Planting, growing and freezing the winter crop of Nantes carrots.

Dad always seemed to have a knack for growing vegetables. We kept the garden watered and hoed, but everything just seemed to grow. When I moved to Georgia I expected everything to grow – but better- because its warmer than West Virginia. Boy was I wrong. It seems that vegetables, shrubs and flowers are always suffering from drought, flood, grub worms or flocks of blackbirds.

One of the first things planted in my Georgia garden were carrots. Mound the dirt, cut a trench, plant, and water – easy enough, or so I thought. Until fall 2016, I grew only a handful of carrots, but this year everything came together and the carrots did very well!

For garden V.2, planted in September, we spent more time preparing the ground for plants. First off, the garden was in the wrong place for years.  The backyard has a slight slope, and lies downhill from several other yards and a road. Several times a year I have flooding of 5″ or more. This has washed all the topsoil away from most of my yard, leading me to construct a series of drainage basins, ditches and elevation changes to divert the water through and out of the yard. After studying the water flow, I found a 20x30ish section of yard that retained quite a few feet of topsoil. We removed grass and weeds,  added manure and plowed it twice.

In addition, I read that gardeners in my area have good luck with Nantes carrots. They are shorter than what I have been trying to grow- and sure enough they gave me a crop 10x better than the closest competitor.  Dad also told about my Grandfathers trick to raise carrots. After he plants the seeds, he laid a piece of wood on top of each row to apply pressure to the row.  When you can pick up the board and see seedlings about 1/4 long you remove the boards and water. The reasoning was that having that board prevents early plant growth and promotes root growth. Whether or not that is sound advice I don’t know, but I do know that my crop was great this year, and I did follow that advice.

Part of the crop was cleaned up and taken to lunch in place of baby carrots from the store. The other part of the crop was cleaned, cut up, and was put in the freezer. For freezing the carrots, I followed a process outlined in this article by Getty Stewart. Don’t bypass the ice bath step. I ran my carrots under cool water but they were still warm and it made it much harder to get all of the air out of the bags before freezing.

After seeing the results of the garden after amending the soil, I remembered how much time dad spent working the dirt. That’s probably the reason I remember everything growing so well and so easily.

What’s wrong with this garlic?

The family back in West Virginia grows insane amounts of beautiful garlic  that they dry and use year round. My Georgia garlic has never been able to compete. The problem, no doubt, is me.

About  seven years ago, I planted cloves from my aunt’s garden. It grew well and some was used for cooking, but I neglected it and most of it was left to die back for winter.  Every year it comes back, and some is used, but it never grows cloves that I am used to seeing.  The plant has a mild flavor and looks like an onion. Last year there were smaller bulbs growing alongside the larger, but they never fully developed.

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I’m curious to know if this garlic can be dried and saved, and if not, what should I have done differently? Is this because I left it in the ground too long?

Thoughts are welcome.

Checking in on the winter garden: carrots, broccoli & garlic.

Though it’s only January in Georgia, it feels like spring is right around the corner. The forsythia bushes are starting to bloom, and vegetables planted in Fall are starting to grow.

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This was my first attempt at growing over the winter, and I am sold. Carrot seeds, onion sets and young broccoli were planted in late September.  We had some temperatures in the 20’s  but already are seeing highs in the 70’s.

The plants have been left uncovered with the exception leaves from the pecan tree that blew into the garden, which I thought would insulate the plants a bit.  During a week when we had ice and a skip of snow,  I covered them with affordable plastic picked up at Ace Hardware.  Actually now that I think about it, the onions were left uncovered and the broccoli was covered with a wool blanket supported with wooden steaks and pvc pipe – the only option I could find after running out of plastic. If we get any more bad weather, I will cover everything with plastic again since it worked the first time. The carrots have grown tall enough that bigger supports will need to added to keep the weight of snow or ice  on the plastic from crushing or damaging the plants.

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We do have to report that the bug/pollinator hotel fell over after a couple of weeks of hard rain, and will need to be rest deeper and with concrete this time. The bamboo and some of the bark fell out, so once its upright we can add more spaces for the pollinators. This will also give me a chance to add a section made from paint stirrers that *should* attract bees.

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Deciding not to raise quail.

A wise man once talked about the importance of knowing when to hold ’em, and knowing when to fold ’em.  I know the quote, but am usually too stubborn to live by it.

This is the case with my venture with raising quail. It went through many variations, none of which worked out, and this week I made the decision to walk away from the project.  It doesn’t feel like failure, but that there is more energy to invest in other ideas – which I’m never short of.

So I’m shelving the quail idea for a later date, and will see if this quote from “The Gambler” can be useful for decluttering other parts of my life.

You’ve got to know when to hold em, know when to fold em know when to walk away, know when to run.”  The Gambler, Kenny Rogers.

An old, but recently uncovered, post about the dogs.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The quiet means something is going on. I looked back over my shoulder and there was Dan, the German Shepard, and Boo, the sometimes-bitchy red Border collie, in a tug of war with one of my white short socks.  It was short.

Dan pulled away and jumped with the dead sock in his mouth then ran through the living room past me and into the kitchen. He simultaneously jumped as he passed the pantry and flipped his head, sending the sock into the kitchen. As it slid to a stop against the cabinet, Dan hopped, like a rabbit, behind it. He grabbed it and ran back into the living room, where I could tell he ravaged it some more, but I could only tell by the sounds coming from behind me.  He came up to me, sitting at my desk, and put the slobbered sock on my leg, urging me to play.  I glanced down and established eye contact, but once I didn’t act it he walked off. Boo disappeared to her favorite chair, tired. Dan has gone to the right side of the couch, which is his favorite.

Willow is in the bedroom sleeping.  She is the yellow lab, the first of the bunch, and prefers napping to playing with Boo and Dan.  Often when they get loud and rowdy she will look at me with disgust.  I let her in the bedroom; she awkwardly jumps into bed and looks back at me as I close the door, just as I did earlier.

It’s later in the day and the dogs and I just came in from playing in the snow.

Not enough to play in, but still fun to go out and play in the big flakes. The dogs seem to enjoy it also.  Dan is sitting next to me as I type. He has water droplets all over him and they sparkle in his jet-black hair. He is clumsy. Again he has run into or bumped something, or maybe Boo got him, but he has a cut just below his right eye. This means that he has cut the top and bottom of each eye in the six months that I’ve had him. When he looks up at me its hard to notice the pink scratch.  He walked off, and through the kitchen, dining room and back into the living room where he is standing next to me again.  I don’t know if he wants to be dried off or wants to go back outside where he can chase birds and squirrels. He almost got a squirrel this morning, surprising that he could be that agile outside.  He is still sitting next to me, looking out the kitchen window at the snowflakes.

Dan came here to live out of necessity in the Fall as a stray that my boyfriend found. He brought a certain amount of chaos to his home, already filled with two dogs. Since my home lives in chaos, and since Dan did something, very very wrong, it made sense to bring him here.  He is back and sitting by me again. I believe he is a companion dog, which I’ve always heard of but never noticed until now. As I am cleaning he follows me around. When I stop to pay attention to something on the TV he stands by my side, looking in the same direction as me like he is waiting for something to catch his attention as well or maybe he is content to stand there as long as he is with someone. Not long after he was found I was outside with him and some kids walked by.  One looked at him and said “Hey – Its Rex!” but then kept walking without concern. It’s unfortunate that Dan can want someone like that but someone didn’t want him.  I think ill give him a bowl of ice.  Nothing thrills him like a bowl of ice.

Quail Coop Version 2.

 A month or so ago we posted drawings for a custom quail coop that was going to be built by a local vocational center. Unfortunately, this did not work out due to cost, and since then we have been looking for new options. The custom coop was going to cost about $140 and was being built with 2″ furring strips, which we weren’t sold on since the coop was 6′ long.

The easy answer is to build a simple coop myself, but allergies make this a tough decision, so we’ve decided to go with an affordable rabbit hutch found on eBay that we will improve for quail. The hutch was delivered, and was a bit of a disappointment, but after a week of sharing the living room with it, we have come up with a design that should work well! (See pic above)  This coop cost us $65 including shipping, and with additional items should land at about $95. 

Note: While we were disappointed with the hutch when it arrived, it is a completely acceptable rabbit hutch. The disappointment was only in the changes needed to convert the hutch into a quail coop and not with the product.

So, lets talk about exterior/structural alterations that will be made. Interior changes will be determined after we have quail and have seen how they will use it.

  • Because it is only about 15” deep, we will extend it by about 10” to give the quail a little more room – this will also let us more room for water, branches, etc.
  • All of the wire will be replaced with .5” hardware cloth to make it harder for the quails feet to be damaged, and to keep critters out.
  • Wire will be added to the bottom of the coop, and the entire box will be lifted off the ground and placed on posts.
  • The roof will be covered with a crap piece of Ondura roofing.
  • Hardware will be switched out with stronger options.
  • Some corners will need to be reinforced and some joints will need caulk.

As with most projects, dad will be coming down to help out. Most of the supplies needed for these changes we already have lying around. Working at a local hardware store was awesome due to the fast I could make offers on damaged items and collected a good amount of clearance items that have been stashed in the shed. With all of these changes, the only item we will need to go purchase new is caulk and hardware cloth.

More to come as we actually start making enhancements on the hutch!

An optimistic goodbye to 2016. 

If nothing else, 2016 has taught me to have a backup plan, and backup plans for that plan. Maybe it’s teaching me not to plan at all. As I enter 2017, I carry uncertainty with me, and am unable to remember a time when so many aspects of life – employment, health, family, even the state I will reside in – has been in disarray. It’s like a slow-motion trip, and realizing mid-fall that you are going down, but you can do nothing but anticipate the impact. 
That being said, I have an amazing amount to be thankful for, and am optimistic enough to think that all of those unknowns will lead to change that could lead to even more happiness and contentment.  
So while I won’t miss 2016, I also won’t curse it. I will just nod goodbye and trust that it will help me to appreciate the good times to come.