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Archive for December, 2010

Blooming In Time for Christmas

December 23, 2010 Leave a comment
Amyrillus in Bloom

Amyrillus in Bloom

A co-worker brought in some plants around the beginning of the year, and when she was on vacation, I made it a point to water the bulbs daily. Once I had the habit of watering them, it stuck even after the original owner returned, and I’ve been taking care of these plants since. A week or two ago, this particular bulb began growing very fast, and I charted it’s growth at about an inch a day. The flowers bloomed today in time for our yearly Christmas party at work, and I thought I’d share the picture I took.

Merry Christmas !
Jon, aka, I-T  Farmer

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Categories: Flowers Tags:

“Winter Melon”

December 21, 2010 1 comment
My Niece holding a Watermelon In Mid-December

My Niece holding a Watermelon In Mid-December

I picked a watermelon months ago when expecting guests, and left it sit on my kitchen counter. The guests came and went, and I forgot about the melon till the other day. I noticed it sitting there very much out of place, and decided it sat long enough.

Many of the watermelons that grew this year were filled with water, and made a huge mess when they were cut open, so it was decided that the best place to cut it open would be outside. I had my helper hold the garden goodie for a photo before I opened it up.

Looks Edible...

Looks Edible...

When the fruit was exposed it looked good, smelled right, and so I had a taste. It wasn’t bad, and was a sure treat in the middle of December. It’s funny to think that this melon lasted for months on my kitchen counter, but only hours once it was cut open. The taste was great and we all had a big chunk. I even saved Babe (the pig) a little piece.

I made it a point to save all of the seeds from this melon. I’ll plant them again next year, and save the seeds from the melons that last the longest. If I do this year after year, it will encourage the melons that last the longest to survive, somewhat like natural selection. In time I hope to name these long lasting melons: “Winter Melon”

Lighting That Candle…

December 20, 2010 2 comments
Water Vapor Evaporates First

Water Vapor Evaporates First

Do not try this at home ! If this process is not followed correctly, bad things can happen.

I’m planning to make five batches of Bio-Char this winter, and I’m a bit behind schedule, so this weekend I decided to get my first burn out of the way. The process is very easy, but a bit time consuming. In total, I spent about 3 hours watching the fire, and adjusting the fuel to keep the barrel a consistent hot. What else is there to do on a Sunday when the temp hovers below 20 F ?

Gases are Released and Burn Off

Gases are Released and Burn Off

I had a good pile of scrap left from helping Santa this year, and used the wood to get the fire started. When the Cooker is good and hot, and all of the Water Vapor exits through the holes in the lid, then flammable gases will start pushing their way out.

Flammable Gases Burn as hey exit the Cooker

Flammable Gases Burn as They exit the Cooker

The jets of flame are pretty cool to watch, and seem to dance as if they are alive. The color of the flame changes a bit from beginning to end. In the beginning the flame appears somewhat colorful, but as the batch nears completion, it looses it’s color, and becomes a dull yellow/orange.

The End Result: Sequestered Carbon

The End Result: Sequestered Carbon

When the burn was complete, and the barrel had cooled, I opened up the top to have a look. Above is the end result of my three hours of work, one batch of Bio-Char. The devils advocate may be asking why I would burn so much wood and release so much carbon to sequester this small amount of Greenhouse Gases ? The simple answer is that the carbon would be released no matter what… If the wood was left to rot, it would release the carbon any way. The only way to take this carbon out of the cycle is to bury it as Bio-Char. The real payoff will come for the next thousand years; you see this carbon will keep the soil fertile and alive for centuries to come. How do I know this ? Bi0-Char or “Terra Preta” was produced over 1500 years ago in South America, with the soil still bearing a dark color, and very good crop yields.

So if your reading this post several hundred years from now, and you’ve got that field I used to call a garden, your welcome….

Try, Try, Try Again: Fruit Tree Cloning

December 13, 2010 14 comments
Sweet Cherry Cuttings

Sweet Cherry Cuttings

A few years ago, I learned how to clone grape vines. Ever since then, I’ve tried the same approach to clone other plants. I’ve managed to clone an Elderberry bush, a Lilac, countless Weeping Willows, even a tomato; but there is one category of plant I just can’t seem to clone: Fruit Trees. If I had the option, I would just give up cloning and resort to Grafting or starting plants from seed. Seeds are out of the question because the genetics of apples vary so widely that a seed from the best apple in the world will usually develop into a crab apple tree. Grafting would require that I have the proper root stock, something I haven’t found a way to order yet.

My only option left is to try, try, try every possible  method to clone these trees. It’s something of a winter obsession for me.

Pear and Apple Cuttings

Pear and Apple Cuttings

Red clips -> Pear;      Blue clips -> Apple. The side with the colored clips are treated with root growing solution.

In the winter of 2009, I tried to use Miracle Grow as my rooting medium, with good initial success. The cuttings grew new leaves, but no roots.  This year, I’m trying two rooting mediums, Sand and Garden Dirt. I’m also trying two planting styles, one with bare cuttings, and another with a solution that encourages roots to grow. I’ve moved my setup from my seedling room where the light was very bright in the morning, to my kitchen where the lighting is a constant shade. I’ve also used much less water in the base rooting medium, in an attempt to keep the cuttings from rotting.  I’ll only add water with my misting bottle.To top it all off, I’m applying a small amount of Anti-Fungal agent, something I apply to my trees during the summer months.

I’ve started very early this year, and I hope to try three different approaches by spring time. My newest concern is if I will have enough cuttings for further experiments, as I’ve pruned three trees already.

Here Comes The Work Part of Winter

December 9, 2010 Leave a comment
The Farm

The Farm

I’ve been thinking about getting a jump start on the winter season by pruning my fruit trees and grape vines before it gets too cold, but Mother Nature apparently has a different plan. This morning, just as the sun was raising itself in the sky, I noticed the temperature at 5 F;  Several inches of snow cover the ground, and I’ve found my plans for getting ahead of the season thwarted. I guess it’s for the better, as I’m still in need of my yearly Youtube pruning instructions for a quick refresher of the do’s and don’ts of tree trimming.

Fruit Trees Await Their Yearly Pruning.

Fruit Trees Await Their Yearly Pruning.

When I’ve finished pruning these trees, I’ll have lots of cuttings to experiment with, so I’ll need to get some new ideas for cloning hard woods. I have yet to find a source which states that cloning fruit trees is possible, but I can be quite stubborn, and I won’t let this idea go. I’m going to try a sandy soil base this time, and mist the cuttings more so then in the past. I’ve learned that too much top growth can be bad for clones, so I’ll try to encourage root growth more then anything.

Grape cloning is another possibility for this time of year, and I’ll try not to get carried away again. I’d love to start new vines, as it’s one of the few signs of growth in the winter, but I simply have too many grape plants to tend already.  I’m sure rational thought will go out the window however;  when I’m knee deep in grape vine trimmings. I’ll wind up with a room full of grape vines, with no where to plant them. I’ll just have to pawn them off on neighbors and co-workers….

Categories: Fruit Trees, Grapes, Planning

Sage Tea

December 7, 2010 Leave a comment
Sage Plant

Sage Plant

As I was walking up my steps into my backdoor, I glanced down at my now two year old sage plant, and wondered what I could use it for. The plant is just starting it’s second winter, and the leaves are beginning to discolor. I did a search, and found that sage can be used for many things, once it’s dried out. I snipped off some of the larger branches of the plant that were invading my walking space, and placed them in the kitchen to dry. There’s no magic to this process other then to stir the leaves from time to time.

Dried Sage Leaves

Dried Sage Leaves

When the leaves are dry enough, they begin to break apart when stirred. At this point, I still wasn’t sure what to do with them, so I searched again, and found that Sage Tea was a common use. The process is simple, heat some water to a boil. ( I used a cup of water in the microwave for a minute or so…), Then add sage leaves and allow them to soak for five minutes.

Soaking Sage

Soaking Sage

I placed two spoons full of the dried leaves in a bowl, and poured the water on top, then stirred the leaves every minute or so. The source I read online mentioned that sage had medicinal uses, and the average person should not drink more then two cups per day. I’d suggest you do some searching and determine if the tea will agree with you before tasting it.

Finished Sage Tea

Finished Sage Tea

When all was complete, I had a small cup of tea, with tiny bits of leaves included. After letting the tea sit for a few minutes, the remaining bits settled to the bottom, and I tried the tea. I have made this tea three times so far, and have yet to draw a conclusion about the taste. I don’t find it gross, but it’s not pleasant either. In fact the best thing I can say about it’s taste is that it’s different, and I’ve made it more then once….

Categories: Herbs, How To's, Recipes, Sage Tags:

Water Carries Life

December 1, 2010 1 comment
Natural Spring Water

Natural Spring Water

While leaving the farm on my way to work this morning, I noticed one of the natural springs flowing a bit more then usual. It was nice to see this ribbon of green growth, after the recent snowfall, and it’s the perfect picture for an entry about water. Most of us (If your reading, your part of us) have running water at a whim. We simply open the faucet, and out flows clean water. What we don’t see in our water is the life giving properties of this liquid. It’s the perfect carrier for the building blocks of life. There are three main types of minerals that plants use which water will carry, including Primary and Secondary Macro, as well as Micro Nutrients.

When growing seedlings, or watering a garden, you need the right amount of water to allow minerals to be absorbed. If there is too much water, the roots will rot due to a lack of Oxygen. If there is not enough water, the plants will be unable to absorb enough nutrients.

Here’s the simple system to manage water which I was taught in my first years gardening, something I expanded upon due to laziness/efficiency:

Watering Seedling in the Greenhouse

Watering Seedling in the Greenhouse

Start with styrofoam cups, poke holes in the base, and fill with miracle grow. Place the cups in a tray, and add water to the cup. While this works very well for 20 plants, when scaled up to 200 it’s a bit time consuming. To make life much easier, fill the base tray with an inch of water. This much water will last at least two days in my greenhouse, and I can water 1000 plants in less then 15 minutes. In the photo above, I’ve separated different varieties of plants in each tray, which makes organizing easy too.

Categories: Climate, How To's, Seedlings, Water Tags: ,