Amie and I finally cleaned the seedling containers, then fired up the heat mat and the lamps in the basement and sowed seeds. We’re a little late. Last year I put in the first seeds on Feb 24. We sowed:

  • lettuce
  • mache
  • chard
  • kale
  • spinach
  • onions
  • leeks

I need to order some seeds: celery, parsley, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and collards.  For starters.

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This has been/still is a hard winter. It’s been one snow storm after another, with long stretches of below freezing temperatures.  Three weeks ago I caught a bug which developed into pneumonia – hence the silence here – and now that I’ finally up and about, Amie caught something as well. That’s how it goes. The winter was hard on the bees as well: all three colonies are dead of starvation in boxes still half full of capped honey.  They just didn’t have the chance to break cluster and move toward the honey.

But things are stirring. Before yesterday’s snow flurries we actually saw dirt. Then it got covered up again, but all that should be washed away by tonight’s rain and tomorrow we may see some outdoor activities. I plan to wash all the seedling trays and pots so I can start the basement garden. If I’m up for it, I’ll also clean out the chicken coop: there’s some good compost in there after months of deep litter.

A couple of days ago I (hot-water-bath) canned the sauerkraut that had been fermenting in big jars on my counter for seven weeks. I usually don’t can kraut as it pasteurizes it (duh!) and kills off all the good bugs. Still, I had too much of it to keep in the fridge, and as I’m the only one who eats it round here, I decided to reserve one jar for the fridge and can the rest.  I hope the canning doesn’t make it too soggy. I like it crunchy.

 

As gardeners we often don’t get to work in a field.  It’s a different thing altogether to work in a field than in a garden. There is all that space, sky, sun. You walk from one end to the next (diagonally, so as to get the most out of it) and throughout the soil is soft and pliable underfoot. There is also a lot of work, so in this field one gets to grow not just food, but community as well.  And of course, none of us being farmers, we also grow an attitude of adventure, a tolerance for making mistakes, a thirst for experimentation.

A lot has happened with the Transition Wayland community garden plots. We began with two weedy plots, pulled all those weeds, rototilled it, then sowed heaps of dry beans. The beans came up beautifully, and we watered and weeded, and then they were eaten, probably by the bunnies. The weeds then took over and we pulled and mowed them, then sowed buckwheat as a smother crop and soil conditioner. While that took in about 50% of the area, (the rest became weeds), growing to shoulder height in some places, we decided to not grow grains there but to turn it into a permaculture (perennial) garden.

This was the state of the garden on Monday:

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Friends brought a weed whacker (we couldn’t locate a scythe) and a rototiller and two hours later it looked like this:

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Today – in the surprisingly hot sun – we evened it all out, raked out some more of the straw, then sowed winter rye. Everyone got to throw up those smooth seeds in great arcs of fecundity!

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Here’s a close-up of the intrepid farmers:

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Aren’t they just silly?

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Almost a bucket full of potatoes. 5.5 lbs of Red Marias and 14 lbs of Salem from one bed (22 feet). That’s similar to the potato bed up front, of earlies, which yielded 12 lbs from 16 feet. Also some last squashes, cherry tomatoes, cukes and some errant onions.

What’s left is kale, chard, a couple of winter squashes and lots of green cherry tomatoes, and the sweet potatoes still going strong in the hoop house.

The hens are back to 3 eggs a day, mostly. I’ve re-reintroduced the two pullets to the flock and am steeling myself against their protests and cries for help, because it’s getting nippy and they really need to start spending the nights in the big, warmer coop.

Pickling summer squash into a relish, using this recipe (which is not an endorsement, just a record so that, if we do like it, I know how I prepared it – {UPDATE: After tasting it, I DO endorse it}), CSA squashes, zucchinis and green peppers colonizing my fridge and homegrown onions. (for the record: I used HOT dry mustard, and a sprinkle of ground cinnamon as my cinnamon sticks went missing). This made 5 pints.

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Also, two pints of dilly beans with the best of this morning’s bean harvest, following this recipe (using four small old cloves of garlic and mustard seeds, not dill seeds, but I added some dill weed). {UPDATE: After tasting it, I endorse it}

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I’m using the last of the garlic that I planted in Fall 2011 (4 lbs of local seed garlic) and harvested two summers ago. What a keeper, but obviously at the end of their tether. I didn’t plant garlic last Fall, so now I’m looking at a gap in my garlic supply. Darn. There’s a group of us buying (hopefully) local seed garlic together to plant this Fall, so I won’t let it happen again.

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I had already dug into my lunch, with relish,  when I realized that everything on the place (except for the salt, pepper and sugar) is local. Tomatoes,  beans, onions, squash and eggs from the garden, and the applesauce apples from the next town over (windfall from Freecycle).

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Amie was so excited about the first day of school (third grade) that she was awake until 11:30 last night. Still, she was up bright and early and happily went off to school. First thing I did after she and DH had left was visit the garden. I harvested all the beans from the other bed, a big cucumber, some strawberries and little tomatoes. Looks like my tomatoes and potatoes are the only ones unaffected by the blight. The Community Gardens have it bad, as well as many gardening friends in the neighborhood. Even though I didn’t set out to grow tomatoes this year and all these are volunteers and gifted plants, I’m not complaining!

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It’s strange to think that Summer is winding down. But so it goes.

 

In the afternoon I felt better. A friend came over – with three carrots from her garden, instantly eaten – to sort through what turns out to be 160 lbs of peaches. We put aside the ripest ones for canning tomorrow, but the rest will be ready on Friday. We’re going to put up peaches in light syrup first. Then, if there is still time remaining, we’ll make peach butter.

I harvested another 2 1/2 lbs of haricots verts from one bed – the mosquitoes prevented me from getting the other bed as well. I’m freezing most of it, eating the rest for dinner. I’m hoping those two beds may give me a third round of beans. New flowers are developing, so with luck… I also got the last elderberries, some of which are going into tonight’s ice cream, drizzled with honey. Elderberries are the only food with some bitterness in it that Amie will eat.

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Also, a wonderfully sweet cucumber, not pictured because I ate it on the way in, and more tomatoes.

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And figs. The purple ones were tiny but very sweet.

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I’m baking a roll cake (“heat wave cake“) for “the tribe” at tomorrow’s canning party.

What day is not a food day in August?

 

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I laid down the first three rows of the brick wall for the earth oven (more on that soon). It didn’t have to be pretty (we’ll cover this with mud in the end), just strong. Though I got in a groove, I decided to wait to open another bag of cement and put down another three layers till this has dried and I can see that it works. {UPDATE} next day: I kicked it and it didn’t budge! Three more rows coming up, today. Then fill it up and add another three rows, and cap it and we’ll have the base.

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With two friends, I sauced and canned a little over a bushel of local, organic and free Freecycle apples. The apples were delicious but very small and therefore a pain to peel, but time flew as we chatted.  We’re getting four bushels of peaches soon and will can those together as well.

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I’m happy, overall, with the buckwheat (all those white flowers) in the Community Garden Plot. In places it grew waist high and smothered most of the weeds. It’ll be a lot of biomass to till in when it’s time to sow the winter rye. Finally some good news from that garden!

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I admire my birthday present – the Gransfors Burks small splitting axe – every day. I swung it a couple of times, but feel I need some mentoring.

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More elderberries (they go into smoothies), tomatoes and pole beans, LOTS of them suddenly. Good, because the bush beans were done too soon this year.

We put the two pullets in with the four hens. There is no mixing as yet, but there was less pecking and fighting today than there was yesterday. In the evening we still had to pick them up and move them into the coop and onto the roost.

A group of us hammered out the mission of our Community Garden plots today. What a lovely meeting, dreaming, brainstorming, opening reference books… and all the while freeing the oats. So good to have something to do with the hands while conceptualizing.

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We started by putting together a mission plan, a dream:  why this garden? how will the work be organized? why would people want to work in it? what will it yield? what is its philosophy? how does it fit into the context of the foodshed and our organization’s mission? Below is an overview of what we came up with:

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By our next meeting we will have investigated the plants that were suggested and others, and we’ll be ready with our growth and function charts to design the garden in the space.

We’re (hopefully) at the tail end of the second  heat wave of the summer. The house, after accumulating heat over the past days, hit 88 at 3 pm, with 70% humidity. Outside, in the shade, it reached 97F (36C) . But it seems I’ve acclimatized. I wouldn’t say that I was comfortable, but it was bearable to do some chores inside and out, like feeding the hens, hanging the laundry on the line. Around 5 I headed outside to water the garden and to harvest some more beans, etc.

Yesterday I spent two hours in the afternoon weeding the haricots verts bed and harvesting 3 lbs. of beans. That evening, Amie and I enjoyed a meal almost entirely grown on our property (all except the butter, salt and pepper):

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The kombucha mother is loving the hot weather. Compare:

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Kombucha mother yesterday

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Kombucha mother today

It smells divine. I can’t wait to brew me some tea.