Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Rain, Blessed Rain!

Papa Pea and I were out in the garden very early yesterday morning trying to avoid the heat of the day.  Yes, we've finally entered into real summertime weather.  Weather that has suddenly become uncomfortable for northerners like us.  The hot weather has been a double whammy considering how dry it has been.

That is until last night when a thunderstorm rolled through and our rain gauge this morning showed us a full 1-1/2" of rain.  Yippee!  This will help the garden immensely.

The following pictures are ones I took yesterday morning before the much-needed rain soaked everything so nicely.

Although the spinach is starting to bolt (too warm, not enough moisture), we've been getting as much of it as we can eat fresh and I've also had enough to freeze a bit for winter consumption.

My beautiful cauliflower plants are being attacked by a tiny moth-like insect that is intent on making lace out of the leaves.  I'm sure all the insect damage in the garden is related to lack of moisture.  We dusted with diatomaceous earth yesterday morning (which got washed off in the rain last night, but it was worth the effort) to try to help the situation and will reapply it again today.

These are the green beans which have so far escaped insect damage, but they got a powdering with the repellent yesterday, too.

A few of my (so far) smaller lettuce plants which are looking healthy.  (I stuck a couple of snapdragon flowers in where the cutworms destroyed the lettuce plants.)  It's strange, but something ate most of my other salad greens (avoiding the lettuce and Swiss chard) destroying the leaves.  Go figure.

The last of my first planting of radishes ready for the table.  I've planted more but with this hot weather, they probably won't do much.

I set my zucchini plants out way too early considering our long stretch of cold weather and although they were covered with hot caps, they looked very sad when I finally could safely uncover them.  But lo and behold, they've recovered and are forming little zucchinis which will soon be baseball bat size if I don't watch them carefully.

The slicing cukes are just about ready to flop down and start crawling around in their raised bed.  I can hardly wait for them to add to our daily tossed salads.

Here's one row of potatoes (strawberry patch on the right) that have thus far been untouched by insects.  I hilled them up once, but before I thought about doing it again they grew about a foot and are too big for more hilling now.  They're beautiful.

Our strawberries have started to give us luscious fruit a full two weeks earlier than usual this year.  Now figure that one out.  A colder than usual spring and early summer and a severe lack of moisture, and yet an earlier crop of berries.  I picked 3-1/2 lbs. yesterday.

Speaking of berries, the haskaps are looking great.  Supposedly, they are ready to harvest when there are no green berries left on the bushes and the ripe ones haven't yet begun to drop onto the ground.  Seems like I need to check three times a day to hit that exact right time, but I'll stay on it as I want to make jam, syrup and fruit leather with them this year.  (Sure wish someone around here had the time and knowledge to make wine with them!)

This is my (sad) experimental bed of bush sunflower plants.  I planted two seeds in each hole, one foot apart, under each of the four marked  rows.  I got about 50% germination from the seeds, but something has been taking the plants that sprouted.  The only idea I have is that it might be crows as we seem to have more than a usual number of them around this year.

These are two of the three rows of shell peas that haven't grown as much in our earlier cool weather as I would have expected.  But now this dose of rainfall may give them a big boost.

Last but not least (anybody still with me?), our newest apple trees are looking great  (Note how sad and brown the grass looked yesterday morning because of lack of moisture.)  While I was mulching more areas in the garden yesterday morning, Papa Pea was mulching around the base of the baby trees hoping to give them an extra boost.

After this wonderful rain of last night, I'm eager to see the garden take off and possibly catch up to where it should be now that we're halfway through this summer.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

I've Got the Grumps

After several years of not seeing a single cutworm in the garden, it's an every day occurrence to find at least one little juvenile plant cut off at soil level and lying limp and dead.  The worms cut the stems of young plants to suck out the juices.  Maybe they're just thirsty.  I'll blame it on our extreme dry conditions.  Or an up-cycle of the cutworms.

Our asparagus production may be attributed to not enough moisture also.  The stalks have become extremely thin and not nearly as plentiful as they should be this time of year.

One would think our lack of rain would be a deterrent to the annual biting bug population.  Not so.  Recently, my left hand was bitten and got so swollen I had to get my wide gold wedding band off my finger while I could.  Years ago, I had to have it cut off (the ring, not my hand) because of a black fly bite on my finger.  We've even had mosquitoes in the house which has prompted us to put up netting over our king-sized bed.  No easy job but something we have to do some years in order to get a good night of sleep.

Because of our hectic summer schedule, my desire and need to spend time in my quilt room continues to go unfulfilled.  It's been so long since I've been in there, I may have forgotten where it's located.

I've been doing a lot of wheelbarrow work in the garden hauling mulch in an effort to retain some moisture in the soil.  A couple of days ago I was pulling the wheelbarrow instead of pushing it.  Never a smart thing to do.  I stumbled and one of the metal "legs" of the wheelbarrow ran over the back of one ankle bone.  Although I don't bruise easily, I have a very colorful sore spot that is a reminder to always push rather than pull. 

But all of this grumpiness on my part is nothing compared to an unfortunate accident of my blogging friend, Lisa B., over at 
Ewe's Crazy & So Is I.  This tiny powerhouse of mighty womanhood runs her farm nearly single-handedly and just took a bad fall which she wrote about in a current post.  Another instance where it would be wonderful if, somehow, we all lived close enough together so we could help out at a time like this.

And maybe a whole bunch of us gathering together to do a rain dance would entice Mother Nature to send much needed moisture down upon dry and cracking garden soil.  Although, I know, be careful what you wish for.

So, my grousing work here is done.  In reality, I have absolutely nothing to be grumpy about.  And I realize that.  It just felt good to get some things down on paper.  Or onto the keyboard.  Or sent into ether land.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Birds and Bugs

More baby birds!

Yesterday one of our Black Australorp hens hatched out two little chicks.

They're even smaller than the ducklings recently hatched and follow around on their mother's heels like little wind-up toys.

This is not a good picture but while I was watching them this afternoon, this little chick found an earthworm.  It seemed as though he/she instinctively knew it was something good to eat but had a hard time figuring out exactly how to do so.  

Mama hen came over, saw what the chick had, then walked away and I imagined her saying to herself, "He/she has to learn to figure it out for him/herself." 

This trio of our Speckled Sussex birds posed for a picture.  This Sussex breed is about the friendliest birds we've ever had.

Yesterday morning, before breakfast Papa Pea went out to do some weed whipping around the electric fence line of the poultry pasture.  Part of the fencing goes along the woods line and there he was assaulted by hordes of no-see-um's.  They bit right through his gloves (the kind with cloth over the back of the hand and rubber on the fingers and palms) to the extent he was almost going bonkers with the itching when he came in.

He slathered up with Calamine lotion which we've found to be the best in the case of bug bites.  Good thing he had a head net on or he would have been in a lot more discomfort.  Yep, the bugs are bad right now and we pretty much plan our times outside, to the extent we can, when they aren't present.  (And why is it we choose to live here where the state bird is the mosquito?)

Saturday, June 20, 2020

The Salad Season Has Officially Begun

Although in the past couple of weeks I admit to cutting a leaf of lettuce or two for sandwiches and having gathered enough baby spinach leaves for two Orange-Red Onion-Spinach salads, yesterday was the first time I harvested a good quantity of . . . 


Ready for a salad with fresh baked einkorn rolls.  Mmmm, good.

I also brought in some assorted salad greens to mix with the lettuce.

And a bunch of spinach.

For the next few months (too few, I'm sad to say), we'll have a big bowl of some combination of these garden greens almost every day.

If for some reason, I had only one small area in which to garden (terrible though that would be), it would be filled with crispy, crunchy salad greens chock full of nutritious goodness.

Friday, June 19, 2020

New Hatch on the Homestead

Just a short post this morning.  (As if I could ever do a short post.)

It seemed to us (and possibly her, too) that this year-old female duck had been sitting on her five eggs for-EVAH, but yesterday morning she hatched out four little ducklings.  (One egg was partially hatched, but the duckling didn't make it.)

That was early yesterday morning and by the afternoon she had her babies out and exploring their new, big world.  What miracle of nature!

This picture isn't the greatest (the fourth duckling is hard to see in the grass just under the mama's tail) but we didn't want to get too close in case we upset the little family.  

* * * * * * * *

Although thunderstorms were predicted over last night, all we heard were some distant rumblings.  This morning has dawned dark, humid and heavy, although not very warm.  The temp is 60°.  I could sure use a day feeling comfortably closeted inside here at my desk or working on food preparation in the kitchen.  And if Mother Nature would give us a soaking rain that would be perfect.

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 18, 2020

How Does My Garden Grow?

Slowly.  Very slowly.  I chalk it up to the fact that it's been cooler than usual this year.

I think this has also caused the germination of seeds planted directly in the garden to be troublesome.  (I'm replanting colored gourd seeds today.)  The blank spots are prevalent.  Once more, it's been the weather.

The good news is that our last two days have been . . . gulp . . . actually quite warm.  The thermometer has hit the high 70s and low 80s.  Even though we're still short on rainfall, these warm days have got to have given the little transplants and sprouting seeds a boost.

Even though I've been talking to the plants and sending encouraging words to planted seeds nearly every evening while watering with the hose, yesterday we decided we needed to hook up the sprinkler and gave the strawberries, asparagus and young dwarf fruit trees (and portions of the raised beds and field garden) a good, long drink.  The soil still looks damp this morning so it was worth it.

I made my first harvest of mint a day or so ago.  Prepped it for the dehydrator and ended up with 2-1/2 cups of dried mint for Papa Pea's daily dose of peppermint tea.

Both the yellow and green beans have not shown great germination.  I've gone back and filled in the bare spots with crossed fingers.  (Hard to plant seeds that way, but it warranted trying.)

One would think the cool weather would have encouraged more growth in the shell peas, but they still seem a bit vertically challenged.  The radishes, which we both love and munch-crunch even with breakfast, gave us a first large harvest over the past weekend. 

This is a peek at a few of the broccoli plants.  Doing okay, but not as vigorous as the cauliflower shown below.

So far, the cauliflower wins the blue ribbon of the whole garden as it seems to be flourishing.

My bed of spinach.  Ugh.  Poor germination with lots of bare spots.  I've since transplanted (well, tried) some of the plants that were too close together to fill in bare spots.

Can't complain (okay, whine) one little bitty-bit about the strawberries this year.  Despite lack of warmth, they've blossomed heavily and early.  We even have loads of green berries forming.

The haskap bushes are loaded with green, green berries the same color as the leaves.  Can you see them?  They will size up and turn a deep, dark blue when ripe.

My struggling blueberry bushes (a pox on that dreaded Witch's Broom fungus) go from hardly a blossom on some to a few loaded with blossoms.  The harvest can't turn out to be anything than smaller than we wish, but at least it looks as though we'll get some.

So that's a look at some of the garden and what's growing.  And what's been challenged this year.  Up here it seems we haven't really started the summer season quite yet (and we're going into the last half of June -- eeep), so if we continue to stay clear of those near freezing temps at night (it's about time, for goodness sake!), there's great hope we'll do okay once we get more good growing weather . . . and some adequate rain.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Quack-Quack, Peep-Peep

Way back a couple of months ago, we had a female duck start setting on a clutch of eggs.  We were concerned it was just too early and too cold but decided to let nature take its course.

Well, unfortunately, because we were having nights down into the 20s, it did turn out to be too cold for her duck eggs to mature and hatch.  Not so with one chicken egg that someone stuck in among her duck eggs when she wasn't looking.

The result was that one lone chick hatched out and has been thriving ever since under the watchful eye of his/her duck mother.

Yesterday I spotted both Mama and Papa Duck taking a little afternoon siesta with their chickie offspring snuggled in next to his/her very good mother.

Oops, I got too close and woke them up.

It's okay, guys.  Close your eyes, go back to your nap and I'll tiptoe away.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Where Is Summer?

There were frost warnings out for last night up here in the north woods.  And also for tonight again.  Our low temp this morning on the thermometer showed 39°.  Well, no frost at least.

Needless to say, I've been covering and uncovering the some of the plants in the garden.  As for the warm weather loving seeds and plants, I haven't even dared to allow them outside residence yet.  What can one do?  It's just a month when June is cold, cold, cold.

We have had a bit of much needed rain, I think about an inch and a half total, so that's a good thing.  Apparently, the trees are loving this weather as I can't remember ever noticing them to be such a lush, beautiful green.  The coloring is just lovely.

How's our wood stacking going?  Good.  Nope, not all six cords of what was delivered is in the wood shed, but we're routinely working on it.  We put an hour or so each day on the project and some days it feels like we are really gaining on it.  On others we wonder if those pieces still on the ground outside the shed are somehow multiplying over night.  I am eternally grateful my better half has insisted on helping me with the job because if I were doing it myself . . . oh, I don't even want to think of it.  Methinks he's smart enough to know that by helping, I'm still able to get good food on the table and he has clean underwear in his drawer.

We've had tremendous winds the last two or so days.  Gusts almost reaching 50 mph.  It keeps any and all bugs from being bothersome, but we've come to realize that being outside most of the day in those winds tends to take the stuffings right out of a body.  We come in for our 4:30 p.m. second meal of the day, then go back out for a couple/few hours and then when finally being "done" for the day, we settle on the couch for some conversation, reading or handwork and find ourselves yawning and with eyes tearing to the extent that we're usually in bed shortly after nine.  I often find myself saying I simply must go to bed . . . and it's only 8:30 or 8:45.

First thing this morning (even before my latte --gads!), I mixed up and put a Rhubarb Upside Down Cake in the oven.  I thought that might warm up the house a titch.  (If you should be interested in the recipe for the cake, I posted it way back in 2009, and you can find it here.)

I also built a small fire in the kitchen wood stove to cozy things up this morn.  I know summer will actually arrive here one of these days and we'll be bemoaning it's so hot out we're uncomfortable.  Until then we'll continue to put a down vest on under our hooded sweatshirts and go back out into the cool (teeth-chattering) air.


Saturday, June 6, 2020

"A" is for Asparagus and Apples

Our asparagus continues to come in almost faster than I can harvest it.

I missed one day in cutting it and look what happened.  Stalks two feet tall!

Our apple trees are finally blossoming.  Some in full bloom and some just starting.

This is the third year for this dwarf Chestnut Crab Apple.  Last year it bore heavily and the apples were the best eating apples we had.  (I didn't know crab apples could taste so good.)  They were bigger than the average crab apple, a bit over 2" across, and we each ate one a day, sometimes two. 

Since we were so enamored with the flavor of this crab apple variety, we ordered another one which we planted this spring.  Look at the blossoms on this skinny, little stick of a tree.  Impressive!

We have several Honey Crisp dwarf trees that are in their third year.  With luck, we may get some tasty fruit from them, too.

Late blossoming this year, yes, but at least they didn't do it before one of our many late frosts.  Maybe they knew what they were doing.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Doin' It the Easy Way

I mentioned a post or so ago that Papa Pea has been doing a reorganizing and rearranging of our poultry yard.

For years we've had an apple tree in that area that has been on its last legs.  (Last branches?  Last roots?)  At any rate, we decided it would be best to take it out, get it out of the way.

When D, our good neighbor, brought us a load of fill to even out an area that Papa Pea's been working on, they discussed the tree and D said he could come over with a piece of his equipment and pop it out, roots and all, if we wanted.

You bet!  And that he did.

For an older, smaller tree that was half dead, it had quite the root system and we shuddered to think how long it would have taken us to grub it out.

Up, up and away with the gnarly old thing.

D even took the tree away with him.  Can't beat that kind of help!

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Could We Actually Be Getting Wiser?

We made the decision last summer that we were no longer going to take the time to cut and split the firewood that heats our house.  We would order it cut, split and delivered and all we would have to do was stack it in our wood sheds.

We've always used all the wood from trees taken down on our property and, in the past, ordered loggers' cords of wood delivered in 8' lengths.  If we figure the cost of the 8' lengths, the expense of using our chainsaws and fuel, and the time we both put into processing the wood, we came to the conclusion we'd be ahead to pay and order our wood cut and split.

So we did.

This past winter, we used all but this small amount of wood left in our big shed.

Ah, but don't get the idea we have no seasoned wood in reserve because we do.

This smaller wood shed is stuffed full of wood we put up last summer.

As is this make-shift wood crib we cobbled together and filled then also.  Both of these areas together equal more than the big shed holds.

Oh, and we also were gifted these logs by our good neighbor recently.  He has a heavy equipment business and often clears land for construction.  In the past he's given us untold $$$ worth of wood and we're so very grateful for it.

So it's not that our wood working skills will become rusty by now ordering the main part of our wood for heating.

This is the first load of four that was delivered yesterday.  Each load is a cord and a half which means there will be six cords to be stacked in our main wood shed.

Annnnd . . . this is what four loads looks like.

Papa Pea is currently involved in the reconstruction of our poultry yard, fencing and building a new composting system (one heckuva big job) so I told him I'd stack all the wood myself.

Eeeep!  WHAT was I thinking??