Saturday, March 12

Tomatoes, the Parade and Hopes for Mild Weather

I started three flats of tomato seeds yesterday at the kitchen table with little to no interruption from the kids which I chalk up to a gigantic win. They help plant the beans and peas and other large seeds outdoors later in the spring but the tiny seeds in flats - that's my domain. It is so relaxing and enjoyable that I wish I had the space and the need to start 20 flats of peppers, tomatoes and eggplant. But my current total of three flats of tomatoes, one of peppers and one of eggplant are all that my garden can accommodate, while still having leftover transplants for family and friends.

Most of my peppers have sprouted and I have a little bright green forest. The eggplant has been slower to germinate and show progress but there is some. The heat mats have helped tremendously with germination and I highly recommend using them for all seed starting, especially in our chilly New York spring.

I am trying many varieties of tomato this season because I just couldn't say no to all those colors in the Baker Creek Catalog (and the Annie's catalog, and the Seed Savers catalog.....)

This year's tomato selections:

Blue Gold Berries
Gelbe von Thun
Cherry Roma
Mexico Midget
Sweet Pea Currant
Black Cherry
Igleheart Yellow
Sungold Select
Red Cherry
Ildi Yellow
White Tomesol

No green tomatoes this year - it was too hard to tell when they were ripe! Also, I am not planting Old German this year. I grew them last year and they were very 'mealy' and seems to over-ripen overnight and just fall off the vine in a mushy mess.

Today was the annual St. Patrick's Day parade downtown so we drove down to watch. This is the one and only time during the year that we go downtown, unless there is a trip to the museum. The parade is always fun and the kids love the music but in the end I just can't wait to get out of there. So  many people crammed into a parade route, long lines in the parking garage and more drunk people than I want to deal with because they are doing things that I don't want my kids observing. One trip to the city per year is enough for me.

When we got home I took Murphy for a nice long walk on the new property and took a generous helping of peace and quiet.

Tomorrow is a yard work day if this mild weather holds. There are many garden rock walls that need repair after the winter and my bulb order arrived yesterday. Peacock Gladiolus, Felvo Laguna Gladiolus, Dark Night Carpet Lily, Commander and Chief Lily and Silverine Hens & Chicks will go into the ground tomorrow. Also on the schedule for the tomorrow is fruit tree pruning and woodpile cleanup.

Crossed fingers for good weather!
Taken this past summer, these pictures show my hopefully happy ladies enjoying the warm weather and fresh bugs. My flock currently has 9 hens of various ages and one stately rooster who keeps them safe.

Our rooster, Cornwallis, was a surprise from the all-hens chick tank at Tractor Supply two springs ago. At first, we were not sure, but then the crowing started and we knew. After a chat with the neighbors it was decided that no one had a problem with occasional crowing and we now had a beautiful black and white rooster in the coop.

He has been the best addition to the flock - alerts them to the presence of food and danger, and he keeps them on our property. We have had problems with wandering hens in the past when we first started keeping chickens. They would end up down the road in the neighbors yard or pooping on someone's porch. Now, they stay where they are supposed to and they hardly ever stray farther than the side field or the new-to-us barn on the new property. Cornwallis is always with them, letting them peck and hunt, while he stands watch, scanning for threats or treats. 

Our farm dog, Murphy, and Cornwallis are somewhat at odds in that Murphy thinks it is his job to heard the chickens and Cornwallis will not have one little bit of it. Murphy will go running out into the yard and try to get all the chickens back to the coop while Cornwallis poofs up his neck feathers and dances around Murphy, jumping up at him. Murphy thinks this is a game and starts jumping around with Cornwallis, at which time our mighty rooster goes into attack mode. 

When Murphy was a puppy, he would run away at this point but now that he is much bigger, he gently nudges and eventually pins Cornwallis down. Then the fun is over and Murphy is called away to investigate some foul smelling mystery in the shed and Cornwallis scoots back to his girls.

Saturday, March 5

Sprouts, Weather and a Good Book

My first pepper sprouts appeared yesterday giving my dank and dreary basement something to be proud of. Using grow light and heat mats, I like to start my peppers early every year so I can harvest more peppers before the fall frost hits. I like my pepper transplants to be hardy and tall so I give them a generous head start.

I started eggplant seeds on the same day as the peppers and I noticed that I have a few little sprouts just poking through the dirt this evening. Again, eggplant is started early to maximize the harvest for our growing season.

This year's pepper choices are: California Wonder, Early Jalapeno, Horizon, Bull Nose, Como di Toro and Topepo Rosso.

Eggplant selections: Striped Purple Edirne, Jade Sweet, Casper, Long Purple and Turkish Orange.

Broccoli and Cauliflower seeds were started yesterday. Just a few since they are not a personal favorite but my neighbors enjoy them, as well as the local deer population. If the deer are busy with the broccoli then maybe my peas stand a fighting chance. The peas will be direct sown on St. Patrick's Day, weather providing, and the tomatoes will be started as well.

With the new raised bed space we added last fall, I am getting ambitious in my seed selections. This year I am focusing on a few plants of many varieties instead of filling my spaces with mostly three of four types of plants. I chose four additional types of peppers to add to what I normally plant but I an only starting 6 sprouts of each - a few for my garden and a few for a friend. This year I am more interested in how many varieties I can grow and how well or poorly they do as opposed to a large quantity of two or three types.

In other news, the yard if a half frozen, half muddy mess given the huge weather fluctuations lately. The chickens are not sure what to do and seem to be taking it day by day, if not hour to hour. It could be snowing in the morning and 45 and sunny in the afternoon. Egg production is steady after a lull in late December/early January. They are getting very creative ass to where they hide their eggs so I am constantly searching corners and suspiciously piled up mound of straw for the days egg collection.

If all goes according to plan, this next week should give us some good weather in the 50's and I will be checking chores off the yard work to-do list. The more general yard clean up I get done now, the more time I will have to spend in the garden when it is time to plant. I hate to feel rushed when I am planting and I end up over-seeding and not following the plant rotation diagram. The first planting change for this year - plant the lettuce on the east facing side of the pea and bean trellis. This way, the lettuce gets the morning sun and is shaded from the afternoon rays. Last year, my lettuce bolted and was generally not all that great since it got the full force of the afternoon sun.

As for the rest of the evening - the kids and husband are in bed, the wood stove is keeping the house toasty and comfortable, and Murphy and I are enjoying our quiet time on the couch. He is currently snoring and dreaming about whatever dogs dream about. And I am going to read a book that does not involve Disney princesses.

Mystery Seeds

At the end of last season I came across this seed pods on a stalk in the side field. I had not noticed anything unusual growing there that summer but the seed pods were so pretty that I wanted to bag them up and see what I could find out.

Does anyone know what these are?

The pods on the right and the seeds from them.