Saturday, February 20, 2010

tobacco- a review of our first year

We took down the last of our hanging tobacco yesterday afternoon. It now looks very naked out under the car port as we have had tobacco hanging in there since last July. While I was stripping the leaves off the stalks, I began putting together a list of in my head of  some of our observations now that we have  gone through  an entire cycle of growing, curing and smoking of our chemical free cancer sticks. So, without further ado and in no particular order are some of our gleanings as tobacco growers.

The curing and aging  of the tobacco is not the most difficult part of  the process. Topping and worm picking  are. These worms are no ordinary worm. They make the tomato  worms  seem little in comparison, in fact I am convinced  a small child could use one as a ride on toy in a pinch. These worms have a huge appetite and can devour a plant in short order. The best control for them is picking them off and stomping them. Elder wisdom says to mashum up and make a spray of their parts and spray the plants. Good idea but even more time consuming than the pick n stomp is.  The top/pick sessions take a good amount of time daily. We had about 100 plants and it took us between an hour and two hours  nearly every day.

One would think, or I thought that tobacco wouldn't have many pests. After all it is pure nicotine and one of the most potent insecticides there is. WRONG,  it has plenty of pests  and with the sheer  size of the plants and leaf area  it means oodles of pests and oodles of spray   to counteract  these pests. A pump sprayer and not a spray bottle is what we would recommend to folks growing any amount of tobacco.

When we first started researching tobacco and growing it  for ourselves the average  yield per plant seemed very low at 3-5 ounces each. This is no lie, it really does shrink down to that little bit of nothing. For the two of us here that equals approximately 3 days of tobacco. Needless to say we are fixing to run out of tobacco.

Not all tobacco is considered equal.  We grew three type of tobacco one of which  was awful. Be prepared to try a couple of different strains and see what works for you in your situation. Our silkleaf variety last season was our favored tobacco for  growth, amount of yield, curing and flavor. This season we are going to try a a couple burley varieties and see how they do.

Space is a huge factor when growing your own  tobacco. From seed to storage  it requires space and lots of it. A couple hundred seedlings  takes a fair bit of space to house. In the field it requires a good 4 sf per plant. We tried skimping  a bit on the spacing and this year we will go with at least that spacing, maybe increasing it  to 5 sf. Once pruning and harvesting begins  you need to have a weather proof area to hang it all  to dry. On the individual leaves  hanging is best done in small groups by a string that pierces through the leaf vein. Tying a string around the cluster works well until the amazing shrinkage begins and they begin falling to the ground. Of course you don't want to hang too many together or hang them to closely, because, in humid, wet weather it  will mold. Airflow is crucial. If you live in an area where temps go below 55 or so  any unfinished tobacco will need to go to an area where temps can remain above 55.  At that temperatures it no longer  dries or cures well, ask me how  I know.

In our ever greedy, money driven world  a person is led to believe they need  high tech  equipment to grow your own tobacco This is untrue. It is just another thing  to get you to go out and spend your hard earned money on  stuff that isn't needed. With a bit of improvisation, common sense and piecing things together to  make it work for you it shouldn't cost several hundred dollars.

And finally if you smoke think about papers, how many you  will go through in a given amount of time  and where you are going to purchase them all. Switching to a pipe may be the best alternative for you as the  cost  of papers adds up over time and you can bet it will only keep rising as more people switch to growing their own instead of buying  tailor made smokes. Pipes are not the most convenient thing to smoke from while out and about working  but for sitting around relaxing  they work  quite well and are cheap to come by.

Friday, February 19, 2010

peas-Pisum sativum

There are three basic type of peas available to a gardener. Regular peas - where you remove the peas inside,and the pod  is not edible. Chinese Peas - A flat, edible podded variety. But, the peas inside are tiny and edible podded ,where both the pod and the peas are edible. They are more tender when picked while still small.This to me is  the most  sensible way to grow and eat peas. There is no time consuming podding, no waste,  and they are nothing but fresh from the garden goodness.  These types of pea  are often called 'Mangetout' or 'Snow peas'.

Here on the homestead we grow  only the edible podded types of peas.Over the last several years we have tried a few types of them  and our own personal favorite is the Oregon sugar pod  or Oregon sugar pod II.

These are an heirloom variety of pea developed at the University of Oregon. They are edible-pod snow peas that are not only not only extra sweet, but an extremely heavy yielder. Pea pods are 4-5", thick (up to an inch wide), stringless when young and  are very tasty. The peas on this variety are also double born or twins thus increasing yields(studies show 21%-50% increase in yield over other snow pea varieties). They are a bush variety pea and grow to about 30 inches tall. It doesn't need to be trellised, however, we have found that is does do better with  something to cling to. It is often recommended that you plants these peas with a tall growing oat much like corn is planted with  beans so that you  have not only a living trellis but another crops that boosts soil fertility as well as another food source. These peas freeze very well and do not lose their color making them an excellent source  of tastiness all through the year. These are  well flavored and excellent for steaming, stir-fries, salads  and  are pretty awesome fresh off the vine. They are one of my favorite kid (big ones too) friendly plants. The Oregon sugar pod  is resistant to both pea enation virus and powdery mildew, unfortunately human predation is a threat to  this  pea.I am forever chasing the humanbean out of my pea patch. If i didn't, we would never have any make it to the house.

Peas are one of my favorite early spring veggies to grow. The plants are very pretty, the flowers beautiful with a sweet, mild aroma and the pea itself is divine. They are easy to grow and are planted as soon as the soil is workable. It is one of a fairly small group of vegetables that actually do much better in the cooler temperatures than they do warm. Peas can tolerate mild freezing temperatures and recover fairly well if snowed upon. Peas actually stop growing altogether  when the air temperature hits 75 degrees consistently for any length of time. They are a short season crop with  most producing in under 75 days leaving plenty of time for a different crop altogether or a second planting for fall in mid-late July.

Today I planted about 50 sf of  our peas here. It is a bit early but if i wait until we plant  potatoes and other cool weather crops it leaves a very small window for them to grow and produce before our weather turns too hot for them. About 15 sf of them  I planted in the gh and the rest are  outside in a raised bed that can easily be covered with a mini hoop house if needed. I cant wait to see the results from attempting  to plant this early. I will follow up this planting with another  closer to the proper time of planting, just in case.  Gambling with  my seed is something I enjoy. A failed crop is only a few cents and  lessons learned while success could mean many more meals provided. It is something I find worthy to try even if I do lose.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

the potato experiment

We save our own seed taters here from year to year. Normally we do it by cutting the pieces of potato and planting large chunks just as we all have learned  through the years. This year in my quest for stretching things and making do, I have decided to use some of the eye growing potatoes that we have in storage for cooking and just cutting a tiny section of the potato off with the eye.

Instead of 2-3 inch sections of potatoes going in the ground, I have 1/4 - 1/2 inch pieces that I am going to attempt to plant and see how they do. If this idea works, it will give us  quite a few extra potatoes to eat on   until harvest time that otherwise would be hacked up and thrown  in the ground.

Any time I make a meal with taters I am cutting the eyes off with just a tiny portion of potato attached to them and putting  them in the cold storage room to chit. I am then using the remainder of the spud for whatever it is I am making.

So far most all seem to be doing well. I will be planting a few samples in the gh tomorrow and seeing what happens with them. The rest I am hoping to string along until planting time next month on St Pat's day.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

kidding time

The first two does have kidded.They chose yesterday afternoon and last evening to begin this years session of birthing. If you are wondering,  yes indeed it was the worst day of the year. Goats have the uncanny ability to do this each and every year, they are just speshul that way.

 Three kids were born  so far, Vinegar had twin boys but one didnt make it and Chloe, our tiny girl had a big ol boy that is just as white as snow.

We dont coddle and coo after  the animals here, they are either strong enough to make it on their own in their own environment or they die. Over the years I have found that the more I interfere with the circles of life, domestic or not, the more trouble I make for everyone involved in the end.

indoor and GH fall/winter garden 2009


A few pictures of the indoor  plants today

Monday, February 15, 2010

monday's mountain musings

AHHHHHHH, finally  Gumbalina entered the world late last evening or middle of the night our time. She checked in at 20 inches and 7 pounds 6 ounces.Her given  name is  Allie when  she is  well behaved and Allison Marie when she is ill willed and rottenness. As of this morning everyone was doing well  and "she is the best behaved, happy, prettiest, good eating and good sleeping baby in the entire world !" Fitting since she was a valentine. However,  I did tell momma  to remember those words for  the first time the little darling  tells mommy she hates her.

Oh, I just got word she is saying gramma already...