Saturday, March 17, 2012

Purple hands and baby plants

It's been an interesting Winter. We had, for us, an early hard frost just before Halloween (or as I call it, Samhain - Pronounced "Sow-wain".). Then, it seems like there was to be no snow. We finally got about two inches which did not stick on the road at all but was pretty to look at. That came at the very end of February. Then it decided to get warm. Today, St. Patrick's Day, is 84 degrees! So here we are, mid-way through March and my husband and I planted out tomatoes today. When I first moved here 22 years ago, we did not dare to put out tomato plants until Mother's Day. We may still get a cold snap, but a sheet of plastic is at ready to cover the plants we put in today. In any case, I really am beginning to feel like global warming has come to Virginia and perhaps I can now grow things like Brussels sprouts and pineapple.

So, what is in our straw bale garden?
  • 15 tomato plants (all but 3 are paste tomotos to be made into sauces, catsup and chopped.)
  • 4 Cayenne Pepper plants. I will dry the peppers for use throughout the year.
  • 6 green cabbages
  • 6 purple cabbages
  • 6 broccoli plants (there are six more not yet ready to be planted out)
  • 6 cauliflower plants
  • 6 celery (with 6 more in the wings for round 2)
  • a 4 foot row of butter beans (Ken's favorite)
  • a 4 foot row of bush green beans
  • a 6 row of sugar snap peas
  • a 6 row of flat peas. These are actually planted one on each side of a support net.
  • a 6 foot row of butter crunch lettuce
  • 12 collard plants
  • 12 kale plants
  • a 4 foot row of sorrel
  • a 4 foot row of winter crunch lettuce
What we will be planting in the garden on the ground (formally an herb garden consumed completely the by sheep) will be our ground plants: carrots, yellow onions, red onions, garlic, leeks, parsnips, turnips, beets, and potatoes. In the front garden bed where we thought we were going to have spring flowers this year, but which failed to appear, we are going to plant all of our vine type plants: cucumber, summer squash, butternut squash, pumpkin, and acorn squash. At the ends will go the zucchini plants. All of the herbs (basil, dill, parsley and thyme,etc) we will tuck in among the flowers. I may stick a few odd cucumbers into the flower gardens as well for ground cover and just a few more sources for making pickles. Most of my flowers are either medicinal or dye plants anyway. We eat the flower buds from the daylilies by stuffing them with sausage, dipping in an egg batter and frying them. The rose petals are collected and dried and sometimes find their ways into beverages or as decorations on desserts.

I hope to also have a fall garden with some root veggies and things like cabbages surviving under row covers well into December.

As things are harvested, if we can't eat them, I will blanch and freeze or, in the case of kale, sorrel,  and collards, dry and add to soups and stews all winter.

Oh, and the purple hands? Our Spring has not exactly been dry. Soggy would be a better descriptor. As a result, my poor sheep have been standing on damp ground since December and their hooves (really just toenails) have grown and become very soft due to the moisture. As a result, there seems to be a touch of foot fungus when I looked at their feet last weekend. Ken helped me upend them today so I could clip their overgrown toenails and while they actually looked pretty good and free of fungus today; I took the precautionary step of spraying their newly trimmed feet with Blue Cote (it's a fungicide and also a treatment for wounds). As usual, I managed to get more on myself than the sheep so now both of my hands are dark purple and no matter how hard I scrub, the stuff just doesn't want to come off. I"m hoping it will have at least faded by Monday when I go back to work.

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