Friday, February 18, 2011

Is a Puppy a Garden Ornament? NOT!

Well, I'm not as far into my spring pruning and gardening as I had hoped.  There was this DISTRACTION.
Puppy in rare almost quiet moment.....

Behold THE PUPPY!  This is our foster puppy - a six-month old Shih Tzu boy, happy and healthy and full of bounce.  Loving life on the farm while waiting for someone loving to adopt him with a "forever home".

Meanwhile, he has tried out eating the bark mulch (threw that up), pulled out some winter weeds (got pets for that one), pulled out some winter bulbs (foster mom realized that praising his "weeding" abilities was going to have repercussions), dragged around garden tools, carried gardening gloves all around the yard, and slept in the Muck Boots.

A PUPPY.  What on earth was I  THINKING?????

Thursday, February 10, 2011

What a difference a Day Makes!

Who can resist photos on a gloriously brilliant, snow-shining day like this?

Yesterday, my gardening pal, Holly, and I cleaned out the greenhouse, getting ready for spring lettuce and early spring vegetable seedlings. The ground was damp but green and sprouting daffodils and tulips made it seem like spring was on the way.

Today, the gardens are buried under 4" of fresh, new snow that arrived overnight.  No plant flats in the GardenWay cart now -- just snow!

The view out back, toward the barn and greenhouse, was so pristinely blue and white that it was irresistable. There was nothing for it but to hike out through that winter landscape.

Although the coop stays warm and dry, the chickens and Cuppers, the Peacock, were out marching uncomfortably through the heavy, damp snow.   They didn't seem quite sure what to make of it, although this winter they've had a lot of experience in wading through shin deep snows - if chickens have shins, that is.

Monday, February 7, 2011

One - count 'em - Spring Day!

Just a few of this year's catalog offerings!
 Okay!  One spring-like day and I'm insanely flipping through seed catalogs to find my new experiments for this year.  I have so many seeds left from the last three years that there's not much to order - I need to use these saved seeds up first.  Am I the only one who finds way too many seeds in a packet?  For example, I get these fabulous packets from that have HUNDREDS of seeds in them. How many pepper plants do I need?  We need a neighborhood seed swap where each gardener could bring their excess seeds and get some seeds from various packets others have selected. It would be fun to see what varieties someone else was excited about!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Accounting for that Harvest

Ever wonder how much a backyard garden might be worth? How about  $3,415.18 worth of fresh produce?

  Click over to Back Yard Organic Vegetables, Veggie-Pak's delightful gardening blog and check out the startling totals from one garden this past season. And the equally impressive effort to track, weigh and account for those harvests.  Notice that we're talking To The Penny here. Beat that!
I always start out with good intentions, but then my spouse wanders through and EATS some of the goodies, hands them to others (as do I) and, presto, we have no idea how many tomatoes we really had. Et cetera.  We consume all sugar pod peas on the spot, in the garden. Munch, gulp. Not ONE counted or weighed.  So I'm reading Veggie-Pak's careful accounting with real pleasure because I know I will never, ever, accomplish anything like it.
Veggie says that the incentive for tracking all of this comes from Mark's Veg Plot Blog in Britain, and Mark's VSR (Value for Space Rating) concept - a great way to determine what crops are really worth your time, space and effort. Mark says he bases his gardening decisions on three main questions:
1. The availability of the vegetable in Winter, or other times of scarcity.

2. Whether or not the homegrown item provides significantly better quality than a similar one bought in a shop.

3.Whether the vegetable is difficult and/or expensive to buy.

I would add to that second question whether or not friends, neighbors and my local farm stands (mostly run by friends of ours) are already growing that particular vegetable so that I can buy it fresh from them and support their farm as well. 
I also take in account specific varieties, so that I'll grow certain lettuces, peppers and beans - even potatoes and onions! -  that I can't get anywhere else - even if other varieties are readily available and cheap in season. 
And I shall be growing it all in ruthlessly less space!  More value! Less work! 
Let the challenge begin!

Ruthlessly Efficient, Self-Sufficient Gardening

It's February 1st - the touch point that lands half way between the first day of winter and the first day of spring, between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.  It is the day when I ponder the gardens to come and decide what, if anything, my commitment will be for this year's gardens.

For my first commitment: I have decided to devote this season to seeing just how much food I can grow in the smallest, most efficient spaces.  I can't sprawl over five acres any more, I just don't have the time, the energy or the heat tolerance.  Food gardens have been moving into the house gardens, this year my goal is to maintain all of them there, veggies mingling with the ornamentals.  I'll be growing ONLY those varieties that I dearly love and that are only at their best when I stroll outside and harvest them right before eating. Larger, quantity harvests are going to come from the dedicated work of our neighboring farms, helping support those small farm families through  Buy Fresh Buy Local Hampton Roads.

My second commitment, made in mind of the No Impact Project , is that I won't be buying gardening materials such as pots, seed starting trays, plant labels, etc.  I've been stockpiling yogurt containers, cottage cheese containers (sorry, Colin, still buying those supermarket container plastics) and will be subbing those in.  Photos to follow as greenhouse gets set up.  I figure better than simply recycling quantities of plastics is to continue reusing them as long as feasible - and not buying other forms of plastic instead - before sending to recycle.

I'm still working on getting enough compost/soil made up to satisfy all the greenhouse/raised bed needs but may fall short of my goal.  And it's going to be tough to sterilize my soil enough for seeds.  I need a "barn microwave" - there are objections from the other half of my household if I'm microwaving dirt in the house. Wonder why???