Y’all!! My Jimmy Nardello sweet peppers are poppin’!! Seeee??? I’m so happy!
Life can sometimes be just a string of minor disappointments (sorry to go philosodark on ya). And we just get to roll with them + grow from them. But every once in a while, life surprises you with a miracle! New life is glorious and it’s something worth celebrating!! Seedlings! Yay!
Back to my string of minor disappointments… A tray of bebe onions and wee holy basil were blown off my porch yesterday and scattered to the wind. When you hand-water for weeks and talk to your seedlings, it’s sad when it ends in a flash. Like, mood altering sad. Like, I want to talk to someone, but can’t figure out if it should be a therapist or a botanist. Yes, I can always replant, but I still feel the sting of loss.
Today, I felt like the loss of my onions and holy basil was compensated for with the victory of my super pretentious Jimmy Nardello Italian sweet pepper seedlings emerging!
The tatsoi has sprouted nicely, the orach pretty well, and the mizuna, lettuce, and cutting greens sparsely. Keeping the soil surface moist has been a challenge this week due to extremely high winds (strong east winds blew the farm stand over yesterday) and very low humidity.
I finished installing the garden irrigation system today. We can run two soaker hoses on each of the six garden rows.
I made vinegar last year, and I believe that it saved my mental health.
When the pandemic hit in 2020 and we were all wondering “what’s next?” I started feeling weird and weirder. I guess you could call it anxiety. I had trouble regulating my breathing and I sometimes woke up in the middle of the night feeling (and knowing) something bad was going to happen.
I needed something to both anchor me and distract me–something that would take my mind off uncertainty, and let it just imagine goodness. It was summer and the pandemic wasn’t going away. I don’t know where the idea to make vinegar came from–but as soon as I thought it, it felt like the right thing to do.
Here’s how it works: Fruit + water + sugar turns into fermented juice which then turns into vinegar. The moment I realized that fruit is fruit is fruit, I was like “Hold the phone, Martha! I’m going to make vinegar from every fruit I can get my hands on this summer.”
And I did! Blackberries, plums, apples, pears, grapes. They all sat on my wire shelves, patiently fermenting, bubbling, gassing and morphing. It was the most beautiful, hopeful thing to see jars and buckets of jewel-toned fruit, bobbing in frothy liquid.
The fruits were changing, and they were giving me something to look forward to each day. (Remember the dreamy golden redness of the plum vinegar?) As I struggled to stay calm and hopeful in the midst of the 2020 chaos (um, stressful presidential election, too!), the vinegars were a project that saved me from self-destructing by binge watching crappy tv, feeling self pity, or just doing nothing.
And just recently (no joke!), I finally cracked into my stash of vinegars (why did it take me so long??) I made a vinaigrette this week to go with the kale salad from our garden, and then I preserved a batch of marinated sun-dried tomatoes to keep in our fridge. I also added the blackberry vinegar to some chickpea curry–and it 10x-ed the umami. I’m loving my sweet, dark blackberry vinegar. (P.S. I will always love you, blackberry vinegar, and i promise to make a new batch of you every year, i love you so much xoxo)
So, why go to the trouble of harvesting local fruits, learning how to make vinegar, then letting a bottle of fermenting fruit sit on your kitchen shelf for a month or more so you can strain it and set it on your shelf? Because when you can add one more item to your pantry shelf that you made yourself, it truly feels healing, miraculous, beautiful and wholesome.
This evening we planted tatsoi, muzuna, and orach in row 5, and little gem lettuce and cutting mix in row 6 (3×3 patches about 6 feet in from the east end). The seeds are so tiny, they remind me of having “faith as a grain of mustard seed.” It’s hard to believe that these ones will grow into food for the dinner table.
Today I shoveled water-logged dirt and gravel. It wasn’t type I fun, but I’m really excited about what it means!
It means we’re getting ready for our little farm stand, and we’re super excited! Our plan is to populate the farm stand with seasonal produce from our garden and orchard, handmade crafts, baked goods, and items that celebrate our local culture. These will all be things that we grow or make ourselves.
Josh likes to do things right, so he helped me plan a gravel pullout area so that people won’t get stuck in the mud.
Our farm stand is set to open in the beginning of March 2021. Our goal is to have it be a year round, 24/7 farm stand. It will be cashless. People can pay by using the Venmo app for a single purchase, or by purchasing a prepaid card that can be used for future purchases.
It’s been such a long time since we’ve gotten eggs. We have good birds, they eat lots, they have lots of space and sunshine. The problem is that something has been taking the eggs from the coop–a racoon, a fox, a skunk? That’s the only explanation for our egg shortage.
But…now that our chickies are in a chicken tractor, we get 1 to 3 eggs a day! We’re thrilled! We love farm fresh eggs. In just a few weeks we should be getting more eggs, specifically from our dominant copper marans. They lay dark chocolate eggs.
We’re grateful that we getting eggs! Now we just have to figure out how to get duck eggs from Maggie.
I pruned the plum tree today. I removed suckers and headed back vigorous growth but didn’t remove any large stuff. I’m starting to develop some growth down low that will hopefully become productive someday.
Last year we didn’t get many plums. It could have been due to the aggressive pruning or the every-other-year tendency of fruit trees.
I read up some more on pruning. Winter (dormant) pruning spurs vigorous growth because the energy stored in the roots is concentrated into fewer branches when spring comes. Summer pruning slows growth because it reduces the amount of energy-producing leaves. So, I probably need to do less winter pruning and more summer pruning on the plum tree.
I want to be a radish-lover. They are beautiful, crunchy and a give you fresh garden produce in early March. But the truth is, I haven’t quite developed a taste for them.
I learned this week that you can roast radishes with butter and salt. I never thought to roast them. So, today I’m planting radishes so that in 28 days I can see if I like roasted radishes. Also, it’s February and I’m tired of waiting for winter to be over. (Sorry, February!)
Winter isn’t bad. In fact, I’m learning about winter gardening. I planted garlic in September last year and it’s growing! It’s pretty incredible that we can plant things in the fall and they’ll survive and grow slowly during winter. Our kale and chard has been producing all winter. It’s slow, but we’re still able to harvest at least weekly!
The snow and ice we got over the weekend is gone. Now we’re expecting temps in the 40s over the next week. It’s feeling springy!
I spread more sulphur on the garden a couple weeks ago to lower the pH further. A couple days ago, I lightly pruned the young fruit trees. This weekend, an ice storm encased everything in up to an inch of ice. Our kale still looks like it will survive, though.
About a month or so ago, Grant and I built two “rabbit tractors”. These rabbit tractors are large, bottomless cages that we can move around the yard. It’s a way for us to feed our baby bunnies with almost zero feed costs.
We came up with the plan to pasture our bunnies when our first grow outs were burning through 5-6 cups of pellets while in their cages. Btw, “grow outs” are bunnies that have been separated from their mum at 6 weeks, and are destined for freezer camp as soon as they hit 5 lbs.
Although moving the rabbit tractors to fresh (poopless) grass every few hours is labor intensive, it really is the best farm chore. Every time I go out to move the tractors, it’s 100 percent cuteness overload. Bunnies are naturally curious, so as soon as they hear me they come right up to the cage door to see what’s going on. They love fresh food, so whenever I bring something out like a pineapple top or shabby ol’ celery leaves, they devour it gratefully. Bunnies are in the same category of gentleness as sheep. Super sweet, super soft, and super affectionate. Truly a very adorable animal! (Unless you decide to try to pick it up–then it will eviscerate you with its razor sharp, deceptively strong hind legs. Seriously, don’t try it.)
Another benefit to having our bunnies in a rabbit tractor is that our grass is getting fertilized with nature’s best fertilizer! Rabbit pellets are considered a cold manure–meaning that it can be put straight on plants without having to compost it.
We have a pumpkin problem. I know I belong on an episode of “My Strange Addiction” or “Hoarders”–but, hear me out! What would you do if you were blessed with hundreds of pounds of beautiful, heirloom, nutritionally dense pumpkins (and the animals have had their fill)? You’d probably do what I’m doing. Invite them into your home and become fast friends.
A week ago, I believed that a pumpkin is a pumpkin is a pumpkin. But now that I’ve hefted, gutted, sniffed, tasted, explored and examined each pumpkin that arrived in our wheel barrow, I’ve learned to identify, discern and appreciate each unique “fruit of the vine”.