Monday, January 16, 2017

This Can Only Mean One Thing (onion experiment part one)

Uh oh.  This can only mean one thing.
Yep.  It has been a while.  The last couple months have dashed by in the particular way that only the holiday season can do.  I've been busy with craft shows and market store and my job and my home and my family and...

I think you get the idea.

Now that the dust has settled somewhat, I'm back to thinking about my slumbering garden.  I didn't get nearly enough done this fall to put things to bed out there. I'll have quite an undertaking getting things ready in spring.  But, it is what it is.

Today we are in the midst of an old fashioned January ice storm.  We have about a quarter inch of ice on the trees.  The streets are ridiculously slippery.  But the worst part is the sidewalks.  I nearly crippled myself getting to my car after work last night.  I cursed myself as I remembered my Yak Traks sitting on the shelf at home.  Dangit.

However, today I am toasty warm in my little house and I'm thinking about the garden.  I joined a group on facebook called Grow It Cook It Eat It.  Together with a bunch of other gardeners all over the world, I am learning to grow some new things.  I decided to join the 'growing onions from seed' group there.  Today, I started my onion seeds.  Yep, it seems early to me, too.  But I'm assured that 10-12 weeks is not too early for onion seeds.

The two brown containers are Sweet Spanish onions.  The black containers are Lisbon bunching onions.

Here they are on the plant starting shelf.
Every year I look for things to try to make my seed starting more successful.  This year, I'm sprinkling my seed starts with cinnamon to help ward off fungal infections.  I'm also using a small fan to gently blow on the seedlings. This is supposed to make them tougher and stockier from the get go.  We'll see.

I hope to keep up on my blog with the progress of my onion experiment.  Meanwhile, I'm going to go work on my latest personal crochet project.  I am in the midst of crocheting a collection of afghans for my living room.  Snug Netflix binging awaits!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

What's This Now?

Today I spent about 30 minutes on IM with a very good friend from my old career. We worked together for several years and during that time spent many an hour chatting on IM and working our tails off. It was so good to talk to her and listen to her vent a bit about her work at that particular salt mine. I was reminded that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

The Sangre de Cristos as seen from the Village Inn parking lot in Canon City, Colorado.  This has nothing whatsoever to do with the blog topic.  I just like it.
After our talk, I sat and unfolded and refolded the fabrics I bought today to sew some new holiday scrubs for myself. I found a great clearance sale and got several Halloween prints and a few Christmas prints. I had to smile at myself for being so...ridiculously happy?

What?  What's this now?

As painful as the transition has been, I have caught myself feeling more peaceful and content than I have in many, many years. I know the struggles in my life are not over. I know that the pain of the last year or two has left an indelible mark on my heart and mind. I also know that there is almost certainly more of the same to come.  But, I've come to realize that these times that try our souls are opportunities to grow as cliche as that sounds. Well, not so much 'opportunities' as forced barefoot marches over hot coals and broken glass in some cases. I think I've grown into a completely different person with a new and improved empathy for others.

These days, I can think about Mom or my old job without bursting into tears or having my heart ripped in two from the longing for what once was.  I no longer feel a compulsive need to repeatedly peruse the help wanted web sites in a desperate search for a job that no longer exists.

This is sorta what it feels like trying to find a job that doesn't exist whilst simultaneously trying to hang on to the one you've got and wish you didn't have to keep.  I am fairly certain that I didn't look quite so graceful.

What may be even more important is the fact that I can now (in small doses) look through the old photos I found in Mom's house and not feel an overwhelming, horrific sense of loss. I still feel her loss.  It's just not all-consuming all the damn time. 

This is the mule deer fawn that walked right up to Mom's patio doors and didn't see me standing right on the other side.  This happened while I was staying there alone sorting through her things after she was gone.  He came to keep me company for a bit.

In spite of thinking it would never be possible again, I am okay.

I really am.  If you had told me even a few months ago that this would happen, I wouldn't have believed you.  Well, I might have believed you, but I would have been quite leery of the timing.

I am honestly trying to look leery.  I think I look like I have something in my eye.

Thanks for listening.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Late Summer Update from Picofarm

This year I decided to try a bunch of different kinds of tomatoes and do an informal study.  There were 17 varieties all together.  Here I present my determinations:

Here we have the red Rutgers, the small orange Zlatava (a Russian variety) at the bottom, the big yellow on the left with the red blush is called Mr. Stripey, and the other yellow is Yellow Oxheart. After extensive study in our test kitchens, we have determined the following:

Rutgers is best used in canning. Well, duh. It was sort of developed for that purpose. It's not a bad slicing tomato, but it's not very big.  It is also fine in salads.

Although it did not perform as I expected, Zlatava makes a very nice salad tomato. Tasty and sweet but not too sweet. It's not a cherry tomato.  I would grow this one again just for salads.  Zlatava was touted as a large yellow tomato with a pink interior.  The images that accompanied the seeds showed a tomato cut in half that resembled a pink grapefruit.  Not so much.  But it's so tasty I don't really care.

Mr. Stripey really shines in a BLT. It's not as 'tomatoey' as some I've had, but it's quite tasty with the bacon.  It is reminiscent of a beefsteak but not as watery, I thought. Given my choice between Mr. Stripey and a beefsteak for my BLT, I'd choose Mr. Stripey.  For some reason, my Mr. Stripey tomatoes don't look a lot like the picture on the plant ID tag.  I'm not complaining.  They're wonderful.

The Yellow Oxheart is just good eating. It seems like it is lower acid than a run-of-the-mill red tomato, but I haven't done a side-by-side comparison or any pH testing on which to base my conclusions.
Some varieties not pictured are San Marzano and La Roma. Both are paste types that performed as expected when prepared for sauce.  I would not recommend them for eating on a salad as they are pretty dry.  But they are perfect for saucing.
Black Krim.  Never made it out of the garden.  I ate the first one on the spot and after that they were all eaten the exact same way.  Very, very tasty.
Black Prince.  I did not get a single ripe tomato from the plant I got.  It set a few fruit and then just stalled.  I keep waiting and hoping...
Pink Brandywine.  A very pretty heirloom type that the grasshoppers and birds seem to LOVE.  I've only gotten a couple of unblemished fruits.
Green Pineapple.  Very odd looking and because of the green color, I missed the first few fruits and they rotted on the vine.  Sweet and tomatoey with rather delicate and easily bruised flesh.  Really good on a plate with some salt. 

Of course we had some Beefsteaks.  Good old dependable beefsteak types are the best in sandwiches and eaten fresh.  These were no exception.

'Sun-Dried' tomatoes were a meaty, paste type that did not perform well.  Only a few fruits set before the heat of the summer took the plant out.

'Champion' set a lot of small tomatoes that taste okay.  Nothing special to me anyway.  Sized about like the Zlatava but nowhere near as good.  The plants are on the smaller side and might do well in limited space.
This year we did three varieties of 'cherry' type tomatoes.  
Super Sweet 100 is an annual favorite at our house.  One or two plants gives us way more tiny tomatoes than we can hope to eat.  They are sweet and juicy and surprisingly easy to store when dehydrated.  They make a nice topping for pizza or a mix in for casseroles, pasta, meatloaf, soap, etc. 

I had never grown Yellow Pear before this year.  I had tried a plant last year but it didn't make it to the fruit bearing stage before a blight took it out.  So this year I got seeds and started a couple dozen plants with the hope that one of them would give me some tomatoes.

Holy crap.

None of them died.  I have yellow pear tomatoes everywhere.  That might not be such a bad deal if I actually liked how they taste.  They are a very pretty little pear-shaped tomato with a lovely yellow/gold color and almost zero tomato taste.  I dried a few to see how they will perform in recipes and I made some pickled tomatoes with a few.  I hope to report back on those in a few weeks.  Unless they get a stellar review from one of those uses, I won't be growing those again.  Prolific?  Yes.  Edible?  Yes.  Desirable?  Not so much.  They made so many tomatoes that I live in fear of the multitudes of volunteer plants I'll have next year.  Yikes.

The last of the tiny tomatoes is a golden cherry that I have since lost the variety name.  I wish I hadn't.  These are easily the best cherry tomatoes I've ever eaten in my life.  Somewhere in that garden plot is the identification tag that came with the plant I bought.  I will find it.  In the meantime, I'm saving some seeds in the hope that at least one of them will be true to the variety.

In other news...

The squashes have started to come in.  This is a small selection of the varieties that I grew this year.  Two kinds of pumpkins, three kinds of summer squash (a traditional zucchini, some funny little yellow zucchinis, and a white patty pan), and I forget how many kinds of winter squash.  In the picture below we have turban, butternut, acorn, lakota, spaghetti, and delitica.  There are so many other types and many I had never grown before waiting to be harvested in the squash bed.  I hope to have a taste test completed soon so I can report my findings. 
I am super pleased with my squash crop this year.  Probably the best one I've ever had!  I have to confess:  I used some garden dust on the squash vines this year.  The squash vine borer is a menace in my part of the country. I rarely ever get more than a couple of edible fruits no matter how many vines I plant.  This year I used some judiciously applied chemical dust and had almost NO vine borer issues and the squash bugs are almost non-existent.  I know, I's not organic.  It's really a topic for another blog, but I'll just say here that it is very unlikely I will be able to grow completely organically in my plots no matter how carefully I shun the chemicals.

In the 'just for fun' section of the garden we find me and my broom corn.  Just for scale, I am about 5'9" and the tallest of the broom corn is easily double my height.  This was so much fun to watch as it grew like crazy to form the seed heads at the top.  Last week I harvested those seed heads and I hope to make some nice fall decorations with them.  I plan to make room for some broom corn every year.  It's fun to grow and the seed heads turn brown and purple in the fall.  I'll post up some pics of whatever I figure out to make with the seed heads.

A parting shot of the squash beds and the Bitch of a Ditch.  I had hoped that the squash would grow down into the ditch eliminating the need to mow it all the dang time.  It sort of did that.  Next time I'll plant right along the edge and see what it does.  Yep, that's little ol' me standing in the ditch for scale.  I told you it's one big ditch.

That's all for now.  I gotta get back out there and pick some peppers.  There are lots of those to talk about, too.  Until next time.