Thursday, May 29, 2008

Independence Challenge - Week 4

Planted: Moved fish boxes of greens to Mom's, and planted 5 containers of tomato plants at her house. Transplanted more spinach and mustard into empty spots in my planting beds. Dug a new planting area next to the path and transplanted basil starts.

Harvested: Lettuce and herbs. I see peas on the vines! We tasted teeny carrots when I thinned a few more.

Preserved: Bagged dried lemon thyme and hung lemon balm to dry.

Prepped: Not much on this front, but I have been thinking a lot about cooking arrangements. Our gas stove stopped working and we had to reply on small appliances for a little while: hot plate, toaster oven, crock pot, and a little electric kettle. That led me to look at various types of alternative stoves and ovens. I am thinking about how I would arrange buildings to make space for indoor/outdoor cooking, laundering, kitchen gardening and other household activities in various seasons. Old farms have wash-houses and summer kitchens to separate fire hazards and heat from the main house. I want to look more closely at outdoor propane burners, solar cookers, and rocket stoves. Lots of plans for the future.

Cooked: Not really cooking new things - but it is interesting to notice how much packaged food I used to buy, and now do not even look at. Ignored all the prepared food, and spent 10 minutes just looking at various corn meal grinds. Looking forward to my first "One Local Summer" post on Sunday, when I have to report on a meal made completely of food produced within 100 miles of home - I suspect it will be breakfast.

Managed: Checked out an organic garden with a small CSA this past weekend, and found a source of locally-grown spelt. Made a trip to my favorite grocery liquidator and found pectin ($0.25/box), canned tomatoes (.40/can), molasses (.50/jar), Grey Poupon mustard (.40/jar), and other goodies. Also checked out Echo Hill Country Store, a Mennonite bulk food store. Some was local food, but most is re-packaged bulk from commercial suppliers, and not as well-priced as I might have hoped. Beans and lentils were over-priced. Bought 10# of organic rolled oats. They are catering to the "trendy" organic crowd, but I found local grass-fed eggs, and they had lots of supplies for baking, sausage-making, and cheese-making. DD11 expressed an interest in bread-baking when I said my hands were too arthritic for kneading. I will take her up on that: I bought yeast. DD15 does a lot of the other cooking, and DD11 needs something that is her own area of expertise. She liked the bulk candy aisle, too, but came sneaking back to me with a shocked whisper that cereal was $7 a box. We pay $1.49 for Rice Krispies at the liquidator.

Systems: Still mostly focused on Mom and her house/yard crisis. I am sure I could organize a food discussion group at church, and possibly some co-op buying - I put that in my Idea File for the future.

Reduced Waste: The usual recycling. Need to get back to work on the worm bin.

Learned: Nothing in particular, but always reading more about vegetable gardening, food and farm system issues, alternative building and energy systems. I realized that no matter where I live, I want to work on assembling a guilt-free way to take a long, hot shower - rainwater collection, solar water heating, greywater recycling, building a bath house, researching composting toilets. A Japanese-style family soaking tub, maybe a sweat lodge. My own home eco-spa, and independent of municipal water and power.

Library: Boy Scout Handbook, found as a yard sale - knot-tying and other useful information.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

30 Walks: Week One

Well, I only walked 4 out of 7 days. Two of those were days when the walking happened during other activities, a school group tour of a historic site, and a farm tour. But as long as I get my heart and lungs pumping, I am counting it. Any kind of walking is better than the days when I don't leave the desk chair at all, or spend the day doing a lot exhausting emotional or mental work with little physical challenge). I didn't count yesterday, although I did a lot of work at home and at Mom's house - it wasn't cardio-challenging.

Not a very inspiring start, but I think I need to find the right pattern. I wanted to walk in the evening, but I am often very tired by then. I came back from Mom's yesterday at 8:30pn, and almost instantly fell asleep in the chair after chugging half a gallon of water. Over all, it was a more active week than usual, and a better start than no start at all. I will do better this coming week.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Field Trip to Organic Market Garden

DD11 likes to roll down the car windows and yell "Moo!" at cows when we drive through rural areas. On Saturday, she found some that yelled back.

Yesterday, DD11 and Mom and I took a trip to the open house of B&H Produce, an organic market garden in Morgantown. They will start selling produce at the producer market that opens its season in West Reading on June 1. I heard that they had local grain, so wanted to look for flour, and just generally see how they do stuff.

It was a beautiful day to drive around. The farm is owned by Paul Hartz, and partner Erica Bowers runs the garden operation. The farm has great old barns and houses. They produce grass-fed beef, chicken, and vegetables. There is a health food store on the premises ("Hartz Natural Foods") with a lot of supplements and packaged organic stuff, as well as products of the farm itself. We had samples of farm-made all-beef hot dogs with no nitrates (very good), organic ice cream (also good, but not local), and Greek yogurt (fabulous, but not local). I gotta buy a yogurt maker on eBay.

We took a tour of the gardens. They had cool germinating racks mounted on the south side of a barn, with plexiglass covers - a wall-mounted hothouse. They also had simple cold frames made out of plastic sheeting, that gave them Sept-planted spinach through April. They buy compost from a local bulk producer, to be sure they have enough of the consistently good soil they need for organic vegetable production. They rely on compost and a few mineral supplements, avoiding even the permitted organic pest and weed treatments that certified organic farms are permitted.

When the tour group started around the garden plot, the cows one field over noticed the activity and ran across the field to see what was going on - they all lined up at the fence and kept calling to us, walking along the fence line as we walked along the garden plot. It was like a Far Side cartoon come to life.

There were a few vendors - a dietary supplement peddler, the compost producer, a ground grower, and two plant nurseries. Of course, I left with a few new plants. Another tomato "Black Zebra", with golf-ball-sized yellow fruit, and three herbs I will put in pots: chocolate mint (below), Roman chamomile, and Epazote (Mexican Tea). The Epazote is new to me, apparently a popular herb in Mexican cooking. It is supposed to reduce gas when added to bean recipes.

The store had fresh-ground flour, but not from locally grain, as far as I could find out. It was fun to visit, but I am not interested in supplements or pricey packaged organic groceries. I just want meat and produce, and local sources of whole grain and other staples. It's not worth it for me to drive down to this farm - they bring produce to the West Reading market every week, and I could probably order meat for pick-up.

Update: I emailed B&H, just to make sure I was right about the grain - the cashier sounded a little vague about it. Turns out they DO grow spelt and offer both whole spelt and spelt flour. They also grow wheat, but it is sold to a local mill. This is great! Two leads - one for spelt, and one for a local mill I can chase down.

DD11 greatly enjoyed the chicks

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Salt-Tolerant Perennials

When you live in the city, your front yard plantings tend to get salted every winter. City salt trucks spray the streets, and then the salty snow gets plowed and shoveled up onto the sidewalks and into planting areas. So even if you don't personally use salt as an ice-melter, your plants get exposed.

My first year at this house, I didn't think of salt, and I lost two St. John's Worts I really liked. A replacement Hypericum moseranum 'Tri-color' overwintered nicely in the back yard. Other plants seems to do fine in the salty front planter: sedums, hens-n-chicks, monarda, salvia, rudbeckia, columbine. My mother's curbside plantings are also robust: several kinds of iris, oriental poppies (shown above), creeping phlox, salvia, sedum, and a spurge that wintered well after being moved from my yard. She lives on a street with school bus and public bus routes, so it is heavily salted.

I compiled a list of salt-tolerant plants, from multiple online sources and our own experience:
Achillea millefolium (Yarrow)
Allium senescens (Ornamental Onion)
Aquilegia vulgaris (Columbine)
Arabis (Rockcress)
Armeria maritima 'Rubrifolia' (Sea Thrift)
Artemesia (Wormwood)
Bergenia (Pig Squeak)
Campanula (Bellflower)
Cerastium tomentosum (Snow-in-summer)
Dianthus (Pinks)
Digitalis purpurea (Foxglove)
Erigeron (Fleabane)
Erynigum planum (Sea Holly)
Euphorbia (Cushion Spurge)
Gaillardia (Blanket Flower)
Goniolimon tataricum (German Statice)
Gypsophila (Baby's Breath)
Hellebores (Lenten Rose)
Helianthemum (Sun Rose)
Hemerocallis (Daylily)
Heuchera (Coral Bells)
Iberis sempervirens (Candytuft)
Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker)
Limomium latifolium (Sea Lavender, Statice)
Liriope spicata (Lilyturf)
Lotus corniculatus (Bird's Foot Trefoil)
Lupinus (Lupine)
Melissa officinalis (Lemon Balm)
Monarda (Bee Balm)
Oenothera (Sundrops, Evening Primrose)
Papaver Orientale (Oriental Poppy)
Penstemon (Beardtongue)
Perovskia (Russian Sage)
Phlox subulata (Creeping Phlox)
Phlox paniculata (Tall Phlox)
Potentilla (Cinquefoil)
Rudbeckia (Black-eyed Susan)
Saponaria (Soapwort)
Sedum (Stonecrop)
Sempervivum (Hen & Chicks)
Sidalcea malviflora - Prairie Mallow
Stachys (Lamb's Ear)
Thymus (Creeping Thyme)
Veronica (Speedwell)
Waldsteinia ternata (Barren Strawberry)
Yucca (Adam's Needle)

Independence Challenge - Week 3

We have a super-prolific lemon thyme plant, so it seems like all I do is harvest and dry thyme lately. Fortunately, I really like it in stock. The other herbs are not mature enough to pick.

Planted: transplanted greens into fish boxes and empty spots in the ground
Harvested: leaf lettuce and lemon thyme
Preserved: dried lemon thyme
Managed: more work preparing Mom's yard, preparing to move
Systems: found a new CSA with an open house this weekend
Reduced Waste: the usual recycling and composting
Learned: how to preserve my herbs better
Library: Beginning Algebra

It's been rainy and cool lately. I have been doing daily weeding, but not a lot else in the garden. Really busy with work and other responsibilities at the moment. Need to find a source of free soil for the fish boxes - I hate buying bags. Maybe the leaf composting facility in Mom's township - I think she can get compost for free.

Fishbox of greens ready to give to Mom

Potting more plants to relocate to Mom's yard, and making containerized veggies to take there. We are slowly clearing space for planting at Mom's - turns out there was a layer of brick under the stuff in the spot she thought would be good. We are removing the brick by yard-cart-loads to a pallet in the back of the yard. Slow progress, but steady. She is feeling better after a really tough time adjusting to new medication.

We are starting to get ready to move by the end of the summer. Sorting and boxing, making piles to sell or freecycle. Reducing the clutter of school paperwork and outgrown books. By the time we move, I will have a better inventory of what we already have.

I posted to Sharon Astyk's food storage email list last week, to get advice about preserving herbs we grow. Great source of expertise and experience. As I work my way into the attic, I am going to install a drying rack up there, to use until we leave. I have been using labeled ziplocks to store dried herbs - I need to buy some canning jars and lids for this. I found it too hard to get the food smells out of used commercial food jars (pickles, salsa, relish, etc.).

Loads of herbs ready to move to pots and borders

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

New Challenge: 30 Walks

I read somewhere that if you do something for 6 weeks, it becomes established as a habit. Or, if you stop yourself from doing something, you break a habit.

It's my birthday in 30 days, so I plan to take a walk every day until then. I've been needing to walk more, but I never seem to actually do it for more than a few days in a row. Once I get to 30 Walks, I will be two-thirds of the way to establishing it as a habit.

Took my first walk tonight, with an 11-year-old. She led me up hills and to a flight of 36 stone steps (I counted) to the basketball court at the playground, and then into the woods to see the vine swing she wanted me to approve. Then she toured me all through the features of the playground - puddles to float bottle caps, hills to roll down, places for scootering and such. I don't know how far we actually went, and it wasn't classic "walking", but it got me out of the house and my heart was certainly pounding at times.

Now, let's see if I can find time to take another walk tomorrow.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Planning Round-up

As it starts to look very likely that we will move sometime this summer, I thought it would be good to go through my planning lists and round-up all the unfinished tasks that need doing.

In my own yard:

- water with Epsom Salts water, 1 Tbl in 2 gallons
- move potatoes out of pill-bug bucket - to Mom's
- finishing shearing grass for mulch
- Cut back the Sedums out front, and root cuttings.
- even out planting edge next to path
- make gift basket-gardens of greens and herbs
- find 5-gallon buckets to salvage
- buy 2 more bags of potting soil
- spray the peonies with baking soda water
- root cuttings of salvia and baptisia
- pot up - bee balm, small salvias and sedums
- move to Mom's - small peony, more iris (after bloom)

In Mom's yard:

- clear planting bed near gate
- prepare bed for carrots and parsnips
- plant sweet potatoes
- set up a fish box of greens
- find room for straw bales
- look for bean pole materials
- Patrol front yard for weeds
- call metal recycling places
- check into straw bales on Oley Turnpike Rd

Friday, May 16, 2008

My Garden Command Center

Every gardener has to have a place to keep their stuff - the Garden Command Center. The only place I have for that is the back patio. There are couple steps down from the back door, and a slanted cellar door takes up a lot of the space - not to mention the trash cans have to be here. So there is not a lot of space.

I trash-picked a little green table to hold my buckets of tools and stakes. I have an old tin pretzel can to keep bigger stakes in line. The wooden drawer is a trash find waiting to be used. (Sensing a trash-picking theme? Oh wait, I'm recycling.) I keep a box of plastic pots on the cellar slant, and a pile of salvaged berry baskets I am going to use to make gift planters later in the summer.

We do at least have a little shed attached to the back of the house, to hide my tool mess. All the houses on the block had them at one time, but many have been taken out in kitchen expansions. It is decorated with what I like to think of as "metal sculpture." It's really a guitar-shaped CD rack, but I like it as outdoor art.

And then there is the chair, from which I survey my garden domain. My big waxed cardboard box that I use to mix soil and fill pots. My pot supply. The little row of things rooting and germinating. And then my sidewalk lined with containerized plants. My "solar clothes dryer" - and you can see that two other neighbors are using their solar dryers, too.

See my grass? I think of it as a mulch bed. It's so small we cut it by hand with a grass shears. No mower. I like to use the pavement throw my weeding and cut grass. I let it dry out and then use it to mulch, except for the pile of seedy weeds and diseased things, that goes into the trash. I can't make a big enough compost pile to cook the seeds. The chair is where I sit to think about cutting the grass.

In a city, you have to focus on your own narrow strip of the world. You *really* want to avoid looking to the left. The neighbor's little construction project has been going on for two years, in fits and starts. I guess he keeps running out of money. It's a clay and beer-can wasteland right now, but the mud wasps absolutely love the foundation pit full of standing water. I can't really put in a higher fence without losing the air flow and full sun across the whole yard, so I have developed my powers of "ignore". I do harvest useful rocks there, and we got a lot of science lessons out of it - geology, erosion, soil profile, how a foundation is poured....

Amazing how many photos are required to document such a small garden.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Independence Challenge - Week 2

Hard to feel like I am making progress on this. Loads of family stress right now, and even sleep is hard to come by. But I guess each little thing moves us along.

Planted: zucchini, sweet potato slips, eggplant, yellow pepper
Harvested: leaf lettuce and lemon thyme (again)
Preserved: nothing - need to refine herb drying methods
Prepped: picked up a bag of adult t-shirts from FreeCycle
Cooked: new pork recipes for less-meat meals
Managed: extra bag of pinto beans
Systems: networked with gardening neighbor; looked up pick-your-own dates
Reduced Waste: trash-picked a plant stand for new fish box
Learned: all about pill bugs (ugh!)
Library: 50 Chowders

DD15 was the hero this week. I made a big batch of roasted pork stock, with about 5 pounds of neck bones. When it was time to strain, she fished out all the bones and picked the *tiny* little pieces of meat out of them, gleaning enough for a good-sized bowl of meat that I would have thrown away. Then she made an Asian-flavored dinner with fresh ginger and broccoli over rice, using some of the new stock in the sauce. Served three, where I would have missed a whole meal. The next day I made the broccoli-cheddar soup that they fight over, using the pork stock. Froze the remaining 6 quarts in bags.

I also salvaged a cup of very flavorful chicken pan drippings that I would normally throw away. Emptied a baking pan into a glass measuring cup and put it in the fridge. There were almost 2 inches of fat on top, but the rest was pure poultry goodness. I will do that whenever we roast or braise now.

May Bloom Day Photos

First day of the first flower (in four years) on the peony we named Dolly. I am joining the many garden bloggers who post "what's blooming" on the 15th of each month. And it also happens to be the day that the peonies and iris first bloomed. DD15 saw it first from her window when she woke up, and ran downstairs into the yard in her pajamas, yelling, "Look out back!"

The peony "Betty" also has two flowers, slightly different than Dolly, with a little white fringe in there. I should try to figure out what these are one day. I don't even know if May 15 is an early, mid-season, or late peony.

This is also opening day for the iris, another plant that was already here when we moved in, and for which I have no ID. I know some people have thousands of iris, and I have just these few, but they are mine and I love the deep solid royalty of the purple.

Just yesterday, it looked like this.

The peas are blooming. Took this snap yesterday, and today they look a little ragged because I put in pear twigs as peas trellis, and made them stand up better.

The salvia looks great, and the yarrow behind it is close to blooming. So much to anticipate.

The sweet little lyre-leafed sage just got flowers a day or two ago, and I hope it casts seeds around under that hosta. I have to clear some of the sedum so it isn't choked. Last year, the hosta provided shade for the sage later in the season.

There is a tiny viola at the edge of the veggie bed, self-seeded, self-empowered.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Neighborly Pepper

I noticed the neighbor planting his garden and stuck my head over the wall to see what he had. Lots of transplants of hot peppers, lots of tomatoes only about 6" apart, cilantro, onions. From previous years, I know that he will put in tall stakes and make rope trellis for the tomatoes. He gave us a yellow pepper plant that looked longish on the tag I glimpsed - not sure if it is hot or not - but we stuck it in an empty spot among the green onions to try it out. We will have make sure to give them produce this summer. Our conversation is a little short since the man has limited English and I have no Spanish - but gardening somehow makes that inconsequential. His wife and I trade food samples, although she has even less English - we mostly smile and nod at each other.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


I've spent bits of sanity time doing things in the garden, but haven't had time to post. Our Mother's Day gardening plans were derailed by a trip to Lancaster. Probably won't have time to get out there again until after the weekend. Incredibly busy and stressful week.

But the peonies are about to bloom. One is starting to loosen up. There are iris right behind, and I don't know how much bigger the yarrow can get without exploding.

I have been shearing parts of the grass and mulching with it. Weeding the onions and carrots. Reduced the pill bug population in the potato bucket by just scooping them out with a spoon and throwing them in the neighbor's desert-like yard. DD11 put some in her bug tank and has been reading about them - who knew they were crustaceans? Got the germinated parsnip seeds planted in the cardboard tubes, and a whole lot of garlic chives in a trough. The stolen Sedum seems to be doing OK.

Disappointed that I have now missed both the Master Gardener Sale and the Vo-Tech greenhouse sale. Maybe we will go up to the Kutztown Produce Auction one day soon - I know they have plants, as well as huge quantities of produce, if I start putting up more food.

Idea from a garden blog: a re-seeding garden full of annuals that reseed themselves. Forget-me-nots, larkspur, cleome, snapdragons, sweet alyssum, portulaca. Might be a good informal idea for Mom's side yard along the fence.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

To-Do for Next Week

Aside from adding compost and scattering some eggshells around, I haven't done much fertilizing. I got a lot of blossom-end rot last year, so I need to do a bit more than *nothing* this year.

- Put paper collars on eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes
- Water all the veg with Epsom Salts water, 1 Tbl to 2 gallons.
- Figure out a way to control the pillbugs in the potatoes.
- Shear grass and mulch with it.
- Cut back the Sedums out front, and root cuttings.
- Clear some space in the back for herbs and parsnips.
- Plant germinated parsnips in tubes. (done)
- ENJOY the iris and peonies that are about to bloom.

Going to work on Mom's yard tomorrow for Mother's Day:

- Clear planting beds near gate
- Plant sweet potatoes
- Set up a fish box of greens
- Find some pea fence twigs to bring home
- Make room for straw bales
- Discuss bean poles
- Patrol front yard for weeds
- Still need to call recycling places
- Look harder for straw bales - Oley Turnpike Rd?

We had to miss the Master Gardener Sale, much to my disappointment. But the Oley Vo-tech has a sale from its greehouse next Tuesday, so maybe we can still find some nice things. We can always get more veg at Glick's, or try another nursery.

Top 5 Spring Things, So Far

1. Germinating seeds in paper towels - I like being able to check if things are germinating, and then control exactly where the germinated seed goes. (Instead of sowing too thickly, waiting to see if anything is happening, and then having to yank out half the seedlings just when they really get going.)

2. Greens in fish boxes - no critter damage. To bad they are not large enough to block our view of the neighbor's stalled construction project. One has to develop tunnel-vision in a narrow urban garden.

3. How nicely the path works to neaten the back of the yard. A disorganized patch becomes "a bed" inside the curve.

4. The huge growth on last year's clearance-rack perennials. The Salvia "Caradona" is going to be fabulous next to the Yarrow "Terra Cotta". The yarrow is just covered in flower buds. The hosta and the groundcover sedum are also looking good together. Even the little native lyre-leafed sage is more robust. Hopefully, the guara I moved to a pot will still bloom as wildly as last year.

5. Grand Theft Sedum - I stole a cutting from a plant in the landscaping of a fast food restaurant. It looks like Sedum Matrona, instead of the Autumn Joy one sees everywhere. Why keep clippers in the glovebox if one is not going to use them? Brought it right home, dipped it in root hormone, and planted it. Hope it roots, and that lightening doesn't strike me down.

Friday, May 9, 2008

More veg in

Weather - nice steady light rain forecast for the next few days.

Our dentist appointment in Oley was canceled, but they didn't tell us before we got there, so we had breakfast at the Legion diner instead. I need to ask where they get their chipped beef; it has a smokier taste than the usual diner SOS.

Of course, we had to stop at Glick's. To replace the murdered eggplant, I selected a "Little Fingers," since I really liked that one last year. It was a good-looking plant and very productive. I also got another 4-pk of celery to add another little row. And four sweet potato slips that I hope to plant at Mom's.

The zucchini will be "Green Spineless" this year. I liked "President" last year, with its big silver-spotted leaves, but Glick's offered a different variety this year. It looks so small in the big bucket but I know that will change quickly. I am going to try collaring the plant in tin foil against the vine borers. Or maybe drape the whole pot in row cover.

(Zucchini, Cherry Tomato, and Chickpeas lining the walk)

Also got a 4-pk of Profusion Zinnias in "Apricot." I know I have seeds, but I didn't get them planted yet and I am impatient. The iris and peonies are going to explode soon, and I feel like I have to check every few hours to make sure I don't miss it!

I planted the eggplant, celery, and zucchini right away, in the rain. Everything looks very lush when it's wet. The grass and clover seem to have grown 6" in a day. All the potatoes are now poking out of the ground. Some of the yellow onions bulbs seem to be sticking out of the ground too far, although they are growing nicely. I think I will put a little layer of compost in that patch, and mulch it with cut grass - on a drier day.

I need to find more planting room - maybe carve back the grass edge of the path to make a narrow bed for something. I have a lot of herbs sprouting, and I could use a bush cucumber.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Independence Update - Week 1

My first official weekly update on the Independence Challenge, yay!

Planted: parsnips, english daisies, garlic chives
Harvested: leaf lettuce and lemon sage
Preserved: drying lemon sage
Prepped: extra stock pot at a yard sale
Cooked: found new source of stale artisan bread for pudding
Managed: stored peppercorns, canola oil
Systems: worked on Mom's garden plan
Reduced Waste: cut grass for mulching veggie beds
Learned: researched various solar cookers
Library: The Pruner's Bible

My own addition: build a paper reference library! Continuing to buy a used book every Wednesday, focusing on organic kitchen gardening and food preservation topics right now. Working on printing out my web-based recipe collection, to have a paper back-up.

Milk Jug hothouse results

I have a weed issue with the potting soil in the milk jugs. The same weed popped up in most of the jugs - sadly, sometimes it was the only thing that did sprout. I suppose it could have blown in, but it seems more likely that the bagged potting soil was contaminated.

Here in Zone 6B, the regional last-frost date is this week, and the marigold seedlings were out of room, so I potted them in market packs until I decide where to grow them. I found it hard to tease apart the roots, so maybe I should pot them sooner next time.

Nothing happened in the lavender jug. The herb sprouts are just teeny little things still getting their second set of leaves, so I am leaving them in the jugs until they are big enough to handle. The Genovese and Cinnamon Basil sprouted, and one other jug, but I can't tell if it is the thyme or the marjoram, yet. All the jug labels washed off - I have to label better next time.

This was my first attempt at winter-sowing, and I only did 6 jugs and 4 flat trays. Two jugs failed to grow and most of the tray action has been disappointing. The spinach mustard did great, but no action from the blackberry lily, or from the pennyroyal I put in the fridge for several weeks before bringing it outside. There is a 4th tray that has a few tiny sprouts finally, but I can't recall what I planted!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Ornamental maintenance

I am pretty focused on edibles this year, but I still get a lot of enjoyment out of the ornamentals. I need to do some work on those, too. I am still preparing to move away from this house, so I have more to dig up and move to Mom's yard.

Things to move this month:
- From the front planter: Bee Balm and Salvia. Mom has a lot of Sedums, but I guess I should move those after I take a lot of cuttings. I will fill the front with annuals - maybe I can find some good stuff at the Oley Vo-tech plant sale.
- From the alley - everything but the mint. The peony, the salvias, the iris. The passionflower won't sprout until almost June, then it will cover the back fence and attract all those rowdy bees.
- From the the back yard: I can move the rest of the iris after they bloom. I'll miss it anchoring the end of the border, but I can plant some early summer veg or herbs in their place. I should move the Bloodgrass, too (done).

Cuttings to make:
- Salvia - they are all looking strong, so I want to progagate more of them. I am especially loving the Salvia nemorosa 'Caradona' that I bought almost dead for 50 cents from the clearance rack at Lowes and nursed back to health.
- Sedums - I will cut them back to 4" soon, when they are 8" tall, and I can root all the cuttings
- False Indigo - It is going to bloom this year, so I don't want to disturb it, but I also don't want to leave it behind - so cuttings are called for. I read that I should stick cuttings in May, and that I need to have one bud node below the rooting medium.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Eggplant Tragedy

I was busy today, so I didn't go out in the yard until dusk today. Something had eaten one of my eggplant seedlings. The Ichibana. It was just gone. Not dug up, but eaten to the ground. Just yesterday I scattered crushed eggshell around the peas, eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes to stop the slugs. I wish I knew what ate it.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Mushroom Dirt !

The neighbor's son showed up with a pick-up full of mushroom dirt today. Apparently he works for a mushroom grower. They offered me some and I greedily filled a big box and a 5-gallon planter. The well-rotted manure is fabulous for veggie gardens. Yippie!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Plan for Mom's Yard

My plan for Mom's yard is developing. So far:

- dig and amend a root vegetable bed
- do some straw bale gardening for other veg
- do a lot of the sprawling plants that don't fit in my yard
- culinary herbs in containers - she has lots of pots

Thinking: sweet potatoes, pole beans, winter squash/gourds/pumpkins, cucumbers, cabbage and kale, at least one tomato for her to eat. Watermelon?

Going to the County Extension's Master Gardener Sale next Friday, where I can look for veg to plant in her yard. Although, I got such a good deal on canna bulbs last year...

Kyle agreed to go pick up straw bales in his pick-up for Mom's yard. I need to find some bales first. I am going to dig a root bed for her tomorrow afternoon, and have Kyle get bales if I can locate some.

Transplanted Tomatoes

Weather: Rain off and on the past few days. Nights in the low 40s and days in the 60s. Weekend forecast to be in the 70s during the day, and 50s at night.

Planted: transplants of the tomatoes and eggplants, and put the last two Norland potatoes in the skimpy end of the green onion bed. I hope we are done with last frosts, but if one is predicted in the nest week or two, I will cover the plants.

Got worried the bucket of potatoes was rotting and dug one up... it's sprouting. I think we just need some warmer days to warm up the bucket. I still have a sweet potato to find place for.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Challenges: Independence and Local Food

I'm signing up for two blog "challenges." Challenges seem to be these things where a bunch of bloggers all decide to do something and post about it for a period of time.

One Local Summer is one where you commit to preparing one meal a week that is made from ingredients all produced within 100 miles of your house. It starts June 1 and goes to August 31. Once a week the challenge watcher will visit your blog to gather your post about your local meal. Fortunately, the West Reading producer-only market starts Sunday, June 1st. Later in the season, we should be able to do a few from our own yard. There are some exceptions, like oil and spices. I better get to work on finding a local source for flour and cornmeal - maybe FM Brown's Sons.

Independence Days Challenge is an ongoing challenge to do at least one thing a day to advance toward independence from the industrial food system:

Plant something.
Harvest something.
Preserve something.
Prep something.
Cook something.
Manage your food reserves.
Work on local food systems.
Compost something.
Learn a new skill.

So far, I transplanted pepper plants, started a plate of parsnip seeds germinating in wet paper towels, and potted up the sprouted chickpeas. I also started tracking the tax sale lists, to watch for a city lot I could "farm", although that will depend on where DH gets a job. Later today, I will go back to Mom's house to do more work. I plan to work on preparing a bed for root vegetables, and talk to her about straw bale gardening. I will plan to post each weeks activity on Thursdays.