Sunday, September 30, 2018

First of October Raised Beds

Eureka!  Not only am I on time with this first of the month posting of a picture of the raised garden beds, but I'm a day early!

As tomorrow is shaping up to be a super-busy day, I figured it might be a good idea to get this post up today.

You know how it goes by now.  Starting way back in early, early spring, we have:









The beds aren't completely empty as you can see, and I still have beds that are waiting for their fall application of compost.

The two cold frames at the back of the middle and right hand rows are still producing green peppers and slicing cucumbers.

We haven't had even a slight frost yet, let alone a killing frost.  Rest assured, though, it is coming.

It's been interesting (for me anyway . . . hopefully you haven't been too bored) to see the changes from month to month throughout this growing season.  I rotate what is planted in each bed every year (well, except for the peppermint bed and the bed occupied by the rhubarb) and by looking at how each crop grew throughout the summer, it's given me ideas of what to plant where next year.

I'm calling this October 1st post the last one as next month should show only empty beds with a couple planted out to garlic and covered with mulch.  The beds will look fairly drab and forlorn as they await a good snow blanket cover under which to spend the winter. 

And I'll probably be on the couch under a quilt with paper and pencil planning next year's layout.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Into Fall Mode

Our weather has definitely said so long to summer time and ushered in the cool temperatures of autumn.

Unfortunately, most of September has also been gray and sprinkled with intermittent rains.  If that's what it takes to drive away the heat and humidity of our summer just past, we'll take it.  But it does make it difficult in our attempts to wind up the last of our outside summer/fall tasks before we close the doors and go into winter hibernation mode.  (We are so looking forward to that this year.)

Last Saturday I finally got the window boxes decked out in their fall finery.  This is the small one outside our bathroom window.  I had to trim away some of the Virginia Creeper vines that had managed to imprison the whole window box.

As with all the changing of the colors this particular fall season, the Virginia Creeper seems slow to turn to its brilliant red this year.

I went out into the garden a couple of days ago to pull some carrots for addition to a soup.  Looks as though we'll have a good crop of them.  The longest measured nearly 12".  The little stub in the picture was a surprise when I pulled it.  You see, we had some little urchins looking for "something to eat" in the garden previously to this harvest of mine.  I said they could each go pull a carrot.  This carrot apparently broke off so the little "pullee" carefully planted it right back in the hole from which it came . . . and pulled another carrot more to her liking.

Carrots, potatoes and cabbages are still in the garden as our root cellar where they'll be stored hasn't had a chance to cool off enough yet.

I'm debating harvesting the Brussels sprouts before we get a hard frost (which supposedly makes them sweeter) because the stalks are so heavily laden that they're starting to topple over.  It's a tipsy row of plants out there right now.

Although certain areas around us have had a nipping frost or two already, we haven't gotten close to that yet.

Papa Pea spent the day today, among other tasks, spreading gravel in the needy spots on our quarter mile driveway.  The whole drive would really like to be completely redone (we've been ministering to it ourselves for the past 20-some years), but the significant $$$ for that job isn't in the budget this year.

My main outside job today was scraping paint off old windows.  Do I know how to have fun or what?

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Who's Your Mama?

We had a Speckled Sussex hen start to sit on a clutch of eggs a few weeks ago.

Then one of our Black Australorps seemed to think the Sussex needed help and joined her.  So we had two hens keeping the eggs warm.

But then after a few days the Speckled Sussex got miffed and left.

Our one Muscovy duck who has been broody in the past took over the vacated spot and started sitting with Black Australorp.

Still following?

A week or so ago, four eggs hatched but one little chick seemed very weak and didn't make it.

Each of the three birds who had a part in incubating the eggs decided she was the mother of this little brood.

The setting and hatching took place in the solarium attached to the chicken house, and that's where they were all living in harmony.

However, apparently the two chicken mamas and one duck mama had some kind of a falling out regarding the way the three little ones (all of the chicken variety, by the way) were being raised because all three started fighting to the extent we were afraid the chicks were going to be harmed in the scuffle.

So yesterday while I was doing more cleaning in the garden, Papa Pea moved the chicks into another pen of their own (with a top opening flap for putting in water and feed) and decided to put only one "mama" in with them.

After he finished the task, I asked him which bird he chose to be the single mother.

He said, "The Black Australorp because she was the one smart enough to fly up and into the pen through the top flap before I had time to make the choice."

Monday, September 17, 2018

Good Start to the Week

I took a good chunk of this weekend just past "off" and spent it getting in some hand work time.  Felt good.

Papa Pea's third pair of socks is coming right along.  I'm just turning the heel on the second sock.  The yarn I'm using for this pair is so nice.  It's Cascade Yarns Heritage 150 Multis, 75% Superwash Merino Wool/25% Nylon and is a slightly heavier yarn although nothing like a boot sock would be.  So soft and a dream to work with.  A pair of socks for Chicken Mama is next on the agenda and she's picked out a skein of the same yarn but in a different colorway.

For fall house decorations, I've never had a definite fall-themed table runner for our coffee table so I've just finished this one.  (Well, almost finished.  I still have to complete sewing the binding.)  Simple, made up of three nine inch Flying Geese blocks with borders.

Seems I've mentioned before that our fall colors are being mighty pokey in arriving this year.  It's the middle of September, fer cryin' out loud, and I still have my summer decorations up because so much green, green, green is still in evidence outside.  The decorations I put up for the autumn season in and outside the house are my very favorite of the whole year (even compared to the Christmas ones) so I'm more than eager to get them displayed.  I think that just may happen this week whether the colors outside look like fall or not.  This means the still blooming impatiens in the window boxes will have to be yoinked out and the (artificial) fall leaves,  real pumpkins and gourds added.

Doing more cleaning up in the garden is still first and foremost in my mind, but I'm kinda at a standstill right now.  Can't do anything with the Brussels sprouts yet, the cabbages are better left in the ground until our root cellar is cooler, same with potatoes and carrots.  The onions are just about ready to be pulled and spread out to cure for a couple/few weeks.  The three raised beds they're in will probably be the next ones vacated.

The zinnia bed is so colorful I can't bear to pull them quite yet.

Chicken Mama wants me to leave the Scarlet Runner beans on the tepee trellis longer so the bean pods will have time to dry so she can harvest and save the seeds.

Somehow, I ended up with a few Swiss chard plants in two different beds and the chard stays wonderfully nutritious and delicious right up to (and sometimes through) a couple of frosts. 

Great news, we got windows washed inside and out today!  I really didn't think it was going to happen, but a wonderful, hard-working young man that Papa Pea had as a student in grade school years ago gave us the day to help out.  He's pleasant, polite, articulate, funny, and a delight to have around.  He did the outsides and I did the insides.  We even tried to coordinate our arm movements a couple of times, but weren't too good at it.  Now the windows are so clean we'll be able to actually see out of them enough to enjoy the first snowfall! 

And, lo and behold, the humidity has broken today, the temperature is dropping and the forecast for the rest of the week is more of the same.  Oh, it feels so good!

Have a wonderful week, y'all!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

A Kitchen Day

Our wacky summer weather continues into our fall.  After having a lovely few days of cooler, autumnal feeling weather, the last two days have been full of humidity and heat.  I know I shouldn't complain about our weather, though, considering what all the folks on the southeastern coast of our country are facing.  This is a time we hope the weather people are wrong about their predictions and the severity of the hurricane will not materialize.

I crossed another big one off my To Do List today.  Pulling, processing and getting the beets from the garden into the freezer was accomplished.

Slow learner that I am, I've finally realized we don't need a full 4' x 8' raised bed of beets for the two of us.  Plus, giving up making any pickled beets this year seems wise as I'm the only one who enjoys them.

This year I planted only two eight foot rows of beets and after the harvest was completed today I'm confident that is enough.

For the last several years I've planted only the Forono variety of beets as the long, cylindrical shape makes it easy to slice up into proper sized pieces.  This bowlful pictured above weighed fourteen pounds and I had another bowl of the same size.

I sorted the beets by size and cooked them in two pots, one for medium sized beets and one for the larger ones.

Made a bloody messy mess of the kitchen (if you've ever processed beets you know what I mean), and when all was said and done, I put thirty-three servings (a serving being a meal for two people) in the freezer.  I saved a bag of the raw beets to use for grated beet salads and roasted beets.  With all the other veggies stashed in the larder, we aren't going to be lacking for vegetables on our plates this winter.  The only one to do yet is the Brussels sprouts.

After I swabbed up from the beet processing, I took what I think will be our last cutting of mint for this year.

I like to have eight full trays (the capacity of our dehydrator) when I dry anything.  Wouldn't you know it, I had only seven trays full and I think there just may be enough left out in the mint bed for one more tray.  But when I got that far tonight, it was already dark and I didn't have the gumption left to put on my headlight and go cut more.  The trays already done will wait in the dryer over night, and I'll finish up that last tray first thing in the morning.

Switching topics, on the automotive front, we just had four new tires mounted and some work done on the brakes of our Suburban so tomorrow we're planning on taking it out for a test drive to see that all is A-OK now.  Our fall color season seems to be a bit slow in arriving this year, but we'll do some scouting on our drive to see if we can spot some color.  Who knows, maybe we'll stop somewhere for lunch . . . somewhere not in Mama Pea's kitchen.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

A Fruitful Day Yesterday

I got two big projects that have been hanging over my head accomplished yesterday and, boy howdy, did that feel good.

The dandelions that had been growing profusely in and among my strawberry plants were eradicated.  Thanks to both Papa Pea and SmartAlex (two great minds who both suggested I use my asparagus knife to cut the dandelion roots way down deep), I removed all the offensive dandelion plants and any extra weeds I came across.

Unfortunately, this is the state of many of the plants (and there are a lot of them like this) that had a monstrous dandelion growing right in the center.  (The strawberry plants all got their crew cuts a week or so ago, and you can already see the new growth.)  Looks to me as if the center of the plant was actually killed out by the dandelion.  I'll just cross my fingers they can recover.  (I know.  Doesn't look very hopeful right now.)

I also popped out (using my trusty spading fork and a bit of grunting and groaning) the whole row (on the far right) of Earliglow strawberries that have never produced well for me.  For next spring, I'll order more Cavendish plants (my best producer) to plant in this row.  I'm thinking I should order extra, too, in case I have to replace any of the dandelion-ravished plants that don't make it over winter in the other two rows. 

Next on the agenda was to work in the blueberry and haskap berry patch.

The haskap bushes really showed a lot of growth this past season and their bottom branches drooped all the way to the ground which made it hard to harvest the berries and impossible to get under the bushes to fertilize.

I took my pruners and went to work erring on the "not enough" side rather than shocking the bushes too much.  The tall one in the middle is a different variety than the two on either side.  With haskaps you need this other variety as a pollinator.

A quick weeding of the blueberry patch and I was ready to spread more peat moss which I never finished doing earlier this summer.  Actually, I had run out of peat moss.  Papa Pea picked up another bale for me (locally and more expensive than in the big city) and lugged it down to the patch a couple of months ago.  I was so tired of looking at it that I finally kicked myself into gear and got it spread yesterday.  Now, it's done!

This picture doesn't show our whole patch of nineteen bushes.  The bushes in the row on the left are the ones we planted most recently.  Blueberry bushes take forever to gain size (and a full crop of berries) but these are coming along nicely.

So good to have the strawberry and blueberry/haskap patches done.  And by crikey, I really felt like I had accomplished a lot at the end of the day.

Friday, September 7, 2018

The Last Two Days

Well, now!  That sounds ominous.  What?  The last two days of the world as we know it?  The last two days before I take to my bed and never do another worthwhile thing again?  (I had a relative who did exactly that.)

Nope.  The last two days were partially filled with a bit of this and that in the way of harvesting and putting up food.

Yesterday we woke to a temp of 45 degrees outside, and 60 degrees inside.  I do believe we may have turned the corner toward real fall weather.  (Yippee!)  And, yes, the house was a little chilly.  Before sitting down to breakfast, I pulled on a sweatshirt over my regular outfit and then put on a zip up the front sweatshirt over that.

Sounded like a good day to bake something so I put a cherry coffee cake in the oven.  Even though Papa Pea had hinted for "something blueberry" (the baker lady was hungering for "something cherry"), he seems happy enough with this coffee cake to eat his share.

I've been thinking of making the first batch of Stuffed Green Peppers so went out into the garden to see if there were enough good-sized peppers to pick.  No problem there.

I also had several slicing cucumbers in the spare refridge that I wanted to use for a couple/few more quarts of kimchi.  So I gathered the other ingredients together for that.  All from the garden . . . except the sweet red peppers.  We don't have quite a long enough season to have the peppers turn color.  Most years.  I think our summer of unusually high temperatures would have done that this year if it hadn't been for our extremely long, cold spring.

Don't the layered veggies in the jar look purdy?  Not for long because I dump them into a bowl and mix them up before putting back in the jar for the fermentation period.

They're still colorful when mixed though. 

Today I made the batch of stuffed peppers and got them in the freezer to quick-freeze before wrapping them for storage.  If I counted all of them correctly, the total is enough for eighteen meals.  One more batch like this one and we'll be set for this winter.  We don't consume all of them ourselves.  They make an easy company meal and nobody at our table has refused to eat them.  Yet.

Tomorrow?  Ugh.  I've got to put on my big girl panties and attack those dandelions in the strawberry patch.  Double ugh.  (Blankety-blank weeds!)


Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Yes, I'll Take a Little Whine with My Cheese, Please

So far, it's been one of those weeks.  Did laundry, ironing and some errands on Monday, but felt like I didn't get much accomplished anyway.  Yesterday it rained heavily all day when I was all geared up to get lots done outside.  Funny how sometimes it's so hard to switch gears and feel good about it.

Today I did get outside and put in stakes with attached ropes to try to convince my trellis of decorative gourds to stay upright until the gourds can reach maturity.  Took more leaves off the Brussels sprout plants so the little sprouts could grow into big sprouts.

Neither Papa Pea nor I slept well last night because of high winds.  A couple more of the Brussels sprouts got laid flat along with all the remaining Ring of Fire sunflowers which I pulled out after thanking them for all the sunny bouquets they gave us this season.  Even the big heads on the cabbage plants didn't keep them from looking like someone gave them all a good push toward the west.  Although looking tipsy now, I think they're all still firmly attached by their roots.  But they do look a little strange.

I'm trying to figure out what to do about the big, awful, ugly, invasive dandelion plants that are growing smack dab in the center of so many of my strawberry plants.  Never seen anything like it.  Most of the plant will be destroyed by my digging out the dandelion.  Not that it's much better as it is now because the dandelions have literally suffocated out the strawberry plants in many spots.

I am going to take out the whole row of Earliglow strawberries and order new Cavendish (my best producer) plants to replant in that row next spring.  I've given the Earliglow variety a fair try (I think) and am not pleased with them.  No how, no way, nuh-uh.

I've been working on getting our winter's supply of kimchi made and stored away in the spare refrigerator.  I kept good records last year and know how many quart jars of the nutritious stuff I need for the winter months.  The veggies we like the best in the mixture are slicing cukes cut into chunks, sweet red pappers, carrots, onions and garlic.  Once I have those made and put by, I'm going to experiment making kimchi with mostly chopped cabbage.  Sort of like old-fashioned sauerkraut, but a little different.

Started another pair of socks for my husband and am turning the heel on the first sock.  Only problem is I tend to park myself on the couch at night and knit, knit, knit way too late, and have been getting to bed later than I should.  Then the next day, my wagon is draggin' and I'm a tad on the grumpy, grouchy side.  Just ask the man who's going to be the recipient of the pair of socks.  I'm afraid he's often the recipient of my foul mood.  From staying up too late knitting.  (But it's so addictive!)

Saturday, September 1, 2018

View of the Garden on the First of September

Here we are on the first day of the new month of September, and I'm getting this post up on time rather than two or three days late!

After a day yesterday of gray clouds and constant rain, we've got sunshine and a delightful breeze today.  No problem getting pictures to document the garden today.

Going way back . . . 

The First of March

The First of April

The First of May

The First of June

The First of July

The First of August

And the First of September

Considering I'm trying to get the garden ready for winter early this year, there's still a lot of greenery showing today, isn't there?

However, I do have 8 (of the 26) raised beds completely cleaned, fertilized and tilled.  Fertilized with the most wonderful, black compost Papa Pea has ever made!

The two cold frames in the back contain sweet peppers and slicing cucumbers.  Our nights are getting cool enough that we're shutting them down at the end of the day.

The "New Plot" East of Raised Beds

I planted potatoes down this 40' stretch.  The vines have mostly flopped over but are still showing a lot of green in comparison to the 20' row I planted in the field garden.  Those vines are completely dead already.  Why the difference?

As Much of a View of the Field Garden as I Can Get 

The green you see is primarily Brussels sprouts, cabbage, sunflowers (looking bedraggled and not so sunny anymore) and pickling cucumber vines I'm in the process of pulling out.

By the first of next month, the garden should look very different.  And I hope I'll be well on the way to having 90% of it ready for winter.