Category Archives: heirloom seeds

C’mon Seedlings!

They can make it… I hope. See what happened is I bought a shoplight and 2 plant bulbs way back before I planted my first seeds. I wanted to be prepared. Then I waited until the plants were sprouting and hooked up the light. Of course it didn’t work! Why would it? So plan B involved me going to the hardware store (not where I bought the first light) and finding another light that was supposed to be compatible with my plant bulbs. Luckily this one works.

Now I know that my next batch of seedlings will have a good light, I’m just not sure how this first batch will do. As you can see they are awfully spindly and crooked right now from seeking out natural light. I rigged up the light in my closet and plan to plug it in with my Christmas light timer set for 14 hours of light per day.

How are your seedlings doing? Anyone care to place bets on whether or not these seedlings will be worth a darn?


I Started My Seeds!

I’m not exactly sure if this was the right time to do it, but I did it. The weather will never be exactly right in Michigan anyway. Here’s what I started on Sunday:

Snapdragons – 9 cells
Baby Dolls – 9 cells
Ping Tung eggplant – 9 cells
Long Purple eggplant – 9 cells
Amish Paste tomatoes – 36 cells

I used equal parts of peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite as a starting mixture. The plastic cells and trays are being reused from last year.

I’ll be starting another batch of tomatoes in a few weeks as well as some other flowers, my herbs, broccoli, and some others I’ve forgotten. Right now I have the tray down by our corn burner to stay warm. This next goal is to get Brian to hang up my new lights so the seedlings can go under there once they sprout. It feels like spring it finally here!

Howling Hill Seed Swap

I’m a little behind on this one but at last, have the time and motivation to post on it. I first heard of the Howling Hill Seed Swap over at Children in the Corn. Both are great blogs with tons of useful information. Head over and check them out if you haven’t already.

Anyway, the basic idea is that an envelope of seeds is sent around. You can take what you want as long as you put back in the same amount of seeds. They have to be non-GMO seeds.

I received the package from Becca at BrightHaven Times, all the way from Florida! Her blog is new to me and looks to be quite interesting. The package is already on the way over to Farm Mom (of Children in the Corn, linked above) – she should have it early this week.

Above is the picture of what I selected to keep for myself. Since I already have most of my veggie seeds and have been putting off starting an herb garden I mostly took some herbs seeds. Now I have no excuse not to start growing my own herbs to flavor our food. I chose 8 partial packets in all:

Common Sage
Roman Chamomile
Rose-colored Snapdragon

Mmmm I can almost taste a home-raised Cilantro marinated steak already! All the seeds I put in came from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. They are pictured below and include:

Long purple eggplant
Marketmore 76 cukes
Chelsea watermelon
Waltham 29 broccoli
Black Beauty zucchini
Moon & Stars watermelon
Sugar Baby watermelon
Danvers 126 Half Long carrots

Keep on eye on Howling Hill’s blog if you’d like to join in next time. It is great fun, I’m glad I joined in!

Back 2 Basics and Other Challenges

I’ve decided to start the Back 2 Basics Harvest Keeper Challenge for 2009. Chicken eggs will be the only thing on the list for now but I am excited to see things rack up once spring arrives. This will be very good for me because I kept no records from all of the farming and canning I did last year. Check out my sidebar if you’re interested, and go visit Farm Mom for a better example.

Other challenge updates:

We haven’t been using our corn burner at all due to it malfunctioning and refusing to keep a fire going. Brian is trying to track down the problem but in the meantime we’re blowing our budget with all the fuel oil we’re burning. So much for keeping track of the corn we use! We do keep the thermostat set low (58-62 F) and I finally found the controls for our dual heated blanket so we use that every night to take the edge off. I covered most of our windows with the clear plastics kits in the fall and although I don’t how much that is helping I do like that I can’t feel a breeze when I walk by the windows! I’d like to make some insulated curtains with my new sewing machine. I hope to make them this year because fall is a busy time for us and I’m sure I won’t do much sewing over the summer.

1. Plant something: not much of that going on here. Check out the next update for more info.
2. Harvest something: while there is nothing left outside to harvest I got a thrill out of using some of the carrots I stored away in the fall.
3. Preserve something: We reorganized our freezer and Brian filled it with venison from his hunting trip back in December.
4. Prep something: I have been spending all my free time researching poultry breeds and other topics in preparation to order chicks and expand our flock. I’d like to include some day range broilers this year and have enough eggs to sell. Right now we have plenty of extra eggs but not enough to market them.
5. Cook something: I have been trying a lot of new recipes and Brian is grateful, I think. First I made Parmesan Chicken then Buttermilk Baked Chicken, both of which I really like and can’t wait to make again. Today I made Beef Stew, plus I’ve been using that great new bread recipe. I tried to make homemade potato chips too but still have some work to do there.
6. Manage your reserves: Our pantry is overflowing, we are definitely going to need more shelving! I’ve been making homemade garlic shells a lot with dinner so I scarfed up a 5 or 6 month supply of shells on sale last week. It is going to take a lot of finagling to get those to fit in the pantry. 🙂
7. Work on local food systems: for those who remember my post about the food co-op presentation I went to, I have an update. I did communicate with Dr. Schilling again and apparently there has been no further interest in a local co-op. I was hoping to hold a planning meeting and am a little disappointed that no contact information was collected at the presentation. I’ll continue to seek out interest and may pursue a co-op more in the future. If anyone in the Michigan Tri-Cities or Thumb area is interested in a food co-op (as a producer or consumer) please let me know!

My seeds from Baker Creek have arrived! I also purchased a grow light and two bulbs in preparation for starting seeds. The next step is to check out my old ingredients for soiless potting mix and see if I need to buy fresh for this year. I think of have plenty of peat pots left to use initially but I may get some of a larger size (4″ or so) for when the seedlings get bigger. How exciting!

How Do You Start Your Seedlings?

I am happy to be back to blogging after the holiday. I meant to leave a more upbeat post up over Christmas but have been having a lot of trouble with my internet connection and therefore gave up. I have some nice Christmas pics to post and I’d like to share what gifts we gave this year, as well as some nice things we received.

Today, though, I would like to discuss something that has been on my mind a lot, and apparently on others too. Let’s talk about garden plans! The latest edition of Hobby Farms is full of tips and tricks for garden planning. Sharon Astyk posted awhile back about signs of a possible seed shortage so I sorted through what was left of last year’s seeds and made my list for this year.

I order my seeds almost exclusively through Baker Creek Seed Co. at They are a great company to deal with and produce a wonderful catalog chuck full of good information. The real reason I prefer them is because they care so much about seed integrity and I trust them. Frankly, I don’t have to time or the knowledge to sort through other catalogs and pick out the seeds that are non-GMO, “safe”, etc. I have some basic knowledge of those concepts but feel good ordering there until I take time to expand my knowledge.

I did have a lot of seeds left from last year. Not because I wanted to but because the first batch of seedlings I started didn’t do very well so I gave up on a lot of the plants that require early starting. Last year I used black plastic trays and a mix of peat, vermiculite, and perlite. I planted the seeds as directed and kept the soil moist. The trays sat on a big table near our cornstove so they were very warm. Then when the plants emerged I moved them upstairs to our bay window. The temperature was quite a bit cooler but they needed the light. I tried to rotate the trays regularly to prevent the seedlings from growing crooked but they got very spindly and almost none lived once I moved them outside.

I checked with the hometown greenhouse but the owner doesn’t have any room to start veggies for me, she uses all her space for flowers. Last year I bought a flat of tomato seedlings and they produced well but they were definitely no heirloom variety. This makes me think there may be a market for any extra seedlings I produced.

I’ve looked at growing setups in catalogs and they all seem to be quite expensive. I’ve heard of people using those long tube lights (forgive me I forget the correct name for them!). Should I invest in some of those or look into a small greenhouse? I would love to hear what works for you! I’m not necessarily opposed to buy seedlings I just haven’t found a local source of the types I want.

Keep in mind I’m in Michigan so I don’t plant much outside until May or June. Tomatoes are my main concern, and last year I remember trying some broccoli and onions so we could have an early supply of them.

Independence Days Here on the Farm

I decided to join the Independence Days Challenge so here is my first post about it:

1. PLANT SOMETHING: Well let’s see… already this year I have planted carrots, onions, bush beans, pole beans, snap peas and sugar peas, potatoes, and tomatoes. The seeds all came from Baker Creek Seed Co. and are heirloom varietes. The tomatoes plants came from a small greenhouse at a local farm but I’m afraid they shipped them in from somewhere else. I tried to start my own tomatoes from seed but I killed them – better luck next year I guess. The potatoes came from another local greenhouse. They do come from out of state but the family personal selects them and brings them home every year.

Everything mentioned above has been planted for atleast a week now. Oh I also planted sunflowers (heirloom), and some raspberry, black currant, and gooseberry bushes. Today I got the dward blueberry bushes that I ordered. Tonight my fiance rototilled another section of the garden one last time and we spread a thick layer of composted hay over the top. I planted 3 different varieties of watermelon in hills in this new section. I also finished mulching the rest of the garden with straw. It is really coming along!

2. Harvest something. About the only thing I have harvested so far is asparagus. This is pretty tasty stuff, I have a piece every morning on my way by as part of the garden tour. I have also been given rhubarb and made some delicious muffins with brown sugar topping. In fact I have more in the fridge waiting to be used.

3. Preserve something. My Mom and sister and I spent Saturday afternoon picking strawberries (Oh I also planted my own of these this year!) and making 72 4-ounce jars of jam as favors for my wedding. We picked the berries at a local U-pick farm and I plan to visit another farm and make atleast as many more jars before the season is over. I am hoping the jam will actually get used and maybe I’ll even get some of the jars back. It will be better than some silly plastic favor anyway.

4. Prep something. Well I guess I’m doing more in this area than I originally thought. I’m reading Living With Sheep to develop my skills as a shepherd. I am thinking about requesting a sewing machine on our wedding registry so that I can make my own scrubs and I’m trying to figure out if it would be cost and time efficient to make my fiance’s t-shirts instead of buying them. We sorted through all of our clothes and have a big pile to go to Big Brothers Big Sisters. Our winter wardrobe is going to go in a rubbermaid container in the attic to make room for the summer stuff. I have a large supply of shampoo and toothpaste (more than I’ll ever use) so I was thinking of putting some of it on Freecycle and trying out the shampoo bars that FakePlasticFish found. We have tried to pick eco-friendly items for our wedding registry and avoid junk. I really want a food grinder to make apple sauce and a bean frencher but I’ll have to buy them later because none of the stores with registries carry them.

5. Cook something. Well I tried to make homemade bread from scratch twice last week and it failed both times. I think I might have had some crappy yeast. I’ll try again this week. I’ll also be making more rhubarb muffins.

6. Manage your reserves. This is a neverending project for me. We have a great system for the pantry where each item goes on the grocery list when there is only one extra left in storage. So if a bottle of mustard goes in the fridge and there is one left on the shelf it goes on the list. Then I have time to watch for a sale. I’d like to make a grocery price book like I use to have where each item (bread, PB, etc.) gets a page and you note what you pay for it each time with a breakdown per ounce, etc. This made it easy to find the best prices. I also keep trying to eliminate processed foods and replace them with homemade items. I quit buying poptarts in hopes of supplying us with homemade muffins but have yet to make any that Brian likes (he’s not much for rhubarb). There are a lot of jars of old canned food that were here in the farmhouse when we moved in. I need to dump them out and wash the jars someday.

7. Work on local food systems. This is not as easy as I thought. I found a Mennonite store in the area that sells organic, unbleached flour in bulk. I was very excited until I questioned them and found that they buy it from a company in Indiana that ships it in from Montana. 😦
I am still looking for a local supplier of organic (certified or not) chicken and sheep feed. I guess supporting the U-pick farm will have to be my local contribution for this week.