Thursday, March 20, 2008

Brassicas and Spring

Did you know that every one of the brassicas are related to mustard? Kale, collards, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, broccoli raab and a host of others I can't think of or name right now are all derived from good old mustard. I think that is too cool.

We've had a bodacious crop of Brussels sprouts this year, much thanks to my friend Jenny who brought me some plants in September that I set out, feeling skeptical as always that I would never actually harvest any sprouts, either because I planted them too late or just wasn't any good at growing them for some reason.

Not so this time. Maybe due to the warm weather- or that they were in a good rich sunny spot in the garden, but we have been picking delicious little babies since Thanksgiving. Now since I haven't grown that many Brussels sprouts I had never heard until this spring that you are supposed to cut the top off of the plant to force energy into the stalks and the little sprouts that are growing up the sides.

Not having done that, our plants now have these giant Brussels sprouts/mini cabbages sitting at the top of each stalk. I reasoned that I should be able to eat these- why not, the whole plant should be edible, we eat the leaf of collards- which look just like the leaves of Brussels sprouts, we eat cabbage, so I cut three of the tops off and cooked them up.

They really did look like giant Brussels sprouts- I quartered them and removed the core like a cabbage, then sliced them and sauteed them with mushrooms and a green onion in olive oil with salt and pepper. They were the most beautiful color- I included some of the dark green outer leaves as well as the yellowish centers and with the green you expect from a Brussels sprout as well, this skillet was a multi toned green bonanza.

Along side a roasted chicken and some brown rice with gravy, mmmm, we were smilin'.

The peppers and eggplants have sprouted, the nasturtiums are up, even the seeds like dust of the celeriac and Icelandic poppies are coming up too, everything is looking pretty good and I can probably retire the heating pad soon and just concentrate on getting enough light to everything.

With the moon almost full, all the plants are shooting out of the ground outside, we have a new kind of daffodil blooming everyday it seems and they are only about halfway through in terms of the many kinds we have that move from the earliest to the latest of the season.

Nothing says spring like daffodils and speaking of which- here it is, the equinox. I was pondering the fact that while we are here celebrating the vernal equinox in NC., US of A, our friends who recently moved to Australia are celebrating the autumnal equinox on the very same day- that just seems crazy and fantastic somehow - but there you have it.

I don't know about you- but I get pretty excited knowing that for the next three months- the days are going to keep getting longer and we'll always have more light than dark until this time in September, let there be light and lots of it, but let the rains come as well please, we got 4/10ths of an inch last night- better than nothing but I was hoping for more.

Happy Spring to the Northern Hemisphere and to you in the southern hemisphere- Happy Fall.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Gray Day

It was overcast today and made my walk feel somehow other worldly. Pine warblers warbled from the tree tops, towhees called there name from the underbrush and woodpeckers tapped away on dead trees, the sound ringing through the woods. Aside from these few bird songs, the forest was still, silent.

The trout lilies are in full swing and joined now by spring beauties, windflowers and the first of the giant chickweed. Bloodroots are in bloom in our woodland garden at the house, bright white. The creeks and streams are still flowing smartly and even the side meanders are trickling along, I hope we get another good rain tonight.

My tomato babies have sprouted long and leggy but I've got them under the grow lights so I hope they'll stiffen up, still waiting to see the peppers and eggplants sprout.

I tried to work in the garden but just as I was getting rolling the rains began and I quit, so did the rain, but by then I had lost my enthusiasm.

Planted 3 rows of potatoes yesterday in a new section of the flower garden, but it was easy with the new loose soil and I didn't have anywhere else to put them that hadn't been planted in night shades in the last season or where I am planning to put them soon. I try to maintain a two to three year rotation on the tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and potatoes, but since those are some of my main crops, it gets challenging sometimes.

It's thundering now, bring it on.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

When it rains it pours

I’ve been busy and I haven’t had time to blog! I started working part-time with two different community gardening projects in town and its been really fun but has me running around a bit more than I had become accustomed to over the past 8 months. Along with trying to get the gardens going and my writing group starting back up I’ve been rippin’ and runnin’ as they say.

We got 5 inches of rain this week in two separate storms. Three and a half inches on March 4th, and another inch and a half on March 7th. Real gully washers as my Papa woulda said. Check out these before and after pictures of the creek in December and then this week. It’s amazing- we couldn’t remember how long it had been since we had rain like that- maybe more than a year.

Looking up stream from the same spot

Dec 20th and March 4th

Looking downstream

The pond filled up and its creek was raging.

Our little creek was out of its banks
And the dry wash was even running steady on Friday afternoon.
We need way more rain barrels than the two trash cans and 15 five gallon buckets that currently are brimming with rain water, another project for another week I guess.

I got the rest of my spring seeds in the ground last weekend, more lettuce, spinach, radishes and carrots, beets, broccoli raab, turnips, tatsoi, and cabbages- which I thought were broccoli when I bought them but realized as I was planting them they were not, oops, I guess I’ll have to go get some broccoli plants. I still haven’t gotten the potatoes planted but hope to this week- getting some new ground ready for them.

I started the tomatoes, peppers and eggplants in their flats yesterday and they are now sitting on the heating pad to encourage them to sprout. I did 9 kinds of tomatoes and 6 kinds of peppers! As usual- over the top, but I love variety.

We are going to paint the house- another one of those got to do one thing before you can finish another- we are planning a big cedar arbor for the West side of the house to grow roses and clematis on, but need to paint the house first and that rose is about to spring to life any day- so this week we’ll be behind the rollers and brushes- getting the West side done at least.
One more funny picture from the rain- our neighbors kids beach balls got caught by the high winds, blew into the creek and floated down into our yard. So colorful and surprising to see amidst all the brown and rushing water after taking some pictures we returned them home.