Around now is the time to plant your cool weather veggies in Idaho/Pacific Northwest. If you haven’t already been out there (and as long as your soil isn’t frozen or waterlogged), it is a great time to plant peas, lettuces, swiss chard, bok choy, spinach, beets, carrots, onions…anything that is considered a cool weather crop. My soil is perfect (as in not too wet and not frozen) though the last few days have been a bit chilly with freezing night temperatures again. Still, I am seeing sprouts coming up all over my flower beds and dandelions starting to grow here and there. A few days ago I got some beets and some of the peas planted. Soon I am going to plant lettuces, spinach, and bok choy and transplant a bunch of volunteer onions that are poking up in several different beds into one bed that I prepared a couple of days ago. This year, I am going to be working on continuing to improve my soil by adding mulches and compost and making a nice border around the garden with some bark. As of right now, the beds just join basically into the grass.
The chicks are getting much bigger. They are looking awkward as they have lost a lot of their chick fuzz and are sprouting feathers. Dragon is the only one with greenish feet. Weird. The rest have orange colored chicken feet. Dragon is also the only one that I have seen eat a bug yet. Though we are now transitioning them to being outside for afternoon and early evening hours on nice days and they seem to love it. They have gotten so big. I will include their baby pics so you can see the difference more clearly.
Angel is the sweetest. She comes right over and doesn’t seem to mind being held as much. She also loves her dust baths. She digs a deep hole in her wood pellets and digs sawdust up all over herself. The first few times she did it, we thought something was wrong with her because she was laying so funny in the dusty wood pellets and Dragon was stepping right on top of her head to get around her. But she always gets up afterward and is fine.
Courage is also pretty holdable and is turning more brown than black. She is our second most independent chicken. Always checking things out.
Butterfly is also turning into quite a pet. She is quite the lady, always looking very elegant. She likes to fly and keeps trying to get some air.
Dragon will do anything to get away from you when you try to catch her. She is the wild child. Green feet, eating bugs, overly independent, stepping on her sister. What is with this chicken?
They are growing so fast. Amazing really. They all freak out if they are separated. Who knew such a small animal could be so noisy? Definitely social little creatures. Still enjoying the chickens. Still an experiment. The coop is almost ready for them and it is a good thing because they are quickly outgrowing the boxes we have for them. Now if only the temperature outside would warm up just a hair again, the peas and greens would start poking out of the soil and we could put the chicks in their new home! Happy Spring!
It’s pretty sad when you are so distracted that you forgot you put your 5 year old in the time out corner (for what was supposed to be about a three minute time out) about six minutes ago.
“Mom? Can I get out of timeout?” Sam calls from the corner.
“Oh – are you still in time-out?” Mom tries desperately to remember which offense he was sent to time out for this time.
“Well, okay. You can come out now. Just don’t do that again.” Surely, whatever it was, he shouldn’t do it again. Bad mommy. Bad.
Well, I did it. Today. I went out and got some baby chicks. I got four. One Golden Sex Link, one Black Sex Link and two Ameraucanas. I knew that I wanted the Ameraucanas and I originally wanted a Red Sex Link. My poor hubby. While I was out today I called the store to see what breeds of chicks they had received and they didn’t have Red Sex Link, but they did have Golden Sex Link. So, since I have a dumb phone, I used said phone to call my hubby to ask him to look up the Golden Sex Link online to see if it looked like the Red Sex Link. His first response? “Oh, this is going to be a bad search. Don’t blame me for whatever comes up.” It is a bizarre name for a chicken. I am picturing him rolling his eyes as I try and get a good idea of what the adult chickens looked like from his description. “Um. It’s sort of reddish. Not too yellow. Not as yellow as I would have thought from the name.” What a good hubby.
So here are the new girls…
And here they are individually…the first one Joe named a soon as he saw it. This is Angel, the Golden. She is the smallest chicken and she is beautiful.
And here is Dragon. Elise’s idea was to name her the Reluctant Dragon, but we settled on Dragon for short. You can’t see it from the picture but she has beautiful brown markings on her back. She is one of the two Ameraucana chickens.
Next we have Courage, named by Joshua. He liked this one because it had dark feathers. This one is the Black. She seems very bold as she steps right on top of her sisters if they are in her way.
And last of all…Butterfly. Named by Sam. We are debating just calling her Flutter, but Sam really likes Butterfly, so that is probably what it will be. The other Ameraucana. She is a little more red in color than Dragon. So at least at this point, we can tell the two apart. She also has beautiful markings on her back.
The Ameraucanas have those Cleopatra eyes. They are quite pretty. I like all four of them. They are adorable little fuzzballs. The children have been reminded that this is a trial and if mommy doesn’t like them and they don’t help take care of them, then they will be found a new home. What a fun new adventure!!!
On February 4, I planted several “test” seeds to start and see which does the best. I planted:
1. Winter sowing method in regular organic potting soil (tomatoes and artichokes)
2. Grow light in seed start mix (tomatoes and artichokes)
3. Grow light in regular organic potting soil (artichoke) *I didn’t take specific pictures of the artichokes in different soils for this update. Just pictures of the results of the different lighting.
4. Regular light (near a window) in seed start mix (tomatoes and artichokes)
5. Regular light (near a window) in regular organic potting soil (artichoke)
So far the results are as follows: Everything has sprouted inside with the exception of one artichoke (under the grow light). The plants under the grow light are shorter and the tomatoes especially are stockier while the plants near the window in regular light are longer and more spindly and bent a bit towards the window. Obviously they are reaching to get to the light, which I am pretty sure will lead to less stable plants as they continue to grow. I expected this. What I did not expect was the other result – the plants germinated equally as well in the regular organic potting soil as in the specialty seed mix. In fact, they may be a little sturdier and bigger although I haven’t taken any pictures of that yet, as the difference is very minimal. The plants in the milk jugs outside using the winter sowing method have not surfaced yet. They are smart and are biding their time.
The take away so far:
It seems to be a waste to plant in specialty seed starting mix. The regular high quality potting soil works at least as well, if not better. Plus, it already has nutrients the plants will need to grow, while the seed starting mix is overall pretty devoid of nutrients for the long haul and those little guys will have to be fertilized and re-potted sooner rather than later.
It also appears so far that the plants under the grow light are experiencing less stress to reach the light and are happier because of it. The grow light plants are much shorter and the stems are noticeably thicker.
I will keep you updated as the experiments progress. Most of my seedlings have been started. I planted a few additional plants to have for my garden as well though they are not part of the experiment. My soil is now workable in the back (south facing ) yard, though it is still pretty wet. I really want to put some snap peas out there and some leafy greens, but I know I would be asking for trouble and they would probably just rot. Still a bit too cold and wet. Cilantro seems to grow best in quite cool weather though, so I may risk a handful in a pot on the patio
The cold weather continues, but the weather man has promised us that it might get up to freezing later this week! Could happen. We might actually hit 32 degrees!!! So today I combated the cold and snow with homemade bread and ham and bean soup. I have a bunch of great bread recipes, but I wanted to try something new. Found this recipe on Pinterest and everyone loved it. (I just used all purpose flour.) If you want to make some amazing white bread, check it out! It definitely rivals my other favorite bread recipes! Thanks Andrea (from the blog Pennies and Pancakes)!
I think the only thing I did differently was to butter the top after it came out of the oven for that lovely, shiny crust. Unfortunately, with my family, there wasn’t enough to test the assertion that it freezes beautifully. Half a loaf disappeared before it was even cool enough to cut in to. Happy baking!
This is not a picture of snow. That is just the frost that accumulated on our trees a few days ago. Check it out on my raspberry bushes…
Beautiful yes. Cold, but beautiful. So we have been inside a few days. And warming up with felt. Felt and rice. And also making some cute felt food for the kiddos playset. Check it out. Easy and fun. No patterns were used. Just started cutting and stitching. And using some ideas off Pinterest as guides and inspiration. It was really easy, really cheap and the kids loved what I made for them. I made each a felt heart, filled with rice to be heated and taken to bed when they go to cuddle with and know that I love them.
This one is baby girl’s. She carried it around all day asking whoever had a spare moment to “heated it” (microwave it and warm it up for her). I just cut out two identical hearts from the cheap pink felt from Walmart and whip stitched them together. Left a tiny bit open and filled with rice, then stitched the opening closed. I used two strands of embroidery thread. And I found this awesome tutorial on how to whip stitch. This lady makes awesome felt stuff. I am in awe. She also has one on how to do the blanket stitch, which I haven’t used yet, but plan to experiment with soon. These tutorials were incredibly helpful. Because before I checked them out, I didn’t know how to do anything except stick the needle in one side and pull it out the other. Sewing is not something we did in our home. My mom hot-glued hems. Seriously.
Then I made some play food.
I am not super happy with the bun. I may make some bread (think that would be easier) or try it again with a tutorial this time instead of just winging it. But the insides of the burger turned out cool. Kids love it anyway. Except for the tomato. Baby girl keeps taking the tomato out and handing it to me or dad saying, “I don’t like tomatoes!” Even in play food, apparently.
Last of all, I made a cute little penguin. Just to see if I could. It worked! Baby girl loves it.
Working on a pancake and an egg for more play food. Happy felting!
Josh hereby hates the decimal point and decided the world would be much better off without it. He says that whoever invented the decimal point must be crazy because inventions are supposed to be beneficial. He is working on figuring sales tax amounts in his math. Hmmmm. I am sure we can work this into some sort of additional lesson. The world without decimals and fractions? Ah, homeschool.
This year I am going to more actively attempt to stay away from Monsanto products and try to support heirloom seed companies and natural growers because I really don’t like Monsanto very well and am slightly freaked out by their idea of what is okay to do to the food we eat. I am extremely bothered by the fact that they control so much of the market for our food supply. Check out this list of varieties commonly sold.
I am a bit worried about this as far as my tomatoes go because I really like buying Early Girl and Celebrity tomatoes at D&B Supply every year for very little money (and not having to start them from seeds is great). I don’t like having tomato starts in my house very well (I think I am allergic) so I am starting to think outside the box. Last year I gave winter sowing a try. I LOVE the idea – but most of my plants dried out and the method really didn’t work very well. I am really bad at watering and noticing moisture levels. HOWEVER. It might be worth it to try again.
So this year, I am going to try and get some plants going using the winter sowing method and see if it works any better if I pay a little better attention once spring hits. If you are unfamiliar with the winter sowing method, check this link for a pretty good description. There are lots of Pinterest posts and websites that describe this method in detail but basically you use milk jugs or other containers that let light in and put seeds out in the winter outside in these mini “greenhouses.” Then, in the spring, they sprout when it is time. Like Mother Nature. You cut open the container, but leave a hinge, and add nice potting soil and some seeds This supposedly makes for hardier plants that don’t need to be hardened off before transplanting. But you do need to watch the moisture levels if you live in an arid location (like I do). I am thinking of trying to start hardier seeds this way. It’s far to early for tomatoes, but I think that in a few weeks I may try onion starts using this method and see.
Another experiment I think I will try is to use a clear storage box as a mini greenhouse. Ah, to have a real greenhouse would be something. But we will see if the mini greenhouse works at all. This is also something I saw on Pinterest. Lots of things to try. If these experiments should fail, you shall see me at my local garden center looking for the least likely Monsanto owned starts I can find.
Now is a good time to be ordering seeds and planning ahead if you are getting itchy to get back to the garden. I went to Walmart the other day for diapers for baby girl and they already have seeds and seed starting trays and everything there. Crazy. I bought three packages of Burpee Organic seeds. I couldn’t help it. Burpee is up in the air for me right now. They are non-gmo (not genetically modified) and organic but do buy some of their garden varieties (as many companies do) from a company bought out by Monsanto, Semenis. So, they are not owned by Monsanto, but some of their garden varieties may, in a small way, support the bigger company. Who would have thought that simply planting food could be so ethically challenging? This year I ordered from two companies: Baker’s Creek Seeds and Botanical Interests. There are plenty of other great companies that are/or at least seem to be Monsanto free.
I spent all day lying in bed feeling sick. See? Proof. This is me doing what I did all day. Laying in bed in my pajamas. Don’t I look lovely? Yeah…
Thanks kids. They were actually sick on Christmas. That was really sad. Luckily, John (my amazing husband) had the day off and was able to do all the parenting with some help from Grandma and Papa. Most of the time I was playing silly word games and just being miserable, but I managed to take a little bit of time to mess around with the website. I have been unhappy with the design and wanted something a little simpler. So if you have been around lately you may have noticed the blog trying on all kinds of different “outfits” so to speak. I am getting closer to what I want, but there will continue to be some site maintenance. Sorry about the mess. Hope you are having a beautiful week!
Did you know how easy it is to save basil seeds? They are tiny, but can be easily saved so you don’t have to keep buying new seed packets every spring.
At the end of the growing season, let the plants flower (go to seed) instead of keeping the flowers pinched off. Then let the plants die when the frost comes. Don’t pull them up.
When you have time (and they are good and dead) take a pair of scissors and just cut off the flowered parts. They look like this and are found at the tips of the stems.
They should be dried. If they are not yet dried, let them sit out on the counter for a few days. Then, when they are dried, pluck off the tiny dried blossoms and rub them between your finger and thumb gently to tear the blossoms apart. There should be 1-4 seeds in each blossom. They generally fall out of the dried flowers when they are crushed and aren’t damaged if you are gentle. In this picture the seeds are tiny black specks and the rest of the flower parts can be discarded.
The seeds are very, very small. It will seem like you haven’t done hardly anything, but keep in mind that each seed should grow a nice basil plant. Keep the seeds in a cool, dry place until next season. I often use old baby food jars to keep my seeds and it works great. Then add some fresh soil and replant – generally in the same pot you used last season, because some of the seeds will have fallen out of the flowers on their own and reseeded themselves already in the pot. It just makes it easier to use the same pot again. Happy gardening!
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