Analysing our 2022 garden: ground cherries, wonderberry, Korean Pine, sea buckthorn, silver buffalo berry and highbush cranberry

Okay, it’s that time! I’ll be working on a serious of posts, going over how our 2022 garden went, what worked, what didn’t, and what didn’t even happen at all. This is help give us an idea of what we want to do in the future, what we don’t want to do in the future, and what changes need to be made.

2022 saw us making some significant steps towards our perennial and food forest plans. This included getting nitrogen fixing berry bushes that will also act as privacy barriers and wind breaks, and annuals that are known to easily reseed themselves and can be potentially treated as perennials.

Let’s start with the berry bushes.

The majority of what we got in 2022 were silver buffalo berry, which came in a pack of 30 bare root plants.

As you can see by the first picture, they certainly got affected by the flooding! Mostly just at one end, though – around where you can see the old saw horse in the second picture.

We also got a package of 5 sea buckthorn, which were planted along the lilac hedge, to fill in a gap in the hedge that the deer jump through.

Those are the nitrogen fixers, but we also got a couple of highbush cranberry, which were planted at the ends of the rows of silver buffaloberry, not far from the sea buckthorn. Unfortunately, one of the cranberry saplings got chomped by a deer.

Twice.

That sapling now has the sawhorse over it, to protect it.

The deer seem uninterested in any of the other saplings.

Unfortunately, of the 5 sea buckthorn, one transplant didn’t seem to take at all, and another died soon after. A third got broken somehow and never recovered. So we are down to just two sea buckthorn.

As for the silver buffaloberry, they all seemed to survive. We might loose one of them, but that’s my fault. While I was weeding around them, I accidentally pulled one up. I replanted it immediately, but we won’t know if it survived until next year.

Conclusion:

I’d say our first food trees did okay, for their first growing season here.

We will need to get more sea buckthorn, but we were going to do that, anyhow. Sea buckthorn requires 1 male plant to pollinated up to… I think it’s 5 female plants. The problem is, there’s no way to sex the trees until they are at least a few years old. It’s entirely possible all the saplings we got were female. We were planning to get more later on, which would increase our chances of having both male and female plants.

With so many silver buffalo berry, even if we loose some, there should still be plenty to have the privacy barrier they are partly meant to be.

Now, if we can just keep those two highbush cranberry alive, that would be a good thing!

Thanks to getting the branch pile chipped this summer, we also had plenty of wood chips to place a thick mulch on the carboard around the berry bushes. That should help them a great deal.

It will take a few years before we know how well these do. They are all supposed to be prolific berry producers. If it turns out we don’t like sea buckthorn or silver buffalo berry, they will still serve to help feed the birds, and as nitrogen fixers, privacy screens and wind breaks.

As for increasing our food forest, we currently have two different varieties of apple trees on order. We have a lot of crab apple trees, but we’ve found only one of them tastes good. The very small apples are good for making vinegar and hard cider, plus we have made apple sauce with them. There was a second crab apple tree that had tasty apples, but it seems to have died over the summer.

We’ll have to cut down others that have either died, or have a fungal disease. We will likely end up with just two crab apple trees in the row along the main garden area. Those will be able to serve as cross pollinators that the eating apples we ordered will need.

Also on order is a pair of mulberry bushes specific to our zone, which will arrive in the spring, about the same time as the apple trees. Little by little, we’ll be adding other cold hardy fruit trees, such as plums and pears, but we really need to get started on planting nut trees, as those can take a decade before they start producing.

Speaking of which…


We also planted 6 Korean pine, in the outer yard.

Of the 6 we planted, one promptly got dug up by something. I found the seedling and replanted it, but it did not survive. After that, I picked up some dollar store picnic protectors to put over them. The white fabric made them easy to see, too.

Over the summer, one other seedling died, so we are now down to four. They started to get too tall for their covers, so I used chicken wire, sprayed with orange marking paint for visibility, to create larger protective cages for them. My mother gave us an ash tree she’d grown from seed, and that was planted in one of the spots where a Korean pine hadn’t made it, also with a chicken wire protector around it.

Conclusion:

With the Korean pine, loosing 2 out of 6 is not a major concern. One mature tree would be enough to meet our needs. Anything beyond that is gravy. It’ll be a few years before we really know how they do. These are 2 yr old seedlings, making 2022 their 3rd year. I’ve read that they grow slowly for the first 5 years, then suddenly start getting huge. They are still considered a slow growing tree, and we’re looking at another 6 years before we can expect to harvest pine nuts.

These trees can potentially reach 30 ft wide and 60 ft high, which meant we had to plant them far apart, and take into account other ways we use the area – such as keeping a vehicle sized lane open to access the secondary gate. Over time, we will probably plant other nut trees in the area, as many of them have a chemical they release into the soil, so they have to be planted well away from our vegetable garden and fruit tree areas.

This is all long term stuff. Let’s take a look at the short term stuff now!


This year we planted Aunt Molly ground cherries, and Wonderberry.

The ground cherries are something we’ve grown in containers on a balcony when we were still living in the city, so we at least knew we like them. I’ve seen this on lists of things not to grow, because they reseed so easily, but for me, that’s a bonus.

The Wonderberry is something we’d never grown before, but they were also described as being something that reseeds itself easily, and comes back year after year. We had never tried them before, but the berries are supposed to be good for many things and, if it turned out we didn’t like them, they would still be a good food source for birds.

Which meant that, for both of them, we had to consider planting them in locations where we could allow them to come back, year after year.

The Result:

Based on research, we started the Wonderberry indoors quite early. They were among the seedlings that got damaged by cats and had to be restarted. In the end, we had three plants that could be transplanted, and they actually were doing a bit too well!

The Wonderberry quickly became too large for our indoor growing spaces, including the plant shelf we set up in the sun room. They ended up having to be on another shelf on the side, where there was nothing above to constrict them. They were blooming and forming berries before we could transplant them! We put them around the stone cross in the yard, after pulling up the invasive bell flowers as best we could. Hopefully, the Wonderberry will crowd out the weeds, instead of the other way around!

The ground cherries were planted in a new bed near the compost ring. I had concerns that the transplants would not make it, as the ground was so incredibly saturated. Make it, they did, and they thrived in that location! They got so big that they could barely hold themselves up. After high winds knocked some down, I had to set up supports on one side. They kept right on growing and blooming, and setting fruit.

Conclusion:

After transplanting, the Wonderberry seemed to take a while to recover, and they never got much bigger. However, they continued to bloom and produce berries until the frost finally got them.

The berries themselves are… not anything special. They didn’t live up to their descriptions. They were surprisingly prolific, considering how small the plants remained. We were fine with eventually leaving them to go to seed, and we shall see if they come up again in the spring. The only problem is their location: I kept forgetting they were there, when I was weeding and watering! So they were a bit neglected. I think they can handle that all right, though!

The ground cherries, on the other hand, were amazing! They got very large, and started continuously producing so many flowers and berries! The plants got so thick, it was actually difficult to reach and harvest the berries. Mostly, I picked what had fallen to the ground, as I knew those would be ripe. Ultimately, though, I just let it go, so that more could fall to the ground to grow next year.

If they do start growing, I want to put in a support structure using some horizontally placed 4″ square fence wire we found, to help support the plants as they grow taller. In fact, I might put two layers of the wire supports, given how tall the plants got!

These berry bushes, whether shrubs or annual plants, are all part of plant to feed not only ourselves, but birds and even the soil. I think we got a good start on the whole thing. This is definitely an area that requires long term planning, and careful decision making. As much of a problem the flooding was, it did give us information that will be quite useful as we make these decisions.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: little vegetables, deer damage, more mulching – and Leyendecker update

My daughters were finally able to finish raking up grass clippings from a couple days ago and bring them to the squash and corn patch for me. My older daughter still isn’t feeling very well, but she is much improved, at least, and can be more active again.

While they did that, I did my morning rounds and checked on things. My first find was a disappointment.

The deer chomped this highbush cranberry. Again! It had been recovering so well from the last time they beheaded it. The other cranberry was ignored. The silver buffalo berry and sea buckthorn are being left alone. I don’t know why they keep going after this one.

I wasn’t sure what to expect in the garden this morning. I was awakened by a crashing, early this morning, and discovered Nosencrantz had tried to get at the window again. I’ve actually had to put other screens in front of the window to protect it, because as much as I don’t mind them sitting on the window sill, I DO mind them clawing at the screen and making holes. When I had the window fan set up, they kept trying to jump on top of it and knocking it off, so they could claim the space. I took a couple of the old window screens I found in the shed and barn that we’ve been using for various things. They’re different sizes, so it took two of them to fully cover my window. They’ve got cord running across to hold them in place, but I still need to be able to slide them aside to reach the window. Which means that, if she’s determined enough. Nosencrantz can knock the screens off entirely.

Which is what woke me up.

As I was putting the screen back up, I heard the furnace shut off.

I hadn’t even noticed the furnace was on. Why did the furnace turn on???

Well, it turns out that, instead of the overnight low of 11C/52F that was forecast, the actual temperature at the time was 5C/41F. The girls had their windows open – it was finally bearable up there for them! – but with the way air circulated in this house, that resulted in a cold wind blowing down the stairs.

I have since turned the thermostat down further.

This is where looking at the long range forecast frustrates me. According to those, we weren’t supposed to have overnight lows like that until the end of September. Our average first frost date is Sept. 10, which is Friday. Over the next while, we’re supposed to go up to 28C/82F with a low of 15C/59F on Thursday, then drop to 16C/61F with a low of 4C/36F on Friday, then warm back up again.

Which would be okay, if that actually happened, but if our overnight low was less than half of what was forecast, how can I trust we won’t get frost temperatures?

Well, we can just hope.

The baby eggplant is getting bigger, but looked like it was about to break off its stem, so I dug out the last of the tomato cages I bought this spring and set it up.

Remarkably, there are tiny little peppers forming! They are supposed to turn purple when fully ripe, but I doubt there is enough growing season left for that.

Oh, I forgot to mention. My daughters taste tested the Chocolate Cherry tomatoes, and just loved them. They are very flavourful. The red tomatoes are very mild flavoured. The yellow pear have more flavour, but not compared to the other cherry and grape tomatoes we grew last year. So we won’t grow the yellow pear tomatoes again, but will be saving seed from the Chocolate Cherry. We got the seeds from Veseys, but they don’t seem to carry them anymore. From what I can find, though, they are an open pollinated, heirloom variety, so saving the seeds should give us the same variety. I did find some sites listing them as a hybrid, though, so perhaps there are more varieties with the same name. No matter. We will give it a try!

The girls got a nice big pile of grass clippings gathered for me. This is just from the south yards, which I cut a couple of days ago, so the clippings had time to dry in the sun a bit.

It was enough to finish mulching either side of the sweet corn, around the green bush beans, and most of the space between the corn. I did have to rake up more grass clippings from the north yard where I mowed yesterday to finish the job. The grass in the west yard is so sparse, there are no clippings worth raking up.

At this point, the amending that’s being done here is more for next year. We will be moving the trellises closer to the house next year, and these might be good places to put them. I don’t know when I’ll be able to start taking down trees to build more high raised beds – there are only 2 that are unobstructed and can be taking down at any time. Others need to wait until the garden beds in the east yard are done, and those ones need to be cleared before yet others can be cut down.

So even if things just don’t work out and we’re not able to build any high raised beds this fall, we can still use the new beds we made for the potatoes and melons, and in this corn and squash bed, to build tunnel trellises – I’d want to build two, I think – and more basic trellises with other materials we have available. I think these might even be permanent or semi-permanent locations for trellises, so we can make the extra effort to ensure they are not wonky and wobbly, like the ones we’re using for one last year right now. Which means the more mulching and other amending we do this year, the better it will be for next year.

I’ve also been looking at the grape vines. I want to transplant them to a better location, and would love to build an arbour style trellis for them. It would be nice to make an arched style arbor over the people gate in the chain link fence, but not with those big elms above. Those are not as high on the priority list, though, so we have time to figure out what we want and where.

I’ve been eye balling some of the wood the tree guys set aside for me when they chipped our branch piles. We might be able to use some of them to make smaller, slightly raised beds in the old kitchen garden. Or even just a low wall along one side, to keep people from accidentally stepping where my daughter has planted her irises and daffodils! 😁

I’m quite looking forward to figuring things out.

Meanwhile…

I just called the vet clinic again, which saved them from needing to call us later on. Leyendecker is eating, which is a good sign. They plan to take the catheter out this afternoon, and will monitor him overnight to make sure he’s peeing properly without it. We will get a call tomorrow. I asked about the bill, as my daughter will most likely transfer funds to me – my debit card has a higher purchase limit than hers does – and I wanted to give her an idea of how much. So far, we’re at about $700. With the medications he’ll be coming home with, and tonight’s overnight stay, she said the total might reach a thousand. Of course, he will need to come back for blood work to check if there is permanent damage to his kidneys. At least with that, we have the list on the form I signed, so I know that after taxes, that’ll be another $150 or so.

The main thing is, he is recovering, eating and drinking, and should soon be coming home!

The Re-Farmer

Monthly shop, changed plans, and soooo tired

It’s just past 5pm as I start this post, and I could go to bed right now! What a day it has turned out to be.

One of my husband’s disability payments came in today, so it would be our normal day to go into the city and to at least half of our monthly stocking up shopping in the city.

Except, I got a call from my Mom last night.

Her apartment is being sprayed for bed bugs again, today. She needs to be away from the spray for at least 12 hours. Last time, she stayed at my sisters, but she did not want to do that. There is a motel right next to her building, so she was going to book a room there. They did not have any vacancies, however.

After talking to her about it, I ended up calling another motel in town and booking a room for her, and arranging to be at my mother’s place before the exterminators showed up.

Which meant doing my morning rounds (and finishing off the outside kibble bin!) earlier than usual.

I had a sad find.

One of our highbush cranberry saplings had been chomped! It was doing so well, too. 😥 I doubt it can recover from this. I figure it was a deer. Nothing else seemed to be damaged, at least. Not that I stuck around to check too closely. Since I was going to be leaving soon, I didn’t use any bug spray. I got eaten alive! How aggressive and voracious they are this year!

A short version of my rounds done, I headed out with my mother’s car, since I was expecting to drive her to her motel room. Since the road closed sign was removed earlier this week, I drove up our road, through were it was washed out this spring.

What an excellent job done on the repairs! I can’t remember the road ever looking so good. 😁 They built it up a bit, too. Hopefully, that will prevent it from getting washed out again.

The motel I booked my mom at is with the gas station I usually go to. I had to fill her tank anyhow, so I went ahead and got her registered, got her key, and even went ahead and paid for it, so she wouldn’t have to bother. Not having a credit card threw them for a bit, as they don’t really have any alternative. They took my driver’s license number, instead. Then, just in case, I made sure to leave my contact information along with her information, in case of emergency.

Then it was off to my mother’s. Last time, they showed up right at 9 and they did her apartment first, so I was sort of expecting the same. I was about half an hour early, which gave us time to bag up her bedding, and I cleared her storage closet floor that she forgot about. She didn’t back up anywhere near as much as last time. She’s just so tired and frustrated. She kept saying she only saw two bed bugs this morning and she killed them, so it should be fine. She simply refuses to accept that there would be more of them that she can see, and that she would not be able to see the eggs at all. No amount of cleaning or running her fingers along the edging of her mattress to squish things will get rid of them. Not only does she refuse to believe me (or my siblings; we’ve all been trying to explain it to her), but she’s starting to get angry at being told this. She isn’t getting it, and not because she can’t understand our explanations. She simply refuses to accept it. This is only the second time her apartment is being spray. One of her neighbours was getting sprayed for the 6th time!

The exterminators, however, didn’t arrive at nine. By 10, we were wondering what was going on. I ended up phoning the provincial department that owns her building. It turned out they didn’t start with this town this time. They started in another town, about a half hour’s drive away. There was no way to know when they would arrive at my mother’s building.

In the end, I just had to leave. I needed to get to the city. My mother had a neighbour that would be able to drive her to her motel (I’m so glad I got the key already!), so I promised I would check on her on the way home, then went on to the city.

Since I was using my mother’s little car, a Costco trip was out of the question. There’s no way her car could fit our usual Costco trips. Instead of the usual 3 or 4 places I usually hit on these trips, I only did two. The first was a Walmart, where getting more cat food was a priority. I got only four 9 kg bags this time. Usually, I get six 7kg bags of their house brand, but the cats don’t like it as much, and I decided the bigger bags was worth it.

It’s a good thing those bags have waterproof linings on the inside, because while I was loading the back of my mother’s car, I got hit with a deluge of rain! At one point, I thought it might actually turn to hail.

Hatchbacks provide zero shelter! With our van, I could at least have had partial shelter under the lift gate, but a hatchback does nothing!

I spent just under $300 at the Walmart, and half of that was cat food, including a case of wet cat food. And that’s only about a third of what we need for the month.

Next, I went to the international grocery store we like, where I could also pick up some dim sum for breakfast… er… lunch! 😂 This is the store where we can get things like a big slab of uncut bacon, and a particular band of energy drinks no one else seems to carry anymore.

One thing I did NOT get here was butter.

Those brand name butters used to be just over $6 a pound. Now their regular price is almost $10! We’ve never bought these butters, and would just get the house brand. Those are almost $6 a pound, now. Not that long ago, they were in the $3.50 range.

I just checked out an exchange rate converter. As of today:

Cdn$9.79 = US$7.47

Cdn$9.99 + US$7.62

Sale price $8.49 = US$6.49

Cdn$5.99 = US$4.57

The last time we were at Costco, their house brand butter was just under $5/US$3.81 a pound. I hope they haven’t gone up much, since! We typically buy 10 pounds of butter for 1 month.

I didn’t buy butter, but I did end up buying some ghee. The sale price for the jar was almost $23/US$17.54 It’s shelf stable, though, and has a higher smoke point, to it may be worth it. We’ve never used ghee before. If we like it, we’ll learn how to make our own ghee.

The shopping done, I headed home, making sure to stop to see how my mother was doing along the way. I even remembered to pick up a little something for her to snack on along with her complimentary coffee. Only it turned out there was no en suite coffee set up. The complimentary coffee was at the gas station. This is the gas station that has the excellent fried chicken and wedges my mother likes so much, so when I got her her complimentary coffee, I also picked up enough chicken and wedges for a couple of meals. With the exterminators taking so long, I figured my mother hadn’t had lunch at all, and I think I was right. She was quite ready to have her “supper”, even though it was not even 3pm yet! 😁

Since I had stuff in the car that needed to be refrigerated, I couldn’t stay too long. She was well set up, though. My sister will be taking my mother home tomorrow, and helping her wash her bedding. I’ll be back again with the equipment for my mother’s sleep test, the day after. The equipment needs to be returned to the city on Tuesday, so that will be a good time to do the rest of our stock up shopping.

Once at home, Potato Beetle had to be put into a carrier in the sun room before the car could be unloaded. After everything was unloaded and I’d topped up the kibble trays outside, as well as his in the sun room, I made sure to give him some of the kitty treats I also picked up. I think he forgave me the indignity of being put into the carrier for that!

Exactly a week from now, he’ll be at the vet getting snipped, then it’s another 4 days in the sun room before we can let him out again.

As for me, I am practically falling asleep in my chair as I type this! These trips drain me at the best of times, but all the extra stuff with my mother just sucked the energy out of me.

I wonder how badly I’ll screw myself up if I got to bed at only 6pm? 😄

Oh, crud. I just remembered. My mother’s car is still in the front yard. I forgot to put it in the garage!

Guess I’d better put some pants on and take care of that.

🤣

The Re-Farmer

Future food forest progress

We’ve been having rain off and one, and are still getting storm warnings for today as well. Nothing too excessive; our expected highs and lows are well within average, and the garden beds seem to be really liking it.

After doing my morning rounds, I was able to get the cardboard laid out along the saplings. The pile had been well rained on, which made it easier to lay them out, and less likely to get blown around if we get high winds.

This is the end I started at. The main thing was to get cardboard laid down close to all the saplings – but not too close!. The sticks I added to make them more visible (especially when using the weed trimmer) helped with that. Once all the trees had cardboard around them, I started filling in the spaces in between with what was left of the pile. It started raining again as I was working on it, which I didn’t mind at all. I’d have had to take a hose to it, otherwise.

The Sea buckthorn has all the cardboard they need, and are ready for when we have wood chips to lay on top of the cardboard.

I had enough cardboard to fill in the gaps all along one row, then start on the other, before I ran out. The priority is to cover the two rows, but if I can get enough cardboard, I want to fill in the space between them, too. That might take another 2 loads of cardboard to fill it all in.

We’re going to need a lot of wood chips to cover all this!

Once these bushes are fully grown in, this entire area should be a solid barrier of interlocking branches. There might be enough room to walk between the rows when they are fully grown, but not much. As they are bushes, once a good thick layer of mulch is laid down, they shouldn’t need anything more; they’ll basically be their own mulch, eventually. When we start planting fruit trees in the area, we’ll be working towards planting different edible cover crops into the mulch around them, but there won’t be space for anything like that with these, once they’re filled in.

The space between the saplings and the trees at the fence line is being left open as a lane to drive through. Once the berry bushes are getting to the point where they are starting to form a privacy screen, we’ll start cleaning and clearing up the rest of the fence line. Most of those fence posts in this section need to be replaced, and I want to open up access to it for that, for general maintenance – and to eventually replace the fence with something other than barbed wire! I’d like to also put a gate next to where the sign is, or some sort of fence crossing that will allow us to step over it, rather than trying to get through it. I really hate getting my clothes caught on the barbed wire when trying to go through it! 😀 We’ll figure something out.

Little by little, it’ll get done!

The Re-Farmer

Before the heat hits?

Well, I tried.

I headed outside earlier than usual, to try and get some work done before things got too hot. My goal of the day was to take the weed trimmer to where the berry bushes are. Tomorrow, I’m getting another load of cardboard and plan to lay it down around them as a weed barrier.

This is how it looked when I started.

I shoved the stick into the ground as a post to mark the end one of the rows of bushes.

Can you see the silver buffalo berry?

The row on the left, you can see the sawdust mulch around several of them, but the row on the right just disappears in the trimmed weeds and grass.

I ended up using sticks that were used to hold trellis lines last year, to mark where the saplings are. A few of them got two. They were so buried and trimmed material, I didn’t want to risk accidentally hitting them with the weed trimmer! I’ll be looking to make sure they all have at least two sticks marking each of them, when the cardboard get laid down.

From this end, the two saplings marked in the foreground are the two highbush cranberry.

It took adding one more length of extension cord, but I was able to trim around the sea buckthorn, too.

Since I had the trimmer in the area anyhow, I used it around all the trellises, the hulless pumpkin patch, and the bean tunnel.

The goal was to beat the heat, but I failed. By the time I was working on the bean tunnel, the thermometer attached to it was reading 30C/86F in the sun. Our high of the day is supposed to be 25C/77F, and we are now under a severe thunderstorm watch. When I headed out this morning, we were being warned of possible thunderstorms on the weekend, and just possible showers later today!

I kept at it, though, and was able to use the trimmer around the crabapple trees. The one I’m standing next to, to take this picture, died over the winter and will need to be cut away. There are a couple other sickly ones down the row that need to be removed, and the others need some pruning, but that will have to wait.

I’m hoping to be able to head out again with the lawn mower, set as high as it can go, to finish around the garden area. Even the lowest spot near the branch pile in the background is finally dry enough to mow.

The metal ring in the foreground was something I brought to do burns over old crabapple tree stumps that were infected with a fungal disease. It’s over a taller one that hadn’t been burned completely away. Currently, the ring is full of an ant hill!

We have SO many ants this year!

In other things, whatever happened to our phone last night was no longer an issue this morning. We can use our land line again. I did get an email response from the phone company to try disconnecting all but one phone and seeing if it was still an issue, which I’d done (there’s only 2 lines to disconnect; the extra handset for the cordless phone doesn’t connect to the land line on its charger base). I wrote back to explain that it was working again this morning.

It sounds like there is a short somewhere. Possibly due to rodent damage somewhere. I’m guessing the cause of the problem is outside the house itself. If it’s a short, we could lose our connection again, at any time. In my email response, I did include that possibility. It would require a tech to come and test the lines, though. They’d be able to do that at the pedestals at the fence lines, one of which is hidden by trees in the first two photos at the top of this post, at first. From there, they would know if they have to come to the house and test again or not.

For now, I’m just happy the phone started working again on its own!

The Re-Farmer

A few surprises today, and wet, wet, wet!

Since I was wanting to go to my mother’s early, my morning rounds were cut a bit short.

That and the ground was just too wet for all of my usual checks.

It wasn’t raining quite yet, but I decided to NOT put our transplants out. With all the pots in bins and trays to water them from below, the bins already had more water in them than they probably should have, just from what rain we got yesterday. Some of them are on baking trays, which are easier to tip and drain at least some of the water out. With the bins, we’d have to remove all the pots to be able to drain it, and I would rather we didn’t knock them about too much. Especially the pots that are made to be planted directly into the soil. When they get wet, they are a lot more fragile and basically fall apart.

So today, they stay indoors.

I did remember to grab the bag with what’s left of our wood shavings to put a light mulch where the peas were planted yesterday. After switching out the memory card on the corner cam, I popped through the barbed wire fence to check on things.

The most obvious was that the “road closed, local traffic only” sign is gone.

The stand is still there. Just the sign has been removed. The stand had already been blown to the side of the road by wind, heavy as it is. I guess they’ll come back for it later. I don’t think the road has been repaired, though. I think the water levels have just finally dropped low enough.

The area in front of where the corner cam is, is where I’d sown a western wildflower mix in the fall, and I was hoping to see if anything was coming up.

I’m still not sure, but…

… we have strawberries! There are quite a few, all around. We don’t mow this area often, but I’m sure I’d have noticed strawberries if I’d seen them before, and deliberately not mown there. There were a few other things growing that didn’t look familiar, but it’s hard to say. With last year’s drought and heat waves, following even more years with lack of spring rains going back well before we moved here, it’s entirely possible that our current wet conditions mean that things that had been dormant are now finally sprouting. When I had the chance, I looked up the description for the seeds I got. It has 16 varieties native to Western Canada, but only 7 are listed.

Well, we’ll find out eventually! I’m just happy to see strawberries growing there.

I then checked out that really bad spot on the road that’s close to us. It was very muddy, and it’s getting longer, but it still looked like I could drive around it on one side. It did convince me to use our van instead of my mother’s car. Her car is lower to the ground, and I didn’t want to drag her undercarriage on some of the muddy ruts left behind by heavy trucks.

The funny thing is, I got a call from my brother later this morning. He was at work but, he knew I planned to go to my mother’s. Having driven through that spot himself just a couple of days ago, he called to recommend I take the van instead of my mother’s car, because it’s so much lower and we wouldn’t want to catch anything in the undercarriage on those ruts…

I love my brother. 😀

I also wanted to leave early enough to hit the post office first. While at the store, I picked up another bale of wood shavings and some black oil seed for the birds. Then I remembered to ask about bale twine. We’ve been using some light sisal cord for most things, but I wanted something more durable. There wasn’t any bale twine in the store, but the owner went to check in the house behind the store (I guess inventory is stored there now; the previous owner used to live there), which gave me time to load the big stuff into the van. While I did that, a Canada Post van arrived. As I went back to the counter to wait, the post master brought a package to me that had just come in, even though she hadn’t had a chance to process all the deliveries yet! That was very sweet of her.

It was also sweet of the owner to go check for me, as she came back with a pair of bale twine rolls. I hadn’t realize that size came in pairs. I’d always seen the larger ones. I asked for the smallest size; only 2800 yards. 😀

We’ll be set for a while!

The package I got was our perishable stock order from T&T Seeds, including two highbush cranberry trees. As I was writing the above, my younger daughter came by to talk about them, and now she’s outside in the rain, transplanting them!

What a sweetheart!

Once I had everything bought and paid for, it was off to my mother’s, picking up some fried pierogi for lunch (it was too early for the usual fried chicken I get as our lunch treat) on the way. My mother was already waiting for her telephone doctor’s appointment! The appointment was at 11:50. She thought it was at 10:50. When she realized we still had about an hour for the call, she dove right into those pierogi – all the while telling me she should probably stop eating pierogi, because the last time she did, that night she had severe stomach pains. Which as never happened before, but every time she has some sort of physical discomfort, she blames it on whatever food she most recently ate. :-/

Then the phone rang. The doctor called almost an hour early!

It turned out to be a fairly short call. My mother’s back is feeling much better now, though she insists the painkillers she was prescribed, have not been helping her at all. The doctor asked the expected questions about if she had twisted it, lifted something heavy, or done anything that might have triggered it. He was looking at her Xrays and couldn’t see anything that would explain the pain. The way he described it, she just has a 90 yr old back! He mentioned arthritis, but I don’t think she heard him.

Ultimately, though, he wants her to come in, in person, as it’s been a long time since she’s been to the doctor. My mother was already talking about doing exactly that. Normally, she would have to phone the clinic and talked to a receptionist to book that – though I would have been the one to actually make the call – and he did start to say that, but then changed track and simply named a date and time. It worked for us, so in a few days, I’ll be driving my mother in for that.

Hopefully, using her smaller car instead of my van, though!

Once that was booked, that was it. We were done, and much earlier than expected.

So we finished our lunch, then headed out to run errands. My mother had three places to go, and was a real trooper about climbing into our van! Especially since the van has no hand grips, like her car does. Getting out was a lot easier, but I had to insist, each time we stopped, that she wait until I brought the walker around before trying to climb out. The last stop was the grocery store, and for that I go in and get a shopping cart and bring it over for her to use as a walker, instead.

Having looked at the weather forecasts, I took advantage of being there to pick up a few little things, too, just in case I’m not able to make the rest of our stock up shopping in the city. That should be tomorrow, but we’ll see.

You know what I didn’t buy today?

Tinned meat.

Because, WOW the prices have gone up!

Cdn$4.49 is currently US$3.54 Those tins are 156 grams, or 5.5 ounces
Cdn$4.99 is $3.94 Those are 213 grams, or 7.5 ounces
Cdn$6.49 is US$5.12, for 340 grams, or 12 ounces

Small town grocery stores tend to be more expensive anyhow, but this is almost double what I last saw them at.

When my mother was almost done her own shopping, I quickly went through the till with my own stuff to get those put away in the van first. While chatting with the cashier, the increase in prices came up. He told me the prices have been going up daily! This store is affiliated with a larger franchise, so they don’t control the prices, but the whole point of being affiliated with a franchise is to be able to get inventory at lower wholesale prices, so retail prices can be lower.

Which means the wholesale prices have jumped significantly.

Thankfully, my mother only needs to buy enough for herself, and with me there to help out, she got extra in a lot of things, to stock up. She didn’t even look at the meat section, though. She’s convinced herself that meat, especially red meat, is bad, but she’ll buy deli meats or sausages instead of fresh meat. *sigh*

The main thing is that she is now stocked up for the next week or so. With her back giving her grief, she might supplement with Meals on Wheels every now and then, too.

It was raining every so slightly when I left my mother’s, but I found myself driving through several areas of heavy rain on the highway home. I’m so glad I didn’t take the transplants out this morning! The gravel roads were just soaked, and I wouldn’t be surprised if more sections degraded until they were like the bad patch near our place. I messaged the family before heading out, and the girls were waiting for me at the garage with the wagon to help bring things in, since it was too muddy to drive up to the house to unload.

Just a few minutes ago, the girls came in – soaking wet! – to let me know they finished transplanting the highbush cranberry, as per the instructions that came with the trees. They planted them at the opposite end of the rows originally planned, because it has somewhat less water there, though they still had to shovel out as much water from the holes as they could. The holes they dug were mostly gravel, so the wheelbarrow of garden soil I had ready for something else was used instead of putting all the gravel back in the hole. The last of the bag of wood shavings I’d used to mulch the peas was used to mulch the cranberries. Hopefully, they will take root well enough.

It may be a couple of days before we can plant the sun chokes and sweet potato slips. The forecast says “light rain”, but it’s also supposed to be chillier than today. The sunchokes could probably handle it, but I’m not sure the sweet potato slips will. These are supposed to be a variety suited to our climate zone, but they’re still not a cool weather crop.

And we still need to get those potatoes in, but the package said not to plant them until temperatures are above 10C/50F. Looking at the 14 day trend, we won’t have overnight temperatures above that until June 7 – over a week from now! They will be under deep mulch, though, so that should protect them. I hope.

So much to get done, in a very short time, and the weather is not cooperating!

Well, we’ll do what we can. Little by little, it’ll get done.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: remaining T&T Seeds order is in

Before I get into how the rest of the day has been going – aside from “wet” – the rest of our order from T&T Seeds came in! You can read about the whole order, and why we chose what we did, here.

We got our forage radish seeds a while ago, and it was the perishable stock that had to wait to be shipped in time for planting in our zone. I never got a shipping notification. I’d actually gone to the website a few days ago to look up my order and see if there was anything to tell me when it would be shipped, so we could be ready for it. There was nothing. Not even anything to say that the seeds got shipped already. So I tried their live chat function. I ended up getting an automated reply, apologizing for being really busy, and giving me the option of leaving my email with my question, and they’d respond later. I did that, but the only thing I got in my email was a transcript of the chat that didn’t happen.

Well, something must have happened, because suddenly, here they are!

We have decided the highbush cranberry will be added to one end of the rows of silver buffalo berry, where we’d grown corn and sunflowers last year. The sweet potato slips will be split between a grow bag and a bed where we’d grown potatoes last year. The sunchokes are still not 100% decided, but I think there’s really just one spot for them; in an unused bed near the garage. We’d tried to grow strawberry spinach there last year, but that didn’t work. There are invasive that keep trying to take it over, but sunchokes have a reputation for being somewhat invasive, too, and I think they’d win out on that battle. 😉

I also got a shipping notification for our TreeTime order. You can read about what we ordered and why, here. We’re expecting a total of 41 trees and shrubs that will need to be planted right away.

Which is going to be difficult. What came in today needs to be planted as quickly as possible, but it’s been very rainy off and on, all day today, and it’s expected to continue through tomorrow. In fact, we have started to get weather alerts.

There’s another Colorado Low on the way.

At least it’s bringing rain and not snow, though we’ve have a rather cool May, and it’s looking like June will be, too.

The warnings for our area is for heavy rain falls. Once again, the south end of the several provinces are expected to get the worst of it, as the system swirls its way east and west. There are even tornado warnings!

The transplants did not get taken outside today. They are probably okay with the temperatures by now, but being in pots, and the pots in trays and bins where they get watered from below, it doesn’t take much for rain to accumulate too much in their containers.

For the stuff that can’t be planted until after last frost, it’s looking like we won’t be able to get them out until after June 5, because of the overnight temperatures. Once they’re in and established, if temperatures dip again, we can try protecting them with row covers, but not while they are still undergoing transplant shock.

One good think about everything being in at least low raised beds: the paths may be full of mud and water, the the beds are still good.

Somewhere in there, we need a break in the rain – or at least the heavy rain – and get our T&T Seeds order into the ground!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: T&T order, and McKenzie seeds

Well, this is it. Today, I placed my last order for our 2022 garden. While I was doing the first half of our monthly shop, I also picked up some pea seeds. I am now done ordering things we are planning to grow this year.

First, the peas.

There are so many varieties of peas, I have been struggling on which ones to pick. While at the Walmart, I saw a new McKenzie Seeds display, and finally settled on one. As much as I love edible pod peas, I decided to go with shelling peas.

Some selling points on these: very productive, heat tolerant and disease resistant. Plus, of course, they’re supposed to be tasty. While I hope we don’t get another drought this year, our summers to get as hot as our winters get cold, so heat tolerant peas are a good thing.

My daughters are not big on peas, but they have never had peas, fresh from the garden. The ones we grew last year did not really produce, due to the heat (just the odd pod, here and there), then the green peas got eaten by a groundhog! The peas sown late in the season, in with the corn, were planted for their nitrogen fixing qualities, and the few pods we got were there only because we had such a long, mild fall. Nothing reached their full potential in flavour. Hopefully, this year will be different, and we will get lots of delicious fresh peas!

Once I got home, I placed an order with T&T Seeds.

All images belong to T&T Seeds.

First up is Jerusalem Artichokes, or Sunchokes.

I just ordered the smallest size; a 10 pack. A friend on a neighbouring farm successfully grows them, so I know they will grow here.

We’re sort of taking a chance on these ones. We’ve never tasted them before. I’ve never even seen one in real life before. However, these are something that can easily be propagated from year to year, and are supposed to be quite delicious. If we like them, we have another good storage food to add to our inventory of foods for self-sufficiency.

If not, well, they are in the sunflower family and have pretty flowers.

We will be planting them in a location that can be permanent, so not anywhere in our main garden areas.

Covington Sweet Potato

This one is pretty much just for me, as I seem to be the only person in the family that actually likes sweet potato, so I got the smallest option; five slips.

This variety is the only short season variety of sweet potato that can grow in our zone that I have found. I think I will make a grow bag or two from our feed bags, and set these up somewhere near the south facing side of the house, just to hedge my bets, though I would need to make sure there is space for the vines.

Highbush Cranberry.

The girls and I debated whether to get Highbush Cranberry, or more raspberry bushes. We decided to work with the raspberries we already have, and go for the Cranberry. I ordered two.

In cleaning up along the east fence line in the spruce grove, I actually found an American cranberry (at least that’s what Google Snap told me it was). It now gets light and everything, but I would like to transplant it, eventually, to a better location. Not sure where, yet.

Forage Radish

Also called “tillage radish.”

We had tried to plant a daikon type radish to help break up the soil in the corn blocks last year, but I think something ate them shortly after they sprouted, because they all just disappeared. So I was quite excited to find these forage radishes.

They are sold as a green manure and a type of cover crop. They get planted, then left to die off. Their roots can reach up to 6 feet in depth, boring into the soil as they grow. After they die off and decompose, they leave behind root channels that other plants can take advantage of.

With our concrete-like soil, filled with rocks, the plan is to basically just scatter these in strategic areas, so we got the 500 gram/1 pound size, which can cover 5,500 square feet. I don’t expect to use it all this year, but who knows.

So that is it for this year’s seeds and trees, though it’s entirely possible we might still order more. I forgot to order more alternative lawn and wildflower seed mixes from Veseys, but those would be sown in the fall, anyhow. We shall see how the ones I sowed this past fall turn out, this spring.

We still have a monthly “seed” budget, though, and now it will go to other things we need. I did pick up more potting soil today, as we will be starting onion seeds and luffa soon, and have lots more seeds to start over the next few months. After much searching, the girls and I found some netting online that we will be using to help protect our garden from critters. It’s a netting that is 14 x 200 feet. We can get one roll this month, and another roll later. Some of it will be used for the temporary fencing we will need to build around larger blocks, such as the corn. We can also cut it to the sizes needed to cover individual beds. We simply have too much ground to cover, and beds spread out in too many places, to fence it all in from both deer and smaller critters. Particularly since so much of it is still temporary. We’ll also have to figure out what best to use to support the netting, in the different ways we plan to use it, and get what we need for that. We are shooting to have consistent sizes on the permanent raised beds, so that any protective covers we build will fit any raised bed. The low box raised beds are 3 feet by 9 feet (because that’s the size the boards I found resulted in). The high raised beds will all be 4 feet by 9 feet, but with the thickness of the logs we are using, the planting area inside will be smaller, and the 3×9 covers should still fit. Other beds, such as in the old kitchen garden, are oddly shaped, so they will need completely different ways to protect them from critters.

Little by little, it’ll get done!

The Re-Farmer