Thursday, February 28, 2013

20 days until Spring

While the calendar may say there are 20 days until Spring arrives, there are many signs of Spring already around here.  Of course there was that sill hen who thought it would be a good idea to hatch some chicks in the brutal cold of February.  Sadly they did not make it.

But today is the first time I saw the turkeys mating (sorry no pics on that).  I am hoping for lots of Narragansett poults to sell and raise for meat. Now I need to research turkey nest boxes.

Saw these pretty little snowdrops in one of the beds in the front yard:

And the tree peony is budding like crazy, can't wait to see this in full bloom:

The rhubarb I brought from the old house has survived and is starting to come up:
Lots of other bulbs are starting to peak out of the ground.  It's going to be great watching what comes up where.  From the diagrams the previous owners left it looks like there are lots of bulbs around.
So many things to do outside now!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Groundhog was Right!

Even though its 26 degrees outside and we had a nasty mix of ice and slushy snow yesterday
inside and in the hay house it is spring.
I was greeted by this sight this morning when I went out to feed:
One of our Mottled Java hens has been missing for a while.  We would see her about once a week or so and then nothing.  Now we know where she has been.  These 2 chicks were the only ones that hatched from her nest.  I finally found her nest with seven rotten eggs.  Not bad for the coldest part of the winter.  We'll have to see how well she does mothering these two chicks.  Since she was one of the chicks that was raised by our broody hen last spring she may be able to do it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


The onion seeds are up!  And in only 3 days.  I have never grown onions from seeds before but I loved all the different varieties you could get in seed, and the price was so much better than buying sets.  And everything I read said the onions grown from seeds did better than sets.  Since I have never been thrilled with my onion production I decided to give seeds a try.
I have never grown this many onions before either.  But since we went gluten-free onions have been one food that I have totally changed my mind about.  I used to use onions in cooking because they added a bit of flavor, but I didn't like raw onions much.  Now I love the taste of raw onion and literally crave raw onion sometimes.  A plain salad with leaf lettuce and raw red onion slices with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and olive oil is wonderful now.
Then the seed catalogs came with all their tantalizing descriptions of different onions and I was hooked. Who couldn't resist this Mini Red Purplette onion from  Johnny's Seeds?
 Purplette (OG)

I can't wait to have those in a salad.
Now the only seeds that haven't sprouted yet are my early tomatoes and the lavender.  Then next month seed sowing begins in earnest with the other tomato varieties and peppers. Can't wait!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Seed starting in the snow!

What better thing to do on the day of the "big" snow storm? I planted hollyhock seeds (2 varieties-Indian Springs and Antwerp), 4 varieties of onion seeds (Ailsa Craig, Patterson, Mini Red Purplette, and Ruby Ring), Siberian tomatoes, and some Lavender seeds. Nothing cures the winter blahs like digging in some soil.
The picture above is the nicest seed starting set up I have had in a while.  Even though I will still rely on the artificial lights, I think the seedlings will appreciate the natural sunlight as well.  All of my seeds are now resting on their heating mat, staying a nice and toasty 70 degrees.
The Siberian tomatoes are an early Russian variety that I have grown before.  We were able to have ripe tomatoes about one month earlier that my other tomatoes.  I planted the seeds inside in February and in March I planted the plants outside under my minihoop house.  They really took off in there and it was nice to be eating our own tomatoes in July.  Usually our first tomatoes are ready the first week in August.  It will be interesting to see if the timing of things is different in our little valley. 
And who knows if we will actually get much snow.  They are saying 3-6 inches, but we'll see.

Update 2/10/13:
Pregerminating the hollyhock seeds really paid off.  They are up in just 2 days!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Ice sculptures

One of my favorite things on this property is the stream.  It runs the length of our property and has never run dry since we have been here.  The birds love it and we have even seen a great blue heron visit.  I love watching the stream in the different seasons and winter has been beautiful.  One week ago it was completely frozen on top and you could just make out the water running underneath the ice.  Last week it was swollen with the 3 or 4 inches of rain we got and was quite loud. The last few days have been cold again and we have been getting some beautiful "ice sculptures."
Here are a few:

Garden Planning in the Snow

Its lovely outside.  The snow is so dry it crunches and sparkles in the light. But thoughts of spring and gardening are never far from my mind.

I think all of my seeds have arrived.  I am still waiting for some of the ingredients for Eliot Coleman's seedling mix.  Other years when I have started a lot of seeds I spent way too much money on seed starter mix.  And even the organic mix is made with poultry manure that I doubt is from organically fed chickens.

Eliot Coleman's mix includes peat, colloidal phosphate, greensand and compost.  Sounds good to me! Once the seedlings are growing they get moved up to a mix of the above with the addition of blood meal, lime, perlite or sand, and garden soil.

Our spare bedroom has been chosen for the seed starting area.  Its not to cold, has a double window facing south west and, with the addition of lights, should provide enough light for the little seedlings.  I bought another heat mat so I'll have 2 areas for plants that like heat for germination.

I have been having fun playing with this garden planner.  It has helped me figure out how much room I really had to plant.  The area seems big to me, but gardens always feel bigger until you start planting in them.  The program will also give start dates for indoor seed starting and has an option for succession planting.  Its almost time to start the onions.  Its fun to plant in the garden when its snowing outside!

And its time to start thinking about getting the greenhouse set up again.  The garden planner made me figure out where I was going to put it.  And digging out the sluice gate has given me some nice soil to use to build up the soil where the greenhouse will be going.  I ordered new plastic today and some cool clips to hold the plastic to the frame. Last year I had Swiss Chard growing in the greenhouse all winter and I am missing it this year. For now I have a mini hoop house with some overwintering lettuce and chard.  Sure do miss the greenhouse.