Monday, May 31, 2010

Long weekend

We were away too much to do anything gardenwise, but i did get to look things over and take a few pictures. The Roma tomatoes don't look like they ever endured a frost.
 The weeds are starting to really ramp up too.

The brassica row has grown noticeably.

Its been dry though. We have been watering and i'm sure the covers are helping too.  I think the Parsnips are sprouting, the radishes are almost 6 inches tall now.

This coming week is supposed to be warm and it is almost 100% certain to rain tomorrow and the rest of the week looks like half the days are going to be rainy. We could use it so i won't complain.

I planted the Zsa Zsa peppers today, they acclimated to full sun over the weekend and did well, i also planted the Graffiti Claulflower and the Bubbles Brussels sprouts. The cauli and the brussels had just begun to sprout last week , but they were  drying out too fast in the flats so i put them in the rows before i lost them entirely.

The Salsify are looking good, no seciond leaves yet, but they are giant seed leaves.

While i was gone, hubby said the cover over the cukes and melons kept blowing off. They did get some flea beetle damage where they were exposed the most, but it does not look too bad at all.  The bush beans also sprouted, i think the rutabagas and beets are too, but i had to get back inside before i could check closer  to be sure.

Oh, and i put in the Siberia and Empire tomato plants, got the clothes bar rack things in there too...  i don't think they will work great, but they will be better than nothing.

The rest of the seedlings will go to my parents' garden, if they have time to come get them and then plant them. I don't know if they have had time to get their garden ready much past tilling it.

Other than sweet corn...  my planting is done.  I will do  that this week.

Well, maybe a few lettuce seeds will go in.

Weeding is next.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Lilac Wine, part 3

I got the wine in the secondary, the glass carboy.  It has a nice blush shade to it. It is rather cloudy but that will settle out with frequent transferring.
I took some pictures but i don't have time to post them, i will edit them in later.  I mainly wanted to record the activity so i know what days to count from for the next steps.
So far the taste is pleasant, apple like , slightly bitter... i have no idea if that goes away as it continues to ferment, age and such. There is also a pleasant floral scent, it seems to retain that, it still does not quite smell like lilacs, but its nice anyhow.  Maybe the scent will concentrate when its bottled and the vapors won't be vented through airlocks.
So far things seem to be going well.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


The carrots are up!

I was not expecting anything interesting  to happen when i went out to check if anything needed water, so i did not take pictures. But i did look up some carrot sprout pictures yesterday and due to the regular spacing of the sprouts in the plot, i am sure they are my carrots.  I planted them on the 11th, so i guess they are right about on time- within the 14-20 day period they are said to. I'm just used to seeds with that time frame popping up for me within a handful of days.
Still no love from the parsnips. But i am happy enough about the carrots. Funny thing is that i recently made up my mind to plant something else there by the middle of next week if they did not come up.  That must have scared them straight.

Very pleasant weather today. Sunny and a little breeze, temperatures in the high 70's. But we really do need rain. We never got any of the thunderstorms that the weather forecasters expected, it even fooled my weather module and my leg.

Oh, and  i think a local farmer is manuring  his fields right about now. It carries on the breeze. A very bovine aroma.  First i have smelled it this year. It truly is Spring planting time.  Glad it doesn't bother me like it does some people, i grew up around farming areas and it could get quite pungent. But nothing like when the pogies come ashore in Harpswell.  That is close to unbearable!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


its suddenly gone to 62 degrees,  after a full day close to, if not into, the 90's, its a sudden shock.  no visible thunderstorms forming, but the front is definitely moving through. the temps are not forecast to tumble past  52 degrees overnight.

this should be a comfortable night for sleeping if the breeze stays gentle
8am. 89 degrees already according to NWS
My weather center gadget is saying its 84.2 in out yard right now. We have a nice breeze that comes through the windows so it isn't horrible.
We didn't get any severe weather, rain or Tstorms yesterday.  I wonder how hot it will get today.

I need to get the Zsa Zsa pepper seedlings acclimated to outdoor life. We will likely be out and about for the long weekend and i will probably forget them. Usually this is the big planting weekend for this area. Everyone hits the garden center and its a one-time gardening glut all at once.
I think i'm glad i was able to start so early this year.

I do have one concern though, i read the blog of a lady who is about a zone South of me (Skippy's Vegetable Garden) and she just posted an entry yesterday about her broccoli buttoning.  She said it was possibly from them getting too warm too fast or being left in the seed flats too long.  So i wonder if i can expect a similar result.  I had my broccoli in 2.5# ground beef trays.  They are almost the same size, volume and dimension as the brown pulp trays i used to get my seedlings in when i went to the nursery.  I tried to keep them out of the greenhouses so they wouldn't get too hot. I don't know if they did get too hot when i kept them out, they only went under cover when frost was expected.
Its something to watch for.
Broccoli usually continues to head from the sides for a while, maybe that is what hers will do and hopefully mine would too.

The breezes feel nice.

I planted  some Germander seeds the other day and they are up now.

I took the seedling flats out from under the covers. I couldn't see them well enough to make sure they weren't drying out. Since they are in small cells, it will happen fast if i don't pay attention.
I told my parents to take the extras, they will probably do that sometime next week.

School is almost over now. One more day to go. Our school gets out about 2 weeks ahead of the public school.  We don't do the 'early out' day that the public schools do, so even if we have a bad winter and school gets canceled due to snow storms we end up with an abundance of  total classroom hours. So that translates into a longer Summer vacation for our kids. My daughter says that the extra 2 weeks is a fair trade for the uniform code. 

I'm trying to figure out how long to keep the row covers on in the garden.  In normal years, they would be needed right now.  But its so warm out that the heat advantage isn't really necessary.  The bug advantage is what i'm leaning on now.  I'm not sure how this will balance out.   I think it is likely that it will cool down.  We normally only get 14-30 days of temperatures above 86 degrees in my area.  Many of those happen at the end of June through the middle of August.  So, um, yeah... this year is weird.
There are different types of row cover fabric. Mine is the grade that is supposed to help moderate temperatures in the garden. It lets through 85% of sunlight, holds in moisture and does not block rain. Maybe it is moderating the temps inside... i have never put a thermometer on garden soil before, so maybe it stays cooler in there than it does on the outside soil surface.  I remember the garden's surface soil being so hot in the summer that it felt like it was burning my bare feet. I know plants can handle surface temperatures like that to some extent....  My parents never watered their garden unless it was just after planting or it was super dry for a long time.
My Reemay cover is comparable to Agribon-19 according to my local Paris Farmer's Union (without the bells and whistles of seams and possibly without the UV stabilizers), and here is the description of what the Ag-19 does:
High quality spun-bonded polypropylene cover is light enough (0.55 oz./sq.yd.) to be laid directly over plants without hoops or frames but strong enough to withstand light to moderate wind and other stress. No need to remove it during the season because it is porous to water and air and has 85% light transmittance. It provides up to 4°F of frost protection, warms the soil and is a good pest barrier. It also conserves water by reducing evaporation. It is similar to other rowcovers but generally longer lasting. UV stabilizers increase expected field life to 2 to 3 seasons.
Agribon™ rowcovers have all the qualities of other brands, while being more affordable and with seams double-bonded for ultra-strength.  These floating rowcovers increase yields, prolong seasons, reduce soil erosion, protect against frost, speed up germination, minimize wind damage, conserve soil moisture, deter insects and birds and protect against extreme temperatures.   source

That is what i remember reading when i first decided to So,  i'm just not going to worry about the inside temps anymore.  I'll still look and write it down, but i won't worry about venting the ends anymore.

I had found and read a few PDF papers on tomato and squash growing under various row covers while i was researching it. The studies used slitted plastic, Ag-19 and a type of grow mesh that is fairly common in other countries (and is expensive to get over here).  The plastic was slitted for obvious reasons, the mesh didn't need slitting and i don't remember there being mention of venting the Ag-19 at all.

So second-guessing is over for now, lol.

I did some research on grapes and this article was very helpful  Grapes for the North

The University of Minnesota's page was also very helpful. Many of the grapes in that article were developed by UofM and the UofM site lists licensed sellers of their varieties (and others') of wine, juice and table grapes. There are a lot of commercial growers, but there are also some vineyards that are willing to sell retail in small amounts...  not sure if they are willing to sell as small as me, since i can only have maybe 2 or 3 of any one kind, and only 5 kinds at the most. But around the middle of this winter i will be emailing my questions.

These seem to be my choices:

Vailant (purple)

Frontenac (purple)

Edelweiss (white)

Kay Gray (white)

Niagra (white)

Catawba (red)

Swenson Red (red)

I'll see what i have room for if my berry seeds go anywhere.

For blueberries, i think i'll try "Patriot" next Spring.

I'm looking into how much room thornless blackberries would take.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Its really hot. 89.8
So i put out a couple loads of laundry to dry and opened the ends of the rows to ventilate when the temperature monitor read 100. Luckily the humidity is low so the heat is not quite as bad as it could feel... unless you are standing right in the sun or working in it.

Being the sweltering day that it is, i went for an indoor project.

I saved a few containers from store bought sushi, they looked like they would be useful for something!

They have these grooves in the bottom that  make great little moats so when used for chitting, the seeds aren't standing in water, but they should stay moist.

And they have clear lids that snap on almost snug

I use napkins, they are moderately thick.

I just cut them to size in one stack then wet them and press out the excess.

Wet but not quite dripping seems to work for me.

Toothpick dipped in water

Huckleberry seeds are small

Some people scatter their seeds, i can't.  I have done this before by putting the seeds in a wet paper towel then folding it and putting them in a plastic bag with a label. But i can't see whats going on and i usually miss it until the roots are out and have to be pulled from the paper.
This way i can see what is going on and i can pull any seeds before they have emerged too far.  If they need darkness i can cover them with a small piece of heavy fabric.

Labeled and ready for a fortnight vacation in the Amana.

Did a few more assorted trays of seeds.

I had taken a few pictures of the garden. Just weeds so far where the carrot seeds were planted.  I need to look up a picture of what carrot seedlings look like right after they germinate. So i can weed things a bit.

This row looks like something actually is planted.

Tomato row.

This is one of the Roma tomatoes that got frosted. Its making it back very well.

I tried to get a good shot of Melon Row, but its just not wide enough. Sometimes the wind will billow out the cover and i can see straight down the row, but it was too calm this morning.

I sort of cheated on the cucumbers normally i do one set of 3 per hill, but i ran out of hills. So doubled them up. We like tiny cucumbers so hopefully it works out.

They look so tiny,  if things grow right the comparison pics later in the year should be pretty dramatic. :0)

The Goji seeds sprouted like crazy but they grow super slow.


 My little weather unit says its going to rain.  Nothing on the radar according to the NOAA's  National Weather Service page and nothing i can see at Weatherunderground's live radar.  Lots of white puffy clouds though.

Expecting a hot day

Under the hoops this morning at about 6:30 the temperature was 67, outside temp was 62.

Expected to be unusually hot, some forecasters are calling for low 90's.  Others are staying at 87-89.
Its already 74 at 8:00am

I have the dog outside under her shade tree. I'd like her to get her outside time in now, cause she'll want to nap the rest of the day on the cool kitchen tiles.
We have air conditioners, but i don't like to use them much.  The cold from them is too direct, and once i turn it on, outside becomes even more intolerable.

On the weather maps, our state is mostly in red for severe weather (depending on what channel you watch),  I am right on the edge of a red and yellow zone. If we are going to get storms, i hope they bring some rain. I expect that the row covers will protect my plants from a heavy rain.  I may not be happy to see if they hold up under hail,  but if they get a test today, i have plenty left to rebuild as long as the plants don't get whipped. I don't really expect that to happen though.

I still want to try and do something in the garden today. I might end up just lifting the edges of the covers so things don't cook under there...  mid 80's got the undercover temps to almost 100...  90's will put it well over that i expect.  Little to no breezes are expected.
I'm glad i watered yesterday, if i hadn't i bet things would be try as toast by tonight.

Monday, May 24, 2010


I dragged out the oscillating sprinkler today. It got to around 86F up here. Under the hoops it read 99.5

I hope that is going to be ok. I don't think it will cook the veggie plants where they stand.  But i watered to cool things down a bit and since the air has been very dry- humidity about 28%- so i am letting it run for a while.
I looked underneath and it seems like things are growing quite happily from what i can see. I didn't have time to really pull up all the covers and check each row- that is the only problem so far with the covers. Its an extra step just to see what is growing.  But they only need to be there for the first handful of weeks until the plants get big enough to fight off pests and hopefully miss a breeding cycle or two. Then they'll on again in the fall when i hope they will extend the season past the first few frosts.

I'm considering some sort of drip irrigation system.  Something that can be installed and left under the hoops and stay there all summer. Maybe i will look into it throughout the winter. I sure don't need to be testing anymore ideas in the garden this year.

But i do have a better idea for my tomato trellising.  Right now i have some standard cages, but i am short at least 4, maybe 6, so i need something else. I do have a pair of clothes racks that i bought cheap- but they didn't work... The footings were not strong enough and the whole unit falls over when i put stuff on it-  But with the footing removed, it is a  metal structure made of 1/2" tubes that i should be able to push into the ground and tie some trellis twine to. I may have 2 of them i can use. . that might be just about enough for the last tomatoes. So i have to remember to try and see where i put  it when i took it apart, and where i put the second one that never made it out of the packaging.

I hoped to run another strand of wire on the fence today, but i don't think i will be able to get to it.  I need to remember to take the time for it next chance i get.
I also need to find some sort of venturi attachment for the hose so i can run some liquid fertilizer through it for when i water. I have seen some that attach inline to the hose and you just put the tube in your fertilizer concentrate container and it sips it as the hose is watering.  I just have to find out what they are called and what types exist, then either order my choice or look for it at a local shop.

The Weather.

The forecast for this week is just amazing.
 High 80's Tuesday and Wednesday, low chance of rain, overnight lows as high as 62 (Tuesday night).
I hope we do get a few thunder storms Tuesday night, we will need the rain. Only 30% chance of showers on Friday.
I don't plan to plant anything today. House stuff to do and gardening chores will likely be held to watering only.
Only thing left to plant is corn and some slow Brussels sprout seedlings anyway.
The Zsa Zsa pepper seedlings appear to be cooperating. They remind me of a teenager rolling out of bed in the morning.  Of 6 peat pellets, 5 have come up. Still, there were 2 seeds in each and most of them only have one seedling.

I have to run a couple more strands on the electric fence, just to make sure i discourage any over-and-under visitors, completely.

8:30 am and its 67 degrees already.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Yep, another post today..

...Because i got some more seeds planted out.

Rutabaga, Laurentan
Beets, Egyptian
Green Bush Beans, Provider

I also got the 7 (of the10 that sprouted) Salsify (Sandwich Island mammoth ) seedlings planted out.  There is a long gap between the green beans and the salsify and i was tempted to fill it with something else, but i have to wait until the Brussels sprouts seedlings either come up or not, if they don't then i will put in the Jacob's Cattle beans. They are a good green bean and a good dried bean so i could get a crop of either one or the other if i plant them in the next 2-3 weeks.

I lifted the cover on the melon row, and it was amazingly warm under there!  I'd almost say it was hot... i hope not too hot. I didn't have much time to inspect the row cause i had to go in, my "babysitter" was about to go on strike.

The weather is so nice out today. A little 3mph breeze now and then, its about 75F...

Overnight lows forecast:
Tonight  52
Tomorrow 54
Tuesday 57
Wednesday 42

Nothing much

At about 9:30 this morning it was 62 degrees outside, under the hoops it is 74. It was very foggy  out this morning. The humidity was 92 percent.  It is supposed to warm, humid and overcast for much of the day today, which is good weather for having set out peppers and eggplants. Less chance of them drying out and the row covers keep in the warmth and humidity longer for a bonus.

Not sure what if any planting will happen today.  Everyone else seems to not be feeling well again, which means i and the little one are the only ones awake.  Even the cat and the dog are napping... the hamster too.  The bird is awake though.... and the fish, last time i checked.
I have been up since 5:30am

Had to repair the electric fence this morning. Hubby broke a corner post with the lawnmower last night and didn't bother to tell me.  I know he knew he did it cause the broken post had been shoved back in the ground but the wire was too low and was in the grass. The fence had also been shut off and not turned back on... so it was unarmed all night. I noticed the 'on' light wasn't blinking, so i looked and noticed.  I had to push the post into a new spot and then pull the cotter pin out to raise the wire level higher and then twist it a bit to tighten it back up.  I didn't have time to check under the covers to see if everything is still there. 

I need to wash out some trays so i can start chitting some berry seeds.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

More planting today.

Hubby was tired of looking at the mini greenhouses in the middle of the far end of the driveway.  So, i decided that the rest of the stuff could live temporarily in the empty part of the Tomato Row.  Corn might go there later, but for now there is just a few feet of radishes,  but plenty of room leftover between the radishes and the tomatoes.
So the greenhouses are ready to be put away for a while and all the  plants are technically in the garden... heh.

But i actually did plant the summer squash seedlings and sowed the bulb fennel seeds. I also planted the burdock and globe artichoke seedlings.

Still waiting on the Banana melon seeds to sprout. They are the only melon that wasn't ready for its hill. One actually has sprouted, but i'm doing 3 per hill, so i am waiting for it to have friends.

I put a wired remote thermometer inside the hoops where the tomatoes are, and at ground level the temperature reached 85 degrees around noontime. It feels nice and humid in there too when i reached in to place the thermometer wire inside. Actual outside temps were about 72 and 40% humidity.  So it is definitely creating an early summer climate under the Reemay and i bet the soil is much warmer than it would be without it.  I bet it would be cooler on a breezy day.

Since the pepper and eggplant seedlings were going to be outside anyway i went ahead and planted them too. I imagine they will stay warmer in the garden soil, under the hoops than they would in their little pots in the greenhouses.  I got the "Fooled You" Jalapeno,, New Ace sweet pepper, Slim Jim eggplant and the Scarlet Chinese eggplant all in. The only one left out is the Zsa Zsa sweet pepper seedlings.  I managed to get 3 so far out of the last 6 seeds i sowed on a heat pad.  It looks like a couple more might come up-  but i will wait to plant them because they took so long to sprout, if i pant them too early i bet they won't grow even a smigen more at this rate.

All i have left to plant are a few more tomato seedlings that just came up a few days ago-  Siberia and Empire....
The odd cabbage and Swiss chard seedlings that i extracted from the onion flats, a few brussels sprouts, hopefully some cauliflower- i have all but given up on them...  the original wintersown sprouts are still tiny.
Then, the rutabaga, the salsify seedlings, beets, the Appaloosa beans and the string beans will go in, then the corn when it warms up more and the radishes are almost ready to come out.

Forecast overnight low tonight is 47F
Sunday its 49
Tuesday: 58
 No rain in sight as of now.

The grapevine still seems happy and there have been no woodchuck  raids on my garden yet.
I can see that i will have a lot of weeding to do throughout the summer. There are things popping up all over the place.

I still don't think the carrots and parsnips are even close to sprouting yet. I can't see anything happening there.  I have never had good luck with carrots. 

Friday, May 21, 2010

Melons and cukes

I planted them around 6pm.  Overnight temps forecast to be in the upper 40's and lower 50's through next Friday.
They sleep outside in the seed flats as it is, the ground was and stays warmer overnight. Plus i put row cover over them. So they should be cozy.
The soil felt quite warm, the cover on the melon row definitely helped with the soil temperature.

The only melon i did not plant were the Banana. They are late starters and have not sprouted yet.

I plan to direct sow the green beans, and rutabagas ....maybe the beets tomorrow.

I'm sort of throwing caution to the wind at this point.

I doubt i'll  be able to next year, this has been an exceptionally mild spring.  I hope this bit of apparent risk is  going to be worth it. If we have no frosts in the next 14 days, i will be glad i did it.

Under cover, i think the plants can stand a light frost. 


White geraniums attract Japanese beetles, which are poisioned when they eat the leaves  according to this site:

Pickled Ripe Tomatoes:
Saw something similar on a Bizarre Foods episode taped in Russia

Recipe for Cornichons (French sour pickles):

Alton Brown's Dill Pickle Recipe (real fermented)
Dill Pickles


    * 5 1/2 ounces pickling salt, approximately 1/2 cup
    * 1 gallon filtered water
    * 3 pounds pickling cucumbers, 4 to 6-inches long
    * 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
    * 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
    * 2 cloves garlic, crushed
    * 1 teaspoon dill seed
    * 1 large bunch dill


Combine the salt and water in a pitcher and stir until the salt has dissolved.

Rinse the cucumbers thoroughly and snip off the blossom end stem. Set aside.

Place the peppercorns, pepper flakes, garlic, dill seed and fresh dill into a 1-gallon crock. Add the cucumbers to the crock on top of the aromatics. Pour the brine mixture over the cucumbers in order to completely cover. Pour the remaining water into a 1-gallon ziptop plastic bag and seal. Place the bag on top of the pickles making sure that all of them are completely submerged in the brine. Set in a cool, dry place.

Check the crock after 3 days. Fermentation has begun if you see bubbles rising to the top of the crock. After this, check the crock daily and skim off any scum that forms. If scum forms on the plastic bag, rinse it off and return to the top of the crock.

The fermentation is complete when the pickles taste sour and the bubbles have stopped rising; this should take approximately 6 to 7 days. Once this happens, cover the crock loosely and place in the refrigerator for 3 days, skimming daily or as needed. Store for up to 2 months in the refrigerator, skimming as needed. If the pickles should become soft or begin to take on an off odor, this is a sign of spoilage and they should be discarded.


A tsukemono press would probably be good for any brine pickling project, but the ones at Amazon are junky looking and over priced.
Time for another PVC project?

And to round out the subject:



Onions, shallots and.....tomatoes.

Yes, i planted the tomatoes out today. Wisely or foolish, we shall see.  These are the tomatoes that survived that recent frost.  I am glad i kept the Romas because two of them began to generate new leaves and almost looked normal if small.  I figure, these plants have been outside since i wintersowed them in February...  c'est la vie.   If i have to visit my favorite small garden nursery to replace plants there is nothing i can do now that will change it. If the plants have been stunted, it already has occurred.

I even that some pattypan squash seedlings that survived and are throwing out fresh leaves. These are the seed from Johnny's that are somewhere around 10 years old. The seeds that as of the last in the package have still given me close to 85% germination.  I never knew squash seed was that tough... so that is also a good example of the high quality seed that i got from Johnny's.

It the seedlings of tomatoes do well, it looks like the replacement plants that have sprouted may end up  being donated to my parent's garden.

The replacement squashes, and melons are also resprouting so reliably, i may have to split those as well.

I got all the seedling onions set out and the shallots. Those will be safe if the weather turns,  so that was perfect to do.

It was tricky planting those since they were planted in the seed flats that got spilled in the Great Flying Greenhouse Escapade.  I had just planted two flats of assorted herbs and veggies, the wind knocked it over, mixed it all up...  it was all the soil i had left so i put it back in and replanted something totally distinguishable from any herbs and other veggies in there. Onions are perfect. Nothing else that i have for seeds looks like the onion family.
But this is what the cell packs looked like:

There were also 2 nice red Swiss Chard (Bright Lights) in there and i think a basil, both sharing their cells with a nice stocky Ailsa Craig onion seedling.  There is still a Point One cabbage and a tiny Borage (i think) in the last cell on the right.
I saved  all  of the non-onion seedlings,  some were basil and parsley- and i lost a lot of my basils in the frost,  so i kept all i could. Some of them were growing a bit too close so a few of the onions have a little Chervil sidekick in their planting hole.
I put the extra seedlings into new cell packs for planting later.

I didn't get a picture, but those brassica and family plants i set out the other day are looking great. It looks like they have grown quite a bit already.

I hope tomorrow i can finish the squash & melon hills.
After that it is mostly herbs that will need to be planted.

Then i can play with some berry seeds, keep up with weeding, count days until succession plantings, then some harvesting, putting by, green manuring...

That is if it goes well!
Alternatives are:
Cursing the existence of groundhogs
Praying for rain; alternately:
Praying for sunshine
Praying for the weeds to drop dead
Bemoaning the existence of tomato hornworms
Finding a pile of cat poo next to my cucumbers
Finding earwigs setting up house inside my sweet pepper fruits
Battling a slug and snail plague

Hopefully it won't be like that,, but i am steeling myself for it just in case.

The airlock on the Lilac Wine is chugging away most encouragingly.
I sure hope its pleasant, i don't want something more akin to flower scented lighter fluid!

I need to remember to spray the apple trees again, the petals appear to be blown.

The irises are blooming, and my orange poppy has even more buds on it this year.

So i'm going to rest now. I keep thinking i can finish "Root Cellaring" but its a longer book than i thought :o)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Lilac Wine, part 2

Its been about 24 hours, so its time for the easy part.

I had my buckets scrubbed clean and sanitized in the dishwasher, so i just have to pour.

The (what i guess you would call) must has a golden color to it. The flowers still get hints of purple/blue when they are clumped together.

The recognizable scent of lilac has gone, but there is a pleasant floral aroma with a little tang of southern sweet tea in there.

The pot is too heavy to pour direct, so a big measuring cup will work.  Sanitized of course.

This is the yeast i decided to use. I was going to try a montrachet, but for a few reasons i went with this.
This yeast should (if i know what i'm doing) be vigorous, it should not get 'stuck' as easily as some might- i had read that stuck fermentation could occur with lilac wines- ,  this yeast should ferment the wine to a very dry level and its going to be a light colored wine and this yeast is normally used for lights. It also should not foam... (in beer brewing its called 'blowing off' and it will spew foam all over if it does this)

Pitch the yeast...  (do they call it 'pitching' in winemaking?)

Close the lid and pop on the airlock...
Fill the airlock with sterile water...or water with some idophor in it.

Wait for 7 days, strain and squeeze the flowers, rack to secondary and every 30 days, siphon off sediment until clear.  Then bottle and age for about 6 months.

More planting out?

Some of the melons have sprouted and weather is actually looking very good. Overnight lows for this weekend are expected to be in the 50's.
So, i may plant some of the sprouted melons today or within the next day or so.
I wanted the melons to be under hoops, but the row i want them in is one that i didn't get hooped.  I did cut a piece of row cover for it and it has been on the row,  hopefully holding in warmth. I need the melons protected from bugs right away until they get big enough to survive some bug damage.

So, even though the row cover is supposed to be light enough to put right on the plants... i don't really want to because melons are put on hills, we get wind that might pull and drag the covering enough to snap off little seedling stalks.

This means i need to come up with something to prop the cover up that won't tear or snag it.
I thought about using a few milk jugs with the bottoms cut off, but i don't have any saved and they block too much light. Soda bottles with the bottoms cut off might work, but not for as long as i want.
I got a pack of 24 2' bamboo stakes at "The Tree" the other day.
Hubby had to use an old bike inner tube to patch a leak a while ago.
I remember Mr Wizzbang using slices of innertube as elastics for his carved giant clothespin style hoop clips...  and i think if i maybe cut some bands from the inner tube and wrap 3 stakes together, i can spread them over the seedlings like mini tipi.

Like this:

And then put a cup on top so the sticks won't snag the cover.

It should last just long enough for the melons to get a good head start.


Well, its about 12:30 now. I went out to try and do some work.  I managed to section off that final wide row. I decided i needed a foot path to be able to get in there on both sides of the row. Its still about 5' wide, but now i can get in to hopefully train the squash vines to head in the direction of the Jerusalem Artichokes and the fence instead of the next planted row.

I got that done and i planted 20 odd Mary Washington Asparagus seedlings. The two Horseradish roots went in too. But that is it.  I am still so sore from the other day! I really hate this.
I despise being in pain and i hate not being able to do things. Its not like i'm going out and doing something indulgent. Yes, i think gardening is fun, but i guess i wish it wasn't so painful. Its too small of a garden for me to not get things done in.
I tried to make the hills for the melons.
Its beautiful and sunny and warm. Nice breeze.  Perfect day for being out there digging in the dirt.
ok...pity party over.


I do have the new set of sprouts getting acclimated to the sun.
I have to be careful, i haven't had good luck doing this in the past!

I wanted to plant out the onion seedlings and the shallot seedlings... maybe tomorrow :oD

Its so  nice out i am tempted to plant the tomatoes that survived the frost, the hubbs bought me a few more tomato cages.  I wanted to put together some sturdier braces for tomatoes, since some are indeterminate,  but we don't seem to have anything suitable for it right now.  I have always used cages with acceptable results.  I'll look into trying something different for next year.

Oh, my berry seed order came in. The one from eBay with the fern spores in it. Things look great.  Small quantities though, but prices averaged a $1.10 for each item and she combined shipping which was only $2. 
I hope i get to report impressive germination rates. I love adding people to my Favorite Sources list.


I need to get the 5 gallon brewing bucket cleaned ans sanitized so i can get the wine must in there.  I hope my dishwasher can get them clean all the way to the bottom.  I intend to use the glass carboy as a secondary, but it will be easiest to use the bucket for the first stage while the flowers are in it.  The flowers  are to  stay in for a week, then they have to be strained out and squeezed well.
I'll have to siphon the liquid  off its sediment, from carboy to carboy to clarify it in stages, then when it is clear enough i can age it in bottles.
I'm envisioning a color like herbal tea- chamomile or mint leaf.  Would be nice to see purple, but there are no pigments for it.  I noticed the flowers turn a gray blue when they hit the boiling sugar water.

I also need to clean out some cell packs for starting my berry seeds....

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Lilac Wine

I figured it sounds nice, so i'll go for it.
It took me about two days and a few trips out to the backyard for lilac blossoms. Luckily i have more than enough lilacs even after giving away better than half of what the new yard came with...

After picking, i soaked them in the sink.  A few insects came spluttering up from the water, they went outside.

Salad spinner

This is what 16 quarts of sorted lilac flowers looks like... they are in a 5 gallon stock pot.

My recipe is for a 5 gallon batch. I found a few online and i'm sort of taking from a few of them to come up with my own.  Its for fun, so its just as much experiment as anything else.

I'm starting with 3 gallons of water to boil:

A watched pot never boils, so no peeking!

When it gets hot enough and hubby (who forgot to buy the sugar i sent him out for) gets back ...

The sugar...

The recipe i based this on calls for 12# of sugar.  So i measured out 2 pounds and then just dumped in two whole 5# bags.


Add flowers

Will they all fit?


I added a cup of lemon juice to try and get a good acid balance. I will have to taste it to adjust it later.

Allow to cool for 24 hours

Add a "do not disturb" note

That's it for the next 24 hours...
After that, its the yeast and the other 2 gallons of water that needs to be boiled then cooled.

Sprout report for the replanted seeds:

Tomato, Empire Hybrid- 1
Tomato, Siberia- 2
Tomato, Black from Tula- 4
Cucumber, Summer Dance- 5
Cucumber, Alibi- 6
Summer Squash, Sundance- 5
Winter Squash, Long Island Cheese- 2
Winter Squash, Red Eye- 2
Acorn Squash, Carnival- 5
Melon, Hales Best- 2
Melon, Rocky Ford- 4
Watermelon, Pony Yellow- 5
Watermelon, Tom Watson- 3
Tomato, Yellow Pear- 5
Ornamental Eggplant- 4
Salsify, Sandwich Island Mamoth- 5
Half Bush Bean, Appaloosa- 1

and lo and behold... one of the Zsa Zsa peppers is shouldering up.  I guess this is the way things go when a seed company names a plant variety after a diva.  Apparently this pepper requires heat.  Not "does better with"  but must have. 

Off to finish reading "Root Cellaring"

Very grateful for today's rain.

I'd have to look back and check for sure... but i think we had gone about 3 weeks without significant rain until last night.
The way i remember it is that its been more than 2 weeks since we got Molly and i have not had to walk in the rain to take her out for her potty break until this morning.

But the garden has been quite dry even though i had been trying to water it every other day. The carrots and parsnips got water every day.  The dry weather makes it difficult for garden amendments to make their way into the soil, i could still see specks of the lime hubby spread out a few weekends ago.

I need to get the worm castings out of the worm bin. It is going to be a messy project to separate the Red Wigglers from the finished material. We have been sprinkling the liquid from the bin around in the garden, the bin produces about a pint of liquid every few days. I need to put it in a hose end sprayer and broadcast it on the garden, i  bet it will make a big difference.  I also can't wait to see how many worms i now have. I started with only one pound last winter. The selling companies like you to buy 2 pounds, but even the lowest prices are a bit on the ridiculous side and i wasn't worried if it started out slow. Considering how they consume kitchen scraps, i bet i have quite a few more than before.

I decided to try making Lilac Wine after reading about it in the comments of another blog i follow.
I have 13 cups of petals prepared so far.  I only have 5 gallon carboys, so i really should make at least 4 gallons in it. This means a lot of petals.  Good thing is that i have plenty of lilac flowers available for picking.  Some are starting to go by, but some are just about right.  Good thing is that plucking the petals is something i can do seated at the table.
I have most of the materials on hand,  the rest will require a quick trip to the LHFS.

Off to pluck more petals...!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Row cover is done....for now.

Since i only ended up having enough hoops for three full rows (out of 5), i only needed to cover those three.
It was not too difficult really, or complicated, but it did take a lot of fussing.  If i had an extra person to do little things like hold one end of the row cover while i pulled the other end taut, i would probably have smoother looking rows.  But it certainly is functional and i don't think it looks all too bad.
Someone driving by won't think i have garbage in my yard.

The hardest part of it was cutting it to the right length without wasting a whole bunch of it at the ends.I thought the wind was going to be a real problem, but it actually helped.   I had started earlier today when there was no wind, but about 20 minutes after i got out there- it started to pick up. I thought it was going to be more trouble,  but the wind really made it easier to drape the cover over the hoops and release the folds.
Sometimes the wind got too frisky and blew the cover out of my  control, but it was easy to straighten it back out.

Those binder clips are great!


Waiting to go in

When i got them all finished (or as finished as i felt like them being) , i planted the hardy stuff:

Kale- Red Russian
Broccoli- Gypsy
Pak Choi-  Brisk Green
Collards- Vates
Kholrabi- Early Purple Vienna
Cabbage- Point One
Swiss Chard- Bright Lights

Add that to the parsnips,  3 types of radishes and the two types of carrots and i almost feel accomplished.

Of course, this means i have to do another plan...
see this:

Yeah, its blurry and it makes my eyes hurt too, but what i mean is that since i had to cover only 3 rows and still plant out some early stuff, i had to rearrange things by which rows were ready to use.
 So all the brassicas and suchlike went into the same row. Since they are one of the veggies most readily attacked by bugs, they needed the row covers immediately.
That means that Row 3 where most of them were scheduled, will not be where they are put.  They will have to go in Row 2.
So, yeah...more shuffling.
Glad i enjoy it....wish i had more time!

Got the electric fence done today too. Just one strand for now- i will have a total of 3 when its done. I need to go turn it on, its 8pm and the woodchucks come out in the morning so i should turn it on before bed.  I put lots of marking flags on it. I don't want to zap people, just groundhogs and the cats that try to use the garden as a litter box.

The tomatoes will go in Row1 soon.

Almost done reading "Root Cellaring",  great book so far!

Almost 10pm.  I need to go to bed and try to sleep!