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Showing posts from October, 2008

Balmy Hoophouse Thoughts

I ducked into the hoophouse today to check on things and warm up a bit. We're waiting on a part for our new woodstove, and so the house is chilly. A little work in there seemed like a good choice. Once inside I found it was a balmy 65 degrees and climbing. Everything looked great although it was a bit dry. There is a fair amount of condensation on the plastic, but it isn't enough to really water the plants. I did a little watering and planted a nice little row of bok choi seeds. They should germinate, but we'll see how quickly they actually grow in these short hours of daylight. Then it was a little weeding, and plucking cabbage worms off the kale and calabrese plants. No sign of the praying mantis, but there was a lovely little ladybug wandering around. While in many ways I had been more than ready for the garden to be done, I am so glad we have the hoophouse. Not only is it a cozy spot, but we have a ready supply of tasty greens and herbs. The beets seem to be coming al

Hoophouse Updates

We've learned a few fascinating things about hoophouses since we've constructed ours. 1. It's easier the second time around. We helped our friends Bryan and Aimee at Ambry Farms construct a hoophouse the next day, and the four of us finished up in just over an hour. 2. It works! We checked the temperature the next day in ours, and by noon it was at 106 degrees. The praying mantis and cabbage worms seemed very much at ease. Yikes! 3. Keep an eye on the structure. We found about a day or so later that one of the ribs disconnected from the ridge pole. Bryan and Aimee had the same issue, but came up with a good repair. (It happens to be the same one that the original designer came up with when he encountered the same problem.) 4. Less light gets through. I felt like a real rocket scientist when I realized that (duh!) less light was getting through to my plants. Things seemed a little wilted and not so colorful. Since the sunlight comes through the plastic now there is a fra

The Hoophouse Is Born

We talked about it, looked at books about it, and today we're building it! The forecast is for a low of 20 degrees tonight, and if we plan on eating any of our own kale, swiss chard, parsley, beet greens, and calabrese this is it. We looked at a number of different plans, and finally settled on this hoophouse plan from the Westside Gardener . We bantered about plans using fencing, hay bales, plastic roofing, etc., but decided for ease of access and long-term use this is the one to go with. We measured the size we wanted using a garden hose to roughly sketch the shape. Then we removed the pallets we use for paths to clear the area for planting the stakes. Some need to be replaced anyway, and the set on the right of where the hoophouse will go I wanted to replace with boards to make a narrower path. One of my other beds is much too narrow, and this is as good an excuse as any to expand it. We finished up around sunset, and closed everything down tight for the night. We covered the

Frosty Night

Frost came in the night to coat everything with its thin layer of white. Luckily, I picked a good deal of Swiss Chard and cooked it up for freezing. I covered nothing in the garden. It was so cold and clear last night that I should have realized we were on the brink of a frost. I only remember looking up at the stars and thinking how nice they seemed, and how nice it would be to sit out under them. Then I remember thinking nothing at all except how to most quickly get in bed. It was that kind of day. The leaves of the chard, kale, parsley, and broccoli are heavily coated. I'm waiting for the sun to swing around and show me what has really transpired. Later that same day... I ventured out again to mourn my plants and tidy up. Miracle of miracles! They were all fine. Parsley, kales, and swiss chards stood in the sun like nothing had happened. I was duly impressed.

To market, to market

While it was still fresh in my memory, I wanted to recount a usual trip in to the Farmer's Market as a vendor. It's been a great summer, and market is easily one of my favorite parts. While I did tire at times of people asking for plastic bags to go in their canvas bags or wincing at a fair price for an organic potato, I still loved it and am a little sad I won't be going next week. It's an amazing experience and so much fun. I get picked up a little bit after 5am in the rumblely truck, and we make our way in to the city. The soft glow from the dashboard gives a bit of light to our faces as we make our way from dirt to pavement, and then carefully calculate the turns so as not to spill things from the shelves in the back. Conversation is challenging at that time of the morning, and floats along streams of the ridiculous, mundane, or onto any random story that comes to mind. Anything to keep the driver and passengers awake enough to function when we finally arrive at th

An Inventory of Summer's Harvest

The other night we inventoried our stock of preserved food. Various fall fruit sauces are still underway, along with apple cider and dried beans, but we wanted to see where we stood for the coming winter months. Fruits Apple sauce (spiced, plain, chunky and smooth) 12 pints and 8 half-pints Pear sauce 15 pints Peach sauce 8 pints Cherries in medium syrup 5 quarts 10 pints Blueberries in light syrup 8 pints Raspberries in light syrup 3 pints Cherry juice 3 pints Veggies Tomato sauce ( Barbara Kingsolver's recipe ) 13 quarts 17 pints Tomatoes plain 11 quarts 17 pints Pickled beets 11 pints Pickled zucchini 8 pints 24 half-pints Dilled green tomatoes 7 pints Green beans 17 pints Sauerkraut 4 quarts and a crock still cooking away Jams Blueberry 14 half-pints Black raspberry 10 half-pints Victoria sauce 11 half-pints (more like a chutney and made with rhubarb) Red raspberry 4 half-pints Strawberry 5 half-pints Peach 17 half-pints A selection of herbs - parsley, sage, and rosemary

Rural Renaissance in Review

Along with weeding in the field, bunching herbs and vegetables for market, and snipping salad mix at Frog Holler Organic Farm this summer I've been doing some reading. Pretty much any book related to gardening has always interested me, and now I find that I am also drawn to books that talk about living closer to the land, food preservation, and, of course, gardening. I've decided to begin reviewing some of the books I read to organize my own thoughts and share with others my impressions of them. Rural Renaissance: Renewing the Quest for the Good Life by John Ivanko and Lisa Kivirist. New Society Publishers, 2004. 265 pages. Rural Renaissance is the story of one family’s transition from very urban living in Chicago as advertising executives to life as innkeepers in a small, rural Wisconsin town. The book tells how they formulate and achieve various tenents of “right living” – living lightly on the earth; community with nature and their neighbors; working for themselves on