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Let the sprouting begin!

There may be about a foot of snow on the ground outside but the weather indoors is just right for starting seeds. Well, just right with a little help to create a micro-climate. A warming mat to keep the soil warm, a dome to create a little greenhouse to keep the warm and humid inside. It will take 7-14 days for everything to start sprouting.

What did I plant? We had some left over seeds from last year that we are trying again — Turkish orange eggplant and an orange bell pepper. New seeds, an early jalapeno, Matts wild Cherry (I have no idea who Matt is but that’s what they are called!), Heinz Classic Processor tomato (yup, as in ketchup! It’s an heirloom variety and good for ketchup and sauces) and a tomato called Sub Arctic Plenty (a cool summer short season variety). When you order seeds from companies they also send you a free packet of some random thing and this year from Baker Creek they sent a tomato — Black Vernissage. The packet says it is a medium-sized tomato loaded with flavor, which means absolutely nothing.

We’ve not tried any of these tomato varieties before but we have not been having good tomato luck these last few years with the standard sorts of heirloom tomatoes like Brandywine and Cherokee so it was time to try something new. Last summer it was hot early but then unusually cool in July and August. So, I chose for uncertainty. The cherry is an early season variety that should start producing fruit in less than 2 months after it goes outside, sometime in the middle to end of July. And it is indeterminate so the plant will keep growing and producing until frost. The Heinz is a longer season variety and likes it hot. It will take close to three months before it begins producing which puts it sometime mid to late-August. And the Arctic variety, it’s a small slicing variety that should begin producing early to mid-July. I have no idea what to expect from the free variety, my guess is early to mid-August judging by the fruit size.

Peppers and eggplant need long, hot days. The jalapeno should begin producing at the end of July. The bell pepper and eggplant won’t fruit until early to mid August. I have yet to have much success with peppers except for Hungarian wax peppers. They are spicy and I tried to convince Bookman we should go with those but he badly wants jalapeno. Fingers crossed this short season heirloom variety will work. And eggplant, the one year I actually managed a decent one I got a single fruit and a squirrel stole it! I am thinking that if the peppers and eggplants don’t do well again this year, I might try growing them in pots on the deck where it gets a lot hotter than the rest of the garden. But that’s a bridge to consider crossing for 2019.

A new neighbor

We have some sort of critter who has made a nest in or next to the compost bin in the chicken garden. It has dug itself a snow tunnel and is using the composting dirty pine shreds from the chicken coop for its own burrow. The tunnel is much too large for mice so I am thinking it might be a rabbit. I shone a flashlight into the tunnel but couldn’t see anything. It’s a risky affair shining a light and putting one’s face up next to an animal tunnel, so I kept well back. The tunnel angles through the snow all the way down to the bottom of the bin. That’s all I could figure out.

Curiously, there are no prints of any sort around the hole or anywhere in the chicken garden. But we’ve been having a small thaw the last couple of days and prints are not going to stick around in melty snow unless they are deep and heavy. The thaw ends tonight and we are expecting several inches of fresh snow Monday into Tuesday. Perhaps after that we will see some tracks and our critter will be identified.

We aren’t worried that it is an animal that will hurt the Dashwoods. There is no evidence of it attempting to break into the run, no other holes about, nothing knocking over the sealed metal bin we keep the chicken feed in. I am hoping it is mice rather than a rabbit. Chickens will eat mice and the mice are only interested in the spilled grain from the chickens. Rabbits on the other hand, will eat my garden and they are a bit large for the Dashwoods to eat. They also could attract larger predators like hawks. While Marianne stood up to a young hawk that flew into the garden last summer, we got lucky. An adult hawk would know only too well what to do with both a rabbit and a chicken. I will be sure to let you know if we figure out what our mystery critter is!