Thursday, February 26, 2009

Snow Day = Garden Fun

Today, I spent my snow day off of school (yes, another one) taking care of things I've been needing to do with my garden. I started new seeds in the flat I got from my Tilth class. My first batch of seedlings, the ones I started in the class, had to be sacrificed...but not in vain. I learned a lot from my first try. Number one, as soon as you see any green sprouts, you need to take them off the heat right away and get them under the light. That means that you better have your light system ordered, delivered, and set up before you sow your seeds. They sprout quickly! I got my grow light system yesterday, so I'll be prepared this time. Today, I planted Spinach, Dinosaur Kale, Cherry Tomatoes, and Broccoli. Stay tuned to find out how this round turns out.

I also placed an order for seeds today. I spent $70 on the following seeds: 
  • 1/4 gram of Basil-Spicy Globe
  • 3 grams of Bright Lights Swiss Chard 
  • 1 gram of Champion Collards 
  • 1 gram of Ching-Chiang Pac Choi (a.k.a. baby Bok Choy)
  • Costoluto Genovese Tomato (Heirloom Variety #1)
  • Pineapple Tomato (Heirloom Variety # 2)
  • Tiffen Mennonite Tomato (Heirloom Variety #3)
  • 1/2 gram  of Green Deer Tongue Lettuce
  • 1 gram of Green Slam Cucumbers
  • 1/2 gram of Jericho Lettuce
  • 1/2 gram of Merlot Lettuce
  • 1 gram of Napa Carrots 
  • 1 oz of Nash Beans (Good old green beans)
  • 1/4 gram of Red Chidori Kale 
  • 1 oz of Romano Gold Bean
  • 3 grams of Sungreen Squash (zucchini) 
  • 3 grams of Superpik Squash (yellow squash)
  • 1 gram of Talon Onions (yellow storage onions) 
  • 3 grams of Waltham Butternut Squash 
I also bought a few flowers to attract some friendly, pollinating insects:
  • Lobelia-Crystal Palace
  • Alaska Apricot Nasturtium
  • Empress of India Nasturium
I still need to buy my potato starts (fingerlings and purple potatoes), strawberries, more rhubarb, and herbs (oregano, thyme, rosemary, and cilantro). I know it seems like I went a little overboard, but this whole thing is about growing food and I have to buy the seeds some time if I want to do that. Plus, I could have easily bought more (that seed catalog is very enticing), but I was conservative and only bought vegetables that I actually like to eat and buy often. 

Finally, after I placed my seed order, Jake and I went to the Seattle Conservation Corps office in Magnuson Park and bought 2 green cone composters for my house. Once the snow melts, we'll install them and I can start composting, instead of tossing my food waste into the yard waste bin for Cedar Grove. Don't get me wrong, I'm not anti-Cedar Grove compost, but if I can contribute to my own supply, I'd rather do that. After all, that's what this whole project is all about. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Adzuki Butternut Squash Soup

I just made this soup recipe from the web site, 101 Cookbooks, and it is fantastic! I actually didn't add the chipotle or the cilantro, but it still turned out amazing. Those of you who have read my previous blog posts know that I love butternut squash. This soup is really hearty, like a stew or chili. Man, I'm loving dinner tonight. I highly recommend it!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day to me!

Jake rocks my world. He spent most of the day today building retaining walls for our new vegetable garden. Jake and my Dad had to make three trips to Home Depot this morning to get enough stone for the project. So now we'll have a finished space to put the raised beds and I won't have a mud slide to deal with when it rains. Jake is the most amazing boyfriend and I couldn't be more grateful. What a gift! Sorry for the extra cheesy post, but I just had to put that out there.

And to top it off, I discovered that all the bulbs I planted from Bette, Jake's mom, are coming up. Spring is busting out all over!!! I hope everyone is as happy as I am today.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

They're sprouting!

I went to check on my little seeds today and discovered that they're already sprouting! I'm so excited! At my seed class, I learned that the most important thing that germinating seeds need is warmth (and water, of course, to break the seeds' dormancy). In cleaning out my art room, I cleared off a shelf (one of those metal utility shelves, not a solid wood shelf) that is right above a heat vent on the floor. I put my seed flat on that shelf and apparently, that warm and cozy little spot in doing them good. I didn't even need to get a heating pad to set them on. It's great! I placed an order today for a little light set up because once my little seedlings have two true leaves, I'll have to transplant them into little pots and they'll need lots of light. I learned that little seedlings need at least 16 hours of light, so my grow-light set up will help out with that.

On another note, I've been eating pretty well lately too. On Saturday, I made Turnip and Apple Soup with crispy sage and caramelized apples with a recipe that I scored at the Farmer's Market. Turnips are actually pretty tasty and go great with apples and sage. I have also been eating a ton of kale since I started this whole endeavor. Tonight, I made a recipe from my Local Foods cookbook, Kidney Beans with Redbor Kale and Feta. So tasty and super nutritious too. Did you know...kale is a great source of vitamins A, C, and K, and minerals, containing twice the amount of vitamin C as an equivalent portion of orange juice. It also has vitamin E and more calcium than milk! Isn't that amazing? Coincidentally, the baby seedlings in the picture above are kale sprouts! I hope they survive!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Making Room

Now it's time for the hard part. Sure, my seed class went great and now I have a flat of seeds that should start germinating soon. I can't wait for my little seedlings to emerge. But now I have to figure out where I'm going to put them when they do. You see, once they sprout, they'll need light and until the spring equinox (we think that's what it's called... around March 21), there won't be enough ambient light for the plants to thrive. I need to get an artificial light set-up for them until that time comes. I think I'm ready to accept that challenge, however the problem that still remains is figuring out where to put them. So, now I have to purge and clear some space for my new hobby. Ultimately, that means that some of the arts and crafty supplies that I hang on to,but never use, will have to go to make space for my new project. I already have dahlia tubers all over my mosaic/craft work bench so it really won't be that drastic of a transformation. But I have to get some order and organization going in there if I am really going to use my studio to house both projects at once (the project of growing my own food and the project of making art with broken glass). When I go into my studio/"new garden nursery" right now, I want to turn right around and go back because it's so chaotic. I thought about taking a "before" picture of what it looks like right now, but I just can't bear the thought of having a picture of that disaster area on my blog right now (sort of like the fence situation). I just really don't feel like showcasing the mess. So, that's my plan - to log off my computer and get to work on creating a workable space. Hopefully, I'll be able to post an "after" picture soon.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

And so it begins...

I got to go to my "indoor seed starting" class today and it was great! We actually got to start a flat of seeds. I pretty much chose a ton of dark, leafy greens (lucinato kale, redbor kale, spinach, and rhubarb chard) because that is my favorite thing to eat. Plus, they're cool weather crops, so I can actually get them out into the beds sooner and can harvest them in the spring. I did choose some other vegetables that will be an experiment for me, such as broccoli, baby bok choy, cherry tomatoes, and sweet basil. Once I get the system down and have a place to put my indoor seed set-up, I can start even more vegetables. I got the names of some good local seed catalogs and catalogs with seeds that are particularly good for our area/climate. I can't wait to browse through those again. It's like being a kid in a candy store. I guess tomorrow (part 2 of the class), we'll be learning more about the equipment we would need (heat lamps, etc.) to really get into indoor seed starting. The coolest thing about today was getting my hands dirty and planting today - in February. I can't wait until spring!

And for those of you that are wondering about my worm bin...well, it's officially up and running and the worms seem to be settling in quite nicely. The kids loved it! You should have seen all the healthy fruit and vegetables the students brought for snack on the day they knew the worms were arriving. They were dying to add their banana peels and orange rinds to the bin. During the week, one student came up to me and said, "These apple slices 'accidentally' fell on the floor. Can I give them to the worms?" Other students came up to me with barely-eaten apples and told me that they just couldn't eat another bite, so could they give them to the worms? I'm sure all my students' parents would be "thrilled" to know that their children's snacks were really going to the worms that week, but their enthusiasm was priceless. The students are always asking me now what can be thrown away and what can be composted and I think that that is the biggest success of the whole project. My students are learning that the garbage can is not the only option and that composting can be fun. We'll see how it works out. The whole thing makes me a little nervous because I really have no idea what I'm doing with it or how it works exactly. It's a worthy experiment, though, and it's making our class snack time a lot more exciting and nutritious too!