Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Starting Seedlings

We started our first seeds of the season indoors this weekend, and had our first “incidents” of the season within 24 hours.

My daughter and I on Saturday morning finally got around to sowing tomato seeds in a peat-pellet tray. The excitement and anticipation never disappoints, as she completely took over once we commenced operations at the kitchen counter. More skilled this year than last, she soaked the pellets, inserted the first tiny seeds into the swollen peat balls, then moved onto the next variety – without assistance or instruction from me. She became somewhat upset when I offered help!

In addition to the tomato seeds, we made a row of six sunflower seeds, which came from a packet given to her last year by my best friend. I’m excited about these, as they are not the “usual” yellow sunflowers. We grew those giants last year with great results, but these flowers come in mixed autumnal tones that should be rich, deep and dark.

We placed the covered tray near a sunny window, and no sooner did our cat Daisy lay atop it, crush the cover, and settle into the depressed “bed” that surrounded her. Not good.

The next morning, I awoke to find the tray overturned and on the floor, with peat pellets in piles. Not good either. I could barely tell if the seeds were still in the soil, much less discriminate between the tomato pellets and the sunflower pellets. That will be more apparent when they sprout, but until then, I need to keep an eagle eye on the tray. Remember that last year, Maisy clipped most of my celery root seedlings along with some others. And once fallen, the cats like to bat around the ball-shaped swollen pellets like toys, leaving looping trails of dirt and flakes of peat in their wake.

The tray is secured shut with a rubber band now and moved to a different window. We’ll keep you posted.

What We’re Growing this Year:
Pole Beans: Yellow Wax, Kwintus Beans, Emerité Filet Beans, Purple Podded pole beans
Summer squash: white and mixed-color pattypan; mixed color eightball zucchini
Winter squash: Butternut, Delicata
Red, White and Purple Potatoes (which we’ll buy and sprout in the coming weeks)
Tomatoes: Black Cherry, Sun Gold Cherry, Black Russian, Husky Gold and a red tomato from seeds given by a friend’s Polish Godmother.
Dwarf bok choy
Lemon Cucumbers

What’s in the Ground Now:
Rhubarb and Bright Lights Swiss chards
Mesclun mix, Mache, Radicchio
Tuscan Lacinato Kale
Sugar Snap Peas
Golden Beets

What I’ll Pick-up at the Nursery after the Last Frost Date:
Either Rosa Bianca or White Eggplant
Purple and Green Basil
Kirby Cucumber plants
Maybe a Roma and/or Big Boy tomato plant or two

Whatever I purchase will be included in this year’s Eco-Nomics, which so far is pretty low.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Early Beginnings

The farm has begun.

Tuscan kale, sugar snap peas, rhubarb Swiss chard, rainbow Swiss chard, a row of golden beets and wide patch of baby lettuces are all in the ground. Save the $1.19 mesclun mix, every seed was left over from last year or the year before. They’re still viable, and coming up.

When I purchased the mesclun seeds early last month, I had to exercise some restraint. When we see the first seed stands of the season, my daughter and I both become wide-eyed and energized. I’m like a kid in a candy store – full of hope for the growing season to come. Then we’ll bounce from store to store to see if other seed stands are up and running. She just goes insane, picking packet after packet until they spill out of her little hands. “Let’s grow this!” “Can we grow corn?” “I want the carrots again!”

Ah, that “again.” I knew we had some red carrot seeds from last year, but hadn’t taken a full seed inventory and didn’t remember precisely what I had on hand. We bought just the mesclun mix (with one of us leaving the store moping) then headed home to check our stock.

We had just about everything in the quantities needed for a good harvest. We did not, however, have enough varieties to fill all of the beds. I want to try more “storable” items for winter, like squashes, maybe parsnips and definitely more potatoes than I did last year. I also wanted a few different summer crops, specifically yellow wax beans.

My favorite catalog, John Scheepers, had only a bush variety. Plus, all the seeds I’m re-using this year are Scheepers seeds. Should I forsake them for a different company? I did: Jung Seeds had a climbing wax bean, “Kentucky Wonder,” so my daughter and I and I built an order around it.

Along with the pole beans, we chose mixed color eight ball zucchini, mixed pattypan squash, mache (or lamb’s ear lettuce) and dwarf pak choi.

The baby bok choy was an impulse at the end – a good one, I hope. It’s easy to grow and quick to harvest. And we like vegetarian stir-fries in this household.

The seeds haven’t come yet … I’m getting a little worried. The time for planting the mache will soon pass.

So, with seeds in the ground and more on the way, I may as well start the Eco-Nomics for the season:

Mesclun seeds $ 1.19
Jung Seeds $16.12
Total: $18.31

Inventory also went beyond seeds. I have peat pellets left over from last year, along with the reusable growing trays and half a bag of seed starting mix. My daughter and I will start our tomato seeds this week.

I Broke the Fast

It was the kielbasa that did me in.

After giving up meat for Lent, I ate some at our family Easter celebration on Sunday. Mass was lovely, the egg hunt my sister and I set up for the kids was a mad, squealing scramble, and the spread was, well, quite a spread: sliced ham, kielbasa, a full cheese board I put together, whitefish salad (interfaith marriage in the family), pickled cabbage, Polish mashed beets, boquerones (pickled anchovies) gardiniera, pepperoncini, the greenest Cerignola olives you’ve ever seen, and then some. It beckoned me.

I took two plates of appetizers, starting with the anchovies, cheeses and olives and a conversation with my father. I then moved on to the beets, cabbage, some whitefish salad, more anchovies and a mess of gardiniera for the strength I needed to perform an intervention between my daughter and too much Easter basket candy.

I don’t know if it was conscious or not, but still I took no meat. Then I made a plate for my daughter. And a third for myself. That kielbasa was my downfall. I took a sample bite while negotiating the spread. The skin snapped as I bit in. The silky, steaming fatty juice gushed over my tongue and the spice flooded my willing mouth. It was hot, salty, juicy and sliced thick. My mom doesn’t mess around. I heaped some ham and fruit on my daughter’s plate, then went straight for the kielbasa, spooning grainy mustard and two types of horseradish on the side for myself.

After that, we all had a late lunch of lamb. I ate that too.

It wasn’t a fully debauched gorging festival of flesh in the afternoon, and the small slice of lamb I took was tender, served with my wine reduction glaze. But it was all downhill from there. That kielbasa still called my name during clean-up, as I’d cruise past the tray en route to the dishwasher and scam another slice. Mom sent me home with some leftovers. All but one slice was gone by midnight. And no, I didn’t respect myself in the morning.

I’m a little water retentive from all the salt, but that will pass. But gastrointestinally, I feel like I’m paying for it today.

I did my best for the Lord during Lent, but the flesh is weak and the frailties of humanity infinite.

God, grant me pardon and absolution.