Notes from Above the Ground

We are making grand progress in the garden! Two varieties of peas, loads of red onions, spinach, lettuce, beets, carrots, spring onions, and even a chickpea are sprouting in the backyard; the rhubarb is huge and thinking of flowering, so it is time to make pie and jam. Our potted strawberry plants have several green berries starting to grow, and our starts are getting huge: 5 varieties of tomato (including several heirlooms), eating and pickling cucumbers, zucchini, leeks, Brussels sprouts and cabbage, eggplants, and even a few peppers! (Bottom heat turned out to be the key for the latter two.) Last weekend, my dad planted up about a quarter of our community garden plot (which is a generous 10’x15′) with sweet corn, cauliflower, purple carrots, Walla Walla onions, leeks and lima beans. If even half the plants we started survive long enough to yield, we will have more produce than the four of us can possibly eat, so it is a good thing I learned so much about preservation methods last year!

We also cleared out a rocky portion of the backyard by the porch to turn into an herb garden. I have sage and chive seeds saved from last year’s SESNA garden, dill seeds saved from some heads I purchased at the Salem Saturday Market, oregano rooted from an organic grocery store package, and a pack of basil starts. We planted some of the seeds in eggshells, a suggestion of my grandmother’s—once the seeds take hold, we should be able to transplant them, shell and all, into the garden, to provide nutrients and a biodegradable support for the roots. Sounded like a great idea in theory, so we’ll see how it goes!

Fiddlehead fern card (Scribbles by Sparks)

This morning, with clouds hanging low in the sky and threatening to dump rain, sleet, or even snow on us, we headed over to the Denver Urban Homesteading indoor farmer’s market. There was not a huge amount of fresh produce yet, but plenty of booths selling grassfed beef and pastured chicken and pork. We walked around the site, happily sampling organic ice cream, Sicilian chocolate-covered almonds, Peruvian empanadas, and pickles, reading literature and talking to the farmers; and after a circuit around the room, Nolan’s stroller pockets were loaded down with pastured eggs, black lentils and quinoa flakes from Altan Alma and a jar of plums from MM Local, both in Boulder, as well as asparagus and artichoke starts. There were loads of heirloom tomato plants, no larger than the ones we are growing very successfully on our front window sill, and also black currant bushes, grape vines, and peanut plants, all of which I found very tempting but have no good location for.

But for me the most exciting booth was that of Windsor Dairy, a local source of grassfed raw milk, cheese, beef and more. We were able to get information about purchasing a cow share and sample their milk, which come in glass jars and is voluntarily tested weekly for food-borne pathogens. They insist that potential customers come tour the dairy to see how it is run and how the cows are cared for, and we are hoping to do just that in the next week or two. My dad is still rather skeptical, but my mom and I are thrilled, and I am very curious to see if Nolan will notice the cows and chickens—so far, he mostly looks right through most animals without seeing them. More on all this once we get to the dairy!

Update 5/25/11: The dairy diary is up! And so are some of the dill seeds I planted in egg shells—three little seedlings are stretching for the sun. After all that rain and a few half-warm days, the corn, cauliflower and leeks in the community garden are starting to peek through, and some of our pea plants are over half a foot tall now, so progress is being made. 🙂

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