Sunday, January 19, 2020

The sowing season has started

Middle of the January is the best time to start our seedling season. Of course the first sown seedlings are peppers. This year I've decided to change my sowing routine due to the fact that this year I'm sowing it the heated and controlled conditions. Usually I've sown in pots and kept them in the house, but now I have my own gardening room and I can sow my peppers directly into my green coffin. We've added heating and growing lighting to the coffin and now it's a little nursery. 

I've sown 2 bags of the tomato peppers and one bag of bell peppers. They have been sown directly, without the pots and will probably stay in the coffin until the transplanting time when I will pull them out and transplant them to the garden. 

 Chilly peppers have been sown into my green round transplanting pots. I use them for the plants that I intend to transplant to bigger pots before placing them into the garden. 
The very hot chilly peppers such as Moruga and Bhut jolokia have been sown separately into small biodegradable pots which will be sown directly to the garden together with the pot.
If everything goes as planned I should have around 300 -450 seedlings of peppers depending on the amount of the sweet peppers I'll get. The last year was a disaster that gave me 5 seedlings from a complete bag of Botinečka pepper.

I've also sown some other vegetables and some early flowers. I've decided to give my cauliflowers(Violette and Erfurt) an early start because last year I didn't manage to get any big heads. The plants started forming heads in November which is too late for my garden and they ended frozen. I've also started early my Brussels sprouts which did have fruits last year but also started in November. I'm hoping that with a decent year and mild spring they will be in the garden in April and start giving fruits in September. 
I've also sown petunias for my balcony, hoping I gave them an early enough start so the would start flowering in July and a mixture of rock garden plants which I will sow on my retaining wall soil. The soil there is mixed with stones and leftover bricks and it is located on a very sunny place so I'm thinking that the plants that are meant for a rock garden would be a good choice for this part of the garden. Columbines enjoyed this part of the garden so I' guessing other rock garden plants will like it too.

I'm hoping this seeds will germinate in 14-20 days so I can start sowing my second batch of seeds that contain mostly flowers, early lettuces and onions. 

Saturday, January 18, 2020

2020 garden plans

January is a month in which my garden is asleep. Although this winter is a mild one and we haven't had a proper snow yet the garden is already frozen and there's nothing much to do right now. We managed to deep dig most of the garden, still there is a big part of the garden that has been left unattended. 

The upper part of the garden has a very poor soil due to the shade from the house and the constant water draining. So I've decided that this part of the garden will be turned into a flower bed next spring. I will also try to spread the garden down until the blackberry net and there I'll add another bed or few smaller beds with flowers. Right now we share the fence with our neighbor which is becoming a bit irritating because I can't bring my dog with me or he'll dig around the neighbors part of the garden so I'm thinking that with some luck maybe this year we will fence in our garden separately. Also I'm thinking about moving the fence from the right side to the forest and adding more space to my garden. The soil there is not too great and this part is constantly in shade, but due to the fact that I have problems with the sun on some vegetables like peas and lettuce I'm thinking that this could be a good part to sow them. They will not be exposed to the direct sun so there will be no worry about the early flower development in lettuce and peas will not start drying too soon.
This is still under consideration because if I do that my garden will almost double in size and I'm worried that it will be too much of deep digging for me. 

When it comes to bed planning I think I've managed to put everything on the paper. I've managed to rotate my beds completely. The crops that were on the upper half will now be on the lower half and they will be on the different beds. 
This year I gave up growing Borlotti beans in my garden. They take up way too much space and they are just not worth it. Last year I gave up on potatoes and this years it's the beans. The extra space will be used to sow bush beans such as Top crop, Bergold and Piedmont wonder which give me up to 3 harvests seasons.
I'll be sowing two pea beds(one upper and one lower) which will later be filled with lettuce and short growing vegetables. There will also be two beds of tomatoes(one upper and one lower) with roughly around 200 tomato seedlings(depending on the number of successful seedlings), a bed of sweet peppers and small parts of the beds which will contain zucchinis and eggplants.

The lower part of the garden will be filled with cabbages, chily peppers, leek, lettuces, pole beans net, chard and cucumbers. 
I've been having problems with cucumbers past few years due to the poor seeds and bad cucumber years(too much rain and heat combined) so I've decided instead of making 2 cucumber nets I'll make one net and one normal bed. I'll try and see if the cucumbers on the floor will grow better than the ones on the net. 
I still need to find a place for the watermelons and melons, but I'll probably plant them between tomato poles where it's the warmest but also the tomato leaves will give it shade.  

I'm still unsure what I'll do with the orchard. There are a few trees that are ready to be removed and others that haven't had fruits in ages. Maybe this year I will get them out and buy some new fruits or I'll get some berry bushes instead because they give fruits quicker and they are successful every year.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Monthly shopping - a big bunch of stuff

Living in the countryside can be very relaxing, but also can bring some problems people in bigger villages and cities don't think about. One of the problems is grocery shopping. Most people buy their groceries when they need them or do their shopping weekly. 
Since we don't own a car and we live on a big hill going shopping weekly isn't really an option for me. I can carry up to 4kg of groceries up the hill and let's face it many small packages come up to 4kg in a second. This is the reason why I do my shopping once a month. Luckily one of our stores has a home delivery so I order all my things online and they deliver them to the house, we can pay anyway we want and 90% of the times groceries are better than the ones in the store itself.

I order everything I need. Food, drinks, dog food, toiletries...basically everything except clothes, shoes and make up. Our monthly cost for all this is around €340 which is around half of  the Croatian average wage. Usually when I say how much I spend on my monthly groceries people look at me in shock saying that it's too much, mostly because I can't explain to them that I don't buy any groceries during the week. The only thing I buy extra sometimes is lettuce and that is only while garden is out of season. 
I usually get the question: "But you buy bread everyday?" 
No, I don't. I don't buy bread at all. I bake my own bread every 2 days, and I love to eat toast so I buy packs of Bruschette with spicy vegetables and cover the bread category.  

Today was the monthly shopping day so this is how it looks:
I order my things a couple of days earlier so I could get the early delivery which usually gets here around 8:30. Before the delivery I take Srećko for a walk, put the washing in the washing machine, prepare the boxes that I need to return to the seller, remove everything form the counters, make room in the refrigerator and the freezer and wait for the delivery.

The process of delivery usually takes around 15-20 minutes due to the amount of the boxes. All the stuff comes in cardboard boxes which we sort around the yard and after paying take to the second floor. 
I usually order on Saturdays morning because usually that is the day my hubby is home and can help me carry the boxes to the house, if he has to work Saturdays then I order on Friday morning because he usually works 2nd and 3rd shift. 

Once I empty the boxes I store them in basement and return them the next month. We get money for each returned box, but they are so good and strong I leave a bunch of boxes at home. They are used for everything, from storing to carrying wood to the house. 

Groceries are packed in categories and it's easy to store them. Freezer food is in bags that are taken out of the cooler completely frozen and they are stored to the freezer first. 
I buy lots of dairy products: 12 liters of milk, yogurts, sour cream, cheese, milk spreads and cheese spreads. I also get flour for bread, pasta( only one pack this month I have 3 packs at home), quickly made soups and pickled jars. This time I bought cucumbers because I have homemade peppers, chily peppers, beets and pattypans. The cucumber season was very bad so I save the pickled cucumbers for salads because they taste better than the bought ones.

When it comes to vegetables I buy lots in January because we eat lots of vegetables. We eat them every single day. I cook every day and most meals are vegetable based. The only "meat day" is usually Sunday when I bake meat or make some "junk food" like homemade pizza or hamburgers.
Our garden would have to be 3 times bigger to have enough vegetables entire year, also I would need to buy a freezer the size of the room to store everything. 
I still have kale, beans, carrots, garlic and a bunch of mushrooms that we stored from garden and woods but I had to buy onions, potatoes which I don't grow, zucchinis , peas, spinach, sour cabbages, champignons for pizza,lettuce and some green beans for soup. I also bought a big amount of leek because it was on 60% sale and I bought a big cabbage head for cabbage pasta. Of course I also buy fruits because bananas, tangerines and pears don't grow in my orchard(yes pears refuse to grow on this side of the hill). 

3rd part of my monthly shopping is deli foods and meat. My hubby takes sandwiches to work so I need a good amount of salami and sausages to make them throughout  the month. Also in Croatia most people eat cooked lunch and sandwiches for dinner so this is also our dinner if there are no leftovers from lunch for dinner. I get some cooking sausages which I use in vegetable stews instead of meat and also some pork and beef dices that can be used in stews and gravy 

When it comes to drinks I buy few bottles of fizzy drinks which we have on sunday, beer for my hubby and lots of vitamin fizzy tablets. Then there is also vinegar, salt, rice, spices, other cooking ingredients if i need them( I didn't get any this time), toiletries, freezing bags, trash bags, cleaning supplies and food for Srećko. This time he didn't need any food but you can see the amount of different treats he gets on the left of the photo.

This is pretty much everything I buy. 
When I get everything out of the bags I store things that can be stored immediately, unpack the ones that take to much space and start storing vegetables and meat. 
I don't cook meals but rather store ingredients separately because I don't have room for many small boxes. I have to unpack the meat and move it in the freezing bags to have more room. I also slice all the mushrooms and zucchinis  and store them raw. When it comes to vegetables I boil all my vegetables for a minute, cool and store in the freezer. 

I have to do all this because my freezer is too small to do it anyway other than that. My kitchen is in the attic space so I could buy only freezer up to 160cm tall. This size was the biggest one we could find and after the shopping it is completely full. 
First two shelves contain opened packages of vegetables and groceries.

Third box is for meat, 5th for deli.

4th for vegetables and the last one for already cooked leftovers that I use when I don't feel like cooking. Which as you can see isn't often because the box is completely full.

It usually takes me up to 2 hours to sort out and store everything that can be stored as it is. Then I run out with Srećko again, take the laundry to drying and return to the kitchen to slice and cook the vegetables. I usually finish around 2pm.

Of course somewhere in between I have to make lunch depending on my hubby's schedule. If he's home then lunch will be around 1pm, if he's working morning or night then around 3pm and if he works in the afternoon then everything waits in boxes until I make lunch or I get up at 4am to cook it before the delivery.

I try to plan my meals so that I can cook something quick. Today it was spinach pasta, which is done in roughly 30 minutes(pasta cooking time + time to cook spinach bechamel).

When everything is cooked, cooled and stored I empty the trash which fills up with bags and containers, wash everything that was used to cook vegetables, clean all the counters, walk Srećko another 3 times in between and then I'm roughly done with everything. This is usually in the evening when it's just the perfect time to fold laundry, take Srećko for another walk(yes Srećko has at least 6 pee walks a day) and have dinner. 

Doing a monthly shopping certainly takes lots of planning, storing and cleaning after but for now it seems like the best option. Each time of the month I have everything I need and with planned meals I don't have problems with the lack of ingredients which is perfect, especially in winter, when due to the snow we can be stuck in snow for days and sometimes even a whole week.