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One Step at a Time

April 25th, 2011

Now that I have an extra quarter acre of land to work this I’m excited about the possibilities. I’ve been planning my new garden in my mind for years, just waiting to have a space with enough sunlight. There are a few things about this new garden space that aren’t perfect. It’s not a level lot and it slopes westward, not a southern slope as gardeners usually want. It’s also covered in saplings, trees and lots of brambles of blackberry, multiflora rose and wild black raspberries. There is also some damage from the first owner, the main one being a driveway area that was cleared and bulldozed so he could drive in to collect wood.

We had a professional tree remover come to take down a few HUGE trees that we didn’t want to deal with. We did cut down a few smaller multi-stem poplars and a few other trees ourselves. We’ve been working on clearing out all the saplings, pulling them with a tool we purchased called the Weed Wrench. I have to admit, it’s a fabulous tool for the job and we’re happy we made the investment in it! We also borrowed a vintage come-along from a friend’s dad. Our friend Shaun came over a few days and lent his muscles to help clear out some of the bigger saplings.

All of this is a lot of work, especially since we’re doing most of it ourselves and by hand. We’ve been spending a few hours each evening clearing out the lot, sawing, digging, raking and carrying all the debris to the compost piles in the back.

Now that a section is cleared I’ve been working on the amending the soil, clearing away all the weeds, brush and picking out all the rocks. I have been able to clear a small area and build a small 4 x 10 ft bed for onions. I used some logs to surround it to help with erosion. I’m currently working on another bed that will be roughly 4 x 15 for potatoes. I’ll keep working my way back towards the house on the top half of the lot. At least I’m able to grow a few crops this year.
I have to keep telling myself that gardening is about the process not the final product. One step at a time will lead me to a beautiful potager in a few years, I just have to be patient and enjoy the journey!

What stage would you say your garden is in: infancy, teenager, middle age, or mature?

Quote of the Day: Anais Nin

April 24th, 2011

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

~ Anais Nin

I found this little beauty laying in the flowerbed yesterday where a mole or something had chewed through it’s stem. I figured it would perfect in my windowsill.

I don’t pick a ton of flowers from the garden to bring indoors, I never want to take them out of the garden. I’m hoping that with my new garden area I’ll be able to add more flowers just for cutting. I’ve always wanted to have a dedicated cutting garden and in a few years my dreams may come true!

Do you cut flowers often to bring inside?

Harvesting Compost

April 23rd, 2011

There’s something very satisfying about harvesting compost. Perhaps it’s the fact that you made something from the waste that many people throw away. Maybe it’s because you can almost see the rich nutrition for your plants. Or it might be that it saves you from spending money on compost from the store. I don’t know exactly which one of these I appreciate most, but I certainly enjoy the process of harvesting compost each spring.

I’m a very laissez-fair composter. I don’t turn my pile, or worry about rations of green and brown. I simply throw stuff in the pile as it becomes available. I do keep a pile of dry leaved nearby for layering in with kitchen scraps during the winter to avoid everything getting slimy and gross. I also add a shovelful of soil every now and then for added microbes and other goodness. I start a few new piles each spring when I harvest the old piles. I add to them throughout the year and the next spring I end up with about 1/3 of the each bin filled with compost (which amounts to a few wheelbarrow loads of compost). Some of this gets used to make homemade potting soil, and the rest of it gets used in the garden.

Do you compost? Do you turn your piles? When do you harvest compost?

Friday Favorite: Old School Games

April 22nd, 2011

Growing up we had an Atari gaming system. We never got beyond that, my parents didn’t buy us tons of toys. We didn’t mind though, we enjoyed playing atari for years and years. My parents still have the old Atari and the games we loved as kids. Every now and then we get it out and have some old school fun! Mr Chiots had an Atari as well when he was a kid, but he moved on to other gaming systems as they came out.

Earlier this week Mr Chiots and I went to my parent’s house and he taught our nieces & nephew how to play all our favorite games like Pacman, Barnstorming and Bowling. They had been excited about this day for a long time as we had to postpone it once already.

They certainly seemed to have a great time playing the same games that my sister and I played as a kids. No doubt they’ll be playing a lot with my dad when he arrives home later next week. He always loved playing Atari with us.

Did you ever own an Atari? What was your favorite game?

Gardening Season is Officially Open

April 21st, 2011

Last Friday I went to my mom’s house and we tilled and planted almost all of her garden. We have a large section of grass still covered with a tarp since we’re doubling the size of her garden again this year. The new section will house all of the warm season crops: corn, tomatoes, peppers, and beans. The current area is going to house all the of the early crops. Here’s a plan of the spring crop area which will become a winter garden after harvesting the spring/early summer crops.

We planted a double wide row of potatoes. It’s 4 ft wide and about 35 ft long. We were able to fit 6 varieties of potatoes in this area, all of which were saved from our own potatoes that we grew last year.

Yukon Gold – (my mom’s favorite) A favorite among gardeners, consumers and chefs. Delicious flesh is drier than most other yellow varieties, perfect for baking and mashing. Yellow flesh appears to be buttered. Bred and selected by AgCanada and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food in 1966. Excellent yields and a great keeper. 80-90 days.

All Red (a.k.a. Cranberry Red) – Red skin with delicate pale pink flesh. Low starch content makes this variety a good boiling potato for salads or any dish that requires potatoes to retain their shape. Considered the best producing red-fleshed, red-skinned variety. Introduced to SSE members by Robert Lobitz in 1984. Consistently a good producer at Heritage Farm, regardless of the weather conditions. 90-110 days.

Kennebec – (my favorite) Champion late potato! Young tubers are tasty for creaming. Later, good for boiling, mashing, baking—smooth with shallow eyes. Stores well.

Carola – Heavy yields of medium-sized, rounded oval potatoes with straw-beige skin. Excellent when harvested as young new potatoes. Creamy yellow flesh, relatively low starch, great for soups, boiling or fried. Maintains new potato qualities for months in root cellar. 95 days.

La Ratta Fingerling – Long prized by French chefs as a top quality fingerling. We cannot recommend this variety highly enough, an absolute delight to cook with. Long uniform tubers, yellow flesh with firm, waxy texture and a nice nutty flavor, holds together very well. Especially good for potato salad or as a boiled potato. Commands a high price both in the restaurant and fresh market trade. 100-120 days.

French Fingerling – This is a wonderful variety! The rose-colored skin covers its creamy yellow flesh. Very versatile and good for any style of preparation. Peeling is not necessary or recommended. Rumored to have been smuggled to America in a horse’s feedbag in the 1800s. 90-110 days.

I’ll also be planting Purple Viking potatoes in my garden here at Chiot’s Run when I can work up the soil.

We were also able to get four rows of peas planted.

Golden Sweet Snow Pea – (if you remember I planted some of these in planters on my front porch) more than a novelty, this variety produces flat pods that are a beautiful, bright lemon-yellow, great in stir-fries. Tall 6′ vines with purple flowers. Collected from a market in India, rare and tasty. (source: Baker Creek)

Oregon Sugar Pod – Large, thick, 4-5″ pods are superbly tender and delicious. This is my favorite snow pea. Bush plants are high yielding and stay compact. Developed by Dr. James Baggett, of Oregon State University. A winner. (source: Baker Creek)

Little Marvel – Vigorous bush plants, heavy yields and fine-flavored peas. A great home garden variety. An heirloom from 1908. 60 days. (source: Baker Creek)

Wando – This pea was introduced in 1943 and is a great pea for the South, being somewhat heat resistant and can be planted later than most peas. Medium sized peas are great fresh or frozen. An heirloom from 1908. 60 days. (source: Baker Creek)

Green Arrow – 68 days – An excellent garden pea from England. The plants grow 24 to 28 inches tall and have 4 1/2 to 5 inch pods, each stuffed with 8 to 11 petite, deep-green peas. A gourmet variety that has been popular in Europe for years! (source: Sand Hill Preservation)

My mom likes growing onions from sets and she had already purchased 4 different kinds of onion sets, specific cultivars weren’t named on the package. They were simply labeled as: red, white, storage, sweet. We planted roughly 250 onion sets. Some of these will be harvested as green onions and some of them will be left to mature in the garden for bulb onions.

We’re trying to do a little better at planning our garden this year so that when we want to plant winter crops mid-summer we have a large open area ready for them. Last year we had to plant around a few things so it wasn’t as easy to cover as it would have been with better planning. Hopefully all this planning will pay off with a more bountiful harvest of winter vegetables.

How do you plan your garden? Do you plan for multiple season crops from the same space?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.