Our 2022/2023 garden: finishing the garlic bed

Once I got home from the city and grabbed a meal, it was right back out to work on the bed our fall garlic will be planted in.

This is how it was left, the night before.

Because I had been tromping across it with the wheelbarrow, the first thing I wanted to do – after putting the new handle on our garden fork! – was loosen up the soil at the bottom.

It was not easy. At this point, not only was I hitting a lot of rocks, but at the north end of it, a lot of tree roots, too!

I also had a kitten on my back, most of the time. The little grey and white tabby that is the most socialized of the bunch. At one point, he simply draped himself across the back of my neck and stayed there as I moved around!

I was also picking up and tossing quite a few larger rocks into the trees, too.

Something this guy really loved! He kept chasing after the rocks as they bounced on the ground, then came back to watch me, waiting for the next throw! He even made it a challenge not to bean him with a rock, the way he was running after them!

Silly thing.

After the base was loosened, I gave the whole thing a thorough watering.

Then I got a wheelbarrow load of wood chips. Just one, for a think layer all across. This is on the same principal as using logs in a hรผgelkultur mound. As the anaerobic bacteria slowly breaks down the wood, the wood acts as a sponge to hold water for the roots above. Since these are wood chips rather than logs or branches, as we used in the high raised bed, they will break down faster. With garlic having shallow roots, the breakdown of the wood chips won’t affect their nitrogen needs.

The wood chips got a thorough soaking before the next step.

I pulled up the frost-killed summer squash, the remaining dead tomato, eggplant and pepper plants from the other two beds, and quite a bit of dead winter squash plants, too.

Then, because they were so bushy, I tromped them flat, being careful to just step on the dead plants. I just loosened the soil on the entire bed. I didn’t want to compact it all again!

Once they were flattened,, then given a soak, I could start adding soil back.

The soil was raked out evenly, though I tried not to get too close to the logs. That’s where the crab grass will inevitably grow in from the path.

With so many rhizomes catching on my rake as I was working, I finally went ahead and raked the weeds and roots I’d tossed into the paths.

There was a lot more than it seems, while all spread out! It all got dumped among the nearby trees.

With all that soil getting sifted, plus what was added to the bed, this is what I was left with.

Almost half the soil I took out is still there! The logs framing the bed are so low, if I add more back, I’ll have a problem with the sides washing down into the path – something that was an issue when watering the tomatoes.

Which is fine. The high raised bed’s soil level dropped over the summer, as expected, so I can use it to top that up, and still have some left over.

I did not, however, soak the freshly laid down soil. That would have just compacted it. We got a frost advisory for tonight, but things are supposed to warm up after that. We might even hit 21C/70F in a couple of days! So the grass clipping mulch went back right away.

Then it got a thorough soaking!

When it comes time to plant the garlic, we can make holes through the mulch. After tonight’s frost, we’re supposed to have some very pleasant evenings, which will be prefect for the cloves to start rooting themselves before the overnight temperatures start to be consistently too low for growth.

Thankfully, none of the other low raised beds need this much work put into them. They just need to be weeded and mulched for the winter. Except for the bed with the carrots and turnips in it. That will stay as it is for a while longer, as they won’t be bothered by frost.

Lots of clean up to prepare for next year, still! But this bed, at least, is all done and ready for garlic.

The Re-Farmer

Stocking up trip: this is $700

Or, to be exact, $700.04

I was planning to go into the city tomorrow, but I was able to change plans and do it today. That means I’ll be available to help my mother tomorrow, when she has to be away from her apartment while it’s being sprayed for bed bugs again.

I did a Costco and a Canadian Tire trip today. We will have to go another trip soon, but I was able to get most of what we need, I think. This is what I got at Costco.

I can’t remember if I mentioned it earlier or not, but we had an unexpected financial hit last month. My husband had a bi-weekly subscription order with Amazon for some sugar free drink mixes. One flavour had been back ordered. Well, it suddenly was available, and they shipped ALL of the back order at once. It worked out to be 10 cases of 16 bottles of mix in total. We only found out about it when almost $500 disappeared from our account on Sept. 13. I thought it was a fraudulent purchase on my husband’s debit Visa, at first! He found out what it was and tried to cancel the order, but they said the deadline for cancellation was Aug. 27. So we were going to let it arrive, then start the return process – only to find out that it wasn’t available for return, because it’s considered a “food item”. There are supposed to be ways to still get refunded, but my husband couldn’t find it. His searches had him going in circles. So we are now trying to sell them through our local store, and hopefully get at least some of our money back!

The hit did a number on our budget, but thanks to having already stocked up as much as we did, plus my daughter covering a couple of automatic payments, we managed all right. It means my focus is largely on replacing what we used, as well as continuing to build up our stash for the winter.

After seeing the prices for me, I’m really glad we’ve got a quarter beef coming in December, that’s for sure! I got a family pack size of lean ground beef, and it cost over $30 – almost twice what the same weight pack cost a couple of years ago.

Along with the ground beef, we got some pork loin, pork chops, a three pack of all beef wieners (but no buns; I’ll get those later. I’m hoping we can do a cook out soon). I also got three rotisserie chickens. Normally, I don’t even look at those, but I’d caught a new shopping video from Our Half Acre Homestead last night, and she mentioned that the cooked chicken was cheaper than the whole chicken. So I made a point of comparing. Sure enough, the bags with three whole chickens in them were all in the $30 range, while the rotisserie chicken was $7.99. On top of the fresh meat, I also picked up a 6 pack of canned chicken.

Normally, I would have picked up 10 pounds of butter for the month, but we still have some in the freezer. I’d picked up a jar of ghee and we still have a bit left. It’s worked out quite well, so instead of getting more butter or oil (which we also still have), I got a big bucket of ghee. At $39.99, it cost less than getting our usual 10 pounds of butter, and it’s shelf stable.

I ended up getting a LOT of pasta this trip. I found boxes with 9 – 500g variety packs of pasta for $9.99, so I got two. Then I found a plastic bag with a different variety mix of pasta, same quantity and weight, for the same price, so I got one of those, too. Plus, I got a case of Kraft Dinner. The girls like KD.

I also got a case of frozen perogies, a couple of containers of sour cream, a multi-pack of Kirkland cream cheese (I forget how many were the package), a 2 pk of goat cheese, a large pack of Old cheddar cheese, a 2 pk of butter chicken sauce, a big jar of peanut butter, a big jar of mayonnaise, a bag of Basmati rice, two packages of flour tortillas, a container of ice tea mix, as well as a 3 pk of Q tips and some extra strength ibuprofen for the girls, as they are running low. I also got a case of Coke Zero for a treat. Plus, I got a large package of facial tissue, the Kirkland brand toilet paper, some all purpose cleaner, a case of Friskies wet cat food, and four 11.6 kg bags of dry kibble.

Oh, the sticker shock on just about everything reminded me of another one I got. I was at half a tank when I left home, so I stopped along the way to put in a bit of gas, with the intention of filling at Costco, at their lower price. Pretty routine. I put in $30 of gas at 165.9 cents/litre. After I finished at Costco and was heading out, I walked past the sign with their gas price – 174.9 cents/litre!!! It took another $60 to fill my tank. On the way home, the gas station I’d stopped at in the morning was at 186.9 cents/litre

Ouch.

Now that this trip is done, we’ll go over what we’ve got and what I didn’t pick up this trip, and make a new list for the missing stuff. Hopefully, I’ll be able to make a second trip in a couple of days.

I had stopped at the Canadian Tire first, since it was all non-perishables. We needed more stove pellets for the litter boxes. The hardwood pellets have gone up from $6.99 for a 40 pound bag to $7.29, but they also have softwood pellets that are still at $6.99 I got one of each, so we can compare and see which work better. I also picked up furnace filters. For some reason, the 20″ x 20″ size of the type we need is harder to find. I’m only finding them at Canadian Tire, and they aren’t always in stock. They’re not expensive, so I grabbed two 3pks.

Which reminds me. It’s almost time to replace the filter on our furnace. ๐Ÿ˜Š

I also got a gallon of exterior paint for the water bowl house. I picked a yellow close to what the kibble house is. Considering what it’s for, I asked for their cheapest exterior paint. It turns out they only had two options, and one of them had a base coat in it, so really there was just one choice. A gallon of paint cost $52.99 While she was mixing the colour for me, I spotted a display of Flex Seal and picked up a can of clear. That’ll come in handy for some patch jobs we need to do. I remembered to look for a new handle grip to replace the one that broke off our garden fork. I ended up having to ask an employee for help. We both looked around for a while, then she went to the customer service to look it up on the computer and see if it was in stock. There was plenty of inventory in stock, and it was apparently right next to where she was working when I asked her for help! We went back and looked again and finally found it, right in front of our faces. We both looked right over them, several times, without seeing them! I was looking for the same bright blue as the handle that broke off, but the replacements were black.

Along with that, I remembered to pick up some toilet tank pucks. There is so much iron accumulating in our toilet tank, it’s starting to affect how well the toilet flushes. I found two septic safe brands, in 2 packs, specifically to help remove iron and got one of each. We’ve tried one brand before, so when the girls unloaded and put everything away, my daughter popped one of from the new brand in, so we can compare. And finally, I picked up a roll of self adhesive felt padding. It’s for the corner of my bed frame, where we all keep very painfully barking our shins!

Total damage at Canadian Tire was $148.75

Add in the $700 at Costco and $90 total for gas, it was a pretty expensive day!

I called my mother a little while ago, and made arrangements for tomorrow. Hopefully, the guy will remember that she needs to be away for 12 hours and will do her place first. The earliest the letter she got says they will be there is 9am. It would actually be feasible for her to still stay away for 12 hours and not have to spend the night at a motel. She doesn’t want to stay at my sisters, because where she would be sleeping means having to take several steps up and down, just to get to the bathroom. She can’t even stay here because, with my husband set up with his hospital bed in the bedroom closest to the bathroom, she would not only still have steps to take, but a much longer walk. Staying at a motel month after month is a ridiculous expense, but it’s really the best option. Close to home, private, no stairs, and even a bath tub, if she wants to us it – her apartment has only a shower, and she does miss her baths! But if the guy doesn’t come early enough, she may not have a choice. While I can help her for most of the day, at some point, she’s going to end up hanging out in the lobby of her building, like her neighbours do. They can go back into their apartments after only 6 hours, though. My mother had been thinking she could go in early and open windows, but the more stress and anxiety she feels, the more breathing issues she has – and she’s already had stress issues just today. Along with a meeting for tenants today, they had someone in to give everyone shots. My mother thinks it was a Covid booster shot, but she wasn’t sure. Which irritates the heck out of me. People like her and her neighours just line up to get injections that don’t actually work, and causing so many injuries. It’s like playing Russian Roulette, every time. No one is telling them anything to get informed consent, either. Most of the people living there couldn’t understand it, anyhow.

Argh. Venting.

Anyhow.

I will see her tomorrow, and we’ll figure out what to do as the day goes!

Meanwhile, I’m just really, really glad I was able to do a substantial part of our monthly shop today.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 – 2023? garden: preparing the garlic bed

Well, the soil sifter I made really got a work out today! I’m actually quite impressed. It got beaten and battered, and that janky thing withstood the abuse and did the job.

The half inch mesh works out well. The soil was very full of worms, and most of them fell through the mesh quite easily. Any pebbles small enough to go through will not be a problem. In fact, they will help with drainage. Unfortunately, it’s also large enough that roots can fall through, too, so I still did most of the picking of roots by hand, tossing them on the path to be trampled on, pushing through the soil until I reached a point where I could just shake the rest through. What got left behind were the larger rocks and weeks, and small clumps of soil. I didn’t want to break those up too much, as it would have hurt too many worms.

I laid out the black landscape-type fabric/tarp we’ve got to put the sifted soil on until I’m ready to put it back into the bed.

It took many loads as I worked my way down. You can see the crab grass rhizomes I pulled out on the grass. You can’t see all the other roots and weeds that also got pulled out.

Using the wheelbarrow and soil sifter really helped a lot. I have a long handled garden claw that I used to break the soil up in the sifter, pulling up the longer roots, and using the back of it to help push the soil through the sifter. It was a real back saver! Plus, when I stopped to work with my hands, I could brace the garden claw on the ground, or even into a corner of the sifter, to lean on as I worked. The logs around the garden bed allowed me to raise one leg, relieving even more pressure from my back. Without all those little things to help out, I would not have been able to finish the soil sifting today!

This is where I stopped, after several hours.

Oh, wow. I just looked at the time stamps between the first progress photo I took, and the last one. I was working on this for four hours. !!

Basically, I removed the top four inches or so of soil. After that, I was scraping the shovel over rocks.

There are still a lot of rhizomes along the edges, but the run under the log border, and I wasn’t up to moving those out to get rid of them.

The sifted soil is now so light and fluffy, it looks like there’s so much more than what could fit into the space in the bed!

What got left behind in the sifter got dumped among the nearby trees. Plenty of rocks, clumps of soil, worms, and the occasional sticks, rusted nails and even bits of glass!

I am so glad this is done.

Tomorrow, I plan to add a layer of wood chips into the bottom of the bed, top it with the summer squash vines I’ll be pulling from the next bed over, and then the soil will be returned, ready for garlic planting and mulch. I hope to get that all finished tomorrow, because the day after, I am expecting to go into the city for a much needed stocking up trip to the city.

While I was writing this, I got a call from my brother. He had just made the trip out to my mother’s to get the battery from the motorized chair he got for her (which she refuses to use) that isn’t holding a charge for some reason. She just let him know that they’re coming to spray her apartment for bedbugs again, the day after tomorrow. She hadn’t mentioned a thing to me when I called her last, even though she’d told me about some other stuff, even though I’d really stressed with her to let us know right away if she got another letter of notification that they’d be coming in to spray her place again, so that we would have time to help her prepare. She started talking to him about staying in the lobby, even though she has to stay away from her apartment for 12 hours after spraying.

*sigh*

My brother took a picture of the letter she got and will send it to me. Hopefully soon, because I’d like to read it before I call her. It looks like I will be helping her book a room at the motel again, as she doesn’t want to stay at my sister’s overnight. Too many stairs in her house. Which means I’ll be using her car to go into the city, which means not a Costco trip.

At this point, I don’t even know if they are spraying her place because they’re actually finding bed bugs, or because they’ve just decided to keep spraying the same apartments every month. The guy did leave a trap, but no one comes to check it.

What a pain.

Oh, and I just found out our vandal had called my mother again – at the beginning of the month! It was her birthday, so he used that as an excuse to call her, then start harassing her about the farm again until she finally hung up on him. I had hoped, after losing his court case against me, he’d finally give up, but apparently not. She never said a thing to any of us until now. So frustrating!

Well, we’ll figure it out. For now, I’m just going to focus on getting that bed done and planting garlic for next year!

The Re-Farmer

My morning buddy, and our 2022 garden: eggplants and slow going

I had such a slow start to the day today. Not a lot of sleep, and when I tried getting up this morning, I lost my balance and almost fell. My husband was up and I ended up asking him to take care of feeding the cats this morning so I could lie down again. Considering it’s because of his own pain levels that he’s up (or not) at odd hours, it takes a lot before I ask him to take over like that. I have a theory on what’s going on and will be testing it over the next few nights. If I don’t follow up on that later, it will be because nothing changed.

When I finally did get out, the kitties had full bellies, which means I had company during my rounds!

Especially as I went up the driveway to check the gate and switch out the memory card on the gate cam. The new camera, with its direct solar power and battery backup, has the batteries still at 100%! The other two trail cameras are at about half, and both have had their batteries changed at least once, since we got the new camera.

I’m not actually all that happy that the kittens follow me to the gate. I don’t want them wandering to the road, so I try to pick them up if I can. At one point, I was carrying the three amigos, all at the same time. Interesting that the three most socialized kittens like to stay together the most, too. I can’t say it’s because they are all from the same litter, because the fourth one of that litter is more or less indifferent to its siblings, while the muted calico, from an older litter, still likes to hang out with these three the most. That one is a lot more socialized now, too. It still runs off at time, but more often than not, we can pet it and even pick it up for cuddles.

I worked on the garden bed I intend to plant the garlic in last night, but didn’t get very far.

This is where I left off when my back started to give out.

I really look forward to when we have more high raised beds!!!

I removed the grass clippings mulch and loosened the entire bed with a garden fork first, then started working my way around, pulling out as many crab grass rhizomes and other weeds as I could. The job was made much more challenging, because the kitten in the earlier photo decided it absolutely had to be on my back while I worked! When I straightened up, she would climb up to perch on my shoulder until bent down again.

I managed just over half the bed. I found the soil to be much improved, easy to work into with the garden hoe – though I’m still hitting rocks – and filled with worms. Compaction, however, is still a problem.

Once I’ve got more of the roots and weeds removed, I’ll use the soil sifter to get more out. I plan to dig a trench down the middle. The summer squash bed is right next to it. I’ll be pulling those up and burying them in this bed as a soil amendment. After the garlic is planted, the grass clipping mulch will be returned. The summer squash bed will be ready to work on next.

Things are going much more slowly than I expected, and it’s basically because of pain. Yes, I pain killer up before I start, I’m just taking your basic painkillers. They’re not particularly strong. I’m the sort of person where pharmaceuticals tend not to work as expected to begin with, and typically need double the dose to maybe get the same effect as a regular dose on someone else. It’s the same thing with the painkillers dentists inject before working on a tooth – something I discovered the hard way when I was in 5th grade. I still remember the dentist working on a cavity. I had my eyes squeezed shut in pain and was clutching the arm rests when the dentist made a snarky comment about opening my eyes, it’s not that bad. I did open my eyes, glared at him – and broke one of the arm rests. I was an adult before I dared go to a dentist again. As an adult, the dentists would actually listen to me when I told them there was still pain.

So… yeah. I do have an extremely high pain tolerance because of this, and can typically just keep working through all sorts of pain. That’s getting harder and harder to do as I get older. The problem is, there’s really no one else to take over. My older daughter has joint problems that has lead to injuries that just won’t heal, so there’s only so much she can do, and both of them have back problems that won’t go away unless they both get reduction surgery (as I did, more than 20 years ago: best thing I ever did!!!), but neither of them trust doctors. At all. They’ve seen the BS my husband and I have put up with over the years. Since we’ve moved back to this province, we’ve found health care has gotten even worse during the almost 15 years we were away. So while they can help, all four of us are just really gimpy. Plus, my older daughter has her commissions to work on, so she gets paid, and isn’t available as much. They both also take care of the inside stuff for me, so I’m free to work on the outside stuff – an arrangement I am quite happy with. Still, the way things are going, I’m going to have to ask them to help me with the outside stuff more. It’s frustrating. When we first moved here, I was able to get much more work done in much less time. I did not expect my body to give out that much in so few years!

Ah, well. It is what it is.

I’ll be taking pain killers and heading back out soon.

On another note, we had another small harvest this morning.

I decided it was time to pick the Little Finger eggplant. I actually found one more little one, after I took this picture. These are all from just one plant. None of the others matured enough to produce anything. I had intended to leave them for longer, but last night we dropped to 2C/36F. We were only supposed to drop to 6C/43F, so I didn’t try to cover them for the night. They don’t look frost damaged, but with how messed up the forecast has been, I figured it was time. This variety is meant to be picked while still relatively small and glossy – maybe a bit bigger than the largest one I’m holding.

In talking with the girls about what to plant next year, we are thinking of trying 3 varieties of peppers, and I’d like to try this variety of eggplant again. However, we will need to work out better protection for them. My older daughter is wanting to save up for a type of greenhouse that is specifically designed for our extreme temperatures. Something like the polycrub that Stone Croft Skye has. Before then, I hope to pick up a decent sized portable greenhouse, or maybe a smaller one to use for our seedlings. We have GOT to come up with something better for starting seeds. We had to spend way too much effort to protect them from cats, making for less than ideal growing conditions.

That is something to think about later, though. For now, we need to clean things up and get beds prepared for next year, first.

The Re-Farmer

How they turned out

Last night, after saving some for planting next year, I picked over the blue grey speckled tepary beans we grew, then left them to soak overnight. I ended up using all of the remaining beans.

This is how they looked after shelling.

After soaking overnight, they looked like this.

The got a bit bigger, but not by much, really.

I was going to use them in a soup, and decided to cook them separately, first. This is how they looked after being cooked al dente.

The colour is off because the camera got steamed up. They did lose a lot of their colour, and I noticed they turned the water quite grey, so I’m glad I decided to cook them separately, first. Otherwise, they would have turned my soup grey!

I was going to make a cream of chicken soup, but ended up making an “everything but the kitchen sink” soup. My daughters had roasted several whole chickens, with our own potatoes, a couple of days ago. Today, I deboned what was left of them, and used the remaining roasted potatoes in the soup, too. I also used a couple of yellow onions from the garden, the single shallot I’d picked yesterday, the last bit of slab bacon we had, and all of the Kyoto Red carrots, since there were so few of them. The tiny sweet potato harvest was used up, along with the last of our summer squash – green and yellow zucchini, and yellow patty pan squash. Corn kernels, cut from the cobs, went into the pot, as well as some of the tomato sauce I’d made recently. After everything was cooked, I took the immersion blender to it for a while, adding in some whipping cream at the same time. The very last thing was a handful of shredded cheddar cheese.

I tasted the beans after they were cooked, and they tasted like… beans. ๐Ÿ˜ I had not added any seasonings of any kinds, so they were as plain as plain could be. Once in the soup, I honestly couldn’t taste them at all. They did add a nice texture, though, and the ones that got hit with the immersion blender helped thicken things a bit. I like my soups hearty and thick!

I think they worked out rather well, but… well… Aside from what I took out to plant next year, that was an entire year’s harvest, used up in a single pot of soup! ๐Ÿ˜‚ I’ve set aside twice what we planted this spring. Between that and if we get a better growing year, it would be nice to have a much better harvest next year! I also have some beans my mother gave me. I don’t know the name of them, but they are a small (though bigger than the tepary beans) white bean that she grew every year from her own seeds. She’d given some to my sister, who grew them for years. She doesn’t grow beans anymore, so she brought a pasta sauce jar – just shy of a quart – full of seeds to my mother. My mother has no plans to grow them, in her little garden plot, so she gave them to me! They’re a few years old, but there should still be a decent germination rate. Which means that, next year, we should have two different types of shelling beans to grow.

The more, the better!

The Re-Farmer

Morning kitties, and checking beyond the outer yard

It’s a good thing we normally keep kibble, water and a litter box in the sun room. When I closed the door last night, I made sure to check for kittens and saw none. This morning, I discovered I’d closed the three amigos up in there overnight!

I was able to get a picture with Rosencrantz’ tortie! It is the shiest of the bunch. I was able to pet the one at the pack a little bit, at least. Rosencrantz herself acts like she wants to be petted, will stretch out to sniff my fingers, bump her head against my hand – then try to bite and scratch me, too! She used to be much more friendly.

While doing my rounds, I kept hearing cows and calves, very loudly. The renter has rotated his cows out and took away the power source for the electric fence to use in the other quarter he’s renting, so if for some reason there are cows in this quarter, there is nothing to stop them from getting into the outer yard – and we’ve opened up the gates to the inner yard.

For all that I could hear them, I couldn’t see them. I decided to do a walkabout, though. I haven’t gone beyond the outer yard since last year, and I really wanted to see how the gravel pit was looking, after the renter hired someone to dig it deeper during the drought last year.

Wow. What a difference!

September 2022

I couldn’t even go to where I had tried to consistently take pictures last year, because it’s under water. You can see a whole bunch of ducks swimming around, too!

Just for comparison, this was last year.

August, 2021

That was the most water it had all of last year. The clay held what little rain we finally got.

September, 2022

Only the deepest part was dug deeper; it extends quite a bit in one direction, and forms a sort of marsh in the other. Last year, this part didn’t even really get muddy.

This is what it looks like in July of last year.

July, 2021

If you look in the trees, there’s one that is distinctively bent up. If you look in the photo I took this morning, you can find that tree, further away. The spot I stood in to take the picture in July of last year is underwater now, too.

I wish I’d thought to head out and see how high the water was when things were flooding in the spring!

I followed along the marshy bit to where it ends at a sort of roadway, with a pond on the other side.

It has water, too!

When I was a kid, I remember there being enough water in here to float makeshift rafts in, but it has filled in a fair bit over the years.

I was surprised to see this, not too far away.

This tree is still alive! The trunk is even more split open, with the middle rotted away, than when I first found this tree broken after high winds.

Since I was in the area, I decided to head towards the field, which the renter has prepared for next year already, so check on things. There’s an old junk pile there, too. All during my walkabout, as much as possible, I was picking up junk and scrap pieces of metal the cows had scattered around, and put them onto the nearby piles of junk.

I really look forwards to being able to get a scrap dealer to clear away some of this stuff!

I found more pieces of junk scattered about near the fields and cleaned them up a bit.

And found this.

It’s completely intact. Not even a chip, though it was full of dirt.

I brought it home and added it to the table of other found objects. ๐Ÿ˜

My daughter came by as I was working on this post, and I showed her the photos I took this morning. She was happy to see the cup! She’s found it last year and had intended to bring it back, but her hands were too full of other things. It’s now sitting exactly where she’d wanted to put it, herself! ๐Ÿ˜Š

I found another surprise in the area.

More water!

Normally, this area has water only during spring melt. There is a sort of “river” that heads off to the right in the photo, all the way to the road, where there is a large culvert, and continues north in someone else’s property. To the left, it goes into the field and joins up with the municipal drainage ditch. The group of trees in the middle become an island, but right now, we have another pond!

While chatting with the renter, I’d commented on how glad I was that they were able to get the gravel pit dug out. He mentioned that, in this quarter, getting enough water for the cows has always been difficult. Not this year, that’s for sure! And with how deep the pit was dug, and the heavy clay bottom, it should not be a problem again, even in dry years.

While heading back, I spent some time checking out the car graveyard, which has all sorts of old farm equipment as well. In the process, I think I found a solution to a problem.

One of the things I want to get built this fall is a chicken coop, so we can get chicks in the spring. We can’t get away with the basic chicken tractor that is so easy to find plans for all over. We need something suitable for our winters, so a lot more substantial. However, I still want to be able to move it to different locations, so that we can incorporate chickens into our garden plans. I’ve been doing some research and have seen mobile chicken coops that are more or less what I have in mind. Basically, they are build on a wagon chassis. I’ve looked around, and even second hand, those can be pretty expensive.

I think I’ve found one.

Among the junk is an old, wooden wagon of some kind. It’s got sheets of aluminum in it, and the wood walls are rotting away. It has all steel wheels and, as far as I can tell, the chassis is completely intact.

As soon as I have the opportunity, I want to go back out there with some tools, pull out the metal sheets, dismantle the rotting wood portions and see what’s there. Once clear, we should be able to just roll it home. We should be able to build a pretty decent sized chicken coop on it, if it’s intact enough!

It’s remarkable what we have been finding among the junk, that can be salvaged. It’s a shame so much of this stuff was left to rot away in the first place.

It would be really awesome if we can salvage this!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: harvesting carrots and red onions and cleaning up

I took advantage of the lovely temperatures (and being in less pain) to do some more clean up in the garden. Earlier in the day, my daughter and I drove into town so she could get a new photo to renew her driver’s license, while I popped across the street to pick up a few things at the grocery store. I was thinking of making a cream of chicken soup and was about to buy some carrots, when I remembered…

We have carrots. They’re just still in the dirt.

So I went over to where the chocolate cherry tomatoes had been planted, and pulled up the Napoli (orange) and Kyoto Red (dark orange) carrots – and a single shallot! I also dug up the red onions from sets that were planted with the yellow pear tomatoes.

The new soil sifter came in handy! ๐Ÿ˜

I’m actually surprised that we got so many decent sized carrots. The Kyoto Red were pretty small – there were two I left behind because they’re blooming, and I hope to collect some seeds. I used up the last of the Kyoto Red seeds, but I think I still have some Napoli pelleted seeds left. Those really did far better than I expected.

Then there’s that single, solitary shallot!

There were actually two more, but they also bloomed, and I’m waiting for the seed heads to dry before collection.

As for the red onions…

Most of them aren’t any bigger than the sets we planted in the first place. Given how spindly the greens were, I thought they might be rotted out, or at least soft, but nope: they are quite firm. They’re just really tiny. I think they were simply too shaded by how massive the yellow pear tomatoes got.

I was going to take them in and was trying to figure out where I could lay them out to dry a bit, until I thought to check the weather again.

We’ll be having at least a couple relatively warm nights, and no rain is expected. I just spread them out on the soil sifter and will leave them out overnight. Tomorrow, I should be able to brush the dirt off more easily, before bringing them inside.

With that in mind, I think I’ll soak some of those blue grey speckled tepary beans overnight, to include with some our garden’s carrots and onions in my soup!

Once these were gathered, I worked on taking down the hoops in the main garden area, as well as the mesh and supports over the spinach in the old kitchen garden. The spinach is a loss. They germinated, and then got mostly yellow and stopped growing.

With the mesh and netting, I laid them out as straight as I could on the ground, then rolled them up around whatever straight sticks I had that were long enough.

You wouldn’t believe how difficult that is with a yard full of kittens!

The twine I used got salvaged, too, and the shorter pieces came in very handy to tie off bundles of netting, mesh, supports and hoops.

We have a few more warmer days, and my priority right now is to get the empty bed in the main garden area prepped, and then plant our fall garlic. When we go into the city next for our stock-up shopping, I hope to pick up more hardneck garlic to plant. It’s a bit too late to order them like we have for the past couple of years.

Once that is done, I plan to work on building up some of the beds in the old kitchen garden. I have ideas for those that I hope will work. If I get at least one of those done over the next few days, that will give us a prepared bed to plant any garlic I pick up later on. There’s still the beets to harvest from that garden, but I suspect those will be going straight to compost.

Little by little, it’ll get done!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: sweet potatoes harvested

This morning I spent some time doing some clean up in the garden, taking off the netting from a couple of beds and removing the supports and twine. While I was at it, I decided to go ahead and harvest the Covington sweet potatoes from the grow bags. They did survive the frost, but with the cooler temperatures, anything there wouldn’t be getting any bigger.

This is it. Our entire sweet potato harvest.

They’re smaller than fingerling potatoes!

Now, I know we can grow short season sweet potatoes in our zone. In some of the local gardening groups I’m on, I’ve seen people posting pictures of their very nice sweet potato harvests. The soil in the grow bags looked good; there were lots of worms in the soil, and even mushrooms growing out the sides of the ones that tore; a sign of healthy soil. Like so much else this year, they just never really recovered from our horrible spring. This is actually more than I was expecting to find, to be honest.

Yes, I want to try growing sweet potatoes again. Whether we’ll be able to try again next year, I don’t know yet, but I do want to grow them. They would make a valuable, nutritionally dense, storage crop to help meet our self sufficiency goals.

What a rough gardening year it has been this year!

The Re-Farmer

Morning kitties

I think the outside cats are getting to that point where they are starting to build up some winter fat. When I come out in the mornings, all the places we leave kibble don’t even have crumbs left, and they are all acting so hungry. We put out quite a bit of food for so many cats, twice a day, but this morning, before heading inside, I actually had to top up one of the kibble trays!

This one.

Rosencrantz and four of her babies were so hungry, I was actually able to pet all four of them! Just briefly, and they acted a bit confused about the whole thing before moving out of reach, but they were far more interested in food than running away.

The tortie was at the kibble tray by the spirea, along with a couple of calicos.

I noticed something about the litters this year. This is the first time since we moved here, that there are NO orange tabbies. Not a one. When we first moved here, it was almost all orange tabbies. The males would all disappear in the summer, but there would be more orange kittens the next year. Right now, the only ones left are the ones we brought indoors.

I spent some time on the bench with the rope toy I made for the kittens and have several of them playing at my feet, including the tuxedo. I was able to touch him, too, though he would move out of reach when I did. Its black and white sibling was curious about the toy, but would not come any closer to play with it. Instead, he put himself on a pedestal to watch me from a safe distance!

Our yard is just infested with furry adorableness.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: shelling beans

Change of plans for the day. I’m just in too much pain to be outside in a cold wind, doing manual labour. Of course, there’s no shortage of things to do inside!

The shelling beans I’d harvested a while ago, then set aside to dry, needed to be retrieved and shelled. There were a few pods that were still too green and got set aside, but this is the total haul of shelled Blue Grey Tepary beans.

I think there’s maybe 2 cups – certainly not more – in there! They are so very pretty!

And very tiny.

Now, I planted these, and I vaguely remember being surprised by how small they were when I took them out of the package, but I honestly can’t remember if they were this small. I even went back through my photos, but hadn’t taken one of the seeds, so I went to where I bought them from. There is nothing to give any perspective of the size.

Ah, well.

Later on, I’ll go pick over the beans, then select the biggest and brightest (which would be the ripest) ones to plant next year. The packet came with 50 seeds, so I figure we would need at least twice that. Assuming we actually like them. I’ll try them out in a soup or something. It won’t take much to use them all up! Especially after I take out the ones for seed saving.

Next year, we will change up where we plant things quite a bit, mostly because we won’t be using the trellises we have now again. When we built them, it was expecting to use them just one year, not two! Right now, I’m thinking that we can plant peas or beans at the chain link fence, where we planted the chocolate cherry this year. Wherever we went up planting them, it’ll be very different conditions. Hopefully, between that and a better growing year, we’ll find ourselves with more robust plants, and higher yields!

The Re-Farmer