Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Winter's Garden

My fence boxes are complete.
Yesterday I put out the transplants for our cold crop and began the transition to the winter garden. Naturally, after our cold, wet summer, the past week has been dry and quite hot. I had to run the sprinkler yesterday because the garden soil was dry deep down. I've noticed over many years that a cold spring or summer often is followed by a hot winter. My hope this year is for a warmer winter, but with weather still cold enough to protect against insects and disease. If the weather isn't too cold I often get a greater yield from my winter plants for the very reason that they are not so harassed by pests and pestilence as in summer.

Much to Jerry's chagrin, I discovered transplants were ready at the store and stocked up on cabbage, lettuce, cauliflower, more rhubarb, and some winter herbs. Jerry worries about me shopping at hardware and garden stores the way most men fear their wives frequenting shoe stores! I really should have tried to start these from seed, but we no longer have a sun room in our house, and that is where I always placed my seed flats. I have some old windows I took from my grandfather's barn, and I hope to someday make some cold frames from them for the express purpose of seed-starting and early transplanting.

Yesterday, planting Bibb lettuce (a favorite of mine; I could eat it all day long!) and watching it practically disintegrate I promised myself to try and learn more about hydroponics. Lettuce, especially delicate Butter or Bibb lettuce, really doesn't transplant well. It's just too fragile. It also gets eaten practically the minute you put it out, and it gets sunburned; that's why I'd like to try growing it hydroponically. My usual protocol is to sow seeds for lettuce, Mesclun mix, spinach, and peas every couple weeks throughout the fall and spring. That way, I always have a new crop coming up and I can pick the lettuces when they are tender babies rather than waiting for heads to form. I find I have much less problems with pests like cabbage worms that way, and I prefer the taste.

The tomato tied to the metal fence with nylon is far more robust than the other plant.

I promised you a report on the success of the nylon ties, and I do believe they are working. We had been picking just one or two ripe tomatoes each week before and now we have had three already this week. The dry weather is also helping, I'm sure. I did set up a little experiment, however, and have documented the results. I have one row in the garden which hasn't done well all summer. I have a row of tomato plants there and they are all small and scraggly. I bent the tallest one over and tied it to the metal fence with a nylon. I left the others untied, as a "control group". Well, my tied tomato has grown measurably over the past week and has little to no yellowing of the leaves, whereas my control group is still tiny and scraggly and have leaves starting to yellow. So it would seem the static electricity caused by the contact of the nylon tie with the metal fence does help create more robust plants.

Cabbage and lettuce started under tomatoes to protect them from the sun.

I'm trying a few more little tricks I've heard about over the years. First, since I'm planting winter crops in hot weather, I am staggering the plants, putting a cold plant like cabbage or lettuce, underneath the taller summer plants, like peppers or tomatoes. This shields the winter plant from the sun while it's still small and tender. When the summer plants die back the winter plants should have hardened off enough to face the sun and weather on their own.

I'm trying peat pot tops as guards against cabbage worms and slugs.
Then, I am trying to re-use the peat pot tops as cabbage worm guards. Peat pot manufacturers advise you to cut away part of the pot to let the plant's roots grow out without shocking them. I always cut away the shrink-wrapped part, since it's so hard to remove without tearing the pot. I arranged these as little guards around the plants' stems to keep slugs and cabbage worms and other crawling pests away. This won't work for flying insects, so I will still have to put in floating row covers. Besides peat pot tops, I've also used clear plastic cups for this. You cut out the bottom of the cup and place it around the plant to protect it.

I still need to sow carrots from seed (they also don't like being transplanted) and I didn't see any kale already started so I'd like to get that in as well from seed. I also have harvesting the summer herbs on my list. I want to dry and freeze them and make a bunch of pesto. There's just always so much to accomplish, and never enough time!

Because I spent the weekend working on my store and getting the kids ready for school I fell behind on my cleaning and the house is trashed. Or was trashed, because I cleaned the floors and washed laundry for hours yesterday. I still haven't finished the whole house, though, and my sister and her family are coming to stay this weekend, so I need to get on it.

I woke up feeling unwell today, though. Nothing much is actually wrong except my allergies are bad and I am just exhausted. My limbs feel heavy and I could barely drag myself out of bed this morning. I suppose I'm just so out of shape from sleeping in all summer that getting up early combined with housework and garden work did me in. I also walked about four miles last night, the first I've walked for a while.

I have to change my diet and exercise routine constantly, or my body gets used to it and starts gaining weight. My grandmother, who grew up in the Depression and so had a different point of view on these things, always called this our "good" genes. She said we'd always be sure to survive a famine! So, a few weeks ago I got a really terrible blister from my new running shoes and I switched to dancing in bare feet until it healed. I also had to switch up the smoothie diet. Even just having a kale smoothie for breakfast and lunch and then a regular dinner, I was not losing weight anymore! I have had a lot of people commenting on how good I look lately, and so I want to keep it up. So now I'm trying Dr. Oz's new Ayurvedic plan. You are supposed to get 50% of your calories at lunch and drink a slimming tea all day.

Dr. Oz's weight loss "tea".

The "tea" has no actual tea in it, so it's great if you're trying to give up coffee or tea or iced tea so you can be a Mormon! You mix 1/2 teaspoon each whole fennel, cumin, and coriander in 5 cups of boiling water and simmer 5 minutes. Then strain out the seeds and drink it all day. I don't have whole cumin or coriander, so I'm running ground spices through the coffee maker or using a tea infuser lined with a coffee filter. It's weird, but not bad. The tea smells like a taco, but it doesn't have much taste at all. I substituted it for part of my wine last night, since you're supposed to eat as little as possible after 3PM. I guess I'll do this for a while and then move back to my smoothie diet. Last summer I switched plans every week or so and I did lose some weight. We shall see.

American Character's Tiny Betsy McCall in her wedding gown.
Besides all the gardening and housework, I've been restoring some old 1950s Betsy McCall clothes. I finished the Sun N Sand set and sold it and now I've finished the wedding gown. I still have Pajama Party and some odds and ends to complete, along with a doll. The doll's hip needs to be re-attached, so I'm trying to get that done so I can list her. Today I got a Binnie Walker with a big crack in her face, too, so I am starting on her. I sent my Ginny Baby off to Norway already, and my little Twinkle Toes Betsy went to Oklahoma, so once again my cabinet is looking bare. Keep checking my store for Betsy and her clothes:


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