Welcome to Growbox Hill

Welcome to Growbox Hill
Welcome to Growbox HIll!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Slowly being busy

January 25...

Weather has been a bit odd, the January thaw was more of a March thaw. But been getting things done around here. Did quite a bit of cleanup in the general kitchen outdoors area. A lot of pots to shuffle around and some leaf debris to clean up, some stuff to throw out. And got a handful of put off errands done. It's no fun to make the more special trips out and about sometimes, but that's ok on a nice day, right?

Picked up a handful more stuff for the ongoing Fortunes Turning. It's kind of turning from Nightvale to Springfield right now. I realized I didn't have any spring/summer foliage, everything so far has been autumn and winter. Fortunately the out and abouts included hitting the craft stores- and Michaels was gold this time with their sales on some really good foliage. I picked up a couple "mats" of plants that when pulled off their bases is providing me with a shitton of small plants that look great scale wise.
And I've been obsessed with online searching for making mini's. I'm getting to the point where some of the stuff I want going on in the village is pretty much fuck that cost wise. I'm almost always very good at waiting for the right combinations of sales and coupons when I pick up pieces at the store. I hunt the clearance bins for damaged items that come super cheap and that I can repair or make into something else. Like I picked up a really cool bridge that was originally 20 bucks for 4 bucks- the railing was cracked and needed a dab of glue to be good as new.
I regularly scour the thrift and resale shops for stuff too. At least half of my buildings have come from thrift stores. Smalls are a bit more of a challenge, but I regularly look at kids toys for some of that stuff. Like after Christmas the local farm store had a neat and cheap clearance farming set full of goodies I want to put into spring season.
With all the fixing and refurbishing of pieces I do... now I'm really getting into some actual making of stuff. It's just cost prohibitive some of these odds and ends. It's one thing to pick up some of the buildings or smalls that just realistically are beyond my making skills. But I can make a corn stalk instead of paying someone else an unholy amount of money for it, lol. Or a bunch of other things. So yeah, been looking up a lot of interesting and neat mini making stuff. Actually compiling quite a pile of links of stuff together for future use. Fun times :)

Cleaned the crap out of the solarium too. It was just, ugh. Been mostly too cold for that too, but I figured I could blow the few hours of wattage running the space heater. But now the whole place is properly cleaned up and organized again so I can start wrecking it again, hehehee.
So now most of the bulbs are potted up, still have some to go. Got more garlic I need to figure out what to do with. Started a bunch of the wild gathered asparagus seed today- decided to use those rock wool cubes. Figured in the scheme of things, the few lumps of that out on the back 40 isn't a big deal, and I'm honestly curious to see how well it works or not. I did a cuttings test with the rock wool last fall, and that turned out pretty good for coleus and scented geraniums.
It does seem early to be starting seeds but... I have many pots already set up and cold strating in the solarium, and I've been starting pots of greens and some herbs and garlic greens for a few weeks now for some fresh eating off the windowsill. Unfortunately it's been overcast a lot and the lettuces aren't happy about it. But the garlic don't care :)

So now I'm off again.. need to finish up some things before getting ready for dinner. Mmmmm, chicken thighs tonight. 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

2017 growing already started...

Happy New Year! I had started to use an old draft... the 2016 tomato and pepper gardening notes. They were rather optimistic till I hit the death wall and finally admitted defeat in September, sigh. 2016 was rough in a lot of ways- and I hope that 2017 turns out better.

But this years season has already started- I sowed in lettuce, herbs, and some toothache plant on the 28th, and already we have some lettuce peeping out as of this morning. I've also started up most the the stuff that needs cold stratifying- thimbleberry, serviceberry, red and white currants, a bunch of kinds of columbines, hibiscuses and hyacinths, and a handful of other random flowers. Most of the solarium plants are looking pretty good, so that's nice. It has stayed above freezing so far this winter- but then we didn't really see any full on cold till a couple weeks ago, so that helps.

I've kind of been chomping at the bit.. I did a bit of awesome sale action with a couple of my fave seed vendors and tried out a new one just prior to Christmas as part of my yearly stocking... But my sis and I traded "vendor lists" for an unexpected treat to unwrap- and squee to getting my wish list filled!

So now is the time for remembering when strats need to get underway- and what is still waaaaaay too early for me to even dream about- but hey, still, I'm dreaming :) and it's time to learn about some new seeds that are coming up...

Devil's claw is one I've been looking at for a while, but is always one of those wishlist items really- and this year it is now for the growing.. Interesting plant really :)

http://waynesword.palomar.edu/ww0801.htm
http://art-fromthe-heart.deviantart.com/art/Giant-Devil-Claw-Phoenix-138005761

January 2
Was planning on running errands early afternoon while the weather was still nice... but got a call from a friend I hadn't spoken to in months in the late morning... and four hours later.. Lol. At least I got the shopping list together and dinner is in the oven.. a bit of laundry and plant watering done. But it was a good call... I hermit up too much and don't keep in contact with people enough- I got a lot of really great friends, and I just have... drifted.

For some trustee notes.. what goes on in a wee bit of local government :) 
I set up a meeting for Wed with a couple of guys at the town hall about going over mowing contracts. Right now parks and cemeteries use two different mowing folks, and we need to consolidate that. So the meeting is in part to educate me on what is exactly in the contracts, and probably some discussion on who all can be contacted for bidding. This will start off a process of bring up the subject at a TH meeting, so it can be approved for us to actually start getting contract bids. After we get those, then we can present that back to the board to read over and think about- then vote on what to approve, or if we want to stay any decisions for a month so everyone can really go over the paperwork. By the time spring is going to kick in, we should have a consolidated and more economic plan voted in and contracted.

 Janurary 4..
Got out and did my errands yesterday- while out and about got a call from Town Hall about a problem at one of the parks, and unsecured building. Heck, I didn't have those keys! Well, the guy that takes care of it did- and made sure I have my own key now so I can take care of it if needed. Today we sat down and talked mowing contracts... and I seriously need to clean my office. I can't tell one stack of "filing" from the next right now, heh. Hopefully the weather will play nice and I can get a bit of time in tomorrow.
I was able to get the first scatting of poppy seeds over Pookums grave yesterday. Kind of made me a bit of a wreck- I miss my boy and it really hurts. 
Got some more seeds set up today- a couple more cold strats, white and yellow strawberries, and a couple more crazy berry types. Went through my bulbs, and my my I need to get some of them into pots for spring peeping! I got some sproutin' going on there. Asparagus seed will be getting potted up soon enough too. Growing season has really already started.
Puttered around in the living room today- getting some after Christmas cleanup done. And I'm ready for it to be done. Started dinking a wee bit with Fortunes Turning too- I guess I'm used to messing around and re-arranging it for the last four months, I'm kind of itching to mess around again. Soon enough I think early spring will be coming, lol. I know my love meant it with snarky encouragement.. but I'm kind of wanting to keep the village up more. And yet at the same time- pack up to the most part and renormalize the living room so I can start looking forward to Halloween all over again :) Maybe I'm just already tired of weeks of winter snowscape in the living room, lol. I do get tired of snow and cold very quickly.

With the turning of the year comes up thoughts of BeesNeeds again. The Etsy shop has been closed for quite a while now, and the FB page has languished. I've also been smacked with what amounts to writers block for a while now when it comes to being creative like that. I've been having some flare ups with creativity when doing village stuff here and there- and that's promising. And I've been slowly using coupons and clearances to build up the sparkly stock again for a few months now. Part of creativity drying up is looking over and over again at the same old stuff and trying to come up with something new. And just feeling nothing beautiful inside of me that needs or even is interested in coming out. And my workbench being buried forever under all the Fortunes Turning stuff and holiday stuff coming and going... But I would like to start up trying to sell stuff again- just because no one was interested last time means no one would be next time... sai.

January 8th..
Brrrrr. Baby, it's too fucking cold out there... But inside our first week of lettuce is looking good on the windowsill and this weeks round has popped up right on cue. I potted up 16 pots of spring bulbs today so they grow into some nice blocks for spring planting.
I have found that picking up bulbs at the tail end of their fall planting season and holding them in their original packaging and then "block forcing" them an effective technique.


January 14th... Not much going on.. been potting up more bulbs, started a bit more lettuce seed. It's been seasonably cold... But I am happy to say the solarium has been keeping at 10-12 degrees above the outside temps so far. That means keeping above that magic 32 degree mark for a lot of stuff- so far. We have dipped below the 35 degree mark a few times though, so I think a few of the plants out there might be toast- but last year some of them surprised me, so I'm trying to be patient. And plenty of them are looking rather healthy, so that's good.
But mostly just drifting around the house doing house stuff. Feeding the birds- and my word we got some birds. A few of the bluebirds are eating size, seriously. They put the regular ones to shame, and make the cardinals look puny. I need to make more suet cakes soon :) I make my own because I think it's healthier for the birds, and I use up a lot of "spoiled" grain products from the pantry when the moths get into it- I don't want to eat the bugginess, but the birds like it.







Wednesday, January 11, 2017

When oak leaves are the size of a squirrels ear...

I've done some of this.. but didn't realize it had it own name and field of study till today. What it is is paying attention to natural cues for planting times in the garden. It's pretty neat actually.

Now that I know what it's called, figured it would be good to put a heap of it together in one handy post :)

http://gardening.about.com/od/organicgardenin1/a/Phenology.htm

Phenology Clues
Plant peasWhen forsythia & daffodils blooms
Plant potatoesWhen 1st dandelion blooms

When the shadbush flowers
Plant beets, carrots, cole crops, lettuce and spinachWhen lilac is in first leaf
Plant beans, cucs and squashWhen lilac is in full bloom
Plant tomatoesWhen lily-of-the-valley are in full bloom
Transplant eggplant, melon and peppersWhen irises bloom
Plant cornWhen apple blossoms start to fall
Seed fall cabbage and broccoliWhen catalpas and mockoranges bloom

Seed morning gloriesWhen maple leaves reach full size
Plant cool season flowers (pansies, snapdragons...)When aspen and chokecherry trees leaf out

Watch for:

Eastern tent caterpillars to hatchWhen crab apples start to bloom
Gypsy moths hatchWhen the shadbush flowers
Squash vine borer eggs are laidWhen chicory flowers
Mexican bean beetle larvae hatchWhen foxglove flowers open.
Japanese beetles arriveWhen morning glory vines start to climb

X
http://fifthseasongardening.com/phenology-gardening-by-natures-indicators

Plant Phenology

Prune Roses & Fertilize Lawns – when yellow Forsythia and Crocus start blooming
Plant Pansies, Snapdragons, and other hardy annuals – after the Aspens and Chokecherries leaf out
Plant Peas – when Daffodils or Forsythia begins to bloom
Plant Lettuce, Peas, and other cool weather crops – when Lilacs have leafed out
Plant Beans and Squash – when Lilacs are in full bloom
Plant Cucumbers – when Lilac flowers have faded
Plant Tomatoes, Early Corn, and Peppers – when Apple Blossoms begin to fall and Flowering Dogwoods are in peak and when Daylilies start to bloom
Plant Peppers and Eggplants outside – when Bearded Iris are in bloom
Plant Beets, Lettuce, Spinach, and Carrots – when Dandelions are blooming
Plant Potatoes – when serviceberry or Juneberries flower
Sow Cabbage and Broccoli seeds – when catalpa and mock oranges bloom
If Daisies appear – there is no Calcium near

For Morel Mushroom Lovers

Look for Morels about the same time that Redbuds and Spicebush begin to bloom, around March or April. When the Dogwoods finish blooming, Morel season is over.

Insect Phenology

Grasshopper Eggs hatch – around the time purple Lilacs bloom
Eastern Tent Caterpillar eggs hatch – when the buds of Crabapples and Wild Plums open
Mexican Bean Beetle larvae appear – when Foxglove flowers open
Squash Vine Borers appear – when Chicory is in flower

X
http://www.harvesttotable.com/2013/03/vegetable-crop-planting-and-phenology/
  • Beans: Plant beans when lilac is in full bloom, also cucumber seeds and squash seeds.
  • Beets: Plant beets when lilac is in first leaf and dandelions are in bloom, also carrots, cabbage family crops, lettuce, and spinach.
  • Broccoli: Plant broccoli when lilacs first begin to leaf out and dandelions are in bloom.
  • Brussels sprouts: Plant Brussels sprouts when lilacs first begin to leaf out and dandelions are in bloom.
  • Cabbage: Plant cabbage and cabbage family crops (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collards) when lilacs first begin to leaf out and dandelions are in bloom, also beets, carrots, lettuce, and spinach.
  • Cabbage for spring: Plant spring cabbage in fall when mock orange is in full bloom
  • Carrots: Plant carrots when lilac is in first leaf and dandelions are in bloom, also beets, cabbage family crops, lettuce and spinach.
  • Collards: Plant collards when lilacs first begin to leaf out and dandelions are in bloom.
  • Corn: Plant corn when apple blossoms begin to fall and when oak leaves are the size of a squirrel’s ear.
  • Cucumber: Plant cucumber seeds when lilac is in full bloom and when the blooms just start to fade, also bean seeds and squash seeds.
  • Eggplant: Transplant eggplant irises bloom and daylilies start to bloom, also melons and peppers.
  • Hardy, cool-season spring crops: plant hardy crops when plum and peach trees are in full bloom.
  • Lettuce: Plant carrots when lilac is in first leaf and dandelions are in bloom, also beets, carrots, cabbage family crops, and spinach.
  • Melons: Transplant melons when irises bloom and daylilies start to bloom, also eggplant and peppers.
  • Peas: Plant peas when daffodils and forsythia are in full bloom.
  • Peppers: Transplant peppers when irises bloom and daylilies start to bloom, also eggplant and melons.
  • Potatoes: Plant potatoes when the first dandelions bloom.
  • Spinach: Plant spinach when lilac is in first leaf and dandelions are in bloom, also beets, cabbage family crops, carrots, and lettuce.
  • Squash: Plant squash seeds when lilac is in full bloom and just as the blooms fade, also bean seeds and cucumber seeds.
  • Tender, warm-season summer crops: Plant tender crops when you see new growth on grapes
  • Tomatoes: Plant tomatoes when daylilies start to bloom or lily-of-the-valley plants are in full bloom or flowering dogwood are in bloom.
Vegetable Garden Pests Phenology:
  • Apple maggot moths are at their peak when Canada thistle blooms; protect apple fruits.
  • Mexican bean beetle larvae appear when foxglove flowers open.
  • Cabbage root maggots are active when wild rocket blooms.
  • Japanese beetles arrive when morning glory vines begin to climb.
  • Squash vine borers are at their peak when chicory blooms; protect pumpkin plants.
  • Tent caterpillars are hatching when crabapple trees are in bud; begin caterpillar controls.

X
http://www.gardeningthehudsonvalley.com/phenology-in-the-garden-chart/
Just an additional chart that lists most of the above. 

A really good article out of the Wisconsin master gardeners program. Has some interesting other correlations scattered in the text. http://wimastergardener.org/article/phenology-and-gardening/

And a huge master list of all the states that have phenology programs and their various datas: https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/viewhtml.php?id=44

Sunday, January 1, 2017

2016 Preserving Tally

Hey, I'm actually being a good kid and remembering to start the tally promptly this year, woot!

1/21- 25 8oz jars of pickled mushrooms. Love it when they are on super sale and I pay 90 cents per bucket instead of 2.70. Plus I used homegrown garlic and herbs, so total cost for that many jars was around 25 bucks once I include vinegar (which was on sale at the time), pickling salt (it was a freebie), peppercorns allspice and bay leaves which ran around 50 cents max for it all, and the canning lids. I didn't count jar costs since all of these jars have been used several times now and have pretty much been paid off and then some :) Excellent way to start off the tally, I might be picking up some more mushrooms while they are on sale :)

1/23- another 21 8oz jars of pickled mushrooms- I almost was tempted to get more, but hey, at some point I gotta stop, lol. I didn't use the last two tubs of fresh mushrooms, choosing to use them for dinner instead. And hitting Hardings, they had 10 oz packs of shelled edamame on clearance for 99 cents each- three of those went into making 5 8oz jars of pickled edamame, and 1 8oz jar for the fridge.

January Shopping. Boxed pasta has been on sale 10/10. Citrus season has started, first clementines, then grapefruit and navel oranges, then lemons and limes. This goes on through the beginning of Febuary. Some decent canned soup deals. Avocado sales start with good looking very hard ones 1 buck each.

2/6- sugar was on sale, picked up three 4 pound bags. Made one bag into vanilla sugar, using five vanilla beans. Yield 2 quarts, one pint.

3/?? didn't do any preserving. Rather, worked on eating the hell out of the preserved food, use it up. The usual butter sales around Easter didn't materialize, though other baking goods were on sale. More citrus and random produce on sale. And of course beef brisket was on sale. Pork saw good sales too.

4/6- dehydrated 2 bunches of celery. Sugar snap peas were on sale and made two Milwaukee jars of pickled snap peas, one just regular, the other an Asian. Still got a couple more bags, but oops, finally and seriously out of onions?!?!!?

4/7- Hardings had frozen corn on sale, 88 cents a pound. Four pounds are now on the dehydrator.

5, 6, 7.. too much going on, no preserving done. Even flubbed a batch of dehydrated mushrooms. Butter as finally been on sale in July. 

8/1- Picked up a half bushel of beets for 15 bucks. 8 half pints of pickled jalapeno slices, 12 pints of gingery pickled beets,  6 pints of regular pickled beets, 6 pints of spicy pickled beets, and quart of weird watermelon syrup.

8/2- 5 two pound packages of asparagus vacuum sealed and in the freezer .

Came to a realization that though I am real good at writing up tally, I totally suck at including information like where and price of produce, recipies used, and where my homecrafted recipes are filed.  And often, how stuff turned out. Will be keeping way better notes, and track of recipes from now on.

8/20- 12 pint jars of pickled brussels sprouts. They were on sale at Meijer for 2 bucks a pound- normally four bucks a pound. 6 pounds/12 bucks yielded jars at generous adjusted other ingredients price of 1.50 a jar. Price in store for pickled brussels sprouts? 6-8 bucks a jar. Used Food in Jars recipe.
Two Milwaukee pickle quart jars of tangy lime fridge pickled zucchini spears. Picked up  zukes for 88 cents a pound. Two jars plus generous adjustment, buck a jar. Can't even find such a thing at stores, but other fridge pickles sell for 5-7 bucks a jar. Crafted my own recipe after not being able to find last years pickling notes about this one.

8/21- half dozen jars of sweet and sour red pickled onions done- used food in jars recipe, and locally grown red onions that were cheap. Three trays of hot banana peppers and 7 trays of mushroom slices on the dehydrators. 8 ears of corn whole shucked and roasted dehydrating in the oven, about 2 pounds of raw corn. Corn was 4/1.00. And 6 quarts of corn stock, maybe 6 quarts, it's still cooling down, lol.

Eating notes: We cracked open a jar of the spicy beets. Yes, young, I know. But they were really good, will be doing that again. A month or two aging on them will be even better. And sigh, the last jar of dilly beans from last year is finally open and half gone. Since my green bean crop was pretty much null due to how dry the summer was- I'm going to have to keep my eye open for sales and good beans.

9/12- two gallons of ham stock in the fridge, awaiting bagging and freezing up.

Eating and buying notes- the savory pickled beets and the fridge lime zuke spears are delicious. The processed green cherry tomatoes are chucked, they were extra not good- fridge ones were ok, but not worth wasting the fridge space on.
Picked up 10-3 lb bags of yellow onions at Hardings, B2G3F. Picked up yellow and green beans, $2/Qt, petite brussels, shucked- $5/2 Qt at the farmers market.

9/13- one quart each of chili mix and mexican seasoning and one pint of cajun seasoning made.

9-17- 7 pints of spicy yellow wax beans, 7 pints of dilly green beans, 7 pints of Sweet and Sour Red Onions, and 6 pints of pickled Brussels sprouts canned up.

9-20- One quart each of fermented brussels sprouts, and fermented brussels sprouts kim-chi.

10/15- 14 quarts of turkey stock made and in the freezer.

10/29- One cube tray of nasturtium flower pesto, two cube trays of nasturtium leaf pesto done.

11/13- one quart of fermented cherry bomb halves with garlic and onion started. One gallon batch of fall kimchi started- tatsoi ribs and leaves, chinese cabbage ribs, bok choi ribs and leaves, purple and green kale ribs, onion, carrot, garlic, ginger, and a large amount of "beer garden" radish I pulled out today. One quart will be treated with dehydrated lime slices when I pack them off into fermenters tomorrow.
The fermented BS's of both kinds turned out tasty as hell. The kimchi version especially so. Decided to give it a second try :) Since most of it came from my garden, as well as the cherry bombs, I'm calling these jars freebies :)

11/18- packed the kim-chi today- half gallon jar. Picked up a two pounds of brussels sprouts to make another round of BS kim-chi. With the weather blowing in, I'll be able to harvest a lot of wee BS's to round out the batch.

11/24: half gallon jar of brussels sprouts kimchi started. Half gallon jar of fridge pickled mushrooms made, one gallon tub of anti-pasta veggies started. 

Unfortunately, between work, personal garden failures, and failures in other local growers gardens- it was a pretty sorry year for preserving. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The new year to begin...

So much has and hasn't happened this year. I can't sum it all up. There have been a few joys, and many sorrows.. and a strange slippage of time.
Christmas was very nice.... there is still quite a bit of Nightvale still up, in the form of winter village. Yes, I've been taking pics, will post them sooner or later.  And who knows? Perhaps Fortunes Turning will roll out of it's sleepy winter colors soon enough :) 2016 has been quite the year in a lot of ways, here at Growbox Hill, in our area, state, nation.. and around the world.

Now comes the new year. And I am ready to get on with that... 

Kind of glad the holidays are over- now I can start screwing up my kitchen with mini greenouses, lol.
The first one went up today, and already has large pots of little gem and gourmet mix lettuces, toothache plant, sprouting garlic, and an herb garden of parsley, dill, and basil.
It's still far too early to start anything for the outdoor gardens other than some seeds that I need to get out for their cold treatment... And pretty much all the other edible plants in the house are in their hiatus except the hardy herbs... By gosh it's nice to be able to start with some fresh edibles indoors again. Within just a few short weeks we will be snacking on nice fresh grown produce again. With the way garlic sprouts usually shoot up, it might be quite soon.. yum.

I do have some interesting seeds that I need to get out for winterizing too. Bearberry, serviceberry,  thimbleberry, and red and white currants. Red and whites are legal here, but black currants are a no-no in my area. However, josta berry is ok, and I have a couple of those in pots overwintering outside. I have a bunch of stuff in that straw bale box actually. A couple goji berries, some latham raspberries, a couple plum trees, an ornamental elderberry and a few random pots of flowers that needed the extra shelter. And I have seven potted Pixwell gooseberries that I saved before they went to the garbage- since they were considered the "purple" kind instead of the preferred "deep blushing green" kind, no one wanted them, and since they had been there a second season, they were going to be tossed when the snow flew this year.
I have a nice array of columbine seed to set up too- I was extra pleased this year that the extra spectacular lone one outside Marcs office yielded up goodly seed. I've been watching and coaxing and keeping that one isolated pretty much since we moved in. I also have heaps of other good flower seeds too. Time has come to shake out the first packet of poppy seeds over Pooks grave. I was told by several gardeners that if I could, wait till after the first snow and melt, and lay in the first round before the second snow. And repeat with the next melt off and snow in if possible. Keep going till I was out of seed or when sprouts looked like they were popping up in the spring. Well, I figured that time would have started weeks ago, lol.

So the new 2017 grow schedule spreadsheet is fully set up and already getting entries. We have a vault of somewhere between 450-500 seeds to start the season with. The tally on the sheet is 498, but I have a lot of spaces between several categories of seeds so..

I have some wind up notes to make with the 2016 preserving tally. That will come out sometime next week. But it was a pretty slim year. The garden yielded little- but then so did our area in general, it was a bad garden year. It wasn't just a lot of personal stuff going on, the weather didn't play nice either.
But important things to note.. boy oh boy do we miss pickled peppers. We are quite spoiled on homegrown and made pickled banana peppers, cherry bombs, pepperonchini, and jalapenos. Tomato stocks are missed too.

Anywho.. yay gardening.