skip to main |
skip to sidebar
Jennifer Jo over at Mama's Minutia wrote a blog post a day or so ago about wanting to do her garden over this summer. I can't help but believe there are many of us scattered all across the country that would like to be able to do this.
Strange weather patterns have plagued all of us to one extent or the other. Insects seem to be extremely prevalent this year, and in my garden they're attacking crops that have never seemed to be bothered before.
I took a good look around my own garden this morning and made notes regarding what I saw.
As I've mentioned, I planted only cherry tomatoes this year. I've had oodles (and oodles) of lovely green fruit for over a month . . . all without a touch of color yet. Considering our unusually hot summer, I was sure we would be wondering what to do with all our miniature tomatoes by now, but we've not yet had so much as one to sample.
I had done a little pruning on the tomato plants but not as much as I usually do because Erin at Garden Now - Think Later mentioned that she never prunes her tomatoes and that girl knows how to produce tomatoes. (Okay, so she is in Virginia as opposed to me in Minnesota, but still.) I think my plants were putting all their energy into that mountain of greenery they were busily growing and not enough into the fruit. There has been discussion on blogs recently that tomato plants need to be stressed in some way to encourage them to produce ripe fruit and, in turn, seeds to insure their own propagation. So day before yesterday, I decided to introduce a little stress. (To the tomatoes, not me.) To say I pruned them is an understatement.
Maybe I did get just a titch carried away. It's a kill 'em or cure 'em situation, folks. Now, as they say, the proof will be in the pudding.
It's not unusual for shell peas to be coming in near the end of July up here in the North Woods.
But the problem this year is that we've had so much hot weather my vines are drying up and dying off at a rapid rate, and I'm not going to get near the harvest of peas I need to keep us going until next season. There are still scads of unplumped up pods out there, but I fear the vines aren't going to hold in there long enough for all of the peas to mature.
My pickling cucumbers are growing as if there's no tomorrow, and it looks as if I'll be making pickles about a month earlier than usual.
So why then are my slicing cucs and lemon cucs doing NOTHING?? Well, nothing except offering their very life blood (life juice?) up to any marauding insect that happens by. They are so slow this year I'm beginning to wonder if we'll even get fruit off them. And wouldn't you think this hot, humid weather would be good growing conditions for ALL varieties of cucumbers?
All my onions have been knocked flat by winds. Will the bulbs continue to grow so I have more than golf ball sized onions to store for the winter? I don't know, but the onion beds sure are ugly now.
It's definitely not all death and doom in the garden. Lots of things are doing well. Two delightful urchins visiting yesterday asked if they could pull up a carrot. I told them to go ahead expecting to see something the size of a cocktail sausage.
But, lo and behold, there are decent sized carrots growing in that there soil, and best of all, they're sweet tasting. I had feared with lack of adequate moisture and the hot temps, they might be tending toward the bitter side.
This whole blog post has been an attempt to rest from processing raspberries, blueberries, shell peas, and cucs for pickles, all of which have been scattered on my kitchen table and counters since harvesting this morning. The only thing I have left to do yet tonight is blanch and freeze green beans. Phew, whadda day. But since I'm shooting for a day off tomorrow (I hope, I hope, I hope), I really do need to get my rusty-duster back to work.
Can you stand it? I'll make it quick.
Sweet Peas are my favorite flower. My Sweet Peas have put forth their first blooms. Yayyyy!
Something (some *&%#! little insect) is making lace out of the leaves and all the stems (yes, ALL the stems) are starting to turn brown and die. The insects seem to be working their way from the bottom of the plants up toward the top. Boo-hiss!
Not feeling too perky this first day of the week. Trying to analyze why.
1. Haven't been sleeping really well because of the heat.
2. Family and legal kafuffles going on that have sapped time and energy.
3. Garden produce is coming in at an alarming rate and needs to be processed and put by. There's something to tend to every day. This is a good thing, but takes big chunks of time out of an already busy day.
4. Becoming frustrated that our remodeling isn't progressing at near the pace we want it to. Hit a snag where hubby and I both need to sit down and do some more planning and decision making. Can't seem to even fit that into the day.
5. Tried to beat the heat (ha!) by getting out to pick peas early this morning but think I succeeded in expending my whole day's worth of energy at the task.
6. Find myself very frustrated each summer when I have all this wonderful, fresh, luscious produce and fruit from the garden with which to create fantastic meals to tickle the taste buds and delight the palate, but it seems the only time spent in the kitchen is throwing together the quickest of meals or processing the bounty from the garden.
Okay, that's about as much time as I want to spend on what aren't really big enough problems to whine and complain about. I think I'm just suffering a slight case of summer doldrums and maybe working a little too hard. Rather than continuing to drag my lethargic, sun burnt, bug bitten body around into the evening hours, I think I'll hit the sack early and maybe even finish the book I'm currently reading.
What were my squash plants doing tonight?
Holding their little leaves up like funnels and calling out to the rain gods, "Please be kind and shower us with an all night steady rain that we will catch and use to quench our thirsty roots."
(Okay, so I'm getting a little funny. Too many things going on and too much to do this time of year.)
We had 85 degrees in the shade on the north side of our house today so I know it was above 90 in the garden. Still and all, it's nothing compared with the gawd-awful heat some folks are suffering through. The garden is super-dry and we'll be setting up the sprinkler before the sun gets up tomorrow morning.
Hang on, all you parched plants. Help is on the way!
If one has ten pounds and four ounces of shell peas in the pod, how much will the shelled peas (minus pod) weigh?
Both hubby and I missed with our guesses. Me more than he. The shelled peas weighed in at three pounds and four ounces which made him closer to the correct amount than I was.
After they were blanched and packaged for the freezer in serving sized portions (a serving sized portion being enough for both of us for one meal), I had eight servings. Not bad for a first picking.
Shell peas are a bit labor/time intensive to harvest and process, no doubt about it. But when you can pull a package of peas out of the freezer in February and have them TASTE like garden fresh peas, that makes it worth it in my book.
I won't think about picking again today but if we get rain, more may be ready tomorrow.
Task of the afternoon? Pick them peas! Our shell peas are ready for a first picking. Looks as if it's going to be a good crop as there are a trillion yet to be filled-out pods on the vines. But also enough with a nice, plump shape that I knew I'd better get harvested.
We have two 16' long lengths of trellises for the shell peas and I planted on both sides of the supports. So that gives us 64' which is about what we require each year to give us enough of a supply in the freezer to last year round.
Just for the hay of it, today I weighed the peas after I picked them. Ten pounds and two ounces of peas in the pod. I asked hubby how much he thought the shelled peas (after removal from the pods) would weigh. He said he guesstimated they would be about one-fourth of the weight as measured in the pod. I'm going to say they will be half the weight of those pictured above still in their jackets.
I don't mind shelling peas at all. (Would rather do that any day then prep green beans!) Anywho, I'm listening to a good audio book while doing the task and time is going by quickly. The book? "Big Russ & Me," written by Tim Russert who is known to most people as the moderator of the politically orientated TV show "Meet the Press." He writes of his relationship with his father and the part of the book I'm listening to now is about his life growing up in the 50s and 60s which definitely parallels my growing up years. If I'm not mistaken, sad to say, Tim Russert died quite unexpectedly a few years ago.
Back to the peas. As suspenseful as it may be, you're gonna have to wait to see whether hubby or I guessed closer to the weight of the shelled peas as I'm not done with the shelling yet. Okay, okay, I'll get back at it right now.
My good blogger friend, Erin, at Garden Now - Think Later, did a post today about her and her two boys going blueberry picking at a pick-your-own farm.
One of the pictures she included was of her reaching up as high as she could and not being able to touch the top of one of the blueberry bushes.
So I thought I'd post this picture of me standing behind one of our blueberry bushes. Are ya sure we're both talkin' about blueberry bushes??
In years before our bushes started bearing, we've gone about a hundred miles south of us to a farmstead that raises blueberries for sale. Those bushes were about waist high but nothing like those "trees" Erin and the boys picked from.
In all fairness to our itty-bitty, under-sized, runt bushes, they are a cross between cultivated blueberries adapted to the North Country and wild blueberry bushes so I guess I can't expect them to have much size on them. Maybe by staying close to the ground, they're able to stay warmer in the winter. (Well, that's one theory anyway.)
P.S. Why do my fat knees look as if they have little faces on them?
I wonder if it's possible to process beets without the kitchen and cook looking as if something awful happened?
Today I started harvesting beets to use in making pickled beets. Last year I made only 7 pints pickled and put the rest up frozen to use as a hot veggie with butter, salt and pepper. Well, we went through those 7 pickled pints lickety-split so I knew this year I wanted to do many, many more. (And we still have some of the frozen ones patiently waiting in the freezer to be eaten.)
The great beet project didn't start until after noon so I got only one batch done. The goal is to do at least two batches tomorrow.
So far I've had to wipe beet red splatters and splashes off the white kitchen cupboards, side of the refrigerator, the stove top, the wall above the sink, the floor, miscellaneous counter tops, the kitchen table, my face, my arms up to both elbows . . . and, um, does beet juice stain? As on a white blouse? It's an old blouse that I wear in the garden because it's cool and comfortable but the red splotches on the front don't make it look any better.
Ask me why the jars of pickled beets cooling on the counter are ve-e-e-ry sticky. Seems as soon as I loaded the jars into the water bath canner, I heard a very sharp C-R-A-C-K. Yup, I knew a jar had cracked. That doesn't happen very often but as all of you who preserve by canning know, it does happen. My water was boiling and there were six good jars in the canner so nuthin' I could do at that point except let the jars go the allotted time and clean up the mess when the beets were finished being processed.
Actually, it wasn't as much of a mess as it could have been. The break in the jar was clean and although juice leaked out immediately, the jar held together enough that the beet slices all stayed contained in the jar . . . until I tried to life it out of the canner.
I didn't set up the sprinkler in the garden today as I had intended to do so we're hoping for some rain overnight. Showers are in the forecast on and off for the next couple of days. Hope they don't pass us by.
I baked a huckleberry pie this morning. I'd never met a huckleberry before.
Friends of ours have a cabin in Idaho and the last time they returned from a trip there, they brought us some frozen huckleberries.
We were told they were much like blueberries and grow wild in the Northwestern part of the country.
I googled huckleberries to find out more about them, but ended up a little confused.
Apparently they grow in mountainous areas, look much like wild blueberries but have rather large seeds in them. They aren't commercially cultivated because of the difficulty of doing so on mountain hillsides.
I already had the pie in the oven before I read that about them having large seeds. However, both hubby and I had sampled a couple of the berries before I made the pie because I was curious as to their taste and wondered how much sweetener I should use in the pie.
Hmmm, nary a seed did we come across in our sampling. The taste of the berries was like the most flavorful wild blueberry we had ever had but with an almost wine-like flavor. REALLY good! (Homemade huckleberry wine? I can only imagine how dee-lish that would be.)
We could hardly wait for the pie to be cool enough to cut a sample. Was it good? Oh my! The best blueberry pie pales in comparison. I like huckleberries!
Rain greeted us when we got up this morning so I decided to do laundry today instead of tomorrow since I figured I wouldn't be able to get out into the garden today, but might be able to tomorrow. (Could ya follow that?)
As my hubby will gladly tell you, I don't do change well so when the rain stopped (within the hour), and I had already started on my "inside mode" day, I couldn't change again back to outside activities.
I got the week's laundry done (hey, I'm way ahead on tomorrow now, right?) and tackled two big, ugly projects I've had on my desk for a couple of weeks but have successfully been avoiding . . . but not without a lot of guilt. (And yes, of course, I have to admit now that it feels great to have them done.)
Mid-afternoon hubby donned a pair of shorts and took some reading out to a lawn chair in the yard. With an invitation for me to join him, he hauled out a light-weight folding cot-type thingie that in the past (not this summer yet) I've stretched out on to sun bathe. This cot is only about 8" off the ground and when I had baked long enough, I swung my legs over the side . . . and found I couldn't get up. In his usual rational way, he analyzed the situation and announced I had too much ballast still sitting on the cot. I hinted strongly that he could get out of his chair and give me (and my ballast) a hand up, but I think he was enjoying my discomfort a little too much. I finally had to lie back down and roll off onto the ground bruising my right hip on the metal frame and getting a cramp in my left groin.
Luckily none of my injuries were serious enough to keep me from taking a walk in the garden tonight after we returned home from helping our daughter pick up and move some furniture into her new office set-up. (It's lookin' good and is going to be ready for great things soon, I'm predicting.)
Those lazy little Morning Glory vines are finally putting forth some energy and winding their way up the trellis.
Because I don't have any luck successfully freezing edible podded peas, I planted only 8' of them this year. I thought we could keep up with eating them fresh as they matured. HAHAHAHAHAHA!
My row of green beans is looking lush and lovely. Won't be long now until the blossoms morph into tiny little beans.
This is a shot looking directly down into the mulch in my potato "cage" experiment. A day or so ago, I discovered these two round holes, each about 3" across. I think something is living under the mulch. What is it? How did it get in there? I asked hubby to put a Hav-A-Heart trap in there to see if we could catch anything.
When I was scoping out the scene tonight, I discovered another hole in the corner when I pulled this potato vine out of the way. I'm thinking it must be a mouse or mice and I'm afraid they're eating my potatoes! Stay tuned to see if we can solve this mystery.
Late yesterday afternoon I picked our first ripe raspberries of the season. I could have harvested them a day or two earlier but . . . I just didn't get to it.
A nice bunch went home with our daughter for her fresh eating and then after hubby and I each sampled one or two (or ten or twelve), I decided to freeze the remaining ones because we still have fresh strawberries in the refrig that need to be eaten up.
To freeze, I spread the berries out on a cookie sheet then place them in the freezer for a few hours . . . or overnight if I forget about them.
When they're frozen I just shovel them into a freezer bag and pop them back in the freezer. Couldn't be simpler. The bags in the freezer are then ready for making jam at a later date, using in desserts (Winter Raspberry Crumble Pie or Raspberry Shortcake or Raspberry Muffins), fruit in smoothies, over ice cream, oh my, the list goes on and on.
I can tell the raspberry harvest is not going to be fantastic this year. Last year's harvest was really good so I guess the plants deserve an off year. It almost seems as if the strawberries and raspberries take turns alternating huge crops. And with the strawberry harvest we have just had, we'll not be hurting for berries if the raspberries aren't as plentiful. Besides, the blueberries are still to come!
Our goslings have been granted a reprieve.
They will live to graze another day. Many more days actually.
Our weather is currently very hot and humid. We have bugs. Well, WE don't have bugs. What I mean is there are various insects, both biting and non-biting, flying around here, there and everywhere right now. The possibility of rain showers is forecast for the next few days which would not make the outdoor butchering set-up convenient. Fresh meats are quite susceptible to contamination and (what we're most concerned about in this heat) spoilage. Taking all these factors into account, we've decided to postpone the butchering of our goslings.
This is not a terrible, awful, bad thing.
Goslings should be butchered after they are in full feather which commonly occurs sometime between nine to twelve weeks of age. That's why we were shooting for this weekend as ours are ten weeks old this coming Monday. And they are in full feather right now.
Shortly after the goslings reach nine to twelve weeks old, they go into a heavy molt losing their first juvenile feathers and then growing adult feathers. If the goslings aren't butchered before this first molt starts, it's best to delay butchering for six to ten weeks longer when they should be in full feather again. (Geese aren't considered to be in "prime flesh" while they are molting and/or growing new feathers.)
That would put our next potential butchering date somewhere near the end of September which should afford us much cooler temps and no bugs. (You'll note I said "should" because the way the weather has been so far this season, who knows.)
Although the geese haven't voiced their opinion, I imagine they're happy to have a couple more months of stuffing their little gullets with lush, green grass, and we'll have the extra time of enjoying them as they live the good life they have.
As chickens are prone to do, ours go to bed early each night. The geese and our wild Mallards like to hang out in the poultry yard together until almost dark.
It wasn't always this way. Matter of fact, for a long time the geese wouldn't tolerate Mama Mallard and her ten ducklings anywhere in their vicinity.
I think it's probably now that the goslings are full-grown and their parents aren't as protective of them that they feel okay about fraternizing with the ducks. Hubby thinks it's because these hot days, the geese and ducks have all been hanging out together in the pond and have gotten used to each other.
At any rate, it's fun to see them all intermingled up in the poultry yard each evening before the geese are shut away in their safe shelter for the night.
The dynamics of the situation are about to change however. This weekend is the designated one for our seven goslings to be butchered. We'll truly miss seeing them everyday and watching their antics. But they were raised as meat birds and they've reached ten weeks of age which is the suggested time for butchering young geese.
Each year brings new ideas of things I want to try in the garden. Sometimes the experiment ends with me wondering why I never did it before. Other times I have to ask myself why in the world I ever thought such a notion would work.
I take a walk through the garden in mid-summer with a pencil and pad of paper and make notes of things that are going well, things I want to change, and things I'll never be tempted to try again. I do the same at the very end of the season. Then in the winter when I'm planning my garden for next year, I go over my notes and make plans accordingly.
Today the blunders seem to be uppermost in my mind so I'll share some with you.
A while back I made a second planting of spinach and a third planting of radishes. (Or was it the fourth? I love radishes.) I planted alternating rows in a raised bed thinking the radishes would be pulled and out of the way before the spinach needed more room to grow.
Well, it was so warm the radishes didn't want to form. But the tops kept growing and growing and growing. My poor spinach got crowded out and in protest bolted when it was just a few inches high. What was I thinking?
My plan for this bed was to have a circle of red geraniums in the center with petunias surrounding the circle. I bought a whole flat of these insipid yellow petunias (what possessed me to make this poor color choice?), planted them too thickly and they have all but crowded out the geraniums that are hanging on to life by a mere thread. What was I thinking?
In another bed I had only enough red onion sets to fill the center of the bed so I planted each end with more of those blasted petunias interspersed with bright colored dianthus. Once again the petunias have over-run the dianthus and are trying to smother out the onions. What was I thinking?
Back to the woes of my supposed wild flower bed. It's nothing but 99.9% Bachelor Buttons that have grown so tall they are starting to topple over in the strong winds we've been having. The packet of seeds said the mix contained a variety of about 20 different flowers, only one of which (other than the Bachelor Buttons) has shown up. I do not have good luck with wild flowers. I really should have know better. What was I thinking?
This bed is usually the first one I see when I walk out into the garden. I like it to be full of blooming flowers. For several years I've planted it out to Sweet Peas and a Pot Zinnia that just blooms its little head off from early on to late in the fall. This year I got the bright idea to try something else besides the Pot Zinnias. The Sweet Peas are always slow to start blooming and the bush Asters I planted are huge with not one single flower bud in sight. So my colorful flower bed is one big bunch of monochromatic green foliage. What was I thinking?
Ugh. My California Poppies. I don't think I'll ever let them self-seed again. They were much too thick in the bed and although made a dazzling display for about two weeks, now are a bedraggled, ugly disaster. I think I'm going to pull them out and plant a little more judiciously by hand with new seeds next year. What was I thinking?
Lastly, here are my experimental potatoes planted in a raised bed, surrounded by a three foot high "cage" and mulched with straw. I evidently mulched waaay too heavily because I seem to have killed all the lush sprouted and growing potato vines in the center of the bed. Only the ones around the sides (and one brave one in the middle) are growing. What was I thinking?
Well, we live and learn, right? And in the process I seem to do some dumb things, too.
This morning before breakfast I went out to the trellises of my edible podded peas to see if I could find any to put in the scrambled eggs I was making for breakfast. I found six pods. That was all, just six. But I was happy. They would add a little color and flavor to breakfast.
Then we had the torrential rain and it's continued to stay gray, no sunshine, with on and off rains all day.
While in the process of preparing Pasta Alfredo for dinner tonight, I put on my hip boots (not really, but it wouldn't have been out of the realm of sensibility) and dashed out into the garden to see if I could find something green and crunchy (a small zucchini maybe?) to add to the pasta.
I walked by the pea trellises and spied a nice sized pod. And another. And another. And anoth . . .
I ended up gathering all of these. These were NOT there this morning. They grew today. With no sun. But lotsa moisture. This is weird.
Now I'm tempted to go out there and stand in front of the pea vines and see if I might actually be able to see the pods growing. OOOO-oooo-oooo . . .