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When choosing garden seeds, what information is most useful?

seedcatGood day, folks. I know you are veritably bristling with excitement over the upcoming gardening season, champing at the bit, so to speak. And, for the ‘old-timers’ out there, what I’m going to discuss today might seem old stuff, so you might as well go pour yourself a cup of tea, coffee or perhaps something stronger (hey, it’s been a really cold week here in the US – in Tampa, Florida, it was 36 degrees F at one point. The rest of us here in the northeast have had to sing praises when it hit positive numbers).

For the rest of you out there who are beginners or who have not been involved in vegetable gardening for very long, this, my little dear ones, is for YOU. (more…)

2014 – a year in review

Yoohoo, everybody!! Since today appears to be ‘International Gotta Review 2014 Day” for bloggers, I guess I have to woman up and work my way through the good, the bad and the did..not…work for 2014. Organization, I realize, is everything here, so we will go by topic sub-group so that for those readers who are only interested in one topic, just scroll down until you hit that. (more…)

So, whatcha got?

Good afternoon, little munchkins. Now that you’ve theoretically crawled out from underneath the holiday wrapping paper and all the cookies, I’m sure what is burning at your brains is this:

What is new in the seed catalogs for 2015?

Yes, my plump little gardening elves, the seed catalogs have been out for a while; I swear the first one to hit my mailbox arrived the week after Thanksgiving. They are everywhere and I think they are all sharing their mailing lists as well since I’ve received some catalogs from companies that I’ve never heard from before.

However, I, your sweet old Auntie, have spent some of MY holiday time (a dirty job, but someone must do it) in checking out what is new. Not that I immediately rush to whatever new thing the seed folks are serving up (I do have my favorites, such as Royal Burgundy beans), but it’s always good to check things out because, after all…you…never…know.

Here are a few things that caught my eye. Not that there are not literally hundreds of new and newly-rediscovered varieties out there but here are a few that rang my bell:

Territorial Seed (Oregon): These folks, ever since I started buying a big block of onion plants which always do very well, have become one of our favorite sources. They have some very interesting things which might (depending on your point of view) be worth trying out:

Summer Purple
Summer Purple Broccoli. This does not form a big head (which is not a disadvantage in my book since you have to cut it up anyway) and, with a 60-90 day growing period looks to be something people could try out for early spring gardening, fall gardening and even, if you live in a relatively mild early winter area, winter gardening.

Quinoa
Quinoa. Yes, believe it or not, if you are interested in giving growing quinoa a shot, you can get seed here. Even if you live in a short-season area, it might be worth it to grow just for the nutritious greens.

Pinetree Garden Seeds (Maine): This seed house has been a long time favorite with us. In the early days it was because we could get small, relatively cheap packets of seeds. Since then they have grown on us because we can also get mixtures of seeds (such as mixtures of lettuces, or mixtures of peppers and so on), which is actually a lot more fun to grow.

Chia
Chia. This will take 4 months, and here in the north, will require starting just like tomatoes and about the same time, but if you’d like to give it a shot, here you go.

Celery
Peppermint Stick Celery. This looks good – fast to germinate and worthwhile growing because to be frank, grocery store celery is one of the top items on the ‘dirty dozen’ list of fruits and veggies which have high concentrations of pesticide residues. Grow your own.

Seed Savers Exchange (Iowa)
The grand-daddy of the heritage seed saving organizations.

Sorghum
Sorghum. Want to grow your own pancake flour? Shoot – want to grow your own pancake flour AND pancake syrup. Here you go. Long season – strictly for the south but definitely worth trying.

Hustard
Heirloom Mustard – the description says it is not prickly, which makes it a huge improvement on anything I’ve found. If you want to try mustard greens – here you go.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds (Vermont)

Gunsho
Gunsho (looks like Chinese asparagus to me), also referred to as choi sum. Great for stir fries and harvested for the tender stems and just-opening flowers.

Radish
Sora Radishes – The best feature here is heat tolerance so you won’t lose your radishes as soon as the first hot weather in the spring shows up.

Tiren Tomato
Tiren San Marzano. Great San Marzano tomato shape and flavor but earlier which is always a benefit.

So, check out the seed sites; open up those seed catalogs and put together your order, pronto.
What am I excited about this year? Cover crops – in specific, tillage radishes (which are really selections of daicon radishes which grow HUGE roots, pull up all sorts of nutrients in the soil and then…DIE, releasing all of that goodness into the upper reaches of the soil. Great stuff.

How to handle Christmas Breakfast

So – is your family a ‘get up at 5 a.m. on Christmas morning, create a hurricane of wrapping paper and THEN eat something’? Or are you a ‘eat something first; then open gifts, then eat some more or something different, go back to the gifts or start watching Christmas movies’ sort?

Well, no matter what sort of breakfast you anticipate for Christmas, here are some ideas which I think are terrific and come under two basic headings:
A) Pull together the night before, leave in the fridge and then cook/bake in the morning while everyone opens the gifts, or…

B) Pull together the night before in a crock pot, turn it on and the whole thing is all finished when you get up so people can eat it whenever they like – before, during, after, here, there and everywhere.

Frankly, either one works as far as I’m concerned because it takes one important item (nutrition – kids don’t live by gingerbread people alone) off the list of ‘to do’ in the morning and allows Mom and Dad to actually enjoy the complete chaos.

Here are some great ideas (and I certainly did not invent them – they are standard breakfast fare, brightened up with some spices and goodies:

Using the Crockpot:
French Toast

No gluten French toast

Breakfast eggs and etc. casseroles Just a note here: Don’t want meat? Don’t put it in.

Overnight oatmeal

Crockpot Cheese Strata

Set up in the fridge and cook when you get up:
Casseroles you can set up the night before

Overnight oatmeal – cold

Now, just a note – if you have the sort of family that will eat anything and everything for breakfast, then you certainly can set up chili or stew in the crockpot the night before, bake some corn muffins and off you go.

Have a good breakfast.

Oh, my gosh, I’ve been missing

snowyfield Well, ‘missing in action’ does not even begin to describe my lack of posting. We’ve been busy-busy (as have everyone else at this time of the year, but we have birthdays as well as the usual holidays so it’s been a veritable factory here at Chez Siberia.

And the elves are all out on strike so it’s up to us. (more…)

End of the season?

novgarden2 And a good, good day to everyone, wherever you are. This has been a very busy week in the garden for the DH and your Aunty. Not for choice necessarily, but sometimes you have to get things done before the weather gets colder, or rainier or something else (yes, what is on that kale is SNOW – it was 27 degrees F this morning. I think we can safely say that winter is coming).

The big job that had to be taken care of was the arrival of the replacement fruit trees. Yes. Replacement. Not addition. Replacement, as in ‘Dear Sir, the fruit trees x.y.z etc. that I ordered from you did not grow. As a matter of fact, they died. Toes up. Kicked the bucket. Gone to meet their maker. Please send replacements. Respectfully…” It happens, and if you don’t know this first thing in the spring (which most people don’t because you are waiting, hopefully, that the damned things will leaf out and oh, joy!!

Only these ones did not. (more…)

How to make an apple pie

pie11 Your dear old Aunty realizes that this might sound a bit silly, but there are people in the world who have never made an apple pie and who dearly would like the experience of making one. And at this time of the year (at least in cooler parts of the world), the availability of apples is pretty much at its height. (more…)

OK, so you’ve got a garden – what are you going to do with it?

tomatopasta1OK, so here we are, at what, for us here at Chez Siberia, is well on the way to the prime production time out there in the garden. And frankly, even though we’ve been doing this for (ahem) 35 years, we, too get the shakes when we look out there (and our garden is not that big, truly, folks) and see all that stuff that has somehow been produced through seeds, sun, and water.

It’s humbling, truly. (more…)

Pickling time

Now, I would not necessarily say that you can make pickles out of anything, but considering the fact that you can make pickles out of watermelon rind and zucchini, I think it’s not a real stretch to say so. At this point in the gardening season, the veggies out there are pumping out amazing amounts of stuff and there is no way for us to keep up with eating it fresh, so here at Chez Siberia, we tend to freeze and can (or, more technically speaking, jar) things when they are at their best. Today’s been busy – the DH and I have already done up zucchini bread and butter pickles
zucchini pickles
and were left with a dutch oven full of the pickling liquid.

The DH, not one to allow good pickling liquid to go wanting a use, ran out to the garden, and came back thirty minutes later with a huge bag of green beans with the suggestion that we pickle those too.

oooookay. Far be it from me to argue about this because although I LOVE fresh green beans from the garden, we have never had good luck with freezing them (I think they have the texture and taste of paper towels, frankly) and I think I have at least a dozen big jars of beans that we canned a very long time ago (and they are fine – the seals are intact, no bulges, leaking, etc. No discoloration and the cloves of garlic in the jars look perfect) which sit, lonely, in the dark of the pickle cellar downstairs. So, it’s obvious to ME that no one is going crazy for canned green beans.

But green bean pickles? Hmmmmm, that might be a winner and I’m certainly willing to try.

This is as much of an experiment as anything else but here is what we did and we’ll see how they come out.

For a big bowl of beans, washed, tops and tails trimmed and sliced on the diagonal (because I dote on diagonals):
Sprinkle 1/2 cup of canning or coarse salt and mix thoroughly, cover with ice and cover the bowl and allow to sit for three hours. Then rinse thoroughly three times.

Meanwhile, wash several canning jars and put into an oven preheated to 200 degrees F until hot. Put matching sized lids and rings into water in a saucepan and heat until simmering. Turn the heat off.

Put into a big pot (like, dutch oven sized):
3 cups of white vinegar
3 cups of white sugar
2 tsp. celery seed
2 tsp. mustard seed
1 1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. dried ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

Once you’ve rinsed the beans, bring the pickling liquid to a boil, throw in the beans and reduce heat. When it comes back to a simmer, keep it at a simmer for 2 minutes. While it’s simmering, get your funnel, spoon etc. ready.

Ladle the beans into the hot jars to within 1/4 inch of the top edge. Clean off the edge with a clean, wet paper towel, and then put on a lid and band and tighten down. Process the way you do all other pickles (water bath for 5 min. or whatever is your favorite method).

We’ll report back on how these turn out.
Bon appetit!!

Cue the scary music

I am sure a lot of readers here have seen a photo that is out there on the ‘net’ showing a huge boulder with a tree growing right up through the center of it as an illustration of ‘paper beats rock’ or something like that.

But in the garden (or at least the gardens that most of us have), we are not dealing with a tree growing up through a rock. We are dealing with vegetables that, pound for pound are probably stronger than we are. I point out the photo at the top. That, my friends, is a tendril from a vine of (deh-duh) a spaghetti squash. I love spaghetti squash; I truly do. But the vines all by themselves are aggressive and voracious, running all over the place in a garden, climbing out, hitting the streets. so far, the only way we’ve been able to keep them under control is with a lawn mower.

Truly.

This year, because we put out electro-net fencing to keep out the bunnies (and we’ll see how well this works; I’m thinking the openings are too big for bunnies. They might work with a rather rotund woodchuck, but I’m thinking a bunny is going to have no issues with it, frankly), the spaghetti squash vines have made a break for it by attaching themselves to the electro-netting. And wrapping themselves around it with those tendrils. Look closely; those thing don’t just snag on the netting; they are wrapped around in corkscrew fashion. A few more of those and I anticipate seeing that fencing laying flat on the ground and waving a white flag. (more…)

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