Archive for February, 2011

Swiss Chard, Bio-Char and Haste is Waste

February 28, 2011 Leave a comment
Swiss Chard Hoop

Swiss Chard Hoop

Even in the winter, I find my self walking around in the garden. I noticed the other day that my Swiss Chard is still alive,  so I started planning how I could help these plants grow even in the cold of winter. I had two extra polycarbonate panels left over from the greenhouse, and I figured they would make a nice little hoop house for the chard.

Looking into the end of the Hoop

Looking into the end of the Hoop

After much discussion about the easiest way to make the setup work, Davie and I constructed this small greenhouse by driving stakes into the ground a foot apart, and then curling the plastic into an arch. We then tied rope to one stake, and made a loop in the other end, which would be secured to a screw on the other stake. The loop will allow me to quickly open and close the plastic without retying the rope each time.

The hoop will keep the snow from burying the chard, and should keep it warm enough for these greens to grow. When the hoop was done, it was time to make some more Bio-Char.

Cooking Bio-Char

Cooking Bio-Char

The barrel above was packed full of Tomato, Okra, Corn and Pepper stalks. I was curious to see if this plant matter would convert into bio-char in the same way that wood is converted. I used a 2 x 4 to pack the barrel, hoping to maximize my results.

Terra Preta / Bio-Char

Terra Preta / Bio-Char

When I was cooking the bio-char, I used more fuel then normal, and it was a very hot fire, so I was surprised when I opened the lid and found that about a quarter of the bio-mas had not been converted into Terra Preta. It seems my fire may have been hot, but it didn’t last long enough to fully convert the material.  I’m happy to see the stalks worked just as well as cut wood, since I’ve just about run out of wood to convert.

Pony Cart - Broke by George

Pony Cart - Broken by George

We may not be Amish, but this pony cart used to be a lot of fun for the kids to ride on. Unfortunately, George, my older brother drove over the front part where it connects to the pony. It’s just one of the many things George has broken recently, and rather then get mad at him, I’m devoting a category just to things he breaks. To see photos in the future of all the things he breaks, simply click “Things George Broke” from the Categories on the right hand side bar. I wish this was the last item I would post, but I’ve been around long enough to know If I posted pictures of everything, I’d have a whole new blog.


Early Signs of Spring

February 18, 2011 Leave a comment
Early Daffodils

Early Daffodils

I caught this sight out of the corner of my eye while petting my niece’s puppy. These green sprouts are Daffodils which are beginning to grow a few weeks earlier then last year. I took a similar picture on March 7th 2010 for my post Signs of Spring.

As I think about the timing when these plants first grow, I’m reminded that last year at this time I was busy cloning grape vines, but this year I haven’t even pruned those vines. I better get my self into gear as soon as the cold returns, or I will lose the opportunity for the year.

It’s important to prune grape vines, as grapes will only grow out of the new green part of the vine. When you prune a grape vine, your reducing the amount of top growth that the roots need to supply with nutrients. Since the size of the roots are not changed, it is easier for the roots to supply ample nutrients and water to the new growth, which in turn encourages better grape production.

Fall Planted Garlic

Fall Planted Garlic

I’m very happy to see that my store-bought  fall-planted garlic is still alive and well. I got these cloves at quite a discount compared to garlic bulbs in most gardening catalogs. I know these are not “Gourmet” garlic bulbs, but they are an important first trial before I invest in the much more expensive bulbs. If this garlic crop does well, I’ll begin diversifying with the more expensive bulbs.

Goat Manure

Goat Manure

I also have some work cut out for me this weekend. Above is one of the first of many piles of manure that I hope to place into the garden in the next few weeks. This particular pile is Goat Manure, which is very good for a garden, and contains very few seeds.

Seeds – Rearin’ To Grow

February 14, 2011 Leave a comment
2011 Seed Supply

2011 Seed Supply

There it is, my supply of seeds as I head into the 2011 growing season. I’ve got all the essentials, including Cucumbers, Tomatoes, Beans, Zucchini, Winter Squash, and lot’s of things which are new to me such as Artichokes and Eggplant. I have my schedule of when to plant each item ready to go so that on June 1st I’ll have hundreds of little plants ready to be moved out of the greenhouse and into the garden. The only thing standing between me and this years growing season is about 3 inches of snow, 6 weeks of time, and the new mess I’ve made in the greenhouse. (I really need to build a workshop for my woodworking hobby).

So here’s the breakdown of my seed collection:

The shoe box on the left contains mostly seeds that have been saved from past gardens. In here I have mostly peppers, squash, and tomato seeds of various flavors, sizes and growth habits.

The box on the top of the photo contains all of the seed packets which I’ve purchased in past years. I’ve got hundreds of tomato seeds, flowers, lettuces, even turnip seeds.

The individual seed packets in the photo are items I’ve purchased specifically for this growing season. Here’s the breakdown:

Black Beauty Squash
Bush Baby Squash
Gold Rush Squash

Beans, Dry and Soybeans
Cannellini Lingot Bean
Etna Bean
Sayamusume Bean
Tiger’s Eye

Marketmore 97 Cucumbers
Mcpick Cucumbers

Green Globe Improved Artichoke

Cosmic Purple

Brussle Sprouts
Long Island Improved

Utah Celery

PineTree Lettuce Mix

Early White Vienna

Orange Fantasia
Bright Lights

Pingtung Long

Pinetree Cabbage Mix

I’m sure I’ll add to this collection as I spot seed packets at various stores I frequent. It’s nearly impossible for me to walk past a seed display without picking up at least three new seeds.


Categories: Planning, Seeds Tags:

Trying Something New

February 8, 2011 3 comments
Cabinet Base

Cabinet Base

I made the mistake of watching “This Old House” on Saturday morning, and I soon found myself with my tools in my hand ready to build a new cabinet in my bathroom. I started by surveying what wood I had available, and put together a pretty simple plan. I decided to build the shelves and outer frame with some discarded baseboard stored in the barn, and the doors would be constructed from recycled door jams. I reused all of the hardware from the old cabinet including the handles, hinges and magnetic latches. The whole project cost me some elbow grease, a paint brush, a few screws and some sand paper.

Stained Doors

Stained Doors

The width of the cabinet was 18 inches wide, so each door would be 9 inches. Since the wood I was using was only about 6 inches wide, I had to glue the pieces together. When I had both of the doors cut to size, I decided they looked pretty plain, so I cut grooves 3 inches from the top and bottom. I intended to paint the grooves with white paint, but when I hung the doors I had a different idea. I twisted two pieces of copper wire together, and then flattened them with a hammer. After applying some silver paint to the copper and handles, I attached them.

Copper Weave in Detail

Copper Weave in Detail

When it came time to attach the twists of copper, I hesitated a bit. I just spent hours staining these boards, and now I was going to put a nail through them !After attaching them, I was happy with the result, and I’m glad I took a chance on something new.

On a more gardening note, I’ve just submitted my second order of seeds, and when they arrive, I’ll only need to purchase a few herbs, and some Stevia seeds.

Winter Plans

February 4, 2011 Leave a comment
Morning Sun

Morning Sun

I have been watching Mother Nature more so then usual now that I have a new project in mind. I’m thinking about building a root cellar to store produce without refrigeration. In order for the project to be a success, I must understand all of the variables which will heat the structure, as well as using the sun as a possible light source.

Corn On The Cob For Babe

Corn On The Cob For Babe

I’ve also reached a tentative deal with my brother in which I’ll be trading Babe for a piglet, and some bacon. The plan involves Babe meeting a boar, and having some piglets. Since pigs require three months, three weeks and three days for pregnancy, I should have a new piglet sometime in June.

Above I feed Babe the remnants of some frozen corn on the cob. Babe loves corn…. as you can see with that surprised look on her face.  She has a very inquisitive expression on her face whenever I bring her fresh produce. It’s almost as if she’s saying “Where did you get a tomato in this freezing cold ?”.

Categories: Pigs, Planning, Root Cellar