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Posts Tagged ‘seed planting’

I almost ran out of time.  That happens when one has more irons than fire.  Fortunately, the patience of a good wife and the power of a cheap headlamp, I am pretty much back on schedule with the fall garden.

I have planted some corn, which may or may not develop.  It is a short season variety, but still a gamble.  If it works out, awesome.  If not, it was a couple dollars of seeds.  People gamble more than that every day in the Georgia Lottery and my odds of hitting are bigger.

I have some green beans planted and some squash and zucchini.  The risk with the squash is whether or not we’ll have enough late season pollinators.

A couple nights ago,  I planted some cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower seeds in pots.  We haven’t had much luck in the past growing them out from seed, but hope springs eternal.  Besides, the garden centers won’t have transplants before the end of September anyway, so I have time to play with seeds.

Tonight, I’ll plant a few more beans and squash and prep the beds for next week’s plantings; carrots, turnips, beets and collards.

The days are growing shorter, but the burb keeps growing stronger.

 

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It’s going down to about 26 degrees tonight here in the burb.  That’s a bit chilly for these parts.  But don’t let this little winter blast fool you, it’s gardening season.  Technically, its seed planting season, and that’s what we did this evening.  B and I planted about 250 seeds in seed trays in the basement.  We planted 50 Roma tomato seeds and 50 Bell pepper seeds.  The rest are a mixture of cherry and slicing tomatoes along with Ghost, Biker Billy Jalapeno and Giant Jalapeno peppers (perfect for poppers). Oops, I almost forgot, we planted 15 Tomatillo seeds, too.  Yum.

The seed trays are on a warming mat.  The mat will keep the soil warm which should make for quicker germination.  As soon as the plants sprout, we will put them out in our sun room where they will stay until early to mid March when we will take them outside during the day to start hardening them off.  By the end of March, they will be outside all the time.  We will transplant them to the garden in early April.   We may even put some out in late March.  We can do that because our tomatoes and peppers are grown in special self watering containers, called, earthboxes.  They keep the soil warmer which gives us a little extra growing season.

Butter going to meet her new family

Earlier today, we welcomed Chuck and Dianne to our little family.  Chuck and Dianne are miniature cows.  Needless to say, they are adorable.  Dianne is a mixed breed heifer. She is mostly black, with a little white on her belly.  She comes from beef stock (pardon the pun).  Chuck is a mixture of Jersey and Lowline Angus.  He has the Jersey look with the stockiness associated with his Angus heritage.

We got both cows for only a little more than it would cost to inseminate Butter.  Our intent is to breed Chuck to both

Chuck

Butter and Dianne.  Butter will then be milked after she gives birth.  We would keep a heifer calf for future breeding, but a bull calf would be raised for beef.  All of Dianne’s calves will be raised for beef.

The coolest thing is that all three of these cows combined require less space than a single full sized beef cow.  We are extremely excited.  The only drawback is that because we have gone this route, we will not be raising a feeder calf this year for beef.  It will be worth the wait.  Besides, we should get plenty of meat from our chickens, turkeys, rabbits, sheep and goats.

I must confess that operating a farm, even one as small as ours, is often exhausting.  But I wouldn’t trade it for all the sleep in the world.

 

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I’m a bit late to the dance, but Happy New Year, everyone.  2011 is well under way and things are beginning to get busy.

December was rather peaceful apart from some minor drama over the loss of some of our baby bunnies.  It’s nice to have a bit of a slow down, with no crops to worry about and the animals in their winter pastures.  If it weren’t for all the mud, it would be an idyllic time.  We’ll discuss mud another day.

We had to perform some ’emergency’ chicken processing over the New Year holiday.  Our experiment with a rooster was getting too noisy.  He was a handsome man, but wow, did he have some pipes.  Since the farm is located right next to a subdivision, we eventually had to make life a little quieter for the residents.  He is in the freezer awaiting marinade.

Meanwhile, back at the burb, our stowaway house chicken, “Miss Teeny Tiny”, grew up.  We enjoyed her playing with the dogs and eating grubs out of the raised beds.  It was especially fun, deliberately flouting the HOA rules.  We’re such rebels!

Then, Miss Teeny Tiny, went rogue on us.  The little diva taught herself to crow.  A crowing hen is not normal, but not particularly unusual either, in the absence of a rooster to handle the duties.  It did, however, create some problems for us.  I mean, it’s one thing to hide a hen in a large back yard surrounded by a 6 foot wooden fence.  It’s quite another trying to hide a crowing chicken in the middle of a suburb.  So, she is resting next to the rooster.  Fear not, dear reader, there will be covert chickens lurking in the burb, but not until spring.  We’ll bring home a couple Barred Rocks the first part of April.

Interest in eggs continues to grow.  It’s getting difficult to keep up with demand.  That is what we call, a good problem.  The second group of hens has finally started laying a few eggs and that will help.  A few, though, means…well, two.  But once these girls get in full production, we’ll be able to expand our egg offering.

We are getting ready to plant our tomato and pepper seeds in the basement and fire up the grow lights.  This year, we will have the added advantage of moving the seedlings to the sun room.  I’m really excited.  I really enjoy the wonder of planting seeds and watching them sprout.

In early February, we will be posting a ‘pre order’ form, so that we can get an idea on how much interest there will be in produce and meat this year.  In the meat categories, we’ll be offering chicken, turkey, rabbit, goat and beef.  Perhaps lamb will be an option as well.  We will also have a limited offering of Tilapia.  Chicken and rabbit will be available at various times through the spring and summer.  The rest will be processed in the fall.  More details will come later.

Finally, we’re very excited to announce our first issue of a monthly newsletter, “The Sustainable Life” will come out in February.  It will offer articles, information and access to resources in a variety of subject matter.  The newsletter will have three major sections, Food, Finances and Faith.  We think it will be informative, inspirational and enjoyable.  You can sign up to be on the mailing list simply by emailing us;  info@east-of-eden-farms.com, info@iounomore.com or foodevangelism@gmail.com.

Again, Happy New Year.  Time to get ready for work.

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Call them learning opportunities, errors in judgment, user error or just plain bad luck.  But we’ve had one heck of a spring. I hardly know where to begin.  If you’ve followed this space, you are no doubt aware of some of our trials, but for the sake of the drive bys, let’s review.

We decided this year we were going all natural.  I prefer that to ‘organic’.  IMO, ‘organic’ has lost its meaning.  I use the term ‘post organic’.  But as usual, I digress.

In early December, we placed our order for seeds.  We went with all open pollinated, heirloom varieties in anticipation of saving non hybrid seeds.  Unfortunately, heirloom varieties are not always strong producers.

In late December we started our seedlings.  The germination rates were terrible (with the exception of the Naga Jolokia Ghost Peppers), and the plants were not vigorous.  To offset this, we planted a whole second set of tomatoes, peppers, squash, etc.  The second set germinated a bit better, but I forgot to unplug the heat mat and they dried out and died.

We nursed the living and transplanted them from their seed trays to grow cups.  We were excited when the day came to start hardening them off and we rolled the racks outside.  We would open the plastic covers in the day and close them at night to prevent frost bite.  One morning, either we forgot to open the cover or it fell back down.  Normally not a problem in March, but we had a sudden heat wave and the seedlings cooked.  We salvaged what we could.  Since we usually over sow, we would still be ok.

Then came the wind.  It was a beautiful March Saturday.  The sun was out, a few clouds dotted the sky and Spring was in the air.  With the onset of early Spring, we also deal with the March winds.  But this day, while gusty, the wind didn’t seem overly worrisome. How naïve.  We returned from a shopping trip to find one of our racks of seedlings blown over with plants, soil and planting cups snarled and scattered everywhere.  We lost quite a bit of stuff that day, but salvaged some.  Our visions of abundance were rapidly becoming hopes for enough.

It’s June now and the garden is in full swing.  Our beans and squash have been prolific.  The cucumbers, melons, peppers and tomatoes are…. Sporadic.  Some plants are doing well and producing well, like our Roma tomatoes.  But our Beefsteak heirlooms are one step short of non existent.  The plants are big enough, in some cases, stunning, but they have very few tomatoes.  One bush has one giant tomato, one.  Another has zero.  The plant is over 5 feet tall, full of blossoms and never a tomato.  A few of the other plants fortunately have a good handful. But they have been vulnerable to Blossom End Rot.  I have fought rot harder this season than ever.

Our ‘early varieties’ look to be producing well enough. Like the Roma’s they appear strong and have not had tendencies to rot.  Small blessings are appreciated.

Until this year, I thought peppers were bullet proof.  With the exception of occasional Blossom End Rot in a bell pepper, we have always been successful growing both hot and sweet peppers.  This year, except for our Ghost Peppers, they look awful.  They are spindly and stumpy and the few fruit are small.  I am truly disappointed in my heirloom adventure. This winter it’s back to the drawing board.

At least those mistakes and accidents weren’t expensive, just disappointing.  Some of the others have been more costly learning experiences.  Take for instance, the dog kennel we bought for extra shelter for the sheep, and the “Poultry Tractor” kit I bought off the internet.  Those cost a pretty penny and are less than state of the art.

The kennel came in pieces with a big roll of chain link, rather than in panels.  Not good.  Once together, it appeared flimsy and ungainly.  In this case, appearances were not deceiving.  It is difficult to move around the pasture.  It was useful at first, because we could shut the sheep in at night and with a tarp over one end and part of the top, it provided shade and shelter from rain.  But earlier this week, when I had to pull it about a hundred yards with the lawn tractor, it pretty much fell apart.  It is now a dinosaur standing in the middle of the pasture with no useful purpose.

To make matters worse, our Friesian ewe was following the move and tried to dart into the kennel while it was moving.  She got her leg tangled and was being partly dragged and crushed.  I was oblivious.  Brittan managed to get my attention.  She was traumatized, I was mortified, but the ewe just jumped up and went to grazing.  Luckily, her leg bent with the joint rather than against it.  Disaster averted.  I went the next day and bought a big shade umbrella to move around with the sheep.  It can be carried by hand, has a sturdy base and won’t risk the animal.

The poultry tractor looked like a good idea.  The reviews of it are good.  The reality is less than we had hoped.  It came as hundreds of pieces of pvc with a roll of chicken wire, a tarp and some hardware.  The instructions were skeletal.  Brittan went to work putting it together while I disked and planted a pasture.  She was not happy.  It was a stressful, time consuming project that produced a monstrous chicken coop that may or may not actually be mobile.  We have our doubts.

One last disaster, planting the pasture.  The project itself went well enough.  I took my lawn tractor, loaded the aerator/spreader with seed and fertilizer and went to work.  I got a couple acres done and was quite satisfied.  The pasture I sowed starts fairly flat and high, then slopes down to a valley and climbs a hill to a large flat area.  The hillsides needed grass in a bad way.

All went well.  The planting, fertilizing followed by a gentle rain.  That was Saturday.  On Sunday and Monday we had old fashioned ‘gulley washers” that washed all the seed off the hillsides and now I’ll have to do it over.  Another hundred dollars quite literally washed away.  I suspect the valley will be quite lush later this summer.

Our experiences have taught us much, cost us more and taught us a few valuable lessons.  They have also made us appreciate what large farmers go through year after year.  We won’t make the same mistakes again.  Why do that when there are thousands of new ones out there we haven’t made yet.

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Not counting limas, I’m guessing we have close to 300 bean plants this spring.  We have a couple kinds of pole beans, bush beans and even

pole beans

have yellow wax beans this year.  Then, there are the fore mentioned lima beans.  We have about 50 of those.

I envision some wearying hours of harvesting, washing and snapping in our future.  And don’t forget the fact that beans need canning right when summer heats up to unholy levels.

We will can a bunch.  Brittan is hoping to can 50 quarts.  We will freeze some more.  And I still think we will have beans to offer at our farm stand.

This is our first year to grow pole beans.  I remember my grandma Burton always had them in her garden.  As a boy, I loved to wander through the tall beans and corn.  I felt like I was in a jungle.  I’m thinking the burb is going to have some spots to get lost in this summer.

I hear that pole beans are even more prolific than bush beans.  If that is true, we have a boat load of work ahead of us.  But it’s worth it…….. I mean, who doesn’t love a mess of fresh or home canned green beans with Sunday dinner?

There are two reasons why we’ve decided to max out bean production.  The first is, we like beans.  They are tasty, filling and nutritious.  The second reason, is we’re trying to improve the fertility in our garden beds.  Beans fix nitrogen in the soil, which most other plants consume.  So, by growing beans, we are making the humans AND the earth happy.  Let us not forget that the bunnies and chickens will enjoy a share as well.

Other planting notes:  we are late getting our sweet potatoes out.  The sets I ordered never came in, so we had to go to the store and buy some.  If the rain holds off, I’ll set out the final 36 plants this afternoon.  I also think we’ve under planted cucumber.  Since it’s early May still, there is time to correct that error.  We’re just out of space.  Time to enlarge the garden.

Because of the early season plant scorching and the wind damage disaster, we were short on Jalapenos, so I had to pick up a few plants at the nursery.  Man I hate spending that money.  Growing from seeds is so much less expensive.  But in crises like this, I’m glad the nursery still has some.  Besides, once harvest comes and we’re enjoying plates full of bacon wrapped, cheese stuffed poppers, the early spring problems will be long forgotten.

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A Short Vacation

It has been a hive of activity around here the last few days, leaving very little time to update.  We have been mixing planting mix, planting, watering, mowing and I don’t know what all, trying to get ready for our mini vacation.  B and I are headed to Maui.  That’s right, the burb is going tropical.  We’ll be gone until Monday, 19th.  You can look for a report when we get back.  For now………….. ALOHA!

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Many gardening chores are not chores at all, they are pure joy.  Or, at the very least, they are not dull.  Even hand watering, though time consuming, is therapeutic for me because it’s like a bonding experience with the garden.  It makes me feel involved.  Weeding, not so much.  I hate that.  But my absolute least favorite gardening chore is transplanting seedlings from the starter trays to their seedling pots.  It is slow, boring, maddening work.  I love the results.  I truly marvel at the rows and rows of pots with little baby plants growing and strengthening so that they will be ready to be set outside in April.  But getting them to that stage drives me nuts!  Fortunately, Brittan does more than her share of the transplanting while I’m at the office during the day.  She hates it, too.  Misery loves company.

Oh, digging holes to plant trees is pretty awful, too.  I almost forgot.  That’s especially true when digging up this North Georgia clay.  Yuck.  But, still, that first seedling transplant with it’s hundreds of tiny house moves is mind numbing.  The end.

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