Welcome to Growbox Hill

Welcome to Growbox Hill
Welcome to Growbox HIll!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Since we last tuned in..

Lol, guess what? There's still snow on the channel!!! Heh, seriously, we are still in the middle of an extra fridgid cold.. but we haven't gotten snow for a couple days now, so that's been nice. Have gotten sun so that's been glorious.

Strike that- it's been absofuckinlutely fantastic!!!!

And I'm at 37 asparagus tubes sprouting- super happy about that. Now they are starting to get a bit more plush and leggy.

I ended up going out to the tractor supply place and picked up the last mini-greenhouse the place had on clearance. I just couldn't bring another one in from outside because the two out there now are full up with wintersown containers- but I'm seriously running out of room inside, I am soooo looking forward to warm enough temps that I can start having trays out in the solarium. As it is with the current single digits outside, it's only hovering in the 30's in the solarium. Which is significantly warmer by comparison to what it's been in past winters, but still way too cold for any seed growing out there yet.
So now I got two of the mini greenhouse racks set up in the kitchen in front of the window, and hopfully that will be enough space in a week or two when I need to get a couple more flats of seeds going.

Right now I have the pots and flats kind of spread out a bit because they can be. As I start new ones this will get compacted down a bunch.

But in exciting seedling news- I finally got some pepper seeds sprouting!! Still no 7-pot, still being patient with those. But I finally got a couple of pots that I started on the 9th sprouting- devil's tongue and hot lemon. And a couple of peppers from just the other day are starting to show, alma paprika and greek pepperonchini. They have just barely started to show enough to be able to tell there's something there, so I will wait till tomorrow or the next day when they have actually popped to mark them down on the spreadsheet.

And I have been really good so far about keeping up the spreadsheet. I realize in years past I've either made it to hard on myself to keep up, or just done bad keeping up because I kept writing it down either here in the blog or on paper and not putting it in the spreadsheet, or just not keeping good notes at all. So this year I'm really making an extra effort to get it all in the spreadsheet like I should be.

So tonight is a late night at work- but I'm really starting to settle in well I think. I also think it's healthy for me- I get so hermited up here that I eat my own brains, and it's good for me to get out and be social with other people. Wish I made more money, but that too shall come in time. I think I get my first review in the next week or two, and that will help a bunch.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

It's pepper time!

Yet another nasty and snow filled super snap of cold moving through. Single digits and goodly winds make for a ton of brrrrrrr!!!!! My sister has been kicking ass with keeping the drive clear. I only have helped out a little since I kind of hurt myself doing it by myself last Sunday morning and now I'm being cautious.

So of course it's a day to plant in some heat loving seed! On the first I started a couple pots of 7-pot pepper, and on the 6th I started fatali, devils tongue, hot lemon, and McMahns Texas bird peppers- these are "chinese" cultivars and take longer than "annuum" peppers do. Today was the day to start the rest of the peppers- after last year, I figured I needed to give them a couple more weeks, and since last year was mid-march, this year it's the tail end of February. So today I planted..

2 georgescu chocolate, a sweet
2 Jommy Narvellos, a sweet
2 alma paprika, a sweet
2 tequila sunrise, a sweet
4 greek pepperonchini, hot
and one each of these hots-
black hungarian
martins carrot
costeno amerillo
bulgarian carrot

I'm a little concerned about germination rates since I have more recently learned pepper seed does best in the first two years, and starts to decline a bit after that- and most of my seed is from 2010-2013. So I heavily oversowed the pots- I figure since I'll end up repotting anyway, it's all good and whatever extra I got will end up on the end of the yard for sale. And better to have too many plants than to have zippo for plants, right? And I figure after about 10 days, whatever pots haven't popped at all, I'll just choose more seed to try starting, just in case.

And thought it would be smart to share a few pics of some seedlings!

These are some of the asparagus seeds I started on the first... I thought I was only going to end up with a half dozen tubes, and optimistically up to 15 of them. I had to be patient apparently, because a lot of them have been coming up in the past two days- and now the tally is currently over 20! Not awesome considering I planted in 54 tubes, but not too bad either considering some the disparaging things I have read about starting asparagus from seed. If I end up with a 50% rate, I'll be pleased as punch. Still not enough to make me really think I should rip up a whole bed out front just yet, but for sure to confirm ripping up a bed out back!
And notice those nifty tube pots- those are recycled toilet paper tubes. Excellent for a lot of seed starting purpouses:)

Another happy pic, this time of basil-
I started this seed on the ninth, and a mere four days later they were popping up! This is a pic from today, and they are well on their way. Darn things will probably be a veritable jungle needing much more room well before I can start planting them out. That's ok, we like to use it fresh, I need to restock the pesto in the freezer, and our dried supply is running low enough that I will enjoy dehydrating a ton sooner rather than later. This is just regular basil, I still have oooober tons of time to start up the other flavors- those will come later because I plan on having them outside rather than being a seriously needed stab at some indoor green to lighten up the winter gloom. Spring is indeed on it's way damit.
And the bunching onions have started popping- wasn't too sure about those since onion seed is only supposed to be good for a year, and this was packaged in 2012. And my pot of flat leaf parsley is starting to pop too. Wait, more parsley Bee? Why yes, more parsley. The fenceline bed is establishing in well, but it's a biennial, not a perennial, and it's not that established yet for my tastes. And it never hurts to have a couple more pots of it for overwintering.
I brought in my poor pot of overwintered thyme from the solarium. Darn thing is almost dead, not too sure it will survive till spring planting. But the patio tomatoes down in the library are doing so well I'm starting to think I will need to repot them and not leave them in the big pot I originally put them in. 
I also brought in the pot that the yellow roses and white alba roses seeds were stratifying in from the solarium. And the white soul and yellow wonder strawberries that were stratifying.

With all the horrid weather, it's hard to think a month from now I will be out and about doing spring gardening chores. But I will. I have had a good time looking back over the last couple years worth of entries and I'm feeling pretty good about that. I potted up the eight recycled mushroom tubs worth of mixed color grape hyacinths to plug into the solarium border the other day too. Those will stay in the solarium till it's time to plug them into the ground, but several of the bulbs had little green leafy sproutlings, despite the fact they have been chilling out there in their original bags since I picked them up on sale last fall.

So today with all the chill I figured I would make some hearty favorite foods. Tuna loaf.. and winter squash puree. So not as icky as that sounds, lol. My mom hates tuna, but loves my tuna loaf. And the squash puree is just the pulp I usually use to make soup, only I won't be adding all the stock to make it liquidy. My tuna loaf is a take on a Kosher recipe- and uses tuna in oil, which is extra good for you. It ends up being almost a crabcake kind of consistency by the time it's done being baked, and I use small loaf shaped ramekins so everyone gets their own loaf, and it cooks nice and even all they way through- no dry edges with a gooky center. So the entire loaf is nice and moist with just a little bit of outside crust.

Tuna loaf- makes 4 personal sized loaves

2-5 oz cans of tuna in oil, undrained
2-5 oz cans of tuna in water, drained
1/2 cup minced onion
2 medium carrots, minced or shredded- I use a food processor, it's about 1/2 cup once it's chopped up
3 eggs
3/4 cup matzo meal- I bet you could use other crushed cracker, but I never have
2 t old bay seasoning
1 T parsley
1/2 t each salt and pepper
1 t oregano
1 t thyme
2 t minced garlic

Grease your ramekins/loaf pans. I use butter flavored crisco, but you could use regular shortening. I haven't tried with butter, but shortening does not have a water content, and butter does, which might make the loaves stick- and they should pop right out of their pans when done baking.
Mix all your ingredients together. I tend to dump out my tuna whole chunk, then just keep mixing till all the tuna is broken up and it's a homogenous mass.
Pack your tuna mixture evenly between your greased pans- this is pretty easy, but make sure you get it smushed all the way down and don't leave pockets in the corners.
Put your pans onto a cookie sheet- makes them easier to handle than individually.
Bake in a preheated oven for 45 minutes, then kill the heat and let them rest 10 minutes. Pull them out and pop them out of their pans, and serve up hot.

Note: I have made this on one loaf pan before, and adjusted the heat down to 325 and upped the time to an hour. But it turns out better if you use four smaller pans than one big one.

I make homemade tartar sauce to go with all my fish. Was utterly pissed off today when I managed to break homemade mayo twice, ugh. But in general, a basic tartar is just mayo, chopped pickle with a little juice (or pickle relish if you keep it in the house), and lemon juice. I also add in some chopped capers and juice, dill, old bay seasoning, and a bit of salt and pepper. And I tend to use some of the true lemon powdered lemon at first, then adjust with lemon juice as needed. Makes for a less runny tartar than using all lemon juice to get to that nice lemony level.

For the squash.. Well, a while back I realized all my squash were getting frozen in the solarium, and I had to prep them up quick for real freezing. So I baked, pulped, strained, and froze off a few quarts of pulp. Today I'm using a couple quarts for tonights side dish. Just carmelizing some onion in bacon grease, pulp, and some sage and thyme really. Cooked up nice and hot.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentines day!

Now, if only Mama N could give us some love :) Ok, if we don't lose power, I will take that as enough love, lol. Please, please let us not lose power. It sucks in the summer, but I get sort of panicky about the cold aspect in the winter.
We are under a winter storm that has some seriously nasty winds going on. Optimistically, it will start tapering off around 10 pm tonight- not optimistically, it will last till around 7 tomorrow morning. We are right on the edge between two areas under two slightly different warnings. Either way, it's supposed to be in the negatives, and with the wind chill, double digit negatives. But hey, not like February is usually nice out for us here on Growbox Hill, so whatever :)~
And sheesh, even with gusts of 25-35 mph winds, there are still some birds crazy enough to try checking out the feeders- talk about birdbrains, heheheh.

And on a sidenote.. my super awesome and loving hubby printed me off a cute little clockwork heart- presented it to me this morning. I melted. I suck, didn't get him noting or do anything cool.

Got some more seed sown in the other day. Mostly a bunch of different hardy hibiscus, with a few brussels spouts, hollyhocks, ageratum, and dianthus. Kind of weird and cool to be planting flower seed indoors instead of wintersowing it this time. It's likely sometime next week I will be bringing in the strawberry flat from the solarium too- it's 2-4 weeks of stratification before I can bring them in, and it's been a couple weeks now.
The asparagus is coming around- looks like out of 54 tubes sown, I will get somewhere around 12-15 plants by the time is all said and done. So I think they are going to be worked into a patch in the back 40 rather than trying to create a bed out front for them. But you never can tell, I might still change my mind about that by the time I need to get the seedlings in the ground. The spinach, lettuce, and garden cress are coming along as well, hopefully we will be able to eat some fresh greens in a couple weeks!
And of course, I'm just dying to sow some more seeds, but now it's time to wait a bit for that- hurry up and wait, lol.

Work is coming along pretty well. Or at least that's what I keep being told, that I'm doing well and fitting in right fine. Still haven't quite gotten travel times down pat yet, mostly due to the crappy weather. What can be a 20 minute drive in clear weather suddenly becomes a whole nother ballgame when it is a snowy shitty out. Worked my first night shift last night, and I was so not thrilled with driving in the dark crappy weather. But hey, I'll get over it.

I decided today in the efforts of making sure the family actually gets fed when I'm not here because I'm working to start making up some freezer meal kind of action. That way I can just set up a crockpot or casserole in the morning, and I know everyone will be fed while I'm gone. I thought this was already taken care of, but last night I learned this was not so. So right now I got a crockpot of bean chili burbling away, and a pot of tomato sauce on the stove, full of Italian sausage, and dried tomatoes, peppers, and mushrooms. Once they are done burbling up like they should I will chill them off and bag them up for the freezer.

So, now later in the afternoon...
Made a pan of sausage and veggie baked ziti, in the freezer. A pan of creamy spinach and chicken enchiladas, in the freezer.  The bean chili was still waaaay too liquid, so I changed up the spices a smidge, added a couple cups of rice- and bam- red beans and rice chilling down in the solarium. Had two quarts of sauce leftover from making the ziti, and those are now chilled and in the fridge. Two loaves of Italian bread are in the oven baking and will get cooled, split and prepped for garlic bread and get put into the freezer.

We have been upgraded from winter storm till 7 am to blizzard till 10, winter storm till 7 am. I've had all the heaters running high all day, and had the thermostat bumped up to help "superheat" the house in case we lose power. Don't know how much good that will do if we do lose power, considering we are going subzero after dark.. but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we won't lose power at all.
A silver lining is that the winds are so fierce the snow isn't really accumulating or drifting on the driveway. This is in part due to the fact my sister has been keeping the driveway so clear- and that's been building up barrier banks on the sides. A view out my office window down to the road right now:

So hey, happy Valentines day everyone!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Getting a bit of sun :)

The weather has been pretty nice for the last few days thankfully enough. Better temps and sun mean less complaining about the snow- and better driving conditions.

So, had my first week of work, and it was pretty good. I'm starting to figure stuff out at least. I'm really hopeful that I'm doing well enough that when my 30 day review comes up I actually get my first raise, though I have no idea how much it will be. And shit, being at work are the happiest hours of my days right now, so that's a bennie too.

Otherwise, things have been pretty mellow around here. Went grocery shopping the other day, and that was expensive as fuck. Paying for two households of goods is really eating at any budget we have. Hopefully I will be able to pay some bills, sigh. But on the bright side, all the taxes have been paid, so don't have to worry about that till next fall.

I have been getting some planting done. A lot of wintersowing- evening primrose, wildflower mixes, columbines, morning glories, black eyed susans, nigella AKA love in a mist, a super heap of different lavenders.. and some indoor sowing as well- basil, flat leaf parsley, apple mint, bunching onion, and chives. And I started out a small flat of a couple kinds of rose seed to stratify in the solarium. And squee with joy, the first of my asparagus seedlings are popping up!! I'm hoping out of 54 tubes planted to get at least a dozen seedlings, asparagus is notoriously bad about starting from seed. I think these will end up going into a bank on the back 40 somewhere rather than trying to deal with starting up a bed up front this year. That will have to wait for another year when finances are better.
And fucking eh I'm dying for spring to show up so I can start getting some produce going on- shit's expensive as hell.

On a down front... not a single item has sold so far in my etsy shop. Super bummer. I get views and even some likes, but no one is buying. I need to put some more stuff up and just keep hoping.
And another bummer- the GW switched to a new thing today, and it kind of sucks. Ok, let me amend that to it totally sucks. But I guess I will get used to it sooner or later- it still is one of the best garden resources out there.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Come on February!!

January 31...

Come on February! Well, maybe not so much, considering we are supposed to be getting in a snow storm tonight that could dump 5-12 inches on us by the close of tomorrow, lol. Some snow is good, but I can't risk getting snowed in because I start my new job on Monday.

Today I was bustling again. I got out a 48 cell flat, and seeded up 24 each of White Soul and Yellow Wonder strawberries to stratify in the solarium for the next couple weeks. My Pinetree order came in yesterday, and I had just the right amount of seed to do 24 cells of each. They are white and yellow alpine strawberries, and require 2-4 weeks of stratification before germination. So instead of leaving the seed in the fridge, I figured why not just pot them up now since I have the flat, and the solarium is still cold enough for it- and if the solarium gets too warm, I can always move the flat outside since it has a dome. I'm hoping by June first I have a heap of little strawberry plants to put out somewhere in the yard- haven't quite settled in on where yet, but I have months to figure that one out, lol.

I'm starting to come to the conclusion that I may have been premature in putting out all three mini greenhouses- I might need to reconfigure everything and bring one of them back inside so I have a bit of heat insurance in the solarium- in just a couple short weeks it will be time to start up peppers, tomatoes, and since I don't have the upstairs anymore to set them up I might be scrambling to figure out what to do.

A few hours today was spent getting out to the resale shops again. I only had one cardigan in navy blue that fit over my workshirts, so I needed to get a couple more in the other allowed colors. Since the last Saturday of the month is Goodwills half off day, I risked the crowds, and glad I did. I ended up getting 7 sweaters, a pink thermal shirt, two turtlenecks, two oxford shirts, and a stealable spring jacket- for 20 bucks, instead of 65. A big bonus was while heading back from Paw Paw, I hit a thrift shop that was giving stuff away for free today because it was their last day open in that location- they are moving to another location and wanted to clear out as much as they could. So three of my sweaters and the coat were free :) Two of the shirts were new, and a few of the sweaters were high end retail tags, so I have to wonder just how much I really saved over retail today. Best part is, I don't need to shop for any more work clothes for a goodly while now.

Since we got the boys this weekend, I'm making meatloaf with tater tots, mixed veggies, and rolls for dinner tonight, yum.

February 1...

Snow, snow, more snow.. and did I mention snow? It started around midnight, and has been coming on ever since, and is supposed to keep coming on for hours yet. I think so far we likely have gotten around 4-6 inches. But on the bright side it's powder, so not too bad to move it. Started out this morning with one of the boys and shoveled out the front porch and got access to the racks. Unstrapped one and brought it inside, it's now sitting snug as can be in front of the dining room windows.
Took the covers off the lettuce, garden cress, and spinach. At this point the covers are more likely to cause rot and dampening off than they are to do propagation good. Not a hell of a lot of spinach sprouted, but it is pretty old seed, so I can't complain. The lettuce is looking a bit thin too, but I can deal with that- once I get some good true leaves going on I will do a second sowing in the same container.
Soaked the Mary Washington asparagus last night, and today I set up 54 TP tubes of seeds amongst three containers. Those are now sitting on the rack in front of the window. And I got two pots of 7 pot super hot pepper sown- dang, those things take 160-180 days for maturity verses all the rest of my peppers that span 70-95 days.

And an unexpected nice today.. My sister was out shoveling the end of the driveway since the blower wouldn't start, and the neighbor across the street came over with his tractor plow and plowed our driveway for us! How nice is that, right? She and he chatted, made friends and he said if the snow gets deep, just knock on their door and they will plow us out. Guess who is getting cookies baked for them, right?

Happy Imbolc!!

Woot for the coming of the end of winter, you bet your ass I will be burning candles tonight :)

Unfortunately, I didn't get to go to work for my first real day today. Yep, the driveway was clear, especially because my sister was out at 6:30 making sure of it. But when I walked out, I stood in the middle of our unplowed road and damn near cried. I could leave the garage, but not get off the property! Fortunately, work was really understanding about it, and just scheduled me on for another day.

So today I baked up a lot of cookies. I made salted carmel and windmills, and bagged those up along with a jar each of strawberry jam, methley plum jam, caviar, and mixed hot pepper rings- and sis and I took them over to the neighbors. He was just about to get the tractor out to push them out then come do our drive, but it was already done. He seemed pleased with the goodies and told us next time it snows, he will come on over :) Nice that we have seemed to have made some new friends after all this time. Kind of makes me extra look forward to work- I'm tired of knowing no one out here.

With pretty much all the rest of the shoveling done, I took the time to shovel out the wintersown racks and a path out to the bird feeders. The birdies were well pleased to get the seed feeder refilled and a fresh suet cake. They are pretty slow on the bird bread, I think it might be because the stuff is frozen, lol.