Saturday, May 23, 2009

A Practical Experience

So today on our trip to the milk store we decided to stop by a rare and used book store in Kennett owned by Thomas Macaluso. Hoping we might find some cool old tome of conventional wisdom on gardening we stumbled upon a gem.

Ten Acres Enough: A Practical Experience by James Miller (7th Edition) was published in 1865. The book covers the real world experiences of a gentleman farmer making due with just 10 acres of land near Philadelphia in the mid 19th century. It's hard to think of a more fitting guide to get us started. I mean this is a pre-industrial agriculture DIY manual written about a "garden farm" less than 100 miles from home. Check out a New York Times review of the first edition from 1864. We'll be sure to share bits of advice over the next few weeks.

In other news we'll be stopping by the borrowed plot to plant our heirloom Bartels family corn later today. Fingers crossed that the critters don't ransack the seedlings this year.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Garden Heartbreak

Last Saturday was the Big Day of Planting, and all of our little veggie sprouts finally got nestled into their new garden plot. Things were looking good for a couple of days until a late and unexpected frost hit on Monday night. We knew it was going to get cold, but there was no frost warning, so we trusted everything would be ok. Tuesday afternoon I got an email from my dad - bad news. All of the tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and basil were gone - shriveled up and dead. It was a pretty heartbreaking sight.

As I was pretty sure there wouldn't be time to start from seed again, and to avoid a total loss, I went down the street to the Amish farm and purchased some replacements. No, they're not open-pollinated, organic heirlooms, but in the end, the point of the garden is to have something to eat. We're going to try direct seeding some of the tomato varieties that we were particularly looking forward to, and hope to get at least a few fruits before the fall frosts come in.

On a brighter note, our peas, spinach, and lettuce are growing strong, and our other greens, tubers, and crucifers appear to have survived as well. Yesterday we planted some carrot and beet seeds amongst the onions. Next weekend we'll be planting beans and corn, and the week after that our baby chicks arrive!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Yay for Farmers' Markets!

Farmers' market season has finally arrived! This afternoon I stopped by my local market on the way home from work to meet this year's group of farmers and see what they had to offer. New to the scene was North Creek Nurseries, specializing in native perennial plants. I asked Erin what she would recommend for attracting pollinators, and her suggestion was Nepeta, which has small blue flowers that bloom all summer long, and leaves which have a really lovely sweet and spicy fragrance. It wasn't until I got home that I realized Nepeta is catmint, but this variety (nepeta x faassenii) is more attractive to bees and butterflies than to cats. Also new this year is Long Valley Farm, selling organically raised free-range chicken meat and eggs, and Swarmbustin' Honey with their ten types of local honey including "Totally Raw", Buckwheat, and Hot Garlic. Rounding out the offerings were Jack's Jams and Jellies, R & R Teas, and and assortment of Amish produce and baked-goods stands. I came home with chicken, oyster mushrooms, and bibb lettuce for making asian lettuce wraps for dinner tonight!

All this fresh local produce has us itching to get out and plant our little veggie sprouts, which are more than ready to be liberated from their little paper pots. We've been given a generous sized plot of land to garden in my dad's backyard, which was freshly tilled yesterday afternoon, and our seedlings are being hardened-off on the back deck in preparation for the Big Day of Planting this coming Saturday!