Our 2022/2023 garden: finishing the garlic bed

Once I got home from the city and grabbed a meal, it was right back out to work on the bed our fall garlic will be planted in.

This is how it was left, the night before.

Because I had been tromping across it with the wheelbarrow, the first thing I wanted to do – after putting the new handle on our garden fork! – was loosen up the soil at the bottom.

It was not easy. At this point, not only was I hitting a lot of rocks, but at the north end of it, a lot of tree roots, too!

I also had a kitten on my back, most of the time. The little grey and white tabby that is the most socialized of the bunch. At one point, he simply draped himself across the back of my neck and stayed there as I moved around!

I was also picking up and tossing quite a few larger rocks into the trees, too.

Something this guy really loved! He kept chasing after the rocks as they bounced on the ground, then came back to watch me, waiting for the next throw! He even made it a challenge not to bean him with a rock, the way he was running after them!

Silly thing.

After the base was loosened, I gave the whole thing a thorough watering.

Then I got a wheelbarrow load of wood chips. Just one, for a think layer all across. This is on the same principal as using logs in a hΓΌgelkultur mound. As the anaerobic bacteria slowly breaks down the wood, the wood acts as a sponge to hold water for the roots above. Since these are wood chips rather than logs or branches, as we used in the high raised bed, they will break down faster. With garlic having shallow roots, the breakdown of the wood chips won’t affect their nitrogen needs.

The wood chips got a thorough soaking before the next step.

I pulled up the frost-killed summer squash, the remaining dead tomato, eggplant and pepper plants from the other two beds, and quite a bit of dead winter squash plants, too.

Then, because they were so bushy, I tromped them flat, being careful to just step on the dead plants. I just loosened the soil on the entire bed. I didn’t want to compact it all again!

Once they were flattened,, then given a soak, I could start adding soil back.

The soil was raked out evenly, though I tried not to get too close to the logs. That’s where the crab grass will inevitably grow in from the path.

With so many rhizomes catching on my rake as I was working, I finally went ahead and raked the weeds and roots I’d tossed into the paths.

There was a lot more than it seems, while all spread out! It all got dumped among the nearby trees.

With all that soil getting sifted, plus what was added to the bed, this is what I was left with.

Almost half the soil I took out is still there! The logs framing the bed are so low, if I add more back, I’ll have a problem with the sides washing down into the path – something that was an issue when watering the tomatoes.

Which is fine. The high raised bed’s soil level dropped over the summer, as expected, so I can use it to top that up, and still have some left over.

I did not, however, soak the freshly laid down soil. That would have just compacted it. We got a frost advisory for tonight, but things are supposed to warm up after that. We might even hit 21C/70F in a couple of days! So the grass clipping mulch went back right away.

Then it got a thorough soaking!

When it comes time to plant the garlic, we can make holes through the mulch. After tonight’s frost, we’re supposed to have some very pleasant evenings, which will be prefect for the cloves to start rooting themselves before the overnight temperatures start to be consistently too low for growth.

Thankfully, none of the other low raised beds need this much work put into them. They just need to be weeded and mulched for the winter. Except for the bed with the carrots and turnips in it. That will stay as it is for a while longer, as they won’t be bothered by frost.

Lots of clean up to prepare for next year, still! But this bed, at least, is all done and ready for garlic.

The Re-Farmer

My morning buddy, and our 2022 garden: eggplants and slow going

I had such a slow start to the day today. Not a lot of sleep, and when I tried getting up this morning, I lost my balance and almost fell. My husband was up and I ended up asking him to take care of feeding the cats this morning so I could lie down again. Considering it’s because of his own pain levels that he’s up (or not) at odd hours, it takes a lot before I ask him to take over like that. I have a theory on what’s going on and will be testing it over the next few nights. If I don’t follow up on that later, it will be because nothing changed.

When I finally did get out, the kitties had full bellies, which means I had company during my rounds!

Especially as I went up the driveway to check the gate and switch out the memory card on the gate cam. The new camera, with its direct solar power and battery backup, has the batteries still at 100%! The other two trail cameras are at about half, and both have had their batteries changed at least once, since we got the new camera.

I’m not actually all that happy that the kittens follow me to the gate. I don’t want them wandering to the road, so I try to pick them up if I can. At one point, I was carrying the three amigos, all at the same time. Interesting that the three most socialized kittens like to stay together the most, too. I can’t say it’s because they are all from the same litter, because the fourth one of that litter is more or less indifferent to its siblings, while the muted calico, from an older litter, still likes to hang out with these three the most. That one is a lot more socialized now, too. It still runs off at time, but more often than not, we can pet it and even pick it up for cuddles.

I worked on the garden bed I intend to plant the garlic in last night, but didn’t get very far.

This is where I left off when my back started to give out.

I really look forward to when we have more high raised beds!!!

I removed the grass clippings mulch and loosened the entire bed with a garden fork first, then started working my way around, pulling out as many crab grass rhizomes and other weeds as I could. The job was made much more challenging, because the kitten in the earlier photo decided it absolutely had to be on my back while I worked! When I straightened up, she would climb up to perch on my shoulder until bent down again.

I managed just over half the bed. I found the soil to be much improved, easy to work into with the garden hoe – though I’m still hitting rocks – and filled with worms. Compaction, however, is still a problem.

Once I’ve got more of the roots and weeds removed, I’ll use the soil sifter to get more out. I plan to dig a trench down the middle. The summer squash bed is right next to it. I’ll be pulling those up and burying them in this bed as a soil amendment. After the garlic is planted, the grass clipping mulch will be returned. The summer squash bed will be ready to work on next.

Things are going much more slowly than I expected, and it’s basically because of pain. Yes, I pain killer up before I start, I’m just taking your basic painkillers. They’re not particularly strong. I’m the sort of person where pharmaceuticals tend not to work as expected to begin with, and typically need double the dose to maybe get the same effect as a regular dose on someone else. It’s the same thing with the painkillers dentists inject before working on a tooth – something I discovered the hard way when I was in 5th grade. I still remember the dentist working on a cavity. I had my eyes squeezed shut in pain and was clutching the arm rests when the dentist made a snarky comment about opening my eyes, it’s not that bad. I did open my eyes, glared at him – and broke one of the arm rests. I was an adult before I dared go to a dentist again. As an adult, the dentists would actually listen to me when I told them there was still pain.

So… yeah. I do have an extremely high pain tolerance because of this, and can typically just keep working through all sorts of pain. That’s getting harder and harder to do as I get older. The problem is, there’s really no one else to take over. My older daughter has joint problems that has lead to injuries that just won’t heal, so there’s only so much she can do, and both of them have back problems that won’t go away unless they both get reduction surgery (as I did, more than 20 years ago: best thing I ever did!!!), but neither of them trust doctors. At all. They’ve seen the BS my husband and I have put up with over the years. Since we’ve moved back to this province, we’ve found health care has gotten even worse during the almost 15 years we were away. So while they can help, all four of us are just really gimpy. Plus, my older daughter has her commissions to work on, so she gets paid, and isn’t available as much. They both also take care of the inside stuff for me, so I’m free to work on the outside stuff – an arrangement I am quite happy with. Still, the way things are going, I’m going to have to ask them to help me with the outside stuff more. It’s frustrating. When we first moved here, I was able to get much more work done in much less time. I did not expect my body to give out that much in so few years!

Ah, well. It is what it is.

I’ll be taking pain killers and heading back out soon.

On another note, we had another small harvest this morning.

I decided it was time to pick the Little Finger eggplant. I actually found one more little one, after I took this picture. These are all from just one plant. None of the others matured enough to produce anything. I had intended to leave them for longer, but last night we dropped to 2C/36F. We were only supposed to drop to 6C/43F, so I didn’t try to cover them for the night. They don’t look frost damaged, but with how messed up the forecast has been, I figured it was time. This variety is meant to be picked while still relatively small and glossy – maybe a bit bigger than the largest one I’m holding.

In talking with the girls about what to plant next year, we are thinking of trying 3 varieties of peppers, and I’d like to try this variety of eggplant again. However, we will need to work out better protection for them. My older daughter is wanting to save up for a type of greenhouse that is specifically designed for our extreme temperatures. Something like the polycrub that Stone Croft Skye has. Before then, I hope to pick up a decent sized portable greenhouse, or maybe a smaller one to use for our seedlings. We have GOT to come up with something better for starting seeds. We had to spend way too much effort to protect them from cats, making for less than ideal growing conditions.

That is something to think about later, though. For now, we need to clean things up and get beds prepared for next year, first.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: Latte corn, green bush beans, Yakteen gourds – and we’re officially done!

Yes!! It’s done! I can now officially say, we have finished spring planting and transplanting everything! Whether we do a fall planting or not, we’ll decide on later, but right now, everything that will be growing this year is in.

Not that the work is done, but the focus gets to change, and the pressure to get it all in, in time, is gone.

The first thing to get done was finish the bed for the last of the corn and beans.

It took another 3 1/2 wheelbarrow loads of soil to top of the rest of the bed. You can really see the difference between what we laid down earlier, and got rained on. I’d taken out the rest of the sod divots, but we still need to gather the rocks.

The bowl in the photo is holding some of the inoculated Latte bi-colour corn seeds. It came as a pack of 200, but that’s less than half the pack, and some went back into the bag. The corn was planted in the three rows in the middle, that are marked off. The plan was to have bush beans on either side, but we only had enough of the Lewis green beans from last year to fill the one side.

The only other beans we had were pole beans, so we left the last row.

Also, I’ve run out of labels that won’t fade in the sun. It’s a good thing I’m using this blog as a gardening journal! πŸ˜€

Now, all that’s left here is to mulch the area with straw.

I then decided to go ahead and transplant the Yakteen gourd. The were 4 sprouts in one pot, while the other two pots still had nothing!

The largest plant went into an empty spot in a row of cantaloupe type melons (one of the grocery store melons we saved seeds from), because one of the seedlings withered and died before we could transplant them.

The two smallest seedlings were planted together. Here, they are in a pair of empty spots in one of the rows of Kaho watermelon. The seeds in those spots never germinated, so the space is being used for the gourds.

It feels so good to be all done planting!

Which meant it was time to work on other things…

One of the low raised beds did not have supports of netting yet, so I dug out the rest of the bamboo stakes in the garden shed and use the unbroken ones. This bed has all summer squash, and it not something I expect we’ll need to cover for any reason, so we just need supports to put netting around it, if we need to. Last year, the groundhogs were enjoying themselves some squash, but nothing was bothering the plants, so if we need to put netting around them, it wont be until they are quite a bit larger.

In the low raised beds with the upright supports, it didn’t have the twine strung around yet. Because of the logs, the spacing was really off. I ended up grabbing a couple of sticks, which the arrows are pointing to, to fill in the gaps.

The hoops in the background got a couple of bamboo stakes tied across the tops.

Now, all of these beds have supports on them, whether for netting or shade cloth or whatever we need.

I think we’ll take a bit of a break and let things dry up a bit. I’d still like to take the weed washer into the larger squash bed before we lay the straw mulch down.

Then we need to put the A frame supports at the two trellises beyond the bean tunnel, for the cucumbers, peas and more pole beans, as well as mulch the hulless pumpkins that got planted out there, too.

I’d be excited for the progress, but I’m just too tired. I’ve been pushing my limits a lot, lately, and it’s catching up with me. A bit of a breather, and I should be back up to snuff in no time.

She says, optimistically… πŸ˜‰

On top of this, it’s been a busy phone day. My husband had a phone appointment with the doctor to talk about his lab results, and a slight change to one of his medications because of it. Then my husband made another phone appointment… for me! I was outside, weeding, when the call came, so he sent me messages to let me know, but with muddy hands, even if I get the notifications, I can’t check my phone until I’ve washed my hands. It’s a good thing I came in when I did! The appointment was to talk about my own lab results, but first I got a call from home care to talk about my mother. The guy then called my mother and booked an appointment for and assessment next week, which he has asked me to be at. Then he called me back with the appointment time – and a concern. Because of her bed bugs, he’s going to have to be wearing the appropriate PPE, but they wouldn’t consider even doing an assessment if the potential client wasn’t going to do anything about their bed bugs. My mother told him she didn’t have an appointment, because when they asked (who? when?) in her building, who had noticed bed bugs in their units, she didn’t say anything – because she didn’t want to bother anybody!

*sigh*

I explained to him what my brother had done, and that it’s being arranged by schedule. I ended up getting the name of the site manager for her town, which I was able to pass on to my brother.

Then I had my telephone appointment with the clinic, which was basically to tell me nothing has changed. I consistently have one reading that is “on the high side”, but still within normal, so they want to keep an eye on it. All because, back in 2005 or 2006, I took a short term medication with a side effect the doctor wanted to monitor for the duration. Ever since then, everyone’s misunderstood why that was on my file.

One of the other things I did was send an email to the company I ordered the shed from. I asked a couple of questions about the amount charges and what shipping company would be used. Mostly, I’m feeling the waters to see what kind of response I get. Given the time frame for when we’re supposed to receive the boxes, if I don’t get a response soon, I will assume they are not legit and cancel the order and ask for my money back. The problem is that, in looking them up, I’ve found both that they are a scam site, and that they are not the best, but not fake, either.

Ah, well. We’ll find out soon enough.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: kulli corn, yellow beans and garlic

Yes! Finally! Major transplanting was started today. πŸ™‚

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

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

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

So. Many. Thistles!

And those roots go all the way though the pile.

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

I kept the worms for the new bed. πŸ˜€

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hopefully, that will work out.

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

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

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: sweet potatoes, bed prep and… frost?

Yay! A day without rain! We finally got to get some serious work done outside!

I had a few goals for the day, but before I could even start on any of them, I had to get the weed trimmer out. The grass is getting out of control, but it’s still too wet to mow in most places. In the main garden area, the ground is so rough, it’s just easier to use the weed trimmer.

Easier on the lawn mower, that is. Not on me! Particularly since I was trying to trim as close to the ground as possible, as well as under the logs framing the beds. It’s pretty much all crab grass, with some dandelions thrown in for good measure, so it’s all going to come back, but at least it’ll take a bit longer, this way. :-/

Once that was done, I decided on where I would put the purchased grow bags we are testing out this year. I picked up a couple at Canadian Tire, mostly because they were on clearance. My original plan was to try growing some sweet potatoes in one of them, then have the remaining slips planted in the ground. The bed I was going to use for that now has the white strawberries in it, so I figured they could all go into the grow bags.

I decided to place them near the small potato bed, where they will get full sun, and be sheltered from the winds at least somewhat. I did put some straw in the bottom of the bags. The straw will act as a sort of sponge to hold moisture, but it also held the sides of the bags up, making it easier to add the soil.

The truck load of garden soil by the main garden is mostly used up, but so far it has been enough for what we need. The problem is that, after a year, it’s so full of roots, it’s actually hard to stab the spade into it!

We really need a soil sifter. I don’t have the materials to make one right now, so I rigged one up.

This steel mesh is what we use on the burn barrel as a spark catcher. I used it to sift soil last year. A couple of sticks to support it over the wheelbarrow, and it worked all right. Some roots still got through, but at least the big stuff was kept out.

It took a couple of loads to fill the bags. They’re not that large, but even with the straw on the bottom, they hold quite a bit of soil. I decided not to fill them to the top. I figure, once sweet potatoes start to form, they’re going to need some space. I’ve never grown them before, so we’ll find out!

Also, you can see that one of the handles has already torn off on one side!

These bags are probably too small for sweet potatoes, but this is a bit of an experiment, anyhow, so we’ll see.

For these, I decided to use the stove pellets as mulch. In the above photo, the one on the right had its first watering, and you can see they’re already starting to swell and soften.

After wetting them both down, I left the pellets to absorb the water and moved on to our other experiment.

I got a pair of these at The Dollar Tree to test out. The fabric they’re made of is a thick felt.

Hmmm… Did I mention I got these at The Dollar Tree?

You get what you pay for! The first one I opened, and it had a hole in it!

Some of the stitching looks like it simply came undone, but the opening was about a third of the circumference!

The other one was fine, though, so I gave the first one to my daughter. She’s been doing a lot of sewing, so she’s got all the supplies on hand and was able to stitch it up for me.

While she worked on that, I filled the second one. As with the others, I added straw to the bottom, using it to help hold up the sides. In between loads of soil to fill it, I watered the pellets in the first bags a couple more times, before smoothing out the sawdust, then repeated the process on the smaller fabric bed.

It looks so small compared to the other two!

The sweet potato slips I ordered was a 5 pack, and I decided to plant 2 in one of the green bags, then 3 in the black felt bed. I wanted to see if the black fabric, which would absorb more heat, would be better. We did get a short season, cooler climate variety, but they are still a heat loving plant.

Well, would you look at that!

We have extras!

After breaking up the bundle of slips (there was still ice in the packing medium!), the green bags got two each, while the shorter but wider black fabric bed got three.

Sweet potato slips, I’ve learned, are the only other plant that share a trait with tomatoes, in that you can bury them up to their leaves, and new roots will grow out of the buried stems.

I’m sure these bags will be too small, but with how sweet potato vines grow, I think I will let them spread onto the ground. Where the vines touch the ground, they can root themselves, and grow more sweet potatoes. So we might get some growing in multiple places. πŸ™‚

Once those were in, I got to work on one of the low raised beds that needed to be weeded (again) and prepped for planting.

It was actually a bit worse than the remaining bed that needs to be weeded. I got as many of the rhizomes and dandelion tap rooms out that I could. I know I didn’t get all of them, but at least I got most.

We’re running low on the canopy tent pieces I’m using for supports. This bed got only 6 of them. The other beds got 8. There are 4 left of these longer ones. After that, there are only some really short pieces. Short enough that I’m not sure where we can use them in the garden at all!

By the time I got this bed done, I really needed a break, so I popped inside for lunch … er… lupper? and a rest.

When I sat at my computer, one of the first things I saw was a flashing red alert on my task bar’s weather app icon.

It was a frost advisory.

*sigh*

Pretty much everything else we’ve got going right now is frost tolerant. These sweet potato slips, however… yes, they’re supposed to be a cool climate variety, but they just got planted!

I decided to play it safe.

We hang on to more of our water bottles, rather than putting them in recycling, and this is one reason why! They can be used as cloche over smaller plants.

Such a hot day, and we’re supposed to get frost. Ugh.

Okay… “hot” is relevant. It was only 16C/61F out there! It certainly felt hotter while working outside. I got a wicked sunburn on the back of my neck. My daughters chastised me for not wearing sunscreen, while one of them applied some aloe vera gel on the burn for me. πŸ˜€ We do have sunscreen. Somewhere. I just forgot sunscreen existed, and didn’t even think that I might get sunburned!

Tonight, we’re supposed to dip to 2C/35F. Tomorrow’s high is expected to be much the same as today, while the overnight low is supposed to be 4C/39F. After that, our overnight lows are supposed to continue to slowly increase over the next couple of weeks.

Which means that we have one more night before we can start transplanting our warm weather crops. Even then, though, we will start with the ones that are most likely to handle colder overnight temperatures. There is still lots of work that needs to be done, including a repair on the squash tunnel – one of the screws holding a bottom cross piece snapped. Likely because of the winds we’ve been having.

There is still so much to do! The extended cold and the rains have really set things back.

Once everything is in, though, I expect we’ll have quite a good growing season. I look forward to not having to water all the garden beds, twice a day, almost every day, like we had to last year.

Between the weather and the critters, though, nothing is ever a sure thing!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: beds prepped, spinach, onions and turnips sown

With a steady rain all night, we’ve got a lot of standing water and mud in the yard again. The straw mulch where we will be planting our 5kg bags of potatoes got well soaked, though, so I don’t mind.

This afternoon, I finally had a chance to work on the garden again, and I’ve got some thing figured out, too.

The spinach sown in the high raised bed has started to sprout. There was room for one more row of spinach, so that got planted today.

Then it was time to work on the low raised beds.

We are well behind on direct sowing our cool weather crops, so I focused on the 2 1/2 low raised beds that my daughter and I had gone through, pulling out as many roots and rhizomes as we could. A few that we missed started growing again (there will always be some of those!), so I pulled out some more, before leveling the beds out. I decided to use the stove pellets as mulch for these beds. After leveling the soil in one bed (the back of a fan rake is great for leveling the soil), I’d scatter some pellets as evenly as I could over the bed, soak them with the hose, then work on the next bed. It generally took about 3 soaks before the pellets had expanded and broken up enough to be spread evenly with the back of the rake.

It always surprises me just how much sawdust is packed into those tiny pellets!

Once those were done, I gave them one last spray with the hose, then moved on to what will be a deep mulch bed for the 1kg package of potatoes. We had considered planting those in the low raised bed by the compost heap, but have decided the kulli corn will go in there. It’ll be easier for us to put a barrier around the wooden frame to keep the critters out. Potatoes need no such barrier.

In our second summer here, we started preparing an area for future gardening by mulching the area heavily with straw, and trying to kill off as many weeds as possible. You can read about those preparations here, here, here, and here.

Yeah. It was a big job, spread over months.

The next summer, we had our first garden, and all along the north side, we planted a row of birdhouse gourds. We’d started them indoors, but I thought our last frost date was May 28, the same as a town to the east of us, only for us to get hit with a frost on June 2 – which was the last frost date for a town to the north of us (our own little hamlet is too small to be on any of the frost date lists). The gourds didn’t really survive, and since then, this particular area has not been planted in.

The straw you see raked aside in the above photo has been there for 4 years.

The area was still mostly clear of crab grass, though I spent some time pulling those out. With the straw layer, the rhizomes tended to be running across the surface of the soil, so that made it easier to get them.

I knew we had a few moving boxes left in the basement. I thought there was three left, so I cleared an area to roughly match how much I thought those three boxes, opened flat in a single layer, would cover.

I was wrong.

There was 5 boxes left, so I laid them down folded in half, to get a double thick layer. This should be more than enough for the smaller amount of potatoes.

After soaking the cardboard, I put most of the old, wet straw back, then topped it with some newer straw to get a good, thick later.

This bed is now ready for potato planting.

While I was working on this, the girls got the fire pit going, and I finished just in time for a wiener roast. πŸ˜€

We’ve used that fire pit in the past month, almost than we’ve been able to in the past 4 years. No fire bans, this spring!

After the girls made sure I was fueled up, it was back to the low raised beds. Time to do some planting!

Look how big that garlic is!! They are just thriving, here.

For this half-bed, I marked out a grid, but planted in rectangular boxes. I started with some spinach – a variety called Space – planted around the middle of the bed. There are still some seeds of this spinach variety left, if we want to sow some for a fall harvest.

One those were in, the outer perimeter, I planted some onions. These are Red of Florence; the last of the onions we started from seed.

The centre of the bed was left empty. Later on, we’ll put in plants that we won’t be harvesting leaves from, or harvesting many times. Perhaps we’ll put some eggplants or peppers in the middle. There’s room for only a few plants in this half-bed.

There will be more room in the next bed.

The centre row was marked, but nothing is planted in it. On one side of the centre line, a third variety of spinach, Lakeside, was sown. On the other side, Tokyo Silky Sweet turnips were planted. Then, all around the perimeter the last of the Red of Florence onions were planted.

The onions being planted around the perimeter like this is to dissuade critters at least a bit. That is not our first defense, though.

These will be covered with netting. I’m not sure the bamboo stakes will hold those hoops very well, though. Trying to push them into the ground, I kept hitting rocks. In one spot, right at a corner, I just couldn’t get around a rock, so that one is more shallow than I would prefer. A couple of stakes broke while I was trying to push them into the ground. Since I couldn’t get them very deep, I ended up having to break the tops off of the rest, to be able to put the hoops on them.

Later, bamboo poles will be tied to the centre of the hoops to hold them steady and hold up the netting when it’s added on. Not until after something has been transplanted in the middle.

For the long bed, I grabbed pieces from the canopy tent that was dismantled. Those were easier to pound into the soil. Literally. I had a piece of would I could use as a mallet, and got them in pretty deep.

With the logs bordering the bed, the supports aren’t spaced very well. For the ones in the middle, most had to be squeezed into the spaces between logs. Which is fine. After something is transplanted in the middle, cord will be strung through the holes in the supports around the perimeter, then criss crossing across the middle to support the netting. With them so oddly spaced, it’ll be wonky, but it’ll work.

The ground staples will be used to tack the net down , but we still want to be able to easily life the sides, to harvest greens as needed.

The third bed was left for tomorrow. We have 2 more varieties of turnips to plant, or I might do carrots, first. They should have been sown about a week or more ago!

Beds will continue to be bordered by onions from sets. I’ve got 2 boxes of yellow onions and one of red onions, so there is plenty to go! πŸ™‚

The other thing that really needs to get done are the two varieties of peas. Hopefully, it won’t get too hot for peas over the next while! Meanwhile, we need to get those potatoes into the ground.

The next few weeks are going to be very busy in the garden! Lots to go in, in a very short time.

The Re-Farmer

Some progress today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And more roots.

Then more roots!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speaking of which…

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

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

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

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

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

I can hardly wait to get those into the ground!

The Re-Farmer

The current state of things

This morning’s rounds were extended rounds – but about a mile and a half! πŸ˜€

The first order of business was to check the old basement. The south side of the basement is still slowly getting wetter. The sump pump is doing its job quite well. The north side hasn’t really changed much, and I’ve no doubt the big blower fan is doing a lot to keep that side more under control. The larger puddles of water got swept into the drain or the sump pump reservoir, and another of the chimney blocks was brought upstairs, before I headed outside.

I hadn’t slept much, so I was outside earlier than the cats are used to, so I didn’t see many of them! πŸ˜€

The first cat I saw was The Distinguished Guest (TDG), and he was limping. Favoring the same leg that Potato Beetle still does. Now that we know why Potato Beetle was limping, I have less concern. It’s probably a bite or claw injury. Considering how aggressive TDG has been to the other cats, I can’t say I feel much sympathy for him. I didn’t see Potato Beetle this morning, and whenever that happens, I worry that TDG has injured him and he’s suffering somewhere. 😦

I don’t know where Rosencrantz has set herself up again but, wherever it is, it’s very close by. She just seemed to magically appear at the kibble house of late! The only thing I can say for sure is that she’s not coming from the junk pile.

Speaking of junk piles, while Junk Pile (we have GOT to come up with a better for her!) was eating, I blindly took a couple of shots of her kittens through the window. This was the best one. I think I count 5 in there.

While switching out the memory cards on the trail cams, I was happy to see the water on the driveway has actually receded. To get to the sign cam, I went outside the fence line and didn’t even try to go through the snow and water along the garden area. While I was at it, I “made” a bridge. πŸ˜‰

This sheet of plywood I found in the garage was set up over the drainage ditch, turned the other direction, so I could drive over it with the riding mower. Which isn’t working and, according to the place I last took it to, not really worth paying someone to fix, anymore. Since we won’t be driving a riding mower through here anytime soon, I pulled up up the plywood and laid it the other way. That helped increase the flow of water, too. I don’t know who dug this drainage ditch, how long ago, or what they used to do it. All I know is that it’s very uneven and rough, even for just a push mower.

That done, I went for a walk to check out the state of the road heading south. For the first half mile, it was actually pretty good. There’s an area that has a series of small ponds on one side that has the potential to be an issue if we get the predicted rains – we’re still under a rainfall warning that extends to the north of us, with accompanying flood warnings – but this morning, it was still pretty good.

Then I got to where the municipal drainage ditch crosses the road.

The culvert is marked with that red plastic tube on the left, and is the only reason this section isn’t already washed out.

This drainage ditch crosses the quarter section we’re on, cutting through the rented out fields into our neighbour’s quarter, until it crosses the road here.

The drainage ditch then cuts across the corner of this quarter section to another road and another culvert.

I wasn’t going to go that far to check the state of the road, seeing how things are here!

The drainage ditch is completely full; the line of higher soil, created by dredging, marks one side of it. Right now, we’ve got one flooded field draining into another flooded field!

The first area that’s washed out is past the drainage ditch. You can somewhat see how much of the gravel has been washed off the road and into the ditch.

The second wash out has done a lot more damage to the road.

Half the road has been washed down right to the rock base!

I took this next wide angle shot while standing in the middle of the second wash out.

There is still SO much snow and ice.

Here, I’m standing in between the two washed out sections. The water is flowing with remarkable speed!

I took some video, too. Once I have time, I’ll test out my new movie making software and make a little video to upload.

So this road is not a viable alternate route for us. When I get a chance, I plan to walk the road to the north and see how things are, there. We may not be able to avoid the pothole riddled main road, though.

Enough snow has melted that I could check out a few other areas, once I got back home. The path to the outhouse and the back of the garage is still full of water, and the pit under the outhouse is flooded to the top.

The garlic beds are clear of snow, but the soil under the mulch is still frozen solid.

Our first high raised bed is also clear of snow – but the snow around it is still quite deep!

I noticed one of the cages protecting the raspberry bushes we got my daughter for her birthday last year was knocked aside, so I made my way through the snow to get to it. Some of it even held my weight, though when it did give out, I found myself knee deep in snow.

Once we have rows of high raised beds built here, I can see that it will greatly affect the snow in the area.

The arrow in the above photo is pointing to the raspberry bush, and shows where the cage is supposed to be. The cages got dug out of the scrap pile around the old garden shed and placed over the raspberry bushes, after we discovered the deer were nibbling on them.

I found a couple of large rocks under the trees to weigh the cage down. Hopefully, it will hold until we find a more permanent way to protect the raspberries.

Hopefully, the raspberries have survived. Shortly after we transplanted them last year, they got hit by that one unusually cold night in late May that killed off so much. Then there was the drought, the heat waves and the deer. Now we’ve got this winter that just doesn’t want to let go. These poor bushes have had a very rough start! At this point, there’s no way to see if they’ve survived the winter. Hopefully, we’ll know in a couple of weeks.

The snow has receded enough that I was able to check out a few more areas before heading back inside. Another check on the basement, then the last chimney block was brought upstairs. Getting those up the old basement stairs has been a real pain. It’s one thing to carry a block down the hallway or across the yard. It’s quite another to safely get them up those stairs. I finally got it worked out, though. Basically, once a block was lifted to the highest step I could reach while standing at the bottom, I had to go up a couple of steps, to line myself up with the next step it would go on, carefully bend at the knees (my busted up knees!), grab the block and brace it against my belly (sometimes, my extra girth comes in quite handy!), straighten my knees to lift the block while using the hand rail to keep from falling backwards, and use my belly to place it on the next step.

Then the process is repeated, step by step, to the top. Thankfully, there is room for a block in front of the door, which has to be kept closed to keep the cats out. Then it’s, open the door, chase away cats, wrestle the block clear of the door with enough space to get past it, chase away the cats again, then close the door – hopefully remembering to turn the light off, first!

After that, it gets easy. The only difficult part is getting through the old kitchen door, without letting any cats through.

It’ll be a while before we can prep the area the blocks are going into, so we can take our time getting the blocks out the rest of the way. Getting them out of that basement was the main hurdle, and I’m very glad it’s finally done!

And that’s the state of things for now. As I write this, we’re at 5C/41F and we’re supposed to reach a high of 9C/48F, so things are melting. The rains are supposed to hit us this evening and continue through tomorrow, before changing to a mix of rain and snow, the day after, with highs of 4C/40F.

Then, three days later, they are now saying we’re supposed to get a high of 18C/64F. Long range forecast after that has highs ranging from 16C/61F to 19C/66F for the next week.

Hopefully, by then, the soil will have thawed enough to be able to absorb more of that moisture!

We shall see how things turn out.

The Re-Farmer

More fall clean up, prowlers, and there’s a stranger in town!

While it was a warm day today, it wasn’t quite warm enough to work on garden beds, so once the outhouse floor was done, I focused on doing a number of small jobs around the yard.

One of them was to replace the grass mulch on the garlic beds with a thick layer of straw. The grass mulch went into the newly framed bed, which has a trench in the soil for now. We’ll toss our kitchen scraps for the compost into the trench as well, before it all gets buried in fresh garden soil.

While I was getting ready to roll up the garden hoses at the back of the house, the cats were prowling all around me! It seems like, everywhere I turned, there was a cat, circling around me.

Except for Tuxedo Mask. The cheeky bugger planted his butt in a plant pot! The flowers in there are one of things my mother planted that turned out to be invasive. After telling me there was nothing in the old kitchen garden she wanted me to save, and I cleaned out and covered it all with layers of cardboard and mulch, she changed her mind and wanted me to keep them. They pushed their way through the layers of mulch, anyhow, so I transplanted some into this pot while preparing beds to plant in this spring. They’ve still managed to take over a section of the old kitchen garden, but it’s an area that is overshadowed by lilacs, honeysuckle and roses, so it’s not likely we’ll ever plant anything else in there. We’ll just have to keep them out of where we have built new beds, which looks like it’s going to be a challenge!

These flowers, which look a lot like periwinkle, are very hardy. They won’t have any problem recovering from a cat sitting on them, so I didn’t bother chasing Tuxedo Mask off!

I probably should have waited for a warmer day to put away the hoses, but it’s done now, except for one hose in the front of the house that I left for a bit longer. From the long range forecast, this weekend will be the last warm days, then the day time highs will slowly drop. Even so, we’re not expected to have highs at or just below freezing until past the middle of November.

I’m good with that!

After doing some other clean up around the yard, I got the burn barrel going for a while, then headed inside before the light failed. At the last minute, I decided to top up the cat kibble, which had been gotten into by that big skunk again. Of course, as soon as I came out of the sun room with the container of kibble, I had cats prowling all around me, crying like they were starving to death.

Including… hold on…

That wasn’t Tuxedo Mask over on the sidewalk. He’s busy trying to trip me on the way to the kibble house.

We had a stranger in our midst!!

After refilling the kibble trays, I was able to try and get photos.

What a handsome stranger!

The other cats didn’t seem the least bit bothered by his presence, either. I saw the kittens act more skittish around Creamsicle Baby than this guy!

He moved away from the food while I was trying to get a photo, prowling around the cat’s house and kibble shelter, and making his way back to the sidewalk, but he never ran away.

Even when my older daughter came out to see him, he stuck around. I went inside to let my younger daughter know. She was in between batches of bread baking, so she was able to come out, too. He did eventually start eating while my daughter was just a few feet away.

I wonder where he came from? This is the first time we’ve had a long haired cat come by, and the first time we’ve seen another tuxedo.

As long as the cats get along, he is more than welcome!

The Re-Farmer

Boxes, tubers, broken tools and… cows!

We’re having another lovely, mild day with sunny skies. A perfect day to get more done outside!

My main goal for the day was to finally build the third low raised bed box and set it up.

The ground is starting to freeze, though, so I couldn’t make quite as deep a “foundation” as with the other beds. It should be all right, though.

This is as much as going to be done with it, for now. Things are supposed to get warmer of the weekend, so I might get a chance to bury stuff from the compost pile down the middle, then top it up for the winter.

While I was building the bed, my younger daughter started working on beds in the old kitchen garden.

Beds that were more shaded than other areas.

Beds that were more frozen than not!

Alas, it was too much for our garden fork; one of the few useable tools we found that hadn’t been “disappeared” while the place was empty. It had a tendency to bend in that spot, and when my daughter tried to straighten it, it broke! The poor thing felt so bad.

The old kitchen garden got left for warmer days, and my daughter moved on to clean up the remaining bed at the chain link fence. The chicken wire protecting the cucamelons and gourds had to be removed, the plants pulled, and the soil moved to prepare for the block planters.

The cucamelons did not to well in our drought. The plants grew, there were many, many flowers, with teeny little fruit, but very few of them ever matured. Very likely, they just didn’t get polinated.

As my daughter dug the area up, however, she discovered they did much better below the soil!

Cucamelons produce tubers. I’d read that, in colder climates like ours, they can be dug up, put in a pot of soil and overwintered indoors, then transplanted in the spring. I tried that last year, but the tubers just disappeared in the soil. They, however, were nowhere near as big and thick as these ones!

My daughter set aside the biggest ones, and we will try overwintering them. Maybe at this size, they will have a better chance of surviving to be transplanted.

When my daughter was done cleaning out the bed, she headed inside and I continued working on it.

We had four of these chimney blocks waiting. My daughter had already moved the soil, and I just needed to level it for the blocks.

I found more cucamelon tubers in the process!

I ended up moving the blocks a little bit further away from the fence, so that when we bring up the remaining blocks and lay them down, the fence post won’t be in the way. I put leaf litter in the bottoms of the blocks before filling with the soil, since there is so much of it handy.

It was around this time that I could hear the sound of a utility vehicle nearby, so I headed over. The wife of the couple renting the property had come over to check the electric fence. I have spoken and messaged with her quite a few times, but this is the first time I met her in person! She brought their little daughter along, too, and she was a great help with holding the wire for Mom. It did take quite a while to find one of the ends; it must have gotten caught on a cow’s leg when it got spooked. Not only was it well away from the fence, but a couple of the support poles were pulled right out of the ground!

There was just enough slack that she could twist the wires back together, then we went around to another section where she said she had found a cow had gotten through, in a very unusual spot. She agreed with me, that something must have spooked the cows into going through areas they normally don’t.

While we were walking around, the cows were intensely curious about us humans – and looking for another grain treat!

Just look at those adorable faces!!

Unfortunately, they were a bit TOO interested in Tiny Human, who was starting to get scared. With just cause. Cows may look docile, but they can be aggressive and dangerous to an adult, never mind a wee one. Tiny Human was much more comfortable being carried by Mom!

I took the opportunity to tell her about where we are looking to put a fence through the old hay yard, so we can plant trees for a wind break against the south winds. She let me know that they will likely take out the old fences completely, and put in new, because of the cows getting through so often. We also talked about redoing the fencing around the septic field, so we can still access it from our side, rather than filling in those gaps the cows got through this time. She said she would pass on the things I brought up, and hopefully her husband will soon be able to find the time to come over and we can do a more thorough walk about and discuss it in more detail. They are such good renters. With all our long term plans, I don’t want to be doing anything to make it more difficult for them. That’s part of why I wanted to make sure they knew about where I want to add the fence and plant a windbreak, since it takes away some of the land the cows graze in.

So, all in all, it turned out to be a very productive day, on several levels. πŸ™‚

The only down side, is we how have to replace a garden fork. πŸ˜€

The Re-Farmer