Thursday, May 30, 2019

Summer Arrives . . . And More Balance

That's the way it usually happens up here.  One day we're still slipping into our down jackets before going outside, and the next day while working in the garden wearing a sleeveless blouse I'm so sweaty by noon time I want a shower.

No, we didn't hit 100° as some of you have already, but we did get into the seventies which was the warmest we've seen it yet this spring/early summer.  I even had three of those big, bothersome, black horse flies buzzing me.  After one landed and bit the back of my arm, I was so mad I stood still until the second and then the third one landed on my forearm and I smacked 'em both!  Killed 'em dead, I did.

Today we had a lovely though cooler day and I got much planting done in the raised beds.  So much so that I'm almost too pooped to post tonight.

Also, I did come to a big decision as I was making dinner.  You've all heard me talk about gaining more balance in my life, yadda, yadda, yadda.  Toward that (elusive) end, I decided not to plant anything but a green manure crop in the field garden this year.

We should give our growing areas a rest now and then.  (Hey, that's what I'm striving for . . . a rest now and then!)  And it's been several years since we've not grown crops in the field garden.

Since this year I'm not growing the usual veggies that are planted in the field garden, ones that take up so much space like Brussels sprouts (very labor intensive so I'm taking a year off from them), green cabbage (growing only red in the raised beds), corn (I had planned on doing it this year but have changed my mind), shell peas (which I've put in another area), pickling cukes (have plenty of pickles from last year), etc., etc. . . . it popped into my head that this would be a good year to give the field garden a rest.  (And me also.)

The only dilemma is that I won't be growing our own potatoes.  A supply of which is something we'll have to figure out for this coming winter.

We'll plant buckwheat or oats or wheat as a cover crop in the field garden, till it under before it heads out, and perhaps even sow a second crop of another grain.

This will eliminate a lot of my time spent in the garden.  Thinking of having just the 27 raised beds (and the strawberries and asparagus bed and fruit trees and a couple of other smallish plots) will free me up for other pursuits this summer.

Now if I can just come up with an excuse to avoid painting all that outside trim of the house that's on my list . . .   

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Finally Sunshine!

As usual this time of year, I'm going a little overboard baking with rhubarb now that it's available in the garden.  (I do love rhubarb!)

Made my favorite rhubarb cake day before yesterday and Papa Pea ate the last piece with some milk after a hearty breakfast this morning. 

We had a visit today with the four-year old twins my daughter has every Saturday.  The little guy loves stalks of rhubarb dipped in sugar, but Chicken Mama gave him a small dish of honey to dip into today, and he thought that was pretty good.  The little gal suggested I should bake a strawberry pie when I told her I was going to bake our (calorie-laden) Rhubarb Cream Pie.  (She's not a rhubarb fan.)  She's gonna have to wait another month or so for any strawberries from this garden.

And I did get that pie baked but not until late this afternoon.  Now it's cooling in the refridge and won't be sampled until tomorrow.  Can hardly wait.

We had more gray, drippiness until mid-afternoon when the sun broke through the clouds and our temperature soared into the high 60s.  Our warmest temp so far this spring, I think.

Tomorrow and Monday are supposed to be sunny so with the help of my Under Gardener (that's Papa Pea), I'll be getting the recently received fifty new strawberry plants in the ground.  And lots of emerging weeds out of the ground.

Still waiting for the planted onions, radishes and Sweet Peas to show their little green sprouts.  They've had plenty of moisture now so with a bit of warm weather, they may make an appearance.

Hope you're all having a great Memorial Day Weekend!

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Short Garden Tour

This tour will be relatively short because there's not much happenin' out in the garden yet.

We've had two days of rain now and a layer of fog was heavy when we got up this morning.  Now about two hours later, the fog has mostly lifted but a mist is still falling.

We had our first meal of asparagus night before last.  Wahoo!  More will be on the plate tonight.

I wanted a dousing of rain on my chives before I started prepping them for the freezer.  Got that.  Now I need to wait until they dry before cutting.  But they're certainly ready.

This is the bottom half of my two remaining strawberry rows.  (I'm standing about halfway down the rows.)  The Cavendish plants I ordered to replace the Earliglows I tore out last fall were shipped yesterday.  They will go in a row to the right of the rows showing.

I've read for best flavor you should not cut your rhubarb stalks until they are 12" long.  After this rain, there will be rhubarb cake on our table very soon.

The garlic is coming along nicely.  If you look at the bed to the right of the garlic bed and off the far corner of it, you can see (almost) what's left of the blueberry bushes after I took out all the Witches' Broom fungus.  The remaining bushes have slight buds showing, but no leaves so far.

The haskap bushes are leafing out like crazy.  That's one of the two Borealis bushes in the foreground and a Berry Smart Blue behind it which is now over five feet tall.

Looks as though this will be another inside day, but that's fine.  We did need the rain.  Our temp was 43° first thing this morning.  Not warm, but better than in the 30s as we have been having so it's all good.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

An Unrainy Rainy Weekend

At least so far, that's what it's been even though we were prepared for rain all weekend.  As I write this Sunday morning, I know it's not over yet and the sky does remain gray, heavy and cloud-covered.

Our temps continue to go down into the 30s and low 40s at night.  Our few sunny days have felt wonderful, but not as warm as might be wished for. 

Yesterday morning I took several items I've gathered in my recent cleaning and reorganizing to our resale shop.  On the way home I couldn't keep my vehicle from turning into a local greenhouse/garden center that opened this past week.  (Just to browse around, you know.)  A bit of a breeze (and the low temp) was keeping me and the several other customers hugging ourselves for warmth.  But all of us seemed so hungry for the beautiful blossoms and growing greenery.  The rows of pansies set outside and the tables of more tender plants inside the greenhouse  were so tempting.  I almost came close to bringing home some of the pansies, but (somehow) held myself back and will wait.

Although I planted my three raised beds of onions (one and a half of yellow Stuttergarter Riesen and one and a half of Red Comred) this past week and a trellis of Sweet Pea seeds, that's all the planting I've done.  I'm even foregoing trying to start anything under cold frames this year.  (At least I've held out so far.)  Sometimes I think seeds and plants I "baby" along don't do as well as those planted after warm gardening weather truly does arrive.  Stand by to see how long this resolve of mine holds true.

Papa Pea cut down two of our original semi-dwarf apple trees last week.  We've come to the conclusion (exhibiting the slow learner syndrome again) that our semi-dwarf trees will not last forever, and he did find the two he took out to be about half dead right down through the trunks.

My bed of garlic is happily growing and looking good.

Exactly one year ago today, we had our first cutting of asparagus.  Although we have lots of spears up and growing right now, and I probably could cut enough for one meal today, I'm going to be patient and hold off harvesting any just yet.

Last year our first rhubarb harvest was on the 27th of this month, and I do believe that will ring true again this year.

Chives are ready, ready, ready to be harvested and processed into containers for the freezer.  I hope to get the first batch of those done today.

I spent a good portion of the day yesterday in my quilt room experimenting with a prototype for a felted wool Christmas ornament.  With a lot of my handwork projects, I take an idea from something I've seen and put my own twist on it.  So many projects look so simple, but turn out to be much more difficult when I actually put the materials and my hands to it.  Ever noticed that?  Dang.  But I enjoyed myself the whole time and definitely have the enthusiasm to do more along the same line.

Now to make us a big cottage cheese and fruit salad and see what the rest of this day brings.  Hope this last day of your weekend is super!

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Still Busy, But More Balanced

As of this week, I've changed my laundry and ironing day from Monday to Tuesday.  (I know you're just thrilled to hear that interesting tidbit.)  Mondays I'm often away from home for part of the day because of other commitments so this change seemed the sensible thing to try.

I did get all the loads of laundry done and was halfway through my ironing when Papa Pea said he was going back to the wood pile, and I was welcome to join him.  (How could I resist an offer like that?)

After putting in some profitable time there, the sunshine we had had was disappearing and since rain was forecast for this afternoon, I thought I'd better hie on out to the garden and attack the weeds in the strawberry plants while I could.

Got almost all of them beaten into submission before the rain drops made the decision for me to quit.

Last weekend I kinda sorta tore my quilt room apart in order to do some rearranging.  (It's still in progress, can you tell?)  At the same time, I've started to go through all my quilting and other handwork books and am getting rid of A LOT of them.  (Feels good.)

Although the room is a first-class disaster, I'm sitting down now and then to put in some time on machine quilting a 60 x 72" quilt that is getting close to finished.

Last week I finished the second wool applique piece I've done.

Although there are several things I wish I had done differently on it, I'm not going to point them out to you.  Or anyone else.  There is a learning curve to this new art form of mine and . . . I'm learning.  Slowly, perhaps, but I'm learning.

I also recently finished a spring/summer quilted dresser scarf (Table runner?  Dresser runner?) for the top of our chest of drawers in the bedroom.

Birds and blossoms and butterflies.

I made it reversible so it can be used during the fall season, too.

Purdy autumnal colors.  (Have you heard it said that we all wear the colors of our favorite season?  I know I do.)

I'm really, truly-duly making a conscious effort to balance my days so I can do special things I want to do; things that aren't classified as "work."  I think I may actually be starting to feel like a more balanced person.  Well, maybe I shouldn't go that far.  Let's just say I may be on the right track.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Big Trouble In The Blueberry Patch

Our blueberry bushes are infected with witches' broom.

For the past couple of years, I've noticed an abnormal "growth" on some of our domestic blueberry bushes.

I may not be the sharpest tack in the box when it comes to searching out info via the Internet, but for the longest time I could not find anything that would explain what it was that was increasingly affecting our bushes. 

Then finally last fall I stumbled across pictures of witches' broom, a rarely found fungal disease that has a serious effect on the production of berries and the blueberry bushes themselves.  Then I knew for sure what we were dealing with.

Above is a picture of one of our bushes as it appeared after the snow melted this spring.

The fungus supposedly comes from the balsam fir trees of which we have many in our surrounding woods.  The wind transports the spores from the fir trees to the blueberry bushes.  The infected blueberry plants then produce basidiospores in the spring, which are carried back to the fir trees.  It's a never-ending cycle.

In the past, I had been cutting off the fungus growth, the witches' broom, on our bushes but now realize one should remove the entire branch the fungus grows on.  This enables other branches to possibly escape infection.  But if the fungus has reached the crown of the bush and you see the witches' broom growing from the crown (up from the ground around the base of the bush), the whole plant should be removed completely.

There are no effective fungicides for the management of this disease.

What to do as a defense?  I don't know.  Removing all balsam fir trees within 1,200 feet of the bushes is advised.  Not possible in our location.

I've found that a few of our bushes have to be removed.  As to whether the rest of them will continue to produce berries for us for any length of time, we'll just have to wait it out and see.  

Depressing, sure, but we're small-time home growers and grow the berries for our own personal use.  I know of a blueberry farm up in Canada not too far from here and one about a hundred-plus miles south of us.  Their blueberry bushes are a cash crop for them, and I'd hate to think what would happen if they had to battle this fungus.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Something To Think About

I recently read a quote attributed to Ralph Lauren.  Mr. Lauren is a well-known American fashion designer, philanthropist and business executive. and although I've never kept close tabs on his talents or lifestyle, these words of his struck a chord with me.  The words I read are:

When friends enter a home, they sense
its personality and character,
the family's style of living ---
these elements make a house come alive
with a sense of identity, 
a sense of energy,
enthusiasm, and warmth, declaring,
"This is who we are; this is how we live."
                                      Ralph Lauren 

Over the years, Papa Pea and I have owned three different places (four if you count the 14 x 16' cabin on his folks' property they gave us as a wedding present and we remodeled and added onto making it a small house).  During much of the time in our different locations, we didn't have the wherewithal to make choices regarding construction or decorating that I would have preferred.  I've always felt a need to live in surroundings that "fed my soul," and so tried to make our homes comfortable, and to the extent I could, a reflection of my personal tastes.

Today books and videos abound encouraging us all to de-clutter, rid our personal space of all items not useful, superfluous and those which don't bring pleasure to our everyday lives or represent our true selves.  Ralph Lauren's words have caused me to take an objective look around my own home.  I realize some aspects do represent our/my style of living and personality, some don't.

Now I'm in the process of considering some changes (oh no, more changes!) so that my home environment represents more closely, "This is who we are; this is how we live."

Think about other homes you've been in.  Think about your own home.  Do you like what you see?  Does your home give a true reflection of you and your lifestyle?   Do you see any changes you might make?  Do you have the desire to make those changes?  Do tell! 

Friday, May 3, 2019


Our heavy snow fall of this past Monday is finally (nearly/almost) gone.  The lack of sunshine all week has not made the process go fast, but warmer temps yesterday (in the 40s) did help the melting along quite a bit.  Let's hope that was the end of winter and that spring will finally stay with us.

It will still be a few days, at least, before I can do anything in the garden soil, but we can get started on pruning the apple trees and picking up winter-fallen branches now that the yard is free of snow again.

Our back wood working area still has lots of standing puddles that are crispy-crunchy this morning with ice that formed over night.  We have to get back on that project asap.

Our good neighbors are planning a visit soon with their son in Iowa where for the past couple of years they've been purchasing their started garden plants from a family-owned greenhouse.  They've always offered to bring back any that I would like, but because I've started my own from seed, I've declined their kind offer.

Not this year.  I am serious about making some changes toward a more balanced life (all work and no play, etc., etc., you know), so I've given them a list of plants I'd like.  It's way too early to set the plants out so with Papa Pea's help I will have to set up a protected spot for the plants in our unheated, yet-to-be-finished space that will eventually be my seed starting/growing/potting room.  Placing them on a rack next to a south facing window and making a quasi-greenhouse with plastic for protection should do the trick.

It feels very different this year not having started my own seeds, but I can already see the "extra" time it's given me.  I feel guilty and incompetent for doing it this way, but as a good friend is fond of saying, "Get over it!"

We've found ourselves really making an effort toward that "happy medium" with more balance in all things we're doing.  Yes, it's change and yes, it's hard, but because we're both wanting the same thing, I think it's gonna work.