Tag Archives: Gardening

Worm porn

How often do you get a headline like that?

We had actually received the worm can before receiving the worms.

Worm can

There are two more trays that go with this, to stack on top. This allows you to help the worms migrate up as they munch through whatever has been deposited in each tray. The spigot is to drain off the inevitable liquid that will accumulate: compost tea, not fit for direct human consumption unless you’re really brave and have no tastebuds. Lovely for plants, though.

The worms arrived via FedEx, and came with this helpful message.

Helpful message

Make a note of that: don’t freeze your worms.

The bedding material for the wrigglers is made of coconut fiber. It comes in a block, with an image of the happiest worm you’ll ever see.

Bedding

The block goes just as it is into a bucket of water. As it absorbs the water, it bursts out of the package and winds up looking a great deal like a bucket of poo.

Bucket o stuff

Once the bedding has soaked up most of the water and been broken up a bit, it still looks like a big bucket of poo. Fortunately, it doesn’t smell like one.

Ready

The bedding is spread into the bottom tray.

Bed's ready

All that’s needed now is the worms. They came bagged like this, and I was wondering just who got to count out a thousand of the critters.

Bag o worms

That’s a real pile o’ worms.

Pile o' worms

This lucky one was singled out for a closeup.

Singular

But they don’t seem to mind group shots.

Hand o' worms

Eventually, they tired of the papparazzi and made their way down into the bedding, happy as clams. Er, worms.

Tunnels

We’ve put some scraps in the can, to work out how much they’ll eat and how quickly, so we can gauge how much food they need and how productive they will be, in all senses of the word. These two had an early start on one aspect of that.

Worm sex

Worm poop

Mom had been out of town for the weekend, off gallivanting in another state. When she got back, she couldn’t resist opening one of the boxes of worm poop to take a look. It looks, I told her, as she held out two palms worth of the castings, just like worm poop: tiny balls of waste. I remember we used to see this a lot when I was a kid, in yards where the soil was rich and the temperatures not terribly extreme to kill off the worms. When I was much younger, we used to head out to Pirate’s Cove to go fishing. The adults would be fishing and drinking and the younger one would be poking at the fire, trying our hand at shrimping, and poking at the worms. You could be guaranteed to get worm poop on your hands at some point while playing with the worms before they met their grisly fate.

At the time, I didn’t really give much thought to the whole thing. After all, when you’re young, you’re indestructible and unconcerned most of the time with whatever is going on outside your own little planetary system. These days, my mind is awash with gardening and homesteading-related things. I’ve always had trouble sleeping because my brain won’t shut up, but it seems to be getting worse as time goes by. Sometimes I wish I could be like the cat curled up on my desk or the dogs curled up at my feet. They have that simple sleep and seem to know that when it is time to sleep, that’s just what you do. You don’t let your brain go off thinking about layouts for frames, how much soil needs to be mixed, whether to try a bunch of several kinds of tomatoes or several of a bunch of kinds of tomatoes – which naturally leads to the thought that the season can really be as long as you make it, so do you really have to choose? What about the trees, and where shall position the trellises for the climbing plants, like beans and cukes? If things go well, how much time will be devoted to canning and pickling, and who the heck will be eating all this stuff anyway?

I’m getting a bit sleepy now, and always think that those moments should be seized for a nap. Otherwise, the moment passes, and I’m off and running once more.

Frosty mornings

Our freeze/no-freeze/frost overnight betting pool – wouldn’t you love to be the weather person, where you really don’t need to get it right, ever? – turned out to be frost. I stepped outside with my sister as she was getting ready to head to classes: lock frozen, windows iced, clear and very cold. The veggies were covered in ice crystals, but not rock-hard frozen, and I suppose they’ll make it. The garlic is really the only thing that concerns me. I don’t eat collards, the broccoli, as I mentioned before, isn’t right, the brussels sprouts I don’t eat and are not doing anything from their transplanted states, and the lettuces/spinach seem to be just fine, although they also seem to be frozen in time, having not changed in size very much over the past couple of weeks. Looking across the road to our neighbors, I saw the western side of their roof covered in frost and glistening as the sun came up.

Standing outside for less than ten minutes made me appreciate even more having the ability to work from anywhere there is a connection to the internet. Even right at home, at my desk, with my heater going full blast under my desk to warm my feet after being outside.

Where’s the food, already?

I know, a real dearth of food and garden stuff lately. This morning when I got back up after my few hours of sleep, it was 35 degrees and rainy outside. Brrr. Where’s my spring?

It’s also that time of the year when the whirlpool of month end and previous year end paperwork/filings/activities are at full blast, which leaves only a little time for the other things I like to do. Since it’s still spitting rain and not going to warm up outside past 50 or so, and everyone is gone, leaving just me and the animals, it’s a perfect day to blast through as much of this stuff as humanly possible.

We will return to the goodies eventually – next week, we will be building more frames and mixing the soil to fill them, getting seeds started, and in general working on more prep for the garden. For some reason, I don’t give as much love to the winter garden as the summer. It may be because half the stuff I cannot/will not eat (lettuces for the former, brussels sprouts for the latter), and this year it may be because I hate the plants we picked up from Home Depot to transplant and get us kickstarted (that would be the broccoli, which has been a complete loser, in my opinion – we’ll be starting some anew from seed). The garlic is going gangbusters, though. I just hope it doesn’t rot in the ground from the weird rains we’ve been having.

The spring and summer gardens should be huge, given all the seed we have. In the past two days, we’ve received shipments of worm castings, chicken manure, and a batch of tomato and pepper seed varieties we’re going to try. We’re awaiting the arrival of some worms and a will have a bin for our wormy friends to do some composting in addition to the regular compost pile we have. There are also more seeds en route because – and there’s no other way to put it – I must be insane.

We still need to:

– find a permanent place for the asparagus.

– build a coop for the upcoming chick parade, with laying boxes.

– get the greenhouse up, but only after the latest five loads of topsoil that isn’t really topsoil is spread – it’s swamp muck more than topsoil, and completely unlike the nice loads we got last time from this very same place. Since they’re not entirely as consistent as we’d like, as they apparently do not go to the same pit on a load to load basis, we will simply find another supplier. Topsoil ain’t exactly cheap, and since we need a lot of it around here to top off our sand and fill various areas, it makes no sense to use a provider who cannot perform to the standards we need.

– figure out which trees we will plant where out front when it does warm up into spring.

– plant all these damn sagos my uncle keeps giving my mother and she keeps bringing in.

– edge off the driveway to keep the slag in place.

– figure out where we’ll put the fences around the huge garden area we’ll have to keep the bunnies from thinking it’s a free lunch around here.

– put up some solar-powered exterior lights on the corner of the barn.

– pick up some more coastal hay for mulching and moisture control as I continue my quest to extend our grassy area out front.

– get the pasturegrass started on the west side of the property, as a place for the rolling coop and an area where we can eventually cut our own hay.

– put together a menu that will help keep cholesterol ranges in the norm. Mom’s latest bloodwork came back with a sky high count, my sister’s is also high, and I’m sure now that I’m eating again, mine has gone back up to my BC levels. In our family’s case, it’s more hereditary than dietary (although diet of course contributes), so there are limits to what diet alone can do – that’s why there are drugs for that and why we’ll probably all be on them at some point. I was, until the first surgery, in fact.

– various other things too numerous to mention, but which all fit right in with our homestead theme.

Waiting out the cold

OK, so it isn’t -4F here like it was at Lambeau Sunday night. It’s still cold to someone like me. I don’t like the cold and never have, which made our living in the northern reaches of the country interesting when I was younger. Then, it was just an annoyance because I’m a summer kind of gal. These days it’s actually annoying and painful, because while I’ve never had much bodyfat, since the whole cancer dance, my bodyfat is even lower than it was. A nice problem to have, no?

No.

When the weather cools off and the days only go into the 50s with the nights somewhere in the 30s, my feet never seem to be warm. My hands are cold all the time, making for interesting typing on the computer, and while everyone else is fine in a sweatshirt to combat what to them is a chill, I have a shirt, a flannel shirt, and two pairs of socks on, with my heater going under my desk to try and warm my feet. Going outside on a day like today in particular is rather heinous, as it was also very windy out there. I know my little cat (the one with the wrap around her waist in the photos) feels the same way, since she herself has a tumor that can’t be removed as she’s too old to be put under and she’s dropped down to virtually no bodyfat as well. She spends her days either in the window with the sunlight concentrated on her small frame, or curled up, leaning right against the other heater near my desk.

But I know that soon enough, my kind of temperatures will return, the sun will be out instead of taking the day off as it has this past week, and we’ll have colorful things growing out in the garden and yard. I may still get chilled when I come back in since everyone else likes the inside temp at around 72 (too chilly for me), but at least outside, my bones will be warm again. I can’t wait for summer.

One winter day

Today has been all about food. Well, that and getting the dogs shaved and bathed. That, and getting the Princess wiped down and brushed. And watching football. But it has been a day full of cooking for me, although I was a bit behind schedule due to the dog-bathing part.

We begin our tour with a hunka hunka nice looking buffalo.

Buffalo roast

Salt, pepper, garlic, and in it went to a pan to sear. After nicely browning on all sides, it went into the oven in a bath of beef broth with some onion and garlic as companions.

After that, it was time to start the soup. I had roasted a couple of butternut squash, and started some onion, garlic, and carrot in a pot. Some chicken broth, a couple of diced potatoes, the innards of the squash, and some spices, and it turned into something like this.

Starting the soup

All of that was stirred together and then allowed to simmer while I began the next item on my culinary agenda: guacamole. Here, our model Aubrey demonstrates the functionality of that fabulous green appetizer.

Guacagoodness

Meanwhile, those of us still suffering from a root canal went on to the creation of another yummy item.

Dough

The soup was coming along nicely, and was almost ready for the immersion blender.

Simmered soup

Two other parties chimed in with their own orders.

Boots

Often, they don’t know exactly what they want, but they know you might have it.

Newton

The soup was ready, so I blended it and Mom kindly jarred it for me.

Jars of soup

I asked that she do that because I was moving along on the bread front.

Rising

I also threw together some tarragon-pickled mushrooms and onions for Aubrey, who was starving because she insists on doing this “total carb” thing instead of net carbs since she wants to drop some weight, but hey, who am I to say anything about peoples’ strange ideas? I moved along to the roast, pulling it out of the bath it had been in for about three hours.

Roasted buffalo

The braising liquid, to which carrots, onions, and potatoes had been added, was thickened a bit to give us a hearty backdrop for the roast.

Stewed

We also had some roasted zucchini with parm-reg.

Zukes

And we added the final touch of our lovely focaccia.

Focaccia

Besides the Packers losing a game the Giants seemed better prepared to play, a very enjoyable day. Just to prove I am certifiably insane, I also ordered more seed today, because the very best thing to do when you think maybe you’re getting too close to that gardening mania line is to just boldly step right over it.

Dreaming of spring

It has been cold, dark, and gloomy today, and our chance of snow flurries has dropped down to almost nothing for tomorrow evening. Since we don’t get the thrill of that chance, it’s time to focus on the job ahead and the fun that goes with it: seed sorting and selection.

Seeds

That may seem like a lot of seeds. In fact, I think it probably is. There are maybe a dozen varieties of tomatoes, eight peppers, squashes, onions, herbs, corn, beans, melons, cucumbers, and just about anything else you’d find in a typical visit to your pantry and fridge. The fun now is determining how to lay out our frames, what to plant where, and where to build the trellises for the climbers. We still have a bit of time before our last frost date, and since things tend to germinate very quickly and spring up ready for transplanting, still some time before the seedling flats need to be started. We’re looking forward to quite a lot of canning, pickling, and freezing this year. With all the work done on the soil and the effort going into the frames, hopefully this year’s harvest will be leaps and bounds above last year’s meager and short-season pickings.

We received several orders this week of meat packed and shipped from elsewhere. One of the shippers used dry ice instead of cold packs. You know what that means.

Fun with dry ice

Doing the funky chicken

Or maybe not.

Tonight’s dinner plan was to roast a chicken (salt, pepper, ginger, fresh orange, onion) for dinner. When I started peeling it out of its wrapper, it smelled like a three week old chicken left in hundred degree heat after a skunk had sprayed it. In other words: no chicken tonight. Fortunately, there was cheesy potato vegetable chowder to be had on this gloomy, rainy evening.

My seed packets are spread out on the table, with the exception of the packets of the sungold tomato seed, which I can’t lay my hands on this instant. I need to get some flats started in the garage under the heat and grow lights, in an area which will also house some special guests for several weeks: chicks. Yes, we will have a few chickens when all is said and done, and they’ll be here in mid February to take up residence with the rest of the zoo.

It’s going to be an interesting spring around the homestead…

Harvesting fungi

About a week after tucking my mushroom box away in the bottom of my closet, the little buggers starting coming up. Then they started growing so quickly it was a bit disturbing.

Mushrooms

I had to try one.

Harvest

It was quite mushroom-y, and not at all like the cartons from the store.

Snack

The next day – and you can see the spot where the snack vanished – they’d doubled in size again.

Giants

I read in the little guide that mushrooms, when they are young, will often double their size daily. I think we can safely say this is true.

Big

A little frightened that they would start to crawl out of the box and kill me while I slept, I decided to take the first harvest.

Cut

They’re very pretty, and spectacularly easy to grow. Like goldfish, without having to change the water.

Button mushroom

Did I mention they were quite large? The one in the middle is one from a carton we picked up at the store the other day, before I went on a rampage through my personal mushroom bed.

Comparison

Ah, and the taste: magnificent. Sauteed in some olive oil, with salt, pepper, and some sliced onions, served alongside some organic, grass-fed burgers.