Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Forming the beds and paths...

Today we started shaping the beds and paths in the garden. We still have to stay well clear of the outside perimeter of the garden, to allow the fence people ample room to install the big fence that will keep out the marauding woodchucks, rabbits and deer.
But the interior of the beds are now plant-able even though not quite finished. Once the fence is put in (two weeks from now) we'll be able to finish the path that goes all the way around the garden inside the fence.
There are three long vegetable beds running down the length of the garden, and one wider bed on the end for blueberries, strawberries, and rhubarb. The long thin beds are 3 1/2 feet wide, and the two paths between them are two feet wide to accommodate a wheelbarrow.

I am terribly excited because now I can actually start planting seeds for a Fall crop! Hopefully not too many rabbits and deer will nibble the seedlings between now and when the fence is up. I can now start to sow seeds for lettuces, spinach, carrots, turnips, kohlrabi, radishes, beets, and various other Autumn loving vegetables. All I have to do is wait for it to stop raining.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Topsoil is in...

The new topsoil mixed with compost has been brought in for the vegetable garden. It's about a foot deep. We'll be laying out the bermed beds and the mulched paths in the interior of the garden over the next few days, while trying to steer clear of the perimeter so the fence people can put the fence in around the outside a couple of weeks from now. Meanwhile, I should be able to work in the center area of the garden once we have the paths set.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

New vegetable garden- breaking ground!

Well, they broke ground for the new 40' x 18' vegetable garden in our back yard today- so exciting! They are coming back tomorrow to do some more digging and bring in some new topsoil and compost to heap in the middle. After that it's a matter of waiting for the fence to be installed around the perimeter (to keep all the marauding varmints and deer out), then lastly laying out and sculpting the beds and paths inside. I can't wait to starting planting! (but I'll have to). The robins feasted on some yummy nightcrawler worms after the excavators left for the day. Poor worms! That's me in the last two photos...

Saturday, June 20, 2009

First worm castings harvest

Well today I harvested my first tray of earthworm castings from my tiered worm compost bin. I really could have done it a couple of weeks ago but didn't have the time til today.

After carefully sorting out the remaining worms and returning them to the bin, I wound up with about 12 pounds of beautiful 'black gold'- pure worm castings. Looks and smells like gorgeous black crumbly forest earth- smells like the forest, too, really nice.

Every time now that I plant a new row of lettuce or radish or spinach seed in the garden, I'll work little trowelfuls of castings right in along the little seed trenches as I sow. Unlike manure, castings won't burn the seedlings. Castings are like compost but even better- more-nutrient rich, and all the nutrients are already broken down into a form that the plants can use immediately.

I'm excited! My next tray of castings should be ready to harvest in another month or so.

I've had the worm bin for about 2 1/2 months now, and it's done extremely well for me. The worms have been breeding and thriving. The worms are all now 'up to speed' and can process kitchen scraps more quickly than when they were starting out. I'd estimate that they consume and process about 7 pounds of kitchen scraps per week now. I hope to increase that to 10 pounds per week soon, as the many babies mature. The worms have been multiplying happily and I must have about 30% more than when I started. It's said that their population size will automatically regulate itself according to the bin space and the food supply.
The worm bin is unobtrusively in the corner of the kitchen, and it never smells or attracts fruit flies or anything. I guess I must be keeping the bin conditions just right.

I like that after the initial purchase of bin and worms, it becomes an essentially free way of USING one's kitchen garbage and food scraps, converting it into healthy rich garden fertilizer...to help grow new fresh food! A very lovely cycle to start in motion.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Little garden filling up...

Well things have certainly grown in two weeks since my last pictures!
The big hailstorm we had a couple days ago did shred some of the outer large lettuce leaves but the damage was less than I had feared. We ate most of the damaged leaves right away- and there is plenty more lettuce growing.
We are getting a lot of leaf lettuce now- more than we can eat really, and we're enjoying fresh salads almost every day.
The three varieties of radish are coming along nicely and we might get to eat some in another week or two. Lots of baby green tomatoes. This evening we had our first Swiss chard, stir-fried with rice and shrimp. I'm excited to see the romaine lettuce and the bok choy growing well too, though they are still small. The string bean bushes are getting lush and I had to trim back some of the leaves so they don't completely shade the developing radishes. I want to plant more scallions- the little row of green threads looks so pretty, but I want more scallions started! The only thing that has not been doing well is the cilantro. It has stayed small and keeps producing flowers rather than leaves. I may just yank it and plant more scallions there instead. Don't want to waste a single inch of space! Sort of like "square inch gardening" around here.... ;D

Friday, June 12, 2009

Our new kitty

We had a sad 6 weeks. Of our three beloved cats, 8 year old Lydia got kidney failure and died. Then a week after that, our 20 year old Ellie kitty began to fail and died. Both kitties passed away peacefully at home with us, within a month of each other, after about two weeks illness each. We did all that we could to save them and make them comfortable.
Things were pretty glum in the house, and poor Pearl kitty who was left (our 9 year old silver Maine coon cat) was understandably confused and worried, both her longtime companions having 'disappeared'.

We went to the animal shelters near us and carefully looked over all the kitties needing homes. After much consideration of various cats, we picked one to adopt into our family. She had been taken from an abuse situation, had been emaciated and sick with infections, and
the end of one ear had to be amputated. She recovered very nicely after weeks in the Humane Society shelter being nursed back to health and then spayed. We think she is between 2 and 3 years old, since she still had many kittenish characteristics.

We've named her Suki.
Suki has lifted our hearts completely and is such a sweet delight! She is the most affectionate cat I have ever known, giving face kisses and cuddling us all the time, following us around the house cheerfully. We have completely fallen under her spell. It's a very happy match for all of us!

Pearl and Suki are tolerating each other much better than I had anticipated, both cats adapting pretty quickly to each other. We are giving Pearl lots of extra loving, of course (poor Pearl has been through a lot the past couple of months).
We can also feel good about giving a desperate homeless cat from the Humane Society a good 'forever home'.
I hope you too consider adopting your next pet from your local Humane Society or animal shelter. If you can't adopt, then consider making a small donation to support the good work they do! Every little amount you can give helps eliminate the suffering of desperate innocent animals.

Welcome home, little Suki!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Two semolina loaves

Yesterday I baked two loaves of semolina bread, side by side in cast iron Dutch oven pots in my oven. The loaves get lowered gently right on their sheets of parchment paper into the hot pots, and the lids are put on tightly during the first half of baking time to trap steam and produce a crispy golden crust. the parchment bakes right along with the bread and helps keep it from sticking to the pot. You can see here how the parchment 'bowls' look after baking in the Dutch ovens.

I topped one loaf with poppy seed, and one with sesame seed. Brushing with a water/cornstarch glaze before sprinkling on the seeds makes the seeds stick to the loaf.
They came out very nicely. I really like baking bread in the iron pots!

Both loaves have barely lasted through dinner and breakfast, what with company staying here overnight.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Little garden is filling up....

I am still in the planning process for my new large vegetable garden, but in the meantime, my little tomato patch has become much more than just tomatoes now.
I rearranged the stone path to take up less space, and decided to use the spaces a little more intensively for quick growing greens and radishes.
I planted quite a few rows of new seed up and down along every single available space...lots of lettuce (leaf and romaine), 3 kinds of radishes (cherry red, white, and French Breakfast), bok choy, scallions, and more chard. Things are growing! The scallion and bok choy seeds have not popped up just yet, but I expect them to shortly. I think I've crammed in about as much as I can from the little garden. I plan to rotate the spots for lettuce and radishes as they get used up and need to be re-seeded every couple of weeks or so.

We've been eating leaf lettuce and chard in salads already (3 salads this past week!), and I'm now thinning radish seedlings. Today I saw a 1" toad hopping around under the lettuces.
I am so pleased with how much more I am growing (and hope to harvest) from my little space now! It's been about 20 years since I last grew my own lettuce, in Puerto Rico. Interestingly, the same variety- Black Seeded Simpson!

Here is a "Before" picture from almost a month ago.

And here are the new pictures from this morning: