Thursday, January 2, 2014

New Varieties for the New Year

Last night I picked out three seeds that I want to try from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  They are:

Minnesota Midget Melon - I am liking the size of this melon.  One person size, just a handful, only 4" across.  And the description says:  It is the perfect miniature of the "Classic Muskmelon".  Perfect for me, too, I hope.

Lemon Squash - to be honest I like all kinds of Squash so I am sure I will like this one.  I just especially like how it looks.  Big fan of Lemons, that's me.
lemon squash new

and a Tomato variety called Blueberries!  What a cool combo, the look is terrific and from the description in the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed catalog they will taste sweet and fruity.  That's enough to interest my eye and my taste buds.

For less than $10.00 that should bring a little variety and newness to my 2014 garden.

My garden goal is to figure out if I can feed myself this year.  Of course, I will share if the opportunity presents itself, but what I want is to increase what I am eating from my own sowing.  If all goes well I will have plenty to share, but if that happens it will just be gravy.

Bye for now, from Powell Cottage.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014 the Year of the Garden

I have decided to try to blog daily about my gardening.  I seem to have time to Pin everyday and FB everyday, and YT everyday, so I am going to try to be more constructive in 2014 and blog every day about something that will do me good in the long run.

So I am going to keep positive thoughts about my garden this year.  Sharing those thoughts will help me make what's important habit.  

This year I found a YouTuber who actually vlogs about his garden and chickens from Dallas.  That was inspiring for me.  His vlog is called Brandon Marshall and that amazingly enough is also his name.   Brandon via one of his videos turned me on to this:

Okay, it's a catalog, but it's more like a book and well worth The $7.95, and the current catalog came along as well.  I buy most of my seeds at North Haven Gardens here is Dallas, or sometime Calloways.  This year tho' I am going to buy some unusual seeds from Baker Creek and some from Seed Savers Exchange just to make sure the places that I respect all get some of my business.  And, of course, to get something that I can't find in the local nurseries.

Okay, well that is a start.  And, as I should have said earlier:  Happy New Year to All from Powell Cottage!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Super Bowl Sunday

Super Bowl Sunday stopped meaning much to me when Troy Aikman retired, but this year it completely left my radar.  In fact I thought that the playoffs were the Super Bowl.  I knew there was an important game happening that weekend and it was the end of January.  Isn't that when they always played the Super Bowl?  I owe my lack of awareness to my lack of a TV. 

When the new digital requirements came in for TVs I was at my financial low.  I have never had cable, but I wasn't even addicted enough to television to bother and try to find the money for the $45 digital kit.  I just turned them off and spent more time at the library and more time listening to audiobooks from the library and watching youtube and listening to podcasts.  Let's be honest if there was anything that I really wanted to watch I could see it online anyway.  So, all in all, it's been a really good thing.  I still have a TV tho' that has my VCR and DVD hooked up to it for movies.  "VCR", you say.  Yes! VCR.  I still watch tapes I really like.

But no TV online or otherwise today.  Today I planted my first seeds for the 2011 garden year.  I planted a few yellow pear tomatoes, a few cherry tomatoes, a few peach tomatoes, a bunch of spinach, some chard, some dill and some fennel.  I also planted two blue berry bushes in large containers, and 5 containers of strawberries (two late season, and 3 midseason).

I also listened to a lot of podcasts about beekeeping.  I am so interested in beekeeping, but it just hasn't made it to the top 5 list of things to do in this garden year.  Of course things could change!  One nevers knows.  The top 5 for this gardening year are: 1) fix the greenhouse construction and cover with appropriate plastic that will last, 2) constructing an outdoor shower, 3) getting angora rabbits (manure makes this a garden project), 4) making a solar oven, and 5) including my front yard bed in food production. 

We had a cold week this week, but it's back to reasonable football weather in time for the big game. 

The photo above was the view of my backyard on Saturday.  Cold but beautiful here at Powell Cottage.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

It's that time again; time to stop playing Farmville & get to Farming

Truth is in Texas you never really have to stop farming, and I haven't really.  Early January is just not a very busy time.  Now's the beginning of the 2011 season and my peas are in the ground.  I have just spent the day moving and organizing all the plants in my den/greenhouse to make room so that I may get to the shelves that my seedlings will be placed on to receive the maximum amount of light. To be honest my Spring juices are beginning to flow.  They always do this time of year.  To start off I need to figure out what needs to be started indoors and so even tho' I have loads of books on the subject; to the web I go. 

I remembered seeing something in all of my blog reading about a good tool that was on-line, so off I go to look back at all of my starred postings.  It pops up on Henbogle a great blog that I follow with a really terrific new snow filled banner picture.  Here I am directed to Johnny's Selected Seeds where I enter my estimated last frost date and "Voila!" my planning is done for me.  I copied my calculated info and pasted it into Excel, and it worked no editing required. 

It made me wonder what other tools are out there.  It also made me wonder if a really good urban farmer already has this stuff memorized.  Something to work on I guess. 

As it turns out I got quite alot of hits on my "Vegetable Garden Planning".  Better Homes and Gardens was at the top of the list, but I don't think that Vegetable gardening is what BHG had in mind.  Their garden planner was more about shape and design than about "what and when" like I had in mind. Their was another "advert" site at the top of the hit list called Grow Veg at, but I am not willing to pay to find out.  Could be great tho'.  Let me know if you try it and think it's the bees knees.

I have found though a terrific garden planner that encompasses both timing and physical design.  Check our Mother Earth News' garden planner.  It is terrific and has video instructions.  Really great!

In the photos there you can see my Artichoke.  First in the Summer and now in the Winter inside the tubular tent that I made it of plastic, chicken wire, 2 bales of hay on the outside that you can't see and when necessary a couple of blankets.  I have a soft spot in my heart for this Artichoke and I will do everything I can to get it thru to the next growing season and then on to even better things!

Monday, January 17, 2011

25 Things that I do to live more Sustainably

1. Have a garden:  Okay, I do this because I like to and it just happens to allow me to live more sustainably.

2. Have chickens, also because I like them, but still free eggs and manure a great combination.

3. Raise rabbits for wool, not doing this yet, but it is sooo in the plan for this year.

4. Compost, there is just some thing special about that bottom 6 inches that makes composting addicting as well as green.

5. Harvest rainwater: the more I collect, the more I want to collect.  It's always good know that no matter what catastrophe hits I will not be dead in three days from thirst.

6. Drive a small car, and looking forward to a small e-car in the future.

7. Conserve on my use of electricity, I feel bad as I write this because there are two lamps on when not even one is necessary, but only two lamps, one alarm clock and a refridgerator, not bad for a suburban home.  Oh, yea, and the has a battery, but it's on the grid as I type.

8. Only heat the rooms I use, I have lived for the past 3 years using my gas fireplace alone for heat.  In the winter I pare down the rooms I use and keep the doors shut and the drafts blocked and it has been amazingly comfortable.  Especially when I dress like it is winter.

9. Insulate my windows with bubblewrap, I did this in my bedroom this year.  I know sounds crazy, but it really has worked.  Also, I hear the plasticky sort of sound occasionally and I know it is a breeze of some sort that my plastic wraped windows have blocked, so that's good.  Also, my roman shades are made of a relatively sheer white cotton so the sunlight still filters thru while the bubbles are hidden.

10. Use both my front and back yards for crops, this one is basically a front yard thing.  I have Artichoke, Comfrey, Thyme and Rosemary growing in the front yard.  This spring I think I will add some purple kale (real kale, not the decorative stuff), and some swiss chard.

11. Save my pee and use it as fertilizer and compost jump starter.  I also do the "if it's yellow it's mellow" thing with the toilet, but I learned last year what a good source of nitrogen pee is and I have used it and it works.

12. Grow perennial veggies, okay, yea, this is just an extension of gardening, but perennials feel so different, sort of like undeserved bounty.  I have figs, pears, peaches, blackberries, persimmons, asparagus, eggplant and peppers.  Yes! I said "eggplant and peppers".  They are perennials and I have them in pots that come indoors in the winter.  I have 3 kinds of peppers with fruit on them in the den right now.  Oh, and one eggplant ripening. 

13. Keep a wormery, another thing that is so low maintenance for the benefit.  My black tower comes in during the winter and other than putting my food waste and some shredded newspaper in it every week I do very little and reap very beneficial worm poop!

14. Use CFL bulbs, boring but true.

15. Have an outdoor shower - my building project for this summer.  I can't wait to get this going.  Showering outdoors after working in the yard all day - HEAVEN!

16. Buy food locally, well, at least as a first choice, and I am trying to eat more and more within the season.  That actually makes all of the season's meals more special.

17. Eat less meat, especially beef...wish I could live without beef, but every once in a while I just have to have a hamburger. 
18. Use rechargeable batteries.  I bought a solar recharger on Ebay and it works great and it wasn't very expensive.  The batteries are more expensive obviously, but hey they are rechargeable! 

19. Use solar lamps.  I bought a solar lamp from Ikea last week, I wrote about it in an earlier post.  I brought it home and we haven't had a sunny day since!  So even tho' I saw the one at the store working, I haven't seen mine work yet,  I will report back later.

20. Use a solar oven, don't have one yet but this is one of this year's plans.

21. Use water bottles as a heat sink,  I have 2gal water bottles stacked 2 high lined up along my 9ft southern facing window sills in both the den and the dining room.  In the dining room they are mostly hidden and in the den they were hidden, but since I turned the den into a greenhouse they are more exposed.  They help moderate temperature changes between day and night.

22. Recycle - my city has just started accepting ALL plastic for recycling.  It is amazingly easy to recycle when you don't have to filter it yourself.  I am very happy about this.

23. Reuse.  I love old stuff, so I am lucky, reusing is my thing.  I have a door stop that was my grandmother's actual iron IRON, if you know what I mean.  My utensil holder by the stove is one of her butter crocks.  Most ... in fact, all but one of the chairs in my house were inherited, as are the two beds, and most of the tables.  My house was built in 1948.  I feel most comfortable surrounded by things that are already broken in.  Exception to this rule:  Toothbrush.  That's just something that you really want to break in yourself.
24. Wear appropriate and adequate clothing.  Wearing a soft scarf around my neck indoors on a really chilly evening does not bother me at all.  If I didn't want seasons I could move to California.

25. Dry my clothes on the line.  I a not a radical about this either.  There was no sun this week and fog & drizzle to boot.  The load of laundry went in the dryer, but that is the rare exception.  As well as my lines outside, I have lines set up over the bathtub that get used during all weather.
If you are out there and I hope you are, tell me about the things that you do to live sustainably.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

My New Hero

Novella Carpenter is my new hero.  An educated, articulate, and slightly irreverent urban farmer.  Okay, so I am a little slow getting to her book Farm City.  I have to wait for books to get to the library so give me a break.  I had seen Novella Carpenter on at YouTube, so both her name and her picture on the back of the book were familiar to me and let me know that I would probably like this book and I did.

There is something so 'taken for grated' about the way she chose to move to a scary part of Oakland, her neighborhood was nicknamed "Ghost Town" and squat garden on the vacant lot next door.  She makes it all seem so natural.  Her great respect for her animals on the other hand makes her point of view very special.  I don't know that I will ever be able to dispatch the animals that I eat, but I have to admire her for her ability to do it and to it with such decency. 

Novella steps so easily into the new situations that she finds herself in, like suddenly becoming the student of a talented chef to learn his craft to make the most of her pig's meat, is inspiring.  As an independent person I often take steps that I don't actually consider adventurous or risky, at least other less independent friends tell me that I do.  Now tho' my horizons have been stretched even further by another who seems to take her boldness in stride. 

Being late to the Farm City fame tho' does have some good points.  I believe there is another book in the works and I won't have to wait as long to read it as those who found Novella Carpenter early on.  Between now and then there is her blog Ghost Town Farm.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2011 -- It's going to be a very good year!

Last year's number one goal having been accomplished (finding a new and full time job) made the assignment of choosing this year's list of focus items much more enjoyable!

I love my new job and after quick look at Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs, I understand why everything and I mean everything seems better in my life.

No. 1 on the list of needs is of course air/food/water/shelter.   I had all of these things but each was in jeopardy until I found a full time job and a real salary. 

No. 2 is protection from the elements/security/stability:  My house keeps me out of the elements, but I was in fear of loosing my house and that did a number on the security and stability. 

No. 3 is Belongingness:  workgroup, family, relationships -- this one is kind of funny, because had I not been in such dire straights for the last 12 months I don't think I would have appreciated the friends and family relationships that I have.  There were many times when I had to go begging (literally and figuratively) and always, ALWAYS my friends and family not only came to my rescue, but made me feel good about myself with words of encouragement and understanding, and they continually reminded me that this was a situational problem and not 'who I was'. 

At the same time I found a work family that has made me feel very at home and valuable, needed and respected.  These things are No. 4 on the list:  Esteem -- mastery/independence/status. 

No.5 is Self Actualization.  This item consists of realizing personal potential, self fulfillment, personal growth and peak experiences.  I am living in a house that I love, working in a job that I am excited about and trying everyday for self fulfillment and personal growth.  This blog is one of my ways of doing this.  Peak experiences tho'...I am not sure what those are, maybe my peak experiences just aren't those usually associated with the word peak.  I don't want to climb Mount Everest or land on the moon.  For me I guess a 'peak experience' is sitting in a warm living room, after a day of working in the garden, and walking the dogs, having eaten a nice meal typing in my blog. 

Items for Focus this Year are:

  1.  Improve my fiscal security.
  2.  Improve my health.
  3.  Continue to work on my Healthcare Software Analyst Certification
  4.  Increase and improve my food production.
  5.  Improve my water reclamation system and my water conservation methods.
  6.  Begin to raise Angora Rabbits.
  7.  Continue to clear out the clutter and take on small interior improvements.
  8.  Experiment on a small scale with solar power.
  9.  Blog regularly and enthusiatically.
10.  Learn, learn, learn.

I am feeling pretty Peaky here at Powell Cottage, Happy New Year!