2 acre farm: December 2009

2 acre farm

The experiences, trials, and lives on a small farm in rural Illinois.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Extra Cold Frame

So the Two Acre Farm winter production isn't look so hot. My plan of growing spinach through the winter has officially been obliterated. The plants are looking alive and green but no growth and as the pictures show they aren't exactly overheated. Although I haven’t ever put a thermometer inside the mini greenhouses / cold frames I am certain they stay significantly warmer than outside. I came to this conclusion when I discovered the dirt is frozen several inches deep outside but inside the cold frames it isn’t frozen at all yet, good to know. I could make things better by putting in extra panes of glass or extra insulation but I am not that interested in spinach in winter. I had a gut feeling these would wind up for seed starting but I figured giving them a shot as mini greenhouses couldn't hurt.

On the bright side we have a great place to start cold hardy seedlings without taking up space inside and they gave us some beautiful displays of frost. The way the frost has formed reminds me of grass or feathers. I am not sure which but it really is terrific. I hope everyone enjoys it.

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Annual Tree Hunt...bringing life back to an old family tradition

(back post 12.12.09) One of my favorite childhood memories, and perhaps one of my families only "real" tradition, was driving to Southern Missouri in the hopes of finding the perfect Christmas Tree. I grew up in the suburbs of St. Louis County and every year my grandfather would make the drive down from Springfield, Illinois and pick us up in his old blue truck. Year after year my mother and step-father would cram into the front cab with him and since the truck bed had a camper shell my childhood friend Katie (whom was always up for the ride) and I would ride in the back. Every year their was always this great sense of adventure and excitement as we traveled to the tree farm bundled in our best winter gear, riding along in the back of that old pick-up truck.

Finally, and usually after much debate, my mom would choose the perfect tree which we would cut down and then toss in the back of the truck. Both Katie and I were strategic in our plan to avoid the needles and squeeze around the tree. However, despite our best efforts neither one of us ever figured out how to completely escape from the short, stiff needles of the over sized spruce tree. I'm not quite sure why or what brought an end to our tradition, but once it was over the assembly of the artificial tree took the place of our family's annual tradition.

Normally Nathan and I take our daughter to pick out a tree from the local boyscout or VFW stands, which usually happen to sell trees cut from local tree farms. Like years prior, that was our plan for this year, but after seeing an article in yesterday's paper I was reminded of my favorite Christmas childhood memories. This year Nathan and I decided that we would bring life back to an old family tradition and make it our own. Hence...the "Annual Family Tree Hunt!" So, today we set off on our first excitement filled expedition and finally found the perfect, local, cut-it-down yourself Christmas Tree.

Pictured: (Left) Nathan & our daughter try to decide on a tree. (Right) Completely overlooked and a little neglected, we discovered our perfect tree hiding at the back of the field amongst the overgrown brush. Our daughter uses the saw to make the first cut...well she makes a great attempt! (Middle) The first Christmas Tree at our tiny 2 Acre Farm.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Fox Hill

Aimee snagged some photos of one of the foxes the other day. We have at least two of these guys living in and around our woods. I know there are two because I saw two either playing or fighting early one morning. I don’t know a lot about foxes but I am thinking maybe the mates stick together and a mated pair is what I saw. We have seen them around a few times now and I even had the opportunity to watch one chasing a rabbit which was a remarkable thing to witness. They really are a cool animal to observe.
We plan to get some laying hens next spring so it is unfortunate that such a beautiful animal is probably going to become our worst enemy. For now though we can just enjoy them in all there sneaky fox endeavors. Sorry the picture isn't bigger, apparently they don't like to stick around and smile for the camera.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Ready For Winter?

Despite the radical weather fluctuations common in the Midwest the unseasonable November weather has been truly bizarre. Over the Thanksgiving holiday my Uncle John, now living in California, confessed that the warm morning air of the Bay area felt cool compared to that in St. Louis. Just yesterday, December 1st, as I was headed outside in a t-shirt to pick leaf lettuce for dinner, I noticed the wireless weather station read 71 degrees Fahrenheit. Although I am grateful to still have fresh produce in the garden (lettuce, spinach, kale, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage) it is now December and I am ready for winter to come...well, at least I think so.

Even though, Nathan had mentioned last night that the forecast was calling for extreme temperature drops over the next few days, and I also heard yesterday on NPR that they were predicting snow in today's forecast, the truth is, it just sort-of went in one ear and out the other. When it's 71 degrees and your outside working in the yard on December 1st, well, I guess I just didn't pay that much attention. However, I should have know that when it comes to weather in central Illinois...anything is possible. Pictured above, today, the first snow of the season!

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Still Going Strong

Not sure how much longer it will last but the garden keeps producing. The picture of lettuce is from yesterday. It is December now and we still have broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, spinach, carrots, and kale in the garden. It doesn't quite feel like winter yet but it is getting colder. I imagine any day now we will get some consistent cold that will finally wipe some of the crops out.

I already blanched and froze a bunch of cauliflower and broccoli. I also put a few heads of cabbage in the back of the refrigerator; according to what I've read they should keep good like that for a few months. I am considering freezing some kale for stir fry and spinach for cooking before the temperature gets in the teens, temperatures below the mid 20's will wipe out kale and spinach. I am just not sure if we will put it to use.

I don’t mind the early winter production and actually expect a certain amount of it but lettuce in December is a bit extreme. As long as the weather stays this way I don’t mind, although it is a bit worrisome, global warming and all that…

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Only 10 Days Later...an update on the terrarium

It didn't take long for the tiny seeds to emerge from the damp soil...only 10 days. The planting took place on November 19th (see blog posting "A Moment of Sunlight") and so far this project has been completely maintenance free requiring no additional watering (notice the condensation on the walls of the clear container). The reused pretzel container has proven to be quite cozy for this variety of plant life and surprisingly the elderly seed has seemed to flourish in the enclosed habitat.

Although the mixed flower seed was more of a convenience (the only seed readily available on hand) and not the ideal, I can hardly wait for the fantastic blooms to add a touch of color to our kitchen during the white of winter! It is always so exciting to watch in anticipation the growth of the gardens in the spring, now the rewards have been brought indoors.
click on any picture to enlarge

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