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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Playing Catch-up

I really don't have the amount of time on my hands that I used to. Writing on the blog is harder now than ever with so many obligations. I think it is funny how striving for a simpler life can get so complicated. Progress on the new house is a bit slow, but we did get the concrete poured in the garage over the weekend. Our plans to rent backhoe and dig in the geothermal and septic will be held off because of permitting. My husband has to take a class on septic systems in order to be allowed to install it himself.  the class is not offered until late October, which really sets our schedule back. So in order to not lose too much time, we will have to concentrate on other projects that also need addressing before the weather breaks, and turns bitter cold. I have been praying for fall to set in, the weather is so lovely to work in, but now I feel like maybe it will come too soon. It is not that we have to have any of it done by a certain date, but we are all in a hurry to get it done, for the sake of sanity and simplicity. we all just want to move to the country!
Yesterday, as I sat on the back porch I saw two pairs of mating hawks, circling and diving with each other and calling was really nice to watch them. I then decided that perhaps I could get a better view of the back field from my upstairs bedroom window, and instead I saw a flock of 10 turkeys, walking around, heads down.  searching for food. There are a lot of Oak trees in the small area and they were munching acorns and grains and oblivious that I was following them....well, until I had to make a scene swatting mosquitoes! They were so viscous!
I really enjoyed the experience, and the quiet...but it made me feel discontent with our situation. The helpless feeling of being on a schedule that is not your own. I am willing to set to any task, if it leads to my goals, and at present, I don't feel like I have a task!
In town, there is much to do. Much that I should be doing right now, too. There are dishes, and laundry, as usual...there is bread to toast into crumbs, dinner to plan for tonight, and the budget to go over and over, how to save a dime here, pinch a penny there, to make it all work. there is that lingering guilt that I should have a job, even though I don't have the time, and would likely not have the energy. But I will be working soon! Not only have I recently become manager to our new property and a landlord, but I also have some budding business schemes to help us to pay the rent. We are rolling over the ideas in our heads and trying to decide the best ways to make a profit that will sustain us. We can't make back enough on renting out our house to pay all the bills. And Mick can work in town for now, but eventually we will need to make a decision on what is going to be the end product, what is the end result, what is the clear career choice for us both?
Farming is obviously still my goal. Sustainability is a HUGE word and a goal that is hard to attain in modern times. Is it really possible to grow and gather all that a family needs to survive? I feel like that could become stressful, very quickly. But what are the best ways of slowly implementing this into our daily lives? How can we slowly creep towards self sufficient life??? It takes more than reading a few books on the topic, and planning spring, summer, and fall gardens. It takes more than buying canning supplies and a dehydrator to save food for an entire winter. And can it be done in today's modern age? Can I do it, with my limited time? And resources? What are the best first crops to try, that will work well on the land I already have?  Will my failures on the small scale equate to lessons that will hold valuable in the long run? Will it help me become a real farmer???

I know I have outlined and re-outlined, in daydream fashion the steps I would take if I acquired a farm. And now I have. So what is next?
This is what I hope for:

  1. Build a coop and raise some chickens for egg laying. Learn as much as possible about raising poultry and taking care of them well, organically
  2. build or buy a beehive (skip). Learn as much as possible about raising bees, and harvesting honey. Learn how best to store the honey and beeswax.
  3. Plant crops that are good forage for both bees and chickens. Plan rotational grazing for the chickens, and develop a plan to encourage nectar in all cropping plans. Plan for weather considerations for both.
  4. Begin cover cropping new ground. Plant green manures or compost on fresh sites, and begin first, a vegetable garden for us, and also some field crops for sale, or storage on a larger scale than in our personal plot. Hops, Strawberries and Asparagus I think are obvious first choices, as well as brambles like black berries, raspberries, loganberries, dew berries, and some natives like gooseberries and elderberries. Begin laying out a vineyard. Learn as much as possible about harvest and storage of small fruits. Learn to make wine (for personal consumption), juice, jam and jelly (for storage).
  5. Learn more about field grains. Incorporate their growth into crop rotation, green manuring practice but also, try harvesting the grain, if even just by hand with a scythe. Our property is not so large that we can't do it manually, if divided well.
  6. Begin to coppice existing trees, and begin to plant more. Hardwoods, nuts and fruit trees. Plan to involve natural conditions for later spawning mushrooms in the shade of the "woods". Harvest, cut and stack fallen tree limbs for fire wood. Use a woodburning stove, and keep harvests small and sustainable.
  7. continue to plan for more planting each year until we are able to grow more than enough food for seasonal eating and storage. ( I feel this one will take some time to master)
The best I can figure, I can start on a few tiny projects at the new place, but in all honesty, I feel it is better to continue to grow as much here in town as possible. I would rather not have to transport my harvests, or to further complicate outdoor activity at the new place, for now.....but there are a few things I could get a head start on, for now...

more soon, I hope! :)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Carpenter ants

Well, I am back again today! After my update post, I had some research to do because I found that there were swarms of flying ants hovering around some of the windows of the new house. I knew that wasn't a good thing, but didn't know what to do.

 I did the wrong thing! I should have googled it, before taking action. I instead, went to CHC Do it Best home center and bought a gallon of insecticide.  I had seen some ants in the house before but on Wednesday and Thursday we had torrential downpours and the sheer number of winged ants was dismaying and scary. One even bit me, when trying to crank open the window! :(
So I hosed them, good old american overindulgence...I sprayed every damn ant I saw!!! I don't want them to eat my home from the inside out before I even have a chance to move in! Dumb Bunny! I should have followed my gut instinct that there was a better way and better tool for the job.
Diotamaceous earth is an organic substance comprised of a fossilized coral or something and acts as a dessicant, drying the insects bodies out, or in the case of soft bodied insects such as slugs or aphids, it will tear holes in their crawly little bodies and kill them.  (thank God I am not a Buddhist, eh?)
Anyways....folly of my thinking, now I have no clue where the main nest is, and if the poison acts as a deterrent, I may never find out....Baits are the way to go...and some homespun concoctions of sugar/borax water will suffice, but any combination of sweets and protein should draw them in, although many things would suffice, now that I have read a bit, I am confident in my new approach....
Carpenter Ants like sweets, even when it is not real sugar. I have been telling friends and family since I was 9 that nutrasweet and Fake sugars are BAD FOR YOU. And cause cancer, and God didn't want you to put it in your tea! I don't even like splenda, to be quite honest, but perhaps if I had a weight problem I would feel differently...but I don't like the fizzle it makes when it hits my coffee, as if I added baking soda or pop rocks to it. So I came across the information to back it up, and I didn't really read it all, because I guess I was smart enough to know from the git go that I prefer to eat the fruit of the earth and not that of a test tube or petri dish...but to each his own....some folks just trust that the soda pop companies and manufacturers have their best interest at heart. I on the other hand have always been leary of anything that sounds to good to be true....there is a reason that phrase is so catchy! ;)
I only read enough to know that I will continue to not use the products for my consumption, or my families...and I would sure love to try killing something with it to prove my point! LOL :)
Now that I have screwed it up for myself {ah, what was I saying in the last post about learning from utter failure? As Always! :)} I will have to see if they reestablish themselves in the house, and follow them to their nest so I can find the main colony.
From what I read (I really didn't expect anyone to read all those links, now!) These winged swarms are essentially new kings and queens of mayhem and destruction, and come from a parent colony...their job and destiny, as will all living things, is to get laid, and to find a new home...or maybe find a new home, and then get laid....EITHER WAY....Both male and female can have wings, the males, as always seems to be their misfortune, are expendable, and die shortly after mating....the female, however, is broken free from her wings, and doomed to domestic life...when her wings fall off, she turns into a house wife, burrows a hole into my pretty little house, and closes the "door" with a pile of sawdust, to lay and hatch a BAGILLION eggs inside the comfort of my slightly moist, but still sound joists and rafters (little *&^%$#@#$%^^%%^$%^&*ers)
She will make all flavors of babies, including more queens to colonize some more, but the heirarchy was pretty interesting. Two types of workers and differing sizes of winged creatures, and great drawings (as if I care to know this, but now I do) of the body types, one hump or two.
It was pretty cut and dry for me at this point that this is a serious very naughty problem, and only God knows how long they have been at it here......Just another one of those lovely little presents left behind by the former owner, who obviously was "on top of their game" in the respect of taking care of their business, bless their hearts, I hope they figure it out someday....but now,it is my burden, and so help me if I will allow them to do any more damage to my dreams! I will sort it out just like any other hurdle, obstacle or obstruction to my path to happy! A colony of house eating insects will not ruin my plans! Never! Not so long as I can fight!
I hope you are enjoying my narrative, here, because I am having fun, but suffice to say, my solution is to put away the nuclear holocaust for a moment, and resort to an easier method...I will offer both moistened sugar/borax paste, which is the old school poison...then also I would like to try to kill them with equal....In many sites I visited today, it said to give them a choice between the commercial varieties offered, and they will develop a preference. So I will do the same from home-made. I may incorporate honey and borax as well, seeing how they may prefer the more organic choice as much as a modern human would....But the concept of killing them with something that is supposed to be fit for human consumption is intriguing because I know that my inlaws use it all the time, and I have wished for them to stop. I am unsure that even if this works as well as the website proclaims, that they will stop their habit of fake sugar,and instead take up jogging ....and drinking plain water...but it is worth the proof to myself in any case, and if effective, it is just good to know!

Anyways, if it works, I will try to post proof!

Breaking Ground

Normally on new construction you "break ground", but because the new house is already framed in, the ground is "broke" BUT.....this week marks the beginning of construction for us. We are starting our work in the garage now. We have our gravel delivered already, and are planning to have it spread by the end of this weekend. By next weekend we hope to have the concrete poured and the floor finished, then the doors delivered and installed.  I am hoping to be able to clear out all the materials from inside the house and have them neatly organized in the garage for our base of operations, and be better able to move about the house, when the time comes.
Now we are trying to line up and plan for the outside work with the backhoe and installing our geothermal HVAC system. I am very excited about going green in that respect, and hope it pays for itself over the years, as promised.  I really would love to be net zero someday, and this is our first step in that direction.  As soon as the garage is complete, we are renting the machines to dig trenches and holes for the geo, the septic, and the water lines and gas lines ....and installing the thousands of feet of pipe to make it all function properly. The plan is to get all this outside work complete before the weather shifts, usually in October, but sometimes earlier.
The Ozarks is very prone to flooding, as we have found out over the last few days! The highway coming in to our place is completely flooded and is an "at your own risk" situation coming in. I have found at least one road to the east that is on higher ground, but have yet to find the southern path in that is above the water table in times like these. I must cross 2-3 flooded roads to get my daughter to Pre-K, and I think I see a bus in her future! :)

As for the property itself, the water seems to really only collect a lot at the bottom of left field...which is GREAT! In comparison to our current house, that is literally underwater during flash floods, this will be a huge relief from that. We can hole up in our house, without much worry of being washed away or constantly worrying about the sump pump and if it is on or not. (speaking of, I better go start it!)

My garden here in town is still in full production. The kentucky wonder pole beans were so tough for eating green I have decided to let them go, and shell them.  My tomatoes are still producing, and ripening, but many have shown signs of blossom end rot, and I have to throw them in the compost.  I planted some more bush beans, not too long ago, and we will see if they make it....with the weather staying like it is, which means, changing everyday, it is hard to say if I will harvest anything from that sowing, but I figure it was worth the effort, since the seeds are still fresh, and it is yet another opportunity to see what works or why it doesn't. Funny how failures become so valuable...but let's hope that I get SOME harvest before the cold weather.

Trapping season will be starting soon, for my falconry. So keep a watch in October for my other blog, Dust of Snow, to see if I catch a Redtail, and if it catches any bunnies!

I have been hard at work both in Springfield and Rogersville, trying to keep up with 3 houses is a real chore. But with my split schedule, I am able to prioritize and use my time more wisely than before, and have been spending much less time being idle, and getting things done. It is so exciting for my daughter to have started school this year, and I am so proud of her for her efforts. My son, too, is excelling and becoming more responsible now that he is an upper level elementary student, I hope that he values the goal setting and uses his new skills to his advantage. I may be transerring him soon, if work continues to progress at a fast pace...and I truly hope that it does. I would love nothing more than to move by Christmas, but if not, I would love to be in before spring!  I can hope for it, but not bank on it, as there is so much to do!

We WILL do all we can as fast as we can and get this project going at a steady pace. Our first month's labor is fully planned I believe and can be accomplished in the time frame we are setting. I am very very very excited to be starting. It is funny how much hard labor can get you excited, and how all the little sacrifices, like skimping on the food budget and all extras can really pay in the end. how little I miss the extra channels on TV, and would be just as happy to be out of contract with "Dish" than to watch tv at all! I could care less about entertainment, because I can't wait to sit on my porch swing and watch the birds and listen to the cows moo...and boy do they!

In other news, the Hedgpeth's have put the roof back on their barn, and I am excited for them, even though I have ever met them! I had hoped that I would have a chance to stop in, and introduce myself as a new neighbor....They named my street, after all, and probably used to own my land, and everyone's around us.
We are also nearby neighbors to people that work for the  Rocking Z ranch, who often supplies fresh farm raised beef for the restaurant that my FIL works for. I think their ranch is located elsewhere, but I see their trailer, and think they must be in association with them. That is exciting, because I hope to someday be able to afford to buy a full cow's worth of beef and grind my own burgers, etc.  I love the idea of local foods, as we know from my previous posts, and I feel like the luckiest woman in the world to be moving right into the heart of farmland, and in the area of so many old time farmers that have been in the industry of raising food for generations. I only hope that some one will adopt me as their apprentice and mentor me in the ways of doing it the old fashioned way.
As most rural families will attest, the simple life is pretty complicated, but all that sweat of the brow pays dividends in character and the warm fuzzy feeling of taking care of yourself. I really am in love with my life today.  As I drive to the new place, my eyes fill with happy tears of gratitude and love. Appreciation and thankfulness...I am blessed. So very blessed. Thank you lord for allowing me the opportunity to live my dream. Thank you lord for the strength to make this happen for us, the chance to try, the gift that has been granted to us, to do this, the life that is ever changing because of it....I am in awe of life. And some days I tell myself, that I have never been so happy to be alive as I am now. Even on a bad day, I think to now have everything you have ever wanted, you are the luckiest person in the world...don't let anything change that. Don't let your attitude be the cause of your demise....instead, change your outlook about a drawback, learn what you can, and plan better in the future...and I promise, Lord, that is what I will try to do. Everyday for the rest of my life...I will make the best of each minute of each day, and try to appreciate all you have afforded me, and all that we have created for ourselves. I have to give us a little credit, none of this would be possible while sitting idly by watching life happen.

Carpe Diem!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Audrey and her cousin, Emily

Free ride day at the fair

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

How things were built "back then"

As you know we are remodeling an older farm house to rent, to allow us to afford to finish a new farmhouse, to live in, on 12 acres.
Work on the old farmhouse has been going along nicely. we have replaced the entire floor structure in one bedroom, off the garage. We have now moved on to a seriously dilapidated and rotten floor in the living room. The Floor was collapsed, we think, because of a cast iron woodburning stove. (that was supposed to sell with the property but didn't). This room is what we think comprised the entire original home in 1920, and as is the norm, was added onto repeatedly since then.  The newspapers in my previous post were beneath several layers of linoleum, above the original hardwood flooring (tongue and groove, fastened with square nails)
The layers went from barn wood subfloor and railroad tie floor joists, to the original layer of hardwood. then tar paper backed linoleum type product (added after 1955), then a double layer of cardstock paper, more linoleum, a layer or tarpaper, and even more linoleum, then OSB subflooring (obviously a later renovation) carpet padding and carpet. There may have been 4 layers of linoleum, I can't recall, but definitely at least 3 layers! It was a lot of work getting all that out, and gingerly removing the hardwood, to hopefully refinish and reuse in another room.

Saving the hardwood will be a neat adventure, as we had hoped to do so on our current home, but it turned out that it was pine, and much too damaged to try to use. I am hoping to clean, and lightly sand the flooring, and consider if stain is needed before finishing it with poly urethane.
The pillars and joists were an interesting discovery.
The wood used for the original joists are milled lumber (very rough) and perhaps rail road ties. Or some similar beams. The pillars were constructed by using stacked flat stones.

We plan to add a new footer and foundation wall and rebuild the floor structure completely. we are debating how much of the original structure to leave behind. And perhaps repurpose some of the old pillar stones somewhere at the new house, as a "keepsake" of the older history of the property.

Monday, August 2, 2010

A Time Capsule Under the Floorboards


I love sunset out here! :)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Green acres

I am excited to announce that Green Acres and Misty Skies is OFFICIAL!!!
We officially have ACRES!!!
When I started this blog my intention was to document my experience in growing food plants and other useful plants. To share with readers my advise, and what I have researched or learned through experience while gardening in my small urban back yard.  Well, my yard was never really all that small for a city lot, it is over .5 acres....long and narrow, and full of weeds and brush...a real jungle! 
Our new place (Yes, officially ours!) is 12 acres +. It is also long and narrow, full of weeds and brush and worst of all ..... the largest crop of Poison Ivy I have ever encountered.
Typically I tend to lean towards organic....sometimes I will use a fertilizer, mostly just compost, and rarely if ever use herbicides.....well, that has changed too. With the devastating rash my son got from camping at the property, we made the decision to buy a real herbicide to eradicate the invasive plant. And hopefully, not have to rely heavily upon the use of the chemicals after that...we are using a product known as CrossBow.  It is safe for stock animals to eat after a short period, so I feel a little safer about using it, and it does not kill grass, as round up would. It is a mixture of 2 4-D, and Triclopyr, that kills broadleaved plants and perennials, such as poison ivy.
I am not in love with the idea, but we really don't have much choice.

Now we are facing a myriad of projects. Absolutely, never-ending.  In order to afford "the farm" we are forced to repair and renovate an old old farm house in poor condition to rent out, to help cover costs. We are also going to be finishing the building of a home that was left by the previous owners unfinished. With my husband and my willingness to persevere through nearly any hardship or project, I think we will accomplish great things.

As for farming, well it still seems like a distant dream. We now have 3 homes to care for and maintain. We have obligations as landlord, as well as our other obligations.  We have a lot of work ahead, and farming is at the end of the line, it is the prize for all this stress, discomfort and labor.  But it is a good prize, it is my dream, and I will work hard to earn it all. From the house, to the land, to having this opportunity given to us, and driving it home.  This is what we have always wanted. And I will be living my dream.  I feel blessed. I worry only about the money to fund the projects, not about the work. I feel like the work is what makes it all possible, but better still, it is what humbles our character in order to deserve it. And that is our intention. To earn every acre, and to take care of every blade of grass, every last poison ivy plant on that lot is MINE, and I have to care for the land, the way it should be.
I have about 3,000 questions about rural living, farming, and husbandry. I have a billion ideas, and a trillion dreams to realize. I will need luck and faith. Hope, and help!  But I can't wait! 

here are a few pictures of my green acres, I hope that they are as beautiful and serene to you as they are to me. I love this land......I adore it. Sometimes when we are at our empty house at dusk and I see the sun setting through the window of my unfinished bedroom, I think to myself, this is heaven.....I could die right here, right now, and be at peace. The view of the setting sun, over green fields with a backdrop of trees, with cows mooing softly, mocking birds diving off posts and cicadas chirping through the night, I realize:

this is my driveway and barns

                                                                                  Two beautiful walnuts

                                                               6 acre pasture I call "left field"

                                                                Our new house tucked in behind some trees.

                                                     This is the view from the kitchen and the back of the house.
My daughter's bedroom, and the kid's bathroom share this view, along with my deck and dining room.
                                This picture was taken the day the hay was baled, on my husband's birthday!

This odd little nook is from the laundry/mud room. On the left is my garage, the right is the house, and porch.  You can see the front "yard" has been hayed as well.  And (unfortunately) there is a single wide trailer obstructing the view to the barns and my field of poison ivy.  There is a brushy area in the center of this picture, just behind the hay bale, that is a "pond" but really, is more of a trash dump site, and mosquito hatchery. Too bad mosquito breeding isn't big business, we'd be rich! (and farm poison ivy, too!)
We are having the trailer hauled away, and cleaning of the debris left by the previous owners is soon to come. We are going to treat the pond, until we figure out what to do with it, and have time to make a good decision...I am not against having a pond, I just don't think this one is very healthy. If we could clean it up, and landscape it, it could be a sanctuary, but as it's the pits!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Garden Snapshot

My camera was taking extremely blurry pictures the last few times I have tried to use it. SOMEBODY (shouldn't point fingers) messed with some settings, and I haven't quite figured out how to take a normal photograph! BUT, I turned on the macro function to get the close ups I have really been wanting all along.
This is a beautiful white rose that came with our house. It has been moved several times and this is definitely where it will forever reside! It has the slightest blush of pink, but in bloom is pure white inside. Likely a floribunda or something along those lines. It blooms once a year. This year on mother's day, and the last several years, It's been on my daughter's birthday. So I often refer to it as Audrey's Rose, since it was blooming when I had her! :) This year, I was able to cut a few for my Mom, for mother's day, and she was so excited, she said she hadn't seen a white rose in a long time.
The Blueberries photographed beautifully with the macro setting. I have been really wanting to get their close-ups for a long time. You can see the bloom of the fruits, and the crowns on the ends! Love it! :)
The peas have grown quite a bit, which is good, since I planted them in March! They have been flowering for several weeks, and have set plenty of pods....I am just waiting, and waiting, and waiting to pick something!
Here is a cool under leaf shot of the Brussels Sprouts...maybe...we'll see what this particular one looks like in another month...they look an awful lot alike at this stage, but it will soon become clear which is which. I really don't get too terribly worried about marking out this and that....It's a kind of  plant identification exercise for me throughout the growing season!  I have let a bit of the garden chores get behind, and the walkways need mowing, but really, the garden is coming along nicely. I will be making plans for some more succession sowings very soon, once the growth rates begin to increase with the temperature.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Garden Picture update


On the left is a picture of the peas and little broccoli. At right, is the same bed taken from the opposite side of the bed, just today. The broccoli is around 10" tall and the peas around 2'. I added stakes to keep the peas off the broccoli, and I beat them up just a little bit!

This is the potato bin with red norland and freedom russet. they have grown considerably in the last few weeks. I am not really sure how much the "bins" are helping production....we'll see! :)

The Asparagus is so huge, and I am battling questions at all angles, since not too many of my friends have seen this garden bohemith after it's spear stage. Questions about why I let it get so big, why, why, why?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


I am on a roll this Spring!!!!  I just keep killing tomatoes!!
The seeds never sprouted.  Not even that batch of Roma seeds that I even fermented first.  Geez!
I went ahead and planted out the Sutherland's transplants, even though I knew it was too early. And I was correct in thinking that when potting up, I planted them much too deep. When I went to plant the poor little guys, their stems were becoming soft and green, hollow and mostly rotten.  The stems simply collapsed, and nutrients were completely unavailable....a very serious, and obvious mistake.  But it is no longer any mystery what happened!
So yesterday, at Lowe's I bought some new transplants.  The larger potted plants that have been at the nursery for the last month looked very sad and wilted from the cold weather we have been having.  There were so many squash and cucumber falling over in devastation from the cold bitter nights, and damp mornings.  (kinda looked like my tomatoes!).  But I chose what looked to me like freshly delivered 9 cell pack tomato and peppers.  Small, but healthy, and undisturbed so far by the weather.  They had been tightly packed onto the shelves and somewhat sheltered by the other, older plants in the surrounding shelves.  Currently they reside inside, under a grow light, I don't dare put them out, and stress them further.  We are only 2 weeks away from outdoor planting.

Friday, I went out to the good old Waste Center, and guess what?  They are out of compost.  Again!  I came out in March, thinking to beat the rush, and they were out until April.  At the time, the taters were freshly planted, no big deal, I can cover them.  So I return in April, as asked, and the sign says nothing until May.  This is crap! I think that something needs to be done in my own backyard, it is obvious that I cannot rely on the county to help!!! He offered mulch! quickly kill my potatoes!  NO thanks!  So I need to act quickly to get the earlies covered.  I am not sure how I will be doing that around the freshly planted freedom's, but I have vowed to try, since I knew it was going to be an awkward planting once half the red norlands rotted.  (that was from not sulfuring the chitted taters, and also, from cutting seed pieces too small without enough eyes to begin compensation and producing enough leaf, from what I left of the tuber)

The funny part is that I understand all these concepts, but for some reason that I can never ascertain, i still insist on learning these lessons the hard way!  I mean, honestly...what business do these two varieties of potatoes have growing in the same bin?  None!  Russets and Reds are totally different in growth rate, habit and height.  not to mention the 1 1/2 month gap between plantings.  I set myself up for this frustration.
I assume that the second bed of Yukon gold will pan out nicely.  All planted together and hopefully they will be producing together...unfortunately, that will be my late crop and it will be a long while before I know how that turns out!!!  Hey, I am still better off than last year.  I bought real seed potatoes and have begun hilling them long before I had last year. I have nixed the straw, as far as a covering material, it will be mulch only...not to mention that I will have two crops, not just one, and have doubled, maybe tripled the amount of plants in about the same square footage...(approximately, because there is a path, but also because of the vertical cubic kinda balances out).


I have been wondering about the wisdom of planting peas early....and whether or not, in a cold moist spring like this, you could succession sow them at all.  Same for spinach.  The weather is so sporadic, it is hard to saw where the cut off should be.
It is definitely much too early for warm weather stuff that is direct sown.....All of the Beans, and squash, etc.  has to wait 2-4 more weeks, depending on how well the soil warms when the air does!!!
The Broccoli and Brussels Sprouts are knocked around both by the cats and the birds.  Not to mention that the mint seems to do nothing to repel the cabbage moth! I have gone out and smooshed several tiny caterpillars, which I learned last year, you always miss some!!! And I have picked off and smashed little yellow eggs, that I also assume will be evil little blue green meanies, munching down my plants....yet again!
I hate poisons, so I just keep picking and smooshing, and hoping I am wrong about reincarnation!!!
They are getting taller, and from what I saw of the nursery plants yesterday, they are catching up with them quite well.
The thing is, I am really wishing I had hoops set up.  If half of the 1st bed was hooped, I wouldn't have to worry about the cabbage moth at all.  I could keep them covered for most, if not all of their growth, assuming that the covering allowed light and water to penetrate the barrier and if I were to seal it at the soil line.
Eggplants, I read, are much the same way.  They can apparently be grown under cover for the entire season, and it is actually preferable to in the open .... they are bug magnets!  I read that if there is one colorado potato beetle in the garden it will be on an eggplant.  They seem a fragile and vulnerable choice...(I am working out ways to kill now! HA! But I love a challenge, and if I keep one alive until fruiting, that'd be an accomplishment, and maybe make up for all the tomato manslaughter taking place on my premises this season!!)
So I bought seed...Ha! scared to kill some one else's hard earned transplants! I feel confident in growing the latest batch of tomato, and fairly excited about seeding the eggplant.  I am hoping for warmer days soon.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Art of Frugality

There really is an science to saving money.  But when you save a lot of money, it feels like an art.  It seems perfectly designed for your benefit.  That is what I have been learning through experience for the last month and a half or so.  In a post last month, I wrote a little about somethings I learned online from different "coupon experts" and bloggers.  I linked myself up to several good RSS feeds to be "in the know" about specials and deals in my area at my favorite stores.  And I feel like I have learned SO much from them that I would like to tell a little about how I have saved by following these ladies lead.
It REALLY began for me after getting in line behind two old ladies that were "power shopping".  I decided to go ahead and get in line behind her, even though she had a large order, because it looked as if she were almost done.  What remained on the conveyor belt was about 30 boxes of cinnamon toast crunch.  I kinda figured they might be non profit, because I had seen these two shop together before, and I even knew that they drove together in a large van with no seats so they could pile all their goods in about once a month or so.  As I looked up I saw her friend was talking with an employee who was loading up a huge cart (I mean huge, like a lumber cart from Lowes) of what appeared to be full of boxes and boxes of frozen food.  There were two of these carts.  I had my son with me at the time, and we patiently waited behind them, mildly curious about what the were up to, and if they worked for Boys and Girls Club,  or the Kitchen or what?  As we waited the lady was licking her finger, counting out her coupons and handed over what looked like 300+ little clippings, and she told the other lady, "oh I owe you such and such" amount of coupons, and thumbed out a few more.  She then turned to me and asked..."Do your kids like cinnamon toast crunch?"  I said "Well, sure! It's full of High fructose corn syrup and doused in sugar, who doesn't?" with a huge grin.  She said, "well they are on sale, why don't you go back and get yourself a few boxes, with these coupons they will only be...$x.  This is going to take a while" she said as she looked back at the cashier who was furiously swiping and scanning as fast as he could, while the bagger was packing box after box of discount goods.
"Thanks! I will" and I ran back to get them.
When it was all said and done, the cashier asks her for $83 and some change.  She pays her tab and he hands her some catalina coupons and looks at the end of her infinitely long receipt (he must have folded it six times!) and says "You've saved $348 by using your Dillon's Plus card.  Have a great day."

What else could she do but smile???? 
and say "thanks, I sure will!"
Wouldn't you?

Not long ago they also did a spot on a cold news day about a lady who buys coupons online and uses them during sales to get things cheap.  She claimed to save all sorts of money doing this and could justify paying for other people's duplicates and extra newspapers.  She caught a lot of response when the newscasters asked the viewers to email their opinions.  Most folks said they clip and occasionally use coupons but that they save more money by far, using store brands and sale shopping.  Now, these are also frugal folks, like I thought I was at the time.
I became loyal to store brands that I began using as soon as our little family was out on it's own.  I would always feel so grateful when I could spend $100 on groceries, and feel spoiled.  Only to have the groceries run out before the next payday, then having to calculate what ingredients I could afford to buy for dinner on a Wednesday and Thursday night.  And I bought tons of generics, while my family insisted (although no complaints at mealtime) that I should buy the known brands.  And I insisted that sometimes the store brands are just better.  (this is my opinion here).  But still, I thought I was being as cheap as I could be...still thought I did well to get on sale what I could, and buy what I need when I need it. But after a few good go around's, I finally see what they are doing right, and why it works so very wonderfully.

I shop pretty much at Dillon's and Walgreen's only.  I trust their store brands and they always have great sales.  I have shopped at both stores loyally for many years.  But now I know how to shop so much better.
I used to go to Walmart for the items I found were too pricey at the grocery store.  Always a special trip for bathroom, laundry, and cleaning supplies, paper goods and pet food. I just assumed it was always cheaper.
But now I know that is not always the case, and it'd be hard for them to really keep track of what the bottom dollar rollbacks SHOULD be, to match the deals I find everyday, at my grocery store.
I have proved the value of this by buying boxed Au gratin Potatoes.  I used to go to Price Cutter's for their store brand, until I purchased the Kroger and it was just as good.  Then I didn't have to cross the street for them and save a bit too. The Generic potato at Price cutter's was $1.89, never a sale.  I am not positive how much regular price for the Kroger, but they run their brands on sale all the time, and a good deal for theirs is $.99.  The Betty Crocker Potatoes at Dillons are regular price $1.69.  And a week ago the SALE price at Walmart was $.94. (are you following me?) I also have a few $.40 off One box of Betty Crocker potatoes coupons that I could use at any of these stores.  Why chose Dillon's? The highest price is actually the Price Cutter store brand, so they are out. I'd imagine Betty Crocker would be more (if I remembered the price).
So its between Dillon's and Walmart, and Walmart looks like the winner...on the surface.
If I take my coupon to Walmart, my $.94 Potatoes are now $.54 potatoes, which is a steal by any account.  Cheaper than the Dillon's store brand, even.  Almost worth the trip to Walmart, if I planned on buying other things at the same time.  It's a 20 minute drive through lots of traffic to get to Walmart.  So back to Dillon's ...I could save the gas and just buy the $.99 store brand and call it even if I factor in the gas...but probably not feel better about it since I already know there is a cheaper box of potatoes out there. Or maybe just that it is nearly half price for name brand, either way.... but now that I know about a few VERY IMPORTANT websites, I buy them closer to home, at a discount!
Here are the links
Cellfire..............Shortcuts.................and...............Upromise where I can load coupons onto my store loyatly card.  Not to mention all the printables from many others. Store sites like Walgreens, CVS, and Dillon's home site are invaluable, they allow you to see (or downloaded if you really wanted) their weekly flyers, and usually will have exclusive, web-only printable coupons as a bonus.  It really is worth the afternoon looking at these, to save BIG.

So, back to my story! The above sites are how you get cheaper potatoes without a trip to Wally World.
I went to those first three sites and I registered the number on my CVS and Dillon's cards on the appropriate sites.  Then I loaded a score of coupons to the cards, not thinking much of it all.  In fact, most all of these coupons were duplicates of coupons you get in the Sunday Paper.  At the time I didn't realize how cool that is, I thought, many boxes of potatoes do I need?  HMMM...that is a good question!!!
So there is a coupon for Betty Crocker Potatoes, for guess what? $.40 off per box.  So that is $.89, right?
WRONG!!!!  Dillon's is so awesome...they double paper coupons, a lot of time they even double the ones that say not to.  {Up to one dollar}.  If you have a $.50 to $.75 off coupon, it is actually a dollar off.
 So, my $.40 is now worth $.80.  That works out to $.49 a box, cheaper than Walmart's $.54 a box and half price from the store brand!
The cellfire and shortcuts coupons you load from your card come off before your coupons, without any action on your part.  What is better?  They have duplicates on your card from the different websites, and you can load them monthly.  They do have expiration dates, but they are easy to use.
NOW imagine you used this in conjunction with a sale.  For example.....this week both Kroger brand and Green Giant brand frozen veggies are $1.  Normally I buy the kroger when it is 10 for $10, and I am out of my own homegrown frozen veggies. But on my Dillon's card I have loaded $.50/2 coupons, and I also have $.50/2 paper coupons.  If I buy 2 veggies, I can subtract the $.50 right off the top....$1.50 for those two...but I also have the coupon...THAT DOUBLES to $1.  That is $.50 for TWO or $.25 each.  If I bought the store brand I would still be paying $1 you can see how this works out very well.  You always have your store brands as back up if you run out, and nothing is on sale...but the point is really to stock up. So it lasts until the next sale, and save up your coupons.
Ok so how much time do you have to spend figuring all this out?  Not much really, you are already wasting a lot of time listening to me ramble aren't ya?  Check out the other blogs, and waste some time with the specialists....Coupon MOM, Frugal fritzie, I heart coupon deals, Be more blogs...find one in your home town, some one who shops where you shop.  Buy the paper, save the printed coupons from the register, and print online (they have some really good ones online.) Join facebook, a lot of companies think it is cool to make you be their fan to get the I do....and print it twice.  But the most important thing, is read the parts about store policies...not everyone knows Dillon's will double those under a dollar coupons up to a dollar...(a $.75 only goes up to $1, but it's YOUR quarter!) Not everyone knows that many Dillon's will also take expired coupons. Not everyone will remember what coupons they have either, and that is why the blogs are great.  They are so fast to update with each and every deal, so they can do some legwork for you...all you have to do is decide, what you like to buy, that is on sale, that matches your coupons....and Viola! You save more than you spend.  I have done it 3 times in the past 24 hours....I saved $15 on my $12 out of pocket at Walgreen's on some odds and ends.  I saved $17 over my $13 out of pocket at CVS on absolute necessities.  But the best was at the grocery store, Dillon's huge 10 for $10 sale, store wide, with many unadvertised manager's specials....I saved EXACTLY $65.35 on my $65.34 order! One penny over.  But I realized right then and there....last time this year, i was hitting those same sales, and coming home happy enough to spend $130.69 on that amount of food.  (this trip I threw in a few tubs of ice cream, and caramel topping, and kid's toothpaste....all sorts of impulse, not on the list buys...yet I still SAVED BIG TIME).  And all I did was walk a bit slower and thumb through some little pieces of paper, and read a blog or two every other day while I drink my coffee.   That is it.  I saved $65 this morning, by doing not much....and last year...I didn't.  And that is the kicker.

I have saved so much money in the last month and a half.  I have been able to buy name brands cheaper than store brands, and stock up on a lot of household goods while at rock bottom prices, that should last until the next time they are on sale. I have been intentionally over-buying the things we use the most.  I am shopping for things "because it is on sale".  But, once you have a small stockpile, you only have to replenish what you have set aside, instead of starting from scratch.  Even so, I was able to begin the stockpile at a discount to begin with!

Google: Coupon Match ups, and Coupon Stacking...I promise you will learn a lot!  =)
There are several sites linked to what they call the "frugal Map" so you can locate a "good deal" blogger in your area, that will post the sales, coupon matches and discounts or rebates for you.  All you do is read, print and buy the Sunday paper! And maybe All You magazine.
It is so easy...and it is worth the 50% off, especially when your store runs as many great sales as mine does!

Good luck to you, I hope you save a TON of cash, and invest it in something you WANTED, instead of always those things you NEEDED that always cost too much!!!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

How big is too big??

Yesterday I had a surprise visit from my FIL and BIL.  They were in the neighborhood dropping off a mower to be repaired and wanted to swing by and pick up some equipment that the had loaned us.  My FIL is an avid gardener, and works at a local restaurant that specializes in serving locally grown food.  A great place to eat with a friendly laid back environment.  And my FIL has learned a lot from his involvement there...and off handedly told me my asparagus was much too big.  He said that the restaurants want the thin spears (the ones off the smallest plants or late in the season).  I told him no, I don't think so.  Why would you stop harvesting at that very stage?  I told him it was unhealthy for my plants to harvest the tiny "newbie" spears, that that weakens the crown.  And that the largest ones are in fact quite tasty, and not at all woody.
But at the same time I became perplexed.  Here he is, working with a fine gourmet chef, and I believe he knows what they say they want and need in the kitchen.  No doubt I trust his judgement.  But why then, do the plant breeders emphasize the size of the spear?  My particular variety, I read, can get up to 4 cm in diameter, on the healthiest spears.  And other similar varieties are named for their size and girth...IE Jersey GIANT.  Why then would the chef's think that they are inedible?  I don't understand this at all.

I have been thinking how beautiful and creamy colored the spears are when they begin to push through the surface...and thought about blanching a few spears for experiment's sake....then he could see how very tender the spears can be.  I just don't know that is true of it.  What I know of Asparagus, you do NOT harvest pencil sized spears, because it marks the end of the harvest.  And that it is common, or preferred to have spears the size of a grown man's thumb.
So...I must do the only thing I know how....GOOGLE IT!!!  :)

Here is what I've found:

This is from a PDF from Texas A&M University:

Harvest asparagus spears from established
beds for about 8 weeks, depending
on the area. Do not harvest during the first
2 years after planting. This waiting period
enables the underground crown to grow
and store enough reserves for a strong harvest
for many years to come.
Harvest the spears when they are 4 to
10 inches long. To prevent the spears from
becoming fibrous, harvest at least every
other day. The fibrous condition is caused
by overmaturity or inadequate fertility.
Spears with loose or opened heads are too

To harvest, snap off the spears by
hand at ground level. Never snap asparagus
spears above the ground or allow a
stub to remain. An alternative method is to use a
knife to cut the spears 1 to 2 inches below
the soil level (Fig. 4). To avoid damage to
the developing buds in the crown, never
cut the spear too deep. However, this
method is not recommended because the
knife may spread diseases from crown to

Stop harvesting when the spear diameter
becomes less than 3⁄8 inch or when the
spear heads open up with rising temperatures

And even better, because it verifies my belief, from Illinois;

"While Europeans prize white asparagus, Americans tend to prefer the green or violet-green varieties. When buying asparagus look for compact tips and smooth green stems that are uniform in color down the length of the stem. Check the cut stem end for any signs of drying and always avoid withered spears.
Pencil thin or thick stems can be equally delicious. Contrary to popular belief, thinner stems are not an indication of tenderness. Thick stems are already thick when they poke their heads out of the soil and thin stems do not get thicker with age. Tenderness is related to maturity and freshness.
Asparagus comes in a variety of colors including white, violet-green, pink and purple. If you must store any variety of asparagus, treat it as you would treat a cut flower. Trim the stems and stand them in a glass with one to two inches of water. Cover with a plastic bag and refrigerate for 2 to 3 days or until ready to use."

This is even more helpful to Missouri growers, because of the proximity to our state and similarity of climate. As far as I know, bigger is better...this is not a zucchini or a cucumber, where maturity means the seeds are ready to reproduce, and sacrifice flavor for it's growth...this is altogether a different entity. 
Here is another excerpt from Ohio;

"Buds on an asparagus crown are arranged in a "dominant hierarchy" or "pecking order" system. The first bud to emerge as a spear is the largest in diameter. When a spear from a crown is harvested, it signals another bud on that crown to send up another spear. With each successive spear that is harvested, the spear diameter decreases because the lower-order buds are smaller and produce smaller diameter spears. The largest spears occur between the second and fifth week of harvest and decrease rapidly thereafter. This is why asparagus harvesting should stop after a certain number of weeks to allow the crown to send up small diameter spears that will lignify and become ferns to manufacture carbohydrates to send down to the crowns for next year's crop. Spear diameter during the first year after crown planting will be smaller and possibly more difficult to market than the larger spears produced after the first harvest season.
Because the length of harvest season will vary from year to year depending on air temperature, stopping the harvest when one-fourth to three-fourths of the spears have a diameter of less than 3/8 inch (about the diameter of a pencil) is a better guide than harvesting for a specified number of weeks. Experienced gained by growing the crop will make it easier for the grower to know when to discontinue the harvest. Over-harvesting will weaken the crown, reducing the amount of carbohydrates stored for the following year, and will lead to further decline of the planting, putting plants under stress and making them more susceptible to insects and diseases."

And here is a brief (ha ha, to me brief!) list of links:
Asparagus yields

Kentucky U Asparagus bulletin

Maryland U

how stuff works

I think I am satisfied with the answers, but if anyone has personal experience with growing Giant Asparagus, please feel free to comment.  But, in the meanwhile, I like that mine are humongous and will enjoy them thoroughly.  In fact, while googling the answer to this quandary, I found several suggestions for preparing the Asparagus, including bacon wrapped grilled ....mmmmm, yum!  Everything tastes better with bacon!!
Catcha later!  :)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tomato Massacre Spring....are we on round 3 ? ? ?

I can't begin to tell how irritated I am at myself for allowing this to happen, not once but twice already this season.  It is enough to make me cry, that I have killed yet another batch of tomatoes.  I know it happens to the best of us, I know we all have our "off" years...but the frustration of the waste of time, money and materials just gets so dejecting!
But as I always say, you pretty much learn nothing when you don't make mistakes.  And I am a big fan of picking things apart, so here we go....what went wrong?

Ok so the first batch that I started from seed died from a number of factors, as I have explained in a previous post.

  1. Didn't sanitize pots
  2. Used potting soil, instead of soil less mix
  3. overwatered (seeds rotted, not one sprout out of a dozen and a half seeds)
That is newbie stuff, I wrote it off and bought transplants, and started Roma seeds from my dehydrated tomato from last year.  We'll see what happens with my seeding (AGAIN) later.....we'll see, we'll see.
But what about those transplants?  HMMMM????  I was so excited to try new varieties of heirlooms, and what did I do???  I am not sure.  I am thinking that there are so many variables to this one it is hard for me to narrow it down.  Either way I am sure it was my fault!  The thing I should have done, first and foremost, that I can never do is just leave well enough alone!!!!  But here is how I think I massacred a perfectly decent batch of transplants that some nursery people spent 8-10 weeks nurturing, in less than two weeks!

  1. I put them in the prop box while it was much too warm.  even vented it was an oven.
  2. I potted up the transplants into larger containers, WITH PEAT MOSS. (that would be for seed starting) When likely, the only plants it was imperative to pot up would have been the ones in the 4 cell packs that looked like crap to begin with.
  3. I bought plants that looked like crap to begin with. (Juliet tomato)  And kept them with the others.
  4. When I potted up the transplants I buried them deeper than in their original pots.  this is fine in the ground...I do it every makes the tomato sturdier with a much denser, deeper root system....but apparently you can't do that in their pots...
  5. I gave them fertilizer...I don't know if that also shocked them.
  6. I moved them into the house during a 2 day cold spell, then back outside.  I took them in and out of the prop box, as weather changed.
I could probably think up a few more things I did to contribute to their sickliness....I just can't think of how many more ways I could have screwed this up that I didn't do already.  There are signs of fungus establishing on the surface of the peat.  The plants that actually have died show signs of damping off, just as the seedlings would.  That is a combination of the peat's moisture retention and perhaps over watering.  Plain peat is just as bad as plain soil I suppose...not a lot of room for air transfer...I have smothered them.  A few others show signs of burn, like in the peppers.  The Juliet's were just in steady decline to begin with.  There is no end to my frustration.  All I can do is get the bed in, plant and cover, and PRAY.....and perhaps start some late seeds, as a back careful in planting, if the survivors are permanently stunted and become bug magnets....GEESH....what a waste of 30 bucks!

Anyways, I had to share tomato story as a reminder to myself, a lesson to be learned or maybe just plain out common sense, or the lack there of, that caused this....I have to be humbled by my inexperience, grit my teeth and sink my shovel back in the dirt....and keep on truckin'!!

Take care, and may your tomatoes stay lush, green and healthy...and not keel over as mine have.....Oh, and could you spare a cutting??? LOL

Sunday, April 4, 2010

New *Improved* Potato Bins

Today Mickey helped me rebuild the potato bins, and they look sweet, if I do say so myself.  So far, we just have one around the earlies, and I will be in desperate need of compost to fill it, as well as building a second bin. Of course I still have about 30 seed potatoes to plant but the ground is much to wet to work at all.

The Giant Jersey Knight asparagus is tipping out of the ground about two a day for the last two days.  I am very excited for the arrival of Asparagus harvesting!  It is a proud moment for me, and I encourage the investment of time and money to anyone who enjoys this crop, it is so worth the effort and the wait!  Being Perennial, a lot of people are afraid to try to grow it, but it is so easy, anyone can and should try it.  Not to mention when the harvest is done, the ferns are so graceful and pretty in the garden.

I have been seeding spinach and lettuce, and I plan to continue that, as well as carrots outdoors until I finally get a sprout or two.  I will also be planting another sowing of peas soon as well, So we can continue to harvest as long as possible.  The succession of planting is a bit harder to time than I had expected, but we are going to keep trying to get everything in and pray that there is room for it all! =)

My new Tomato, Pepper and Eggplants seem to be doing quite nicely in the Prop Box, until the proper planting time. And we are about to start sowing more seed.  Roma Tomato, melons, and squash for early summer and another round following by a few weeks.  That is the tentative plan, anyhow. I want to try to have some really late tomatoes that will have to be pulled before frost.  The more that I get growing the more I have to learn about it. I think will have plenty of fresh veggies this year, but that doesn't stop me from wondering how to grow more!

Yesterday we also bought a garden cart from a neighborhood kid.  It is pretty sweet, and we have considered getting one before but they run about $100 and Mickey knew he could weld one up, he just never has.  This one was at a good price and I think it will come in very handy.  I have already used it to drag bagged leaves all over the yard and move pots from here to there.  And I bet the kids will love to be drug around the yard in it, too!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Damping Off

For all my planning I am still having a rough start this year.  I started my seeds in a mix of potting soil and mushroom compost.  I knew that what I should have was peat moss, and probably a few other things like perilite and vermiculite, but I used what I had.  This is another one of those lessons that it is better to learn from someone else's mistakes than to risk losing time in your own garden.
Damping off is a term used to describe sudden seedling death.  It can be caused by a lot of factors, but preventing it is easy, and I knew that to begin with!
1. NEVER use soil to start seeds.  Always use a sterile soil-less mix, purchased or homemade, but it must be sterile.  Peat moss is difficult because it absorbs water and forms a dense structure, that when dry, is impenetrable. You must keep it thoroughly moist at all times, or your seedlings will die from dryness associated with the brick like nature of the peat.
2. Don't over water.  The fungi that can cause these dilemmas thrive with excessive moisture.  While germinating it is important to keep the mix constantly moist, but as the seedlings emerge, tapering back to moderate watering and light (1/2 strength) fertilizers will allow the little plants a chance to stand up on their own.
3. Be Sterile.  washing all of your seed trays, pots, spades and scoops with a 10:1 water/ bleach mix, will help to prevent spread of fungi and any related spores or bug eggs or other pests.

Some information I found at this site, states the following;

Not only will controlling your watering help to prevent fungus gnats, it will prevent the second most common problem, damping-off. This condition is caused by several fungi such as Phtophtora and Pythium. These fungi live at the soil line, just where air meets the moist soil surface.

When your potting soil is kept continuously moist by overwatering, the fungi attack your seedlings. The telltale symptom is a constricted stem, just at or below the soil surface. Once seedlings are infected, they tend to fall over at the soil line.

As mentioned, allowing the soil surface to dry out will go a long way in preventing this problem. If, for some reason, your potting mix remains wet for an extended period of time, look to your kitchencabinet to help prevent the disease. Cinnamon powder is a natural fungicide and has been shown to be particularly effective against damping-off. In addition, Weak chamomile tea (after it has cooled) is another natural fungicide

Honestly I did not know that there was much to be done for it at this stage.  Not all the seedlings are infected, some are, some aren't.  And prevention is always the cure.  I figured my only alternative is to cut my losses, and begin anew.  This may also be why I have no tomatoes sprouting as well.  Which is of more concern, because my leafy greens can be started all season long, but tomatoes have to been in like YESTERDAY....

I have to get to work, but I thought I would throw that out there.
My broccoli and Brussels sprouts have a few seedlings that are bent at the stem, preventing water or nutrients to help sustain them.  I have used unsterilized pots, unsterilized soil, and let my daughter over water.  Basically I have done everything that you are not supposed to do, and learned the hard way, yet again. It's a good thing out livelihood does not depend on the earliness of our garden...because I blew it!  I guess I will be going to the hardware store now!