Coffee and a Chat

Good morning,

cropped-dsc01310.jpgI’ve been busy these days. The yard and garden work is nearly finished for the season. We’re eating cabbage, potatoes, and brussel sprouts from the garden but the rest of the yard is covered in snow. I have flower pots scattered around the yard needing attention. And the bird feeders need washing and filled. We don’t put them out when the garden is in full production because the bird seed attracts lots of wild animals to our yard. Instead we plant plenty of sunflowers so the birds feast on those seeds. But now it’s time to give our little feathered friends a bit of a treat.

This morning while my husband and I drank our coffee before starting the work day, he was poring over the seed catalog that came in the mail yesterday. And the cycle begins all over again. I’m spending time revising From Seed to Table and preparing it for a paperback release by January. S2T-6

My busyness these days involves my writing life. Today I stopped by a fellow writer and blogger’s site for a chat and a cup of coffee. Annamaria Bazzi has been hosting these Roundtable chats, and mine is #22.

Check it out to see what’s been occupying my time these days: http://www.annamariabazzi.com/2013/11/14/round-table-chat-22.

What’s going on in your garden as winter makes its sudden approach?

 

January Gardening?

catalogs galore

catalogs galore

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

The seed catalogs appear in the mailbox daily now. Today we ordered seeds for broccoli, brussel sprouts, radishes (both red and the long white variety), lettuce, Swiss chard, parsley, basil, and flowers. However, the catalogs came a little late for onions. After consultation with Llewellyn’s 2013 Moon Sign Book, my husband determined the best time to start the seeds was in the waning days of 2012.

So while we were in Florida over Christmas, my husband began sprouting onion seeds. He buys the cheapest and thinnest paper towels and places a layer of seeds on one sheet. Then he piles sheet upon sheet until the top of the plastic container is full. He dampens the towels with water and keeps the container in a warm place. He treated his package as if it was a pet, carrying it inside wherever we visited and adding water as necessary to keep the towels damp.

the sprouts after ten days in damp paper towels

the sprouts after ten days in damp paper towels

This year he sprouted seven varieties of onions – both short and long day types – of yellow, white, and red.

By the time we arrived back in Pennsylvania, the seeds had sprouted in their paper towel womb. The thin paper towel helps those tiny little sprouts from sticking to the layers.

A week ago, he put the seedlings into four-pack containers filled with regular potting soil with a very small quantity of organic and rock fertilizers. He uses a five-gallon bucket for soil (two-thirds filled) and throws in a handful of the fertilizers. Once the packs are filled with dirt, he pokes holes in each section with a pencil.

pencil poking

pencil poking

Then he “pokes” the onion seedlings into the soil.

poking onion sprouts

poking onion sprouts

Now the seedlings are growing happily under grow lights in cupboards in our family room. Unfortunately, we don’t have a heated greenhouse, but we’ve found a way to manage.

minutes in soil

minutes in soil

a week later after living in a cupboard under grow lights (set on a timer)

a week later after living in a cupboard under grow lights (set on a timer)

Now we await the shipment of the rest of the seeds. Some seeds, such as tomatoes, peppers, and butternut squash, he’s kept from last year’s crop. But he’ll still get some new seeds, even though each year I tell him more than twenty healthy tomato plants are way too much for two people unless I set up a roadside stand.

How about you? Are you sprouting seeds, looking at catalogs, waiting for the nurseries to open with plants, or anticipating the local farmer’s market in your area? Whatever you do, locally grown food is always the best choice.

last year's crop we're enjoying this winter

last year’s crop we’re enjoying this winter

Note: We recycle the magazines when we’re done with them each year. We also reuse all the four- and six-pack containers as well as the trays.

To Everything There is a season

Resting in the winter garden

Resting in the winter garden

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.

Ecclesiastes 3:1

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

And so it is with gardening. The winter season of gardening is a time of planning, considering, and enjoying the bounty of the previous seasons.

Almost every night we’re eating something from the freezer or from a canning jar. But we also enjoy a few vegetables thriving in the cooler weather. Beets rest in the ground covered with leaves.

Beets in season

Beets in season

We may need to pull them all out before the first major cold snap, but we’re enjoying them several times a week now. They are still delicious, although they aren’t quite as sweet as the earlier warm weather harvest.

During the summer, a ground hog took a liking to the brussel sprouts. Finally in early October, my husband managed to capture the cabbage-loving rodent in a Havahart trap. Hopefully that ground hog is waiting to see his shadow on the banks of the Ohio River. With his departure, the brussel sprouts recovered and at least once a week they grace our plate, small, tender and full of flavor. We should be able to enjoy them with reasonable winter temperatures and some snow cover as insulation.

lovely brussel sprouts

lovely brussel sprouts

Stakes and strings are removed, and leaves cover the floor of our garden bed. Onion seeds are ordered. We discuss the poor showing of peppers and beans this past summer and consider the options for our location. We know the peas underperformed because of the addition of mushroom compost when they were just sprouting – too much, too soon. But we’re puzzled by the sweet peppers that never seem to get very big before rotting. Cayenne and jalapeno peppers thrive in our Pennsylvania garden for some reason. Our green, string, and lima beans also produced very little this year. Anyone else ever have these problems? How did you solve them?

Soon the process will begin all over again with modifications and adjustments learned from last year to fulfill “every purpose under the heaven.”

canned tomato sauce, frozen pesto, corn, and spinach, and fresh beets

canned tomato sauce, frozen pesto, corn, and spinach, and fresh beets

Recipes:

canning tomato sauce

freezing spinach

pesto