Friday, February 13, 2015

The Dragon

We inherited an old furnace to go with our old house. Granted, it was installed in the '90's, but by today's standards, it's old.

 When we purchased Pemberley, we agreed that it needed a new furnace. A wood/oil combo so that we could regularly heat with wood, and the oil would kick on when we were away.  We booked our furnace man (FM) and it was settled.
We are now going on week 5. And it isn't close to being finished.
First, there was the issue with our old furnace. Perhaps we should install a new one, one that was more efficient. That took two weeks. Actually it was 12 hours, but there you go.  Then they had to redo the vents because when they installed the old furnace, they only put in three vents upstairs and they ran through much smaller pipes, therefore, the master bedroom usually sits at around 16C at night.  So they redid the duct work. That took a week - 4 hours.

 Then they installed the wood furnace and had to have it wett-certified. Well, that was done quickly, although they rescheduled twice and then showed up on a day without calling.  That took 10 minutes. But then we needed our chimney cleaned out by wett-certified chimney cleaners. So they came out. But our chimney is wrecked. There are tiles falling on each other and it needs a new liner. They said to get a new 5" liner.  Someone else told us to get a 5" liner.  But the FM said, no, it has to be to code, it has to be 6". So we ordered a 6" liner, and picked it up ourselves, 10 days ago. But the tiles are still messed up and they need to be smashed out of the way.  No one will smash our tiles.
So hubby goes up on the ladder, 40' straight up, with an axe on a pole, trying to smash tiles.

<<< Frost on bedroom window...brrr....

Today we found out that the wiring is all messed up. The electrical contractors came this morning and realized that they had no idea how to wire the two furnaces up to match each other, but the information is all in their book, but they don't want to charge us while they read the book, so they'll come next week.
And FM is here, in the -35C weather, and hubby is back on the roof, smashing tiles. Trying to. He's even shot into the chimney three times with a .22, trying to dislodge some of the tiles, because we cannot rent a tile smasher.

And all of this makes me wonder why FM didn't look up the chimney to make sure it would work. Because today, we will not have wood heat. So while we are warm because they installed a rotor fan to blow extra hard into the master bedroom, we are paying over $250/week in oil.  Oof.

<<<wood furnace, just waiting...

But the coolest part is when the furnace comes on.  It sounds like a dragon, breathing heat into our home.
So for now, I will just trust the God will work this all out, and help us find the cash to keep our Pemberley warm.

Seed Starting

There are a million and a half ways that people start their seeds. And this way is mine.

1-Go buy a big bag of Pro-mix.  I used to sell this stuff when I managed a garden center and it's awesome. Yes, it costs about $36 for 3.6cuft, but there is sooo much of it! It's a big black or white bag, all packed tightly into plastic. Pro-mix is a mixture of vermiculite, peat moss and perlite. Which means it's very light soil. Rip the sucker open and dump half of it into a large plastic container with a lid.  I usually use Rubbermaid because they have tight lids. It's very dusty, so don't go crazy.

Why can't I use regular top soil or black earth? Why can't I use the generic stuff or miracle-gro?

The difference between top soil and black earth is based on their layers. In a 'forest' setting, when you start digging a hole, the first layer is humus. That's the soft, airy, barky stuff on top, that is composed of plant material, and decomposed organisms. The next layer is the top soil, which has nutrients and usually higher in nitrogen (think grass). The layer below that is black earth, which is supposed to have phosphorus, phosphoric acid and ammonia - which is awesome for agricultural use, and planting shrubs.  As for the generic stuff...I like my Pro-mix. The end.

2- Grab a bowl.  Then start adding warm water and mix with your hands.  It takes a lot of water to get it very wet. But this is good. The mixture will absorb the water and help keep your seedlings wet for a longer time.

 Big bowl in the sink. Warm water is nice on your hands. Cold water is not. Add water and mix until nice and squishy and gets stuck underneath your fingernails. Now breathe in the smell. Mmmm...fresh earth. I love that smell. I bought perfume that was called, Dirt, once.

 3- Add Myke's. I was introduced to this stuff last year by Angie from Carleton Place Nursery. I was skeptical at first, but after reading that it was filled with mycorrhizae, I figured I'd try it. I bought the small container first for about $11, and my word, what a difference! The root system growth was incredibly substantial! So, I bought the big box for about $26. Go buy it. It's worth it. And it's ORGANIC!
 Inside container and how much to add. It does give you guidelines, but I'm cheap, so I cut back a bit. Like sugar in a recipe.

 4- Fill containers! I'm using some old soy milk containers, and I'm uncapping the spout so that the water can leak out. Stuff your containers with the warm, wet soil.  You can use old milk containers (cleaned and soaped out, of course), old salad containers after you poke a few holes in them, berry containers, and even these grids below.Although to be honest, I made hubby take them back because they are so flimsy and not worth my time. I purchased some garden center ready ones that are much more sturdy.  Yes, you can use Jiffy-7's, but when you're planting as much as I am, the easier, the better. And if the root system doesn't break through the mesh when you go to plant outside, you have to tear them a bit.  I like my roots to breathe!

 5- Plant your seeds according to package directions. I usually use a pencil to make the holes, drop them in, and cover them again. It is very important to cover your seed trays/containers with a plastic lid or store inside a small indoor greenhouse contraption because your seeds need the humidity and the warmth. And you won't have to water as often.
6-  These are my plants about three weeks later. Tadah!!!  Easy-peasy-lemon-squeasy...

Saturday, February 7, 2015

When Do I Start My Seeds?

Well.  Here's the thing. It always depends on where you live.  There are so many books and links and advice books, that it's really hard to decide.  They usually give you the dates going backwards from the last frost-date.
I have no idea when that is.
Usually the rule of thumb is, Victoria Day Weekend.
But...I like to push it a week. Because sometimes it's the 24th of May, and sometimes it's the 18th. I live nearish Ottawa, Ontario, so this year, Victoria Day is May 18th. So, I would use the 15th as the last frost date, because I like using Fridays. So if the label says, one week before last date, I'd choose May 8th. Got it?

Here is MY list of when I'm going to plant my seeds, indoors and out. This list includes herbs, vegetables and some annuals and perennials. To make it easier for you, I'll choose the actual date (Friday, of course) so you don't have to count backwards. Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy.

February 20th: artichoke indoors Last year I grew artichoke and it definitely grew, BUT, they need 2-4 weeks of cold temperatures once they get 4 leaves.  So I planted their seeds and once they had 4 real leaves, I put them in the garage for a few weeks. Our garage didn't go below 4C, due to heating, so I guess this year I will store them by the firewood in the basement?  And then we moved, so I never found out if they would fruit.

March 13th: jalapeno peppers, sweet peppers, hot peppers indoors.  All peppers, basically.  They are slow to start, and they're a little fragile. Which makes me mad, because I don't baby my plants.  I show them tough love.

March 20th: tomatoes, onion seeds (not green), lavender indoors. You could wait and plant your tomatoes at a later date, but I like my tomatoes to be at least 12" high before I put them in the ground, because I plant them half-way into the ground. The onions are the white, sweet, red etc, but NOT the green onions that are tall and leafy. And why aren't you planting lavender? It's easy to grow, smells amazing, comes back every year and the flowers are incredible dried and added to shortbread cookies.

And two weeks to catch up on what you've missed.

April 3rd: petunias, lupins indoors. Petunias are cute, they smell cute and they draw in beneficial insects. And can you not love lupins?

April 10th: onions (everygreen seeds) indoors.

April 17th: marigolds, broccoli, zinnia indoors.

April 24th: sunflowers, carrots, melons, romaine, lettuces, arugula indoors.  Note: I've been trying to grow lettuce inside for the past two weeks, attempting to get a production so I could start eating now instead of dropping 5$ a box.

NOTE: Last year we didn't have any snow on the ground on the 24th, so I planted my peas and beans into the ground. I think I also planted some onion bulbs. The year before I planted the week of the 17th. So watch the forecast. Peas and beans grow well in the cold. Just make sure you can work the ground. And cover them up! Squirrels are bad!

May 1st: anise hyssop, cilantro, basil, pansies, yarrow, poppies, asparagus, amaranth, pumpkin, nasturtium, calendula, gourds, pampas grass, borage indoors.  Bees love borage, anise, poppies, calendula, nasturtium. And I love pansies. So friendly.

May 18th: OUTDOORS - all of your seedlings EXCEPT for basil. Go ahead and plant more carrot, lettuce, celery seeds into the garden.

When the forecast calls for cold weather or frost, cover your plants. I'm pretty sure you have an old bed sheet that you haven't thrown out yet. Cover them up.

I realize I'm missing some produce, but I only plant what I know I will eat.  If you have a question though, I'd be happy to try and answer.

Happy Planting!

Backyard of our last house. Those are my babies enjoying the sun warmth on May 7th, 2014.

                                                 Hiding in cold frames.

Beginning Anew

This is my fifth year that I'll be starting my veggies from seed.  I usually buy from Vesey's, as they have a wonderful selection, but last year I was convicted to find more heirloom seed. While I was in Syracuse, I stopped at Wegmans (best grocery store in the universe!) and found a rather heavy seed catalogue from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company.

Wow. Sorry it's fuzzy, I have no idea why my computer did that.  So upon flipping through and discovering that they had over 100 varieties and in seven different colours and they are ALL HEIRLOOM, which means ALL ORGANIC, I knew I had to pay the $8 for the catalog and cart it home.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to only choose 11 tomato types? Oof. But I did. I bought tomatoes, cabbages, carrots, lettuces, herbs etc...and in a nutshell, let me say, that I was not disappointed with the results.  However, I didn't get to eat too many of their productions because we were in the process of moving and well...the fall is a bad time to move vegetable plants. So I sold what I could and the rest was left behind.

And now a new year.

We have recently purchased a gigantic amount of land, and my mind runs amok when I think of all the possibilities. I have magazines galore, most of them from Mother Earth News and Urban Farm.  I'm researching permaculture, biblical planting, square-foot gardening (big shout out to Mel Bartholomew!), planting in's exhausting. Especially when you know what you want to do, but aren't too sure if it'll actually  happen.

So here are the goals for Pemberley Farm this year:

1- vegetables
2- herbs. Many herbs.  Many which will bring in the honeybees.
3- apple trees. Not sure how many to buy, where to plant, or what to buy.
4- propagation.  I'm huge into propagating. We have black cherry trees that are getting to big. We need more black cherry trees = propagate! And some gorgeous yellow birch. And ironwood.
5- plant wheat and quinoa and amaranth
6- chickens. Layers and meat birds.
7- a greenhouse.  Maybe something off the third door. Or something you don't heat. Not sure yet.
8- harvest food and sell, store, eat.

To be clear, Vesey's is a great seed company and they're Canadian. I have purchased bulbs, fruit trees and seeds from them and have yet to be disappointed.  I like Baker Creek because their more into non-GMO seeds, it's run by a small, young family, and their selection is incredible.

Happy Seed Selecting!