sPrInG!

Spring is always a little crazy.

Kingbirds are fighting in the sky over the vegetable garden, spring weeds are hurrying to set seeds before summer weeds take over the world. Everything from carrots and mustard to tomatoes and eggplants are growing and  flowering and staking out their place in the garden. And suddenly its the time of year when irrigation never ends, and each sprinkle of rain might be the last until fall! Eek!

So basically that’s my long winded excuse for not writing more often or having pictures to post. There is just so much to do!

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Queso is famous

Queso, one of the farms taquitos (the triplet goat kids whose mother was named Taco), went with me to represent Heifer International at an earth day event yesterday, and she got our picture in the Modesto Bee!

http://www.modbee.com/2011/04/14/1645790/modestos-earth-day-festivities.html

I still do a table for Heifer at events now and then, as a volunteer. After all, they left me a lifetime supply of stickers, erasers, books, and all sorts of info when they closed the office here last year. I don’t know if anyone learned anything about Heifer at earth day, but all the elementary school kids definitely enjoyed meeting queso and getting stickers!

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Volunteer day April 30th

Saturday April 30th we’re having a community volunteer day on the farm!
9:30 am
The farm’s address is 3906 Don Pedro Rd. Ceres
If you’ve been wanting to see the farm and get some spring sunshine, here is your chance! We’ll be working on some bigger projects like repairing fences and gates, and also various garden activities. So bring a hat and water bottle and come on over!  Lunch will be provided.
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Eggs for sale!

Eggs for sale! $3/dozen. Tastier, healthier, and better for karma than eggs from caged chickens!
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What season is it?

That’s been a hard question to answer lately! It’s been colder than “normal”, especially at night, so planting is a little behind schedule and there have been some unexpected loses. Some light frosts last week nipped the potatoes, and it’s still cold enough at night that summer veggies need to be covered. The first rows of tomatoes and squash are in the ground, but covered with remay (a light cloth that lets light through), and cucumbers and eggplants are soon to be planted and given the same treatment. Luckily though, the leafy green vegetables are loving this weather. More mustard and collards!

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Mennonite tomatoes, round 2

Probably everyone who is reading this blog already knows that the Mennonite tomato post I put up a while back made it to the world of real ink and paper!  The Bucks County Herald (the county my mother grew up in in Pennsylvania), printed it in this weeks paper.  Click the following link to go to their electronic edition. It’s on page 37 (D3).

http://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/launch.aspx?referral=other&pnum=&refresh=Xe209Q1dZm30&EID=975c5cdd-a404-45c3-96f8-b852fbf85d60&skip=

The article mentions my grandfather’s childhood farm in Buck’s County, and I’m lucky enough to have a few pictures:

 

Fretz siblings on the family farm

The Fretz siblings. My grandfather is far left. The Fretz's came to Pennsylvania from Switzerland in the mid 1700's, part of a wave of Mennonite immigrants.

My grandfather's prize winning barred rock rooster

A barred rock chicken, (hen not rooster), on my farm today.

Anyway, I think my grandfather would be proud that one of his grandchildren is back on a farm today. As for what my mother would think of me having an article published in the Bucks County Herald, I think my Aunt Barbara said it best:  “Your mother would have likely found a typo or something to note, but she would have bubbled over with delight — though, like a Mennonite, without showing off.”

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Getting re-acquainted…

It must finally be getting around to summer. Last week I pulled the drip tape back out and irrigated for the first time this year.

Also in the past week, all of a sudden lambsquarter (an entirely edible weed when it’s small) is sprouting everywhere!

Stinging nettle sprouts when spring is just starting, lambsquarter jumps up when spring is in full swing, and then pigweed starts rocketing toward amazing heights when there is absolutely and certainly no chance whatsoever of another frost. So far I haven’t seen any pigweed, (which is a good excuse for why I haven’t transplanted tomatoes yet), but I’m sure it’s coming!

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Time for a big pot of collards

Last Thursday it hailed. The big wide leaves of the collards were not too happy about that:

Luckily most of the other vegetables didn’t seem to mind the storm, even the kale and recent transplants. And the collards were starting to go to flower anyway, so they are about done with life. Never fear though, there is a new round of collards growing already!

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Here’s to seed catalogs

Well, here we are near the end of March and yesterday I seeded the third and penultimate round of eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes, as well as other assorted veggies.

This round of seeding took place on my kitchen floor (linoleum and easy to clean, luckily). Anyone in California will understand why I ventured outside yesterday only long enough to feed the animals and gather up supplies for seed starting. I forget which month is said to come in like a lion and go out like a lamb, but in any case March showed it’s roaring lion side this week.

Seed starting indoors. And Joon's tail.

The seed trays will stay in my house’s front bathroom to germinate. The temperature is easier to control there with a space heater than in the greenhouse.

The front bathroom, currently

 

Anyway, back to the seeds — I’m done buying seeds for this summer, and sooner than you know it I’ll be taking notes on what varieties to order for next year.

But before I put the seed catalogs away completely, I’d like to pay tribute to a few of the strange and wonderful things I saw in them this year.

1. Drunken Woman Frizzy Headed lettuce.

Yes, that is the actual name of a lettuce variety. No, I’m not growing it, but I’d love to know the story behind this one.

2. Grafted tomato plants

Whaaaaat? Does life really have to be so complicated? As with fruit trees, for these tomato plants the desired tomato variety is grafted onto a rootstock of a different, more vigorous and disease resistant variety. So if you want a Brandywine heirloom tomato but they seem very susceptible to wilts and rots from bacteria in the soil, or if your soil has a really bad nematode issue, these grafted plants provide a way to the best of both worlds: roots resistant to soil-borne diseases, but with the same exact Brandywine fruits.  Of course, they are expensive and available in limited varieties.

3. The entire Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Catalog

If you ever forget or doubt the amazing wonder and diversity of vegetables in this world, this catalog will remind you pictures and descriptions of a wide range of interesting and sometimes bizarre heirlooms. I didn’t buy anything from this company, but looking through the catalog was a treat in itself. I’ll probably use it this summer to pique high schoolers’ interest in the vegetable world. White watermelon, anyone?

4. Stuffing tomatoes

They look like a bell pepper inside (hollow) and out, but with the texture and taste (sort-of) of a tomato. Oh vegetables, how strange you are.

 

That’s all for today, the world outside is sunny again and calling me away from the computer…

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greenhouse

The greenhouse is quickly filling up!

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