Friday, January 18, 2013

our homestead: dreaming of a woodland garden

I'm already dreaming of the woodland garden we'll have at our new property. We have to build our home first, but I imagine come spring 2014, I'll get to start cultivating my own little magical piece of earth with native plants, shady blooms, walking trails, wood benches and stone steps. Perhaps a little mossy hobbit house for visiting nephews and nieces to hide in?
Photo credit: Claus Dalby
Photo credit: Wallace Gardens
Photo credit: MFAH
Photo credit: ngs
Photo credit: South Carolina Botanical Garden
Photo credit: Beautiful Portals
Photo credit: Forever in Bloom
Photo credit: Apartment Therapy
Photo credit: Trouvais

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

our homestead: my uprising seed wish list

Uprising Seeds is my favorite seed grower: a family business and farm up near Bellingham, Washington. They grow an ample selection of organic, Non-GMO and open-pollinated heirloom seeds. I've been buying seeds from them for the past couple years and have always had great success with their seeds since they are hearty varieties already acclimated to the Pacific Northwest. Here's my 2013 growing season wish list from Uprising Seeds. All photos come from their website. 
Perfection Fennel
Anise Hyssop
Calendula Mix
Champion Collards
German Chamomile
Echinacea Purpurea
Flashy Trouts Back Romaine Lettuce
Lemon Cucumber
Shungiku Edible Chrysanthemum
Tonda di Parigi Carrot
Cascadia Snap Pea

Monday, January 7, 2013

our homestead: planting a winter garden on my windowsill

It's that time of year again: the time to start tomato seeds. A Pacific Northwest tomato's life cycle is kind of interesting if you think about it...or at least my and my family's involvement with the whole process. Seeds are started in January, then planted out to the greenhouse in March. From late June through October, fruit is eaten, shared and canned up. The greenhouse goes to bed for the next few months. Then, as soon as the New Year rolls around, it's time to start thinking about tomatoes yet again and the cycle repeats itself. I'm not quite sure what I'd do with myself if I stopped starting tomatoes in January. It's just something I do and hope to continue up through when I'm an old great grandmother with cataracts and a bicycle.
Normally I start and grow at least three or four varieties of tomatoes, but this year I'm scaling back a little since I already foresee a busy summer. I did, however, want to grow my saved tomato seeds from the funky, fruity rainbow chocolate tomatoes I grew unexpectedly this year. It will be an adventure seeing what these babies turn into. I plan to keep on selecting from their fruit to tweak my own variety. Science! Anyway, every year I fill a few simple, black seed starting trays 3 inches deep with Dr. Earth Organic Vegetable Garden Planting Mix. It gets the job done.
Then I mix in some sexy microbes. You can read more about these super heroes here.
Once the soil is good and ready, I gently draw 4 shallow rows across per planting tray and carefully drop a tomato seed every half inch to an inch or so.
Then I smooth over the dirt, making sure to cover each seed with just a little bit of soil and sprinkle all of the trays with filtered water. 
This year I'm also experimenting with growing a tray of lettuce for micro-greens. Hopefully it'll work and my husband and I will be able to enjoy a little bit of a fresh baby lettuce in a few weeks. I get desperate for fresh, local greens in the cold winter. I'm not seeking huge results. No leafy giant salads. Just a few tender, sweet leaves to eat as part of a garnish perhaps. 
And furthermore, I have the best success with starting tomato seeds if I use seed heating mats. I found all of my heating mats at my local hardware store. They gently warm the planting trays to encourage the little seeds to germinate. Tomatoes will grow on a windowsill without a seed heating mat, but it can take up to a month for them to sprout and emerge from the soil. I expect to see tiny tomato starts in about a week or so since I'm using the heating mats. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

our homestead: a winter tour of our property

It was another cold, yet bright and blue-skyed day, and I was in the area, so I stopped by our property to explore its winter state. I walked down to the lake and noticed it was completely still as the water had been frozen over with a thin layer of ice. Then, I crunched through our frozen maple leaf coated property and was pleasantly surprised to find that while the dormant, leaf-less brush (mainly salmon berry) within the property was easier to walk and see through, the cedars and brush lining the perimeter of the property maintained winter privacy from our neighbors. I had planned on heading out here in the winter to see how the property could change in the winter months, and seeing that we still have a nice nature buffer, it will be easier to pick a building site for the home. Our 2.17 acre property is shaped like a fat "L" and we currently plan to build our house almost to the very back of the property, to maintain privacy from the road and to preserve the majority of the standing timber. Anyway, here's a slew of photos I took today from my mini-adventure. 
1. Rules of the lake.
2. The frozen lake.
3. The lake and you can see a mountain peek far off.
4.Winter sun rays on the lake.
5.Our neighbor's driveway across the road. We'll probably have a long gravel driveway too.
6.The view you'd see if you'd just stepped into our woods from the road.
7.Crunchy frozen maple leaves everywhere.
8. The front woods.
9. So many old stumps with character on the property.
10. A top portion of our property. We'll probably put the driveway on the other side of these trees.
11. Ferns everywhere!
12. My favorite cedar grove towards the middle-back of the property.
13. I would love to have a bench set up here.
14. This path leads to the very back corner of our property where it's more cleared. Good garden site.
15. Can you see our neighbors houses?
16. An old shed used to be here. Possible vegetable garden site as ample light hits this area.
17. A maple tree nest at the back of the property.
18. Sun peering through the trees near the middle-back of the property.
19. A giant V-shaped maple.
20. A creek down the road.