Friday, December 30, 2016

it popped!!

popcorn IMG_9816

My popcorn popped! I'm so happy. And it's really tasty popcorn. Crisp and hull-less. Really nice flavor even without butter and salt. Super with them. I wish it was a open pollinated (OP) variety that breeds true so I could save the seeds to replant next year. But it's F1. Nevertheless, I'll buy this variety again next year. Pop!! We'll have it with our New Year's champagne!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

popcorn test ...

popcorn IMG_9798

Last year I grew a lovely multicolored popcorn (Calico) and had a pretty good yield. Unfortunately it didn't pop. I tried hydrating it more and drying it more. But I couldn't get any of it to pop.

This year, I went back to a plain old yellow popcorn, like one that's worked for me in previous years. Not the same variety as earlier, but Johnny's Seeds' best recommendation. Robust 997. I had a small yield because of this year's drought (and my inattention to watering).

Today is the day for testing! I just took it off the cobs and we're warming up the Whirley-Pop. Will it pop???

popcorn IMG_9796 popcorn IMG_9801b

my list of seed varieties to grow for 2017

My total number of varieties to grow this year is 132. I've saved 9 myself, have 102 packets saved from previous years, and I'll buy (or share with other gardeners) another 21. I'll just grow a few plants of most varieties so I can try a lot of different ones. I'm trying 14 new varieties and many varieties that I grew last year that I won't grow this year.

Beans, Bush: Maxibel, Jumbo, Black Valentine, Wade
Beans, Pole: Wax, Shung Wang's Beans, Emerite, Logan Giant, Kentucky Wonder
Beans, Bush, Shell: Jacob's Cattle Bean, Black Turtle Soup

Beets, Pink: Chiogga Guardsmark
Beets, Red: Merlin, Red Ace, Detroit Dark Red

Broccoli: Diplomat (spring crop), Arcadia (fall crop), Mini, Red Fire

Cabbage, Red: Red Express
Cabbage, Green: Murdoc
Cabbage, Savoy: Alcos
Cabbage, Napa: Mini Kisaku 50
Cabbage, Pac Choi: Mei Qing Choi, Pechay

Carrots: Bolero, Scarlet Nantes, Oxheart

Celeriac: Brilliant

Corn: Baby Golden Popcorn

Cucumber, Slicing: Diva, Suyo Long, Straight Nine
Cucumber, Pickling: Miniature White, Little Leaf

Eggplant: Hansel, Barbarella, Mitoyo

Fennel: Orion

Gourd: Speckled Swan 

Greens, Endive: Tres Fine Maraichere Olesh
Greens, Escarole: Natacha
Greens, Mustard: Ruby Streaks

Herb, Basil: Superbo
Herb, Cilantro: Calypso
Herb: Cumin 
Herb, Dill: Mammoth
Herb, Parsley: Dark Green Italian Plain

Kale: Vates

Leeks, King Richard, Giant Musselberg

Lettuce, Butterhead Green: Edox, Skyphos
Lettuce, Looseleaf Red: Red Sails
Lettuce, Oakleaf: Danyelle
Lettuce, Romaine: Truchas, Monte Carlo
Lettuce, Bibb: Rhazes MT0
Lettuce, Iceberg: Ice Queen
Lettuce, Summer Crisp: Cherokee, Muir

Onions Scallions: Nabechan
Onions: Pontiac, White Wing, Wethersfield Red, Ailsa Craig

Parsnips: Turga

Peas, Snap: Sugar Snap
Peas, Snow: Oregon Giant

Peppers, Hot: Thai Hot, Jalapeno, Joe’s Long Cayenne, Poblano
Peppers, Numex: Joe E Parker
Peppers, Bell: Ace, Canary Bell, Red King of the North

Potatoes: Green Mountain

Pumpkins: Rouge Vif D’Etampes, Jarrahdale

Radicchio: Perseo

Radish: Rudolf, French Breakfast

Soy Beans, Green: Tohya, variety from R. Swain

Spinach: Kookaburra

Summer Squash, Patty Pan: Benning’s Green Tint
Summer Squash, Yellow: Slick Pik
Summer Squash, Zucchini: Costata Romanesco

Sweet Potatoes

Tomato, Slicers: Brandywine Suddath’s, True Black Brandywine, Carbon, Mortgage Lifter, Orange Blossom, Pink Beauty
Tomato, Paste: Blue Beech, Heinz 2653, Opalka, Polish Linguisa, Jersey Devil
Tomato, Cherry: Sun Gold

Winter Squash: Waltham Butternut, Buttercup Burgess, Blue Ballet, Ute Indian, Yokohama

Ageratum: Tall Blue Planet
Calendula: Triangle Flashack
Cleome: large magenta
Cosmos: Summer Sunshine Mix, Summer Sunshine in Pink
Marigold: Giant African (3-4ft), Queen Sophia (10-12in)
Hyacinth Bean
Liatris: Purple Blazing Star
Love-in-a Mist
Shasta Daisy
Sunflower: Autumn Beauty (6ft) , Mammoth (12ft), Incredible (20in)
Sweet pea: High Scent

Zinnia: small red, Profusion Single Mix, Benary’s Giant Purple

few catalogs, lots of plans

I've only gotten 4 or 5 seed catalogs this year. Not sure why I like to see them accumulate in a stack this time of year. I suppose memories. I used to read them cover to cover. Curled up on the couch after dinner while a football game was on the TV. I used to read all about each plant, how to grow it and harvest it, what to expect. Then I'd circle it and mail in my order.

These years I collect the catalogs but they stay in their stack. I might get an idea or two from the first few pictures. Everything is on line now. All the seeds, information and ordering.

Over the past couple days I've put together my variety list for next year, 2017. I just need to fill in the flower list tomorrow and then I'll be ready to order the seeds I need. Usually I draw out my garden plan first, and then figure out my seed list. This year I'm trying the reverse. Some seeds sell out early. This way I'll get my order in soon. After that, I'll have plenty of time to make a garden plan, which I may or not follow anyway. (At least I don't need to make a planting schedule because I follow my iPhone app.) My garden plan is fun to draw up in the middle of winter. It lends itself to on the spot revisions in the beautiful spring air, when it does come. Well, that's to be expected. But in the middle of winter I like a seed list and a planting plan.

I'll try to finish and post my variety list tomorrow. During our Nor'Easter.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

I have to remember to start sprouting my sweet potatoes. They're in the cool pantry now (60F). I'll bring a bunch of small ones into the kitchen to a warm spot.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

my community garden plot today

Charley and I took a quick walk to see how my community garden plot was doing this afternoon. The winter rye cover crop looks good. The salt marsh hay covers my garlic beds. I like the thick branches of my pear trees in the foreground, espaliered along the fence. I'm working on planning what will go into these beds next year.

bvg plot IMG_9625
bvg plot IMG_9628

Saturday, December 17, 2016

winter tunnel in cold snap

winter tunnel IMG_9599

My winter tunnel kept my plants fine in our cold snap down to low single digits over the past few days. Like last year, the tunnel has two layers, and inner fabric layer and an outer plastic layer. The inner layer is help down by rocks, the outer one by long boards.

winter tunnel IMG_9602 winter tunnel IMG_9603
winter tunnel IMG_9598 winter tunnel IMG_9596

The bed is heavily planted with all different types of greens, but they are small and covered with two inches of salt marsh hay. I don't expect these will be ready to harvest until early spring. (I planted late...)

Friday, December 16, 2016

AmaRosa potatoes

Last night I fried up some of the potatoes I grew this year. One was a relatively newly released potato called AmaRosa. It looked interesting to me because its skin as well as its flesh are red.

AmaRosa is described as a mid season fingerling-shaped tuber with red skin and red flesh that is ideal for microwaving, frying or baking. Also, chips made from AmaRosa retain their rosy color and resist fading. Photos and information at PVMI (link here), show it as very deep red. I bought them from Fedco/Moose Tubers. They said the tubers were bigger than a fingerling in their trials.

Anyway, I really like the color, but for me the flesh was pale pink, not red. It stayed pink after frying. I had a bad year for all my potatoes (last year - drought and poor soil prep), but it was as big as any of my potatoes. I suppose the drought or my soil may have affected the color. It's a potato I might grow again.

I usually grow many potato varieties, but next year I'm thinking of growing just one - Green Mountain, which is a nice all-purpose potato. I'm not sure if I can really stick to this - I always want to squeeze in a few more plants and try other varieties.

Sliced AmaRosa, German Butterball, and Green Mountain potatoes:

pink potatoes IMG_9569

The same potatoes, fried:

pink potatoes IMG_9579

Thursday, December 15, 2016

the economics of hobby beekeeping

Remember the book "The $64 tomato"? Well, I did some calculating to figure out how much a jar of honey was costing me to produce. The bottom line - it's an expensive bottle of honey. (more....)

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

winterized garden

backyard garden IMG_6129

Here's a photo of my garden taken 4 day ago. It looks about the same today but with a thin dusting of snow and some ice in places. The winter tunnel covers are up, perennials by the fence and some garlic near the tunnel are mulched with leaves or hay. The pots are turned on their sides, tools and hoses are in the shed. Most beds are empty, some have winter rye seed planted. The seed went in too late to sprout yet, but it will once it warms a bit. I tucked in four small bushes that I bought at a fall sale, I'll give them a permanent home in spring.

I haven't made it over to my community garden plot in a while. I hope I can get a picture of that garden sometime soon. I expect the winter rye is up in nice green carpets on the beds. My bed of garlic may have small spouts up an inch covered by a layer of salt march hay. Everything else is bare I imagine.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

staying warm

chickens huddled IMG_6133

To stay warm, my chickens huddle together in their run. Charley hangs out in the house in his favorite spot on the steps.

Charley on the stairs IMG_6143

(I'd like to get more pictures of Suzie. She was sitting next to Charley on the steps and they both looked so cute together. But she runs off if she sees a camera. Occasionally I catch a shot, but not this time.)

Monday, December 12, 2016

winterizing my bee hives

I'd like to do my best to keep my bees alive this winter so I've been reading and asking advice at my local bee club. As they say, ask two beekeepers the same question and you'll get three answers. On top of that, bees have a mind of their own and you can treat two hives the same way and they'll still be totally different. So, here's what I've done for my hives. (more...)

Skippy's Vegetable Garden 2016 Variety List

Skippy's Vegetable Garden 2016 Variety List


Basil, Eleonora (downy mildew resistant)
Basil, Superbo
Basil, Dolce Fresca

Beans, green, Maxibel
Beans, green, Fortex
Beans, green, Jumbo
Beans, pole, Wax
Beans, pole, Shung Wang Chinese
Beans, pole, Gino's Italien
Beans, shell, Jacobs Cattle
Beans, shell, Black Turtle

Beets, red, Merlin
Beets, red, Red Ace
Beets, pink, Chioggia
Beets, gold, Touchstone

Bok Choi, Mei Qing
Bok Choi, Win Win

Broccoli, Diplomat
Broccoli, Bay Meadows
Broccoli, Mini

Cabbage, napa, Mini Kisaku
Cabbage, savoy, Alcosa
Cabbage, red, Red Express

Carrots, Bolero
Carrots, Oxheart
Carrots, Nelson

Celeriac, Brilliant

Cilantro, Calypso

Collards, Flash

Cucumber, pickling, white, Miniature White
Cucumber, pickling, wilt resistant, H-19 Little Leaf
Cucumbers, miniseed slicer, Diva
Cucumbers, miniseed slicer, Corinto
Cucumbers, slicer, very long, Sooyow Nishiki

Dill, Durkat
Dill, Mammoth

Edamame soybeans, Butterbeans

Eggplant, Prosperosa
Eggplant, Calliope
Eggplant, Tiger
Eggplant, Kamo

Endive, Tres Fine

Escarole, Natacha

Fennel, bulbing, Orion

Kale, Winterbor
Kale, Toscano


Lettuce, bibb, Winter Density
Lettuce, romaine, Truchas
Lettuce, leaf, Skyphos
Lettuce, leaf, Oakleaf
Lettuce, leaf, Red Cross
Lettuce, Batavian, red summer crisp
Lettuce, Batavian, green summer crisp

Marigold, Queen Sophia
Marigold, Judy's Giant African

Mustard Greens, Ruby Streaks

Nasturtiums, mixed

 Onion, Pontiac
Onion, White Wing
Onion, Red Wing
Onions Bunching, Nabechan

Parsley, flat leaved Italian

Peas (snap), Sugar Snap

Pepper, sweet, bell, ACE
Pepper, hot, jalepeno, Emerald Fire
Pepper, mild, numex, J E Parker
Pepper, hot, Ancho 211
Pepper, hot, Thai Hot

Popcorn, Calico

Potatoes, German Butterball
 Potatoes, Burbank Russet
Potatoes, Yukon Gold
Potatoes, AmaRosa

Radicchio, Indigo
Radicchio, Perseo

Radish, Rudolf
Radish, French Breakfast
Radish, Daikon Miyashige

Shallot, Prisma Red

Spinach, Kookaburra

Summer squash, yellow, Yellow Crookneck
Summer squash, scallop, Early white bush
Summer squash, scallop, Starship
Summer squash, zucchini, Bosso Nova
Summer squash, zucchini, Costata Romanescu

Sunflower, Teddybear
Sunflower, Russian Mammoth
Sunflower, Autumn Sunset


Tomato, paste, Opalka
Tomato, paste, Amish Paste
Tomato, paste, Heinz 2653
Tomato, paste, Blue Beech
Tomato, cherry, Sun Gold
Tomato, red slicer, Box Car Willie
Tomato, red slicer, Mortgage Lifter
Tomato, red slicer, Brandywine
Tomato, pink slicer, early, Pink Beauty
Tomato, purple slicer, Cherokee Purple
Tomato, orange slicer, early, Orange Blossom

Tomatoes, late blight resistant, for community garden distribution: Jaspar (plum), Iron Lady (slicer), Mountain Merit (slicer), Defiant (slicer)

Winter squash, Waltham Butternut
Winter squash, Blue Ballet
Winter Squash, Buttercup green Burgess strain

Sunday, December 11, 2016

yesterday's harvest

harvest IMG_9535


Well, it has gotten quite cold. 13F outside now. I plugged in the ceramic bulb heater in the chicken coop. I added some extra insulation to my bee hives. We have a bit of snow predicted tomorrow. My husband brought the snow blower up to the garage and put the lawn mower in its spot in the garden shed.

I had some time to rake today and used the leaves to tuck in the roses by my vegetable garden arbor and the flower border along the fence. Charley and Suzie did a lot of running and playing. They seem to love the chilly air. I've let Suzie's fur grow long. Charley has a very nice new red jacket that covers him well. What fun they had.

My winter tunnel looks good, though I didn't open it. There was nice condensation on the inside of the plastic in the sunshine this afternoon, dim as the sun is here now.

My vegetable garden soil is frozen to about 2 inches in most places. I know that because I dug lots of root vegetables today. Not the timing I had planned. I was under the weather as they say the past couple days and also misplaced my "to do" list. So I didn't harvest before the chill. Today I pulled a big pile of carrots, some small celeriac, a few beets, also a bunch of leeks and green onions. I broke through the frozen top soil with my shovel and cracked the icy soil off the vegetables. I hope they are still good. Most of the carrots were in areas that weren't frozen yet. They're all still in a bag now and I'll clean them up and check their condition tomorrow. A good indoor activity where it's warm.

Unfortunately, it sounds like this cold is nothing compared to what's predicted next week. Sounds like much of the country is dealing with very cold weather now that's headed to us here in NE.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

wintery temperatures are coming soon

Icy cold weather is coming in here this weekend. The ground will be freezing. Time for me to pull the last of my carrots, celeriac, beets, cilantro, and leeks tomorrow morning. I'll pick some herbs: sage, thyme, and oregano the dry for winter use. I'll bring my potted rosemary plants in. all my outdoor pots need to be turned on their sides so they don't crack during the winter.

My husband and I have been raking leaves the last couple weeks and I've added many back to my berry bushes to protect them. I'm hoping to keep my bees warmer this winter by adding a couple insulation panels to their hives soon. My chickens are good. They've finished molting and have nice new down jackets. I've turned their heated water tank on now and a light bulb in their coop comes on at 3:45 am. I'm glad it's them and not me getting up that early! But they need 12 hours of light a day to lay eggs and they roost well before 4 pm now.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

winter tunnel is up

I put the covers on my winter tunnel this afternoon. A few days before it's needed. On Friday, our nightime temperature is predicted to drop to 22 degrees F and then into the teens on Saturday. (A bit sudden for us after a mild fall.) With the tunnel up now, a few days before deep cold, it will give a bit of warming to the soil before the deep freeze comes.

Monday, December 05, 2016

a bit of snow on the garden and Charley

snow on garden IMG_9480
snow on kale IMG_9485 snow on gnome IMG_9487
charley IMG_9496 snow on greens MG_9481
charley IMG_9523

Our first snow. It's just a dusting and expected to turn to rain soon.

I don't have my winter bed covered yet. Soon. Everything in it is OK with the snow and our 30-32 degree temperature today. But at the end of this week it's going to get really cold. I'll cover it before that with both layers. Both have survived fine from last year so I will reuse them: a heavy row cover layer (I double it up) and a layer of green house plastic.

Charley has his new fleece coat on. He's so skinny that I'll get him a thicker coat soon. He eats like a horse, but is putting all his growth into getting longer legs.

charley by the pond in our first snow

charley IMG_9501