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Bolted Lettuce

Some of our leafy vegetables have gone a while without being picked, and the additional warm weather has caused them to bolt. I've decided to let them flower and go to seed. They're pretty yellow flowers, and add a bit of spark to our garden. Nina thought it was pretty cool to learn that vegetables sometimes had flowers.

Climbing peas

A few weeks back, we decided to recycle an old plant-shelf into a pea trellis. So far, it's working out great! Some of the peas on the periphery haven't really clung onto it, but hopefully they'll snag it when they get a little taller. These are sugar snap peas, where you can eat the entire pod. We haven't had much success with shelling peas or beans, so hopefully this will be a little different.


This is kind of a funny story. A few months back we planted two varieties of collards, some brussel sprouts, broccoli, chard, and lettuce greens. We hadn't labeled the seedlings, but we planted them in very specific places so we could tell them apart. The collards were really the only thing that did well--- a deep green variety, and a bluish one. We kept eating them, and eventually started noticing a difference between the two. One was great tasting and smooth, and the other was a teeny bit bitter, and the leaves were a little hairy. After cooking, we couldn't really tell the difference. A few days ago, Taylor goes, "Oh, hey! What's this?"

Ooops! I had totally forgotten about the broccoli, and just assumed it had died with all of the other seedlings. Turns out we had been eating broccoli leaves for the past couple months. They tasted pretty good (broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower are actually the same species of plant, just bred for different characteristics), so it wasn't a huge deal. In fact, I think we'll probably continue to eat the leaves after we've harvested the stalks of broccoli. We learned one lesson though--- probably a good idea to label seedlings and make a note if we interplant!

Peas please!

Our Green Arrow peas are chugging along. We didn't really plant enough to get anything significant out of them, but they make a nice little treat when we walk out to the garden. They're super super sweet, and just absolutely delicious. They're a shelling-pea, which is kind of a pain though. As good as they are, I don't think we'll really be planting them again. We've got some sugar snaps going, which me might grow again because they're less work, and we get more out of them.


It's been so cold here lately. Today we woke up to 37 degrees outside, and frost on the windows. Our seedlings (along with all of Mr. Phil's orchids) get pulled in each night. The lack of light is making them really leggy. We were hoping to have planted them last week, which never happened due to the weather.

They might get too leggy and overgrown to really even plant. They're getting pale and don't look healthy. Looks like we might be getting some of our seedlings from the old Home Depot.

Adding to our tools

I've been wanting a wood lathe for quite some time now. Making drop spindles, spinning wheel bobbins, and whatever else sounds pretty darn awesome. The things are just so expensive! After fooling around on Craigslist for a while, I found one for less than it would cost us to make one (and with so much less work involved).

It also comes with some knives and accessories, so it seems like a pretty good deal. We've never used a lathe, and have no knowledge or experience whatsoever, but this seems like a pretty good starting point. We've called the guy, and have plans to pick it up tonight. We're pretty excited to be learning something new!

What color coop?

It's been about five months since we "finished" the chicken coop, but we still haven't painted the thing. Originally we were hoping to do a barn-red coop, but I'm not really sure I still want to do that. Something bright and cheery might be nice, but a more natural color would work too. I still want a white-wash picket fence. We'll figure something out soon, and cover up that icky ply wood!

What color do you think we should paint the coop?

Home on the range

We'd love to have a flock of free-range chickens, but right now that's not really an option. Besides not being 100% in the clear with the local law, our home-owner's association also has a ban on our feathered friends. We are living on over two acres, but keeping free-range hens seems just a little too risky. We still felt bad keeping our ladies locked up all day, so we let them out occasionally to scratch and run around (I say locked up like these things have no space, but they have a pretty big coop and run to hang out in).

They love the freedom, and Nina's turned it into a game, giving herself a point for each chicken she rounds up back into the coop. It's pretty cool to see our ladies running around and stretching their legs, and it makes me lust over the flock of free-rangers we hope to have one day.

Try again?

A couple weeks back, three German Shepherds got into our rabbit cage and killed four of our rabbits. So far we haven't really done anything besides disassemble the old cage.Should we get new rabbits? We spent around $500 on the cage, rabbits, and food, without anything gained except a lesson. To build another cage that would be dog-proof, we'd need a better fence, new rabbits, and some electric fencing to deter any dogs, raccoons, or other animals. This will easily cost a few hundred more dollars, and many more months of waiting for kits, plus hours hunting for the right rabbits, the cost of purchasing them, and a bunch of feed. We're also not going to live here permanently, so we'd have to do it all again in a few years anyways. We're weighing the pros and cons, and hopefully we'll come up with a decision soon.

Three beds out front

As time for spring planting approaches, we've been working hard on double digging and composting new beds out front. We're aiming for four beds, but we've only done three so far. Each is four feet by twenty feet, adding another 280 square feet to our garden so far. Our tiny garden really isn't all that tiny anymore. We're up to about 700 square feet of space so far.

First-year Book Choice

Every year, our school picks a book to mail out to all incoming freshman for them to read before orientation week. The first year I came, the book was Three Cups of Tea, which talked about an American that worked in the middle east to open schools in small, impoverished towns. The student body has just finished deciding what book will be going out to our incoming first years in 2010.
I absolutely adore Pollan's writing, and this book is particularly outstanding (I reviewed another one of his books back in November). In The O's Dilemma, he focuses on three different types of meals: the industrial meal, the local, farmed meal, and the hunted and gathered meal, focusing on the evolution of human eating patterns since thousands upon thousands of years ago. It's really interesting, and a wonderful insight into the industrial food chain.

Campus Compost

New College is a rather remarkable school. We have an on-campus Farmer's Market, an intense recycling program, and all kinds of environmentally friendly initiative groups. One of my favorite on-campus features? Compost bins!

Our school employs a few students to take care of the compost, and most students don't mind dumping their leftovers into the bins found all over campus. The compost gets used in our on-campus organic gardens.

New additions to our flock

So as I mentioned a few days ago, Taylor has been wanting silkies since, oh... forever ago. We finally found a lady in Sarasota that raises a few (hundred). She also had guinea fowl, quail, donkeys, sheep, horses, twelve dogs, cats, rabbits, geese, etc. Somehow, we wound up coming home with four new additions.

We picked up a few partridge silkie chicks that are cute enough to die for. I love the little peep peep peeps coming from our bathroom. The little chicken power naps are amazing. They'll peep and hop around for a few minutes, and then pass out like they have narcolepsy. After ten seconds of power napping with their heads down, they're back to pecking at the bedding and cheeping.
The larger chick is a few weeks old. The chicks aren't sexed, but she suspected this one was female, which is why we grabbed her.

All of the males will be going back to Glenna's farm, and we'll hold on to the hens.

Our other addition? Feruccio, the white silkie hen. She's pretty much blind, which gives her the appearance of being rather dumb. She really held her own when we put her in with the other ladies. They weren't quite sure what to make of her, but when she fought back at their incessent pecking, they learned to stay away. She's only half their size (and won't get much bigger), but this little ball of fuzz packs a punch!

Our egg system

With too many eggs for our household to eat, we've developed a wonderful system to get rid of the excess. For $4 a dozen, New College Students can get fresh eggs delivered to their on-campus mail box. A few times a week, I hop on the bus with a couple cartons of blue and brown eggs.
I stick the eggs in the appropriate mailbox, and a few hours later, the eggs have been replaced with some cold hard cash. Students say they love love love the eggs, and I keep getting requests from more and more people.

Happy Valentine's Day!

So as much as I'm not a fan of Hallmark Holidays, I gotta say, this was freaking cute.

I hope you all had a wonderful Valentine's Day!

Frozen Froggies

With the unnaturally cool weather, there's been very few amphibians, insects, and reptiles about. This is great news for the invasive pythons and iguanas around here, but I feel bad for the poor little froggies! We found a plant outside that had four frogs curled up and hiding from the cold. Taylor snapped a couple of photos, which was good because they've scurried off now that the weather is warming up.

The financial side of gardening

One thing we haven't done super well is keep track of how much our gardening hobby is costing us. We're finally starting to make a profit selling our eggs for $4/dozen at New College. It's pretty much paying for our feed at this point, but not much else. We've had a few offers for our extra produce, but so far we don't have enough, let alone extras.
In the end, I like to think of our expenditures as our grocery bill, as well as cash paid for our entertainment. With fewer rabbits and our chicken feed paid for with egg money, it seems like the only real expenditures now are mulching hay and seeds.

A culinary experiment

*Be warned! The content of this next post might be a little bit gross to some readers!*

This semester, I'm taking an Entomology class, which I'm finding very intersting. Quite frequently, the topic of entomophagy, or eating bugs, comes up in class. As an abundant, high protein, low fat food, they're very interesting culinary ingredients. The other night we visited a pet store, bought two dozen crickets, and decided to experiment.

We put them in the freezer overnight to make sure they were good and dead before we threw them in a skillet of oil and leeks (from our local Jessica's Organic Farm).

I have to admit, it was kind of weird cooking food that seemed to be looking at me.

We tossed in some bacon, tomatoes, home-raised eggs, and soy sauce.

In the end, it looked like regular stir fry, until we found a cricket peering out from under the noodles on the end of our fork.

We ate every darn one of them. They really didn't taste bad, but there was such a mental hurdle when it came to eating a bowl of cricket noodles (one of us may have even gagged once or twice). It was an interesting experience, but probably not something we'll try again--- at least not as stir fry. I still want to try chocolate covered crickets.

My first hand-spun hat

Earlier this week, I finally decided to do something with all of the hand-spun yarn I've been making. I picked out a commercially-spun brown wool, and tried my first color-worked piece. The gray is the yarn I made myself, from roving purchased at Rising Fawn Fibers, the same place I bought the raw fleece. I've worn it pretty much every day since I made it, and it's about my favorite thing ever. Also, anyone that accidentally sticks it in the washing machine will die a very painful death. (Sorry for the silly picture. I was eating scrambled eggs before rushing off to work!)

On the hunt for silkies

We've been looking for a few Silkie hens ever since we first encountered one at The Hostel In The Forest. They're a very funny looking, somewhat small breed of chicken. With sort-of frizzy, hair-like feathers, we think they look like a yeti.

We've hunted on Craigslist, but no real luck. Plenty of people have roosters, but nobody really has chicks or hens. We've found one lady in Tampa who gets shipments in occasionally, but we have yet to hear back from her. I promised Taylor some for his birthday, which was a few months ago, so we better find some soon!


We're definitely taking advantage of the free compost I mentioned a couple weeks back. We've spent the past few weekends heading over to Longwood Park where they keep a huge concrete bunker full of the stuff.

Mr. Dennis lends us his trailer to haul home our pile. The first couple times we went we lined the back of my PT Cruiser with a tarp, which wasn't the most efficient method. Now we can fit in about a dozen wheel-barrow loads of the stuff.

The pile is absolutely huge. We still haven't made a dent in it. It's great shoveling it in chilly weather, because the middle of the pile is hot to the touch (from the microbes causing the decomposition).

It's an absolute bargain. We've saved anywhere between forty and two hundred dollars, depending on where and how you buy compost. And, at only two miles from the house, it's super convenient.

Restoring the ol' spinning wheel

A few months ago, I got really interested in spinning. I made a drop spindle, bought some wool, and started cranking out yarn. It was slow, but satisfying. Then, my Oma made mention of an old spinning wheel she had in her attic. I'd grown up around the thing (used as a decoration, not a functional wheel), and had assumed it was either a non-functional piece, or she'd gotten rid of it. We pulled it down from the attic, and I spent a few days trying to make it work. Because it was so old, I didn't have any sort of instructions, and it was unlike any other wheels I'd seen.

I've been using it, but the thing squeeks so darn dreadfully. Taylor is currently in the process of fixing it up for me, so it'll work without forcing everyone to shout over the noise.

An abundance of eggs

Our egg production is just about in full swing. After months of no eggs, then a few months of nothing but blue eggs, we're now getting eggs from (we assume) all of our chickens. One day we actually got eight eggs, which was amazing! Taylor is still charting our egg production, and the past few days, we've gotten a big spike. It seems like all of our hens started laying at once.

We've got more eggs than we can handle, and the extras are being sold to New College students.

Pit-fired Bowls

We've used a lot of the cut-down palmettos for fires lately. Not only have we been using the fires to cook, we've used the opportunity to make some pit-fired pottery.

The colors come out very unpredictably. This set was coated with a honey-colored glaze, but instead came out with red, green, and blue shades.

It's hard to get the fires as hot as we need, since there's not a lot of good wood to burn. Some of the pieces have the characteristic shine from melted silica in the glaze, but most of it is just matte.

While the glaze is considered food-safe, I'm not sure we're going to use these to eat out of. Bits of ash are embedded in the surface, and they didn't heat up as much as they should have. Either way, we're going to continue using our fire pit to make pottery.

Starting seeds

It's that time of year again! We're slowly starting seeds for this year's spring garden. What do we have so far? Okra, peppers, squash, zucchini, and cucumbers. We're going to start more soon, and some crops will be directly sewn into the garden. As for tomatoes, we're not sure what we want to plant. We haven't had much luck with heirlooms, but I'm not too sure I want to use commercial seeds. We'll have to see.

A new pea trellis

Mr. Phils recently replaced his old plant-shelves with a brand new shiny one. Instead of throwing away the old one, we decided to recycle.

It should be perfect for our sugar-snap peas to climb up on. Up to now, we've been using bamboo with yarn tied to it to give the peas something to grab on to. This should work rather well for this climbing variety.

Our other peas are loving the cold weather, and we hope it doesn't warm up too soon.

Lots of compost

So we decided to give the city compost a try. It's completely free at five pickup locations around the county, with the closest one just two miles down the road. There's a big concrete bunker full of recycled, composted yard waste available to anyone that wants to haul it away.

We picked up a trailer-load full, and composted two of our beds with a six-inch-thick layer. It's not perfectly organic, and still contains trace fertilizers and pesticides, but New College has done a test on it, and deemed it safe for use in their organic garden on campus. It had a good amount of worms and beetles in it, so we decided it's probable okay to use in our garden.

We're pretty happy with it. You can definitely see the difference between the un-composted beds and the ones with a happy dose of humus. We'll have to see how it works out this growing season.

Clearing Out

Without fires to control the landscape, Florida undergrowth can get a little wild. The palmettos were sky-high and way too dry, posing a huge threat. If they were to catch fire, they'd blaze up in an instant. Since a controlled burn really isn't an option in a neighborhood, we've been working on slowly pushing back the growth.

Now we've got some pretty big piles of palmettos laying around. They're great for fires, and even burn well when completely wet and green. It's been a lot of work (Taylor goes out almost every day after work), but without letting things take their natural course (wildfires caused by lightning), it's actually better for the ecosystem to clear it out every once in a while.