Snow Day Number Two

We had another snow day today. The snow fell all last night and most of the day today. It is hard to tell just how much snow fell. The wind blew hard. We may have gotten two feet. We had “blizzard-like” conditions. A blizzard needs to have sustained winds of 35 miles per hour for three hours. We did not quite meet that definition. A severe blizzard also has temperatures of 10 degrees or lower. We started the day at 14 degrees. So I guess we just had a snowstorm.

I stayed inside for a while, although the kids did get out early. They didn’t last long in the cold and wind, but they went out several times throughout the day. I figured I would start with breakfast. Since I did not have to drive anywhere I used what would have been my commuting time to make home fries.

I paired these hot crispy potatoes with a hot omelette

I paired these hot crispy potatoes with a hot omelette

The snow did let up eventually. I took a walk in the afternoon when it was falling lightly, although the wind was still pretty fierce.

The town road crew got the road passable, but wind kept the drifts coming

The town road crew got the road passable, but wind kept the drifts coming

There's a river under there somewhere

There’s a river under there somewhere

By the end of the day the sun came out for a bit, the light low across the white landscape. Before the sun set the world turned pink. After a dinner of soup and hot sandwiches, we all headed back outside again. We fell backward off the hill into a huge snowdrift and flipped upside down into the pile the plow had left. We tossed snow at each other in the dark. We came inside red-faced and a little soggy. After some reading together the children headed up to bed. Two days off and they are back to school tomorrow. I worked a bunch from home today but I am back at it myself once the sun comes up. It was a great couple of days in our house. We have to enjoy the snow when it comes, and we did.

Late day sun on Camel's Hump

Late day sun on Camel’s Hump

 

Tubers Out of the Dirt

I have started pulling tubers. Let me say that again. I have started digging up root vegetables. I made some roasted potatoes from the first batch and they were so good I made another last night. Carrots are ready now as well. These are some good ones–a variety of colors and flavors. I should have a good volume of food with these crops before all is said and done.

The first potatoes I pulled up were German Butterball. These were from tubers I had saved from last summer. I hadn’t meant to save them, exactly. I had stored them to eat and then missed some at the end of the bin. They sat until spring, when they were sprouting like crazy. I had some extra space in the garden and so I popped them into the dirt. I am glad I did. They are a, duh, buttery variety, and white. I also have pulled some others–purple and pink. I love that. Who wants only white potatoes when you can have purple and pink? Several of these colorful plants never took so the extra white potatoes were especially welcome.

Check Out Those Colors

I have purple carrots as well, along with yellow and the standard orange. Our soil is mostly clay–although I did add a good deal of compost this spring–so sometimes the carrots get stunted. I pulled three is a row that were stubby. One of them looked like some kind of alien landing craft. Maybe my garden, which is a circle rather than your typical rectangle, was an inviting locale for an extraterrestrial vehicle. Perhaps my carrots are actually buried spaceships? You be they judge.

Odd Shaped Tuber or Visitor from Space?

 

Thinking About Spring Already

Leafing Through the Catalogs and Guides

OK I know, we just got our first winter snowfall to speak of and I am thinking about spring already. But the time has come. I mean, it is January 17th. Last year I busted out my seeds and seed catalogs a week earlier. I pulled the bin of seeds from last year and years before that, spread out the seed catalogs and started doing some planing. I got interrupted several times so it took me most of the day, but I I figured what I need to order for our 2012 garden.

I have plenty of seeds, but I can’t use them all. The Danvers carrots from 2007 are just not reliable. Some might sprout but most likely will not. Lettuce seeds from last year? Might be good, might not. Pumpkins seeds on the other hand, saved even from 2007, will probably be OK. The big ones last longer. I had to determine what I want to plant, then go through my inventory, then decide where to purchase seeds I don’t have but want.

Mostly I plan to order seeds from High Mowing Organic Seeds. They are fairly local, so if they can make it grow, I probably can as well. I will also order some from Seed Savers Exchange. I love the work they do and they always have something new and different. I prefer to plant open pollinated varieties rather than hybrids, so it is fun to try something new each time. Potatoes, especially, are fun ones for me when it comes to experimenting. They are pretty easy to grow, and any variety will taste good one way or another, so why not try the pink ones? Of course, I have tried some varieties of vegetables that were not the greatest–red zebra tomatoes looked great but just didn’t taste as zowie as I wanted them to taste, and some carrots are so not as sweet as others–but mostly you can’t go wrong with food you grow yourself.

I had hoped to order seeds today but that will have to wait until later in the week. I had way too much playing outside with my daughter to do. The kids were outside a ton yesterday and today, despite the frigid temperatures (yesterday never got above 7 degrees and today the wind chill was below zero in the afternoon). I was proud of them. I didn’t want to be left out. And I do have time. I will likely plant some seeds indoors in March, which isn’t that far away, but I don’t need to order anything two-day shipping at this point. But still, it is hard to resist thinking about summer when the temperature is in the single digits and the wood stove is eating up logs.

So here’s to seed catalogs and the companies who print them! Thanks for bringing me a little summer today.

Potato Harvest

The kids and I dug up all our potatoes the day before yesterday. It was like digging for buried treasure. They had as much of a blast as I did. Turn the soil and find some food.

There's One

I wish I had a scale. I have thought maybe 149 times that I could use one, but I have not taken the effort to get one. I planted five pounds of seed potatoes and all told, with the potatoes we already pulled from the dirt earlier this summer, we harvested 40-50 pounds of potatoes. That is a guess, of course, but probably close.  That paid off.

First into the Basket

We have two varieties–one purple and one white. Right after we dug them up we boiled some of the white one and ate them with salt and butter, along with the corn we bought. A simple and fine dinner.

Bucket of Potatoes

I plan to store a bunch of them so we can be eating potatoes at least into the fall. Hopefully I can make them last. I still need to pull the onions. They won’t keep as long but they will last for a couple of months. And I need to make pesto. And those melons are looking close to ripe. And pumpkins. We’ve got lots of food these days.

First Potatoes

A Handful of Beauties

I made a summer gratin last night–fresh zucchini we picked yesterday, onions, tomatoes, garlic I dug up right before mincing, and potatoes. I had asked my wife to grab some potatoes at the market when she went out. She came home without them, however, as there were no local tubers to be had, and she just couldn’t bear to buy some from California in the summer. So I had the thought that I might find a few out in the garden. I was richly rewarded.

Let me say that the gratin came out well. Hot and saucy and flavorful, with fresh herbs in the mix. The potatoes were the game maker, however. I stuck my hand in the dirt and–BOOM!–potatoes. One plant yielded all I needed, and we have many many plants. We will not have to purchase potatoes for a long time. While I was washing them and parboiling them and slicing them and then eating them, I kept thinking how incredible it is that one can pop a chunk of root into the ground and it turns into a plant that yields ten times what you planted.

These pictured are Purple Viking. I also planted Yellow Finn, which are white. I will go out soon and dig up some of those to see what we get. I’m thinking breakfast tomorrow, maybe, some home fries with eggs? That could work.

Still, I am amazed at how I can plant something and it grows and then we have food. I paid a total of 30 dollars for seed potatoes. I will without question get my money’s worth. If I save some of them to plant next year, I will double my investment. For the moment, however, I don’t want to think about next summer. I just want to savor the yumminess of this crop. And have a great breakfast. Or two or three.

Grow, Baby, Grow

I planted potatoes for the first time this spring. This is what they looked like last weekend, six days ago:

Potatoes, May 30

I was pretty excited that they were growing at all. I mean, I’ve never grown these tubers before. Here is what they looked like today:

Potatoes, June 5

The popcorn appeared today. This morning the green shoots were popping out of the dirt.

Popcorn Reaching for the Sky

I knew I had to get something to scare the birds or they would pull it all as it sprouts. When I first planted popcorn, the birds ate every kernal. So I replanted and hung some reflectors. That did the trick. I wanted to wait this time until the shoots were just coming up so the birds would not get accustomed to my little scare tactic. So late in the morning I rigged my reflectors. Between the time I discovered the seeds sprouting and the time I carried stakes and string out to the garden beds, one of those flying bastards had pulled half a dozen seeds. I hope that is all they manage to get.

I save CD’s over the year so I have a few to hang to keep the birds away. That they are reflective, and that they spin in even a slight breeze, seems to be enough of a deterrent. I add some flagging tape in there just to make things really wiggy. I need the birds to stay away long enough so they no longer want the just-bursting seeds. In past years, once the plants have become established they have done fine, and I am looking to repeat that pattern this year.

Better Than a Scarecrow

And that’s how things are growing these days. Most everything is coming up, although lettuce seems to be slow. I’m thinking it has been too hot. That is what you get for waiting. We have had some hot days and some rain so growing conditions are right on for most things. Although the basil isn’t doing well, which surprises me. But you can’t have everything. If the cucumber beetles are less of a nuisance this year then I will be happy. Cucumbers and melons instead of basil. Not ideal, but not a bad trade.

And speaking of nuisances, I haven’t seen the damn bunnies in a few days now. Maybe my chasing them around in old clogs was enough to scare them? Or maybe my wife watching me chase them, through the upstairs window, and laughing through the screen, was what really made them flee. Either way, I am glad they have decided to snack on more wild fare for the time being.

Too many critters to deal with, I tell you. Too many critters.

Garden On the Way

So far so good with our vegetable garden. Most of the beds are planted, with a few empty spots left over for second plantings of lettuce, carrots and cilantro. A few weeks ago I added beneficial nematodes to help alleviate our cucumber beetle problem. I have my fingers crossed with that one. I also put up three new birdhouses this year in hopes that they might snack on the beetles once they hatch. Right now I am waiting to see if the seedlings get munched by the larvae. Like I said, I have my fingers crossed. After a couple of days, my melon seedlings still look OK:

Future Melons?

Last fall I planted garlic–two varieties–and those plants are the stars of the garden right now. They are just starting to form scapes.

Reaching for the Sun

The peas are a little behind. At least, they are smaller than I would like. Last year the pea plants got munched by rabbits. Just as I was thinking we may be free of those rascals, there were three of them at once yesterday. They have not munched the peas yet, but they will find them, I am sure.

Still Not Tall Enough

Also, peppers are growing well. I transplanted these several days ago and they are still alive. I will thin them soon.

Still Youngsters, but Showing Promise

So things are looking good so far. Potatoes are up as well, and arugula and carrots are poking out of the dirt. I hope this will be a good season. Something will grow at least. I mean, carrots are hard to kill. Unless those damn bunnies come back.

Damn bunnies.