Monday, July 30, 2012

Start Of Week, End of Month

Two more days and the whole month of July is gone, gone, gone. Is this summer going by fast or what? Even though a lot of us have been bemoaning the crummy gardening season, the over-abundance of heat and humidity and are ready for this summer to be history, there are still many things around here that need to get accomplished before nasty weather arrives making it too difficult to work outside . . . or inside (painting, polying) without windows wide open for good ventilation. Guess this all means I need to shift into a higher gear and sprint (shuffle faster) toward the finish line.

Hubby and I painted inside the garage yesterday. He stayed with it nearly the whole day but I only worked there 'bout half the day. I had peas to process and freeze, raspberries to pick and raspberry juice to make.

There are now ten servings of garden peas in the freezer. Many thanks to my daughter for helping me shell the peas Saturday night. Not a bad job at all when you have good help and conversation to speed things along.

I had nearly a gallon of raspberries and I hope I didn't waste them. Since Papa Pea loves canned raspberries for the juice left in the jar(!), I decided to try to make raspberry juice so he can guzzle as much as his little heart desires.

Combining a few recipes I found on the good ol' Internet, I made what is supposed to be raspberry concentrate. For a delicious (hopefully) raspberry fruit juice drink, it's to be diluted with three or four parts of water. I got just short of 6 pints of the concentrate. The pint that was a smidge short is in the refrigerator and we'll sample it this morning with breakfast. Fingers crossed it's good stuff.

We had a couple of storms roll through yesterday afternoon. Our rain gauge collected right around 3/4" of rainfall. Then overnight we got another 7/10ths of an inch. We were getting mighty dry again so all of this moisture is good to have.

Saturday I planted two beds of fall crops. One bed of broccoli and another of kohlrabi, lettuce and chard. I still want to put in some radishes, which I love, but will wait a while longer before planting those. If I could find enough room somewhere I'd plant some more shell peas, too.

Even though a lot has been disappointing in the garden, I can't complain about my kohlrabi. Kohlrabi likes to grow in cool weather and the faster it matures (usually around 45 days), the more tender, crisp and good-flavored it is. Mine that is just coming mature now was planted April 29th right before it turned really warm up here. So it has been growing in not just warm but very hot weather. It should have been ready to eat around the middle of June. Here it is the end of July and it is just big enough to harvest. BUT darned if the stuff isn't sweet and tender and we're enjoying some almost every day. Go figure.

The recent rain has brought our temperatures down a little which is a welcomed relief. Cooler temps are in our forecast for the next week and I don't think anyone will complain if that actually comes to pass.

POSTSCRIPT: We did try the raspberry concentrate with our breakfast this morning. It didn't look thick to me so I made two sample glasses: One mixed with two parts water and one mixed with three parts water. We both agreed we think we can go with even more water so I'll try four to one next.

And the flavor? Lip-smackin' good! Score one for our side. I think I've got some good raspberry juice here. Maybe I should try making some blueberry juice next? (Heck, maybe I should finally buckle down and learn how to make WINE with this luscious fresh fruit!)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Life Is Just A Bowl Of Berries

Oh, num-num-num-num! The strawberries may be over and done with but now we have blueberries and raspberries. And we've been enjoying eating them fresh a couple of times a day.

After our classy (not) dinner tonight of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, we each had a bowl of berries with half cream, half milk. Papa Pea chose to mix blueberries and the luscious golden raspberries.

Me? I stuck with my favoritest . . . red raspberries. Can't beat 'em.

Sure, I work pretty hard at different times of the year to insure we have as good a crop of berries as Mother Nature will allow. But it's all worth it when we sit down to fresh berries that were on the bush less than an hour ago. Mmmm-mm!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Discombobulated Day

Ever have one of those days that didn't go in the least bit the way you planned it would? "Course you have. Keeps life interesting. Or makes you tear your hair out. It's all in the way we handle it. (Handling it in the "better" way is sometimes more difficult than others.)

The good part of this day was that it drizzled lightly on and off all day. The rain gauge shows 4/10ths of an inch now a little before 7 p.m. More moisture (yay!). We'll take all we can get. Wish I could route some of it to those of you who still need it so badly.

Another day when I didn't get out to do the garden tour to blog about. Sigh. I will get it done one of these days. Just so I'd have a picture or two to include with this post, I tritzed out through the wet, wet grass and took these three shots.

This is a beautiful, healthy looking mound of pumpkin leaves. I can't figure out why it's staying so "all together" and refusing to send out vining tendrils.

The red kuri squash planted at the same time is running all over the place.

My experimental corn is doing very well. It's tasseled out and even has little ears of corn forming! I know this probably is far behind those of you growing corn down in the Banana Belt where you don't have any trouble getting yours to mature, but for us up here in the North, it's lookin' good.

Tomorrow is mapped out to be a very busy day. Hubby and I have errands to run in the morning including going to look at some black dirt we may invest in. The new raised beds we are putting in are deeper than the previous old ones and although we'll add compost to them this fall, some more dirt wouldn't hurt either.

Early afternoon will find me driving about twenty miles down the road to get some upholstery sample books so I can start making forward progress thinking about living room furniture.

Tomorrow night is Girls' Night Out for catch-up time with some friends. I'm pretty sure I'll have to fit harvesting blueberries and raspberries in the day somewhere, too. I haven't checked carefully, but some of my shell peas look as though they might be filled out enough for picking also.

Even if some raspberries would have to be sacrificed (by more rain that is forecast), that wouldn't be the worst thing because we still need the moisture. We'll just take whatever comes tomorrow and deal with it. In a good way.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Just A Quickie

They said we were going to get a nice rain last night . . . and we did! I just checked the rain gauge and it measured an honest two inches.

The rain has stopped now, although the forecast is for more all day today. Earlier this morning while it was still coming down, I had to put on rain gear and go walk through the garden.

It always amazes me how much a garden appreciates good, ol', natural rain. I am positive everything has grown about six inches overnight!

The inside of the house is quite dark this morning. A situation we haven't experienced in ever so long. No bright (HOT) sunlight shining in. I've put on little lights and lamps and it creates quite a cozy atmosphere.

Granddog Tucker looks like he's ready for a relaxing kinda day. (Is he giving me the Evil Eye for waking him?)

If the weather stays this way all day, I have big expectations for getting my desk cleared and caught up on correspondence. Fingers crossed that will happen . . . owhhi teb euyysat . . . but it's really hard to type that way.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Not Bragging

The following list of what I did today is not meant to impress you. It is meant as therapy for me so that I can learn to be content with what I get done in a day's time and quit feeling like I could/should have done more.

First thing this morning I decided that instead of crossing items off my rather (ahem) extensive To Do List, I would simply write down what I did all day.

* Put away dried dishes from last night while making my morning latte.
* Checked e-mail and drank my latte.
* Fixed and consumed breakfast.
* Picked 2/3 of the blueberries.
* Stopped to go up to the farm and get milk.
* Bottled milk and started a batch of cottage cheese.
* Did dishes from breakfast along with containers from milk.
* Finished picking remainder of blueberries.
* Picked all the raspberries.
* Finished ironing I was too tired to get done last night.
* Got some "old" towels from storage in back shed that are in better shape than the towels we're currently using.
* Prepped and ate lunch.
* Watered window boxes and flowers in pots.
* Finished making the cottage cheese.
* Tossed old flowers in vases and cut new ones.
* Emptied drip pans in two refrigerators.
* Cut up last third of watermelon.
* Put resurrected towels in washing machine.
* Sat and talked with daughter when she popped in for her (2 p.m. to 3 p.m.) lunch hour.
* Readied two raised beds for fall planting.
* Put towels in drier - too lazy to put up clothes lines and hang outside.
* Sat at computer and ordered a new supply of audio tapes from the library for hubby and for me.
* Neighbor stopped over on her way home from work to pick up raspberries and blueberries I had for her. Visited a short while.
* Ate dinner of leftover cold pasta salad.
* Planted kale and lettuce in raised beds.

Now that I see it all written down, I admit I did accomplish a lot. And I'll bet if any of you made a list of everything you did of a day's time, it would be much like mine.

How did I do on my To Do List? Not so good. There remain six important things I didn't get close to doing. And I still have dishes to wash again tonight. (See? That's what I have got to stop focusing on! The things not done. Professional therapy may have to be involved.)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

End of the Weekend

I know I got a few things done this weekend (I MUST have, right?) but basically I feel as though I went backwards on the move ahead front. Two days of hot, hot weather with no rain. Besides it being simmery, sultry summer time out there, there are lots of small (and a couple of big) wildfires in Canada and we can smell the smoke the second we step outside.

Yesterday I did my first picking this season of the blueberries. I only got two cups but it's a start and they were wonderful. (Snarfed them right up, we did.)

I also picked raspberries. Of our three 14 ft. long rows, only one row is currently ripe. From that row I got two quarts. We're also managing to eat these fresh. Fresh raspberries and cream are just about my all-time favorite summer time treat. Mmmmm-mm!

The weather conspired against our strawberries this year. At least I think that's what did 'em in. The picking season was short, I never got what I would call big berries, many of them had a solid white side that had to be cut off and most were small and rather seedy. (Other than that, they were great. Hahaha!) I was feeling like a really baaaad strawberry grower until I heard that the pick-your-own strawberry farms up in Canada a short distance from us had exactly the same kind of season I did. Add strawberries to the growing list of weird gardening experiences this year.

We did eat our share of fresh strawberries, I gave some to friends and family, put eleven quarts of mashed berries in the freezer for smoothies and made seventeen 1/2 pint jars of strawberry jam. I also squirreled away a quart and a half of whole (specially selected) strawberries in the freezer that I'll use to make Strawberry Shortcake later on.

I had wanted to take a bunch of pictures out in the garden this weekend for a garden tour post (the good, the bad and the ugly it will be) but never got to it. Tomorrow looks to be a jam-packed full day but maybe I can still get that post ready. These days when I feel over-worked and droopy from the heat and the daily lists seem to get longer and longer, I wonder who thought of the lines to the old song, "Summer time, and the livin' is easy . . . "

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Happy, Happy, Happy!

That broccoli I harvested yesterday . . . was THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BROCCOLI I have ever seen! And, yes, it was totally wormless. I soaked it in warm salt water for an hour and a half. No worms. I blanched it in preparation for freezing. No worms. Thank you, Sue! Thank you, Sue! (I am going to the Credit Union first thing Monday morning to see if I can get a loan to buy enough Agribon to cover our whole acreage.)

As gorgeous as the broccoli was I got only seven servings (a serving is enough to feed both of us one meal) from four heads. I saved one head in the refrigerator to use in a couple of new recipes I've been wanting to try.

I make an effort to preserve enough of each veggie I grow to last for (at least) one year. So even though I may get some side shoots from the broccoli plants yet, you can see I'm gonna fall short of enough broccoli to make it through to next year's harvest. (Understatement.)

But, hey, this year was definitely an experiment and one I'll continue fiddling with.

I'm going to plant some fall broccoli without the Agribon covering hoping the cycle of that nasty little white moth that lays eggs in the broccoli has run its course for the season. It will be very interesting to see if I can grow fall broccoli without cover, without worms. ('Course, I should point out I've never had success growing fall broccoli!)

As another aspect of the great Agribon experiment, I still have one bed covered with it. I used it on a bed of Brussels sprouts (also prone to being inedible because of little green you-know-whats). The Brussels sprouts won't be mature until later this fall. I had seven Brussels sprouts transplants I set out and also three broccoli plants I couldn't fit in the bed just harvested so put them in with the Brussels sprouts.

Now the curious thing is that none of the three broccoli plants in with the Brussels sprouts (under the Agribon) have started to form heads yet. The plants are big, the same size of those that I just harvested the mature heads from. Hmmmm . . . what's going on here?

Just another great garden mystery to be followed up on. But in the meantime, excuse me while I go gaze at my worm-free broccoli in the freezer.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Broccoli Harvest

In an effort to grow worm-free broccoli this year (for the first time EVER . . . I'm hoping), I covered my broccoli bed with a hoop configuration and Agribon the way sweet Sue does over at Sue's Garden Journal. In the last couple of days, by peeking through the Agribon, I could see that several nice-sized heads of broccoli were wanting to be harvested.

Above is the bed in the process of shedding its Agribon cover.

Ta-dah! The broccoli plants uncovered! They looked really very healthy.

Out of the nine plants put in the bed, this one matured way ahead of the rest. Because it's not a simple job to unfasten the Agribon (and then secure it back over the bed again), I chose to sacrifice this head and let it flower without harvesting it.

I harvested five heads today. Of the nine original plants, one keeled over and died (of an unidentified cause) shortly after we covered the bed. There is the one that matured too early and five I harvested today. That leaves two heads that I decided were too small to harvest today. I'll watch them carefully and probably harvest them in a few days.

The heads are good-sized. A little bigger than my hand span.

So did I manage to grow the broccoli worm-free? Dunno yet. I have the five heads soaking in warm salt water right now . . . which should drive the worms out if there are any there.

I'll give you an update later. Stand by . . . (Ooooh, the suspense!!)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Looking Forward To Being Chilly Tonight

Well, it probably won't feel exactly chilly, but when the forecast is calling for an overnight low of 57 degrees, that sure will feel a lot cooler than it has been at night for a long time.

I wonder if this means our hot, humid weather is on the way out? We can only hope.

Papa Pea and I went out early this morning to work on getting some of the old raised garden beds replaced before it got too hot. We were only going to do one, but that first one went really well and since we had all the tools out we did two more before finally calling it quits somewhere around three this afternoon. (Nuthin' like working right through the hottest part of the day for maximum sweat production!)

The humidity didn't seem so heavy today so that helped keep us going. But I just now took the scarf off my hair in preparation for taking a shower and lo and behold, my hair is still damp from sweating and I've been inside for four hours!

I picked the first handful of ripe blueberries from our bushes today and gave them to Papa Pea as reward for working so hard on the raised bed project. They're just starting to ripen up now.

I'll be getting our first harvest of raspberries tomorrow. If all goes well, we should get a lot of them this year.

These first that have ripened seem to be individually bigger than I remember them being in past years.

I haven't canned raspberries for a few years, but hubby has put in a special request that I preserve some that way this year because he loves to drink the juice that is left after we eat the raspberries.

I'd like to do a garden tour with pictures to post soon. After seeming to do nothing for weeks, some of the veggies are finally starting to put on some size. I even saw a zucchini blossom tonight. The first one!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

We Have It So Easy

Today we grump and grumble about the "difficulties" we encounter making our way through life. Much of what we stress over has to do, I think, with the complexities of our modern lives which are caused to a large part by the extensive opportunities we have and the multitude of choices available to us.

A jog in my memory yesterday made me think back to an elderly couple hubby and I met some time in the second year of our marriage. This must have been about 1965 and at that time, the couple I'm remembering, Mr. and Mrs. Hawes, were both in their eighties.

Although life during the time when Mr. and Mrs. Hawes were trying to make a living and raise a family was so much more basic and simple, their life was much more difficult and challenging compared to our life today.

In the mid '60s we lived in a farming community in Illinois where a small weekly "buy, sell or swap" newspaper was published. Even then we were interested in obtaining the most natural food possible for ourselves so when we saw an ad for butter made with raw cow's milk, we decided to follow up on it. This led us to turning into the driveway of what looked to be a very neat, but very old family farm.

Mr. and Mrs. Hawes had lived on this same piece of property for over fifty years. They'd farmed the land and raised their children in the old two-story, bare bones farmhouse. When we met them, they had given up farming, leased out their land and no longer kept any animals except one Jersey cow which they still milked and separated the cream for making and selling butter.

We became steady customers of theirs and nearly each time we stopped to buy our butter, they asked us in for a little visit. With our encouragement, they reminisced about their life in days gone by.

They must have started farming in the early 1900s. We heard a story of the horse they had that was always difficult to get harnessed up. One time, Mr. Hawes had been having an especially hard time with the horse so sent his eight year-old son into the house to get his mother to come help with the uncooperative horse.

In the ensuing scuffle, the recalcitrant horse bit Mrs. Hawes on the side of her face. Needless to say, all thoughts of getting the horse harnessed up were forgotten as everyone went into the house to determine the extent of Mrs. Hawes' injuries. Luckily, they proved to be not very serious and soon everyone started to calm down.

As the mother and father were assuring their children that all was well, they saw their eight year-old son go stomping out the door with his BB gun. Mr. Hawes asked where he thought he was going. The little boy replied that he was going to go kill the horse that had hurt his mama!

Most family farms weren't profitable operations during those times, so Mr. Hawes was forced to take a job selling livestock feed to supplement their income. This necessitated him traveling long distances away from the farm. Of course, when he was gone it was up to Mrs. Hawes and the children to keep things running smoothly as best they could.

They told us of the time their old wood cook stove in the kitchen nearly burned the house down. The pipe from the stove went up through the ceiling and across the attic before venting into an old brick chimney. Fortunately, Mr. Hawes was home the day they had a chimney fire and the pipe in the attic broke and fell to the attic floor. The whole family working together was able to get the fire out before terrible damage was done. It's scary to think what would have happened if that old, wooden, tinderbox of a house had caught fire.

Mrs. Hawes talked of one year the insects were unbelievably bad in their crops and in her huge vegetable garden. She recalled standing for hours and hours at the kitchen sink alternating between crying over the paltry harvest and nearly becoming physically sick from the huge number of insects she tried to pick and wash out of the vegetables. Of course, these were times when they didn't have money to go to the grocery store to supplement the food for their table. These sad garden vegetables were all she would have to can and try to feed her family with during the coming year.

We listened as they talked of a particularly harsh winter when their area experienced one snowstorm after the other, always when Mr. Hawes was away, Mrs. Hawes remembered. During one of these blizzards two of the children who had had bad colds developed pneumonia. As we talked, Mrs. Hawes pointed to the spot in the living room where she had set up two cots near the parlor stove for the children to lie on so she could better tend to them. (There was no heat upstairs in the bedrooms.) She told of the night with a howling snowstorm that rattled every window in the house and the snow formed small drifts on the inside windowsills. Mr. Hawes was away, she was alone with the five children and the two with pneumonia were so sick that she thought she was going to lose both of them before morning. The telephone lines were down so she had no way of getting help. Although everyone survived that event, she said she'd never been able to enjoy a good snowfall since then.

Yep, we grumble about things such as the hot, humid weather, the lack of rainfall and the plague of insects dining in our gardens on a daily basis, but do we have a difficult life compared to how hard Mr. and Mrs. Hawes worked year after year to provide the basic necessities for themselves and their family?

I don't think so. We have it so easy.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Not What I Expected

A couple of months ago, sometime in May, hubby and I decided we both wanted to take off a few extra pounds that had mysteriously taken up residence on various unflattering parts of our bodies.

How to accomplish this? Simple. Cut out desserts and/or baked goods of any kind. And stop putting edible things in our mouths between meals. Being (sorta) intelligent and (sorta) strong willed, we felt we could do it.

Poor Papa Pea has much more of a sweet tooth than I do so it's been a little harder for him. Me? As long as I don't buy potato chips and have them in the house, I'm not tempted to rip into a bag in a weak moment some afternoon or after dinner with a cool glass of something liquid. I'm not saying I don't eat the baked goods I make, but I'm more salt and crunch; he's more sweet.

Is this plan of ours working in taking off the pounds? I think so, but don't really know about what weight loss we may have experienced because neither of us has gone near the scale that lives under our bed. But I can easily tell that my better half is looking leaner and my pants are definitely feeling roomier. I'm wearing shorts that I couldn't get into last summer. Wa-hoo! How great a feeling is that?

Something I've noticed (that is a little upsetting) and can hardly believe is how MUCH sugar, butter and flour I've NOT used since May. Were we ingesting ALL that sugar, butter and flour on a regular basis? Yup. Granted, a certain amount of what I baked was given away or eaten by someone other than the two of us, but all the same, we personally stuffed in plenty of it.

When we set up these restrictions, I expected to feel slightly deprived now and then and there are times when it seems like I NEED a small dessert to properly finish off a meal or when a cookie or two (or three or four . . . see how hard it is to be sensible?) would be just the pick-up I need a couple hours before dinner. But here's what I didn't expect to have surface.

I have found myself missing to a very large degree . . . the baking!

I've always found it both soothing and satisfying to sit down and go through my recipes to decide what to bake. Usually I have ingredients in the freezer or pantry I want to make use of. Or this time of year there are fresh berries and produce from the garden to be considered in my selection of what to bake.

For me the mixing and stirring and actual putting together, the creative process of baking is something I've missed. And then, of course, there is the WON-derful aroma of baked goods in the oven and lasting all the way through cooling on the counter.

Go ahead and laugh at me if you want, but I also feel less of a capable, efficient homemaker when I have no homemade goodie available to offer anyone who might stop in for a cuppa and a chat.

In hearing these sad lamentations (whiney complaints?), a couple of people have suggested I bake and give it away. First off, that would be cruel and unusual punishment for my husband. To watch me stand at the counter mixing up a sweet treat, smelling it while it baked and cooled and then stealing it out from under his very nose? That might be a little too much and send him right over the edge. Nope, can't chance that. It might satisfy my desire to go through the baking process but giving it away would still leave me with no luscious goodie smiling up at me from my kitchen counter.

All this rambling just goes to say that deeming baked goods a no-no in our house has worked well as far as losing pounds and/or inches, but has left a bit of an unsatisfactory empty spot in my Little Ms. Efficient/Happy Homemaker persona.

Can I handle it? Yeah, 'cause even though I do miss the baking for all the reasons mentioned, it's feeling pretty darn good to be losing that excess baggage that makes it uncomfortable to bend over and to not have to wear clothes that camouflage the extra flab making me feel self-conscious and unhealthy.

Will I give up baking forever? I doubt it. But can we limit our self-indulgence in sugar, butter and flour to the extent that it doesn't show up on our waistlines or impinge on our general healthiness? Time will tell. For now, I'm still feeling great about being able to fit into these summer shorts. With room to spare even!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Replacing Garden Beds

Part of my gardening is done on flat land in traditional rows . . . what I refer to as my field garden. Other planting is done in raised beds.

We've got 26 raised beds and over the span of years, normal deterioration of the wood frames has taken its toll. In the past couple of years, we've had to replace a few of the raised beds here and there. This spring, in doing a maintenance check, I found several that had pretty much given up the ghost over winter.

There are eight beds that I decided had served their purpose and needed to be replaced. One was done in early spring and is in use this summer growing season. That leaves seven more we want to get replaced yet in readiness for next year's use.

In his spare time (ahem), my dear husband has been working on constructing the replacement 4' x 8' frames. Above are four of them ready to go out into the garden area. We've used 12" wide boards for these frames.

How bad are some of the existing bed frames? Here's one that we've tried to give a little extra support to in order to keep it limping along. Enough now though. This one comes out and will be replaced.

You can see daylight through each corner of this other bed's end board which is just about totally nonexistent. Yup, time for this frame to go.

There's a blog post I did showing us installing a new raised bed frame if you're interested in more detail. Click here to go to that post.

Both of us are avoiding going to do outside jobs this morning. It's heavy and humid out there and prime conditions for biting insects. We have the possibility of thunderstorms today and tonight. We need the rain again and I wish it would just start raining and clear out the mugginess. Maybe even bring in some cooler air. Not holding out for much, am I?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Life Is . . .

. . . surprising

. . . good

. . . hard

. . . confusing

. . . inspiring

. . . sad

. . . what you make of it

. . . complex

. . . tiring

. . . rewarding

. . . (too) busy

. . . full of hope

. . . scary

. . . challenging

. . . wonderful

. . . going by too fast

Additions, anyone?

A Small Celebration

Although about 6 days past her actual birthday, the Pea Family got together last night to celebrate Chicken Mama's special day.

We had a simple dinner of a big tossed salad and garlic-cheese bread so we had more room for cake!

Birthday hopes and wishes all around were for a much, much, much better coming year for our little girl.

After dinner and cake and opening presents (including one I had for Christmas but hid so well I didn't find it until a couple of weeks ago), we adjourned to the living room for Family Reading Night. I think we've missed this night for the past month (or maybe two?) but I hope we can get back on schedule now and keep up with our once a month reading together because we all really enjoy it. Our choices of reading material never fail to be varied and bring up discussion and conversation that we wouldn't have in the ordinary course of day to day communication.

* * * * * * * *

I need to get outside right away this morning to do what needs to be done before it gets too hot. We've got another two days of high heat forecast after the past couple of days of a (blessed) cooling off.

It seems to me that summer starts to slip away very rapidly after we pass the 4th of July and there are still many projects to be done around her before cold weather sets in so I need to make a list, check it twice and get on with it!

Monday, July 9, 2012

It's A Good Thing I'm Retired

Otherwise, I'd never have time to do what I do.

Today was a good start to the week. Got the laundry done and hung out on the lines early this morning. Brought it in as it dried, folded it and put most of it away. Tonight I ironed what needed ironing.

This morning I also picked about 12-14 pounds of strawberries. After lunch I sat and cleaned them all. That part is NOT my favorite as it's so tedious! (And you can carry on a conversation with a bowl of strawberries for only so long before you start getting a little funny.)

After dinner I made two batches of jam.

Then I baked a birthday cake for our daughter because we're finally getting together tomorrow night to celebrate her special day . . . only six days late. No picture of the cake 'cause I only got it baked. I'll frost it tomorrow.

Below is a picture of our granddog, Tucker, that I snapped today. His favorite place to take a nap in the house is by the back door because it's coolest there.

The room right inside the back door is a step down from the rest of the house and apparently the little guy was so tired he needed to rest his chin on the step before falling fast asleep.

That's a little bit the way I feel right now.

Yup. 'Twas a good day. Now I'm ready for a good night's sleep. Hope I make it into bed instead of zonking out on the floor like Tucker.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Quiet Sunday

Our day was quiet but profitable. Progress in our never-ending remodeling was made.

Mostly for the past couple of weeks, we've not been working inside the house but rather working on getting the interior of the garage finished. That, in itself, seems a project that just may go on forever, but I know that's not really the case. (Pul-eeze tell me it's not the case.)

We've gotten the three-sided storage area on the back end of the garage completely closed in now with a wall and good, stout door.

This little room will be primarily for storage of our generator.

Today we decided to tackle getting the wood stove back into the house and hooked up in the living room. (I know it's hard to imagine that it will be cold and we'll want to use it someday despite the fact that we currently feel we'll never again long for the warmth of a cozy wood fire.)

The stove is an air-tight, solid cast iron one and after today I'm convinced it weighs about 2,000 pounds. Actually, the weight is closer to 300 pounds but after having to man(andwoman)handle it today, who cares? It felt like 2,000 pounds.

It may look like it would have been an easy project but it was quite the feat getting the stove not just through the whole house and into this corner of the living room, but then maneuvering it into just the right spot so the stovepipe, when hooked up, was level side to side and front to back. I can't begin to count how many times we moved it a quarter inch this way, a half inch that way.

Whether it's perfectly placed now or not, that's where it's going to stay! Cross that item off our list. Whew.

I took a slow tour of the garden this morning and found no army worms. But I did find another variegated cutworm on the same peas that we found the other ones yesterday. I made myself (wearing gloves) remove the worm, throw him on the ground and smoosh him completely. Utterly. Totally. Nuthin' resembling a worm left.

I had a very nice note from a blog friend in Wisconsin saying she had a terrible variegated cutworm infestation about a month ago. She's had success eradicating the buggers from her flowers and veggies using spinosad, a biological pesticide.

I could have picked strawberries again today but put that off until tomorrow so we could work on the stove project. Good thing I'll have something to do tomorrow!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Saturday Shudder

It doesn't make much sense to be a gardener if you scream, jump a foot off the ground and run when you see a worm. But that's how the hateful things affect me. Give me any kind of a bug to deal with and I'm okay. But worms? Heck, I don't even like the friendly, environmentally healthy earthworms that are so beneficial to our garden soil.

So you can imagine the angst I just experienced when strolling through the garden and found our whole bed of comfrey heavily infested with army worms. ((Shudder!))

We had been warned that our area should be on the look-out for these nasty creatures this year. Several years ago a large part of our state had a terrible (and I mean terrible . . . as in sides of houses and whole roads covered with them . . . ish!) invasion of army worms and many mature trees died as a result of the infestation. At that time, we apparently were very lucky and were not affected by them.

Well, we have them this year. (You may have to biggify the picture to see the damage.) Papa Pea knows my aversion (that's putting it mildly) to worms so he came out to help me cut down the comfrey patch, pile everything in our big garden cart and truck it out to a distant part of the poultry yard where he assured me our chickens will feast with relish on the worms.

After disposing of the foliage, I carefully walked through the rest of the garden to see if I could spot them anywhere else. Lots of grasshoppers happily munching on various plants here and there but no other detectable army worms.

However (insert more cringing), I did find what I'm afraid is the variegated cutworm. (Arrrgh, how will I survive all this?) Supposedly this is a new kind of cutworm that hasn't previously been able to survive this far north. Thanks to our wimpy winters for the past couple of years, they have been able to migrate from farther south and take up residence here now. We've seen lots of the moths that lay the eggs that hatch into the worms, but this was the first sighting of the actual cutworm. (No picture of these guys. I was so freaked out by then that I was hopping up and down and squealing like a little girl.)

We've always had (regular, old, garden variety -- pun intended) cutworms and I lose a couple of newly set out plants to them each year. This old, familiar type wraps itself around the base of the tender stem of a plant at soil level and basically cuts it off in order to suck the juice from the stem.

This new-to-our-area variegated cutworm will also eat the leaves and will burrow right into the formed vegetables besides sometimes cutting off the plant at the knees. Or toes. Or whatever.

Upon discovering these blankety-blank variegated cutworms (four of them) on my snow pea vines (dining vigorously on the leaves), I ran to get my big, bad, better half to kill them. (No, I cannot stand to touch the hateful things.) He plucked them from the pea vines, dropped them on the ground and I pulverized them with the heel of my shoe. For about 5 minutes per worm.

Now I know each time I'm in the garden my eyeballs will be popping out of my head searching for worms trying to steal our fruit and vegetables from us. If the army worms get into other crops like they did the comfrey, it's gonna be curtains for any harvest around here. Cross your fingers for us.

P.S. You have no idea how creepy and crawly I feel right now. I've washed my hands at least six times in the hour I've been back inside. ((Shudder!))

Friday, July 6, 2012

Sometimes Ya Gotta Be Tough

And sometimes ya gotta be tougher than you really wanna be. I hadn't done a thorough picking in the strawberry patch for a couple/few days because it's been so darn hot out there . . . and I'm a hot weather wimp.

So last night I decided I would be up and out there at the crack of dawn (okay, maybe a little after the crack of dawn) and get the picking done before it got too hot today.

A little after the crack of dawn (okay, quite a bit after the crack of dawn) I was out with my bowls, audio book on tape and determined to get every last ripe strawberry picked and into the kitchen for processing before the sun had a chance to fry me.

Once out there I noticed . . . hmmm, no sun to be seen rising in the sky. Hmmm. Hazy, actually. And humid? Wowee, I'll say. Buggy? Eeeee-ow! The black flies were . . . what's a step up from vicious?

Back into the house to put on my bug shirt. Those strawberries were going to get picked.

I gotta admit, the bug shirt does its job. Nary a black fly feasted on my flesh after I donned my armor. Only trouble is even though the shirt is supposedly well-ventilated, it is HOT. At least under the totally still, windless, HUMID conditions in the strawberry patch this morning it was. Also, I don't feel I can see worth a diddle through the netting over the face part of the hood. (The netting is tightly woven stuff designed to keep out our dreaded no-see'ums, for which I am truly grateful. Really.) Plus (should I be whining so much about something that keeps me from losing a quart and a half of blood first thing in the morning?), I always feel a teensy bit claustrophobic being too "bound up" in the shirt and hood.

Well, as I say, sometimes ya gotta be a bit tougher than ya wanna be. I did it. Despite looking and feeling as if I was outfitted in a hazmat suit, I got all the ripe berries harvested. Three huge bowls full (each weighing in at about six pounds) sitting on the kitchen counter saying, "Clean me, clean me!" Gotta go get on that. But that's the easy part. No blood-thirsty bugs in here and the bug shirt has been put away.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Another Thunderstorm

We got another storm late this afternoon. Boy howdy, did it ever get dark! Long about 4:30, after listening to distant thunder for a couple of hours, the rains came with a vengeance. Our luck held, however, and even though we were warned to expect damaging hail again, the hail apparently wore itself all out farther to the west of us. All we got were winds and heavy rain. When all was said and done, the rain gauge showed 3/4 of an inch.

I knew the garden could use a good soaking today but after getting knocked wonky from too much heat and sun yesterday, I stayed in all day and tried not to think about the garden.

So the late afternoon rain storm was welcomed and appreciated. We're still under another severe storm watch until middle of the night . . . up until about 3 a.m. they say.

The temperature is finally dropping. It's a lovely 62 degrees (gosh, that feels down right chilly) outside.

With the help of our big garage exhaust fan . . .

. . . and by opening first this door . . .

. . . and then this door, we've got it down to 70 inside. Methinks I'll finally sleep better tonight. (The fan in the garage is doing such a good job of sucking the hot air out of the house, I've almost lost the bandana tied around my hair twice now!)

Tomorrow? Back up into the low 90s. With this afternoon's rain, at least now the garden will be in better shape to handle that. Hope the rain is finding those of you that still need it. We sure are grateful we're getting as much as we are.

P.S. Thunder boomers have just started again. Maybe we will get more rain tonight.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Okay, So I'm Not Very Bright

Our days continue to be broiling hot. We hit the low 90s again today and I worked out in the garden for part of the day. It may have been a mistake because I'm not feelin' so perky tonight. Nothing serious and I did make a point of stopping to drink a lot of water while roasting myself in the scorching sun so I'm sure I will survive. (As soon as I get rid of this headache and slight nausea.)

Papa Pea has a really hard time handling the heat when it's like it has been lately. It's a real physical thing with him. His mind and body get very logy and slow moving. So after taking our Suburban into town this morning to get the air conditioning worked on, he ran up a white flag of surrender and chose to spend the remainder of the day inside working on multitudinous projects that were calling for his attention.

Me? Well, ya know we dyed-in-the-wool gardeners just don't know when to quit. (Or when to stay out of the too-hot-to-handle heat.) I had a big amount of cuttings from our little hay field that ended up not being worth keeping for feed so I claimed them as mulch for the garden. In this weather, it was moldering and fast going to become rank so I wanted to spread it as soon as I could.

I got that done and was so hot, sweaty and dirty I figured I might as well thin the beets. And the kale. Then I did a quick run-through of the raised beds pulling all the stray weeds that had started to pop up.

The raspberry canes have been bugging me because they are so big and lush and loaded with developing berries that they needed to be re-tired so I could get in between the rows to pick when the time comes. That didn't prove to be such a bad job because the canes are so tall they actually provided a bit of a shady bower to work in.

However, by the time I finished that job, I was feeling a little woozy in da head so decided I'd had enough of working outside.

Tonight the temp inside our house is hovering around 77. That might not seem high to some of you, but it usually stays much cooler. Lots of humidity in the air today contributed to the heat being so intolerable.

If tomorrow is a weather repeat of today, I might just decide the garden is on its own and stay inside without venturing outside any more than I have to. See? I can make wise decisions . . . after being fried, boiled and baked.

The Garden Gives Thanks for the Rain

We were blessed late last night with a bit over an inch of wonderful rain. It was much needed and frees up some time for me today. I was planning on spending a good portion of the day setting up and moving sprinklers to water our parched garden and berry patches but now I don't have to.

For several hours last night we were under the threat of a severe thunderstorm, high winds and damaging hail. All of our windows were open in an effort to bring in the slightly cooling outside air. We listened to rolling thunder in the distance for about an hour and a half before the storm hit with rain, wind and a lot of commotion! How it was possible I don't know, but all of a sudden rain was blowing in every single open window no matter the facing direction. The two of us must have looked like Energizer Bunnies running from one area to the other closing things up.

No hail fell and I'm truly surprised that we got as much rain as we did because although the storm was fierce, it didn't last very long. This morning our temp is way back up there, it's humid as could be and everything outside shows evidence of a good soaking.

Do you think these jack-o-lantern pumpkins have a chance of making it?

The peas don't seem to be progressing as fast as they should. 'Course, this is NOT pea growing weather!

On the other hand, it IS bean growing weather, and THEY don't seem to be progressing as fast as they should either.

I started these cosmos inside and although they have grown a lot since I set them out . . . come on, Flowers! Where are you?

The potatoes are starting to blossom which means I should be able to carefully pilfer a few new potatoes soon. We've been without taters for a very long time. I'd love to make some potato salad for the 4th of July, but it may be pushing it a bit to do so. Patience, Mama Pea, patience.

Our humidity was high yesterday, too. Some of my laundry hanging outside on the line didn't dry so knowing the storm was predicted, I threw the last of the damp things in the dryer. I had planned on washing sheets today, but I'm wondering if even they wouldn't dry outside in this still air and heavy humidity.

Sorry so many of you still need rain and didn't get it as we did. Hoping a good soaking is heading your way soon. I know you desperately need it.

Monday, July 2, 2012

First Preserves

I got our first good-sized harvest of strawberries yesterday. Plans were to make them into strawberry jam but the day got away from me so last night I put them in the freezer to use in smoothies. (A very quick and easy way to process them. I don't add any sugar, honey or sweetener of any kind . . . just the mashed berries in a freezer container.)

These three bowls were full of cleaned berries but after they were smooshed down, they filled just five quarts. But a quart lasts us for several smoothies because I make them with mostly kefir and/or yogurt and coconut milk with the berries for flavoring.

Last year I froze a dozen quarts of strawberries and that was about the right amount.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

You've Heard of a "Farmer's Tan?"

I guess mine would have to be more correctly called a gardener's tan.

Dang. No way am I going to be able to wear my strapless evening gowns in the near future.