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Showing posts from April, 2015

2015 Garden Part 5

2015 Garden Part 5

We have potatoes!
One of the earliest potato sprouts was killed by frost, but the plants quickly sent up new shoots and are starting to fill out the boxes. Each potato has multiple eyes (and I buried them whole) so we'll see what we end up with in the fall.
I transplanted the Amaranth Seedlings seedlings outdoors. They were started from seeds (purchased in the bulk bin at Whole Foods) in the cold frame. All parts of this plant are edible. The leaves are spinachlike in taste/texture/nutrition and the high protein seeds are edible as a cereal grain, flour, or "popped like popcorn."
The Buckwheat has left the cold frame. If you look closely at the first photo, you can see the difference between the cold frame grown and those that were seeded in the ground. Most of the seeded buckwheat succumbed to the frost. This buckwheat came from the bulk bin at Whole foods.

Many of our asparagus spears are emerging with crooked tops. This is from frost damage. I did b…

How to make a solar oven from spare parts in an emergency

In a true emergency situation, how would you prepare and store food? If everyone is planning on cutting down the few trees surrounding their neighborhoods, then our country will quickly become Haiti.

If you are not familiar with the irreversible destruction that is caused by deforestation - then I highly suggest you drop everything and check out Collapse: How societies choose to fail or succeed (this is a non-affiliate link) from your local library. This book highlights the demise of Easter Island and Haiti from deforestation. It also shows how Japan sprung back by importing wood products and forcing the populace to replant their national forests - and so much more.  It's a great springboard for how the world truly functions. This will of course lead to you wanting to read "The Next Decade," "The Great big book of Horrible things," and "The Fatal Shore." If you embark down this road...be prepared to have your mind blown and your world turned upside do…
Looking for fun activities to keep your kids off of screens this summer? You can engage their creativity with projects. As kids get older, creating for the sake of creating becomes less interesting and they want "crafts with a purpose." You can create things for various charities, as gifts for friends, or you can make ethings for around the house.

We decided to paint rocks to use as garden markers using this set of acrylic paint tubes. We received the paints for review purposes and went right to work mixing and creating new color combinations.



This is a really nice set of paints. There is an assortment of 12 colors - including all the primary colors. You can make orange and purple (and various shades of all other colors) by mixing. The set was easy to use and the caps go back on perfectly so there is no mess after the painting is done.

This was a really fun set. If you are going to do mass quantities of painting, then you might want a larger set, but for small projects this …

Can Beets be destroyed by Frost?

Can beets be destroyed by frost? Yes and No. I always plant beets as early as I can work the soil. Sometimes that's late March. Sometimes early to mid April. Beets can handle the cold. In fact, they get dry and hard in really hot weather.
So then why did half of my beets die during this last week of weather in the twenties....
I have a theory. This theory is supported by the fact that a certain percentage of my bok choy also bit the dust this week.
I arrange my garden in a square foot gardening fashion so I had 2 squares of beets planted. 9 in each for a total of 18 beets. 
If you've planted beets, then you know their seeds are multiploid and many seedlings (2-4) pop up in the spot where you planted one seed.
Well, I had a pretty solid germination rate in the first square (8 out of 9) and a spotty rate in the second - (4 out of 9.) This is just random luck and I decided to split up some of the seedlings that were growing together to make up for the poor germination spots.
I c…

Tomatoes, Cucumbers, and Squash survived in a Cold frame at 27 Degrees Farenheit

The last few nights have been brutal for my "early garden." I have squash, cucumbers, and tomatoes alive in a cold frame and the last 3 nights in a row have had sustained temperatures in the 20's!

Last night, it was 27 degrees for over 6 hours. Holy cold! None of these tender plants appreciate the cold. Luckily, the are tucked inside this:
You can see a layer of bricks around the inside perimeter (to hold heat - the bricks are on the other side too) and milk cartons inside. The milk cartons act as both a container and a mini greenhouse.

Once my plants germinated, I took the milk tops off, but I put them back on for the last few cold nights. Last night, I also put a lit tea light candle inside the greenhouse and wrapped the entire thing in the old greenhouse plastic.

Everybody inside the greenhouse survived! Growth has definitely slowed with this week + of cold weather, but they are still alive.

Unfortunately, almost all of my outdoor buckwheat, and the newest bok choy tr…

When to plant tomato SEEDS outdoors in cold climates

Can you plant tomatoes from seed outdoors in zone 4? Everything you read says no. Well, I decided to prove that wrong.

I decided to grow my own tomatoes from seed using no electricity to see if it could be done. To be fair - you can NOT grow tomatoes from seed without some sort of protection.

I grew my tomatoes from seed in a recycled milk cartons inside a cheap plastic greenhouse in zone 4.

To read all about how it worked out - check out this series of articles:
Growing Heirloom Tomatoes without Electricity
19 Tomatoes and Counting
Winter/Spring Seed Starting without Electricity - Part 1
Winter/Spring Seed Starting without Electricity - Part 2
How to keep indoor plants and seedlings for getting leggy while grown in a window
How to grow seedlings in winter in northern climates

But you can grow tomato seeds in the ground under cover (no milk cartons needed) as long as you know WHEN to do it. The answer is simple and most likely relates across all zones.

Plant your seeds under cover of cloche,…

Can Tomatoes survive 28 degrees (below freezing) temperatures!??!

The last two nights have dropped below freezing and I worried all night about my tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash.

None of these plants can tolerate freezing temperatures. But luckily, none of them were left unprotected.

Amazingly - my small poly greenhouse was able to protect them through the night!!

During cooler days, the greenhouse keeps my plants about 10 degrees warmer than the outside. On hot, sunny days, it can get 30+ degrees warmer inside. During the night is anyone's guess.

Since the greenhouse is really just a box made of plastic, it might technically be a "coldframe."

Either way, it was able to protect my plants and I am extremely grateful.

Outside of the cold frame, the bokchoy, sunflowers, potatoes, asparagus, raspberries, flax, radishes, peas, beets, walking onions, blueberries, leeks, and swiss chard all made it without any trouble. Half of the buckwheat died and some of the transplanted strawberries.

Luckily, most of the strawberries survived without inc…

First Asparagus of 2015

This post is for record keeping purposes:

Asparagus popped out of the ground on 4/19/2015. Two little tips were sticking out then the weather turned cold. It was significantly warmer than normal in March and April.

As of 4/22/2015, 5 spears have emerged. Weather has dipped below 28 degrees F in the evening. I have re-covered the emerged spears to prevent frost damage.

How to Properly Prune Fall Bearing Raspberries

I have been growing all sorts of raspberries for the last 12 years. By far the hardest thing for people to understand is when to prune the different types of berries.

This article will address Fall bearing or "everbearing" raspberries.

There are two ways to prune them - one way allows for a harvest in mid summer and a harvest in the fall. The other way allows for a harvest in the fall only.

I prefer to harvest in the fall only for a few reasons - 
1. It eliminates many of the airborne fungal diseases that tend to build up by fall and limit summer production.
2. It results in a much larger harvest in the fall.
3. I also own summer bearing raspberries so I get a continuous crop either way.
4. It's so much easier!

Here is my interpretation of the Heritage (everbearing) raspberry lifecycle and and when to prune out the old canes for a double harvest and a single harvest.

Year 1: New GREEN shoots will pop out of the ground and begin to grow. These are primocanes (or first yea…

#Free WATER - Water your plants for free - #offthegrid #gardening #survival #prepping

If you have a rain barrel, you will most likely be able to water a small garden all summer without ever turning on a tap. 
My garden measures 6x20feet in growing space. I have a large rubbermaid rain barrel that collects rain water from the roof of my house. I use this rain water to water all my trees in the spring and fall, to mix with fertilizer for the same trees and to water my garden. 
Of course, my garden also benefits from "free" water when it rains, but having stored water can make all your water needs free.  I have been gardening at this home with a rain barrel for 7 years and I only had one year where the barrel went dry. 
In addition to the rain barrel - I keep watering cans in my garden so I can give ailing plants a quick drink. I use these mostly on my blueberries.
You can see the three watering cans I keep in my garden. Now, as luck would have it, all three of these cans arrived in my yard by the wind. 
All sorts of junk flies around in the wind, but these wer…

2015 Garden Part 4 - The Tomatoes Move Outside!

2015 Garden Part 4

Things change quickly as spring progresses. This week, I moved 10 of the indoor tomatoes out into the garden greenhouse. I had hopes to grow them inside until they were big enough to transplant but since I have over 19 tomatoes and space for just 12, I thought I'd do some experimenting.

I transplanted 10 of them into peat pots and set them in the greenhouse. 9 remain indoors.

I potted them deeper into the peat pots and then hilled up dirt around the stems of those that were left. Some of the tomatoes had true leaves, some did not.

I booted the rhubarb and leeks from the greenhouse to make room for the new tomatoes. They should be hardy enough to make it outside on their own and I will soon dib holes for the leeks. I will wait until the rhubarb has at least 4 or 5 true leaves before I set them out. They are going in the forest garden and that is a dangerous (hungry animals) and shady place. So I am giving them a bit more time to develop.

Outside: 4 Rutgers tomato…

Transplanting Wild Alpine Strawberries from a Forest

These wild strawberries were transplanted from our forest to a container in the yard. My daughter saw them and wanted to see if she could get them to grow and produce berries. She dug them up and transplanted them herself.

Wild strawberries are alpine strawberries - little and white or red. They have never expanded or produced berries in our forest. This is most likely do to competition with the trees for sun, water, and nutrients, but also because the deer/rabbits regularly mow down our strawberry patch and most likely do the same for the wild ones.

If they are successful, she will be very excited. I will too. I had been thinking of buying alpine strawberry seeds to diversify my patch - they grow all season and don't die down with age the way regular strawberries do. Here's hoping they expand and eventually make berries. White or red? We'll have to wait and see.

An Updated Greenhouse! #organic #gardening #offthegrid #diy

I started a greenhouse for the first time in 2015 - for the sole purpose of growing seedlings without electricity in zone 4 - an attempt at self-sufficiency.

You can peruse through that saga in the following articles:
Winter/Spring Seed Starting without Electricity - Part 1
Winter/Spring Seed Starting without Electricity - Part 2
Growing Food on the Edge of a Forest
How to keep indoor plants and seedlings for getting leggy while grown in a window
How to grow seedlings in winter in northern climates
DIY self watering planters from recycled materials
Growing Heirloom Tomatoes without electricity
2015 Garden Part 1
2015 Garden Part 2
Growing Potatoes from the Grocery store 

Long story short, our original solar greenhouse (which worked great by the way!) was blown to shreds by the wind and we went through a few stages of DIY greenhousery and with pressure from nosy neighbors buckled down and purchased this new greenhouse from Amazon (just under $30 with free shipping.)


I will keep the items I used …

Two Day Bread Recipe #natural #scratchbaking #diy

I have struggled to make quality homemade bread for......years. My goal is to make bread with as few ingredients (read: no preservatives, dough conditioners, artificial flavors...) as possible and with as little technology as possible.

Ideally, I would be able to transfer my bread making skills to bread made over a fire or in a solar oven - without use of electricity or gas.

I may have finally found a fool-proof recipe that works every time and actually tastes good!

It's a 2-day recipe.

My biggest issue with making bread is getting it to rise in a cold house without using an external heat source (oven light, heating pad, etc.) and when using "older than ideal" yeast.

In an emergency, will you always have fresh yeast? Probably not. Yeast expires very quickly.

Here is the recipe (makes 2 loaves):

First make a Poolish:
1/2 tsp yeast
1/2 cup warm water
3/4 cup whole wheat (or all purpose) flour

Mix for 100 strokes - then let sit for 12-15 hours or overnight in the refrigerat…

Cooking without Electricity

Just like the conspicuous increase in plane tragedies, the electrical grid seems to be acting up more frequently. On February 26, 2015 - someone cut the internet cables for northern Arizona, the power went out for more than half of the country of Turkey on March 31, 2015, and the electricity went out for the D.C. area on April 7th.

None of these were storm related incidents.

Sometimes, things happen in series out of pure chance, and sometimes they don't. Regardless of whether these incidents (and likely others) are coincidence or a planned event, you don't want to be unprepared if a major electrical outage hits your area.

Electricity is essential for heating/cooling, medical/hygiene, and for cooking. Since a real emergency strips us all down to the basic necessities, I thought I'd give you some ideas for cooking without electricity.

You can practice these now so you're ready in the event of a real emergency, or  you can work this into your regular routine as a way to …

2015 Garden Part 3 #organic #gardening #diy #offthegrid

2015 Garden Part 3

As of 4/14/2015 - everything has been planted or at least started as a seed in the greenhouse.

Here is an update on growth:

Buds have broken open on the Blueberries. The heritage and black raspberries are showing a few small leaves. No asparagus yet. No potatoes are showing through the dirt yet.

The Egyptian walking onions have been up for a few days:


All of the Bok Choy seedlings survived and have started to grow and make true leaves.


The Sunflowers have put on true leaves and have doubled in size. "Somebody" ate one of the seedlings, but all the rest are still growing strong. We have a lot of "somebodies" in the forest behind our home so it was expected at some point.
These containers hold (from top left to bottom clockwise): Amaranth, Buckwheat, Victoria Rhubarb, American Flag Leeks:

Flax has also germinated. I am going to use this for the seeds and the stems as "straw"  mulch.

I am growing onions from my pantry. They started to spro…