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Archive for the ‘Seasons’ Category

I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, but the warmer days have me thinking about the Spring/Summer garden planting.

We have already hit 90F here in South Texas. That is just too hot, WAY too soon for me. Last week we had another cooler down that was right up my alley and it had me opening the bedroom windows at night to cool the me down!

Tabouli

Tabouli

I try hard to purchase veggies in season, but I had an itch (and an event to bring a dish to) to make Tabouli (click on the word “Tabouli” to link to the recipe that I posted back in July of 2013). I picked and used as much as I could from the gardens; parsley, mint, cilantro, onion. But I did have to purchase things like cucumber and tomato (oh I can’t wait to pick that first fresh tomato!)

I am behind in my seed starting, but my tomato seedlings are up and a few of the pepper seeds are starting to sprout. I did pick up some heirloom and non-GMO seedlings at The Natural Gardener a few weeks ago. They are already potted up into gallon containers. The Natural Gardener didn’t have their pepper plants in yet, so I will check back in with them, as well as check a few other local nurseries to find some organic ones.

Reality check: last wee our temps are back in the “Texas Winter” range. We have been 25F at night with a few days that didn’t get about 45F (I know that is a heat wave for some of you out there.) so my seedlings are living in the garage and in the house for while.

What type of seeds will you be starting to prepare for the upcoming gardening season?

Sincerely, Emily

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The endless winter

Probably 30″ of snow in the backyard— it’s been death by a thousands little snowfalls this year. Two inches here, six inches there, not too bad shoveling-wise, but it’s been just one after the other, with something like 37 separate snowfalls in the past 40-45 days. The season total- with a month of winter to go, is 62″, a 20 year record.

And with zero melting in between. It just stays below freezing, often well below freezing. Along my back walk, where I’ve shoveled the snow up onto the yard, the wall of snow is at least shoulder height.

Usually in winter it’s kind of fun to track the animals based on their footprints, but this year there are no footprints— they are either traveling under the snow or they are nowhere.

Likewise the birds. I’m not seeing any. There were some bright blue finch-like ones on my porch about 10 days ago (someone suggested indigo buntings, and they do look like that, but we’re awfully far north for indigo buntings.), but I haven’t even seen a sparrow in a week. I always leave seed pods for them— angelina, phlox, sedum, coneflower— but the snow is so deep that the 2 foot tall heads of the plants are buried. There’s only northern sea oats and some monarda tall enough to still be visible.

Weather report calls for four days with highs below zero (that’s fahrenheit, folks). Then a maybe 33º on Thursday, before it plunges again for almost a week. Oh, and two possible snow “events” in there too.

I like winter as a rule, but I’m just worn out by this one.

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I must admit that my little alphabet list was blank when I came to H until I took the photos of the hand-painted ornaments that my Great Aunt made. Over the years, my brother and I have to receive the most beautiful hand-painted and handmade gifts from her. When my mom and I were up in Wisconsin visiting my brother we all had a great time going through all the decoration boxes as we decorated his tree. There were so many wonderful decoration filled with memories. We talked about the memories as we each pulled out another ornament. It was a lot of fun.

Hand-painted ornaments

Hand-painted ornaments

At the same time, we cleared out some things that none of use wanted anymore; old decorations that were broken and un-fixable. There was a plastic garland that had small fruit on it that mom used to attach to the railing going down the stair with velvet bows – that had to go, it was all sticky and just couldn’t be saved. 041I have some of my Aunt’s things on my tree, but it was so much fun seeing the ornaments that were going on my brothers tree. The photos I took aren’t the greatest, but they will remind me of those ornaments when I look at them.

As we talked and looked and decorated we realized that there are five generations of ornaments on my brothers tree. My Great-Grandmother, 2-Grandmothers, my mom, me/my brother, and his two girls. There is a lot of history there and a lot of great memories.

H is a lot of things; Happiness, handmade, hand-painted, holiday, history, and more

Do you have some treasured ornaments that are filled with memories?

Sincerely, Emily

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Happy Thanksgiving to those of you out there celebrating today.

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I (Sincerely, Emily) have a lot to be thankful for this year. I am thankful to be here to see one more day. Some days it has been very hard to be thankful for anything, but those moments have passed fairly quickly and I am So happy to be alive and doing so well. I find that I am thankful every day for so many thing. When I begin to get edgy or frustrated I just put myself back into place when I look at what surrounds me: fantastic husband, beautiful gardens, furry cats, a roof over my head, and the ability to be up and about and able to do things. cabbage Dec 2012

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Here are a few of our past Thanksgiving posts for you to enjoy:

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On days like this I wonder why we greet the first day of spring with such glee, yet dismiss fall’s first day as just the awful downturn into winter. The spring equinox is muddy, cold, and grey and the trees have no leaves; fall is brighter and warmer, green and gold and full of food and life. It is the second harvest (the first is Lammas in early August) and the promise of a healthy winter. At Spring the stores are low, at Autumn they are bursting– I’m running out of shelf space.

By common law tradition, the autumn equinox is a “quarter day”– Michaelmas or the feast of the angels, a time for fairs, marriages and pay day.

I sit here writing this at approximately the moment of Equinox (and by the way, when did we start thinking of the Equinox as a “moment”), looking at the astonishing blue of the sky and the clarity of the light. There is nothing like the clear intensity of light on a cool autumn day.

I run my hands through the beans drying on the counter, loving the gentle music they make. The rattling of beans on the vine is one of those sure signs of autumn. Every year I face the dilemma– mix all the varieties together, or separate them? This year I’ll separate by color only- reds in one jar, whites in another. I grew Christmas Limas for seed for Peterson Garden Project; they’re all supposed to go to next year’s garden, but I think I’m going to need to siphon off a half cup to cook (for science, ahem). Plus 25 to grow in my own garden. The rest will go back into the project (pinky swear).

It was such a Sconeday– crisp and still– so I made scones– a rolled raspberry version made with half white and half oat flour. It seemed appropriate to use the last of summer’s raspberries, frozen since July, for the first day of autumn. I flavored them for the memory of summer-with orange zest, orange extract and coriander, and glazed with a little bit of peach preserve left over from the peach syrup I made a few weeks ago.

The afternoon will be spent transplanting two small caryopteris bushes to a sunnier spot in a friend’s yard, where I think they’ll thrive better than in the shady spots they inhabit here. She’ll get some divided white iris and phlox as well. I’ve run out room to divide in my own yard, and can’t bear to just toss them. The weather is slated to warm up later in the week, the perfect transplanting formula.

I’ll walk to the lake, as always, towards the end of the day, to honor the horizon and to hear the sound of angels’ wings that is the waves rolling onto the beach.

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Lammas, or August 1, is the first of the harvest festivals. You’re probably picking more than you can eat all at once starting now.

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For me (Alexandra), Lammas marks the moment when the gardener is forcibly reminded that she is not actually in control. Plants go wild, as if they know (and I suppose they do), that summer is coming to an end, and they better get all their growing done!

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When ever I (Sincerely, Emily) visit my parents up in Minnesota this time of year, I am always amazed at the lush, full, green garden. In our area we are starting to plan our fall planting. I cut back my tomato plants a few weeks ago and they are growing, but I don’t seem to be harvesting much or anything. The Armenian cucumbers are still growing well and the okra is starting to produce. Just patiently waiting for some cooler temps so the pepper plants will start flowering again.

Star of David okra

Star of David okra

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What are you harvesting?

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Spring has arrived in some parts of the US while other parts are still, not-so patiently waiting. Last week we had fun looking back at what we harvested last year. This week we are looking forward and sharing our garden plans.

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Oh, I  (Sincerely, Emily) always seem to have a lot of plans, but as you know, there was a big wrench put in my plans so far this year. My friends have planted peppers and tomatoes for me and I will get the okra seed in the ground in the next week. That is about it for my garden plans. If things had gone according to “plan” I would be adding tomatillos to my garden this year. I have wanted to plant them for the past few years, but it just didn’t happen. That plan will wait until Spring 2014.  Right now I have peppers and tomatoes already forming.  I am glad to have things growing out there.

Cubanella pepper 4-19-2013

Cubanella pepper 4-19-2013

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Tanglewood Farm is always abuzz with plans; some come to fruition, some shrivel up and die like a cast bug. Heh.

So far this year my biggest plans have been to try to pick up where I left off last spring. The weather last year was so atrocious that I admit I threw in the towel early. Okay, I planted a lots of things, and I admit I got to harvest a handful of tomatoes and some greens, but it was just such a bummer, especially after I had ordered and planted (and paid for) 80+ new berry bushes, including raspberries, dewberries, blackberries and gooseberries. By the end of the summer, regardless of watering, everything was crisp and brown to the roots.

So this year I have reordered most of the plants that died last year and I am starting afresh! I am also putting a lot of the young (wimpy) bareroot plants that I’ve ordered in pots until they are a little more established and until the ground is a little more planting-friendly. Right now we are soggy and sloshy from the house gardens to the back orchard (which, actually, is currently two feet under water!) so planting will have to wait, but planning… planning is always going on here at the farm!

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It’s killing me, but I think this year is probably a no-corn year.  I’m working on my rotation, and finding that without corn I have almost too much space, which I think will be filled with beans– boring, but practical (all the practical stuff is boring). Follow my gardening fits and starts at MyFolia.com/gardener/Xan!

Seedlings Rainbow Chard Seedlings Aunt Ruby

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Are you planting something new this spring?

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Our wonderful Jen at Unearthing This Life has been posting these great month-by-month planners for a few years. Just because she’s not writing here anymore doesn’t mean we stop the reposts!

I’ve been pretty productive this April– completely reconfigured the usage of my house to reflect the new reality of being in it alone. Lots of painting, moving and patching. The garden’s been a bit neglected through all this, but I’m hoping to get back on track. You can follow my garden progress at MyFolia.com/gardeners/Xan.

Here’s Jen’s April planner:

Gardening:

  • Tilling garden beds where necessary to work in compost and get rid of weed seedlings
  • Edging beds or digging the last of the new beds
  • Add supports to garden beds for plants like tomatoes, peas, gourds, roses, peonies, and beans.
  • Sowing outdoor hardy annuals
  • Sow last of the peas, potatoes, and onions. Continue starting beets, lettuces, cabbages, radishes, and carrots.
  • Planting rooted raspberry canes and strawberries
  • Hardening off and planting of vegetable seedlings
  • Plant any remaining saplings and transplants
  • Rake around fruit trees to help with invasive bugs and/or treat for them. Use treatments only after flowers are gone.
  • Questions about what to plant when? Go to Mother Earth News!

Outdoor house and yard Chores:

  • Clean up fallen branches and sticks, nuts, and leaves.
  • Hang bird/butterfly/bat-houses. If you’re not a beekeeper consider hanging a mason bee box. Set up bird baths and drinking holes for beneficial critters like bees.
  • Tidy up gutters and look for winter damage.
  • Bring out water hoses and setting up water barrels.
  • Repair screens check caulking/insulation around windows and repair if necessary.
  • MORELS!

Animals:

  • Purchase/raise chicks
  • Consider any expansions and rotations for this seasons’ critters.
  • Repair fencing.
  • Add supers to beehives. Check brood.

Indoors:

  • Wash windows and curtains.
  • Organize and collect glass canning jars.
  • Clean out freezers and storage for this year’s crops.
  • Plan simple, yet filling meals for lots of energy.

What will you be working on this month?

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It feels like spring in South Texas. My apple tree has some buds appearing, one of the peach trees has it leaves almost opening up, and the wrens are sneaking into the back screen porch to build nests. I am up and moving around, so I need to take a walk around the back yard (with my camera) and check out the other trees to see what they are doing. The day time temperatures have been warm, and at time downright hot. The night time temps have hardly dipped at all (although a few nights ago it was 45F – yes I know that is a heatwave for many of you. I grew up in Minnesota so I understand that when you have been in a deep-freeze and the thermometer rises to 30, your jackets start coming off and you roll down the windows in your car.

Perfect wren nesting area

Perfect wren nesting area

The past 3 days I have walked out into the screen porch and found wrens out their building nests (yes, in the screen porch.) I can’t get too upset, after all, I leave the back screen doors wide open, well, not actually wide open but blocked open for the cats to come and go during the day. So the wrens should know that there is a difference. Wide open would mean they were invited to come in and build. Just blocked open means, no not you, just the cats. However, I guess blocked open wide enough for a cat to get through (9″) is really wide open for a wren, isn’t it?! Dang it, I just lost my own argument.

Peach tree 2-2013With all this Spring-like weather the birds are active and singing their songs. The trees are right out there with them, showing their buds. That reads spring to me.  For me, I am way behind in where I should be for this time of year. I have no seeds started, and even though I would like to, it will not be happening this  year. That just makes me down right frustrated, but I need to calm down and go with the flow. And the flow this year, at this time, means I need to take care of myself, and it means no seeds started or yard-doings of any kind. I am finding that I am very good at walking around the backyard with my husband (when I can catch him at home during daylight hours – gosh that is challenging!) and point at things that need to be watered, moved, done, etc. In fact, I even found a bamboo stick back there to use as a pointer, then there is no way he can’t  see what I am pointing at (no bending over for the girl.)  The “water that”, “what?”, “that”, “which one” thing has been solved. I know can point with the bamboo stick, right down to the plant.

The wrens are certainly entertaining to watch (as long as I am not chasing them out of the screen porch.) They are happy singing and busy working. Me, I am just standing still watching and listening. Maybe this surgery is a big huge message for me to slow down and watch and observe. I have a hard time sitting still. Normally, while I work outside, I do sit and watch what is happening around me.  I enjoy listening to the birds and watching them, I just never expected to have to sit and watch them while the world went by.

By the end of March I can start to re-join my real world, with limitations. Limitations! UGH! I am grateful to be here. I am grateful to be able to watch the birds. I am grateful to be able to watch the trees and the bud and leaf out.

I am glad that I have the wrens around. They keep moving ahead, building next, planning for the spring.

Are you on track for your spring chores?

Sincerely, Emily

You can see what else I am up to over at Sincerely, Emily. The topics are varied, as I jump around from gardening to sewing to making bread or lotion and many things in between.

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This is the second in our repostings of Jen’s wonderful posts on monthly planning. Originally posted in 2011, here’s what to do in the traditional dead of winter.

February can be one of the last chances to get indoor projects completed before the spring thaw arrives. Gardeners are getting excited and it won’t be long before the first of this year’s farm babies are here! Spring is really just around the corner, so start wrapping things up inside and get ready to head back outdoors.

Indoors:

  • Check basement or crawl space for leakage during thaws.
  • Check bathroom caulking for re-sealing needs. While you’re in there, check your pipes for leaks.
  • Freshen your kitchen sinks by pouring a mixture of 3 cups hot water and 1/4 cup vinegar (or the juice of one lemon) down each drain.
  • Keep an eye out for cracks in your drywall caused by settling during thaws and freezes. There are expandable putties and spackles available for problem areas. While you’re at it, you may want to mark outdoor masonry to be repaired. Plan to complete this project after the last hard freeze and once your biggest worries of the house settling are past.
  • If you don’t have a cold frame or greenhouse, set up an area to start seeds for your garden. Few seeds need light to germinate (be sure to read the directions) so you may be able to get by without any lights other than a window for the first few weeks. (Check out chiotsrun seedstarting 101 guide).
  • Research and prepare for any animal purchases for the year.
  • Keep a tray of water and spray bottle near indoor plants to adjust humidity levels, especially if you have central air. Running the heater can dry them out quickly and cover leaves with dust.

Outdoors/Garden/Wildlife:

  • Keep fresh water available and free of ice for birds and wildlife.
  • It’s National Bird Feeding Month. Keep feeding those birdies! Seed, dried berries, and suet are great meals for our feathered pals.
  • If you live in a climate with mild winters, this month may be a good time to dig new beds. You may also want to repair or build new composting bins to be prepared for this year’s cleanup.
  • Southerners could get away with planting bare root trees on warm days.
  • Keep driveways and walks free of snow and ice. Have shovels, plows, and salt/brine accessible and stocked.
  • Watch gutters and roofs for ice dams.
  • XAN EDIT: if you’re in a short-season zone (5 and up) start long season seeds like onions and leeks indoors
  • If you didn’t get to it during fall, now would be a great time to oil and sharpen garden tools.

Animal Husbandry

  • Be prepared for early birthing. Have any equipment you’ll need ready and accessible.
  • Nights are still very cold in most parts of the country. Keep your critters warm with fresh hay, heat lamps, or blankets, but be sure to avoid fire hazards.
  • If you’ve been leaving a light on for your chickens you can begin weaning them off of it. The sun is setting noticeably later and your gals should begin laying more regularly soon.

You can also find Jennifer in archive at Unearthing This Life where she used to blog (or as she called it “blarg”) a bit about good food, home schooling, raising chickens, and being a suburban Yankee transplant in a rural southern town. She’s not writing right now, but her wonderful posts are well worth scrolling through.

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