This year has been hotter and drier then any other year during which I considered myself a gardener. Before I began growing my own food, I really didn’t worry much about the weather, but now I do. It’s become so warm that my winter squash produced and died at least a month ago, and all of the cucumber and zucchini that usually protrude from my ears is no where to be found. My tomatoes are still doing very well, but all else is basically lost.
I won’t give up however, and I’ve decided to take a new approach. [ Continue Reading at http://itfarmersblog.com/?p=2668 ]
As I observe more and more of the subtle hints of seasonal change, I’m starting to find dates on the calendar where changes become permanent transition points. Halloween has become my new marker on the calendar for the absolute end to warm season crops, and the transition point to the cool season.
I’ve made a conscious effort to extend my growing season by incorporating new plants which can tolerate cool and downright cold weather. The most cold hardy plant I’ve got in my arsenal thus far is Swiss Chard. These colorful leaves are willing to grow straight through our harsh winter months if given a simple plastic cover to keep the snow from burying the leaves.
I was surprised to see some lettuce also growing through the snow. The lettuce above is from my sister’s garden, as my lettuce is not very photogenic due to a recent pass through the garden with the finish mower. Even thought the tops of the plants were chopped off, the base began to grow new leaves pretty quickly.
I wasn’t sure how long this collection of greens would last, so I decided to pick a good deal of the lettuce, chard and endive and enjoy a cool season salad before these greens turn to brown.
While I was looking around, I noticed that one of the cauliflower plants had grown a very large white head, so I made an attempt to pick it. I tried using scissors without much luck, then I moved onto some hand pruning sheers, also without luck. I finally decided to pull the whole plant out of the ground, and found that a hammer was needed to break the stalk. I then cut off all of the leaves, and brought it indoors.
Cauliflower has never been my favorite vegetable, but I decided that since I grew it, I might as well give it a try. The process of cooking it was very easy. Start by cutting the large head into many smaller pieces, then place them into a microwave safe bowl, with water nearly covering them. The total cooking time is around 15 minutes, but they will need to be stirred every few minutes in order to cook evenly. When they were done, this single plant provided a cheese covered snack for about 10 people. I actually liked it !
Later that same day the kids decided it was time to carve their pumpkins. I should note these were not grown in my garden, as I decided not to plant them this year.
Maybe next year I’ll plant a few pumpkins from the seeds I gathered while carving. Either way, I know I will see a few, as the pumpkin guts harvested while cutting found their way to the compost pile.
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I’m worried about Global Climate change, more out of a fear of the unknown, rather then having seen any changes in my own lifetime. If the world is changing as fast as some are measuring, we are in for one of the most interesting times in human history. That’s a big if, and so I’d like to begin recording my own data so that I can make my own definitive argument about any changes. My big problem with recording my own data is the cost involved. It could be rediculously expensive to record carbon levels, daily temperatures, precipitation, etc, never mind the difficulty in calibration and maintenance of the equipment.
I do have an unconventional way of measuring any possible change: Mother Nature. She has provided a wealth of natural measuring devices all around me. The easiest to read should be flowers, since they generally bloom once, then move on to other stages of growth. So, in an effort to contribute to the measurement of change, and becuase the pictures are quite pretty, here are some flowers which grow in the valley, and the dates and times I’ve taken the pictures:
The other day I just happened to look over at my two sweet cherry bushes, and noticed that they’ve got quite colorful, so I decided to snap a few pictures. The very next day, I looked at the plants once again and found that all of the buds had opened, revealing really cool white flowers.
The photos were both taken at about 11:00 AM, on April 23 and 24 respectively.
These two bushes were a gift from my sister in the fall of last year, and I haven’t yet gotten to try these cherries, so I’m pretty eager to see them grow.
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:
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.
Kids: Don’t try this at home ! If the gases do not properly escape during heating, you will be in trouble.
Somewhere during my life, I either learned this lesson myself, or picked it up from others: “The longer ahead you plan, the greater the reward”. I decided this weekend to plan ahead for the days when snow will fall, when everything pertaining to the outdoors will become more difficult. I’m starting early this year by re-digging the pit where my Bio-Char barrel resides, and gathering some sticks and other burnable materials. This Bio-Char cooker is a big part of my commitment to lower my Carbon Footprint.
Above is the most basic form of Bio-Char cooker I could find online. It’s terribly simple: Place a metal barrel over a fire, with some holes in the lid. In a normal fire, the Carbon would bind with Oxygen atoms, and create Carbon Dioxide, or if the wood is left to rot, it will decompose into Carbon Dioxide and Water. By keeping the wood in the barrel it will cook all of the gases out, leaving mostly Carbon behind. The Carbon is then added to the soil, where it will be trapped for hundreds of years, and this carbon won’t contribute to global warming as CO2. It’s also very good for soil once it’s been activated.
When the gases cook out of the wood, they expand due to the heat, and they’re flammable. Prepare to see these jets of gasses burn out of the holes like afterburners on a jet. If your thinking of trying this your-self, I would recommend bigger holes in the lid !
When it’s time to light this candle (after some snow falls), I’ll stack wood all around the base, and under the barrel. The setup requires about four times as much wood on the outside which will be burned then what will be converted to Bio-Char. Even though 1/5 of the carbon in all of the wood will be removed from the carbon cycle, the 4/5 burned will make it into the atmosphere early, perhaps by a few years. In the future, I hope to expand the ratio of Bio-Char to Carbon Dioxide by stacking several barrels, and using the flammable gases from the lower barrels to cook barrels on the top. For now, I can bury a little carbon, and at very least, lower my impact on the warming planet, while improving my gardens soil.
It’s almost that time of year when the majority of garden plants perish as the frost descends from a cloudless sky. When this happens, you can see more stars in the sky than on any other night, and a dark gray band of luminosity appears where our Milky Way galaxy flows.
To prepare for the frost, I’ve harvested the peppers shown above. I picked all but the smallest of them, and plan to slice them up and freeze them. I was surprised to find so many green peppers, as those are some of the least productive up until this point. I’ve had the best luck with “Chablis” peppers, with are the yellowish ones in the picture. The worst results came from the Merlot peppers, which set only a pepper or two per plant. I’ve learned some lessons, and have saved the seeds from the largest peppers, the earliest, and the most productive. Chablis seeds will definitely find their way into the greenhouse next spring.
Earlier in the day, I spotted this “Woolly Bear” Caterpillar crawling around on a tire used for a flower bed. When I was a child, I was told that the brown portion of the fur on this creature would tell me how long the winter would be. The more of its back that had brown, the colder and longer the winter would be. I really hope to prove that tale wrong, as this crawler speaks of a long, cold winter.