Independence Days Update: Spring In Force

Sharon April 5th, 2010

I know it is going to go away – the long range forecast mentions snow for next weekend, but it is hard not to feel some trust in spring once the daffodils bloom and the peepers are awake.  The blog has been quiet both because we were engrossed the Passover holiday and also because we had a sudden, temporary burst of late spring in very early spring – it hit 80 here on Saturday.  The last few days, besides celebrations and such have been full of things like putting the plants out to harden off a bit, digging, and cleaning out the barn after a long winter. 

The pop up greenhouses are up to cover the first spring greens.  The barn is gradually getting emptied.  New garden beds are being built and old ones are being reframed.  The driveway needs gravel and we need new fences for the goats.  The first baby rabbits were born yesterday, and hens are setting.  The sorrel is up and even the tips of the asparagus are poking through.  The kids are running around naked and spraying each other with the hose.  The clotheline is back up and things are going apace.  Busy, but wonderful.

One of the things that happens in the spring is that everything comes in fits and starts and bursts of chaos – you have a week of weather like this one and have to fit in every thing that needs doing, and then you have a week of enforced inactivity when things get cold and wet again.  Spring is like that – too cold, too wet, too busy…oh, crap gotta get it all done today.   But who can complain.  Sure, the house suffers, but who even goes into the house when it is 75 and sunny?

We’re also going into the end-of-term rush for Eric, which means that he’s preoccupied with other things, so the planning and organizing and primary work usually falls on me (although he rather chivalrously has done all the worst of the barn cleaning and pretends he enjoys it ;-) ).  I don’t mind working alone, though – or rather not alone, because the boys all help.  They love to dig holes, transplant seedlings and plant seeds.  Asher saves every seed he finds.  They also alert me to all the latest changes – the blooming forsythia, the garter snakes coming out of their nest under the porch, the return of the barn swallows. Sometimes they make life easier, sometimes harder, but it is a family affair, this spring madness, and a delight.

Plant something: Seeded: beets, carrots, kale, mache, peas, sweet peas, alyssum, ageratum, chard.  Transplanted mint, thyme, sage, garlic chives.  Potted up many, many tomatoes, eggplant and peppers.

Harvest something – first sorrel of the season, first shoots of Good King Henry, eggs, milk.

Preserve something – nope.

Waste Not: Gave away much food for Passover, cleaned out chametz and fed it to various things, cleaned out barn and used manures to feed garden, used old feed bags as mulch plus the usual.

Want Not: Acquired way too much matzah.  Fortunately, it lasts forever, and how can you even tell if it goes stale? ;-)

Eat the Food: I’m just not giving out matzah recipes this late in the holiday ;-) .

Build Community Food Systems: Nothing much, except for donating a lot of chametz.

How about you?


23 Responses to “Independence Days Update: Spring In Force”

  1. We’ve been experiencing Earthquakes here in Southern California. They have been big ones, enough to evacuate the house. We’re just glad we have been making preparations. As long as everyone in the family was safe from the Earthquakes, we knew we would be ok in the event of utility failure. It’s a good feeling.

  2. Fern says:

    Planted – nothing. We are probably moving soon – landlord didn’t pay mortgage, the house we live in has been foreclosed on! Sheesh…. Talk about a future up in the air! Bank isn’t responding to our offer to rent from them.

    Harvested: Dandelion greens and flowers, wild onions, violets, lettuce, shepherds purse.

    Preserved: dried some dandelion greens

    Waste not: Curry mixes and toothpaste to food bank. Husband is NOT going to be willing to eat/use the flavors.

    Eat the food: dandelions and wild onions go great in matzo ball soup. Dandelion flowers, dipped in batter of egg and matzo cake meal, fry up really nicely.

    Building community food system: donated food.

  3. Lynne says:

    Fern – very sorry to hear about how up in the air things are for you!

    Our warmest winter on record has turned into kinda a crappy spring, though long-term forecasts still have us at warmer than usual, and the early snow melt meant we could get in the garden early….and that was a great description of spring, wait, wait, wait, then OH NO! gotta get the transplants in NOW!

    Plant: basil, cilantro, more spinach, lettuce and dill, calendula, french marigolds, strawflowers, yet more onions from seed and planted sets outside because me and onion germination do not mix, potted up peppers and tomatoes, planted asparagus in a better place, more bietina, beets, can’t remember if I reported on the carrots and parsnips, favas transplanted 100% despite often breaking their big root – got 1 month head start this way

    Harvest: Same – lettuce, spinach, eggs

    Preserve – no

    Waste not: nothing unusual

    Want not: doing some organizing, cleaning helps us to find things we already have so no need to buy

    Community: Bringing local/homegrown to Easter brunch today- hey our nephew thought my sister’s leg of lamb came from our “farm” (not quite – we have 0.2 acres), cute

    Eat: Strawberry pie, various versions of frittata, salad, fruit smoothie, squash straight up and soup, eggs+++, homemade bread and pancakes with local wheat plus local toppings, homemade spaghetti, pickles etc

  4. dogear6 says:

    Planted – nothing. I just didn’t feel like it.

    Harvested: Thyme – it’s up so strongly that I cut some to make chicken over the weekend and I need to give it a haircut soon.

    Preserved: froze grapefruit ($4 for an 18 pound bag!), dehydrated leftover store bought apples

    Waste not: made a quiche to use up expired evaporated milk (it’s only expired by several months); see apples above, defatted the pan dripping from the chicken & combined them with inedible pieces of chicken to supplement the dogs food.

    Eat the food: just this week thawed and used up homemade tomato sauce (from my own garden too) that used homegrown, frozen peppers, local (frozen) onions. Also thawed butternut squash, applesauce, beets and local raised beef. Will also be using up dehydrated veggies in a soup for later this week.

    Building community food system: talked to my neighbor about whether she wanted to learn how to can this summer (she’s not sure).

  5. Leigh says:

    Well I didn’t plant anything last week, but our serious planting season is on the verge of full swing. Even so, I had a lot to fill in, in the other categories. My update is here –

    I am finding the record keeping for the Independence Days Challenge a little easier than I first thought. I just make an outline of the categories on a blog draft, and fill it in as I go along. It feels good at the end of the week to see that I actually am accomplishing something.

  6. Lise says:

    Here’s my latest:

    Leigh, I do the draft form, too! Works well for me.

  7. KC says:

    In central Virginia:

    What happened to April? 10 days ago , we had lows of 30 at night -and now … it is daytime highs in the 80′s! The redbuds are in bloom and most of the daffodils have already passed. It seems like we are a couple weeks earlier this year (or more). The oak leaves are the size of a squirrel’s ears which means its time to plant corn!

    I put out shade cloth for some of my early greens (mustards, asian greens, kale, collards, lettuce.) Most of the root crops are up – beets, salsify, rutabaga, onions… peas are just barely poking through and I planted green beans last week. With the hot weather, the soil seems warm enough. I also put in a hill of summer squash. I’m prepared to cover them if necessary.

    plant: during the last 2 weeks, peas, onions, collards, kale, dill, cilantro, kolrabi & purple peacock brocc (transplanted out), mild mustards, carrots, rutabaga, beet, salsify, some cover crops (agricultural mustard, buckwheat – I know its early but seemed worth a try). I want to plant favas , but I’m afraid I missed my opportunity. I planted purple pod greens beans (a small patch) and 1 hill of summer squash (I will cover with remay or replant if necessary). Planted cayenne peppers in flats. Its time to transplant tomatoes into larger containers.

    Harvest something: greens: chickweed, kale, collard, pac choi, parsley – all from fall plantings and flowering now…also some burdock and beets from fall plantings. I harvested some wild onions (strong!) and some violet flowers and leaves and dandelion.

    preserve something: I’ve got the dehydrator going. I dried a lot of greens – kale, collards, chickweed . The kale is drying nicely and should be good in soups next year. I want to preserve more using the dehydrator this year. I also dried some mullein. – has anyone used mullein medicinally? Its supposed to be good for respiratory conditions. I have lots of it and thought I would try it this year.

    Waste Not: composting, brewery waste, received some goat manure for the compost pile.

    Want Not: found a pizelle machine at the thrift store.

    Eat the Food: made pizelles for Easter morning breakfast using sourdough waffle batter – something special that is easy to do, beautiful , and tasty. We ate the last radish (misoto rose) that was in storage from root cellar. It tasted like it was just picked. Also, started fermenting some beets from the root cellar – (kvass). Still eating potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets (from root cellar) and winter squash. Also finishing up the kim chi (I still have 6 pints). Adding canned tomatoes to lots of dishes and have just about used up all of the freezer tomatoes and the applesauce.

    Build Community Food Systems: We had another seed exchange. I want to start a local blog (similar to this Independence Days blog) that will gather info from local farmer/gardeners about local planting times, techniques, varieties, etc.

    `KC in Virginia

  8. This is 2 weeks of activity, which makes me look a lot busier than I really was…

    Plant something: pak choy, silverbeet, rocket, endive, tuscan kale.

    Harvest something: lettuce (radiccio, cos, mizuna), spinach, parsley, oregano, lemon thyme, basil, chillis, cucumber, amaranth, collards.

    Preserved something: 2.5 litres of lime juice cordial, 20 litres of ginger beer.

    Waste not: usual composting, worm-farming & recycling. Thanks to Jamie Oliver’s example, Mr B saved our pumpkin seeds, and toasted them for snacks rather than throwing them in the compost.

    Want not: Did lots of research on different styles of water tanks, bought case of biodynamic wine direct from NSW growers. Started a fridge & pantry inventory. Restocked tinned tomatoes. Purchased a hand-cranked mouli (strainer).

    Build Community Food Systems: Sorted through our stored kitchen things (we doubled up a bit when we combined households), boxed up the good stuff to donate to local LGBT youth refuge.

    Eat the food: LOTS of veggie paella – a great recipe from the Millenium cookbook, adapted as a ‘mostly pantry’ dish. Dahl with veggie curry & rice. Lots of homegrown salad. Improvised vegan ‘quiche’, with silken tofu base. Chickpea cutlets (from pantry items) plus home-grown salad. Blackbean and sweet potato chilli. Vegan lasagne (from the freezer clearout).

  9. Brad K. says:


    I made french toast for likely the first time ever this week, and all I had for milk was some canned evaporated milk. The can wasn’t bulged, and passed a sniff test, and the toast was great. The print on the can said best used by December 2002. . .

    I need to remember that “rotate the food in the pantry” rule, before it bites me.

  10. Gabrielle says:

    The day that I’ve been waiting for most of my gardening life has finally arrived. I picked the first of our asparagus from our garden! I’ve been gardening since I was a child. We never had an asparagus bed at my home, and I’ve always wanted to have one. For years I put it off thinking, we won’t be able to enjoy the fruits of our labor because as soon as I plant them, we’ll have to move. Finally, I stopped second guessing myself and planted the bed. I am so happy that we did. While I know that I can’t devour every single sprout since this is only our second year to have the bed, knowing that I can pick a few for our family to enjoy is worth every bit of effort we put into the prep and planting of that bed. It finally feels like the harvest season has begun!

    Plant—Nothing planted this week. We found out a relative had to go in for heart surgery late this week and the weekly schedule was shifted a bit. There will be plenty of work to do this week. Whenever I read my newest edition of Mother Earth News (I began reading this month’s yesterday) I find my gardening spirit renewed and even more gusto for self sustainability.

    Harvest—We picked a beautiful arrangement of flowers for our Easter table—Lenten Roses, 3 varieties of daffodils, 2 types of tulips, purple plum blooms, grape muscari, and greenery from the allium. I picked green onions for our cabbage rolls. I picked the first of the asparagus, noted above.

    Preserve—Only after I had bought a dang bell pepper at the grocery store did I find one I had reserved in our freezer for the occasion. I’ve started making more of a detailed list on how much I need to preserve and reserve for what purposes. The last of the parsley is long gone, and it would have been super simple to have chopped it and had it available for the Easter dishes. Hindsight is 20/20. I can’t think of anything that I preserved this week.

    Waste Not/Reduce Waste—We continue to work on our trash waste, and we are staying at about a half of a bag a week. I have also made a better system for bringing compost out to the bin, which is away from the house. While I’m sure a lot of folks in our area have already turned on the AC, we’ve been enjoying the cool breezes through the opened windows. It is so lovely to awaken to birds chirping and the sound of the wind in the trees. We hope to hold out at least until May before we turn it on. Hubby plans on hooking up the rain barrel this week. We disconnect and drain it at the end of the year, and we usually hook it back up when I start to need it for watering the gardens.

    Want Not/Prep/Storage—My father brought me a few cases of assorted sizes of mason jars. Since I have a lot of food preservation planned for this growing season, I was very happy to receive them. Now, where to store them?? I’m sure I’ll find a place. The Spring Fling and Rummage Sale will be held this Friday and Saturday at our church. I’m looking forward to picking up a few clothes for our daughter and some things that I need around the house. This sweet older lady at our church also divides hundreds of perennials to sell. I have the back of my car cleared out and ready to load! I suspect that I’ll spend most of next week planting.

    Building Community Food Systems—I really haven’t done much in this area. My father is moving to Knoxville, and I’ve been thinking about making him an easy to maintain vegetable bed in what will soon be his front yard. He already has plans on planting plum and pear trees in the fall so that he can enjoy future crops. We visited my uncle’s farm on Easter. He has what I would call a homestead, and our daughter loved feeding the fish and seeing the new baby calves. I realize how spoiled I am to have a family that gardens/farms and preserves foods. Pretty much all of the family cans—male and female. It was nice to taste the pickled okra my uncle had put up last year. They were perfectly crisp and just spicy enough. I saw how he has experimented with floating row covers on his garden beds, and how he is using the grey water from his house to irrigate. We enjoyed a community meal at his place, as he had some of his neighbors from surrounding farms visiting. Some of the neighbors were from Mexico and were speaking Spanish. Our 4 year old daughter told them, “You guys speak Spanish really well!” They all burst into laughter, and I still get a giggle when I think of her smile when she told them.

    Eat the Food— We’ve had some pretty fantastic meals lately. Some of my uncle’s neighbors made from scratch triple chocolate cakes with homemade apricot preserves in between the 4 layers! Too good to be true! The cabbage rolls that we made this year were probably the best we’ve ever made. We added more vegetables than we usually do, which we think added to the flavor. The only regret was that we didn’t make pirogue, but since it is so labor intensive and we had so much other food, I didn’t really miss them…too much. With the excitement of my friend’s hens laying more regularly, the intense flavor of another farmer friend’s grass-fed milk, and the delight of our very first asparagus, the meals we will enjoy from this point on are definitely looking up.

  11. Charlotte says:

    First time participating by actually typing something (but I have participated in mind for quite a while now.)

    Planted: peas, lettuce, spinach, green onions outside, seeded pepperand transplanted tomatoes inside.

    Harvested: some tiny spinach seedlings, Swiss chard that overwintered inside and was recently transplanted back out, tried some dandelion but it was very bitter. Eggs.

    Preserve: Made chicken stock. Froze some of the maple syrup (the harvest was too small to be worth canning :( )

    Waste not: Used up some almost-bad milk in bread.

    Want not: Bought and froze lots of cheap butter on sale.

    Eat the food: Used some frozen beans that noone much likes around here and smothered them in white sauce to make them slightly more acceptable.

    Commnity: Ask elderly neighbour whether she would mind if I planted some veggies in her (100% grass, completely boring but very sunny) backyard. Sadly, she declined.

  12. NM says:

    Plant something: Two kinds of lettuce, two kinds of spinach, chard, purple broccoli, lemon basil, basil, three kinds of eggplant, three kinds of peppers, five or six tomato varieties, tomatilloes, bachelor buttons, marigolds, sunflowers. My sweet husband fixed up a light for me so I could start things inside.

    Harvest something: Local eggs, CSA and market vegetables.

    Preserve something: Nope.

    Waste not: Getting better at using foods up before they go bad. Mostly.

    Want not: Am doing tons of research on starting a small farm. It’s exhausting, but exciting. Also taking two classes after work and on weekends, and looking for land. In our spare time, we work on getting the house ready for sale. Got some of the rampant blackberries ripped out before the rains resumed.

    Community Food systems: Had a meeting with our Slow Food regional governor; passed his words along to the rest of the board.

    Eat the food: Vegetable pot pie, faux chicken pot pie with lots of vegetables; whole wheat biscuits with homemade jam, lots of meals of eggs and various kinds of greens, spinach quiche, turnip soup, whole wheat panettone with homemade candied citrus rind.

  13. Erika says:

    This week’s:

    Last week’s:

    Excited to hear of all the possibilities that others are planting/harvesting already – must make notes and plan for next year!


  14. Claire says:

    Beautiful week in St. Louis, highs up in the 80sF (86F one day) for most of the last several days, all the flowering trees in bloom at the same time, from peaches to redbuds and even the first dogwood blossoms! Might get apricots and peaches this year!

    Planted: lots of prep work including pricking-out what was close to 200 seedlings from flats into cell packs. Finished clearing out dead stems and digging out shrubs and goldenrod from future veggie beds. Replanted Jerusalem artichoke divisions into the new location for them (out of the way of anything else). Native lotus tuber arrived and was planted into the tiny pond next to our patio (we plan to eat excess tubers in the fall).

    Harvested: sorrel, green onions, dandelion greens, the first asparagus from the bed I planted with seed-grown plants in 2008, shiitake mushrooms.

    Preserved: nothing yet.

    Waste not: the Zen center I belong to acquired unwanted bricks for free from the renovation of the house next door, and I was able to request and obtain quite a few of the century-old bricks for our future projects.

    Want not: the DH found a galvanized washtub at a garage sale for $2 (I plan to use it for non-powered laundry doing). We talked about the washtub to my DH’s brother whom we fed on Easter; DH’s brother has their aunt’s galvanized washtub and will give it to us since he doesn’t use it.

    Build community food systems: sold some of my excess veggie seedlings to a friend for his garden. Helped my neighbor relocate the four peach tree saplings she grew from peach pits from one of my trees (which grew from pits I got through Seed Savers Exchange). The DH and I wrote Facebook posts on our various gardening and food preparation projects.

    Eat the food: fresh raw home-grown asparagus, yum!! Salad with sorrel, green onions, and dandelion leaves. Mushrooms and the last of the root-cellared J-chokes included in the roasted veggies for the family Easter dinner … and the roast pork came from a local ranch. Pumpkin bread made from the last of last fall’s saved pumpkin crop, as the dessert for the afore-mentioned Easter dinner. Homemade elderberry wine.

  15. Sonrisa says:

    We’ve been getting our butts kicked by blizzards this spring! A day or two of warm sun between snow and 30 to 40 mph winds. sheesh. Luckily the ground is thawed and the rhubarb, asparagus, and Egyptian onions are coming up. The winter wheat is loving the extra moisture.

    Plant- Lavender, favas, garbanzos, beets, onions, tomatoes, cabbage, carrots, broccoli, peppers, eggplant, cukes, and kale. And planted the second round of quail eggs in the incubator.

    Harvest- turnips, lettuce, snow peas, green onions, milk, eggs, quail.

    Preserved- Not yet.

    Waste not- More of the same.

    Want not- I built some wood seedling flats that should last many years. Used old jam jars to make candles with stockpiled goat tallow. I did a little experiment and figured out that the amount of tallow I average from a goat will burn for more than 200 hours! You can add that to the list of things you’d rather not know;).

    Build community food systems- divided my rhubarb for a neighbor.

    Eat the food- Quail curry. One thing we use daily is homegrown dried roasted chicory root. We use it to stretch our coffee, or instead of coffee. It’s pretty tasty.

  16. Gina says:

    I’m a bit late to the party this year due to long-term travel for work (I was gone for six weeks!) However, I am home for a good spell now and feel I can start actually accomplishing something again. Yes, the weather/temps are definitely helping here (and it is warmer earlier this year in my zone 5 Great Lakes region!!)

    Here is a snapshot of my IDC accomplishments for the past week:

    Planted: citrus seeds I’ve had around for a while (I hope they germinate, but I am not holding my breath); date seeds (same note)

    Harvested: Eggs, lots and lots of brown, cream, white, blue and green eggs (chicken and duck)

    Preserved: Nothing this week, but the FHA grapefruit I bought last Dec is looking a little under the weather…it will make nice marmalade (next week I will hopefully be able to add it!)

    Stored: Rabbit food

    Want Not: Started quail eggs in the incubator. Bought 10 “clearance” chicks from the feed store and two ducklings. FIL tilled the garden with his new tractor. We are enlarging it by 1/3. We through aged chicken poop and rabbit manure in before the big till. Hopefully we can have one more run with aged cow poop. The garden is seriously needing amendments and I hope this helps. Also, walked the road part of the property and picked up trash (beer cans, cigarette wrappers, McD cups)-recycled what I could (should go in the next category, I guess). Bought rum on sale for various uses (trade? Medicinal? Recreation?) While in MD, thrifted some new cloths mainly for me as I have now shrunk beyond the comfortable fit of my clothing (I have lost a total of 45 lbs since last Sept.) and I anticipate losing another 15-16 lbs before summer (final push and this will put me towards the front end of my normal weight range). I also picked up a great jar with cork lid that says “Long Grain Rice” on it (I put my wild rice in it) and newer looking twin sheets starring sock monkeys (probably for camper). And, of course, I picked up new books: _The Happiness Project_ & _The Cooks Encyclopedia_, plus _A Guide to Night Sounds_ (audio). I wanted to stock up on this great hemp seed granola (made in Maryland!) and a hot fudge made with fruit sugars, but I ran out of time and left before the local market opened on Thursday. I want to learn to make this granola and maybe sell it at the market if possible. The fudge I can order online.

    Waste Not: The usual: scraps to chicks, recyclables to recycle center. DH cleaned out garage (a leftover project from our move and sale of two other houses this past year). I finally gave up the crib both my sons slept in (no more babies for me), but I had him take it apart and I will reuse portions of it for other projects. The mattress was stripped and the metal springs will be used as a trellis in the garden.

    Community: Nothing here I am afraid. Well, if this counts, I did support the local breweries of Maryland (Flying Dog-I highly recommend); ate at the local restaurants, especially ethnic ones; and I bought locally brewed and tempered coffee and chocolates from small businesses as gifts.

    Eat the Food: Also not much to report here. Hopefully we will be back on it this week.

  17. Mark N. says:

    Planted: beets, carrots, pac choi, spinach, leek plants, potatoes, shallots. Inside: started corn in pots.

    Harvested and Ate: walking onion tops.

    Build community food systems: offered leek plants to my neighbor. Repaired and relocated a specially designed feeder for chickadees, titmice, and flying squirrels.

  18. Jennie says:

    Here’s mine!

    Highlights include my first tincture and planting in my new garden bed at my new house.

  19. Megan says:

    Plant- Moved a few herbs around to give them more room, my son helped another gardener plant potatoes….

    Harvest- asparagus, sorrel, many herbs

    Preserved- nothing

    Waste not- Organized my spice drawer in honor of Passover, cleaned some things out. Sent several boxes to friends and Goodwill.

    Want not- Trying to recover the pantry from Passover now, collecting hand me down cloth diapers.

    Build community food systems- got the free city water turned on for our community garden, and that night when it broke down, got it turned off again!

    Eat the food: matzah

  20. Rob says:

    Very Busy. I am getting to like the greenhouse very much, It rains, you stay dry! And might be planing on building a more permanent one in the near future. Of course, I will free cycle the plastic behemoth if I decide on building one

    Sharon’s Independence Days Challenge Year 3, week 13.

    1.Plant something: Started some gourds, Mortgage lifter tomatoes, some ground cherries; Obtained some brandywine, Oregon spring, Striped German, Black Russian and Cherokee Purple tomato starts, obtained a flat of strawberry plants; planted radishes, peas and beans
    2. Harvest something: Foraged some Dandelion greens and flowers.

    3. Preserve something: Nada

    4. Reduce Waste (recycle, reuse, reduce, repair or compost something): Made a bench from a skateboard deck, the usual recycling, composting crap that I do always
    5. Preparation and Storage: Separated some onion bulbs that I discovered wintered over and replanted them, Bought some Red Clover tips, lemon grass and Dried nettles for making tea until I see these things growing here.
    6. Build Community Food Systems: No contact made with New Futures about taking the seeds I had for them (not for lack of trying)… Maybe a giveaway in the near future- but first I am going to call the food bank on Monday and see if they want them for their little garden at the food bank. As Gawd is my witness I shall give the seeds away!
    7. Eat the Food (cook or eat something new): Strawberry Ice cream made from strawberries in the freezer; salad with dandelion greens

  21. Anisa says:

    On my site – been late this spring. But we’ll catch up a bit soon, I know. ;)

  22. razors says:

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