Monday, September 27, 2010

Hardening Off The Chicks

Amaranth Feeding Frenzy

We are slowly letting the little chickens out of their coop. Our backyard fence leaves a lot to be desired right now. Happily, it is getting an upgrade but until the remodel is complete, the chickens need to stay in their coop. Our neighbors dogs prefer Chicken On the Run for dinner.

We fenced a small area for them and threw in some amaranth greens and tops. They go crazy for amaranth. The fence was not chicken proof but chickens are notoriously, you know, chicken. So it took awhile for any of them to test it out.

Here is our smartest chicken. We have declared this to be Noodles the Chicken.
Noodles thinking important chicken thoughts and making complicated measurement calculations.


Finding a grub! Genius

It's hard being the smartest chicken but Noodles handles it with grace and style.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Gift Of Friendship

Our truly lovely friends interned at an organic farm in Austin this summer and brought bagfuls of organic veggies to our home when they came to visit this week. They have aspirations of becoming organic farmers themselves so the conversations often turn to how to build a root cellar, making a proper arugula salad, goats vs. cows and the such. This is truly a gift.

Here are some updates on the other happenings in these parts.

My babies are moving into their awkward adolescence or pullet stage.

We moved the closet veggies out to the sun to harden off before planting. It's better to slowly get the plants adjusted to dealing with real sun, wind and rain in the safety of their pots before just taking them from the sheltered indoors to the great outdoors.

And here is our top secret garden design- hidden among Dirtiest Kid in the World's art work and photos. It is drawn to scale and shows how we are going to rotate all the crops. It is DHIW's masterpiece. (Also it is true- God does know when you don't tip.)

Hope you have a happy weekend!


Growing / Cooking

You might just have garlic "seeds" in your pantry as we speak. We just plant organic garlic from the grocery store. Here are the hot tips. 1. Has to be Organic garlic. The other stuff is sprayed with so many pesticides and what have you that they won't grow. 2. Sort and save the largest sections of the garlic for planting and cook with all the smaller ones. October is the time to plant garlic in Central/ South Texas so you have some time to amass some large pieces to try it yourself.

Hot tip 2: Plant them about two inches down with the pointy tip pointing up. Garlic takes quite awhile to be ready. These will be ready to harvest at the beginning of next summer. So plant them in an area you won't need for other things until then. Once you grow one harvest of your own, save the largest sections again and you will be ready for next year!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Making the Bed

Fall Veggie Beds. We are going King size.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Making Something From Nothing: Oregano

Our herb bed has been going strong for almost 3 years. It was the first garden we put in when we moved to our new home. Now many of the perennial herbs are out of control.

Take our Oregano. It is huge.

If we pull it to the side, you can see small herbs growing underneath with their own root system.

We carefully remove this little guy, and tease apart the roots to reveal it is actually two plants.

Then pot them up in their own special pots and water.

Now we have two to give away. My husband works with a bunch of vegetarian chefs. I don't know if anyone appreciates free, organic herbs more than vegetarian chefs. Viola free gifts! We have found Oregano does really well in this area if you are looking for a fool proof herb to grow. My Aunt can even grow it out in the country, where deer to seem to eat everything else.

If you are looking to dry some of your own Oregano, here is a how we do it. Clip off some stems. You want to do it before you see any flowers. Tie your stems together with string and hang them in a dry place with decent air flow. We usually hang them inside the pantry door. Depending how many leaves fall off, it can make a mess all over your kitchen this way. Our kitchen is always a mess, so this doesn't really phase me. But another better way to do it, is get a paper bag and punch lots of holes in the sides. Then put your tied together herb bouquet in the bag and hang it up. This will allow air flow but will keep the leaves off the floor. Once the herb has dried (leaves are crunchy), pull the leaves off and put them in an air tight container. When we save leaves, we try to keep them whole and then crumble them when we are cooking. Better taste that way. Viola free organic oregano to use all year! We toss any leftover herbs after a year. The taste starts to fade and it is so easy to make a fresh batch there is no reason to hoard it. You can pretty much dry any herb using this technique. If you can call fresh air and waiting a technique.

"I succeeded on sort of chutzpah and charm. No technique at all, didn't know what I was doing, but it worked."- Jeremy Irons

A Garden of Her Own

We are slowly expanding our edible garden out into the front yard. I am starting simply with herbs. Flowering herbs are just as pretty as flower flowers and you can use them in cooking. More to come on that.

But while I was planting my new lavender, Dirtiest Kid in the World grabbed a transplant, dug a hole, tore off the bottom of the roots, popped it in a hole, patted it in and asked to water it. It wasn't where I would have placed it, but hey, my lavenders don't seem to do so well anyhow. Maybe she has a hot tip on a good location with decent drainage.

It was then that I decided she was ready for a garden of her own. So we cleared a small space by the deck and let her pick out any 5 flowers she wanted from the nursery. She also requested a turtle statue like her Nana. And off her garden went. We did our best to stand back and let her pick the positioning of all the plants (and the turtle). It was VERY important where the turtle would go.

I love the she has a special space to call her own.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Magical Mystery Closet

Here is our seed growing operation. All the magic happens in our guest room closet. First, it grew baby chicks, now it is growing baby broccoli. The setup involves a regular shop light hanging from the closet rod, a card table and little potting pots.

Hot tip: The first few weeks, plants don't need a full spectrum of light, so any fluorescent light will do.

But if you don't have a shop light or extra closet, you can also just use a window. Here is when Dirtiest Kid in the World was just a baby! AWWWWW. Please avert your eyes for one moment to see our old seed growing operation in the back window.

So moving on, we currently have Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Kale, Bok Choy, and Onions growing in our closet.

Outside we direct seeded summer squash (patty pan, zucchinis) and basil. This will be the last round for those before it cools off.

Then we direct seeded green beans and dill which you can plant all month. Dilly bean alert! It is also the beginning of the season to plant your fall cover crops, read alfalfa or harry vetch.

Lastly, a friend asked when to purchase veggie transplants for fall. Those should be available for purchase in the next few weeks.

We've got everything you need, roll up for the mystery tour. - The Beatles

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Savings Seeds: Okra

After the last harvest, there is usually one more thing to gather before pulling up the plants. Seeds! Taking the time for this last step will save you money the following season and you can save enough seeds to share with your friends.

Savings Okra Seeds:
Cut the Okra pods off of the plant. Let dry in the sun. As they dry, they will open up and there will be rows of seeds inside. When you can crack the seeds with pilers, they are ready to put up. If they smoosh, they are not ready yet.

We did this to about 8 pods and gathered this full bag of seeds.

Label them with the date and variety and store them in a dark, dry place. Right now we store all of our seeds in a huge tupperwear container. No frills, no problems. As our seed storage grows, then we will think about upgrading.

"To see things in the seed, that is genius."- Lao Tzu

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Little Homestead in the City

A Princess and Her Royal Chickens

It is 75 degress right now. 75 degrees right now! We will be outside.

But while we are gone- I wanted to share this amazing website with you. These people have been urban gardening for the last 20 years. My lovely friend Meredith passed this on to me and I spent hours the first night trying to read the whole thing, all 20 years worth. This is were we are headed. Albeit slowly.

Check it.