Out the Front Door :: Melons

Snapshots and snippets of the beautiful, crazy world right out our front door.
If you’d like to share some of your own photos or a blog post,
please leave a link in the comments!

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Everett holds our first Prescott Fond Blanc Melon (above and below)

Melons2 Melons3

Banana melon really does look and taste like a banana! 

Do you grow melons?  If so, you probably can relate to the absolute wonder of walking out into your garden, picking a ripe melon, and letting its warm, sweet juice drip down your chin and fingers.

My garden in Oregon did not get full sun exposure because we lived in a narrow valley.  Plus, a year-round creek flowed through our backyard, making the garden micro-climate a bit cooler than our neighbors up the hill.  Melons and other hot weather crops were a real challenge to grow.  I was able to grow extremely small, short season cantaloupe in the greenhouse, which were certainly delicious, but not abundant.

I was so excited to try a variety of heirloom melons this summer.  The hot days and moderate nights, humidity, and full sun make for great melon growing conditions.  I selected over a dozen varieties from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, and off they grew.

Selecting a ripe melon is still not something I excel at (for instance, the Prescott Fond Blanc above was a tad bit underripe), but my general understanding is that a ripe melon should be fragrant, the base should have a little “give” when pressed with your fingers, and the melon should slip easily from the vine.  The Banana melon grew to its enormous size within the first month, then sat there, unchanging for weeks, while I wondered when in the world it would be ripe. Suddenly, the color began to change from a light green to a light yellow, and finally to a bright yellow. The stem began to separate from the fruit, and a heavenly scent was noticeable.  In two days, it was ready to pick!

Next year, one of my goals is to create a larger space dedicated to melons.  I am hooked!

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What is happening out your front door?  Do share below!

Taking Stock

Some days, it’s a very good idea to take stock.  It’s easy to think about how much has NOT gotten accomplished, or to stress about the very long list of things-to-do.  But when I really look back and realize that just in the past two weeks, we’ve gone from this…

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To this…Cabin4

To this…Cabin7

And from this…SheetMulch3

To this…

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And this…

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It all feels really darn good.

(The above photo is a newly planted bed of perennial flowers, herbs, and fruiting shrubs that got dug up in Oregon, moved cross country, heeled into top soil over the winter, and now planted on the land. We’ll see which ones make it!)

Wishing you a wonderful weekend, taking stock of what is truly good about life right now.

Create an Instant Garden with Sheet Mulching

This weekend I took advantage of the gorgeous sunshine and direct-sowed some spring crops – peas, lettuce, spinach, radish, and kale – in the lovely raised beds of our house-sitting home.  Thinking ahead to our move in May (ish), I’m also creating a summer garden space on our land with the sheet mulching technique.

Sheet mulching is a way to create an instant garden by deeply layering organic materials.  If you have a large backyard, imagine turning a corner of your lawn into a space to grow food!  On our land, we will most likely plow a piece of earth in the fall for next year’s planting, but this summer sheet mulching will create an immediate growing space, with no tilling.

Sheet mulching is very similar to making lasagna – layer, layer, layer. In fact, some folks call this the “lasagna method.”  It can be done with a wide variety of organic materials, some of which are likely available for free or cheap: straw, hay, leaves, wood chips, manure, compost, food scraps, cardboard, newspaper, or grass clippings.  If you’re a visual learner, you might enjoy referencing Toby Hemenway’s diagram of sheet mulching here.

So here’s how it works:
1) Get yourself some big old piles of organic matter!  We bought a huge straw bale, but were able to source free horse manure and amazing finished compost from the local university farm.  Many years ago, I sheet mulched a garden over the course of several months so I never had huge piles like these; I just added leaves, food scraps, manure, etc. as I acquired it.

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2) Lay down cardboard (remove the tape!) or newspaper as a base layer to smother any weeds.  If you want to add any soil amendments (lime, rock dust, kelp meal), put these in direct contact with the soil, before laying down the cardboard.  Wet this layer.SheetMulch3

3) Layer your organic materials, watering as you go. Since we don’t have water out on the land yet, I decided to really model lasagna and do many smaller layers of straw alternating with horse manure.  Rain will help wet the straw, and my thinking is that the horse manure will more readily decompose the straw if added in thin layers.  Some people prefer a 12-18″ layer of straw/leaves/hay followed by a thin layer of manure. Do what works for you!

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4) Continue working in this manner until you create a VERY thick layer of materials.  Remember that it will break down over time and will shrink considerably!

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5) To finish, add a layer that you will plant into, such as a finished compost.  Make it thick – around 2-3 inches is great.  Top off the pile with straw, sawdust, leaves, or wood chips – something that will hold moisture and prohibit weeds.  I will be direct seeding many summer crops, so my personal preference is to let the plants grow to a few inches height before adding the final layer.

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6) Now you are ready to plant directly into your new garden. Before long, your pile of straw and manure will turn into rich, dark soil, and the cardboard will break down, allowing roots to penetrate the soil below!

 

*This post shared on the Homestead Barn Hop, Homestead Bloggers Network, and Natural Living Monday.

How to Store Gardening Seeds

A few weeks ago, my good friend, a fellow garden and mom of a toddler called to ask me about seed storage.  Turns out her toddler had “helped organize” and she was in need of a new solution.  We have used the same simple system for years, and it really works well for us, so I was happy to share.  Since I have a bit of a seed buying addiction, having a neat, well-organized way of storing seeds is really important; I don’t want to waste time sifting through stacks of packets!

Some things to consider when you’re storing seeds from year to year are 1) keeping the seeds cool, and 2) keeping them dry.  Seed germination rates will decrease over time, but paying attention to these two factors really helps.  Some people recommend storing seeds in a refrigerator, but who has that kind of space?  I would suggest a cool pantry or another space where temperatures will not fluctuate dramatically.

As for my system, drum roll please … we use a Rubbermaid under-the-bed storage box, and divide it up with cardboard and duct tape, like so:

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These containers are just the right height for to store an average sized seed packet in an upright position.  The container is divided into categories, for instance brassicas, solanaceae, beans, greens, cucurbits, flowers, alliums, etc.

Seed Storage 1

Voila!  It may not be the most glamorous system, but it sure works great!

How do you store and organize your seed collection? 
Share your experience in the comments below! 

*This post shared on The Homestead Barn Hop

Preparing.

Geese

Snow geese have been passing overhead each day, huge flocks heading west.  Today, I saw my first robin on a tree branch outside the kitchen window.  Friends are tapping black walnut trees for their sap.  Spring draws closer yet!

I, for one, have been preparing my seed orders and dreaming and scheming about this year’s garden space (which technically doesn’t yet exist, but hey, a girl’s got to dream!)  The spring garden will be planted here at the house where we’ve been staying, and I’ll work on prepping some sheet mulched beds on the land for our summer crops.

While I already have a more than ample supply of seeds  – which, by the way, I keep in an under-the-bed style Rubbermaid container.  They are the perfect shape and size and mouse-proof too! – I cannot resist adding new varieties each year.  This year, I ecstatically flipped to the melon pages and ordered several varieties of melons.  Hurray for a hot summer climate!  My old standby seed company is High Mowing Seeds, which produces super high quality organic seeds.  This year I also placed a large order with a Missouri company, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  I love their commitment to open-pollinated and non-GMO seeds.

Here’s my seed order, for your enjoyment (and my record-keeping!)

High Mowing Seeds

Kaitlin Cabbage

Goodman Cauliflower

Guardsman Chioggia Beet

Rose de Berne Tomato

Pruden’s Purple Tomato

California Wonder Pepper

Champion Collards

NuMex Joe E. Parker Pepper (Anaheim)

High Mowing Mesclun Mix

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Parisienne Carrot

Detroit Dark Red Beet

Golden Beet

Oeschenberg Amaranth

Jimmy Nardello Italian Pepper

Illinois Beauty Tomato

Boule d’Or Melon

Piel de Sapo Melon

Charentais Melon

Golden Midget Watermelon

Red Kuri Squash

Long Island Cheese Squash

Chiriman Squash

Giant Red Re-Selection Celery

Perfection Drumhead Savoy Cabbage

Blue Curled Scotch Kale

Borage

Brocade Mix Marigold

Persian Carpet Zinnia

Bright Lights Cosmos

Unwin’s Mix Dahlia

Tina James’s Magic Primrose

I’d love to hear, in the comments below,
what are you planning for your garden this year? 

*this blog post shared on The Prairie Homestead’s Barn Hop

Starting Sweet Potatoes

Gardening in a new climate is both terrifying and exhilarating.  (And yes, I do realize that these are strong words, but I get a bit worked up about my garden!).  On the one hand, I feel like I’ve just landed on another planet trying to figure out what works here and what doesn’t.  When is the best time to plant?  What about the rain that falls in the summer time?  What kinds of pests will I encounter?  Luckily, I have many knowledgeable gardening friends in the area, and they will undoubtedly coach me through my first year of Missouri gardening.

In the exhilarating category are all of the new plants that I will be able to grow: watermelons, big bell peppers, eggplants, corn, and sweet potatoes!  After gardening in a cool creek side hollow for 13 years, I am ready for some full sun exposure and warm weather crop success!  Last week, I learned it was already time to start sweet potatoes.  I found some good resources online (this link and this one were helpful), and enlisted Ella’s help in beginning some sweet potato slips.

Since I’m brand new to this, I’d recommend consulting other more experienced folks for more fleshed out instructions, but the basic steps are to place a sweet potato in a jar of water, and fill it so it covers about half the potato.  You can hold them in place with toothpicks.  Set the jars in a warm place and check on them occasionally to replace or add water.  In a few weeks, the sweet potatoes will grow leafy sprouts on top, and roots into the water.  (The next step, which is rooting the slips, I’ll share in a few weeks!)

Sweet Potatoes 2Sweet Potatoes 1  Sweet Potatoes 3

I’d love to hear what you have going in your garden, or what your plans are for the coming months.  And if you have experience gardening in the Midwest, do you have a favorite watermelon, corn, or tomato that you grow?  Please share!  I’m getting ready to place a seed order and welcome any suggestions.

And, in case you have not done so already, I’d love for you to enter my giveaway for a copy of the book Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes.  The giveaway ends tonight, so hop on over to this post, and share a comment to enter. If you want extra chances to win, you can share my blog post on social media, “like” Homestead Honey on Facebook, or join my email list.  But be sure to come back and comment again to let me know you’ve done so!!  I’ll announce the winner later this week.

Have a great day!

Teri

 

In the Garden :: 8.2.12

The most amazing cabbage I have ever grown!  I get my cabbage seed from High Mowing Seeds, an organic seed company based in Northeast Vermont.

These raspberries are good enough to just stare at all day! (Thanks DRG, for the fabulous photos!)

The greenhouse is taking off: cukes, carrots, basil, kale, peppers, tomatoes (we ate our first ripe slicers last week!), and check out those huge tomatillo plants in the back right!

One of my new favorite photos, Instagrammed by my fabulous sister-in-law.

Two hoses makes for two happy children.  (And yes, my son is always pant-less.  We practice Elimination Communication around here, and nudity is a big part of our success!)
So, what is growing in your garden these days?

 

Garlic Harvest

Garlic harvesting is a multi-generational activity here on the homestead.  Each July, Brian’s parents escape the Arizona heat to spend the summer in the Northwest.  So for a few months, we benefit from having family close by; sharing meals, sharing the joys of raising children, and sharing the daily chores of the homestead.  As their visit coincides with the annual garlic harvest, we’ve established a bit of a routine: we dig the garlic together, Grandma cleans the bulbs, I braid, and we all share the bounty.

This year we grew an assortment of hard-neck and soft-neck garlic, but it was all from last year’s saved bulbs, so I have no idea what varieties were represented.  What I do know is that our garlic lasts all year long, so we are planting cloves that have been selected for long term storage.  We use garlic liberally in our cooking, of course, but also feed it to our goats to help maintain their health.

The hard-neck garlic harvest begins. Check out the size of those bulbs!

Ella was so helpful!  She has become quite the harvester, and specializes in arranging the harvest in beautifully neat piles.

(These are the soft-neck varieties)

To the porch!

The cleaning and braiding will continue happening into the weekend, at a nice slow pace.  It’s a pleasure to work together to create such a harvest.

Rows and Rows

With the weather being so absolutely beautiful, we have been spending most of our days outdoors.  It is splendid.  The kids have taken to pouring water into and out of bowls of all sizes. I wish I had a photo to share because it is quite comical – Everett in a shirt, boots, and no pants (because I’m working on his potty training, and because he pours water all over them anyways!), Ella usually completely naked except for some mismatched boots.  They love this game, and it keeps them so occupied that both Brian and I have been able to spend quality time in the garden.

So here is a little glimpse into my little garden world right now:

Tomatoes are all in the ground and growing just fine. I could not control myself yet again this year and planted 73 plants.  No, I did not mistype.  And no, we don’t sell at a market.  We just happen to live in a hollow that gets fewer hours of sun and has cool creek-side temps.  So I have to plant that many to get an appreciable yield.

Beets and carrots coming along nicely in the greenhouse.  There’s Everett watching himself pee in the background. Oops – was that too much information?

Overwintered garlic, mulched heavily with manure-laden goat bedding.  Almost time to harvest garlic whistles.  Yum!

Some really gorgeous greens in the greenhouse. Anyone want to come over for a salad?

And outside, some freshly planted brassicas, onions, beans, carrots, lettuce, and beets.

All this time spent in the garden rows has been seriously cutting into my knitted rows.  When Everett turned 18 months yesterday, I realized that the sweater I am making him will not fit him for very long if I do not get moving!  So I’m back in action, and am SO very close to casting off sleeve number two.

Only hood and ribbed trim to go!

And because I love Ginny’s Yarn Along so much, and love sharing what I’m knitting and reading, I’m going to leave the title of my latest book as somewhat of a teaser for a future post.  Let me just say that this book is packed with incredibly interesting information that will challenge the way you think about nutrition and dental health:  Cure Tooth Decay by Ramiel Nagel.

Back to the needles, cause I have a quickly growing boy to catch up with!

 

 

Spring day musings

Yarn-along-ing with Small Things today…

I have a new pair of fingerless gloves to show off.  (Yes, another pair – I really think they are my last.  For now.)  These might be my favorite yet. It’s the same Cabled Mitt pattern that I used here, but even better.  I used some gorgeous Malabrigo superwash merino, and a smaller needle, and voila! (Ravelry notes here).

These are a gift for a very special person – my sister-in-law!  They were so satisfying to make, and even more satisfying to imagine her wearing them!

And in the garden, things are growing!  I’m so proud of my little tomato starts which, despite the incredible amount of rainy, grey weather we’ve been having, are growing big and strong.  In another month or so they will be ready for planting in the greenhouse.

April is an exciting month for us – our goat Gilly is due on April 18th. She is really huge – I need to take a picture of her enormous belly.  Our goats have always thrown twins, but who knows – maybe triplets for Gilly?

Enjoy your day!