Cold Frame Fun!

IMG_20160219_134124772_HDRIn fall 2014 we built our cold frames and had minimum success. I planted too late and it was too wet. There are no failures, simply lessons right? Some tweaks (and education) were needed!

I learned that I need 10 hours of daylight for germination and first growth. I learned that soil temps can’t barely be 40 and while damp is good, sopping soil is not. 🙂

IMG_20151026_172215996In Fall 2015 we adjusted the dates and did not plant in soil that was too cold and too wet! Those little adjustments have meant great success this year and we have had much fun eating fresh greens in Indiana throughout the winter!

Beautiful kale, spinach, chard, mizuna, beets, radishes and lettuce have been bountiful and we have benefited immensely on the dinner plate because of it!

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A couple of our boxes had such overwhelming growth that we added a second layer. Then they were still too short! Our spinach hit the glass and on some very, very cold days got frost bit under the glass and died. Honestly though, I cannot even see that as a failure— I mean having the spinach so out of control that it was bigger than a 12 inch high cold frame seems pretty awesome actually!

IMG_20160219_134117464_HDRToday was 60 degrees. We went out and gathered some kale and lettuce for dinner. What fun to do in February! While I was out there however in the warm temperatures I had an impulse… yep I had to plant some seeds! And I just happened to have some spinach seeds on me (don’t we all carry seeds in our pockets?)

So down I went and I pulled out of the soil the frost bitten spinach. The soil thermometer told me the soil was 45 degrees. I opened three of my spinach packs, drug my finger along to make a little trench and well… my first planting of the season!

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Well can you blame me? The previous spinach can decompose in the box and I am hoping I will be seeing some new growth here in the future!

Does the gardening bug have you?

Happy gardening!

FGU

Sometimes There are Disappointments

IMG_20141011_190339283_HDRI have said a number of times that our life here at Big Sky Acres is a living experiment. Everything we try is new and we have no experience to draw upon when it comes to bees or this land we are growing veggies in. We learn continually and sometimes those learnings coming with high fives and laughter. Sometimes they come with sorrow.

After a wonderful weekend away at the wood show and Lake Monroe we decided to take a walk around our property and check out the low tunnels, cold frames and bees. It was a beautiful day- 50 degrees and sunny.  We knew however that this 50 degree day had come after a string of frigid temperatures. We had wondered if things had survived and with hopeful hearts we wandered on back.

As we approached the one end of one of the tunnels was collapsed; not always a bad sign as sometimes the wind that runs across here will do that, but it felt like a red flag. As we peeked in we saw that all of our beautiful green babies had frozen and died. The cabbages and brocolini that looked so beautiful a month ago just could not handle the below 0 temps.

I ask myself, should I have added plastic or another layer of frost cloth? Probably one of those should have been done. More reading on year around gardening will give me the answer I suppose.  Since we are doing things before we read all the books sometimes the chapter you need is the next one and you make a mistake or miss something. You try again with some tweaks and hope for different results.

I also think that I planted too late. I was really close to the Persephone (less than 10 hours of light) when I planted. I have had a nagging feeling that would have an effect, but still wanted to try. That is how it is when you are a living experiment! Reading and tweaking is a constant here so I am in hopes that our wonderful low tunnels will supply us with produce in the spring when we try it again. So we say farewell to these for a few weeks…

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On a positive note, the cold frames seem to be doing well.  The arugula and lettuce are growing. They have a ways to go before harvesting and eating, but they are hanging in there. I am in hopes that the garlic that is under the straw is also preparing for it’s growth spurt in several weeks.

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We headed to the bees.  We have been concerned about our one hive, Green but we felt that Trudeau was well.  (yes we name our hives after airports).

On this 50 degree day we did not see any bees making their cleansing flights and only saw one bee in the sugar candy. We heard no buzzing in either hive. We feel they are lost too. We will get more bees and do it all again, but losing both hives is sad. We can’t really point a finger at anything here. When we last saw them there was buzzing and activity in both. We made sugar candy and put that and a pollen patty in there. They were used hives… could something have been lurking there? I have since read to NOT purchase used hives, so when we get our bees in the spring, I think we will trash these and get new hives. “Once burned, shame on you, twice burned shame on me.” I just feel to do the same exact thing again is not the right way to go. So sadly we say goodbye to our little bees and feel sorrow that they did not make it this winter.

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Life if full of experiences, isnt’ it? Some happy and some sad. I am blessed because the happy far outweigh the sad. I can be sad about these losses while at the same time look forward to the successes that will occur. Regardless of success or failure they are just that… learnings.

What about you? What are some tough lessons you have learned on your homestead? Do you have any tips for me, our bees or tunnels?

Happy Unleashing in your successes and failures!
FGU

Playing in the Dirt!

sprinkler garden 3There are few things I love more than a freshly tilled and planted garden.  I know it is exciting and oh so pretty when stuff starts coming up, but that moment I look at a newly planted area gives me a thrill. I love the smell, the look, the crud under my fingernails and the sweat I feel dripping down my back which all says in chorus “Good Job!”

Over the last few days we have planted two new beds.  One is actually a combo of Garden 2 and Garden 5 from last year.  We put them together to make one biggie plot-43 ft x26 ft. Hubby tilled it up with our Kubota and then we marked off rows and we planted using my handy dandy Earthway Seeder. We planted a variety of beans, peas, beets, cucumbers and flowers. I know you can’t see anything yet, but isn’t it pretty??

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A little butterfly enjoyed hovering over it while I was finishing up.

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The second one was more challenging. We had a mini hill that was nothing but hard dirt, glass, trash, weeds and more.  Mostly stuff we didn’t want. Hubby took to it with a hand held hoe, our rototiller and a bunch of man power and got it to the point of workable soil.

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Since it is a hill (not real noticeable here, but it is elevated) we decided to put potatoes in here.  I know potatoes are risky right now as it is July. BUT I had bought them and was out of town during much of May and most of June so they did not get planted.  It was either give them a shot now or toss them. We chose to let them see what they could do and we are optimistic they will return something to us for the opportunity. 🙂

We added some eggplant in here as I understand that is a good companion for potatoes.  I sprinkled some bee friendly seeds in as well. I sprinkle a bit of those in all the gardens.

By noon yesterday we were watering our newly planted areas. Looking at them soaking in the water makes you feel so hopeful doesn’t it? I imagine the little seeds are happy to be in the soil, getting water and nutrients and are planning their grand entrance.

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I can’t wait until I see them popping up and I get to meet all of my new green babies. Are you still planting? What’s your favorite part?

Happy Unleashing in your garden!

FGU

Musings: Prepping for Snow

DSCN3748How is your forecast this weekend?  Ours is great or terrible, dependent upon what your vantage point is. 🙂  Our forecast is 1″ sleet, followed by snow and lots of it (up to 8″) and then freezing rain through Sunday.  Some would say YUCK, I say YES!!!!

One driving factor of moving here were the four seasons.  I so longed for fall, winter, spring and and summer to be uniquely their own; not one melding into another but having four distinct personalities.  I love them all and want to experience them each in their own special way.

As our weather forecast and warnings are hitting my phone, it makes me think about my life elsewhere.  Here are some thoughts that hit my head and heart today.

In a southern metro city, there is no need for lots of snow plows or salt trucks, so when it hits, the city is paralyzed.  It is tough to battle snow and ice without the tools. The city would simply panic and rightly so; it was not used to this white stuff!

In a northern rural city, you see the plows and trucks with brine and salt as soon as the forecast is announced.  They are working, ready, checking into nearby hotels and actually pretty pumped up about the impending snow! This is routine for them and they are very psyched up about battling the snow!

In a southern metropolis, the stores were FLOODED with people getting milk, bread and all other items that folks found their security in.  There is a bit of panic knowing stuff is headed your way that will debilitate you. You go and get what you feel you need to keep you safe, sound and stable.

This morning at church our pastor mentioned that we were preparing for the snow and ice storm.  He described that as getting our shovels, coats and ice scrapers out.  We hopped into a grocery afterwards and there were no empty shelves or long lines.  This is an area of the country that is accustom to this; no panic here! We grab shovels, ice scrapers and salt.  The fact is we know that snow is coming; we may not know when, but we know it is coming so we just keep moving on.  It does not feel debilitating.

In my preparation, I wandered out back today in my Mucks and gloves among the cold rain/sleet mix in my coat and picked spinach, kale, collards, corn salad and arugula.  I picked and picked and picked.  I felt so awesome about walking to my fields and getting what I needed for my time in my home this weekend.  SO EXCITING!  Is this not gorgeous stuff?


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I cannot wait to see 3 a.m. and the snow.  Well maybe I won’t be awake and I will see it in the morning, but none the less I am excited.  I am seeing the seasons full blown in their magnificence.  I am grateful for my experiment of four season gardening (thank you Eliot Coleman).  I have not gotten through four seasons yet, but I have experienced many days now of fresh food and nurturing myself and my hubby with the stuff we are growing.  I have loved spring and summer here.  I have loved the fall and the beauty that went along with it.  And I am so ready for the cold crispness of winter. I am thankful to be somewhere that this is just part of the cycle; it is not unusual, scary, something to throw me off.  It is just another day, another season, another experience in my journey.

What is happening in your world?  Ready for snow or panicking that it may come? I am so inspired by many of you that write and that I read that are truly in wintery conditions and are prepping your animals and land. I learn from you every day and take little pieces into my life. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

Happy Unleashing in your season, whatever it entails!