Arcadia Farms

  (Portage, Michigan)
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How to Freeze Eggs

wpid CAM03178 1024x759 How to Freeze Eggs

The winter of 2013/2014 was our first snowy season as chicken owners. I say was with a small amount of sarcasm since the snow just doesn’t seem to want to let go. (The three-foot-deep mounds in our backyard have melted to nothing in some places, but every few days it snows it again. Meanwhile Easter is only weeks away…) We were prepared for a reduction in egg production and made a plan for getting as many winter eggs as possible without causing too much stress to our hens. What we didn’t prepare was the most abysmally, blisteringly cold and long winter in the last thirty years. Though our egg production was decent for the conditions, it’s understanding that we went 8-10 weeks with nothing but hungry, cold hens.

It was a far cry from September days when I looked in the cupboard at three dozen eggs and thought “Well, it looks like quiche again for dinner!”

So you can imagine my delight in early March when I optimistically checked the nesting box and found… wait for it… an egg! A glorious, brown egg. (Though at the moment it looked more golden than brown. I’m pretty sure angels were ascending and descending on the coop and I heard the faint sound of harps surrounding me. At least I think…)

Double my delight when two eggs began showing up… then four… and now for the last week, we’re back up to one egg per hen – six eggs a day!

Now that I understand the feast or famine reality of owning a laying flock, I’m all the more interested in preserving our excess for use in our lean days. Otherwise stated, I want to purposefully preserve our extra eggs during warm weather to use next winter. After some research there are two options I want to explore: Dehydrating and freezing eggs.

We’ll save dehydrating for another day. Today, I want to teach you how to freeze eggs. You might not have laying hens to keep up with, but if you find a great deal on eggs, you can stock up to save now without worrying about them going bad. Here’s how it works.

How to Freeze Eggs

Visit our website for complete instructions and lots of photos. Click here!
 
 

Seed Starting Resources

Those of us who live in cooler climates and who want to get a jump-start on the growing season have been thinking about seed-starting recently. Last winter I shared several informative posts about how and when to start seeds. This winter I thought it would be beneficial to present all of those resources to you in one easy-access post. So without further ado – here are some of my favorite resources for seed starting.

Arcadia Farms Seed Starting Plans

Here’s a peek into how we’ve put all of the advice below together to create our own seed starting plan.

2013 Seed Starting Plan

2014 Seed Starting Plan

Resources

soaking onion seeds in water

Seed Starting Spreadsheet Template

Instructions for how to use this spreadsheet are included on the first tab.

Seed Sources

Here are my favorite sources for seeds (heirloom and open-pollinated).

Soaking Seeds

Soaking seeds before planting speeds up germination by stirring up the process of the dormant baby plant inside the seed’s hull coming to life.

Optimum Transplant Age

Starting seeds indoors helps gardeners in cooler climates to get a jump start on the growing season. But how soon should you start your seeds? This chart provides guidelines for optimum transplant ages of select crops.

Square Foot Gardening Plant Spacing

Here’s a cheat sheet chart to let you know how many plants to sow per square foot. It’s easy to read on your mobile device so that you can use it in the garden.

Planting by Moon Phases

Did you know that the gravitational pull of the moon actually impacts the success rate of seedlings? Check this article out to learn more about the phenomenon and how you can use it to your advantage in the garden.

kale seedling in newspaper pot

Planting in Newspaper Pots

When you start seeds indoors, you need media – a substance to start your seeds in. I’m now using potting soil in plastic trays, but there are several options. Here’s an analysis of them all, along with details on how to make your own newspaper pots.

Keeping a Garden Journal

A garden journal is a tool you can use to keep track of important garden stats and observations. Being able to look back on this information will help you to plan for next year and will help you to identify patterns in your garden that you otherwise wouldn’t detect. In general, a garden journal allows you to record your successes and failures and details that may have impacted the outcome.

Square Foot Garden Seed Tape

Here’s an easy way to prepare for your spring garden while the snow is still on the ground. Seed tape helps you evenly space your seeds for maximization of resources.

Setting Up Your Garden for Seed-Saving

Here is a fabulous webinar video by Seed Savers Exchange on how to design your garden for seed saving. The post includes my summary notes to highlight the key concepts for those of you who don’t have time to watch the whole thing.

Container Gardening Tips

Everyone can have a garden, including renters and apartment dwellers. Here are some tips on container gardening to make yours a success.

Chitting (Sprouting) Potatoes

Chitting potatoes is the act of sprouting them before they are planted. It speeds up the maturity process and it’s super easy. This guide will show you how.

bean seedling

Planting Garlic

Garlic is a staple in the kitchen for many of us. The fact that it’s so easy and inexpensive to grow means it would also be a great staple in your garden. Here are tips for the best type of garlic for your garden, when to plant it and how to plant.

Garden Apps Wish List

For the technologically inclined among us, here are some apps that can streamline the gardening process.

Did you enjoy this article? Visit www.arcadia-farms.net for more info on eating healthy, saving money and buying locally.

 
 

Setting Up Your Garden for Seed Saving

A few posts ago I shared that one of the biggest challenges I face personally as a market-gardener is being disciplined to start seeds when I’m scheduled to start them. Life is full of distractions and shifting priorities which means that more than once I’ve gone to bed thinking “Crap! I was supposed to start seeds today!” Now that I’m trying to plant by the phases of the moon, the pressure has escalated.

So you can imagine the giant eye roll I gave to myself when I realized Thursday that I was supposed to start a ton of seeds on Wednesday. It looked a lot like this…


Add to that the fact that I was also supposed to start a ton of seeds on Thursday and you’ll understand why I spent a big chunk of the day folding newspaper pots and stayed up till nearly midnight planting seeds. (But I got done before midnight… technically still Thursday – YES!!)

While I was planting cherry tomatoes (Black Cherries and Tommy Toes), slicing tomatoes (Moneymaker), sweet basil, Golden zucchini, Fordhook zucchini, zinnias, Charleston Gray watermelon, and California Wonder peppers, I wanted something to listen to other than the pitter patter of rain. So I decided to catch up on something else I missed because my life got distracting: A webinar from Seed Savers Exchange on how to setup your garden for seed saving.

This webinar was a great way to multitask and make late-night seed-sowing that much more enjoyable. The information is very complete but straightforward and easy enough for a beginner (i.e., me) to understand. Please don’t think even for a moment that I am an expert on seeding saving, however, I thought I’d take the time to create a very simplified summary of the information provided in the webinar. If you don’t have time to watch the video, I promise these tips will help you… but you should make time to watch the video as well.

Basic Tips for a Seed-Saving Garden

  • You should learn the basics of pollination and specifically how the plants you’re growing are pollinated.
    • Some plants are self-pollinators with ‘perfect’ flowers (both male and female parts in the same flower). Examples include legumes (peas, beans) and tomatoes.
    • Some plants are out-crosses with both male and female flowers on the same plant such as squash plants.
    • Some plants are out-crosses where one plant is male and the other is female. Spinach falls into this category.
  • Know your plant’s genus and species because any plants in the same species can cross-pollinate. Cross pollination means that the fruit that comes from the seed you harvest won’t be true to its parent.
  • Keep in mind that just because plants are the same crop doesn’t mean that they are all of the same species. For example, there are four different species of squash. If you grow one plant from each of the four species, you won’t have to worry about cross-pollination. (For more detailed info on cross-pollination between squash species – and the teeny exception to the rule I just mentioned – click here.)
  • Know the weeds in your area because they may be of the same genus and species as the plants in your garden. For example, Queen Anne’s Lace is the same species as carrots. If this ‘weed’ cross-pollinates with your carrots, the carrots which come from your harvested seeds will turn out… weedy.
  • Preventing cross-pollination requires the use of isolation methods.
    • Complete Isolation: Grow only one variety of a crop (i.e., only one kind of tomato).
    • Isolation by Distance: Click here for information to help you determine how much distance you need to give you a better chance of avoiding cross-pollination.
    • Isolation by Timing: Plant varieties that will shed pollen at different times or strategically plant them to shed pollen at different times (i.e., planted a few weeks apart).
    • Isolation by Barrier: This involves use of tents and row covers. If you have two varieties of a certain species, you only need to use a barrier with one of them.
    • Hand Pollination: You can hand pollinate selected flowers and gather those fruits specifically for harvesting seeds. For more details on hand pollination, click here.
  • To fully represent your plant/fruit population, you’ll want to gather seeds from several plants and fruits. In general, the more inbred your seeds are (typically from self-pollinators) the smaller the population can be (because they are already used to limited diversity.) Out-crossing pollinators will need a larger population size.
  • To better control cross-pollination, you’ll want to know how your plants are pollinated. Do you have lots of bees and butterflies? Lots of wind? What are the other pollination sources in your area (i.e. neighboring gardens and weeds)? Know the plants you want to save seeds from – how far can its pollen travel?

Planning Your Garden for Seed Saving


Saving Seeds at Arcadia Farms {2013}

So as I was stuffing compost into newspaper pots I got to thinking – which plants should I select to save seeds from this year? Since this will be my first year (properly) saving seed, I decided to start with some of the easy self-pollinators. Fortunately I laid out the garden to provide some isolation between crops of the same species but different variety so the isolation by distance should help me out. I have lots of pollinators (especially bees) in my garden so, knowing that pollen could travel to my plants from neighboring gardens, I think starting with these self-pollinators (which typically have fully enclosed reproductive parts) is a good place to start. I’ll keep you posted on the nuts and bolts of actually harvesting and storing the seeds. Meanwhile, if you’re a visual person, here’s a map of our garden layout so you can see the distances between each variety. With all of these factors in mind, I’ve decided to keep seeds from the following plants:

  • White Tomesol Tomatoes
  • Black Cherry Tomatoes
  • Roma Tomatoes
  • Dragon Tongue Bush Beans
  • Sugar Ann Sugar Snap Peas
  • Rat’s Tail Radishes
  • Charleston Gray Watermelon
  • Table King Acorn Squash
  • Sugar Pie Pumpkins
  • Quinoa (mostly for eating, though!)

Since my watermelons (Citrullus lanatu) are a different species than my acorn squash (Cucurbita pepo) the fact that they live next door to each other shouldn’t be an issue for cross-pollination. Likewise, all of the tomato plants in the main garden will be far enough apart to minimize my concerns for cross-pollination. Unfortunately the tomatoes I’m planting in the Fenceline Garden (Moneymaker slicing tomatoes and Tommy Toe cherry tomatoes) will be close enough that I’m not going to take my chances with saving their seeds this year. Next year I’ll rotate those varieties into the main garden so that I can save some seeds.

Do you save seeds from your garden? Any tips? Do you use any of the isolation methods discussed above and in the video? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Did you enjoy this article? Visit www.arcadia-farms.net for more info on eating healthy, saving money and buying locally. 

 
 
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