Here in the Northeast, the last few days have been very pleasant - warm enough to get a lot of chores done. The outdoor grounds crew has been busy cleaning the woodlands in preparation for new seedlings, top dressing garden beds with mulch, and picking up any stray branches or debris left over from two recent snow storms. Over the weekend, we also welcomed a new peacock. Pedda Reddy, a passionate peafowl breeder and raiser in Dutchess County, New York, came by to drop him off and to help introduce him to the resident peacocks, peahens and peachicks.
We also celebrated the launch of ULIVjava's new "k-cups". You may recall, my longtime personal trainer, Mary Tedesco, is the co-founder of ULIVjava, a company that seeks to create and promote healthy, great-tasting, organic coffee products that are infused with vitamins, minerals, and herbs. The company produces ground coffees, and now single-serve coffee pods. I joined the ULIVjava partnership after tasting the delicious drinks. The following are some images taken of the "k-cup" manufacturing process. To order ULIVjava, just go to the web site by clicking on this highlighted link.
This is the the entrance to Barrie House Coffee Roasters in Elmsford, New York. Barrie House makes the single serve cups for ULIVjava – I am glad to know their cups are recyclable and environmentally friendly. https://www.barriehouse.com
Inside, this is where all the production begins – at the cup filling area. https://ulivjava.com
Here are the empty product boxes with the new colorful coffee mixologist logo ready to be folded and filled.
Nearby, a giant sack of coffee is waiting to be blended.
This is the giant blender that Barrie House uses for ULIVjava.
Once blended the coffee is fed into the packing equipment production line.
Here are the ground coffee cups traveling to the filling equipment station.
This is the conveyor for the cups. Each actual cup has 13-grams of coffee and green tea with herbs. These single-serve cups come in the same three delicious ULIVjava varieties: lean, happy and smart.
Spot checks of the packaging seal are done along the way.
The cups go through this unit carton-forming mandrel. It is interesting to see how the boxes are folded and ready to be filled.
This is where it collects the nested cups and places them into boxes.
Here, the sealed unit boxes are sent through to the final check-weighing station.
And then the unit boxes are pushed through for a final bottom seal.
This monitor shows the statistical tracking information for each box as it passes.
This is a box of system rejects. If any of the containers are damaged during the process, it is automatically pulled and dropped into this box.
This is a laser engraver. It creates the production bar code and the “best by” date.
And this is where the boxes go for packing. The robotic case packer picks up the cardboard box, makes the case and fills it with the finished cups. Each case holds eight boxes.
The finished case goes through a final closure seal and then gets weighed one last time. Here comes the first case of ULIVjava SMART coffee.
This is Kevin Steward, director of quality control for Barrie House, showing us a completed case of ULIVjava “k-cups”.
Mary is so excited, she had to take some of the boxes home with her.
Meanwhile, back at my farm, there’s a lot going on down at the peafowl coop.
These peacocks are growing more beautiful every day. As they mature, their necks turn more and more blue and iridescent.
This peahen is also very pretty – see the crest at the top of her head? Both male and female peafowl have a fan-shaped crest on their heads called a corona. On young peafowl, it may take up to one year for a corona to reach full size.
Peafowl are very hardy birds, and even though they are native to warm climates, they do very well in cold weather as long as they have access to dry perches away from strong winds. These birds will spend most of their days outdoors, and nights in their coop where it is warm and cozy.
While peafowl are ground feeders and ground nesters, they still enjoy roosting at higher levels. In the wild, this keeps them safe from predators at night. This is my handsome Black Shoulder Pied peacock.
This is my Black Shoulder Silver Pied peacock. The Silver Pied is a white bird with about 10 to 20-percent color on it, including the bright iridescent blue. He also has white-eyed feathers in his train.
And here he is – the newest member to join the flock. He arrived over the weekend – I love his bold, dark colors.
And look at his legs – a peafowl’s legs are very strong. They have three toes on each foot facing forward, and one facing backwards. They also have sharp, powerful metatarsal spurs that are used for defense. Also, as they develop, males will tend to have longer legs than females.
This peacock doesn’t have a full tail yet, but he will soon. A peacock doesn’t grow its first train until three. And even then, it won’t be full grown or have showy ocelli. The train gets longer and more elaborate every year until five or six years old when it reaches maximum splendor. He is so beautiful. I will share lots more photos as he begins to go outdoors and feel more comfortable in his new home here at Cantitoe Corners.
Here at my Bedford, New York farm, patches of snow still cover the ground, but inside my greenhouse, there is a flurry of spring activity - my gardeners, Ryan and Wilmer, are busy repotting, transplanting, and starting vegetables from seed in preparation for the coming growing season.
Starting onions from seed isn’t difficult. They can be planted closely together in seed starting trays, and because they are shallow-rooted, they can be pulled apart easily when ready for transplanting outdoors. Many of our seed trays and supplies are from Johnny’s Selected Seeds - we've been using Johnny's for years. Over the last few weeks, our onion seeds have grown about four or five inches tall. They’ll remain in the greenhouse for a several more weeks until they’re planted in my vegetable garden. And by mid-summer, we will have lots and lots of beautiful, fat bulbs to harvest.
Enjoy these photos…
Johnny’s Selected Seeds, in Albion, Maine, carries hundreds of varieties of certified organic vegetable, herb, flower, and fruit seeds. We chose several onion varieties. http://www.johnnyseeds.com/
Seed starting trays come in all different sizes and depths. We use trays with shallow compartments for planting onion seeds.
Ryan fills the seed starting tray with mix and pats it down lightly into each compartment. The mix should be level with the top of the tray.
It’s best to use a pre-made seed starting mix that contains the proper amounts of vermiculite, perlite and peat moss. Seed starting mixes are available at garden supply stores.
Ryan labels the seed markers and keeps them together with the matching packets.
To create a quarter-inch deep furrow in the middle of each compartment, Ryan places one tray over another and presses down lightly, so the bottom of one tray makes indentations in the soil-filled compartments of the other.
You can see the small indentations in each compartment – this is where the seeds will be planted. This is a great method when planting multiple trays.
These onion seeds were started in early February, which is about two months before the last frost in this area.
Using a hand seed sower, such as this one from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, pour a generous amount of seeds into the center dish.
Ryan screws the plastic top onto the hand seed sower and adjusts the amount of seeds that will be released at one time.
Ryan begins to drop onion seeds evenly into each compartment.
It is good to start larger onions from seed, so they can be harvested the same year. Smaller onions can be planted directly into the ground.
Red Hawk onions are medium to large in size with a bold red color.
Great Western onions have brown skin and firm bulbs that are quite large.
Cortland onions are large, blocky-round with thin necks that will dry well. They also have thick, rich brown skin for good storability.
One to two seeds are dropped into each compartment and will be selectively thinned in a few weeks. This process eliminates the weaker sprout and prevents overcrowding, so seedlings don’t have any competition for soil nutrients or room to mature.
Once the seeds are dropped, Ryan adds an additional light layer of soil mix, so the seeds are completely covered. Be sure to insert the appropriate labels, so there’s no confusion later.
Ryan does this carefully, so as not to move any of the seeds in the tray.
When possible, prepare several trays in an assembly-line fashion, and then drop all the seeds. Doing this saves time and simplifies the process.
Fortunately, my greenhouse is large and can accommodate lots of seed starting.
Here we panted white onions – the White Castle have excellent color and disease resistance. They are jumbo, globe-shaped bulbs with bright white skins. Wooden markers or popsicle sticks work well for labeling trays. Write the onion variety on one side and the date they were sown on the other.
Once the seed trays are done, Ryan takes them to the greenhouse where they will get ample light and heat.
We love these heat mats. Heat mats increase germination rates and allow temperature control.
Ryan gives them a good drink of water.
And then covers them with plastic humidity domes. The humidity dome remains positioned over the seed tray until germination begins.
Keep seed starting trays moist and in a warm, sunny place. Here is how the onion seeds look a couple weeks after planting.
Here are some other seedlings more than a month after planting. These seedlings will remain in the greenhouse for another four to six weeks until they are ready to be separated and transplanted into the ground.
I can’t wait! What seeds are you starting this winter? Let me know in the comments section below.
Skylands, my home in Maine, is covered with more than five-feet of snow.
Despite its beauty, all this snow makes the clean-up quite difficult. My Skylands crew has been very busy plowing the carriage roads, shoveling the walkways and terraces, and clearing any areas that may be subject to leaking or flooding because of the heavy accumulation - it's a tedious, time-consuming, but very necessary task.
Nonetheless, it's hard not to love a gorgeous snow-covered landscape. In between shoveling sessions yesterday, Cheryl Dulong took more beautiful winter photos. Here are some of them - enjoy.
This is the driveway leading to the back porch entrance. Skylands is beautiful in every season, but under winter’s glistening snow, it is even more magical.
Despite all the beauty, it’s a lot of snow to shovel around the house – these steps run from the back porch to the front circle and driveway.
62-inches of snow has fallen in the last 10-days here – clearing paths and stairwells is a big chore.
Off the property, this is a view from the town dock toward Seal Harbor beach. The area is pretty desolate now, but in a few months, this will be crowded with beachgoers once again.
The Maine Coast Exchange is a quaint little consignment shop I enjoy visiting in Seal Harbor. Look how high the snow is – the view of the shop is nearly completely blocked.
This is the road leading back to Skylands – the plow has done a good job here.
The main roads are clear, and allow for two cars to pass each other – all this snow makes traveling even short distances very difficult.
Look at all the snow surrounding the trees. It is hard to tell the true snow accumulation from the drifts – there is just so much.
The trees are laden with snow in the woodland. I hope all the creatures are nestled in their dens.
The tree branches are so weighed down – it’s hard to see the green of the foliage.
Even the tree trunks are covered with white.
It appears nothing wants to melt or fall or blow away.
This leaded window is down the back stairwell to the basement – here, you can see how much snow has fallen and drifted on this side of the house.
This “pub” window is nearly all walled in with white – there is so much shoveling to do.
If you recall, I showed this same view last week – in the distance is a small pool where the grandchildren love looking for frogs in summer. You can barely make out the ledge and “Rockefeller teeth” above the pool.
I promise, she is still in there – Aristide Maillol’s ‘La Riviere’ is all tucked away for the winter.
This is a view of the main terrace – the “cracked ice” is completely covered.
Here is the same view through the leaded window.
Snow even builds on top of the pergola above my West Terrace – these kiwi vines, which are original to the house, have been through many snowfalls.
This is Terrace One looking out over Seal Harbor – such a stunning winter view.
This photo is taken from Bedroom Three also overlooking the harbor.
This photo from Terrace One shows the icicles that have formed from the roof.
The icicles range from about a foot to several feet long. Here is a view of the harbor from Bedroom Three.
Icicles are so pretty. They form on surfaces which might have a smooth and straight, or irregular construction – this influences the shape of an icicle.
Some icicles need to be knocked down – they are so long. Icicles elongate by the growth of ice as a tube and the right mixture of air temperature, wind speed and the water feeding it.
This view is from one of the “dorm” windows – the “dorm” area was originally used for housekeeping staff.
Hard to believe, but this is my front driveway circle.
Ahead is a pink granite ledge – now white colored ledge. The temporary fencing is installed to keep deer from munching on the tender shrubs.
Here is another view of the main terrace from the dining room window.
Lots of shoveling is going on – my Skylands team has been busy.
And this is one of our favorite views – it’s taken from the kitchen window and is a reflection in the dining room storm window – so amazing.