Thursday, February 19, 2015

More Winter Planting

One Month Till Spring

Garlic & Lupinis & Favas

Well here she is in all her glory, the Valley Oak that lives in the creek.  She's putting on her new skirt and the leaves are as big as a squirrel's ear, so that means it's time to get planting.

She's my faithful indicator tree.

The soil is still very cool, so my knees tell me, so way too early to plant anything like corn, but that doesn't mean that I've not been busy with lettuce and other greens.

As you can see, the garlic is looking good.  The bed on the right is newly transplanted garlic which I found hiding in the field when we went to plant the willow hedge.

Behind the favas are another row that I'll be putting cabbages in later today.

I harvested my first asparagus yesterday, and this morning, more have popped up.

Row P here, I planted in Mizuna last November.  To the right of them are early onions.  But we all know the onions take so long that if that was all that was in this bed I'd be weeding every day.  So yesterday I planted 2 kinds of Misticanza.  One with radicchio and other greens, and one with just lettuce.   Today when I pick the Mizuna, the Misticanza will start getting larger.  By the time I harvest the Mizuna again, the Misticanza should be just about full grown and ready to pick.  Each of these should give 2 pickings unless the weather turns abysmally hot.  Please no summer in early spring.

Joseph's turnip greens need thinning!  I also planted these in November, so we should be eating these soon.  In the bed next to them are also raddishes that need to be harvested.

There's also a couple of cabbages lingering about that should be harvested, and the kale is not liking this weather, so out it will come.

The rhubarb is also up, and won't be long till it's ready to harvest.

I lost a few rhubarb plants over the winter.  Was it too dry, too cold, too hot, too many gophers?  I haven't any idea, but they take so long from seed that it's annoying to lose any of them.

Here's the second bed that I've been working on, row 66.  Note at the back of row 66 is part of the chicken coop roof that blew off in that crazy windstorm we had on New Year's Day.  We also lost a couple of trees that day.  Thankfully, no Eucy trees dropped on us.

Row 66 has carrots and onions on the sides.  But down the middle I planted lettuce, Scarlet Ohno, mild mustard and Baby Choi.

Scarlet Ohno is a turnip planted just for it's mild greens.  It did not do well for us last year, this is its last chance, if it fails to perform I'll send these seeds farther North or East.

The soil is too damp for tilling, so I can only plant the beds that Leo prepared many moons ago for me.
The peas I planted last November are limping along.  The birds have eaten them twice!

These are the lovely Wando Alaska X that I crossed.  Which I may call Skado or Doska if they turn out any good this year.  These are English Shelling peas.

I also have some lovely snow peas to plant.  Which I'll put in pretty soon. 

The leeks, onions, cress, collards, spinach, and Chinese cabbage are already to transplant.  Soon as I get them in,  I'll have another tray to start more peppers and onions for later in the season.

So many greens this year!


I received a note from Sandhill Preserve that our new flock of chickens should be here in March.  And a darn good thing too, because with only 4 hens left from the Mountain Lion Attack, I'm only getting 2 eggs a day.  That's barely enough to keep up with the morning ritual.  I have to stash eggs to be able to have enough for weekend pancakes and French toast!  I actually had to buy eggs last week.  Eww.  Store bought eggs!  I think March chickens will give us eggs by June or July.  My Father used to say, "She's no spring chicken" all the time, and by golly I know what he means now.  Spring chickens lay early, late fall chickens start laying at the same time, but you have to feed them all winter.  Now you know why I didn't replace the flock earlier.

Hopefully the farm will get a few more inches of rain before we're done for the season. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

A review of Taos Blue Corn

Taos Blue on 7/13

On June 16, 2014 I planted Taos Blue.  This is a GRIN corn, PI 476868.  Its from the Taos Pueblo and it's called "Blue Corn".  I can't have a corn called "Blue Corn" because hey, lots of them are blue.

This is a flour corn, and I'm always looking for a good flour corn.
Taos Blue August 14

This is a short season corn and so I knew I had time to plant it before frost.  (Which did not come till December in 2014!)  The soil was dry, I had to irrigate 2-3 times a week to prevent wilting.  There was no residual soil moisture even in the spring, due to the drought.

October 2 Taos Blue

As you can see, there was lodging.  This corn is not very tall and the cobs are not held very far off of the ground.  I harvested this right after I took this photo.  This corn was the least productive in my field.  The Kaanga Pango and the Yellow Papago yielded twice the amount of this corn.

Taos Blue & Fusarium 
Note the starburst pattern on the kernels...Its a fusarium.  Fumonisins are a group of mycotoxins produced by fungi in the genus Fusarium. The fungus Fusarium moniliforme (Fusarium verticillioides) is a common pathogen of corn, so common in fact that it is found wherever corn is grown. Fusarium moniliforme usually appears white to salmon colored, although it may not be visible on the corn kernel. This fungus often produces a symptom on the corn kernels referred to as "starburst," or a white streaking of the kernel.  You can't eat corn with fusarium or feed it to horses.  I guess this one will be chicken food.  As part of their rations, fumonisins don't bother chickens.  

I suspect the very very dry weather, coupled with insect invasions of every known kind are probably responsible for this.  I won't be doing any more summer planting of corn.  This year the plan is to plant all four corns of the season as early as possible.   I'm keeping an eye on the soil temperature.  If it continues to warm,  I may plant in March!  

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Winter Planting 2015

The Willow Hedge

And here's the last of the willow hedge being planted.  These last ones are native willows that turned up on the farm last year, so Leo cut them and stuck them in a bucket full of water.  They rooted well.  They are a pretty red color.

The rest of the willows we purchased from Dunbar Gardens in Washington.  We selected both hedge and basket types.  We hope to be able to do a number of farm projects with willow in the future, but for now this is the first of our new windbreaks.  Water loss here at the farm is mostly a result of the wind and evaporation.  We can't change the weather, so we hope that wind breaks will help mitigate for water loss.  Well, at least maybe slow it down.

In a few years, we hope to have a hedge that looks like this one at Dunbar Gardens. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Winter Blues

Just in case you wondered what I was doing with all the money I saved this year.  And how can I be blue?  I love winter!  It was 30 when I got up.  I guess it's time to drag out some long sleeve shirts and put away my flops!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

December on the Farm 2014

Welcome the light and rain!

Down in one of the reservoirs
 Well, it's been a heck of a ride folks.  From no water, to wishing I had tanks to put what's falling into!  We had a good 5 inches.  The creek is running.  A darn good sign if you ask me.  I know, we need more.  About 40 inches more to make up for last year, but I'll take what I can get and be happy about it.
December 15 out my back door

Just before this rain, I got the favas and lupini's in .  (Edible lupines).
I'd planted faro, but I suspect the little tweeters got it all.  They ate the lettuce too!   But turnips, parsnips, radishes, greens and other crops were planted before the deluge, so I'm hoping that turnips don't come up in the driveway!

It's halfway through December and I'm just thinking about what to plant next year.  It's been unseasonably warm.  There are still flowers on beans, and limas and tomatoes in the field.

Last spring I had one extra Sungold tomato, so I put it out my backdoor.  

About August, Zack had enough of it blocking the path, so he and Julia hacked it back.  Well, here it is December and it's flowering and making fruit.  That's a first.

We actually harvested the last of the melons on Thanksgiving and hope to serve them up on Christmas.  So you see, seed choosing is not as easy as it once was.

Will there be bugs?  I'm thinking, no frost, lots of moisture....ewwww...there will be bugs.

I've selected some peppers, tomatoes and eggplant to start for January.  Now I have to move onto broc, cauli, cabb, chard, leeks, onions and more peas.  I planted peas in early November and they're up, but I really want to plant more.

I'll have to rummage the seed storage and see what's out there.  We had a lot of problems with brassica bugs at the end of the season, so I'm thinking not as many rows of those.

Speaking of brassicas, here's a couple of interesting monsters.
I'm thinking these are cauliflowers.  Ones that I harvested and left the plant in the field?  Or some new Caulette?  Flowerette?  Cauliflowerette?   Never seen these before.  But then again, I've never had mosquitoes in December before either, so, I guess everything is new and different.

Thank heaven for rain.  Thank you thank you, did I say thank you?  I'm eternally grateful, as hey look at the garlic!  And many thanks to Joseph for so carefully growing garlic for us.
Joseph, at Lofthouse Gardens grows great garlic.  I love his big, easy to peel delicious garlic.  The cloves he sent us were huge!  Now, if it dries a little, I can weed, otherwise, I'm just not going to worry, the garlic is loving the rain.  On the left, the grapes have not dropped their leaves so I haven't even pruned them yet.  Well, January is coming.  In the back of this photo you can see the favas peeking out.
There's still kale and chard in the field, so we are still eating home grown greens.  I may dry some of these and make kale chips.  Might as well, heck I don't have anything to do besides can, cook, bake and clean....

Zack besides working his regular job has been helping me do tool repairs.  Man, he's great at this.  It's one of those jobs that I keep putting off, which results in a barn full of shovels with no handles.

Take a look at some of these poor tools.  These two sledges were really sad...nails put in them to hold the heads on.   They're gorgeous now.  Cleaned up with new handles. 

And just in time to deal with the Eucy tree that bit the dust, a newly repaired splitting maul.  To be fair, I did not break these tools.  I tend to break things like forks.  I've broken the same fork three times.  It's embarrassing.  In the summer the soil just gets so darn hard, that I break them.  

My days of using mauls and sledges are gone.  I content myself to breaking simpler things like pitchforks.  I took the after picture before Zack had time to polish up the metal.  But I was just so tickled.  Nothing better than a barn full of tools that work, even if I'm getting too old to swing some of them. 

Hope your days are Merry & Bright.  I'm just singing in the rain!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Faking Halloween Faking Halloween

You need to sing to Danny Elfman's music to get the tune correct. 

So, since we were kids, no Halloween costume was ever purchased.  You could rummage in the spare closet, go to Goodwill and pick up needle and thread.  Most of Zack's years were spent combing Goodwill for likely fabrics to be a pirate, a Ninja, a Knight...basically Zack would be anything that allowed you to carry a sword.  Now we have a costume trunk, that's fair game for anyone to raid.

So, Leo was getting tired of being a Wizard every year.  It's been too hot for too many years for him to wear his Tigger suit, and I think he was burnt on pirating as well.  (You can only do so much Yo Hoeing when you are a farmer).  So after a bout of bronchitis and bed rest with Outlander I began channeling Dougal MacKenzie and decided I needed my own BAMF.

This outfit is not exactly correct.  And I will say that after months of looking I gave up on finding plaid at Goodwill and settled for Hounds tooth.  So, please don't write to me the fact that there was no Hounds tooth in the 1770's. 

Shortly after Leo got his linen shirt and wool waistcoat, he asked me, "What? No ruffles?"  So muttering to myself and went back and added ruffles to the shirt.

The next night Leo said he was just kidding.  So, now that Halloween is over, the ruffles are going.  They are a nuisance and he keeps dipping them in his pint.

So, at Goodwill I purchased a Hounds tooth Jacket.  (Hey Ralph, how about some plaid?)
The Real Dougal
There were six brand new Ralph Lauren Jackets.  I found one in a size smaller than Leo wears as a jacket and turned it into a waist coat.

And yes, that was a pain in the butt.  Also, the tartan that Dougal wears in Outlander is not a Mackenzie Tartan, but one that was woven just for the film by Anthony Haines Textile.  And no, it's not for sale and I do not weave tartan.  Nope, never have.  I only found one piece of plaid even slightly this color and that was a plaid from Pendleton.  So, I had to settle for another fabric.

For the breeks I found a pair of black leather pants at Goodwill, cut them off, and turned them into breeks and put buttons on the side.  I also found a cashmere coat and turned it into an overcoat.  I was going to make him a proper Beret/Bonnet, but Leo always wanted one of the caps he's wearing.  It's from Scotland and looks wonderful on him.  Don't you just love the green wool kilt hose?

I couldn't get Leo to wear a kilt.  He was worried that I'd have my hand up his skirt all evening. ...

We had the silk neckstock in my drawer, left over from a dye class.  Leo didn't snug it up as he was already wonderfully warm, wrapped in linen, wool and cashmere.  He found it to be a most comfy costume.  Especially since we had rain!  First rainy Halloween Night in about 70 years.

And of course since Dougal was sleeping with the Duncan Witch, well,  I could just go as myself. 

My skirt consists of all the mistakes and leftover bits from previous sewing adventures.  Properly shredded and attached to a waist tie.  I also have a long green shift dress on.  I knitted and felted my hat.  The pin on the front says "Black Hat Society, Since 1692".  This is my LEED's costume.  Since it's all recycled, that makes me a Green witch?

We witches do go back a bit don't we?

So back to Leo's costume, this is the original jacket.  As you can see, I already started removing the sleeves.  This was very time consuming as each sleeve was sewed on twice, once at the lining and once on the wool.  Plus there's tons of padding in there.   At one point I had to actually rip from the outside!  Scarey!  So that I could find the thread I was ripping from the inside.

After I got the sleeves off, I took off the collar.  Now that was such a pain in the butt, if I were to choose again, I'd leave it on. 

 I pinned the lining back to the inside of the armholes and hand stitched the waistcoat openings.

 I used a lot pins in this and eased the lining between the pins.

When I got the collar off, the sleeves removed and the openings closed, I commenced to make button holes.  I have a Viking Sewing machine and it makes SHITTY buttonholes.  That made making this many buttonholes on the waistcoat a nerve wracking experience and I had to rip three of them out.  As they did not meet my standards even slightly. 

The original jacket had 3 buttons/Button holes.  I needed to have 10, so I added 7 more.  I left the 3 originals. 

I recycled the buttons from a shirt I made Leo many years ago.  I used the excess buttons on his breeks.
I spent as many hours scoping for a coat, that I probably could have made one from scratch and believe you me, if I could have found a tartan, I would have.  But Leo loves cashmere and so I settled for this coat.  It's not as skirty as I would have made it.  Now that Halloween is over, I'm going to move all the buttons to one side, and make more buttonholes, similar to the vest.  I had a hard time finding a coat in Leo's size.  The sleeves on this one were short, so I had to let them down. 

The buttons on the jacket have Leo's initials (LD).  These are pewter reproductions of the 3rd Continental Light Dragoons, also known as "Martha Washington's Horse".    I found them at Jas Townsend.   And yes, you could buy this costume there, and it would be mostly historically correct, but it would cost you.

So what were the costs:

Coat $39.97
Waistcoat $26.26
Breeks $22.08
Linen Shirt $20.22
Hat $12.00
Kilt Socks $18.00
Buttons $8.50
$147.00 total.    Not bad for recycling, ehh?  I didn't count thread, needles and lace which I already had in my sewing room.  I spent zero dollars on my costume.  The wool for my hat was leftover from Zack's hat and scarf last year. Zack wanted custom dyed black.  Mood fabrics has both the Ralph Lauren Hounds tooth and the Cashmere at $79.00 a yard.  I figure that if I had sewed the coat and waistcoat from scratch I would have spent around $700.  Time wise, it took me a week for the vest, one day for the shirt and breeks, and one day for the coat.

The shirt and socks will return to Leo's wardrobe, as he needed knee socks for under his rubber boots anyway.  And good wool socks are getting more expensive all the time.  The scarf goes back to the dye blanks drawer.  And Leo is going to turn this coat into an every day coat, as soon as I shift the buttons.  All and all it was a fun project.  I'm left with a couple of ruffles, 2 wool sleeves, but I get to keep the BAMF.  Hey and mine has more hair that Dougal!

Happy All Soul's Day.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Review of Isola di Este

PI 433654 Nostrano dell' Isola di Este  from Sondrio, Italy

So in my search for the perfect polenta, I gave up trying corn here and instead used GRIN to order the most likely Italian corns.  First, Italy is much like California.  And Northern Italy is where people eat Polenta.  I think this is the 4th in a series of Italian corn.  I've had a lot of help from the corn curator for GRIN, Mark Millard.  Thanks Mark.   I originally planted this corn in 2011 and it was attacked by wild pigs.  I was only able to get enough of a crop to save seed to try again.   And it here it is, a beautiful golden/orange corn.
August 3, 2014
This is the field at harvest.

Planted Mar 27 to trays, Transplanted 4/13.  I estimated that it was 122 day corn.   I began harvesting on August 2.  As you can see about 90% is at the field dry stage.  I could have probably pulled this out of the field 15 days ago or earlier.  Remember, it's been hot, hot, hot here.  How hot?   In the 90's almost every day with very very little of our normal 4 days heat and 3 days fog.  Someone has stolen the fog.

August 3
This is a photo of the corn up close and personal at harvest.  This corn has the longest silks I have ever seen.  Almost every stalk made 2 ears, one large and one small to medium.  A large stalk is 12 inches and a small stalk is 8 inches.  The interesting thing is that most of the medium stalks were not long and thin, but short and with more rows.   This corn had beautiful tight wrappers.  Some of the best wrappers I have ever seen.  I'm talking fine enough to be tamale wrappers.  The cobs were held at about 3' and 4' from the ground.  The stalks themselves were about 7'.  Not too tall, not too short.  This may be the Goldilocks of all the flint corn I have grown.
June 23, 2014

This corn did not lodge.  Nope, not even one stalk.  Speaking of stalks, the only problem that I see with this corn is that it makes 1 1/2 stalks. Corn is the only major field crop characterized by separate male and female flowering structures, the tassel and ear, respectively. However, in most corn fields it is not unusual to find a few scattered plants with a combination tassel and ear in the same structure - a "tassel ear." The ear portion of this tassel ear structure usually contains only a limited number of kernels.  The "Good Tassel Ears appear as miniature corns"

The tassel ears often appear on tillers (suckers) arising from plants with normal ears and tassels. These tassel ears are produced at a terminal position on the tiller where a tassel would normally appear. However, tassel ears may also be produced by individual plants. This is what I call the 1/2 stalk.

Tassel ears are a reminder that the male and female parts of the corn plan are structurally very closely related. Wild progenitors of corn-teosinte spp. have complete flowers tassels and silks together. These can be crossed with Zea mays (normal corn).  I suspect this is a very old trait.  I have rarely seen this in my fields.  However, it is a trait I would select against.

Half stalk with Tassel Ear

Why?  They are so cute!  Take a close look, the dreaded Huitlacoche (corn smut) appeared on all but 2 of these tassel ears.  Why?  The tassel ears have no wrappers.  Wee little birds of the seed eating type come and peck these cute leeetle ears.  The corn sends out a damage report and huitlacoche steps in.  I don't like it, I don't have a market for it, and left uncontrolled can ruin an entire field in short order.  So, As these developed, I took a pair of loppers and walked through the maze of maize ad lopped them off.   All those years my dad made me take the tillers off of corn, maybe he was onto something?  Nope, just trying to keep these idle hands out of mischief.
left ear crossed with Kanga Pango.  Right ear is a tiller ear.

In future years, I would just keep removing the tillers of this corn.  I'm also not saving any seed from the tillers.  Which leads me to wonder what seed to save.
Of course I'll sort the out the corn with spotty germ, incomplete tip fill and probably ears that I think are too fat, plus anything that was crossed (only the very end row). These will all be ground for polenta.  All the very long thin perfect ears that dry quickly is what I'm aiming for. (1, 3 & 6 in this photo).

The corn borers are just beginning in this corn.  When I get corn borers, I get pink mold, so I'm in a rush to get this corn out of the field. 
Starting to get the hang of it.

The Isola di Este is in the foreground and the Kaanga Pango in the back ground.  We had a 90% germination on both.  The gophers took a couple so, we ended up with 84 plants.   These were placed on 18" emitters and I think that's a good choice for this corn.  This corn was not composted at planting, but side dressed on May 11th and given a shot of fish emulsion the week after planting.  
May 11th, 2014
Isola di Este as all our corn was irrigated to the standard of approximately 1 gallon per week.  The temperature throughout the season has been hot 90+ every day and the evening lows, around 59 F.   It's drier than Prohibition here, so I think this is another corn that would be great in a drought.  Now, we just have to wait for it to get dry enough to eat.

Once again, I'd like to thank the USDA GRIN program for the germplasm and particularly Mark Millard for his continuing support and encouragement of our search for drought tolerant flint and flour corns. Viva la Polenta!

Coming soon.  Photos of of the 3 toed Dar's Drought Tolerant, Isleta Pueblo Blue & Papago.