Fur babies, and garden finds

Today was our day to head into the city for our monthly shop. We will be making another smaller trip, later in the month, but the big stuff is done. We normally would have done it a few days ago, but doing Costco on a weekend just didn’t appeal to us! 😀

So that took up the bulk of our day. Which made it one of those days were some plenty of stuff got accomplished, but it doesn’t feel like it, since much of the day was spent driving. 😀

While doing my rounds this evening, I was able to play with Butterscotch’s babies again. 🙂

The orange babies were quite eager to play, while the calico and the orange and white kitten (which was sitting in the broken barrel planter at the time this picture was taken) looked like they were falling asleep where they sat!

Later, I headed over to check on the sunflowers. There are still only 2 seed heads that are opening, but there’s at least one that looks like it may start opening tomorrow.

Then I noticed something… different… about one of the sunflowers.

Very different.

It is covered with developing seed heads.

I started counting them. I got to 21, and I’m sure I missed some. Along with the several at the very top, every single leaf on the stalk has a seed head developing in the “elbow”. Some of them were absolutely minuscule, but they were there!

I looked at every other sunflower in the rows, and there are no others like this. All the other plants (that aren’t too deer damaged) are developing just one seed head. Which, for these giant varieties, is to be expected. This one plant is among the many that tower above my head now, so it is definitely one of the giants, and not an ornamental type that found its way into a seed packet.

It looks amazing! I really look forward to seeing how it progresses!

Speaking of progress, I made sure to check the pumpkins, too.

The first pumpkin to develop is growing nicely, but it was the the next plant that had me smiling.

The pumpkin plant in the middle mound has finally developed a pumpkin! I made sure to put something under it, so it won’t develop rot from the damp ground.

The third pumpkin mound had a surprise for me, too.

There’s a new baby pumpkin developing!

Our squash beds had one last surprise for me tonight, too.

That, my friends, is the tiniest of birdhouse gourds! 😀

There’s just one that has started developing. I can see no sign of gourds on the others, but they are all so small, I honestly wasn’t expecting any to develop at all.

It should be interesting to see if this one gourd will survive. Especially as we start to get some actually chilly overnight temperatures.

Before it got too dark, the girls helped me with one last thing outside. We moved my daughter’s tent, then moved the picnic table under it.

September is a month filled with birthdays and anniversaries, so we have decided to celebrate them all at once. On the long weekend – weather willing – we will set up by the fire pit and have…

Chinese food.

And birthday/anniversary cake.

And maybe roast some hot dogs over a fire, too. 😀

The tent has one solid wall that we will add to the far side to act as a bit of a wind break, since that is the direction the wind usually comes from. We also have screen walls, in case bugs are a problem.

If the weather isn’t co-operative, we now have the sun room and old kitchen cleaned out and organized, so we can move into there. The old kitchen is downright pleasant to sit in now, plus it’s close to the bathroom. More importantly, there are no stairs, so my mom can get in and out more easily than into the new part of the house. Plus, there is also a door we can keep closed, and keep the cats out! 😀

This is planned for almost 2 weeks from now, so we have plenty of time to make sure everything is clear and accessible for my mother.

Hopefully, it will all work out. A lot can happen in 2 weeks! 😀

The Re-Farmer

The wonkiest

Today I found myself heading into town for a trip that included a stop at the hardware store. I took advantage of being there to look for some Dremel tips.

The didn’t have the individual tip I was looking for.

I ended up getting this, instead.

I think I’ve got enough tips for quite a few projects, now! 🙂

So, of course, I had to find a reason to use it. 🙂

A while back, I posted about making a maple spoon.

You see that chunk of wood beside it?

That’s what I worked with, today.

This is that same piece of wood, roughed out.

Not for a spoon, though. Today, I was determined to make a fork!

For this project, I used everything I had around to remove the excess wood. The 4 way rasp got a lot of use, but I also used several of my new Dremel tips, the big K-bar knife, and a couple of my fine saws.

Basically, I see no point in dulling the blades on my carving knives any more than I have to! 😀

I saved cutting the tines for when I was ready to start using sandpaper on the rest of it.

I used a carving knife, as well as a fine tip on the Dremel to shape the tines.

Unfortunately, while sanding them, the wood broke off the tip of one of the inside tines.

Which meant I had to shorten all the others to match.

Here it is, after sanding.

The end result is the wonkiest of forks!

But it’s still a fork. 😀

Here is it, after oiling.

Oh, gosh, it’s the funniest looking fork, ever! 😀

Here it is, next to the spoon made with the same wood.

The spoon could use another coat of oil!

Well, I at least accomplished what I set out to do. Even if it does look totally wonky!! 😀

I still have wood left from the piece I used for these. I suppose my next project should be a knife. 🙂

I’m looking forward to it!

The Re-Farmer

Kitten therapy

Last night, as I was finishing up my rounds, I spotted Butterscotch and her babies, lounging in the old barrel planter.

So, of course, I went over to say hello.

I wasn’t able to touch any of them, but they are willing to come closer!

Then I spotted a surprise at the other end of the yard. I zoomed in with my phone’s camera as much as I could, because I knew they’d run hide, once I started moving closer.

Junk Pile cat and all THREE of her kittens were playing on the log and among the flowers. Junk Pile is to the right of centre, sitting by the log. Tabby is in the grass on the far left. Little Braveheart is near the end of the log, looking up at the Shy One.

This was the best I could get of Shy One!

This morning, though, when I came out to refill their food bowls, I found all three kittens by the old doghouse my brother brought for the cats. I keep a dish of kibble either in front of, or just inside, the opening. This time, it was inside, and it was the only container that still had food in it, and the kittens were quite interested!

This evening, I made a twisted rope of yarn and attached it to a stick, for a simply toy for Butterscotch’s kittens.

They quite like it!

Even Creamsicle liked it. 🙂

One of the kittens wasn’t too sure about Creamsicle, though…

It was quite funny to hear the tiny little hiss when Creamsicle tried to sniff the kitten’s nose!

I have to admit, today I rather needed some kitten therapy. I don’t know why, but today was one of those “down” days, right from the start. Part of it is, I’m feeling the year slip by so quickly, and so little of what I had hoped to accomplish this year was done. Granted, we had the garden this year, but really, once it was in, it wasn’t a lot of work. Spring had so much wonderful rain, so I don’t mind that delaying some things, but then the heat hit, and that was pretty relentless. In my younger days, I would have been out there in the heat, anyhow, but this old body just can’t tolerate heat like it used to. Then there were all the things breaking down, and the expenses coming with it.

Now, it’s almost September, and it feels like I’ve accomplished so little. There were so many things on the list to work on, with many of them being “do this; but if you can’t, do this other thing instead”, rather than being a checklist. Yet, as summer winds to an end, what did we manage? We painted a picnic table. Got the fire pit cleaned out and set up. Mowed the lawn a lot, until the heat hit and the grass stopped growing. Very little clean up in the spruce grove has been done – and only part of that can be blamed on wasps! Even keeping up on the areas we cleaned out previously slacked off this year, mostly because of the heat.


Normally, I just plug away and don’t really think about it. Every now and then, though, I just have one of “those” days. Today was one of them.

Kitten therapy helps. 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Oh, sunny day!

Just check out these sunflowers!

We now have two seed heads on the originally planted giant varieties, opening up.

The first one to start opening is getting big enough, the stalk is starting to droop quite a bit – which means short little me can see it better! 😀

Nice to see the pollinators busy at work on the second one to start opening!

Speaking of pollinators, they are just loving our squash bed right now. So many new flowers. Including in the pumpkins.

Look out big this pumpkin is getting!

This pumpkin mound has two plants growing in it, lots of flowers but, so far, there is just this one pumpkin that seems to be growing. There is another on the second plant, but it doesn’t seem to be getting bigger.

This one is on the plant in the mound I’d planted 5 seeds in, and it took so long to come up, I thought none would germinate. Now, not only is the plant just big as the ones that sprouted earlier, but it has a pumpkin that’s almost as big as the other one!

I still don’t thing there is enough of a growing season left for the pumpkins to fully develop and ripen, but I’m still enjoying how they are doing now.

The Re-Farmer

Crabapple status

One of the things I’ve been checking every morning of late, is how the crabapples are doing.

In the row of trees by the spruce grove, there are really just two trees that we can use. The others have such small apples, they’ll be left for the birds and the deer.

One of these two trees gets such bright red apples!

There are lots of them, too. I have actually thinned them, and with this tree, the easiest way to do that is just grab a branch and shake. They fall off a lot easier than the other trees!

This tree produces remarkably sweet apples. Last year, oddly, by the time we went to pick the apples, most of them had disappeared. I wasn’t even seeing many on the ground. Very strange, considering how full of apples it was, just the day before! Anyhow, I used them to make crabapple cider vinegar. You can read how that went in parts one, two and three of the process. I want to do this again, but this time, we’ll be using an airlock! Using a coffee filter was messy, and attracted fruit flies. We still don’t have fermentation weights, but we’ll figure something out.

The other tree in this row surprised me, last year. I would taste the apples from different trees to check their ripeness, and this one was… well, pretty awful tasting. We gathered what we could from the other trees, but left this one.

Then my mother insisted I bring her apples from the farm. I told here there weren’t many left, and the ones that were left didn’t taste good, but she said she would just be cooking them down and adding sugar, anyhow, so go ahead and bring them to her.

Much to my surprise, the apples actually tasted really good! They simply needed a lot more time to ripen, compared to the others.

This year, we cleaned out the dead part in the middle, and the remaining parts seem to be appreciating this.

Some of the apples are nearly 3x the size of the red ones on the other tree!

With the fungal disease attacking the row of crabapple trees, I would happily get rid of all the others, if it means saving these two trees.

There is one other crabapple tree, next to the old compost pile, that is ripening some pretty big apples. It should be ready to harvest soon, I think.

We should have lots of apples to make things with this year.

Maybe even enough try making some hard crabapple cider! 🙂

I think it’s time to visit the brewery supply place in town. I’m starting to think that the 4 airlocks we have now are not going to be enough. Especially since we’ll be making gallon batches of mead, soon!

The Re-Farmer


Among the things we chose to plant for our first garden since moving out here were Yukon Gem potatoes. My view when it comes to planting potatoes is, since they are so inexpensive and easy to find in the grocery stores, we’ll choose a variety that are not available unless we plant them ourselves. Yukon Gem are a yellow flesh variety that is supposed to be more resistant to disease, and are good for both fresh eating and storage.

We only got 6 pounds for our first try, so we’re not expecting to have any to store. At least not for long! 😀

The biggest thing we did differently, though, was to use the Ruth Stout method. When my mother had her garden in this location, she had my dad or my brothers to plow it for her, every year. She had a working tiller (we’ve got 4 or 5 lying about, and none work), and 5 kids to help pick rocks.

While the area did get plowed before we moved here, no one’s been picking rocks for ages, and the plow job was a bad one. So what we’ve got to work with is rock hard soil, full of rocks, and very little equipment. The traditional method of growing and hilling potatoes was simply not manageable.

Among my recommended posts is a Canadian gardener who tried the Ruth Stout method in his own garden. He sowed his potatoes on top of hard, grassy ground, covered them with a thick layer of hay for mulch, and at the end of the season, he had lots of potatoes, and the ground beneath was greatly improved.

I figured it was worth a try!

We didn’t have hay, so I used straw from the bale we got last fall. What we don’t use to cover our septic tank gets used for mulch, and we still have plenty left this year. Mulch was already a big part of our plans to improve and amend the soil.

Well, the potato plants seem to struggle through the mulch, and never got really bushy. They did bloom, however, and at one point I dug around under the mulch to see if I could get some baby potatoes to try.

Even though this was after a rainfall, and the straw was damp, the ground beneath was bone dry. The only potato I could find was the mushy seed potato.

So… I was beginning to think this was a write off. I don’t know if it was because I used straw instead of hay, but it seems like the straw absorbed all the moisture, and it never made it to the soil.

While going through the garden over the past few days, I’ve been watching the potatoes. Some of them have already died back completely.

This morning, I decided to dig up the 3 potato plants that had died back on one end of a potato bed.

After moving the straw, there wasn’t much to see.

That is the seed potato, and no sign of any others. Only after digging, did I find one tiny potato under this plant.

It wasn’t a complete loss, though.

A few others were visible once the straw was moved, and they were looking pretty good.

Time to carefully dig around with the potato fork and see what I could find.

The first thing I noticed was how different the soil was. Even with plenty of rocks to dig around, the soil itself was much, much softer. I even found worms, as well as a single slug. 😀

So even if we don’t get a lot of potatoes out of here, we will have at least improved the soil!

How many potatoes did I find?

Here they are! Our first potatoes!

I’d say these were from 3 plants but, really, they’re from 2 plants. You can just see the itty, bitty potato that I found by the seed potato of the third one.

Of all the larger potatoes, one had a hole in it from a bug. The rest were solid.

I’m rather pleased! After what I found earlier, I was really wasn’t expecting to find much of anything.

Now to think about how to cook them for supper this evening. 🙂 I’ll likely make them very plain, so we can get a sense of how this variety tastes, compared to what we usually have.

I’m really looking forward to them!!

The Re-Farmer

Holy Kohlrabi!

One of the things we planted this spring was a couple of rows of kohl rabi (or is it kohlrabi? I have seen it both ways…).

They have not done well.

Of all that we planted, there were about 4 surviving plants that sprouted.

Of those, a couple got et by deer.

The last two, however, were getting quite big and leafy and looking to have some potential, though there was as yet no sign of a bulb forming.

Then, something got at them.

At first, it looked like the caterpillars from cabbage moths. I found a whole bunch on the underside of the leaves, wreaking havoc, and got rid of them.

Soon after, however, the leaves were looking even worse.

I took this picture yesterday. These are the culprits.

The leaves are absolutely infested with these teeny, tiny black beetles.

I hosed them off after taking the picture, but when I checked them today, they were back, and there’s hardly anything left of the leaves, but the veins and stems.

So… kohl rabi is a bust for our garden!

Darn. I was looking forward to having our own. It’s one of those “treat” vegetables that we buy only once in a while.

At least whatever those beetles are, they are completely uninterested in anything else we’re growing.

The Re-Farmer

Butterscotch baby – progress!

Last night, I was able to spend some time on the log seat near the junk pile, and work on getting Butterscotch’s kittens used to human interaction.

I saw all four were out when I was heading to the nearby garden beds, so I left the garden for later. They all ran off, but after I sat down, Butterscotch came over for pets. After a while, she started making some comforting noises, and the kittens emerged.

I had a twig to wiggle at them, and one orange kitten in particular really likes that. Mostly, they just sort of wandered around me, then hid, then tried to sneak around behind me.

I could hardly see the kitten in the above picture, from where I was sitting, but was able to reach my arm around to get the photo.

They really love the collapsed barrel!

Now that I’ve cleared away some of the undergrowth, I realize I was wrong about it. It is a half-barrel, not a full barrel like I’d thought, and I can now see the dirt inside, so it was, indeed, another barrel planter that got knocked over.

The kittens are using the dirt as a litter box! 😀

The one kitten that really likes to play with the stick is also the one that is willing to come the closest.

Yes, I got to touch him. I was even able to pick him up for a few moments! He wasn’t too sure about that and wanted down very quickly, but he also came back again, quickly. Mostly, as long as Mom was around, they were willing to play with me there. So that is some major progress!

Now, if only we could do that Junk Pile’s babies! It’s much harder when the Mom isn’t willing to come near us, herself.

The Re-Farmer

Follow up: frost damaged squash

It’s a good thing we started so many squashes, and ended up transplanting them as such different times. The ones that sprouted later and got transplanted later got missed by that last frost of the season, and have been quite prolific. A couple of frost damaged ones in the first bed, both zucchini, recovered enough that they got quite large and are producing green and yellow zucchini for us.


They’re still working in it.

Some have started bravely blooming, putting out flowers bigger than their leaves!

With the tiniest of yellow zucchini!

I finally remembered to get a picture of the back row. The plants with the bamboo poles marking them are all ones I have been able to confirm as the birdhouse gourds. I put bricks or rocks under some of them, to support the weight of where the leaves are growing out, as the stems are a bit long and gangly.

You can see a pumpkin mound to the right of centre in the background, and way at the far end are the squashes from the second planting that have done so well.

While there were very few squash to collect this morning, there are so many new flowers right now, and lots of pollinators, so I am expecting a second wave of squash to harvest, soon.

I am looking forward to having enough to make more of the quick pickles!

The Re-Farmer

Follow up: bug hotel

Last spring, we picked up a bug hotel, to encourage the local pollinators. The top has slots for butterflies, the sides have bamboo tubes, and the middle has pieces of wood cut in such a way that, stacked together, they create holes. These were for native bees, such as mason bees, which do not build nests.

It did not get used at all that summer, so when winter came, I just left it hanging on the tree I’d put it on.

This year, it’s being used!

I can’t tell if the openings at the top are being used by butterflies, but the bamboo on both sides have quite a few tubes used. The middle section doesn’t look like it’s been used by anything at all.

So this fall, when the insects are done with it, we’ll clean it out and take it inside for the winter, as the instructions that came with the packages said to do.

Mostly, it needs to be cleared of spider webs. The roof is just covered with them!

I’m glad to see it being used, and we’ll likely pick up more of them, over time. The native pollinators come out at times more in tune with the local plant life, and that will be important as we plant more food trees and berry bushes over the next few years.

The Re-Farmer