August Update

I have just returned from a week long class to find that the weeds did not wait for me.  They were intent on creating an instant jungle the moment I stepped away.  Likewise, the plants found no reason for waiting, both to produce and to slip into a coma.  The cucumbers are nearly all dead at this point.  A few of them are holding on to their last shred of life, but for the most part, I can’t even find where their lifeless bodies once grew. Unfortunately, the tomatoes are succumbing to the same dreadful death.  Now that I’m back on the homestead, however, I hope to stop this with a little baking soda and water mixture to kill of disease.

Many other things are going on though!  I do have more tomatoes than I know how to eat, especially Moonglow, which are truly my favorite tomato breed of all time so far.  I’ve gotten two Cantaloupes so far and a third is nearly ready to fall off the vine.  The corn is supple and delicious and ready to be eaten.  There are peppers everywhere and the beans are finally here.  I’ve planted more French Fingerling Potatoes and they are now almost a foot tall.  The second bean planting is taking off.  There are more peas in the ground.  Scallions and another batch of broccoli are seeded and growing.

Thanks to the end of the 90+ degree days, the hens are back to laying eggs.  It’s not much fun to end the day with a single egg when you have a total of 14 layers.  Little Jane is now BIG Jane and stands a good deal above her mother Pin (who is only her adopted mother).  The six Easter Egger chicks are certainly no longer chicks.  They are flighty adolescents with more energy than lightning itself.  I was surprised just last week to hear that one of them was not who I thought she was.  Turns out, the prettiest ones ARE always boys.  Peter, the big guy who thuds to the ground like a rock, is a wide-shouldered, thick-headed  boy with glaring eyes and beautiful plumage.  He’s already started some crowing; although he sounds quite silly at the moment.  Thankfully he’s kept his crowing to the morning hours only, like roosters are supposed to (none of my other roos every got that memo).

Lastly, we are about mid way through the season.  This means that I have to start looking ahead to the winter and making preparations.  You’d think that wouldn’t be necessary for a few more months, but plants need the time to grow since the days are getting shorter.  I have quite the list of things that need to start getting planted.  I’ve already made my order of some more seeds and I’m preparing beds for them all both in the greenhouse and in the garden.  There is no down time for a homesteader.

Look for pictures of the Easter Eggers coming soon!

June/July Happenings

You might think that things couldn’t get busier, but they can!  It is always possible.  Any weeds that don’t get pulled or smothered when young turn into tough giants after a few 90 degree days and a hefty dose of water.  Keeping up with all of the plants, weeds, and watering in this heat along with harvesting and going to market is one heck of a full time job.  That said, excuse the fact that I completely missed all of June with my blog posts.  It’s easier to do blog posts when nothing is going on.  It’s also a heck of a lot duller.

This year, I’m attempting to keep up with the insects and stop them from destroying my cucumbers, cantaloupe, pumpkin, and squash plants (which are all in the same family and therefore susceptible to the same pests).  I’ve been killing them left and right and putting down tons of DE.  So far, I think I’m doing a decent job.  I haven’t found a terrible lot of them and I have yet to find any eggs, which gives me at least a shred of hope.  I’ve decimated the potato bug population.  I have a feeling they won’t make a big showing next year.

After a close call with a nasty mold that attempted to murder my potatoes, I learned about a type of bacteria that competes with mold spores for leaf space, effectively kicking the mold off the plant.  A single application did the trick for the potatoes early this season.  I think I may have to spray one more time for a few of my other susceptible plants like peppers, tomatoes, and the vines.  Other than those, however, the others are doing very well.

My peas have lasted until now and are actually still producing!  That’s an impressive feat. My lettuce even lasted up until last week, despite the heat.  Another trick I learned this season is in regards to bitter lettuce.  Once the heat gets cranked, most everyone kisses their lettuce goodbye.  But you don’t have to!  I saved 5 extra lbs of leaf lettuce alone, not to mention romaine heads.  All I did was harvest it, wash it, and put it in the fridge for 2-3 days.  Take it out and eat the delicious lettuce.  Simple.  I was so happy to find this out.

You want to know what’s coming next?  Well, I’m tell you.  First though, let me tell you what is already here.  Cucumbers are here.  Onions are here.  Horseradish is always here.  Peppermint and lemon balm are here for all your tea needs.

Now, what’s next, almost here?  Four kinds of tomatoes are seconds away from becoming bright red globes and deliciousness.  Peppers are about the size of various coins, from dimes to quarters.  Once the cucumbers really get producing, pickles will be on the way.  Five different kinds (and three colors!) of potatoes are on their way.  Parsley is just about ready!  Dill is flowering and ready for you to make your own pickles.  Tarragon should make an appearance any day now.

The butternut squash, cantaloupes, carrots, beets, and pumpkins are doing their best to grow quickly.  The corn is taller than me and tasseling already.  The beans are climbing the poles, but are slow to produce after being bitten and chewed nearly to death (not by me!).  The bulk of the season’s harvest is about to begin, I hope you’ve got room in your fridge.

There’s lots to be excited for as the summer starts to truly heat up.  But, at least while you are melting, you can enjoy some delicious and cool veggies.

May Happenings

What a busy month it is!  Everything is finally planted and growing at long last.  The garden is packed full of plants and seeds attempting to rise to the surface.  Now comes the part where I keep them in the clear by watering them and keeping the weeds and bugs away.  I’ve been updating the links in the availability section so that you can see the pictures and descriptions of the items that I’m selling.  Right now, Romaine lettuce and Radishes are for sale, alongside the Horseradish and Eggs that are always available.

Jane, the little mixed silkie chick that was hatched last month will be six weeks old tomorrow.  If you would like to see some pictures, check the facebook page.  Hopefully on thursday the five Easter Egger chicks will arrive.  I’m excited to see what they look like.  If everything works as planned, they will be given to one of the broody chickens who hatched last year’s clutch, named “Salt.”

After scouting out a few markets and debating the options, I’ve decided to go to the Millersville Farmers Market.  This market runs through October near Millersville University.  It is every Wednesday night from 4-8pm.  Each week has a theme and special focus.  This coming Wednesday, for instance, is the Wellness Fair.  June sixth is the Strawberry Festival and on August 22nd, it is the Summer Garden Party.  If you would like more information, you can check out their facebook in the link above or contact me to see what I’ll selling each week.

Red and Blue Potatoes?

That’s right, not just on the outside, but the inside too.  This year I’m growing four kinds of potatoes.  You may not have heard of any of these four, but I promise you, they are delicious and very cool.  Here are the varieties with descriptions from Seed Savers Exchange, where I purchased the seed potatoes.

All Blue: Deep blue skin and blue flesh with a thin white line just under the skin.  A good choice for baking and frying, excellent for making colorful chips.  When boiled, the color turns to a light blue.  High mineral content, good keeper.

Nicola: A German potato with low glycemic level.  Uniform medium-large oblong tubers have smooth yellow skin and light yellow flesh.  Firm waxy texture is excellent for boiling and salads.

Mountain Rose: Medium to extra large tubers with smooth brilliant red skin.  Light red swirled flesh is moist, non-waxy, and retains its color after cooking.  A versatile potato that is good for chips, fries, mashing, or an attractive potato salad.

La Ratte: Long prized by French chefs as a top quality fingerling.  We cannot recommend this variety highly enough, an absolute delight to cook with.  Long uniform tubers, yellow flesh with firm waxy texture and a nice nutty flavor holds together very well.  Especially good for potato salad or as a boiled potato.

Expect some delicious potatoes in early July!

Germinating Indoors

Starting seeds can be a difficult process for some.  Certain seeds are sure to cause more problems than others (like Parsley, for me).  Recently, I acquired the APS pods.  These pods are the Advanced Propagation System from Gardener’s Supply Company.  This system allows me to fill water in the bottom section and have that water wicked up to the bottom of the pods via a large, flat piece of felt.  The water is distributed evenly and all I have to do is make sure that the reservoir remains full.  Another aid in germinating seeds is a heat mat.  This heat mat puts out 85 degrees to the base of the APS pods so that the soil stays very warm.  This has enabled me to germinate seeds in half the time that the seed packets say is normal.

Once they have germinated, I remove the plastic covers and move the pods to the shelf below the grow lights.  It is important to keep the seedlings as close to the lights as possible so that the max amount of UV light can be received by the plants.  At a distance of 18 inches, almost no UV rays can be detected.  The closer the plants are to the lights, the better, but make sure that the leaves never touch the lights.  I keep my plants approximately one to two inches below the lights.  In order to keep them at this distance despite growth, I have built a plat form that can be lowered via a pulley system.

If you would like to see this system and my current set up, check out the video.