Sunday, February 5, 2012

Preparing for Spring

It is time for preparation. I've pored over the seed catalogs and sketched out the the garden plans. I've gotten wonderful and amazing seeds from the Thrifty Mama on a Trailer Park Homestead to add to my box of seeds for use this year. I've been squirreling them away since last fall, when we got the house and I knew for certain we'd have a place to garden this year. I also have some dried beans and dried blue popcorn that I hope to germinate.

I used some freezer jam jars with lids to test whether my seeds were still good. So far, my peas, beans, lettuce, and a few others have sparked off little green shoots and leaves in their glass and wet paper towel homes. I'm quite thrilled to see them questing for light up on the sill of our kitchen window. They get a grand amount of sunlight there, although it hasn't been the warmest place. The corn, green peppers, and delicata squash seeds haven't yet done anything, but I wonder if perhaps they're just too cold despite the sunlight. If they don't sprout soon, I plan on moving them to a warmer place with a bit less sunshine, in the hopes that they will perk up and prove to me that their still-packaged brethren are ready to be planted next month!

Out of sheer desperation, I have also planted some of my herbs, in "mini-greenhouses" that I created myself. I suppose the term I should use is up-cycled, as they are made out of take-out containers with clear plastic lids. The two large ones are made out of grocery store rotisserie chicken packages, which are just the right depth (a bit over an inch) and have that nice popped up top. I poked a couple of holes in the plastic bottoms to allow drainage, filled it with organic starter mix, and liberally dusted their tops with a bit of oregano and cilantro. The smaller one is a Chinese take-out container which now contains chive seeds, tucked into a pretty and moist earthen bed. They're not in the chilly kitchen, though. They are living on the little dry sink in our living room, very near the wood stove, where they will get quite a bit of sunlight and a lot of warmth each day.

I had to plant something. I had to smell that incredible scent of fresh soil, and feel it between my fingers. There is a lot more to plant, and I have toilet roll tubes to use as seedling starters, as well as some of the little soil pucks that expand into seedling size bags of soil. Sometime in mid-March, the tomatoes will get started, and even a couple of cucumbers. I don't do many cukes, because they grow best outdoors in the free soil, but I find that one or two started indoors is fun for myself and the kids, and if hardened off correctly, will start bearing a week or two earlier than their younger companions. I'm such a kid when it comes to seedlings and fresh vegetables. I want more and more!

It isn't all easy chores, though. Because we just moved into the house, we didn't have any wood chopped and drying before we moved in. We've been scrambling each week to keep enough wood chopped and split to keep us warm. The unreasonable price of oil is very dissuasive; we try to avoid using the oil furnace except to keep the house about 55F at night. The wood stove is going almost all the time, a dry heat we're thankful for in the chilly weather. Hubby has been chopping up the wood as we bring it in (it's fallen wood in the forest behind our house, already partially dried thank heavens). I've been helping more with stacking and arranging, though I've done a bit of splitting myself. While I have lamented having enough snow (I worry about drought this summer), the mild winter has been a blessing because we've been able to keep ahead of the cold with our wood supply. If it had been much colder and snowier, we'd have had a lot more problems.

We're also not neglecting our frozen stores. I was almost out of my previous batch of turkey broth, having used it in several recipes and a batch of turkey soup when I was ill. We defrosted and cooked up a deli chicken (rotisserie style) and a turkey breast (also rotisserie style) which we'd been given by a friend. After cooking all day (well, re-heating, as they were already cooked) in the crock pot, they fell apart during the meal that we enjoyed. Then I took every part of it we didn't devour, bones and all, and popped it all right back into the crock pot and poured in water and spices, and let it cook on low overnight. By morning, I had an incredibly tasty batch of boiled chicken which I used in another recipe. The bones were tossed out, and the broth itself I put into a big pot and jazzed up with some spices. I let it simmer down quite a bit, until it was double strength, and then I froze it (pictured above) in small containers. Whenever I need a bit of broth, I just grab one of these bad babies out of the freezer, and voila!

Today being a nice warm day (it was 54F earlier!), we decided to use a creosote eating log in our wood stove. Though the creosote isn't as much of a danger with the set up that we use, we figured it was better to get rid of as much of it as possible. The log has chemicals (yea I know... not great) that bind with the creosote and make it brittle. Over the next few days we'll have a bit of dust come down, and it'll all clear itself out. It's good, because our fireplace will burn much more efficiently.

What preparations are you making for spring? Are you planting in flats indoors? Sketching up your garden plans? Checking out the local CSAs to see which one fits your lifestyle and budget best? What things occupy your February time?