Sunday, March 27, 2011

Lots of Tomato Potential

Thankfully we've been having some warmer weather the past week, which is great because the ground started to dry up (but that was undone in the downpour we had last night/today!) and the grass is coming up.
But when the sun comes out, the greenhouse thermometer shoots up to 90 degrees in just a couple minutes. And if I don't run out there right away, things start to dry out, real fast. Especially if I didn't plan for a sunny day and left the heat mats plugged in. On Vashon you can never predict spring weather - it will be sunny and warm one second and then hailing/raining/windy and miserable the next. With no thermostat or automatic fan/windows, it's up to me to keep the seedlings comfortable. I've had a couple close calls, but luckily only a few celosias and lettuce bit the dust. At 7 am every day, I turn on the grow lights, take off the plastic covers and water if needed, then decide while I'm milking if I should prepare for a cloudy or sunny day (by watering more heavily and turning off the heat). I'm usually out there by noon to water, then again at 4 pm if it was a sunny day. At 7 pm I replace the plastic covers on the little seedlings and turn on the heat mats, and then my dad turns out the grow lights at 10 pm when he feeds the animals. It seems like a lot of work, but I really enjoy checking on the little green things!
The tomato plants are growing very fast in the warmth, so I transplanted the first flat on Saturday. These first ones were from the Baker Creek seeds; the Pinetree order came a couple weeks later so those plants are a bit smaller.
Here's a list of my Baker Creek tomatoes:

Cherokee Purple
Japanese Black Trifele
Woodle Orange
Orange Fleshed Purple Smudge
Gajo de Melon
Amish Paste
Costoluto Genovese
Cour di Bue
German Red Strawberry
Ananas Noir
Pink Grapefruit

I was a bit shocked to count all the transplanted tomatoes, because I have 93 of them! And that's not counting the other 45 from the Pinetree seeds! Between the neighbors' garden and mine, we should be able to plant about 70. So the other half will be sold in May. ($4 each, reserve them now!)

Elsewhere in the greenhouse:


The younger tomatoes, along with anise hyssop (lower right), statice (lower middle), and four o'clocks (the big leaves), along with Swiss chard and onions on the right.

Padron Peppers

Baker Creek tomatoes, pre-transplant


Lots of peas!

Salad Burnet


Broccoli Rabe

Lacinato Kale



Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bizarre Bovine Behavior

Sure, he looks innocent enough here. But just watch:

Such a creepy smile.

I'm beginning to think he's turning into a giraffe!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Happy Faces

Tot, wanting more food.

The new calf, displaying his amazing nostril-licking abilities. I love the blue/pink color combo.

A very friendly chicken at a show in December.

And Luigi!

The only way Luigi, aka Wege, Wegemities, or Wege'em-Squeege'em, can express joy is by vigorously squinting. By the way, she's a girl.

Sorry, I'm too tired to post anything more coherent than this.
Goodnight then!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Manure Patrol

We have a lot of chickens. Too many to count. But they are all bantams (miniatures) and they live in the chicken house, because my sister raises and breeds them for show. They're too special to risk losing outside.
But chickens do a wonderful job on cow pies. After the manure ages for a week or so, the chickens come through and scatter it across the pasture, fertilizing the grass and making the fields a more pleasant sight. We already had a chicken box in the cow pasture, but it's been empty for a few years. So I picked up five new birds this week - the new cow pie patrol.

They don't have names yet, unfortunately. I'm thinking hard!

The rooster, a light brown Leghorn.

One of the three Leghorn hens.

And the Modern Game hen.

They are still adjusting to their new home, so I'm going to wait another week before letting them out. And then, cow pies, watch out!

Lucky birds have waterfront property!

Friday, March 11, 2011

In the Greenhouse

Here it is. Eight by twelve feet of seedling heaven. Outside it's been cold and windy and rainy, yet the greenhouse stays a toasty 65 - 80 degrees (and dips into the 40's at night). You can see why I would spend a lot of time in here - and I do! Even if it's just to read, a little greenhouse therapy makes any day brighter and warmer.

You can see my Sponge Bob watering can - normal watering cans have too big of holes for delicate seeds and sprouts, so I bought a child's version. It's perfect.
I have a grow light above the bottom shelf - tomato seedlings need a lot of light - and two heat mats, fitting a total of six trays. I keep all newly planted flats on the heat with a plastic cover until everything has sprouted. Then the plastic comes off for a few days, and then I move the tray off the heat to gradually "toughen" the plants.

I was very happy when we had a new door put on the other day. The old one was broken and disintegrating, from the big wind storm of 2007. Fortunately it held up just fine in yesterday's wind storm!

I was surprised to see radishes coming up outside. I planted them two weeks ago, and figured they had drowned a while ago. Yet today there is a whole row of them!

Inside, I have onions...

lots of brassicas (broccoli, broccoli rabe, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, cabbage, and kale)...

almost one hundred tomato starts (of 18 varieties)...

and the first okra popped up today...

Also sprouted are almost all the flowers (cosmos, zinnias, statice, petunias, impatiens, four o'clocks, nicotiana, rudbekia, snapdragons, love in a mist, and more I can't think of now), radicchio, greens, and the first peppers and eggplants.

It's going to be a looong wait before the first tomato ripens, but at least I can enjoy the presence of green growing things while the rest of our property gives way to rain water and hordes of ducks.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Brining for St. Patrick's Day

There's only one thing to do when St. Patrick's day is coming up - haul out the brisket and start brining!!

I've never done this before, but with a 9 pound homegrown beef brisket lounging in the freezer, it seemed logical to transform it into corned beef. I'm following Ruhlman's recipe from Charcuterie. Hard to go wrong with that book.

brisket of "Big Mac" the steer

I toasted pickling spices, picked fresh bay leaves from the neighbor's tree, and boiled up some brine. The mixture smells fantastic - I cannot wait for March 17!


Here they are! Six new additions to the two orchids I already had:





I also scored a couple of young, non-blooming orchids for just $3 each. There are so many great deals at the Flower Show on the last day. Though it was a little intimidating trying to push through the mob of orchid-hoarders at every booth! People become crazed when confronted with cheap, gorgeous orchids.

And the Phaelenopsis I've had for several years already. It blooms twice a year for several months at a time - simply amazing!

And outside, the crocuses are blooming! These giant striped ones are my favorite.