Your pathway to healthy food, ethics, beer, and how these things can (and should!) come together in daily life.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Gardening Excursions of 2011: Thus far...

Spring is still on its way, and lots of things are happening lately! Between two jobs, just accepting another one, a funeral, Easter, family get togethers, brewing lots of beer, and biking, I'm a pretty busy gal! One gorgeous day a few weeks ago I managed to find enough time to prep my garden for the year. I did the usual: turning over and aerating the soil, adding fertilizer and compost, pulling out any weeds (yeah, I will definitely have to do THAT again...), and evening out the soil to make the bed look pretty.

That day, I went to Amelia's Flower and Garden Shoppe to pick up some new seed soil because my first experiment of the year didn't go very well. I tried putting my seeds in a new location because I thought they would get more sun in the upstairs bedroom, but there was not enough ventilation. Combined with bad seed soil that didn't drain well from Bachman's, and getting a little too wet, my seeds got moldy. I was not a happy camper. So Amelia's mixed me up a beautiful medley of sand, peat moss, and good soil which has made my new seedlings very happy. I also moved my setup to my previous location which seems to make them happier. At least it makes ME happier to see them whenever I walk to my bedroom.
Except I have to go by the litter boxes. Not my favorite thing. My marigolds, petunias, purple coneflowers, and green peppers don't want to germinate. What gives? My seedlings include: cherry tomato, brandywine tomato, eggplant, jalapeno, sweet pepper, zucchini, leaf lettuce, lettuce mix, spinach, swiss chard, petunias, marigolds, coneflowers, and basil.

My tomatoes sure are pretty! Anyways, the nice salesgirl at Amelia's suggested that I try planting my lettuce outside because it is really hardy. She recommended covering them with something, just in case. I figured I had an afternoon to kill, so why not try it? I didn't want to buy a bunch of stuff for my seedling cover, partially because I didn't have any money, but also because I could only see myself needing it until about May 15th. So I devised a plan to come up with my own jerry-rigged system using and re-using things around my house. The only thing I bought was duct tape. Why we did not have any duct tape is a question I cannot answer.

What I call my "seed tent" was made up as I went along. I used duct tape, Roundy's bags, string, bamboo grilling sticks, and wire hangers.This was before I knew I was using wire hangers to weigh down the sides of the tent.

I started out with a Roundy's bag. Actually, ten of them.
Chairman Bob's Seal of Approval for this project.
I cut the tops off of all of them to make squares.
Next I duct taped each square together. And since I'm a little OCD, all the Bobs had to go the same way.Next I straightened out two wire hangers and duct taped them to the ends for a little support and weight.Next I realized that the bamboo skewers needed something to be tied to. So I cut holes in the duct tape parts (for more security and durability) and looped some string into the hole. The skewers inside ended up acting like a skeleton for the whole tent, though to hold down the tent I just stuck skewers through the duct tape to secure it to the ground.
Next I added the last two bags to the end to close up the tent.
I found this entire project to be entirely amusing. I mean, who duct tapes plastic bags together? Apparently, I do.

Here it is in action. I planted Grandpa Admire's Lettuce, Mesclun Mix, Swiss Chard, Spinach, Leaf Lettuce, and a few other varieties under this tent on April 5th.
Mandi found this angle to be deceptive. It's really not taller than 6 inches. Or the width of a Roundy's bag. Rocks are weighing down the little flappies on the ends.

Most people I talked to about this project were worried that the seedlings would die from cold temperatures. I was skeptical as well, which is why I planted additional lettuce seedlings inside. After two (separate!) days of snow on the ground in April, and countless freezing nights, I was sure they were dead. But to my amazement, they're still with us!I laughed maniacally when I discovered them.
I plan on still covering them at night, but for today I'm going to let them have a little sunlight. If it comes out today.

I can't wait for gardening season! One of my favorite things to do is to bring my seedlings out on "field trips" to get them used to being outside. After being in the sunlight for the first time, they visibly change color! Soon it will be nice enough....

Until next time,
Happy Gardening!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

This is what I'm drinking...

I thought it would be fitting to review a bike inspired beer after a bicycle-centric day. Today I worked at the shop all day, and then followed the shop boys to a bike art show after chilling out in the parking lot. Me and a bunch of guys. Yup. Thus the beer of the day: Lakefront Brewery's Fixed Gear American Red Ale. Another great 22 ouncer from Lakefront. It pours a modest white head and has a beautiful red color, and leaves a little bit of lattice on the glass. This beer is really floral and a little malty in the nose. This great red ale has a medium body, very mild bitterness, and a long floraly finish, thanks to great amounts of dry-hopped Chinook and Cascade hops. This is a great early spring beer, the medium body is very filling and satisfying for the season. Eat, drink good beer, and be merry!