Harvest

Photo by Eli5Stone

I woke up yesterday to a chilly morning, dark and 46 degrees F. It was cold enough Friday night that we brought the lemon tree into the house. Soon enough it will have to live inside again until May, along with the hibiscus trees, but not yet. Please not yet.

The garden seems to know that the end is coming. Pumpkins and squash are ripening faster, ready to be picked and cured for a few weeks – stored in a cool place before eating to let the sugars develop better – and the tomatoes require picking twice a day. Fall raspberries are producing in abundance, and the apple tree needs clearing off.

The dehydrator runs almost nonstop these days, mostly turning our cherry tomatoes into dried ones, to be packed in oil and used on our winter pizzas, pastas, and wherever else I can use them. My neighbors can the bigger tomatoes and the San Marzano tomatoes for me (I grow, they can, which is a fantastic arrangement).

Dehydrating tomatoes is easy – slice in half, coat in olive oil and salt, and pop in the dehydrator. Mine takes about 24 hours to turn into dried tomatoes but every dehydrator works a little differently. As soon as I get the next jar filled with dried tomatoes I’ll switch to making apple chips – adding a little lemon juice before drying keeps them from turning brown, but apples need no other help.

Our weekends are busy beyond compare these days, as we still work on cleaning and organizing on top of preserving, still finishing the projects we started in July and we have also started homeschooling, after determining that remote school wasn’t really going to work out for the kids. There’s more things to do than there is time, so we do as much as we can in priority order, jettisoning the things lower on the priority list for now.

Food preparation on weekends doesn’t get us through the whole week, but it does get us through several days each week. Today I’ll be making a double batch of Chicken Parmesan and thawing sausage for Lentil Sausage Soup. On top of that I’m going to finally make these treats for the kids, preserve some zucchini, which is still, unbelievably, producing in the garden, and start the process of making grape jam. My neighbors have Concord Grape vines, and there were more than they needed this year.

Despite all the things to do, the nonstop motion of our lives is winding down. In just a few more weeks all the preserving will be done. While housework, laundry and errands never end, we are beginning to see the end of the major reorganization and home improvement projects as well. This weekend, as we completely cleaned out and reorganized the living room and hallway closet, I could start to see the the light at the end of the tunnel. Sure, there will always be organizing to do, but the big stuff is getting knocked off. Soon enough, I’ll stop writing blog posts about how much we are doing and focus on one or two things (with recipes) to share again.

Even our newest household member, Teddy, is settling in. Teddy came to us from some family members, and is, even for me, who has never necessarily been a ‘dog person’ a fun addition. That he likes to canoe with us helps a great deal.

Teddy the Canoe Dog

But even despite that, we took the time to have a great dinner last night together, and watch a movie. In a few weeks we’ll take some time to do some fall camping. If the garden doesn’t get cleaned out and readied for the winter until November, and the laundry doesn’t get folded today, oh well.

When there’s everything to do, the best thing you can do is decide to focus on what you can, and avoid any pressure – internal or external – on your priorities. Through all this I try to remember the wise words that we are Human Beings, not Human Doings. And I rest, between whirs of the food processor. I hope you can too.

How Does My Garden Grow – August Bounty

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It’s been a little busy lately.  Late summer is easily the busiest time on the Sithean farmlet, and compounding our usual gardening/preserving/weeding/back-to-schooling of this time of year is some nuances related to the pandemic and some much-needed home maintenance as well as wrapping up our home reorganization as we prepare to adopt.

2020 is turning the year that both everything stopped being normal and we did absolutely everything. 

Just typing that reminds me that I’m tired.   I still watch the world, and there are wildfires and the aftermath of Hurricane Laura and police still detaining and shooting black people without reason and so many things that I see that just seem so wrong, but unlike the world of fear and chaos being painted by some, and not enough help for those in need, still I see hope.  Not Pollyanna-ish hope, but the tiny shoots through cracks in the pavement.   As the pandemic lingers and spins out of control in the US, reality is seeping through to all but the most denial-wracked.   My mostly-white community is awash in Black Lives Matters signs.  Protests continue, and the world is not complacent.  Whatever our new normal will be is not going to be as easy as what came before, but hopefully it will be more fair.  

This week is the first one in a while where we have time and the only pressing projects are cleaning and organization, and food preservation.   Well, and a long -needed hair appointment for me.  While Massachusetts case counts are low, I am scheduling key appointments – physicals, eye doctor appointments and dentist, and just a tiny bit of personal maintenance.  I’ve thought about giving up my hairdresser in favor of home haircuts  and no cost, but landed on keeping it in the budget 2-3 times a year.  

Rain has returned with some regularity to Sithean, for which I am profoundly grateful.  And just in time, because the garden is producing everything, all at once.  The tomatoes are ripening, the raspberries have returned to the vines, and all the pumpkins and squash are growing wherever they can throw out runners.   Which is everywhere.  Yesterday I found a pumpkin growing in the middle of the raspberry patch.  That should be fun to extract.  

This morning I blanched and froze kale, and this afternoon I’m starting another batch of zucchini relish, which fits right into my strategy of mass-produced homemade holiday gifts, making a pot of chili for easy lunches for a few days, and for dinner making a pot of cauliflower curry soup with goat cheese and pomegranate seeds, one of my favorite Halfbakedharvest.com recipes.

We have more basil than we know what to do with, and we’ll be giving away pesto as well as freezing as much as possible.  This year I’m determined to replicate the minestrone soup with pesto I ate one glorious day in Italy in 2004.  I’m going to start with this recipe and see if it needs adjusting.   

Because soup season is coming.  The nights are getting cooler, the geese are beginning to congregate in local fields before they head south, and my weekends are going to be spent in the kitchen.  

Garden season will last about another month, maybe 6 weeks, and at the end, the fruits of our labors will be waiting in bags and jars for us to eat.  

How Does My Garden Grow – July 2020

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Spaghetti Squash

I figured I had better get motivated and publish this post before you know, July ends.  Which it’s going to, very shortly.  Which brings me to – holy heck this year is traversing it’s portfolio of months fast.  Except the back half of March, which lasted 3 years, I feel like every month of 2020 is lasting about 6 minutes.

I admit it, other than watering and checking in on the plants (okay tomatoes, RIPEN!) I’ve been ignoring the garden.  I did get a little weeding in the trench bed done last weekend, but between the fact that it’s been well over 90 degrees on the weekends, the work we’re still doing on the house and some commitments, the garden has mostly had to tend itself lately.  Which means it’s very weedy, but doing just fine.

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Birdhouse Gourd

But it’s gone completely insane.  In a good way.  The squashes and pumpkins are trailing everywhere, despite my efforts to make them stay up and orderly in their spaces.  Our zucchinis are regularly growing into things that could more accurately be described as baseball bats, and those are in the process of mostly becoming Zucchini Relish for holiday giving – it’s a bit of work, but this stuff is really delicious! And when we’re done with that, anything we don’t immediately eat we’ll shred and freeze the rest for baking.

Pumpkins and butternut squash, as well as one Red Kuri squash are also thriving.  From a curcurbita perspective, the garden is the most healthy and productive it has ever been.  The Rouge Vif D’Etampes pumpkins, lovely Cinderella pumpkins that are gorgeous to display and eat – I have at least 4 growing healthily on the vines that I can count.   I’ve always felt lucky to get even one.  This year is a squash year for sure.

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While my Son’s Jack Be Little pumpkin plant looks healthy it still doesn’t have any tiny pumpkins yet, but there’s time for that.

But I am still waiting on the first ripe tomato.  Yellow tomato flowers and green ones abound.  But for Sungolds and slicing tomatoes, along with the San Marzanos that feed my desire to make sauce – messy and time consuming, but so delicious in the winter when it’s cold and dark and nothing is growing – I continue to wait, making my pesto, watering my flowers, and dreaming of red and gold.

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How Does My Garden Grow – Late June

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The Irises and Peonies are gone for the year, and the raspberries, who just 3 years ago were tiny sticks and now are riotously taking over the yard, are beginning to ripen.  It’s hot here.  For the last several weeks, with one exception, it’s been a dry, baking heat.  We’ve had rain once in nearly a month.  In the forecast…maybe Wednesday.  Maybe Saturday.

Despite a cold, wet spring, we are headed into drought.  It’s not yet classified as drought in Massachusetts, instead deemed ‘Extraordinarily Dry’ but the next step is the first phase of a drought.  I’ve never seen it this dry in June.

Because of the heat I water several times a day.  As much as possible,  I hand water, which, while it is slower going than using the hose, allows for much more water retention right around my plants.

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My plants are thriving, even the hungry ones, like my Rouge Vif D’Etampes pumpkin, despite the lack of rain.  Squash and zucchini blossoms abound, and it’s just about time for one of my favorite meals, sauteed zucchini noodles and cherry tomatoes in pesto.  Topped with a little parmesan and some grilled or pan-fried salmon, it’s summer simplicity at it’s best.

I’ve always said I wouldn’t live anywhere that rain doesn’t fall from the sky.  And the world is still lush and green around me, but we never go this long without precipitation, and, for someone who loves to grow things, I spend a lot of time worried, hoping for rain.   Every gardener understands the premise of a rain dance, the need to just do something, especially when it comes to something that you have no control over.

The pandemic continues, as do the Black Lives Matters protests, just outside our door and so far away.

In an effort to keep our cooling costs down, blackout curtains went up in the living room yesterday, slightly impeding my Maxfield Parrish-style view, but definitely blocking some of the  beating sun.  While there is always weeding and planting and tree removal to do here, the next few weeks are focused indoors, painting rooms, moving furniture around, adding and changing the layout of the house for our next big thing, as we prepare to welcome Teddy the Yellow Lab in August, and start the process to get us to adoption of one or two more smaller humans.   We had intended to do major renovation next spring to augment our space, but given the pandemic, that will have to wait a year or two.  In it’s place is moving rooms around to add beds and options.  It’s a good opportunity to declutter as well, and we’re slowly working our way through corners and closets.

But this is a good time to take our eyes off the garden, save for a bit of weeding here and there, because for the next couple of weeks, the garden can be left to do it’s thing, growing away in the heat and light, needing just a bit of fertilizer and care.  Our CSA started last week, and this year my neighbor and I are alternating weeks for pickup, so our first arrival comes Friday,  with Misfits Market right on top of it the next day, due to a massive lack of planning on my part.  Our preserving efforts will have to start right away.  And while more recipes are coming, here’s a great place to start, and Eli and my latest addiction in television.

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Gardening in the Time of Monsters

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Time does not freeze, not for all the wanting it to that a human can have.  The world is moving on around us, beginning to open back up, despite unchecked infection rates and over 111,000 dead in the US alone.  We lead, but not in a good way.    Cities continue to be filled with protests because of more unnecessary killings of people with dark skin. People are literally starving here in the richest country in the world.  I grieve.   I don’t understand how armed white men can storm a state house and be left alone, and blacks protest without weapons because they are tired of dying of police brutality and the police response is horrific and violent.

I don’t understand how this can happen,  and all the while the leader of the free world drives us into darkness.

“Now is the time of monsters” wrote Antonio Gramsci in 1929 from a fascist prison.  And so it is now, too, 91 years later.

But rather than join the anger and the hating, I decided it’s on me, on all of us, to create more love.  An image of white women in a line protecting black protesters with their bodies?  Love.  Those feeding the 42 million plus people out of work?  Love.

Even smaller acts of love make the world a better place.  Wearing masks, helping others start gardens, checking in on the people around us.  If we are to live in a time of monsters, we must bring out the angels of our better selves to counteract them.  We must give, yes, but we must also sustain ourselves, because this is not going to be a sprint to a better place.

A wall of richly scented white lilacs dangled over the outdoor dining table like a benediction for several weeks.  They don’t last long, lilacs – but they held long enough to have our first social distancing picnic with friends among them two weeks ago.  I typically spend a day at the ever-lovely Pickity Place with my next door neighbor for her birthday in May, but this year it wasn’t possible, so her 50 cycles around the sun that occurred a few weeks ago went unmarked by anyone other than family.   Her husband, mine and I decided to remedy that, and I took a long drive to New Hampshire to get her birthday dinner, given that take out and a quick visit to the greenhouse was an option, so lupines and violas now grow in my front yard.

Last weekend we celebrated France Day here, a completely arbitrary, made up holiday that involved us making and eating french food, playing french music, and building a 3-d Eiffel Tower puzzle.  Why?  Our plan to spend April vacation in France visiting the sites, shopping at Farmer’s Markets while channeling Julia Childs (ok, that bit is just me) and visiting some friends who happen to be brilliant enough to live there was put aside by pandemic.  And in a world where every day tends to be much like the last, making something special for us is important.

I’ve sat out the protests, not because I want to, but because we’re pretty sure I had Covid-19, I’m still fatigued a lot, and with two immune-compromised household members and still no sense of whether there’s some kind of post-virus immunity, we need to put our lives above participation.  That’s hard for me.   I’m praying for change as I plant tomatoes and cook for some friends who need a hand, and parent and work and hope that no one else gets hurt.

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The peonies began to bloom on Friday, and their scent fills the yard and house.  We are almost done planting and building the last of the garden beds.  We chose cement bricks, even though they are less beautiful than clay, they last  longer.  We have a desire to build something that will last.

My son filled a bed with cabbage, small pumpkins, Nasturtiums and seeds for a moon garden, and has been watering it with dedication, like the little boy in The Carrot Seed.  He struggles sometimes, without his schedule and friends and family.   But the garden for him, too is a place of peace.

If now is the time of monsters, we must create hope wherever we can.    My hope is in the garden.

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Self-Sufficiency, or the Lack Thereof

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All of a sudden, spring finally arrived at Sithean.  The cold nights have gone away, the days hover near 70, everything is so very green, and the lilacs are finally starting to bloom, weeks late.  The asparagus bed is producing almost more than we can keep up with, meaning we’ll be making some well-received donations in the coming days.   The chickens get to roam most days, with leaf cover protecting them from hawks and it being time for them to do their job of bug-eating.

For us, as we see states reopening and infection rates and deaths continue to grow, we’re slowly formulating our plans.  It seems likely that I won’t be traveling for work until fall, at least, and our social schedule isn’t going to resume anytime soon.   Everyone is still working, at least right now, and I don’t see that changing either, thankfully.   The economy gets worse every week as well.

So budget and sustainability are top of mind, and we definitely are not alone in that.

On our rocky, tree covered acre and a quarter, complete self-sufficiency isn’t a likely option, even if we turned the entire front yard into food-producing crops or grazing land.  And for me, what that equals to is exhaustion and a zero-enjoyment life.   At least right now, radical food production isn’t on the table.  What is?

Taking the long view and making the investments a little at a time.   Investing in the things that we believe to be the most financially rewarding as well.  And re-looking at our budget for more radical cost-cutting.  I call it the ‘go easy’ method.

How does that work?  Every year, as time and budget allow, we add.  Sometimes it works out, sometimes not.  Baby fruit trees, even with protective cover, don’t always survive the winter.   Last winter we lost one of the apricots, the fig, and an old apple tree that finally died.  We put in 3 apple trees and 2 cold-hardy cherries this year, and we’re going to replace the fig and apricot next season.  One more older apple tree looks to be dying as well, and I want to add at least one more peach tree, as well as more asparagus crowns.  But that’s next spring.

Last fall, when gardening supplies went on sale, I bought 6 tomato cages, and I’ll get a few more gratis from my neighbor.  I have 2 metal cucumber trellises as well, and we’ll build some bean supports.  Other than the additional bricks we need to finish garden beds, and some compost and grass seed, our investment in the garden is complete for the year.

I have plenty of seeds, and other than onion seeds and a few other things, most seeds last more than one season, so I’ll need fewer next year.  I’m also, 4 gardening seasons in, starting to learn what works for us and what doesn’t in conjuction with our CSA, although I may have to rethink it a little, depending on how CSA pickup works this year.  And we have our Misfits Market box every couple weeks, but we’ll put that on hold most of the summer.   Our chickens are likely self-sustaining at this point, and at some point we’ll let them raise a batch of babies.  I don’t expect to have to buy any eggs for many years to come.   I think this year we’ll can enough salsa and pasta sauce to get us through the winter, along with pickles to give away.  And those fruit trees – we already get apples, and this year I’m going to manage to protect at least a few peaches from the squirrels.

We have infinity raspberries, and hopefully at least a few strawberries this year.  I don’t buy asparagus ever, because the stuff from the store is tasteless compared to the fresh-picked spears from my garden, so it’s become a seasonal thing, although hopefully we will have enough to freeze for a couple of winter meals.  In short, I don’t have everything planted, but we do continue to grow our repertoire so there may come a day in a couple years when buying fruit is a rare thing for us.

What I’ve learned over the years is if I try to do it all, we fail.  There’s simply not enough of us to go around.  So our planning involves a cadence of expenditures of both money and time.  We paint and patch around one room a year.  When we renovate, we’ll do a lot at once, but trying to do it all at once sends both our budget and our time completely off kilter.  We want to be as self-sufficient as possible, but we also recognize that our limited family time is precious.  Life is often about what you choose not to do as well as what you choose to.

Is this a lot of work still? Sure.  But these are investments, and in the long haul, they will pay off.  Instead of paying someone to cut the lawn, this year we spent $3600 on a really good lawn tractor and another $200 on a string trimmer and we will do it ourselves.  In 2 years, they will pay for themselves because we are no longer spending money on a service, and after that, it’s money in the bank.  So too is it with fruit trees and raspberries and seeds.

So self-sufficiency homesteading – is it in the cards?  In total, no.  But carefully chosen elimination of dependencies on the outside world is.

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In the Land of Suspended Animation

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It’s been a chilly, wet spring, with very occasional days of sunshine interspersed with mostly cold and rain, even snow far past the point of normalcy.

Normalcy.  I think up until mid-March, I could probably define what that is.  Now, I’m not sure.

Eventually, we humans normalize everything.  And so it is here, as we, along with so many others, have adjourned from most human contact.  We venture out very little, and when we do it is masked, gloves and with cleaning wipes in hand.  It’s nearly impossible to imagine that just 2 months ago we were sharing food with friends and socializing.

I’m accepting of our new normal, but I miss our family and friends.  And as I find my energy again I’m torn between loving some of this pause in the eternal busyness of my life, and wishing it would get back to normal for all of us.

Whatever normal is.

Despite that wish, there are so many joys in what I call the Land of Suspended Animation.  Finding a free weekend day for yard work is no longer a problem.  Feeling overbooked, or too busy other than my current work schedule is a nonissue.  Since even a trip to the grocery store is a fraught experience, and up until recently no one could go anyway because of quarantine, we’ve opted for delivery for the last month, saving us time and energy, if costing more in tips for the hardworking Instacart delivery folks, to whom I am profoundly grateful.

Eventually we’ll have to venture out, but not yet.

Despite the odd pause that much of humanity is taking, Mother Nature is not.  The world continues to bloom around me, despite the ongoing chill.  The birds begin to sing in advance of dawn every morning.  While the heat is still on inside, outside is becoming a riot of color.  Myrtle is blooming everywhere, with tiny purple flowers among the deep green leaves,  and naturalized daffodils and violas spring up in the strangest places. I check daily in the hopes of one tiny stalk peeking up, the harbinger of Asparagus season kicking off.  And yesterday, there it was.  It will be a few days before we can harvest, but there’s nothing like it to tell me that the world is moving on whether humanity is or not.

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Spring is my best reminder of how many lifetimes Sithean has seen.  The asparagus was planted over 60 years ago, the peach trees are older than that,  It’s almost impossible to know how long the trench bed has been there.  It may have been part of the original gardens back in 1850, long before the house moved to it’s current location, about 200 yards from where it was built.  It gives me perspective on our relative impermanence here in the world, and how humanity is just a component.

This is just a moment.

My seedlings are getting big, and I transplant them to larger pots and containers at every opportunity.  The tulip bulbs Eli and I planted last fall are starting to come up, including the checkered tulips, or Fritillaria meleagris that my neighbor and I were enchanted by during an outing for her birthday last year that bloom with their heads hanging down.  I searched for until I found some for both of us, and we planted them last fall.  “They’re up!” captioned a delighted picture from her a few days ago, so I went hunting for mine in the rain.    I think I’ll add some more this year.   It’s hard for Eli and I to get excited about digging into the rocky soil here in the chill of fall, but it’s worth it as each spring more and more flowers bloom because of it.

But despite all the movement and growth, here we sit.  For as long as it takes, without having any idea of how long it will take, like hedgehogs in a perpetual winter hibernation or caterpillars in their chrysalis  .  Unlike hedgehogs though, our heart rates are fast, and anxiety is often high.  Still, we have adjusted to the confines of our smaller world.  I remind myself always to enjoy these moments, for they too, shall pass.

We cook.  We talk.  We work.  What comes next I don’t know and there’s much I can’t control.  But the garden will still grow and the flowers will still bloom, and for that I am grateful.  This place is our stability from the storm, which may last far longer than all of us hope for.  There’s so much I miss, but I find myself so grateful for this place and my family with me.   We are tethered to this tiny piece of earth and one another, and it fills me with hope, always.

I wish the same for you.

 

 

Springtime Chill

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Despite the fact that we woke up to snow Saturday morning (which was then sleet and finally rain), the sun came back the next day, just in time for springtime preparations here on the farmlet.  Sunday we spent a good chunk of our morning in the yard, cleaning up leaves and debris, planting some snap peas, and a few other projects that have been lingering.

Like every year,   there’s good news and bad news.  Only one of the two baby apricot trees made it through the winter.  The fig tree didn’t survive either, but we have 2 new apple trees and a couple cold hardy cherry trees as well, and a mulberry tree on the way.  On the good news front the Seckel Pear tree seems to be budding, all the bulbs Eli and I planted last fall are coming up, and my hibiscus trees, bought on discount last year as I went to order wedding flowers, thrived in the dining room over the winter.   Which has indicated that perhaps I can also keep citrus trees that way, so I ordered a Meyer Lemon tree in a mad rush of optimism.

I’m technically done with quarantine, but taking it very slowly as I re-enter the world, and of course we’re doing that as little as possible.  I’m still exhausted a good chunk of the time, weeks later.  Still, I and my family got lucky to be minimally impacted, and I’m grateful.

While I had to pace myself, gardening and yard work is somewhat meditative for me, and I find it more relaxing than tiring, even though I could clean up the yard for months without stopping and there would still be more to do.

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Still, after 2 wheel barrels full of leaves and debris, and some snap peas in the ground, it was time to take a break.  Alice the chicken apparently thought so too.

Monday was back to chilly and grey, and I got up early to go for a walk and get dinner into the Crockpot.  This time of year, when it’s warming up but all too slowly, it’s the perfect time for a Crockpot meal.

I took a 3-lb pot roast and sprinkled it with salt, and pepper and then pan-seared it, before putting it into the crock.  Using the same pan, I added more olive oil, chopped a couple onions, 4 cloves of garlic and a carrot, and sauteed them until soft.

Then I took a large can of crushed tomatoes, a cup of red wine (cooking wine works just fine here) a teaspoon each of Allspice and Cinnamon, and a half a teaspoon of ground cloves, plus some salt and pepper, let that cook for a few minutes to meld flavors, and then poured it over the roast in the Crockpot and let it cook for 8 hours.

The kitchen smelled amazing – the combination of tomato and red wine with spices more frequently used for baking is not to be missed.

I served it over cauliflower mash, and honestly, it was just the thing to start the week off.  Today is due to be warmer and there’s plenty of pot roast leftovers, plus some chicken soup with rice to finish off as well.

I hope you and yours are staying safe.

 

 

Starting Seeds 101

If you want to plan your garden really, really well, you should do exactly as I do, which is to say that the minute the seed catalogs arrive in December you should proceed to buy every seed package that catches your eye, regardless of how you’ll fit it in your garden space or manage it.

Or maybe not.  Ahem.

A lot of people find seed starting to be a little intimidating, but I promise it’s very simple.  You don’t need expensive equipment, heat lamps (they help, but not necessary) or lots of things like peat pots.   As a matter of fact, I have the most success when I go low tech.  If this is your first go, start slow.  You can iterate each year as you learn more about what grows well, what you eat, and what windows work best.  Some people go fancy, but I’ve learned over the years that this is what works here.

So grab a few seed packets of things you like to eat, and give it a try.

You will need:

  • Potting soil
  • Popsicle sticks
  • Plastic wrap
  • Tinfoil loaf pans
  • A Sharpie marker
  • Sunny window
  • Surface
  • Water

That’s it.

I’m less good at figuring out how much of anything we’ll eat, but I’m getting better.  So, I plant too much, but that’s ok.  As my older sister says, they are plants, not friends.

You start, as with all things, with what you like to eat.   Also, unlike me, if this is your first time around, maybe not too much.  A couple kinds of tomatoes.  A few cucumbers.  Some lettuce, which is mostly spring and fall planting, but you can also keep some growing in a sunny window all winter. You make it manageable.

Spending about $40 on the supply list above, maybe a little less, will get you a garden that gives you approximately a salad a week.  Want more?  Plant more.  Not sure what you like?  Try new varieties.   If you have some really hot areas, plant some things like basil, that will give you a supply of homemade pesto.  Basil loves heat.  Herbs, which can be expensive at the grocery store, are super cheap and often easy to grow, even in pots on a balcony or windowsill.

So decide what you want to try.  And then you start to plant.

First, label the containers.  Know what you planted and the date you planted it.  This will help you keep track of what the things are and when you can expect to eat them.  For the tinfoil planters, write directly on the side.  If you have other types, use the popsicle sticks – on one side, the variety, on the other, the date.  At the top, of course.

Then, fill the containers about 2/3 of the way to the top with potting soil.  Add seeds, and then cover with more soil.

Add water to soak, cover with plastic wrap and set in the sun.

When the seedlings start to come up, remove the plastic wrap and keep them well watered.

I try to start about 6-10 things every week until planting season and then I try to pick something every week until November.  This works imprecisely for sure, but it’s the goal.

When the seedlings start to get big, move them to separate pots.  Prop tomatoes with those popsicle sticks and some twist ties if they start to droop.

Before you plant, you must harden off after danger of frost is past.  This means for a week or two you bring them out, and then bring them in for increasingly long periods.  It gets them used to the vagaries of outdoor temperatures.  First for a couple hours, and then lengthen until they have moved permanently outside.

And then you plant.

It’s a little work, and by the end of the hardening period I’m mostly cranky about the endless in and out effort, but really, it’s not much work at all.  And when you are eating your own zucchini or onions or tomatoes, there’s a pleasure in knowing that you started them from scratch.

It’s also it’s own kind of magic.  The seeds go down in the soil.  The plant comes up, and eventually becomes food, with water and sunlight. It’s the magic of the every day.

Which is the best kind of magic there is.  Happy Eating!