Garden Daybook 12/5/13

For more than 30 years we have looked across our country road to the East and enjoyed our view of acres and acres of a beautiful tree farm. We have listened to the night sounds of owls and coyotes. We have watched deer wend their way through our tree line and cross the road to find refuge in the trees. Recently, we began to hear the sounds of machinery coming from those woods. It took us a while to realize that what we were hearing was the sound of trees being sawed down and the ungodly wrenching of roots being torn from the ground. Day after day we can hear the machines running back and forth across the fields.

tree farm clearing sm

A few days ago they broke through the edge of the woods and we could finally see the empty, torn up field beyond. We have lived in the country for a long time and are used to being surrounded by woods and tillable fields but to be present at a time when woods are leveled for fields is a new experience for us. I know that our farmers are in need of as much tillable land as they can find – thus the loss of these woods –  but I still feel a great sadness for the loss of all those old trees and the habitat they provided. I feel more exposed to the elements – even though that new field is acres and acres away. This kind of change is progress for our farmers but I cannot help feeling that something is lost that will never – at least in our lifetime – provide habitat for so many creatures. Here you can see the remaining sad tree line and the ripped up field beyond.

tree farm cleared sm

I know that wood from the ripped out (what an awful sounding description!) trees will provide winter heat for many families and, hopefully, make some lumber.  I cannot complain because we use wood to warm winter evenings and for emergency backup heat. Our firewood comes from our own trees and our 10 acres of mature woods.

This fall we replaced our 30 year old Jotul wood stove because we were having trouble controlling the fire and it had become a scary thing to simply light a fire. With our new wood stove, a Regency from Heat Exchange Hearth and Patio Shoppe,  we can light a fire and safely control the heat. We know that, even if we have a rough winter and lose electricity at times, we will stay warm. The staff at Heat Exchange answered many questions over the phone and took lots of time with us in the store. They helped us choose the right stove for our needs. They were great and we could not be happier with this stove. It is gorgeous!

regency wood stove sm

Now that our wood stove is safe I am spending time at our long dining table transplanting my winter lettuce seedlings. This past November 17 I seeded Winter Brown, Winter Green Cut Salad, and Wild Garden lettuce and put them in the basement seed starting unit where they germinated in four/five days. This week I am transplanting the small seedlings into deep aluminum baking pans. The transplants will go back to the basement under fluorescent lights plugged into a simple timer.  The timer switches the lights on for 15 hours a day.  When all the seedlings push out their second set – or true – leaves I will begin to fertilize them – once every 10 days. In a few weeks I will begin to cut handfuls of leaves for winter salads. I always crave fresh greens in the winter and this system satisfies my need for crunchy salads when the snow is falling.

winter lettuce seedlings sm

It is barely the beginning of December but the seed catalogs have already started to show up in our mailbox. I have already sent in my first order. WOOHOO! I grow storage onions every summer and my goal is to have the seeds for them started before February.  I always order my onion seeds as soon as I can – usually in December. That way I can relax during the holidays and know for certain that I have my onion seeds for the new year safely tucked away.

2014 seed order sm

FYI: to grow good sized storage onions in Zone 5 you must 1. grow long day onions and 2. get as much growth on them before June 21 (the longest day) when they begin to bulb –  meaning start them EARLY! I start my onions in mid-January, transplant them into deep pans when they are big enough to handle, and grow them on in the hoophouse until I can get them into the garden. Here are three Red Wing onions from this years garden. The one on the right just fits into the palm of my hand. I always grow Copra and Red Wing onions for storage.  I have found that Pinetree Seed Catalog is ALREADY out of Red Wing seeds! NOOOO!!! Hopefully, another catalog will carry them.
I could not get the Pinetree link to work but their address is:  www.superseeds.com

red wings in storage sm

I imagine that many of you are ready for your winter break from the garden. I, on the other hand, already miss mine! I miss the fresh vegies and  the daily physical work. I am already thinking about what to plant where, new varieties to try, and garden repairs that need to be taken care of in 2014. I am already concerned about the extra pounds that show up around my middle each winter when I am not as physically active. Come on snow! Let’s get this winter going because spring comes next.

Hey from the farm,
Fran       The Country Cousin

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