This morning’s finds

There always seems to be something new to find when I do my rounds!

Some are good, some are not so good, and some are… kind of in between. 😀

Finding holes in the ground from skunks digging for grubs is not unusual. This morning, however, it was VERY unusual! I found probably a hundred off them over by the sweet corn and sunflower blocks! They were in the open areas around them, but also right in among them.

The skunks (I’m assuming there was more than one) seem to have worked their way through two corn blocks and about one and a half sunflower blocks. Only the corn block furthest north was completely untouched. Judging from how many holes there were, I’m guessing it had something to do with very full little bellies!

Before we planted here, and were just mowing, I never saw divots. My guess is that the area was so dry and sun baked, there simply weren’t any grubs in the soil. Now that we’ve started to amend the soil and have been watering regularly, plus all the rain we’ve recently had, it’s now a skunk buffet!

I don’t mind the skunks digging up the grubs. They have no interest in the plants. The only problem was that some of their digging was close enough to our already struggling corn and sunflower plants, that roots were exposed. I worked my way through the rows, pushing the soil back into those holes, at least. The others, I left. There were just too many, and I don’t care if the weeds have their roots exposed!

It took a long time, but we now have our very first vine making its way across the top of the squash tunnel! This luffa had reached the top some time ago, but not gone over.

The winter squash still has a ways to go, but it’s working on it!

Had conditions been more ideal, this structure would at least have had the walls completely covered in vines by now, if not the “roof” as well. Given what a tough year for the garden it has been, I’m quite pleased with what we have!

The girls moved the canopy tent over the picnic table by the fire pit for me this morning, so I dragged a hose over to give the table a bit of a power wash. While there, I checked out the nearby currant bush.

We only rarely watered this bed by the fire pit at all this year, yet the currant actually has a few berries on it! After picking these, I checked on the two currant bushes near the main garden beds and found a few more. Those ones did get watered more often, but are located under trees. They get a lot less sunlight, and even with the rains we’ve been having, they would have gotten less. The one by the fire pit is on the south side of the maple grove and has no overhanging branches, so even with almost no watering, it has more berries. Even so, the berries are a lot smaller and less juicy than they should be. I’m surprised there are any at all, to be honest!

This morning, I fussed around with the potato grow bags. Some of them were falling over, so I secured them to the chain link fence, then straightened the bags out again; the tops of the bags are more to keep critters out than anything else.

In the process, I uncovered this little guy.

So incredibly adorable!!!

Finding one is exciting enough, but then I found this slightly bigger one!

This one wasn’t too impressed with my moving the bags around. 😀

These are probably my favourite type of frog. 😀 And we’ve seen so many of them, as well as the more common wood frogs, this year!

As we develop our permanent garden beds, providing shelter and moisture for frogs is on our list of things to include. 🙂

Today is supposed to be our last comfortable day before the heat comes back, and no rain is predicted for a few more days, so I will be heading out to apply cayenne pepper to some of our garden beds after this. Especially our purple beans. Checking the garden cam this morning, I caught a young buck in the garden, nibbling on something. The summer squash was blocking the view, but there is only one thing where that buck was standing; our purple beans. I didn’t even notice the damage, this morning! The purple beans are a lot bushier and leafy than the other types, but it likely explains why I’m not seeing as many beans on there. I think the deer are actually avoiding the leaves to eat the beans, instead, judging from what I do see, when I am looking closely to find beans to pick.

We keep our containers from things like sour cream, and had one with a transparent lid. I poked a whole bunch of little holes in the lid, then emptied the bulk packages of cayenne pepper into the 500ml container, to create a shaker. I’m hoping the holes aren’t too small. We shall see how it works!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: unexpected things

Yesterday, one of my goals was to start on the lawn. We have yet to mow the lawn this year, but with how little rain we’ve had, it’s not really that overgrown. Other than some straw we still have left, we’re out of organic material to layer and mulch with, so it would be good to have grass clippings again. At the very least, I wanted to get out the weed trimmer and do the edges.

Then I got a phone call.

My mother was letting me know my sister was on her way to visit her, and they were planning to go to the cemetery, which is just a few miles away from us. They were planning to come here, after.

*sigh*

We had talked about this possibility just the day before, so I can’t say it was too unexpected, but I had advised against doing a cemetery trip when we were supposed to get so very hot again. She also knew that I like to have a lot more notice before visits, so we can be prepared. My mother actually sounded apologetic when she was telling me they were coming over, and added that she was good with not going into the house if we didn’t want her to. Which isn’t the problem, but whatever.

So the girls did a quick rush to try and prepare things, like making sure everything was clear from the sun room doors, though the old kitchen, to the bathroom (so my mother wouldn’t have to use the main doors, with all the little sets of stairs), while I quickly used the weed trimmer around the yard, between the main garden beds, and a few other places that I thought my mother might want to get at with her walker. I had thought to move the picnic table to a shady spot in the south yard, but my daughter reminded me that, when we moved it to where it is now, after it was painted, it was pretty rickety, so it probably couldn’t handle being moved so far, again. So she set up some camp chairs in the shade, and we used an overturned bin for a table. 😀 My mother and sister had even brought some fried chicken, so we had ourselves a picnic lunch in the shade, before touring the yard and garden beds.

When they arrived, my sister passed me something my mother had for me. At her apartment building, they have garden plots available. My mother doesn’t do much gardening herself anymore, but she does tend the perennials that had been planted by some of her friends and neighbours who have passed on. The caretakers, unfortunately, have a habit of digging everything up at the end of the year, including a bush my mother described as having beautiful yellow flowers, followed by black fruit. She had no idea what it was; it was planted by someone who passed away some years ago. No one ate the berries, but it was lovely, and the caretakers dug it up and got rid of it. This spring, while tending some plants, she noticed that part of the bush had survived. Not wanting the caretakers to kill it off, she dug it up and put it in a pitcher with some soil. She wanted to give it to me to plant somewhere near the house. We have a grocery shopping trip arranged next week, and I was going to get it then, but with my sister coming over, they were able to bring it over early.

I’m pretty sure it’s a currant, though my mother says it’s different than what we have here. My sister, who is the one that gave my mother the currants that are here, thought it might be a gooseberry. Whatever it is, I made sure to transplant it as soon as things started cooling down a bit. I picked a spot right near where we’d had our picnic lunch. There is a flower bed with white lilacs taking up about half of it. After it was cleaned up, a couple of years ago, we were left with an empty spot that I decided to take advantage of.

I scraped away the wood chip mulch we’d put in, first – it was about 3 inches deep – and started digging. I had to shift the hole a few times, after hitting tree roots, but after clearing out a few bigger rocks, I finally had a space I could transplant into. It was bone dry. We don’t water this bed regularly, but I have been trying to water the lilacs and a low growing plant with variegated leaves I like. From how dry the soil was, you’d never know it had been watered recently! So I filled the hole with water, then got a wheelbarrow load of new garden soil.

After transplanting it into the hole with fresh garden soil, I put back some of the mulch and gave it another thorough watering.

So we now have a new, unplanned, fruit bearing bush in the yard. 🙂 Hopefully, it will survive.

Backtracking a bit; my mother and I had talked about her coming out to see the gardens later in the season, when things were more grown in, but she got a bit of a tour yesterday. I did appreciate her very visible efforts to not say anything negative, which is usually the only thing she’ll say. I think it’s a generational thing, or maybe a cultural thing, but my mother seems to believe in NOT saying positive things. Like it’s somehow bad to compliment people or something. I suspect it has to do with believing it would lead to pride or something along those lines, though I doubt that’s in any way on a conscious level. She did, however, manage a backhanded compliment on how healthy the garlic looked! So that’s progress. 😀

She was not up to taking the walker to the furthest beds, of course, but my sister did, with her ever-present camera, and she got lots of pictures. It was a long day for my mother, so they left almost immediately after touring the yard. Going to the cemetery, then coming here, was probably too much for her. 😦

After I’d taken care of the transplant my mother gave us, I started hearing thunder. We’ve been having thunderstorm warnings for a while, but they kept getting pushed back. We were hoping to at least get some rain! I could see the storm clouds, and the wind was picking up, so I brought our hardening off transplants back into the sun room early, and we even shut down our computers, just in case.

We got nothing. Not even a spit of rain.

By 9:30pm, I finally went back outside to water the garden beds. The rain did finally come, but not until about 5am this morning.

When I headed out to do my morning rounds, it was still raining! A lovely, steady rain. I got completely soaked. 😀 So no pictures this morning. 😉

While checking the garden beds, I had some more unexpected surprises. The sweet corn is coming up already!! New shoots, in all three corn blocks. I also found more Hopi Black Dye sunflower sprouts, but also some Mongolian Giant sunflowers have already sprouted! Clearly, they are loving our heat wave. The bush beans, meanwhile, are coming up like crazy. The purple ones are still a bit slower in coming up than the yellow and green beans, but once they do come up, the sprouts seem to be leafing out faster than the others.

I’m finding it awesome that so many things we direct sowed is sprouting already. We haven’t even finished putting out our transplants, yet! 😀

Of course, while checking the garden beds this morning, I was looking for deer damage. When I’d watered last night, I tied some plastic grocery bags onto a couple of the stakes supporting the Mongolian Giant transplants, as a noisy deterrent. Happily, there was no new damage.

Then I checked the trail cam.

There was one file triggered during the night. Off in the shadows, a single deer could be seen, walking through! It looked like it was going down the path between the corn/sunflower blocks, and the pea/bean beds. It didn’t stop or pause, but kept walking towards the spruce grove.

Today, I’m moving the camera again. I think I know where the deer came in, but there are a couple of places they like to jump the fence, and I want to cover both possibilities, if I can, and see if there are any other areas they might be coming through.

We shall see what the weather does today. Today’s expected high is “only” 25C/77F, with scattered showers. Which means we will probably not be able to use a power drill, with its 300 ft or so of extension cords, to finish assembling the squash tunnel. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get the summer squash in, though we might have to prioritize the Montana Morado corn. At least the place they will be planted is right next to what’s left of the pile of garden soil. We might end up having to use soil from the pile in the outer yard to finish transplanting. The good thing is, we actually have that second pile!

Little by little, it’ll get done!

The Re-Farmer

Fall colours

It’s looking really gorgeous out there!

My mother’s “living fence” has a row of hawthorns (you can see some of their berries) on one side, and a mix of caragana and oak on the other. I got a picture of a larger oak at the far end of the row of trees, with elms above it. The crab apple tree is one of the ones in the West yard. The apples do not taste very good, but the deer and birds will enjoy them. There is also the linden tree, all yellow, while the currant leaves (which I thought were gooseberry at first) are lovely shades of red.

The Re-Farmer

Garden progress: finally!!

Yes!!!

It’s finally done!

Everything we started from seed has finally been transplanted.

At least, everything that sprouted…

These are all the pellets that didn’t sprout. The tray in the background was the squashes tray. I’d say most of those empty pellets are the gourds. The ones in the foreground are mostly fennel, with maybe a cucamelon or two.

It’s entirely possible some might eventually sprout, so I’m just leaving them out.

Today, both my daughters were able to help, at the same time! Things went very fast with three people working at once.

The first thing we did was transplant the cucamelons in the chimney block retaining wall. It had been our intention to bring up the remaining blocks from the basement, to use as planters in another location, but there is no safe way to take them out. At least not while the kittens are downstairs. So we planted them here, instead. With the ornamental apple trees growing nearby, they won’t have the full sun they should be getting. There are 3 metal posts I couldn’t take out, when I removed the fence that used to be here, so we will use them to hold a trellis. Hopefully, that will help them get more sunlight as they grow bigger.

The few fennel that sprouted were planted in the soil beside the blocks. All 6 of them. They are so leggy, I don’t know that they’ll even survive, but we’ll see.

That done, we moved on to the squash garden.

We had exactly 11 transplants, so we marked a spot in the middle of the row, then measured and marked out every 2 feet in each direction.

In this photo, each has been transplanted into its “pot” of soil mix, and we were starting to add the mulch. These would mostly be the zucchini mix and pattypans (it’s all a surprise mix now, after the tray got knocked over!), but some of them are the birdhouse gourds. We’ll figure out which is which, as they grow! 😀

I had intended to build some rather heavy duty trellises for the squashes, but things aren’t quite working out to get that done, so I picked up some bamboo poles. We’ll use them and, if I can find some, some plastic mesh instead of the chicken wire. The wire, I want to reserve for when I finally do make something more heavy duty.

After we finished mulching and watering, I set out the poles.

I’ve mentioned a few times, how rocky this area is. Just pushing in those flags typically involves readjusting a few times, to get around rocks we hit, inches into the soil.

When pushing in the bamboo poles, I made a point of pushing the narrower ends into the ground, as they were more pointed. I had to make several attempts on pretty much every pole.

Including this one.

I still managed to hit a rock hard enough to break the end off the pole!

This is how it looks now.

It’s hard to say how many of the frost damaged squash will survive, but I still put poles in to trellis whatever makes it. We’ve got the mixed squash on the far right and far left, three pumpkin hills in the middle, and now a row of mixed squash and gourds along the back.

And it’s all done! No more planting!

While working in the area, we also took the time to water various things, including the gooseberry bushes.

Which are not gooseberry bushes.

While cleaning in the maple grove, two springs ago, I uncovered several gooseberry bushes. They were not doing well, with the lack of space and sunlight from all the overgrowth and closely planted, some dead or dying, trees.

Last year, they started to recover, but with the drought, there were almost no berries. Of the few there were, I noticed they were much smaller and darker than I expected, but with the drought, that was true of many of the berries we had.

It was when I was going through the Vesey’s catalog that I saw photos of gooseberries, right next to currants, and realized these might not be gooseberries at all. The leaves look much the same, but the berries are slightly different.

When I had the chance, I asked my mom if the gooseberry bushes really were gooseberries.

Nope. They weren’t.

So what are they?

She had no idea.

My sister had brought them and planted them, but my mother did not know what they were. Since she didn’t know what they were, she figured they were poisonous (as if my sister would give her poisonous berries for her garden???), so she’d never tried them. I happened to mentioned I’d eaten some of the very few berries we had last year, and she was all “oh… you’re okay, so I guess they’re safe.”

*facepalm*

So I think we actually have currants, not gooseberries.

This year, we’ve been better able to water them, and they are looking much better. There are lots of flowers, so I hope that means that, this year, we’ll have lots of fruit!

It had taken a lot of work, but we found quite a few fruit and berry bushes as we cleaned up many years of neglect. After a couple of years, now that these foundlings have space and sunlight again, they are all looking stronger and healthier. Hopefully, that will mean higher yields, to go along with our first attempt at gardening, since moving out here!

I’m looking forward to it. 🙂

The Re-Farmer