Independence Days Update: Seed Catalog Days

admin January 5th, 2011

It has been a while since I’ve done one of these - so much going on, but little preserving or growing as yet.  I’ll start the earliest seeds very soon, though - mostly perennials for first year flowering (some will flower in the first year if you start them early enough), onions and leeks and some plants that require winter stratification.  Right now, I’m immersed in seed catalogs, dreaming and planning. 

The dreaming and planning is the more acute right now because so many of my other enterprises depend on this - particularly the bedding and native plant sales.  I’m hoping to have all the information about my seed starting CSA up within a week or two, allowing people to choose their plant varieties from a good, wide list (oh, heavens, I’ll have to buy more seed varieties…how…terrible!).  I’m also totting up what seed I have left from last year and making garden plans.  I’ll put the CSA information up as soon as I can get it all together.  I’m also plotting open farm days for plant pickup, and where I might do drop off in Albany, Schenectady and other local spots.

All six of the senior does seem to be settled now, with breeding due dates from early April to early May.  The junior does (last year’s babies) will be bred in February for July kidding.  Among other things, I’m curious if the reason we’ve had so many singles (when Nigerian Dwarves are generally famous for multiples) is that we’ve been breeding out of season.  Someone suggested to me that they had more babies in season, even though they breed well year round.  Curious to experiment - not so much because I want more babies, but because singles are actually harder to deliver than twins or triplets since they tend to be bigger, with much bigger heads. 

I’ll breed the rabbits in February as well for spring kindling.    I’m also awaiting my poultry catalogs, since I need to replace a lot of my older layers. I’m also thinking of purchasing an incubator - we’ve had uneven results from setting hens, particularly with the duck eggs, and I’m looking for greater control and consistency.  If you have one, do you recommend it?  Which one?  Also, has anyone tried crossing Speckled Sussex and RI Red chickens to produce a sexable (males are white, females speckled or red) dual purpose bird?  I’ve used Sussex in my crosses before, but not in this combination, and have had it recommended to me.

There’s a lot of management of food this time of year - making sure that the apples that go wrinkly get used first, and that any carrots that go soft go to the rabbits and goats.  Some of the squash that don’t keep as well are coming to the end of their season and need to be cooked or dried or frozen.  I make some applesauce and can it now and again, but mostly this is a quiet time, and the jars proliferate like mad on the shelves as they get emptied out.

Besides the seed and poultry catalogs, there are the bee catalogs.  From one thing and another last year, while I spent much of the winter planning to, I never got bees.  This year, Eric asked for them for a 40th birthday present from his Mom, so now we’re getting our act together. I’m not sure his Mom was totally ecstatic to give him tens of thousands of bugs for his birthday, but she’s convinced he really does want them!

The big project right now is cleaning out and decluttering.  Oh, and recluttering. Our decision to adopt more kids made me realize that I should probably stop getting rid of all the stuff Asher has outgrown - for so many years I kept every size clothing from newborn to well, now 18.  I was thrilled when Asher finally outgrew it and I could get rid of most of it, but of course, the odds are good that at least one if not both of the kids we adopt will be smaller (even if not younger) than Asher - the kid is huge, with 2 inches and 1 lb being all that separate him from his 2-years-older brother.  I’ve given away a lot of the 2-4t stuff, but I’m saving what I’ve got left, and stopping putting away all the board books and the younger kid books.

The first home visit won’t be for a few weeks, but my goal is to get the room any new kids will move into basically set up, not to presume too much, but just because we’ve got the space and I might as well move what’s going to be in there anyway in earlier.  I don’t have beds for kids - I’ll have to keep my eye out on Craigslist for some bunkbeds or something - but I already have the dressers (bed and a dresser for each kid is required) left over from Eric’s grandparents, and I can move some of the extra kids’ books and beanbag chairs and things in to the room.  I have to buy a door, though - for some reason that front room never had one.

The room the kids will be moving into had been a guest room and my sewing and yarn space - I have *tons* of yarn, since a store near me went out of business and the proprietor (a friend) sold a lot of it to me for 10 cents on the dollar or less.  I’ve barely been knitting this past year - I spent so much time sitting in front of the computer that it was hard to organize myself for sedentary activities, but cleaning out and moving the yarn around has me excited to knit again, and lord knows, the kids can always use more hats and mittens!  Particularly since Asher likes to wear mittens in the house, which doesn’t exactly contribute to ease of location later.

Ok, onwards:

Plant something: Nada

Harvest something: a few greens out from the snow during the warm spell, mint, rosemary and lemon verbena from overwintered indoor plants.

Preserve something: A few jars of applesauce, dried some willow bark, froze some extra squash.

Waste Not: Well, I’m working on using up all that yarn!  Otherwise, the usual managing stores and feeding things to other things.

Want Not: Replaced two winter coats - Eli’s because he’s grown *again* - his coat was fine in October, but his wrists were hanging out by December and Isaiah because of an irreparrable zipper.  Got everything from after holiday sales.  Also stocked up on spices.

Eat the food: We’ve been letting the kids choose meals and help cook, so we’ve eaten a lot of good stuff lately.  I forgot how much we all love stuffed cabbage.   We made shishkebabs with grilled marinated root vegetables and tempeh, and more conventional ones with chicken, and rice pilaf.  I’ve also been trying recipes from cookbooks for my “31 Books” series over at the Science blogs site 

Build Community Food Systems: Have arranged some talks and projects - I’m also plotting open farm days - thinking of having one in April, one in May and one in July.

How about you?


11 Responses to “Independence Days Update: Seed Catalog Days”

  1. Michelle says:

    Not sure how it is in your area, as I understand it differs. But our homestudy and homevisit really didn’t focus on the house itself, but rather on the family dynamics and how our family solved problems together. They made sure that they asked a few basic questions (do you have room for more kids, are your medications locked up, any guns or weapons and are they stored appropriately). But unless I offered no one really seemed to want a tour of the house or even see the room where the kids were to sleep. Which is funny, cause all the people I know stressed out so much on cleaning our houses, when it really didn’t matter.

    Remember also that depending on the emotional special needs, if you get a sibling group (even of the same gender) they may not be healthy enough to share a room together. Which is sad, but true.

    There are some great resources out there ( has a great special needs forum) and there are some great blogs from people who have been there.

    Again, it’s been a marvelous experience for me and I have a great son and addition to our family. Our issues are not severe and most of the time we’re dealing with normal boy stuff. But read, read, read and be prepared as the range of experience that the kids have been through really varies.

  2. Shannon says:

    We’ve used a hovabator (still air incubator) with the addition of an automatic egg turner with good results. The less hens per rooster certainly ups your amount of fertile eggs, but we still get 50% when I pull eggs from our 2 rooster, 200 hen laying flock. They also sell a fan, but I haven’t found that neccessary - might be nice if you are really crowding the incubator with eggs. Without the fan and egg turner, we’ve used it to hatch out lizard eggs in my classroom too :)

  3. [email protected] says:

    Harvey Ussery has been developing his own breed of chicken, adapted to pasture, using natural mothers. It takes time of course. His rule is that any hen who stops laying to brood must hatch and *raise* those chicks out successfully. He sees this as the hen volunteering to provide a service to him, which he appreciates. But if she can’t complete the task, then she has reneged on her commitment and cost him money in the process, so he culls that chicken. He never “breaks up” a broody hen, but is rather ruthless with the consequences of failure to brood successfully. As I understand, he’s seeing good progress in this ongoing project. Perhaps you could look into what he’s doing and see if it might work for you. His book on backyard poultry is forthcoming, possibly this year.

  4. Nicole C says:

    I’ve been following everyone elses’ updates but haven’t chimed in yet so I will this month.

    Plant something: Blueberries, blackberries, jujube, figs and nectarines are in. I have asian pears, walnuts and persimmons still waiting for their turn and I’m trying to start some wild-collected plums to see if they breed true. For the insects, a crepe myrtle went in. For the wildlife, native persimmons and sassafras are stratifying in the fridge. I’m doing infrastructure work on the garden this winter, so the only thing that went in the ground this fall was garlic. Tons of outdoor cleanup work going on this winter with more to come.

    Harvest something: Nothing, sadly. I’ve been trying to get some venison this winter but to no avail.

    Preserve something: Added shelving to my food storage room and rearranged it all. Ordered more preservation supplies and finally got a pressure canner (which I don’t know how to use yet.) I am stocked up on meat and processed goods, but need more whole grains, beans and lentils.

    Waste Not: I am strongly focused on eating only from my food storage for a while, with the exception of a few things like dairy and eggs. Performed food storage inventory. Some of my stores are getting old and need to be et up.

    Want Not: I keep things very uncluttered around here and don’t keep things I don’t need. This weekend, a few odds and ends are going to the thrift store, and dead light bulbs, batteries and such are going to the hazardous waste facility.

    Eat the food: Lots of rice cooker meals featuring whole grains and pulses lately. New Year’s resolution: no drive-through visits, not even for unsweet tea. If I want it, I have to walk inside.

    Build Community Food Systems: I’m looking at a couple of co-ops for bulk food purchases. Now that I don’t live near a great sustainable farmer anymore, I’ve been searching for a source of eggs. So far, I have one lead but she doesn’t have enough birds to have any extra eggs in the winter. I have some friends who may be getting chickens again, and if so I plan to offer to buy chicken feed for some of their eggs, although in previous years they have always just given them away.

    Other: I cleaned up and evaluated my seed inventory, and got that organized into a file. Poorly performing varieties were gifted to gardeners in other climates and excess saved seeds donated to local and remote gardeners. My seed orders are in for next year but the catalogs keep coming and I doubt I’ll be able to resist ordering just a few… more… things.

  5. Gary Rondeau says:

    Here on the upper left coast there are still a few things in the garden. I harvested leeks, parsnips, collards, rutabagas, and some swiss chard recently, and am looking forward to my Brussels sprouts getting just a little bigger. Winter is the time to eat squash - and as a seed saver, its the time to save squash seed. Squash is fun because you get to directly evaluate the produce just before you save the seed.

    A few weeks ago was our local fall seed swap. It was a great time to gather with others and look for locally adapted seeds that you cannot find anywhere else.

    Looking forward to start planting early veggies in the window sill — pretty soon!

    For my occasional blog a wrote a piece on long season crops in our region. http:/

  6. KC says:

    I still have some saved seed that needs to be put in jars and labelled and I’m hoping to find time for seed orders soon.

    Washing lots of jars and trying to find places to store the empty ones. I’ve been making kefir every day.

    Plant something: Not, yet … but hoping to start some onions by February. I am sprouting sunflowers, and lentils for future meals.

    Harvest something: kale, collards, carrots, parsnips, leeks, and more from under hoops over the garden beds.

    Preserve something: no

    Waste Not: Someone gave us some room dividers that are being cut up and installed to help shade the light from bare bulbs in the kitchen - (hard to explain the logistics of this).

    Want Not: bought a notebook from thrift store to store some of my files - (I moved the file cabinets out).

    Eat the food: fava bean soup with tomatoes, leeks and peppers from the freezer. I’ve been using Carol Deppe’s Perfect Pumpkin Pie recipe - using squash and sweet potatoes from storage - it’s delicious and there is no crust. apple crisp from apples in storage … yummm. The Pink Ladies are holding up well. grated daikon is delcious in frittata (omelette with veggies mixed into the eggs).

  7. Claire says:

    Winter in St. Louis: first 3″ of snow on Christmas Eve, then tornadoes on New Years Eve. Gotta love the Midwest (otherwise it’d drive you crazy).

    Plant: a flat of native flower, sedge, and rush seeds that are stratifying outdoors, screened against critters. Perusing seed catalogs, mulling over garden plans for 2001, getting ready to go through the seed packs to decide what needs to be reordered and what can be given away.

    Harvest: nothing. The seedling kale is still alive in the open garden but the adult collard plants are dead. Looks like the way to overwinter kale and perhaps collards here is as seedlings rather than as full-grown plants as I have tried to do before. If the seedling kale gets through the rest of winter, it should mature a few weeks faster than spring-planted kale and provide greens for eating earlier, filling a gap in my effort to provide home-grown nutrition. Also it might flower and run to seed rather than rotting in the summer, facilitating seed-saving. I think I’m learning something! ;-)

    Preserve: nothing new. The potatoes are in good shape in the cold cellar, a good thing since there is close to 100 pounds of them.

    Waste not: working with a computer-wise friend to add a new hard drive to and replace the ailing motherboard of our almost 10 year old but still good computer. Expect to get a lot more years of usage out of the thing.

    Want not: found an excellent wool sweater at a local thrift shop. The glassed-in south-facing porch is reaching the high 60sF to low 70sF on sunny days with outside temps below freezing. I enjoy eating lunch on the warm porch and letting the warm, sweet-smelling air into the house. The potted citrus and bay trees and rosemary plants like the porch too.

    Community food systems: planning to help a friend establish his suburb’s new community garden. Mulling over a plan to keep our property as a local garden/farm after I die. Might start by working with a nearby suburban farm that is training farm interns.

    Eat the food: we are using the bok choy I harvested and stored in the cold cellar a month ago. The other leaves yellowed but the stalks stayed crisp and delicious, so we stir-fried them along with other veggies. Been eating lots of stored potatoes in various ways.

  8. admin says:

    Kate, that is interesting. I’m more interested, however, in replicating some older crosses done in the first half of the 20th century, mostly in Britain before and during WWII - much of that information has come my way.

    My problem is probably different than Ussery’s - I know him a little and he’s an older guy with grown kids. In our case, it is very difficult on a farm with a lot of small kids running around, many of them not resident (we have a lot of visitors) to keep hens from being scared off their nests or to keep kids from accidentally collecting eggs in the brooding cycle. Short of building more buildings and childproofing them, I’ve got limited space for uninterrupted brooding, and was hoping to move some of it in the house.


  9. Sonrisa says:

    The one thing I have found with incubators is that they can be hard to work with in a wood heated house. We have a little giant, which we had a lot of trouble with at first, but have figured out how to get it to work in our house and climate. We had two problems. First, in the late winter and early spring the house temp swings wildly due to the wood stove etc. We found that putting the incubator in a cold room with constant temps worked better than a warm room that the temp changes. It costs a few more cents per batch of birds for energy, but the hatch rate is better and the likely hood of losing an entire batch to overheating is much lower. The other problem we had was our eggs drying out, which shouldn’t be a problem in your area. We had to get rid of the fan and add extra water to keep the eggs from dehydrating. Speaking of water reservoirs, if the water runs out the temp will spike, so keep it full. We are consistently getting over 90% hatch rate now. I guess my point is that the basic styrofoam cheapy will work fine if your willing and able to baby it.

    I think having your own buck makes a huge difference in how many babies you get, but I personally think that more babies based on season has more to do with what they are eating and over all health. When my herd was a bit larger and there was more competition (goats are bullies and no matter how many feeders you have the higher ranking goats will try to hog them all) My queen goat (who got first choice) always gave birth to 3 or 4, and the only time I ever got singles was from the lowest ranking goats (who only got to eat after the good stuff was gone). One year I had gotten rid of our buck and didn’t get a chance to get a new one until spring, so I bred the girls for fall kidding and every single one of my goats that always give twins had triplets! I attribute it to the fact that they were bred in wheat grass season. In the early spring before the pasture is up the wheat takes off and I cut it in the grass stage to feed the goats. They are on wheat grass from March until May and sometimes in the fall. When the girls are fed wheat grass, whether it’s in the spring after a winter of hay or fall after a summer of excellent pasture their milk production goes up and they get really glossy. And the milk gets so rich and sweet. Can you tell I’m looking forward to freshening? :-) They call it “flushing” with sheep (where they feed grains to get the ewes to shed more eggs), but I have found my girls respond better to grass. I have been working towards a grain free system. Anyway, I have blabbered enough.

    Plant: Nope

    Harvest: Leaf lettuce, turnips, and turnip greens from the greenhouse. Kale and spinach from under the snow outside! Quail eggs.


    Waste not: Nothing new

    Want not:Husband and I both got new jobs. His for a little extra money to put into becoming more self sufficient. Mine see below.

    Community: One of the local beef ranchers started selling at the local store. The beef is grass fed and raised less than ten miles away. So we have been getting all our beef there. I also started working at the local store, which gives me the chance to know all the locals. Almost everyone in this town is a farmer or rancher.

    Eat the food: Pork and sauerkraut for new year. Potatoes, bread, and salads.

  10. Evey says:

    Plant Something: Just sprouts ,but planning for early garden.

    Harvest Something: small salad greens from under the low tunnel.

    Perserve: Made pear/apple mincemeat(no meat) in mid December with neighbor’s pears.

    Waste not: making red wine vinager from dregs left from wine making. Spent 2 hours doing a seed inventory so we don’t order what we have, tomatoes all saved, and don’t forget what we need.

    Want not: Great clothing finds at the thrift store-after Christmas is prime time for folks to get rid of good “stuff” that they recieved as gifts.

    Eat the Food: all 5 adults here are being better about using stored garden produce. Still only DH and I will bother with the “little” potatoes. Last night, Nephew hand-ground garden corn and venison(his first deer) to make chili and cornbread. He also used our dried chilies and canned tomatoes. Yeah.

  11. Winter food management | Kitsap Cuisine says:

    [...] Sharon Astyk - Indepence Days Update, Seed Catalog Days This entry was posted in Planning. Bookmark the permalink. ← Monica’s Waterfront [...]

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