I’ll admit it hasn’t been much of a joint blog lately, and I see the “He Said” column is growing long against my less-then-a-handful of posts under “She Said.” So, here’s what I’ve been up to…
Seed starting has commenced, and the onions are up and growing nicely. I’ve got three varieties this year: Long Red Florence for the tasty fresh-eating and kabob onions of summer, as well as my standby Talon F1 yellow storage onion (which I’ve gotten from Territorial Seed for a few years, but now I see High Mowing has it, too). A new yellow storage onion for this year is the open pollinated Dakota Tears, developed by Prairie Road Organic Seed. They are looking really fine.
Blue Solaise leeks are another old favorite–germination is a little thin this year as the seed is getting old. Last year I planted 80 row feet of them, but between flood, drought, and weeds, they only ever managed to get to pencil size–not their usual stout, blue flag-waving grandeur that can last through the winter if the deer don’t get desperate. Started some Mars Celeriac (and with fresh seed, too), but even on a heat mat their germination has been disappointing. We’ll end up with a few for our table, at least.
Yesterday the peppers went in 4-packs on the heat mat–ten varieties with six of them sweet and the rest some shade of smoky. A few new ones this year including Three-Sided From Syria (a last-minute curiosity), Aconcagua (intriguing for years–finally taking the plunge), and a mini belle pepper blend to satisfy my curiosity about that recipe for little peppers stuffed with cabbage and pickled whole. The only new hot one is Martin’s Carrot, which came as a bonus for re-upping my Seed Savers Exchange membership–so why the heck not?
I won’t start tomatoes for a couple of weeks, but the situation is starting to get a little desperate as far as varieties. My December seed inventory lists 13 varieties, which is fairly respectable, but somewhere along the seed-ordering way I’ve ended up with 21 kinds, and then a discussion with a fellow gardener about good little yellow tomatoes landed me on High Mowing’s website adding Yellow Perfection back into my mix–along with two MORE varieties that sort of slipped into my cart unnoticed.
How does that happen? At this rate, I’ll be up the thirty by the time I actually put seeds into medium, and being as I’d like to get them going in the one 20-channel flat I have left…well, I’d better stay away from seed company catalogs and sites for awhile. Though, as any gardener with gardening friends knows, that isn’t always a guarantee. You run into someone, you get to talking tomatoes, and suddenly there’s another packet or two in your purse. Going into hiding might be the only option.
I’m sad to report that we lost a hen last week. She was an Araucana-Jungle Fowl cross, and she’d been listing around for a few days. The others weren’t picking on her, and she was able to get to food and water (and was consuming both), so I didn’t worry too much about it. She wasn’t roosting at night, but she did find comfort with the broody Silkies that hang out on the floor. Still, when I went to shut the coop on Wednesday night, she was keeled over in the run. Bummer.
Despite a few glorious days of temps in the forties and fifties (yeah, we have a lower bar for “glorious” after this winter), the majority of days have been chilly, though bright. I’ve got the whole set-up ready for brooding about a dozen more pullets for the laying flock (and then fifty broilers and a few turkeys and guinea keets after that), but out on the porch it’s hard to keep their pen warm enough except for directly under the heat lamp. I’m getting to the point of setting up an insulated pen-within-the-pen because I want those pullets feathered and ready for the coop before the broiler madness starts.
Meanwhile, we are getting about seven eggs a day from the existing small flock, and the yolks are starting to regain that intense golden color that signifies they’ve been out on grass. Other than giving a few away until there’s enough production to merit selling, my egg utilization strategy combines browbeating family members about consuming their daily ration and ordering in a few pounds of semolina flour to make fresh pasta. Lucky for the family–we have a young man visiting from Germany (a former exchange student of John’s) who is capable of eating an entire day’s production in one sitting (willingly, too–it’s not a force-feeding hostage situation, I swear!).
With the ground bare but still frozen, the only serious outdoor activity I’ve engaged in lately is the endless hauling of buckets-full of trash from the grove. The area nearest the house is getting less junky, but barefoot-ready it’ll never be. Still, aside from the endless piles of rusted-out cans, broken glass, and car parts, there are some cool old intact bottles to be found in the deeper recesses. Making it out as a treasure hunt rather than a years-long chore seems like a better way to attract helpers. C’mon out and join the fun!