My First Seed Swap

I went to my very first seed swap last weekend.  I ment to go to this one last year,  however,  I didn’t have any seeds to trade,  even tho they say you don’t need to bring anything,  and somehow I missed it.  I think it didn’t end up on the calendar somehow.  I almost missed it this year too… Somehow I managed to run across  it on Facebook.   I made sure I signed up for the group running it this time so I don’t miss it again next year.

It was AWESOME.

It was set up in a medium sized room,  probably 50 x 20, with tables set up around the perimeter.  There were a couple of vendors there sharing information   but they weren’t there selling as far as i could tell,  everything at the swap was free. All the tables were covered with seeds,  broken loosely into categories.  Fate and I arrived around noon (it ran 11-2) and the place was packed. I probably should have snapped some pictures but there was so many people it just didn’t occur to me,  next swap I will bring my phone instead of my tablet.  I will also leave my purse in the car,  easier to maneuver that way.   There was no real rhyme or reason to the flow of people,  you basically had to float from table to table and wait for there to be room,  then slide in.

I brought:

Black krim tomatoes
Purple Cherokee tomatoes
genovese basil
Green shisho (perilla)
Green tomitillo
Blanket flower
Tall snapdragon mix colors
Bachelors button
Cardinal creeper
Black Eyed Susan vine
Raw milk kefir grains

I just took my seeds in the coin envelopes I bought,  labeled what they were,  and as I went around getting the seeds I wanted I dropped them off at the appropriate tables. Some of the seeds were in envelopes that people had labeled and put out. Basically you pulled out a few seeds and put them in one of the envelopes you brought, then labeled it. Some people had their seeds in little packets:

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The idea being that you took one of the packets, like so. Others just put them in bulk and I put them in my own envelopes:

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I got: Pie Cherry, rice, hairy verbane, golden rod, Joe pye weed, feverfew, toothache plant, milkweed, Grey headed coneflower, orange watermelon, butternut squash-rogosa violina gloia, parsnip, Malabar spinach, redbor kale, aunt molly’s ground cherry, radish-saxa 2, Turks turban squash, box car Willie tomato, chocolate poblano, massive lumpy tomato, chervil, Fruita bianca squash, hibiscus, zebra hollyhock, red hollyhock, dill, mustard, cayenne, choke cherry, Tuscan kale, lime basil, yellow current tomato, blocky Asian cucumber, wahoo, giant blue hyssop, big long thick wall spicy pepper, winterberry, cheyanne spirit echinacea, passion vine, Mexican sour gherkin, and good winter leek.

So, just a few.

All of those are how they were called and spelled on the envelopes I got them from. A few of them I am going to have to do some research on to see how to get them started. My brother brought over some 4 bulb florescent lights for me today, I need to get something set up with them so I can get some plants started over here. Mostly my flowers and the new peppers and tomatoes I picked up this weekend for now, but soon cole crops need to be going in.

I’m really looking forward to the next seed swap in a couple weeks. I have some more seeds to take with me to that one, and I’m excited to see what other people will be bringing.

-Fin

Seed Orders are Coming In

The seeds I ordered have started to come in!

First up:  Victory Seeds

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Great communication and Super Fast shipping.  They were the first seeds I got in by almost a week.  They also sent a very nice thank you for ordering email.  I’m excited to try their seeds, it’s the first time I’ve ordered from them.

Second:  Seeds from Italy

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Beautiful packaging and for the price the amount of seeds they give you is INSANE!  Hoping for good production on these, it’s my first time ordering from them as well. 

Third:  Baker Creek

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Love the art on the seed packets.  Baker Creek is one of the ones I either order from or pick up seeds locally every year.  They carry some of the more uncommon and fodder vegetables.  They sent me a free seed packet, you can see it in the picture (top right), however, it was completely empty.  Nice guesture, but kind of a fail on their part.  I sent an email about it, we will see what their response is.  Either way, it dosn’t matter, I’m just curious. 

Fourth:  Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

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I also order from SESE every year, I love their catalog and selection.  I’ve had really good germination from their seeds every year, so I keep ordering. 

Every year I grow a different kind of corn.  This year it’s Daymon Morgan’s Kentucky Bloody Butcher:

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Isn’t that pretty?  I can’t wait to see what the ears look like!  I am looking to make my own Masa this year with the corn I grow. 

I recieved in the mail some seeds from someone on one of the email lists I am on:

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I’m excited to plant the Rosa Rugosa, the rabbits should LOVE it. 

I still have a couple orders left to come in from a couple new seed company’s I tried this year.  I just love to try new things. 

-Fin

Fodder Growing System

I’ve done a LOT of reading on growing fodder for about a year now.  I had intended on getting it set up to try just as the weather got cooler, however, life got in the way, as it often does.  We had some roofers put a new roof on my grandmothers house….which turned out to be a seriously frusterating experience.   Then a week later, my grandma died.  Its been a pretty rough fall.  I’ve been growing fodder for about two-three-ish months now, and I have to say, I am a convert. 

Here is my system setup:

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It’s set up in my laundry room, which is hard to take pictures in, due to the fact that there is a freezer sitting right where I should be standing for the best camera angle.  There is one more shelf on top there that you can’t see in the picture.  It has tomorrows fodder in it.  I take 11 days to gow out my fodder, some people take less time, but my house is fairly cold so it takes me 11 days.  Each shelf is tilted so the water runs into the shelf below, back and forth across the boxes.  There are holes in one side of the boxes for drainage, like so:

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I got these boxes from Home Depot for 97 cents each.  They are your basic shoebox sized boxes.  They are also sold at Big Lots and Lowes for within pennies of the same price.  I recommend getting all your boxes from the same place, since each store varies slightly on the box shape.  The ones that I got from Big Lots were a bit rounder then the ones from Home Depot.  The rack set up is just cobbled together from stuff I had laying around here at home.  I am seriously thinking about building a rack out of PVC, however, just to get all the dementions right and facilitate drainage.  The wire racks sometimes hit the holes that are drilled into the boxes just right so they don’t drain perfecty into the box below, making a mess.  There is a big tub I got from Wal-Mart to catch the water below.  I don’t recirculate the water in my system, the bottom bucket is for catching water only.  You can set up a system with a pump to water it for you on a timer, I just haven’t since I have great results just watering once a day.  I use two gallons of water daily in my system.  I dump the water outside, so its not wasted by pouring it down the drain. 

This is how I start:

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I do 2 boxes for the rabbits, and 1 box for the chickens.  The chickens system is set up slightly different then the rabbits, since I feed them more sprouts then fodder, and I will be discussing their system in my chicken feeding post.  The boxes contain 1/2 cup peas, 1/2 c wheat, 1/2 c barley.  I was sprouting each grain separately, however, I had a problem with the peas molding around day 9-10 as well as terribly slow growth, when I started doing them together the mold problem was eliminated,  however they still grow really slow compared to the wheat and barley.  I will be eliminating the peas when this bag is gone, the rabbits don’t like them dry, the chickens won’t eat them sprouted, and they mold too easily.  It’s just not worth the cost.  They are twice as expensive as the wheat and barley, and a much bigger pain in the ass.  I’m concerned they will lead to mold in my system again, so I am keeping a close eye on things.  I may try recirculating the water when I am out of peas and see how that works for me.  I probably won’t up the amount of wheat and barley to make up for the loss of the peas, they produce most of the mass of the fodder I am feeding out as it is. 

I put my grain in the box, fill it with water, and let it set soaking for anywhere from 4-10 hours.  It’s usually around 6 or so hours that it soaks, but I really don’t make a big deal about how long it is in there.  I set it up in the morning, and drain and rinse them in a strainer in the evening when I am feeding the rabbits.  I don’t use any bleach or vinegar in the soak water,  some people do,  but I haven’t seen a need.

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I make sure to rinse the grains really well at this stage.  It helps to prevent mold by getting rid of the chaff and dust that would cause thing to clog up.  The grains put off quite a bit of starch in this stage so rinsing it well helps the system to stay cleaner in the long run, also reducing your chances of mold.  From here they get put into one of the boxes with holes and then put in the bottom of my growing rack.  They move from the bottom to the top, over and up day by day. 

Here is day one (bottom right) two (bottom left), three (top right) and four (top left):

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Here is day five (bottom right), day six (bottom left), day seven (top right) and day eight (top left):

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Here is day nine (bottom right), day ten (bottom left) and day eleven (both top):

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You can see there is a very dramatic greening up in the last half of the growth cycle compared to the first half.  They spend several days growing roots, then they put out the green sprouts. These grow under one two bulb florescent light fixture in the ceiling of my laundry room, there isnt any other lighting, and no windows.  I’ve tried putting them outside on the days that its nice out, but it seems to make absolutuly no difference in growth so I’ve stopped doing that. 

Here is a picure of the mat of fodder taken out of the plastic shoe box:

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The mat of roots:

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The peas are kinda weird, they grow wildly through out the mass.  Some even down, as you can see. Here it is from the top, you can see the pea shoots look different from the wheat and barley, which look similar:

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I feed this amount, roughly, per rabbit (normal sized pack of playing cards for size reference):

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The dry weight of the grain I am putting into the each shoe box weighs 9.5 oz.  The fodder I am getting out weighs 3lbs 8 oz…..thats almost 6 times the weight of the dry grain!  I know there is alot of gain in moisture, however, there is a huge gain in avaliable nutrients as well.  This link is to a fodder thread on backyardchicken.com that has alot of growing information as well as nutrition information on fodder vs. dry grains as well.  Its geared toward chickens, but I put it to use for my rabbits. The current issue of Backwoods Home Magazine has a good article about growing fodder as well.  The author of that article has posted in the backyardchickens.com thread that I linked to.

Overall I am pleased with my fodder experiment.  I will be continuing to grow and feed out fodder to my rabbits in the future.  Just seeing how much they like it, and how good they look, is enough for me.  It dosn’t take me more then 10 minutes a day to do everything that needs to be done with my fodder system.  I’m sure I could figure out ways to automate it more and spend even less time on it.  There are some really awesome commercial systems out there for growing fodder, but they start over $1000 and just go up from there.  I have about $30 into my system right now, and that whole cost is from the boxes that I bought to grow in.  Everything else I had laying around the house.  I actually started my experiment in planter flats, like you see in commercial green houses, however, that just produced way more fodder then I needed.  It was taking me several days to get through one flat of feed.  Two of the shoe boxes seem to be perfect for my needs at this time. 

The barley seems to be harder to find for some people then the wheat does.  I can say that in my experience the wheat and the barley both seem to grow at the same rate, with the same ease, and are loved by the rabbits equally.  I haven’t tried oats, everything I’ve read seems to point to them being really hard to get to sprout, and easily mold.  I may do an experiement with them in the future, just to see for myself, but for now wheat and barley seem to be the way to go.

-Fin

Seeds for 2014

‘Tis the season for seeds!  I got my first seed catalog in the mail just last week:

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I am pretty sure that this is the same catalog I get first every year.  They seem to have the biggest variety of seeds from what I’ve seen and I always end up putting some kind of order in with them.  This year I ordered 4 different types of sweet potato slips for delivery this spring, some potato onions and perennial leeks for delivery this fall, and a few packets of seeds that I thought I needed. 

I really should learn to go through my seeds first before ordering new ones:

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Especially since it seems like I have a few seeds….

Today was go through your seeds day.  I tend to buy seeds that I find interesting all throughout the year, not just in the spring.  I haunt the seed sellers locally at the end of the year for their clearance sales, which is the reason I have so any different kinds of seeds.  I managed to get to Planters Seed and Feed as they put their seeds on clearance for $.50 a packet, then ended up at Habitat Restore several weeks later and found they had clearance seeds at $.25 a packet!  Of course I stocked up.  When seed packets run from $1.00 up to $5.00 a pack I just can’t see not stocking up when I get the chance.  I also ended up picking up some of the more unusual seeds from the Mother Earth News Fair this year,  mostly herbs.  There were quite a few seed companies there and they had their seeds priced under for various amounts under retail. 

I’ve been growing a garden long enough now to realize that seeds aren’t just good for the year that they’re sold in.  I have had excellent luck sprouting seeds that are many years old.  The only thing I buy fresh every year is Lettuce seeds.  I have had zero germination on lettuce that I’ve stored for more then one year. 

The order I put in for Southern Exposure Seed Exchange I ended up duplicating a few of the seeds I already had, both cucumbers.  I also put in a small order from Victory Seed Company, they give a discount to The Survival Podcast Members Support Brigade members, of which I am one.  I’ve been impressed so far with their communications and fast shipping, especially around the holiday season.  I will be ordering from them again, assuming their seeds have good germination….but I have no reason to believe they won’t.

I am sure I will be getting several more seed catalogs over the next month or so, and I’m sure I will put in at least one more order from one more company for seeds.  I just can’t help myself, I love to try new things.  It seems like every year there are a few more varieties on the market, some of which I just have to have!  I also realized as I was going through my seeds that I have only one kind of kale seed, Dinosaur Kale.  I want to pick up a few more kinds, and at least one that is super winter hardy.  I love having kale out in the garden all winter long to snack on.  I’m not exactly sure how I ended up with only one kind of kale, but you’d better belive I will be correcting that oversite!

I will be starting Tomato and Pepper seeds this week.  I have waited until the middle of February in the past and I just don’t feel like the peppers get a good enough start that late.  It seems like my peppers just aren’t quite getting ripe by the end of the season.  It could be that I am planting peppers that aren’t good for the region I’m in, however, I am going to try earlier seeding and see if that makes a difference.  I’m starting the tomatoes earlier as well because who dosn’t want earlier tomatoes??? 

We are going to be planting far more tomatoes then we ever have before because the tomatoes that we canned this year we’re So GOOD!!!  I just can’t get over the amazing flavor of the tomatoes.  I’ve used them in just about everything so far and haven’t come across anything that isn’t made better by the addition of home canned tomatoes.  My favorite so far is 1 qt tomatoes, 1/2 qt raw milk, in the crock pot.  Let it simmer on low most of the day then take a bit of fresh basil, I use about 2 fresh leaves (1/2 tsp or so dried), and mix it all until smooth with an immersion blender.  Amazing.  It looks a bit curdled before you whirl it together, but the flavor is amazing.  We’ve only canned tomatoes with salt this year, but if we have a bunch next year I want to try making some salsa and some rotel type tomatoes.  Maybe even some spaghetti sauce or ketchup.  It’s amazing what you can do with home canned tomatoes. 

I saved as many seeds as I could this year.  It was one of my garden goals, and I managed to do pretty well.  I ordered some coin packets off amazon:

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Almost all of my saved seeds were put into those packets.  They work really well, you can even seal them if you want to.  I didn’t for most of the seeds, but I did a few because the seeds kept coming out, like okra.  I tried saving seeds in glass jars, but those are hard to store.  I tried plastic baggies, but like the glass jars, the seeds had a tendency to mold, even if I got them seemingly completely dry.  With these packets the seeds can breathe and I haven’t had any problems with mold, even when I put green nasturtium seeds in the packets.  I got something like 500 packets for $17, more then enough to last several years, though they are plenty sturdy to last several years each.

This year I tried a new labeling method out in the garden, with mixed results:

    
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Those are paint stirrer sticks like you get from the hardware store.  I took my wood burner and burned the names of everything I planted.  It went alot faster then I expected, however, when it came time to dig through the 100 or so labels I made it was a real pain in the ass to find what I was looking for.  Quite a few things didn’t get labeled because of it.  The other issue with this method was the fact that the black burned places faded in the sun, completely.   The etching part was still there, but it was really hard to read without the char.  I ended up using black crayons to write on the sticks as I was doing my fall planting this year, that was really awesome.  I just kept a black crayon in my seed box along with some blank sticks and wrote the name of whatever I was planting at the time.  Easy Peasy.  So far the crayon hasn’t faded, though it’s early to tell since the fall sun is so much gentler then the high summer sun.  I will update on the longevity of the crayon next fall, that’s how I plan on marking out my whole garden this year. 

The sticks seem to last a season in the dirt of the garden.  The do rot down, however, it’s easy to just break off the rotted part and stick the slightly shorter stick in the dirt.  I’d estimate that you would probably get several years of use out of each stick.  I got mine free from the hardware store….I just asked.  You could use the crayon to mark pretty much anything you would like to use as markers for your plantings.  I’ve thought about doing some really nice markers for my perennial herb plantings using some carved stakes made out of fallen branches.  I will wood burn the name of the plant into an area I’ve carved out, then go over it with crayon so it’s legible for, in theory, several years.  Maybe this winter while I’m stuck inside.

-Fin

A slow start to a modest garden…

My second year of gardening at my house.  These are two different examples of hugelkulture beds.  Both are heavily mulched on top to help trap additional moisture and reduce the need for watering.  Due to the extended cold and then excessive rain (and some illness on Fin's part), things got started a little late this year.  Either way, the greens are starting to come up, even if they are a little late.

 

The side bed:  Upper left is some type of Kale that regrew from last year.  Other than that, it's all carrot tops that you can see at the moment.  There is Romaine lettuce planted throughout, but that is only visible up-close as tiny sprouts.

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The Raised Bed: Two types of tomatoes in the cages on the left, next to that is a row of okra, and the rest of the bed is 3 different types of squash.

The holes you see nothing growing in either didn't germinate, or they were plucked by the birds and died before I could replant them.  Damn birds.  We'll be reseeding shortly where necessary.

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One of my favorite plants in my yard will be blooming again soon:  My Yucca plant!

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Hopefully Fin will come by and post the specific plants in the comments, because I can't remember them off the top of my head.  Either that, or I will edit this post tomorrow.

Flower Bed Update

Well,  it’s starting to fill in:

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There at the end I put some day lilies that my parents gave me,  they seem to be bouncing back from waiting nearly two weeks for me to plant them.  I planted a mixed pack of sun flowers on the left and nasturtiums on the right all the way up the bed.  Right in front of the day lilies I planted some sage in the middle and thyme on the edges.  Then I just dumped in several mixed packets of flower seeds to fill in the rest.   Mostly annuals,  but some perennials as well. 

I do see some weeds coming up mixed in with everyone but I see a lot of stuff I recognize as flowers that I planted.   I am looking forward to seeing it in another month or so when it starts to bloom. 

My rose bush has gone all kinds of crazy this year too:

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I didn’t do anything special to it so I have no idea what is going on but it looks nice and smells wonderful too.   I did tie it up so it’s not laying on the ground a couple days after I took this picture.  I’m hoping that it doesn’t break if we get some good winds here.  I tried to be careful about the way I tied it to keep that from happening,  but only time will tell. 

I’m having some issues with germination of my seeds in the garden again this year.  It’s gotten frustrating for me to have such poor luck for two years in a row.  It’s making me wonder if I have some issue in my garden I don’t know about.  I am guessing my problem this year is a combination of the colder then normal spring and all the rain we have gotten making the seeds not germinate before they rot.  It’s just frustrating.  I know some of the seeds I’ve planted are older seeds,  but some are new this year too so it’s not just that. 

I’m replanting some stuff yet again here this week,  the weather is supposed to warm up and stay warm for a bit.  Hopefully that will solve my germination problem.   I’m just not sure what to do if it doesn’t.  I’m not planning on giving up on gardening,  but I sure do wish it was less frustrating some times!

The other issue I am concerned over is a lack of pollinators I’ve seen in the garden.  I’ve planted tons of flowers as usual to lure them in and I’ve still seen none so far in my garden.  I did see a couple big bees at my parents house last week finally,  but none here.  I’m hoping the weather is affecting them too and I will start seeing them as it starts to warm up.

-Fin

Fish auction!

Another spring fish auction has come and gone and I am absolutly wiped out.   I took many more bags then I usually do this time it looked like everyone else did too. 

We had over 720 items that we auctioned off…it took almost 7 hours.   Crazy times.   I worked the check in/out table this year and it was just non stop with items to be entered into the computer. 

The prices were not as high as the spring auction last year and there were some real deals to be had.  I picked up a co2 regulator for $24 dollars that I am super excited about.  I also got some spixi snails and a pearly occie.  I thought I had pearly occies….turns out they are black occies.  Oops. 

All in all a good time was had by all.  I am pretty sure I made enough money to pay for my pond expansion this year, which is all I was really going for.  It would be nice if the fish hobby paid for itself, or at least funded itself somewhat!  I am, however, glad there isn’t another auction till fall though, any sooner might kill me.  What a day. 

I am hoping today to get some eggplant seeds started.  I am also going to get some parsley seeds soaking to get them started out tomorrow.

It’s nice enough today that I have the windows open…which really, really makes me want to go plant something in the garden!  I have to keep telling myself that its too early.  If I plant out now then a killing frost will come along and wipe everything out just as it gets a good start. 

That’s how we roll here in zone 6a.

-Fin