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Back in the Saddle

February 23, 2014

With some help from friends this weekend we put the cover on one greenhouse so we could get started on the garden.  If you’ve put on greenhouse plastic before, you know it takes many hands and NO WIND.  Hitting the sweet spot of dry weather and no wind can be like playing the lottery.

Today I got some seeding done although adding a pup into the mix is like having a toddler around, with teeth.  We’ve started calling Grady “the Grady Badger” since he’s somewhat like the Honey Badger.  Luckily the big dogs know what is acceptable and what isn’t.  It’s okay to scratch the house door to get out, but not the greenhouse door, do not steal plastic pots and try to bury them, don’t chew holes in the potting soil bags … .  So much to learn and too much discipline, says Grady.

The well-worn path to the greenhouses and the haybarn.

The well-worn path to the greenhouses and the haybarn.

The dogs love the greenhouse, probably because on many days it’s warm and dry compared to outside.


Hmmm - what can I get into in here?

Hmmm – what can I get into in here?

Mel the Elder aka The Warden

Mel the Elder aka The Warden

plastic flower pots taste so good

plastic flower pots taste so good

Definitely a Grady Badger moment.

Definitely a Grady Badger moment.




Tendersweet F1 cabbage

Tendersweet F1 cabbage

Despite all the tomfoolery with the dogs, I did get some preliminary seeding done, some custom and some for us.

Seeded today:

Lettuce:  Little Gem, Parris Island Cos, Thai 88 Oakleaf, Flashy Green Butter Oak, Red Salad Bowl and Simpson Elite.
Cabbage:  Tendersweet, Charmant, Ruby Ball and Melissa – all F1.
Kale:  Lacinato Morton, Rainbow Lacinato and Red Russian.
Arugula Basic.
Mustards:  Joi ChoiF1, Ruby Streaks, Yukina and Yokatta-NaF1.
Herbs:  Sage, Greek Oregano, Garlic Chives, Krausa Parsley, Marjoram and a tiny bit of Genovese Basil just to push it.

Not much too exciting in that list, but it sure feels good to be back in the anticipation groove of gardening!  Now we just play the waiting game.  Waiting for the greenhouse soil to dry enough to work for direct seeding, and for germination of the seeds planted today.  It’s official – our 2014 garden is well on the way.

41 Comments leave one →
  1. February 23, 2014 5:44 pm

    You oldest dog looks exactly like my Australian Shepherd that we had years ago. A great dog he was. Thanks for sharing

    • February 23, 2014 8:55 pm

      Emily, this guy is a trooper too. He seems so exasperated with the pup, all that putting him in his place you know 😉 He’s zonked out tonight too – hard playing the a pup when your 12 🙂

  2. Bee permalink
    February 23, 2014 6:48 pm

    I know what you mean. Snow, snap and shell peas are mostly in, along with spinach, mixed greens, lettuce, green onions and chard. It’s practically summer!

    • February 23, 2014 8:33 pm

      Bee, I’m cheating too, that greenhouse felt pretty good 😦 75 degrees today and no breeze. Felt like May!

  3. February 23, 2014 7:43 pm

    I love your combination tamper/dibber!! Homemade?

    How do you keep track of which varieties are OP and which are F1, for seed-saving purposes? I have been trying to move to solely OP so I don’t have to keep track; it sounds liberating to be able to just know that I can save seed from anything I’ve got.

    • February 23, 2014 8:50 pm

      L., actually it’s trim from greenhouse building, works perfect for that size flat.

      Photographic memory? Seed saving is so complicated and stuff like cabbage takes so many plants to save seed from I don’t bother. If I want to save seeds from a vegetable I just make sure that I start with OP seed. Hybrids make more sense to me for strictly production purposes with some vegetables. So say if I want to save my Sweet Meat squash seeds, I make sure I don’t plant any other squash varieties that will cross with that type of squash. It limits the palate for sure, but if seed saving is the game, then you have to limit because of isolation distances, out-crossing and you have to grow enough of the vegetable to keep the vigor of the strain. I’m kind of a passive seed saver though, just thrivalist stuff and no messing with hand pollinating and taping. Simple and complicated all rolled into one 🙂

  4. Pamela Garnica permalink
    February 23, 2014 8:14 pm

    I noticed you are wearing latex gloves ( or something similar). Is there an important reason to wear those for seeding or was that just a personal choice? I am about to plant my seeds for later transplanting this week too 🙂

    • February 23, 2014 8:27 pm

      Pamela, I just use them for filling the flats, otherwise my hands just get too dirty and wet, and then I can’t feel the seeds, or keep them from sticking. I seed bare handed though.

  5. February 23, 2014 8:36 pm

    I’m so tempted to start seeds now, but this is Latvia and winter seems to be slipping away too early here. Maybe next week after I have been on my travels. Looks like you could do with a playpen for Grady 😀

    • February 23, 2014 8:53 pm

      Joanna, the greenhouse has been the playpen for a few weeks, but he’s going to have to learn the ropes pretty soon. We wore him out today though, he’s been sleeping since he had his supper – peace and quiet for all.

      I’m hoping we are done with winter now, I’m not sticking my neck out too far…

      • February 24, 2014 12:40 am

        I know what you mean. I am wondering how far is too far, but the weather is nice right now. Seems a shame to waste it. 😀

  6. barefootfarmflower permalink
    February 23, 2014 9:20 pm

    We’re getting our first greenhouse this week and I’m so excited! I am worried about getting the plastic on it, we have high winds and only two sets of hands. Do you use any type of germination heat mats for your seeds? And if you aren’t using lights, do the seedlings get at all leggy growing in the greenhouse? I’m used to starting seeds on benches in a large shed with heat mats and lights. It would be great if I could avoid all of that.

    • February 23, 2014 10:24 pm

      BFFF, plan for a quiet day, and try to get some help if you can, it doesn’t take much wind to turn that plastic into a sail and pick you right up or worse pull the plastic out of your hands 😦

      I do use heat mats and no artificial light. The natural light works well enough as along as I wait until this time of year to start. Lights can get you into trouble if the conditions aren’t right for setting out plants anyway. It’s hard to wait, but it pays off in the end. I do cover the plants with a tent of plastic to create a mini greenhouse within a greenhouse. If you want to get more elaborate something like this would work great.

      • barefootfarmflower permalink
        February 25, 2014 3:06 pm

        Oh, I can just imagine all the trouble I’d get myself into with a set up like that one! I’ve book marked it so I can revisit it in the future. Right now I’m looking forward to all the learning that will be happening as I get my feet wet with a greenhouse. It will be like having a huge blank canvass just waiting for me to start splashing some color on it.

  7. February 23, 2014 10:26 pm

    Do you use any heat under those seeds you just planted?
    In SW B.C. we have just been dumped on with snow, although the temperature is right on the freezing mark. 9″ at 11 this morning, and it snowed another 9 hours after that. Hard to think of gardening at the moment, although it is supposed to be quite nice by Friday. I aim to plant my potatoes on Mar 3, (although it doesn’t always happen), because that’s what I was doing when I went into labour with my youngest, 26 years ago. Hard to imagine at the moment, but a few warm days will get me thinking about it. Roll on Spring! That pup keeps you busy, but oh so cute!:)

    • February 24, 2014 6:13 am

      Wyndson Farm, I do use bottom heat, it makes a huge difference, and it’s so nice to have all the mess in the greenhouse where it belongs. Not counting the puppy mess of course 😉

      Some of that cold weather is supposed to sneak in the back way here via the Columbia Gorge in the next few days, I’m thinking we’ll just be to west of the ice though.

  8. February 24, 2014 3:43 am

    Still no greenhouse here in Western Mass, but I will be starting the first round of seeds on Saturday. They will start by the woodstove and then move into the window they prefer, with a 4′ grow light over them. So I have a few days before it begins here…

  9. Catherine permalink
    February 24, 2014 6:50 am

    You have made me so jealous! We are expecting another round of snow this week. Thanks for the great pictures of inspiration!

  10. February 24, 2014 6:57 am

    There is nothing a great as a day with the dogs and getting to finally start seeds. I am enjoying watching Grady learn the ropes of his new home. He seems to have some pretty awesome dogs to learn from.

  11. February 24, 2014 9:45 am

    We chant “Maggie Badger, she don’t care” around here all of the time! Mind of her own that one…
    We are helping (by way of a WSU workshop) to put up a greenhouse this next weekend. I thought it would be a great learning experience for us before we attempt our own. Cross your fingers for good weather!

    • February 24, 2014 10:18 am

      Exactly – they don’t care at all, and he just has the off switch as if he ate a Puff adder and needed a nap. Nap time is wonderful!

      Fingers crossed and may springlock be at your fingertips while you’re holding on 🙂

  12. February 24, 2014 2:58 pm

    Ours is started, too, and I’m wasting a lot of time staring fixedly at seedlings, and at not-yet-up pots of seeds. Helps ’em grow better. ; }. We have a little 10 by 12′ unheated greenhouse, with a raised bed along one side, that I just transplanted seedlings into, of red iceberg lettuce, long-standing bloomsdale spinach, golden chard and rainbow lacinato kale. Radishes are sprouting in there, too, and there are carrot seeds that I hope will sprout soon. Put turnip seeds in a big pot, and parsley in another. And now that that has created a little room on the kitchen windowsill under a florescent light, it’s time to start some more seeds. … Can’t wait to be able to harvest, but since things are barely getting their true leaves, guess I’ll have to. The extended freezes knocked the sorrel on its heels and killed off my chard and the overwintering cabbages and broccoli that I set out late. Not an impressive winter garden year. I think most of the strawberries died, too. Need to go raid the leeks and barely-hanging-on kale outside, and make some use of them, so I can feel like a better homesteader. The chili, leek and potato soup, stuffed squash and apple crisp from the pantry stores last week helped. And pumpkin bread. If only I hadn’t run out of ideas for this week …

    • February 24, 2014 3:39 pm

      They don’t call this the hunger gap for nothing! I think it’s hunger for the sun myself, or at least a warm sun. We joke about the glowing orb…what is that thing? 😉

      Sounds like you’re on your way! I just got back from flipping hay to the cows and staring at the flats that just got seeded yesterday 😉 You just have to look for that first hint of green, the thermometer read 75F so perfect conditions for sprouting and with Joi Choi and kale in there I think I’ll be seeing green in a couple of days! Yeah!

  13. Karen permalink
    February 24, 2014 5:19 pm

    Blessings on everyone’s seed starts. In an effort to keep my “babies” warm, I lost about half when they fell from the top of our water heater. 😦 Won’t do that again. Matron, Are you not of the mindset that you must have spotless cell packs to avoid bacterial wilt?

    • February 24, 2014 5:53 pm

      Karen, ouch! Been there done that 😦 Yes, I’ll stick my neck out and say no, plus I use potting soil and not a sterile mix either. Knock on wood, no problems yet…of course, now that I typed that I’ll have problems :p

      • Bee permalink
        February 25, 2014 8:29 am

        Me too; sometimes home-made potting soil and always unsterilized. I’ve done it for years and haven’t had problems. Frankly, I think we make too much of the idea of keeping things sterile. I want my plants, animals and family to be able to resist infections, which means constant small doses of microbes to keep the immune system strong. Immune systems are just like muscles — they need exercise.

  14. Chris permalink
    February 24, 2014 5:39 pm

    That lil honey badger is just too dang cute! I bet you have a hard time scolding him! 🙂 You guys are amazing….doing all that planting already! I could never keep up with you…I’m with Grady…lights out after play! 🙂

    • February 24, 2014 5:56 pm

      Chris, he’s best when he just wakes up and his teeth aren’t awake yet. Those needles are sharp! We’re working on control. The big dogs were exasperated yesterday chasing him to retrieve the pots they know are off limits. It’s pretty funny to watch. I fear he will get a big lesson when Mama cat has her new kittens in about 8 weeks, she tolerates him now, but all bets will be off when she’s got a new litter of babies.

  15. February 25, 2014 5:17 am

    Your dogs have it made! Black Gold and seed planting…it doesn’t get much better.

  16. Barb in CA permalink
    February 25, 2014 7:20 am

    Matron, do you ever remove the plastic from the hen’s greenhouse? I know in the spring you’ll remove the deep bedding and start all over when your meat birds come, but does the plastic get changed every year as well? Just curious. And while I’m thinking about it, what about snow? I know you had that collapse a few years ago on one of your big greenhouses, and now the plastic is taken off both of them in the winter? But not off the hens, obviously? Is their greenhouse somehow sturdier to withstand the snow? I am always trying to use what you teach us, so thanks for sharing your experience!

    • February 25, 2014 8:32 am

      Barb, we only replace that when it needs it…which is usually when we have a scrap from one of the others to use that will fit. Since we have two for the chickens I rotate them. I am about to move the hens in the one with more “ventilation” and get the warmer one ready for the meat birds that will be here in a few months. It’s the design and size that kept these from collapsing in that deep snow. They are only 20′ wide and quonset style so they took all that snow and never hardly bowed at all. The 30′ wide semi-gable doesn’t take the snow load as well, but now we have mitigated that with taking off the plastic and having peace of mind plus some good freezing and thawing effect on the soil. Greenhouse soil takes a beating when it’s always covered. You get a few good years and then it starts getting a little odd. Irrigation is not the same as winter rain. If I had to do it over again or was staring out, I would go with the 20′ quonset or spend the money and add trusses to each bow on the ones we have. At this point, I don’t see us changing what we’re doing. Lots of greenhouses went down this year too, south of us – not fun at all.

      • Barb in CA permalink
        February 25, 2014 1:29 pm

        Good to know about the different greenhouse shapes. Makes sense that the quonset style would shed the snow better. And I followed with interest when you blogged about the difference in soil health that taking the covers off in winter makes. Fascinating just how complex the interactions actually are. There’s really so much more to soil than we understand I think. And so smart to use the scraps of plastic when you need to replace some on the smaller greenhouses (the hen houses). Thanks for all the help and insight you give us!

        • February 25, 2014 1:46 pm

          Barb, actually they didn’t shed the snow they just took the weight, we were busy shoveling everything else off and those got short shrift and still took the load. It’s just a stronger design, hard to flatten out that curve compared to the sloped bow on the semi-gable. Hard lesson to learn. I talked to an old Japanese farmer after that, and he was pretty sad that a 40 year storm had wiped out his 39 year old greenhouses 😦 He thought they would take the beating. All that pretty much firmed my resolve to grow hardier varieties of plants, it’s hardly worth the anxiety (on a homestead scale of course) to keep the snow off during the winter for salads and a little season extension, we have animals to keep cozy and sheltered.

  17. The Editors of Garden Variety permalink
    March 2, 2014 3:09 pm

    Oh my I love your dogs and the wooden tamper. Excellent pictures!

  18. March 7, 2014 4:27 am

    Hope all is well at Trapper Creek, been wondering how you are getting on

  19. March 8, 2014 1:07 pm

    Hello! A friend turned me onto your site and I have been poring over your archives – what an accumulation of wisdom! My husband and I just bought 40 acres in northern Idaho to homestead – it’s a little overwhelming getting started, but we are slowly moving forward with selecting a garden site, choosing what to grow, etc. We are at 2800 ft. and only get about 24 inches year, mostly in snowpack during the winter (although we do get the occasional thunderstorm all summer). I am very interested in dryland cropping – how do you think it would work in our climate? Would I need to space even further apart than you do?

    • March 10, 2014 5:29 am

      IPD, thank you! I think it can work, good organic matter is the key, so results may be sketchy at first until you get your soil built up. Some crops need some supplemental irrigation so you can plan your garden space accordingly. Water loving crops near your water source, and dryland crops further away. If it were me, and I was depending on this as my only food source and I was just starting out, I would learn to grow with irrigation and then wean myself off the irrigation. A lot depends on how much water you have available to use for homesteading use.

  20. T.Valentine permalink
    March 9, 2014 10:09 am

    I have been a devoted reader for about 10 months but never commented just sat back enjoying all. I realized with this recent silence how much I would miss you and your homestead adventures if I stopped hearing of them. Am sorry for your power problems but grateful it is not something worse.

  21. March 10, 2014 1:33 pm

    Love the photos of the dogs! Very jealous of you getting planting, everything is looking a bit grey where I am can’t wait for flowers to appear!

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