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Ramp seeds

I made a mental note of the location of the ramps patches this spring, planning to check them for seeds in the autumn. Luckily, the patches are on my usual weekly routes because I'd forgotten all about my good intentions when these clusters of hard seeds (not berries as they appear) showed up atop four-inch-high stalks.

Germinating ramp seeds

I gathered a few dozen to experiment with, then hit up the internet for more information. Most people, it seems, use hit-or-miss wild germination, spreading the seeds in their woods in late summer or early autumn. Using that method, seedlings usually show up in six to eighteen months.

Seed saucer

I decided to get more scientific about it however. Looking through the literature, it appears that ramp seeds don't require scarification (breaking through the seed coat using manual methods or acids). Instead, the deal is that they need four to ten weeks at room temperature to get the roots to emerge followed by who-knows-how-long in the fridge to get the shoots to pop out.

I made a sandwich out of four layers of damp toilet paper between two saucers and put the seeds on the counter to see how my own results match up to those found under more sterile conditions in the lab. I'll keep you posted about whether/how my ramps grow!

Posted Wed Sep 19 06:00:29 2018 Tags:
Four by four alcove

"We can at least plan the wood-stove alcove this month, right?" asked Mark.

"Sure," I replied. "But what size should it be? Four by four like our last one? Four by eight? Or eight by eight?"

"Eight by eight," Mark stated decisively.

That sounded pretty big to me, so I pulled out the graph paper and mocked up our options. Four by four turns out to be just barely big enough for the wood stove itself using heat shields to protect the walls. I should have known this since it's exactly what we made before.

Four by eight alcove

Four by eight would let me stuff my chair in there along with the wood stove to prevent obstructing the door.

Eight by eight alcove

While eight by eight provides a spacious alcove, especially if the wood stove is inserted at a diagonal.

As usual, Mark was right. I wonder if I should ask him the next question --- where the windows go for optimal winter sun intake --- or do the math myself? I'll probably do the math. That sounds a lot more fun!

Posted Mon Sep 17 06:00:36 2018 Tags:
September garden

Last weekend, we got 4.5 inches of rain in two days and the garden started growing like nuts. This confirmed what I'd already suspected --- despite my compost troubles, water was the primary limiting factor in this year's garden.

I've only been hand watering enough to get new transplants and Sprouting oat seedsseedlings up and running. And, honestly, I hadn't even really been doing a good job of the latter.

The stumbling block was twofold. I don't want to use too much water on the garden before we installed rain barrles. And I was actually a bit glad to use water as a limiting factor keeping garden work (aka weeding) down to a dull roar during year one.

Excuses aside, irrigation will definitely be on the agenda before next summer. Because now that we're a bit more established, I don't mind weeding if it means harvesting three times as much delicious, homegrown vegetables and fruit!

Posted Sat Sep 15 06:00:43 2018 Tags:
Cooking tomato sauce

Mark has been feeling a lot better. So much so, in fact, that he wanted to dive into a wood-stove-alcove project immediately. I, on the other hand, want his innards to heal a little more before he starts hefting heavy lumber. So we compromised on a new project --- learning how to cook!

Eggplant parmesan

One of Mark's favorite foods is eggplant parmesan. And, at the moment, our two plants are ripening up at least three fruits per week. Time to let Mark put his creative juices to work creating an even better recipe to use up these purple vegetables.

Layering eggplant parmesan

He opted for an eggplant parmesan/lasagna combo. Fried, breaded eggplants, then homemade tomato sauce, then one layer of lasagna noodles, one pound of cooked hamburger meat, a sprinkling of parmesan combined with rather a hefty helping of shredded swiss, then another layer of eggplant, another layer of sauce, and another layer of cheese.

Eggplant lasagna

Conclusion? Delicious! I can hardly wait to see what he comes up with next week.

Posted Thu Sep 13 07:41:20 2018 Tags:
Big broccoli plant

What's the biggest lesson I've learned from year one in a new garden spot? Don't put all of your soil fertility/amendment eggs in one basket!

Broccoli shows this best. The plant above was set out into a newly kill mulched bed using half-composted horse manure. Not an optimal soil environment by a long shot. But I planted the broccoli sets pretty deep, down into the native soil. And one month later they're huge and thriving, ready to start forming big, beautiful heads.

Puny broccoli plant

In contrast, the image above shows a broccoli plant of the same variety started inside at the same time and set out at the same time. This one went into a more mature no-till bed too...except the "compost" I'd put on top of that kill mulch was very low-nitrogen municipal compost. I won't be buying that stuff again.

Puny flowers

Lest you think I was just cherry picking those broccoli photos, take a look at some flowers in two different parts of the garden. Above, a sunflower that bloomed at knee high plus cock's comb flowers barely as big as a dime. I'll bet you can guess what they were growing in --- municipal compost.

Cock's comb

And a much more satisfying cock's comb growing in a mixture of very well-composted cow manure and topsoil. The sunflowers in this part of the garden are towering over my head.

In a few years, cover crops plus regular manure/compost additions will have built up a buffer of nitrogen and organic matter that will make it harder to tell when amendments are hindering instead of helping. So I'm glad we spread our net widely this year to try out most of the local offerings when the ground is hungry and shows results fast!

Posted Tue Sep 11 06:00:54 2018 Tags:

If you've read Trailersteading, you'll know what I mean when I say that our Virginia homestead is an ugly duckling property. This type of unique real estate is often economical to purchase, can be wonderful to live on...but isn't particularly easy to sell.

We've tried out three different methods of finding our farm a new owner and have opinions on each. If you're selling a similar property, perhaps our ideas will help!

Mobile home with grapes

Option 1: Sell it to your neighbors. They say that the number one rule of real estate is location, location, location. Which means your neighbors --- who've already put down roots right there --- are an obvious audience to sell to. We actually had some interest from one of our neighbors (plus a low-ball offer from a local timber baron), but ended up running through this avenue pretty quickly. It's still worth a try, though!

Option 2: Go traditional with a realtor. With a conventional property, I suspect this is the way to go. Ugly duckling properties, however, are often hard to finance through a bank and mainstream realtors don't really know what to do with them. Plus, realtors take a hefty percentage, so the price has to remain high.

If I had to do it over again, I might have moved this option further down the list and waited until we gave up on selling the property on our lonesome. On the plus side, most realtor contracts are time-limited, so if it's not working you can just wait until the contract expires.

Wading a flooded creek

Option 3: Go unconventional with owner financing. This seems to be the more realistic option since you're likely to be attracting most potential buyers yourself if your property doesn't fit the conventional mold. We're currently giving this option a try and may have found someone just crazy enough enjoy our floodplain.

No money has yet changed hands, however. So you can still
peek at our listing if you want to throw your hat into the ring.

Posted Sun Sep 9 06:00:28 2018 Tags:
Sesame zucchini

On the menu this week --- sesame chicken over a bed of spiralized zucchini, with homegrown sweet peppers and Egyptian onion tops for accents.

Ripe pawpaw

Dessert came from the park --- wild pawpaws. The groves have been smelling so sweet all week that I felt like I was walking through a perfume factory so I figured I'd give one a try even though pawpaws are among my least favorite fruit.

Mixed with homegrown red raspberries, the flesh was much more appealing than I remembered. I'm looking forward to learning more recipe ideas at the Pawpaw Festival, coming up this time next week.

Posted Fri Sep 7 06:00:41 2018 Tags:

"How is Mark doing?" --- wewally

Spider catching a flyThe first seventy-two hours after his surgery were pretty rough, but Mark becomes more spry every day. On day four, he went off the heavy-duty painkillers, and by day six he felt well enough to drive to the filmmaking class he's taking at Ohio University.

He's still moving very carefully and is barely back up to light duty. However, his good humor and interest in the world are back in focus...just like this photo of my pet spider and its massive lunchtime fly.

Posted Wed Sep 5 06:00:31 2018 Tags:
Zinnias and origami

The fancy zinnia seeds we bought this year turned into colorful flowers so stunning that I thought for sure they were hybrids. But the website I got them from listed them as "open pollinated," so I decided to try saving some seeds.

Zinnia seeds

It's pretty easy to tell when zinnia seeds are ready. Just pry apart one of the dead, brown heads and look at the color of the seeds. Are they green like the top one in this picture? If so, they need a little more time. Brown like the bottom one in this picture? That seed is ready to save!

Muffin tin seed saving

My gut says that all of the flowers I have in my garden will have cross-pollinated, but it's possible that's not the case. So I decided to save each color separately --- time to pull out the muffin tins!

Tomato seeds

The tomatoes in the previous image were being divided up by variety also, but just for the trip into the house. There, I set each variety up to ferment as outlined in Weekend Homesteader: August. A few days later, both types of seeds will be ready to pack away for next year's garden.

Posted Mon Sep 3 07:29:28 2018 Tags:
Pig in the garden

So far, our garden fence has been doing its job admirably. Sure, birds get in, and I'm pretty sure a squirrel has been invading to gnaw seeds out of my tomatoes. But the deer --- our area's major garden predators --- nibble right up to the fenceline then stop.

Imagine my surprise when I heard a strange, hoarse squealing coming from the direction of my broccoli and zinnias last weekend. I peered out the window...then yelled Mark's name so loud he thought someone was dying.

Small pig

The problem turned out to be an extra-small pig in our garden. I'm guessing it found its way in under the gate.

Luckily, I saw the pig before it could do much damage, and we chased it out to rejoin three other piglets roaming the road. A couple of hours later, a pickup truck cruised by then the livestock were gone. If they'd stayed around much longer, we would have had to beef up the bottom edges of our fence!

Posted Sat Sep 1 06:00:41 2018 Tags:

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