Monday, January 31, 2011

Seed Starting Set Up & First Sprouts

This year I decided I wanted more room for starting seeds. I loved the seed starting light my husband made but there was no room for expansion with it. It also took up a large floor space that is hard to find a spot for in our new house.

Thanks to some generous Christmas gifts I was able to buy a new metal shelf and outfit it with three light fixtures. Right now I have one fixture on each shelf with a tray in the middle of the shelf. In future years I can purchase more fixtures and put two on each shelf and use the entire surface of the shelf for seeds. The top two shelves are being used for storage.
After getting the shelf and lights set up in front of the window in my craft room (obviously a girl's bedroom for the former owners) and my seeds sorted last week I was eager to start some seeds. My spreadsheet doesn't have me starting onions and leeks until the second week of February and with all the snow we have out there I don't want to be dealing with leggy seedlings. So I decided to take my oldest packets of lettuce and spinach seeds and start some in hopes of indoor salads in two months. I sowed thickly and they have sprouted surprisingly well for 5 year old seed.
So here are my first sprouts of 2011. They're an encouragement in the face of the foot of snow predicted for Wednesday this week.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Mending Kit

One way I motivate myself to do housework and chores is to make it novel, or to make it homemade. We've had a growing pile of clothes that needed to be mended but I didn't want to sit up stairs in the craft room in the evening to do it. I decided I needed a mending kit and a basket which would allow me to be comfy by the fire while I did my mending.

I used a 1/2 yard of a neat batik fabric I'd bought in November intending to make Chinese Peasant Bags with my mom. I didn't get into it like she did, and instead decided to use the pretty fabric to make my mending more exciting.

On one side, I made two zippered pockets.
On the other, I made one zippered pocket at the top. The bottom has a pocket for scissors with velcro that goes between the scissor loops to keep them in place. It also has a velvet pincushion and a velvet spot for needles.
I sewed them together to make the inside.
For the outside, I practiced my free-motion quilting with a piece of the same fabric and some batting.

I sewed the two together with the right sides facing, then turned it right side out and top stitched the edges. I had an extra length in the front, so made a flap that folds over and buttons to close the mending kit.
Having this ready has inspired me to mend some of my husbands socks, fix a vest, and work on changing the buttons on an old wool shirt. Best of all, I know I have all the supplies I need in a portable form. Here's a view of what I put in the pockets: extra buttons, thread, measuring tape, thimble, & seam ripper. I filled the pin cushion with more pins and the needle spot with a variety of needles.
Now I'm off to sew buttons on another vest!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Seed Sorting & Sharing

I decided today to spread out all my seeds and re-organize. It seemed like a good task for the coldest day of the year. I had been keeping some of them in a small set of hardware drawers in the refrigerator, but the seed packets didn't fit well and folded in half they would get stuck when I went to open the drawers. Bigger seeds were in jars, and other packets were in plastic bags. It was time for a new system.

I spread everything out on the kitchen table. Many of the older seed packets, I re-packaged into the coin envelopes I've been using for the seeds I saved. I grouped the seeds by type and used an index card to label them, before rubber banding them together.
They all went into a plastic shoe box in alphabetical order and back in the fridge. Now when my Fedco order comes in I can easily add them to the box.

In sorting through the seeds, I made a list of seeds I have plenty of and am willing to share with others. And I noted what seems to be missing. It would have been wiser to do this before I placed my seed order. Oh well.

Here's what I'm willing to share. Most of these are seeds I saved, unless otherwise noted.

Red Kale
Purple Haze Carrots- Jungs (I have more than I can plant in a lifetime)
Habanero Hot Pepper
Amish Paste Tomato
Purple Calabash Tomato (my favorite from last year)

The following three came from overseas. The seed packs were huge.
Chinese Green Onions
Chinese Bok Choy
Red Curly Lettuce

I'm happy to send seeds to anyone who wants some as long as I have some left to share. No trades are required. If you are willing to share some of your own seeds, I'm looking for a variety of cucumber seeds, radishes, and other lettuce & greens. If you're interested, please email me ( emb03 at alum dot dartmouth dot org )

Harvest Monday 1/24/11

There are no fresh harvests from the garden this week. Last night the temperature dipped to -23 degrees Fahrenheit. Today's high was 2 degrees. There is at least two feet of snow on the garden and I haven't cleaned off the cold frame since the last snow.
We are still enjoying the produce of last year's garden. We enjoyed a pesto from the freezer last week and a Butternut Squash & Parsnip soup with one of the butternuts that was beginning to go bad. Today I made a Tomato and Bread Soup with a gallon bag of frozen tomatoes. I knew the tomatoes would give off a lot of liquid as they thawed, so I decided to cook them on the wood stove rather than the oven.
As the liquid came out, I used a turkey baster to collect it and save it for the soup. Eventually the tomatoes cooked down and softened. I put them through the food mill to take out the seeds, skins and cores. I used some of the tomato liquid to soften oven-dried cherry tomatoes as well. I roasted some sweet onion slices in the oven and then added them to the tomato mixture along with cubed dried bread. A little frozen basil and dried oregano from the garden and we had our dinner.
I've begun making preparations for this years garden. However, I'm pretty sure we will have another couple of months before we are able to harvest again. I sorted through my seeds today (more about that in another post) and took the oldest lettuce seeds and planted some under the new light set up. Maybe we'll have some indoor greens in a month or two.

You can see what other gardeners have harvested, or how they are using their harvest at Daphne's Dandelions.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Snow Day

Though I'm no longer teaching, I still get a thrill from a snow day. This morning I watched the birds fight at the feeder for the prime spots. The evening grosbeaks were there first.
But later, a large hairy woodpecker came and kept others at bay with its long beak. I watched the snow drift build up at the back door. Here it is around 11 am. And later in the afternoon. The layers are so even and interesting.
It's hard to know how much snow we got. I measured a range of 12 to 18" depending on the spot. The wind was moving so much of it around. It shaped the snow on my car to make it look like a Prius.

I did snow day things like bake pumpkin bread, and I finished my Christmas tree skirt. It was done except the binding before Christmas and since we've returned I've been working on the binding so I can put it away finished for next year. And of course I shoveled snow. I need to make sure there was a parking space for Matt when he came home. I left the snow drift at the back door for him to shovel, so photos of the garden in its deep blanket of snow will have to wait until tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Jarrahdale Pumpkin

This is one of my Jarrahdale pumpkins that has been in a cool upstairs room since I harvested it last fall. The photo above is what it looked like when we harvested it. We enjoyed one of these large pumpkins then, but two other went into this cool room. A third smaller one sat on our coffee table as decoration until December. The two that were in the cool room have begun to turn peach in color, while the one that was downstairs in warmer temperatures is still green. Here is the peach color that two of them have turned now.
This week I cut into one of the peach colored Jarrahdales. Inside the flesh was the same beautiful orange with the small cavity and large seeds. I roasted half of it face down and made puree. The puree became pumpkin gnocchi. I'll also use some to make pumpkin bread or muffins. The other half, I cubed and roasted and froze for using later in soups or risottos.
The Jarradale does provide a lot of pumpkin at once. It is a good substitute for butternut squash, some even say it is a winter squash. It will be a few months before we cut into another. I've read they can be a long keeper and I wonder how long they will last. We'll be growing these again next year.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Harvest Monday 1/10/11

For the first harvest in the New Year there is some good, and not so good. At first glance, these two pound of brussels sprouts looked great.
However, when I went to cut them for cooking, many had spoiled inside from the cold.
So we only ended up with 9 oz to go in the oven.
I debated picking more of brussels sprouts last month, but I left some in the garden to see how long they would last. I guess I got my answer. Next year we'll pick them before the snow and extreme cold set in.

I picked 6 oz of kale yesterday. Some of it was a little damaged by the cold too, but it went fine into soup.

And for fresh tasting greens, I enjoyed these sprouts on my tacos. They were very good.
As far as using up the preserved harvest, we used frozen swiss chard, potatoes from the celler, and leeks I pulled last month in a pureed soup. I cooked some of my dried beans to make bean tacos and the also went into next soup. We also made a tortilla soup with tomato sauce base, our own onions, our dried beans, the kale above, frozen oven dried tomatoes, and corn I froze from down the road. We need to get to work on all the frozen fruit. I think some desserts are in order.

Total week: ~1 pound
Total this year: ~ 1 pound
You can see what other gardeners harvested this week at Daphne's Dandelions.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

2011 Seed Order

I placed my seed order before Christmas with our local Coop. They do a bulk order to Fedco and get free shipping and 20% discount. They send me a post card with the order is in and I pick it up at the store. It's a nice advantage, and they are based in Maine so the varieties they recommend are adaptable to my cooler climate. Here's what I ordered for this year's garden to add to the seeds from previous years.

Beans & Peas
Fortex Pole Beans
Roma II Romano type Beans
Cannellini Dried Beans
Windsor Fava Beans
Mammouth Melting Sugar Peas

Dakota Blue Popcorn (I hope it will be a good experiment)

Coastata Romanesca Zucchini
Benning's Green Tint Patty Pan Squash
Marina di Chioggia Winter Squash

Root Vegetables
Over the Rainbow Carrot Mix
Touchstone Gold Beet
Red Marble Onion Seed
Varsity Yellow Onion Seed

Giant Winter Spinach
Winter Lettuce Mix
Red Tinged Winter Lettuce
Pink Lettucy Mustard Gene Pool

Brassica Family
Piracicaba Broccoli (had to try this after seeing it in so many harvest photos last year)
Gustus Brussels Sprouts
Rainbow Lacinato Kale

Boldo Hungarian Spice Paprika
Jimmy Nardello's Pepper
Carmen Sweet Peppers (on Henbogle's recommendation)

Cosmonaut Volkov Tomato
Black Prince Tomato
Sun Gold Cherry Tomato

Genovese Basil
Lime Basil
Bodegold Chamomile
Ziar breadseed poppy

My potato order had to be sent separately as the coop doesn't do a bulk order for those. I ordered 1# of Rose Finn Apple Fingerlings, 2.5 # each of Irish Cobbler and Adirondack Blue, and 5# of Romanze, a red-skinned storage potato.

The rest of the seed catalogs were waiting for me when I returned home from Christmas travels. However, as I paged through, there wasn't much that I was interested in. Fedco's catalog is so extensive that others feel brief and lacking in variety. Two things did catch my eye and that was artichokes and edamame. Thomas had such beautiful artichokes last year. The artichokes caught my eye in another catalog but when I compared prices, Fedco was still the best. So I'll put in a one line order for artichokes. Edamame will wait for another year.

This list is not the entirety of what I'll plant next year, nor is it all my new seeds. I picked up some seed packets on sale at the end of the season last year. They included American Flag Leeks, Gardener's Delight Cherry Tomatoes, Asparagus Yard Long Beans,
Dwarf Grey Sugar Peas, Laxton's Progress # Shelling Pea & Moon & Stars Watermelon. With the seeds left from last year, there is plenty of variety.

In less than a month it will be time to start some hardy seeds for the cold frame!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Knitting & Quilting Round Up 2010

Here's one more collage, this time of craft projects from 2010. Comparing this one to last year's collage, I noticed that I'm doing more sewing and not as much knitting. I also have not done as well with photographing projects once they are finished. I had to pull a few sweaters out of the trunk to photograph for this collage. I miss the wide white windowsills of our old house which had great natural light for photographing. However, my new craft room set up has allowed more larger projects to be completed.

In 2011 I hope to finish the tree skirt for the Christmas tree, make one quilt for our bedroom, and my husband continues to remind me that I need to finish the curtains for the living room.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2010 Canning Summary

Looking back, I neglecting posting about my canning in 2010. In fact, I hardly photographed it. Here's a list of this year's canning exploits. Much of this was given as gifts during our Christmas travels.

Strawberry Rhubarb Compote 5 (1/2 pints)
Strawberry Preserves (4) 1/2 pints

Strawberry Lavender Jam (2) 1/2 pints - More of this next year

Strawberry Juice (3) pints

Cherry Marmalade (8) 1/2 pints

Cherries in Syrup (2.75) qts,

Asian Pickles (4) pints (These were an experiment and I over-cooked them. Mushy pickles are not so good)

Bread & Butter Zucchini (2) pints

Crock Cured Dill Pickles (3 quarts) This was an interesting experience. I canned half of them and put half in the fridge. My mom says they are too salty so I didn't give any away. I also haven't opened the ones canned to compare the texture. My husband doesn't eat pickles so these are going very slowly.

Bread & Butter Pickles (9) pints
Blueberry Lime Jam (11) 1/2 pints
Lime Juice 1 (1/2) pint

White Grape Juice (4) pints
Dilly Beans (7) pints

Annie's Salsa (22) pints - I was very happy with this recipe. I used only the added tomato paste, not tomato sauce. We made it spicy and with the acid used 1/2 c. cider vinegar 1/4 c.lime juice, 1/4 c. lemon juice for a balanced flavor.

Tomato Sauce (3) quarts

Tomato Juice (2) quarts

Cider Jelly (15) 1/2 pints
(pictured above)
Apple Sauce (7) pints

This comes to a total of (49) 1/2 pints, 62 pints, and 8.75 quarts, for a grand total of 51.25 quarts, or 12.8 gallons. Now to work on enjoying what we haven't given away, as well as to eat up the fruit and tomatoes we have stored in our freezer.