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Growing a child in a greenhouse

March 18, 2008

Yesterday was a typical NW day in winter, drizzle and cool wind from the north.  My daughter has a small vegetable start business, and usually I start my tomatoes and peppers before her, since our heat mat will only hold two flats.  The mat started to heat unevenly in February when I used it for greens.  So, we decided to spring for a 4 flat model.  Now, we can use it at the same time.  Before she started selling plants, I used the French hotbed method with fresh manure.  It worked well and didn’t use electricity.  But, she wants predictable results for her sales, so she wanted to try the mats.

North wind on a sunny day.
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Introducing “Grey” to the neighbors.   1996      Her first horse.
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Our daughter is 14, and at about the age of 8, she started aching for a real horse.  We told her she would have to earn enough money to buy her own horse, thinking that would delay the project for sometime.  Well, we were wrong.  She looked for odd jobs and found them.  She barn sat for people on vacation and got a job cleaning the barn at a nearby stable.  We also were paying her $.10 a chick to brood our meat birds and pullets for our chicken operations.  She saved more than enough to buy a horse, and decided to only spend 1/2 of her savings.  She’s had her horse, Nick, for 3 years now.  He’s an ancient spitfire, who has  found his final home.  She now has to earn the money for his upkeep.  So she custom starts vegetables for home gardeners.  She has grown up so much, it was fun to work in the greenhouse with her today.  She seeded a 200 cell flat with toms and peppers.  They are all pre-sold at $2.00 apiece.  Next month she will start her brassicas, greens, and flowers.  She has realized how much money she can make in a short time with a small  amount of labor.  Every year she adds to her list, and is offering starts for winter gardening this season. 

Looking back at the different things we have used the greenhouse for, I see now that the best thing was growing our kid.  The greenhouse allows us to stay connected to our food during the dreary months of winter and it gives us a place to be together working at a common goal – sustaining our family.  I’m amazed at what unschooling  (thank you, Joel Salatin)  has allowed us to accomplish.  She keeps her own records, deals with her customers with aplomb, and she usually gets her seed order done in a timely manner!  Apparently, the procrastination gene can skip a generation. 

Leg yielding along the driveway before a lesson.
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Last year was a very good tomato and pepper year.  Although we could have had more peppers.  We froze quite a few sauteed peppers, and we ate our last “fresh” pepper on Christmas eve.  I had such weird food cravings last summer and fall, from letting myself get anemic, I’m not sure what this summer will hold.  I would find myself grazing in the garden at strange times. I grazed most of last summer away.  I’m planning for grazing the same way this year.  There is some primal need to just stand in the garden and eat with reckless abandon. 

 It seems like every year I make some changes, either variety, pruning, spacing or quantity.  Last year, I pruned my tomatoes before planting, using Charles H. Wilber’s techniques, from his book How To Grow World Record Tomatoes.  As the plants grew, I switched to Carolyn Male’s technique of no pruning.  Two years earlier, I had quit planting on 2′ centers and increased the spacing to 4′.  That doubled my production with half as many plants!  Last year, I kept the same spacing and did my initial pruning and then just let them go.  That helped a little more.  I picked approximately 60# off of each plant. 

Tomatoes we planted this year:
Costoluto Genovese (Cook’s Garden, Tomato Growers) Last year I compared  Territorial, Cooks, and Southern Exposure.  Cook’s had the best flavor and was the most productive and seemed to have both smooth skinned and pleated fruits.  The more I can tomato products, the more I look for attributes that make canning them easier.  The smooth skinned ones became whole canned tomatoes since they were so easy to peel, and the pleated ones went in the roasting pan, since skins aren’t an issue with a food mill.  I will save seeds this year from the variety we like the best.
Costoluto Fiorentino (Tomato Growers) new to us, some think it’s the same as CG.
Bellstar, (Fedco, Johnny’s) our early tomato, these are classified as a sauce, but they are more multi-purpose.  Earlier in our garden than the extra early types and they taste good too!
Tiffen Mennonite (Fedco) pink brandywine strain that will ripen in our cool-night area.
SunSugar,  sweetest golden cherry tomato I’ve tasted.  Tender skins and crack resistant.
Brandywine-Sudduth Strain, new to us, supposed to taste the best of the brandywines.
Last years disappointments:  Ananas Noire and Gill’s All-purpose.  Both grew well, but weren’t really very productive and the taste was just OK.  I’ve got a soft spot for any Gill Brother variety, since they were a local seed company, so I was really rooting for Gill’s All-purpose.

Peppers we planted this year:
Bells – Sunray, Ariane, Gourmet, Valencia, and Vidi, all hybrids.  Gourmet is the only one I haven’t grown.  I’m reluctant to wean myself off these hybrids, because they are so productive.
Pimiento – Sweet Pimiento and Pritavit,  I love Sweet Pimiento, but someone gave me the Pritavit seed, so I will try it. 
Hot Peppers – Numex Joe E. Parker, Paprika Supreme, Garden Salsa , Long Red Cayenne and Bulgarian Carrot.  Nothing new here, just our old regulars for salsa, rellenos, chile flakes, and hot sauce.

Seeding bench – Arctium concreteus per husbandii
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8 Comments leave one →
  1. March 18, 2008 8:21 pm

    I’d say you grew a very sweet variety of daughter. And resilient too! 🙂

  2. March 18, 2008 8:33 pm

    I’m very impressed with your daughter! When I was a kid, my parents couldn’t afford camp, but I really wanted to go. I started babysitting, but couldn’t make enough money, so I started a neighborhood day camp at the age of 10 so that I could have economies of scale;) Looking back, I am so glad that my parents encouraged me to figure it out.

  3. matronofhusbandry permalink*
    March 18, 2008 10:57 pm

    AuthorMom – she is a sweetie! Thank you.

    New Old-fashioned Gal – Thank you for the nice comment, it’s always heartening to hear other peoples experiences. Some of my daughters friends are spoiled, (at least we think so) everything is done for them and they are borderline lazy even in their play. They have horses, but Mom & Dad do the caretaking. A big part of my daughters love for her horse is that she takes pride in taking care of him. It’s empowering for a child to have something to do! I hope to check out your blog – thanks for stopping by.

  4. March 19, 2008 2:23 am

    Sounds like your greenhouse has been a most productive place, indeed!

  5. March 19, 2008 12:24 pm

    I had the exact same thought about my daughter buying her own horse. She went to “work” helping out the waitresses at my brothers restaurant. I’m thinking it will take her a long while to save up enough cash. She comes home the first day after working a Saturday lunch with nearly 80$. She’d telling all the tables she’s working that her daddy is making her work to save up for her horse. They were throwing cash at her…lol

  6. matronofhusbandry permalink*
    March 19, 2008 4:34 pm

    Woody – it’s easy to forget what a little determination will do. Your daughter looks like a go-getter!

  7. May 14, 2008 5:26 pm

    That reminds me of my childhood! I studied classical dressage and did that very thing when checking fences on The Farm. Oh, to be back on my first horse and trotting alongside those fields!

    Blessings!
    Lacy

  8. May 1, 2009 4:53 am

    Pretty darn good – and to have a daughter that’s probably earning more than you doing plant-work for others….. Something that’d embarass me silly! I’d be red as a tomato.

    I haven’t got kids – but I don’t think we get to choose what ‘kind’ we get. Lucky you.

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