Monthly Archives: October 2010

bug in your ear

grasshopper

A friend once commented, in response to my question about what people wanted to read about on this blog, that she would like to know what she can do now in preparation for spring. All these winter months – what are they good for?

Well, this is when I start thinking about what varieties of seeds I want to grow. So, I thought I would share some links to the companies where I’ll be buying seeds, so you can check them out for yourself.

I will be providing the option for people to choose what particular varieties of veggie seedlings they’d like me to grow into seedlings, so I thought maybe I should just mention that now instead of in January when you’d have less time to ponder the possibilities.

Here we go:

William Dam Veggies

William Dam Herbs

Seed Savers Veggies

Seed Savers Herbs

Ontario Seed Company Organic Veggies

Ontario Seed Company Organic Herbs

Let me know what you want and I’ll grow it for you. Within reason, of course. No banana trees here.

Please share this page with friends who garden and might be interested in choosing their own special seedlings without having to grow them from seed!

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snail mail from google

snail mail from google

I will have a listing on Google Maps soon! I applied online, and part of the process is confirming the address, which means they need to send something to the address. Namely, a certain PIN that I could then enter online to reassure them that I am who I say I am.

Now I just wait to see when it goes up!

In other news, I found this plastic-wrapped bean in with all the bean seeds when I was planting them (as an experiment) 2 weeks ago:

wrapped bean

It made me laugh out loud in the middle of my planting. The girls were away at school so I couldn’t ask them right away, but they have since confessed. It was an ‘invention’. No real purpose. Its official title is “The Wrapped Bean”.

I’m still chuckling.

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get outside

boots and pumpkins

What a day yesterday! The kids and I just about blew away on our walk home from school. I love fall: it’s the season of pumpkins and leaves and rubber boots. I would have been married in the fall if I could have waited the extra few months. As it was, we sweated our way through a July wedding and lived happily ever after anyway, spending our honeymoon in beautiful British Columbia riding horses and picking cherries and going for boat rides. I’m sure it wouldn’t have been as much fun in October.

No matter the weather, though, I think we should all make a point to get outside as much as we can. Because it’s so good for us. Some of the most content, cheerful, relaxed, level-headed people I know are people who work outside all day, or spend lots of time outside getting to work. My friend who was a lineman working on power lines all day. My friend the postie, out in all weather, who loves it when it’s about 5-10 degrees. My friend who bikes to work for as many months as he can, even in freezing weather, keeping track of his mileage and trying to beat his miles from last year. My hubby bikes to work too, and although his passion for biking is not as extreme, he is the most level-headed, caring person I know.

I feel a difference in myself when I get outside; my insides are not as jangly as when I spend all morning on the computer. It is relaxing spending time in the fresh air, whether you’re hiking or sitting in a lawn chair. Or doing yardwork or gardening.

It’s especially good for the kids to be outside, too – they have so much more energy than us adults – and I will often kick mine outside to burn off some energy if they’re getting too intense for inside the house. It’s really one of the best things we can do for our kids, I think.

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hidden treasure

hot pepper treasures

The size of the weeds in my garden often causes me embarrassment, particularly when showing my gardens to people who had previously held the notion that I am this ‘amazing’ gardener who grows ‘so much food’ for her family. So, at risk to my own personal dignity – what shards are left – I write about my day yesterday.

I had a wonderful day yesterday; the weather was gorgeous for working outside, so I thought I better make the most of it. I spent a few hours clearing the garden of bricks, wood, cold frames, and forgotten tools. I also took down the fence in preparation for my father-in-law coming with his tiller-machine. I still have some patio stones to move, and hubby will have to help take down the garden gate, but most of it is done, which feels pretty good.

The embarassing part comes when I write about what I found in the garden – see photo above – under thigh-high weeds. These beautiful chili peppers, plus those little round peppers. I’m sure they’re hot but I can’t for the life of me remember what they’re called. Nice, eh? If I hadn’t been clearing out the cold frames I never would have seen them. It’s like foraging in the wild, except it was supposed to be my well-tended garden.

Every year I have this same problem, and every year I vow it will change next year. I will weed my garden. I will weed my garden. I will weed my garden. Sigh.

Things are changing for real next year, because I have more people keeping me on my toes. I’m reducing the size of the garden, because I need to be realistic about what I have time for. I’m also putting in about 6 or so of the 4’x4′ square foot gardening beds, since I’m selling them and need to have more experience with them. They should drastically reduce my need to weed, since the plants are planted in such a way that every little bit of the garden is used to its full potential. And I’ll be filling them with new soil and composted manure, which should help me stay ahead of the weeding for a little bit. I will then have garden paths that can be paved with patio stones or seeded with grass, since they are dedicated paths that won’t suddenly be the carrot and bean patches next year.

I’m excited about this transformation. I do believe it will help me get something done. It’s hard to look at 2000 square feet of garden and decide to weed it, but with the 4’x4′ patches, I can work one patch at a time.

AND, if customers will come to my greenhouse on Saturdays in May and June, I will have even more incentive to keep things looking nice!

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square feet

all new square foot gardening book

Living in the city, I often ask myself how much more I can grow. I have a large garden by most city standards, at around 25’x80′. Huge, I know. You’d think I’d be growing enough to feed a small village. Sadly, though, that is not the case. Long rows of plants leave lots of extra space around them, and this extra space needs to be weeded. Add to that the fact that all the nutrition I mixed into the soil is equally blended across good growing space and pathways. Not very efficient.

The reason I like this All New Square Foot Gardening book so much is that it deals with the inefficiencies and presents a better way. Sure, if you live in the country and you’ve got space to spare and want to grow food for all your neighbors, this may not make a whole lot of sense for you. But city folk, who are increasingly becoming more and more interested in growing their own food, do not have the luxury (or burden?) of space.

Mel Bartholomew, who wrote this book, suggests that 80% of the space in a traditional garden is wasted. He popularized 4’x4′ garden boxes that are marked with a square foot grid. Some plants will take a whole square foot, such as tomato or pepper plants. These each get their own square. Smaller plants like radishes don’t need that much space, so they get planted 16 to a square foot. Lettuce will grow 4 to a square foot. Essentially, in the whole garden box you are not wasting any space. And because it’s 4’x4′, you can reach to the middle of the garden without stepping in it.

This is key – don’t compact the soil. Start with amazing soil – not soil dug out of the ground, but a nice potting soil plus composted manure and other blends of compost. If it stays nice and fluffy, the roots of the plants will have the three things they need – air, water, and nutrition – and will grow very well. If you are not gardening in raised boxes but do have a garden, try to designate areas that are ‘no-walk zones’ – never ever step in them. When you add nutrition, add it only there, and not in the pathways.

Other reasons for gardening in smaller and more intensive space include saving water and growing what you can eat. Large gardens with long rows of cabbage just might produce more cabbage than an average city family can eat. And who needs 10-20 zucchini plants? One is usually more than enough, as those with gardening friends can tell you.

I like this idea so much that I’m basing my product line on this reasoning. I will have 4’x4′ garden kits for sale, as well as smaller 4’x1′ planters with bottoms for those growing food on balconies.

If you’d like to read more about Square Foot Gardening, you can check out the official website. I will also be posting more about this in the future.

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more meat

little chickens

When a friend called and asked for help taking a few young chickens off her hands, how could I refuse? Give these ones a month or two and they’ll be ready for dinner. Right now they’re just too cute – see the chirpy chirp video – but they’ll get big. These are roosters, unwanted hatchlings from a farm that raises egg-laying hens.

They’re different from the last meat birds I raised. These are Light Sussex, a dual-purpose bird, so they won’t get as big, but they also won’t be as awkward either. The white rocks I had were very heavy on the front, so they looked a bit clumsy and uncomfortable. These light sussex are pretty spry so far. Some pics and info on the Sussex breed show a few different varieties (scroll down on the linked page for very cute chickie pics!). They may not have as much breast meat on them, but that’s ok because I like the dark meat anyway. Here’s my lunch today:

chicken avocado mango salad

Dark chicken meat from the last batch of chickens in my backyard, mango, avocado, and other flavours. It’s not a very local salad, I know, but for me it’s more important to know that the meat is free of antibiotics, chemicals, hormones, etc. They were happy chickens allowed to scratch in the dirt and have space to live.

If you are interested in growing your own chicken in your kitchen garden, check out Backyard Chickens. It’s a very informative site that can probably answer most of your questions.

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projects

planning diagram

As I have less and less in the garden to take care of, I gain more and more projects in preparation of my business product lines and presentation. Lately I’ve been working on a few things at once, one of them being my display space for the Guelph Organic Conference.

So far (this may change) I’ve got a 4×4 Garden Patch on the floor, a 4×1 Balcony Planter on a 5×2 table, and a ladder set up with pots of plants on it. And hopefully some white xmas lights or rope lights too on the ladder. There’s a banner on the backdrop. Oh, and this is all in a 7×7 space.

I’ve started plants, hoping I can grow them to a reasonable, healthy-looking size using my indoor resources.

seedlings

That could be tricky. But, you never know until you try.

Last night we went to check out pricing for PVC pipe and plastic sheeting, because one greenhouse just isn’t enough for what I want to grow. I’ll need a second one in the later spring to house all the plants as I repot them into larger containers. It will basically be frost protection at that point – a ‘just-in-case’ shelter. Very temporary.

I’m also working on gift packages for Christmas (Little Bird Told Me Craft Sale), and have only one so far: ‘Sprouty Salad’. This will contain a pot, soil, composted fertilizer, misting spray bottle, a few other little things, and a package of seeds that contains a mix that will provide lots of flavour and crunch. I’m working on gathering the materials to plant one and see how it grows.

sprouty salad mix

My guess, I’ll need to package the radish seeds separately, because they grow faster than the lettuce. The idea is to eat them as sprouts, which takes only 4-5 days!

I’m also working on some new pin ideas in preparation for the sale and the show – but those are top secret for now.

pins

These are the ones from the first batch. I’m in the process of trying to figure out the best way to offer these for sale through the website – shopping cart services etc – so hopefully that will happen soon.

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walking onions

garlic planting

The garlic is planted! Above you can see it all laid out and ready for planting. I thought that might be more interesting than showing you the dirt afterwards. I counted – there are 33 cloves in the ground now. We’ll see how they do! This is my first year intentionally planting garlic, so wish me luck!

I also planted some ‘Walking Onions’, also known as Winter Onions or Egyptian Onions. They grow like normal onions until they sprout onion bulbs on top of their central stalk. If you let them go long enough, the little bulbs on the top of the stalk will also send out a stalk with bulbs on it, and so on…. hence the name ‘Walking Onions’.

walking onion bulbs

These are bulbs I saved from my own Walking Onions. I was originally given a few bulbs by a friend, and they have multiplied really well. They are in the ground now too – I planted them when I planted the garlic, because that’s what you’re supposed to do with them. That’s where the ‘Winter Onion’ name comes from.

The other name – ‘Egyptian Onion’ – I’m beginning to wonder about. When my hubby came home from the DR Congo he told me about a farm he visited while he was there; they grow manioc and peanuts and corn as staples, but also have some other crops too. He told me that they were having a really hard time with onions because the weather is always so hot there. It never gets cold enough for the onions to go to seed. They want the onions to go to seed because they don’t want to keep buying seeds – they want to save the seeds for themselves for their next crop. When he told me this, I immediately thought of my crazy onions with the bulbs on top —- of course! They would work. They would keep growing and forming bulbs, and the farm hands could keep harvesting the bulbs on top for the next crop. No need for seed. Maybe these have already existed on that continent in the past? That would explain the third name – ‘Egyptian Onion’. It would be really exciting to see if the farm can somehow get these onions from elsewhere on the continent and try them out!

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big box o’ beets

harvesting beets

Here’s my other helper. She told me she likes to destroy things and wanted to help pull the beets, so I seized the moment and got her a big box. I forked the beets so they would be easier to pull, and she came along behind me and pulled up every one. Quite quickly. Now I need to store them. I’m thinking blanch and freeze, tonight sometime probably.

These beets also fed us greens throughout the growing season; when I went to gather leaf lettuce I also grabbed a few beet leaves to add to the mix. There’s a healthy dose of vitamins A and K in beet greens, along with minerals that our bodies need. They’re a great addition to a salad. Some people like to boil them but I can’t always handle that kind of slop. In soup, that’s ok. In a stir fry, ya that’s ok too. But just boiled – I have to be in the right mood.

Lately I’ve been doing some cleanup around the yard, finishing projects that I started in the spring, and preparing for winter. There’s lots more to do, and I’m afraid it won’t get done before the snow flies. Some things really need to get done, like the shelves for my greenhouse and clearing the garden for fall tilling. Other things are not so urgent, but I’d really like to get them done, such as cleaning out the front garden beds so the house looks a little more presentable.

Fun stuff I’m working on includes getting ready for the Guelph Organic Conference (January 29 and 30 – it’s free to the public!! Yummy food samples and buttons to collect for the kids at University of Guelph), and the Little Bird Told Me Craft Sale at Little City Farm. December 11 – come and buy for your favourite gardener!! Or check out what the other vendors are selling, it’s not just garden stuff. Lots of beautiful art and beauty supplies and sewing and knitting…. and I’m sure there will be more. Here’s an excerpt from the website:

A Little Bird Told Me Craft Sale!
Sat, December 11, 10 am-4 pm.
Drop by our exciting craft sale to purchase unique, earth-friendly handmade gifts for the holiday season! Featuring 5 local crafters, and a beautiful array of handmade goods, including reconstructed wool clothing, children’s items (clothing, toys, quilts), jewellery, pottery, soaps, teas, vegan treats, infused oils, garden items, and more!

she loves it

pulling out the rutabaga

This is my daughter with her favourite vegetable, a rutabaga. I planted a whole (short) row of seeds, but only one made it through the ravages of weather and insects and rodents. It’s not large but it’s homegrown and we’re excited about it. Me, because I haven’t ever grown it before and it’s actually possible. She, because she can’t wait to eat it.

I don’t know why I have a hard time believing I can grow certain things. Perhaps because they were never grown in my childhood garden? Or maybe somewhere along the line I was told that it wouldn’t work very well. I tend to forget about my garden for stretches of time, so things that need more attention often suffer the consequences. Whatever the reason, living with self-doubt often leads to being pleasantly surprised when things work out. Like this beautiful purple veggie.

After we pulled it out of the ground, we cut off the extra root and the greens, and fed them to Velvet, our bunny.

velvet eating rutabaga greens

To watch a 12-second video click here.

Spoiler/cuteness alert: She loves it!

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