Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Very Happy Thanksgiving

Waking up early this morning to put in the roasted butternut squash pie and then the Turkey breast, I am humbled to look back upon this year and the many blessings it has brought. With the Detroit Thanksgiving Day Parade in the background, I am thinking back to the year past and all the people who have helped me put together and run Sage Advice Nursery.

I am grateful for my brother, who has come alongside me and now supports my running Sage Advice. At first he was very hesitant to endorse the business, but now he comes to my open houses and is wishing for me to succeed.

I am grateful for the people who have put in hours of physical work in the business. Without their help, I couldn't have produced all the plants and products that we offer. Their counsel and labor is greatly valued. Thanks AJ, Pam, Erin, Vicki and Paul.

I am especially indebted to Vicki, who has allowed me to take over her yard and fill it with a greenhouse, growing plants and a vegetable garden. Over the year we both became cancer survivors together and got very interested in growing our own, wholesome, clean food. I treasure the relationship I have with her and hope I can build the business and get more to her as my 'silent partner'.

I am grateful for God, nature and all the bounty that is offered to those who work by listening to the earth and the plants. I am still thrilled by the simple miracle of a seed sprouting and growing into a beautiful plant.

I am also indebted to my customers and grateful for their support. Customers become friends and friends become customers - thank you Robin, Margo, Jackie, Sue and Jim, Lenora, Mary Anne, Janet and Steve and all the others who have helped me get beautiful perennial plants into gardens.

I value the friendship of all the other vendors I have met and worked with at the various markets I attend. They have educated me and helped me learn the ropes of 'farmers marketing'. Thanks to Carolyn, Carl, Jo, Debbie, John and Nick, Jerry, Grit, Rob and John. I always look forward to setting up next to you.

I am grateful for my new friend Jean, who is mentoring me about the finer points of selling produce and, by bartering services, is allowing me to participate in the markets that she runs. It has sent me into a new and exciting direction of taking Sage Advice Nursery into a business that not only sells plants but the bounty that they produce.

There is a light snow falling softly on the nursery and yard today. It imparts a coziness to the warmth of the kitchen. The turkey is just about to go in and the pie has just come out and I've made the pineapple-ginger compote to go on top.

The nursery is yet to be put to bed. Plants need to be cut back and put into wintering positions and covered.

Have been thinking hard about my grow list for 2014. Will be doing lots of plants from seed this coming year. Will also be growing more varieties of herbs and getting serious about producing vegetables and some fruit plants for sale in 2014.

Will also be selling produce all year long now as I will be participating in a new farmers market  - The Garden Gate at Goldner Walsh Nursery that will take place on Sundays starting in May. I also hope to set up a small produce buying 'club' or 'co-op' with first some friends and neighbors. With our collective buying power, I think we'll be able to afford to get fresh, mostly organic produce, meat and grains at a decent price.

Finally, I am grateful for this season of winter, a time of reflection and renewal. I am looking forward to the holidays and time with friends and family and a chance to spend time with my 'family' - dog- Griffin, cat - Smokin Jo-Jo, and horse - Skipper.

Thanks too to all my friends that check in here to read the blog. I wish you and yours a very, happy Thanksgiving.


Checking in with Tootsie Time this week for her roundup of gardens around the world.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Got My First Bean!

The tall pole beans in the Oakland County Greenhouse garden are starting to produce! This is the first bean I picked. Not quite straight but narrow and with a good 'beany' flavor. I hope to pick enough of these to add to a cold quinoa salad I'm making for a Thanksgiving feast.

The garden is producing like crazy. Lots of lettuces, but the Black-seeded Simpson lettuce has 'stretched' - like bolting, with a long stem, but the flavor of the leaves is still good. Still sweet and slightly crispy. The spinach is bearing small, dark green leaves really well and is a favorite of Vicki's. Feeding about 6-7 people off this bed, so feeling good that it is producing so well.

The next step will be to clear out several areas - like where the Broccoli Raab is and a spot where I'm harvesting lettuce, and to resow. Going to start another crop of radishes which will be about two weeks behind bed two, to keep a succession of veggies coming. I will probably sow more arugula and spinach for harvest when young and tender. They both make great braising greens or are a wonderful addition to soup, but for salads the sweet, young leaves are best.

The later we get into the year, the harder it is to time the growth of the crops. When we go below 10 hours of daylight - which we are just about at - the crops just sit there and stare at you. They don't have enough light to really do their thing so growth slows to a minimum. Once we get into February, light levels come back up and there is quite a surge in growth in the winter garden.

Also have to keep busy sowing in Vicki's greenhouse. Need to clear out all the mums and perennials, clean up the place and get some containers filled for growing greens. I realize it is late in the year, but just last week harvested the rest of the blooms on the mums for market.

We have just started the winter market at the Old Winery Farmers Market in Farmington, Michigan. We've got two booths in the choice, first position. I am blessed to be bartering web-work and publicity help for the booth rental so that frees up the budget for me to get AJ to help me. I've got about 32 feet of tables to fill and it is kind of an involved set-up with sawhorses and plywood, tables and then chairs for us. I am grateful for AJ's help in loading and unloading the van, and he's doing great selling too.

We had a good first day with a lighter crowd and a bit of everything was selling. Parsnips were the big seller and the jams did well too. Was able to talk with a few people about sprouting their own seeds, as well. Education is a big component of marketing and I am always happy to share with customers recipes, tips on growing and other useful information.

Am really pleased that with the help and contact of market manager, Jean Smith, I am able to offer Michigan-grown, certified organic produce this week. I haven't seen the quality of the product but farmer, Eric has been really straight with me about size and has told me about flavor. I'll have brussels sprouts - outdoor grown, where the colder temps make the sprouts sweeter, onions, radish, garlic, leeks and baby Chioggia beets. Chioggia is an heirloom variety with concentric rings of deep red and white throughout the root. Another bonus is that they don't bleed when you are processing them or cutting them. I am really pleased that Eric's prices are so reasonable that I'll be able to offer this quality product at the same kind of price that I do the conventional produce. So often the complaint about buying organic produce is that the prices are so sky-high but I am so thrilled I can provide it at a great price point.

That's part of the mission this winter. I feel so strongly that folks really need to pay attention to their food and nutrition and that it is so important to create scratch-made, 'real' food. I came to cooking quite late - not until my thirties - and if it wasn't for the food network and cooking demos on TV I don't know if I ever would have learned how to cook. Before that I lived out of convenient, microwave boxed meals, that, while easy, have got no heart and soul, much less nutrition and a high sodium content. It takes planning, forethought and time to cook from scratch but I am of the opinion that food is basically medicine that we take in to nourish our bodies, and cooking one's own home-grown or local farmer-produced food is the best thing we can do for our health.

I have the great privilege this weekend to be on the Fox 2 Saturday morning news. I've been selected as one of the vendors to be interviewed and I am excited to be able to show off this week's offerings. If you are in the area, please come stop by and say 'hi' and check out the wares of the 30 vendors who will be there. We also have a mini food truck rally going on and a free cooking class on Kale pesto. So come get a recipe and take home lunch.

If you can't stop by, thanks for dropping in here to keep up on what Sage Advice Nursery is doing. I am linking this week with friend Tootsie's blog - Tootsie Time  who has a gardener's roundup each week of blogs from around the world. Stop by and see what people on the other side of the world are doing!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Goodies for Market

 Got my sprouting seeds a week ago and have been having a ball trying out some different varieties. Ordered Alfalfa, Red Clover, Radish, Mung Bean, Wheatgrass, Green Peas and Sunflower seeds - certified organic and kosher from Starwest Botanicals. I have started and eaten a mixed salad blend from Dollar Seed and had great success with my new four-tiered sprouter. Also tried mung bean in a canning jar topped with cheesecloth - works great! Just yesterday I started some radish seed and we'll see if they have the peppery taste they're supposed to have.

To the right is a shot of the mixed salad blend. Nice on sandwiches and, of course, great in salads. Very easy to grow sprouts. Soak the seeds for about 4-8 hours, put them into the sprouter or jar with mesh lid, then rinse them two to three times daily and drain. With the sprouter you just pour in water and it trickles through the trays and is collected in the white bottom. Just dump the bottom collection tray before filling it again. When the sprouts have reached the size you want, you can rinse them to wash off the hulls but with little seeds I don't bother with this step. Then, store the sprouts in the fridge.

The four-tiered sprouter is great. The fourth tray is in the fridge with a lid and a finished batch. One can start four different varieties at a time with this or just use two trays at a time - two in the fridge and two in the growing phase.

Got our first snow this week as well. Frosty parsley leaves.

The Nicotiana ;Fragrant Delight' was such a performer going right up until the snow took it out.

Also got a bunch of spices and teas this week from Monterey Bay Spice Company, cinnamon sticks, chai tea, an orange spice tea blend and a few other blends including a mulling spice. Also got do it yourself tea bags that you fill and iron closed that I will fill with some of these goodies.

The sprouting seeds got individually packaged into 3x5 plastic envelopes and labeled. Got about 10 bags per pound - very generous seed packets. Will be selling them at the Old Winery Farmers Market for $2.00 each or 3 for $5.00.

This is the real simple jar sprouter I made with mung beans on their way.

Also cut all the chrysanthemums in the greenhouse as they were having their last hurrah. Great warm autumn colors. Stripped the stems, trimmed them and bunched them for market.

That's the excitement for this week. Will be headed to the Detroit Produce Terminal in a couple of hours to get produce for market. It will be my first time buying down there so I'm not fully sure of what I am in for. Amazing place - football field sized piles of onions, beautiful boxed produce from all over the world - saw lots of persimmons. some quince, nopales  and other mexican vegetables. For someone whose heart goes pitter-pat at the sight of well-grown fruits and vegetables - it was a beautiful sight.

Jointing Tootsie Time for her Fertilizer Friday roundup of gardens and gardeners from around the world.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Greens Are a Coming In

Went to the Oakland County Greenhouse this afternoon to trim, thin and harvest. I also had to water both the growing and newly seeded bed. Spent Sunday laying out and seeding the second bed and sowed 17 varieties of greens and herbs. I still need to clean my recently harvested parsley seed and sow that soon too. 
 The first bed is growing by leaps and bounds. When you can watch the bed and track it carefully, you very nearly see the daily growth - something I usually don't observe in the outdoor vegetable gardens as closely. The beans seem to put on 6 inches a day and are starting to twine around themselves up the pole. As you can see, they've hit the tops of their poles and would probably grow to twelve feet if I had the trellis or head room. They've just started flowering so I expect we'll have beans in a couple of weeks.

The lettuces and arugula are planted tightly, so they've been developing long stems that need to be picked off before they go into a salad. The leaves are good and sweet, one friend I gave some to said the lettuces tasted just like butter.

The radishes, now 5+ weeks old, are getting almost too big to pick. Joe, on the greenhouse staff, suggested roasting them with a bit of olive oil and salt and said it takes away any bitterness. I think I'll put them into a mixed root vegetable roast that I plan to do tomorrow.

Love taking pictures of the nasturtium leaves, their variegation is so pretty. This variety is 'Alaska' and I'm hoping it will trail like the ones I planted last year. Haven't tasted these yet, am waiting for some more foliage before I harvest.

Here's an exciting shot of bed #2 . Well, exciting to me anyway. Nothing like a blank slate in which to sow some beautiful seeds. Amended the bed with composted manure as it is a straight peat-perlite mix and added some soil moisture crystals to keep the peat moist. Once that peat dries out, it is hard to get wet again.

Here is that blank slate - not quite so blank anymore. 2 kinds of radishes, 2 kinds of spinach, more dill and broccoli raab - and of course, my favorite - arugula. Had trouble last year with aphids on the arugula and had to rip most of it out. So far we are aphid free but that is subject to change.  Have sowed the new bed at new moon so I expect it will take a few days longer to see the seeds sprout. The first bed I sowed at full moon and the seeds were up in a hurry. So we'll see if the tidal pull has any bearing on the timing.

Just love the bright lime green of the Black-seeded Simpson lettuce played off the dark greens of the beans and other plants. Definitely a candidate for outdoor landscaping - maybe using it as an edging for a flower bed?

As I said - the beans are flowering and here's the proof. First flowers I've seen with lots to come. We'll have to see how well the vines hold up with a load of beans on them. I've been twining them around each other so they can  use the other plants for support.

First small heads on the broccoli raab. So far I've just been eating it raw in salads but the stems and soon-emerging buds will make their way to the skillet in the near future. I probably will saute it in olive oil with a touch of fresh garlic and a splash of good balsamic vinegar. This is the first year I've grown it and so far it's a success.

That's the indoor veg garden tour for today. Have been eating salads daily and enjoying them immensely. Nothing like growing your own food!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Pre-Holiday Musings

Awoke darn early this morning/night from a stupid dream that kept repeating in my head. When that happens, I know it is just time to get up and do something else. My friend, Paul, calls this time of the wee hours "fire watch" - when he gets up for a bit, re-stokes the wood fire and then goes back to bed. I tend to get up early and, having no wood fire to stoke, usually wind up on the computer, either writing in the blog or surfing sites and blogs that I've wanted to catch up on. For me, it isn't frustrating that I can't sleep - I just turn it into a productive time.

As I got up, I turned on a string of multi-colored "happy lights" to cast a soft glow in the corner of the front room. When I saw the colors, I got a real cozy, holiday/winter feeling - you know, that kind of mood when you just want to bask in the warmth of the moment. I guess the retailers have done their is just past All Saint's Day and already I am thinking Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Here's a shot of my new lights. I have a touch of Seasonal Affective Disorder this time of year as it begins to get dark...and, like the practical, cheesy, decorator that I am, I string the lights and keep them on. The kitchen lights have been in place all year and this string will probably stay up through the dark months.

Meanwhile in the nursery and gardens...I have been avoiding going out into the nursery, both here and at Vicki's, as the weather has been about 10 degrees below normal. The long underwear has finally come out of storage and the sweaters are being worn. Where is our Indian Summer?

So much to do yet in the nursery - cut back all the stock that is not evergreen, clean up and put down weed mat in the small-potted plant storage area, move a bunch of flats off of benches and tidying up both greenhouses and getting them ready for the real winter weather that is to come. The big greenhouse, at Vicki's, will get a new configuration with the benches - just waiting for the end of the mums.

Decided to let the mums bloom - since I haven't sold them, perhaps I can sell the long-stemmed blooms as cut flowers. Mostly bronzes and oranges, they have lasted for a good week in a vase on the table. The picture shows them just going over.

 I kind of like to
let flowers go over the hill and watch them, sometimes their demise is just interesting - to see them slowly start to change and go by. Flowers are so ephemeral - maybe it is because I want to hang on to each season and not let it pass by so quickly.

The garden at the big Oakland County Community Greenhouse is growing well. The pole beans have reached the tops of their supports and are threatening to grow on anyone who stands near them too long. Have been harvesting lots of greens for salad and for braising and soups. It has done so well, that I went ahead and purchased another bed for the winter. The lease is good until mid-April. We'll have bunches of greens for everyone.

The latest venture that I have been spending lots of time on is the new Old Winery Farmers Market "store" I'll be setting up each week on Saturdays. I plan on selling fresh produce, cut and potted herbs, a few teas and some spices, plus jams and my baked goods. Have been searching out produce suppliers in the Detroit area and watching prices, collecting materials for moving and staging the products and deciding how much money I can afford to spend. Lots of brain spinning and thinking through.

Have found some interesting DIY tea bags, that come empty, are filled and get ironed or heat sealed up. So I decided to make some herbal teas, mulling spice bags and some black tea mixes. Am not big on the green teas, they upset my stomach. Also have a couple of friends that I'm trying to recruit into baking or doing some wooden, decorative reindeer for me.

It should be a time to kick back and reflect upon the summer past, but I'm not quite ready for the couch yet. I suppose when there is a foot of snow on the ground I'll be ready to sit and thumb through all those magazines that came this summer and never got looked at. Everything will come in time.

Linking to Tootsie Time for her weekly roundup of gardens and gardeners around the world. One I read is an Aussie, who has just started her spring garden on the other side of the globe! Check it out.