Showing posts from February, 2015

A Micro-Thaw and Harvest

Though the bulk of this month has been ridiculously frigid, once in a while we get a "warm" day. Take last Sunday, for instance: 

After an early morning icy-snow situation, the afternoon temperature got up to almost the average high that we could normally expect. We used the brief warm-up to dig out the tunnels and check on the leeks:

As you can see, the plastic is a little worse for wear after being beaten down by by the snow. Once inside, Kirk really had to wrestle with the leeks to dig them out. Though we've had one warm day, the ground is still mostly frozen, even in the tunnels:

He managed to get a few big ones out, though. The leaves aren't too much to look at, but the thick stems are still fine:

Even the part under the soil was mostly frozen, so these are definitely for cooking: they'll be soft when they thaw. That's ok, though. When's the last time you used raw leeks for anything?
We also took a look at the carrot cold frame:

We had long ago dug …

Cutting Garden Seeds, Part 2

This week I've been self-medicating my winter depression with flower seed catalogues. We are just a couple inches away from breaking the record for the snowiest winter of all time here in Newburyport, but I've been thinking about color instead of white. My second stop for seed shopping was at Johnny's Seeds (my favorite). These pictures (obviously) are all from their catalogue. 

Florist Blue Boy Cornflower

Apricot/Peach Mix Strawflower

Covent Garden Market Baby's Breath

Sun Ball Drumstick Flower

Arena III Apricot Lisianthus

Chinese Forget-Me-Not

Animation Mix Snapdragons
Johnny's Sublime Formula Mix Larkspur
I really can't wait to get these started. It's like planting hope.

Cutting Garden Seeds, Part 1

What's the best cure for the winter blahs? Flowers!
Last year I didn't do much with the cutting garden because I was in Costa Rica for the height of the season, and Kirk isn't much of a flower guy. (And, to be fair, it would've been a lot to ask for him to take care of all the food and all the flowers.)
And even though the cutting garden is still under four to five feet of snowpack, I cheered myself up today by spending a couple hours of quality time browsing seed catalogues. I think this year I will try a lot of annuals instead of looking for more perennial for the cutting garden. Perennials are awesome but expensive, so going the seed starting route will be a bit more economical.
Here's what I picked out from Park Seed (all the photos are courtesy of their online catalogue, by the way). The flowers are all in the color palette I have already planned for, and all were chosen for their long, sturdy stems for adding to bouquets.

Chantilly Mix Snapdragon

Charisma Bl…

A Taste of Spring

Look what happened today:

That's right: temperatures above freezing! Despite it being just 7 degrees for my errands downtown yesterday morning, today it was sunny and almost 40. It's the first day like that all month, and after shoveling away last night's snow (yes, it's still snowing here), we enjoyed a walk without our coats and hats
When we got back, Kirk fired up the snow blower again to carve out part of the patio:

First he had to find the entryway. If you look carefully, you can see that on the right side of the path a bit of the lavender has been exposed. That was excellent: it made the whole area smell great.

After getting through the beds, he cleared away a decent-sized circle. This heretofore untouched blanket of snow is a great reminder of just how much of the white stuff there still is. This is about 3 feet deep, though the entrance to the pathway is above my shoulders. 
This area should be just big enough to set up the fire for boiling down sap for this…

Still Digging Out

If you're not from around here, a quick reminder on the state of the winter here in eastern Massachusetts:
1. It has snowed at least a foot every weekend for the last four weekends in a row. It is supposed to snow again this coming weekend, but could mix with sleet and rain.
2. Though it fluctuates daily, this February is the coldest or second-coldest on record. 
3. We're up to about 96 inches of snow in Boston and 111 inches in Lowell on the year. We got another couple inches here last night, so those stats are already out of date.
Even casual readers of this blog know that Newburyport is a terribly windy place, but this week the Arctic blasts have done us a favor (for a change) and uncovered some of our greenhouse tunnels:

We haven't yet dug them out, but plan to before this weekend's storm. If we do end up with rain on top of the snow, they'll be frozen shut until May. Since I'm hungry for some leek soup, I'm hoping there's a sweet spot of opportuni…

Popping Up Strawberry Popcorn

Not much gardening happening today, what with the 65 mph winds and seven-foot snow drifts:

We're up to over 90 inches of snow on the season, and we've had two winter's worth of the white stuff fall in less than a month. Yeah, it's a lot.
But all this enforced inside time does allow us to catch up on some chores that we might otherwise let slide. For example, we finally got around to shucking our strawberry popcorn. After harvesting it last September, we let it sit around to dry…for a really long time.
Until today. With absolutely nothing better to do (we were not going out to shovel in that wind), we got to work on rubbing the dried corn off the cob: 

This was nowhere near as easy as it sounds. These are tiny kernels that end in a sharp point. We figured out that if you used your thumbnail to clear a little patch of kernels, then you could press the rest of them toward the open area and they would (mostly) come off easily. Still, after a couple dozen ears, my thumb wa…

Snow Day #6: A Photo Essay

According to whatever local news program I watched this morning while the kids schlepped off to school (after a two-hour delay), Boston has a total of at least 73 inches of snow that has fallen over the last 18-day stretch. Or some such nonsense. I had yet another day off from work, and took photos as I shoveled.

The path to the workshop and chicken coop was easy, since Kirk went over it last night so Fletch could go to his own bed (atop a cozy and expensive heater in the workshop). We're not worried about the snowpack on the chicken coop, since that thing is built better than many houses. I also shoveled out a portion of their run and cleared the ramp, but I don't think the chickens have ventured outside in days.

I also cleared the path along the back door of the coop and to the compost pile. (Yes, that is what passes for "clear" these days.) As you can see, the snow back there is piled higher than the compost bins, which are made of standard construction pallets. …