In the unheated greenhouse

Cold-tolerant seed germination chart

It’s mid-March and there’s still almost a foot of snow on the ground. We’ve had some days in the upper 50s this month, but then it dropped back into single digits!

Every year around this time, I take a chance on some cold-tolerant plant seeds. If it works out, I get a little head start on the early spring garden. Otherwise, I just have to start over with those plants.

I keep track each year how the really early stuff goes. The Brassicas that would normally come up in 2 to 4 days can take three weeks…but they come up. Then I have to get them outside so they don’t bolt when the greenhouse temps hit the 80s.

This year, I got a soil thermometer, so I actually know what’s going on when I do these plantings. I was amazed that the soil in the containers in the greenhouse had gotten up to 60°F as of a few days ago. The min/max thermometer said the air wasn’t going below freezing in there from around the 10th to the 12th of March (when the outside lows were in the 20s). But then… the weather went back down to single digits, which brought the greenhouse’s air temp down to 9°F, and the soil temp to about 40°F. Sigh…

This year’s list of seeds planted either in the unheated greenhouse, or in a taped-up milk jug for winter sowing outside:

  • Echinacea Purpura
  • Cardinal Flower
  • Chives
  • Onions, nodding
  • Onions, bunching (old seed, thickly planted_
  • Feverfew (also really old seed)
  • Garlic, wild
  • Spinach, Bloomsdale Long Standing
  • Good King Henry
  • Chives, Garlic
  • Claytonia
  • Lettuce, Kweit
  • Lovage
  • Swiss Chard, Ruby
  • Escarole
  • Lemon Balm
  • Butterflyweed
  • Celery, Amsterdam Seasoning
  • Watercress, English

Added to that list are the mâche seeds I put in the ground back in December, and some older thyme seeds I put in a pot in the house.

Let’s see how they do. The rest of the week is going to be much warmer; we might be done with single digits for the season!

Farm Life: Chicken and Dumplings

Chicken and Dumplings

This is the first time I’ve ever made chicken and dumplings. I was inspired by a podcast I’ve been watching a lot of lately, from Roots and Refuge Farm. Jess and her family live in Arkansas, and they just got a foot of snow with that big storm that hit the South. I used her recipe for the dumplings (just putting the herbs in the soup, though, not in the dumplings).

The broth was made last night in the Instant Pot from the bones and giblets of one of our chickens that I butchered three days ago, and included the feet and neck and head. Our dog Trixie, who is not doing well at all, got the chopped-up heart and gizzard for what might end up having been her last meal. She was refusing other food, and water, but gobbled those parts right up.

I used the Instant Pot to cook six diced carrots for 10 minutes of pressure in enough of the strained broth to cover them, then added the rest of the broth, garlic powder, dried basil; oregano and thyme from our farm; previously-frozen dill, pepper, salt, the rest of the chicken meat I roasted last night, and a small chopped onion. I made the dumpling batter while that was coming to a simmer, still in the Instant Pot. I dropped in globs of the dumpling batter, then added some onion greens that I’ve been growing in a south-facing window. At the last minute, I read about adding a flour and milk mixture to thicken up the broth, and did that. This is the best-tasting broth I’ve ever made, possibly even the best soup.

The dumpling recipe, adapted from Jess’s video:
2c flour
a few T of cold butter, cubed
1/2 tsp baking powder
some salt
pulse in food processor or cut butter in manually
add 1 cup milk, mix
(I did those two steps manually to not disturb the dog resting in the kitchen)
should be sticky and stretchy, not a mushy mess
take a glob at a time and drop into the simmering broth
(the dough was too sticky to flatten out as Jess recommended)

Here’s her video, jumping to where she describes how her chicken and dumplings recipe is a hybrid of the Arkansas style she grew up with, and the Indiana style her husband was used to.
https://youtu.be/fc17QxwCjvk?t=1364

Garden put to bed, but still some plants to harvest

Hon Tsai Tai, a mild brassica

So…it’s mid-December. We’ve had hard frosts and snow, and melt and more snow several times, killing off MOST of the garden, but not all. The kale and the Egyptian onions are still thriving and plentiful. There’s still a nice little patch of parsley, and some cilantro that needs to be picked because I doubt it will revive whenever the next warm spell comes. There’s some spinach and chickweed under a “solar plant cone,” which is a season-extender I first read about in the Solar Gardening book by the Poissons.

Parsley, mid-December
Parsley, mid-December

We also still have a small patch of radishes and Hon Tsai Tai under a larger plastic dome. Hon Tsai Tai is like a purple-stemmed, Asian version of Broccoli Rabe, but mild. I picked a sprig of it today, and it’s almost sweet. The frost has removed all of the sharp brassica taste.

Other than those cold-tolerant plants, mulch covers the garden. Under one section of mulch, next to the row of Egyptian onions) there’s a small bed of mâche (Valerianella locusta, a.k.a. corn salad, nut lettuce, field salad, and so on) that I planted at the beginning of this month, hoping for a nice little crop in early spring, when there’s not much else poking out of the ground except dandelion leaves.

Egyptian onions, mid-December
Egyptian onions, mid-December

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