Monday, March 28, 2011

Save your back and a few seeds along the way

It's been a busy few weeks here.  Plans for the Farmer's Market are coming along quite nicely and I'm feeling like it's going to be pretty great.

In between phone calls and helping Hubby with his computer business and being a mom and.... , I've been making seed tapes.  You can find tutorials for how to do them everywhere these days.  What it comes down to is some kind of flimsy, easily broken down paper, glue of some kind and seeds.  I prefer tp, elmers and just about any tiny seed.

You see, I'm not the most patient gardener in the world and I have a bad back.  Given the choice of carefully planting seeds or scattering them everywhere, I'll invariably choose the scatter method.  The problem is that it wastes a ridiculous number of seeds. Then they have to be thinned and I'm not a big fan of thinning either.  It makes me sad to pull out a perfectly good seedling, plus it means I have to get down and pull them.  Seed tapes solve all those problems.  You can buy them pre made, but I'm also cheap and I like to have a lot of variety.

I'm doing beets today.  There will be 3 different varieties this Spring.  Chiogga, Cylindra and Detroit Dark Red are my choices this year.  The carrots have already been done, there are 3 varieties of those as well.  You can't find that at the seed store.  Seed tapes are good for lettuce, parsnips and really any small seed that gets planted in quantity.  I thought about cabbage and broccoli, but that just seemed a bit much.

When they dry, just roll them up and store them away until planting time.

It's been unseasonably cold this March, so nothing much has been happening in the garden.  I'm really hoping that it warms up a bit soon, there are far too many seedlings in the basement.  The cabbage, broccoli, chard, kale and asian greens are all ready to go out.  Since I have no desire to pot them up, I'm hoping it will warm up instead.

Friday, March 11, 2011


Some of you may remember that I had a few things up in the air.  Well one has become official.  I am now the manager of the Bridgewater Farmers Market.  I'm very excited and overwhelmed all at the same time.  There is a ton to get done between now and our opening on June 18th.  We'll be operating from 10-2 on Saturdays.  Since the market manager fell through last year, the market ended after only a few weeks.  We've changed a lot, including the day, time and location.  That means I'm really starting from scratch in many respects.  It's very exciting. 

If you want to find us on Facebook, we're listed as the Bridgewater Mass Farmers Market.  There is also a webpage, but it is in desperate need of a facelift, so I'll wait on giving out that one.  If you're local, come on by!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Fruit leathers

Hubby got me an Excalibur dehydrator a few years ago.  He's good like that.  I must admit though, that it has been grossly underused.  So, the other day I was going through my freezers and canned goods and realized I had a lot of strawberries in the freezer and peaches that I had canned.  Not wanting them to go to waste, I decided to make fruit leathers.

The kids love them.  Lets face it, they taste like candy.  They're also amazingly easy to make.  For the strawberry, I just defrosted them and pureed them in the food processor.  You could add more sugar if your strawberries aren't very sweet, or if you just like them that way, but ours were very sweet as is.  The peaches were dumped into a strainer and then pureed.

The dehydrator has special sheets for the leathers, but I'm sure you could get away with parchment paper if you had to.

Pour the mixture onto the trays and swirl around to a good thickness of about 1/8 to 1/4 inch.  Just set them at 135 degrees and walk away.  These took about 8 hours to finish.  Your times may vary, depending on humidity, fruit and thickness of the puree.
Then try not to do what I did.  I couldn't help myself.  It was so yummy.  If you can get through this without eating it all, just pull them off the mat and roll up.  I usually then cut them into serving sizes of 2-3 inch rolls.  The kids adore these and since they're pure fruit, I'm not so unhappy about serving them.

I've heard that you can also do this in your oven at the lowest setting, but I have no experience with that.  My oven doesn't go below 200 and that would just cook them.

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday. 

Monday, March 7, 2011


We've had some amazingly warm weather over the weekend.  Both days reached to 60 or so.  By Sunday morning, so much had melted that all my beds were uncovered and even defrosted.  I was so excited to check the carrot beds.  They hadn't gotten covered properly and I was anxious to see how they did.

Some had gotten soft from all the freezing, but many of the carrots had made it through unscathed.  It was like digging for buried treasure.  Overall, about half of the carrots made it.  After our hard, cold, snowy winter, they were a welcome sight. 

I got them cleaned up and ended up with a good little crop.  The 2 on the left are huge.  There were quite a few that had forked.  That was surprising.  These beds are raised and have loam and compost in them.  There are really no rocks.  I'm not really sure why they forked. 

The strawberry plants were also starting to peak out.  I started to pull the shredded leaves away from them, but they were just too wet to get very much done.  It was nice to see that they had made it through quite nicely though.  What a mood booster to be able to spend a few hours outside and in the garden.  There is still a little bit of snow at the top of the driveway from the plow guy, but it should be gone very soon.  The weather is predicting highs in the 40s and lows in the 20s all week.  That's pretty typical March weather for us and its nice to see the progression in the temperatures.  Spring is almost here!

This post is part of Harvest Monday at Daphne's Dandelions.  I'm so excited to have a post finally!  Head on over and see what else is being harvested and what everyone is using from last year's harvests.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The remains of the day

The snow is melting very quickly now.  At one point there were 8 muddy children and 2 muddy dogs in my yard.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Ready for the weekend

We must have plenty of time to play when the kids get home from school.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Garden Notebook

Gardening is something that I don't think you can ever truly master.  There are so many variables.  The seeds, heat, rain, sunlight and soil, just to name a few.

One thing I find very helpful to keep track of my gardening from year to year is my Garden Notebook.  It starts with the seeds.

I document what was planted, how many and when.  Then I document when they started to sprout.

After that, I write down when they were planted out and how they did.  You can see by last year's notes that the lettuce was a bust.  I had planted them too early and they just didn't take well to being planted out. 

Another biggie, is knowing where you planted everything.  It's good to know so that you can rotate your crops effectively.  I find that I can always draw up a beautiful plan, but rarely stick to it.  The solution for me was to draw up a final plan.

This shows me where things got planted in reality.  I can show what got rotated in during the summer as well.  At the end of the summer, I make a list of things to change for the next year.  What went well, what didn't.

Separately, I keep a tally of what got canned and preserved.  This lets me know if I need to grow more or less of an item depending on our usage.  For instance, we're not big green bean eaters.  I have 20 more qts of frozen beans in the freezer.  I'll only plant a few for fresh eating this summer.  Also, last year was an amazing summer for tomatoes.  I canned up so many that we'll be good for a while.  Now, I won't cut back on those.  They're temperamental and a big part of what we eat.  What I will do, is experiment a bit on what I'll do with them.  But that's a post for another day.

Do you keep a notebook?  What do you keep track of?

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday.  

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


We've had some warmth off and on for the last few weeks.  The snow seems to be taking forever to melt.  We got so much this year without any melting in between.  There appears to be a layer of ice under it all preventing the melting. 

As you can see, there has been quite a bit of progress. The area pictured was under over 2 feet of snow for almost a month.   I was able to move the chickens to a better location.  They had been tearing up my front flower/herb bed.  It was supposed to be a temporary place to house them, but turned into a 2 month stint due to our horrible winter.  They dug up some of my irises and we'll see what else got destroyed.  I'm thinking I may have lost my chives and sage.  At least whatever gets planted there now will be very well fertilized. 

Today I started the broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, Asian greens, lettuces, kale, chard etc.  Despite the snow currently on the ground, I'm still hoping to get the peas planted in a few more weeks. 

My plans for the garden this year are numerous, as usual.  The now useless fence will be mostly removed.  I'll leave the back portion to keep the dogs and kids from tearing through it.  There will probably be raised beds made for the main part of the garden.  I'm just finding the raised beds easier to deal with overall than the sloped beds.  I just can't wait for the soil to thaw so that I can get out into the dirt.  There just isn't anything better for a gardener's soul.  Planting seeds is wonderful, but just not the same as getting into the dirt.