Sunday, March 31, 2019

March's Garden (2019)

The winter garden is almost gone and it's time to begin planting for spring.

A few of the bolting plants will be allowed to make seeds but most have been eaten.  During the winter, I thought I had enough vegetables to last until the spring garden was in, but we are running out.  The garden must get bigger - quickly!  This is my bag of magic seeds.  Whenever anything bolts and I don't know what it is, I put them in this sandwich bag.  Seeds have been added and subtracted from this bag for about five years.

Bill plowed the very back area of the garden.  This section is hardly used because there are tall trees hanging over the fence. When they leaf out, it will be too dry and shady for most vegetables.  It will be fine for lettuce, cabbages, radishes, collards, mustard greens, and Chinese vegetables.  The magic seeds were thrown into the soil in hopes of a quick harvest; microgreens will be picked first, next a walking aisle will be harvested, then it will be thinned for salads. Who knows what will grow?  It will be a surprise. 

The naughty horse has been pushing against the garden fence again and has eaten all the grass she can reach.  Obviously, she didn't like garlic and avoided the plants left from last year's garden.   

Most of my gardening this month has been done in my laundry room.  

The window is facing north; there isn't enough light to grow anything but it's a good place to root plants. The lemongrass and sweet potatoes are sitting in cups of water in the window. The saved lemongrass cutting from last year's garden was forgotten and not watered - I had to buy new ones from the grocery store.  They are beginning to root.

This year I wanted to try something new so I bought five different kinds of sweet potatoes at grocery stores.  

I baked all of them for a taste test.  The biggest loser was Purple Stokes - nobody was impressed.

Jewel was the one everyone agreed was the sweetest.  Second place went to the Japanese Yam, which was white inside.  All agreed it tasted similar to a mildly sweet, mashed white potato.  Both winners are sitting in a cup of water in the window.  When they sprout vines, it will be time to move them to the bright sunshine on the front porch.

Most of my plants are started indoors.  These are 3-ounce plastic cups with a drainage hole drilled in the bottom.  I add Miracle Grow potting mix, a few seeds then a plastic spoon marked with the name.  The cups and spoons are reused.  

When a new package of seeds arrive in the mail, the necessary information is removed and placed with the seeds in a small plastic bag.  The small bags are sorted and placed into a larger bag.  I prefer a huge variety of fresh vegetables but not many of one thing unless it is to be canned for winter. The seeds are started according to which grows the slowest.  As I finish each category of seeds, the bag is transferred to the other basket to avoid confusion. This way is quick and easy.  Since I only use a few seeds of each variety, one package of seeds will last me years.  When I order seeds, it's always something new and exciting.  Almost everything purchased is an heirloom so I am able to save my favorites.  

The cups are placed on a heating pad to start germination.  It isn't an expensive growing mat, but a regular, cheap heating pad with the fabric cover removed.  I check the temperature using my canning thermometer. 

As soon as they sprout, the cups are moved to the front porch for sunshine.  I keep cold-sensitive plants like tomatoes and bell peppers together.  When the weather report says it is going to be cold (last night it dropped down to the lower 30's), that box is brought in for the night.  Since the cups have drainage holes, it's easy to fill the cardboard boxes (covered with plastic trash bags) with water from the outside faucet.  After all the plants are transplanted into the garden, the boxes are trashed.

Lessons learned from this past winter's garden:
*This winter was milder and wetter than years past, but anything outside the hoop house (except for fava beans, carrots, parsnips, and Walking Onions) still perished.
*Rotating crops is a necessity.  This year I didn't have any disease problems at all.
*I forgot to fertilize but since everything was a light feeder, they did fine.
*Planting lettuce and spinach between larger plants didn't work as well as expected.  It made weeding difficult - I hate to weed.  Mulching with leaves works better.  
*Winter gardening is catching on with people and seed catalogs are beginning to offer more varieties of cold hardy vegetable seeds.  I bought what I wanted before they sold out.
*Winter gardening is absolutely worth the effort.  When fresh vegetables are in short supply, it's a blessing to be able to walk out the backdoor and harvest all the exotic vegetables we want.  As I learn new recipes, we are eating more and more from the garden.  The next winter garden must be larger.  

"Oh, look at the pitiful plants left in Mom's pathetic garden.  It's so sad.  Hopefully, she won't post them on the internet and embarrass me."  Scooter opined.

If you are interested in growing your own winter garden, these links will help:
Winter Garden, Sunlight Hours
November's Garden (2019)
Additional Links:
Next Month's April Garden (2019)
Last Month's February Garden (2019)
Last Year's March Garden (2018)
March's Garden (2017)
Lemongrass Harvest

Monday, March 25, 2019

Between the Layers, A Quilt Show

Last week I visited the quilt exhibit at the newly built Tennessee State Museum in Nashville.  They have over 400 quilts in their collection and periodically display a selection.  It was too exciting: I had to go.

I am a quilt snob and proud of it.  At a previous quilt exhibit held at the older museum located in the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, I caused a bit of a ruckus.  While leaning in close to admire an antique handmade quilt (with the tiniest, most exquisite, perfect stitches ever), an alarm began shrieking and people could be heard scurrying behind me.  I wasn't worried because the museum was on the bottom floor and if there was a fire, it was an easy exit. If the museum had been on the 24th floor, with 24 flights to descend, my reaction would have been much different. I continued to quietly stand and gawk.  A deep masculine voice startled me from behind and I whirled around to face a firing squad of security guards - all glaring at me!

"Ma'am," said the towering guard. "Don't touch the quilts."

"But officer, I didn't touch anything!"  I hastily defended myself.  "I was only looking."

"We have security sensors surrounding each item and your breath triggered an alarm."

Realizing my guilt, I was horrified and feared jail time!  "Oh, sir! I will immediately stop breathing.  I promise!"

He laughed - then all the guards returned to their posts.  The emergency had been aborted.

At the new museum, I behaved better.

Lucy Virginia French Smith
Multi-talented Lucy French had her husband purchase the silk for this quilt on a business trip to New Orleans.  Later, when Civil War troops threatened her property, French allegedly pretended to be ill in bed, covering herself - and the family silver - with the quilt.

Barbara Lotspeich Broyles
During the Civil War, Barbara loaned some of her quilts to Confederate soldiers camping nearby. The quilts were returned but one was infected with typhus. Both she and her husband perished from the disease.

Nunnelee Family, 1855 - 1865
Marcus Nunnelee was a surveyor and his wife Lucy, probably used his instruments to draw this unique pattern before the Civil War.  Their daughters Sally, Mary, and Martha, did the quilting.

Diane Getty
When Tennessee First Lady Andrea Conte began renovating the Tennessee Governor's Residence in 2005, she asked artists to repurpose the old curtains and upholstery fabric.  Diane Getty created this wall hanging and it was used to decorate the modernized mansion.

Rebecah Foster
"October 5, 1808," embroidered on this quilt by Rebecah Foster, is the earliest known date on a Tennessee quilt. ...(T)he eagle of the United States coat of arms at the center, expressed patriotism at a time of strained relations with Great Britain which led to the War of 1812.

Nancy Isabel "Nannie" Hendricks, (1846 - 1930)
According to family tradition, she made this quilt for her hope chest at age 15.  In 1881, Nannie married John Gibbons.  The quilt was never used and has retained its bright colors.

Samantha Brazzoria Garland Pack, (1858 - 1902)
This quilt was made as a gift for her young sister-in-law Mary Ella Pack.

Judy Elwood (1940-)
Alice Richardson (1926-)
Joyce Tennery (1939-2002)
Tennessee Sampler, 1982
Elwood, Richardson, and Tennery featured these patterns in the book "Tennessee Quilting, Plus Patterns" and displayed it at the 1982 World's Fair in Knoxville.  

Unidentified member of the Bacon Family, about 1850 - 1860

Harriet Meneese Falls, (1863 - 1945)

Annette Woods Byrd (1937-)
Jannie H. DeBerry (1907-1995)
Apple Blossoms

Singer Manufacturing Company "Featherweight" Portable Sewing Machine, 1954 -1959
A machine just like my Mom's, the same kind on which I learned to sew was at the museum behind a glass case! That's a creepy feeling - to see something I have used a hundred times, displayed in a museum. I felt old.

It was called a "Featherweight" because it was one of the first portable sewing machines ever built.  It was metal, designed to last and my cousin, who is a serious quilter, still uses it.  My Father always scoffed when Mom called it a "Featherweight."  Once it stopped working so Mom asked Dad to take it to Nashville for repairs.  Dad drove a Greyhound bus so he carried it with him on his route.  He hauled it a long distance from the bus station, up a steep hill to the shop.  It was a strenuous walk and the machine got heavier with each step.  When he returned days later, he discovered the only problem was that Mom had put the needle in backward.  He had to lug it all the way back home and never let her forget her mistake.

There were many more quilts in the fantastic exhibit.  I had a wonderful time and suppose any day you don't go to jail, is a good one.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Secret Sinkholes

We have not one, but two secret sinkholes on our property.  It's not polite manners to brag, but I can't stop myself.  Most unenlightened people would say they are worthless pieces of land but not me - I like mine.  Sinkholes are formed by water eroding underground rocks causing holes and caves.  They are common in this area of Tennessee and I love sharing my love of rocks.  

This one is on an elevated area in the field and is surrounded by a clump of trees.  

Amongst the trees, it's possible to see where drainage has formed a round, deep basin.  

The second secret sinkhole is located in the woods behind the house.  Water flows downhill where it quickly disappears.  Bill says it's technically not a sinkhole but just an unimpressive low area.  We named it "the sinkhole" and so that is what it is.

This is the view standing inside the woods beside the sinkhole looking toward the garden and the back of the house.

Yesterday it looked barren and empty but that's only because water from the recent rains have drained away.

A day after last weeks big storm and my trip to the Amish in the rain, it was full of water.

In wintertime, it's beautiful when frozen.

The surface freezes but because it is a sinkhole, the water underneath continues to drain.  It leaves a layer of ice on top which cracks as it thaws forming interesting patterns. The land truly isn't good for much, but I enjoy watching it change.

My secret places are not secret to our new roommates.  They enjoy the water and can be heard sloshing around when we are working in the garden. Walking on the inside of the fence creates interest.  Do I have any treats?  If not, forget me.

As I returned from my muddy walk in the woods, an indignant Scooter caught me and asked, "How did you get over this tall fence without me?  Did you slip through the gate again without my permission?"

"No one is allowed on a thrilling adventure without me.  I may be putting a collar and leash on you, Mom, if you don't learn to behave!"

Additional Links:

Rocks in Tennessee

Amish, A Trip in the Rain

Introducing Our New Roommates