Planted Today

Here’s what my wife and I planted today, in our small square foot garden in the back yard.

Ailsa Craig Onion, Bloomsdale Spinach, Carnival Blend Carrots, Parsley, Detroit Dark Red Beets, Greek Mini Yevani Basil, Common Oregano, Jolly Jester Marigolds, Grandma Einck’s Dill, Marjoram, Bouquet Dill, Sweet Marjoram (distinct from other variety), Common English Thyme, Common Chives, Cinnamon Basil, English Lavender, & Garden Broadleaf Sage.

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New Seeds Spring 2010 & Garden Prep

I received both of my seed orders last week. With the exception of my potatoes order, I have everything in now. I’m in planting mode now.

Here’s what I bought to add to my leftovers from last year.

From SeedSaver’s Exchange…

  • Cinnamon Basil OG
  • Calypso Beans OG
  • Listada de Gandia Eggplant OG
  • British Wonder Pea OG
  • Anna Swartz Hubbard Squash OG
  • Ailsa Craig Onion
  • Grandma Einck’s Dill OG
  • Napoleon Sweet Pepper OG
  • Sunberry OG
  • Sultan’s Green Crescent Bean OG
  • Purple Pod Pole Bean OG
  • Sweet Marjoram OG
  • Galeux d’ Eysines Squash OG
  • Ireland Creek Annie Bean OG
  • Bushy Cucumber OG
  • Aurora Pepper OG
  • Golden Midget Watermelon OG
  • Arugula (aka Roquette) OG
  • Snow Fancy Pickling Cucumber OG
  • Black Mountain Watermelong OG
  • Hidatsa Shield Figure Bean OG
  • Cherokee Trail of Tears Bean OG

From FreedomSeeds…

  • Ashworth Yellow Sweet Corn OG
  • Provider Beans OG
  • Valencia Tomato OG
  • Brandywine Tomato OG
  • California Wonder Pepper OG
  • Eden’s Gem Melon OG
  • Petit Gris Melon OG
  • Prize Choy, Pac Choi OG
  • Double Yield Cucumber OG

I bought a nice little Moleskin-like notebook in which I am tracking, among other things, my seeds and planting schedule. I’m using the Texas A&M Extension recommended planting dates for our area of Texas. We are in an 8A zone. Today is February 28th. That means I need to get the following in the ground within the next day or two. Beets, Spinach, Carrots, Parsley, & Onions. I’ll also start putting my herbs and flowers in the ground this week. They include marjoram, sage, lavender, basil, oregano, dill, chives, thyme, marigolds, echinacea, & sunflowers. This year I again am planting in two different gardens. There is the small one in our backyard, 32 square feet, and the large one at the family acres, ~2900 square feet. I’ll be putting mostly herbs and flowers in at home. The bulk of the veggies and beans will be planting in the larger garden.

We just weeded the small garden. My wife and sons helped. The soil still is loose and rich. No problems there, with one exception. There are some ants living on the corner of each of the 4×4 square foot garden frames. As I growing everything organically, I’m limited in how I can deal with them. My first effort will be boiling water. That does fairly well, but doesn’t always keep them away. I may remove the corner soil, with the ants in it and replace it. Fortunately, they are not fire ants, so I am only a little concerned at this point. Still, I’d rather they be gone.

Taking Inventory from Fall 2009’s Garden

Here’s what I have left over from Fall 2009. (OG=organic), with some comments below.

From FreedomSeeds.org

  • 0 seeds, De Cicco Broccoli OG
  • 0, Cardinale Lettuce OG
  • 0, Early Jersey Wakefield Cabbage
  • 0, Reine de Glaces Iceberg Lettuce OG
  • 0, Ashworth Yellow Sweet Corn OG
  • 225, Detroit Dark Red Beets OG
  • ~50, Deer Tongue Lettuce OG
  • ~75, Grandma Admire’s Butterhead Lettuce OG
  • ~100, Red Giant Mustard OG
  • ~60, Red Velvet Leaf Lettuce OG
  • ~100, Forellenschluss Lettuce OG
  • ~220, Bloomsdale Spinach OGF

From SeedSaver’s Exchange

  • 0, Red Russian Kale OG
  • 0, Blue Solaize Leek
  • 0, Lacinto Kale OG
  • 0, Ailsa Craig Onion
  • 0, Cherokee Trail of Tears Beans OG
  • 0, Calypso Beans OG
  • 0, Long Island Improved Brussel Sprouts
  • 0, Early Snowball Cauliflower
  • 0, Agate Soybean OG
  • 26, Good Mother Stallard Beans OG
  • 26, Purple Pod Pole Beans OG
  • 37, Rhubarb Swiss Chard OG
  • 64, Five Color Silverbeet Swiss Chard OG
  • 81, Red Burgandy Okra
  • ~60, Jolly Jester Marigold
  • 250, English Lavender
  • 250, Common Chives OG
  • 250, Purple Top White Globe Turnip

From GreenMama’s Organic Garden Center

  • 0, Blue Lake Pole Bean OG
  • 0, Early Prolific Straightneck Summer Squash OG
  • 0, Contender Bush Bean OG
  • 16, Black Beauty Zucchini Summer Squash OG
  • 18, Marketmore Cucumber OG
  • ~80, Canival Blend Carrot OG
  • 34, Elves Blend Sunflower OG
  • 38, California Wonder Sweet Pepper OG
  • 17, Sugar Snap Peas OG
  • ~200, Cherry Belle Radish OG
  • ~200, Bouquet Dill OG
  • 4, Prairie Coneflower Echinacea OG
  • 32, Ace Bush Tomato OG
  • ~50, Common Oregano OG
  • ~200, Moss Curled Parsley OG
  • all (unopened packet), Moss Curled Parsley OG
  • all, Greek Yeveni Mini Basil OG
  • all, Marjoram OG
  • all, Mizuna Mustard, Siu Cai, Xiu Cai OG
  • all, Common English Thyme OG
  • all, Broadleaf Garden Sage OG

My biggest successes certainly were the beans and the lettuces. The kale and swiss chard came in well too, but they were not as well received by my family. I think the general consensus was that the flavors were too strong. I agree the flavors were strong, but I still like both vegetables. I’d choose swiss chard over kale, though. The beans were prolific enough to give us a fair supply in our freezer, from which we are still occasionally drawing. I mixed all of the varieties together, rather than store them separately. I enjoy the blend of flavors, colors, and shapes. In spite of two snows now, the lettuces I planted still are producing. I now know that I can grow produce year-round here. Wonderful.

Some of my failures for last Fall’s crop were: corn-it didn’t really come up to speak of, carrots-I really like carrots, but I managed to grow only a sparse crop of poor tasting ones, broccoli-another one I was looking forward to, but for lack of attention or poor pollination, it didn’t come in well enough.

The others were a mixed bag. I picked some squash, though only a few. We enjoyed them baked with brown sugar, my favorite way to have squash. I had a varment devour a few of my plants. I didn’t get around to planting a few. Many were not taken care of sufficiently.

However, I went into my Fall planting in a bit of a rush. I got to it late in the season. The soil was only prepped by tilling. I hadn’t done any soil amendments. I have yet to fence in the area. Regular watering last season consisted of relying on the rain. Much of the above is due to the fact that I, for the time being, am doing most of my gardening away from home, as it were. My large plot is on my parents’ land. Here at our house we garden around 20 square feet. So, considering the rough start. I was pleased with the outcome. I expected no more that first season.

Next…on to this Spring. My new seeds have arrived. The snow, hopefully, has done its worst ’til next year.

GMO=bad

Genetic engineering: The world’s greatest scam?

Weekly Homesteading Update

Still searching for a format and style for this site, I am starting a new series of posts beginning with this one, reviewing the week and the latest in our going homestead effort.

We just enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. We gathered with my parents, my aunt, cousins, my brother, their dogs, their cats, and an insane amount of good food. I lost count of the number of dishes. We certainly had all of the traditional ones covered – turkey (three of them), the best stuffing ever (my mom’s), corn, green beans, and so on. It was nice to have a large family gathering. We don’t do that often enough. Hopefully this next year we’ll have more such gatherings.

So, where is the ‘going homestead’ update in that? Well, it is a small start, but it’s a start nonetheless. We had a wonderful mix of different green beans in that meal. All of the beans came from my garden. They were rich with flavors that canned and store-bought beans can’t even pretend to possess. The mix included: Blue Lake Pole Beans, Contender Bush Beans, Purple Pod Pole Beans, Good Mother Stallard Beans, Calypso Beans, and Cherokee Trail Beans. The latter bean was especially poignant, as it was the variety of bean carried by the Cherokee on their forced marched Westward so long ago. This is bitter sweet, considering we were celebrating Thanksgiving, a holiday largely associated with the story of how the early pilgrims and a native American people (albeit not the Cherokee) forged a friendship by sharing food, company, and a spirit of thankfulness for this life.

In addition to the beans, we had a nice salad. About an hour before our meal, I went out to the garden for the lettuce. I walked down the row and selected clippings from each of six different lettuces for the salad. All of the lettuce is doing quite well, in spite of the freeze we had last week. Two of the varieties I chose specifically for their cold weather hardiness. There were deep greens, light greens, and royal to burgandy purples. I took maybe one tenth of what was there, leaving enough on each plant to keep them healthy. They’ll replace what I clipped.

For a separate bowl, I clipped two different varieties of Swiss chard. If I was the only person eating the salad, I would have thrown them in with the lettuces. However, my wife discovered a few weeks back that she is not as fond of Swiss chard. It has a stronger flavor, almost spicy in the case of the Five Color Silverbeet Swiss Chard; the spice is probably because I let it grow so large before clipping (much the same as beets). The rest of the meal was home cooked, but with store bought ingredients. Still, it all was very tasty and satisfying.

In spite of our collective best efforts, we could not eat all of the food prepared for that meal. This, however, is a blessing. After taking a day off from food (we were very full), we drove back over to my parents and collected enough leftovers to last us a week at home. I think turkey and stuffing might be better the second time around. That’s one less trip to the grocery store, which, in light of the massive crowds of Christmas shoppers, is truly a blessing.

As to Christmas, Leah and I have begun our preparations. We bought each of our kids a nice gift online, having found the items in the mailed version of the Back to Basics catalogue. We now are working diligently (she more than I, so far) to craft some wonderful heirloom quality gifts for our kids, as well as for our extended family. We decided to make more gifts this year to save money, but also because we enjoy making them. Certainly a good deal of thought goes into a gift when it is handmade by the giver; isn’t it the thought that counts? For my boys, I am making toy robots of wood and spare metal parts. The contrast of wood and brass color is striking. I am going for a look of whimsy. I’ll post pictures once they are complete. I have some other creations planned for the kids too. I made a deal with my wife. We agreed to buy one main gift for each child, then to make some. If for some reason, our efforts to make gifts fail, we will buy a couple other items. So, Christmas is perhaps materially smaller, but emotionally larger this year. This is a welcome change, and one, I think, much more in line with the occasion.

As another baby step down the path of homesteading this last week, the owner of the local Dunn Bros. coffee store and I have made an arrangement whereby I provided them with a lidded bucket in which they will deposit their daily used coffee grounds. I am to come by regularly (which I already do) to retrieve the grounds, so that I can add them to my compost for my gardens. This certainly ups the volume to my compost, a change that will be much needed come Spring planting.

I’ve a long way to go before I have my little house on the prairie. I am researching more, learning, planning. I received the annual seed catalogue from Seed Savers Exchange. So, I can begin selecting next year’s crops.  Much to do, but none of seems like work when it is so enjoyable.

A Case for Returning to Homegrown Heirloom Organic Foods

nutrientdecline

Here is the complete article in pdf.

nutrient_decline

Heirloom organic fruits and vegetables generally are more nutritious and more flavorful. Additionally, there is a huge variety in nearly every type of fruit or vegetable that isn’t to be found on grocery store shelves. By leaving food production to corporations and retail entities who, compared to what is available to the independent home grower of today, offer a narrow range of choices due to logistical considerations and profit-driven motives, people are missing out on the wonderful selection of foods available in nature.

If you are looking for more choices, consider Seed Savers Exchange, for example. They offer 25,000 different seed varieties. Why not grow your own? It isn’t terribly hard.

Our Original Square Foot Garden

Here are some photos of our first garden, a small square foot garden in our backyard.

IMG00045-20090306-0732

bush beans

seed packets

greenbeans

Ordered Some Seeds from FreedomSeeds.org

I just ordered seeds from FreedomSeeds.org for the first time. Mailing the check, so I’ll be patient to get them. I have already planted seeds that I got from the local organic store, Green Mama’s. This’ll be the first of many orders from them, as I want to further their cause as well as obtain seeds to grow and to store.