Starting Seeds in Salad Containers

Over the years I have written about many ways to start seeds and they all have one thing in common, a simulated greenhouse.

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Now, every year I think I will have a real greenhouse.  Surely by the time I need to start seeds I will have one built or put together or otherwise exist, but then the same issue comes up every season (no funds), and so I am once again left with my own creativity.  This year I saved salad containers all year.  The kind with the lids.  You see, the key to seed starting is lots of sun and continuous moisture in a warm space.  It is so dry and cold here that I would be watering all the time and probably cause the seeds to mold.  No, I need a mother-nature-way of watering, softly and simply, with evaporation and condensation.

Many seeds should be direct planted.  Even though I added six weeks to my growing season by moving to Pueblo, I still need more time for peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant.  I found last year that when I direct planted them, they almost made it before frost.  This year I am holding back half of the seeds to direct plant and half I will transplant.  Transplanting is not always successful so we figure that one of the ways will succeed!  (And so goes the life of a farmer.)

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Fill your salad container 2/3 of the way full with organic, potting soil.  You want room for the plants to grow.  Water the soil so that it is evenly damp.  We don’t want any marshes settled at the bottom, but you might be surprised how much water the potting soil can hold.

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When it is evenly damp, sprinkle the seeds over the soil somewhat spread apart.  Barely sprinkle on more soil to cover and use a spray bottle of water to really dampen.  Until they are established, a water bottle prevents water pressure from dislodging the seed or drowning the poor fellas.

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Close lid tightly and mark with a sharpie.  Because you will forget the varietal and date you planted!  Just trust me on this.

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Let’s see, now to find a place with at least six hours of sun where the cats won’t step on or eat said seedlings.  (A more difficult dilemma than one might think.)  The guest room has a nice sunny spot on the bed from the south facing window a good part of the day and the door closes.

Now over the next week or two, keep an eye on your seeds.  There should be consistent “rainfall” in the box.  If it slows (every other day or so) spray thoroughly with water and reclose.  When plants are 1 inch tall, open the top and water as needed making sure not to let them dry out nor drown.  (You can still use the spray bottle.)  Once they get to be about two or three inches, transplant into another container separately.  (A blog post on that will be in a few weeks.)

I don’t know about you but I am darn near stir crazy not being able to be outside doing something.  At least starting seeds makes me feel like spring has begun.

Decorating With Notes of Spring

The air has a slightly different feel to it.  A different scent.  The cold is still there.  I bundle up as I go out to do chores.  But there is a tinge of something else upon the morning breath.  Life.  Spring.  By all indications, it is still the dead of winter, but I sense it.  I sense the pulse of the earth strengthening and the awakening of the plant world beneath it all.  Spring is coming.

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Pick up miniature roses from the grocery store.  Water once a week.  They will live until you can transplant them outdoors.  I had miniature roses grow three feet high in the garden before!

My home is still in the dead of winter.  Warm blankets caress chairs and the furnace is on.  The sun shines like a spotlight through the closed windows, still low in the sky.  My spirit falls more easily into stress and I long to be in the garden.  To be outside with a book without wind chill.  What to do?  The only thing I can do is to introduce notes of spring into the house.

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Plants always infuse spring and life into a place.  These are the babies from my very large aloe.  Last week I transplanted them into a new pot.  Its wide berth lets them spill out and catch the sun, giving a warm desert feel to this corner.  The cheap pots at Walmart are usually my go-to.  I love their cheery celadon, rouge, and artist blue colors, but sometimes it is nice to get a special pot that reminds you of something you love.  In this case, the land of the southwest where my heart and inspiration dance.

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It still gets dark out early so candles are still throughout the house.  These Catholic prayer candles sans saints are perfect and long lasting.  I used an old Coca-Cola crate to hold them.

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Found bird nests and unique pieces of wood and stone are set carefully around the house to bring nature in.

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My Farmhouse sign (bought at Cracker Barrel of all places!) doesn’t have a place on the wall right now because I have all my own bright paintings up but it seems cheery on the floor against the wall amongst the geraniums and other plants.

I seem to collect things with bicycles on them.  Bicycles with baskets.  I love the idea of them.  I love the freedom of them.  The perk of being in the city.  The promise of warm breezes and exercise and French bread in the basket picked up from the bakery or fresh flowers.  I have coffee cups with bicycles with baskets that say things like “Do More of What Makes You Happy.”  My daughter, Shyanne, gave me a small bicycle statue.  So Doug gave me a bike for my birthday last year.  With a basket.  I only rode it a few times before the tires were inundated with goat heads.  But a kind friend came over three different times to fix my tires, fill them with fix a flat, put on my basket and other accouterments (a bell included!) and I am ready to take off on the first nice day without Nordic winds.  The bike had a place on the porch but I brought it in.  It adds notes of spring and whimsy to my living room.

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Lastly, I picked up a snazzy pair of bright galoshes.  Oh, spring, I hope to see you soon!

 

Imbolc- Following the Agricultural Calendar

The agricultural calendar has eight farming and community holidays and celebrations making a wheel.  Every six or so weeks is a corresponding holiday that helps denote the time of year and gives us space to receive blessings and to show gratitude.  These holidays are Celtic historically but they are celebrated still.  The first of these holidays in the year is Imbolc.  Pronounced im-bowl-g.  It begins the eve of February 1st and sometimes goes until February 2nd.  It is not too late to bring back some of our most beloved traditions and wisdom.

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It is interesting to note that in each culture around the world, the gods and goddesses looked very similar and had similar roles.  Brigid is the goddess of spring.  She brings back the light of the sun.  She awakens Mother Earth to warm and bring spring.  She travels through the night on January 31st blessing articles of clothing that are left outdoors.  In her wake life is sparked. 

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Now as Christianity came rolling through, destroying cultures and people in its wake, the church demanded that the peasants (another word for peasant is Pagan) stop worshipping gods and goddesses.  But the people so adored Brigid that the Catholic church finally made her a saint so that the people would at least be praying to a saint.  St. Brigit was born.  Her Celtic cross is not a crucifix, it is a symbol of the four directions. 

Imbolc is one of four fire festivals.  The elements are revered in every original culture for their power to destroy and renew.  Fire warms, awakens, enlivens, brings life. 

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Imbolc translates to “In the belly” or “Ewe’s milk” depending on text and is the celebration of lambs being born.  Fiber, milk, and meat were of course ways of survival before we could truly choose compassion completely.  This is a time to bless seeds.  And each day gets a little longer and a little warmer and gives us hope for spring and a break from the cold. 

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Ways to Celebrate and Prepare

Sweep out the house and set out a bouquet of fresh flowers. 

Mix in a small spray bottle a blend of essential oils along with witchhazel or vodka to suspend.  Try lavender, cedar, sage, orange, frankincense, sandalwood, vanilla, rose, or other intoxicating, cleansing scents and smudge your home and yourself with the oil spray.  Your house will smell fresh, negativity will be released, and a fresh start will commence.

This evening, start a fire or light a candle.  Ask Mother Earth and Brigid and Creator to bless your seeds and gardens. 

Prepare a glass of warm almond milk with herbs steeped in it like lavender or green tea and enjoy before the fire. 

Place a scarf or hat or other article of clothing outdoors to be blessed. 

In our world of science and seriousness, we have lost the enchantment of what was.  People would not have been doing these traditions and celebrating these holidays for thousands of years if there was nothing to them.  Accept your blessings, feel renewed, and enjoy the warmth of Imbolc. 

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Ostara, Easter, and the New Beginning

crocus-spring-equinoxToday is a celebration of hope.  The indigenous cultures of old and the modern spiritualists and witches of today will be celebrating.  So will gardeners everywhere.  ‘Tis the Solstice, also known as Ostara.

Seeds in hand, faces to the sun, coffee hot, hose at the ready, we are grateful and joyous that the days will now be growing longer.  Oh, happy day.  More sun.  More Vitamin D.  More outdoor play.  Spring brings with it baby animals and freshly turned soil and new life.

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Ostara celebrates life conquering death.  It had been celebrated long before organized religion did it.  The word “Easter” comes from the word “Ostara.”  Now, Pagans were nothing if they weren’t artists.  Eggs were symbols of new life and fertility and were painted in beautiful colors.  The Ukrainian folk art depicted on eggs is a fine example of art.

Ostara, the Greek goddess of fertility, loved the painted eggs so much that she asked the rabbit to distribute them all over the world.

The Solstice on the agrarian calendar was the date that seeds began to be planted and new life was born.  The death of winter was past and new life has begun.

Our bodies and our lives are a part of nature as much as they ever were, we just kind of hid away behind screens and modern lives and forgot.  You will find that death and new beginnings are prevalent right now.  The Universe may have a bright new beginning for you.  That means death comes first, but know that the sun is shining every day and that life always conquers.  Welcome your new beginning.  Happy Solstice!

Simply Crafting a Spring Wreath

20180226_141926We tiptoe towards March.  We are almost there!  Spring, I see you!  Tiny dandelion leaves and grasses push through winter’s brush.  The finches breasts are turning rouge and father sun greets us earlier.

Yesterday I noted the large plastic poinsettia wreath still gracing my door and the pine swags sweeping around the porch.  Time to welcome spring, I thought, as I gathered the remaining yuletide greetings and put them away.

I have been planning on creating a spring wreath to share with you all.  I had plans to go to the craft store and pick up a glue gun and plastic daffodils, maybe bells, and this and that to display.  Even though a lovely jumble of faux flowers would look sweet and welcoming I didn’t want to purchase more stuff.

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I have a grapevine wreath.  Its natural woven texture preferred over more plastic.  Then I scoured the house.  I uncovered a purple ribbon that will just highlight my door.  A feather from the hen house that parades as a hawk feather (Araucanas have the loveliest feathers).  And finally baby’s breath from the bouquet of two dozen roses my husband gave me for our anniversary.

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It is much more simple than I would have imagined.  Yet graceful and organically welcomes spring.  Nothing is glued on so I can change it in a few months if I wish.  A wreath on the front door symbolizes welcome.  The circle being the universal sign for family, community, and strength.  Adorning a simple wreath with seasonal finds is satisfying and welcomes our dear friend spring back to the land.

Brigid and Joyous Imbolc

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And she awakens at the dawn of Imbolc and wanders the country side warming the earth as she goes, for the maiden has been reborn and with her the internal fire of life.  She is Brigid, the Celtic goddess who was so beloved among the people that the Catholic Church made her a saint in order to lead the people into Christianity.  But long before that she was there.  Her cross was the symbol of the directions and the sun wheel.

We place water out to greet her.

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The agricultural calendar is also called the Wheel of the Year and roughly every six weeks there is a holiday, a celebration, an event that corresponds with the natural intricacies of life and nature.  Imbolc is the whisperings of spring.  The first lambs are born.  The days warm slight.  Farmers prepare for spring planting.

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Brigid is the goddess of children and fertility.  The protector of midwives.  The promise of new life.

She is the goddess of creativity.  This time of year is when our hearts awaken and we desire to create something new, or something beautiful, or perhaps just an old fashioned valentine.  She is the maiden in the sacred trinity or maiden-mother-crone.  She is youth and vitality.

She is the goddess of healing waters known as the Lady of the Sacred Flame.  Next time you visit a hot springs think of Brigid and thank her for the healing virtues and warmth of the water.

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She is the goddess of our precious animals and of crops.  Farmers thank her for her blessing.  A bowl of honey or a bit of milk to offer her was left out the eve of Imbolc.  She is the patroness of wealth upon the land and the life she brings to crops and animals and the fire she brings to our souls after a dreary January brings gratitude and hope.

The waters we leave out for her to bless are used in sacred medicines and for healing.  Look for baby animals in your travels being born.  Smile at a child.  Get out a seed catalogue.  Make a beautiful wreath for your door.  Warm yourself in a bath.  Wash away the winter doldrums for spring is on its path.

Today light a red candle and ask for compassion for all things, including yourself.  Feel the life flame within yourself come alive.

One Pot-Dreaming of Spring-Lemon Cake

20180124_161418There is something quite satisfying about sitting down with a cup of espresso or tea and a small piece of cake.  Especially if said cake isn’t that bad for you!  I don’t know anyone in love with rich, thick cakes and their complementing towering corn syrup frosting from the grocery store.  I also feel a little daunted by homemade cakes that require so much time and so many pans and those that call for separating the eggs!  My go-to cake recipes are from my third cookbook “The Rustic Vegetarian” (which may get a revision and get published).  They are perfectly sweet, light, delicious, moist, and easy as five minutes.

Here’s to dreaming of spring…

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Lemon Cake

3 1/2 cups of flour

1 1/2 cups of sugar

2 ts baking soda

1 t salt

1 ts of vanilla extract

1/2 cup of lemon juice

1 1/2 cups of non-dairy milk (I used homemade cashew milk)

2/3 cup of olive oil

2 T white or apple cider vinegar

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and pour into a prepared Bundt pan or two cake pans.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.  Check for doneness.

Let cool for a few minutes then flip onto a plate.  Make a yummy glaze by combining powdered sugar, a touch of vanilla extract and lemon juice to desired consistency and drizzle over.

Wintertide

It is about now that I start wanting my house guest to leave.

“Winter,” I say, “Old Chap, is there anywhere else you need to be soon?”

He shakes his head through gales of frost.

I put on another cup of coffee.  Put another log on the fire.

The cold crops go in the ground in six or seven short weeks.  We will have bustling to do to get the new garden fenced and the soil ready.  We will devour the warm days as they come.  Spring will surely rise from the frozen ground.  I appreciate the rest, the rest for the plants and trees, the water, the blah, blah, blah.

‘Tis about the mid of January that I am ever ready for blessed warmth and activity.  Yet Jack Frost rarely hauls out slow so I must welcome the guest awhile longer.

The snow lightly covers the landscape as the golden sun arises and sends glitter across the lawn.  My winter puppy is in love with the season and leads his walk outdoors by mouthing up big gulps of icy snow.  I found a small, fallen branch.  Abandoned after falling out of yonder tree.  The sap still slightly sticky.  I brought it home.  It is the flower of winter, the conifer bough, and it sits proudly in its vase upon the stove.  (The only place the kitties can’t get it.)  It hearkens the beauty of winter-all of its reds and greens and glittered snow and great open blue sky-and reminds me to walk upon its icy tread, to breathe fresh air and not yet make the spring to-do list, but to visit geese and winter ducks and welcome the winter time.

For a few more months anyway….

 

Homestead Gardens and Winter Rest

20180103_073048The first seed catalogue arrived in the mail the other day.  My four year old granddaughter, Maryjane, took a sharpie and circled everything we need to order.  Instead of toys, she circles plants in seed catalogues.  She is one of us.

It is impossible, I believe, for a homesteader to not think of the garden at all times of the year.  I am creating a new space, roughly 500 square feet of ground.  A square, fenced in, next to the chicken coop, three feet from the porch turned greenhouse we are planning, and ten feet from the compost.  I dream of the colorful rows of fresh produce, the front yard of fruit trees and medicinal herbs, the patches of volunteer vegetables and wild foods.  But, these gardens, of course, cost money.  Fencing, glass, extra compost, and seeds do not come cheap.  I know it will all come together wonderfully and before I know it, I will be sitting here next year pondering the next season’s garden!

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I do love January, even if it is not my favorite month in the least.  It makes me rest.  We homesteaders aren’t much for rest.  We are a lot less anxious with our hands dirty, faces in the sun, planning, harvesting, moving.  The ground is asleep.  My fingernails are clean.  And I can dream, and January brings that lovely reflective sense of peace and accomplishment.  We dine like kings on everything we stored in the root cellar, freezers, and pantry from this last season.  We remark how beautiful our house is and our yard is coming together and in just short of one year’s time, we have transformed it into a working homestead.  Our hearts are overwhelmed with gratitude.

Hawks swirl and the large lake is out our south windows and the city bus rumbles by out the north panes proving you can homestead anywhere.  I write on my list that I need lamp fluid for the oil lamps and more tea candles.  Wood is chopped and piled by the stove.  The chickens are waiting to be let out.  The farm dog sleeps and I need another cup of coffee and a sharpie so I can start circling items in the seed catalogue and create dreams for spring.

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Gardening the Driveway

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I can see from the Google map of the house five years ago that people were parking their cars in this part of the yard.  There is a concern that oil and other chemicals have gotten into the soil.  Antifreeze lettuce doesn’t sound like a good deal.  The house has been empty for six months and I do not know how long it has been since folks parked in the garden, but…  I am looking at hugelkultur gardens, raised beds, and purifying plants.  We’ll want sustainable, inexpensive, and easy ideas and come up with a garden plan.  Tune in each day this week!  It might be a little early, but spring planting is right around the corner!