Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Where's My Crew of Six?

Actually, I might be able to keep a crew of ten going.  For at least a couple of weeks.
Anyone who has a small homestead and a large garden knows how very much there is to be done outside at this time of year.
I've already mentioned we're working on building, filling and planting out landscaping berm boxes up against the south side of the house.

Praise be, our daughter is helping us with that project two days a week.  (The girl can't seem to stand having any time off.  That's a total fib, but it's to our great advantage and appreciation that she has consented to give us this time.)

Although I wanted to get all the trim on our house painted last year, it simply didn't happen.  Yesterday I finally started on the first window which is directly above where the plantings will go in the first berm box.  (Seemed like a good place to start.)  Got the first coat on but, drat and darn, it's gonna take a second coat to get good coverage.  I knew that but chose to pretend one coat would do it.  Silly me.

It would be lovely if I had my shell peas and potatoes planted by now, but due to one (or three) repair problems with the Gravely garden tractor Papa Pea uses to prep the soil for me, the only sign of this happening soon is the row marking stakes I got up yesterday.

We've been calling this the "new" gardening area for a couple/few years now, but haven't rushed into doing any of the perennial planting there yet.  Plans are for a new raspberry patch, new blueberry patch, new strawberry patch and it seems Papa Pea would like to see about six or seven other things go in there, too.  So far, we've concentrated on improving the soil, keeping it free of weeds and endlessly picking up rocks.  We've now ascertained the 20' x 53' area is adaptable to growing rocks very successfully.
Rain is predicted for this afternoon and the next couple of days so I'd better get out and get that second coat of paint on those windows right quick this morning.  Or maybe I should plant the potatoes.  Or the peas.  Or the other 20+ raised beds that are still empty.
So where is that crew of my workers to help?  I'd even have the cook serve them a delicious lunch.  Oh, wait.  That's right.  The cook hasn't shown up yet either. 

Friday, May 13, 2022

Wet But Warmer

A catch-up posting here.  As often happens, our weather has turned from will-winter-never-end to summer's-here.  The rains have also been wild with lots of lightning and thunder.
In the past 24 hours we've gotten over 2-1/2" of rain which, added to the snow melt and recent previous rainfalls, have caused wash-outs on several county roads in our area.  All streams and waterways are rushing and gushing like we've not seen in years.
Two days ago, with a slight drying of soil, Papa Pea got my flat gardening areas tilled for the season.  Now that the areas are ready, it will be several days before it's dry enough that I can think of planting peas and potatoes, the two crops I would have liked to have had in by now.

Do you think we went a bit overboard with the pruning of these two apple trees?  Sadly, they're in the process of being taken down as they've lived out their productive years and are no longer able to give us more than a few apples.  New trees have been planted to take their place.
I've got a few of my raised garden beds planted.  Onions are all in the ground as are turnips and carrots.  Trellises for other veggies are in place.  As soon as the soil is dry enough, lots of other cool weather crops will go in.
The strawberries are weeded and there's all but a few feet of mulch between the rows left to be put in place.  The bed is getting old and I wish I had the time to start new plants in a different area but this spring is chock full of too many projects already so that will have to go on the list for a year from now.

Speaking of strawberries, last weekend I finished this small piece.  I had the x-stitching done last year but couldn't decide how to go from there.  I finally went with simple, added the red border and it's now a small 8-1/2" square pillow that will sit as decoration on a shelf.  Strawberry harvest will start for us right around the end of June/first of July so it will be ready for that this year. 
The busy time out-of-doors has begun and my first-of-the-season achy gardening muscles have almost disappeared.  Onward with the planting and then obsessively watching it all grow.

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Okay, I Lied

Remember how I said, several times, I wasn't putting a seed or transplant into my garden until June 1st this year?  Broken promise, shattered promise.  Already.
Spring has finally sprung and winter is (almost) forgotten.  There's still that stubborn line of snow down past the blueberry patch, but a couple of days ago while getting some of the raised beds in shape for the season, I found the soil to be actually warm a couple of inches down.  So here's my admission.  I couldn't stop myself from planting my onions.  Yes, I did it and I'm glad. 
Plus, even though I've vowed to give up trying to grow the lovely Sweet Pea flowers because of their extremely poor showing for me the last few years, I planted them late yesterday (after soaking the seeds for 24 hours) at the base of the hoop trellis over one of the raised beds.  One more chance, little Sweet Peas, and if you fail me again this year, our friendship is over.
Our fall-planted garlic was uncovered a few days ago and the little green shoots have shot up to 3" tall.  Mulch also has been removed from the mint bed and, as usual, it looks deader than a door nail.  I think I've finally learned that it's not (some people, and perhaps plants wake up slowly) and will begin to show life if I'm just patient.
The asparagus bed has had all the old fern debris removed (ugh, what a job) and made pretty in anticipation of the first spears to appear.  I spent a good part of the day yesterday removing all the winter mulch from the strawberries.  Now to watch for a couple of days to see how many weeds pop up among the plants, then remove them and mulch between the rows and around each plant to make for clean picking around the end of June.
Our temperatures look good for the coming week although there's a bit of moisture in the forecast including that for today and tomorrow.  But I feel confident the gardening season has begun.  Lots of cool weather crops that can go in right now including peas, potatoes, beets, turnips, carrots, radishes, lettuce, spinach and Swiss chard.
You know where I can be found for the next couples weeks.  Eating crow and burying lots of little vegetable seeds in the soil in the hope and anticipation of a bountiful harvest in a couple/few months.  Let the gardening begin! 

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Good Morning, Sunshine!

After a weekend of rain, about 2" total, and a very gray day yesterday, it's invigorating to see the sun this morning.  We've had lots of drippy, foggy weather lately which hasn't done much for drying out garden soil or perhaps even driving the frost out of the ground.  What we need now is a noticeable rise in temperature with some warmth to convince us spring will actually arrive.

Yesterday I finally could see little buds of daffodils pushing up through the soil.  Well, it's about time!  No great showing yet, but at least they're still alive.  My chives are about 2" high, but looking as though they could use an infusion of warm weather.  The horseradish root planted last year has green shoots about the same height as the chives.

The snow down at the far south end of the garden next to the woods line is always the last to melt.  But considering only the very tip-tops of these haskap berry bushes were visible for most of the past winter, you can see that about three to four feet of snow has melted.

These are the last of my yellow onions from last season.  I still have about 1/3 of a milk crate of red ones in the basement, but a few of them are starting to show healthy sprouts.  Darn.  Not much to do because they have a way of knowing when it's (technically) spring and they have the urge to start growing.

This year for the first time we've had a small "pond" form in the middle of our backyard/driving area.  This morning we can tell it's decreased in size considerably (maybe the frost is coming out of the ground) from what it has been.  But why did it appear this year?  I suppose the frost in the ground formed in a different configuration?  At any rate, it does seem to be going away, but we may end up having to fill in a low spot when all is said and done.  It was a sight to see this weekend when a gorgeous Wood Duck landed in the puddle and tried to paddle around.  We also have seen a pair of Mallards and what we think are Bufflehead ducks (not sure of that identification) on our real pond.  All the ice has left the pond and the run-off from the hills behind us has filled it to about a quarter inch of flowing over the overflow!  A darn sight different than the pitiful puddle it shrank down to last summer.
We have one of the new landscaping berm boxes finished.  (Thanks to our daughter's carpentry skills and effort.)  Pictures will be coming soon! 

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Mid-Week Jibber-Jabber

Spring and the departure of all our snow is definitely behind that of last year.  It seems we've been watching snow melt (and inches of new snow fall) forever.  But we all know Mother Nature can't be controlled, and we are sincerely happy to be going into the spring/summer season without a drought looming (like last year) so we'll be patient and welcome real spring weather once it arrives.  With our first-of-the-morning temperature today of 26°, it may take a while yet.
* * * * * * * 

 Holey smoley, do we have flocks of birds at our feeders right now.  The feeding stations are currently needing to be filled sometimes twice a day.  All winter we didn't see as many wild birds as we do now.  Juncos, Purple Finches, Downy Woodpeckers, Chickadees, Nuthatches and even a Flicker who regularly decimates the peanut butter feeder.  Also one lone fella that we think is a Blackburnian Warbler.  And a couple of White-Throated Sparrows.
* * * * * * * *
Our trail cameras are regularly catching glimpses of deer, wolves, foxes and skunks!  (Plus, frequently two-legged creatures who live here.)
* * * * * * * *
Even though the ground is still frozen, construction of the berm boxes that will be the home for some new landscaping plants has commenced.  I've waited a long time (and not very patiently) for this landscaping project and am very excited to see the start of it.
* * * * * * * *
My vegetable and fruit gardens will once again, after being scaled down last year, be back up to their usual "wow-that's-a-lot!" this growing season.  I can hardly wait.  As the price of food continues to go up, up, up, we feel it's absolutely necessary to produce as much as we can right here at home.  I'll also be growing supplemental feed for the poultry, too.
* * * * * * * *
Today I'm finishing up some lovely beef bone broth made from meaty soup bones purchased from friends who have an organic farm in the southern part of the state.  Right after noon I started roasting a turkey I've had defrosting in the spare refridge.  After taking all the meat off the bones, the carcass will go into my biggest pot and make thick, gelatinous turkey broth to use in soups, sauces and many other dishes.  It'll feel good to have a resupply of both broths available.
* * * * * * * *
I'm using this time before much can be done outside to make and have ready any and all foods that will be available for quick meals during (actual) spring and summer weather when I'm outside most of the day and not able to spend much time in the kitchen.  Once again, I've hired a maid and a cook to take over my inside duties while I'm outside, but in all probability they won't show up.  Once again.

Friday, April 22, 2022

Humor Is Where It's At

My daughter came upon this image and using her graphic design skills, surrounded it with the perfect frame and made it into a card presented to me in my Easter basket this year.
I got a good belly laugh from it and know all you quilters and sewists will appreciate the humor, too.  You're welcome! 

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Perfectly Formed But . . .

One of our hens wasn't concentrating on the job at hand when she laid this egg.

Monday, April 18, 2022

The Winter That Wouldn't Quit


We woke to a little bit of snow cover this morning.  About 6" of a little bit.

The weather report says to expect three more inches today.

 (Time for me to stop grousing to my husband
 about not putting away his myriad of snow shovels.)
This weather is probably why not a lot of people live in northern Minnesota.  (Ya think?)

Happy first of the new week to you all!

Sunday, April 10, 2022

It's Been A While . . .

I don't know where to place the blame for my lack of getting up a new blog post these past couple of weeks.  Seems I've had nothing to say.  Watching snow melt is a little more exciting than watching paint dry, but still nothing for any of you to be eager to read.
Yes, our snow has been melting.  And melting.  Unfortunately, we've heard of lots of wet basements and our local library has been closed for a week because of flooding.  As far as I know, the worst of the water coming into their lovely building has been in the offices and under a line of computers for people to use along the back north wall.  No books have been damaged.  When we put the foundation under our own house, Papa Pea was diligent when it came to installing proper drainage around the perimeter and because of that we are, thankfully, dry.

Some of my raised beds are now showing thanks to the snow melt.

The bed of garlic planted last fall is still snuggled under its blanket of mulch.  "How you guys doing under there?  Getting ready to show your little green heads?"

This bed contains horseradish root and chives.  It always surprised me how early the chives will start poking through the soil.  Not quite yet, but I'll keep checking.

Our asparagus bed is a rather sad mess covered with the old dead ferns that got laid down by our heavy snows.  We're still eating frozen asparagus from last year's bounty but can hardly wait for fresh spears.  No comparison between the two.

Can you make out the cross-stitched sampler I have hanging over my kitchen stove?  (I really must invest in some glare-proof glass.)  
Here's a closer look.  Words to live by.  For me at least.  I sometimes waste way too much time and mental/emotional energy agonizing over the same item(s) on my list day after day after day.  If a task isn't one that will take up a large amount of time (and most of them aren't), "doing it now" eliminates all the stress that I put there by avoiding getting it done in a timely manner.  Such a task was on our agenda (we were going to do it all this past week) this morning.  The deck is clear of snow so we've needed to do some measuring for a spring project that may even start tomorrow.  Barring the heavy, wet snow that is forecast for overnight, that is. 

Monday, March 28, 2022

Something to Ponder

This is another quote from a book by Matt Haig I've been reading.  The title is The Comfort Book.
You don't always have to do stuff.
Or achieve stuff.
You don't have to spend 
your free time productively.
You don't have to be doing Tai Chi
and DIY and bread-making.
Sometimes you can just be and  
feel things and get through
and eat chips and survive,
and that is more than enough. 
He had me at "eat chips." 

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Winter's Last(?) Blast

Before the Storm

After the Storm

Before the Storm

After the Storm 
Could have been a lot worse.  Most of our March snows melt quickly, but looks as though we're heading into a week of winter-like temps so spring time seems to have left the north woods.  At least for a little while. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

March: The Most Schizophrenic Month

Last week we had a real taste of spring time.  Daytime temps soared up into the 40s (stop laughing), we had sunny days and it was amazing how much of our snow melted. 
We had a large puddle of water growing in the middle of our pond.  More than half of our driveway was down to the gravel.  Several of my raised garden beds were free of snow and a lot of (nearly) green grass could be seen on our lawn area.
Then this past weekend the weather reports started warning of a big snow and ice storm headed our way.  Very early this morning (Tuesday) around 1 a.m. the storm was to start.  Nope, a change was issued.  It wasn't going to start until 4 a.m.  No evidence of any precipitation then either.
After dawn, we had a little freezing drizzle and a couple of snowflakes around breakfast time.  At noon it did start to snow.  Lightly.  We've seen a couple of periods of heavier snowfall on and off now for most of the afternoon and early evening.
Around 6 p.m. I went out on our deck with shovel to see how much accumulation we had.
Oops, the shovel would take off only the top layer of a couple of inches.  It was all icy crystals underneath.
Our daughter stopped on her way home to report the roads were extremely slippery.  She drove with her 4-wheel drive engaged, but even so went slightly diagonally at times.  Yep, a good night to be home warm and safe.
The current forecast is for the snow (or ice or sleet or possibly rain) to continue until tomorrow afternoon.
Even so, the snow now falling will have to have a real burst of energy in order to drop the 16-18" they are saying we may get.  
March.  It's such an exciting, depressing, confusing month.  According to the calendar, spring may have arrived but in Minnesota the month doesn't know it.
As Garrison Keillor, a well-known Minnesotan, is quoted as having said:
March is the month
God created to show people
who don't drink
what a hangover is like. 

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Wolves in the Middle of the Night

Wolves are closely related to dogs.  Or is it our dogs are closely related to wolves?

 "I've been waiting and you're late."


And they're off. 

Friday, March 18, 2022

Unexpected Thaw

Because we got such a large amount of snow this winter, I really didn't expect we'd see bare ground until sometime in May.  (Or possibly June.  Maybe July?)  But this last week of off and on sunshine and temperatures up into the 40s has made for a lot of slow and easy melting.  A few puddles here and there but no run-off causing flooding.  (At least not yet.)
Yesterday we went from periods of bright sunlight that required sunglasses when outside to very shady overcast periods.  Back and forth this went on all day, but even when the sun was hiding from us the snow was still melting.

Lots of gravel showing on the drive back past the big wood shed.  And no standing water to freeze over night and make a treacherous skating rink.

Above are two new blueberry bushes (to the left) we got late last season and healed in until this spring.  The big black pots and the bushes in them were totally covered with snow until this thaw began.  If you look closely, in front of the hoop trellis, you can see one teeny-tiny corner of one of my raised beds starting to peek out from under the snow.

And look here.  Green grass actually showing near the orchard!

Our daughter and her little charge came for a visit yesterday and they played outside for a long time.  What a cute little snowman they built during a period of sunshine.
I know we can still get plenty of snow during the last half of March and well into April, but what a breath of spring time to see all the melting this past week.  

Sunday, March 13, 2022

The Importance of Being Kind

I believe that being kind to others is one of the most important personal traits we need to practice today in our daily lives.
Being kind means being supportive but non-judgmental.
The old saying that it's not fair to judge a person until we've walked in their shoes proves to be very true in many cases.
There are times we simply don't know what the other person is trying to handle in their life during a given period.
We may not be aware of what physical, mental or emotional problems someone else is struggling with.
Even a good friend or family member might chose to not share a serious problem or dilemma.
Practice being kind. 
It's important.
Your kindness may be what is needed to help someone get through the day.

Sunday, March 6, 2022

My Dwindling Onion Supply

Last gardening season was not a great one for my onions.  I can't help but place the blame on our spring/summer/fall seasons of drought.  Feeling very thankful for our ample well water supply, and even though I spent many hours watering the whole garden, the onions just didn't grow as well as they usually do.
The quantity was about the same as any other year, but the bulbs of both the red and yellow onions were stunted.
We keep our onions in milk crates on the basement floor where the temperature stays a consistent 52° (or very close to it) all winter long.  This seems perfect for the onions.
This morning I went down into the basement to refill the container I keep in a closet in what we call our "entry room."  (A place for outside clothes, boots, spare refrigerator, broom closet, etc.)

Our onion supply isn't going to make it until this coming year's harvest.  The reds still fill about half a crate (they did the best of the two varieties) while the yellow ones fill only about one-quarter of theirs.
The good news is that they're all keeping well.  I found only one that was soft, a red one, and only one that had started to sprout, a smallish one you may be able to pick out in with the yellow ones.
All in all, we're appreciative of the number and size (sigh) of those we did harvest last year considering the growing conditions, but I'll be ready and eagerly awaiting the new crop of 2022, you may be sure. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Wildlife Abounds

We're capturing many pictures of the deer, wolves and foxes on our trail camera.

They all look healthy, well fed and in good shape.  The camera shows there are many foxes in our area but we've yet to spot one in person this winter.  Rabbits are supposedly a main part of a fox's diet and although we do see tracks of rabbits in the woods, they, too, haven't been showing themselves to our human eyes. 
Squirrels have multitudinous tunnels in the high snow piles on the south side of our house where the sunflower seed feeders are for the birds.  I wonder how they can see way down there under the snow?
The snow is getting so deep that the deer will soon be more prone to being stalked and taken down by the wolves who are able stay on top of the snow more easily than the sharp-hoofed deer.  'Tis the way of nature. 

Sunday, February 27, 2022

The Good Sad

I've been reading a book by Matt Haig entitled "The Comfort Book."  The following is a quote from his book.
"Do you ever get a kind of gentle sadness
that almost feels good?
Like a nostalgia for a lost past 
or a stolen future that is mournful
but also reminds you that life
is capable of such warm things?
And that you were there
to witness them?"
Oh my, yes.  How about:
~ When your phone rang and it was never a robo/scam call, but rather friend or family wanting to chat and stay in touch
~ When people dressed in their finest to attend social events
~ When there was a dress code in schools for both pupils and teachers
~ When you were small and got a shiny, new silver dollar from your grandparents on each birthday
~ When there were frequent neighborhood weekend picnics in someone's back yard
~ When children played outside after dark without any kind of fear held by either parents or children
~ When children were taught to respect adults
~ When our environment was so clean and pure that one could keep a hive of honey bees in the back yard, harvest your own supply of golden honey each fall and the mysterious affliction known as Colony Collapse Disorder didn't exist
~ When extended families lived in close enough proximity that you knew all of them well which formed a tight bond
~ When a husband was able to work an outside job to earn enough to support the family and a wife's profession was to be at home to care for the children and create an organized, healthy, loving, peaceful haven for all
 ~ When it was rare you knew of someone suffering from cancer, autism, Alzheimer's or dementia, heart disease, auto-immune disorder, diabetes, or deep depression
~ When people, whether at home or out in public, believed that if you couldn't say anything nice, you didn't say anything at all 
* * * * * * * *
Did the quote by Matt Haig bring any such "good sad" thoughts to your mind? 

Monday, February 21, 2022

A Winter of Snow

"Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire:  it is time for home." - Edith Sitwell

"To appreciate the beauty of a snowflake, it is necessary to stand out in the cold." - Aristotle

"Snow provokes responses that reach right back to childhood." - Andy Goldsworthy

"What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness." - John Steinbeck

"A snowflake is one of God's most fragile creations, but look what they can do when they stick together." - Unknown

Thursday, February 17, 2022

The Gardening Bug Is Nibbling

After not even wanting to think about gardening for the past how many months, I now find myself getting eager for the coming growing season.  
It's not that I'm tired of winter time (longer nights for relaxing, snowshoe hikes without worrying about ticks, shoveling tons of snow for great exercise out in the pristine fresh air [well, maybe that not so much], etc.) but as the sun climbs higher in the sky and the warmth feels so good on any exposed skin, I can't help but think about digging in the dirt and harvesting crisp, fresh vegetables that will taste so much better than anything I can purchase from the store.
Papa Pea recently noticed one last head of cabbage from last year in a corner of the feed room.  It had been designated for the poultry and it was frozen solid.  He tossed it into the chicken's solarium (they've been so happy there in the sunshine's warmth this winter) and they ate the whole thing.  No butter, salt or pepper required.
That made me make some notes in my garden book about planting more veggies expressly for the birds.  During the spring, summer and fall when they can be out on pasture eating all the greens, bugs and wiggly worms their stomachs will hold, they are hardly interested in what we provide as feed.  But during the winter, they really appreciate mangels, squash, beets, carrots, most any root crop I chunk up, put in a pan with a bit of water and set on the garage wood stove overnight to soften up a bit.  Even potatoes, which are said to not be the best for poultry in a raw state can be fed if cooked.  Over winter, we strive to keep not more than a dozen laying hens (and a couple of roosters as boyfriends) so planting extra for the birds is no chore.
I have a good supply of all the garden seeds I need, but still have to order some potatoes to plant this year.  I didn't plant any last year and have been buying them at our organic grocery co-op this winter, but we've missed having our own stash here at home.  I always plant a red and a white variety.  The reds give us a greater yield, but the whites give us larger potatoes, just not as many.  Almost all root crops grow well up here in our location with little problem.  A few years ago I had wire worms (eeuuuw) in our potatoes, but other than that I've not ever had potato beetles, blight or other difficulties growing them. 
And then there are the garden flowers.  Gotta have flowers which add so much color to the garden and inside, also, as cut flowers.  I once took a bouquet of flowers I grew to a relative.  She told me she preferred to enjoy flowers outside in their natural habitat rather than cutting them.  Each to their own, but I feel one of the joys of growing flowers is enjoying them inside.
Yep, although it's still too early for me to even start any seeds inside, I'm finding myself frequently thinking of this year's garden.  And the way time continues to fly by, it'll be here before I know it.

Looking at pictures of past gardens definitely serves to get me revved up for what's possible again this year.
Do you have plans for your garden all in place?  Growing anything new this year?  What's the size of your growing area?  Raised beds or the more traditional flat plot of ground?  Do you do container gardening?  Have you had any trouble finding the seeds you want?  All thought about gardening are always interesting to me.