The red romaine lettuce in the Aquaponic cup is wilting. I'm not sure why. Too much light? Too warm? I'll try some fresh seeds at a later date.
Happy Valentine's Day! I can hardly believe that it's been a full year since I started this blog. I've learned so much in the past year, and I hope to learn even more as I go!
Yesterday I received a package in the mail from someone I met on DavesGarden. I had sent him some seeds, and in return, he was very generous in sending me some rooted blackberry cuttings. He also threw in some goji berry cuttings for me to try (Thank you!!).
Last night I got some containers ready, soaked the cuttings (as per instructions I found on the internet), and then planted them all up. Just as I was finishing watering the soil in each of the containers, my hose (literally) exploded in the middle. So, until I can get a new hose, everything will have to be watered by hand. At least I got through planting before it broke!
This is the Tiny Tim Tomato aquaponic cup. As you can see, one of the seeds has sprouted and is starting to come up near the center. To the top left is a Goji Berry stem. The instructions said to keep it moist until new growth appeared, so I'm trying one this way. To the top right you'll see some leaves. These were loose in the bag with the blackberry plants, so I'm not sure which it came from, but I'm seeing if I can get leaves to root (without a branch).
I'm toying with the idea of getting a camera to start doing short videos, but I have no idea how to edit videos. That idea might have to stay on a back-burner for now. I'm gearing up for tomato and pepper seed starting next month.
Another rough day (surgical recovery is kicking my butt), but I did get two loaves of bread baked yesterday and I have another loaf in the oven now. I have (or will have withing the next 24 hours) eight bags of Amish Friendship Bread starter if anyone in the Brainerd area is interested in trying it out! Like I've said before, free to anyone who wants to pick it up in the area, or I can ship it if someone out of area would be willing to pay the $6 Priority Mail price.
The Chester Thornless black raspberry cuttings have made a complete recovery from the spider mite infestation that nearly wiped them out. It's looking better than it ever has.
With the shifting of stuff in the upstairs fish tank, I have kept the Red Romaine Lettuce seedling alive and well and away from the cats. It's still very small (just now sprouting a fourth leaf), but I'm hoping for the best. It's not looking very red at the moment. Perhaps it's getting too much light, or is just too small to have proper color yet.
I can confirm that we are officially expecting kittens within the next month or so. Miss Mabel has an ever expanding baby bump, and yesterday I felt a kitten move in there!
I woke up this morning to find that the cats had knocked half the lava rocks from the Red Romaine Lettuce Aquaponic cup into the fish tank... Including the seedlings. I managed to find and retrieve only one seedling (the largest) and have put it back in the cup under the light. I put a shelf panel over top in hopes it will prevent future feline raids.
I was met with further disappointment when I checked the Tiny Tim sprouts - both wilted. I added about eight Tiny Tim seeds directly into the Aquaponic cup and will see what happens. Maybe some will sprout and grow, maybe they won't. It's worth a shot.
The Alabama Red Okra seeds have gone bad. I'll have to start some over again.
I am trying some anise seeds on paper towels in a baggy. If they germinate, I'll be trying to start them indoors to lengthen the growing season. From what I understand, anise requires 120 frost-free days.
I'm working on a cool seed trade opportunity. I'm hoping to announce it tomorrow - so stay tuned!
It's about time to round up the plants and give an update.
The Red Romaine Lettuce in the upstairs tank (aquaponic) has two sprouts. One seed has not sprouted, and one looked like it was starting, but has shown little sign of growth since. May just have two in this container (6 seeds sown).
The Tiny Tim babies are looking a little wilty, but it's only been a day, so I'm hoping for the best. They are downstairs in an aquaponic tank under a light on a 12-hour timer.
The Green Star Lettuce has really taken off! I turned it today and had to pull three leaves off due to burn (getting too close to the grow light). I put the leaves in the fish tank. They'll be eaten and turned into nice things for the lettuce growing in the tank.
The Glaskins Perpetual Rhubarb plant is doing well. It has the first two leaves and one true leaf, and appears to be starting a new one as well. I'm very excited to get this one through winter and started outside. I'm hoping it lasts many years and provides us with lots and lots of rhubarb coffee cake!
The Spineless Prickly Pear cactus is looking fantastic since the re-plant into fresh cactus potting soil! I watered it yesterday (not that you could tell), and plant to water it just once a month to prevent my overzealous watering from killing it.
Aloe Vera plant continues to suffer from the indented portions of the outer leaves. The only references I can find to a similar issue online is over-watering or improper soil. It continues to grow new branches and seems happy in the fresh cactus soil. I'm not sure what the issue is.
And last, but not least, is #3's spider plant. It was just a little thing when it arrived, and one of the kids nearly drowned it, but it's coming back and looking wonderful! We are going to have to pot-up soon!
This morning I took the Tiny Tim sprouts out of the germination bags and transplanted them into the aquaponic cup. The two sprouts seem so small, I'm not sure how they'll do. The third seed sprouted a tiny root, but no leaf so far. I put it in there as well.
Today is the second round of Amish Friendship Bread baking for the year. I went ahead and bought a real loaf pan, so now I can make two loaves per batch, baking them one at a time. Flavors this round were Hershey's Cookies & Cream, and another attempt at banana.
The Cookies & Cream loaf was made with vanilla pudding and a normal sized candy bar cut into tiny pieces. It turned out really good!
The improved banana attempt was made with banana cream pudding and this time I sliced the banana instead of mashing it. As of posting this, the banana loaf is cooling, so we haven't tried it yet.
On a side note, the Red Romaine Lettuce in the Aquaponic tank is starting to sprout. I only see three of the six seeds, but two of them are sprouting. As you can tell by the white fur, Mocha may not leave it alone for it to grow.
As anticipated, Glaskins is off to a slow start, but it finally has a true leaf. It should be more than ready to be transplanted by spring.
In other news, today I discovered that all three Tiny Tim tomato seeds have germinated! The one I started originally finally broke out and both of the new seeds are now showing roots too. Hopefully at least one of these little seedlings makes it to a size appropriate to move into the Aquaponic tank.
One of the Tiny Tim seeds has sprouted, but is barely a root and a seed for now - not ready to go into the Aquaponic cup yet. While I await some tomato growth, I started a second Aquaponic cup in the upstairs tank. Similarly, I used a round styrofoam packing piece and a plastic container that came with chocolate chip cookie dough from Papa Murphy's. I put six Red Romaine Lettuce seeds (from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds) on top of some lava rock in the floating cup. I'm hoping the cats will leave it alone. We shall see.
Today I decided to get out and be active. Tony and #5 and I took a 40-minute walk. It was refreshing, but exhausting. I'm so out of shape! I'll have to work on that this summer.
I drilled some holes in a deep litter-box like container (came from the hospital when we brought #5 home), and filled it with the lava rock I bought yesterday. I am a little upset that over half the bag is not rock, but dust. Tony suggested we add it to the dirt we'll be putting in the raised garden beds once we get them built. At least it won't go to waste. That said, the big $4 bag was only enough to fill the litter pan with a little left in the bag. Anyway, the container is now in the fish tank after much rinsing. I'm still not sure what I want to plant in it as the water comes right up to the top, so I may be limited on my choices. I don't want to be stuck with lettuce, but I think I may need to do more research into what varieties grow best in very moist conditions.
After school today, #2 and I planted the five varieties of basil in the aquaponic fish tank (with Kernel Mustard) in his room. We will have to wait and see how they grow. We planted all of the Thai Basil seeds, and all of the Genovese Basil seeds. We still have leftovers of the Purple Ruffles Basil, Large Leaf Basil, and Sweet Basil.
The bell pepper tucked in the lava rock off to the side of the aquarium in the inverted top of a milk jug is doing well. Despite the cats knocking it into the water repeatedly, I'm seeing new leaf growth in just the few days it's had roots in the fish water.
Mabel continues her girth growth. I continue to be on kitten watch, but she's not showing any signs of immediate pending delivery. She has her moments where she's overly affectionate, and her times when she lays in the box and kicks Henry out, but she still seems comfortable, and she's still eating and drinking and moving around.
All of the guinea pigs are weaned and ready to leave now. Unfortunately, #1's friend can't have Othello (landlord issues), so he's back up for adoption. That's two babies that were supposed to leave that are still here now (Tripoli and Othello). What poor luck! I am hoping to find them all homes fairly quickly, but that seems to be stalling out too. Despite posting photos on various ad sites, I've had very few replies, and most of the replies I do get are from kids. I'm not against kids having pets, but when it comes to getting a new pet - it's the parents that need to contact me, not the kids.
I'm still waiting for my tax refund to come in. We filed our papers before the deadline, but we're still waiting. The plan was to use the money to buy the supplies we need to build the raised gardens and set some aside for regular expenses (toilet paper and soap and stuff like that). I'll have to use some of it to get a new camera too now.
I've also been working on getting more stuff listed on eBay as they've been having some listing promotions. No luck on sales yet, but I'll keep trying.
And lastly for tonight, #2 got to trade again. He sent some sage seeds off and got spaghetti squash, butternut squash, lettuce mix, borage, and French Breakfast radish seeds. Just a few of each, but enough for him to try them out. It'll be fun to see what recipes he picks out to create with his new veggies.
This has been an interesting week. Grandma (my mom) was gone on a business trip most of the week. She got back on Sunday evening, so the kids got a late bed time so we could run over there and welcome her home.
Monday morning #1 got her braces. She picked blue and black for her colors. She goes back and forth between really liking them and being excited about having them, and being shy, not wanting to show them to anyone, and complaining about having them. The list of foods she can no longer eat seems to frustrate her too ... no chewy candy, no gum, and for the first week - nothing crunchy.
Tuesday we doggy-sat for Grandma and Grandpa when they took an overnight trip down to the cities to see the Blue Man Group.
Wednesday was our turn. Grandma and Grandpa took all five kids, and Tony and I trekked down to the Ordway (Performing Arts Theater) in the cities (3 hours down, 3 hours back) to see the Blue Man Group. I had wanted to see the Blue Man Group 12 years ago while we were in Vegas for our honeymoon, but tickets were either sold out or crazy expensive, so we didn't get to see them. This was my mom's gift for our anniversary this year. It was also the first time I've been away from #5 for more than an hour or two.
We stopped at Red Lobster in Maple Grove for dinner. The guy that sat behind us was the most disagreeable person I think I've ever had the displeasure of eating near. He was seated just before us and as soon as his waitress introduced herself, he complained about where he'd been seated. She offered to find him another spot, but he refused. He then complained about everything the waitress brought him... his drink, his biscuits, his appetizer, his meal, and his dessert! Somewhere between appetizer and dinner, the waitress got a manager, and the guy even complained to the manager! No matter how they tried to "make it better" the guy refused and just kept complaining! He got like three different dinners out of the deal, and was still nasty to the waitstaff. I felt terrible for the waitress, who was also our waitress... so we tipped her well ... wish I'd have had a pen and paper to tell her how sorry I was that she had to deal with the guy in the next booth!
It was a welcome "vacation" as we aren't usually able to afford such frivolous spending.
I've spent the last couple days doing more research on aquaponics, and realizing how close and yet how far my original design was to being completely functional. It looks like there are really two types... one is a floating system, where you use styrofoam with cup-sized holes cut in it, and float it on top of your aquarium, with the cups in the holes... the media (clay balls, lava rock, etc.) goes in the cup, the cup is partially submerged in water, and the seeds are sewn directly on top - voila! The other is a system where you use a pump to push water from the tank up (via tubing) into a container of some sort (filled with the same medium - clay or lava rock, etc.), which has holes in the bottom that drain back into the fish tank below. This keeps the rocks moist, but not submerged. Certain plants to better in either system. For example, lettuce does fantastic in the first (styrofoam and cups) system, but tomatoes do better in the second (pumped water) system. Since I want to try everything - I want to try both systems, or at least some variety of each system - made as cheaply at home as possible.
Today I bought lava rocks from Home Depot ($3.95 after tax). I checked prices for aquarium, pond, and fountain pumps, but at $25-$30 for a pump and tubing, it's not looking promising. The aquaponic tank in #2's bedroom with Kernel Mustard is a pump filter, but instead of soaking the rocks, it barely covers the bottom part of the cups stored in the top of the tank. For now, I'm going to have to be happy with that system as my attempt for a pump set up.
Tomorrow I plan to drill some holes in a couple containers and see if I can get them to "float" in the fish tank - without styrofoam. I'm finding that most of the stores (from online searches only) seem to only have 3/4 inch styrofoam sheeting, commonly used for insulation. The guides I found usually call for 2-inch thick styrofoam. I'm going to try to modify it to work without it. If I can make my containers fit over the edges of the aquarium, the edges should hold it up... assuming the weight of the lava rock doesn't cause the edges of the containers to bend. We'll see how it goes tomorrow. I'm hopeful.
I had a couple "floating" containers (plastic containers that are connected to the edge of the tank so they won't sink) in the tank from before, but both of the plants died... well, technically one died and the cats got the other one. Anyway, I put some lava stones in each. I took one of the red pepper plants (two plants that were seeded together and are now intertwined) and carefully rinsed the dirt off the roots and set it in one of the containers. The roots are underwater, the stems and leaves above... I'm hoping the plant does well and helps to filter the fish tank below. The other container I sprinkled some of the "lettuce mix" seeds (#2 got in the mail today) over the rock. With any luck, we will have a little salad growing in a couple weeks!
In feline news, Miss Mabel is continuing to grow rounder and rounder. We can feel little kitten movements in her belly, and she's taken a liking to the box and blanket we've provided to her - though she'd still prefer to be in our beds when given the opportunity. I still think we should have kittens in the near future. We are constantly checking on where she is and how she's doing throughout the day. I will post here as soon as kittens arrive to make the big announcement. If I can't find a digital camera by then (not looking very promising right now), I'll try to take photos with my phone and email them to myself so I can get them on the computer and posted here. The camera on my phone isn't very good; it takes grainy barely-focused photos, but it's the best I can do until I can get a new camera.
My new "Purple Ruffles" Basil seeds arrived today. They sound like fun! I'm trading with someone again, this time I'm sending some broccoli, Columbine, and corn seeds in trade for Voyage, Bosque Blue, and Black Sea Man tomato seeds, and she said when her OSU Blue (smurf) seeds come, she'd pass some along as well. How fantastic! The voyage should be very similar to the Reisentomate that I planted and they haven't come up. I've been trying to get a hold of Bosque Blue and Smurf tomato seeds since I heard about them. Well worth the cost to mail some of my extra seeds out!
I've been working on setting up a list of what seeds I have on DavesGarden, and while I have almost all of my seeds listed now (what I have anyway, though some I don't have enough to trade right now), I'd like to start working on a "Want" list of seeds that I'd be willing to trade for. It'll have to wait though - I didn't get all of my pepper transplanting done yet!
My husband complained that the cucumber plants were starting to reach out and grab things around them ... so I went in with dowels to give them something to hold on to. Lo and behold I found two yellow flowers and stems full of buds! Yay! I must be doing something right with these plants if they're to that point already! Cucumbers here we come!
After much thought, #2 has decided to grow five varieties of Basil in the aquaponic fish tank that Kernel Mustard lives in. He will have Purple Ruffles, Common, Large Leaf, Thai, and Genovese basil. Now we just need to get it all set up!
A quick update on our cloth diapering endeavor... I don't mind washing the diapers every other day, and I don't mind that they have to hang to dry. I have noticed that sometimes #5 leaks when the pad in the diaper doesn't fit seam to seam. If there's space between the pad and the edge of the diaper, it will leak. As a result, some of the pads are virtually useless because they're too thin for the diapers. I've doubled up the cheap thin quilted pads all along, and had good results. Now I have to double up the narrow pads with a quilted pad to get by - which means all of the extra pads I bought originally are now in circulation. I was worried I'd need more diapers, but really - it's the pads I seem to be needing more of. Over-all, I'm still satisfied with the experience and would definitely recommend it to anyone looking to save money in the long run, or just go more natural and avoid stuff going to the landfill. If anyone is looking to give away extra All-In-One pocket diapers, or the pads that go in them, I could definitely put them to good use - I just can't afford to go out and buy any more right now.
Tomorrow, #1 will be heading to the doctor for vaccinations to catch her up for school enrollment in the fall. No fun, but she can't go to school without being vaccinated. It might seem odd, since it's an online school - but with all of the field trips they offer, they do require current shot records.
And speaking of field trips, both #1 and #2 came home with permission slips to go on a school field trip with an overnight - on a school night. I'm not sure how I feel about this. I'm told boys and girls will be separated, and there will be teachers with them. It's 50 miles away, and the school will pay for them if they want to go and we can't afford the full cost. I'm still not sure right now, but the permission slips need to be in by Wednesday, so I will have to have a talk with Tony tomorrow about it.
And speaking of over night stays, our very first overnight was a success. The girls had fun, stayed up until 2:30am watching movies and giggling, as expected. Now the other kids are asking if their friends can come spend the night. Why not? So long as they're respectful and clean up after themselves, I don't mind it too much. It is a bit of an inconvenience to have to hide in the bedroom to breast-feed #5 though. I'm never sure how other people will take seeing that. I don't mind breastfeeding in front of my kids. It's a natural part of human biology and is the purpose of having breasts. That said, I understand that not everyone feels that way about it, and out of respect for other peoples' right to raise their children in the way they see fit, I'd rather hide in the bedroom when #5 gets hungry than risk having one of the kids' friends go home and tell their horrified parents about seeing boobs.
Today's mail delivery brought three new seed varieties...
Churchill Brussel Sprouts (heirloom)
Connecticut Field Pumpkin (heirloom)
Yellow Pear Tomato
I guess the Brussels sprouts are supposed to be started several weeks in advance, much like tomatoes and peppers, so I'll be heading back to Fleet Farm to buy yet another seed starting tray.
The herbs that #2 planted are starting to come up now, and the last seed tray I started (with tomatoes and herbs and odds and ends) needs to be moved under the light - which means moving the pepper tray out and transplanting them all. Sounds like I know what my weekend project is going to be!
And in other news, we're about to hit a new milestone - our very first sleep-over. Our oldest (#1) has a friend over, and they're trying to get a hold of her family to see if she can spend the night. This will be the very first time we've had a sleepover at our house. How exciting!
The new aquaponic tank is half set up. The tank itself is set up and Kernel Mustard is enjoying his mansion, but we have not yet set up the top portion for the plants. I'm letting #2 pick what he's going to be growing. The kit came with three packets of Wheat Grass, and one of Genovese Basil. We won't use the Wheat Grass, so it will be going in the Seed Bank as soon as I can snap a photo and get it posted there. I think the plan is to use the new basil, but I'm not sure which other herbs he will choose. He has plenty to pick from.
I received another variety of seed from the GRIN (USDA), this time Black Beauty Eggplant. They will be planted outside in the spring to be compared to the store-bought eggplant that we already have. I also got an email from them asking if I was still interested in the rhubarb I had requested. Hopefully that means it comes soon. We had a rhubarb plant when we moved in, but the neighbor put up a wooden fence just feet from it and lack of sun killed it within a season. The Black Beauty Eggplant, and the rhubarb (if and when it comes) will be monitored on the Research page.
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.
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.
Amanda's blog about everything, important and trivial.