Amaranth Harvest

Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Saturday, August 6, 2016 2:32 PM

I've completed the first stage of my Amaranth harvest. I decided to grow Giant Orange Amaranth on a whim this year as I had a handful of seeds. I ended up with a total of 10 plants, although 3 of them were very small compared to the other 7. They looked very pretty at a height above the Tomatoes yet below the Giant Sunflowers. They filled the space nicely, and I think I'll repeat the planting again in the future.

Although technically a seed, Amaranth is commonly referred to as a grain since that is how it is used. I'm excited to see exactly how much finished "grain" I get. I'm not expecting very much, but I'm also not growing it as a main food supply. I'll probably use it to add texture and flavor to some breads.
I've separated all the little Floret heads and spread them out to bask in the sun for a day or two. I think it will be a lot easier to thresh the grain from the chaff once it's dried out a bit. However I did place a screen over the bin once I took these pictures. The last thing I need is all the wild birds coming and eating my harvest.
I plan on saving some to use when my Mom comes to visit in October. She was here when I planted it, so it will be fun to have her taste it.
Now that I've pulled out the Bush Beans and Amaranth, I need to figure out what I want to plant in their place. Time to start thinking about my fall garden!

Busted My Tail for this Asparagus!

Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Thursday, June 2, 2016 7:18 PM

No, I'm serious.  I literally busted my tail.  Well, bruised is more accurate.  I have a bruised tailbone from sitting on a milk crate for too long sorting this crap.  It hurts like a son of a bitch and 800 mg of ibuprofen just ain't doing diddly squat.  Ouch!  Mommy....

On Memorial Day I went to a yard sale up in the Eastmont Hills.  The folks had a propane instant water heater that I have been planning on buying once my biogas digester arrives.  It was half price and in working order so I couldn't pass it up.  

Well, as always happens, we got to talking.  He had several raised beds and I'm a sucker when it comes to chatting about veggie gardening.  I come to find out they are clearing out because they are moving and selling the house.   The realtor said they needed to hire a landscaper to fix up their yard.  They also said the front beds either had to be ripped out or turned into flower beds.  And what to my wandering eyes should appear?  An established bed of asparagus.  Well, it was also an established bed of crabgrass but that's neither here nor there.  Big beautiful asparagus fronds were just calling my name.  They said I was welcome to it if I wanted to dig it out.

And dig I did... FOR SIX HOURS in the blazing hot sun on my hands and knees.  Okay, so I had gone home to grab a few tools, but the fact of the matter is that this bed was so entwined in crabgrass that it was literally impossible to put a spade into.  Water was my friend, along with my pitchfork to try and loosen the dry ground enough for the water to seep down into.  But I mostly had to dig by hand as everything was so entwined.  It was a long, slow, tedious process.  But after a couple of hours I had it.  My first hunk of asparagus roots... and soil... and crabgrass...  When I finally I brought it all home, I dumped it in my empty green bin, covered it with rice straw, and gave it a good watering.  Can't let those precious crowns dry out now can we.  Especially after what I had to go through to get them out.

And so the fun began.  For the past three days I have been outdoors after the worst of the heat, sitting in the shade dealing with clumps like this.  Dang it, I just know there are crowns in there somewhere!

Each clump got a good bath.  Well it FELT like I was giving the crowns a bath, what with all the rubbing and scrubbing trying to separate them from the crabgrass and all.

The sorting was extremely tedious and time consuming work.  But I attacked each clump with new enthusiasm.  Okay... more like dread.  But attack attack attack!

Slowly I was able to tease out the crowns.  I was very careful to remove every last itsy bitsy tiny bit of crabgrass root I could identify.  Luckily it's very thick and rigid whereas the asparagus roots are softer and pliable.  Still, I know in the end I'll be fighting crabgrass in my asparagus bed for a year or two.  Each and every little @#$%* piece will be ripped out the second it pokes up half an inch of greenery.

After two back breaking.... er... I mean BUTT breaking days sitting on the milk crate my brain finally woke up and I brought out a camp chair today and set up a sorting table.  Yuppers!  This is how I spend MY afternoons.  You???  At the end of each evening I covered the sorted crowns in damp sawdust for safe keeping.  And then the next afternoon I moved onto another clump.  Later, rinse, repeat.  I said bath, right?  Right...

And the end result?  Well over 100 crowns!!!  If I were to purchase this many 3 year old crowns (and these are older) it would probably cost somewhere around $500, maybe more..  SCORE!!!

Now what?  Well, I'll be selling some to friends.  But the bulk of them will be going into my existing asparagus bed to fill it out.  I've decided to throw caution to the wind and take the advice of Ruth Stout on this.  I observed (for the past 4 days!) extensively how these were growing happily together, in close proximity and intertwined, and planted none too deep either.  Their previous stewart said that he was able to harvest from them for a good 6 or 8 weeks at a time.  So that means that they were quite content all snuggled up and cozy.  I plan to repeat that environment, minus the crabgrass of course.  Only time will tell, but my guess is that these larger mature crowns will produce much faster and in better quantities than my straggling three year old bed.  

Now, if only the Vicodin would kick in...

An Open Letter to "Drew"

Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Wednesday, May 25, 2016 7:54 PM

Dear "Drew" -

I'm not sure why you felt the need to tag the Little Free Library in front of my house, but I want to thank you for at least having the decency to deface the roof rather than the windows on the front.  I also want to compliment you on the artistic flair demonstrated in your tag.  So many of the tags I see are boring or down right ugly without a hint of creativity.

Since you haven't tagged my Little Free Library before, I can only assume that this may have been the first time you've passed by my house.  Perhaps you didn't stop to even look at it as you scribbled your name on the roof and moved on.  Perhaps you didn't notice that it is part of a Parklet that I built in the parking strip in front of my house.  

My neighbors here in the Havenscourt neighborhood have been very nice to me since I moved here nine years ago.  I built this little parklet as a way to say thank you to them and give back to my community.  Each in their own way, as the saying goes.  I love to read and garden, so I created this little slice of paradise as a way to share that love with those that live nearby.

Growing in the beds surrounding the library and bench are fruits and vegetables that I grow for the people in the neighborhood.  They are free to come and harvest anything within these gardens whenever they choose.  Recently, the carrots and beets were finally fully grown.  They were pulled up and placed on the bench with a note indicating that they had been picked that morning and were free for the taking.  They were gone within the hour.  I can only assume that one or more people had a delicious dinner that night.

I've just finished thinning the chard and collards in the two beds adjacent to the library and transplanted six tomato plants into them.  They should start producing within a couple of months.  There are both cherry and slicing tomatoes, so everyone should be happy.

I also thinned and replanted the kale in the last bed.  Pretty soon, neighbors will be able to have delicious greens with their supper or kale smoothies for lunch.  And let's not forget about kale chips.  Nom nom nom!

The onions and tomatillos growing on the other side of the fruit trees are going strong.  There should be plenty of onions to go around.  They are such an important ingredient in just about any cuisine.

On the off chance that you want to come by again, I've put a rainbow of colored sidewalk chalk in the library.  I would love to see you express your artistic side in a less destructive manner.   I'm sure you could come up with something very creative for the neighbors to enjoy as they walk by.

Just about anything you "drew" on the sidewalk would be more beautiful than my lame half ass attempt.  But at least I left a polite message for you.  I hope it will invite you in and you will leave something special drawn on the sidewalk for me.

It's time for me to put up my gloves and have a glass of wine.  Oh, and if you are ever interested in learning about gardening or animal husbandry, I would be more than happy to mentor you.

From your friendly neighborhood Urban Homesteader, I hope you have a wonderful evening.