Thursday, February 19, 2009

Springing (and Cleaning) Out All Over!

The sweet peas and bunching onions are up! Yay!

Tiny lil sweet pea

Baby onions in a row

(Is it wrong that I kinda want to smooch on them?)

Clearly, the rain from the storms last night (which I apparently and uncharacteristically slept through, which is scary because Will never checks the Weather Channel and we'd be halfway to Oz before he realized we were having a tornado) helped them out. I really need to get my garden planned out so I can get my watering system set up. Last year I tailored it to each bed, which meant a lot of sweating in the pathways after everything came up. I'll still use the soaker method this year, but I'm going to try to configure it in such a way that I can set the lines up without having to plant around them OR move them around the plants. Hopefully I'll be able to salvage the lines and all of the drippers as I start dismantling the system in the next few days. Having them will keep me ahead of the game.

The winter sown seedlings all got a good soaking last night and are looking good--even the blown-over Swiss chard. Another Lemon Cucumber is coming up. I'm actually worried about all of the seedlings, winter sown and otherwise, since we're expecting a hard freeze (or several of them) over the next few days. I can always rake some leaves over the peas and onions and maybe "bank" some around the containers. The theory is that nothing will come up that isn't ready to, but our weather is so temperamental in the late winter/early spring that it makes me wonder.

In other (and far more boring and unpleasant, in my opinion) news, I'm still working on my Imbolc-inspired inside overhaul. The office is awash in discarded CDs and papers. I feel guilty throwing so much JUNK out, but at the same time, paring this down will help me be more efficient in running the house and garden. I'm planning on making binders for home projects and our schedule and budget, much like the one I've already made for my recipes. (One project will be using bills and envelopes and other junk mail to make paper, as I recently came across my old paper-making frames. Viva la organization!)

Another thing we're working on as a family right now is an itemized budget. We've always had a budget--but I use that term loosely, as we never followed or tracked it at all. I suggested we itemize our budget for February so we could see where the money's going. No big shocks so far--we're already over our monthly grocery limit AND we've eaten out A LOT. This is my fault. I need to do better on planning and cooking our meals. We over-budgeted for gas, though, and had a big "miscellaneous" chunk, so we can adjust as needed. Still, I'd like to do better on groceries next month. Cleaning out the pantry today will help me plan better for next month--I won't buy extra of those things we don't use.

Fascinating stuff, no? Sigh. I'm going to have to roll up my sleeves and take to the office again before I put myself to sleep.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Ugh and Woohoo!

Friday morning I went to get the recycling bins from the curb and did my standard "check under the rims of things for evil, scary, monster spider evidence." Lo and behold, I found this:

Why, NotHannah, you might be saying, that looks a lot like a cluster of brown widow egg sacs. YES, I KNOW THAT, THANKS.

After losing my mind all over the driveway, I used a stick to pull the sacs loose and then proceeded to grind them to less than a smear on the asphalt. After girding my loins and swallowing my tonsils, I then poked around at the little shmoodge of web looking thingy at the bottom right part of the picture because I was pretty sure that's where Mama Brown Widow was hanging out waiting to bite me. But, no. A pretty pissed off grass spider popped out and scurried away, leaving me with no Mama Brown Widow, which isn't as awesome as you would think it is. Sigh. Shudder.

Opting not to attack the recycling/trash can area with a flame thrower, I instead packed for our weekend trip to Chattanooga with the kiddies. (I'll try to post something about that over at I'm Not Hannah soon.) Much fun was had by all, in addition to a few hives and a case of bad belly.

When we returned, I took my standard return home-walk around the garden to see what miracles have happened in my absence and discovered to my frabjous joy that WOOHOO! Some of my winter sown sweeties are up!

These are Boston Pickling cucumbers. Loved these last year. I have nine of these up. My Lemon cukes are up, too...well, one is up. I realized when I tried to put a picture of it on the blog, though, that it might require superhero vision to see it yet.

No superhero vision needed for these guys. These are Swiss Chard, and the seedlings you see are far and away more than I got last year in my Swiss Chard patch.

I am a gardening goddess.

So far, the winter sowing is working bee-yootifully. I don't see a difference in the containers--I used soda bottles and milk bottles and both seem to be germinating the seeds equally well. I'm intrigued that the cukes have come up first...this seems to support my idea that I should have set them out earlier last year. I'll put out a few more "greenhouses" next week when the signs are right again for bedding crops; probably more peppers and tomatoes...maybe my Cherokee Purples will be here!

I also planted a bag of Yukon Gold potatoes today. I'm skeptical about taties. It seems so difficult to grow them. I'm not sure why--maybe because I can't see the "magic happening" under the soil? I meant to put out onions, but I'm still waffling about where I want them. I'll wait until the 21st.

Picked a mess of lettuce, spinach, what sorrel Jeffrey hasn't munched to the ground (I'm pretty sure I'm the only mom in America who actively worries about her child getting oxalic acid poisoning), and a few sprigs of cutting celery for a salad tonight. We wound up not eating it yet--we went with waffles and eggs--but I'll eat it for lunch tomorrow, maybe with a tuna salad sandwich (made with leeks from the herb bed.)

The broccoli continues to grow and look lovely. Neither the sweet peas nor the onions are up, but I am keeping my fingers crossed. We'll get rain tomorrow, so maybe that will get the seedlings going.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Taking Advantage of the Loveliness

This weekend was one of those perfect clusters of days of warm sunshine and fresh breeze at the end of winter. You know it will get cold again, but you can revel in the loveliness while it lasts and get some prep work done in the meantime for actual Spring. (As I've been moping around about the bizarre weather, I wonder if Mother Nature is reading my blog!)

Saturday I puttered around the garden, cleaning up bits and pieces of miscellaneous trash that collects in a yard with children. I planted some lettuce and spinach and broccoli seedlings in late January and all are fine, having come through the bitter cold spell with ease. While I was picking some of the greens for a salad (with leftover salmon--yummy AND frugal AND green!), I noticed a yick smell--like a dead animal. But Frodo has occasionally ventured unwelcomed into the garden for a potty break, so I just sort of shrugged it off as puppy poo.

Here's a shot of the broccoli bed:

After a few more hours spent futzing around the garden and planning out the beds with the help of my trusty Vegetable Gardener's Bible, the whole family headed off to the park to do some exploring with Jeffrey's metal detector. This is the park we cleaned last year in preparation for the Earth Day that didn't quite get off the ground. They recently got the paths refurbished and it was so nice. This would be a great place to run. We only found one treasure--a rusted Pepsi can.

Alas. We had a great time anyway, running on the path and spotting Canada geese, a Great Egret, and one confused white duck.

I also thought I saw an alligator:

Sunday was spent much like Saturday was. We were outside almost the whole time. After a lot of messing around, Will brought his iPod outside and we listened to Jupiter Coyote and Jimmy Buffett as I started Winter Sowing Project 2009. Farmer Cathy gave me the idea, and I'm so excited to see if it works. I planted three kinds of tomatoes (Better Boys, Romas, and a grape variety--which I'm pretty sure will be a bust as River "helped" today by shaking the bottle up), some California Wonder peppers, eggplant, summer squash, Boston Pickling and Lemon cucumbers, some cantelope and some Swiss Chard. You will note that a lot of these names sound familiar--I'm using some seeds from last year. Ed Smith from VLB says that most seeds will last a few years, so I'm going to believe him. It seems as if I'm combining two unknowns and hoping for the best, but isn't all gardening like that? After filling up my WS containers, I set them in a nice sunny bed and pulled some of the leaves around the bases. The strip in between I planted with bunching onion seeds, yesterday being the last day the signs were right for planting above ground crops for a few weeks. I think it looked nice and tidy when I was finished, although I will say that I felt a lot like my daddy when I surveyed the reused bits. Daddy is a FAMOUS reuser.

While I was at it, I decided to put in a row of Sugar Snap peas in the broccoli bed. I have terrible luck with sweet peas. Last year, I managed to get the vines going for the first time, but it was too hot for any flowers by that time and so I was pea-less yet again. Starting earlier must be the key, I figured. While I was planting, I noticed, yet again, the dead animal smell. No poo was in sight. Hmmm...As I poked holes for the peas, I also discovered that some creature has been tunneling in my bed. And... as I bent forward to put in a pea, I realized that the dead animal smell was coming from the tunnel. Urk. I figure one of several things is happening. Either I've got a mole or mouse or something which died in there (barf) or I have a snake in there who took over a mouse or mole tunnel (not as barfy, but still not pleasant to consider.) I don't want moles or mice in my garden, although I wouldn't mind a king- or rat snake. They keep away mice and bad snakes, such as the copperheads I REALLY don't want to be tangling with. I'm not sure what to do about this...should I dig the bed up and risk running up on a snake or yicky dead things? This doesn't seem good for gardening...won't it pose a risk to our health? Blah. Maybe I should call the extension agency. Ideas?

Jeffrey got into the spirit of reusing while we were outside and went through the recycling bin until he found an old soda can. He got Will to help him cut out a piece of it and filled it with birdseed for a bird feeder. Will it work? No clue, but it was sweet that he came up with the idea all by himself!

Later that evening, Will and I were discussing the smell. Referring to my habit of tossing kitchen scraps directly into my beds in the wintertime, he said, "Yeah, all that rotting fruit and food seems like the ideal habitat for a snake."

My eyes didn't QUITE roll out of my head at this--um, YEAH, snakes are just MAD for some soggy carrot peelings--, but it was a near thing. I let it go, but I did go out this morning to take shots of our two respective areas of the yard.

Which looks more "snakey?"

My orderly, tidily-leafed garden

or his brush-cluttered, Christmas tree-piled, stacks o' wood-laden man camp?

That's what I thought.

A new kink has come into my plan to turn our yard into a semi-viable homestead--a piece of property at a crazy-low price. I'll be wigging out about it over at I'm Not Hannah later on.