{this moment}

A Friday ritual: a single photo, unaccompanied by explanation, which captures “a simple, special, extraordinary moment…I want to pause, savor and remember.” ~SouleMama

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WV and Lynn do yoga
Photo credit: SR

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If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

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It’s time!

Seed starting time!

W and I have been determined to do things slightly less chaotically this spring than usual. Every spring, suddenly we’re behind, it’s super warm, and we’re a hot mess of “when are we going to find time to start seedlings” and dirt on the kitchen floor. But, for the first time in my 9+ years of having a full garden, I believe I ordered my seeds BEFORE they were supposed to be planted! Also, we started a garden journal where we can keep track of our planting schedule, garden plots and other garden tidbits each year. It has helped to make room in advance on our calendar – after all, this is a priority!

wpid-1020131723.jpgThis year, we’ll start out with 4 garden beds, hoping to add more. They are pseudo-raised beds, made from salvaged timbers we found strewn around and under the barn when we moved. We’ve filled them with grass clippings and leaves in the fall and sprinkled in chicken manure over the winter to kill the underlying grass and enrich the soil. A month before we plant – so, soon – we’ll rent a tiller and till in the compost to prep for planting. Then we don’t plant to re-till, but instead find some sort of balance between a raised bed and a no-till bed. We’ll let you know how this all works out, of course!

wpid-20140225_065740.jpgOur go-to potting system in the past has been to create small, compostable newspaper planters, filled with organic potting soil to start our seeds. It’s easy to do, albeit a little messy. Roll a folded piece of newsprint around a wine bottle (about half-way up), tuck the ends into the divot in the bottom of the bottle, slide it off and then fold down the cup’s edges to make it more secure. Adding dirt holds the cup in place. Plant, whole, or slightly broken up, when the time comes. However, my mom gave us dozens of small seed-starting pots that she had been collecting, so we’re nixing the above method for something a little less wpid-20140225_064423.jpgDIY and a little more time saving. Another aspect of seed starting that has been a struggle in the past is seed markers. I’ve used color systems, charts, popsicle sticks, and markers of all shapes and sizes…to mediocre luck at knowing what I’m planting come transfer time. This year I found an ingenious solution that I think will weather the 8 weeks and beyond – lengths of Venetian blind slats (I want to get rid of all the old blinds in this house, anyway; cutting one up was very satisfying) with permanent marker notations. Not only are they sturdy, but they look rather professional, if I do say so myself!

Two weekends ago we started our earliest seeds – tomatoes (8 varieties, half pastes), radishes (2 varieties), arugula, bell peppers, Serrano peppers, onions, cabbages, and eggplant. We also started about 50 asparagus seeds, which is going to be interesting – we’d like a permanent asparagus bed, but know it takes time. Everything we’re planting is either heirloom or organic (or both). Most of what we’re planting is from seeds we’ve kept from previous years. WV and I use a turkey baster to gently water them every other day. The radishes and arugula popped up within a few days (!) but the tomatoes were worrying me…on the 7th day I looked up some info and found that covering them with plastic to trap moisture would help them. I also turned on a space heater nearby to warm things up. Two days later, and we had baby tomatoes!!!

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This weekend we’ll plant beans, Brussel sprouts, collards, kale, and swiss chard. In mid-March we’ll plant cucumbers, pumpkins, summer squash, watermelon and other melons. We’ll direct sow carrots, corn, soy, hops, spinach and lettuce. We’d like to build some frames for training cukes, beans and hops up. And the flowers, oh the flowers. We’re going to till up a strip of space between the house and garden beds for some serious fleurs. Sunflowers, coxcombs, Yorktown onions, zinnias, lupine, and a variety of wild flower mixes. Also, there’s a little secret garden tucked away in the corner of the house (have already planted a fig tree, a honeysuckle vine, and a rose bush there) where some more flowers can go.

We have spring fever, clearly! Do you? Have you started your garden planning/planting yet? What are you doing differently this year?

This post is shared with Crafty Garden Mama’s Tuesday Greens, the Backyard Farming Connection’s Hop, Back to the Basics Tuesday’s With a Twist Hop, Maple Hill 101’s Hop, Tilly’s Nest Down Home Hop, Montana Homesteader’s Green Thumb Thursday, Oak Hill Homestead’s HomeAcre Hop, and Grassfed Mama’s Simple Saturday Hop.

My Favorite Month.

Most people, it seems, sigh a collective groan in February. I get it. I mean, can you think of another month in which an entire country founded on rational thought suspends reality to anthropomorphize a rodent and infer his weather opinion? Yesterday it actually thundersnowed, Punxsutawney Phil. These waves of wintr’y weather the south has been blanketed with (predicted by the Farmer’s Almanac, I might add) makes it seem like it’s a long slog towards spring. Especially when the alarmists say things like “catastrophic” and “crippling” and things turn slushy; I’ve found that people everywhere have a special loathe for slush. To boot, I fear the mid-month love fest of Valentine’s Day can lose its sweet panache in slush, subsumed by Hallmark consumerism. I cringe a little when I see hearts and chocolates pushed just past New Year’s. Having been out (in the real world) infrequently this year though, and having no tv (and, would you believe it, no snow-shovel!), I’ve noticed less of that and am happy to celebrate the heart of it today, of course, for it’s lovely romanticism. I mean this IS True Love and Homegrown, after all! Annnnd, I was born in February, so in actuality I’m in the camp of February not being such a bad month at all. Don’t stop reading.

I am itching for spring, to be sure. And so I’ve searched for February’s signs of stirrings – listening for a green hum beneath all this white sog. For instance, I discovered the other day, a few little rootlets budding from the withered brown loop of hops that I’d hopefully dug up and carried from our old house! W was pleased – now we have to find a place to plant them where they can grow high! Our order of seeds came in from Baker Creek, and we’ve placed an order for several more fruit trees and flowering bushes (lilacs! hydrangeas!). Before this last snow hit, WV and I found strong green shoots (which WV trampled only a little) of either crocuses or daffodils beside the house – which just whets our anticipation of all the blooming and blossoming we will discover this spring at our new house. And, accordingly, we’ve been choosing spring reads…you know, to get the sap flowing.

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wpid-20140211_162924.jpgSo, think of it this way: February (in the Northern Hemisphere) exists to prove you’re strong. You can take it. You have survival in your blood. It’s a time to think and be creative (’cause flying piglets, sometimes you want to stay in to keep your snout from freezing). These cold moments will be interrupted with punches of warmth until all we have is spring coming on strong, with open windows, longer days, and fragrant breezes. Love your person today a little bit extra, or your baby, or yourself, or your four-legged friend, or whomever you think deserves a special reminder. And love ya, February!

This post was added to a collection at The Prairie Homestead’s Monday Homestead Barn Hop. and to Crafty Garden Mama’s linkup, Tuesday Greens.

{this moment}

A Friday ritual: a single photo, unaccompanied by explanation, which captures “a simple, special, extraordinary moment…I want to pause, savor and remember.” ~SouleMama

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photo credit: Auntie LKT

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If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

Bread Circus.

On the tip of a farmer, I’ve been calling a bakery in Richmond to see if they have any expired bread for cheap. He said he could load a truck for $20. Apparently they let it pile up, then dole it out, first-come, first-served. It’s called Hog Feed bread, appropriately, and that’s what we wanted it for. Saturday, they had some.

W, WV, and I drove out to investigate. I walked into the bakery and the cashier said to go around back to the loading bay. She had propped a door open with a loaf of bread (ha!) and left us to fill up on our own. There were 6 bread-pallet stacks, about 8 feet high each, stuffed with loaves, buns, bagels, and pita flats. We hesitated, not knowing how to exactly start, then began bringing loaves to the car, stacking them into the trunk.

The cashier came back and I tentatively asked, “So, erm, how much will this be?” “Oh, 10 dollars, you don’t have a very big car.” So clearly, the only logical thing to do was just STUFF the car with bread – it was practically free and hey, we were there. We started an assembly line: I triple-loaded pallets, stacking the empties, and W carried them out to the car, lobbing them in. WV sat patiently in his car seat, saying, “Mmmm!” every time a loaf was added.

We didn’t stop. We were a car-bread-stuffing machine. Twenty minutes in, and since I couldn’t see the car from the loading bay door, I began to wonder, how much room we really had left. W said he had to close the trunk door and was throwing the bread into the back to fill it up. It was like one of those “how many folks can you stuff in a phone booth?” game shows. When the back seats were full, he rolled down windows to stuff in more, to prevent back-spillage. I went outside to observe – and the sight nearly made me pee myself. Our car was a cartoon-like bread wagon! WV was surrounded by a mountain of bread, clearly google-eyed over it and wanting to eat some. We couldn’t stop laughing.

20140208_130633Finally we stopped, concerned that the bread was becoming a hazard to driving.

Officer: Excuse me, do you know why I pulled you over?
W: No sir, I don’t.
Officer: You have a lot of bread in the car.
W: I didn’t know there was a limit on bread in VA.

Haha, we were dying laughing at scenarios like these all the way home.

WV fell asleep in his back seat bread kingdom, and we were able to count the loaves – 398!!! – as we unloaded them. Some were giant flats of 20-30 buns, clearly meant for more than individual/family use. And guess where they are stored? The old shed! This is an insane amount of bread. It fills half the floor space, piled nearly waist high. And can we just be reminded that it cost about 2 cents a loaf? More than a loaf a day for a year! I think we have unrealistic expectations of how long it will last (demon preservatives), but until it goes bad, the piggies and chickens are going to have a real treat. And we discovered, some of it had just expired yesterday – we ate some for lunch, but decided we find store-bought bread pretty dang disgusting. We did debate the merits of feeding our animals such bread and settled on the logic that we don’t really know the source of the ingredients in their bagged pellet food either…and this was originally meant for human consumption, so we’ll live with it. Foraging on grass is best, but it’s winter and we don’t have a fence set up yet for the pigs.

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Feeling quite proud of our bread haul…need a bagel?…come on over!

It’s even inspired poetry (thanks Dad!):

A rumor of ten-dollar bread
(there were four hundred loaves, it was said)
made its way to New York
on the wings of the pork,
and now it is stored in the shed.

This post is shared with The Prairie Homestead’s Homestead Barn Hop and Oak Hill Homestead’s HomeAcre Hop.