Chop Wood Carry Water Plant Seeds is a blog about Self-Sufficient Homesteading. How can we live by creating a sustainable bio-diverse world, instead of by consuming and destroying the only one we have? What kind of teaching have you got if you exclude nature?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Bad Gardening News

I decided to place fleece over the Swede, Turnips and Kale. I decided to take the fleece off and look whats happening under it and to my surprize the Turnips and Kale and not growing at all! :(
The Swede turnips (Majrova) are growing ok, not all of them sprouted but I'm happy with it. Normal Turnips and Kale are the ones which made me wonder what's going on. I stuck my finger into the ground and it seemed dry! How is this possible after all this rain we had last week? Somehow the rain washed down the fleece and never reached the soil I assume.
 The raised bed to the left are the Turnips and as you can see nothing came up! The right bed are the Swedes, not all of them sprouted but much better than the left side so I'm happy with them.
I should have covered the soil with a thin layer of hay as I did with other vegetables. I dont think I will be using fleece anymore. Hay shades the soil and keeps the moisture and the rain can pass through it right into the soil. The hay shades the plantlæets until they are big enough to pass through the hay. This hardens the plant.
Any way I watered the soil and and covered it with hay. I will order new Kale and Turnip seeds and if these dont start sprouting in two weeks time I will plant new seeds.

Tales from the Oak Cottage

Its the end of May and its nice and warm. The temperature is around 20'C. The kitchen garden has started to grow, slowly but surely :)
 The Potato plants are pushing their way through the layer of hay which is there to contain the moisture and suppress weeds. The Norli Peas have sprouted and the Onions are stretching their pointy leaves towards the sky :) Beetroots and Chard have sprouted too. The Beans are more cautious since they are sensitive to frost (which will not happen until winter arrives). The Turnips, Kale and Broccoli are growing too. Pumpkins and Squash plants are acclimating well to the direct sunlight and are multiplying their leaves. Can't wait to see them start flowering :) The greenhouse Black Cherry Tomatoes have begun producing flowers and so have the Peppers and the Chilli plant. The Green Tea plantlets are doing great so far (all 6 of the seeds have sprouted).
Its time to start hardening the Calendula and Borago which were growing
under the fleece all this time. Today I've exposed them to only 1 hour of
sun light. From now on every day I will increase sun exposure for one hour.
After 5 days they will be fully acclimatized to its strong UV light and can
be re-planted around the garden. 
The Hens are starting to look much better. Their feathers have almost regrown
Kristine holding and petting Betty which is very tame. She loves being held.
They love to sand bathe in the sun. Two of the hens have not yet regrown all their feathers.
We get 3-4 eggs a day which is more than ok I think :)
Our cat Sheba was an indoor cat for several years living with us in our city apartment. Now she is spending lots of time outdoors learning to catch mice, birds and insects :)
The Honey Bees are very busy bringing in lots of nectar and pollen. Spring is the time to increase the bee hive numbers because this is the time when bees are inclined to swarm and are building new Queen Cells to do so. I have already split two hives and will make at least 1-2 more nucs soon. More info on my bee blog

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Radish, Lettuce and Spinach are in the salad bowl

I didnt know that Radish leaves are edible :) so many times we ate them and discarded the leaves but not anymore ;) Apparently the leaves are more nutritious than the root!
Radish; Both, the leaves and the root are edible
So much Lettuce and Spinach :)

Snail proofing the garden

I have found one snail eating a Tagetes plant and another eating the Squash plant. I even found two native black slugs in the garden. Something had to be done since these snails are crossing over the raw wool!
Black Slug native to Sweden has crossed the raw wool barrier
This Black Slug is not known to create huge issues in gardens
as the Spanish brown Killer Slug does
I've got these metal snail barriers from my parents in law, so I decided to
put them to use.
I had only enough of these metal barriers for two sides.
Those are the sides where I find most of the snails.
Since I had only enough of the metal barrier to cover two sides of the garden I will have to continue with collecting snails and slugs and throwing them away. I even cut all the tall grass around the garden to keep snail/slug numbers low. Snails and slugs like shade and if the tall grass is far away from the garden they rather stay in the grassy area. Lets see how this works.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Raw Sheep Wool as a Snail Barrier

My friend Frida mentioned last year that her mother use raw sheep wool to keep snails away from her garden. Apparently snails dislike to go over the wool, something to do with wool fat I think. So I decided to try it out since I get quite a few snails entering the garden area which I collect and throw them out every morning. I had only enough wool to cover the two sides which get most snails, because of the stone wall and the tall grass in the neighbouring land.
Raw sheep wool as a snail barrier

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Escargot Nettle Soup

The first thing I do when I get up each morning is to get out with my dear dog Bailey, release the Hens, open the greenhouse and collect all the snails in the garden and throw them over the fence far away into the tall grass. The garden is protected with chicken wire fence which is 60cm tall. The fence has big enough holes so the Roman Snail can pass with its big shell. These snails ate our Beetroots two years ago and I'm making sure to stay on top of this issue this year collecting them twice a day. Of course most of them are out after the rain or in early morning. So far they are not an issue but I'm not sure how they will behave when crops start growing. The Brassicas are protected by fleece and so are the Carrots.

After I collected all of the snails and threw them far away from the garden I realised that people actually eat these critters! So I took a pot and went back into the tall grass and started collecting the Roman Snails intending to make dinner with them tonight. This is also a Nettle season so I planned to make a Escargot Nettle Soup :) I looked up on the net how to prepare the snails so to get rid of the snail slime and found one good web page in Croatian.
Collecting snails in this pesticide free environment
Boiling the snails in salty water with some apple vinegar to get rid of the slime
I boiled them for 50 minutes
After the boiling I pulled the snails out of their shells with a fork and cut off the intestines,
head and the end of the tail. The dish to the right is the final product (not much). 
Cleaned snail meet. Mostly the foot muscle.
Gathered Nettles and washed them. Cut 2 Onions and some Garlic too.
I fried the snails and onions in olive oil and butter, seasoned with salt and Thyme.
I mixed the Garlic with the Nettle soup and seasoned it with a few drops of Tabasco Sauce,
Black Pepper, Salt, Thyme, Bay Leaf and mixed the fried content into the soup. I also added Chickpeas to it.
On the side 2 slices of dark danish bread with butter. I did like this soup. The snails were tender
and a bit like eating Muscles. I just made one small mistake; I put too much salt but still it was edible.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Much needed Rain has arrived

For the last few weeks we had a very warm sunny weather with daily temperature around 25'C and at night 15'C. This felt nice indeed but plants need water in accordance to give fruits and the soil has dried out a lot.
I removed the fleece cover so rain can water the crops evenly. I did place a chicken wire on top of the raised beds because of our Hens which are big fans of Lettuce ;)
Rain drops on Lettuce and Spinach leaves :)
I left the fleece on the Carrots and Brassicas when I saw that the rain is penetrating through the fleece fabric. I think its better to keep the covered until they get a big bigger. They just begun to sprout.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Making organic liquid fertilizer from Comfrey and Nettles

Comfrey and Nettles are very rich in nutrients and can be found all over the fields. They are organic gardener's best friends indeed. Making such liquid feed for your garden is not difficult. I know about 3 methods and these are:
1. the most common one is to simply gather many Comfrey and Nettle leaves and bang them into a bucket with water and cover it. Place it in a shade and wait for it to turn very smelly. This is the anaerobic way and can produce many unwanted bacteria. Once ready mix it with water (10 parts water 1 part of smelly solution) and water the roots never the leaves.

2. the other method is to fill a bucket with Comfrey and Nettle leaves, fill it with water and add an air stone which is connected to the air pump (as used in aquariums). This gentle bubbling will introduce much Oxygen into the water creating an aerobic environment which results in aerobic non-smelly liquid fertiliser rich with protozoa, algae, aerobic bacteria and even fungi. All these are much more beneficial to the plants than the anaerobic solution. Such solution can be even sprayed on the plant leaves as pest protection. Plant leaves have many spores which parasites can live in. When this solution is sprayed onto the leaves it fills the spores leaving no space for parasitic life forms. This solution can be used as is without watering it down.

3. the last method is the one I use because it needs no water, no el-driven air pumps and it doesn't smell bad. I've found this method in the book called "Organic Gardening - The Natural No-dig Way" and is made like this:
Fill a bucket to the top with Comfrey and Nettle leaves (or just Comfrey) and push them down to press them. Once you collect enough leaves which are pressed into the bucket cover it and place it somewhere in the shade. Make sure no rain can get into it since this method is also aerobic and water would only create anaerobic smelly solution. I placed mine into the garage which is open during the hot days but without direct sun exposure. The leaves will turn into a black liquid after 2 month which doesn't smell. I will then mix it with water to feed plant roots. 10 parts water to 1 part liquid fertiliser.
Bucket filled with fresh Comfrey and Nettle leaves

Friday, May 17, 2013

There is time for gardening and then there is time to rest

Never naked soil!

I am covering the whole garden with hay and wood chips. I do this for many reasons and these are;

- the cover keeps the soil moist and one needs no irrigation. Plants which have even moisture grow well and strong so their leaves don't get easily attacked by pests. Covered soil need 95% less irrigation than naked soil. One must only water the first time when planting the garden then cover and be happy :) The occasional rain will be contained in the soil by the cover which would otherwise simply evaporate.

- the cover provides food for myriads of microorganisms, fungi, nematodes, earthworms and other kind of insects. Rich Soil Food Web can easily keep pest numbers low since all these critters eat each other and by doing this they stay in balance. So no need for pesticides and the earthworms keep the soil aerated so no issues with compact soil which.

- the cover breaks into compost which is feeding the plants so no need for extra fertilising. Covering with more organic stuff like Comfrey and Nettle leaves will add all the nutrients plants need. Occasional fertilising with liquid Comfrey and Nettle water is a bonus and can be done late in the summer when plants are large and are producing a lot.

- no need for crop rotation because the cover introduces big variety of plant species in the hay and wood chips. Crop Rotation is needed on a naked patch of land where only one single crop is being grown, which will develop pests if the same crop is used over and over again.

- the cover keeps weeds at bay so no need for laborious weeding and no need for pesticides.

- the cover is a perfect companion to "permanent raised beds" which means one needs no machines to till or rototill the soil.

- the cover creates perfect pH because of all the bacteria, fungi, and decomposing materials in the soil

Thanks to the cover I can relax and enjoy gardening rather than being on a treadmill and constant alert :)
 For example this photo shows one of my raised beds on the South side of our cottage planted with Popcorn and Sunflowers. They are planted into compost soil and covered with seasoned wood chips. I have watered this bed only once a few weeks ago. It was very hot here for the last few days and the naked soil moisture can easily evaporate since nothing is shading the soil.
 Plants are growing fine
2 cm under the wood chips the soil is very aerated and moist, teaming with earthworms and life :)
Never naked soil is my new mantra ;)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Mulching the raised beds and my Gardening Mantra

It started being very hot and the water in naked soil evaporates fast when exposed to hot sun so I decided its time to cover the raised beds which are planted with a thin layer of hay just to shade it a bit. I did not apply too thick of a layer because the sprouting plantlets need some light and space to grow through the hay. This method will protect the seedlings from direct sun which can easily burn them. Even if the soil is only lightly covered the hay does provide partial shade which helps keeping the soil moist. Once the plants are a bit bigger I will apply a much thicker layer of hay.
The first bed is covered with hay and contains Onions. The second bed is Carrots and is covered with fleece which protects from the Carrot Fly. Next bed in the same line are Beetroots (covered with hay) and another one with Parsnip.

The other part of the garden is organised other way around so;
the last bed to the left is Fava Beans then Sarpo Mira potatoes which are resistant to potato blight, in the same bed behind them is naked soil where the rest of beans and peas will be sawn, then the next bed are Strawberries in the cage made from chicken wire to protect them from birds, behind it is an empty space with naked soil which will be planted with Freeland Cucumbers, then there is a long white fleece covering 2 beds with Swedish Turnip (Kålrot) and normal Turnip (Majrova), next is a bed with partially planted Purple Kale and behind it there is place for the pre-cultivated Broccoli, Kale, Turnips which are at the moment inside the greenhouse. The next bed is planted with a sort of potato we have no name for. Next to it along the fence is a very early sort of Peas called Norli.

At the very back is a triangle part of the garden where Squash and Pumpkins are planted and covered partially with fleece and partially with hay.

I still have to find space for Chard (Mangold) and some more Lettuce and Spinach which I've already planted into raised beds on a different location on this property.

I'm planning to plant Beans and Peas tomorrow so will place them into a glass with water overnight. This way they sprout much more easily.

I made up my gardening mantra which I recite while planting endless seeds :) and it goes like this;

"Seed by seed the life will start
The shining Sun will do its part.

The falling rain will do its too
So the wretched human might have its stew"

Stay tuned more to come :)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The garden is almost totally planted

 I planted flowers into the circle and covered it with seasoned wood chips. Strawberries at the back protected by chicken wire.
 Strawberries too got a fine wood chip mulch.
 The herbs are starting to grow. I thought that the Catnip had died but :) its starting to grow new shots :) My cats and the bees will love it :)
 Borage and Calendula are growing nicely 
 As you can see in this photo I covered all pathways with hay to suppress the weeds. I also covered Brassicas and Carrots with fleece. All the soil will be entirely covered with hay once the vegetables start growing. I dislike naked soil. Naked soil is dead soil. Covered soil supports the Soil Food Web and keeps healthy plants because of all the microorganisms and earthworms s living under the cover. The cover also keeps the moisture in the soil. Naked soil needs 95% more watering than covered soil :) this alone makes covering perfectly sane :)
By the way, not to forget, at the front are the Squash and Pumkins also covered.
I didnt have enough fleece so I used an old method of protecting these young plants with hay. Just lightly applying some hay so the light can still penetrate through it and the plant can push the hay away when growing. 
This is our small garden above the summer house which we used in the past. It developed white fungus which attacks onion plants. Our Garlic almost entirely died out. I decided its time to plant cover crops like Phacelia and White Clover for the bees and to enrich the soil with Nitrogen. I covered the seeds with just a tiny layer of soil and on top of it a thin layer of hay to keep it moist. Thicker hay on the sides to suppress the weeds.

In a few days I will start planting the rest; free land cucumbers and Beans/Peas. They need warmer soil.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Raised beds finished, hay gathered and planting has begun

 I have raised the last beds and cleared some more weeds Im sure there are much more weeds left but they will show themselves after the first rain. Then I will weed them out. That is their main disadvantage :) they must start growing and then they will be mine ;) 
 First to plant was the Fava Beans
 Second to plant was the Hungarian potato sort "Sarpo Mira" known for its resistance to potato blight disease which almost all other sorts are effected by. I even planted some potato sort we bought last year, which started sprouting in the fridge.
 Third to plant were the Yellow Onions. I will buy some Red Onions tomorrow.
I also planted Beetroots.
 I'm planning to cover the whole garden area with hay to keep the weeds at bay and to contain soil moisture and in turn the rotting hay will feed the microorganisms and turn to compost, but I had a problem; I have no hay so I asked my neighbour Nils and his wife if they have some to sell and they said to take as much as I need for free since they have no animals anymore and the hay is just sitting there :) so that is exactly what I did. I moved quiet a bit today and will get some more tomorrow. To show them my gratitude I gave them two Black Cherry Tomato plants which made them happy :) The most valuable thing you can have in life is a good neighbour. There is an old saying "When in the morning you get outside of your home, first look at the Sun then at your neighbour" :)
At the end of this lovely day we enjoyed a Nettle Soup made from the Nettles growing wild around our cottage. We even made an omelette with eggs from our hens and Ground Elder which we also gathered around the cottage. The last was a pot of tea made from Nettles dried in the solar dehydrator, dried Raspberry leaves and Peppermint :)
This was a very nice day.
More planting continues tomorrow. Will blog about it of course ;) 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Creating raised beds, Boogie man. new greenhouse plants and year's first lettuce

 Did I tell you that I killed my organic green house cucumbers? Well, I did and this is why; I watered them too much and transplanted them too early. Next year I will plant them into the toilet paper cardboard tubes so no need to transplant them and the tube it self will keep better moisture in the soil. Lesson learned! So we thought that we will be without the long cucumbers this year. I went to a local gardening shop and they sold cucumber plants for 20 Euros !!! HOW MUCH!!!??? 20 Euros! That is waaaaaayyyy too expensive for one plant and it wasn't even organic! On my way home I visited another shop and they had cucumber plants which cost only 4 Euros :) You are guessing right, I did buy 2 plants and they fit perfectly into the greenhouse :) I also bought 1 Jalapeno, 2 red peppers, 2 Rosemarys, 1 Moroccan Mint and 1 Lavender. I also got some more seeds/bulbs; carrots, onions, white clover and Phacelia tanacetifolia for the bees.
 The 3 days garden digging and weed removal took a toll on my body. I was VERY tired today. I did sleep well but I woke up with a feeling as if someone beat me all night long. At first I though to take a day off but then I took an hour nap and after that I felt much better (but still exhausted) and felt to start with making raised beds in the garden. We have no time to lose since warm weather is here. I did half of it today and will do the rest tomorrow. The dog is NOT allowed into the garden area ;) Sorry Bailey
 Since we have all sorts of birds, rabbits and deer in this area I decided to make a "Boogie Man" (scarecrow). From now on I will not feel lonely in the garden ;) I will also hang a few CD's onto his arms which scares the animals by reflecting the light.
Today we tasted this years first lettuce mmmm the finest lettuce I've ever tried ;) In this image you can see new lettuce starting to grow on the side and the spinach is growing between the large lettuce.
I hope to start planting alot of stuff tomorrow so stay tuned!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The land is cleared of weeds

Yes! :)
The kitchen garden land is at last cleared :) It took me 3 days to clear 130 square meters of land which was heavily covered in all sorts of perennial weeds like Nettles, Ground Elder and Couch Grass! Tons of it! I'm not kidding!
My muscles are aching and I've never sweat so much in my entire life!
This is how it looks before I begun to clear it
After my neighbour tilled this land I started clearing the weed roots
 3 days later its finished :) so happy :)))
The stone wall is almost totally covered with weeds which were removed from this patch of land ... all the way ........... down the wall :) there were some old tree roots in the ground as well which I had to dig out!
Now its time to fence the entire garden area to protect it from rabbits and deer.
After that is done I will be making deep beds and then its planting time :)
Stay tuned!
p.s. I think I need a hot shower