Thursday, February 27, 2014


So yesterday I went out to the greenhouse to do my morning 'chores' and check on the temperature.  I have two milk house heaters that I use for supplemental heat.  My practice has been to run both heaters on really cold nights.  I have a timer set up to run one hour on/one hour off that I use on mildly cold nights with one of the heaters.  And for the in between nights I try to guess whether I will need one heater full time alone or one full time and the other on the timer.  There have been a couple nights where it hovered around freezing and I have not used any supplemental heat but this winter that has been pretty rare.

So, in the midst of a multi day stretch of below zero nights I went out yesterday to check on the greenhouse and discovered that I had neglected to plug in one of the heaters.  So on a night that I had intended to run both heaters full time as it was expected to be in the minus teens overnight I actually only ran one.

It was an not an experiment that I chose to run but I did discover some interesting data nevertheless.  Two of my tomatoes were looking pretty sad. 

Regular readers may remember that I started some tomatoes way too early inside to check the viability of the seed and decided to grow them and see if we could figure out a way to get a jump on the tomato season.   I discovered that the two tomatoes were the pastes.  The brandywine and the cherries were looking okay. 

The greens were looking okay and the soil was firm but not frozen solid.  Having several more below zero nights coming up I will have an opportunity to further evaluate the tomatoes and so last night I plugged in both heaters and hoped for the best. 

This is what I found this morning.
Three tomatoes still looking pretty good.  The brandywine is the one on the right and the two cherries are left and center.  The tub behind holds kale and the tub on the floor holds vitamin green. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

a little February thaw

It has been a weird week for weather at the farm.  Monday we had snow, as much as 5 inches has been reported for our area.  Lisa reported that it was beautiful at her house in town and I am picturing a nice blanket of white making everything look fresh and clean.  Meanwhile in my yard the new snow ended up in drifts and lots of the old dirty snow is still there.  These pictures show the dirty snow with zero new clean white snow cover.

And then today we were in the upper 30s so we had a little melting.  And a little grass poking through.  Yesterday there was no grass to be seen. 

West of the driveway

East of the driveway

the orchard

between the house and grove

more orchard
We still have some deep drifts.

in front of the shed

covering the air conditioner
 The weatherman is predicting 41 for Wednesday, 32 for Thursday and then back into the teens for the highs and single digits for the lows for the next week.  I am not complaining because on Thursday across the state where my kids live a blizzard is possible with 4-6 inches of new snow and even more snow, 6-10 inches a little further east. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

a few tomato pictures for nikole

We started a few tomato seeds a while back in order to check their viability.  It was my first attempt at saving tomato seeds and I wanted to make sure that they would grow before we sent off our seed order in case we needed to order replacement seeds.  And they grew, so now we are keeping them under lights and the next experiment will be if we can get a jump on the season and see how these really early planted transplants do.  But in the meantime here are a few pictures:

These are the tallest plants Brandywines and pastes

shorter plants under a shorter light source

these are paste on the left and cherry on the right

baby basil seedlings

asparagus seedlings

We have about 35 tomato transplants started.  I thought I planted 27--nine of three kinds.  Once it warms up they will go into bigger pots and out to the greenhouse.  I think I will try planting some in permanent containers which can then be moved outside and some will be transplanted into the garden once it warms up.  Conventional wisdom is that transplants that are too large do not transplant well so it will be an opportunity to do some comparisons. 

I also decided to try growing onions and leeks from seed for the first time.  I picked up a couple packets of seeds and am starting them in a thickly planted container and will separate them once they are sprouted into individual cells.  We will see how that goes.  They are on  the heat mat but not sprouted yet.

The weather forecast is suggesting that this is our last really cold day for a while with a little warm spell coming.  I am sure it is not the last subzero weather we will have but any little break is welcome. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

asparagus update

I am wanting to expand our asparagus plantings.  Two years ago we started some plants from seed and put in one row of asparagus near the potager between the transplanted black raspberries and the blueberry plants.  Last year we let them grow but did not harvest them.  This year we should be able to eat some of our asparagus.  Now I have been eying the cornfield. I have a row of posts that I am in the processing of installing to divide the north half from the south half.  My plan for the posts is to have them hold sprinklers so that I can irrigate the cornfield without having to drag hoses between the plants possibly damaging the plants in the process.  I am also planning to place house numbers on the posts to help with record keeping.  The posts are installed every five raised rows.  Last fall I dug up a few more raspberry canes that grow along the grove and planted them between two of the posts.  I plant to do more this spring using every other section.  I will plant asparagus in the alternating sections.   The pictures are kind of dark but you can see the raised rows in the front, the row of poles and the corn stalks behind.  I still have a few rows to build and posts to install at the far end but hopefully an early spring will allow those to be finished as one of the first spring projects. 

 On January 23 I planted a 9 cell pack of asparagus plants and put them on the heat mat.  On the 31st I planted another 9 cell pack.  Between planting the first set and the planting the second set I did a little reading and found that some people were suggesting soaking the seeds just prior to planting so I did that with the second batch.  So far three seedlings have popped thru in the first batch with none yet on the second batch.  I have quite a few more seeds to plant and was reading today that the asparagus seeds can take up to ten weeks to germinate.  So today I soaked and planted the remaining of my seeds so I have just over 100 more seeds in cells and on the heat mat.  If we get a good rate of germination in a couple years we should have plenty of  asparagus for our family needs with some to sell at the end of the driveway in the farmstand. 

I have been working on the awning for the farmstand and have it built and just need to install it on the farmstand.  I am thinking it is going to take a second pair of hands to put it on.  It will be hinged so that it can be moveable if needed.  I still have the end cap for the roof to put up but I wanted to have Cait put some writing on it before we install it.  The background is painted white but I think it would be cute with some writing on it.

I am also building a little table that will hold a cooler and I am planning to have bags of mixed greens for sale from the cooler on warmer days this winter.  Some of the greens are ready and more are close.  It will give me a chance to use my cute antique scale as I think I will price the bags of lettuce by weight.  

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

a few more greenhouse pictures

One of my greenhouse goals for 2014 is to set up three more pairs of chains to hang gutter planters in.  I set three more as a goal because of the number of rafters that I have available to use to hang the chains.  Right now I have only enough planters planted for one more pair of chains.  So, yesterday when I was in town I picked up two lengths of chain and today I was able to get them hung and the planters in place.  So one more goal partially accomplished.  Before I need to buy more chains I need to get more planters filled and growing. 

While I was out installing the chains and gutters I took a couple more pictures of greens that are growing in the greenhouse.


red romaine 


all star mix

The arugula is hanging in the new set of chains, along with the claytonia and all star mix. 

Other updates: the tomatoes continue to do well.  This paste tomato has twelve leaves

And look at the roots in the cup.

Yesterday when I changed the water on the sweet potatoes that I am trying to root, I think I may have seen a few baby roots starting to form.  And today I think that there might be one asparagus seedling starting to poke thru from the first batch that was planted. 

I watched a gardening video today that was about starting grape vines from hardwood cuttings and I was inspired to tromp through the knee deep snow to the arbor in order to prune away a couple of vines from the our established grapes and see if I could get them to root.  It sounds like it might be a long process taking up to a year or more to have transplantable plants.  We have used our grapes for jelly and i have a couple gallon freezer bags of frozen grapes in the freezer (thinking wine someday) Ours are all seeded versions and so far our grapes have been tiny so not too easy to eat.  I have not done much for pruning so the small size might be my fault.  I hope to do more pruning to see if it makes a difference in the size of the bunches.  If these cuttings root I am considering training them on wire to see if they are easier to manage. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood...

Not everybody remembers the Mr. Rogers theme but it really is a beautiful day in Minnesota today.  It is 11 degrees outside (above zero) the sun is shining and there is no real wind.  Just lovely.  I am not a football fan and not hosting or attending any football gatherings so while everyone else is focused on the superbowl I have time to catch up on things.  I just spent  an hour in the greenhouse watering and have a few pictures to share.

This is Tokyo bekana, a mild chinese cabbage:

here is another picture:

These plants are finally starting to get some size on them.  The ones that were in the middle of the room were growing faster than these which were kind of stuck at a small size when they were closer to the glass.  Something, either my efforts spent moving the tables a week ago or the fact that the days are getting a little longer, is allowing these guys to take off.

This is a green variety of romaine:

These are collards:

And this is golden frill which will add a little spicy zing to salads when it gets just a little bigger:

One of my blogging goals was to do a new cookbook review every month and then every month following to do a recipe from the cookbook so yesterday when Caitlin was at the farm we did a recipe from the January cookbook review.  The January cookbook is a candy cookbook and the review can be found here.  The recipe that we made was an English toffee.  It was our first time making toffee and it turned out great.

The recipe is here.  It was a great day baking with Cait. 

I finished the February cookbook review and that post is here.  The February cookbook is a 'church cookbook' style cookbook that I purchased at the college bookstore on a visit to Caitlin while she was in college at Kansas State.  I have a whole list of recipes selected from that cookbook to try over the next year so look for the first one in March along with another candy recipe and the March cookbook review.  The cookbook reviews can be found on another place that I blog called A Dozen For Dinner and there is a link to the right side of this blog. 

Not much progress has been made on the garden goals since mother nature has the final say on most of those projects.  I have been working on the awning for the farmstand but there has not been enough progress yet to post a picture.  Another nice sunny day where it is warm enough to work in an unheated shed without mittens is needed.  The design has been determined now it is just to see if it will work.  Fingers crossed!

Many of the garden goals were structural things that cannot be accomplished until spring.  We have accomplished some garden 'stuff' though.  Nikole ordered the seeds from Johnny's and they have arrived.  Last year for the first time we saved seeds from our heirloom tomatoes.  When we started making our lists for our seed order we decided to see if our saved seed was viable while there was still time to order some if it was a failed attempt.  I planted nine cells of each of three varieties and they grew.  Some cells grew more than one plant so it might have been two seeds stuck together or planter error on my part but we did not order seeds for these varieties and decided to keep them under lights iu the house until it is done being below zero outside and then they will be moved to the greenhouse and potted up in to larger containers.  It will be a good chance to see if we can get a jump on the season.  here are a tomato seedlings:

The cherry tomato-Matt's Wild Cherry

The paste--speckled roman

The brandywine
These tomato seeds were planted three weeks ago. 

And then for Nikole who is dreaming of Italy and who stated that she just couldn't wait until summer for basil we have these little seedlings started.  Only an inch high but they will grow:

It is a little early to be starting garden plants but I am making a spreadsheet so I know when i need to be starting different plants to get the timing right for planting outdoors.  I am also getting a start on my garden plan for what to plant where and my early spring to do list. 

And then on the no progress yet list:

I am trying to start some sweet potatoes by suspending  a cut end in water hoping that they will get roots and then slips--nothing yet.

Asparagus seeds--I planted a few not wanting to risk the whole package.  They apparently can take a few weeks to germinate and ours have been planted now since January 23 so I have not given up hope yet.  I did a little reading after planting the first seeds and I planted another group after soaking the seeds in water for a couple of hours first.  We will see if that makes a difference. Those were planted on the 31st.

I think while the rest of the world is watching football tonight I will be checking my garden pins on pinterest.  :)