Our 2022 garden: potting up, and new sprouts!

After checking on the plants last night, I ended up shifting things around earlier than expected. Some of the Cup of Moldova tomatoes at the top of the mini-greenhouse were getting too big! With not being able to remove the cover, it was actually a bit difficult to get them out. The door flap doesn’t open all the way to the top of the cover, so I only had a few inches to get them through.

I was going to just take them to the sun room, but they were so tall, I decided to pot them up, using some pots we found when cleaning up the old basement.

I had to commandeer a larger bin being used for something else, to fit them! The plants were potted with about 3 inches of their stems buries. If I’d had deeper pots, I could easily have buries another 3 inches.

There were also some new seedlings I finally was able to get pictures of.

These were taken last night. The Yellow Pear tomatoes had started to come up earlier, and there were finally some Chocolate Cherry sprouts showing. Among the squash and gourds, there was that one Giant Pumpkin pushing it’s way through – then a Tennessee Dancing Gourd suddenly popped up!

This is how they looked this morning. It’s always so exciting to see how fast they grow, once they germinate! That Giant Pumpkin looks like a tiny Audrey II, about to sing “Feed me, Seymore!”. 😀 Since this picture was taken, the leaves have already opened.

The tomatoes handled their first night in the sun room quite well. The only place there was room to put them and still get light was at the bottom shelf. The shop light we’re using to give light from the inside isn’t long enough to light up all the shelves we’re using. The highest shelf we’re using only gets light during the day, so that’s where we’ve got smaller bins of toilet paper tube pots seeded with the tulip trees, paw paws, and some of the kulli corn. Until they germinate, low light is not an issue for them.

These tomatoes are the same age as the ones we’d brought to the sun room earlier; they’d been left in the mini-greenhouse because they were smaller. Now, they’re bigger than the ones that have been in the sun room for a while, but the sun room ones looks sturdier, though they also still have a bit of cold damage on their leaves from their first night in the room. The greater temperature swings make for stronger plants plants, almost like hardening them off.

One of the things I did before coming in from my rounds was got into the garage and grab the folding closet doors we found in the outhouse when we cleaned it up. We’ll need more space for plant pots in the sun room, and we’re going to use it, probably with the new saw horses I bought, to set up a “table” over the swing bench. Depending on the height, there should still be room for Potato Beetle to curl up on the swing bench when he wants to be in the sun room again. 🙂 He, I’m happy to say, leaves the plants completely alone.

Unlike Susan, who desperately wants to eat them all.

Or Beep Beep, who wants to sleep on them.

Or Tissue, who wants to dig them all up.

They do make this whole “starting seeds indoors” thing much more difficult that it should be!

These tomatoes, however, are now safe in their new pots and new location. 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Of course…

I recently crocheted pairs of fingerless gloves for my daughters, to help keep their hands warm while at their keyboards upstairs – the little ceramic heaters my husband got for them do keep things warm up there, but fingers still get chilled! Especially my older daughter’s drawing hand.

That left me with a few little balls of leftover yarn. I had a few things in mind to possibly make with them, so I kept them in a bag of yarn I keep by my office chair.

Tissue discovered them.

For nearly two weeks now, I’ve been finding them all over. I’ve followed trails of yarn down to the basement. I’ve unwound yarn from around the dining table and chairs. I’ve had to untangle them from the wheels of my office chair. I’ve discovered yarn barfs in cat hair dust bunnies the size of Alberta. I’ve repeatedly had to untangle the yarn and rewind the balls. Any potential projects I had in mind went out the window, as there was just no way to get all the cat hair out of them.

While Tissue has been the one so dedicated to pulling out these balls of yarn, no matter how covered or hidden they were, once the yarn was out, there was usually several other cats involved in the destruction by the time I find them.

I couldn’t let the yarn go to waste, so I figured, what the heck. They want the yarn that badly, I’ll make a mat for them and they can have it. It’s not like it can be used for anything else than cat toys, now!

While I was working, I had the two balls of yarn at my feet while stitching and watching a video on my computer. Part way through, my husband wanted to look up some information about my video card, so I put the mat aside by my keyboard and stepped away for a bit. There was just a couple of minutes in between my husband leaving my computer, and my returning to it. In that time, I found I had to unwind the red yarn from the wheels of my office chair again, and both strands had been chewed through. I had to knot them together to be able to continue. Which I normally wouldn’t do with crochet, but it’s for the cats, and they don’t care if there are knots.

I finished off the leftover yarn and gave the cats their new mat.

Which they are now completely ignoring.

I have made a number of mats and cat beds for them. Usually, the moment the item hits the floor, there’s a cat on it, checking it out. I’ve never made one out of yarn they’ve been so eager to steal and play with before.

Not one came over the check this one out. Not even to sniff at it.

Because, of course.

*sigh*

The Re-Farmer

Kitty count and plant prison

I notice the cats outside have been really appreciating the digging of paths around the yard!

I counted “only” 17 in total this morning. I did not see the newcomer. Hopefully, they are all doing fine in their little shelters all over, when they’re not using the ones in the yard.

Rolando Moon had been posing like an adorable loaf, but in the time it took me to dig my phone out of my pocket, she decided to come over for pets.

I’ve had some frustrations with the indoor cats and the repotted plants that are finally inside. Though they have been liberally – even excessively – doused in cayenne pepper, we seem to have one cat that is not at all bothered by it. I think it’s Cabbages, but I’m not sure. They do their dastardly deeds when we are not around to see them. Yesterday morning I into the living room and found two of the aloe vera had been thoroughly dug into, with soil scattered all over. My daughters cleaned that up while I was outside, thankfully.

Last night, our vulnerable pots went into plant prison.

The big aquarium greenhouse set up has been repurposed to house the aloe. The two on the right were the ones that got dug up. We’ll see if they survive! My daughter’s orchids will be going in here, too, because the cats keep going after them, even though they are all hanging kokedama.

We brought in the aquarium lights yesterday evening, but I didn’t turn them on until today. They had been in the sun room and were pretty cold.

It didn’t take long for Saffron to rediscover her favourite butt warmer!

It’s a good thing she is such a tiny little thing. 😀

We’ll be using the aquariums as greenhouses to start our onion seeds in a couple of months. Hopefully, by then, the aloe will be well established in their pots, and we’ll be able to move them out to make room.

The Re-Farmer

Criminal!

Just look at this criminal beast!

I was just heading out to do my morning rounds, when I discovered crime had happened, and the criminal was watching me. Nicco, this time!

I let my daughters know, and when one of them came down to the old basement, she found FOUR cats had gotten through! Once the Spice Girls figured out how to unblock the top of the screen, all the other smaller, lighter cats are following their lead. 😦

I really wish we could find a way to stop this. There are just too many fragile and dangerous things in the old basement. So far, they have managed not to cause destruction, but I’ve found stuff on the floor showing that they are climbing the shelves. Shelves full of glass bottles, vintage canning jars and cleaners. And I’m always concerned that one of them will knock aside the cover to the sump pump reservoir. At least it’s dry in there right now, but still…

As I write this, I hear noises from the basement… The top is blocked off again, but I suspect we will find a cat in the old basement again.

*sigh*

The Re-Farmer

Protecting the jade tree, and critter capers

So… we’ve had problems with the more recent additions to our cat colony indoors. They’ve decided our plants are for them to play with and dig in.

One of the pots we’ve been trying to protect is has the parent jade trees that we brought with us when we moved. During the drive out, it got cold enough to kill some of the plants in the back of the van, and most of the jade tree died off, but it amazingly did recover and has been doing very well.

Now the cats are trying to kill it.

Mostly Cabbages, and her dirt digging, but the other cats have discovered that jade tree leaves make good toys. We’ve done a number of things to protect the plants but, with this particular pot, some cats – and we’re not sure which ones – have managed to knock aside the things we’ve used to protect it, and get right into the middle of the pot. Along with the soil being dug up, the stems of the plants were being bent outwards, with some getting snapped off.

Yesterday, I engaged in a bit of a rescue.

You can see cat toothmarks on a number of leaves!

I was able to get the pot outside – a job that required one daughter with a spray bottle to keep the cats at bay, while the other opened the doors for me.

The pipes that you see are the spare uprights from one of the shelves we put up in the old basement. The basement is too low for the full height of the shelves, so we never added on the top self. In trying to protect the several jade trees in this pot, I shoved 4 of the unused uprights from the shelf into the pot, and used them and some cotton yarn as supports.

I discovered they also work really well to water the pot. I can just pour water into a pipe to water from below. The pot is actually a self-watering pot, but the opening to the reservoir on the bottom is small and hard to get at.

In their efforts to get at the middle of the pot, the cats ended up pushing the yarn down the pipes, and they were no longer supporting the plant stems. All the stems were bent and spread outwards, like a massive spider. So I redid it, this time making sure to loop around some of the bigger stems. It should not slide down anymore.

I’m amazed by how resilient jade trees are!

After replacing the dug out soil in the middle, I had the thought that using some of the grass clippings and garden soil mix I had left over from “hilling” the potato bags might help keep the cats out of it. Then I gave the whole thing a nice shower with the hose, with water that had been warmed by the sun.

When it was brought back inside, one of the first things that happened was several cats going over to investigate.

Then start chewing on the grass clippings.

*sigh*

They were so determined to get at it, I ended up trying to put a leftover piece of wire mesh around the bottom. It wasn’t big enough, so I tried protecting the rest with a transparent recycling bag. We still had to make liberal use of the spray bottle to keep the cats away!

Of course, we couldn’t stay in the living room all evening, monitoring a plant pot. Coming back a couple of hours later, we found some determined cat had managed to get under the plastic and spread grass clippings all over the place.

And our vacuum cleaner is broken, with no budget to replace it until next month.

*sigh*

In the end, with the assistance of a daughter keeping the cats at bay while opening doors for me, we moved the pot into the sun room to keep it safe.

In the process, I discovered a piece of the jade tree had been broken off, so I stuck it into another jade tree pot; a smaller one with a plastic ring cut from the top of a Costco corn puff container to protect it.

That was yesterday.

This morning, I was awakened by the noise of cats trying to get through the screen between the basements again. There’s nothing I can do about that, so I tried to ignore it.

Then I heard the big thump.

Going into the living room, I found one of the pots with an aloe vera in it, on the floor.

Thankfully, between the dense plant and the plastic protector around it, it didn’t actually fall out of the pot and virtually no soil was lost.

As I put it back on the shelf, I saw the dirt.

The smaller jade tree, with its protective collar, had been dug into. Some small, determined cat managed to reach through the opening and get at the soil.

I moved the pot to the dining table, went back to clean up a bit, returned to the dining room, just in time to discover Susan – SUSAN!! – on the table, trying to get into the pot.

*sigh*

I ended up shoving some mesh fabric around the opening, but it looks like this pot is going to have to go into the sun room, too.

A while later, I went to do my rounds outside and found two cats on the platform under the basement window, looking at me. Possibly Turmeric and Susan. Or Saffron and Big Rig. It’s a bit hard to see through the two layers of mesh on the window.

*sigh*

I let the girls know they were there. The last time I tried to go into that basement to get cats out, I popped a kneecap on the stairs.

So… that was my start to the day. :-/

The Re-Farmer

Desperate Measures

One of the down sides of having so many cats in the house is how much they “love” our houseplants! We’ve had to get increasingly creative to protect them. The smaller ones ended up getting hung up. Thankfully, my daughter’s orchid kokedama are very light, as they ended up being hung from a curtain rod we don’t use. I had several succulents, one of which was apparently delicious to cats. I’ve managed to save two, while a third ended up being totally destroyed.

The problem is with the larger plants. I have a big umbrella tree, we have a whole bunch of aloe vera (less than we started out with) and several jade trees. We’re down a few jade trees, too. 😦 I also had 5 avocados growing in one large pot. They had been doing very well, too.

Then Cabbages happened.

She has a thing for digging in dirt. She’s not interested in the plants themselves. She just wants to dig. The other cats like to bite the aloe vera leaves, which at least won’t harm them, but they also like to break of jade tree leaves, and play with them like cat toys. Jade trees are not good for cats! None of the other cats have Cabbage’s obsession with dirt digging. Thank God for that, or I wouldn’t have any plants left!

We’ve tried many things to deter them. Our aloe vera now all have protective rings of plastic around their bases (except the biggest one, which is so big, with so many babies growing under it, it can protect itself!), cut from those cheese ball and pork rind containers from Costco we’d been keeping to use as garden cloche. They’ve been coming in handy for a lot of other things!

The umbrella tree got a ring of 1 inch wire mesh around its base. The kittens would still jump over it and sit in the middle of the umbrella tree but, as they’ve grown bigger, they seem to have stopped doing that. The smaller plants got the plastic containers put over them as cloche, but some of the cats figure out how to knock those off – and the pots under them. The larger jade trees got various things stuck into the soil to both support their stems, which were being pushed over by cats sitting in the middle of the pots, and to make things difficult for the cats to get in.

The pot the avocado were growing in is a large double-layer pot. The inner pot holds the soil while the outer pot has a reservoir for water, so the roots can be watered from below. In one corner is a triangular piece that holds a float in place, and covered the opening where water is poured into the base.

This pot is on a shelf by the dining room window, along with a number of other plants. Eventually, though, we were down to just one other plant on the shelf; another jade tree. To stop the digging, we tried things like putting duct tape, sticky side up, over the dirt. The jade tree got a plastic collar, which kept getting knocked out of place, so we tried wrapping it with plastic, and even sticking in dozens of bamboo skewers in all directions, to dissuade the digging. Nothing worked for long. We even ended up putting the pot on top of an upturned bucket to raise it higher above the window ledge that cats like to lie on, but Cabbages is very determined, and still managed to get in to dig!

The remaining two avocados got a shield of hardware cloth around the perimeter of the soil. That worked for a while, until Cabbages discovered she could just jump over the top. We ended up putting a box over the top, but it was too late for the avocado. We just needed to stop her from making a mess. When she started digging, she throws dirt everywhere! She knows not to try for it while we’re around, too, so we’d find the mess in the morning, of after we’d been outside for a few hours.

Well, she still managed to get the box off the top and get into the dirt again. She also got into the jade tree again. So today, my daughters got the pot outside. The remains of the avocado were removed, and the jade tree was transplanted into the bigger pot. The hardware cloth got wrapped around it again, and the extra piece I had left from the roll got folded over the top as a cover. Then it went back to the shelf at the dining room window.

This evening, I went into the dining room only to find David lounging on the table – they are not allowed on the dining table – so at first I missed it. My husband was coming in behind me and saw it right away. The hardware cloth that was on top was gone, the rest was askew, and there was dirt, everywhere.

I was not a happy camper!

This time, it looked like Cabbages got under the mesh. The cover for the water reservoir was knocked completely off, too. We found the wire mesh that had been on top, rolled up under the dining table, with Tissue curled up inside. !!

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

The hardware cloth got placed around the jade tree again, but instead of putting it on the inside of the put and pushing it into the soil, it was jammed between the inner and outer pots. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long enough anymore, so the piece that had been over the top was squeezed in, too. Then, we got the remains of a roll of 1 inch wire mesh and used that to create a top.

The wire mesh on the sides has been pushed down quite far between the two layers of pots, so there’s no way a cat is getting under it or lifting it out. The 1 inch mesh on the top is wider than paws, so if a cat tries to jump on top, it will hold the weight, but little paws will tend to slip through, which will be a deterrent.

The down sides are, we can no longer use the opening in the corner to water into the bottom of the reservoir, and watering from the top is going to be a challenge! We also can’t reach the plant to tend it. The top is held in place with a couple of twist ties, but the wire ends along some edges were also bent inwards, to help hold it in place. It can be taken off, but it’ll be a pain in the butt.

It should, however, finally be safe from Cabbages and her digging!

This poor plant!

The Re-Farmer

A bit of snow, and a bit of a disaster (averted)

It started to snow lightly last night, and is still snowing now!

Nutmeg, Creamsicle Jr. and their mom, Butterscotch

From what I can see on the weather radar, the heavier snow passed just south of us, and we will continue to have snow for at least a few more hours.

Which makes me extra happy to have gotten the clean up in the trees done, yesterday. It looked so good, as I walked by while doing my morning rounds! It’s going to look so much better, when it’s finally done. 🙂

A nice, light snowfall and a slow melt is just what we need right now. The temperatures are hovering around freezing, and we’ll be getting just a touch warmer. That moisture should stay in the ground, where we need it.

In other things, we had a cat disaster this morning.

A crashing noise in my husband’s room had us running. (Well… hobbling. None of us can run anymore. LOL) He has an extra comforter on the top of his wardrobe, near a window, that the cats love to hang out on. Somehow, that had gotten knocked off.

That was not the disaster.

The disaster was it hitting my husband’s incense bowl on the way down, knocking it over his computer, filling it with fine sand and ashes. And everything else in the area, of course, but the computer was the only thing at risk.

My husband spent the last couple of hours, carefully dismantling the computer, blowing out all the sand and dust, then putting it back together again.

Just moments ago, he let me know that it is working again.

*phew*

Disaster averted, I guess!

He’s not too happy with the cats right now. It’s not the first time they knocked the bowl down. At least last time, it was just a mess to clean up, though the handle on the lid did break. It’s a small, hand thrown pottery bowl I got from a very skilled and talented potter in the city we moved away from, so it’s not something that can be easily replaced. 😦

Ah, well. We’ll deal!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 Garden: leveling down, and unrelated destruction

Last night, while checking on the onion seedlings, I decided it was time to lower the shallot and bulb union seedlings in the big tank. The seedling tips were looking a little dried out, likely because they were getting too close to the warmth of the light fixture.

Doing that required removing the trays and the “floor” they were resting on, then shifting the boxes holding them all from standing on end, their tallest position, to standing on their narrow sides, which is their second tallest position. Later on, if it seems necessary, we can turn the boxes onto their broad sides to lower the plants even more.

So that worked out rather well. For the trays, anyhow. Unfortunately, being the suck that I am, I tried to do it without removing a kitten that was staying warm on the light fixture. Saffron is a tiny thing that gets cold easily, and she’s taken to using the light fixture to stay warm. So I just slid the whole thing to the back of the tank. It wasn’t enough to get the “floor” out, so I pushed one end a bit further. And a bit further…

The next thing I knew, the whole thing fell behind the tank as a Saffron launched herself across the living room in a panic.

And the lights went out.

At first, I feared I had broken a bulb, but no. The light in the small tank had gone out, too. As the fixture fell, it swiped the power bar’s plug into the wall.

This house does not have many power outlets. In the living room, there is an outlet behind the big tank, though only one plug in it works. We can access the outlet through the cabinet tank’s cabinet, as it is completely open in the back.

Which requires getting down on my knees and crawling half into the cabinet to reach.

My knees did not appreciate this at all.

After straightening out the prong on the plug that got bent when the fixture landed on it, I managed to get it back in and everything was working fine. Nothing broken.

Phew!

Then I put everything back in place.

Almost.

I had been keeping a small plant pot in the tank with the trays. We’ve had to put various types of barriers on, over or around all our house plants that can’t be hung from the ceiling, to keep cats from digging in the dirt. One small succulent was completely covered with a clear plastic dome, like a mini greenhouse, but the cats kept managing to knock the cover off. The last time that happened, I found the poor little succulent on the carpet, along with a pile of soil that had been dug out of the pot. I replanted it and stuck the pot in the aquarium, so it could get the light and the protection the seedlings were getting and, hopefully, recover.

When I lowered the trays, I forgot to put the plant pot back.

This morning, I discovered my error.

I also discovered a half empty pot, and a pile of soil on the shelf and scattered all over the carpet.

What I didn’t find was the plant. There is no sign of it. It’s likely under another shelf, but it could just as easily have been dragged down to the basement.

I had to do my outside rounds, though, so I rescued as much of the soil as I could – it’s a soil mix specifically for succulents – then moved the pot to the dining table. The table is covered in stuff. Partly because all flat surfaces just seem to invite things to be piled onto them, partly on purpose, to keep the cats off when we’re not around. I tucked the pot against some other stuff, then dashed outside to do my rounds.

I came back to another pile of soil on the dining table, and on the floor.

*sigh*

So, that’s another plant lost to the cats. I am pretty sure the culprit is Cabbages, as she’ has been caught many times, trying to get into other plants, but others have been caught, too, so I can’t say for sure.

I really hope the temperatures warm up overnight and stay warm, soon. When we start having to get larger numbers of seeds started, they’re not all going to fit in the two tanks. We’re going to have to use the sun room as a green house. Right now, I’ve seen it reaching as warm as 20C/68F during the day, but it does go below freezing overnight. We’ll be able to fit some things in the big tank with the onion trays (like the tomatoes we will be starting very soon), but when it comes time to start the corn and squash seeds, those onion trays are going to need to be moved to the sun room. This won’t happen for probably another month, at the earliest, so we should hopefully be okay by then.

We shall see how it works out.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: damage control

I’m about ready to start throwing cats outside! 😦

This is what I discovered, this morning.

The long piece of insulation across the top is what had been blocking the opening on the back of the tank lid. You can even see the claw marks in it!

Some nasty little beast managed to pull one of the trays up!

The peat stayed in most of the cells, though a few at the very back were empty when I straightened it out. I found the plugs and put them back as best I could, and gently took loose peat off the cells it had fallen on and put it in the emptier cells. I will give it a day or two, then plant new seeds in the cells that didn’t survive.

Eventually, the seedlings will reach a height were I can take out the box that is keeping them closer to the light, and the cats won’t be able to reach the trays anymore, but for now they trays need to be this high. They should probably be a bit higher, but that would just make it easier for a cat to reach. The opening in the back is where I’m going to set up the tiny fan we have, to blow over the seedlings and help them get stronger, but for now, I’ve basically put a sheet of foam core over the tank’s lid and weighed it down. It should still have a bit of air circulation, but we’ll have to keep a close eye on it.

I am not pleased with the kitties! 😦

The Re-Farmer