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Monday, January 8, 2018

Only one thing crossed off the to-do list today

Sometimes the end of the day comes and I look at my list and I may have only crossed off one thing and some days I don't cross off anything.  As a person who makes lists, not crossing anything off is pretty disheartening.  I look around at the end of the day and try to figure out where it went.

Today I started to work on rabbit waterers when Little man's father came inside and said that his car was stuck in the driveway.  To some that would seem strange, but our driveway is a little better than a third of a mile long with a hill flanked on either side at the top by two ponds.  Sometimes you head for the ditch to ensure you don't sink your car in either pond.  Thankfully he was only stuck in a three foot snow drift.  After several tries and some sheer determination I managed to get his car up the hill (not on the list).  While I was spinning and sliding, he took care of the rabbit water bottles.

Inside to warm up and pour myself a cup of coffee, I looked at my list and decided where to begin.  There is squash in the back room that froze in the double digit below zero temperatures that we had last week.  Since the temperatures for the end of the week are predicted to be well above freezing, I started there so we wouldn't lose the squash (on the list).  I needed a clean sink and a clear kitchen table; dishes washed and counters disinfected.  Some play time with Little man and a couple of emails answered (not on the list), then I went to the back room to retrieve the squash.  

Our back room is very cool most months of the year and will usually only dip below freezing during the coldest of weather.  I will often set leftovers or the carcass from the chicken we had for dinner last night out there to cool while keeping it safe from our four-legged family members.  I grabbed that along with the squash and returned to the kitchen.  I washed, cut, and scooped out the seeds from the squash and put the first couple of them in the oven.  Then I stripped the chicken from the carcass (some for chicken sandwiches and some for chicken and biscuits later in the week) and added it to a pot on the stove for broth (not on the list).  I pulled the squash I had cooked two days ago out of the refrigerator, processed it and put it into two cup bags for the freezer.  

I had one lonely cup of butternut squash leftover.  Hmm, I don't have much for afternoon snack so I took to the internet and made a modified version of this butternut squash apple bread.  It was delicious!  If I am lucky there might be two slices left for snack for Little man and I to take with us tomorrow (not on the list).

Two more batches of squash were cooked and set on the counter to cool.  In between I took the seeds that I wanted to save, washed them and set them on labelled paper towels to dry over the next couple of weeks (not on the list).   Some lunch, play time with Little man and a few more emails dealt with, another batch of dishes done and it was back to processing the squash I had just cooked while I added the next variety to the oven.

Little man's father came in and asked for some help with changing the tires on his car.  I was busy, but figured my time would be better spent helping this afternoon then trying to unstuck a car again in the wee hours of tomorrow morning.  A little play time outside before the snow squalls came and forced us back inside.  Some more dishes, some more squash, some paperwork, a little business accounting and another set of seeds set to dry (not on the list).

Dinner was easy tonight as we had leftovers in the freezer I wanted to use up to make room for all this squash.  Afternoon/evening chores assisted with and a last check of emails for the evening.  A blog post written and then to some quality time with family before dinner (not on the list).  

I checked the list before heading into the living room and realized that after all that I had accomplished today I had only crossed one thing off my list.  There remains a pile of squash in the back room that should have been moved to the cellar before the below freezing temperatures.  Lesson learned.  Tonight, eggs will be washed for a regular customer, more dishes done, some more playtime then showers, teeth brushed, stories read and a Little man tucked in (not on the list).  After Little man and his father have retreated to dream-land, I will try to cross one more item off the list.  The goal remains that by the end of the week at least two thirds of the items are crossed off.  Each week is a new challenge, but I continue moving forward.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Testing seed germination

I have been saving seeds for the past six or seven years.  Much of what I choose to grow are heirloom varieties so the seeds that come from those plants can be saved from one year too the next.  After I collected all the seeds that I saved from this fall, I went to add them to my seed stash.  My brown paper bag that I had begun with more than five years ago was finally torn beyond it's holding capacity. I went out to the greenhouse to collect the cardboard box that I had some other seeds stored in and found that it too had seen many years of abuse.  Then as I turned to head back to the house I saw the brown paper lunch bags where I had collected flower heads, sitting on yet another surface.  It was time for some organization.

I went in search of another box or bag that would work,  I knew there was a shoe box around somewhere, but since the full size brown paper grocery bag was overflowing, I thought I should look for something bigger.  Any container too much bigger wasn't going to fit in the cabinet where I have stored my seeds for a long time.  In my search I found yet another grocery bag full of seeds that were saved by my mother-in-law and her boyfriend.  After they passed I was blessed with the collection.  Some old heirloom corn grown by the Native Americans and  seeds from her boyfriend's homestead in Maine - many undated, some just collected in the outer wrapper of a cigarette package and tucked into the bag.  I  needed two boxes.  After about 20 minutes of searching for the perfect cardboard box, I found a three drawer plastic storage bin in the wood shop.  Two of the drawers were already empty.  I washed off years of sawdust and cobwebs and set to work.

Any seed less than five years old whose packaging was in good shape was inventoried and placed in alphabetical order into a storage drawer  Anything older, with a damaged package or unidentified in a paper bag, glass jar or cigarette wrapper, was added to the original falling apart paper bag to be tested for germination.  Round about mid November I was in between soccer and fall yard clean up, I pulled out some snack bags, some paper towels, a permanent marker and ten seed packets.

Ten paper towels were removed from the roll, moistened and placed on a dinner plate.  From the first seed packet I extracted ten seeds.  If all of them germinated then I had 100% germination rate.  If only two germinated then I had a 20% germination rate.  I rolled the seeds into the moistened paper towel, placed the roll into a snack bag and carefully labeled each bag with the information from the seed packet, including the year.  I set the filled plate in a warmish corner of the kitchen and let them simmer for seven days.  A few sets of tests went to ten days, but those got a little moldy so I tried to keep subsequent tests to seven days.  

It took about eight weeks to get all of the questionable seeds tested.  Amazingly enough, some of the seeds from 2006 still germinated.  Many did not.  Those that were cleaned and dried well had great germination rates.  Some that were just tossed into a bag and stapled remain as yet unidentified, but if they germinated at 80% or better, I kept them anyway.  I was going to throw away everything that didn't grow, but Little man's father asked me to keep them.  He is going to take a corner somewhere with good soil, till it up and dump everything that was left into it and see what happens.

Monday, January 1, 2018

New Years Morning

This how I spent my New Year's morning!  
Cup of coffee in one hand, catalogs in the middle and list in the other.  

We are going to try a couple of new varieties of vegetables and will be trying lettuce one more time.  In twenty years of gardening I haven't been able to successfully grow lettuce without it bolting on me.  Worst case scenario, I will tie up some garden space a few dollars worth of seeds -  best case, I might have learned something after twenty years!