Monday, April 28, 2008

Snow tonight

I am staying up late - I want to see what the temperature is at 11:00 p.m, I have to make a decision whether to put a small ceramic space heater in the greenhouse. We are supposed to get snow later tonight. I am sure the tomatoes and eggplant seedlings will not like that.

For sure my peach tree will probably lose its blossoms, and maybe the apple tree, too. The blossoms on the apple tree are just about to burst into bloom. I think that commercial growers used to burn tires in the orchard to keep the blossoms from freezing, but I don't see how to keep the smoke around the trees. I thought about throwing a tarp over the tree but read that sometimes covering actually are conductive and make the problem worse.

Beekeeper plea

Bob Hooker, a beekeeper and Vice President of the Ohio State Beekeepers Association, is seeking your help in a matter of deep concern to beekeepers across Ohio. The Ohio Department of Agriculture plans to make cuts to their Apiary (Beekeeping) Regulatory Program this summer. The Ohio State Beekeepers Association (OSBA) believes this is a mistake and endangers the beekeeping industry in Ohio. They are mounting a letter writing campaign to protest the cuts.

There are only about 4,000 beekeepers in Ohio. They fear they cannot generate enough letters by themselves to make a difference.

They are asking the help of everyone concerned about honey bees and their contribution to our
food supply and our environment.

Many of you, concerned by the media coverage of the threats to honey bees, have asked, how are the bees, Is there anything the average person can do to help?

Yes there is.

You can contact the Governor and the Director of Agriculture and ask
them to rescind ODA's plan to cut the Apiary Program this summer.

Contact Bob Hooker for an official position paper from the OSBA or sample text to include in your letter.

Strawberry Rhubarb custard

My rhubarb is ready! This morning I went to the garden and found huge seed stalks that looked almost like cauliflower. I cut them out, and harvested a few stalks this evening. Left the leaves in the garden to mulch the awful creeping charlie.

Strawberries here won't be ready for another month or so -- but I still have a few strawberries in the freezer from last year. If you don't, there HAVE been some good sales on California strawberries lately -- local are always better, but the California ones are awfully cheap!

1 cup rhubarb, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 1/2 cups strawberries, hulled and chopped into fourths
1 cup Splenda
3/4 cup half & half
2 eggs
1/2 tsp nutmeg

Bake in custard dish at 350 degrees until the wonderful smell permeates the house! About 40 minutes.

I didn't want to fuss with a pie, but I didn't want to miss the first rhubarb of the season, either!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Repairs

My dear husband and his brother spent the weekend plowing and disking the fields at the farm to get them ready for planting sweet corn - we are planting about 3 acres. Hope to have it ripe for the family reunion we are planning in August.

Like always, they aren't having fun unless they break something. The Ford tractor needed a head gasket repair, followed by some welding. Took a big chunk of time out of the weekend.

Happy face in the orchard!

I was smiling in the orchard today - I used a hand saw to do some pruning on a few selected trees and found this little guy smiling back at me! Later I asked my wonderful husband to bring over his chain saw and trimmed a little closer - got rid of the stub where this diseased wood was showing.

I trimmed two apple trees and one Damson plum. I mostly used a hand pruner and now have a sore spot on my palm. Next time I am taking a pair of loppers.

I recognized some diseased spots on the plum, and hopefully trimmed all of them out. I saved some of the trimmings for a bouquet- they were just about to blossom - but we had NO ROOM in the car to bring them home - DH did allow me to bring some of the apple trimmings. I was told that if you don't have a pollinator apple tree (like we don't for the MacIntosh in our back yard) you can take trimmings from another tree, put them in a bucket of water under the tree, and the bees will pollinate your tree from the trimmings.

I also started layering some dwarfing rootstocks that are sticking up, and cut a few branches from some trees that have come down that I hope to save by grafting onto the rootstocks. I've ordered a grafting tool from A.M. Leonard and it should come some time this week, I will practice on some trimmings from our MacIntosh here and then try it. It is a little late in the year to start grafting, it is supposed to be done while the rootstock and scion wood are dormant, but the worst that can happen is that it won't work and I'll get some practice before doing it seriously next year. If I luck out and it works, I'll have year's head start.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Spring has sprung!

The daffodils are beautiful in the flowerbed next to the patio. I planted some last year that were supposed to be "pink" but so far I have some ivory-colored ones and some that are deep yellow with darker gold trumpets. The Breck's catalog (not where I ordered them) says that some pink daffodils start out yellow then turn pink later, but the blossoms have faded on some of the yellow ones without ever turning any shade of pink.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Inside the greenhouse


I have started lots of flats of plants, but I fear it might be late this year. We've had a string of 70-degree days and 50+ nights - it seems like summer already - but our last frost date isn't until May 15th!

I think I probably could have gotten away with planting corn already.

I'll bet the extension office would tell me to go take the soil temperature. Haven't done that yet. The average temp. inside the greenhouse with the windows open is about 80 degrees during the day and goes down to 60 at night. I left the windows closed the first few days before putting plants in - went out mid-day and found the temperature was over 120 degrees!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Give us this day our daily bread

If we all took this simple line from the Lord's prayer more seriously, think what a difference we would make in global warming!

It is so basic, so elemental, so SIMPLE - only use as much as we need for today.

This concept came home to me the year I lived in Spain - the people shopped each day for that day's needs. (they used string bags to carry their food home from the market, not plastic bags, and they only needed ONE because they were only shopping for one day's, or one meal's, food.)

Although each home had a refrigerator, it was often unplugged because there wasn't much in it!

They walked everywhere they went, most people did not have cars. Of necessity that meant that the people lived close enough to the shops and markets that it was easy to bring things home.

Contrast that lifestyle with ours - megastores where you walk a mile from the parking lot, buy a month's worth of food (or sometime a year's worth in the warehouse stores) - how much do we throw away because it spoils before we can use it?

So, we are using fuel to ship produce from far away, fuel to bring it home, fuel to freeze or refrigerate it, then we throw it in the landfill when it spoils.

Happy earth day!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Springtime frenzy

The Master Gardener classes have begun! I'll be very busy over the next few months as I have signed up for 50 hours of training plus 50 hours of volunteer work with the Crawford County Master Gardeners. Saturday's class was on soils, and this week we are meeting at the OSU farm in Bucyrus on Tuesday and were told to bring our pruners.

I've been busy filling my greenhouse with shelves and trays of seeds. Of course I mixed up my seed-starting mixture on Friday from a bag of commercial organic potting soil, a bag of perlite, a bag of composted manure, and a bag of play sand, then on Saturday we learned that sand isn't the best addition to a seed-starting mix. Oh, well, we'll see how it works.

The greenhouse came on Thursday last week, I put it up the same evening, then we took off for the farm on Friday with oldest grandson, so I didn't even get to do anything with it until Monday night. I put some shelving up on Monday night, but put it too close to the back wall. Murphy's law struck, the disaster happened. The tomato and eggplant seeds I had so carefully started a week ago under lights in the garage were on the shelf when the gust of wind hit the wall and knocked the shelf over, so all my little inch-high seedlings fell into the grass. Just like a piece of buttered toast, the "good" side fell on the floor first. I spent the next several hours searching for seedlings and carefully putting them back into the seed tray. I probably was able to save half of them..... Oh, well, it could have been worse. I had only started two trays (of 72 plugs each....waaaaaahhhhh!).

I got home from work tonight and found the latest Mary Jane's farm magazine in my mailbox! I had my grandson with me, we had planned to go to the library but too late, I found that Story Hour is over for the season. So I brought him home with me to see the greenhouse. I reluctantly put the magazine aside, and we went outdoors. We planted some zinnia seeds in a pot, and I let him water several of the trays. Being four years old, he is impatient for things to grow, and loses interest quickly when they don't come up right away when he waters them. I spent the next half hour chasing him through the backyards in the neighborhood; then got smart and took him to the park across the street. He was less impressed than I was with the bald eagle flying over the water - he was far more impressed with the 8-inch long crappies that the fishermen were pulling out of the water, and the minnows swimming around in the bait cans. I spent another hour chasing him around the park, then took him home. He didn't want to go, but I promised him a fishing rod of his own for the next trip.

Then I opened up MJF magazine. Once again, beautiful, beautiful pictures, and the articles just remind me so much of the traditional things that a "farmgirl at heart" holds dear. Each magazine is better than the one before, I can't imagine how much love and heart is poured into each issue. I was REALLY SURPRISED when I got to page 32 and found that one of my posts from the Farmgirl connection forum made it to hard copy of the magazine! See my original post at http://www.maryjanesfarm.org/snitz/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=4681 - or better yet, RUN to Barnes and Noble and pick up your own copy of the magazine (or order it directly from Mary Jane!) Here's a photo of a new generation of Maybelline lovers - my grandson said "This is way fun" when we rode around the farm picking up brush with Maybelline - and when we left the farm, he said "I love Maybelline!" although he found her a little rusty. I reminded him she and Tow-Mater from his favorite movie Cars look a lot alike...

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Greenhouse dreams

After a heart-to-heart with DH, we agreed to scale down my greenhouse expectations to a less significant investment. I'll be going with the Flowerhouse Farmhouse, which is less than $350 at Meijers.

It doesn't have any automatic venting options, but it is better than no greenhouse at all.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Garden started

Finally! The snow has melted, we had a 50-degree day yesterday. DH brought over the neighbor's Ford Golden Jubilee tractor and tiller and he tilled in the leaves and wood ashes we've been spreading over the garden all winter.

I used the Troy-built tiller to till a few inches deep on the other side of the rhubarb and asparagus, the strip is too narrow for the big tractor.

A few weeks ago I went through all the seeds I had stored up over the years. I still have seeds from 1998!!! I sorted them into packs by year. I am trying to use up the older seeds first - well, at least those from 2004 or later. I have many from Burpee that don't have a year on them. Note to self: Check all seed packs when received and if no year on the label, write it on upon receipt.

Yesterday I planted peas - Oregon pioneer and Alaska, Sparkler radishes, Detroit Dark Red beets, and turnips. I also started some Quali-T-23 and Old German varieties of tomatoes, and a tray of Black Beauty eggplant, in flats under lights. Checked in on the lettuce and greens I started last week in flats - Winter Provencal mix, Drunken Frizzy-Headed woman, and London Springs lettuces. I set them out in the sunshine for several hours and gave them a sprinkle of water from the garden hose.

I am thinking of planting potatoes today, although I haven't planted them for several years and wasn't successful the few times I did plant them. Hope springs eternal, and all that! If I keep planting the early spring stuff, though, I'm not going to have room left for the warmer-season crops when the time comes to plant them. I'm not very good and drawing up a garden plan and sticking to it. I seem to always not have enough garden for everything I want to grow.

I've been looking at greenhouses online. DH gave me permission to put up a 10'x10' greenhouse. I think I may have narrowed it down to Cross Country or Sunshine brands. I need to hurry up and make a decision or he may change his mind.. Not going to let that happen!

A bulletin from the church yesterday challenged us to come up with additional ministries. I wonder if taking leftovers from the "country" farmer's market on Saturdays into the downtown of the larger city and distributing fruits and vegetables somehow to people who need them would qualify as a ministry? Perhaps use the church parking lot as a site? Maybe let other members bring excess vegetables from their gardens and contribute them? What kind of liabilities would we run in to?

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

In those days there was no king in Israel....

...and the people did what was right in their own eyes...

Is that still true today?

I have heard so many stories lately about people taking justice into their own hands; or people in power simply ignoring the checks and balances that were put into place to assure the rule of law; or going off and starting a war based on half-truths and personal motivations.

It is simply too bad that the last chapters of the book of Judges, 19-21 are not part of the common lectionary. I never hear them in church. It seems that we could benefit from hearing these stories again.

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