Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Quick Trip Through the Garden

I've mentioned before that we mow down our strawberry plants near the end of the summer so that they have a bit of strong, new growth, but not the old, large mound of leaves, to go into the hibernation season over winter.

Papa Pea mowed them for me one day last week.  And, oh my gosh, did that reveal a whole lot of runners and weeds that had been hiding under the big ol' bunch of leaves.

This is a shot of the whole mowed planting.  I managed to get the two rows on the left of the picture cleaned up to my satisfaction this afternoon before I got a nasty cramp in the back of my right thigh muscle!  Well, maybe it wasn't awful-terrible-bad, but I used it as an excuse to stop for the day.

That leaves me with this last (and worst) row to finish up yet before the job is done.

I have to show you the gladioli planted from corms that my friend Karen in Wisconsin sent me last fall.  Is this double stalk of pinks gorgeous or what?

And this is the first white one to open.  There are more of both colors to come.

Thought it wasn't going to happen this year, but some of my cherry tomatoes are finally ripening.  I've always staked these up in a wire cage before, but this year let them crawl on the ground as the seed catalog suggests.  They are so late I don't know whether to blame our wonky weather this gardening season . . . or the fact that maybe they don't like to crawl and would rather be staked.

This is my biggest pie pumpkin growing on the arbor trellis.  It's gigantic compared to others I've grown (about the size of a volleyball, I'd say) and like the others on the trellis, doesn't seem to be requiring any support to keep from ripping off the vine.  (Yeah, I'm surprised at that, too, Glenda.)  Not showing much orange color yet, is it?

Lastly, this is one of the mangels I'm growing as experimental supplemental feed for our poultry this winter.  And this isn't even a big one.  Can you believe some of them can grow to be 15-20 pounds?

Friday, August 25, 2017

Bummer Summer

It's been a bum summer for the garden anyway.  Long, very cold spring/early summer followed immediately with hot, hot weather and then another cold spell again.  The poor plants and seeds didn't know what was going on.  (Neither did the gardener.)

This morning we woke to find an overnight temp of 42 degrees.  Ugh.  If that isn't a signal that the end is near for the garden, I don't know what is.

Between the weather, the flea beetles and larvae from fruit flies, it's not been an easy gardening year.

Basically, the root crops seem to have done well.  Haven't dug potatoes nor pulled carrots yet and won't do so for a while.  The mangels and turnips I grew as experimental supplemental food for the poultry this winter are huge.  I've still not harvested and processed beets for us, but they look big and healthy waiting patiently in the ground for me to get to them.  Root crops almost always do well in our climate so no surprise there.

The sweet peppers for stuffed green peppers are late but doing okay in their cold frames.  I checked my records yesterday and at this time last year, I had the freezer chock full of stuffed green pepper meals.  This year I've harvested only three matured peppers.

None of my flowers bloomed as well as usual, and my Sweet Peas were a complete dud.

The cabbage moths got into the broccoli so the worm-free harvest of heads was minimal.  Happy to say though, we have more cauliflower in the freezer for winter consumption than ever before.

The flea beetles have hit the cabbages hard.  Both the red and green varieties are just now starting to form heads.  They are late, late, late.

Tomatoes . . . ha!  Some cherry tomatoes are finally starting to make their way toward red ripeness.  Although they may decide to turn back to green after experiencing our morning temperature.

I picked and processed the last of the yellow and green beans day before yesterday.  Good ol' beans.  We'll have plenty (and then some) for the year.

Although our pumpkin vines are long and lush, the green, green fruits haven't yet reached full size.  Don't know how they'll have enough warm weather now to mature this year.

Blueberries are still coming on strong.  We just spent $90 to purchase a large, good quality netting that will cover all three rows of the bushes next year.  That will save so much time and hassle covering the three rows separately as we've been doing this year.

I think I've given an update on most everything else in the garden previously so that's all for the record for now.

This not being a stellar gardening year is not sending me into a tailspin though.  I'm ready for a change of season and a change of my daily routine.  What's on my fire (besides good, dry firewood -- haha!) for this winter?  Quilting, reading and plenty of sleep!

Monday, August 21, 2017

It's That Time of Year . . .

. . . when gardeners want to either run away from home or hire someone to be in the kitchen 24/7 helping with the harvest.

But it is, after all, what we work for all gardening season.  That time of year when the garden is producing bountiful quantities of produce . . . and there seems to be no end of it.  Nor a way to keep the kitchen cool.  Nor a way to get enough sleep.  (How in the world did those mothers of families of eight or more, in times gone by, ever manage to put by enough food?!  Food that was depended upon to keep their families fed all year long.) 

Our blueberries are in full ripening mode.  Papa Pea has been great about going out to pick them with me.

Most of them get stashed in the freezer, but I always keep out enough for fresh eating.  And a blueberry dessert now and then.  I still need to make a batch of jam for giving and eating this winter.  We're having to pick about every 2nd or 3rd day right now and, yes, . . . 

. . . we're still keeping the bushes covered as protection from the birds.  This makes harvesting more of a hassle, of course, what with taking off the coverings before being able to pick and then putting them back on again.  But it's worth it.  We're getting about four quarts each picking.

I've given up hope for any kind of a Brussels sprout harvest this year.  Instead of forming tight little heads, the sprouts are exploding as seen in the above picture.  (Kinda looks like my hair when I get up.)  Anybody know what cases this condition?

Even though the temp was up near 90 degrees yesterday in the garden, I did quite a bit of cleaning.

This is the garlic bed that got pulled a few days ago.  I planted two varieties that I've kept going for a couple of years, Blanak and Siberian.  Almost half of the Siberian failed to come up this spring, and then a few of those never made decent bulbs.  The Blanak did very well (thankfully!) and all told we have 60 bulbs drying.  I've already ordered a new supply for planting in October because we won't have enough from this harvest to plant and still have an adequate supply for cooking this coming year.

A bed of salad greens that was overgrown and bitter got bagged up for Chicken Mama to take to her chickens.  The Swiss chard left in the bed is still doing great.

A bit more pruning of the tomato plants was on the agenda along with snipping off the wandering tendrils of the pumpkins and gourds.  It's time for them to put all their energy into developing the fruits already forming rather than into new growth.

With various other clean-up jobs, I managed to fill the compost bins right up to the tippy-top with my gleanings.  Don't know if Papa Pea (Manager of Ye Ol' Compost Production) will be too happy about that or not.

Add the cleaning up of the garden as it becomes possible to the harvesting and processing of food for storage and the days are full.  I really don't want to run away from home and no one has answered my ad (ha-ha) to be an unpaid full-time scullery maid in the kitchen so I'll just keep trucking along and being truly-duly grateful and appreciative of this wonderful harvest time of year.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Different Season, Different Place

I took some pictures of parts of the gardening area yesterday from up in Papa Pea's second floor office.

Panning left to right:

Much of the garden is over-blown now and looking a little the worse for wear.  Some of it has already been pulled out.

Then I dug into my picture files and found these.

During the different times of the year, it's like living in a totally different world.  And, I guess, it actually is.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Words to Live By

Rosemary Beck, the ever-positive, always interesting dear lady over at Content in a Cottage posted these words this morning.

Happiness is the new rich.
Inner peace is the new success.
Health is the new wealth.
Kindness is the new cool.

Amen.  And thanks, Rosemary!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Wild Visitors

We had eleven wild Canadian geese splash down on our pond early last Friday morning.

They quickly found some of the lush green grass surrounding the water.  
How did our chickens, ducks and geese react to these visitors?  They went into hiding.

But then it wasn't too long before some of them came out into the open to check the visitors out.  But they didn't get too close trying to act quite nonchalant.

"Who the heck do you think those guys are, Skidmore?"

Fairly soon the ducks were swimming right alongside the Canadian geese, but our geese still weren't that sure of the whole situation.

In a bit the Canadian geese came right up into the yard . . . 

. . . and seemed to make themselves at home. 

During afternoon siesta time when we frequently see our ducks and geese hunkered down taking a nap in the sunshine, we looked out to see the Canadian geese doing the same.

Papa Pea went out to do afternoon chores and was surprised that the visitors didn't seem a bit skittish to have him in close proximity.  

We wouldn't have minded if they'd stayed around longer, but they took to the wing and flew off in the late afternoon.  Come again!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Tip-Toe Through the Tulips (Okay, Garden)

Yippee!  My second (or is it the third?) planting of spinach was finally big enough to harvest yesterday.

Also, a few baby Swiss chard leaves.  This cooler weather may not be good for tomatoes and such, but we'll take more fresh greens and be happy about it.

As everyone knows, it's hard to check the zucchini closely enough so at least one of them doesn't get away from you.

No, I haven't managed to get that second batch of Zucchini Bread made yet.  Way too much happenin' around here.  Heck, up until noon today, I sincerely thought it was Wednesday instead of Thursday.  Arrrgh.

Speaking of the zucchini, this is a shot of my zucchini/nasturtium bed.  Can you make out the zucchini plant in the middle of this jumble?  I always plant a raised bed of one zucchini plant in the center with nasturtiums on either end.  This year the nasturtiums went wild but haven't quite succeeded in choking out the zucchini.  So far.

I made the first harvest of yellow beans yesterday.  (They always mature before the green beans.)  I also picked what I'm sure will be the last of the shell peas and sugar snap peas.  The sugar snap peas we eat fresh (gobble, gobble, nom, nom) for as long as they last.  I've given up freezing them because they come out so very limp and, to my mind, unappetizing.  I ended up with only about a third of the shell peas put by that I need for our year's consumption.  Baaad year for shell peas.  I'm going to pull out the vines asap so I don't have to look at them and be reminded of the failure this year.

The pumpkin pie vines have made it to the summit (!) and are now traipsing over the top of the arbor trellis.

This is the largest pie pumpkin and is already about as big as it will get.  Now if we can just get the color and ripeness to the right stage . . . 

We uncovered the blueberry bushes yesterday and picked the berries that were ripe.  Ended up with only two and three-quarters quarts, but I'm happy to say there are a lot of unripe berries still to come.  The above shot of the three rows of bushes covered up again looks like  huge, wiggly, creepy-crawly things from a horror movie. 

I'm spending the day today inside (it's been raining since we got up) trying to get caught up on household-y type things.  I may even get that second batch of Zucchini Bread made.  Maybe.  Or not.

Monday, August 7, 2017

New Week, Beautiful Monday Morning

Almost before I was awake this morning, I pulled on jeans, a short sleeved shirt and a sweatshirt.  I am a sweatshirt kinda gal and maybe that's a perk to this cool August weather.  Sweatshirts are once again a part of my wardrobe, at least for now.

Then I was out and off to the farm to get fresh milk products . . . before my latte even!  (What was I thinking?)  We were overdue for a resupply.

Cottage cheese in process.

Papa Pea was missing cream for his coffee and I was missing the cottage cheese I make for quick, light meals this busy time of year.

I didn't see anyone at the farm; I'm pretty sure all the activity was in the milking parlor as it was no doubt morning milking time. 

As I was loading up my purchased bounty, a few calves came out of their side door of the barn and into the morning sunshine of their outdoor pen.  I think they've taken it upon themselves these days to act as the official meeters and greeters to the business in and out of the milk house.

Traffic on the roads on my 18 mile round trip journey was 'bout even between guys in pick-ups on their way to work and deer.  All in all, a gorgeous morning for a ride.  Cool, crisp and sunshiny.

Baked a batch of zucchini bread last night which we sampled for breakfast.  Mmmm, good.

I'm going to do another batch today substituting half of the butter with applesauce, adding a little more grated zucchini and cutting the sugar.  I like to bake it in my small loaf pans rather than two regular size pans.  Makes a more convenient size for giving away (much better than a couple of over-sized zucchini, right?) or taking on a hike or short vehicle trip.

Also on the schedule is harvesting and processing some beets.  Gotta uncover the blueberries (sigh, whadda job) to check for ripe ones.  The small orchard of new (last year) fruit trees needs to be weeded.

I also want to plant some salad greens to see if they'll germinate and produce a new crop of lusciousness for us late into the season.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained. 

I'll spare you a close-up look inside.
You're welcome.

Papa Pea picked a good amount of ripe raspberries yesterday but, sadness and woe, when I opened a container from the fridge this morning to have with fresh cream, I found the berries are once again infested with little white worms which I believe are the larvae of the fruit fly.  (Pardon me while I go do a small shudder dance.)  The berries developed the worms at the end of last year's season and it looks like they've come on stronger than ever this year.  Good thing the raspberry canes are scheduled to come out this year (they are geriatric and have needed to be replaced) and a new raspberry patch planted.  Oh, well.

The poultry will think it's a holiday when I dump the wormy berries.

It's Monday Wash Day as usual so I'd better get on with that.  Here's wishing all of you a wonderful week! 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

In A Dumpy Funk

It's been a long time since I've had a gardening season that has been so challenging.

We started spring and the first half of summer with very cool, very wet weather and a lack of sunshine which did nothing to get my little plants and seeds off to a good start.

Everything was slow, slow, slow.  Then without a period of gradual warm-up, temperatures that were hotter and more humid than normal arrived.  Along with nary a drop of rain for weeks.

Cool weather crops that didn't even thrive in the previously cool weather came to an abrupt halt in the broiling temps.

The veggies needing heat started to grow but without any moisture other than what we could provide by watering, which you all know is simply not the same as natural rainfall, haven't developed properly.

Then we turned the calendar to August 1st and, just like that, our temps dropped again leaving the garden, and the gardener, more perplexed than ever.

We're down into the fifties at night and not much higher than the sixties during the day.

I'm still waiting to get a second picking of peas and beans have barely formed.

Flea beetles are making lace of all the brassicas left in the garden.  Brussels sprout plants aren't producing any sprouts.  Cabbages aren't forming heads.

The cabbage moths set up housekeeping in my second planting of broccoli which ended up so infested with worms that the poultry feasted on all those heads.

Cucumbers and peppers started to form slowly, but now are wondering where the heat they need has gone.

Birds have attacked our blueberry crop, and we've had to cover the bushes hoping we still get a partial harvest.

Pumkins and squash are green, tennis ball size at the biggest.

Oh, my.  Such a dismal picture I've painted.

I'll admit I have a strong urge to let my Debbie Downer thinking take over and start to clean out the garden, calling it quits for the season.

But.  Hope springs eternal, and there's still a chance (please say there is) this weather will blow away as quickly as it came and we'll find ourselves in a long, beautiful end-of-summer/fall period of perfect growing conditions.  It really could happen.  And then I'll be totally embarrassed that I carried on in this grump-dump, hissy-fit sort of a way.

No, it's not the end of the world.  But I do feel responsible for providing a large part of our food supply for each year.  And this year, I don't see how we could have our usual plentiful harvest.

I've made lots of notes for next season to help, at least, work around some of the garden's difficulties, but bottom line, it's hard to fight Mother Nature.

We won't starve.  To say we're so much better off than early pioneers who had no alternatives regarding their food supply other than what they could grow themselves is an understatement.  We won't suffer anywhere near as much financially as a hard-working farmer who loses his field crops and income due to the whims of the weather.

And none of this will keep me from feeling eager for next year's garden.  So please excuse my grumbling this chilly Saturday morning.  I think I've gotten it out of my system by all this grousing.

Now I may just go start a small fire in the wood stove in the kitchen to take the chill off the house.  The view out the windows of the leaves on the trees starting to turn color (yes, they are) is kinda pretty.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017


Walking back toward our compost bin this morning, I spotted something on the side of the boards.

Talk about determination to seek out the sunshine to grow and flourish!  You just can't keep these little Johnny-Jump-Ups down. 

Methinks there is a lesson here to be learned.