February – Throwing off the Blanket

We are finally starting to show some signs of warmth around here. The snow is melting, temperatures are flirting with the 40’s some days, and it’s almost time to start my garden!

The blanket of snow on the greenhouse roof was headed south, so I started seeds. It’s  too cold in the greenhouse to give them a good start, so this year we are starting them on a germinating mat under a grow light in the basement. Things are starting to pop already.  By the time they are ready to transplant to larger pots and harden off under some real sunlight – the greenhouse will have warmed up – I hope!

Another sure sign of spring are the blue hoses attached to two of our maple trees. They aren’t sugar maples, but they are maples – so that’s close enough. Last year we started too late and got about one cup of maple syrup by the time we boiled down all the sap. This year I may have jumped the gun, but so far I have three gallons of sap – and the whole month of March ahead of me. Maybe this year we’ll get two cups!

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The blanket of snow is on the move – spring must be on the way.
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If you look REALLY close, you can see some sprouts – spring MUST be almost here.
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How much maple syrup will we get this year?

August – Does size matter?

Things are a little topsy-turvy on the farm lately.  My zinnias are THIS BIG.

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And my eggs are THIS SMALL.

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We’ve had so much rain this year that my plants just won’t stop growing!  It must be helping the granddaughters grow too – because they won’t stop growing either!

And the eggs?  We have six peeps that we got in the spring.  We’ve nurtured them through their teenage years and now — they are turning into real hens.  Their first attempts at laying eggs have been a bit meager, but I guess they will improve with maturity.  An egg that is only 1.5 inches doesn’t quite compare to what we are used to.  I’m not even sure how to use that in baking.  Do two baby eggs equal one normal egg?  Hopefully they will get their act together soon and start laying real eggs.

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March – The First Harvest of Spring

Well, Happy First Day of Spring.  It doesn’t matter that it’s going to snow today.  And it doesn’t matter that it’s going to snow even more tomorrow.  If the calendar says its the first day of spring — then it’s time to get things going in the garden.

In an effort to instill a love of gardening in Arianna — we’ve had a tradition every spring.  We plant jelly beans.  For some reason, this only works in early spring up until about Easter time, after that, the jelly beans just don’t seem to sprout.  We water them and then check on them in the morning.

This year, the garden was muddy, and since I have a perfectly good greenhouse just waiting to sprout seeds, it seemed like the perfect match.  We took a selection of good looking jelly bean “seeds” and a few candy speckled eggs, just for good measure and planted them in the flower pots left behind from my herbs last summer.  And it worked — just like every year!

Happy Spring!

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We carefully planted the jelly beans, watered them and waited overnight.
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Looks like she’s happy with her “crop” of lolli-pops that grew overnight!
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Especially the ones that grew from those speckled eggs!
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Happy First Day of Spring!

March – Starting seeds in a snowstorm

Maybe I’m rushing the planting season given that we’re expecting upwards of 16 inches of snow – but it’s not snowing inside my greenhouse and the pepper and tomato seeds need to get started.  I have a laminated chart that I refer to every year and it says to start peppers and tomatoes before March 8th for my growing zone.  So I’m tucked away in my little greenhouse, planting my Italian red peppers, Amish paste tomatoes, Big Boy slicing tomatoes, San Marzano tomatoes, grape cherry tomatoes and yellow pear tomatoes.  The flurries are just starting and it’s warm-ish inside.  In a few more weeks I’ll start the squash, broccoli and loofah sponges.  The loofahs are this year’s experiment – but it will be fun to watch them grow… if spring ever gets here.  I’m done with this snow!

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Starting the peppers and tomatoes because my chart says it’s time even as the flurries are starting.
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And now it is accumulating – they say 16 inches are coming.  Good thing my tiny seeds are warm and cozy inside the greenhouse.

February – Damn Mice

Bruce – you were right — those damn mice moved right in once we insulated the basement.  We’ve kept traps down there, and we would catch a mouse every once in a while – but it didn’t seem like a big deal.  Until now…

I noticed that they are eating my squash!  Damn mice.  They climbed right into my wood crates, chewed holes, and cleaned out the inside of the squash.  Thank goodness they didn’t eaten them all!  I grabbed the rest of my good squash and rushed them to safety in the house.   I scrubbed them good – with soap and water — just in case a mouse had walked over them.  Then I roasted them, pureed then and packed them into freezer bags.  Hah!  No more squash for those damn mice.

Now, I hope the mice will go for the cheese in the traps – given that their supply of squash has been squashed.

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Damn mice!
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This mouse trap will get more action now that all the crates are empty.

December – The Garden by the Numbers

The 2017 garden was a success – the freezer is full to the brim with a rainbow of vegetables – beets, carrots, green beans, squash.  Our shelves are laden with jars of sauce, jams, jellies, pickles, salsas, chutneys and soups.  The wooden crates in the basement are full of potatoes and squash, and the pantry is full of dehydrated tomatoes, herbs, scallions, onions, garlic.

What did we really get out of the garden?  Here it is by the numbers (rounded to the closest pound):

  • Beans                                     25 pounds
  • Beets                                      28 pounds
  • Brussel Sprouts                    3 pounds
  • Carrots                                   11 pounds
  • Cucumbers                            19 pounds
  • Farm Berries (wild)             4 pounds
  • Garlic                                      1 pound
  • Onions                                    2 pounds
  • Peas (shelled)                        3 pounds
  • Peppers, Green                     8 pounds
  • Peppers, Red                         3 pounds
  • Potatoes                                 25 pounds
  • Pumpkins                              8 pounds
  • Squash, Acorn                       9 pounds
  • Squash, Buttercup                7 pounds
  • Squash, Butternut                35 pounds
  • Squash, Spaghetti                 2 pounds
  • Squash, Zucchini                  4 pounds
  • Tomatoes, Amish                  32 pounds
  • Tomatoes, Beefsteak            45 pounds
  • Tomatoes, Cherry                 35 pounds
  • Tomatoes, Zebra                   30 pounds
  • Tomatoes, San Marzano     44 pounds

That’s 380 pounds of produce!  And that’s not counting the salsify that we’ve just begun to harvest, and all the herbs, and the gourds that were just for decoration, and the smattering of raspberries and blueberries.

What do I want to do differently next year?  I think less tomatoes, beets and beans and more garlic (I’ve planted it already!) and onions.  The acorn squash doesn’t seem to hold up well in the “root cellar” but the butternut, buttercup and spaghetti squash are doing great – so I probably won’t do acorn squash.  I would have expected more zucchini, but the plants got some sort of blossom rot and didn’t do much this year – maybe I’ll try that again next year.

There is a coating of snow on the ground now.  All my gardens are blanketed in white, but I gotta go… it’s time to start looking through the seed catalogues for next year!

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Just a few beets for dinner.
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Lots of tomatoes!
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So many cucumbers, but where are they now?

November – Sour Grapes

Our experience with grapes on this property has been a bit sour.  First, we planted some grapes and they died.  Then we planted some grapes, and they are still alive, but there are no grapes.  Then… I found wild grapes!  I figured that was the solution — free, wild and growing profusely.

I picked bunches of these tiny gems, washed them, stemmed them, ran them through the food mill to remove their seeds, and made grape jelly!  I’ve been making jams and jellies for years — I know how to do it.  This batch was a flop.  It wouldn’t set up, so I ended up with tiny jars of grape juice.

Not one to give in to failure, I popped open all those little jars of grape juice and tackled making jelly — again — with even more Sure-Jell.  It still didn’t set.  It’s a little thicker, but still not like jelly; it’s more like grape pudding – which sounds disgusting.  Sour grapes.

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Tiny little grapes.
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Only half a quart of juice, and a batch of jelly that wouldn’t set.  That’s sour grapes.