Sorry for the silence! With a loud *POP* my computer declared it's decision to move on to the land of giant paperweights.
We've kept busy and there never seems to be enough time, but there always seems to be just 1 more thing to add to the list. I'm STILL potting up tomatoes for transplanting. Clearly there is such a thing as "too many", but not a concept I was embracing a few months ago as I was starting seeds in March. I have a lovely large addition of mystery tomatoes & peppers this year as our crazed canine tested the aerodynamics of tomato seeds. I was attempting to channel Martha Stewart's organizational prowess while watching TV. Last year's crazy weather weighing heavily on my mind, it seemed only logical to plant just a few extra of each.. just in case. I set out a cookie sheet with little ramikins that held the labels for the pots and the seeds ready to be dispensed. I remember looking at the tray and thinking "Finally! A use for these ramikins!" So orderly, so neat, so precise and measured! My folly to be realized minutes later..
Martha does not watch tv while planting.
Martha would never consider the coffee table in the living room a good stand-in for a potting shed.
Martha... is not a moron.
Our dog has been getting a lot of eggs in his diet, the result is this old man is acting like he's 2 years old again. (The membrane in eggs is a source of glucosamine, which seems to have helped his hips A LOT.) Across the street lives the most recent object of his adoration, a 3 year old girl ( I'll call her Pip) who loves to throw things. She calls for him, he lets out a loud AAAAAARRRRRRRROOOOOOOOOO, and then madly bounces around to be let out. The glorious tray didn't stand a chance.
2 hours of tweezing seeds out of the carpet, my daughter casually commented "Too bad they aren't different colors so you could tell the difference." *Blink Dye the seeds!!!!!! That's brilliant!! It would be only 1 additional step when I process seeds! After fermenting and rinsing the seeds, a quick dip in food coloring before setting out to dry would put a potential end to my disorganizational gardening Anne-tics! 2013 already is looking even better!
We've planted some tomatoes and peppers, but not enough to make decent dent in my transplant stock. 36 eggplants that looked absolutely amazing this year. Seriously, the best I have ever grown, so robust and beautiful! They are currently lacy skeletons of what could have been. Flea beetles suck. Without floating row covers, this is one crop I have to give up. I gave half of them away and everyone is having the same troubles. Coffee grounds, diatomaceous earth, hot pepper wax, mild soapy spray.. nothing has stopped them or even slowed them down. I may just use eggplant as a trap crop.
Currently what is flowering and setting seed is parsley, kohlrabi, and turnips. Winter was very mild. These are biennial crops, so they flower and go to seed the second year. We didn't dig them up, but over-wintered them by mulching them heavily with shredded leaves. The trick is you have to get the leaves off as soon as possible in the spring and hope moles aren't an issue.
Pip's dad (I'll call him Buddy) and DV (small farm neighbor with the underground house) have doubled their garden size this year! Fantastic timing as we happily have been helping to fill them, the crop swapping continues! It was a bad year for morels, but we got a pound from DV. Our hens have been laying a lot more than we can ever consume. So far they are supplying not just us but DV and 4 other families. We've also been sharing bags of our lettuce, scallions, spinach, snow peas, and herbs (chives, oregano, basil, parsley.) We'll be picking shelling peas this week. Pip, much to her parents' joy, discovered that while she hates cooked peas, she loves them raw. Mulberries are almost ready!
Strawberries are doing great.... as chicken treats. We expanded the patch last fall into an area we amended well with compost made from weeds and coop contributions (the plants are huge and lush.. obviously appreciating the new area.) 4 of the girls will go into the garden with us.. braving my Mom's 2 wack-a-doodle dogs' terrifying excitement through the fence. They make working in the garden challenging. Bug crazy grub gluttons.. grabbing the tools creates an instant parade as they follow us. We spent loooooong days turning the soil by hand mixing in compost and pulling weeds. The girls constantly inspecting disturbed soil for treats. Planting the transplants took ages. Dig a hole and 4 hens are trying to get into it, dirt starts flying. Often they can refill the hole faster than you can dig it with a trowel. I put down newspaper weighed down with clumps of clay as a weed barrier. My husband.. bless that man... wanted to make it look nicer and put down mulch. I have no doubt it looked lovely, just he used straw and essentially created a chicken Disneyland. The big "ta-da" reveal looked less like garden paradise and a lot more like the crater pocked moon. That's when the strawberries, or rather the enjoyment of eating strawberries, was discovered by the girls. It is impossible to get mad about it.. even when they are doing their Godzilla impression while stomping through the snow peas. The transplants (so far) are unharmed, just the garden bears a similar post-apocalyptic flare as my daughter's room.
I'm a lot less stressed about the gardens this year. We've tabled the farmer's market idea for now which lets me focus more on building the soil. Some locals are in the process of trying to get a co-op going!
Many around here have gardens and it is for a reason.. Even though this is an agricultural driven location, we have quite possibly the worst quality produce ever offered in the grocery stores. The farmer's market and your own garden is really the only good sources of produce around. Out of need, pride, stubbornness we grew or traded for most of what we ate last summer and fall. My husband found work, so now we can continue because we WANT to and that change in perspective is a relief. This year is shaping up so far to be quite a bit more productive than last. Friends help lighten the load. DV declared he needs to can "more tomatoes than you can shake a stick at".. I'll be there to help! (Especially as I'm planting cukes, beans, squashes, 4 dozen tomatoes and 2 dozen peppers at his place tomorrow for the first of a couple planting sessions!)
Back to work. I need to get these plants separated and out of my light unit. I'm hoping I have enough planted to make regular contributions to the local food pantry this year. I hope everyone else has a good bounty as well!