Friday, February 28, 2014

Rain! And Saving Seeds.

Well, my last post worked! We are now in the middle of two powerful, wet storms hitting northern California. 
While we are not out of the woods as far as the drought goes, right now all I can say is YAY! Rain!
So I thought I would write about saving seeds while I listen to the glorious sound of rain pounding on our roof. I know, this is a post for the end of the growing season, oh, I'd say about September but I thought it would motivate us to think about the growing season and saving money. Not to mention the wonderful art of saving seeds.
Now, the most important aspect of saving seeds is to know which seeds to save. If you buy a hybrid plant  and try to save seeds from this type of plant you will be disappointed. If you are lucky enough to sprout anything from a hybrid seed, it will not be a healthy, productive plant. Period.
 Or, like I experienced one time with a Tomato plant, your plant will be from one of the hybrid parent plant and be nothing like your original plant. That being said, below is the method of seed saving that I have had the best luck with.
Below, I am using my heritage Red Bell Pepper pictures to illustrate how I save seeds. I chose a healthy, well ripened Bell Pepper(s) to harvest the seeds. I then cut up the pepper and scraped the seeds on to a paper towel covered plate to dry. I let the seeds/pieces of pepper air dry overnight. Some seed savers also place the fresh seeds in the oven to dry.

 The next day I remove the rest of the seeds from the pieces and make sure that all the seeds are dry. You may need to air dry for another 24 hours to achieve completely dry seeds.
 Once completely dry I place the seeds in an envelope and label with the date and the name of the plant. You can also use a jar or air tight container to store your seeds if you are going to store the seeds in an area that is damp during the upcoming winter. The seeds must stay dry or they will mold. Moldy seeds should not be used to grow plants.

Here is a picture of my Black Krim Tomatoes that I grew this last year from seeds that I saved.  

I will write about saving seeds from flower plants in another post.
I cannot stress how important it is to save seeds if you love to garden. In the era of GMOs , hybrid plants, and the use of chemicals to alter/ morph crops, heritage plants and seeds are crucial to our future of the foods we eat and the flowers we enjoy. There are several websites of wonderful clubs and businesses that sell heritage seeds and foster the future of the heritage plant. Just Google heritage seeds and enjoy the wealth of information you will find. Besides, it is fun, saves money,
 and you will have an even more sense of accomplishment when you save your own seeds and successfully grow plants with them.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Getting Ready For The Rain

We are being optimistic even though this winter we have experienced the worst drought in 20 years. We decided to try to learn from previous winters and  prepare for rain  ( if it ever gets here!)
You see, we live in an area that is basically flat. Really flat. So when it rains, it floods.The rain water sits on our property and causes our clay soil to become sticky, gooey, mud. Which makes it a royal pain in the you know where to even do the simplest of chores.

This picture from last winter gives you an idea of what I am talking about.
One chore that I have to do rain or shine is feed and water the chickens, and collect eggs. Twice a day, 365 days a year. The path that I take to go see about my girls is one of the worst places for mud and my walking this path twice a day does not help the situation at all.
 So the first step was to install perforated drain pipe to help the drainage problem.
As you can tell, hubby had help from our puppy Buddy who was convinced that he was helping and that hubby was only digging holes for his enjoyment!


 Next, we wrapped the pipe with filter fabric, then laid more filter fabric on top of the pipe and path in preparation for the drain rock.

Then the truck from the rock quarry dumped the drain rock for us to spread over the fabric.

Whew! I am so glad that this project is completed! 
Now, when I go do my chores in the pouring rain, I will not need hip waders to get to the girls! 
And all we have to do now is wish, pray, and even dance for the rain because I am ready...... bring it!


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Faith And A Gift From My Family

I have a Bible that I cherish. It was given to my brother Tom by my sister, Sharon. But we never called her Sharon, she is and always will be Sissy.
Anyway, this Bible.........

It has brought me so much comfort, joy, and grief. But I think the greatest gift it has given me is faith. Not just the obvious kind of faith, I mean, it is a Bible after all. The kind of faith I am talking about is the faith in family. Faith that our family will always survive and even thrive at times. I guess to understand what I mean you need to understand a little of the history of this particular Bible.

 Like I said, this Bible was given to my older brother Tom for Christmas in 1959 by my older sister Sissy. Tom was 11 years old at the time.


 Sissy always went to church, faithfully, as long as I can remember. She took all of us to church as often as she could. She was the religious one in the family. Her faith was everything to her. Always has been, always will be.
Tom went to church because he wanted to be with Sissy.
 Later on, when asked about his religious preferences, he would say he was agnostic. After the Vietnam war and his time in the Navy, Tom would say he was an atheist. He did not believe in God, he said. 

Tom died in 1985 when he was 37 years old. I thought the Bible was lost. When our Mom died in 2004, I found Tom's Bible with her belongings. It was carefully, individually, wrapped up with some other things of Tom's that Mom had packed up when Tom died. When I gave it back to Sissy, she told me that she wanted me to have it. I have treasured it ever since.

I also read from it almost everyday. I have another book that gives me suggestions on a daily basis for scripture to read. I follow those daily suggestions and find that I learn so much about the Bible and about myself whenever I pick up Tom's Bible.

Today was one of those days when Tom's Bible taught me about having faith in our family. Not only did this particular scripture hit home with me about love and charity (which I really needed to read this morning), it hit home because the scripture was underlined, heavily, like back and forth with a pencil several times.
 Now, that in itself does not mean that much. But to me it means everything. I find marked up scripture at random times in Tom's Bible when I read it. And you can tell it was done over a long period of time, not all at one time by  the different marks of the pencil and sometimes, by a pen. Sometimes, it's just a little pencil mark at the start of the scripture, sometimes just a check mark. But sometimes it is heavily underlined, like it touched my brother so much that he wanted to remember it forever.
 I dare not alter this Bible with my own marks, and today, I felt an overwhelming urge to talk about this Bible. I hope that someday it will mean as much to someone else in our family as it did to Sissy, Tom, and now me.
A great lesson in faith from a simple Bible underlined by an atheist named Tom who sought comfort and guidance in a Bible that his Sissy gave him a long time ago. I am so happy that I get comfort and guidance now from this Bible that has survived and thrives, just like our family.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Resolutions Or Something Like That.

For the last 28 days I have read so many great blogs, and Facebook posts about New Year Resolutions that my head is spinning. Don't get me wrong, I love them and plan never to stop reading them.
 No, don't do it, don't write about resolutions, keep writing about gardening, no, don't do it! You can't possibly have anything new to add to the long list of how to lose weight, have the perfectly organized, beautiful home, or have the wholesome,non-processed, homemade meals ready for your family on the table every night! 

I know, I know. But I did do it. See, with it being the dead of winter AND fast becoming a record breaking drought year, sadly there is not that much to do in the garden besides watch everything turn an even darker shade of brown.

Seriously, we folks on private individual wells in Northern California are in for big trouble if we do not get rain soon and a whole bunch of it. We are in the process of buying/installing a 5000 gallon holding tank for our property to hopefully store water from our well and if our worst fears are realized, a way to store purchased water to get us thru this drought.

While I felt obligated to do my annual New Year's resolutions, I set myself up in the usual ways. I signed up for a free 10 day online workshop about how to stop procrastinating. That was over 2 weeks ago and I have not done a single lesson......hah! The irony! But all is not lost. I also signed up for another free 30 day workshop on taking control of your life and I am only 15 days behind schedule on that one. Progress, hah!

Then something happened that never happened before in the predictable guilt ridden January. No resolutions......just a promise to myself to change a few things that make me unhappy with myself. No promises to anyone else, just me.
I promised myself that I would read a book again. I read this one,

It was a short, easy read. It inspired me to try harder. It got me out of myself and it made me feel hopeful.

I promised myself that I would clean out my beautiful bathroom vanity that I did not like anymore. Not because it wasn't beautiful anymore, because it was cluttered, messy, and wasted my time every time I opened the doors to look for something.Which was alot since my toothbrush, hair brush, and every personal item I own was behind those doors.
And as long as we are being honest here..........
I realized that I had almost 30 of these scattered all over the back of the shelves in the vanity.

Why, oh why?
And as long as we are being really honest here........

Calamine lotion circa July 1998. I am embarrassed.

And the "after"

I know! Looks great! 
I love the Dollar Store baskets. So cheap,
Now, you may be saying to yourself, so? What is the big deal here, the baskets don't even match. But what you do not see ( besides the empty spots, which are a first in our house ) is the sense of accomplishment I feel. And the great feeling I get when I get up early, it is still kinda dark out, and I can find my toothbrush and toothpaste on the first try without even really looking inside the cabinet....nice.

Trailblazer I am not, but now I am excited about possibly losing a pound or two, or ten; loving my house again, and trying out a few new, healthy, homemade recipes for my loved ones. And best of all, I cannot wait to promise myself a couple more things to change for the better.
P.S. Pray for rain!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Iris Winter Clean Up

I am way behind on winter clean up around here so I am working overtime to catch up!

In the front of our property, next to the dirt road, is my Iris garden. This little plot of dirt was originally just a temporary place to plant my Irises until I could properly prepare a spot for them. Well, that was 16 years ago. Not only did I not move my original tubers, I have added many more over the years.

Little did I know that they would thrive under the shade of our Maple trees and survive the regular potty visits of my neighbor's dogs. Grrrrrr.....

Now at this time of year they look pretty sad. Last year's growth is long been dead, weeds and random seeds dropped by birds have grown in the bare spots left by the pink Verbena that share the Iris bed.

Here is another "before" picture.

So I got busy the other day cleaning up. I raked up the dried Maple leaves, cut off  last year's growth, trimmed the new leaves that had brown tips from our hard frost we experienced a couple of weeks ago, and picked up dog poop.
Every year while I work on this particular clean up project, I feel guilty about leaving my beloved Irises outside the protected, fenced garden where they could get the respect that they deserved. Then I remember how this neglected plot of dirt looks in May and June.  

And I remember how fun it is to be surprised by the new tubers that I acquired in a trade with a neighbor. I remember how all my neighbors ( even the one with the wandering dogs ) comment about the beauty of this little dirt plot, that they also look forward to seeing these hard working, neglected tubers bloom.
Then I remember that sometimes leaving things alone to flourish without me fussing on them constantly is the perfect way to be.

Friday, January 3, 2014


For the last few weeks we have been experiencing a cold spell. Now, normally it is cold this time of year, even freezing for a night or two. 
But this cold spell has been going on for weeks with the average temperature at night being 25-30 degrees! Now that is cold for us folks in Northern California! I mean really, if I wanted to deal with frozen pipes, hoses, and chicken waterers all the time, I would move to the East coast! Joking........I dare not complain too much since others are really suffering with severe cold weather right now.

I was worried that the hens would stop production so that all their energy could go into staying warm the last couple weeks but I have only experienced a small decrease in production.  Way to go girls!

I never get tired of seeing all the different colors and shapes of the eggs that I gather.

On the down side, this cold spell has killed off all my winter veggies. When it became apparent that it was going to be real cold for a long period, we covered everything to prevent damage. Unfortunately it did not work. I will replant most of my winter veggies when I get back from Southern California. I am so excited to be going south to see my family, but that is another post. Back to our cold spell.
On the left of this picture of my raised bed garden you can see what is left of my Cosmos. I always leave them alone even when they are done blooming because the little Chickadees love them! In this picture they are frozen solid and need to be pulled ASAP.

This is a picture of how the Cosmos looked before the cold spell. Still pretty but almost done. Just waiting for the birds to enjoy.

That is my Bougainvillaea plant that I have been babying all year. I was convinced that if I placed it in my greenhouse I could triumphantly say that my Bougainvillaea is NOT an annual and survived  to bloom another summer. As you can see, it was not to be. Frozen, even in the greenhouse! I guess I will have to leave these beautiful plants to my little brother's green thumb. He grows the most gorgeous Bougainvillaeas you have ever seen!

So enough of my complaining about the cold and the negative effects it has had on my garden. As I crunched around in the our pasture one frosty morning, I found some very pretty sights that I usually don't get to see. 
Sparkling ice on an old barn door.

 Frozen buds and leaves on some of my fruit trees.

 And some pretty frozen water drops on my big metal flower structure that stands in my Sunflower bed.

I am still not a fan of cold weather, especially hauling buckets of warm water to the chickens, but I really enjoyed the new sights and sounds it offered to me once I just took a moment to notice.

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