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We used a scissor jack to
secure the front part of our new mushroom tower.
Winter came back with a
vengeance this past weekend. First, we had a light snow on Saturday
morning, then Sunday morning dropped down to 16 degrees Fahrenheit.
Luckily, the cold was short-lived and I doubt the fruit trees saw any
I went ahead and moved all of the plants out of the cold frame
just to be on the safe side, and that was probably a wise move even
though the interior temperatures only barely dropped below freezing.
Unfortunately, when I put the plants back out on a sunny but frigid
Sunday morning, I didn't take into account the power of the sun. By 2
pm, most of the broccoli plants had baked with the lid closed even
though outdoor temperatures were still in the low to mid 40s. I guess
I'll be starting some more broccoli seeds and paying more attention to
the cold-frame cover next time. Even if the air feels cold, if the sun
is out, the lid should be open!
On the plus side, I
thought I'd messed up the cabbage seedlings, but they seem to have
weathered Dandelion Winter just fine. A week ago, the long-range
forecast only showed one low of 31 on the horizon, so I went ahead and
set out the cabbage into the garden...then instantly regretted it when
the weather report shifted dramatically. I covered the plants with
row-cover fabric, crossed my fingers, and was thrilled to see that they
seem to have come through the cold unscathed! So I guess we'll have
early cabbage this year, and late broccoli.
mushroom log experiment is showing signs of shitake growth.
Last fall, I sent out seeds of some of my tried-and-true
(along with a few experimental) cover crops to readers to see how the
species fared in other soils and climates. My favorite result is shown
above --- Aimee in Ohio planted oilseed radishes in beds that will be
used to grow strawberries this year. She reported: "[The oilseed
radishes] stayed crisp and green clear past Thanksgiving, which gave me a
ready supply of greens and radishes for the guinea pigs. I'll admit it,
I ate a few myself. Even though I am not a radish person, they weren't
bad." Oilseed radishes also got good reviews from Missouri, although
Charity in the Pacific Northwest preferred barley and white mustard in
What's coming up this
spring? I splurged on several new varieties, which I plan to try out
both within the garden and as cut-and-come-again mulch producers in the
newly bare aisle soils in areas where I recently mounded up earth to
create higher raised beds. I figured --- why let that bare ground turn
into weedy lawn if it can do double-duty by producing biomass for the
garden instead? (Of course, I may regret this choice when I have to wade
through tall grasses to get to my tomato plants.)
Want to join in the fun? I
have room for a few more experimenters since some of last fall's
gardeners dropped out. If you live in zones 3, 4, or 8, drop me an email
at email@example.com and we'll
chat. Folks chosen will receive free seeds as long as you promise to
share photos for my book and to report on your results!
We discovered today that a
half buried tire makes an awesome goat toy.
The different types of
sugars in birch sap compared to maple sap make birch syrup a little
trickier to boil down. It's imperative not to allow the developing syrup
to get above 200 degrees Fahrenheit with birch sap unless you want the
sugars to caramelize, darkening the color and impacting the flavor. In
addition, it's a bit trickier to know when birch syrup is done since it
doesn't get as thick as maple syrup, so you'll need to make your best
guess, then weigh the finished product to determine how close you are to
the optimal 11 pounds per gallon.
Lucy went on a trip today to
visit our nice vet in the big city.
Kayla and I enjoyed a girl's day out Thursday --- we attended the annual grafting workshop
at the Gate City extension office. I've been to nearly half a dozen
grafting workshops now, and this one was by far my favorite. Not only
was it held at 2 pm so we could get home before dark, but the selection
of scionwood was astounding. I came in the door with nine pieces of
scionwood I'd brought from winter trades, planning to just graft what I
had...but I walked out with sixteen apple trees. (Good thing they were
willing to sell me extra rootstock for a dollar a pop.)
In addition to the copious scionwood choices, the organizers had three
apple books on hand, so I could look up each variety to see whether it would hit the spot. Yes, I did spend
an hour paging through the books to determine which types of apples were
worth a try. Even though the pages were simply text, I found the most complete book was Fruit, Berry, & Nut Inventory --- I may have to get a copy for future variety selection.
But the positive points
of this workshop went far beyond excellent scionwood selection and a
good time of day. The instructors were also pros who helped me learn
safer and more effective methods of making the classic whip-and-tongue
graft. First, start with their "rule of thumb" --- grasp the rootstock
where the top roots branch off, then cut off the top where the tip of
your thumb reaches. (I figured my thumb was a little shorter than the
digits on their male hands, so cut just a little higher.)
Why did I secure a chicken
door with pipe strapping in the goat barn?
If you've sent me an
email or given me a call recently and I've been extremely slow to
answer...blame it on the sun. This bout of stunningly gorgeous weather
means that our usual schedule of half a day working inside and half a
day working outside went right out the window. Instead, Mark and I have
been catching up on all of the fun garden tasks that got put off when
snow was on the ground, barely coming inside for meals and then
collapsing at the end of a long, glorious day. I promise to be a better
correspondent once the cold, wet weather returns this weekend.
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