Planting and Re-Potting

The garden is getting underway!  This makes me so very happy.

Over the weekend Bob put the collards in our big 30×20 garden, covered them with mini hoop houses, and seeded what’s left of last year’s Kennebec potatoes into a wooden potato bin.  The Kennebecs did really well in the potato bins last year, so we expect a decent harvest this fall as well.  But overall, we’ve decided we’re only doing this one variety of potato this year, mostly because I’m on Keto and meals with potatoes are considered cheat meals for me.  I really miss Hungarian Mess, but am down 33 lbs and aim to keep it off.  We’re not sure what we’re going to do with the other two potato bins, probably set them in the shed until next year.  *shrugs*  Right now they’re resting in place, preventing grass from growing neatly around the deck.

In my 12×3 shed-side garden, I direct seeded two varieties of kale (lacinato and curly), and some swiss chard. I also seeded a bunch of buttercrunch lettuce in a half barrel container.  There are a handful of other lettuces growing in the garage still, and those will be transplanted very soon.  I just ran out of time and energy yesterday.

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Re-potted marigolds, replanted deeper up the stems to promote stability.

The biggest “chore” yesterday was re-potting loads of seedlings that needed it.  Since I’m also growing 4 varieties of flowers from seed, I needed more appropriately sized containers.  In hind sight, I wish I had these containers to start them in, and I will next year, but for this year I had to go buy more flowers in order to obtain the right size containers.  That meant, before I could start re-potting, I had to plant the new flowers.  I put them in 2 of the 3 sweet potato pots and one other smaller one. The smaller one went out on the front porch and we set the other two bigger pots near the corners of the garden, hoping to attract pollinators.  So now I will have something like 7 or 8 varieties of pollinator-friendly flowers.  I transplanted the spindly marigod seedlings into the empty store-bought flower containers.  Those are now sitting by the back door, since there is no room elsewhere and it was still due to be in the lower 40’s last night.  The other flower varieties haven’t outgrown their seedling trays yet.

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The label is wrong on the popsicle stick.  These are Hyssop, a pollinator-friendly flowering variety.  I’ve never grown or bought them before.  All new to me, but they look really happy.

I picked the below variety because it was just beautiful.  Check it out here: Gloriosa Daisy (Rudbeckia). “Easy to grow, loves full sun but will tolerate partial shade and is heat and drought tolerant.”  But mine are definitely too small yet to re-plant.

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Gloriosa Daisy (Rudbeckia)

I separated several vegetable varieties into larger pots, too.

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Okra

We have 9 okra that came up.  They’re basically little baby okra so far, but the seed trays I used were pitifully small.  So they got up-sized and I just put them each in the largest containers I have so I won’t have to do again before we transplant them outside.  They grow super fast anyway.

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Zucchini

I seeded 4 zucchinis, and 3 have come up so far.  But, only 1 was big enough to re-pot.  But still, another baby plant. They are so darn cute!

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Bell Pepper sprout

Our bell peppers are not growing optimally.  They were seeded a month ago and still haven’t gotten much past the sprout stage.  I don’t know what I’m doing wrong with them.  It seems like I had this problem last year, too, and we ended up transplanting them late.

Update: It looks like bell peppers need to be seeded in warmer temps.  I only have grow lights out in the garage, so that’s where I set them.  That was likely my mistake.  I need to grow these seedlings INDOORS in warm temps!  (reference)

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Sweet Potato slips

I finally snapped a pic of our slip producing sweet potato.  It’s so slow-growing.  Everything is an experiment!  This is the first time I’ve tried growing my own slips, and like everything else, it’s a learning process.  I’m just happy there are some slips taking off at all!

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And on a happy note, my houseplants are doing wonderfully.

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Garden Fever

We now have over 150 plants growing in window sills, under grow lights, or outdoors.  Let’s just say I’ve gone a bit nuts over pollinator friendly flowers. Here’s my seed loot from my favorite seed store, SowTrueSeed.com.

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We already have Milkweed growing along the fence, so I won’t be planting any of that.  It just came in the pack.  Some of these seeds are direct-seed varieties, so I don’t have those growing yet.  And sunflowers, I am opting out of sunflowers since the bunnies cannot stop eating them.

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Close up of Pollinator Garden pack contents and instructions.

I think I have over 50 marigolds growing.  That one isn’t to attract pollinators, but to repel pests.  They will be planted pretty much everywhere beside plants.  I plant to plant most of the pollinator-friendly flowers in pots sitting around the perimeter of the big garden.  But the Rudbeckia will go out front, in the landscaping.  I think they’re pretty and want to show them off.

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Marigolds

The below photo shows a little tiny bee hive.  I’m not sure where it will be hung yet, but it’s for mason bees, not honey bees.  We cannot have honey bee hives here in the suburbs, so this tiny bee home will hopefully become inhabited by some mason bees that want to help us with our nearby garden.

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Mason Bee Hive Structure

One thing I’m particularly excited about, are my Orka plants.  These dudes took off fast!  Next year I should remember to plant them in a larger seed pot to begin with!

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Okra starts

And these are Bob’s babies, his collards.  I started them, but he’s taken over and making all their care decisions now.  We have 8 total, but two are still in seed starting trays.  These dudes seem happy, just like the Okra.

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Collards

Want to know what else is happy?  My tomatoes!  We are planting 6 Purple Cherokee, 6 Roma, and one Sunset Cherry.  That’s the plan anyway.  I always start more seeds than I plan to plant in case some don’t make it.  We plant the best and give away or compost the rest.  Again, there are more tomato starts in smaller seedling trays that haven’t been upsized yet.  These guys were spindly when I transplanted them into this tray.  I planted the stalks about two-thirds of the way under the soil, to help them grow with a strong, shorter stalk.  Keeping the grow lights hanging just above them, as close as they will go for a while, also helps keep the tomato plants short and therefore build a thicker main stem.  These have already started fattening up.

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Purple Cherokee and Roma tomatoes

This year we are trying cabbage for the first time.  Bob always said “it takes too much space” in years past, but I’ve convinced him to let me try a couple netted along with the collards and broccoli.  Right now, the broccoli, collards and cabbage pretty much look like all the same plant.  That reminds me, I’m out of popsicle sticks.

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Cabbage

Oh! And I don’t have a picture of it, but there is a little twig with some tiny leaves in last year’s failed sweet potato pot that looks like, you guessed it, a sweet potato plant!  That’s not only amazing -that it survived an Ohio winter- but blessed because I am not having the greatest of luck growing my own slips.  Maybe they will come through in time, but it’s questionable at this point.  I suspect there just wasn’t enough sun in our south-facing window.  Or, it was too cool.  But, there are little buds growing on my sweet potatoes, less than an inch, so maybe they will take off soon.

5 Tips for Growing Big Sweet Potatoes

And speaking of potatoes, this weekend we plan to plant our Kennebecs, weather permitting!  How’s your garden plans coming along?

 

 

Indoor Gardening Tasks

While March brought warmer weather patterns in general, this past weekend was a return to frigid temps and snowflakes.  I just could not get warm, even in the house!  But, that’s me.  I am always cold (sigh).

But as usual, we kept very busy squeezing the most out of the weekend, trying to do things we enjoy, like spending the day with adult kids and each other.

The weekend consisted of menu planning, list making, grocery shopping, sleeping in, visiting an animal shelter to look for a new friend for our dog, cooking, baking, watching Bob paint while relaxing a bit, and…. gardening tasks. Not all of these things we enjoy, but….. it’s all a means to an end. Oh…. and we did taxes, too. Joy. 🙄

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Our indoor nursery, not very elaborate!

I had planted about 50 marigolds from seed I collected myself from last year’s plants that we bought from a big box store.  Only 1 came up, so I reseeded those. I’m not sure sure what went wrong, and need to research it a bit.  But it just occurred to me… maybe the big box store’s plants don’t reseed well? It’s also the first time I’ve tried to grow marigolds from seeds, so I’m in newbie territory yet again. Anyway, I reseeded the marigolds, this time with a lid to help keep the moisture and temp more even. Hopefully that helps.  It was also time to seed tomatoes and peppers. Of those types, this year we are growing:

Purple Cherokee tomatoes
Roma tomatoes
Sunset Cherry tomatoes
Jalapenos
Long Sweet peppers
Bell Peppers

Also growing indoors:
lettuces
Broccoli
Cabbage
Collards
Marigolds

Bob transplanted the collards.  Those are his babies.  Though I planted the seeds initially, he’s now “taken over” their care.  We plan to put 5 in the garden, but I always grow a little extra to account for any that fail.  So, we have about 7 started.  I need to transplant the broccoli and cabbage to larger pots, but I pooped out last night.  Soon though.

There’s a schedule this year listing what to plant, when, and how much. Yep getting serious here.  That’s all my doing, after buying a log book and filling it out over the winter.  But Bob created the plan/diagram of where to plant stuff in the big garden.  We both had a say in what and how much though.

Towards the end of last season, we started a list of things we want to remember to consider or do for this season.

2019-04-01 Reviewing 2019 Plans

We later found out that dashers are a type of hybrid we’re no longer interested in.  And we are growing some seeds I ordered from half way around the world.  I’ll blog on that eventually.  We have had our full of banana peppers for years probably, so we’ve also since decide on ZERO of those.  Instead we are growing more cukes and some jalapenos to stock up on homemade sweet jalapeno relish, delish!

Some of our potato boxes did better than others last season. What did the best was Kennebecs.  I’ve since researched them a bit more and found out they are technically a determinant variety, but for some reason they were the best potato box variety we grew last year.  So, we’ll stick with those again this year.  We’re not messing with other varieties.

And Okra, there will be MORE of those than in years past.  Yummy.

I also finally broke down and bought a quality humming bird feeder.  Bob went out and got me a 6 ft garden hook to hang it from, near windows so we can see up closer than our other bird feeder.  Unfortunately, due to the return of snow flakes this weekend, we did not get to fill it up and put it out.  Soon though!

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We love growing our own food and hope to expand to a small farm someday, hopefully!!

 

Piddling Indoors

As I sit here, fat snow flakes are drifting to the ground outside my window.  So while it’s too cold yet to be outside piddling, I am inside planning my future outdoor piddling.

Based on last year’s successes and failures, we aim to focus more on what we are better at growing.  That means less squash and more okra.  Of course, there’s always some “first attempts” thrown in there for the learning experience.  This year, our first attempts will be cabbage and roma tomatoes.  While I don’t think there should be any huge learning curves involved with roma tomatoes, with cabbages there might be.  We shall see!

Here is our larger 20×30 BTE (Back to Eden) plot plans.  The beans this year will be pole beans.  Every year we try to switch up between green beans, pole beans, and pea varieties.   Since we preserve them, and have a bit of a surplus, it makes more sense to process only one of those crops per year.  Unless of course we can fit in a fall crop of peas.  We tried that for the first time last fall, and learned we planted about 2 weeks too late to be successful.  It’s a bit of a gamble, but we will try again this fall.  But for now, this is the plan for the large garden.  Bob drew it.

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We hope to make lots of sweet jalapeno relish, because we go through relish like crazy.  Where it says “Cher”, that’s purple cherokee tomatos, our staple tomato plant.  Last year we had 11 of them and gross about 100 fruits.  It was a bit too much.  So this year we are halving the number of those we grow, but adding in some roma tomatoes, mostly because I want to try to make some sauce or paste.

Bob leaves the shed-side 12×3′ garden (also BTE), to me.  I planted garlic there in the fall (2nd season), with cloves from last season’s harvest.  I’m not merely content with buying seeds or starts from stores, I want to know how to save and use my own seed year after year.  This is super important to me, not only for self-sufficiency, but for keeping our costs down.

This year we also invested in a garden journal.  While my day job is in IT and I’m proficient at creating databases, programs and the like, I don’t care to rely on technology.  I mean, that’s exactly what we are trying to get away from: relying on modern conveniences.  We want to be as self-sufficient as possible, and that means keeping paper notes on our gardening successes and failures.  So after 7 years of gardening experience, I’m finally taking the time to write things down that will help us keep track of things better.

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Another tool we invested a whole $5 in (last year) was this handy little seeding and planting guide.

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This tool is great!  It comes with a paper listing common last frost dates, and the tool itself flips over for planning fall crops (not shown).  Just check it out over at Clyde’s website.  There’s a video explaining it: https://www.clydesvegetableplantingchart.com/

I decided to seed my plants 2 weeks earlier than this says to do.  Why? Because I figure if the weather is ahead of schedule, I’ll still be on time.  And if it’s on-time or behind schedule, they can just grow a little bigger indoors while they wait.  Also, if some seeds don’t come up, I still have some time to seed more, if needed.

So these are my plans for what to seed indoors/outdoors and when.  When I actually plant each, then I’ll record that into the journal.

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Today I seeded:

  • Cabbage
  • Collards
  • Celery
  • Basil
  • Cilantro
  • Parsley

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These little guys now sit out in the cooler garage under grow lights on a timer.  When they start coming up through the soil, I’ll write that in the journal, too. 🙂

I already have some buttercrunch, romaine, and flame lettuces started.  I know that’s early, but I can eat from those while growing totally indoors.  I’ll plant another set of them at a later date, and those will go outside.

Well, I’ve blathered enough for today.  It’s time to hop in the shower because Bob is taking me out to dinner for my birthday.  My big 45 is actually Monday, but we would rather not rush on a weekday evening.  So today it is!  Oh and check out what my son gave me!

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This fold-able stool doubles as a kneeling bench when flipped over and has tool bags on the sides.  Very nice.  Plus, he also gave me some garden gloves with “claws” for digging.  My hands are a little small for them, but they may work.  If not, they fit Bob.

Growing Sweet Potato Slips and Other Mid-Winter Tales

After the long off-season, our excitement for the growing season ahead is building.  Yesterday we went through our existing seed stock, planned what we would grow, and purchased seed for any new varieties we want to try.  More on that later!

This morning I am starting some sweet potato slips.  Last year, I purchased slips online and the majority did not survive shipping. They arrived, well, a bit soggy.  A couple slips grew, but their growth was stunted and they didn’t produce.  Such is life, gardening lessons abound.  So this year, we are growing our own slips, and I’m excited about it.

My sister’s father-in-law grows sweet potatoes on their farm in southeastern Ohio.  Since I didn’t have any sweet potatoes to start slips from, I requested a few from him through my sister.  My brother-in-law made the 2+-hr drive the other day and now I am supplied with some unknown, but supposedly well-growing type of sweet potato.  I will have to find out the type at some point.

For now, I am heading into Round 2 of growing sweet potatoes.

Sweet potatoes are not necessarily easy to grow in these parts.  It’s cooler, the growing season is shorter than ideal, and I’m going to have to grow them in containers instead of their natural conditions.  Since I tried this last year, I have my basic supplies, big flower pots that once filled with dirt will be too heavy for me to move. haha  But that’s months away.  For now, I’m just concentrating on growing some nice and healthy slips that, hopefully, will take off growing once transplanted to their containers.

Just to refresh my memory on how to start the slips, I watched this video from OFF GRID with DOUG & STACY.

For tips on growing sweet potatoes in containers, we like Hollis & Nancy’s Homestead‘s 3-part series on the topic.  Part 1 is below.

As for my attempt this year, here’s a few photos – just because I’m somewhat of a photo-aholic when it comes to gardening. 😉

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These are my donated “unknown variety” sweet potatoes.  I’m happy to have them.  I supposed I could have ordered some from online somewhere, but… why when I can get them from family who doesn’t mind sharing.

The jar with water in it is snow-melt water.  I wouldn’t dream of trying to start plants of any kind with tap water.  Rain water/snow is best.  It’s like breast milk versus formula if I can make that analogy.  Heck even I don’t drink our tap water.  Sure, it’s sanitized and all that jazz.  But, we filter it once with a pitcher filter and then again with our Berkey gravity-fed filter system, which also has fluoride filters.  That’s good for us, but the plants still prefer rainwater over filtered from the tap.

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I just have to show you again… this little guy looks like a cute little penguin or bird to me.

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We had more sweet potatoes gifted to us than we currently have jars to start them in.  So, we’ll start with 3 and as we eat up food from jars over the next week or two, we’ll add more to the window sill, and date them.  This is our south-facing windowsill.  It’s the only non-bedroom windowsill available for winter sunlight.  They should do better here than in kitchen windowsill in the back of the house.  Note to self: MORE SOUTH-FACING WINDOWSILLS IN THE NEXT HOUSE

Speaking of my south-facing windowsill, I have one other plant I would like to show off a bit.  I could not tell you the name of this plant (if anyone knows, please drop a comment), but it’s never done well through the winter in all the 3 years I’ve had it.  I mean, it literally would drop its very last leaf over the winter (and they’re not supposed to!) and make me think I’d had finally killed it.  But in the spring after sitting out on the front porch, it always comes back.  However, I wanted to learn how to care well for this plant through the winter, and finally I’ve figure it out.

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This darn plant REALLY likes to be outdoors all summer exposed to the full elements, including rainwater.  In the house during the winter, I have usually placed it on a coffee table in the front living room, but that was never good enough.  It always died back severely.

This year, he’s doing so well sitting very close to that south-facing window, with the curtain pulled back 24/7.  Also, I have been gathering water and snowmelt for him and that seems to have been the trick.  He hates low light and tap water.  It’s amazing to me that this guy is not only not dying through the winter, but THRIVING!

Look he has NEW GROWTH!

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See where the stems are brown and then fade to green?  That’s a happy plant right there.

Now, I wish I could say my aloe plants I potted last year were doing as well.  I think I just need MORE south-facing sunlight in this house.  *sigh*

Colorful Bounty

The garden is looking… well, fallish.  Bob pulled out all the remaining bell peppers and tomato plants, and finished spreading the leaf mulch we got from the city mulching site.  Next we will sprinkle some BrixBlend Basalt from RockDustLocal.com.  This is to replenish minerals into the soil that are taken up by the plants that we eat.  Our backyard is construction clay, so it can use all the help we can give it!  That’s also the reason for the layers of leaf mulch as well as using the BTE (Back to Eden) no-till method, meaning: wood chips.  The wood chips can be seen still piled up.

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Normally, we would put the rock dust down before the leaf mulch, but… we got things done out of order this year.   I’m not fretting.  I’m fairly sure the leaf mulch will break down to soil compost over the winter anyway and the rock dust will filter through with successive rainfall.  No big deal.

After pulling out all the tomato plants, we ended up with about 3 pounds of green tomatoes of various sizes.  That is just far too much to fry and eat, though we love fried green tomatoes, too, we have had our fill lately.

So what to do with 3 lbs of green tomatoes?  I searched the net and found that we could make something yummy that we love to eat, Salsa Verde!

Since neither of us had ever made it before, we pretty much settled on the first recipe I came across.  Bob LOVES to do the canning, and he took over from there.  I spent the majority of that time at the grocery, something he hates doing. haha  Yikes, it was a serious madhouse yesterday!

By the time I arrived home with our goodies for the week, he was just about ready for me to taste test his handiwork.  Here is the basic recipe, but I’m pretty sure he added some vinegar and garlic powder, plus not quite as much cilantro as it called for, since I’m sensitive to its taste if overpowering.  He also compared the taste to his bottle Taco Bell Salsa Verde and declared it was close enough.  I LOVE that we will be getting away from an industrial-produced chemical poop-storm fast food condiment.  In fact, I think we may have enough to last us many, MANY years.  There are 9 half-pint jars in total.

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While we waited for the happy POP! sounds, we mused over some of the other things we’ve canned this year, our favorite being the Sweet Jalapeno Relish, which we haven’t opened to enjoy yet.  It was delicious on the stove, so we know it will be delicious when we’re ready to dig in.

Here’s our little pantry so far.

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The pantry is looking more colorful these days.

It may not look like a whole lot, but this cabinet is a good 18 inches deep and full all the way back, and there’s more on the kitchen table that hasn’t been stored away yet.

We have:

  • Sweet Jalapeno Relish
  • Bread & Butter Pickles (slices and spears)
  • Dill Pickles (slices)
  • Hot Dilly Beans
  • Green Beans (half-runners)
  • Pickled Beets
  • Potatoes (still have many more of those to can)
  • Sweet Banana Peppers (tried Bread & Butter and then a vinegar brine)
  • Okra & Onions
  • Grape Tomatoes Sauce
  • Cherry Tomatoes Sauce
  • Purple Cherokee Tomato Sauce

There’s probably others, I’m just not going to pull them all out at this point.

Over all, it’s been a colorful, bountiful harvest!  One day, in our next house, I’m putting a request in to have Bob build us a wall shelving system where we can display all the colors in rainbow fashion, even if that’s in a cellar somewhere.

For now, we are still waiting on the peas in the garden… they haven’t produced big time yet.  We have decided that if they don’t by this next weekend, they are probably stunted, as all the blooms are gone and we’re not seeing little peas producing.  I think we got less than 10 peas.  I’m going to put them in a salad and enjoy that tiny bit.  Next year, we will be sure to plant by the first of August instead of the 22nd.  No harm done, failures make for the best lessons!

 

 

Fall Peas Please

We are trying!

As a last minute decision, I talked Bob into planting some fall peas, Mammoth Melting Sugar Snow Peas.  I believe it was about August 22 when we planted, zone 6A.  It was at the very edge of seriously risking frost damage and most likely only getting one harvest instead of a few.  I’m a risk-taker, so I talked him into it. 😀

Bob had a grandpa who used to tell him that when he broke new ground for a garden he would have to “throw down the seeds and run” because they would grow that fast!  Our peas popped out of the ground within days!  They were super duper happy peas, which made us super duper happy, too.

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Here they are, our little baby peas, so precious. ❤

As they grew, I couldn’t help but take picture after picture.

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I think they’re beautiful.

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The above photo was September 14th, a little shy of one month old.

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September 20th with the evening sun shining. 🙂

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October 5th, look how big they are!

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We had our first bloom that day. So proud! Maybe we can beat the frost! Maybe!!

And then, yeah… the frost came and it’s still coming!

First Frost was a few days ago, and here are our efforts to keep the frost off.  Of course, the plastic is pulled off here, but you get the gist.

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There are still tons and tons of blooms.  We have even eaten one or two peas, but the majority have not produced yet.  We are still crossing our fingers.  In many ways we are novices, so we learn by trying.  Like for instance, I learned that while growing seedlings in the garage under lights in the spring is pretty easy and fun, trying to grow them in the garage in the FALL is STUPID. lol  Even with a fan blowing, it was WAY TOO HOT and I lost pretty much all of those seedlings.

The garden is winding down, and we have no idea if the peas will make it or not.  But it’s been a fun summer gardening “together-together” – as we used to garden “together-apart”.  When we lived in different states, before we moved in together, we each had gardens we tended, separately.  I’m so grateful to have this soul by my side and our efforts combined towards the life we each envision for us, on a small farm, doing the gardening and farming, that we love.

Our Annual Wood Chip Day

All summer we planned to get our free leaf mulch and wood chips from the city mulching site.  We set the day for Saturday, October 6th.  Last week I scheduled a rental pickup truck at 7:00 AM Saturday.  That day we headed over to the mulch site with the truck, eager as beavers.

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As they were loading the first of what we planned as 3 trips (1 leaf mulch, 2 wood chips), Bob said to me, “Do you see any wood chips?”  Panic spread instantly as I scanned the area.  “Um… there’s a small pile over there.  But we can ask them as we leave.”

No.  There were no wood chips available!!!  Truck rented and no free wood chips.  I would have to call around when we got back home to see where we could buy some, and fast.  The truck was only rented until 3:00 PM.

As a possible quick fix, I posted our photos at at the city mulching site on my Facebook wall and asked my friends for help locating wood chips “TODAY”.  It worked!  Before we arrived home, a suggestion was shared and the place was close by and their chips were $10/sq. yd.  Not bad.

Since it hadn’t rained too much in the week prior, we were, THANKFULLY, able to drive the truck into the back yard and shovel the leaf mulch out into the garden over the fence.

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After we were done with load #1, we ate something to tide us over and headed out to the mulch business.  They had grass seed, gravel, mulch, and plain old untreated wood chips.  Nice!

Here we are, way back into the thick of their giant piles of various mulches, waiting for our load.

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I think these huge machines are cool.  But none of them were in use at the time, just the little bulldozer, or whatever it’s actually called.

Chips ahoy, I mean, away! (sorry, had to)

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This guy was so nice.  He loaded us up, fully.  So full in fact, that we didn’t need to come back for the 3rd load of the day.   Whew!

Back at the house, it took us both shoveling for about an hour to transfer all the wood chips from the truck to a big pile in the garden.  And yes, we were quite SORE for a day or two afterwards.

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Since we still have a large portion of the garden growing peas, okra and tomatoes, the leaf mulch and wood chips are in piles awaiting the day we can spread them all out, along with rock dust (restorative minerals).

This was our first season growing in no-till gardens.  Last year we obtained our mulch and wood chips from the city free site, and we planned the same for this year.

I’ve since been told that we should be more careful with these sources because cities often spray along roadsides and chip those overgrown areas up.  This means chemicals might still make it into our garden.  This good samaritan told me we should let our chips rest for 6 months or so (turning occasionally), until we find that earth worms are enjoying the piles.  Earthworms, he said, won’t move in if it’s toxic.

Unfortunately, we don’t have the luxury of such space in our quarter acre suburban property.  So for now, we get them where we can, place them in the fall, and hope the fungi does its work and the worms come crawling in.  They did this past year anyway.  We had tons of fungi AND red wigglers, neither of which we supplemented (all natural).  So fingers crossed for next season!  I think we will have next year’s garden still at this residence, then the following year… maybe somewhere else. 🙂

An Unexpected Ride

My younger sister lives halfway between where we live here in Dayton, Ohio and where Bob’s parents live in western Virginia (NOT West Virginia), and I love to visit when I can.  She and her husband, high school sweethearts, live on a farm.  They grow alfalfa, have horses, pigs, and chickens, and kids (the human kind).  They sometimes also have bees, though those have been hard to keep alive in recent years.

This last trip I took to Virginia, I left right after work in the evening, and I planned to stay the night at my sister’s farm and hit the road again early in the morning.  That evening my brother-in-law invited me to stay a little longer and go horseback riding in the morning.  Heck yeah!  The remainder of my road trip was instantly delayed. lol  I hadn’t ridden in years and this was a big treat!

The next morning, it took about an hour to saddle up three horses.  My job was to brush them down before the saddles went on.  Pretty simple really.

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This is my sister above.  I’m not really sure what she’s doing in the stall.  There are 5 horses in total, plus one mule.  You can see the mule on the right in the photo above.  He’s nearly as tall as the horses, though in this photo he’s standing downhill.

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This is Max, their first horse.  He’s a Tennessee Walker and a bit spirited.  This is the horse I rode, and Max likes to be in the front.  Let me tell you, there are LOTS of BIG spiders and giant webs that he walked me straight into!  Egads!!  After a few of those, my brother-in-law told me to walk Max over to a prime branch and had me break it off to use it as a shield.  It really helped.  Some of those spiders were creepy looking and their webs thick.

We walked mostly.  But when the terrain was uphill or downhill, spirited Max would start cantering.  It was fun. I loved every minute of it.  So long as I stood in my stirrups as he tore through the woods, it was an easy glide.  At one point, we had to jump a small stream at the very slanted bottom of two hills.  This doesn’t intimidate me too much.  When I was a young girl, my sister and I went to Girl Scout summer camp a couple summers and always chose horseback riding as our themes.  As girl scouts we practiced cantering and jumping at the same time, and I from this I had definitely experienced a fall before.  But this jump was a walking jump, just a bigger one than I practiced when I was a kid, and we made it. 🙂

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Here we are, after our return.  The others are peering through the fence behind us.  When the horses heard us returning, they neighed at each other across the holler and Max took off cantering home.  Apparently it was a big day for the horses, as well.

(I promise, I’ll be back to writing about gardening soon!)

 

Late Summer Joys

Late Summer has been super busy!  Between vacation to Cumberland Lake with the family and two trips to Bob’s hometown amid the Appalachians, just trying to keep up with work and garden harvests has been too much.  I haven’t had much time to even think about blogging much less find time to sit down and do it.

So it is with a grateful heart that I sit here this morning, with my second cup of tea and my fingers tapping away at this old familiar keyboard.

Where should I start?!?

Fishing of course. 😉

Fishing in Virginia is so much better than Ohio.  The day we went to Burke’s Garden, it was HOT.  That’s not a great day to fish. Still, we caught a handful between us, even if they were mostly bass that were too little to keep.

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After a while, I did what I’m known for doing… and that is wandering off in search of interesting things to photograph.  Check out this not-so-little mushroom.  I have no idea what kind it is, but it looks like some little bug has carved it’s top.

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All summer I have been seeing dragonfly after dragonfly. They’ve become a novelty.  I even see them on hot, hot summer days at work in the parking lot.  I guess the heat coming up form the asphalt below acts as a sort of water-looking mirage.  One day I counted at least 7 of them flying about!  They run back and forth, covering their territory over and over, looking for a meal.  Every once in a while another dragonfly comes around and off they go, zooming in twists and turns, each trying to chase the other off and win the territory.  I find them extremely difficult to photograph.  But at Burke’s Garden that day, I finally snapped one photo that I could zoom in on for a recognizable shot. 🙂

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While Bob was gone to Virginia spending time with his folks, the collards were due for another harvest.  I’d never done this before, but he left me with some verbal instructions. Plus, I’ve seen him do it a number of times.

After cutting the largest leaves from their stalks, I brought them inside and rinse each one, meticulously picking off egg sacks and any worms I found.

Tomatoes were also picked, but those I took to  Virginia on my return trip to pick him up.

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After washing and stacking, I cut each stem out and composted them.

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As this was done, I stacked the leaves up in a flat pile.  And when the pile was tall enough, I rolled it up tightly as shown below.

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Next I cut the roll of leaves length-wise.

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Then there was a couple long flat stacks which I chopped width-wise to create little pieces as shown below.

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After this point, I didn’t take anymore photos. But it’s just about done anyway.  I put the chopped collards in a salad spinner, rinsed them, spun them (love that part!), then vacuum sealed them and tossed them in the freezer.  It was the first time I’d used the vacuum sealer, too.  But overall, it was a job well done.

When we want to eat them, Bob thaws them and cooks them for well over an hour in  beef broth with a little bacon grease added in.  I’m sure he puts some seasonings in as well, but I’m not privy to that process.

And that’s enough for one blog post!  I have enough material from the past month to write a couple more, and hopefully I’ll find more time soon to do just that.  For now, I’m enjoying the cool fall air that came in with the fall equinox, right on time.  As of this morning, the air conditioner is cut off and the windows open.  Loving it!

Wishing you a joyful day wherever you’re at! ❤