Wednesday, February 29, 2012

2012 Seed List

Ok, so now that I've figured out basically all of the seeds I'll be using this year in my garden, I thought I would share my list with you. You can check out my 2011 list here if you want to also. I haven't started any of my seeds yet, but seeing as last year I started my peppers on March 3rd, Little M and I might be spending some quality time out on the sunporch this weekend!

2012 Vegetable Seed List
  • Hubbard Squash (saved from a couple years ago, will need to save more this year)
  • Butternut Squash (also saved from a couple years ago, need to save more this year)
  • Black Beauty Zucchini (unless I can find a heirloom yellow one for our climate)
  • Pumpkin (still need to find one, preferably C. mixta so it doesn't cross with my other squash!)
  • Bushy Cucumber (unless I can find another one that might do better here)
  • Double Standard Corn (thanks to local friends for passing this seed on to us this year!) 
  • Amish Paste Tomato (same as last year)
  • Italian Heirloom Tomato (same as last year)
  • Cherry Roma Tomato (for Little M, same as last year)
  • Walla Walla Onion (new Irish Eyes seeds from Local)
  • Cipollini Onion (new Irish Eyes seeds from Local)
  • St Valery Carrot (unless I can find another one that might do better here)
  • Sutton's Harbinger Pea (mix of saved and leftover seed from last year)
  • Snow Pea (saved from last year - they did amazing last year, hopefully these saved ones will too)
  • Bush Blue Lake Beans (leftovers from last year)
  • Kentucky Wonder Bush Beans (leftovers from last year)
  • Kennearly Yellow Eye Beans (mix of saved and leftover from last year)
  • Dragon's Tongue Beans (saved from year before last, if they sprout)
  • Garlic (planted already, saved from last year)
  • Yukon Gold Potatoes (need to pick some up once it comes in at Local)
  • Fingerling Potatoes (hopefully the few I've been holding off from eating will work)
  • Peppers (I've got a bunch, mostly from last year - Chocolate Beauty, Golden Treasure, Marconi Rosso, and a hot pepper combo. Not sure how many will germinate, time will tell!)
  • Cilantro (new Irish Eyes seeds from Local)
  • Sacred Basil (new Irish Eyes seeds from Local)
  • Chives (from some local friends last summer, looking forward to adding this to our herb area)
  • Dill (from last years seed)
I still need to pick up a couple more seeds in the above list, and there are a couple other herbs that I likely will end up trying. The last couple years I've been pretty busy with just the veggies and haven't done more than have some Basil, Oregano, Thyme, and Rosemary in pots, but hopefully this year I'll be able to focus a bit more on the veggies that really do well here and instead of attempting any melons I'll put some effort into having a little herb plot in the corner. Oh, and I'm sure the mister will convince me that we need to grow Russet Potatoes again. They are ok, but personally I prefer my potatoes to have more taste like the Yukon's do!

Here are a couple more, some of my dream list:
  • Rhubarb
  • Scarlet/Sunset Runner Bean
  • Kale
  • Ailsa Craig Onion
  • Sage
  • Asparagus
Obviously I'd love to have more garden space, particularly those raised beds between the house and the chicken coop that I've been dreaming of for over a year now, but until we save up enough money to put in a serious deer/dog fence around at least a section of the property, house, and orchard, that's not going to happen, and that's why most of these will likely stay on the dream list!

What about you? Have all your garden seeds purchased and your 2012 garden plan drawn up? Started any seeds yet? I'm hoping to start some seeds this weekend in between hanging out with some visiting family, I'll let you know how it goes next week :)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

It's been a quick February

Not only is February a trying month for me in terms of winter dragging on, low light, etc, but it is a short month (although longer this year!), and so it has been a challenge for me to make progress on my month's goals. The combination of fewer work days to accumulate my monthly-needed hours and fewer days period to complete tasks is like a double whammy... So I suspect most of my February items will be transferred over to March, not really a problem, as none of them were time-critical or anything, and the most important (taxes!) I finished off during a stellar 2 hour nap from Little M this past weekend.

I've done really well this month on some of my personal & our family 2012 goals - lots of rowing (gotta crank it up for March's 5000m per day challenge!), lots of quality time with Little M, planning our (belated & childless!) honeymoon, saving money for our financial goals, and there have even been 2 viewings of our for-sale rental house (even with a renter in there, granted she's keeping the place looking even better than our staging was - we're so lucky to have her!). I've also been feeling really good about how my daily to-do list is structured, and I've been really content with how our days have been flowing because of it. So really, I'm doing good on keeping up on daily and even weekly things, and making great progress on yearly and even season things, but not doing as hot on monthly things. Whether it was an overambitious February goals list, or whether I need to re-evaluate how I transfer items from my month list to my week list to my daily list, I think I'll be doing things a bit differently in March :)

I'm still just as glad I finally made my household notebook this year, because I'm definitely way more organized, productive, and calm because of it!  And heck, getting those taxes done and out the door in February is weeks and weeks ahead of the near-to-deadline-scramble of the last 2 years, so really all I can do is be very content with getting the most daunting and important item crossed off the month's list! Here's looking forward to a March that involves no tax prep work, lots of seed starting (more on that later in the week, I picked up a bunch more seed packets Friday!), and a journal article coming out from my thesis work!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

My new seed starting set up

I remember about a year ago reading a post on YouGrowGirl with really great instructions for building a shelf lighting system. At the time I had just found the old shop light in the garage, and although I would have loved to have heating pads and multiple lights all together in a shelving system, I just didn't have the money to invest in one, and so I just filed that idea away in my brain for later use. Fast forward about a year, and while browsing through Home Depot one day, my husband pointed out some metal shelving units that he had been thinking would be perfect for on the sunporch for my plants, for drying garden produce, or for seed starting.

I agreed, and a little thought started growing in my head. I remembered the post on YouGrowGirl, and remembered the Christmas money from my parents I still hadn't spent. After looking some things up, I ended up ordering a metal shelving unit from Amazon. It shipped really quickly, and just a couple of days later, I was setting my unit up! How exciting to have so much more space, and pretty space at that, to set up my plants!

I haven't started my seeds yet, and still have some more varieties to buy, but in the meantime, I've been enjoying using the shelving unit to house my varied collection of herbs, flowers, succulents, and cacti. I likely will drop some of the shelves down a bit lower to get the seed starting shelf a little lower since I'm on the shorter side, but other than that, this is likely how it will look for the foreseeable future.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Our very first egg!

Friday afternoon I came home from work early, and spent some time with my family before the weekend (around here, weekends mean two 12 hour shifts for my husband, so very little family time). After Little M's nap, we headed outside. First I went over to the chicken coop to give them some food and see how they were doing.

I was leaning over in the coop, giving them some food, and I was thinking about how the white golf balls I've had out in their nest boxes, to encourage them to lay, and lay in the right spot, were going to look rather odd next to a brown egg, since most of our hens will lay brown eggs. As I straightened up, my gaze passed across a spot on the far wall that had been hidden by chicken bodies moments before as they rushed to the food. I did a double take. A pale brown egg was sitting there, on the floor, amidst the chicken feet as they rushed by it here and there. I quickly went further in to the coop and picked it up. It was a bit dirty, but whole!

These darn chickens should (could) have been laying at least a month ago, if not two. We weren't supplementing with light or heat, though, wanting them to make it on their own to weed out any breeds (we've been trying 8) that weren't able to take the cold temperatures we get here in the winter. So although I've been not-so-patiently waiting for quite some time, I knew they would start laying once the days started to lengthen. I've been saying 'any day now', for weeks!

On Sunday I found another egg, laid in a slightly lower traffic area of the coop. It looks the same as the first one, so I figure only one girl has started laying. If I get an egg every other day for a little while until the others start, I'll be perfectly happy! I guess the next couple weeks will tell whether they start slowly or whether we quickly get overwhelmed with the number of eggs thirteen hens lay on a daily and weekly basis!

I wish I knew which of our thirteen girls it was laying already, but since 12 of those are brown egg layers, I suspect I'll need a few more eggs to see the range of color variations to start pegging eggs to girls, if it's even possible then! At least the Americauna girl's eggs will be easy to tell apart, and hopefully that will make it easy to selectively incubate them if any of our hens go broody, since Rooster Cogburn is also an Americauna, so that is the one breed we have that we could possibly get pure-bred offspring from this year.

Oh Spring, I'm so happy you are on your way!

(Of course, within an hour of finding that egg, the snow started, and by bedtime we were up to 4 inches of damp new fluffy snow!)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Why a short To Do list works for me

Like it or not, I am a goal oriented, productivity driven person, whether the goal is getting the kitchen cleaned, or having fun coloring with Little M. When I have a To Do list, I'm happier, more content, even calmer.

It took me a while, upon becoming a mother, to learn to put fun Little M oriented items on my To Do list, and while sometimes I wish I could be the mother that plays all day with her kids, that just doesn't make me happy. I want Little M to grow up with us doing fun things, with me taking the time to play with her, to read to her, to build barns for her animal cars, to make bubbles in the bathtub, but also to grow up knowing how to do all the practical things around the house that keep our household running.

The way that works for me right now so that we do things for her and things for me and things for the household, is to plan things out in advance. That isn't to say that there isn't flexibility, because, being a mother to a 2 year old, I have to be flexible! But I have my ten items I aim to do, and some of them are for the household - feed/water/shavings for the chickens, bringing in some firewood, cleaning the bathroom sink. Some of them are for me - writing one of my manuscripts, walking with dogs in the woods. And some of them are for her - coloring, bubble baths.

I don't always get all 10 items done, but depending on whether I have written mostly big items or mostly small items, sometimes I get more done. The key is that I can look back at the day, and not be looking at an unmanageably, impossibly long To Do list where really I only got a couple things done because M had a short nap, 4 poopy diapers, the chicken water took 3 kettle-fulls of boiling water to completely de-ice, etc.

When I have my short To Do list all nicely laid out, I know by the crossed off items, just at a glance, whether I got some or most of my 10 items done. And I have now learned to let that be a judge of whether I had a productive good day or not. Having just 10 items means I don't rush around from task to task. I can try to stop and enjoy the little things when they appear. Like Little M sleeping so sweetly in her toddler bed, growing up way too fast. Or my rosemary plant beginning to grow tender, leggy new shoots and leaves again, an early sign that the longest days of winter are passing, and that spring will soon be just around the corner.

For me, right now in my life, this system is working. It's helping as I try to find peace in my often too-busy days, feel good about the things I accomplish, move closer to my goals, and enjoy the moments with my family that matter. Isn't it amazing what a simple to do list can do for you? :)

**my ten item To Do list is inspired by Tsh of Simple Mom, and her book Organized Simplicity**

Monday, February 13, 2012

Slushy February weather

We've had temperatures hovering just above the freezing mark for the last 3 or so days, even at night. And daytime temps have been rising above freezing for at least a couple days longer. It's been nice to be able to be outside without being seriously bundled up, and Little M has been enjoying splashing in the slush & mud puddles for the first time. However, the driveway is not so nice. Slushy, wet, mucky, that about sums it up.

Since we moved in here the driveway has been deteriorating. Once a graveled lane at one point in the past, it now is more a dirt lane, with a bit of gravel thrown in in spots. There is a section running down through the middle that gets washed out deeper with ever heavy rain, and that trench (which was on the list to fill in in late fall but must have been forgotten) is getting very mucky right now. There is water actively flowing down it. Coming from where you ask? I have no idea whether it is just snow melt, or if there is a seep area that surfaces there sometimes.

Either way, it is making the driveway a bit of a mess to drive on. Although it is just an inconvenience for us right now - since both of the vehicles we are driving right now are 4 wheel drive capable, we just switch them into four to get out - we have to make sure visitors either are aware so they don't get stuck in the muck. We need to get some gravel put down at least, and longer term I'd love to have some heavy equipment in to tear some ground out, put in some coarser gravel to let things drain, and then level it out on top with some finer stuff. However that is likely a few years down the road yet, so I may be out there fixing the trench up in a few weeks if this warmer weather sticks around.

The ashes from our woodstove have been working well at melting the formerly icy spots though, so at least we aren't slipping and sliding around while walking too and from the garage, carport, or mailbox, so at least something is working right around here! The warm weather, and advancing months, have been getting me really eager to start working in the garden, so I've finally been sitting down and deciding exactly which seeds to order, which will still be good from last years' stash, and which seed catalog to order from. Although a part of me is still yearning for a few more heavy snowfalls, another part of me is ready for green sprouts and loose soil...

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Seeds Seeds Seeds

I'm having a bit of a seed dilemma.

Last year I ordered from Seed Saver International. I was overall pleased with my order - good selection, timely delivery, decent prices. But some of the plant varieties I chose didn't do as well as I hoped. Our corn, for example, just didn't produce as much or as early as other varieties I have grown in the past. I selected a variety that I thought should have done well, at least in terms of being a short growing season variety, but it just didn't all mature early enough to harvest before we got frost.

Now we did have a strange year last year, but I had neighbors who had no problem with their corn maturing well before our first frost. The year before we grew corn from a friend who has sinced moved away, but as far as I can remember it was a variety he had been growing for years. We had good luck with it, but had planted 2 varieties that year and so couldn't keep seeds. Last year I was looking to test a variety to save seeds from, but obviously I didn't bother since so few cobs were ready to harvest when we had to bring them all in.

At first this year I thought I would just ask around and see what others in my area used, but in my initial asking, people are using hybrids. Since I'm ultimately looking to be self sufficent with at least some of my seeds year to year (and corn heads the list this year to add to my collection of seeds I maintain myself), a hybrid variety is just not what I am looking for. I guess what I will try to do is match the characteristics advertised for these couple hybrid varieties with heirloom varieties and order that way. But likely that means trying a couple different types until finding the perfect one for where we are. Shucks!

Basically this post is me trying to convince myself to get down to the perhaps difficult work of picking seeds from a seed company that I think will be a better match for our region and that I think will do well. I'm positive that at this time last year I had already made my order, and likely even had my seeds in hand. Boo...

Friday, February 3, 2012

Back at home with the family

After returning home yesterday evening after my 3-day conference, Little M was glad to see me, and I her! And she was glad to meet the bright red salmon stuffy I brought home for her too :) Today I took the day off work and we went sledding, got groceries, and went for a hike. We did some of our monthly planning too, we got our monthly meal plan and our monthly goals put together during Little M's nap. Not sure what the plan is for later tonight, but I'm sure it will mostly consist of lots of family time!

Here are a couple shots of Little M I took this afternoon while she was playing on her keyboard. That's fishy hanging out behind her. Oh, and I couldn't budge her determination about her wardrobe selections today - pale pink vest with white fur trim, mustard yellow/lime green fleece pullover, bright pink tights... At least after her nap this afternoon I managed to convince her that the vest belonged over the sweater, not underneath it...

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

On mail - the paper stuff

Last week I had what was perhaps a once in a year occurrence. I had 2 handwritten letters appear in the mailbox on the same day! I don't get real letters all that often, so to get 2 in one day - wow! :)

One was a card from a friend from high school. We were in the same small tight group from I think  grade 9 on. She lives up in the Yukon now, and while I don't think I've seen her face-to-face since maybe second year university, we've kept in sporadic contact during the years since and more so in the past 3 years that we've both been staying in the same spot for more than a couple years or less at a time.

She had some exciting news to share, and while her note wasn't lengthy, I've been reading her hand writing since high school. I knew who the card was from without reading the return address, without reading her signature at the bottom. While I might know more details via facebook about the lives of people in high school or university that I was barely friends with even back then, compared to what details I know about her life right now, for some reason the hand written letters we send back and forth mean something more significant, more tangible and meaningful. We have made the effort to keep in touch, and while I haven't seen her in years, I can only hope that these brief notes will keep our friendship going until we manage to see each other again. Real mail is such a treat, not only because it is rare, but because of the effort it means. She made the effort to write to me specifically, and I love that.

The other letter was from one of my aunts. She updated me on the lives of my cousins, the farm, all those little gossipy life updates that I often miss out on being all the way out west. We'll hopefully see her this fall when we venture back to Ontario for a visit, and get to do some catching up in person, but in the meantime, her letter conveyed a bunch of the important goings on in her life back there. We try and send christmas photos back to my extended family, and include a brief note, but with my mom being one of eight, and having a good sprinkling of cousins (and almost a second cousin for Madison, any day now - I can't wait to meet the newest addition this fall!), all of whom live within a 6 hour or so drive from each other, the distance out here really makes us quite separated from the clan - we're our own little pea pod sailing on our own across the vastness of the continent.

Anyway, I've got one more day at a conference tomorrow, then I'll be heading back home to be reunited with that little pea pod of mine. These past several days has been the longest I've been apart from Little M ever (three whole nights away!), and while the time apart has been so great for me, I'm definitely looking forward to seeing her little cuteness when I come in the front door tomorrow evening!

I still have to decide whether she would appreciate a stuffed animal or a tshirt from the small gift store in the conference lodge. I suspect for her, seeing me will be enough reward, but as I have fond memories of my dad bringing home small gifts after being away for long trips, and later of picking things out for my mom and sister with my dad when I started accompanying him on kayak and canoe trips, I really want to have that tradition for Little M, so a stuffed salmon it may be tomorrow!
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