Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Greenhouse Peppers

A little over 3 weeks ago I gave an update on the pepper seedlings we started in February.

These have all been transplanted into 4-inch pots and most of them have been moved to our greenhouse.   It is a very small greenhouse.  Here is a picture of it shortly after we built it in 2010.

And, here is a picture of the inside with the pepper seedlings stowed on the shelves.

Notice how much bigger they are than they were 3 weeks ago.  Along the back wall, you see some round pots.  Those contain some aloe vera that I have potted up and will be selling at the market this spring.

We have a small electric oil heater in the greenhouse  that does a good job of keeping it warm on frosty nights.  We don't try to keep it real warm, but just turn the heater up high enough to keep the plants from freezing.  Here is a picture of it.

And here is a picture of the thermostat.

We have tomato plants in the basement where these peppers started out.  It won't be long before they join the peppers out in the greenhouse.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Garden Shoes

Several years ago I made an impulse purchase while shopping at a garden center.  I'm usually pretty good about not buying things on the fly, unless it is that occasional chocolate bar that accidentally falls in the cart at the grocery store.   :-)  

But this was an impulse purchase that has turned out to be very useful and well worth what I paid for it.  Here it is.

It is a pair of garden clogs.  I love them!  They are made of heavy-duty plastic and can be washed off with the hose if they get muddy (which they frequently do).

If you look closely, you can see they have some arch support which makes them very comfortable.   I think there are several different brands of garden shoes available.  These are called "Sloggers".

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Rainbow Swiss Chard

One of my favorite things that we grow is Swiss Chard.  This year we are growing a variety called Rainbow Chard.  Here is a picture of a sink full of it that I washed for the farmers' market last week.

Notice how big the leaves are and how the stems differ in color.  In fact, there are several colors hiding in there.  To show this, I separated out the different colors that were in this bunch and laid them on a towel.

These actually represent four different cultivars.  The seed companies mix the seeds from the individual cultivars to form the "rainbow" mix that you see here.

In addition to being pretty, chard is very nutritious containing significant amounts of vitamins A, K and C.  It is also rich in minerals, dietary fiber and protein.

Chard is in the beet family.  But, over the centuries, it has been bred to have highly nutritious leaves at the expense of its root, making the root undesirable to eat.

Chard can be cooked in soups, sauteed or stir-fried.  The stems take longer to cook than the rest of the leaf, so if you are going to cook the chard, you should chop the stems up separate from the leaves and cook them a little longer.  Here is a simple recipe for sauteed chard:

Chard can also be eaten raw and makes a pretty addition to salads when torn into bite-size pieces.  Save the stems to add to soups.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Fruit Tree Orchard

Two years ago we planted our first fruit trees here on the farm.  We planted 2 peach trees and last year one of them had 2 small peaches on it!  

With that success under our belts, I was gung-ho to plant more trees this spring.  So, as soon as I noticed Lowe's had fruit trees, I was there checking through the varieties.  They had several varieties of peaches, plums, pears, apples, apricots and cherries.  I wrote them all down and brought them home for Tom to look over.  

He checked several books he has here at home and also the OSU Extension Fact sheets on the best varieties for Oklahoma.  We decided to get another peach tree tree and at least two each of pear and plum trees.

Between the books and the fact sheets, we narrowed the list down to just one or two varieties of each type of tree.  Here is what we ended up with:
  • Red Haven Semi-Dwarf Peach
  • Keiffer Semi-Dwarf Pear
  • Ayers Semi-Dwarf Pear
  • Santa Rose Semi-Dwarf Plum
  • Methley Semi-Dwarf Plum
  • Toka Dwarf Plum
And here is a picture of them after we got them planted.

Tom  laid out a soaker hose and then I mulched them with pine straw.

Our part of the state is still in the midst of a severe drought and it is forecast to continue into the foreseeable future.  The mulch will help to conserve moisture this summer when the weather is hot and dry.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Gnat Trap

Last fall, we had an invasion of gnats!  They were very annoying because they would fly around your face.  I'm not sure what caused them.  I checked the soil in my potted plants and they did not seem to be coming from those.  It could have been the sauerkraut that I was making at the time.

In any case, I am not one to use poison around the house, so we just patiently tolerated them.  Then, one day at work I noticed a co-worker had a saucer of vinegar sitting on the window sill of her office.  When asked what that was for, she said it was to kill the gnats that had been a nuisance in her area of the building.

This sounded a little far-fetched to me, but I decided to try it at home and here is the result.

I was told to put a drop of dish washing detergent in the vinegar to break the surface tension so that when the gnats landed they would immediately sink.  It certainly worked!  I kept a dish of vinegar out for a couple of weeks and had to empty it every other day because of all the gnats it collected.

Eventually, the gnats disappeared.  I'm not sure if this is a result of my killing them all or if it is because I put the sauerkraut in jars and refrigerated it about the same time.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Night Kitties

Our new little cat, Misty, is quite a character.  I first wrote about her last fall, when she first showed up here as a stray.  

I then gave an update on her in December after we had made friends with her and enticed her into the house.

She comes inside every night now.  But, she apparently still has "friends" who prowl at night.  I set our wildlife camera up to capture pictures of what critters visited the heated water bowl on our porch at night.  I was surprised to find a couple of strange cats that I have never seen before.  

Here is a gray cat.

And, here is a white cat.

Here is a gray and white cat.  We've seen him on the camera several times.

I was somewhat surprised that there were no skunks, raccoon or possums.  We had them coming up on the porch at night when we were keeping cat food outside.  But, I guess they don't consider water alone enough of an attraction to warrant coming this close to the house. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Henbit and Chickweed

A couple of weeks ago in the blog entry "Transplanting Asparagus" , I showed a picture of my work glove next to an asparagus root.  If you missed it, here it is again.

Notice all those green "weeds" that are growing in the cracks between the concrete blocks that form the raised beds and the paving stones that form the walkways.  They are pretty unsightly, so I've been pulling them up every chance I get.  I thought these were "chickweed" and it occurred to me that maybe, as the name implies, the chickens would eat them.  So, I started feeding them to the chickens who enjoy them very much.

Another thing I noticed about the weeds is that they have square stems.  This is a sure sign that they are a member of the mint family, although they certainly do not smell like mint.  So, I decided to do a Google search and find out more about them.  As it turns out, these are not chickweed at all.  They are another plant called "henbit".   Here is a good website about it henbit.

Chickweed, on the other hand, looks very different.  Here is a description of chickweed from the same site:

As it turns out, both weeds are edible.  The chickweed link even contains a recipe using chickweed.  

This "Eat the Weeds" website is just one of many that are dedicated to "foraging".   Here is another one that has an entry dedicated to the best edible weeds.

And, here is another one that is dedicated to foraging in Oklahoma.

I have just become aware of this trend.  Maybe it has been going on a long time and I just haven't noticed.  But, I wonder, with all the food contamination scares and meat recalls of the past few years, if this is a reaction to our industrialized food supply where people no longer know where their food comes from and they are becoming concerned about food safety.  

Plus, we have all witnessed how the drought in the mid-west has caused food prices to skyrocket.  So, maybe people are becoming more interested in foraging and growing their own food to save money.  Whatever the case, I think it is a good thing.  

Oh, by the way, I did taste the henbit.  The leaves are kind of "fuzzy" and I didn't like the texture very much.  The taste was so-so.  I got the idea from the "Eat the Weeds" website that the chickweed tastes a lot better.  So, I think I'll pass on the henbit and give the chickweed a try when it starts growing.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Update on Pepper Seedlings

On February 10, I posted an entry about the pepper seeds I planted.

So, here is an update.  The little pepper seedlings are a couple of inches tall now.

Tom has already started transplanting the seedlings into 4-inch pots.   He has transplanted the second and third rows (Jalapeno) and one row from the middle (King Arthur).  

We had a bunch of old seed that we planted this year.  We found that seed from the previous 2 years (2011 and 2012) germinated pretty well.  Seed from 2010 was not very reliable.  The first and the last rows were 2010 seed and, as you can see, we didn't get good germination on those at all.  None of the seeds in the sixth row come up.  I'm not sure what year that was because the top part of the package where the date is had been cut off and lost.

After the seedlings are transplanted into 4-inch pots they begin to take up a lot of room and we do not have room in the basement for all of them.  So, we'll have to begin moving them to our small greenhouse before long.  Tom is busy planting onions, lettuce and other spring crops outside.  So, I need to help him by cleaning out the greenhouse and getting things organized.  

So much to do; so little time.   I also need to get tomato seeds started soon!  Yikes.  I'd better go get busy.