Friday, February 25, 2011

Puppy Love

Yes, the world is going to hell.  But tell me this doesn't make it better, if only for a minute or two.

Thanks to Twisty for the tip.

Monday, February 21, 2011

My First Seed Swap

These are some of the 35+ seeds packets we
brought to the Lurie Garden seeds swap

Last week my mom and I went to a Lurie Garden seed swap. We brought melons, carrots, marsh mallow, tomato seed and beans. First, we laid all our bags of seeds on a table divided into three sections: annuals, perennials and vegetables. Then we met Mr. BrownThumb, (a locally famous gardener) and saw one of his PowerPoint presentations about sowing seeds. Next we helped ourselves to a rather large variety of seeds.

Seed heaven!

After the seed swapping was over, six hungry gardeners were getting ready to go home and eat lunch. Mr. BrownThumb thoughtfully stated that we all go to a pizza place. We all agreed. So Robb, Mary, Mr. BrownThumb, my mom and I went to lunch. Our pizza would take a while, so we chatted about seeds. I asked Mr.BrownThumb how to keep cats away from seedlings. He suggested that we grow cat greens to distract it. Then, while the grownups talked, I drew a picture of a plant. Robb, who had recently given me some Love-Lies-Bleeding seeds drew a Hosta, and Mary who gave me some Loofa seeds, showed me how she used to draw bunnies. Soon, our pizza arrived. Not long after that, we headed home to look at all our new seeds.

Loofah Seeds from a nice lady named Mary

These are the seeds we took home, note the pretty and unusual
Love-Lies-Bleeding seeds in the top row

Funny favorites!

I can't wait till the next seed swap! The Forest Park Community Garden is having a seed swap this Sunday, Feb 27th and there is also the Peterson Garden seed swap on March 6th.

By-the-way, did you know that there are over 300,000 species of plant and there are more to be discovered?!


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Winter Seed Sowing, Seed Sharing, Chicks + Carl

The GRGers met this week to thwart sub-zero temps by trading seeds and discussing the coming growing season. Debbie is clearly one of the weak-for-seeds brigade. 

Check out her fine selection here, along with two tiny determinate tomato starts she gifted us with (we've never grown one--this will be fun), along with a pound cake (mmm). Up for sharing were long beans, melons, and myriad tomatoes.

While I made tea, she got to work sorting seeds while Bruce revealed his priorities by focusing on pound cake.

During our meet, Debbie told me about winter sowing. Can't believe I'd never heard of this technique, which mimics the action of the hearty volunteer seeds that come up in an in-ground garden each spring.  For winter sowing, you plant cold-hearty seeds in a punctured covered container and set it outside, venting when the sun starts warming up the soil. Like planting in a cold frame or under a cloche, it makes good sense.

She pointed me to for the basics and I gathered some seeds we harvested last year and also some left over from the past several years.

Using the ubiquitous Earthbound Farm baby spinach containers (these are from years ago--I'd guess they never decompose), I put drain holes in the bottom and filled with a mix of moistened coir and compost we brought in last fall. Then I planted arugula, kale, mustard, tatsoi, baby bok choy, and beets.

Sprinkled with water, put on the covers, and used a carpet knife to cut air vents in the top.

Now they're in the backyard, ready for whatever mother nature brings.  We'll crack them open to get some air when it warms up. And keep you posted on the outcome.

One reason I thought this would be fun is that Bruce is starting our cool-weather greens indoors today, under lights and in controlled warmth. The winter-sown seeds won't be ready in the four weeks his will be, but they should provide a succession of seedings for the roof and in-ground garden.
I walked to Bruce's today to drop off some chard seeds and visit his menagerie. Can you see Carl peeking over the chicken brooder? He gets a little jealous when a visitor's attention is drawn to peeping cheeping bits of fluff. It's fun to see their adult feathers emerging.

Bruce encouraged me to take a palm-full of feed and set my hand into the brooder. The chicks hopped right up--they're becoming nicely acclimated.

Carl is growing too. His paws seem a lot larger now that just a week ago. He's very smart, knowing when he's being naughty with his needle-sharp teeth but barely able to control his puppy self. Bruce is bringing a lot of tough love, a good thing since Carl may one day outweigh me.

Pasty butt--click for all the action. When a rear end dries out and plugs up, hands-on help is required.

Cheeping heartily during the procedure...

...and patiently getting dried off.

Carl loves the space heater that runs alongside the brooder.

I'm king of mountain (click to enlarge). Only in Chicago would 40 degrees F feel like spring.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Chicks In A Box: The Next Big Thing

I picked a chirping box up Monday afternoon at the post office, to the shock of all the other people waiting in line.

H2 has been chiding me for several years that I should be raising chickens and until now I've ignored her advice, saying it was too much of a hassle for a few eggs.  In a sign of my changing priorities, I'm almost as excited about the poop as I am about the eggs.  Their "waste" will be put to good use in the garden.

Patrick, a fellow community gardener, and I ordered 25 (female) rhode island reds from Murray McMurray hatchery, and they showed up alive, mostly.  I'll take 8 of the 22 surviving chicks, Patrick has plans for the rest.  If you're interested in some, he'll pass them on to you at cost, roughly $3 per.

For the next 9 weeks they'll be inside in an expandable brooder I made; after that they'll go into a large run with coop that I'm building under my back deck.

There will be enough room for 15 chickens out there.  For now, I'll make do with eight.

I'm completely new at this -- Gail Damerow's guidebook has been a terrific help.  Backyard Chickens has good info as well.  I also follow a google group called  Chicago Chicken Enthusiasts.


This morning I noticed that about half of the chicks had what Damerow calls "sticky bottoms" or pasting up.   Warm running water, q tips, and some vaseline took care of it.


Carl and the chicks get along just fine.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Ladies and Gentleman, Start your Seeds

First order of business: scrub all seed-starting trays and domes (some I've had since 1994) in a nice hot-water dilute bleach bath.

We got fresh seed-starting medium this week. Now we're making lists of how many plant starts of each seed we want. Bruce will then fire up his lights and start the process.

He posted this seed-starting precis a while back. 

A good thing, because Bruce and Carl are busy with some new family members...

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Jimmy Nardello Pepper

How can you not grow a pepper with a name like Jimmy Nardello? Buying crazy-named seeds must run in the family: my brother grew them last year.

Click here for more on the Jimmy Nardello story...
One hundred and two years after the Nardellos set sail, bringing a small piece of their homeland with them, the pepper that bears the family name is becoming a favorite among chefs and home gardeners nationwide, but is still registered as "endangered" on Slow Food USA's Ark of Tastes.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Chicago Sears Tower Snow Sculpture--Feb 3 2011

The sculptors working on that big pile of snow from yesterday's post made some refinements after I called it quits on shoveling and came in for a hot bath.

Sears Tower--aka Willis Tower--aka what I call it: Bruce Willis Tower. The cardinal perched atop the antenna is a nice touch.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Carl's First Chicago Snow--Feb 2 Afternoon Walk

Snow day! You can see it on people's faces and in their tenacity. The energy on the street as I walked to Bruce's was utterly positive, everyone talking, sharing, shoveling.

Where are the plows?  On this sidestreet, residents took the matter into their own hands. I met a couple guys trying to figure out if they should dig out their cars...knowing that when the plows come through a wall of snow will quickly re-block them.

These two waved to me from the alley they were clearing. Big work--watch for them later in this series.

Bruce's sidestreet was the deepest I'd seen. 

Carl! A natural Nanook.

He ate the snow, frolicked in the snow, and shivered his baby dog self.

Is this a stair?

Better take the smooth way down.

OK I'll try. Carl is so little he can just manage stairs.

Pretty soon he was romping.

New friends visited--real snow dogs, if you ask me.

Off to more exploring.

I left Bruce to his task.

Here's a pharmacist from UIC who needs to get to work tomorrow.

She and her pharmacist boyfriend did a nice job on that alley. Let's hope they can get out and spell the healthcare workers who spent last night on site.

Closer to home, there is snow sculpture to be made. ("The sculpture is in there..." said one.)

Look who I ran into on the street--the lovely Laura, shown here in warmer moments during our honey harvest. She said: everyone is smiling, everyone is happy. She's right.

 Brand new babies stopped to say hi too...
Homegrown Evolution has been blogging about the Everyday Carry, or EDC. Here's mine for the foreseeable future. What a fun day in the snow.

Snow Music: Snowbound

 Donald Fagen, smooth as a snow drift...

Donald Fagen - Snowbound from giff gaff on Vimeo.

Chicago Snow Feb 2 Morning Walk

Thanks for the photos, Debbie. Looks like you had a solid two feet. 

Because of the wind, there's no way to measure out front, but the back door has a story to tell.

Shoveled toward the gas station to get a newspaper after heating coffee for a neighbor (several blocks away) without electricity. The morning snow was an entirely different quality than last night's, a virtual whiteout here.

You wouldn't want to be anywhere near a fire. I saw and heard a truck (gently) racing through a major intersection.

Beef stew for late lunch...

Snowpocalypse 2011

No words required.