Update on those late plantings

If you read my last post, you will know that I am experimenting – isn’t all gardening experimenting? And that’s what makes it really fun!

About 10 days ago, I planted seeds for broccoli raab, cauliflower, and collards and placed the 4″ pots in a wicking bed.  Well, yesterday (at 9 days) I checked them.

The broccoli raab had sprouted, as had the collards.  However, the cauliflower was having difficulty.  Since the cauliflower was on another wicking raft, I moved it to the raft with its cole buddies.  Also, I was told that sometimes it is necessary to top water till fully moist before the wicking is started – sort of like priming a pump.

Here’s a picture of the little seedlings!  It’s another 70 degree day today and tomorrow, with temperatures dipping into the 60s in the next couple of days.  But still not close to freezing.   I’m optimistic that I can grow them to transplant size.  Although, in the wicking bed I could easily protect them, while the water reservoir maintains a more constant temperature.

Note the bits of green to the left and barely visible in the middle.

Stay tuned….

Too Late to Plant? Maybe Not…

Various planting guides stop at about November, while others continue on through the winter, recommending what plants can still be seeded.

In the past, I’ve tended to plant my carrots as late as the first of November (when the tomatoes are dying back), and reap a harvest in February and March of great carrots that grew slowly but fully during the winter.  I’ve also planted turnips in October, to have very juicy turnips for Thanksgiving.

This year, I decided to try an experiment and plant (by seed) three crops even this late – I’m writing this November 17.  The three crops are winter-hardy:  collards, cauliflower, and broccoli raab.

I’m fortunate enough to have a nifty bottom watering container on the property where I’m renting.  See the picture.

If you have taken a permaculture course, you may recognize this concoction.  It is an IBC tote that has had the top third cut off, PVC pipe is inserted so that a greenhouse or shadehouse can be created; the tote has water in it, upon which is floating styrofoam rafts covered with fabric (wool or cotton).  The fabric wicks the water up to the top of the rafts, on which you place your pots with seedlings.  The next picture will show what the collards and broccoli raab containers look like, all floating on their raft.

So… I took some 4″ pots left from transplanting herbs into a garden bed, filled them with rich, rich soil from the keyhole bed I’d built (a compost pile by any other name) and which we’d broken down and salvaged the soil.

Then I planted seeds and soaked the seed medium.  Then I placed on the wicking raft.  I’ll watch the plantings for the next several weeks and see if they (1) sprout; and (2) become viable transplants this late in the season.

Stay tuned…..

 

SEEDING Dallas II is Next Saturday!

Our mini-conference on urban ag is scheduled for November 11, 2017, at the Owenwood Neighbor Space (formerly Owenwood UMC).  We have three tracks:  learning gardening, community garden management, and market gardening.

Registration is only $10, and it starts at 8:30 am, ends by 1:30 pm.

Here’s the link to register:  http://www.grownorthtexas.org/events

See you there!

Gardening: Fall into Winter

I’ll be teaching gardening through the winter on October 7, Saturday.  – Watch Trinity Haymarket’s website and/or Facebook page for location.

 

We’ll discuss ending the summer garden with seed saving; what to plant through fall into winter that will winter over; and preparing your soil for the best spring garden ever.  Bring your questions!

 

Update: Retirement Home for 4 Hens

UPDATE:  The hens have a home in a lovely retirement community at Eden’s Organic Garden Center!  They are calm, happy, and in retirement (except for the occasion egg they choose to lay).  Here’s an updated picture of them in their new habitat:

In Search of RETIREMENT HOME for 4 hens (ages 4 and 5). (email Anita@AnitasArbor.com if you would like to inherit these hens) The hens have been together since 2013, and even the oldest is still laying occasionally – in spring we are covered up with eggs.  They have all been fed organic feed since they were peeps.  They are:

Winnie:

Winnie came from Peace and Love Farms in 2013, and resided at Urban Acres Market for a year before coming to live with me.  She is about 5 years old. She is an Ameraucana and is anoble gray with a long neck. She is shy of people, and is the last to emerge when the greens (chard, bok choy or tatsoi), scratch, and chunks of pear have been spread out. She lays eggs with a tint of green.

 

 

 

Mavriki (Mav for short)

Mavriki is Greek for “little black one.” She is an Australorp with irridescent black feathers.  She came to me as a peep in November of 2013. She lived at Urban Acres will late 2014 and then came to live with me. She was the one who noted, after the move, that they were in a different place and tried to alert the others, who were too busy pecking and scratching for grain. She alerts me to something that needs attention – like when another hen, Fancy Pants, got sick. Shen Fancy Pants the one who brooded eggs, died, Mav took over the task of brooding – trying hard to hatch that fake egg!  She likes organic produce, and frozen peaches. Her eggs are brown.

 

Aurie and Rosie (O’Grady, as in Nosey Rosie O’Grady):

Aurie is an Ameraucana, and her eggs are blue tinted. She is the middle hen in the picture. She came to me as a peep in November of 2013 and was raised at Urban Acres, then came home with me in late 2014. She is pretty calm and lays throughout the summer, when other hens take a break. She delights in watermelon, and particularly frozen watermelon in the summer.

Rosie is also an Ameraucana, and lays light rose-colored eggs. She is the hen on the right in the picture. She was also raised as a peep from November 2013 until coming home with me in late 2014. She gets her name because she was the one, from about 2 weeks of age, who was curious every time I went into the coop. She watched me and inquired as to what I was doing. She continues to do so to the this – she will watch me while others are indulging in the goodies I bring. She, along with the others, love the heads of broccoli.

A note in memoriam – the hen at the left of the picture was Ginger. She is recently deceased.  She was the Rhode Island Red, and was head hen. RIP, Ginger.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thoughts on Downsizing

The challenge:  to prepare to lie in a furnished 600 square foot guest house, when I’ve been living in a 2800 sq. ft. house for 36 years!

It is an emotion process, because as I sort, memories of past event and people come flooding in. Remembering past passions and interests. Remembering the stages of growing up of my children.

So I perform triage:  what do I absolutely, positively need to be happy and useful in the new place? What will I need immediate access to (for classes, ongoing research), and what can I do without in the long term?

And I know I’ll do another sort after I move.  I know I’m packing too much to take with me.

It’s a process of letting go. Even though I’m still curious about a subject, if I haven’t read the book since purchasing it in 2003, what is the probability of my doing so in the next 5 to 10 years?

I’ve sorted fabric, and keep finding little sewing kits assembled for some project. I know I won’t be making lace shawls (I’m into simple, mindless knitting), so I don’t need the books and patterns for elaborate constructions.  I won’t be doing elaborate quilts, either.  And those knitting needles that seem to multiply in various corners (did I really know I had at least 6 sets of size 6 needles?), well it took me two hours to sort through and size them all and set about half aside for an estate sale.

But no matter how much I’ve sorted and boxed, it seems there’s SO much more to do! The house just keeps getting bigger and bigger, with more and more rooms!

The result will be simplifying my life.  That is a laudable goal, and one which I have been preaching for a long time.

But it’s a challenge – with a deadline, because the papers have been signed, and agreements made.

 

Chickens’ Laying Oddities

I am owned by five hens – three Ameraucanas, one black Australorp, and one Rhode Island Red.  The youngest are now about 3 years old, the oldest, one of the Ameraucanas, is about 4.  But all still lay at some rate or another.

I noticed, however, that two were laying pretty regularly in December – Auri (blue eggs) and Ginger (brown eggs).  But in January two others took up the torch while the others took a break – Mav (brown eggs with deep brown speckles) and Rosie (pinkish brown eggs).  In fact, Mav and Rosie are still laying as I write thise.

HOWEVER, the other day, Mav’s egg was rather odd – as you see in the picture.

You will note that the egg on the left is the size of a marble.  This is not something Mav had laid before.  It was perfectly formed, and had that speckled look just like her regular eggs.

So I cracked it open to see what was inside, and it appeared perfectly normal, with a small, almost forming yolk.  The white had a good consistency.  It’s hard to see – I cracked it into a white bowl, and a light keeps reflecting on it.

I asked my local chicken expert and he said – it just happens sometimes!  Doesn’t indicate anything is wrong.

In fact, the next day she laid an egg that was perfectly normal, so I guess all is well in the coop.

One thing that must be remembered – chicks often take a break over winter or when the weather is wonky like we have had lately here in Dallas.  Or when they are molting, or move, or otherwise their world is disrupted.  But usually egg laying subsides markedly in the winter.  And then … Groundhog Day comes … and the laying starts picking up.  It’s really not magic, and don’t go looking for a calendar in the coop, where the hens are keeping track of the days.  It all has to do with the length of the day – the number of hours of daylight.  As the daylight increases, so does laying.

So… keep those hens happy and enjoy the eggs!

 

 

After the Freeze(s)

I do not ordinarily do anything out of the ordinary to keep my plants from succumbing to freezes – I prefer to “experiment” and observe which ones make it through light and hard freezes and which do not.

Prior to the first hard freeze, in early December, I had harvested most of my red mustard, green mustard, and broccoli raab.  Good thing – they did not survive the hard freeze. Here’s a look at my mustard after the freeze.

Only the chard managed to come back (but then, chard is VERY resilient). Also weathering the freeze was the sorrel, as well as my radiccio.  Of course, the kale made it through (although I’d mulched it just in case), and carrots.

 

 

We Get Attached to Our Chickens

I must say, we urban chicken wranglers do get attached to our chickens.  Especially if we have raised them from mere day-old chicks.  I had what could only be a “mom moment” a couple of weeks ago.  I had tossed out to the hens some broccoli that had been in the refrigerator a bit too long. As these 3-year olds attacked the broccoli, I had a flashback to when they were mere chicks and were attacking a broccoli floret I had given them.

So here’s the first picture, taken in early 2014:

That’s Mav (for Mavriki), Rosie (Nosie Rosie) and Ginger (Georgia Ginger) going at the broccoli pecking away.

 

 

 

 

 

Now let’s look at them in January 2017….. Mav and Aurie (Ameracauna – she was outside the previous picture) as well as Ginger heading for the broccoli.  The gray lady is Winnie, another Ameracauna who is almost a year older.  I got her as a laying hen.

The Freeze is Coming … the Freeze is Coming

Well, all I can say is it’s about time!  Usually we get our first freeze the third week in November, and now here it is the second week of December!

So what to do to prepare?

I’ve been out today, getting my garden, chickens and faucets ready for the next three nights which it’s going to dip way below freezing.

First, I made sure the chickens have some additional straw in their coop.  No, I don’t really worry about them keeping warm unless it dips into the ‘teens.  They have down and feathers and fluff up rather nicely in the cold, and do quite well.  (Our comforters have down in them, remember?)  I also gave them an extra ration of corn late this afternoon.  The carbohydrate helps them get the body fires going and helps keep them warm.

mulched-kale

The garden?  I mulched with some old straw around the plants that may have a hard time.  I’m generally of the attitude that if a plant can’t handle it, then I’m not going to worry. Like chard, that can have ice on it, wilt a bit and come back within a day or two in the thaw.  But my kale, mustard, broccoli raab and peas, now that’s another story. You can see the kale all mulched up in the picture. I gave the plant feet a nice 3″ of straw on the ground.  I didn’t have to water, because the rains during the last few days took care of that.

Now… the hoses and faucets.  I disconnected both garden hoses.  Then I covered the faucets.  The one in back, that sticks straight up I covered with a 5-gallon bucket.  The one in front, coming out the side of the house skirting I wrapped with bubble wrap and duct tape.  That worked last winter quite well.faucet-for-freezebucket-on-faucet