Monday, December 19, 2011
Saturday, December 10, 2011
Sunday, December 4, 2011
I'm something of a pack rat. I have a hard time throwing away "disposable" items that are still perfectly usable: tin foil, plastic bags, hardware, I hang onto all of it. Glass jars are another thing that I tend to squirrel away as they get emptied of their original contents. They're great for a lot of things, especially organizing and storing seeds. This afternoon I finally got around to shelling out some beans and corn that I've had sitting in my kitchen. The Bloody Butcher and Marbled Indian corns come from down at my parents' house, and the Blue Hopi is the only bit that I was able to salvage from the squirrels and drought this summer. The Navy and Kentucky Wonder pole beans were saved from plants I grew in my garden. The original seed for the Hopi corn and the beans came from Heirloom Acres seed company.
Sunday, November 20, 2011
Saturday, November 5, 2011
Thursday, November 3, 2011
Monday, October 24, 2011
Sunday, September 18, 2011
Monday, September 5, 2011
The high temperature for this past Thursday, Friday, and Saturday all reached triple digits and set local records. A cold front came in Saturday evening, and dropped temps by nearly 30 degrees. The weather yesterday and today was gorgeous, sunny and mid-70's. The nice weather and holiday gave me a chance to get outside and bang away on the hoop house. I now have all but the back wall framed in. It's pretty cool to see it so close to finished. The next step is to prepare the beds and start planting. September 21st is less than 3 weeks away, and I need to get cracking. The rest of the garden looks like shit, and is likely going to get a serious haircut in the near future.
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Summer break may be about over, but Nature right in the thick of things. Pretty much all of the tomato plants are producing (the Silvery Fir Tree plants are actually about all petered out). In terms of color, shape, and flavor, it's hard to beat tomatoes for adding variety to your garden. I try to grow 5-6 different types every year, and it's pretty neat to see them all together. Above is a bowl of everything I had in this year. My only real disappointment has been the Speckled Romans, which all developed blossom end rot. Here are some links to Seed Saver's because it's the only place I can find the Silvery Fir Tee seeds, but you can find most of everything else at lots of different seed sites.
Monday, August 1, 2011
Today is my last day of Summer break, so I'm banging away trying to get the last of my major summer projects done. I've got the 4 hoops up for the greenhouse. Seeing it come together is really cool. I'll do a full post once I get it all framed out.
Saturday, July 30, 2011
I have a variety of vices and low-level addictions, chief among them beer and ice cream. My brother Rob has periodically brewed his own beer, and does a pretty good job. It's something I'd like to try at some point, but I don't have any of the equipment right now. Besides, there are lots of great local and regional microbrews at the grocery and liquor store.
Thursday, July 28, 2011
July is nearly over, I need to finish my art supply orders, and next week I have faculty meetings…school is right around the corner. Gak! Where did summer go? I’m about a month past due for a mid-year check up on my goals for the ‘Burbstead, so let’s see how things are progressing.
1. Egg Patch: The turnips failed to germinate. The carrots, while producing lovely tops, have only managed to make roots the size of my pinky finger (and they’re supposed to be 6-8” long). They taste good, but they aren’t going to feed many chickens. The okra is up and doing nicely, so I should wind up with a good bit if seed. I planted Bloody Butcher and Hopi Blue field corn. The Blue is for seed, since I only had a small handful to begin with. Any of the Bloody Butcher that produces ears will go to the chooks. This fall, I’m going to have another go at turnips and beets. I’m also going to try growing the Dinosaur kale that Autonomy Acres recommended. I may have had some bad luck early in the Spring, but I need to do better. Grade: C-
2. Season Extension: The peas, lettuce, and radishes that were planted under cover came in really well and way ahead of last year. I transplanted a bunch of Silvery Fir Tree and Amish paste tomatoes under a tunnel in April. The SFT’s are going strong, and they’re a couple weeks ahead of last year as well. As for the hoop house, I knocked together the base back in the Spring, and I found another trampoline frame. I have the hardware sitting in my car, and I dug up some lumber that will work for runners. I need to assemble the frame here in the next couple of weeks before school and football really get into full swing. Grade: A-
3. Growing more herbs: I wound up deciding against putting an herb spiral into the garden, but I used some pots that were laying around to make an impromptu herb garden on a patio table. I planted Sage, Thyme, Basil, Cilantro, and Mint. It was looking pretty good…until we went to Branson for 5 days. The temperatures were in the mid – upper 90’s the whole time we were gone with no rain. When we got back, most of the plants were fried to a crisp. I should have gotten some of those little water globe things they advertise on tv. The Sage is still good, some of the Thyme is straggling by, and one of the Basil plants is still green-ish. Hopefully they will bounce back with plenty of H2O. I also have dill and cilantro sprinkled throughout the garden. That’s doing good. Grade: B
4. Documenting my harvest: In the past I’ve done a fair job keeping track of planting and harvest times and other garden notes. I wanted to do that, plus keep more specific track of how much food I was actually growing. Then, sometime in early May, I lost my garden notebook. Rather than making a new one, I just stopped doing it all together. Shame on me for being a lazy bastard. Grade: F
5. Front yard gardening: My efforts in the front yard this year have been largely experimental, but I think they’ll set the stage for more robust planting in the future. I planted a couple of rows of kidney beans along the front of our side yard fence. Next to the driveway, I planted corn, amaranth, lettuce, herbs, and flowers. It’s interesting to see how slight variations in the amount of daylight can affect the growth of the plants. Also, the wabbits have pretty much left the plants alone. Next year, I want to have a more substantial front yard garden, but so far, I’m happy with what I’ve gotten. Grade: A-
Front yard beans
6. Rain Catchment: Oh right, that…errr… Grade: F-
7. Clean the chimney: So I borrowed my Uncle Randy’s chimney sweeping tools, and spent a Saturday afternoon on the roof and in the fireplace cleaning a few years worth of squirrel nest out of the chimney. I got it to the point where I could see clear out the top. I lit a fire, and there was still a lot of smoke coming into the living. This fall I may have to call on the services of someone who is better trained than I am. Grade: B
8. Ramp up / organize food storage: I’ve just started my food preservation efforts for the year, and I’ve already put away a bit more pickles than I did last year (including my first go at Bread and Butter pickles). I have enough tomatoes now that I can start making some sauces and salsas and preserves. I need to hit up the farmer’s market for some more food, because I have yet to press my dehydrator into service. This year, I would like to try drying some strawberries and peppers, making peach jam, and freezing more squash and okra. I need to make sure I don’t get lazy on this. Grade: B+
Pickles July 2011
9. Solar drying / cooking: Ok, I haven’t done any solar drying or cooking this year, even though this summer has been pretty much perfect for it (perhaps a bit humid, but still hotter than blazes). However, I have managed to take advantage of the sun’s energy in a different way. When June got here, I finally broke down and turned on the AC. In an effort to offset the increased electric bill a little bit, I strung some clothesline up on the kids’ jungle gym in the back yard. It won’t completely negate the cost off running the AC, but the dryer is the next biggest electricity hog, so minimizing its usage can’t hurt. Grade: B
10. Meat chickens: Well, we didn’t get a bunch of meat chickens, but we did manage to increase the size of our layer flock. At one point, we had 13 chickens. The white hen Cookie succumbed to the heat (I think), and I took 5 of the new chickens to my parents’ when it became obvious that they were roosters. That puts us at 7 chickens. However, upon further review, one of the remaining pullets turned out to be a roo. At this point, he’s not very good at crowing, so I think I’m going keep him a little while longer until he’s big enough to butcher here. That will mean that I raised a meat chicken on the ‘Burbstead. Here’s to meeting the most unlikely of goals, even if it is by a technicality. Grade: A
My final "GPA" winds up being a 2.65 (C+). The two F's really hurt, but there's room improvement pretty much everywhere. By the end of the year, I'd like to be up to a B or better.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Thursday, May 26, 2011
A few weeks ago we got 10 little chicks from the kindergarten class at the boys' school. They quickly outgrew the rubbermaid tub in the kitchen, and have since moved to a temporary chicken shack in the back yard. I'm going to move them into the big chicken coop this weekend. So far, they've free ranged in the backyard with the big chickens a few times. Scratchy, the boss chicken, wasted no time waddling over to the chicks and asserting her authority. Aside from a few disciplinary pecks on the head, things weren't too violent. I'm hoping that it will stay that way once they're in the confines of the coop/run. I also hope that the stress of new coopmates won't further hamper their egg production. 4-5 weeks ago I managed to fend off a possum attack in the wee hours of the morning. (My neighbors were treated to a sight of me in my tiny shorts running around my yard with a flashlight and a stick). The chickens escaped unscathed, but the ordeal apparently stressed them such that they stopped laying eggs. I expected this for a week or two, but it's been over a month. I told them that if they didn't get their act together, it would be the soup pot once the chicks start laying. We'll see how that brand of motivation works.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
This past Friday I transplanted a bunch of pepper seedlings into the raised beds that wrap around the side of our house. All told it was about 35 plants, mostly red and orange bell peppers with some sweet Italian, paprika and hungarian wax varieties as well. They were mulched pretty well with straw. We're well past the average last frost date for St.Louis, so I didn't think much of it. Then a cold front came along bringing rain and dropping temperatures about 15-20 degrees below normal. The night time low was supposed to get into the low 40's for about 3 nights - no danger of a frost, but I was concerned that it might be a bit too cool for the newly transplanted peppers. What did I do? I used some wire brackets to float a sheet of clear plastic over them. Things were cold, wet, and miserable on Sunday; and the pepper plants looked fine. This would have been no big deal if I had pulled the plastic off of them on Monday morning before I went to work. Alas, this is the last week of the school year - ie, things are a zoo, and my mind was elsewhere. The weather cleared up, and it got into the 60's with a fair amount of sun. Tuesday was the same, and it wasn't until Tuesday evening as I was mowing grass that I realized the plastic was still over the raised beds. I pulled it off and almost fell over.