Thursday, March 27, 2014

Germinating Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

By now most of you have heard of the plight of the milkweeds, the monarchs and other milkweed dependent species. Boo! We all need to take action and plant some milkweed and all sorts of other native plants in our home landscape. We've planted milkweed here in our native plant gardens and this year decided to try our hand at germinating common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) and potting it up. Milkweed seeds need cold and wet stratification, which we achieved by simply leaving the seeds outdoors until this spring. We then tried 3 different seed treatments prior to planting: no treatment, soaking seed in warm water and sealing seed in a plastic bag with a wet paper towel.

After 24 hours of treatment, we sowed the seed on a moistened potting mix medium, put a lid on the tray and set it on a heat mat. We achieved quick germination of all seed treatments.

Look at all these happy little plants!

After the plants germinated, we made individual newspaper pots to transplant the milkweed seedlings into. The pot maker is one of our favorite gardening tools! We don't receive a newspaper at our house, but a quick stop at the local recycling facility sets us up with enough paper for a year.

You can see our pot maker in this photo:

We just love these sunny days and so does can spy her in the window.

We transplanted a hundred or so baby common milkweed plants. They won't be able to stay long in these pots with their super long taproots so we will see what we do next. Even during transplanting, we noticed how long those roots already were. Wow! This plant species is notoriously difficult to grow in pots because of their growth habit, but our goal isn't to keep them in pots so will keep you all posted.

Here's a couple great resources if you want to take action:

Xerces Society Project Milkweed

Monarch Watch Bring Back the Monarchs

We've shared it before, but this is such a powerful article to read:

Gardening for Life, Doug Tallamy

It's encouraging to us that there is action be taken! Let's do it before it's too late.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Happy Vernal Equinox 2014!

We are so thrilled to experience some warmer days and thawing earth. We've been working in the garden whenever possible. Steve, being the super star he is, works in the garden after a full day of paid work, then comes indoors and works on wiring and bathroom gutting. That's a schedule not many want to keep, including him, but we will make it!

We are removing last year's growth from our garden beds in preparation for broadforking once the soil dries more. The main path got a new layer of straw and we are working on some new trellising designs.

Happy day! Look at that blue sky....we've really made it! The woodcock are finally calling up here in Morrow County and the turkey vultures returned a few weeks ago. Bird song increases every morning and nest making has commenced. All great signs that spring really is here.

We are piling some low garden beds with lots of organic matter and will add logs and soil soon to give hugelkultur a try.

The chickens are loving the milder weather and are doing a great job making lots of compost and laying lots of eggs....5 a day! We've experience some serious chicken drama here as evidenced by one hen (Little Girl aka L.G.) separated from the others. This story is a whole different post we will get to soon.

 Happy Vernal Equinox to all our blog readers!

Friday, March 14, 2014

And Bathroom Project 2 Begins...

Steve's been tearing into our old bathroom, unearthing all sorts of gross smells and rotting wood. Overall though, we are in decent shape! We will see how the transformation goes.  Exciting!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Look Who We Saw: Rusty Blackbirds!

Don't mind our poor pictures...just be excited about the Rusty Blackbirds! We saw a handful at Gleason, a Morrow County Park District property that will open this spring. (If you want to volunteer with us to help get this park open and assist with other parks, let us know!)

"It’s probably North America’s least-known blackbird, and the one most in need of attention. Rusty Blackbirds breed in wet woodlands across the boreal forests of northern North America and winter largely in the southeastern U.S. Breeding males are glossy black; breeding females are a silvery, charcoal gray. During winter, both sexes are extensively rusty, but they lose this coloration during late winter and spring migration. Both sexes have bright yellow eyes.
Sadly, Rusty Blackbirds have the distinction of being one of the most sharply declining songbirds in North America. An estimated 85 percent to 95 percent of the population has been lost in the last half-century. Scientists are unsure why, and they’ve formed an International Rusty Blackbird Working Group to work on the mystery.
To solve it, they need information on where these birds are—and that’s where you can help. The Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Blitz is an organized effort to get birders to go out during March through mid-June to search for the species. Each state, province, and territory in the species’ range has been assigned a specific timeframe to search—Alabamans start on March 1; Alaskans get going in late April—so that the results can be compiled to produce an overall picture of Rusty Blackbird migration. The goal is to understand migration routes and to identify key migration hotspots that may be important to conserve.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

And the 2014 Gardening Season Begins!

Yes, it's still winter and yes there is fresh snow on the ground, but the 10 day forecast is improving and it's March - time to start our early season greens.  Our low tunnels still have a bit of kale growing slowly, but the rest of the greens succumbed to the many subzero degree nights in central Ohio so it's time to start new.  Yay!

We started kale, several types of cabbage and early purple sprouting broccoli indoors this past weekend.  We planted some winter mix salad and spinach out into the coldframe too; it can't hurt right?!

Bounder kept us company during the seeding and got really involved when...

I started processing dried peppermint from last summer.  This cat is a mint fiend!

We are all appreciating the sunshine and increased day length. (Daylight Savings Time starts this weekend!)

 Alvin is absolutely savoring this sun patch.  What's up with his mouth?

This cat positively glows sometimes!

We also finished processing our dry beans by removing the pods, chaff, etc. This bean variety is Good Mother Stallard and is quite pleasing to see and eat. Homegrown beans, homegrown onions and homemade bread, what a satisfying picture.  Now, if we can just figure out how to grow avocado here!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Map As Window Treatment

Our recent half-bath remodel was missing one small touch that we finally figured out using a map that we love but is too large to fit on any of our walls (our old farm house has small rooms and lots of window so large wall spaces are few).

On the right, below, you see the built-in cabinet that utilizes old window sashes for the doors. This is now part of the new half-bath but we wanted to liven the doors up a bit since someone had painted them brown. Scroll down to seen what we did!

First, we made a plywood template based on the size of the window panes.

Next, we used the template to cut pane-sized sections from our too-large-for-our-walls map:

After lightly sanding the pane and back-of-map-section surfaces and cleaning the panes with lacquer thinner, we attached the map sections using Mod-Podge glue:

And there you  have it!:

We solved two problems with a fun and easy project that improved our bathroom and encourages us to see more of this great country!