Monday, January 29, 2007

More bathroom gardening

I was bored yesterday. It was cold (although not as cold as its been) and windy and I think I was fighting off some unknown ailment cause I just didn't feel right. Plus, on Saturday, I drove to Smoketown, excited to purchase the remainder of my seeds at Rohrer's. They were closed. Apparently not open on Saturdays until March! Arghhhhhhh! I can't wait until March! And only open normal business hours (8-5) monday thru friday! That totally sucked. I need to do something gardeny! I really want it to be spring sooner rather than later so I decided to start some seeds in the bathroom greenhouse window. I know it is too early, but I just wanted to play around with some dirt and seeds. So I started three little containers of stock seeds from my plants last year and in keeping with the tomato....three kinds of lettuce: Black seeded simpson, red sails, and Amish deer tongue. So we'll see. I just have this overwhelming urge to plant something, y'know? By the by, the tomato has one little bud on it! And I realized that although I think tomato foliage is stinky when you're crawling around in it weeding and it is humid and 85 smells heavenly in January.

Bulb patrol has begun in earnest as I walk around the yard bundled so only my eyes are showing to see what is up and about. Snow drops will be blooming in a week or so. A few daffodils are poking their little heads aboveground and I have two lenten rose blossoms. I love the first flowers of the year. They aren't the showiest but they aren't needy and boy are they a sight for sore eyes at the tail end of January.

Perhaps tomorrow I'll do the 6 weird things meme. I have to whittle the list down. There are a lot of weird things about me.

Friday, January 26, 2007

So. Very. Cold.

Come back unaturally warm temperatures! Wind chills were in the single digits last night and I think the overnight low was 10 degrees. It won't get above freezing today. I hate this so very much. You just have no idea how I detest being cold. Husband built a roaring fire last night and it was so very comfy, but I thought I would die taking the dogs out several times last night. The wind was just tearing across the area. And the chickens. I was convinced that I would open the door to dead chickens this morning when I gave them their yogurt. Yes, I feed them yogurt every morning. They get really excited about yogurt. I started feeding yogurt to correct a gastointestinal malady about a month ago in one chicken. Yogurt supposedly helps get them back to normal. It worked (or the illness improved on it's own) but the chickens get very cranky now when I open up their coop to let them out and I don't have a bowl in my hand. Talk about getting the cold shoulder. Anyway, I was convinced the cold would have killed them. Tossed and turned for much of the night listening to the wind and imagining chickens slowly freezing to death. If husband would have been away last night, those chickens would have been in the garage with a blanket over them. But they were fine this morning. Jumping up to get at the yogurt bowl I held in my hands, excited to run outside. None the worse for wear. I worry too much.

I want winter to be over in the worse way. And its only been here a very little while.

Monday, January 22, 2007

2007 seed order

So I stopped by my favorite hardware/garden center store on Saturday to grab a Rohrer's seed catalog. I wanted to compare what I was seeing in all my catalogs with what they were offering this year. The store had a large selection and Rohrer's is about a 30 minute drive from me in Smoketown, PA and has everything in the catalog. Rohrer's has been in business in the same location since 1919 and while not everything is organic, much of it is. Some of the things that other seed catalogs offer as rare heirlooms are offered by Rohrer's but aren't noted as such. Probably because they have been offering them nonstop since 1919. So there might not be a seed order this year, just a Saturday trip to finish things up. I think this happened last year too. I thought I was embarassingly early, but some seeds were already sold out at the hardware store.

I purchased the following:
Cosmos "Dazzler"
Morning Glory "Grandpa Ott's"
Tithonia "Torch" ( I so love this flower)
Zinnia "Orange King", "Miss Willmot", and "Canary Bird"
Nasturtium "Whirly Bird"
Sunflower "Velvet Queen"

Beets "Detroit Dark Red"
Beans "Henderson's Bush" Baby Lima variety
" Romano" pole variety
Carrots "Tendersweet"
Egg Plant "Black Beauty"
Lettuce "Black Seeded Simpson", "Red Sails", and "Amish Deer Tongue"
Mustard "Giant Red"
Radish "Sparkler"
Spinach "Bloomsdale Long Standing"
Squash "Black Beauty" zucchini and "Summer Crookneck" yellow

Shell Peas "Wando"
Snap Peas "Sugar Snap"

Still to buy when I make the trip to the actual Rohrer's Seeds next Saturday:

Zinnia "Raggedy Anne"

Bean "La Victoire" french type green bush bean
"Great Northern No. 1140"
"Hutterite Soup Bean"
"Vermont Cranberry"
Broccoli "Calabria"
Broccoli Raab "Rapinni Spring"
Cucmbers "Northern Pickiling" "Marketmore", and 'Lemon"
Eggplant "Rosa Bianca" and "Red Egg"
Lettuce "Rouge d'Hiver" and "Lolla Rossa" and "Salad Bowl"
Swiss Chard "Ruby Red" and "Bright Lights"
Kale "Lacinato" and "Red Russian"
Melons "Charentais" and "Pineapple Melon"
Onions "Borettana Yellow" cippolini type
Potatos "Yukon Gold"
Watermelon "Allsweet"

I still have tons of tomato, pepper, and pumpkin/squash seeds from last year. I'll probably buy a few more varieties of squash seeds, but I haven't decided yet. Not that it matters. Cucumber Beetles get them all anyway and the ones that survive......well they ususally rot.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Tomatoes in the bathroom

What? You don't grow vegetables in your bathroom?

I didn't intend to. Here's the story:

I have a greenhouse window in my bathroom. I don't know why. It was there when we moved in. A little odd, being on the second floor, and being in a bathroom, but whatever. A little gardening first thing in the morning was kind of nice. And it was a cat magnet. When Beanie was alive, both her and Roy would pass out in there, one on each shelf, absorbing the heat. So when we had the windows replaced we left that one alone, even though you can feel a bit of a breeze on very cold and windy nights.

So, this past fall I just couldn't throw out the geraniums and that little frilly white flower that I had planted with them. I've tried overwintering things in the garage and they always die. So, what the heck. I repotted them in smaller pots with compost and brought them inside to the bathroom. Nothing cheerier than a geranium in winter in the bathroom. Well, apparently my compost is not hot enough. Several weeks ago I noticed a tomato seedling growing up out of the white frilly plant's pot. Hmmmm. I let it go. Now it is pretty big and I should see flowers on it in a soon. I'm curious to see what kind of tomato it is. I hope it is a Resientraube or the little Blonde Haired Girl one. I don't think I have room for a Brandywine or Oxheart in there.

Now I'm thinking about starting some lettuce maybe. Or some basil. Mmmmmm. Bathroom basil anyone? I promise I won't wash it in the shower with me, like that episode of Seinfeld.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Foggy Monday

So I took the day off on Friday and went to the farm show. Not quite as I remembered, but still fun. I spent quite a bit of time checking out the poultry. I wish I had pictures to show, but some people were taking pictures and it was really freaking out already stressed birds, so I didn't. There were hundreds of varieties of chickens. For future chickens there are definitely some varieties I'd like to try. Of course I was also interested in the two varieties that I have (Barred Rocks and Buff Orpingtons) and was a little disturbed by what I saw. Is there such a thing as steroids for chickens? The grand champion and reserve champion Buff Orpingtons were easily three times the size of my girls. They were scary big. And they had big pointy beaks and they must have been old because their combs and wattles and feet were completely washed out, devoid of any color. Or they were taking performance enhancing drugs. Seriously, these chickens were so big that I would be afraid of them. And the roosters! Wow. Very big. Scary big. Look like they could weigh 20 pounds big.

I also spent a good bit of time with the goats. I think I'm not ready this year. Maybe next year. They are very cute but I need to do a lot more research about which kind I want and more about goat husbandry. And this may be a stupid question and I was afraid to ask the goat owners at the farm show. Why would you remove a goat's ears? Lambs too. There were lots and lots of sheep and goats with no ears. This seems cruel and unnecessary to me and also makes them look very strange. Big floppy ears are part of a goats charm. Anybody that knows goats, weigh in and tell me why anybody would do this.

Also of interest at the PA Farm Show was a fair amount of information regarding local food and resources to help you find local food, choose restaurants that feature local food, and the importance of making these choices.

I picked up a brochure for the 16th annual Farming for the Future Conference at Penn State University February 1-3. While I don't intend on becoming a farmer, I would absolutely love to go to this conference. Key Note speakers include Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm in Virginia and Michael Ableman, author of On Good Land - Autobiography of an Urban Farm. Thursday night you get to attend a local food picnic with Mr. Salatin. And all the meals served throughout the conference are local.

And the classes available sound really awesome:

  • The Art of Cheese

  • Seedsaving

  • Brambles and Ribes: Establishment and Disease Monitoring

  • Gardening in Small Spaces

  • Basic Beekeeping

  • Making the Soil, Pasture, and Animal Health Connection

  • Creating Demand for Local Food

  • Winter Cropping with and without Hoophouses

  • Melons, Heirloom Melons, and more melons!

  • Living Lightly in a Heavy World

  • Living within your local means: Eating year round in your foodshed

  • Food for your soul: Dinner at the farm

And tons and tons more. It would be so interesting. Here is a pdf of the conference brochure. I probably won't go because I would have to take off work. But I'm putting it out there just in case anyone else in the northeast might like to attend.

Coming Soon: My seed list for 2007. I think I've gotten it narrowed down and am ready to make the order.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


I'm cold today. It is actually seasonal out. But it may get to the mid-60s again on the weekend. Last weekend was phenomenal. I weeded, I cleared brush, I spread compost. Chickweed and speedwells were blooming in the lawn. Absolutely lovely. Until you notice the buds on the fruit trees and all the flowering shrubs about to burst open on this second week of January. Me thinks I'm not gonna get a whole lot of fruit this year.

Its Pennsylvana Farm Show week here in the midstate. I hope I get the chance to go. A lot of the focus this year is on alternative energy development in Pennsylvania. And I want to look at chickens. And then of course there is the food. One of the very best things available are the baked potatoes. Hard to believe that there could be much variation in the baked potato department. But there is. These are the best baked potatoes in the world. They practically ooze out of their jackets, they've been cooking for so long. Absolutely perfect!

And another entry in the "Attack the notion of responsible food" category. This time from Katha Pollitt of The Nation of all places. One of her New Years Resolutions:

4. Don't think your lifestyle can save the world. I love slow food! I cook slow food! I shop at farmers' markets, I pay extra for organic, I am always buying cloth bags and forgetting to bring them to the supermarket. But the world will never be saved by highly educated, privileged people making different upscale consumer choices. If you have enough money to buy grass-fed beef or tofu prepared by Tibetan virgins, you have enough money to give more of it away to people who really need it and groups that can make real social change.

Because really, what makes more of a tangible change? Handing cash directly to the farmer down the road that grows tomatoes or sending a check to a huge bureaucratic organization where it will probably be used for administration? The check of course, you snotty food elitists! Why help a person succeed in what they are doing while they are doing it? Better to let them fail and then give them a handout.

Take heart all my highly-educated, privileged friends making upscale consumer choices. We might not be able to save the world, but we can save some nearby farms.

I wonder if I could track down some Amish virgins to make that Tofu, thereby making it a 'local food'.

Friday, January 05, 2007

how cute are these?

I love vintage seed packets. Love them. I would so rather have a lovely drawing than a photograph. On the seed packets that is. Not in the catalog. You do need a photo at some point along the way. I collect them when I come across them, with the intention of someday framing a decent quantity. They are small, and would look awkward if not presented in a large grouping, so it might take awhile. Until....... in my travels to seek out new and exciting seed catalogs, I came across D. Landreth Seeds , touting itself as the oldest seed house in America. If you scroll down to the bottom of the first page, you will see that these vintage seed packets are available as blank notecards. A set of twelve notecards that are 4 1/2 by 6 1/2 inches in size (perfect for framing) is $8.00. There is a entirely flower set, a vegetable set, and a combo set.

Or, if you want to order the actual seed packets, they have those as well. A little more expesive and only available in limitied quantities. I love these. They should make poster sized replicas. Or fabric. I would love a barn jacket made of fabric with tons of little vintage seed packets all over it.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Request for information

It's getting down to the line for planning the 2007 garden. I have the catalogs assembled and have made sticky notes of what I want from where. But, the grass is always greener, and I am paranoid that as soon as I send away the money, some faulous seed catalog that I've forgotten about will arrive in my mailbox. I have the following catalogs:

Baker Creek
Seed Savers Exchange
High Mowing
Nichols Nursery
Select Seeds (flowers)
a few berry catalogs that I can't remember right at the moment

and for fruit trees:
Sonoma Antique Apple Nursery
St. Lawrence (order it just for the pen/ink drawings)
Adams County Nursery

Are there any great ones that I am missing? Leave me a comment.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Airing of grievances

I missed Festivus again this year. And with it, the traditional airing of grievances. There are quite a few grievances that I could air at this point, but one that has been particularly getting under my skin is the constant painting of 'local food' people as elitist. Two times (Buzzwords and Greenwash) over the holidays, New York Times lackey Kim Severson wrote articles with a distinct bias against people that eat local and/or organic. The Buzzwords piece was particularly nasty, unfortunately protected behind the Times' pay wall. Basically calling local foodies snobbish and trendy and only a kneejerk reaction to Walmart offering organic food. "Oh no, we're so elitist! What will we do now that Walmart is selling organic food? We can't eat organic anymore, obviously! Well, invent 'local food' as a way to further elevate ourselves above the riff-raff I suppose". My favorite line is at the end where she says that it might be a good idea in California, but not in North Dakota. I wonder what all the local foodies in Canada have to say about that. Greenwash isn't as bad, but snark against organic food companies is definitely evident. Yes, the "all natural Cheetos" are ridiculous. But who buys them anyway? But making fun of the Stonyfield Farm cow? bitch.

Breaking news for Ms. Severson: Not everyone's idea of eating local is exiting their Hummer House, starting up the SUV and tooling on down to the uber-expensive boutique farmers market to pay $10 a pound for mesclun mix from a nerby farm with a cutesy rural name. Some of us actually grow that food ourselves. Scraping frozen chicken shit off a plywood floor isn't exactly what I call elitist. Or we buy directly from the farmer at 'real' farmers markets where those that offer overpriced trendy items don't last long. And we don't do it to elevate ourselves over others. We actually do it to keep the money in our community, to preserve family farms and open space, and to prevent the further consolidation of the food industry. And we do it because its healthy. Here is what I call elitist: flouncing through your life without ever giving thought to the consequences of your choices. Get out of the city every now and then.

And another thing!

Here is a Grist article with a link to an article from the Economist. Also trashing the local food movement. You know something must be worthwhile if it starts generating this much backlash.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Loving global warming

I am. I'm sorry. I can't help it. I know its wrong. But I love this crazy weather. We have had only a handful of nights that temperatures have gotten below freezing. Every day that I was off over the holidays, I took the dogs for a long a sweatshirt. I weeded over the holidays! At the end of December people!!!!! I always thought I wanted to move to North Carolina or even further south to take advantage of the mild temperatures. I hate snow and ice. Now I don't have to! They are coming to me!!!! The weather forecast for the rest of this week is highs to almost 60 degrees and not getting below freezing at all. This is awesome!

I know. Not awesome. Polar bears are starving. The ice caps are melting. All coastal areas will be flooded. But I'm doing as much as I can to not contribute to it. Can I help that I'm not as morose as I should be? I'm downright giddy. Okay, just a short post. Hope everybody's New Year started out well. I gotta go though. My truckload of Zone 8 nursery plants just arrived. Gotta get planting! Zone 6b my behind!

Okay, only kidding. That would be jumping the gun. But I may push the envelope to Zone 7 plants this year. Just to see what happens.