garden.  Granted I was just hauling chicken poo from the shed to the garden and fertilizing, but it felt really good to be outside again.  Normally, adding fresh chicken poo is a bad thing, but my last frost date is not for another 3 months so it will have plenty of time to mellow before planting season begins.   As chicken manure is really high in nitrogen, I'm not tossing alot of it in any one place. 

In less than a month I can start seedlings in my house and I can't wait.   I plan on buying one of the metal shelving units and shoplights from Walmart and wrapping it all in plastic to contain moisture/heat.  This will go over a heat register and I'm hoping this will help with heat and a slight breeze to help strengthen the plant stems. 

My tomato plants that I've been overwintering in the pantry are still doing alright.  They are in a south facing window with supplemental lighting.  I'm pinching off all flowers so the plants put all their energy into new growth.  They are being watered with about a cup of day old coffee diluted with water daily.  I have started pruning the new growth which goes straight into spare canning jars to root in water.  These are being kept right next to their parent plant.  This is going well and I'm expecting to get at least 50 new Paquebot Roma's this way.  Not a bad return from two tomato plants I dug up in the fall and brought inside.  I got a couple tomatoes a week for a few months and now will get at least $100 worth of new tomato plants (not that I would ever pay big box store prices for tomato plants).