I still have a couple tomato seedlings in the tray that just weren't quite ready for transplant, and a couple that are far behind the rest (including all three Kosovo tomatoes that finally popped up). Most of the seedlings are under the grow light, but a few are in the south-facing window. That seemed to be a good option for the cucumbers, so I figured we'd try with the tomatoes too.
I'm down to the last six containers with cucumber plants. One is looking sickly, as it was in the north window. I'm hoping it will catch up to the beautiful growth I see from the five that have been in the south-facing window. They're starting to grow tendrils now, so I'm considering giving them something to climb - but that would make transplanting them outside next to impossible. I will consult with my son (#2) as these are in his room.
I went ahead and bought a seed starting tray for #2 to plant his herb garden in. He has ten varieties, and planted five of each. Off the top of my head, I know he has Basil, Tarragon, Thyme, Cumin, and Dill. I can't remember the rest. I'm hoping they come up well. He will have so much fun finding new recipes so he can use his own fresh herbs!
Today I made the day trip to St. Cloud to visit Petsmart and Petco. I had intended to get some Chinese algae eaters for the freshwater tank, and some snails and emerald crabs for the saltwater tank, but of the things on my list, between both stores, I was only able to find two Chinese algae eaters. The trip wasn't a complete loss though. I found an aquaponic fish tank system! It's small, but it's actually made to be an aquaponic plant growing fish tank, so I went ahead and spent more than I had intended to get it. It came with a coupon for a 99-cent betta, so I picked out a yellow one and named him Kernel Mustard. Yes, I know it should be spelled Colonel, but in the spirit of yellow - he's named after corn instead. The tank will be set up in #2's bedroom as he has been asking for a fish tank for a few years now, and does well keeping his room picked up. It also helps that he wants to grow garden herbs, and I think this smaller system will work well for that. A big welcome to Kernel Mustard as the newest member of the family, and part of our ongoing gardening experiment.
Some of the tomato seedlings are starting to get tall and tip over, many of which are blocking the couple of late-starters that are still barely up. Time to transplant into bigger containers, which means rearranging the plant shelf again. That will be my project for tonight once the kids are in bed. Photos to come tomorrow.
We are still going around with the illness that started last week. #4 threw up again yesterday, so was home from school today. She decided that Henry would look nicer with some marker tattoos...
Now #5 is battling a fever, and is fussy. Fortunately he's keeping up an appetite and isn't throwing up, so I think he'll be alright. Some Tylenol and extra snuggles are in order.
I ordered a few more seeds for the garden (it's an addiction, I'm telling you!) and I keep looking outside (at all the new snow we got yesterday), and thinking about where I could plant more...
If anyone has rhubarb, strawberry, blueberry, raspberry or blackberry plants that they don't want, I am looking to add those to our garden!
The spring exotic auction is tomorrow. It's going to be a long day. It can last eight or more hours, and they sell all kinds of things that don't necessarily pertain to our needs (we can't have farm animals within city limits, so the hundreds of ducks, chickens, geese, peafowl, and so on are just filler. I'm looking for meat rabbits. They usually come up here and there throughout the auction, but the ones at the end of the auction tend to go for less than those at the beginning as people get tired of being there and the crowd thins out. It'll be interesting this time around as I'll have to take breaks to feed a baby every other hour. I hope I don't miss anything super crazy interesting.
Today I went ahead and planted more tomato varieties. I didn't have enough varieties (planting three of each) to fill the tray, so I started some herbs and a couple odds and ends too. I planted:
Sekai Ichi tomatoes (trying again as none came up from the last attempt)
Lil Pink tomatoes
Purple Fairy tomatoes
Cherokee Purple tomatoes
Maglia Rosa tomatoes
Sweet Grape tomatoes (more seeds available in the Seed Bank)
Black Cherry tomatoes
Pink Sunshine tomatoes
Long Island Mammoth Dill
Triple Moss Curled Parsley
Bell Pepper (seeds came from a weird pointed bell pepper - also have more in the Seed Bank)
I've also added more mixed bell pepper seeds to the Seed Bank, so if you like bell peppers - please feel free to trade with me!
Since #4 was home from school again today (she threw up in her sleep last night), she helped me with the identification sticks (she picked what color I got next as I was writing the seed names on each), and got to pick a seed to plant in her own container. She selected a couple "purple coneflower" seeds, and happily put her little container next to her sisters in the window in their bedroom.
So of course, #2 wanted to know when he was going to be able to start planting his herb seeds that he got in the mail a little bit ago. I'll be making another trip to Fleet Farm to pick up another seed starting try and perhaps we'll make a project out of it. This week looks crazy busy, but maybe we'll find time. Otherwise, there's always next week too.
I did manage to find another grow light, but I haven't tested it out yet. I have to set up a second shelving unit to put the newest seed tray (above), and #2's seeds too. I also tracked down two big stacks of those cheap plastic containers that you get plants in from nurseries, so I can start to replant my peppers into containers that are uniform in size and can easily be lined up in a box and kept under the light still. That will also have to be a project on hold for now.
There is an exotic livestock auction this weekend, and I intend to go. I plan to pick up some meat rabbits if they sell for cheap, and stare longingly at the bottle-babies. One day... one day I will have a farm and will be able to have a bottle-baby goat, but for right now, it's just a dream.
Someone offered to send a couple herb seeds (thyme, sage, catnip and parsley) if I sent a self-addressed-stamped-envelope (SASE). So I did. Today it arrived in the mail - and much to my excitement, there was much more in it than anticipated. I don't even mind the postage due ($1.34) because it was so generously overstuffed. She sent:
Scarlet Runner Beans (6 seeds)
Birdhouse Gourd (2 seeds)
Triple Moss Curled Parsley
Just a few seeds of each, but what a beautiful assortment! She also sent a very nice letter encouraging the kids to grow some fun stuff too. I'd been focusing on getting herb seeds for #2 to help foster his passion for cooking, but #3 asked if she could get special seeds too. Tonight we planted a couple black-eyed susan seeds in a container, and she got to put it in her bedroom. I'm not sure it will survive the three girls, plus the cats long enough to blossom and be transplanted outside, but it made her happy before bed time. Now #4 insists that tomorrow she gets to plant something in a container for her room too - and she intends to start a tomato plant. I will try to encourage her to pick a flower variety instead.
I've been putting off the second tray I want to plant with tomato seeds until I can get a second grow light, but I feel like I'm running out of time to plant in order for them to be big enough when it's time to move them outside. I'll be going over to my parents' house tomorrow for our weekly visit now that the kids are all feeling better. I'll see if they have a light I could borrow so I can get to finishing up my pre-season planting! I have more tomatoes, herbs, and a couple pepper seeds I want to get growing.
The lettuce and the onions that I am re-growing from "butt ends" are looking good. It makes me wonder why anyone would throw them away if they're so easy to regrow!
Wow, this 24-hour stomach bug is awful! Shortly after my last post, I got sick too. All day yesterday (Sunday), #1 and I were down and out. She's feeling better today, but I've still got body aches and I feel physically exhausted even doing simple things (like watering the plants today). I hope I feel better tomorrow. At least everyone is keeping food down now (though #4 threw up this morning and missed school - she ate a normal lunch and has kept it down).
The tomato plants are looking nice, but I'm a little upset to see that several varieties did not come up. I'm glad I planted three of each! None of the sekai ichi seeds came up, and of the three Kosovo seeds (of only 5 that I was given), only one came up and shriveled almost immediately. Two of the Chocolate Stripes, and two Black Mountain Pink didn't come up. Of the Paul Robeson, one didn't come up and another came up sick looking. Otherwise one each of the Tigerella, Green Zebra, Red Cherry, Mister Stripey, and Rideau Sweet didn't come up. The Great White seeds were the first up and remain the tallest seedlings.
Of the Roma tomatoes, most look small still, but the one that got placed directly in front of the grow light has gotten huge very quickly. I should really transplant it soon to give it more space to grow. The others remain only an inch tall.
Some of the pepper plants look big enough that they could really go outside, but the weather won't be cooperating for some time yet.
I've got kids sick left and right! On Thursday and Friday #3 was sick. This morning at about 5am #3 woke me to tell me that #4 had thrown up. Fortunately, she's quick to rebound and was feeling better by this afternoon. Now #1 is throwing up, and #5 has been fussy this evening, but has not projectile vomited yet. And as always, #2 somehow remains unaffected. He has some super immunity powers or something. He didn't get sick in January when we were all down and out with the flu either.
A friend gave me some marigold seeds. That's something new to try, and I'm told it keeps deer away - not that I have a real deer problem here in the city.
The last time we went to the grocery store, #2 found a bell pepper with an unusual shape. Normally bell pepper have three or four "feet" on the bottom. This one came to a point instead. We bought it and today he ate it and saved the seeds. We want to plant them to see if the resulting pepper plants will grow normal peppers, or weird pointed peppers (is the deformity genetic, or aesthetic?).
I also was able to work with a couple raspberries to try to get some seeds out of them. I'm not sure if raspberries can be grown from seed. Everywhere I look it seems that people use cuttings instead. It's worth a try anyway - nothing to lose if they don't work out, but we might be able to get something new if they do come out right.
I planted the seeds that fell out of the eggplants as I was rinsing them on Wednesday. I think I ruined them though, as I had salted the eggplant (as called for in the recipe). We'll see.
No progress with the lettuce head yet, but the onions continue to grow.
Today I decided to try my hand at re-growing lettuce from the bottom part of the head (the part most people throw away). We'll see how it goes.
I also set up a crowd-funding page to try to help with the gardening expenses. The kids are not only excited about having a garden, but have come up with all kinds of vegetables they want to grow that I hadn't originally thought of (eggplant, radishes, a second type of broccoli, pumpkins, a whole herb garden...). It won't all fit in the area I had allotted originally, so we'll need to build a second, and possibly third garden plot to fit it all in. If you're interested in helping with the cost of additional raised gardens, and all the fun stuff that goes with it (additional soil, gardening tools, fencing, etc.), please go to this page and donate to our gardening fund! As always, seeds are always welcome. We will plant a few, and share the rest in the seed bank, harvesting seeds from the plants we grow to add to the seed bank and for future planting.
Sorry it's been a few days since my last post. I try to make it a point to blog every day, but it's been a little hectic around here.
Tuesday we had dinner with my parents, and by the time I got home I was so exhausted, I went straight to bed. I did manage to put up fencing around the plant shelves to prevent the cats from getting into them any more. I used my nose to find all of the plants that had been peed in. The cats claimed four pepper plants and a container with pea plants, and additionally ate at least two cucumber plants and another pea plant (the one in the fish tank that was doing so well). I'm very displeased with their behavior, but I understand that it's natural for them to want to use dirt as a toilet, and to eat tasty vegetation. I just wish they'd be happy with their own food and toys and litter box. When I have spare money, I plan to buy the Litter Kwitter. If anyone is feeling generous, I'd be happy to receive it as a gift - I'll even blog about it! In similar news - if anyone has catnip seeds they would like to donate, I would love to plant some here.
Wednesday I looked up a recipe, bought ingredients, made dinner (well, more helped my husband make dinner), and had my parents over. We had Eggplant Parmesan and it was delicious! I had never tried eggplant before, so it was all new to me, but totally worth it. We made two pans as the recipe said it serves 4-6 people, but one pan fed all eight people with some to spare. The recipe I used is here, and I recommend it to anyone looking for a fantastic dish that takes some prep time and counter space.
The last couple of days I've been unbelievably tired. I've been assuming it's because my bed is uncomfortable, and that I have a baby who doesn't sleep through the night, but today I could barely get out of bed I was so tired (I'm sure the migraine didn't help either). Fortunately, my husband played super-dad and took care of the baby and #3 - who was home sick after throwing up shortly after our eggplant dinner. I woke up long enough to eat breakfast, then back to bed until lunch, then back to bed until dinner, which I didn't even finish before going back to bed. I woke up again between nine and ten in the evening, and decided to get to blogging! Poor #3 got sick again as I was trying to blog, so she's now showered and asleep on the couch. She's upset she'll miss "pajama day" at school tomorrow. I told her she could wear her pajamas all day tomorrow at home instead. If she were home schooled, or online schooled, she could have pajama day any day, and she wouldn't have to miss out on lessons if she felt well enough to do them, even if she was sick. But she will remain in Montessori school for at least next year, and probably the next three school years. I'm not confident enough at this point to school her myself since she needs a speech pathologist. Besides, she loves going to school. How many people have an 8-year old who's upset to miss school, even after spending two days throwing up?
And for my last blurb - On Monday, my husband cut up some green onions for an egg bake, and I took the rooted bottom portion he'd cut off. I planted them in a fast-food drink cup and set them in the kitchen window. Within 24 hours there was visible growth, and every day since it's been growing more! I didn't expect it to regrow so quickly. I'm impressed! I now have three growing green onion plants! I bought some butter lettuce to test out another online claim that you can re-grow lettuce from the cut off base too - we shall see.
The avocado looks like it may be making progress, but I'm not really sure what I'm looking for. The bottom has a lump, perhaps roots forming? The top is peeling and showing a soft underneath part. Part of the cut has odd crystals forming on one side.
I know it's a bad photo, but if you look carefully, this is the stem of one of the apple tree branches in the vase of water. There are little roots forming!
I haven't updated about the floating garden lately - just three peas and three peppers right now. Not truly an aquaponics system right now as the plants are in a container floating, not absorbing nutrients directly from the tank. I really need to figure out how to correct it so that the plants can be grown the way I want them (aquaponically).
And in the most frustrating new discovery - I've found out that my plants are not just being chewed and trampled by my cats - they have been peeing in them as well! I caught Henry peeing in my bell peppers tonight - right in front of me! Needless to say, tomorrow I will be putting up fencing around the plant shelves to prevent the cats from getting in there any more. I'm going to have to dump the peed in pepper plant. Incredibly frustrating! Grrrr!!!!!
The Roma seedlings in the round container are looking perkier today, while many of them in the rectangle container are still looking wilted. I'm excited to find that the tray of tomato seeds I planted has started to sprout! All three of the Great White and all three of the Lemon Drop are up, and several others are up or just breaking the surface now. I rearranged the plant shelf and made sure the new tomato tray has full access to the grow light to give the tomato seedlings the best chance. Since I only planted one seed per cup, I won't have to thin them out. No need to be a plant murderer! I also started the last of the grape tomato seeds to ferment.
Spring break is officially over now. I love having the kids home, but I'm looking forward to having them back in school. I think it wouldn't be so bad if the weather was nicer and they could play outside more often. They get stir crazy crammed in our small house all winter long. We are all looking forward to spring/summer.
I made a Guinea Pig page to show off the new babies, and the two older ones that need new homes. The page will be removed once the guinea pigs all find new homes.
I noticed that the two apple branches in water are starting to look different where the bark was shaved off and the rooting hormone was placed. At first it looked like little splinters, but they're getting bigger... I think we have roots!!
The Roma seedlings didn't all come through the transplant, but I think a few will survive. I'm glad we had so many, so even when most of them are dying off - we may still end up with a couple adult plants.
I have added a few more seeds to the seed bank, including more orange bell pepper seeds, kiwi seeds, and grape tomato seeds. I'd like to plant some of the orange bell pepper seeds, and possibly some of the grape tomato seeds, but I will not be growing the kiwi seeds, as they take several years, a lot of room, and a much warmer climate to grow.
The big news today is that we have new baby guinea pigs! They're absolutely adorable, so I have to share their very first photo...
The mom is half teddy (rough short fur), half hairless, and the dad was Abyssinian (longer fur with swirls) - so these babies could be skinny-pig carriers. We've been trying to find homes for our two remaining guinea pigs, but now we'll have to wait until babies have been weaned (next month). There is one tri-color Abyssinian (far left in photo), one brown agouti teddy (front/center in photo), and two tri-color teddy (back center and far right in photo). They're all adorable and follow mom around as she goes from food dish to water bottle to house to hay, and make the cute little "week-week" squeaks. No word on gender yet, but handling them to socialize them is going to be a lot of fun! When they're weaned, they'll be $25 each if anyone is interested in adopting! Their mom is available for $30 once she's done weaning this litter, and I have another older baby (born last August) for $50. She's the daughter of the mom pig, but her dad was also a teddy/skinny cross, so she is likely a skinny carrier too. She is pregnant (bred to the same Abyssinian male that fathered this litter).
I attempted to re-plant the Roma tomatoes into other containers to thin them out a bit. Tony and I counted - there were 120 seedlings already up! Yikes! He said we couldn't keep them all (my voice of reason - because I wanted to save them all). We managed to fill a couple containers with seedlings, but soon after they all drooped over. I know transplanting can stress plants out - I just hope I didn't accidentally kill them all.
The school informational meeting went well. It was just us and one other couple there, and the guy giving the presentation (Warren) seemed genuinely enthusiastic about the school. They have clubs and field trips, advanced placement classes, and connections to Juilliard for their arts programs.
Unfortunately, #1 was in a bad mood and wasn't cooperating at all. She kept asking if we could leave, and faced the back of the room throughout the slide presentation. I believe that she's afraid of losing her social life and not being able to connect with her friends. I tried to explain that she could still connect with her friends on weekends, after regular school hours, and over summer break, and encouraged her to get phone numbers and addresses and use Facebook, but she's still not sold on it. We discussed the possibility of 4-H, and volunteering at the local animal shelter, Habitat for Humanity, or a retirement home. She's already in Girl Scouts, so that gives her some social aspect as well. We will need to work hard to make sure she had plenty of opportunities to be social with not just other people, but specifically kids of her own age. I think that's her main sticking point, but she doesn't want to discuss it.
On the other hand, #2 has decided that he wants to enroll in the online schooling for next year, and is excited to join a number of the clubs and take classes not available to him locally (learning Chinese, Spanish, and Sign Language for example). So - I went ahead and signed them both up. Here goes to new adventures!
Last night #3 started with a fever, and threw up this morning, so she missed the school meeting, but we were plannign to keep her at the Montessori school next year anyway. I think that hearing about how much fun #1 and #2 have with the new curriculum will be enough to encourage her to want to switch once she ages out of the Montessori too.
The Roma tomatoes continue to come up in mass, so I plan to get most of them transplanted to give them more space within the next couple days. Hopefully sooner, rather than later.
The Green Zebra seedlings look good, despite the mold on the outside of the cardboard. Most of the mold seems to have dried up once the condensation dried up, but there's still a few patches I'm watching. If it grows any, I'll be transplanting those seedlings too.
I haven't gotten around to planting the new tomato varieties yet, but that's on the "to do" list for this weekend.
I saw a couple photos online on various websites while I was looking up tomatoes that showed seedlings being started in cardboard tubes (toilet paper and paper towel rolls). I figured I'd give it a try. I stuffed newspaper in the bottom to keep the soil in, and planted 1-2 seeds in each, then watered them until the cardboard changed color - much like the instructions on Jiffy peat pots. I put all of the tubes into a well ventilated plastic container and left in on the shelf. Yesterday, I noticed the condensation on the bottom walls of the plastic container looked funny, so I took the container down and opened it up. Fuzzy white mold had started growing around the outsides of the tubes! I wasn't sure what to do, so I left it overnight. I checked this morning to see seedlings coming up. I asked on a Facebook forum what to do and was given a couple options. I could transplant them now when they're very tiny to try to save them from the mold, or I can try to reduce the moisture and hope the mold dies off, or at least stops spreading. Either way, the seedlings will have to be moved eventually. I'm going to try to reduce the humidity by keeping the lid open and letting the grow light heat it up and (hopefully) dry it up a little. If that doesn't work, I'm prepared to attempt transplanting.
The Roma tomato seeds that #4 and I planted together on her sick day (last Friday) have started coming up. Some containers have no seedlings (yet) while others have quite a few. I plan to try to transplant them individually to save as many as possible. Depending on how many I can get to grow, I may be selling extras. I can only eat so many tomatoes, and paste tomatoes aren't high on my list.
The oddball plants continue to surprise me and do well... The garlic plant has decided to arch back (away from the light) to grow up through the hole that was the handle of the milk jug it is planted in. It is now starting to grow forward again toward the light, giving the appearance that it was placed that way intentionally. I think I'll leave it and see how it grows. The mango continues to sprout ever so slowly. The avocado seeds look much the same, but I'm told it can take up to six weeks to see any sprouting action.
I made another trip to Fleet Farm to pick up more seeds with the kids, and we picked out Moon & Stars watermelon, White Lisbon bunching onions, Bloomsdale Long Standing spinach, Bright Lights Swiss chard, and Cherokee Purple tomato. I got more of the tomato seeds I'd requested in the mail too, so we will be planting Pink Sunshine, Pineapple, Maglia Rosa, Lil Pink Tomato, Riesentomate, and Black Cherry varieties. I also picked up another planting tray with 50 more seedling cups for the new tomatoes to be planted in.
I found some really neat bamboo stakes (painted green - I prefer natural) that I also picked up to be able to stake the tomatoes once they're transplanted outside into the garden. I bought two bunches of 25 (50 stakes). I should have about double that if all of my seeds survive to adulthood (unlikely, but hey, I can dream - right?). Maybe I can have the joy of going back to buy more later when I have a better idea of tomato survival rate with my lack of experience.
Tomorrow is the informational meeting with the online schooling. I hope it goes well. I'm not a fan of public places and large groups, but it might be just the experience we need to kickstart us in the right direction.
Amanda's blog about everything, important and trivial.