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This year I will be growing (and selling!) the following varieties of herbs, peppers, and tomatoes. I’m throwing this out here just in case there are any locals who will be interested in specific varieties. I’ve got half of my peppers planted, but if I know there will be a demand for a certain variety, I’ll plant more. So… speak now if you want me to reserve a set number of any!

Herbs: 

Anise
Basil – Emily, Italian, Cinnamon, Dark Purple Opal, Sweet
Chervil
Cilantro – Slo-bolt, Common
Dill – Dukat, Boquet, Mammoth
Echinacea
Hyssop
Lemon Balm
Marjoram
Oregano – Greek, Organic, Common Italian
Parsley – Giant of Italy, Italian Flat, Dark Green
Rocky Mountain Bee Plant
Rosemary
Sage – Broad Leaf, Garden
Tarragon
Thyme

Peppers:

Red Marconi (sweet)
Gold Marconi (sweet)
Pepperoncini (mild hot)
Cubanelle (hot)
Hungarian Hot (hot)
Cayenne Long Thin (hot)
Ancho (hot)
Craigs Grande Jalapeno (hot)
Purple Beauty (sweet)
Alma Paprika (mild hot)
Yellow Monster (sweet)
Peter (hot)
Fushimi (sweet)
Purple Jalapeno (hot)
Joe’s Jalapeno (hot)
Mexican Jalapeno (hot)
Francisca Habanero (hottest of the hot)
Pasilla Bajio (mild hot)
Lilac Bell (sweet)
Peperone di Cuneo (sweet)
Corno di Toro Giallo (sweet)
Socrates X3R Hybrid (sweet)
Cascabel (hot)
King of the North (sweet)

Tomatoes:

Bellstar (red paste)
White Queen (white beefsteak)
La Roma III VFFNA Hubrid (red paste)
Yellow Bell (yellow paste)
Indigo Apple (purple globe)
Pink Ponderosa (red beefsteak)
Cream Sausage (yellow paste)
Delicious (red beefsteak)
Jujube (red cherry)
Aunt Ruby’s German Green (green beefsteak)
Roman Candle (yellow paste)
Paul Robeson (purple beefsteak)
Gypsy (purple globe)
Amish Paste (red paste)
Principe Borghese (red grape)
Big Rainbow (yellow/orange beefsteak)
Rainbow Beefsteak Mix (grab-bag colors beefsteak)
Mr. Stripey (red/yellow beefsteak)
Tiny Tim (red cherry, only grows to 12-18″ high)
Beefsteak (red beefsteak)
Copia (red/yellow globe)
Orange Banana (orange paste)
Hungarian Heart (red paste)
White Tomesol (white globe)
Gezahnte (red ribbed paste)

Yep. Hands = Full. I could reeeeally reeeeally use a greenhouse! A little note about the herbs: as they get big enough, I’ll be combining them in custom indoor/patio pots, as well as selling them in bulk for outdoor planting. In 3 weeks or so they should be big enough for me to head to the farmer’s market at the VFW post in Menominee, Michigan and start selling. I’ll bring pots and potting soil with me to make custom arrangements. As the time nears, I’ll post on the market facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/MCFFExchange with updates.

Although I’m planting the peppers now, they won’t be ready for sale for at least 6 weeks. The tomato seeds won’t even kiss the dirt until mid-April, so there’s plenty of time to get in your special requests!

Hope you are all as excited for spring as I am! Cross your fingers for an early, warm one to balance out the shitty, late, cold spring we had last year.

Last year my parents bought me a beautiful, tropical Jasmine plant for my birthday. It thrived during the warm, humid summer months, but as soon as we started using the wood stove the interior of our home became a hot, dry climate. When the sun began its descent into oblivion, our southern exposure window just wasn’t enough. That poor Jasmine plant slowly lost all of its leaves and dried up, no matter what measures I took to prevent its demise. It’s now buried in a snow bank behind the house, may it rest in peace. To fill the empty area in our living room, I decided to try my hand at growing an herb inside. I needed a pick-me-up after my utter failure with the Jasmine.

Fast forward a couple weeks and there are four strong borage plants growing inside the pot. I’ve been told the leaves are good in salads and taste like cucumber. It’s only supposed to grow 1′ tall, so it should be a perfect one for the windowsill. Here are my first seedlings of the year:

Borage.

Borage.

Since my small success with borage, I’ve also started this year’s onion experiment. Last year I didn’t start the onions until the end of February, and they were small at the end of the summer. This year I started them at the end of January to give them another four weeks of growth. I have a red and a white variety, both new since I wasn’t very impressed with last year’s stock, though I’ve kept what onions I harvested from last year and plan on replanting them as sets this spring. The experiment continues!

Red and White Southport Globe onions.

Red and White Southport Globe onions.

I’ve also been experimenting with indoor plants. If you know me, you know I have always had a black thumb for house plants. Maybe my problem is that I chose exotic plants that need a very specific microclimate in order to thrive. Maybe my problem is that I assume all plants enjoy tons of sun. I’ve learned a lot so far this winter. For instance – my aloe plants. Aloe. Grows wild in arid climates. Loves the sun. Right? That’s what I assumed, so I had it in the southern window for the longest time and the darn plant kept wilting and getting browner and browner. So I switched it to a northern exposure window in desperation and the damn thing plucked right up! It’s sitting happily in the kitchen window, watching as we do dishes and haul wood to the house. My mom gave me a couple spider plant babies she snipped from her plants, and I’ve successfully propagated them into crazy, beautiful specimens. The regular spider plants enjoy direct sunlight, but the variegated variety is loving indirect sunlight on the kitchen island in the middle of the great room. For some reason the variegated one was only growing long, spindly, horizontal offshoots when in direct sunlight, but in the week since I’ve moved it to the island it has filled in on top with a bunch of wild, vertical leaves. One of my neighbors noticed how much I enjoyed plants and gave us what she calls a Walking Jew. In her house, they are purple with a silvery sheen. In my house, the plant is purple with a green sheen. Crazy how two different environments can make the same plant behave in different ways.

Here are some pictures of my indoor house plant successes, because I need something to brag about while I wait for this depressing winter to pass.

Variegated philodendron start.

Variegated philodendron start.

My aunt called this her Goldfish plant because the flowers look like goldfish crackers. It vined and hung downward in a shower of leaves and flowers for her. For me? It's lifting its long arms upward and waving them around like Medusa's snakes. Wacky plant.

My aunt called this her Goldfish plant because the flowers look like goldfish crackers. It vined and hung downward in a shower of leaves and flowers for her. For me? It’s lifting its long arms upward and waving them around like Medusa’s snakes. Wacky plant.

Two spider plants around the Walking Jew plant.

Two spider plants around the Walking Jew plant.

My husband has been keeping himself busy doing various things. He finished the bathroom cabinets (except for the magnets to hold the doors shut… still waiting on that), and we finally got the granite counter for it. We got a box of rocks to do a stone wall behind the mirror. Not sure when that’ll get done, but it should look really neat when it’s done.

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He started on the loft recently, too. That was our winter project, but since I’ve started working and we’ve had cruddy weather, we hadn’t been able to get the drywall. We have it now! As soon as he’s done with the drywall, I’ll put up the pine ceiling and tie it into the great room ceiling. Then we can start on the wood floor and get the office, library, sewing nook, and guest room going up there. Exciting stuff!

Yay, drywall!

Yay, drywall!

Spring is still a long way off. We have snow and it’s cold. Winter. Still blah. But this past week I got four half flats of herbs planted, and next weekend I’ll start planting a couple dozen types of peppers. You remember my 321 pepper plants last year? Expect more this year. Many more.

Tarragon, anise, oregano, and many others...

Tarragon, anise, oregano, and many others…

Of the blog, that is. Can you believe I’ve been putzing around with WordPress for five years now?

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We’ve been keeping pretty busy here lately, especially my husband. He is the hardest worker I know. He comes home from a ten hour shift every day, and still has energy to tackle big house projects like trimming, painting, and building cabinets. The last couple weeks he’s been working on building our bathroom cabinets. He has the first one done, or nearly so. We still need magnets and pulls. He’s done a beautiful job for this being the first time he’s ever attempted cabinets! What do you think?

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The first was taken in the basement shop, where he’s been constructing it. We hauled that behemoth upstairs to stain it in the living room, then put it in the bathroom where it shall stay forever. His next project is to build the sink cabinet. That piece of poo looking thing there is just a temporary one I made out of an end table and a sink top. It’s about four inches lower than a normal one, which is great for the kids but sucks for an adult. The next cabinet will take up that whole space, have three drawers, and one cupboard. We’ll probably do some kind of vessel sink that sits on top of the counter, which will be granite to match the kitchen. My husband is also going to build a custom swing-away mirror over a medicine cabinet. It should look awesome when it’s finished!

I’ve done a bit of work in the bathroom as well. Back when I grouted the shower, I either mixed the grout wrong or sealed it wrong. After a year of use, it was starting to disintegrate from between the tiles. So I chipped out as much as I could, cleaned it all up really well, re-grouted, and re-sealed. Our shower looks brand new. Oh, and I bought a cloth curtain so now I can wash it periodically. The old plastic one got so gross all the time and cleaners ate the plastic away along with the yucky bits.

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I still need to figure out a trim for around the tile edge to hide the mortar. We’ll probably do that after the cabinets are in place and we’re laying the floor trim, which you can see is missing in the picture of the cabinet.

I’ve been slowly getting the garden ready for winter. I wait for the nice days, which are far and few between lately. We’ve been getting a lot of rain. I finished bringing in the cabbages and sunflowers. They’re all happily hanging in the basement now. Once the sunflowers are dry, I’ll rub the seeds off of the heads, save the biggest ones for seed stock for next year, and roast the rest. I think you might be able to see a few of the hanging cabbages behind the Roma food mill. They’ll store well down there until we use them up. It stays a comfortable 50 degrees year-round in the basement, even without a heat source down there.

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Today or tomorrow I’ll be planting the garlic out. I meant to do it at least a week ago, but the weather had other plans for me. Look for a post soon detailing the garlic bed.

Every three days I go out and pick whatever looks nearly ripe from the garden, then I let it sit on the counter for at least a day to ripen. Why do I pick before they’re ripe? Because if I wait for them to ripen on the vine, they split from over saturation. We have had rain every day, sometimes multiple times a day or even all day long, for the past two weeks. The ground doesn’t know what it is to be dry anymore.

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This morning I made salsa since I had an abundance of tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and peppers. The only thing in my salsa that wasn’t raised in our garden was the garlic – and next year we’ll have our own garlic, too!

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Yesterday I canned up some grape jelly. It came out a really pretty color. I used about five pounds of green grapes and one pound of red.

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The garden is exploding from all of the rain. Our sunflowers are finally out, though it’ll be a couple weeks before all of the florets are pollinated and we see seeds forming. As you can see, the bees are hard at work making that a reality.

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I planted a few bulb and annual flowers along the periphery of the garden. They did okay for their first year. Next year I hope they come back even more full and vibrant. I love the colors!

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Veggies in the garden are doing well, too. The 3 sisters plantings are taking off, though it might be too little too late. As you can see, the squash and pumpkins are just now flowering. I am seeing a lot of male flowers, but very few female flowers. It’s up in the air whether or not we get anything from them this year. The sun was setting as I took the picture, hence the yellow leaves. They’re all really healthy, green plants in normal lighting.

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The cilantro, dill, and basils are taking off so much I’m having a hard time keeping them picked.

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The leeks and onions are kind of wimpy. Next year I’ll start them another 4 weeks earlier and fertilize them more earlier on.

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The few rice plants that survived transplanting into the paddy are bushing out well. No idea if I’ll get anything from them, but it was a fun experiment. Next year I plan on a bigger, better paddy with aeration. I’ll do the goldfish again, too. There are still two living of the initial 10 I put in there. One of them is actually pretty big. Maybe we’ll bring him in for the winter to live on the countertop. We just had a fantastic storm blow through before the picture, so the water is really murky.

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The cabbages are swollen like pregnant bellies sticking up from the mud. It’s nearly harvest time for all 50+ of them. Anyone need some in the local area? I’ll probably give a lot away.

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The tomatoes are kicking ass. Lots of them coming ripe every day.

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Yes, the weeds have overtaken much of the garden, but I’m not worried. I blame the rain, and the fact that I’ve been too lazy to weed. We’re at the end of the season, so it’s all going to get ravaged by the hungry chickens soon anyway. They’re raring to get going in the garden. Every time I open their run door, they beeline for it and I have to slam it quickly. So, because I can’t talk about these funny birds without showing pictures… I’ll let them close up this blog entry. Hope you all had a lovely Labor Day weekend!

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So the end of August is upon us, and with it comes the smell of fall in the air. As with every other year I have raised a garden, I have learned a lot. One of the best lessons from this year was that prepared soil makes all the difference. I planted dozens of different items, but only about half of them did much thanks to the crappy soil. I figure with the end of the growing season upon us, I should go through and make some notes for myself and anyone else who is interested.

Potatoes – I planted 5 pounds and got 27 pounds in return. Not too shabby. Next year I’ll try larger varieties because these tiny ones were a pain in the ass to process. I will plant more next year. We are already halfway through them.

Radishes – I planted these between the onions, and they grew really well. Unfortunately, we aren’t big fans of radishes. The chickens got most of them – they seemed to enjoy it.

Onions – First year starting from seed. Next time I will only do 5-6 per cell and start them earlier. They are finally bulbing up, but I expect to only have 1-3″ diameter bulbs. The whites did a lot better than the reds, despite similar conditions. They aren’t yet soft in the neck, so I’ll let them keep growing until they’re done or it frosts. I should have a couple hundred.

Eggplants – Tried and true Ping Tung gave me about a dozen fruits for the four plants I put in. There are still several forming. The Casper gave me five total fruits, all of which were malformed/diseased. Not a big fan – won’t plant those again.

Cabbage – I planted four different kinds. They have all done especially well. The heads are rounding out and should be ready to be picked in the next few days. I plan on making slaw and kraut, and hanging some long-storing ones in the basement for winter use.

Beets – Only a few seeds took. Those few sprouted magnificent greens and puny roots. Pretty sure it was the poor soil and uneven watering that caused this.

Carrots – Same as the beets. First time I’ve never had any carrots to show. How embarrassing!

Cucumbers – The plants all came up, then flowered at only 6″ high. They are flowering like crazy, but not fruiting. The flowers are falling off, although we have lots of pollinators flying around.

Beans – Despite the rough start thanks to the local deer population, they came back. But they were weak. Put out a few thin little beans that I will try to dry to save seeds, but nothing like I had hoped.

Peas – Only grew to about 6″ high and put out a few scrawny peas. From beets to peas were all planted in the very back section of the garden. I’m pretty sure that’s where the soil was the worst. Nothing did well back there.

Watermelons – They put out vines a couple feet long, but were planted too late to set fruit. They are just now flowering, so I’m fairly sure we won’t see any fruit before a frost. Next year, we’ll plant earlier.

Corn – Row plantings grew a couple feet high. Have yet to tassle. Three sisters plantings are around 4′ tall and more robust. There’s something to that. They were planted over a month later than they should have been, though, so I might still not harvest anything.

Squash – Vigorous growth recently due to all of the rain and mild temperatures. Multiple flowers showing. There might be enough time to get a harvest or two of the summer squash, and I’ll cross my fingers for the winter squash.

Asparagus – Died back when I transplanted it. I thought I killed it. That shit is tough. It popped back up even more vigorous than before. I’ll wait a few years before I harvest.

Artichokes – Holy cool summer, Batman! Artichokes are a heat loving plant, and they didn’t appreciate that all through July our night time temperatures never seemed to go above the 40’s. It was a strange season, that’s for sure. The plants didn’t make it, and I won’t try them again.

Tomatoes – Doing FABULOUS! I ended up putting in about 80 plants, and only a few have had trouble setting fruit. My biggest mistake with tomatoes was not labeling them well. My permanent marker washed right off of the wood labels I had made, so I had no idea what kind of plants I had until the fruit was mature. They have just started turning red this past week, but there are hundreds of fruits. Even if the frosts come, I know I’ll be able to pick the greenies to ripen in storage. Principe Borghese was a pleasant surprise – set a lot of fruit and ripened quicker than the rest. Roman Candle wasn’t very productive compared to the others. Paul Robeson and Big Rainbow are still my favorites for flavor.

Peppers – Doing FABULOUS! I’m pleased as punch that they started producing the moment I got them in the ground, although it got to be a bit of a pain having them so big in here. Next year I might plant them a few weeks later. I won’t do Hungarian Hot Wax – they made my dear husband cry they were so hot. I could barely handle them. Cubanelles were the most prolific, followed by the Marconi sweets. I won’t raise California Wonder again. They didn’t produce a ton, and what they did produce was pretty runty. The Purple Beauty peppers produced well and gave a beautiful splash of color. The Albino Bullnose were very small sweet bells that needed a lot of extra calcium to prevent blossom end rot – twice as much as the others.

Rice – I’m going to try this again next year, but a little different. I would like to expand the cavernous hole at the bottom of our hill where we took soil to fill the raised strawberry beds. Then I will line it with pond liner. I need a deeper “paddy” than the kiddie pool. I would like to mess around with aeration, too, perhaps finding a small solar set-up. When I transplanted the rice, much of it died. It was very root bound, and I had to tear it apart a lot to get it out of the buckets. Next year I might just start it like regular plants in individual cells to decrease transplanting stress.

Flowers – I had mixed results with flowers. I planted most of them too late into the summer to set flowers. My marigolds are still all green. Next year I would like to start them earlier, so I hope the weather cooperates. One can hope. The sunflowers just yesterday started showing heads. I may or may not harvest before the frosts.

As far as the soft fruit patch goes, I let the strawberries run wild after picking the flowers off for nearly a month. We ended up getting a bowl of berries a day until a few weeks ago. The June-bearing have far outgrown the everbearing, setting out more runners and bigger leaves. I look forward to a large harvest next year. The elderberries took off, and are setting fruit as we speak. Their large, white flower heads are turning into heads of berries. It won’t be a lot, but something is better than nothing. Everything else is still growing and only time will tell when they flower. We checked on the blueberries in the south field. The ones that survived our harsh winter are doing alright. I want to transplant them back over here this fall.

And now… some pictures of what I’ve been harvesting the last few weeks.

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Tomorrow I will share an awesome meal idea that I tried out last night to rave reviews from everyone in our family – including our picky 6 year old. Have a great weekend!

June 2021
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