Garden Daybook 1/3/14

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IT”S SNOWING and it’s blowing! Winter has taken  northern Ohio by storm.  The garden has taken a deep breath, exhaled, and snuggled down for a well-deserved winter’s nap. I love to stand in the middle of this quiet and say a blessing over the garden.  “God bless this garden. Thank you for all of your gifts. Rest well in the winter cold. See you next spring!”   I am already anxious for spring. Forecasters have predicted an early spring. Here’s to hoping!

winter kitty house 2014 400

We seem to have attracted several young sister and brother cats. I cannot bear to look out the kitchen window and see them looking back. I feel like the rich lady up in the “big house”, fingers dripping with diamonds, feasting on baked chicken and  shrimp while  the po’ folk kitties are  out in the cold, staring through the window, meowing at us, their big eyes begging for a small bite.  So . . Greg  brought our wooden owl house  up to the porch. He positioned  the entrance hole out of the wind and tucked the outside tightly with three old blankets. Inside we put a heating pad set on very low  and covered it with a big fuzzy towel.  We have a plug near the box so this set up works well. Next to this cozy nest is a food bowl and water bowl. The kitties spend their days sleeping in the sun on top of the box and their nights inside, tucked together in a ball of fur. They also spend some time inside the hoop house, which can feel like Florida on a sunny day.

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I sowed Winter Green Cutting, Wild Garden, and Winter Brown lettuce seed in the basement on November 17. Seedlings were  transplanted into deep pans and put under fluorescent lights on December 5. This picture was taken today – January 3. I usually taste a few leaves every time I am in the basement doing laundry, yum!   Another week or two and the plants will be sturdy enough for us to harvest a fresh salad. I crave fresh greens in the winter so my five pans of lettuces are a treat  well worth the few minutes  it took to sow the seeds. My plants are kept in a cool basement – in the low 50’s – and under fluorescent lights controlled with a timer. They get 15 hours of light everyday.

winter pantry jan2014 400

All the hours spent in the kitchen this summer are paying off. Most winter meals include something from the pantry. During the past few  weeks we have used, corn, applesauce, chicken broth in soup, wild grape jelly on homemade baguettes, great northern beans in soup, tomato sauce, homemade sauerkraut with pork  on New Year’s Day, sour  cherries in a cobbler, and apple juice for breakfast. Hot summer days in the kitchen = full pantry shelves = warm winter meals. I try to very aware of what we eat during the winter and keep that in mind when I plan next summer’s garden.

seed catalogs 2014 400

The seed catalogs have been filling our rural mailbox since before Thanksgiving. I want, I want, I want!  I am a sucker for seed catalog “literature”. The authors of these catalogs should be ashamed of themselves. They know their northern customers are buried in snow and that their gardens are frozen.  They spew their vocabulary like  carnival hucksters. “Step right up ladies and gentlemen,  listen to my tale of miraculous vegie gorgeousness,  giant chin dripping tomatoes,  crunchy pea perfection,  etc., etc., etc.  AAARAUGH!!! My brain spins with panic:  Spring  is speeding toward us! Get ready! Don’t be left behind! Send in that seed order NOW!!  What I fail to keep in mind is that I already have LOTS OF SEEDS!

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 I mean LOTS of seeds! Is it possible that I need more?! Well, I don’t have seed for a storage tomato . . . and I don’t have Red Wing onion seed . . . and I don’t have a yellow nasturtium . . .  I placate myself by saying “Well, I don’t spend much on clothes (if you know me at all you know that statement is true!), I don’t spend much on movies or any kind of shopping (other then Goodwill).  My needs are simple. A packet of seeds can cost less that $3.00 and the potential therein is HUGE!!  Most seeds, if stored cool and dry, will last for years. I’m sorry, I just don’t see a problem (I mumble these words with downcast eyes).  I suppose we all have our weaknesses. Yours might be yarn, fabric, scrapbooking stuff, cooking equipment, books (I admit to a second weakness here!), and on and on. My weakness is for garden seeds.

When I put my seed lists together I refer to what my family eats and what has grown well in in my garden in the past.  For example, we eat a lot of tomato based things – salsa, tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce, etc. This knowledge helps me focus on meaty tomatoes that cook down into a rich sauce – Amish Paste, and San Marzano’s. I choose Blue Lake Pole beans because they are prolific, can well, and I can grow them vertically for no-bend picking.  I choose leaf lettuces because I can cut the outer leaves and they will continue to grow. I choose YaYa carrots for their out of this world sweet taste and because they have over-wintered in the garden for me. I always grow Copra and Red Wing onions because they store well all winter. My choices have grown from experience, need, and space requirements. I keep notes from year to year – what grows well or what has insect or disease problems. Will those beans, peas, beets, or  corn can well? I usually choose open-pollinated seed so I can save the seed and not have to buy fresh seed every year. Seed catalogs will label open pollinated seed with the letters OP.

My suggestion for new gardeners is to keep a journal as you garden. I have six hardback journals. Each one holds 2 months of notes: Jan/Feb. March/April, May /June, July/August, Sept./Oct, Nov./Dec.  I have allotted 4-5 pages of each book to each day.  I can add many years of information for each day and be able to compare notes day by day and year by year. I have a better understanding of my gardens through these journals. Write it down and you will not forget what works and what doesn’t.  January is a wonderful time to get organized and start your personal garden education.  Use this quiet time to plan your garden. Organize a journal now so that when the gardening season hits the fan you will have no excuses for not being ready.

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It is vicious cold today, but when things warm up make time to get outside.  Build a snowman, lay down a snow angel, or take a walk and enjoy the beauty of this season. This, too will pass. Make some winter memories!

Hey from the farm,

Fran             The Country Cousin

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5 comments to Garden Daybook 1/3/14

  • Makes me want to escalate plans to build just up the road from you. What trouble we could get into that close together. Just like when we were kids.

  • Debbie Venus-Fenrich

    Oh Fran! What a great thing you did for those poor little kitties! Thank you!! It is good karma! They will need that little house specially in the next few days with this terrible cold weather blowing in!!

    • I keep looking out the window onto the porch to make certain that the kitties are safe inside their box. I wish I could bring them all inside but there are so many of them and we have one kitty that would get along with them and one that would have a fit and it could be war. I think they will have some warm homemade soup for their supper before dark. I am also thinking of putting the propane heater on in the hoophouse – just for tonight – for the few cats that find their way there. Gads!!!

  • Debbie Venus-Fenrich

    You are such an angel!

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