Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Smoke 'em if you got 'em

Smoking up the neighborhood today. I am smoking up two turkeys and a ham for my second-oldest daughter's wedding on New Year's Eve. I am very excited for her, but I don't remeber my wedding being this stressful. Cripes there certainly are pleny of thing to do (and buy) in order to pull one of these things off...

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The long shadows of Black Bay

I cannot recall the last time we have had such great weather over the holidays... I am sure it is not that rare, but after two years of record-breaking winters, this past few days of warm sunshine (realitively speaking) have been wonderful.

I took the dogs running for a couple of hours today at Black Bay Park. The sun and wildlife were stunning. A young deer has made its home there at the park for the present, but you'll have to look closely to find it. And literally hundreds and hundreds of mallards and geese speckle the Spokane River... when the massive flocks fly over head, you can hear their wings shattering the crisp air with a faint but disernable whistle ...

I found a sunny spot and sat for awhile. I cracked an ice cold beer and watched the sun sink very quickly into the afternoon while it stretched long shadows across the landscape... The pups and I were among those long shadows for awhile... It was quite a beautiful day.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Carrying on the pumpkin bread tradition.

I remember growing up in a family that not only gardened and preserved food but also did quite a lot of baking....especially during the holidays. After my two brothers and I had grown up and moved out of the house my mother began a tradition of baking us a loaf or two of pumpkin bread every Christmas. It is a wonderful recipe and I believe she made it her own over the years by tweaking a few ingredients here and there.

Being young and of course broke, us kids welcomed the baked goods. In fact, I know that is why she did it. She always taught us that you should save money any way you could and she was always teaching us lessons through her own actions....always setting the example. Looking back I appreciate the long hours she worked in the kitchen to make us that bread. It was definitely made with love.

Last year mom passed away and the holidays have been an especially difficult time for my family. I spent the last couple of days feeling pretty down and yesterday I happened to be cleaning out some kitchen drawers and saw her pumpkin bread recipe. I realized in that moment that she would not want me to be sad for her. Instead she would want me to have a wonderful holiday with friends and family and she would expect that I carry out her pumpkin bread tradition. With that, I got busy and so far 8 loaves down and only 4 to go....only one change to the recipe and that is I used our pumpkin that was grown in the family garden.... The tradition carries on ....love you mom. (Actually posted by Sunny under Bent's account again... still tweaking the blog ;-)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

It might be too cold for growing in the greenhouse.... but who cares?

This picture was taken before we got several inches of new snow. Still it's a gloomy picture and we still have several months of this... so rather than be depressed about it...I try to focus my attention on next year's garden plans and buying seeds. I would love to be growing in the greenhouse right now but it's just too expensive to heat during the long winter months. We usually fire up the propane heat around mid March or so and run it until early May depending on the outdoor temperature.

Since I'm not one to let obstacles stand in my way when I really want something....I decided to try growing a few plants indoors. There is no extra cost to heat and light is all you need...what I found though was that grow lights (like the metal halide variety) can be pretty expensive to operate not to mention the cost of the bulbs.... sounds like just another obstacle trying to keep me from my gardening passion....Well, I did my research and found that many people grow veggies indoors all year round with LED lights. They are way cheaper to run as they use 45 watts yet put out as much light as many of the metal halides.

The light that I purchased was about $135 but the bulb life is over 50,000 hours.... I would say that's pretty impressive. My light covers 5 square feet which isn't a lot but if it works then that's fine by me.... I will just buy another one for added coverage... but shhhhh...don't tell hubby.

So far, as you can see (on the sidebar to the right) my tomatoes are doing quite well. In fact, I will need to transplant them soon as they are about 3 inches high. As the plants mature I will keep them pruned by pinching off the new stems that pop up between the branches (called "suckers"). This will make sure they stay compact and put most of their energy into fruit production. The difficulty in growing indoors is to not overwater. If you get too much moisture in the soil you can get mold or something called damping off disease. To avoid this I provide a lot of water at one time rather than watering in small frequent quantities.
Also, I will provide a small amount of diluted organic fertilizer when I transplant to give the plants an extra boost. The tomato plants need approximately 14 to 18 hours of sunlight or they will never produce fruit. Lettuce is less picky....I have grown it in a sunny windowsill during the winter months and it has done fine.

Currently, I have two types of tomatoes, two types of lettuce and one type of cucumber growing in the container. I will also start some herbs in the next couple of days....many herbs will do fine in a sunny windowsill so I won't need to keep them under the light full time. Regardless of how this experiment goes, I will keep posting pictures as the weeks go by..... and hopefully we will be eating homegrown closet tomatoes by February. If not, well then I will call it a nice distraction from the winter months.....happy growing!

This is actually posted by Sunny (I was on Bent's account for maintence purposes).

Friday, December 4, 2009

Creative Gardening

I came across this video on Keyhole gardening....I had never heard of it before so I went and checked it out. I have some regular raised beds but I am definitely going to try this next spring.

Click here for another cool gardening idea that I found online: the potato box. The idea is to save space in the garden by planting the potatoes in boxes and you keep covering the foilage with dirt as they grow and this gives the roots more depth which will allow for more potato production. I am having my son help me make two of these for the family garden. This last summer our potatoes did quite well just planted in the ground but doing it that way takes up space. And the more space we save ...the more veggies we can grow......We won several ribbons at the fair for our potatoes including the Super One award so we have the basics of potato growing down...but there is always room for improvement!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Who says you can't garden all year long?

This may look like something illegal is going on...but it's really not....I purchased this LED light online a couple weeks ago. It was a bit pricey at about $135.00... but I wanted to see if I could continue growing veggies inside during the winter.

I have done a lot of research on what grows best indoors and how to pollinate plants as there are no bees around to complete that task. I decided to start with some basic plants to see if this will be worth my time in the first place....so I planted tomatoes and lettuce. So far, both have germinated and appear to be doing well.

Lighting is one of the most important aspects of growing indoors....without proper light your tomatoes will be weak and lanky and probably never flower...My LED light is supposed to cover 5 square feet and I'm probably not utilizing all that space but this is just an experiment. The light should be a few inches above the seedlings to make them grow strong and compact. If the light is too far away the plants will literally reach toward the light and become very lanky. The nice thing about this type of light is that it does not produce heat so you don't need to worry about "frying" the seedlings. I will transplant the tomato plants into larger containers once they get their first set of true leaves. The lettuce will need to be thinned and I will probably move it to another container as well.

To start the seedlings I used a plastic storage bin and poked holes in the bottom for drainage. I purchased a regular bag of potting soil for a few dollars...you don't want to use garden soil for growing indoors as it is usually to dense and will compact which won't allow for proper drainage. Also, you risk the chance of bringing microscopic bugs indoors which could compromise the health of your plants.
The temperature indoors should be around 70 degrees or more for the ideal germination environment. Later, as the plants mature, you may need to adjust the temperature depending on what you are growing. Some plants like it hot.... and some like it cold. I will keep updating the blog as I venture further into the world of indoor vegetable growing...it should be interesting... if I am successful I may need to devote an entire room to plants.. :) My family loves me...good thing... as I tend to have gardening paraphernalia all over the house all year long....

Speaking of all the garden paraphernalia, I am always looking for ways to keep my gardening supplies in some kind of order...and I happened upon this web site called http://wintersown.org/that had these templates for making your own seed packets. You simply print them out and cut and tape or glue them closed. Then you can label them and store your favorite seeds. I am thinking about using them for Christmas labels. That way I can personalize them and share my favorite seed with friends and family.