It is Saturday and still chilly

Still too chilly to want to work in the garden, though the sun is out, if the wind would die down some, I would go start clearing beds and laying cardboard to begin the new beds. Next week is supposed to be warmer. More vendors are back at the Farmer’s Market, and it is starting to look like a real market again, though there was a fool who planted a chair on the sidewalk just outside the market entry gate with a megaphone, yelling an anti-abortion spiel (I think). Between his accent, the market noise, and the wind, I wasn’t sure what his message was, just that he was annoying. The market manager called the police and when I left, they were talking to him, or trying to as he continued to stand on his chair and shout into his megaphone. We left before there was any resolution. I believe in free speech, but I don’t want to have to try to talk to vendors or hear them when we are masked, over some fool shouting through a megaphone.

The local nursery opened for the season, yesterday, and though I don’t want to plant shrubs or pansies, we did go by to get me a planting flat. Once home with the week’s goodies from the market and the new flat, I moved two chairs that aren’t used at the dining table except when we need more than 4, set up a small table I use for craft shows, and started the flat with mesclun mix, spinach, kale, and several herbs. The flat is on the heat mat with the old grow light over it. That light is two small fluorescent bulbs and is fine for starting greens and herbs, but not so good for the tomatoes, thus the new LED hydroponic unit. The kitchen and dining area look like the green house we don’t have, with every available surface growing herbs or starting vegetables for the spring and summer gardens. I ordered some Thai basil and Cilantro seed yesterday, I probably could have gotten them locally as both the nursery and the natural foods store sell the seed I buy from the Virginia supplier.

On a fibery note, early in the week, I caught an update on my favorite spindle maker’s shop and purchased a spindle much larger and heavier than my others to use for plying. Most Turkish spindles have down turned arms. This one has upturned arms and every one made had a Road Runner etched into one arm. These spindles are named Road Runners. It arrived yesterday and I played with it some last night, trying to get used to the size and weight. Since the fiber that came with it, they always send a few grams of some fiber with their spindles, is organic Pohlworth. Since Pohlworth is one of the breeds I selected for my Breed Blanket Project and since what I had on hand is also white, I seem to have started three different breeds for the month. I’m about 1/3 done with the minimum of the one with silk in it, I will get enough of that done to count for the challenge and focus my attention on the three breeds for the blanket for most of my spinning.

I now have 6 Jenkins Turkish spindles in different sizes to serve all fibers and purposes. My poor wheels are totally neglected this year. But they look pretty sitting there.

Well, the chicks that are a week and a half old are getting wing feathers and beginning to try to test them out. I guess I should get on the project of making a lid for the box before they learn they can gain altitude by jumping on top of the water or feeder.

Too chilly to garden . . .

but not to plan and start. Amazingly, UPS showed up today with the hydroponic seed started that I just purchased 2 days ago and that got me in the mood to get busy, indoors. I set it up to make sure the light, pump, and fan all worked, but I have to await the ordered seed to arrive.

After the tomato seeds arrive and grow to transplant size, the new garden will stay beside the herb garden on the counter and will be sown with salad mix and spinach for when the weather gets too hot for it to be grown outdoors. Since it is a 12 cell garden, I may start half and wait a few weeks to start the second half so there is a continuous year round supply of fresh salad greens. After the set up and testing, I pulled the mint plant from the unit that Son2 and family gave me for Christmas and put it in a pot because it was taking over the garden and it’s roots were beginning to come up in the holes the other herbs were in. Since I use a lot of basil in cooking and this is a particularly good one, the same that I put in the garden last year, I started a second basil plant in that hole. While I was prepping, I started a small flat of salad mix and some spinach seed that will go in the garden when it has enough size on it and can be protected from cold nights.

Last night I sat down with the garden plan from last year, planned out the planting sequence for this year on graph paper, including the new beds that need to be created. I did get 4 bags of Black Kow yesterday when we got the straw to clean the hen’s coop, but I didn’t get that bed started. I really want to frame the boxes and not just use open beds, but haven’t gone out looking for them.

I have grown very fond of Sweet Thai basil in the hydroponic herb garden, so today I ordered some seed for it and for the popcorn I will plant when it is warm enough.

We did return to Rural King yesterday and they replaced two more chicks and discounted any more that I wanted to purchase, so I replaced 3 of the Buff Orpingtons and the Maran that died, plus added 2 Marans. One of the Buffs didn’t survive the night, but the rest look like they are doing well so far and there seems no issue having added them to the week old chicks.

The new ones are smaller, it is amazing how much they grow in a week. There are 15 chicks in the brooder, 4 Buff Orpingtons, 5 Midnight Marans, and a mix of 6 Easter eggers, Olive eggers, and NH Reds. Because they are still so young and because the nights are still going down into the 20’s, they are still in the basement with the heat lamp on them, though I notice that the week old ones are staying farther away from the heat source already. I will switch it out with the heat table when I find most of them sleeping away from it.

The hen’s coop got a good cleaning yesterday, adding two wheel barrows of spoiled hay to the compost pile that is building for next year’s soil supplementation.

My planning mindset, sent me to Staples website to order a couple of binders, dividers, and storage pockets and I have set up a reliable system to use with my spreadsheets to keep track of I thought I was organized in the past, but had a stress filled day when we were preparing our taxes because some info wasn’t handy. I don’t want that to happen again, so there is a place for everything and I can lay my hands on it easily. The second binder was for my garden plan and reference sheets, again, so I can find it when I need it. It has a section for granddaughter’s garden as well. I’m not quite sure why I need paper seed catalogs except to create wish lists, because I buy all of my seed from a company here in Virginia when possible and if not, one of two others, and all of them are easily accessible online. Now that all the seed is ordered and sorted out with Daughter, I will recycle this year’s catalogs. I wish there was a way to secure my Square Foot Garden book in the binder so it was all in one place.

I think all 8 remaining adult hens are finally laying. I got 4 or 5 eggs every day this week and just pulled 6 from the nesting box and I think I disturbed one hen who was about to lay, so there may be a 7th when I go out to lock them in tonight. It is nice to be getting eggs directly from the hen house and not having to buy them at the Farmer’s Market.

Cleaning Week

I took advantage of the beautiful evening last night and in the last hour of daylight, I removed the 3 half barrels from the walled garden, transplanted the plants that were beginning to come up in them directly into the garden. One at a time, the barrels were hoisted over the low stone wall and put in the garden cart to move across the yard to the vegetable/fruit garden. The wooden half barrels that are now 15-16 years old and were “containing” the raspberries were rotting away, the bottoms were gone and the slats rotted more than half way up. Only the metal rings were sort of holding them together. Though it really isn’t the right time of year, I know that killing raspberries is like trying to get rid of a guest who overstayed their welcome, so I dug them out of the rotting barrels, thinned them, pruned back the canes that were old and dry and shortened some that were so long they draped over the hot wire on the top of the fence. The wooden barrels were moved aside, weeds and volunteers that had come up between them were pulled and the three plastic ones set in place. I removed about half the soil from each of them, divided up the rooted canes and planted a third in each barrel, adding back enough soil to hold them in place. I’m seriously thinking about putting a tomato cage in each barrel to hold the canes more upright.

The one barrel closest to the camera is still semi sound with a bottom in it and I may move it back to the walled garden and set it on the stone wall to replace the plastic one that has the bird feeder pole planted in it. That one is filled with soil and rocks to keep it from tipping over in the wind and the wooden one is heavier, especially if half filled with soil and rocks piled on top. The remaining two would be fun to learn to rebuild, there is another in pieces behind the house that isn’t rotted out, but fell apart.

Today isn’t quite as warm as yesterday, but still dry and clear. The trips into the garden last night revealed that the weeds have a head start. I should spend an hour or so each dry day with the hoe and see if I can beat them back before it is too late. We need to go out to get a bale of straw for cleaning the coop so maybe I will get a couple bags of Black Kow compost and lay the cardboard for the bed where the mint grew and was fought all last summer. That would be a good bed to plant potatoes in this year.

We still have about a week of clear drier weather with mild days and cold nights, so it would be a good time to start getting the garden cleaned up to plant the peas and onions mid March. I really need a good load of wood chips to put down over new cardboard between the beds. And now that the chickens don’t have the run of the garden, the mesh over the garlic can be removed as can the fence around the asparagus bed.

The morning was begun with cleaning the chick’s brooder box. They have been here a week now and it was time. As they grow, that task will have to be performed a few times a week. I didn’t lose any last night, but one is standing away from the other, less active, and not as large. I suspect she will fail too, which will bring me down to 9 out of 19, not very good odds. Early on my chicken adventure, I found a gal in Floyd that raised Buff Orpingtons and two years I got healthy, strong, several week old chicks from her, but I can’t find her information anymore and I haven’t seen her advertise on Craigslist in a few years. I could go back to Rural King with my receipts and get a few more. At $3 each, the loss so far is $30 worth of chicks, though they did replace 4 so far. I am unsure about adding ones that are a week younger to the brooder. Chickens tend to pick on the smaller, weaker ones and I don’t think that behavior begins this young.

Last night while browsing the internet, I found a 12 pod hydroponic starter garden with light for a reasonable price. Since I want strong determinate tomatoes for DD and GD’s garden, I ordered the starter and the seed. They should be here by mid week and I will get a dozen tomatoes started. She will get 3 of each variety, total of 6, I will plant the other 6 and see what else I can find when the garden center offers them in late spring to give me the rest I will plant, usually about 9 or 10 tomato plants provide enough tomatoes for our canned tomatoes and sauces for a year. Once the starts have some size, I will put them in 4″ pots in a transparent crate that can be moved in and out of the sun on the back deck and indoors at night until time to plant the in the ground and I will start some salad greens in the hydroponic garden on the kitchen counter then. Last year I planted Thai, Serrano, Jalapeno, and bell peppers. The Thai peppers were so prolific that I still have a half gallon jar of dried peppers after giving away strings to Son 1, DD, and a friend, so I won’t plant them this year. I can the Jalapenos for DH and make a Sriracha style sauce with some of them and the Serranos, so they will be in the garden and I want some bell peppers. I only got 2 or 3 small peppers last year from the plants, I think the marigolds overshadowed them before they got good sized. Now that DD and GD’s garden plan is done and given to them, I need to work on my own. I need two more 4 by 8′ beds and a 4 X 4′ bed with new cardboard and mulch between them. A good load of compost to fill the two new larger beds, the smaller one will go where last year’s compost pile was, so it just needs to be raked on a mound until the box is built around it then raked smooth in the new box. It is nice to be able to get outside a little. I know winter isn’t over, our last frost date isn’t until Mother’s Day, but it is time to get things going.