Thursday, December 31, 2009

Garden Blogger's Death Day .... The Last For 2009!!

Come on and bring out your dead! Don't be bashful; don't be shy. Wave your failures proudly because at this time of year, it's really not your fault! Ahhh, I love winter GBDDays.

Here are the remains of the broccoli stalks after harvest and the cabbage I ripped out after the infestation of cabbage worms. I don't have a compost pile, but I threw them in the woods behind us instead of in the garbage cans.

Could the demise cabbage be my fault? Yes. I didn't spray them with BT, but they served almost as a trap crop, for the broccoli didn't sport a single cabbage worm all season, so I've made my peace with the cabbage.

This December's Death Day begs the question: Can there be death without life, for nothing much is in the garden at this point. It is winter and nothing much is expected to grow. This used to be a beautiful hanging pot of flowers on our deck. It's dead....but is it? For some reason it keeps wanting to put out new life. I should cut away the dead ends and see if it survives the harsher January and February weather.

Get in on Garden Blogger's Death Day yourself! It's hosted by Kate over at Gardening Without Skills.

Yes, not much is growing at this time in the Corner Yard, but what's marginally hanging on isn't doing too poorly. The garlic here is ready to overwinter, and the rosemary needs cutting back, but I think the plant itself may last another year.

The broccoli in the other corner yard are growing small heads 4 inches across or so. They're growing very, very slowly, but I'm still excited that there's one more broccoli harvest coming in.

Happy New Year!

The morning sure will come early tomorrow. Sweet gardening dreams.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Promise of Harvests to Come...Barring a Thief

My seed order arrived Monday to much fanfare and tribute. I'm trying some new things this year like the Dragon Tongue beans that Dan suggested and a new lettuce mix, but over all I'm sticking to tried and true this year. Next year I may branch out a bit.

Baker Creek sent me a packet of the Cour di Bue tomato seeds along with my beans which was very kind. I'll not be needing them, so if you would like them, I'll be happy to pass them along. Burpee sent along an extra packet of cucumber seeds that I did not order, which is not normal for them, so I'm half tempted to contact them about returning it as they were so nice to me earlier this week....

I've come to appreciate the personalized, small business mind frame of the seed companies. You know the business they deal with is absurd - ranging from the needs of small home gardeners to larger producers, and the innumerable products they offer, but there's proof to a human hand filling the orders even if it's just check marks on the page, or a courtesy email.

I had to contact Johnny's Seeds and Burpee via email this weekend. Saturday, as the man was checking our statement, we found out some base gutter dweller had stolen our credit card information. We canceled the card, but my charges to these two companies hadn't cleared yet.

Within minutes of the opening of business on Monday, I received emails from both companies confirming the processing of both orders with no problems. It was prompt and kind, and at this point, it was welcomed since now the trouble will start with other establishments we have automatic bill-pay through.

Yesterday, more fraudulent charges appeared on the card, most likely placed on the same day as the first, but not posted by the companies until yesterday. This wretch is content to wrack up the national dept without a moment's hesitation. What's worse is that this unconscionable half-wit is employed by a business we patron locally as the charges are all being made in and around Gainesville which is within an hour from us.

By the pattern of the charges, the feral creature is a woman. Let me give you this advice, you thieving swine: If you're going to steal someone's credit information, take yourself shopping at Saks or other high end retailers dedicated to those with more money than sense, not Marshalls and TJ Maxx. I hope you enjoyed your Christmas gifts.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Pay It Forward -- Who's Getting a Package!?

I'm so excited to pass on the gift I got from Granny. The concept of paying it forward is rewarding, especially during the holidays. To choose who gets packages, I put the names of everyone who responded to the first pay it forward post in the drawing.

I used Granny's fool-proof method of choosing names...I wrote them on pieces of paper, put them in a hat and drew names....well, it was supposed to be that easy, but the boy and the girl got in the action. I tried to film the event, but we had to start and stop multiple times. First, the girl decided to make her monster faces and the boy busted out laughing and wouldn't stop. Then, when he had contained himself and I started filming again, she issued a battle cry and threw herself on top of him. We had to stop again. Then, the third try, the boy threw his duckie and the pieces of paper went everywhere.

I began to wonder why I let them help. The allure of acting like a loon in front of a rolling camera is too much to ignore, I suppose. However, we finally chose two names from the hat on the fourth try and the winners are.........

Kalena Michele and Mangocheeks, CONGRATULATIONS! My email address is in the right sidebar. Send me your address and a package will head your way this week. Include your t-shirt size if you don't mind. If you'd rather not receive a package, let me know and I'll choose someone else. Remember, once you receive the package, you should pay it forward yourself.
Congratulations, guys!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

On Gardening and Potty Training

I've come to realize potty training is akin to gardening.

Frustrating at times, but rewarding in the end.

I have faith that at least this sleepy little girl won't graduate high school in diapers.

The morning comes early. Sweet gardening dreams.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

'Tis the Season...Would You Like Some Seeds?

I filled my new gardening mug from Granny last night with some warm cider with a dram of whisky last night....mmmmmmm. Not sure if that was the use you intended it for, Granny, but it sure was good!! Don't forget to leave a comment under yesterday's post if you'd like to receive a package of goodies. I need to "pay it forward" and will likely choose a name by Friday.

On the same note, I placed my seed orders yesterday!! And then a coupon for my order showed up in the mail today...why does it always work that way?

I went through my seed stack, cleaned it out, and found I have some left over seed that I'll never use this year. None of it is very exciting and most comes straight off of a seed rack, but I feel worse about throwing out good seed than I would putting a Woody or Buzz Lightyear in a garage sale...well, almost worse.

Here's what I have for the taking. Email thecorneryard @ ymail . com with what you'd like and your address.

1. Zipper Peas/Cream Crowder Peas - Fantastic and like a cow pea. They really need traditional row planting and more sun than I can give them. From my local feed store
2. Alaska Peas - local feed store
3. Sweet corn - Delectable Hybrid - burpee
4. Parris Island Romaine Lettuce - ferry morse
5. Iceberg Lettuce - Burpee
6. Soybean - Green Pearls - Burpee
7. Watermelon - sugar baby - ferry morse
8. Sugar Snap Pea - Burpee
9. Black Radish (nero tondo)-johnny's
10. Cabbage - late/Storage green - Johnny's
11. Black seeded Simpson Lettuce - Burpee
12. Super Sugar Snap pea - Burpee

Again, nothing exciting but if you can use them, I'll send them along. If not, there's a vacant lot across the way I could possibly go guerrilla gardening the rate the houses are selling, or rather NOT selling...I may get an entire season out of the lot. Hmmm...I wonder how much trouble I really would get in. The worst they could do is tell me to rip it out, right?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Pay It Forward! **It's My Turn!!**

If you remember, back in November, Granny from Annie's Kitchen Garden received a package from Thomas of A Growing Tradition fame which included some local goods and a jar of his fantastic lemon marmalade from his own lemon tree. Granny has in turn payed the gift forward and I was a lucky recipient!

I must say, I giggled, oohed and ahhed, but it was when I jumped up and down and clapped my hands like a fool that my son came running.

Boy: Mom, what's the matter with you? Who's that package from? Is that hand rake yours? Does that mean I can have mine back?

Whereupon he took my hand and marched me right out to the garden box and stood there, one hand on hip, and pointed. He's not allowed in the garden box because of the pesticides that could be in there. He seldom remembers this, but apparently he had no trouble remembering that I've held his grasshopper hand rake hostage since last winter.

Granny, I thank you, and so does the boy!

There were so many other yummy goodies in the box:
I just adore the cup, I'll surely use the seeds and we're all going to make short work of the jalapeno peanut brittle. I haven't had dates in years and was just eyeballing them in another shopper's grocery cart this weekend, so I'm stoked about scarfing those up. What's best, is there's a jar of Granny's dill relish AND strawberry jam as well. I am perfectly spoiled rotten.

Thank you, Granny!!

Now I get to pay it forward to others. I've already got a few ideas of what I could send. If you'd like to receive a package, just leave a comment and say, "I'm in!" and I'll pull the names by Friday. Gardening gifts in December!! What a treat!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Harvest Monday?

Well, maybe not a 'harvest,' but it was marginally profitable.
I tore all of the remaining broccoli, lettuce and chard from the garden yesterday and found 21 cents in the soil. It must have fallen out of my pocket when I was planting or tending the garden some time during the year. I pulled a few 2-3 inch broccoli heads and two kohlrabi bulbs as well.

I looked back at the blog and realized I expanded the corner yard from 2 3x3's to what it is today on December 2 of last year. I can't believe the real foray into Square Foot Gardening took place only a year ago. Now that I'm on vacation, I'm planning on making high rises for my six inch beds in the other corner yard. Six inches just isn't deep enough, or so I found out. I raised my beginning 3x3's last December as well and anchored them together on all four sides with additional wood slats. I'll do the same for the two six inch 3x3's in the other corner yard.

I'm also debating on raising my 8 inch bed behind those two six inch beds so they don't get shaded out, but that bed's 4x8 and I'm afraid a high rise won't sit evenly on it even if I anchor the two together. EG....chime in any time! :)

Friday, December 18, 2009

And a Cold, Hard Rain doth Fall

We've been getting heavy rainfall every 3-4 days since August. Atlanta and the surrounding areas flooded way back in September and everywhere the trees are giving up their toeholds in the soil, unable to remain root bound in the saturated soil. Today, again, we're getting up to 2 inches of rain. There's a wind advisory and flood watches and warnings everywhere. It's 34 degrees (I know, that's not cold to most of you) and the rain is driving at an angle.

Those of you in the Midwest and Northeast have it so much worse since this rain for us is ice and snow for you. I couldn't imagine. Then there's Toni who thinks 0 degrees is balmy. Maybe my rain isn't so bad after all.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Those Who CAN...Teach!

Last week, I was guest lecturing in the Future Educator's class. The teacher for the class is also our foods instructor and I asked her if she ever did a lesson on canning. Apparently, they teach about the dangers of improper canning and storage techniques, but don't do a canning demonstration. Then, an idea was born. I left my classes with my team teacher on Monday and went to do canning demos in her classes all day.

I only had just under an hour for each period, but we talked about high and low acid foods, boiling water baths vs. pressure canning, head space and the dangers of improper canning as well as everything in between. I brought samples of my salsa, apple pie jam, banana jam and pickles for them to taste. If you've never seen 30+ kids try to out beg each other for a can of apple pie jam, it's a treat.

However, the real treat came with the permission from my friend John over at John's Journal to share his experiences on his grandfather's farm. In one blog entry, John mentioned wanting to keep his journal for the benefit of his grandchildren and now great grandchildren, and in doing so he has now also taught 120 high school students to appreciate their past. I received permission from John to share his latest post with the students and they were captivated. Food preservation as you describe it, John, has become a lost art and I thank you, the students thank you, for allowing your experiences to be shared with them.

It was my intention to take pictures throughout the canning day, but her classes are mixed grade levels and most students aren't 18 and I therefore cannot post their pictures on the Internet without parental permission. Ehhh...not going through all that trouble.

Suffice it to say that the day went fantastic. First period they sampled apple pie jam and made grape jelly. Second period sampled banana jam, stole lustful glances at the remaining apple pie jam and made grape jelly, too. Third period sampled salsa, scavenged what was left of the banana jam, distracted us to gain access to the apple pie jam jar, licked the apple pie jam jar clean and made apple pie jam. Fourth period pouted at the empty jam jars, were irate they missed the salsa, ate dill and bread and butter pickles and made dill pickles.

Everything was perfect, every jar sealed, and general fun was had by all. Even though I couldn't take pictures of the kids, here are some of the items we made:

The picture is missing two cans of pickles, 4 apple pie jams, 4 grape jellies, and two apple conserves (on the left). We had extra apples left, so I came home and made a batch of conserve with apples, raisins and pecans and I'll make another one tomorrow night. I've never made nor tasted conserve before, but I'm about to quit the jam front all together after tasting it. Imagine it on baked brie covered in phylo (sp?) dough. Fantastic!

Several kids emailed or stopped by my classroom today to ask for recipes. I printed out copies for all kids with a little instruction section on BWB canning and the address for the preservation center at UGA. I also added that the recipes could all be frozen as well, which may appeal to their parents a bit more.

The morning comes early. Sweet gardening and preserving dreams.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Who Needs Apple Pie Jam, Anyway?

When you've got stellar apple pie syrup to use instead.
It was just perfect.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Gelling of the Jam

Well, it's an odd thing, I'll tell you. The half pint jars at the house are not gelling. Honestly, it doesn't bother me. I've got some darn good syrup going and I'll try it out tomorrow morning. I only had five half pint jars and tossed the extra into a pint jar. It luckily filled to the perfect spot and I canned it appropriately. I took it to school to let the kids taste on Monday. It was runny yesterday as well and then POOF! Today I got to school and it had gelled perfectly.

Five half pints: Not gelled.
One full pint: Gelled beautifully.

I wonder if it's because it was the bottom of the pot and maybe the pectin had settled. I timed everything and made and processed it to the directions. Maybe it had something to do with the temperature in the house or at the school, for it's much warmer at the school than here in the house.

No real answers for me, but I sure am looking forward to the syrup on my pancakes tomorrow morning and I luckily get another chance at the jam aspect of it Monday. Honestly, we'd probably use the syrup stage of it more readily than the jam. I'm interested to see how it tastes.

The morning comes early. Sweet gardening dreams.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Fall Canning - Apple Pie Jam

Nectar of the gods, my friends. Apple pie jam is what it's all about.
I've teamed up with our foods teacher at school to do a canning lesson and demonstration on Monday. We wanted to do something yummy with apples since they were in season and decided on apple pie jam. Since I need to do it four times, we'll do the apple pie jam once and grape jelly and pickles in the other periods. I'll most likely do the grape jelly twice.

I made a sample batch of the apple pie jam last night in order to make sure it would work...It did and it didn't. I don't believe I got the apple bits small enough since I don't have a food chopper, but we'll do better on Monday. The jam is still a bit soupy. I'm going to say that it 'semi-set up.' You can see the apple bits are floating, so I'm rotating the jars so as it sets up the bits will hopefully wind up suspended. It can take a week or more for jam to set up perfectly, so before I dump it all out to a pot and reprocess it, I'm going to let it sit for 3-4 weeks to make sure.

This has happened to me once before with a jam and it eventually jelled just fine. If it doesn't, I have some fantastic syrup to top pancakes or ice cream with. You can't go wrong.

The morning comes early. Sweet gardening dreams.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Gardening First and Last - Harvest Monday

I didn't harvest the one cabbage head I had growing before the frost on Saturday night. I thought I should, but figured it would weather the storm okay. It did well, for the most part and only showed damage to the outer tips.
It was just beautiful, topped four pounds on the scale and was my pride and joy. It's the first cabbage I've ever grown. I've attempted a few times, but from what I've deduced since growing this one, the lack of sun didn't allow it to head up. I cut it today intending to use it tonight for dinner, but when I was cutting off the outer leaves, each layer got more and more horrific.

Cabbage worms. I thought I'd been so diligent, and I had been, plucking them off of the outer leaves every day like I had been, but these suckers are squirrely. With each layer I pulled off, I noticed more and more green caviar looking, but not as tasty-I'm sure, cabbage worm excrement and found three or four of the fattest, most well-fed infidels you've ever seen.

Just when I figured I'd peeled off all of the associated layers, I figured this since I only had less than a half pound left of the original darn cabbage head, I broke off one leaf only to fling one of those obese worms straight at my face.

That was it for me, and yes, EG, I screamed like a girl, but being as I AM a girl, I'm completely in my right.

So, no more cabbage for me. We don't buy it at the grocery. We like it, we just don't buy it. Therefore I know if we grew it, we'd eat it, but I'm not thinking I'm going to be interested in trying it again so soon. Maybe the man will thank me for not making the house smell like wet newspaper when I would undoubtedly overcook it.

Rotten cabbage worms.

The morning comes early. Sweet gardening dreams.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Case Closed: Jack Frost Found Alive

I harvested as much as I could yesterday, but still left the cabbage, some lettuce, and several small heads of broccoli out to weather the freezes of the next few days. I suppose I can't complain. December 6 is sure a good long while into winter to experience a first frost/freeze. The broccoli was sagging under the weight of the frost this morning.

It didn't come through so well, but the frost was also along the deck railing. It looked pretty sparkling in the sun.

The garlic in the SFG and in the pot sprouted larger than I thought it should have before the onset of winter, but I think everything will do fine in the long run.

November was VERY mild here and December is looking to be much the same. Winter-winter doesn't hit here until January/February. February can be brutal. Actually, some of the coldest weather we get can be in March. However, in three-four months we can start serious planting again. Just enough time to go salivate through seed if mine would just start coming in the mail, I'll be a happy girl.

Stay toasty-warm out there.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

It's Game Day!

Throughout the college football season, we here at the Ribbit household bleed red and black. We whoop, we holler, we woof at our Florida fan neighbors from our deck as they gator chomp in our general direction. My two year old girl knows the Georgia fight song and my five year old boy told us during the last game, "It's fourth down, and if they don't start doing something with that ball, they're going to loose it."

Yup. We love football.

However, when your year has stunk like ours has:
We lost our best players to the draft
We played a single stinky quarterback the whole season who was a senior anyway, so we should have played two to get someone else some experience
Our leading receiver got a shoulder injury
Our defensive coordinator was fired at the end
And our mascot died.

Seriously people. The mascot!? The season almost killed me as well, but that's adding insult to injury.

Anyway, at this time of year, we begin to leech on any other team in the SEC in hopes of one more win.

Except if it's Florida. You can't root for Florida....unless they're the only SEC team left, playing for the BCS championship, but even then, it requires some voodoo to defloridarize the house after the game.

Tonight is the Alabama - Florida game and you know we're ready. Roll Tide, my friends. In preparation for the game, I pulled most everything from the garden, being we're expecting lows in the 20's anyways. Here's the full basket I picked!

The broccoli and kohlrabi are going for the appetizers and the lettuce for a salad. The chard, onions and carrots all went into a potato soup along with some more potatoes, garlic and chicken. It smells divine. I hope it tastes okay as well.
If not, and if Alabama looses, that jug of scotch behind the soup seems to be right handy.

Hope your playoff season is merry and bright!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Square Foot Gardening Templates - AKA Super-Dad Post #2

The parental units went to a holiday lunch at the boy's school and he brought home a canvas bag they gave him with my 16 hole square foot garden planting guide. Radishes and carrots, here I come!!

It's just as fantastic as the 9 hole one (that can serve a 4 inch plan for lettuce as well) that he made me last week. I'm going to paint them to protect them, and I'm thinking about some sort of top coat as well, but I can't believe he made them both so quickly. I honestly wasn't expecting them for quite some time, and now I feel like a kid in a candy store. I'm just so stinkin' irritated that it's just turned December and spring planting is so far off.

Just imagine the straight wonderful planting rows that will soon be mine. No more sprinkle seed and hope to God some sprout for me. Now I'll know exactly where I planted seed and how much germination I got. Yes, I could eye-ball the spacing, but I always, I could tuck another seed in there...just in case, and then I never know what I did or the germination percentage I'm averaging.

I want to be so organized. I plan and replan that garden to no end and have even erased holes in the paper from where I've changed it so much, but for some reason, I tend to rebel against my organizational needs when it comes to the actual planting of the vegetables. Now I'm going to swell with pride at my straight rows and even spacings.

I'm super-crazy happy.

Now if I'll just plant the stupid vegetables where my map says I'll plant them, it will be a good year.

The morning comes early. Sweet, evenly spaced gardening dreams.