Welcome to Growbox Hill

Welcome to Growbox Hill
Welcome to Growbox HIll!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The word is out... dinner at Growbox Hill!

So with the crappy and cold finally settling in... I put out a little dish of cat food and a box lined with a snuggly towel in the garage. We have a feral cat or two running around, and even though I put stuff out kind of late in the cold snap, there is still signs of it being used now. Along with some nice paw prints in the snow. And yes, I would for sure rather have feral cats in my garage than anywhere else- this encourages them to help keep my yard clean of rodents, lol.

And I made up some suet cakes and put out a couple along with a feeder full of black oil sunflower seed... Well, the first afternoon, no one showed up. The second I saw a few birds. Then the word got out, dinner up at our house! Now every bird in the neighborhood is stopping by for a snack.
So far I've seen some seriously fat bluejays, cardinals, black capped chickadees, dark eyed juncos, rose breasted grosbeaks, titmouses, goldfinches, Downy woodpeckers and red bellied woodpeckers, and the usual assortment of sparrows and wrens. It's kind of nice because all of their birdcalls make it sound like it's spring outside.

Making suet cakes is easy, and I have found that mushroom tubs are the perfect size for cakes. I started using them last year. And honestly, mushroom tubs are one of the most used items I recycle between projects and gardening needs. I finally used up the big bucket of veggie shortening, so now I will get a block of lard next time I make cakes, that's what I should have been using all along, lol.

And dinner.... I've started this years preserving tally, kicking it off with 46 jars of pickled mushrooms and a half dozen jars of spicy pickled edamame. This is my first time pickling edamame, but the raw form tasted pretty good, so I'm hopeful the canned form will be even better. But I couldn't resist when I saw them at Hardings on clearance for 99 cents instead of four bucks. I picked up five 10 oz boxes, and used three to pickle, though I could have used two and that would have been fine for a smaller batch too. But hey, now we know, right? I tinkered the recipe a smidge, leaving out the oil, but I kept the vinegar/water proportions right, and the salt good.
I'm a wee bit bummed that I seem to never find brussels sprouts on sale anymore now that I discovered how damn tasty pickling them is. So I guess a large part of the brassica patch this year will be brussels, yay!

It's been difficult to stave off the depression and hopelessness I've been experiencing for several months, like fighting against a monsoon. But I keep forcing myself to keep trying.. and keep focusing on the zen and happiness in the good things I know I enjoy. It's helping a lot. The plants are really having a lot of impact, taking care of them and knowing that they will do the family good soon. I now have three of the greenhouse stands in the kitchen in front of the windows, and several pots and starts are already there.

I seriously need to spend time in the solarium and really clean. Everything is stacking up in the cold, and too chilly to really spend much time out there doing anything. But it has been staying above freezing for the most part, and hitting above 40 a lot. That is wonderful. Still really chilly for working in though, lamo.

But right now I need to pop off and clean up a turkey carcass.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Snow a fallin, seeds a sproutin...

So yeah, it is January, and yeah... I have already started seeds.

Well, lol, really I started seeds in July :) Hellebore seeds. It's a facinating winter flower, because it will only sprout in the cold, and blooms during the coldest months. Kind of feels like the opposite of what plants do, right? I thought so too, but they really are such lovely little things.
And extremely expensive as plants, so much so they have been cost prohibitive to me till now. Last June a friendly GW member sent me seed, and a nice goodly lot of it. So I let it scarify in the fridge, and oops.. totally forgot about it. I was supposed to plant the seeds in August, but screwed that pooch till December. So I planted up the paper towels full of seeds at the end of December. Two of them showed signs of sprouting, and those got put into pots in the solarium, and the other four got put into kitty litter jugs for wintersowing.
And lo! Just a few days ago I helped a bunch of tiny little hellebores break free of their paper towel in the solarium... Squee with joy! These little beauties, if I'm careful, will yield blossoms in 2-3 years. That's part of the reason why they are expensive, they are one of those super patience kind of plants, lol.

So yay for those sprouts! I also started up the earliest of the basils, and just the regular basil has sprouted, still awaiting lemon and lime basils. I also planted the black pepper seed I've had for ages, and who knows if that will sprout or not. Got all the kitty litter jugs done and outside on their racks now. Horehound, Vervain, Feverfew, Valerian Hyssop, Borage, Wormwood, Butterfly Weed, Wild Lupine, Evening Stock, Allium, and Large Mixed Hyacinths. Keep yer fingers crossed that they all send up sprouts. I will also be starting indoor pots of all this stuff too when their indoor sowing times come up.

My Silvery Fir Tree tomato finally finished out it's last fruiting, or at least the last one I was willing to wait through. So those seeds are now stripped out and fermenting. And I cut the plant down, took a half dozen cuttings off of it to hopefully clone up for this year. I also took a half dozen Totem cuttings off the two plants I currently have and are either in fruiting or blooming stages. So far after a few days the cuttings still look really healthy, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this will continue on well too. The Copper River cutting from last fall is doing very well, as is the best of the Beaver Lodge Slicer- the two weaker BLS's are not doing so great, but are still valiantly fruiting on. Hopefully we will get some seed stock yet off of those.
The 7-pot Brain Strain Yellow, Fatali, and Aji Lemon peppers I brought in are doing right fine. The one Aji Lemon I brought in way late after freezing temps from the solarium never recovered and I scrapped it. The Martians Carrot that is still out in the solarium is still doing remarkably well considering how cold it has stayed out there now for a couple weeks.

And tee-hee, I've planted up diakon radish for spring seed production now. My sister brought home a huge bag of the stuff last fall, and I simply didn't have time to pickle the stuff, and she sure wasn't going to do it.. So the poor roots just languished out in the solarium till one day I noticed some of them sprouting fresh greenery. So I potted the best couple of them up in the tall cans I usually reserve for growing horseradish, and now they are slowly coming along out in the solarium. Sooner or later it will get warm enough for them to really take off, and then I will get my own seed stock... I hope.... or at least that's how radishes are supposed to work, as biannuals. But this is the first time I'm trying this off of completely unknown stock, so hey, let's all hope for the best right? Some of my experiments fail, but a lot of them sure do work out fine :) 

And all in all, I'm pleased as punch with how warm the solarium is staying. Now that I have a growbot out there, I can monitor the temps and a bunch of other stuff too. And it's hit freezing a couple times, but is generally staying between freezing and fridge temps- which is a full ten degrees warmer than outdoors! This is huge. This is a whole growing zone difference huge. If I can keep this up, it will be a game changer. If I can apply myself to some more serious larger greenhouse/hoophouse action outdoors too... why, this whole gardening thing will really change around here. Being in a micro climate is incredible, but some of the growing and season extending abilities is monumental for getting food and such produced. And having a growbot in my solarium is making a marked difference too. Before I was just using a digital thermometer with a high/low mark that would reset every day. Now I get to take hourly readings and can compare them to the actual temps outside to find out what is going on when. Plus I track humidity, lumins, and I have a camera to capture data as well. Mega fucking badass!!

Etsy shop is slowing waaayyy down. I've had some repeated problems with people ordering custom printings without knowing what size they need printed, so I haven't relisted 3D stuff for weeks. And it's so darn cold in the solarium working at my jewlers bench on anything is right out because it's kind of impossible to string beads when you got the shakes from sitting in a 35 degree room, heh.
I need to get off my figurative ass and rework my etsy stuff. It would help if I had someone to take good photographs of my stuff so it looks and sells better- but the one offer I got to photograph stuff never amounted to anything more than words. Sigh, maybe I just need to suck it up and learn how to take good pics, hehehe.

I do have a lot of materials to work with out there, just piling up awaiting my artistic talents. I got a heap of painting to do too, adjusting a lot of stuff to work into the Nightvale scheme. Always a lot of beautiful art I want to work on... always a lot of reality and work I have to dedicate myself to instead. Ain't that always the way of it. I really need to start sneaking in some me and zen time with this.

And today I think I'm going to roast up a turkey- I need to get it into the oven SOON. It's been defrosting for days, so it's well and time. This is one of the four turkeys we picked up for 52 cents a pound. 52 cents, holy fuck good price on meat. But after Thanksgiving, three turkeys sucking up most of the freezer space is pretty ho hum, especially when I have to pass by super good other meat sales because of lack of space! So today is a roast off a turkey day. Mmmmm, means yummy turkey soup soon. And I need to make up a batch of sloppy joe mix out of some ground turkey that's been in the fridge and needs to be used up.
So off I go into cooking land, better get off my butt here... literally this  time :)

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Finally snow.. woah snow!!

So after fall seemingly extended itself till December 28... now winter has hit us. Pretty good too. First we got some craptacular raining ice- whatever, because it melted off in the 40 degree weather... Now we got our first snow in, several inches of lake effect snow. Had to call in to work because the roads were so nasty.
No matter, I will probably get written up for missing one day of work- good thing I am soooo beyond ready to get a different job. I want to work for the nursery, but when I dropped in the other day to make sure they still had my application on file, the gal was less than thrilled, and told me to put in another application again when they posted help wanted- and it was only seasonal. I was a little put off by her coolness, and by the fact that there was a new employee, a young guy I've never seen before. Hermmmms...

Anywho. Despite the winter weather, or maybe because of it, it's time to start getting on with some gardening. I've wintersown up over half my jugs now, mostly hellebores, poppies, and a variety of herbs. Still got about 10 or so jugs to go, and those are for various flowers.
Decided to start up a thin strip tray of herbs too. Finally used my black pepper seed, we shall see if they grow at all or not, they might not because the seed is old. Also seeded up basil, lime basil, and lemon basil.
It's getting to be around that time that I need to figure out what I'm doing with the peppers and tomatoes I brought in for winter. Silvery Fir Tree is finally getting ripe fruit on it, I just pray it got good seed in it- I need to take clones from it soon before it's too late. The Totems are looking rather troubled, dunno if I should keep trying to hang on to them or not. The Copper River and Beaver Lodge Slicers are looking frail, but putting out blooms, so here's hoping they do well enough for some seed too. Peppers are a bit more difficult since they are really healthy. The Fatali is a beautiful tree in it's own right, lovely with yellow peppers, and the 7-pot Brain Strain Yellow is doing excellent too. The Aji Lemon I pulled in early is just plugging along and not doing much, and the one I pulled in the other day is looking sad as hell and might only be useful to pull it's final peppers off before scrapping.
I'm currently testing the very last of the summer tomato seed for germination. Today I get to set up test plates for all the pepper seeds, and boy is there a bunch of those!

Did some pricing for plastic to encase the dog run with, for my notion of making it kind of a hoop house come spring. About 100 bucks for reinforced plastic in a 20x100 roll, and around 75 for non-reinforced. I think it would probably be worth it to pay the extra for reinforcement. If I'm careful, I can re-use the plastic for at least a few years. Still not sure if I want to do this or not though, but I got some time to think about it.
Tarps for the pop up though- that's not quite so easy to dismiss. I will end up needing four of them if I really want to make walls. Good thing they aren't too bad price wise for the size I need. It will take a bit of messing around, but I think I can get it to work out nicely for plant sales this spring... I hope.

Other than that, not much else I can talk about right now. I need to get off my butt and into my now barely freezing solarium and get some work done :)