Tuesday, March 9, 2010

This week in pictures

Number One Son participated in his very first Tae Kwon Do tournament last weekend. He was very excited. He won a fourth place trophy (out of four in his division). The tournaments, especially the ones for kids, are usually arranged so that everyone takes home something. Number Two Son has said that he wants to start Tae Kwon Do now, so next month I will have two little rugrats kicking and punching the air around my house.

The hens are giving me about eight or nine eggs a day. In cold weather like this, as long as the hens aren't eating their own I gather eggs and do chicken duties every other day. It takes about that long for them to clean out their feeder. Every four days they get fresh water. Some folks might object to this frequency, but I've been doing it for five winters now and my girls seem to do just fine.

I finally got around to rendering the tallow from our last quarter-beef. So now I've got two gallons of lovely white tallow. Back when I was making loads of soap for sale I would have used this up lickety-split. Now that I'm no longer in the soap-selling business I have a backlog of tallow in my freezer. Anybody cook with tallow? Anybody out there make tallow candles?

In root cellar news, we are finally reaching the end of our stored potatoes. It's quite sad, actually. They have stayed beautiful for so long. And have tasted so good. I cooked up the last of our winter squash a few weeks ago. Several of them had developed mushy spots and couldn't be used. I must keep a better eye on them next winter.

My apples are just starting to turn wrinkly and brown. I've got to do something with them, relatively soon. I've got six pecks left in the root cellar. So a few nights ago I made (yet another) batch of applesauce. Cortland apples add a nice pinkish color to the sauce.

I figure I've got about thirty quarts of applesauce in my basement. And twenty-five quarts of canned apples. That seems like a lot, but we go through it fairly frequently. Much more frequently than dried apple rings. Although a friend of mine suggested soaking the apples in a cinnamon syrup before drying. Maybe the kids would like the dried apples better that way. Something to think about for this week. But making sauce is a lot easier than making dried apple rings.

Hurrah! My onion seeds have sprouted! I have about a hundred of these little green onion fingers poking up through the soil. The 2010 growing season has officially begun! When the fingers get a little bigger I will carefully transplant them into bigger trays.

After reading so many positive reviews, I splurged and asked Hubby to order a book for me. "Gardening when it counts" by Steve Solomon. I've been reading it slowly over the past few days. Surprisingly, I really like it. I wasn't sure I would. Normally when I read a gardening book it tells me to do all these things that are next to impossible (for cost reasons, for time reasons, for lazy reasons) for me to do. A lot of the recommendations Mr. Solomon makes are actually pretty feasible. Even with my clay-loam soils. Although, I'm not about to give up the spring roto-tilling and do all of that digging by hand. Sorry, Steve.

Also, I have to admit that I am one of those idiots that never realized the importance of sharpening my tools. In fact, I've never sharpened them. I feel a little silly about it, now. This is what happens when you grow up without a gardening mentor--you don't learn all these important bits of wisdom. It's no wonder I hate weeding. I've been doing it by hand all these years, preferring to get down on the ground and pull rather than scrape them out with a dull hoe. Hubby bought me a file from the hardware store and we'll give this tool sharpening thing a whirl this spring. I hope it makes weeding a whole lot easier.


Conny said...

No gardening mentor here either. I think I saw a Martha Stewart show once demonstrating how to sharpen garden tools. Still haven't done any sharpening. Hoeing weeds sure would be easier if I'd done that.

Good luck with the sharpening skills. Please let "us" know how it turns out for you. Cheers ~

Karen Sue said...

Hey!! I think I have cousins to your little onions coming up at MY house!! it's all I've started so far, but hoping to get some other stuff started in the next week or 2. I have messes all over and that's life, so what's one more mess of dirt and seeds?? Especially when the end is so happy!!?!?!?

Erin said...

yikes, I have the same problem! One of my resolutions this year is to take better care of my garden tools. Congrats on year 1 of the Root Cellar, looks like it was a big success!

Erin said...

p.s. How many hens do you have laying?

Mama Pea said...

Okay, I'm suffering real applesauce envy here. We finished our very last jar at noon today. Boo-hoo! And wouldn't ya know, it was the BEST applesauce I've ever made. Next year, I'm making twice as much.

I Just Live Here said...

Tallow candles .. hmmm that sounds interesting .. what can you tell me about those ..

Omelay said...

i have a love hate relationship with gardening when it counts. i love it. i hate it and i love to hate it. his opinions are like any other well informed gardener. he has developed a paradigm that works for him and probably may other people. not for me. don't get wrong i learned plenty from him and might even buy his book on composting. mostly i think that his opinions are too strong and absolute.

mulching works really well for us for many reasons that he didn't mention because he doesn't live in the ozarks. although, if he did spend ten years in the ozarks i bet he'd write an excellent about gardening here. i'd probably buy it too even though i'd have to wade past his strong absolutes.

Frustrated Farmer Rick said...

Hey Jo,

Glad to see that the root cellar is working out so well for you guys. preserving our harvest is always one of the hardest parts for us. Love that apple sauce as well. If our trees ever bear apples we will have to remember that. And I so need to get my leeks started.

speaking of soap is there anyone that you would recommend that makes great soap? I am looking to replace body wash with bar soap and your post reminded me.

Keep up the great work.

Thistledog said...

oh, nice post. Reminds me, again, how much I need to start some seeds of my own!.

Yup, a sharp shovel or hoe is a thing of beauty. And the best news is, it ain't hard at all. Best to have a bench vise though, to hold it firm so you can apply good pressure. Otherwise the thing will skitter all over and you'll hate the task.

Spring is coming for sure...

Jo said...

Hi Connie -- Haha! I'd hazard a guess that Martha hasn't sharpened nary a garden tool in many years. That's what flunkies are for! But she sure does make everything look soooo easy.

Hello Karen Sue -- glad to hear the onion cousins are sprouting up at your place! Let me know how they do.

Hey Erin! I'm glad I'm not the only person ignorant regarding tool care! Lol! Misery loves company! We have eleven hens right now, laying their little hearts out.

Howdy Mama Pea -- Yeah, each batch is a little bit different, depending on apple variety, moisture levels, etc. This year's batches seem much better than last year's. If I was better at record-keeping, I would know the reasons why and be able to replicate them. Too disorganized to do that, though!

Hey ManFort -- I don't know anything about tallow candles, just that they used to be used in ye olden days. But I think I should do a bit of research on the uses of tallow.

Jo said...

Hi Karl -- You're right, Mr. Solomon is pretty definite in his opinions. I find that kind of refreshing, oddly. Most of the gardening books I've read are kinda wishy-washy on various things, perhaps because they want to appeal to a wide variety of readers and growing conditions.

Also, most of the gardening books I read say to use tons of spaghnum peat moss and other expensive additives, do soil tests, build raised beds, turn over your compost heap every other day, install soaker hoses along the garden rows, etc. I just can't do all this stuff.

But I agree with you about his strange aversion to mulching. I'm only about 1/4 through the book though, so maybe he will explain his opinions later on. In fact, I'm sure he will. :)

Maybe I just haven't been reading the right books ...

Jo said...

Hi Rick! Yeah, I am completely loving the root cellar. Although with the warm weather the last week it's been hard keeping the temp down to the mid-30s. This is fine, since we just have a few potatoes and apples in there right now. And seed potatoes. Hope those stay dormant for a few more weeks!

I don't know many other soap makers, despite my hobby. And I rarely buy anyone else's soap. I do know that Brynmawr is a natural soap making company out of Mpls.
(http://www.brynmawrsoap.com/) They've been around for awhile and seem to have a loyal following.

Ooo -- I forgot about Lush. Lush has some really nice soaps. (http://www.lushusa.com/shop) But they are obviously a much larger international company. Their bars are also more expensive, and some of the colors they use just can't be all 'natural.' But they are yummy.

Jo said...

Hello Thistledog -- Bench vise, hmm. Don't have one of those. But I do have a hubby willing to hold the thing still while I sharpen, will that work?

Karen said...

I have a confession to make...this is the first spring that I won't have started any seeds...AT ALL!!! I don't miss the mess, work, or any of it!! Maybe it has something to do with working again...just have other stuff to do now! Glad you are still enjoying it!

Jo said...

Hi Karen -- Yeah, it is a lot of work. But I enjoy it. I can see you not missing it, with your intensive work schedule and all. Maybe when you re-retire you can make a big garden and start seeds again. I'm sure that will be your first priority!