Our 2022 garden: melon patches

It’s been a very long, hot day today, and we got a lot done in the garden!

My first priority was to get the melons transplanted, as they were getting too crowded in their toilet paper tube pots and starting to yellow and weaken. We had 100% germination on all but the watermelon, but one seedling had already simply withered away.

The only place we really had for these was in the deep straw mulched beds that have potatoes planted in them. The potatoes are in the north side of the beds, with one having slightly less room than the other.

I had 4 varieties of melons with just 4 seedling each, so they went into the bed that was slightly smaller.

The Zucca melon, which is actually a gourd and can grow extremely large, is planted on the far right in this photo. For the longest time, we had only one seedling of the Zucca. A second one germinated late, and I was happy with that. Then, less than a week ago, the law two germinated! As they grow, we can train the plants out into the open area beside the bed, where we hope they will shade the grass and weeds. I’ll be going over the area with the weed trimmer, working to cut things as close to the ground as possible, which will help, too.

The other three varieties are from grocery store melons. One, on the far left, is Crenshaw melon. The other two, I lost the names off. Both are cantaloupe type melons. On the label for the jar of seeds, I’d made note that one of the (right of centre) had a nice crisp texture. The other (left of centre) has only 3 seedlings. There’s a prepared space to plant something, if we want.

To plant these, I dug my way through the straw to the carboard, which was still nice and damp. After cutting through the cardboard, I dug out a small hole and loosened the soil, then drilled down into the holes with the hose on the jet setting. Each hole then got a spade full of sifted garden soil (and any worms that hitched a ride) before the melons were finally planted. The seedlings aren’t particularly large, and in the deep mulch, they practically disappear!

This bed is slightly larger. I started 8 Halona melons and 8 Kaho watermelons from seed, so I prepped two rows of four, just like the other bed, with more space in between for a path.

The watermelons were much like the Zucca… some germinated early, some just recently. Of the 8 seeds, there were 5 seedlings, but I went ahead and planted all 8, just in case the remaining seeds still germinated.

Getting these in took quite a while, though I think most of the time was spent sifting the weed roots out of the garden soil. It took two wheelbarrow loads of sifted soil to fill all the holes, with a bit left over.

I was returning the wheelbarrow to the pile of soil for my daughter to use when planting the last of the trees, when I had a bit of of a surprise. There was a car in the driveway, and a woman had just climbed the gate to get in. !!! She turned out to be with the electric company to do a regular maintenance check on our meter. They do it about once every year or two. The startling part was, from a distance, she looked just like my sister! 😀

I’m quite happy to have gotten the melons in. I don’t know that they’ll all survive – at least one might not make it, as it had so few roots, it fell out of its pot as I tired to remove them from the small bin they were in. Before heading in for lunch, I watered all the other transplants, and so far, nothing looks like they are suffering transplant shock.

After that, I took a break from the heat (!!!) before moving on to the next project, which I will write about in my next post. 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden; new sprouts, indoors and out

While doing my morning rounds today, I made a point of visiting the old kitchen garden. The girls had gone out to see the sprouting crocuses and tulips yesterday, and checked out the side of the old kitchen garden, where they had planted irises and daffodils. We have some of both coming up!

They took some scrap boards and lay them on the ground outside where the seedlings are, to make sure no one accidentally walks too close to the new sprigs. These had done so poorly last year, only partly due to the drought, so we’re really amazing to find they survived.

Also in the old kitchen garden, I checked the rhubarb. One patch is next to where the irises and daffodils are planted.

It looks like something has been eating them! Rhubarb leaves are toxic, but is that true of emerging leaf buds? I don’t know, but these have been chewed on.

The other patch is on the opposite side of the garden.

I moved some snow to uncover the emerging rhubarb on the right. Some of the ones on the left were chewed on, too.

Very strange.

More snow had melted away in the area we planted grape hyacinth, so I checked there, too.

Yes! There are some grape hyacinths sprouting! I’m so excited about these. I just love grape hyacinths. 🙂

More of the area the crocuses were planted is snow free, too, so I checked that out.

Some snow crocuses are actually showing flower buds! They’re barely out of the ground, yet, and already trying to bloom! Awesome!

Things are sprouting like crazy in the big aquarium greenhouse, too.

Just look at all those melons sprouting! Only the Halona melons are from purchased seed. The rest are seeds saved from grocery store melons.

The toilet paper tube pots were supposed to get one seed each, but I see an extra Halona melon seed snuck in. 😀

Only the watermelon and the Zucca melon, which is a type of birdhouse gourd, have not had any seeds germinating yet.

Meanwhile…

We now have a second Tennessee Dancing Gourd sprouting, and two types of hulless pumpkins. Last night, there was one Kakai in the back) and one Lady Godiva (in the foreground), but this morning, another Lady Godiva sprout exploded out of the soil.

I am so looking forward to seeing how these turn out!

We have just a few more things to start indoors, and that should be done soon.

If all goes well, we’ll be direct sowing into the garden in a few weeks, with cold hardy seeds that can be sown before last frost.

I can hardly wait. 😀

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: melons, melons and more… gourd?

We’ve been keeping a close eye on the weather, as the Colorado Low continues to push northwards. We’ve had a few short downpours and high winds from the north, with milder rain continuing throughout the day. The forecasts are still saying it will turn to snow in our area overnight, but that there will be almost no accumulation, as it’s expected to melt on contact.

Which means there’s water leaking from the sunroom ceiling, and there is water starting to seep through the concrete in the old basement. Oddly, it’s puddling on the north side, not the south, where it usually gets damp first. I’ve got the blower going to try and dry things a bit. So far, the water in the sump pump reservoir doesn’t seem to be increasing yet.

A perfect day to start more seeds!

Here we have the purchased seeds. The Zucca melon is actually a gourd. It can grow to prodigious size, with 130 days to maturity, but when they’re young they can be picked and eaten like zucchini. The Halona melon seeds are left over from last year. We do have some saved seeds, but I decided to use up seeds from last year, instead. The Kaho watermelon is a rare, yellow fleshed variety we wanted to try, and hopefully save seeds from.

Then there are the other seeds we saved from grocery store melons. One has the sticker from the melon itself, so I know the name of it; Crenshaw. With the other two, the stickers were lost, and I couldn’t remember what they were. I do remember the one on the right had a wonderful, crisp texture to it.

After deciding how many of each I would plant, I scarified the larger seeds, then set them all to soak while the pots were prepared.

I was originally going to put these in the little biodegradable Jiffy pots, with several seeds per pot, but decided against that. I decided to use more toilet paper tube pots, with one seed each, in one of the small bins.

The tubes I had left were a smaller size than the ones we used for the kulli corn, so they wobbled around more in the bin. After deciding how many of each type I would plant, I cut up a couple of disposable plates we happen to have. Several pieces were used as dividers between the different types, then leftover edge pieces were tucked along one side to hold all the tubes in place.

After shifting the Solo cup pots to make room, the bin fit quite nicely beside them. I decided to plant 8 each of the Kaho watermelon and the Halona melon, then 4 each of the others. Hopefully, we’ll have a good germination rate and have lots of melons this year, but honestly, I’ll be happy if we get only one of each. What was that poem again?

Four seeds
In a row
One for the rook
One for the crow
One to die and
One to grow

Thankfully, we don’t need to worry about rooks and crows when starting indoors. Just cats.

The Re-Farmer

First ice, last winter squash and melons

Thanks to my husband being up at ungodly hours and feeding the outside cats for me, I didn’t have to head out for my morning rounds until things had started to warm up a bit. Even so, I found ice!

We keep a storage bin with tools and various handy things at the far-flung garden beds. It’s in the shade of the rain barrel (which we no longer fill; it has only enough water to keep it from blowing away), and the rain water that had collected on its lid had a layer of ice on it!

The reason I needed to go into the bin was to get a knife. It was time to collect the few remaining winter squash and melons.

The mutant Red Kuri has probably been ripe for a while, and just the outer skin was getting more time to thicken. The smaller one hasn’t reached its mature colour yet. The larger melons are the Pixies. Their vines died off ages ago, but I still had to cut them free!

The two surviving Teddy squash are smaller than they would have been under more optimal conditions, but from what I’ve read about their mature size, not by much. I do think they actually did get a chance to ripen.

The last two Halona melons! They got to this size, and just stopped growing. They are probably not edible, but who knows?

I figure we’ll be cutting into these as soon as we can. I think the winter squash, at least, will be something we can eat, and we’ll want to do that right away. The Pixie melons should probably be fine. Those little Halonas, though… I suspect they will find their way into the compost!

We’re supposed to get a really warm day tomorrow – 18C/64F!! – then back to chilly, but still mild, temperatures. It should be at least a week before we potentially get rain again, then mild for the rest of October. That will give us plenty of time to do more wood chipping, pull of the spent plants, and work on the high raised bed some more. I plan to include garden material among the layers when filling the high raised bed. Every little bit will help!

Yesterday, I consulted with my brother about a job that needs to be done. The old chicken coop – a log building that was a summer kitchen when my parents first acquired the farm – has a corrugated metal roof that was laid over the original wood shingles. A tree had been allowed to grow next to it and, in high winds, the branches had torn away a section of the metal sheets. I cut away the tree last year, so at least there is no new damage from the branches.

This building is still salvageable, but the exposed wood roof needs to be covered, or it’ll end up collapsing like the others. The metal pieces that got torn off are pretty damaged, and I couldn’t even find all of them. There was another building next to the barn with the same type of corrugated metal roof. It collapsed long ago, so the remains of the roof are almost on the ground. It still has several pieces that are bent to fit over the peak of the roof, so I should be able to salvage those, as well as some other pieces, to cover the old chicken coop roof.

The problem is getting up there. I don’t think that roof can hold a person’s weight anymore. Plus, it would be pretty dangerous to try and use a ladder around there. The ideal thing would be to have scaffolding. My brother told me that there used to be scaffolding alongside the building my parents’ stuff is now stored in. I was pretty sure what I would find, but this morning I went to take another look, just to confirm.

No scaffolding.

Something else that disappeared before we moved out here.

*sigh*

My parents ran a fully equipped and functioning farm until their retirement. Sure, it was just two sticks ahead of the stone ages, but as my late brother prepared to take it over, he brought all sorts of supplies and equipment. I’d say it was more like three or four sticks ahead of the stone ages before he died. Now, it’s like I’m down to just one stick ahead of the stone ages. I have fewer tools and resources available now, than when I was a kid and we still didn’t have running water or an indoor bathroom.

It makes taking care of and improving this place, very frustrating!

Ah, well. We make do with what we have. Perhaps, with our vandal taking me to court over the remaining junk, a judge will see fit to order him to return what he took, or pay my mother and brother back for what can no longer be returned. One can dream!

The Re-Farmer

Fall garden update: winter squash and melons

While going through the garden beds this morning, I was just blown away by how much is still growing – and still getting a chance to grow, if the forecasts for October stay true!

The last time I had so many photos to share, I put them together into a video, but it only ever got one view. Clearly that’s not something people are interested in. So today, I will instead make a series of short posts, instead, starting with our winter squash and melons.

This is the very first Red Kuri/Little Gem squash that matures. As you can see in the photo, the vine is completely died back – except for the few inches on either side of the stem!

The vine with the next biggest one still has some green leaves on it. There had been another small squash that started to develop, but it withered away and fell off.

The other one, however, is still getting bigger, and just starting to deepen in colour. The vine it’s on has a lot of cold damaged leaves, but is still mostly green and growing, so this one may actually get a chance to fully mature.

The vine the mutant is on is also still growing, with fresh new leaves showing up even as the older ones get killed off by colder overnight temperatures. We still have not had a frost, which is the only reason we still have hope for our garden!

We are back down to the two Teddy squash, one on each plant. The others that had started to form, withered and fell off, likely due to lack of pollination. I don’t know how much bigger this well get, as they are a very small variety to begin with.

If you notice the white on the squash and leaves, no, that is not powdery mildew, or any other sort of fungal disease. That’s road dust. Even with the lilac hedge nearby, dust from the nearby road still gets through and coats things. Even the summer squash, which is furthest away, has road dust on them. Another reason we want to complete the hedge with dense bushes, and also plant taller trees. They will serve as more than wind breaks and privacy screens, in this area!

Here, you can see that the melon vines have all completely died back. All of them. And yet…

… the remaining melons are very firmly attached to their vines! Of course, they can’t grow any bigger, but I’m hoping as long as they stay out here, they will continue to ripen.

Under the conditions we’ve had, I’m really impressed with all of these. The melons managed to be quite prolific. The winter squash were not as prolific as they normally would have been, but we will at least have a few squash to try, and to see if we like them enough to want to grow these varieties again. We certainly would be willing to grow the Halona and Pixie melons again, though I think that we will try new varieties next year, to see what other varieties we enjoy eating.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: late season growth progress

We have been really fortunate with the frost holding off so far. If the long range forecasts are right, we won’t get a frost for at least two more weeks, possibly longer. Other areas in our province have already had their first frost, so I am really thankful that it’s held off in our area so far.

The continued mild temperatures is giving the garden more time to recover and progress, and we even have some new little surprises this morning!

We’ve got two more Ozark Nest Egg gourds forming! That makes for a total of three. I did not see these two when I checked the garden beds yesterday evening, so this is pretty much overnight growth.

This is one of the new ones, from outside the fence. They have such pretty flowers. 🙂

The Tennessee Dancing Gourds are one I don’t have much concern over. Though there are a lot of little gourds developing still, there are quite a few “large” ones like this, that have reached their full size, but are still ripening on the vine.

One of the few remaining Halona melons came off its vine this morning. There are a couple of somewhat larger ones left that might have enough time to fully mature, plus a few more tiny ones that won’t.

In the background of the photo above, you can see the biggest Pixie melon in its hammock. These guys could really use the extra time, it looks like.

We’ve still got Red Kuri developing, and they are growing fast at this stage – and you can even see a new squash developing in one of the photos.

The mutant is my favourite! 😀 I’m just fascinated by it. It’s shape is different than the other Red Kuri, which can be expected with cross pollination, but it is also getting bigger than the others. If this is the result of cross pollination with the nearby Teddy squash, I would have expected it to be smaller, not bigger! The Teddy squash are a miniature acorn squash and their mature size should be smaller than the Red Kuri. For a hybrid to be bigger than either parent type seems quite unusual. I hope this has time to fully mature, because I really want to see how it turns out!

Speaking of Teddy squash…

We have another new baby! Of the two plants, the one that had only a single squash developing, now has two.

The other plant still has four developing squash, with the one in the photo being the biggest.

While checking the Crespo squash, I was able to find an open line of sight to get a picture of the one developing fruit that I’ve been able to see so far. It should be interesting to see how far it gets, before the frost kills it all. We certainly won’t get the large, green, lumpy pumpkins we are supposed to, but even a little one will be interesting to see.

The cucamelons are an odd one for this year. The plants are growing up the fence rather well, will plenty of blossoms and fruit beginning to develop. Unfortunately, most never get past the size you see in the photo above. They just drop off.

I did find a single, mature cucamelon. Which I ate. 😀 It’s the first larger one I’ve seen in quite some time. This suggests a pollination problem, unfortunately.

And finally, we have our potato bags.

I’m not sure what to make of these! They just don’t seem to be dying back. Oh, the two varieties at the far end are looking a bit like they are dying back, but they also got hit the hardest by the grasshoppers. The two fingerling varieties just keep on growing!

When we first decided to use the feed bags to grow the potatoes, I expected to continually add soil over time. It was after learning that all four varieties are determinate, not indeterminate, that I changed my mind. They would not benefit from having soil continually built up along the stems, so only a single layer was added to protect the developing potatoes from light, and that’s it. The purple fingerlings, however, just keep getting bigger and bigger. Which leads me to think that these may actually be indeterminate potatoes, and would have benefited from continually adding more soil. I don’t know. It should be interesting to see how many potatoes we get when we do harvest them. I don’t image we will be getting many, but we shall see. If we decide to go with grow bags again next year, we will have to make sure to choose indeterminate varieties, which means finding a source for seed potatoes that actually labels them as determinate or indeterminate.

Until this year, I didn’t even know that tomatoes had those labels, never mind things like potatoes!

It has definitely been a year of learning!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: morning in the garden, and thinking ahead

What a lovely morning to finish up my rounds in the garden!

There are quite a few Mongolian Giant sunflowers opening their seed heads. Hopefully, we will see the Hopi Black Dye rows in this area opening soon. They are so cheerful! 🙂

I’m just so happy with how the Red Kuri squash are doing! Judging from how the stem looks, the oldest of the ripening squash, in its little hammock, is progressing quite well, and the other two larger ones are catching up nice and fast. Looking at the long range forecast, our overnight temperatures will continue to stay mild, with no frost on the horizon, which will be a huge benefit for all the plants that are recovering from the heat and drought conditions we had this summer. Lately, we’ve had enough rain that we have not needed to do any watering at all, which is helping a lot, too.

The largest of the Halona melons was ready to pick this morning, so…

… the hammock that was supporting it is now holding the larger of the new Red Kuri squash.

It has been a few days, so this morning, I spent some time picking beans.

I also thinned more of the Lounge Rouge Sang carrots.

I ended up using what vegetables we had in the fridge, as well, to make a use-watcha-got version of Hodge Podge. I used bacon fat instead of butter, all the carrots in the photo, some of all three types of beans, cut into smaller pieces, yellow onion, shallots and garlic, a bunch of little sunburst squash, a zucchini, and the chard we’d picked recently; the stems were removed and chopped to about the size of the beans, while the chopped leaves were added near the very end. Also, chunks of sausage for the protein. For a bit of texture, I tossed in some lightly crushed mixed nuts, too. Instead of water, I used vegetable broth, and the dairy at the end was a mix of sour cream, into which I’d stirred in the flour for thickening, and heavy cream. Since I used broth, no other seasonings were added.

The only downside is that the carrots turned the cream pink! 😀 It was not the most visually appealing of dishes as a result, but is sure was tasty!

While going over the garden and checking things out in general, we are going to have to start working on things that need to be planted at or just before fall. We have the two wildflower seed mixes that won’t be sown until fall, but we need to start preparing the areas now. We won’t be able to do actual seed beds, as the packets recommend, but we can still clear the areas as best we can and, for one set of seeds, hopefully use the riding mower to drag the little harrow I found under the spruce trees and loosen the soil a bit.

We also have the morel and giant puffball spores to “plant”. They need to be done by about the middle of September, if I understand the package directions properly. Unfortunately, where I wanted to put the morels still has a couple of branch piles that were supposed to get chipped. The giant puffballs needs a grassy area, and we have a few options, there. We just need to make a decision before preparing the spores.

We should have good weather for working outside for the next week or so, which will be a huge help.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: the weather was not willing

We did not get the predicted thunderstorms last night, though we did get rain. While I was out doing my morning rounds, I could hear thunder around us, and it was even starting to rain a bit by the time I was done. So, no work was done on the garden bed I’d started on yesterday. We had rain on and off all day, so hopefully those bottom layers got a good soaking.

A few more of the Mongolian Giant sunflowers have started to open up. If the mild temperature continue, I hope to at least see some Hopi Black Dye sunflowers open as well, before the first frost hits. Some areas in our province have already had frost in August, but so far, we are good.

I am really hoping that first frost holds off for quite a while, so that these Red Kuri squash get a chance to mature. Our first frost date for our area is Sept. 10; just over a week from now. From the looks of our long range forecasts, we will continue to have very nice overnight temperatures; cool, but nowhere near freezing.

I especially would love for the Teddy winter squash to have a chance. Yes, we finally have fruit developing on them! Again. I found three of them this morning. Where the Red Kuri/Little Gem squash ripen to a deep orange-red, the Teddy are a mini acorn squash, becoming a deep green and only about a pound in size. The critters have been staying away, after using the cayenne pepper all over the garden beds, even though we have no been able to re-apply the cayenne due to the rain. I am hoping that, having gotten a mouth full of pepper, the critters have learned to associate the garden beds with “ouch”. 😀 If we can keep them away, these are supposed to be a prolific variety, and their small mature size should mean they may have a chance to fully ripen if we have a mild fall.

After checking the outside of the squash tunnel on the winter squash side, I went through the inside of the tunnel and found something waiting for me!

One of the Halona melons had dropped to the ground! I am so happy with how they are doing. 🙂 Of course, after finding this, I checked all the others, but none were loose. After I finished my morning rounds, I made a quick trip into town to run some errands, then headed out again later to meet a friend. While I was gone and there was a break in the rain, the girls picked the beans and some summer squash – and found two more Halona melons on the ground! I’m a bit surprised that it’s only the Halona melons that are dropping; the Pixies are still hanging in there. Literally! 😀

My friend and I went to the local Farmer’s Market this afternoon, and I had a chance to talk to my neighbour that sells pork – this time with a budget, and I picked up some sausages. 🙂 We had a chance to talk for quite a while, and I’m really looking forward to being able to get together with them. There are quite a few things they are doing that I would like to do as well, and I am eager to see their methods! And, from the looks of it, I won’t be able to go back to the market this year. Starting tomorrow, our province is imposing medical apartheid. With nothing to justify it, either. If we want to go to any “non-essential” places, we will have to show our papers to prove we’ve gotten the double jab for Schrodinger’s virus. The jab that works so well, those that have already got it are going to have to get a third one, while still covering their faces and remaining in physical isolation from other human beings. Our government doesn’t actually have the authority to impose such segregation, but they’re doing it anyhow, and people are being forced to comply through threats and coercion. Most illogically, while those who can’t have, or decline to have, the jab are now barred from doing things like buying food from a farmer at a market, instead of in a grocery store, the market vendors themselves are not required to have the jab. The levels of psychological manipulation and behavioural modification from our politicians and in the media, including social media, have gone into overdrive and, sadly, many people are getting sucked in and don’t even realize it. The levels of bullying and verbal abuse I’m seeing online has also increased substantially, in just the last few days. In typical gaslighting fashion, the same people who are doing the bullying are also the same people virtue signalling about how, if we don’t like it, don’t take it out on the poor employees trying to enforce the (illegal) restrictions. The obvious implication being that people who disagree with anyone being forced to partake in medical interventions against their will are the bullies when they voice their objections.

Meanwhile, another neighbor of ours I only recently met in person had an accident almost a week ago, breaking his neck. He requires surgery but isn’t getting it, nor is his family allowed to see him. They are literally denying him health care right now, because he is declining medical certain medical procedures that are unnecessary. Our health care system sucked before this, but now, it’s gotten beyond ridiculous.

Ugh. I was talking about my garden. I didn’t intend to go into a rant. It’s part of what we’re dealing with now, though, so I’m leaving it there.

I am so incredibly thankful that we are living here on the farm, and not in any urban setting. When I came up with the sub-title for the blog, “Sometimes you need to go back, to go forward”, I had no idea how true that would be.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: morning surprises

While doing my rounds this morning and checking the gardens, I was pleased of fine a really big Madga squash ready to pick. After being seasoned with cayenne pepper, the groundhogs are leaving the summer squash alone and they are finally getting a chance to grow! There were even a few zucchini to gather.

The few sunflowers that are opening up are, of course, looking gorgeous!

So far, it’s still just the Mongolian Giant sunflowers with seed heads that are opening. Too bad it’s so late in the season, but we’re still enjoying them.

I had my first little surprise while checking out the squash tunnel.

A little, ripe Halona melon, just sitting on the ground! 😀 So of course I had to check the others that were turning colour, and found the biggest one was ripe, too. The only reason it hadn’t fallen of its vine was because it was already sitting on the ground. 😀

Then there was my second little surprise.

The Tennessee Dancing Gourd vines are starting to die back, revealing two “huge” gourds we had completely missed seeing before!

This is about what their full size would be, I believe. Gosh, they are adorable!!

Our morning harvest!

What a difference in size between the two ripe melons.

I am so happy with how these are doing. 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Perfect!

Last night, we went ahead and had the larger of the two Halona melons that were ripe enough to come off their stems.

When we taste tested our first melons, they were too early.

You can see how green the inside of the rind is, in both the Halona (top) and Pixie (bottom) melons.

What a difference three days can make!

There is almost no green visible, and the knife just slid right through. It was also incredibly juicy! After scooping out the seeds, there was enough juice in the cavity, it could be drunk!

The flesh was smooth and soft, but not so soft as to be mushy. The flavour was very much a cantaloupe flavour, and llightly sweet. The small size makes it perfect for a late night snack, too. 🙂

Since it was so nice and ripe, I’ve kept the seeds to clean and dry for planting next year. It is definitely a melon worth growing again!

The Re-Farmer