Friday, June 27, 2014

Bees All A Buzz

I wonder how my bees are doing? That is pathetic I know but it has been so cool that I haven't been inside the hive. I need to completely take it apart and rearrange it. It was thrown together in an experimental way that I can see isn't working. Yet with the cool temperatures I'll harm the hive if I do that. I had hope to do it today but of course it is in the fifties. Yesterday I might have been able to but we had too hurry and slip over to the other house and work on it. On the way home it was pouring rain. There I guess there was a tornado sighted, heavy rain, and some hail - not nice. Here we experience rain also. Yes, we have had a few warm days, very few, but they have been used for other more pressing matters. The weather can indeed be rather wild where we once lived. It can be wild here but it is a different wild so I'll take that for a change.
 I know the queen is laying brood because I'm seeing more and more Carolinians instead of Italian bees. The bee in the center I can't remember if it is a Carolinian or a bumble bee. I took so many photos to get a few I liked. Carolinians indeed are dark, fuzzy haired bee. The dark being slick and the yellow fuzzy. 
This is an Italian bee for comparison. I know, I know, this rose bush is mighty yellow and needs help. I'm not doctoring it though because I'm going to cut it out. It of course like most of the other bushes is growing up tight against the house. The new up shoots from it I'll transplant elsewhere when I have time. I did find out some information about our soil when I went to the farmer's co-op. It was as I thought. I picked up some fertilizer for the fruit trees to give them a boost and then hopefully a little later I can get some manure around them. Right now I need to fill buckets for the garden. When the sun shines that is as last night and today we have had quite a bit of rain. Not complaining though even with the lawn in desperate need of mowing and other outdoor chores needing done. I'm tired and my adrenals could use a slow day. That is what I'm going to do, slow way down. I'll just putter inside instead. I've got the last of the project bag order to complete before four more bolts of fabric arrive next weekend and I begin sewing a order more than double any I've done before.

I picked lots of strawberries this morning before the rain and Kirk really wants another double batch of strawberry/rhubarb jam, heavy on the rhubarb. We have discovered it is heavenly on ice cream. He likes chocolate and I vanilla. That will use up the last of the rhubarb until it grows once more.

We'll talk soil later and also what the range management professional had to say. He is coming today to walk our field and give me some advice. Rain, rain, go away, until at least he is gone.

Growing Cilantro

I love cilantro and would like to learn new ways to cook with it. My first step though is to be better at growing it. The last few years I've thrown some seeds in a pot now and then and I've discovered that cilantro isn't at all like, basil, oregano, thyme, or a number of other herbs. Cilantro likes to bolt and there isn't much you can do about it.

With a lovely sunroom, I'm determined to keep herbs going this time instead of having most of them die in the middle of the winter because our house doesn't have enough sunlight. My other option was to put them under grow lights in the room with the coal stove in the basement but then they'd roast to death and the cilantro wouldn't grow there anyway.

To do a better job of growing cilantro in particular I did a little research. Sure enough, cilantro does not like hot weather. I'm sure if it saw the forecast for 90 degrees they are predicting for the fourth of July it would be bolting in a hurry. Oh wait, it already is. I'm not feeling so bad though because cilantro has a short life anyway even under ideal growing conditions. I've learned that the hard way and it was reaffirmed in my research.

That means you need to keep a steady supply of new plants going. One site recommends every 6 weeks and others every 3. I can't tell you what works best for I haven't been a good girl about keeping my going. Presently I have a bolting plant and I'm not sure it is a good idea to start more since we are suppose to warm up though you wouldn't know it by today which is to reach a balmy 64 F. or so. As for the cilantro that is bolting I'm letting it. Cilantro produces coriander seeds. Never cooked with those but it is about time to start. Besides isn't growing my own seeds my goal this year anyway? I did it once with basil, let it go to seed then planted the seed. That was last year and you know that I didn't keep it going as we were in the muddled mess of finding a house and moving.

Cilantro likes lots of hair cuts or foliage cuts shall we say. The top third is recommended. This usually equates to two cuttings before it bolts. Definitely no basil or oregano but it doesn't taste like them either. The research recommends planting tightly. That would help keep it cool. I talked to a gal Wednesday and she says she puts hers in the shade outside, good suggestion only right now I'm not growing outside herbs. I've got a long heavy wood box I'm planning on working on later this summer and it will be by herb box. My neighbor has volunteered to give me some mint and your know how mint likes to wander so it will go in the box this fall.

I'm off topic here. We were talking about cilantro. It is not the heat of the air that causes cilantro to bolt, but rather the heat of the soil. That is probably why the shady location in the yard would work pretty good. You should also mulch the soil to keep it cooler. Maybe it needs a good ice pack in the summer, I don't know but even if I get cilantro in the spring, fall, and winter, that would be alright. I'll just have to save the seeds to start them again in September.

As for trying to stop a bolt, this is what one internet site had to say, "Many gardeners wonder what to do when cilantro bolts. When they see the white cilantro flowers, they wonder if they can simply cut them off. Unfortunately, once cilantro bolts, the leaves rapidly lose their flavor. Cutting the cilantro flowers off will not bring the flavor back to the leaves."

I also learned a new trick with planting the seeds. Sometimes I'm rather disappointed in the germination and now I know why. Cilantro seeds are actually two seeds inside a hard husk. To increase the chance of germination you should gently crush the husk and soak the seeds for 24 to 48 hours. Then you air dry the seeds and plant.  But why would that say that? Why would you soak the seeds and then air dry them when you are just going to put them in the soil and keep them wet? That just doesn't make sense to me so the rebel that I am, I'm going to simply skip that step and see what happens -- in September that is. Meanwhile today I think I'll get caught up on some house work since it is to rain once more. We had a real gulley washer last night. It was cool. We could see lighting backlighting the mountains and then this sheet of gray moving our way. When it hit us it poured rain in bucket loads. It passed over and there was quite a lighting storm to our east. With the sunset in the west and a rainbow in the east it was quite a lovely site to end a long day of working at the other house. This owning two homes is for the birds I tell you. Four hours of travel alone between them makes it a challenge. We brought home our last trailer load yesterday and we have just a few little items there that we are using to do touch up work on the house. Can't wait until we are done and it is sold. I'm so...... in love with where we have moved.

Monday, June 23, 2014

What's Wrong With My Potatoes?

Last week was crazy busy, family coming and going, hence the silence. I'll guarantee you it wasn't because I didn't have something to say. The grand daughters are still here but as most of you know that slows me down but they have been with us so often it doesn't halt things. I'll admit I didn't get much done last week but we did get most of the garden planted finally. After all it is going on the end of June. Most of the things I've planted so far haven't done well. It has been so..... cold. My NOrland potatoes I planted in May came up three weeks later, yet the ones I planted in mid June came up a week later. Warmth of the ground is the critical factor. Wish I had gotten Kirk to dig out the thermometer he uses in his forge. I like to stick it in the ground to check to see if it is warm enough to plant and in the confusion of our belongings still not put away I decided to forgo the usual. As for my peas, well, very few came up so I replanted. It has been such a wet cold winter and spring. I think we have reached 80 degrees once is all so far. That doesn't mean it won't turn horribly hot come July for it has done that many times before. I'm not hoping for hot, just warm. Upper 70's and low 80's would be nice. I am in bad need of food since my garden was hailed out last year. My seeds are also getting old and that determined what I planted more than putting in what I wanted to eat. I've got to save seed this year or I will be paying a fortune the next for seeds.

I'm so excited though because my sister made a phone call and low and behold it is as I thought.  Indeed you save potato seeds and from them you get your start for a larger crop. The third year after saving potatoes for the next year's planting they will produce smaller potatoes and fewer. It is the potato seeds that save the day. I wouldn't think it would take more than four to six hills grown from potato seeds to do the trick of supplying enough potatoes to save for seed potatoes the following couple of years. My sister found someone who had done just this but only once. I'm not thinking just once but on and on. I may not be able to grow all the seeds I need but if I can cut my seed buying bill in half and then down to a quarter, that is a huge savings.

My sister's experiment with potatoes this year is to grow them up. You've probably all heard that you are suppose to be able to grow 100 lbs. of potatoes out of one plant. I tried using tires once and the potatoes rotted. I should have tried it again with spacers between the tires but I never did. If she is successful I'll get it a go again. Growing fewer potato plants and getting a higher yield from each is always a win, win situation. It leaves more room in the garden area for something else to grow.

 Even doing all I can will equate to buy some seeds. There is just no way of getting around it. We are spoilt and use a large variety of foods. But buying fewer seeds means more funds to buy the remaining needed seeds. You can bet seed prices will rise for those who raise seeds have ever increasing bills also. I don't know about you but I think with the increase in grocery bills a few more people will be looking to garden next year, even if it is just a small garden to eat from in the summer months. That will put a strain on the seed markets. Like the chickens, you will have to get your order in early before they are sold out. With it already costing hundreds of dollars for seed for our garden, it is one area I'm for sure looking to save on. I took a peek at a greenhouse in town and my have prices gone up since I last bought plants. I don't know how people plant more than a small garden if they are buying seeds and plants every year.

With such a steep learning curve to grow a garden; grow your own plants from seeds inside; and breeding and saving your own seeds, not many are going to be able to do it in a short amount of time. I'm so.... glad I started years ago. The brain can only process so much information at once and new things happen each year that you have never dealt with before, like this. I think I had it once before. Oh I wish I would keep a garden journal. I just can't remember how it turned out. These were the first potatoes planted when the ground was cold. Note the curled up leaves. Some Internet sites say the plant will right itself hen the weather warms but the other plants are fine. King Harry of course being the potatoes that shot up out of the ground while the Norlands shivered beneath. Another site said mites but it is rather cold for them and I haven't seen any.
This is the second batch of King potatoes I put in, in another area of the garden. Note the kind of yellowing appearance. When I planted these I noticed thistle growing in the garden and added sulfur. Thistle means alkaline. I'm going to add a bit more sulfur and another fertilizer today in the way of manure that I sprinkle around them.. I'm not sure if iron isn't a problem also since my evergreens were yellow. Then again it has been cold and that will keep things yellow too.
  I'm ever so glad I planted my potatoes in four areas of the garden and at different time. This is the Norlands coming up three weeks after I planted them. I just checked them and they look like the King Harry's that are curled. Hmmm.... the two sets are both on a north end of the garden. One on the east side of the garden shed and one on the west side. The potatoes that look good are on the south end of the garden. There is another batch of potatoes in the new garden. I put Norkotahs and then King Harry's  running north and south. The King Harry's on the south side are coming up first. The potatoes in the other garden are running east to west. I'll have to check out if that is what makes the difference. Some things like grapes need to run north to south. Then again maybe they just need to be on the south side because it has been so.... cool. See, I really need to keep a journal so I can test things out from year to year with differing weather. 
I went to a lecture years ago by a gentleman who advices ranchers around the world helping them work with nature and change their land to a more holistic approach. The results were amazing.  He said when planting a garden don't put all your eggs in one basket. He admitted that he had the tendency to plant things in rows and all in one area but his wife would put things here and there all over the place. The result was that the same crop had a tendency to do better in some areas than others and if they had had them only in the bad area their crop yield would be in danger. He also said that the inter planting confused the bugs. The smell of the plants was diffused by other plant smells making it harder for them to find their favorites. That is why I plant the strong smelling tomato with broccoli in between. The flea beetle smells tomato and not the broccoli.
I really hope this winter I can take some serious time to formulate a garden plan but alas, it has been a haphazard thing just trying to keep up. For now I'm just happy to get things in the ground and pray they will come up, the critters won't eat them, and I can fill many a jar and freezer bag this fall. As I weed and work further on my garden I also need to get the deer fence up. I'm sure when the country begins to dry out they will be back to check out why I have a lush patch of ground. I hope lush patch. 
 The other reason for spreading things out is disease needs contact and plants here and there are less likely to all be effected. .When the times comes that our lives depend on what we grow, this little trick might mean the different between belly full or a grumbling empty stomach. It has been a long time since people in the USA have had to live off of what they produce. Those who don't believe it is coming haven't studied history nor the weather patterns lately.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Feeding Chickens And A Greatly Atticipated New Arrival

My high energy schedule just isn't happening. That means the wheat doesn't get rinsed three times a day. I'm lucky to get one time in and low and behold it still is sprouting. I found a key - temperature. I got to thinking -- wheat in the field sprouts at cool temperatures so maybe keeping my buckets in the kitchen isn't so good an idea. What if I kept my wheat in the bathroom in the garage? The sink is there and it is cooler but not cold. The results of the change is the wheat is sprouting even better. Maybe not vastly better but definitely without nearly as much time and energy exerted. The cooler temperatures mean the moldy smell doesn't build up and I'm much happier because I just can't squeeze in three times a day any more. Smaller amounts of wheat in the buckets still results in a better sprout and so I try to keep four gallon size buckets a third full going most of the time. Normally two buckets at a time are of the same sprouting age. That leaves an occasional day here and there without sprout treats for the chickens but as they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder. Or rather change is the spice of life. Unless you are making huge changes on a regular basis. That has been Kirk and I lately. It is good for us but oh so hard.

The chickens are molting and look quite the site but are laying very well, 6-8 eggs a day. I have 9 hens. I really don't need that many eggs but who do you illuminate when all the hens seem to be doing such a good job? I'm thinking that 500 percent increase in certain vitamins that the Mother Earth found were present in free range chicken eggs has to be what I'm now getting. Wheat sprouts, free to roam in the daytime catching bugs and eating weeds, vegetable scraps from the kitchen, and a free choice buffet of sunflower seeds, lay mash, and grain not sprouted has to have the numbers up there somewhere in that range.

Oh I forgot, the chickens have been getting red beans lately too. I had some I found at my step-dads and who knows how old they are but I've been cooking them up and feeding them also. Beans are high in protein and eggs have high levels of that so the hens need a diet rich in protein. What better sources than wheat and beans. Beans may not be what most people think of as a chicken food but why not? I think cooked or ground beans is a great idea. As prices rise we need to be more broad minded about our feed choices. I know a gal that feeds her dogs vegetables. I wish my cat would eat something beyond what he catches and cat food. Scraps from the kitchen get a turned up nose no matter how I serve them. Before I had barn cats to feed them to but now they are the one glitch in my recycle program. Maybe when I get another cat for a companion for him this fall the competition might spur some interest in kitchen scraps? I sure hope so.

Funny how cats don't bother the chickens at all. Oh they think about it when they are younger but a few pecks on the head does the trick and the two maintain a respectful distance there after. I once found a terrified kitten hanging from the chicken wire inside my chicken run with three hens in a semi-circle below just waiting for the petrified creature to fall.
I'm always looking for ways to do things less expensively and better. Letting the girls roam the yard in the daytime is definitely less expensive and better. They will be happily pecking along and then start a race across the lawn to another area for no apparent reason. No squawks of alarm, just a spontaneous dash. Kirk and I laugh or at least smile a zillion times a day at the antics of the girls - especially the Wyodottes. They remind me of Robin Hood, the Walt Disney version. Remember Maid Marian's maid in waiting, the big fat hen? Remember how she waddled from side to side as she ran. That is exactly what the Wyodottes do. It makes me smile every time. As for the Auracanas and the Australorps, they don't for some reason. They simply run, no waddle. How boring. It must be the larger chests on the Wyodottes that cause that cute side to side waddle. 

Our son said he just read an article where researchers have found chickens to be quite intelligent. He said they have between 25 and 30 some sounds communicating everything from danger up, danger down to come hither I've a grasshopper for you. Yes, a rooster is known to woo his hens in such a manner for favors extracted later. I found this fascinating u-tube about this subject.  It talks about chickens emotions and of course any of us who have had a pet chicken, we already know some this and are quite fond of our girls but others need to see this to appreciate what we see in these feathered friends.
With so many eggs I'm anxiously awaiting fresh cream. Ice cream is on my mind, yogurt, buttermilk, cheese and so much more. Seems like every time I go to the grocery store prices have risen like yogurt went up ten cents a single serving container and then the next week it went up ten cents more. Can't wait for my goats to start producing again for us.
Abigail here is the best little yearling momma. She fusses and fusses over these cuties. The doeling is the one with the white spot on her side and the cute little white and black patches on her legs. Yesterday we went to go and get in the car to go to church and Abigail ran to the fence in alarm screaming, "Don't leave me!!" Poor girl, motherhood is at times a terrifying experience. She did the same thing when we left to go in and say Happy Father's Day to Kirk's dad. She can relax today. The back up team will be on hand all day if she has any questions.

The kids won't be the only ones frolicking about the pen soon. Kirk and I bought two goats Saturday. It will solve our lack of milk problem that a I'm afraid dry Megan has placed us in. It may be for the better as I've been wanting Jujube for three years and now she is ours to pick up, her and her buckling at her side. That means fresh milk for us and a buck to breed with this winter. Of course that also means we will have to come up with a buck pen and cover the metal shed frame we brought from the other place.

I plan on milking Jujube plus her feeding her boy. I'll have to bring her production level up. She definitely can do that as she is 7 years old. Not a spring chick but last year she scored a 90 at appraisal time. Pretty impressive for a 6 year old. I've loved her since she arrive at a friend of mine's. I told my friend then that if she ever wanted to sell her, I wanted first dibs. My friend wasn't so impressed with Jujube until the American Dairy Goat appraisers started coming around and then she knew what she had. As for Jujube and I, it was love at first sight. I can't wait to bring her home.

The breeding lines of the little buck at Jujube's side go perfectly with our Abigail and the doeling laying down in the picture. It will be line breeding with some other good bloodlines in the mix. These little ones dad and great granddad are the same. That sire, Rebel's, bloodline also goes back a few generations to the same sire as the little buckling that will soon arrive. We are hoping for great things but first and foremost we NEED milk.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Friday The Thirteeth Babies

Yesterday was Friday the 13th. I've never believed in Friday the 13th and all the superstition about it being a bad day. In fact, I've had a very good Friday. I went off to work on the other house and came home to two little surprises. These little ones were born on a very special day. It won't come around again until 2049. We had a full moon, a strawberry moon, a honeymoon they say. I emphasize they say for I couldn't see a thing with the clouds covering my view.  How shall I work that into their names? I would have enjoyed seeing the hint of pink in the moon's color but alas, once again it wasn't to be. It seems every time a spectacular meteor shower is to occur we have clouds, when there is to be an eclipse, we have clouds. What is it about celestial things that don't want me to see them?

 A strawberry moon reminds me we need to talk strawberries one of these days. As I suspect mine have a problem. It stemmed from ignorance as most problems do but we'll talk of that later. This strawberry moon is often called a honeymoon as this is the start of the honeymoon season for couples in love and strawberry for its color and it is strawberry season. This special moon is the closest to the earth of all the others and therefore it was huge or so the Internet said. I kept my curtains open in my bedroom just in case the clouds went away and when I woke up in the night to turn over I would see it shining down on me. Nope!!!

Oh well, I did get two adorable and healthy little ones and that is better than seeing a strawberry moon for they will bring delight day after day. Abigail here is a year old, quite small compared to my other does at this age, but she is plenty stout enough and had these cuties all by herself. Wish I'd of had my calendar I threw away by mistake when we moved, then I would have known to stay home. Good thing I wasn't needed. Abigail's tail head was loose but then it has been loose for two weeks and she had an enlarged udder but not tight. The babies have also been dropped for two weeks. No real definite signs that she was to go yesterday. I'm not disappointed. She is doing well with them and kidding all on her own is a big plus for me. I'm hoping her udder will now greatly increase in size because it is pretty little.

Abigail, or Abbey as we call her, had a doe and a buck. Look at those huge ears, a trademark of her momma and her momma, and her momma and so forth.

Daisy should have gone first as she was in estrous when the buck, Rebel, arrived. Abigail bred a few days later. Apparently Daisy was going out and didn't take for her udder is still quite small and her tail head very tight. I'm guessing at about three weeks from now she will kid. As for Meagan, no signs of babies at all. That really has me upset. She is our big time milker. She was in with the buck for five weeks -- so what is her problem? She is CAE and CL free. No, she wasn't in as good a condition as she is now. I've really had to worm her and feed her up. But for me not in good condition is wonderful for most others. My vet and feed store owner friends say I'm one of the pickiest people they know. That is probably why I'm horrified at the condition of so many goats I see on blogs. Backbones and hip bones sticking out, long scraggly hair, and an all over unkept appearance. My goats presently aren't the kind to be fat, though I've had easy keepers, but my goat's bones are well covered, their coats slick and shiny, and they are playful depicting that they feel good. I love my goats!

Kirk and I took a stroll through the grocery store for a few items to eat while we were away at the other house and the prices of dairy products is becoming shocking. Kirk took one look at the price labels and said, we are making that, and that, and that and that etc. Which really means I'M making that and that and I would but with what? Daisy had better really come through for us because it is on her shoulder this year unless I figure something else out. She did feed triplets last year as a yearling. Pretty impressive. She looks like she is only carrying a single this time, rather odd for our goats. The girls didn't get the care and fussing over this year until lately as things were a bit wild. That is why I simply put a buck in the pen instead of hand breeding. The results definitely haven't been as successful. I just guessed since he was mature that he would get the job done. I maybe should ask his age? Then again maybe it was my fault. Feeding triplets and not being cared for as usual might be what led to what looks like Daisy carrying a single. Yes, it probably in part my fault. But not getting Meagan pregnant is just weird. She is only three and has had twins and then triplets.

I'm not expecting much milk out of Abigail. That is a lot of pressure on Daisy. As for Meagan what do I do? I've not tried breeding in the summer. We always had Saanens up until a few years ago. They don't breed except in the fall and early winter. Any suggestions Nubian breeders? I need milk. I suppose here I could set up to have winter babies. Not that I need more to do but it would be nice to have milk all year round.

I may have to go and look for another doe. Kind of late to be looking especially for one that is CAE and CL free with good bloodlines. Hmmm oh what oh what shall I do?

Thursday, June 12, 2014


This is two of the four magpie offspring that just a couple days ago left the nest. Note the short tails which shows these are youngsters. These wobbly younguns don't know enough to be afraid of humans and so we have delighted in watching them up close the last few days. They are a noisy bunch and I will be glad when they move off to new territory and leave me in peace. The meadow larks can sing all they want but these guys squawk.
 This is mom flying across the yard. Her long tail streaming behind her. She is a bossy woman who lights down just a foot and a half from the cat and gives him a regular scolding whenever he would come near her pine tree which held the nest full of babies.
She has her hands full feeding four mouths and she spends her days flitting about grabbing insects and stuffing them down the throats of her demanding, screaming offspring. In this photo you can see her above and one of the youngsters below. I'm surprised the barn swallows that inhabit this birdhouse didn't throw a hissy fit because they were too close.

Magpies are members of the crow family and not my favorite bird. Give me the meadow lark and their melodious singing any day over these guys.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Seed Potatoes and Potato Seeds

 I've been researching potatoes lately. I did a blog which is your first hint but some more questions arose and off I went researching again. My Norland potatoes still haven't come up. I'm getting worried. The Internet said 2 to 4 weeks so they still have a chance but in the past my potatoes usually shoot out of the ground and I've got results in a week. Now I'm wondering just when I planted the potatoes. I do wish I'd keep a journal. I'm not sure but it has be at least 2 weeks since I planted and if they don't come up this week with the predicted sunshine I'm going to give up hope for them. I can't figure out what went wrong. These were seed potatoes and I kept them watered. The ground is cold for sure since we had snow and cold temperatures forever.

I just planted my Norkotas and my new King seed potatoes Saturday in the new garden. I hope they do better. These potatoes were sprouted a bit, which is the usual stage in which I planted them. It makes me wonder because the Norlands weren't sprouted at all. Was that the difference? Too bad because Norlands are my favorite potato. They don't give the yields or keep as well as the Kings but the flavor.... yum!!

I hope this week the peas shoot up too because there are only a few poking their heads out. I hope I don't have to replant them. I keep reminding myself that I once planted a garden the third week of June because it kept snowing and was cold and I got a decent harvest so be calm, all will work out. My goal for this week is to finish planting everything but the pepper plants and melons if I have space for them. That means I have to finish the cold frames and cut plastic also for the tomato cages. I think I'll put my cucumbers out in my wall a waters. I just want things out of the house. Not that I am running out of room in here but I want something finished. I never get much weeding done until I'm done planting and the old garden for sure needs weeded.

My garden is huge this year. Maybe not huge in terms of back east measures or Midwest measures but for cold little Wyoming it is BIG. I hope I can keep up with it. Yet on the other hand I'm wondering if it is large enough for all my plans. We shall see as I have lots of seeds that need to be planted because they are on the tipping point of still be good. In the new area I'm sure I will be fighting grass and maybe some sagebrush will try springing up also. Wish I had time to just plant cover crops there but I don't. 

I'm a little more uneasy than usual because this is new ground. Uncharted territory so to speak. That and every year I garden I realize I don't have a clue what I'm doing. I've been planting potatoes for YEARS, close to forty. I'm finding out I don't know anything about them. I only thought I did. Did you know there are seed potatoes and potato seeds? No, they aren't the same thing. I saw a bleep in an article that left me confused and wondering. Not a difficult task to do. When my Norlands didn't come up so did those previous questions and some new ones. I got to wondering if my King potatoes from last year's hailed out garden would produce a smaller crop since the seed potatoes were smaller than what I usually plant? Didn't find an answer. I guess it will come when I harvest them but I'm thinking the answer is NOT. Mainly based on the fact that what I did find said that a seed potato needs to be the size of a medium egg. Less and the plant will die of starvation since the seed potato draws its nutrients off the flesh of the old potato before it begins feeding off the soil. My old King potatoes are doing fine so they must have been large enough. As for the Norlands, they have a couple weeks left before I can officially say they didn't make it.

Up came this potato seed thing again as I researched. I don't think I've ever really wondered much about potatoes before except what kinds to plant and how to get a larger yield. This year as I have vowed to become really serious about seed saving I have delved deeper than ever before. Seed potatoes are simply potatoes saved to be cut up and put in the ground again the next year. As with all things like this, onions etc. It isn't the BIG ones you want but the medium ones that do best. Have you ever seen huge potatoes in a seed potato bin? Once I did but only once. I always figure I should try and copy the professionals as they have laid the ground work already. Why do it again? So I try and keep seed potatoes that are about the same size as they do. I know I tried a big onion, a small onion, and a medium onion to save seed with and the medium one did best. The big one rotted and I can't remember what the little one did. I think failed to do much sprouting. An onion too lives off its flesh before rooting into the ground. Just remember medium is best. You know the saying, "Moderation is all things."

Seed potatoes are smaller potatoes saved to be planted into the garden the next season.

Problems can arise if you don't have an ideal place to store the potatoes so they don't rot before the next garden season. If I'm living off what I produce, I'd like a back up plan. I've had the potato rotting problem happen to me. Someday I'll have a cellar. I have the hill for it but for now I have to come up with a new place to store my seed potatoes for the next garden season. That puts my seed potatoes in peril. Then there is the problem of some potatoes being keepers and store well but some don't. I don't keep non keeper but how do the commercial guys do it? This whirling brain is always going but Wyoming produces little in the way of crops except hay so there isn't a farmer around here to ask. I have yet to meet a self-sufficient gardener here either. Then again I'm not real social so they could be here.

When I read that after a few years of saving seed potatoes, your harvest will begin producing smaller potatoes, I couldn't help wondering how this was prevented? Of course they said in the article to buy certified seed at this point but the commercial guys aren't doing that plus I'm trying for the self-sufficiency route, not the semi-self-sufficiency one.

Does potato seeds fit into this equation somewhere?  Anyone grown potato seeds? I certainly haven't but now I'm curious and I sense an experiment coming on. The research says you start the seeds 3 to 4 weeks early in  pots before putting in the garden. The seeds produce tubers or tuberlets, as they are sometimes called. Sounds to me like if you think they are manly they are tubers and tuberlets is girly. You plant the tubers as you would the seed potatoes you cut.

But where do these potato seeds come from? I know I've never seen a packet at the store or in a seed catalogue. What I didn't know was that later in the summer I had at my disposal hundreds of seeds hidden away. The potato flowers mature and form seeds. Those are the green balls I always wondered what they were but for some strange reason never cut open. Inside is hundreds of seeds. If these are potato seeds then why aren't the catalogues carrying them? The problem is that these true potato seeds, as some call them, produce fewer and smaller tubers that those grown from seed tubers. Customers are of course going to want seed potatoes.

Potato seeds or True Seeds  are seeds not small potatoes

The advantage is that these seeds last for a few years. You are not going to get a potato to last that long. If something goes wrong with your seed potatoes you stored, these are your back up system. I really like this idea. The seed potatoes might rot or sprout way too early and use up all the potato flesh reserve. So if you keep the seed and plant it the three to four weeks early in pots, transplant into the garden, and then save the smaller potatoes to plant the next year is this how the commercial guys are doing it? It being keeping from having ever smaller potatoes and smaller yields. The small potatoes from the seeds being your starter crop for the next season.

Kirk and I were discussing how far back the lack of independence goes. In the local general store people bought seeds. Think Laura Ingalls Wilder books. I'm sure many saved their own seeds at this stage of history but the desire for someone else to do it and take responsibility is a part of human nature. The weaknesses of man. I think of just how much knowledge was lost between my great grandparents and I and I'm greatly sorrowed. I could have learned so much from them on how to do things for myself. Easier gave way and with each generation we became more dependent on others for our survival. With that more controlled.

One more question plagues me. Since the potato flower has the male and female parts and is self-pollinating then what are they talking about putting a dozen potato species next to each other and letting the bees do their job to create new potato varieties? I thought self-pollinating meant they didn't cross. Of course then how do they cross potatoes to get new varieties? I know nothing! So are the potatoes underneath the plants true to the original parent but the seeds will be a cross if you plant more than one kind of potato?  How far apart do your plants have to be from each other to not cross? I don't want to be Ireland and have a famine from not enough varieties grown.

Wouldn't my bees pollinate the different kinds no matter how far apart they are in the garden? I'm so confused. Every time I read an article I leave with questions answered and a whole list of new ones needing answers. I'm finding the potato subject quite in-depth.

While I'm looking for answers, I'm going to work on an experiment. I'm collecting seeds this year and going to grow them the next. Because who know when I'll find the answers. Other questions might send me skitting off in other directions before I return to this subject.

During this experiment I will do the following as instructions dictate. Okay, I've never followed instructions well, yes, I hear you but these are quite simple.

You collect the green balls when the fruits are ripe like ripe tomato. Of course you keep the different varieties separate. Put them in the kitchen blender and cover with water, blend just until fruits break up and the seeds come out.

Then ferment this mixture in a bowl for 24 hours. The seeds will sink and the fruits debris float. Wash the seeds several times and then dry on a coffee filter. Don't have one but I'm sure a milk strainer pad will do. Then spread on a paper towel to dry. Store in a air-tight jar with silica gel in your refrigerator. They will keep for several years if necessary.

Seed potatoes of course need to be stored between 35 and 40 F . Remember these are the small potatoes. I've had them warmer for most years as I don't have a better place and gotten by. Maybe it was just the kind of potatoes I have. This year I'm trying the garage because it is insulated and in the crawl space below the house for storage to see which works best.

Am I the only one that has been in the dark all these years or is this something new to the rest of you too? Can any one of you by chance give me the answers I'm longing for?

Soon I'm going to talk about corn and the new thing I learned about a different way to keep them from cross-pollinating. Got to try that next year too.  

Saturday, June 7, 2014

This And That


The computer refuses to remove the bold type. Every time I try and move this paragraph, it shoves it in my face in large bold type. Oh how I wish the computer would quit trying to think for me. Ignore this. I'm not trying to emphasize this paragraph.

This Recluse spider bite is whipping my behind. I'm doing better but still having issues. My nurse friend said because it bit me in the fatty area, I could have trouble for a long time.   As in whenever I loose of gain weight some of the toxins can be release from my fat. I'm definitely going to use my Hot House dry sauna when it is safe to do so. Right now there is too much toxin in my system already. The bite lesion has increased a little in size from narcosis but not much. I think the dying has died. My friend was quite alarmed because she said if the blistered area is just over the size of a silver dollar then the underneath damage in the tissue is many times that. No wonder I feel so good, NOT!! This whole thing has my hormones in a whirl and I'm depressed, along with body aches, and major kidney pain. I'm slowly getting better but it has been a struggle.


One night when I was in major back pain and couldn't sleep I made strawberry-rhubarb jam. Maybe not the typical reaction to pain but I find if I can divert my attention on to something else, I don't notice the pain quite so bad. Of course I forgot the sugar and started ladling the mixture into the jars and luckily I noticed how light colored the mixture appeared. Pain clogs the memory cogs but at least I remembered. It didn't hurt the jam any and I ended up accomplishing something despite feeling really lousy. By then I was so... exhausted I slept despite the pain. As for the next day mowing the lawn at the other house, well, I had to mow, lay down, mow, lay down. It still got done along with reading a book. I needed to get some house cleaning done also but something is better than nothing.

The other big project this week has been going through my bottled foods. Next week it is suppose to be much warmer and not so much rain so I figure inside this week, outside work next week. I've got to get the garden in but not so fun to do in the mud. Hubby will be happy because I cleared a big area of the garage. Half the jars were on the floor there and half in the storage room. The food storage room needs a real over haul. I'm going to have to build shelves this fall. I can't figure out what the previous owners were doing. Most of the shelves are missing and only light things could be put on this unsubstantial framework. The previous owner canned, not as much as I, but put their food on shelves in the garage. They didn't have a knife shop there though so things have to change.

You and I know how much a shelf full of canning jars weighs ---- a lot. I want sturdy two by four wood ones and if they will get done it will have to be me that does it. I definitely don't have time now as I have to get the rest of the garden in and the fence built, and the house painted, and, and .... How do you eat an elephant -- a bite at a time.  First bite - put some of the older foods in the compost pile in the garden and the other foods I'll feed to the chickens a little at a time. Then I'll start measuring and thinking about my shelving and just what will work best to hold not only bottles but the extra toilet paper, plastic bags, etc. that I stock up on. With the hail storm we had last August that ruined the garden it meant I kept home canned foods I normally would have already fed to the chickens or a pig if I had one. So for the next week I'll slowly get this done one dishwasher load of jars at a time. If only I could figure out our water softener then these scaly whites on the jars would disappear.

I decided on some paint for the house after leaving a paper swatch on the deck and the floor of the kitchen for a week to see how it appeared at different times of the day and in different weather. I'm really liking the color. I thought it might be a bit light but it looks darker than the swatch. It really warms the place up and matches so much nicer with the gray decking.
We won't be the white house on the hill that sticks out against the landscape anymore. Nothing wrong with white but there is so.... much of it with a white barn, a white garden shed, a white house that is white on the outside and inside making it rather over done. It doesn't look crisp, it just looks washed out. We'd rather be more unnoticeable from a distance and blend in with the neighboring mountains.

 Not crazy about the outside lights but there are lots of them so that isn't changing but the thing that really bugs me is the front door. There is such a big window in the door and side windows too. Your visitors have a full view of the inside of the house before they even step in. Somehow I feel invaded upon even though most visitors will likely be family coming. I've got ideas for that problem and I'll touch base with you later about my ideas. The front door of your home should be a focal point of the house and I've been thinking long and hard about how do that and create a little more privacy. After all we didn't pick the end of the lane, twenty some miles from town to be in the middle of things.

Monday, June 2, 2014

A Black Widow, A Hobo, And A Recluse Spider Have All Taken A Bite Of Me.

Three bite series is now complete. Ye...s, I've been bit again. I brushed my symptoms off onto having a detox weekend because of the bad back pain and body aches. The large red blister --I didn't know - something. I have so much to do that I just pushed aside my symptoms as much as possible. That is until I got the "MO.... m!". You know the one. Your title is said with complete disgust and the word Mom is done in a roller coaster fashion starting out high and ending low. Yeah, I got that one last night when I was describing my blister to our oldest daughter and said I really hadn't been feeling well. I can come up with a cazillion reasons for feeling kind of puny at any given time. I just try not to let it disturb my life too much. But lately, I've been dropping like a lead balloon about noon. The mornings I just carry it around. I putter slowly about the house, and I mean slowly, after lunch until my second adrenaline pill kicks in three hours later after taking it. It usually only takes one hour. Then I can get up enough humph to do a few more things outside  slowly.

When I described in detail my sore on my belly and my symptoms, our daughter must of grown suspicious because she hit the Internet while we were talking. Sure enough I must have been bit by a Recluse Spider. I fit the pictures and most of the symptoms to a tee, except the extreme pain. This hasn't been like the two Black Widow bites that took some doctor prescribed pain killers and muscle relaxers I happened to have in the medicine cabinet. That was the worst. The Hobo spider bite a few years ago was the pits with the nausea and headaches that lasted for two months along with the continuous small blisters that kept breaking out on my jaw line. They wept and wept fluid. A heavy duty antibiotic took care of the problem as I couldn't take another month of it and broke down and went to the doctor.

This one is like the Hobo bite but different. There is no headache with this one and not the pain but itching is there. Really tired and my body sure does ache. The sore I guess is bad enough according to the Internet that next it will turn black and have some narcosis. This one doesn't weep. I didn't get the pain level I'm suppose to get but neither did I with the Hobo Spider bite. Since it bit my fat belly I wonder if Recluse Spider bites are like Hobo Spider bites and if bit in a fatty tissue area, and believe me it found a prime spot, then I could have a wound issue for 2 to 3 years. Just as long as the flu like symptoms leave, I'm happy. I've always got wounds.

 As a tad bit of information, Hobo Spiders do not inject venom 50% of the time unless it is me that is. Most Recluse Spider bites go unnoticed because they are often no more symptoms or swelling than a mild mosquito bite. I of course am experiencing things on a scientific level just for you that you might experience it vicariously. Not voluntarily I might add.

As I thought about the bite, I remembered I'd once tested borderline for having Lyme Disease. My numbers were elevated but not in the absolute positive range. I probably have that too. What is it about me? Mosquitos leave me alone. They love my husband but spiders leave him alone. He at least has the option of insect repellent. I've never heard of spider repellent. Oh well, life goes on and with it knowledge and wisdom. Hopefully, I won't have to repeat the series of poisonous spider bites because once is definitely enough.