Friday, September 30, 2016

Today on the Homestead

We've been working to get the foundation prepped for the construction of the waterfowl house.  Our good neighbor brought in a load of coarse fill to level out the site.  Then as an addition of more fill, he also dug dirt out of an area in the hill at the back of our property we wanted leveled as an area in which to push plowed snow.  All this coarse fill contained many, many good-sized rocks which needed to be removed.

Our dear (and strong) daughter spent the whole day yesterday working on that small job while we made a supply run to the big city.  She filled a total of 78 buckets with rocks, loaded them onto the bed of her pick-up, drove them to our designated rock pile and unloaded them.  Seventy-eight buckets of rocks!  And she wasn't finished with the task.

Papa Pea went out to help her this morning and between them both they filled 46 more buckets for a grand total of 124 filled, hauled and dumped.  If we figured each bucketful weighed somewhere around 40 pounds, that means a total of nearly 5,000 pounds of rocks was moved.  Holy. big. job.

Next we were ready for the first load of Class 5 road material which is crushed gravel, sand and clay all mixed together.  No big rocks in it, thank gawd.  One more load of the same and we should be in business.

While all this was happening, I was working in the garden doing more clean-up and tilling.

More work on the recently plowed up area designated for the new raspberry patch and other plantings.

I harvested all but two of the pumpkins from my little pumpkin patch.  (Those two haven't turned orange yet for some reason.)  The crop was good this year undoubtedly because of our hot growing season.  That largest one on the left weighed in at 35 pounds!  Not a world record by any means, but a giant for my garden.

I dressed out the window boxes in their autumnal finery.

This is the small window box outside our bathroom window.  The Virginia Creeper, which is starting to turn its gorgeous fall color, completely covered this window and window box so I gave it a shave and haircut before I filled the window box.

It certainly looks as though we're going to have our best apple year yet.  Oh, to have enough good eating apples to last all winter!  And I can hardly wait for that first apple pie.

This bed was spread with compost and tilled up exactly three weeks ago.  Since then this thick green cover has appeared.  It took me a while to realize just what it was.  This was the bed where I had planted borage which was supposed to be good food for our honey bees.  It possibly would have been if the borage hadn't attracted huge amounts of bumble bees which seemed to keep the honey bees away.  I didn't think the full grown borage plants were very attractive so will find something else to plant for the bees next year.  Anyway, I had pulled all the borage out, but apparently it is self-seeding (in a big way), and this was the result.

Nothing like a good green manure crop tilled in to enrich the soil.

Hooray, hooray!  My fall planted shell peas are starting to form pods.

This is a new "purple" carrot variety, Dragon, I tried this year.  The slices went into our salads tonight.  So far, the flavor is pleasantly "carrot-y" but not very sweet.  Wonder if the flavor will change with storage in the root cellar?

That's a bit of what went on here today.  All day I thought it was Saturday instead of Friday.  I guess that's what happens when you're retired and don't have to keep a schedule or work anymore.  (Snort-snort.)

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Simple Beauty of Color

This morning while chopping veggies for an omelette, I couldn't help but notice the delightful coloration of this sweet pepper.

The hues of the pepper made me stop to look around and realize how much color can stimulate our senses while adding enjoyment to our lives.  (Could this be part of the reason Christmas is such a beloved time of year?  Just think of all the colorful decorations.)

Taking time to look around my own home . . . the warm, golden brown of wood paneling, the bright blue of a Blue Jay's wing, the cheery yellow of a painted wall, the rosy red of a jar of home-canned tomato juice, the twinkling hazel color of a loved ones eyes, the myriad of vivid colors in a scrap quilt. 

I'm glad the world is more than black and white.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Reporting In

Good-golly-gosh!  Where have I been for the last nearly two weeks?  Right here, for the most part, but obviously unable to get a new blog post up.  I may need to have someone write an "excused absence" note for me.

Our weather has not been the typical fall weather.  We're still warmer than we would normally be right now along with getting copious quantities of rain.  No, not the deluges some of you have had to put up with in other parts of the country, but day after day of steady rain. 

All in all, things have slowed down and I'm feeling less pressure.  Sort of.  At least the big push to get the garden harvested and preserved is over.  That's not to say there is no longer good food still out in the garden.

Most of our root crops -- potatoes, carrots, and beets -- are patiently waiting for a drop in temperatures so we can pump cool air into the root cellar to make it ready for storage.  Our night time temps are still staying in the low 50s; we need temperatures down into the 40s to begin the cooling process.

Onions are in their second stage of curing.  I've cut the withered tops off and piled them loosely in three milk crates.  Next I'll rub off one or two layers of skin along with the remaining dirt, and they'll go in the basement where the temp stays a fairly steady 52 degrees all winter.

My fall planted shell peas have started to blossom.  This cool, wet weather should be good for their continued growing period.

The sugar snap peas, however, which were planted at the same time as the shell peas, have nary a blossom showing yet.   A few kohlrabi remain on either side of the pea trellis.

Kale also loves this kind of weather and is lush and prolific in the bed with alyssum on either side and chives on either end.

These orange cherry tomatoes have been abundant, but now are splitting because of too much moisture.  They sure are sweet and tasty little morsels though.  I have to stop myself from standing out in the garden popping one after another after another into my mouth.

The fall planted cauliflower (I lost my whole first crop to the heat) loves cool weather in which to grow so I'm still holding out hope of these plants forming heads I can put in the freezer.

This is the bed of fall planted salad greens which is growing wonderfully.  Swiss chard, mizuna mustard, spinach, arugula and assorted lettuces are giving us end-of-the-season super salads.

All the Brussels sprouts plants will be left in the garden right through a couple of good frosts which make them sweeter.

My little pie pumpkins grew right up and over the wooden archway trellis the way I had hoped they would.  I think I have more of them (although it's hard to say for sure what with the jungle in which they're growing) than I will use this winter, but that's not a bad thing.

My big jack o' lantern pumpkins look to be a huge success this year what with all the humidity and hot weather we had.  I've counted ten really nice sized ones in my small patch including one that we're going to have to borrow the neighbor's back hoe to move.  Okay, not really, but it is huge!

I just came in from helping clip the wings of three of our new pullets who insist on roosting high up in a couple of pine trees at night.  We've lost chickens to owls in the past when they refused to go into their lockdown night time quarters so the clipping of the wings was necessary.  Because of all our rain, the poultry yard is a yucky-mucky mess in some spots.  This doesn't seem to bother the ducks and geese who profess to love the constant moisture.  Even the chickens remain out all day, no doubt elated by all the worms coming to the surface of the soil. 

Predictions are for a colder, snowier than usual winter for our part of the country.  If it keeps raining and all the moisture starts becoming snow one of these days, we are gonna have some kind of winter!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Diggin' Taters

Papa Pea and I have both had a taste for potatoes lately, most likely because we've been out of them for some time, and it's a smidge bit early yet to harvest all ours in the garden.

I confess to having gone out to the potato rows once or twice in the past month to "steal" a couple, but I've always pilfered some from the two rows of red potatoes.

Today I decided to go excavating for a few in the row of Burbank Russets, a new variety (for us) I planted this year.  Touted as a good baking potato, it appealed to me.

Look what I found.

Those two big ones on the left measure 8-1/2" and 9-1/2" long respectively and each weigh about 1-1/2 pounds.  Wow.  If the rest are anything like this, looks like we may have enough taters for our winter table without any trouble.

Now, would you like a BAKED POTATO with your steak?

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Slowing Down . . . A Little

The heat and humidity have finally given up for the season.  Well, at least the humidity is in a different form.  We've had intermittent rains on and off for several days frequently dropping between 1/2" and 1-1/2" on our area.  But that's okay because we needed the moisture.  Farmer's Almanac says our region should expect a colder and snowier winter than usual so maybe this rain is the start of the more precipitation part of that prediction.

The days now have a different feel to them than they had had all summer.  Almost as if they're moving at a slower pace.  Or maybe it's just me that's moving slower.

We still have the majority of our root crops int he garden.  Putting off harvesting them as long as we can is necessary as we need to wait until our root cellar is cold enough before filling it.  We have a fan that pulls cooler night time air into the cellar to help with the cooling, but for that to be efficient we have to wait until might time temps sink down into the 40s.  And we're not there yet.

I did pull all of the onions from their beds yesterday and lay them out on the ping pong table set up in the garage to start the curing process.  I'm happy to see they're all larger than normal in size.  I'm not fond of peeling and chopping four little onions when one big one will do the trick.

Because of the on and off rain today, I concentrated on catching up on desk work which included some correspondence and bill paying . . . one fun to do, the other not so much.

In between showers I dashed out and picked some green peppers to chop and store in the freezer for use in chili, soups, casseroles, pizzas, etc. this winter.  I don't blanch them before freezing . . . just flash freeze the pieces on cookie sheets, then pop the frozen chunks into a freezer bag.  The pieces stay fairly well separated, and it's easy to take out just the amount I need. 

The pepper plants are still producing gorgeous peppers as you can see by this whopper I harvested.  Unless we decide we want to be eating Stuffed Green Peppers three times a week this winter, I'd best not use any more of them for that purpose.  There are so many still on the plants I may call our local food co-op to see if they can use them.

I know some of you are not happy to see the sun rise later in the morning and set earlier at night, but it feels good to me.  I don't think I ever get enough sleep during high summer time as I seem to be strongly affected by natural light.  I wake in the morning at dawn and can't seem to quit "working" at night until it gets dark.  Now at this time of year, I'm starting to feel I can slow down a bit.  And I am ready, ready, ready!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

My Gardening Enthusiasm Has Left The Building

It strikes me as a cruel twist of fate that at this time of year, when gardeners should be brimming full with excitement, joyfulness and undying thanks for the bounty of our harvests, we're 'bout worn to a nubbity-nub and couldn't care less if we never again saw another perfectly ripe vegetable or fruit on our kitchen counter impatiently waiting to be preserved.

This just isn't right.  I mean why do we prepare the soil, plant, water, nurture, weed and tend our gardens in every way possible if not for this, The Harvest?  I think (totally impossible though it would be) harvest time should come somewhere around, oh say, July 4th when we're all still basking in summer's vitality and are so committed to our gardens which we lovingly walk through, talk to and are full of enthusiasm for.

Now, in this month of September, I'm nearly apoplectic.  I'm tired of those rasty weeds that keep growing.  Tired of rearranging the pantry shelves and freezer baskets in an attempt to squeeze in six more jars of jam or four more packages of broccoli.  Tired of going out into the garden and bringing in a basket heaped with yet more goodness that represents hours of time in the kitchen cleaning, prepping and preserving.  Tired of feeling guilty about those last couple of cups of past-their-prime blueberries on the bushes or kohlrabi that is turning woody as we speak.  Tired of the dirt stains on my knees which no amount of scrubbing will eliminate.

And then there are the potatoes, carrots, cabbages, pumpkins, onions, squash and Brussels sprouts that aren't even ready for harvest yet.

What about the fall planted beds of edible podded peas, lettuce, salad greens and shell peas that are coming along so nicely?  Somehow, I'm not as excited about them as I was their predecessors that grew and matured two or three months ago. 

Oh.  I am such an ungrateful wretch.

Monday, September 5, 2016

New Pillowcases

Now there's a post title that I'll bet was a real interest grabber!

But have you priced pillowcases lately?  Geesh, for what seems to be a simply constructed item, I experienced a bit of sticker shock when looking for some new colored ones to coordinate with the bed quilt I finished a few months ago.

Since I'm basically a penny pincher economically minded, I revved up the old creative juices and came up with the idea of making some.

I had yardage of some yellow/gold fabric I could use along with some leftover blocks from the construction of the quilt.

Here's the result.

I'm very pleased with the way they turned out, and when things slow down a bit this winter I just may make another set.

* * * * * * * *

I probably should explain about the three pillows on our bed.  (Inquiring minds want to know, and all.)  Once a friend, upon getting a glimpse into our bedroom and seeing the three pillows, inquired as to how often we had a third party join us.  (Smart aleck.)

You see, my husband is a nice guy and all but claims he can't sleep with me wound around him.  So I use the third pillow as a substitute, getting a strangle hold on it, and we both sleep well.

Just thought you'd like to know.  Or not.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Our Granddog

Tucker is our daughter's dog, and we gladly provide doggy daycare for him when needed.

I don't think I've ever known a happier, more content, easy-going dog.

Look, he even smiles in his sleep.

The only time he's the least bit bothersome is at meal time, and even then his "bothering" consists of a happy dance around the feet of whomever he thinks is going to feed him.

No matter the time of year (even when his belly drags in the snow), he's always willing to go for a walk to get the mail or take a position on the front deck or back porch supervising whatever activity is going on.

For a smaller dog, he's got a big bark which would be a good thing, but he only uses it to say hello when someone he knows comes to the house.  We've tried to teach him to alert us to strangers and/or roaming wild animals, but haven't been successful.

He's definitely a lover, not a fighter.  And that's just fine.  

Good boy, Tucker, good boy! 

Friday, September 2, 2016

Breakin' Sod

It might have been harder to do with horse and plow, but Papa Pea will attest to the fact that working up this new piece of ground was something he wouldn't want to do all day long.

We've started getting a new area ready for relocating the raspberry patch next spring.  The ground breaking would have been better done this past spring, but somehow many other tasks rose to the top of The List that were deemed more important.

No matter, we've finally gotten around to it now and will do the best we can.

The area in question has been (what we laughingly call) lawn area covered with heavy sod.  Getting a start by plowing up the sod with our old faithful Gravely garden tractor with plow attachment is the beginning.

Not only was the sod like plowing through tangled wire, but the addition of rocks . . . 

. . . and rocks

. . . and more rocks made the going less than smooth.  (Not exactly black loam, is it?)

We're making the area big enough for not only the new raspberry plants, but also some other berry bushes we want to try. 

Another big plus to getting this area worked up and into production is that it will mean less lawn area to keep mowed.  Neither hubby nor I list lawn mowing as a favorite summer sport.

Not done by a long shot, but it's a start.