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The Broody Hen & Seedling Status

The broody Buff Orp finally has her own place.  Steve finished making a broody pen for her to safely hatch out her chicks without the other hens climbing in the nest with her and picking on her chicks as they hatch.

I don’t think she even noticed the move.

It’s now staying warm enough at night that all of the seedlings can live outside 24/7.  The four flats in the front are 288-cell plug trays that Charlie & I planted with a variety of flowers a couple of days ago.

The TPS are all doing well… except where the cats walked across a few.  Grrrr.

After the premature potato pulls the other day, I got some good pulls from shoots that had nice leaves (from the same tubers).  They’re doing very well and, today, I have to go down and do more pulls they’ve pushed out over the weekend.  We’re going to (hopefully) have potatoes coming out of our ears this year.

A sea of tomatoes, planted up to their uppermost leaves when I potted them up recently.  They’ll go out in the garden as soon as Steve builds their new home.  Wait until you see it!

Speaking of tomatoes, I’m growing OSU Blue this year.  It’s not quite a stable variety, as I understand it, so I’m going to document the four seedlings I’m growing out this year, as we go along, noting the differences to help me with my seed saving.  It’s not reported to be terribly tasty but a blue tomato?  You know I have to grow it.  For the kids, you see.  Yeah, that’s it.

OSU Blue #1:

OSU Blue #2:

OSU Blue #3:

And the runt of the family, OSU Blue #4:

My favorite photo.

My budding photographer, Isaac, snapped the following shot a few days ago.  It’s my all-time favorite photo of Steve.

More random Isaac photography:


Rain, rain, go away…

Today’s a rain day so not much outside is getting accomplished, other than feeding the bees.  Thankfully, it’s not coming down too heavily.  Things should dry out pretty quickly so we can work on getting the garden prep completed this weekend.  *crossing fingers*

Over the past couple of days, I’ve managed to do the final potting up of the tomatoes and sweet peppers.  I’ll try to get the chiles done this evening but don’t hold your breath.  My rhythm on seed starting & potting up has been shot all to crap this year but I’ll still end up with decent seedlings to plant out.

We have a seriously broody hen (the Buff Orp) but, due to having far too many irons in the fire right now, Steve hasn’t yet been able to get her a nesting/chick box built.  Here’s hoping the rain lets up so he can get it finished up this afternoon.  A couple of the eggs she was setting got damaged so we cracked them open.  Yep, definitely developing!  It shouldn’t be too much longer.

What else?  The onions are doing well, as are the brassicas.  I got the broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kohlrabi, and Brussel sprouts all thinned out and sprayed with Bt & spinosyn.  (I’m doing a bit of an experiment to compare the two.)  I’ve pulled much bigger, better (tuber) potato sprouts and potted them up.

How about a partial tour of the odds & ends gardens?

Spearmint from Susan has settled in and gathering strength for its upcoming attempt to take over the world.

Lemon balm from Susan is taking notes & learning from the spearmint.

Walking onions from Ilene, just beginning to set heads.

Garlic — can’t remember if I brought these from Oklahoma or Ilene sent them.

Sunchokes, definitely from Ilene, showing their heads at last.  They like to sleep in almost as late as me.

Only half of the Starkrimson rhubarb came up, shown below, so I bought a bag of Victoria rhubarb from WalMart to fill the empty area.  No sign of them yet but they’ve not been in the ground long.

An impulse buy of Steve’s:  Some sort of mosquito-repelling plant (not citronella, according to the label).  One plant for five acres.  That should do wonders, don’t you think?

Apple mint.

Orange mint.

Alpine strawberries.

The permanent plantings that go in the wheel beds, I’ve labeled with paint pens.  I’m working on other labels as well but I figure the more labels, the better.


Blackberries and releasing the queen

It got down to freezing last night.  Ack!  We had to carry ALL of the seedlings down into the basement.  What a pain.  Next year, we’ll have something heated-greenhouse-like!

A local email classifieds had someone selling starts of Chester (thornless) blackberries for next to nothing so we got a dozen.  All nice, healthy starts.  I planted them along the inside of the raised wheel garden fence.  Now if we could just find cheap raspberries…

Just to show where we’ve put the hives:  It’s just past the back corner of the shed.

It gets great sun since we cleared out the trees to its south, nice air flow around it, without being exposed to the whipping winds.

Yesterday, Steve & Charlie released both queens.  All went well and we hope to see evidence of her laying on our next inspection a couple of weeks from now.

They’re going through a LOT of syrup right now so that we have to refill their feeders every day.  I’m not sure how long we’re supposed to feed them but I think at least a couple of weeks, maybe longer as they are getting established?  I need to read up on that.

Charlie and Cody fed the bees just a bit ago and now Charlie’s at his desk, making notes in his newly-started bee journal.  The kid who doesn’t like to write, making notes in a journal?  Voluntarily, with no prompting?  Cool.

Adventures in Potato Shaving

The tubers from Jay that I shallow planted in order to pull rooted shoots did their thing.

FYI:  If you have a grow-light set up in your basement, hundreds of seedlings, and your neighbors occasionally visit your basement, you may want to rethink any labels with “pot” in them.  Ahem.

A little bath knocked off enough dirt to see what I was doing.

I think, next time, I’ll let the sprouts get bigger before I shallow-plant them for roots.

I used a pair of nail clippers, the file part, to “pop off” the rooted sprouts.

A clean-shaven spud!  And all of those little rooted sprouts got planted into pots, hopefully to each grow into big, healthy potato plants.

Editing in a tidbit from Tom Wagner on the above pics, in case future potato pullers come along and think these tiny shoots are suitable for pulling:

My opinion….those are removed too soon…they need more tops. The shoots must have leaves to carry on photosynthesis to perform well during the recovery.

A fairly productive weekend

After several issues with the bee hive supplies, we managed to get them built.  (The quality just flat out sucks.  We’ll make our own from here on out.)  Yesterday, the weather finally cooperated for painting.  One hive will be white and the other will be yellow.  The different colors will help both the bees and us with identification of the hives.

And we’ve decided on a location for them:  Out by the shed, near the drainage creek.  They won’t be continually annoyed by the kids’ playing, nor most of the lawnmowing.  Steve & Cody worked on finishing the clearing in that area that I started a month or so ago.  The bees will do better in sun than shade, plus that chunk right there was nothing but honey locust and cedar anyway.  We’ll be leaving the Bois d’Arc.

We harvested the first of the worm tea and I’ve started feeding the seedlings with it.  I know, it makes for a pretty boring picture but I still think it’s exciting!  The plants agree with me.

The inserts from TekSupply arrived — in two days!  I managed to get the rest of the true potato seedlings separated, along with all of the mass-planted tomatillos.

A gardening buddy, Jay, sent me some leftover seed potato tubers he wasn’t going to plant:  Red Thumbs, Cherry Red, Kennebec, Yukon Gem, and Yellow Finn.  There were about six of each until I robbed them for an experiment.

I’m planting half of each variety in the normal manner but the other half I’ve shallow planted in soilless media.  I’ll be experimenting with pulling starts and/or taking cuttings.  Thanks to Wendy, Tom, and other potato-crazed gardeners for the inspiration!

Happy Easter!

(This weekend’s lawn mowing came thiiiiiis close to ruining the holiday.)

Followup on the unknown bush

For previous posts, see here and here.

It’s rather unruly looking but it sure smells nice.  I’ll need to move it because it’s far too close to the house and trying to grow into the siding.  As soon as I figure out where to put it…

They’re not terribly good photos but it was windy and sprinkling.  I have an excuse for everything.

Hail, no.

A few days ago, a storm blew through and beat us with dime-sized hail for about 20 minutes.  Not expecting any hail, I hadn’t done anything to protect the tomato seedlings that have been living on the front walk.  Ouch.  Most of them will bounce back but, when I saw the chance of more severe weather in yesterday’s forecast, I figured I’d better get my butt in gear.  Instead of getting roped into helping to move buttloads of seedlings around to protected spots, Steve brought over a couple of tomato cages and a tarp.  It’s also doubling as a bit of a greenhouse during a couple of cold nights we got stuck with.

Speaking of storms, will it ever stop?  We’ve not yet completed the drainage trenching so, for now, the garden looks like a rice paddy.  More rain is forecast for Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday…  Can you garden on an ark?

The beginnings of a woodpile for winter.  We really missed wood heat this past winter!!  The piles of boards beyond the logs?  Oak scrap from Steve’s work that he’s started bringing home. It will not only serve as firewood but the longer pieces will be turned into a rail-like fence around the yard.  Gotta love free fence!


Separating the TPS

For those of you following my true potato seed progress, you’ll remember that I sowed the seeds thickly into 4″ pots.  They’ve all had great germination and it’s now time to separate them into individual cells.  I have three pots each of eight varieties to separate.  This weekend, I discovered that none of my cell packs are to be found.  I’m not sure if they’re buried in the scary basement piles or if they got left behind in the move from Oklahoma last fall.  Of course, I could find none in the area to buy but did find some of those cardboard-y cell trays at WalMart so bought three.  At $4, I couldn’t bring myself to buy more than three.  I’ve got an order in for more plastic cell inserts and they should arrive in a few days.  In the meantime, I started potting up the biggest of the seedlings into the cardboard crap.

1.  Remove the hunk of seedlings from the pot.

2.  Gently squish the hunk to begin the separation.

3.  Pick your first victim.

4.  Tease it loose, ever so gently so as to spare as many roots as possible.

5.  Admire the root system.

6.  Stick a pen or pinky in a cell of moistened mix to make room for the seedling roots.

7.  Lower it into the hole, trying to ensure the roots aren’t stuck on top of the mix.

8. Pinch the mix around it, firming it into place.  Sprinkle more moist mix and firm as needed, burying up to its top leaves.

9.  Step back and take a photo for its baby book.

10.  Promise the entire family of seedlings that you’ll not make them live in easily-torn, crappy cardboard houses for terribly long.

11.  Done!  Well, done with 2 1/2 varieties.  I’ll get the other 5 1/2 varieties done when the new inserts arrive.

Those cardboard inserts make work fine for things that will only be in there a few days and won’t be moved much.  Maybe.  Several of them tore out on me just after adding the mix.  I’ll have to transfer them to the plastic as soon as it gets here because the dirt is spilling out of the giant, gaping holes.  Argh.

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