Stock up shopping: this is $300

I finally made my second trip to the city to do another stock up shop. After going over our list, I decided it was just a Walmart trip.

Then I got a message from my brother, we chatted a bit, and ended up arranging for me to visit! It’s been ages since I’ve been to their place. My brother has come here a few times, but I haven’t seen my SIL since the beginning of summer. She’s allergic to cats, so she can’t really come here. 😔

We had an excellent visit. Gosh, I love those two so much! 💖

Then I headed to the Walmart to get what I needed.

Well. Most of it.

This came out to just over $300. Almost half of that is cat related. I got four 10kg bags – the largest they had – of dry kibble. We now have enough to last us the month. I also finally picked up a covered litter box. Nosencrantz and Butterscotch still refuse to leave my office, but Nosencrantz has litter issues. She will go to the litter box to scratch away at the litter, the sides, the bottom, and the removable top part that is supposed to keep the litter inside the pan. She still manages to get the litter out. There have been times she’s almost ripped the top part off completely, and every now and then, she tips the whole thing onto its side!

What she isn’t necessarily doing is using the litter box. In fact, there are times when she’ll go to the litter several times, scratching away, then go into my closest and take a dump. Then, after I’ve chased her out and cleaned up her mess, she’ll go right back to the litter box and start scratching again.

So I now have a covered litter box, with a filter, in my closet, right where she keeps trying to do her business.

I did have another extra purchase that isn’t normally part of our budget. I picked up some artificial flowers. My younger daughter and I will be going to my MIL’s grave to tidy it up and leave some flowers, then take pictures to send to my FIL. He’s not physically able to get out there anymore. I’ve actually never been to the cemetery. My husband flew out for the funeral, with our daughter as his mobility assistant. The problem is, she was feeling quite ill during the funeral, and doesn’t have a clear memory of any of it. Still, I know where the cemetery is, though I’ve never been there, and hopefully she’ll remember enough that we won’t have to search too long to find the grave.

One other unusual purchase was a request from my husband: nacho fixings. Actually, only the chips are an unusual purchase. The cheese is something we regularly pick up; there’s just more of it this time. I got more Old cheddar, havarti, gouda and mozzarella.

We like cheese.

While I don’t pick up a large jar of olives every month, it’s still something we get fairly regularly. My husband loves green olives, just as a snack. As for the chips, I got 4 big bags, and hopefully we’ll get one batch of nachos out of them. They tend to be pretty broken up. When we make nachos, it’s in my big roasting pan. Enough for the four of us, and usually some left over for the next day. 😁

I remembered to get hot dog buns. I also picked up some rye bread, and some garlic naan. It’s cheap turkey season, but I only got one turkey. Looking at the other meats, none of them appealed to me, so that was it for meat. I wasn’t too impressed with the fruits and vegetables, but the cabbage looked good, so I got a head of cabbage. The Stove Top Stuffing was on sale for only 88 cents a box, so I got two. Thanksgiving is next weekend, and we’ve got a good start on what we’ll have for dinner. I also got a couple of 18 count cartons of eggs, and a couple of bottles of coffee creamer – pumpkin spice and maple flavours – for my daughters. I remembered to look for alcohol swabs for our first aid kit, but couldn’t find them. I asked a staff member and found out they now sell them from behind the counter! I even had to pay for it there. When I mentioned this to my daughters, my younger daughter, who was working at a pharmacy when the “15 days to flatten the curve” started, told me that they had to do that, too. People went nuts, and didn’t stop to read directions, so things like alcohol swabs, sanitizing gel, etc. all had to be hidden away to keep people from stealing them, or snagging them all for themselves. I know the other stuff is out and easy to get at, so I do wonder why the alcohol swabs would still be a behind the counter.

I feel like I’m forgetting something, but I think that’s all that I got today. Oh! I remember now. I got a 4L of milk, too. Usually we get 2L cartons, but we’ll be doing more baking over the next while. I also picked up a case of chicken flavoured ramen noodles for the stash.

What I didn’t get:

Butter. We still have some in the freezer, but with more baking on the horizon, I wanted to get a few more, but even their cheaper house brand is now more expensive than I could justify. Not when we still have a few pounds in the freezer, and a big bucket of ghee on hand.

The wood screws I needed. Not only did they not have the kind I wanted, but the small boxes of screws were insanely expensive.

I also did not get a new door knob. The knob on my door is probably about 45 years old, is missing a screw, starting to get stuck and generally becoming a problem. Worse, though, is that I’m starting to have problems opening my door – and we have to keep it closed, because when Fenrir and Turmeric come in, they both immediately start hunting down and attacking Nosencrantz and Butterscotch! Cheddar comes in and out, and now Leyendecker is accepted by the ladies.

Yes, Layendecker is doing all right! In fact, he seems fully recovered. Tonight, he gets his last dose of medication. We need to book him for follow up blood tests with the vet, but they are closed until they complete their move to a new, larger, location. They’ll even have their own parking lot now! So we will call to book the appointment on Monday (the day after tomorrow), when they are open again.

Cheddar and Leyendecker go in and out rather frequently, which means having to get up and open the door for them when they start scratching at the mat we have under the door to keep them from scratching the carpet. The problem is, my hands are hurting so much, I’m starting to have trouble turning the knob. There have been times when I couldn’t grasp the knob with my right hand at all because of the pain. Even today, while shopping, I’d reach to pick up a jar or something with my right hand, and would get shooting pains in my phalanges and simply couldn’t grip it.

Because of this, rather than trying to fix my door knob, I want to replace it with a lever style door handle. Something I can open even if my hands hurt.

The only ones they had were the heavier duty ones for exterior doors, complete with a deadbolt. Which, of course, is more expensive. There were no simple, cheap, lever handles for interior doors.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to find some at the hardware store when I pick up the screws I need.

Which I could have done today, but completely forgot when I had the chance. When I was done at the Walmart, I decided to check out a nearby Canadian Tire to see if they had any seed garlic (the only garlic at Walmart was imported soft neck garlic, which might be treated with something to keep them from growing).

It took a while, but I did find the display!

There were only two bulbs per bag, so I got two bags of two different types. The Nootka Rose (long storing variety) is a new one for us. The other is Music. The garlic we’ve already planted from our own harvest are Porcelain Music. Previously, we ordered our garlic from Veseys, which were packaged by weight, so it felt strange to be paying $6.99 for only two heads of garlic.

We will plant these tomorrow, in the same bed as the ones we’ve already planted.

And there we have it. We’re stocked up for most of the month, with a few extras added. The few things we didn’t get today, we should be able to get locally later on.

It feels especially good to have so much kibble on hand. If I can pick up extra later on, I will. When winter hits, the outside cats are going to be eating a lot more to keep their winter fat, and there are going to be more outside cats than before, too!

Hopefully, it will be mild winter, but we’re not going to be counting on that!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: planting garlic

No, that’s not a typo in the title. Today, I FINALLY planted our garlic for next year.

This morning I first headed out to get my mother checked out of her hotel room, then took her out for brunch – she hadn’t had a proper meal since our take out Chinese food lunch, yesterday! – before taking her home. She did not have the energy to do anything else. I stayed long enough to make her bed up again with fresh sheets and blankets, and push some of the stuff back against the walls, before my mother sent me home. She would not allow me to run any errands for her, even!

Which works out. As soon as could after I got home, I worked on the garlic. The first thing to do was break up the bulbs I’d set aside from our harvest this year.

Would you look at this giant clove!

I had set aside six of the biggest bulbs of garlic we harvested.

Out of those six bulbs, we got a whole 24 cloves.

Twentyfour big cloves, but still… we’re going to need a lot more garlic!

I used broken pieces of bamboo stakes to mark the ends of a row along one side of the prepared bed, then pushed aside the mulch. The soil is loose enough that I could just use a weeding tool to scrape a trough from one end to the other, then deepened it using the jet setting on the garden hose.

Which the kittens were absolutely fascinated by.

Once the garlic was planted evenly spaced down the row and covered, I pulled back a little bit of the mulch. Once things start to get colder, more mulch will be pulled over to cover it for the winter. For now, it’s just enough to protect the row.

From this guy.

This guy and several other little “helpers” that were so determined to dig in the fresh dirt, they ignored the hose I was watering with, until they got sprayed!

Silly things.

Anyhow. Our first garlic for our 2023 garden is in.

I am now going to start making tomato paste for canning, freeing up freezer space for our next stock-up shopping trip.

Little by little, it’s getting done!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: wind damage repair, and an unexpected harvest

This evening, I headed out to see what I could to about fixing the wind damage in the garden. Particularly with the corn. I ended up stealing some bamboo stakes running across the hoops in a couple of other beds, but that still only gave me four. I did have one more, plus a stick, already in the sweet corn, supporting a couple of stalks that had fallen over previously. They were still standing, while the corn around them was flattened!

I ran twine between the poles from end to end of each row, wrapping the twine once around each stalk in that row to hold it up. Even as I was working, I had the wind pushing the stalks, so I scrounged up another pair of sticks. I set them up on either side of the middle, then ran twine between them, catching the support twine in between. This way, whichever direction the wind blows, there will be some support.

Some of the stalks where still trying to fall over, but I could only find one more stick. It was enough to add extra support to the twine in the rows.

The cobs are actually filling out quite nicely! Some of the silks are even starting to dry up, and they should be ripe soon.

The hard part while doing all this was trying not to step on the poor little bean plants on either side of the corn. Since I was there, I checked them over and found a pretty decent little harvest!

I didn’t have a container with me, but I managed to shove them all in a pocket. 😄

There was have it. Our very first harvest of green bush beans, planted late to replace the ones that drowned out.

When watering this bed, I do try to make sure to water the beans more directly, but as I was harvesting, I could feel that they could really use more water. We’ll have to focus in them a bit more!

The next area I worked on was the group of ground cherries that had been flattened.

I managed to find a couple more sticks – I think my daughters intended them as walking sticks! – and grabbed a couple of short pieces left over from hula hoops we used to make row covers last year. The ground cherry plants are a lot more delicate than other plants, and I felt the twine might damage them more, so I threaded it through the pieces. As careful as I was, I could hear branches cracking as I lifted them. I’m not sure all of it will survive.

They are, however, still covered with many flowers, so we’ll still be getting more berries developing.

Once these were done, I started on the kulli corn. I completely forgot to take pictures, though.

One side was fairly easy to do. I lifted the netting up, then used the existing scavenged T posts to hold the twine, which I wrapped around stalks to hold them up. This was on the north side of the bed, and the gust of wind had come from the north, so it was pretty easy to reach things.

The other side was far more difficult. We did lose the top of one stalk completely, and the others were leaning onto the nearby bed of tomatoes. If the net wasn’t there to hold it, they would have fallen onto the other bed, but instead they created a sort of arch.

The tomatoes themselves were outgrowing their supports and falling over. I had to add more support to those, just so I could keep working on the corn without breaking tomato branches. Some of the stakes were leaning over from the weight of the tomato plants, so I just zig zagged some twine between them to pull them together, which gave me enough room to work on the corn.

With the corn, I ended up doing much the same thing; zig zagging twine bank and forth, wrapping it around the top line of twine that was already there, to support the netting. I was able to wrap twine around a couple of the bigger stalks in the middle of the bed to give them extra support, but there really wasn’t much I could do for them. I can’t even guess how well they will recover from this. 😔

Then I went back to the tomatoes and added higher support from end to end to catch the newer growth. They’re looking much better now. There were even a few ripe tomatoes to harvest!

That done, I checked the late garlic in the next bed and decided it was time to dig them up.

The two by themselves on the left are the only two survivors transplanted from the bed the tomatoes are now in. I didn’t bother keeping them separate when I moved the bundle to the canopy tent. We’ll let them dry a bit, then brush the biggest dirt off and either lay them out or hang them up to cure. I’m kind of impressed by them. They’re pretty big, considering what a rough time they had of things! It’s a shame. The bed where only two survived had 90 cloves planted in it. The other one had over 80 cloves planted in it. This is all that made it.

This fall, the garlic will be planted elsewhere. I kept the biggest bulbs from the one bed that did so well, but would really like to plant more. We shall see how it works out, when the time comes.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: new growth, surprise growth, fall planting and our biggest harvest yet.

There is some lovely growth happening in the garden right now.

While we have lots of Cup of Moldova and Sophie’s Choice tomatoes ripening on their vines, these Yellow Pear tomatoes are looking to have a good crop, too. They are actually turning out larger than I expected for this variety. It should be interesting when they finally start turning colour!

These Carminat bean pods are getting so very long! I love their gorgeous dark purple.

With the purple pole beans, we can see quite a few pods developing, though the vines are still trying to extend their reach, and blooming all the way. The green pole beans (sheychelles) have wispy little pods forming, too.

Then I started weeding and discovered a hidden surprise.

There are ripe pods hidden among the greens! It turns out these beans start developing right near the ground, unlike the Carminat, which have no flowers or pods at all near the ground.

Awesome!

After finding these, I made a point of looking more closely at the Blue Grey Speckled Tepary beans – the shelling beans – too. They’ve been blooming for a while, but are still such tiny and delicate plants.

Sure enough, I found time tiny pods starting to form. Since these beans are for shelling only, they’ll just get weeding and watering until the pods are all dried.

We actually have yellow zucchini this year! Last year, I was sure we had at least one germinated, but after transplanting, all we got were green zucchini. So I am happy to get some this year. Especially since we still don’t have any green zucchini developing! We did have female flowers, but there were no male flowers blooming at the same time to pollinate them.

We are finally getting more Sunburst patty pan squash, too. There was also one Magda squash ready to harvest.

All the squash are SO far behind. The squash patch, which is mostly winter squash, and the summer squash bed should be enveloped in plants. It’s unlikely we have enough growing season left for most of them, but we should still get something from the smaller varieties.

Here is this morning’s harvest!

Yes, the peas are still producing! There was only a handful to harvest from the second planting, but it’s the most I’ve been able to pick in one day, this year. We have both the yellow bush beans, and the green pole beans.

With the lettuce, we normally just go in and grab however many leaves we want. This time, I harvested the plants in one area of the L shaped bed in the old kitchen garden, so that the space can be used again.

I was planning to plant fall spinach elsewhere in the main garden area, but changed my mind.

It’s just a small area for now. As more of the bed gets cleared, I’ll plant more.

We got another harvest in this morning, too.

This is the garlic from the bed in the main garden. There isn’t a lot, but they are much larger than last year’s drought garlic!

The other garlic is quite behind, so it might be a while before we can harvest those.

The freshly picked garlic is now strung up under my daughter’s old market tent, where it can get plenty of air circulation as it cures, and we won’t have to worry about it being rained on.

I am quite thrilled by how well these garlic did!

The Re-Farmer

2022 garden: morning in the garden

Just a little big of progress in the garden.

The sour cherry tree by the house has lots of ripe berries, ready to be picked. I’ll have to get the girls to do it, though. A ladder will be needed to reach the ripest ones at the top. This is the most cherries we’ve had since moving here.

We got a pretty decent amount of yellow bush beans this morning. Not enough to make it worth blanching and freezing, never mind canning, but enough for a couple of meals this time.

The purple pole beans are getting more pods, though they are still very thin. I saw the first of the green pole bean pods this morning – tiny wisps of pods! Still no sign of pods, or even flowers, on the red pole beans, while the shelling beans still have lots of flowers, but no pods that I can see.

We should be able to harvest the garlic from this bed pretty soon.

One of the Baby Pam pumpkins is starting to turn colour. This variety doesn’t get much bigger than this. From the looks of it, these are going to be the only winter squash we get out of this patch, other than maybe one kakai hulless seed pumpkin. Even the Teddy squash, which are a very small variety with only 55 days needed to maturity, will likely not get a chance to produce anything. The green zucchini still isn’t producing; they did have female flowers, but no male flowers bloomed at the same time to pollinate them. We do have some golden zucchini developing, though, and some Magda squash I should be able to pick in a few days. Maybe even a yellow pattypan squash or two.

The paste tomatoes, at least, are coming along nicely, with more of them starting to blush.

I was able to harvest more green onions from the high raised bed. Most of these will be dehydrated, and there are lots more I can harvest.

The handful of pea pods are almost all from the second planting. The first planting is, amazingly, still blooming!

Most of the onions seem to be growing well. Some of the red onions have very different shapes, and they are starting to be noticeable. I’m thinking of picking one or two for fresh eating, just to see how they taste.

The one surviving type of turnips are finally starting to have visible “shoulders”. We might actually be able to pick some, soon.

I don’t know what to make of the potatoes. They’re done blooming and we should be able to harvest young potatoes now, but I want to leave them as long as I can. The plants themselves are nowhere near as large as potato plants normally get. There was so much water in that area, I’m sure it stunted the growth of the ones that survived. I still might dig one plant up, of each variety, just to see what there is to see. Will the lack of foliage translate into a lack of potatoes, too? I was really hoping to have a good amount of potatoes to store for the winter. It certainly wouldn’t be enough to last the entire winter for the 4 of us, but it will help us decide if these are varieties we will get again or not.

Every time I’m in the garden, I’m thinking of next year’s garden. One thing is for sure. It is nowhere near big enough to meet our goal of providing sufficient amounts of food to last us until there is fresh produce again. We planted so much, with the expectation of losses, but this year the losses are just too great. Which has really surprised me. I did not expect to get less productivity this year, compared to last year’s drought. Mind you, during the drought, we were watering the garden beds every day, twice a day. This year… well, adding water is easy. Keeping water out is not. Still, even if everything had gone well, we would still probably need double the garden size to meet our long term goal. Short term is to have enough to supply our needs for at least 3 months – the hardest winter months, when we might find ourselves snowed in or the vehicles frozen.

Every year we garden, we figure things out a bit more, from what weather extremes we need to work around, to how much of anything we need to grow, to what we like enough to grow year after year. More me, half the enjoyment of gardening is analysing the results and using that information to make decisions for the next year!

That’s one good thing about having hard gardening years. You do learn more from it, than from years were everything goes smoothly.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: kulli corn, yellow beans and garlic

Yes! Finally! Major transplanting was started today. 🙂

The first thing I needed to finish was topping up the low raised bed they were going into.

Since the snow melted away, we’ve been adding our kitchen compost in the trench, which already had some straw in it, and I even tossed in the soil from various pots we had, from house plants that died, to seed starts from last year that didn’t germinate. The last layer before adding the soil was some fresh grass clippings.

This is the first time this pile of garden soil has been uncovered since last year.

So. Many. Thistles!

And those roots go all the way though the pile.

Which meant I had to bring the makeshift soil sifter into service, so get as many of the roots as possible out. It was long and tedious, but at least it was made a bit easier by scavenging a couple of scrap boards out of a pile to support the steel mesh, rather than the found branches I was using before. Sifting the soil had to be a gentle process, because there were SO many worms.

I kept the worms for the new bed. 😀

After the soil was added, stove pellets were scattered across the top and hydrated so act as a thin mulch. It won’t stop any weeds, but it will help keep the soil surface from compacting. After several soakings, the sawdust was spread evenly with the back of a fan rake.

It took a couple of hours, but I could finally transplant the kulli corn!

They had a major root system going! It made it difficult to get them out of the bins, then pull apart the tubes. The toilet paper really wanted to come apart!

With the larger bin, it was even more difficult to get them out, and the whole thing ended up falling out and apart. I think only one corn plant actually got broken, though. We’ll see if it makes it.

I counted the seedlings, then marked three rows of 20 evenly spaced spots for the corn. The actual total was 58, including some smaller ones that may or may not make it. We ordered 100 seeds, and there were extras, so we’re looking at roughly 50% germination rate. Which I don’t mind. We would have had trouble finding space for more. They are quite closely planted, as it is. Which should be good for improving pollination.

Of the remaining rolls, I broke apart the cardboard and rifled through it. No sign of the remaining seeds that did not germinate. The carboard went into the compost pile, while the remaining soil was used to top dress any seedlings that looked like they could use it.

I had also grabbed a bag of bush beans from last year, picking the one that looked like it had fewer seeds. That was the yellow “Golden Rod” variety. We still have some green bush beans left, too.

I counted the bean seeds and there was 38 – which was perfect! I could plant two rows of 19 beans, in between the corn.

As they are “old” seeds, I don’t expect 100% germination. This bed is very densely planted, but they should be complimentary.

The corn, however, needed to be protected. The question was, how?

I made a trip to the barn and dug out the T posts I spotted in one corner, a while back. There turned out to be 6 of them, all different lengths. :-/

I had to dig holes to be able to set them, using a garden trowel, since a spade would have been just too big. Within inches, I was hitting water, then rocks and gravel. After placing the posts and trying to push the soil back against them, there was literally water, shooting out from the ground, as I stomped on the soil!

We have no post pounder, so I found a heavy hammer to try and drive them deeper. Especially the longest one, but I think that one ended up hitting a rock. Being the short person that I am, for the taller once, I had to stand on the corners of the bed to reach. Even with a board across the corner to stand on, I was wobbling all over the place! LOL

Once they were in, I strung some twine around to further support the net, once it was added. That was a job that had to wait for when the girls were available.

In the two garlic beds, the nearer one had only 6 remaining garlic coming up – and one of those was barely there. I could find no sign of the few others that had emerged, as well.

I decided to transplant those 6 garlic into the other bed. That one has a lot more garlic trying to grow, but there was still plenty of space at one end to transplant the remaining 6 of the other variety.

The left a bed available for planting into, which we did end up doing.

The main challenge was, how do we cover the bed with netting, yet still be able to access the plants, easily, for weeding and eventual harvesting of yellow beans.

Piece of pool noodles were added to the tops of the posts, so they wouldn’t tear apart the net. When the one on the tallest post fell off, I left it. If it tears, it’ll only go down to the twine, and will actually line up better with the rest.

When I brought the T posts out of the barn, I also grabbed a stack of narrow pipes. I have no idea what they were for, or why they were stored there, but I figured the might make good supports. The short ends of the net are wrapped around those pipes and zip tied into place. For the long sides, we zip tied narrow fence posts we found… somewhere, to weigh down the netting. Any gaps were further secured with ground staples. If we want to tend the bed, we can remove the ground staples and lift the poles to get under the netting.

Hopefully, that will work out.

The corn can potentially grow to 8 ft tall, which is higher than the netting, but if they do get that tall, we’ll deal with it, then.

That was my big job for today, but it wasn’t the only one we got accomplished! I’ll write about that, in my next post. 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: sad garlic

I’m mentioned in previous posts, that two of our garlic beds are not doing well. We planted all three beds at the same time, last year.

While doing my rounds this morning, I caught one of the yard cats being… inappropriate… in one of the low raised bed and chased it off. On checking the damage, I saw it had dug up one of the cloves we planted last year.

That is most definitely a dead clove. You can see that it had started to sprout, which would have been the fall growth before the snow fell. It does seem like cold killed a lot of these off.

This garlic is from the bed planted with Rocambole garlic.

There were 90 cloves planted in this bed. This morning, I counted maybe 7, including what looked like a tip just barely breaking through.

The bed with Purple Stripe in it is doing a bit better, in that there are more emerging, but it still looks like less than half have survived the winter, and they are all so very tiny.

I am curious as to why these beds did so poorly over the winter, while the Porcelain Music planted in the low raised bed in the main garden are doing to very well right now. Could it be, that the slightly higher boxes offered less protection than the lower, log framed bed?

Well, whatever the reason, I hope what few have survived manage to do well, even if they are quite a bit behind in growth. It may just mean we’ll be harvesting them later in the summer.

The Re-Farmer

Some progress today

I’m going to try something a bit different with my images today. I’m starting to run low on storage space on WordPress. The only way to increase it is to upgrade my legacy plan – at more than triple the price. Instead, I’ll try uploading them elsewhere and embedding them. Please let me know if you have any issues with them.

I actually got useable pictures of the outside cats while doing my rounds this morning!

I spotted a dozen of them, in total, this morning. There was about eight of them waiting at the door for me! It’s been a while since they’ve done that. 🙂

Today, I actually got ahead on a few things. I wasn’t sure if I would, since I was heading to my mother’s to help her with her shopping and didn’t know how long I’d be gone.

I picked up our usual lunch along the way, though she didn’t think she would be up to a larger meal. I figured if she wasn’t, we could just put it in the fridge for later. By the time I got there, though, she did have some of it, and was glad for the change. Plus, she still has some for later, so that worked out.

She is feeling better, though still says she hurts from top to bottom. My brother thinks she has the flu, though the way she describes it, it sounds like how I get when the barometric pressure changes drastically – and we do have thunderstorms on the forecast! To be honest, most of my joints are hurting, too. Stiff and sore finger joints are making it hard to type! So to me, that seems a likely cause, since she has no other symptoms other than a slight headache.

Still, she wasn’t going to go to the grocery store with me. She took her Tylenol, and was going to stay home to rest. She was feeling pretty sad about having to miss a dinner event tonight. One of the local colonies used to host annual dinners with entertainment for widows and widowers, and she looked forward to them every year. They weren’t allowed to host these for the past two years, and she really missed them. When they called to confirm if she were coming and she had to say no, they asked if they could bring her a care package! She happily said yes. That was sweet of them. 🙂

After going over her list to make sure I knew what she wanted, and in what quantities, etc., I headed to the grocery store. As I was unloading the items at the cash desk, the cashier asked about my mother! I didn’t recognize the cashier, though; it’s the first time I’ve seen all of her face, but she recognized me since I have never been able to wear a mask, and this is one of the few places where it was safe for me to go to. It was nice that she asked about my mother. She thinks my mom is funny. 😀

Once back at my mother’s place and putting stuff away in her fridge, there was a knock at the door. It was one of her neighbours, coming to check up on her! Then, as I was leaving, a passed another neighbour coming out of her apartment, and she asked how my mother was, too, telling me she’d checked on her last night.

I am glad that my mother has so many neighbours keeping an eye out for her! Now that the abusive caretakers have quit, things are really good in her building now. 🙂

It turned out to be a really nice day today, and the winds died down, so once I got home, I snagged a daughter and we set the platform up for hardening off the transplants, out of reach from critters that might eat them. There are now so many seedlings germinating in the flat trays of cucumbers and summer squash right now – only the green zucchini isn’t germinating yet – I even brought those out, too, setting them up on the roof of the cats’ house, along with the new strawberries. It’s been a few days since we brought the trays and bins out, so I only wanted to leave them for an hour. They really should have been in the shade, but that wasn’t an option, so I brought a hose out of storage and misted them all, and made sure the trays and bins all had water in their bottoms.

Then I took advantage of the lovely day and finished up the chimney block planters at the chain link fence.

The last four got a layer of shredded paper on the bottom, a layer of the soil from the new bed in this spot last year, a layer of straw, then topped with more soil. Between the space the blocks take up, and the layers of straw and shredded paper, there was extra soil, so that got used to top up the four blocks that were done in the fall and had settled. This is the garden soil we bought two truckloads of last year, so I didn’t want to waste any! Once these were filled and the soil in the path smoothed off, I used straw to cover the path along the blocks, so it wouldn’t be muddy to walk on. The blocks all got watered to help the soil settle in, too.

These are now ready for anything with a vining habit, or that can use the support of the fence.

That done, I decided to do a bit of work in a bed I’d already prepared in the old kitchen garden. I noticed some greenery coming through at one end, and wanted to pull those out so they wouldn’t cause problems for the food plants we’ll be planting there. A good excuse to use my new garden fork! 😀

Well, it didn’t turn out to be the quick job I thought it would be.

I’d already prepped the bed using a hoe, but once I started digging deep with the fork and pulling those plants up from the roots, I just kept finding more roots.

And more roots.

Then more roots!

Before I knew it, I was working my way across the entire bed.

Part way through, my timer went off. I got my daughters to help me bring the transplants back into the sun room, so I could get back to work faster! 😀

While working on the bed, I remembered that we still had an upper piece of spruce tree by the compost heap. Most of it had been used in the high raised bed, but the upper parts were too thin and wonky. I figured it would do very well in the old kitchen garden. When I was done pulling out as many roots as I could – there was no way I was going to get all of them! – my daughters helped me bring the log over and set it in place.

After leveling the soil, I hosed off the log and the blocks to clean things up a bit and settle in the soil. Later on, we’ll add more straw to the paths, and I’ll make sure to push some against the underside of the log as much as possible, to make sure no soil gets washed out under the bendy parts of the log.

I think this will work out rather well. As we find ourselves with other leftover pieces of log like this, we’ll probably border the L shaped bed with them, too, to help keep the soil from eroding into the paths.

You can see some of the roots I pulled out, in the lawn on the other side of the retaining wall blocks. While all the roots couldn’t be removed, it should still go a long way in reducing how many of these… whatever they were… from growing around whatever we end up planting here.

One thing is for sure; the soil here is SO much improved since we first started working on this garden! I could easily push the garden fork deep into the ground, and the soil was rich with earthworms. This bed would do well for any deep root vegetable – as long as we can keep the groundhogs and deer out!

Speaking of which…

The wire fencing we’ve managed to put around the tulip patch seems to be working. No new tulips have been eaten, and even among the ones that did get eaten, some look like they are growing again. They won’t be able to bloom, but should at least be able to store enough energy to be able to regrow next year.

One other thing that is growing well is the garlic in the main garden area.

They are getting so tall! The garlic in the other two beds, in the south east yard, are just barely breaking ground right now, but here, some of them at as much as 8 inches tall! What a difference. They were planted at the same time, and mulched the same way. The only major difference is location and, with that, sunlight. This particular bed, which is right next to our first high raised bed, would be getting light for more than 12 hours, this time of year. The other two beds get at least 8 hours of light this time of year, but are in shade for the morning hours.

This bodes well for when we build more of the permanent high raised beds in this area.

Gosh, it feels good to be working outside again! We’re supposed to get light rain tomorrow, with warmer temperatures. Weather willing, I’m looking forward to getting back at it! I especially want to prepare the areas the potatoes will be going in. I got an email with a tracking number from Canada Post today, and they should arrive by the 24th.

I can hardly wait to get those into the ground!

The Re-Farmer

Things that make us smile

I had a few pleasant surprises this morning. Such as some new crocuses that exploded into bloom overnight!

When I checked them this morning, there was only this one cluster of purple crocuses. I just got back from walking around the yard with my daughters, and a second cluster was blooming, next to it!

There may be only a couple of clusters of purple crocuses, but the yellow ones burst into bloom all through the area we planted them – and there are more spikes of leaves that we can see that haven’t developed flower buds yet. It’s going to be so beautiful, once they all start blooming!

There was another wonderful surprise this morning, in the sun room.

The very first Tulip tree has emerged! I was really wondering how these would do, as there is so much mold on the soil and pots.

Meanwhile, in the big aquarium greenhouse, there are now 4 out of 8 watermelons germinated, and another Apple gourd is breaking through.

Oh, and I have to make a correction about those peppers in the sun room.

I really out to read my labels. They’re eggplant. The peppers are still in the mini-greenhouse in the living room! 😀

I’m seeing a lot fewer cats around when I put the food out in the morning.

Only 3 came to the kibble house.

The Distinguished Guest is still limping, but he is putting weight on that injured leg again. He’s pretty skittish right now and I wasn’t able to come near him.

Speaking of skittish, there were 4 at the tray under the shrine, and I had to zoom in from quite a distance to not scare them off from the food.

After doing my morning rounds, I headed into the city to finally do our second shop that we normally would have done a week ago. We’re able to pull the van into the yard to unload now, which is much nicer!

After things were put away, the I joined the girls to look at things outside. They wanted to see the new seedlings (there are SO many Kulli corn coming up, too!), and we found a potato.

Or should I say, a Potato Beetle.

This is partly why I wanted to put a platform for the transplants above the swing bench. Last year, we had bins right on the bench. The platform is high enough that any cats in the sun room can still use the swing bench as a bed.

He’s really liking that roll of mosquito netting!

It’s 20C/68F right now, and tomorrow is supposed to hit 22C/72F. The sun room gets warm enough, we leave the inner door open with the screen window in the outer door open all the way, the ceiling fan on, and even the inner door of the old kitchen open, and the screen window of the outer door open, too. It’s a lot cooler in the the old kitchen, so it should help cool the sun room down, while the sun room should help warm the old kitchen up a bit. We wouldn’t want things to get too hot in the sun room for the plants – or for Potato Beetle!

Gosh, he’s adorable.

While checking things out, the girls and I went into the main garden area, where there is another garlic bed mulched with straw. They helped me remove the straw just over to the bale nearby, and we had a very pleasant surprise.

Almost all the garlic is coming up already! They’re mostly yellow from lack of light, and uncovering them will help with that. This bed warmed up much faster than the other ones. These are the Porcelain Music garlic.

We checked the other beds and, with their straw mulch gone, they are no longer frozen in the middle. We should be seeing garlic coming up there soon, too.

Before heading inside, I checked one more thing – the cat’s house! I’ve looked through the windows a few times today, and usually saw two adult faces looking back at me. The adults happened to be out this time, though.

It is very hard to see through the smudged up window, but I am positive there are now two litters in here.

That tuxedo in the back is one of the first kittens I saw. The grey tabby and the grey and white it’s using as a pillow are its siblings. I could never tell how many more there were, but thought there could be 4, or even as many as 6, but we just couldn’t see them well enough. I was pretty sure there was at least one more dark, possibly black, kitten.

Looking at the photo above, it looks like there are two much smaller kittens! And possibly that 4th dark, possibly black, kitten I can never be sure I’m seeing.

If it wouldn’t result in the mamas moving the kittens and hiding them somewhere else, I’d be popping up the roof to check on them, and start socializing them.

And clean the inside of the windows, so we can see them better! 😀

At it is, I’m concerned just looking through the windows might scare the mamas away with their babies. After I checked in them, I started heading to the sun room and found a matched set of cats – Junk Pile and the ‘iccus that’s been hanging out with her – coming around the corner of the cat house. They froze in matched poses, with matching expressions of alarm, staring at me. Even when they finally moved, it was like they were synchronized! Too funny.

I quickly headed in so they could go in to the babies. If my guess is right, these two mamas are taking care of both litters together, as we would sometimes see Butterscotch and Beep Beep do. Well. Mostly Beep Beep. Butterscotch spent as little time with her kittens as she could!

So many things to make us smile today!

The Re-Farmer

Garden prep – getting work done outside

Oh, what a lovely, lovely day! I was able to get things done that have been waiting for a day like today.

Before I get to that, though, take a look and who I found.

Possibly the same grog (groundhog) I saw this morning. It was at a space under the fence critters use to get through the chain link, but there’s water there right now. Because I was so close, it wanted to run through, but didn’t want to go through the water! It ended up running down the fence towards the junk pile, and I didn’t see it again until I was back in the house. The girls told me it was at the feeding station outside our living room window! I could tell it was the same one because it’s got burrs or something it its fur.

Then, as I sat down at my computer to upload photos, I saw two grogs running across the driveway towards the inner yard.

*sigh*

We’re going to have our work cut out for us!

Anyhow. Back to business!

The first thing I wanted to get done was lay out the salvaged black tarps (or whatever they are) in the main garden area.

Click on the images to see them larger.

In the background, you can see sticks coming out of the ground where a groundhog’s den used to be. It took shoving those sticks into the hole and burying them to finally get it out of there. They will be trimmed, later.

The black plastic should help warm up the soil, while also killing off the grass and weeds. We will be growing potatoes here, using the Ruth Stout deep mulching method, to start reclaiming this area.

When we’ve used these tarps before, we’d weigh the edges down with rocks, bricks, fence posts – whatever we could find. Since then, I found a big bag of cheap metal tent pegs, so I used some of those to pin the tarps down. The ground is thawed enough that I had no problem pushing them through – except for the rocks.

So. Many. Rocks.

I think only one tent peg actually made it through with minimal problems, and even then, I could feel it pushing past more rocks.

We have three types of potatoes on the way. Two at 5kg/11 pounds and one at 1kg/2.2 pounds. We will likely break the spaces covered by the tarps into 4 beds with paths, if only to make things easier to reach. We may plant the two 5kg types of potatoes here, and find somewhere else of the 1kg of potatoes. Maybe use one of the two grow bags I picked up on sale, for such a small amount.

The next area I wanted to work on was the chimney block bed along the chain link fence. The last 4 blocks had been brought over and were waiting to be placed.

At this point, all I wanted to do was level off the soil with a hoe, then line the blocks up along the fence. The ground slopes downward along this area, and the gap under the chain link increases along the way. When we built the bed here last year, we had to add boards along the fence to keep the soil from washing away when we watered things. It didn’t work as well as in the other bed (the one now bordered with bricks, in the background) because of all that space under the fence. Having these blocks will solve the erosion problem.

The blocks won’t be filled quite yet. I want to put some more organic material at the bottoms before returning the soil, and adding more, if needed. The ones we filled last year look like they could use some topping up, too.

Next, it was the garlic and asparagus beds.

I’ve been reading up and watching videos about growing asparagus – which is not yet showing – and it seems they do well with deep mulching (as well as being planted together with strawberries, which we might do). The garlic beds have mulch on them that I have decided to take off, and move to the asparagus.

First, the garlic beds.

Click on the images to see them in a larger size.

Pulling back the mulch, I can feel that the soil has thawed around the edges, but the closer to the middle, the more frozen it is. In the photo on the right, you can see some of the ice crystals exposed as the mulch was pulled back.

Also, this is oat straw, and quite a lot of seeds got caught up with the straw. I was seeing quite few sprouting grains, like the one in that second photo! (click to enlarge)

Both beds are now uncovered. The bed that’s in the back was more frozen than the one in the foreground. I couldn’t pull off some of the mulch because it was stuck in ice.

Now that there is no longer mulch insulating the ice, it should be melted by the end of the day. We’re at 18C/64F as I write this, so it won’t take long for the beds to thaw, and the garlic can start growing again.

As for the straw mulch…

The red lines mark there the asparagus is, plus there is a narrow band around it, where we shoved in some tiny onions that were really too small for transplanting, but we didn’t want to just toss. They didn’t do well, which is not a surprise, but what is a surprise is that the bulbs survived the winter and are starting to grow! So when the mulch from both garlic beds was added over the asparagus, I made sure it was not really covering where the onions are.

Who knows. We might ended up being able to collect Norstar onion seeds this year!

The asparagus planted here is a purple variety, and this is its second year. Two years from now, we should be able to start harvesting them. We also plan to get green asparagus crowns, but we’ve got so many things to plant this year, it sort of went by the wayside. I’m still not sure where we’d want to plant them, since it would be permanent.

Maybe here?

When we first cleaned out there area, there was a tire planter that was a car tire cut in half around the circumference, the tire flipped inside out, and still attached to the rim, which raised it up a bit. I had dug it out and tipped the soil onto the ground, discovering it was covering the stumps of a maple – which promptly started to send up suckers! Then we discovered that the planter had been for a type of flower that spreads through rhizomes. Which means I inadvertently spread a weed.

When we built the bed here last spring, we used carboard to try and kill things off first, then layered straw and soil on top of the carboard, to make the new bed. We planted strawberry spinach. If any of them sprouted, we had no way to tell, and they didn’t last long. Instead, the bed was filled with all sorts of other things we didn’t want in it.

So today, I took my nice, new garden fork to it, broke it up and pulled out as many roots and rhizomes as I could find. I then scrounged in the garage and found a couple of pieces of panelling, which I placed on top of the space between the two beds, for something to stand on, and also to smother out more of those flowers!

The little stumps are something we’re going to need to get rid of, too.

I’m not sure what we’ll be planting here. Maybe some squash or gourds, which can be heavily mulched and has large leaves to further shade and kill off anything we don’t want to be growing here.

That was it for outside garden prep. I also adjusted some things in the sun room.

The bright LED shop light that had been used on the inside of the plant shelf got rigged to light the new growing platform over the swing bench. This may be a “sun” room, but it’s not a greenhouse, and this far back from the window doesn’t get much direct sunlight at all.

Also, I’m happy to say that it looks like the two little peppers I thinned out of the other pots have perked up and may actually survive!

Once these were all taken care of, I started to dismantle the broken canopy tent frame. I could only do part of it, because I only brought a Phillip’s screwdriver with me, and the rest of them need a hex tip. Which I have, but I’ll continue it another time.

I still can’t get that one leg out of the soil. I can move it around, and the ground is thawed out for at least a couple of feed, but I just can’t pull it out. We’ll have to dig it out! The amount of force from that falling piece of tree must have been amazing to push that leg, with the flat plate on the bottom, through frozen ground must have been something else! So glad it didn’t land on the BBQ, or it would have been destroyed!

While working on the frame, I noticed the window in the back of the storage house had its cover knocked off, so I went over to put it back. Before I did, though, I could see it was wet under there, so I put my phone on flash, stuck it through the window and took some blind shots.

Oh, dear.

With how the water had formed a moat around the storage house, not coming up to the house itself, I thought it might have been pretty dry. Talk about wrong! It’s a lake under there! The kitties have lost their largest shelter.

This is also the brightest I’ve ever seen it under there. I’m not usually there and taking pictures, this time of day!

Well, no surprise that the entire storage house has been slowly sinking if it gets like this during wet years!

In the 14 day forecast, there are a couple of days where we are expecting light showers, but beyond that, we’ve got all warm and sunny, or mostly sunny, days for a while. That is going to be a huge help in giving the soil a chance to absorb more water, and the high water levels to drop or drain away. That means more chances to prepare garden beds for planting!

I’m having so much fun right now… 😀

The Re-Farmer