Friday, January 13, 2012

Planting Class 101

We're half way through January and its 28 degrees out side with 30 mile per hour gusts. I'm holed up inside nursing a pot of tea. I've got on my fleece lined pants, fuzzy socks and a fabulous cardigan wrap- for once I'm actually cold in this house. Yesterday I went for a run in a t-shirt, today finally feels like winter.

Is it spring yet?

Someone must think so - Parks, Stokes and Burpees have all sent me seed catalogs filled with pictures of overflowing bushel baskets, perfect bouquets, and fruit-laden branches.

YES! I want to plant PEANUTS! Yeah, really easy to go overboard this time of year, especially when Gurney's offers a 'buy $100, get $50 off" offer, which is exactly what I did. The best way to survive those catalog orders is to HAVE A LIST, preferably one you started in the fall last year.

I've often been asked what/when/how I plant... so here's Sarah's Planting Class 101 - Surviving the Seed Catalog

#1 Plant only things you're actually going to eat. Peanuts? Seriously? I'm never going to eat them, so why spend the money on the seed and take up the space in the garden? I do however, eat lots of broccoli, okra, corn, beans, peppers and squash, onions, sweet potatoes, yukon golds... So that's what I plant.

#2 Plant only WHAT you're going to eat. Unless you are a pesto fanatic, a 10' row of basil is way overkill. If you're not going to preserve it (or can't, like with lettuce), don't go overboard. ONE zucchini plant will produce more than I'd ever want to eat in a season, and I'm a squash nut.

#3 Plant only what you have room for! Many veggies have a 'bush' or a compact variety and will state 'best for small gardens' in the description. Don't plant bird house gourds if you only have a 20x20 garden - one plant will take up the whole thing. Pay attention to space requirements!

Ok, I've done my soul searching and decided what I want to plant this year. Next, I check out the fridge and see what I need to buy. I save my leftover seed from year to year (who plants 200 broccoli seeds in a season?) in the fridge - its cool and dry and most seeds will keep a respectable germination rate for many years after the 'packed by' date as long as they're kept well. Now I know what I need to buy, and can safely place my order.

Next up: Planting Class 102 - Planning the Garden

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Heated chicken nipples

The #1 issue with keeping livestock is frozen water during the winter. Nothing much is worse than carrying water to the barn twice daily, well, maybe scrubbing out a heated dog dish once daily in winter, then filling it with the water you bucketed - twice daily.
I wanted to keep using my nipple bucket since the water stays so clean for the birds, yet couldn't have the nipples freezing. #1 its bad for the device, #2 not having water is bad for the girls. I broke out all the stops and went super high tech, there's a total of 2 gadgets, one flower pot and a grand total of less than $30... and no more frozen water worries.
The first gadget is a thermo cube that you can pick up for about $12 from Amazon, Tractor Supply, or possibly your parent's garage. It has a temperature switch that allows power to flow from the outlet once the air reaches 35 degrees, it switches off at 45 degrees. So whatever I chose to be my heater will only come on when it reaches near freezing. Brilliant invention.
The second gadget is a 100 watt Tetra aquarium heater from WalMart. Tetra Submersible Heater 100 WattThis little guy will heat a 30 gallon aquarium to 75 degrees - a bit overkill for my 5 gallon bucket but I do expect some days into single digits this winter. I attached the suction cup on the heater to a smooth ceramic planter I had laying around to keep the element near the nipples. If I wanted, I'd splurge and spend the 50 cents on a small ceramic time the next time we're at Lowes... just hasn't happened yet.
The result? An unsightly mess of wires that keeps the water flowing without me having to scrub.... thus keeping me (and the chickens) from mutiny. Hummm, maybe I need to scrub afterall, but you get the point!

We're still here!

Yes, ladies and gentleman, we're still here... just Busy with a capital B. The latest project has been the Critter Containment unit, AKA a 47" woven wire fence around the perimeter of the property. The holes got dug thanks to Josh and my dad, and I've been chipping away at planting posts. Last week we braced the corners, today I ordered the wire. Yippie! Forward progress feels so good. Its snowing like crazy outside right now, but Mr Weather says we're looking at a 50 degree weekend. Guess who will be stringing her new fence!?
We had great fun playing in the rain, until the auger got stuck, then things were much less fun. However, all the holes got dug with the exception of three which were easy enough to finish by hand. For the record, only Sully and the dogs were covered in mud when we were done!