Wednesday, January 28, 2015

2014 Recap and High Hopes for 2015

Its been a bit quiet around here.  The winter has made everything go dormant in the garden for some time now so there hasn’t been anything to update on that front.  Instead, I have spent my time learning to sew.  It has kept me busy and added variety to my fairly classic wardrobe.  I have to admit that I have a fair bad fabric purchasing habit.  I keep churning out garments though…so hopefully that will be okay in the long run and the stash problem will take care of itself. 

Also on the homestead front, we have demolished our fire place.  It was giant and ugly (in my opinion) and sent hot air rushing up through the chimney during the times when we needed it in the house most.  In its place we installed a Country Hearth 2000.  We have been lighting fires to warm the house since mid-January and are totally smitten.  In the mornings we do use the furnace to get the house warm enough to talk ourselves into taking our clothes off to get in the shower, but our heat in the evening and nights has been 100% fire-generated.  We are really hoping it cuts our electric bill in half as our last bill was almost $300.  Anyone looking for more info on swapping out the fireplace for a wood stove can leave me a comment.

Not sure why the fire looks blue but the cats are enjoying it
Given that its now January, I am trying to get back into a gardening mindset and have ordered seeds for this coming growing season.  The in-laws got me a wire rack and a fairly serious grow light for my seed starts so we are eager to get going.  The winter hasn’t been too bad but I am still anxious to see little green shoots poking up through the dirt.

The grow list of fairly extensive.  We reduced some things that grew too well (rutabaga) and removed some items that didn’t produce enough or were space hogs (fava bean, lima beans, and sweet potato).  We have also added something that we thought it would be nice to stop buying at the store (broccoli). 

This next season we are going to concentrate more on dealing with the produce from the garden.  Don’t get me wrong, we pickled and froze and canned and dehydrated a lot of stuff last year but by the end of the season we were fairly spent and some things fell by the wayside.  The rutabagas actually froze in the ground and when I tried to harvest them, they were all transparent and bubbly – gross!  I had read they could be kept in the planting beds all year long but that was obviously written for someone if a different climate.  Also, we harvested a few pumpkins and winter squash last year and felt them out to cure.  That would have been okay except that I forgot them out there and they froze…several times.  I managed to save half of them by roasting them and pureeing the flesh but the others were too far gone.  It was sad. 

We are also building on some things that did surprisingly well in the garden and that we found to like to eat a lot more of than I had anticipated.  On a whim, after ripping out the fava beans, I sprinkled a packet of mixed carrot seeds over the soil and basically forgot about them until I tried to wrench the rutabagas out of the frozen ground.  Thankfully the carrot tops seem to have formed a protective frost barrier over the ground that they only had to be lightly chiseled out of the dirt.  The array of carrots we got was so wonderful and unexpectedly tasty that we added them to the list rather than grow them as an afterthought. The Chinese long red noodle beans were also great and I want to be certain to freeze more for stir fries and soups.  In addition, it would be nice to have enough cucumbers at once to pickle so I have upped the number of plants to grow next year.  Lastly, the purple fingerling potatoes that we grew as a test last year were prolific, cured well, and were really tasty.  A few are lingering in a basket in the kitchen as I am afraid to use the last few and not have enough to sprout in spring.

There were lessons learned last year too and as such, the garden layout will change.  The tomatoes over crowded, well, just about everything.  It wasn’t a very warm summer to begin with but the shade didn’t help the peppers or the okra do their thing.   The tomatoes will be planted on the back side of each raised bed to allow light to any little guys in front – this should also help with the powdery mildew on our squash plants (though that’s generally to be expected with as much rain as we got).  We might also get the rain barrels in this year so we don’t have to water with a sprinkler, also cutting down on mildew in the garden. 

I have high expectations this year since we had such a great season last year.  I didn’t can as many tomatoes as I wanted since the cool summer kept the fruit green but I turned that green fruit into delicious salsa so I really cant complain.  The pickles I made last year (once I figured out what the protector on the bottom of the pot was for) turned out totally awesome.  The spicy cumin summer squash and the bread and butter pickles are super tasty.  Lets hope I don’t fly too close to the sun!

After adding an additional long raised bed we will be planting the following (from Baker Creek unless noted):
Calabrese Broccoli
Hilton Chinese Cabbage
Kamo Eggplant
Ping Tung Eggplant
True Black Brandywine Tomatoes
Jersey Devil Paste Tomatoes
Amish Paste Tomatoes
Blush Cherry Tomatoes
German Yellow Tomatoes (seeds saved from last harvest)
Garden Peach Tomatoes (Grow Journey seed of the month close xmas gift)
White Currant Tomatoes (Wiley House Heritage Garden seed purchase)
Cayenne Peppers
Lemon Drop (only one ripened in time last year so I will give it one more shot!)
Tequila Sunrise Peppers
Red Marconi
Hill Country Red Okra (Wiley House Heritage Garden)
Jing Okra
Patisson Golden Marbre Scallop Summer Squash
Striata d’ Italia Summer Squash
Violina Rugosa
Sweet Potato Squash
Rouge vif D’etampes
Black Futsu (Grow Journey)
Golden Beets
Early Wonder Beets
Muncher Cucumber
Mexican Sour Gerkin (can’t wait to pickle these for my martinis!)
Amarillo Carrot
Pusa Rudhira Carrot
Kuroda Carrot
Parisienne Carrot (so cute!)
Purple Fingerling Potatoes
Merlo Spinach
Gigante Spinach
Rutabagas (just fewer)
Long Red Chinese Noodle Beans
Lacinto Kale
Romaine (Grow Journey)
Five Color Silver Beet
Bok Choy
Luffa (Wiley House Heritage Garden)
Slo-Bolt Cilantro
Thai Basil
Lettuce Leaf Basil
Lemon Balm

It looks like a super long list, but most of them are direct seed so there isn’t much hassle in seed starting and the ones that are started indoors are pretty much plug and play once you get them in the ground. 

One more month for the first of the seed starts!

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