Monday, June 5, 2017

Garden Update part1

Y'all...for the first time ever...EVER...I  lost my entire garden (11 tomato plants and 10 pepper plants--ALL Heirloom varieties) with exceptions being my berries, asparagus and 1 little old bell pepper plant.  How utterly tragic!

We planted the garden on May 2nd. Normally we don't plant until Mother's Day. But it had been a very mild winter and the soil was much warmer than normal for this time of year. We followed the planning forecasts. It seemed safe. There were 2 dates May 6 and 7 which were slightly worrisome. The low temps were  expected to be 36° to 40°F. We took a gamble and lost. We ended up with a hard frost overnight May 7.

The hubbs and I debated (code for a minor argument) the frost advisory.  I REALLY wanted to cover everything. He insisted everything would be ok.  IT WAS NOT OK! The plants withered under the cold frost.  I am sure the hubbs withered under my frosty cold stare and cold shoulder treatment. I am far more scary to him when I don't talk, haha. I should have woman-ed up, schlepped my rear to the garage and pulled the totes out to find the row cover material. I was having some back and shoulder issues and an overall not feeling well. My mistake, next time I will work through the pain. So all those little seedlings I nurtured and plants I spent my hard earned money on are now in the compost pile. All those heirloom seed collection opportunities gone...UGH!

I had to spend $80 initially to replace the entire garden.  But there was an 11% rebate so it soften the blow to my wallet just a wee bit. And fortunately my cucurbit seedlings were too small to have been planted initially and the beans had not yet sprouted. I lucked out and was able to get heirloom varieties...just not my heirloom varieties I planted initially.

The hubbs and I had  another "minor debate"  about the temporary garden fence being installed. So I compromised  used 2 hours of vacation and installed it while he was at work. Problem solved. So here we are with the replants 2nd week of May. It is a rather sad state of affairs. Everything is so small and looks sickly. The weather has been horrid. Cold and rain. I am very stressed about my garden...or the lack thereof...

This is the end of May/ beginning of June and all the plants appear to perking up. The Blue Lake bush beans are growing well. We are doing succession plantings, with a new row of beans planted every 2 weeks to extend the harvest up until 8 weeks before the first frost which would put the last planting early to mid August. That's gonna be a lot of green beans! And don't be alarmed my soil isn't as bad as it appears. It has been amended quite a bit. It still isn't the dark, rich, chocolate cake color  of a super rich and loamy soil but we are progressing.  At the end of the season instead of pulling everything out we are going to pull all the debris to a 5 ft by 5 ft area, then trench and berm, and light that beyotch up, Haha! NO seriously! It is called Biochar. After the biochar the soil will be pulled over the biochar (at least 8-10 inches deep). The remainder of the bed will be covered with manure rototilled in and covered in straw. Then come Spring the whole bed will be tilled. Another 5 ft by 5 ft will be biocharred and left fallow (maybe a half season) and we will keep repeating the Biochar process until the entire bed has been burnt or amended with Biochar. IF we are lucky enough to have enough debris we can create the biochar in a burn barrel and apply it to the bed. So between fire and cow/horse/chicken manure, we will get the soil where it needs to be.

Speaking of  chicken manure...Meet my newest neighbors, The Golden Girls. My good neighbors has her own flock. They are very entertaining and she has shared some eggs--which were fantastic!

The asparagus did pretty well this year, despite the hubby who "helped" weed it last season.  It is now is now finished for the season. I am expanding the bed to add 12 more root crowns. So eventually I will have 20 producing plants! In the interim I have brussel sprouts planted and hopefully I can harvest some before the weather turns to Hades. And since it has stopped raining, I can finally treat whatever is chewing my plants.

My grapevines were cut down and 2 were dug out because they were very weak and diseased. They  had not been producing the way they should for several years and that was  my fault. The vines removed had extensive fungal disease and had choked/ strangled one another. Had the vines been properly spaced and routinely prunes they would have been viable the remainder of  my life and beyond. Properly maintained grapevines can live 50-100 years. This is where they were originally planted. It  now looks so bare.  Except for the damn poke plant. That grows all over my yard and has taproots from hell. Sigh.

Here are my replacement grapevines. I ordered the Edelweiss from Gurney's which you can see is doing fantastic. It will be planted this week (1st week of June) as soon as we finish the arbor. A little later than I would like to plant but the weather has not been cooperative.  The Mars, Marquis and Reliance were ordered from Burpee and I am a little concerned because they don't seem to be doing much of anything. Fingers crossed the begin to bud out soon.  I used the baby pool (which has been perforated for drainage, has a thin layer of gravel and excellent loamy soil to heel my plants for planting in the ground.

However imagine my surprise... the grapevine we had cut down, still has some life in it. Considering we  basically butchered this vine, I can't believe I have this new growth after 2 weeks. I am gonna just go with it and let it grow. The other 2 vines were removed completely.  This one had a very large stalk and seemed to be vigorous. If I recall correctly this was a Concord but I really don't remember. (and my garden journal is misplaced). 

Well I am gonna stop here. This was a long post and I am fatigued. There will be part 2 to finish discussing some new additions of edibles.  Hopefully, in part 2 I can share some good news ...or at least progress with the garden.

©My Cozy Little Farmhouse 2009-current. Unauthorized use and/ or duplication without written permission from blog author/ owner is prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided acknowledgement is given to My Cozy Little Farmhouse, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Trees Please

Remember when I talked about planting some trees on Earth Day?

Well I placed an order from Stark Brothers Nursery. And this is a completely unsolicited response on my part... They have AMAZING customer service. Stark's was incredibly communicative. I received emails every step of the order process, who promptly fulfilled the order and shipped. I ordered April 9th, had a shipping confirmation on April 11 with delivery on April 14. And this was not a paid expedited shipment. Color me impressed!

Ok--a funny and cute anecdote about the post title "Trees Please". When my daughter was a toddler, she loved broccoli, except she couldn't pronounce broccoli. She would ask for "trees please". haha

Since these were bare root saplings, I soaked the roots for 24 hrs after they were un-packaged.

And this stuff--coconut coir-- is the shizzle!

It is a SUPER hard, compressed block of coconut fibers. But when you add water, it is oh so magical. This is an eleven pound block.  Add water and it expands substantially. I failed to estimate exactly how much of this stuff I would end up with from that compressed block, ha. This is my 4 cubic feet garden cart. Soooo, yeah, lots of coconut coir. Fear not, I have put it to good use--more on that later.

I mixed the coir and an organic garden soil in a 1:3 ratio. The coir is a great soil conditioner. It helps with water retention, air circulation and adds organic matter to the soil while having a neutral pH.

I purchased 3 Heirloom variety Apple trees--Antique Treasures Collection. The collection contained 3 semi dwarf bare root trees of  1 each Cox's Orange Pippin Antique -an English cultivar dating back to 1835; Orleans Antique-a NY cultivar dating to 1924; Ben Davis-this is a US cultivar dating back to the 1800's.

I also purchased Peach tree seedlings--the Burbank Choice Peach Tree Collection. Saplings? Or should I say whips? Because they have no branching yet. This collection consisted of  2 dwarf trees-1 each July Elberta Peach and Starking Delicious. The July Elberta is heat resistant, originates in California and dates back to the 1930's. The Starking Delicious is frost hardy Elberta type, originates in Arkansas and dates back to 1949.

I currently have 2 Redhaven dwarf trees. Errrr... 1 tree and a bush?   Redhaven's  originate from Michigan and date back to the 1930's. Not sure what happened to the 2nd tree/ bush.  I thought it died but apparently not. I am debating whether to keep the "bush" or not. I need to see if  the shoots are above the graft.  I am not certain if these are suckers or water sprouts.

All of my peaches are self pollinating, freestone with a July harvest. And in case you were wondering clingstone vs. freestone refers to how the fruit flesh clings (or doesn't) to the fruit pit when cut in half. The tree on the left is 2-3 years and needs a bit of pruning. See the large "V" branch on the front of the tree? I think that should be pruned off. I am worried once fruit laden it may split. The tree/bush was planted last year.

  I started all my bare root saplings in 5 gallon buckets  because I haven't had much luck in the past years with my trees. Too many variables with weather, soil conditions, deer (gggrrr), or unfortunate incidents due to the weedwhacker. I decided I put too much money in to lose another set of saplings. And as you can see by the pictures,  the bucket saplings are growing quite well. The big question is should I plant them this year?

Fruit trees should be planted in the Spring but I really wanted to give the trees a chance to grow. If I were to plant them in fall I would need to plant them by the 1st week of September to make certain they can acclimate. I could mulch the roots and wrap the trunk prior to the onset of cold weather. The biggest damage for trees in cold weather is when the sun warms the trunk and the temperatures drop rapidly after the sun goes down.

I know it is only May and I am already talking about winter prep. If I overwinter them, should I keep them in the 5 gallon buckets? Or  make root balls and wrap them in Burlap? I can over winter them in the garage--which is cinder block and uninsulated.

I really, REALLY don't want to lose any more trees. I have lost all of my apple trees (a total of 4) and 3 peach trees.  Not to mention multiple ornamentals.  It is time consuming and expensive.  What say you, my bloggie friends? I am open to advice and suggestions.

©My Cozy Little Farmhouse 2009-current. Unauthorized use and/ or duplication without written permission from blog author/ owner is prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided acknowledgement is given to My Cozy Little Farmhouse, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Under Pressure

Yep, I did it. I splurged and bought an electronic pressure cooker! IP for shorthand.

Y'all know I have a kitchen gadget obsession.  The IP is now being distributed via Target. I scored a great deal. On sale for $99.95 (before tax), an additional 10 % instant rebate, 5% for using my Target debit card and a $10 rebate. Woot!

Soooo shiny!

I have had a cook top pressure cooker and I have a pressure canner. This electronic IP is AMAZING. No more rumbling, jiggling weight. It has several safety features built in. It is so easy to use.

The first thing I did after un-boxing my IP--after giggling and doing a little jig--was to wash all the parts and read every piece of literature that came with the IP. Next, a quick visit to the website to  watch the tutorial video. Only then did I set it up and perform the pressure test. Everything worked like a charm!

The first night I made beef vegetable soup. I sauteed the semi-frozen  diced stew beef  (12 oz beef in 1 TBS oil)) in the IP. IN THE POT! My crock pot doesn't have that function.  Next I added 1  (15oz) can of low sodium beef broth, 1 (8 oz)  can tomato sauce, 1 can (8 oz) diced tomatoes, 1 can of water (15 oz), 1 teaspoon of better than bouillon vegetable base,  1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning, 1 frozen bag  (12 oz) soup vegetable mix, and 2 bay leaves. After a quick stir, closing the IP, I selected the Soup function, high pressure, and set the timer for 35 minutes. Natural release (NR) for 20 minutes.  The meat was falling apart tender, perfect vegetables, great flavor.

The 2nd night I made soup beans and ham. I did soak my beans overnight as per my usual method. I sauteed 1 cup mirepoix and 8 oz diced ham  in 1 tsp bacon grease. I added 4 cups hot water, my soaked/ rinsed beans, seasoned with 2 bay leaves, and 1 teaspoon Penzey's Sunny Paris, and 1/2 teaspoon Chicago .  Placed the lid, turned the lever to seal,  Pressed the Bean/ Chili button, high pressure, set the timer to 35 minutes and walked away. 10 Minutes NR, then quick release.  My beans were finished in 35 minutes. Absolutely perfect texture with an earthy, slightly salty/ sweet and smokey flavor.

Country style pork ribs. I sauteed the season ribs (Penzey's Chicago seasoning) in 2 tsp oil, covered the ribs in sliced onions. Added  3/4 cup water w/ a shot of honey bourbon and 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (ACV). I selected Meat/Stew, high pressure for 40 min. I used a honey bourbon mustard glaze and baked it in the oven for 15 min (400°F). I served it with a salt and pepper crusted potato and a side of broccoli slaw. The ribs were fall off the bone, melt in your mouth tender..

Chicken & dumplings-1 pound boneless, skinless trimmed chicken thighs (whole, semi-defrosted) sauteed in 1 teaspoon butter, 2 cups water, and 1 heaping tablespoon Better than Bouillon Roasted Chicken base. I selected Meat/Stew, HP 8min/NR 10min/QR. Use 2 forks to pull the chicken into rough cubes/ thick shred. I added 1 cup mirepoix (frozen), 2/3 cup peas & carrots (frozen), 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning, 1 cup water, and1 bag of Reames dumpling noodles (frozen). I gave it a quick stir, selected Soup, HP 10 min and NR 20min I had to go to the grocery for milk, ha. Opened it up when I came home, gave it a quick stir, added some pepper and it was perfect!

I always thought I was a decent cook, now I feel like an amazing cook. Apparently you can make lasagna, hard boiled eggs, baked bread and make a cheesecake in the IP. As well as a kazillion other things. There are several online communities around the pressure cooking. It is almost cult-like, haha.  Best kitchen gadget purchase ever!

©My Cozy Little Farmhouse 2009-current. Unauthorized use and/ or duplication without written permission from blog author/ owner is prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided acknowledgement is given to My Cozy Little Farmhouse, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.