Analyzing our 2021 garden: the odd stuff

Since we ordered SO many things for this year, and expanded how much space we were gardening in, I decided to go over groups of things in separate posts, in no particular order and spread over the next few days.

There were a few things we planted this year that we won’t know how they will do until next year, at the earliest!

The first of these are the wildflower mixes.

Now, what we should have done, under better circumstances, was clear out our chosen locations of all roots in the fall, loosen the soil, then plant the seeds in the spring.



We just don’t have the equipment for that. Especially for the areas we would be planting them.

This is one such area.

Can you imagine going over this with a tiller, then clearing out all those roots, as recommended? Especially since there are a lot of tree roots in here; I had to go over the area and cut them away before I could mow it.

This is outside the property, and technically not our responsibility to keep clear, but my family has kept it from getting overgrown for as long as I can remember. Inside the fence from here is where we had our corn and sunflower blocks this past summer.

This is where the package of Western Mix seeds went. They didn’t get broadcast until there was no possibility of early germination. Normally, that would probably have been around mid September, but it ended up being at the start of November! I put the seeds in an old bulk-size spice shaker with some soil, gave it a shake to make sure they were well mixed in with the soil, and scattered it not far from where we had just installed the new sign. In the photo, that would be basically right where I was standing to take it. I didn’t want to spread the seeds too close to the fence line, so we wouldn’t be walking on flowers while tending to the fence.

In theory, when the snow melts in the spring, they will germinate and this area will have wildflowers growing in it. The purpose is to attract pollinators, and to make it so we no longer need to mow here at all. The ultimate goal is for almost this entire area, all the way to the driveway, to be filled with native wildflowers.

We shall see how it works, some time in the spring!

This is where the alternative lawn mix went. The area was raked clear of leaves, raked again to loosen the soil (it’s almost bare soil in between the rows of trees, with some crab grass trying to grow in it), the seeds scattered the same way I did with the Wildflower mix, then the leaves were returned as a mulch.

As with the other seeds, I expected to do this in the middle of September, not the beginning of November.

Hopefully, when the snow melts and the soil warms up, we’ll have all sorts of things growing here. If it works out, we’ll get more of these seeds and use them in other treed areas that are difficult to maintain, but we don’t want to leave to become overgrown again.

Then there are my Christmas presents from my husband.


More specifically, spores for morels and giant puffballs.

Morel mushrooms are native to the area, but I have never seen any in the home quarter. I remember finding them in the unoccupied quarter that is rented out for pasture, even though it’s probably at least half trees, plus a pond and marshy area. It’s highly unlikely we’ll have a chance to go morel hunting out there, so being able to inoculate an area inside our yard is definitely preferable! This location was chosen because the instructions recommended several different types of trees to spread the spores under, but the only one that grows here is elm. After checking out a number of videos on how to grow morels, I built this bed for it, with carboard to keep the crab grass out, and inoculated layers of wood shavings and hardwood pellets.

The spores for the giant puffballs needed a couple of days in water with molasses first. The instructions said to pour the liquid over grass, and I chose this area between the rows of elms, because it’s not easy to mow or keep clear.

Puffball mushrooms are also native to our area, though I’ve never seen the giant varieties. These guys are supposed to get so big, you can cut them into steaks.

The thing with these is, we will have no idea if it worked, until something pops up, and that could potentially take years!

At least they didn’t cost much when my husband ordered them on Amazon. Over the years, we plant to get spores from other types of edible mushrooms to inoculate trees and logs. Recently, I went over the wish list I’d made of different mushroom types on Amazon, and the prices are almost 10 times what they were before! I even tried comparing like-for-like by finding the same Morel spores my husband had ordered. The price increase was really shocking!

There are other places to get mushroom spores, however, and I’d rather not order from Amazon, anyhow. Whether or not these work out, I still want to get other types of mushroom spores over the years to try. Types that are either hard to find in grocery stores, or that are just way too expensive to be worth buying.

A very different way to grow food, but a fun one to try!

The Re-Farmer


Things are really enjoying the rain we’ve had recently. Including the Ozark Nest Egg gourds.

I noticed that there were both male and female flowers blooming at the same time, so I decided to try hand pollinating them. The previous newly formed gourds have all withered away, so I hope these will take.

The problem is that by the time there are more male flowers blooming, the female flowers have already closed up. I opened the larger ones to pollinate, just to see if they will take. I had to do the same thing with the luffa gourds. We shall see if it works!

The gourds were not the only things to appreciate the rain.

These weren’t there when I walked past this branch pile, yesterday!

It’s amazing how quickly mushrooms can develop quite large, pretty much overnight!

The Re-Farmer

(ps: this was supposed to be posted yesterday, but my computer stopped responding and I had to shut it down. :-/)

Giant puffballs done, and an unexpected autumn

This morning was the day!

After sitting in water, with some molasses and a touch of salt, for a couple of days, our Giant Puffball spores were ready to be used to inoculate an area.

The instructions just said to pour over grass, but I did do two things to prepare the area we decided on. First, I pulled up the tall grass. There was barely any, and I didn’t try to pull them up by the roots or anything. Mostly, I figured I wanted the spores to be on the ground, not on tall blades of grass! 😀 Then, I wet the area down with a hose. I wet down the morel bed, too, since the hose was handy.

When pouring the slurry out, I just swung the jug back and forth while walking backwards, paying more attention to spreading it evenly than to how large of an area I covered. It ended up being just enough to cover from end to end between the trees, from the morel box, down.

The temperatures have been just lovely, and we’re even getting passing showers, fairly regularly.

It’s been mild enough that, even with the first Ozark Nest Egg gourds withering away from last of pollination, new gourds are forming!

Looking at the long range forecast, I am just amazed.

We’re supposed to hit 28C/82F in a few days! With a humidex of 32C/90F! I thought we already seen our last days of temperatures this high. It’s the warm overnight temperatures that make the big difference, though. The app on my phone has long range forecasts to 24 days. Of course, the farther out they predict, the less accurate they can be, but even so, there are no frost nights predicted! It’s like we’re getting the weather we normally would have got, earlier in the year, instead of the drought. In fact, even with the few showers we’ve had, it looks like we still need to water the garden! We will still be getting beans and summer squash, more and more of the late sown peas are growing pods, more sunflowers are opening their seed heads, and even the Tennessee Dancing Gourd is producing more flowers and gourds. Of course, the beets and carrots are still growing. I was planning to leave those until around first frost, and it’s looking like they’ll have plenty of time to keep developing. The tomatoes are dying back, but still prolific, and the lettuce and surviving chard are thriving. I’m almost tempted to plant some more lettuces!


This does mean we won’t be broadcasting the wildflower seed mixes we have for quite some time; they aren’t going to go out until there is no chance of germination.

What a strange year it has been!

The Re-Farmer

Mmm… puffball slurry!

Okay, I should have done this yesterday, or at least earlier today, but too many other things kept distracting me away. So now I finally have it started.

Puffball slurry.

The spores in the packet are done the same way as the morels were; as little grains.

The package instructions said to put water in a gallon glass jar. I don’t have a gallon sized glass jar available, so I ended up using one of the gallon sized jugs from the distilled water we get for my husband’s CPAP humidifier. It’s food grade plastic, so that should be fine.

The instructions called for distilled or any other non-chlorinated water, so well water it was. Then they called for a pinch of salt (?!?!) and a small spoonful of molasses, which was then to be mixed with a clean wooden spoon until the salt was dissolved.

Such a strange mix of precise and imprecise instructions! 😀

Well, there was no way to use a spoon in the jug I was using, so after adding a bit of salt and a pouring in a blob of molasses, I put the cap back on and shook it until the molasses was dissolved. The salt dissolved pretty much right away, so that wasn’t an issue.

The instructions then said to “brush” the spores in, but since the spores were in those handy pellets, I just dumped them in. Now it is supposed to sit, undisturbed, for two days.

Actually, the instructions said to place the slurry “… where it will be disturbed…” 😀 I suspect translation issues!


Two days would actually be Saturday night, but since I’m not going to go pouring puffball slurry around in the dark, Sunday morning it is!

Like the morels, it could be a couple of years before these fruit, and it’s entirely possible they won’t take at all. No loss in trying, though, and if it works, we could find ourselves with puffballs big enough to cut into steaks! 😀 Much easier than the little ones we normally get around here. 🙂

Meanwhile, I have taken today as a break from heavier manual labour to give my body a chance to recover a bit. My husband, darling that he is, has been treating my hands with his zapper (needle-less acupuncture). One hand is pretty much back to normal now, but the ring finger on my right hand is still a problem. I may have actually injured it, somehow, aside from the usual arthritis. Whatever I did to it, I can at least say with confidence that nothing is broken, and I can at least still type. It’s a good thing I’m left handed in most things, too.

Aside from running some errands, we’ve been working on processing that big bag of dill my brother and his wife gave us. Our entire dining table is covered with towels, and my younger daughter and I have been working it in batches, as we’ve had the chance. There are a lot of mature seeds in there, and we’ve been talking about what to do with them. We want to basically set aside an area for the dill where they can self-seed to their heart’s content, and we don’t have to worry about them popping up when we’re trying to grow something else. We seem to have settled on the area next to the low raised beds that are being set up. It has been partially cleaned up, and because of various old tree stumps and roots, as well as spreading roots from those cherry trees that are not right for our climate, it’s not like we’re ever going to expand garden beds further in. If, for some reason, that spot doesn’t work out, I can think of another area where it might work to have a dill jungle. 🙂

I am hoping to get back to taking down more dead trees and breaking them down for the high raised beds we will be building over the next while. I also want to do a thorough weeding of the empty beds, and letting them sit to allow any missed weeds to start growing, so I can pull them when it’s time to actually move the top soil and build the beds. We don’t have a lot of material left to use when refilling the bottom layers of the beds, but we will soon be able to start raking leaves, which will be good to use. Plus, we should be able to get another lawn mowing in before the end of the season, and have fresh grass clippings as well. So for now, the more dead trees we can cut and process, the better.

Little by little, it’ll get done!

The Re-Farmer

Let’s get fungi!

After working on the low raised bed yesterday, I was not physically up to working on another one today, so I figured I would do a project that was less physically taxing.

In other words, I’m a bit of an idiot. 😀

It’s gotten to be that time of year to do something with the mushroom spores my awesome husband got me for Christmas. Today, I started with the morels.

The package doesn’t have a lot of information about how to inoculate an area with them. One thing it did recommend was several different types of trees to inoculate under. The only one we have around here is elm.

I spent some time online, seeing what other people did, and came up with a plan of action. I used one of the remaining sections of the old goat catcher we made, a couple of summers ago, and made it into a box frame.

Then it was time to work on the location we finally settled on.

This double row of elms in one area is too narrow and lumpy to mow well, and far enough away that I really don’t want to bother with the weed trimmer. So both the morels and the giant puff balls will be going here.

Since the morels will be going into a framed bed, they were going into the widest, most open part of the area.

First, it needed to be cleaned up. The stump of a dead little elm tree got trimmed flat to the ground, and a thatching rake was used to remove leaf litter and other debris. The remaining quack grass was so sparse, I ended up going over the area and pulling them up by hand, getting quite a bit of the rhizomes out in the process. Then I went over the area again with the thatching rake, loosening things up even more and getting a bit more debris out.

Next, the frame was brought over and placed in the most level spot that could be managed here. I wasn’t too worried about being perfectly level, since the next step would make that a non-issue.

We had kept the box the new washing machine came in, with its wonderfully thick cardboard. I was able to cut it in half, and use it to line the framed space in two layers. This should not only keep the crab grass from coming through, but ensure that little elm stump won’t start sending out suckers, either.

The next step was to give the cardboard a thorough soaking. As it is two very thick layers, I just left the hose running while I prepared for the next step. Morels like wood ashes; there is always a bumper crop after a forest fire. In the time it took me to get wood ashes from the fire pit and mix it with some of our purchased garden soil, there was a bit of a pool inside the cardboard! 😀

The wood ashes and soil combination made only a thin later on the bottom, and that’s okay. From what I was finding online, this could have been filled with straight wood pellets or shavings, and no soil at all.

Speaking of which.

After thoroughly soaking the ash/soil mixture, I used the remaining half of the 40 pound bag of wood pellets I’d used in the low raised bed I made yesterday. Once those were spread out, they got a thorough soaking as well.

Then, while the pellets absorbed the moisture and began to break apart, I opened up a bag of wood shavings. Our general store/post office has them, probably for chicken coops. It’s the same sort of stuff you can get at pet stores for animal cages, except in a bigger bale.

A very thin layer of the wood shavings was added, more to cover the ash/soil mixture, and it got yet another soak with the hose.

Time to inoculate!

The packet the spores were in was the same sort of packet most garden seeds come in. Usually, mushroom spores come in blocks that get broken apart, so I was very curious as to what I would find when I opened the packet.

Huh. Interesting! These are about the size and shape of Orzo pasta, or some types of rice.

They got scattered over the shavings and wood pellets as evenly as I could. Can you spot them in the picture?

Those wood pellets have really expanded and broken apart. Perfect!

Once the morel spores were scattered, the bed got a light misting, more to make sure nothing would blow away.

Finally, a thick layer of the wood shavings was laid down and gently raked out evenly. Most of the bag of shavings got used up for this part. Once it was spread out, the whole thing got one final, very thorough, soak with the house.

And that’s it! It’s done! Now, we just wait and see. Hopefully, we will see morels in here around May next year, though it may take a year or two for anything to show up. That’s one thing that the package did say; it can take years for the spores to actually fruit. Or, nothing may show up at all. It’s hard to know.

As for the giant puff balls, those did come with more instructions, and need to be soaked in a water and molasses solution for a couple of days. After that, it just gets poured over grass. No advance preparation of the soil needed. If I can find a suitable container the cat’s won’t knock over, I’ll get those started tonight.

Meanwhile, now that I’ve had a delicious supper my daughters prepared, I think it’s time to pain killer up! This may have been less physically demanding than digging out a garden bed, but I probably should have given my broken old body a day to recover, first! 😀 Actually, it’s not to bad. The thing that’s bothering me the most is the arthritis in my finger joints, which is more of a problem while typing than while shoveling. 😀

The Re-Farmer

First seeds in! Plus an early Christmas present.

I was very happy to see our first order from Rare Seeds (Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds) come in. With so many delays in deliveries, I was more hoping than expecting.

Also, I’m a suck.

More on that later. 😀

Here is what came in: (click on the images to see them better)

We’ve got 2 varieties of carrots in. We’ll have 2 more varieties in our Vesey’s order, too. I would love to plant all of them, but that will depend on what we will be able to prepare for garden plots. There is basically just one place where we have soft, deeper soil, and that’s where the hard neck garlic is currently planted. I have room to make one more bed over there.

One thing I really liked was how much information is on the backs of that packages.

Which Tissue decided she needed to investigate.

In fact, ALL the cats came over to investigate!

The Kyoto red is supposed to be a “winter” carrot, but that does not apply to our climate. For our Zone 3, this is a summer carrot! Customer comments on the website included someone who very successfully grew it in another province, but also Zone 3. It was really that review that convinced me to try it.

Unfortunately, the Montana Morado corn’s package has no growing information on it. It is a black corn that is also a good flour corn. I am really glad I ordered it when I did, because it is now out of stock! These are both varieties we will be saving seeds from. We’ll have more corn coming in with our Vesey’s order, but whether or not we plant those ones as well will be decided by how much garden space we can prepare. Particularly since they have to be planted well away from each other, to avoid cross pollination.

I am so excited to have these poppies! I have no idea where we will plant them, but we will find a place! Saving seed with those will also be a priority. The strawberry spinach should be interesting. I’ve tried them before in a balcony garden, with limited success.

I had to laugh when I saw the free seeds they included.

We had decided not to try and grow Kohlrabi again, until we could figure out how to protect them from cabbage beetles and deer. Who knows. We might be able to figure something out by spring. I would really love to grow some! For me, these are a “treat” vegetable. 🙂

My husband also got a package and, along with round sharpening stones for serrated knives, he had my Christmas present.

He didn’t bother waiting for Christmas. 😀

Yup. My darling, wonderful, thoughtful husband got me SPORES!!!! Oh, I am so excited!!! My husband is the best!

Both of these are native to the area. I haven’t seen morels since I was a child, and that was on the other quarter section, which is rented out. I’ve never seen them on the home quarter. As for puff balls, I actually saw some growing along the side of our driveway last summer! Not this giant variety, to be sure, but it was good to see them. Large ones like these can be sliced and grilled or fried like steak. Big steaks! They can also be battered and fried.

Growing these outdoors will be touch and go, but I am really looking forward to trying it. The morels package mentions elm as a tree to plant them under (the other trees mentioned don’t grow here), and we have plenty of elms around the yard.

Meanwhile, I’ve gone and placed another order with Rare Seeds!

Because I’m a suck.

I got a promotional email from them saying something along the lines of “hey, we noticed you looking at these, so we took the liberty of adding them to your list” and it included a link.

It wasn’t my wish list they added it to. It was my shopping cart.

Normally, I would have just blown it off, but…

I just couldn’t resist. It was affordable, and I really, really want to try these, even if we can’t plant them this spring. Plus, they are still in stock.

They are all gourds.

There is the Birdhouse gourd (I definitely want to try those again), the lovely Ozark nest egg gourd, the absolutely adorable and prolific Tennessee Dancing of Spinning gourd (in the customer comments, someone said they got about 250 off a single plant!), and finally, the Thai Bottle gourd, which is actually an edible gourd, unlike the others, which I plan to use for crafting purposes.

Plus there’s another package of free seeds. 🙂

I do not expect to plant these next spring. The Birdhouse gourds take so long to germinate, they would have to be started much earlier than we did last time. And in bigger starter pots, because of how late our last frost date is.

Mind you, nothing says we have to plant entire packages. We could try growing just a few seeds and see what comes up.

Oh, this is going to be an interesting growing year! 😀

The Re-Farmer