Our 2022 garden: squash patches mulched, shade cloth ready

With today predicted to be very hot, the girls and I headed out much earlier than usual. Normally, they do the evening stuff while I do the morning stuff, but this was a big job, and I wanted to get it done before the heat hit.

The big squash patch is now completely mulched. I’m glad I put all those sticks in! All the squash started at 4 weeks before last frost date are all still so tiny. The mulch will also help to protect them from any heavy rains and storms we may get.

The other squash patch, with the corn and beans in between, also got a layer of mulch.

Last of all, the hulless pumpkins next to the bean tunnel got a layer, too.

Look how tall the garlic is!! Love it!

I brought out the old sheets we were using as shade cloth last year, and one of my daughters helped me set them up over two of the beds with spinach in them. It felt odd to put up shade cloth when it’s so overcast.

I’m trying to think of what we can use to put over some of the other beds, to protect them from heavy rains and possible hail. The netting we have might keep critters out, but the mesh is too large to protect from heavy rains or hail. Last year’s row covers that fell apart when we moved them has old window screen mesh on one of them, but it’s too narrow to use without more support than the twine we’ve got now. I’m thinking of the mosquito netting we used as row covers might work. We only need to cover the tops of the beds enough to protect from heavy rain, while still letting water through. I’m not too keen on using the mosquito netting, as it sheds long strands from the cut sides, and I’m still finding them among the weeds in the old kitchen garden. Those strands don’t break easily, and are something small critters could get caught up in. The best thing would be to hem up the cut edges, but that wouldn’t be done until we have them in the sizes we want.

We’re getting all these predictions for high temperatures and advisories for heat, but… it’s almost cool out there. We’re also getting storm warnings that are all over the place. One minute, the storms are expected on Tuesday. Then Sunday (tomorrow). Then tonight. Then not at all. Then Monday.

I am, however, hearing thunder as I write this, and I can see from the trees out my window, that the winds are picking up.

My dropped the idea of getting more weed trimming done today. The necessary areas are already done; anything else is just bonus at this point. The ground is almost dry enough to mow in places, but that’s not going to happen either.

Well, we got the main thing done. The squash patches are now mulched.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: ground cherry, popcorn and we surrender!

The rain held off this afternoon, so I headed out to where we finally decided to transplant the ground cherries.

After thoroughly dousing myself with mosquito repellant!!

This spot by the compost heap has been covered with that sheet of metal for about 2 years. The metal was placed there as something to put grass clippings on top of, so they’d be easier to collect and use later on.

Isn’t it amazing that, even while under metal, things were still trying to grow under there? !!

The soil was so soft under there, I could easily push the garden fork deeper than the length of the tines, and probably could have gone deeper if I’d wanted to. The ground was also pretty saturated, so it was muddy work to loosen the soil and pull out any roots – including some thoroughly rotted roots from the old tree stump under the compost pile nearby! No watering needed after they were planted, that’s for sure. In fact, I’m a bit concerned it might be too wet for them. We shall see.

The groundcherries got a good mulch with some of the grass clippings I had to move off the sheet of metal in order to move it. Here, they can be left to self seed, and hopefully we’ll get them year after year. We’ll just have to make sure they don’t spread too far and become invasive, which I’ve heard some people have had problems with.

The sheet of metal, meanwhile, is now sitting on top of the tall grass and weeds next to the ground cherries, weighted down with rocks to keep it from blowing away. Hopefully, it will help keep the crab grass and other weeds from invading the ground cherries.

When my daughter came out to help, we went looking through all the garden beds, talking about what needed to be done in each, before she started working on where we decided to plant our corn.

First, she dug a fairly narrow trench for the Tom Thumb popcorn, between the green patty pans and the Boston Marrow. These have a slightly longer growing season – 85-90 days – so we wanted to get them in first.

After she dug the small trench, she moved to the space between the Boston Marrow and the Lady Godiva pumpkins. There’s more space there, and it’s where we will be planting the Latte corn, which needs only 65 days to maturity, and bush beans.

While she worked on that trench, I used the hand cultivator to loosen up the smaller trench, pulled out the bigger rocks, and as many weed roots as I could. Then it got a layer of shredded paper, and finally a about 1 1/2 wheelbarrow loads of garden soil was added. I also removed the divots of sod and dumped them under some trees. They are so full of roots and rocks, it wasn’t worth the time to try and salvage any of the soil.

The Tom Thumb popcorn only grows to about 4 feet. The instructions said to plant them 5 or 6 inches apart, and in rows 36 inches apart, in blocks of at least 4 rows.

Obviously, we didn’t do that.

What we did do was plant two rows, with all the seeds about 6 inches apart. Once the soil was ready, my daughter had finished removing sod in the other area, so I just went down the prepared row, poking pairs of holes into the soil while my daughter went along behind me, dropping the little bitty corn seeds in! 🙂

I’m glad we got those planted, because the next job was a killer.

In the second space, I went over it with the hand cultivator to get some of the bigger rocks out, and the more obvious roots. There’s just no way we could get rid of all the roots. While I worked on that, my daughter used one of the old, busted up wheelbarrows to get grass clippings. A full recycling bag of shredded paper went into the bottom, then grass clippings got scattered over the paper.

After dumping the remaining soil in the wheelbarrow in, my daughter went to get more soil with the good wheelbarrow, while I used the old one to remove the divots of sod.

I was reminded of just how badly broken up that old thing was! I’m amazed we got away with using it for as long as we did. In the end, I had to switch to the other old wheelbarrow. It’s smaller and also busted up, but at least it didn’t try to tip over every time I dropped a piece of sod in it, or roll away!

After a while, however, my daughter was waving the white flag. It was pretty hot, and very humid. For all the bug spray we used, we were just sweating it right off. The mosquitoes were after my daughter more than me (I reapplied bug spray, several times!), and after all the back breaking labour of removing sod, she was just done.

After she escaped the clouds of mosquitoes, I managed to move some more of the sod – using the good wheelbarrow! – before switching to getting a couple more loads of soil, and that was it. I surrendered, too! I think we did manage to get half of the area covered with fresh garden soil. The other half will probably need at least 4 – 6 more loads of soil, depending on how full the wheelbarrow is. It’s a fair distance to haul the soil from the pile in the outer yard, and we have to go around through the smaller person gate, rather than the closer vehicle gate, because there’s water there again, so we can’t get away with over filling it.

It’s a good thing the Latte corn and the bush beans we will be planting with them don’t need a lot of time to grow, because we probably won’t be able to work on this area tomorrow, and not just because I’m driving my mother to another medical appointment. We’re supposed to start raining again tonight, with thunderstorms over the next two days – complete with overland flow flooding alerts! I’ll be using my mother’s car to drive her. Hopefully, that one patch on the road near our place will stay solid enough by the time I am coming home, that her little car will get through. Anyhow; with the expected weather, we might not be able to finish this area and plant the Latte corn for several days.

By the time we’re done in this area, it will be quite intensely planted. Between that and the straw mulch we intend to add, I’m hoping that should keep the weeds down. Before that gets done, we’ll have to remove the rest of the sod and the piles of rocks scattered about.

It would have been much easier if we could do the carboard and straw like we did for the potato beds, but we just don’t have the carboard for that. We could get more later on, but we really wanted to get these in as quickly as possible. This will be the last direct sown seeds, besides any successive sowing we might do for a fall harvest.

This is also about as close as we’re getting to the “three sisters” method of planting. Hopefully, doing it this way will have the same benefits as the more traditional way. The only real problem I foresee is being able to access the bush beans to harvest them, when everything is all grown in. If we focus on putting the corn in the middle and the beans on the outside, we should be able to reach them okay. It’ll be trying to walk around the Boston Marrow and hulless pumpkins that will be more of a challenge, I think! With the Tom Thumb corn, it will be less of an issue, since they won’t be harvested until the cobs are completely dry on the stalk. Once the mulch is down, there’s not going to be much more needed for them.

If nothing else, this will be a learning experience.

And an experience in humility, as we get driven away by hoards of mosquitoes, trying to eat us alive!

I’m now going to go borrow my husband’s bath chair and shower off the smell of insect repellant now!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: peas, carrots, onions and more prep

One of things we started indoors were the four seeds we managed to save from the King Tut purple peas we tried to grow last year. All for successfully germinated, and were really needing to be either transplanted, or potted up.

Potting up didn’t make sense for these, so today, they got transplanted! Being peas, they are frost hardy, so we didn’t have to wait until after our last frost date.

I did change were they were meant to be planted. I was originally thinking of using the same pea trellis we used for them last year, but there’s just 4 of them, so we’ll save the trellises for the green peas we’ve got.

As the purple peas were already looking to climb, I decided to put them here.

This is where we grew tomatoes very successfully last year, and tomatoes will be grown here again this year. It got completely reworked in the fall.

This bed was going to get a mulch of wood shavings, too, but I also did the concrete blocks on the other side of the small gate, too.

We’ll be looking at planting some climbers in here, that can use the fence as a trellis.

The bag of wood shavings left over from last year got finished off in the long bed, and most of the new bag got used up, too! There was enough to mulch the haskaps (the male haskap is blooming!) and there’s still a bit left over.

All the mulch got watered as I laid it out, as the wind was picking up and threatening to blow it away. Once it was laid down, all the mulch got watered again, multiple times, as I worked.

Of course, the bed didn’t stay looking pretty like this for long!

This bed is going to be intensely and strategically planted! Along with the purple peas, there will be tomatoes planted all along the fence. Just inside where the tomatoes will go, there will be carrots, as they are good companion plants. On the outer edge, near the bricks, will be onions, as a critter deterrent.

In the bowl are the last of the pelleted Kyoto Red seeds from last year.

Clearing out a row to plant the carrots was a bit of a challenge, as there were sticks in with the leaf mulch that had to be removed. With pelleted seed, the carrots could be spaced as they were planted. I still got only half way down the row before running out of seeds. The other half is now planted with Napoli carrots; another pelleted variety from last year. With the Napoli, there are still a LOT of seeds left, so we have the option of tucking them around other things, too. We have 2 other new varieties that are not pelleted seed, so I will likely use cornstarch gel to help plant those.

There were not a lot of the Oneida yellow onions we started from seed to transplant, but it was still close to the half way mark. Of the onions we stared from seed, we have one tray or red onions left, but there’s quite a few of those, and I didn’t want to split them up. We also had a few shallots started from seed – a whole 7 of them survived – so I used those, and there’s still half the row left. We have shallot sets, too, so I’m thinking of using some of those to finish off the row. That will be another job for tomorrow!

As for the peas, I cut some of the plastic bottles from distilled water we have so many of, to put around the peas, to protect them from the wind. One of them blew away while I was transplanting onions. I’d tried to push it into the soil, but there turned out to be too many little sticks in the leaf litter. 😀 Once I got that fixed, I added the sticks to help keep them from blowing away. They are the sticks sold for toasting marshmallows, broken in half. We got a package for cookouts last year, but I’ve been using them as supports for some of the taller squash and gourd plants that were starting to flop around a bit. They work really well for that!

This bed now has only tomatoes to be transplanted into it, and that won’t be until after our June 2 last frost date, just to be on the safe side. We will be adding netting after the tomatoes are planted. The decorative wire garden fencing that you see in one of the photos above will be placed right up against the bricks, to hold the net away from the net, which will be attached to the top of the fence. The tomatoes and onions should be fine, but the carrots will need to be protected from critters. The net won’t stop a determined groundhog, but between that, the onions and the carrots, we hope the greedy buggers will decide they’re not worth the effort!

While I was working on this, my younger daughter was working on one of the low raised beds in the main garden area.

The girls cleaned up these beds last year, and this one was the worst for crab grass.

It still was. It took my poor daughter hours to get it done, diligently and carefully pulling up all the roots she could. Unlike me, she’s agile enough that she can kneel down on the ground to work, but she still knackered her back in the process. Once inside, she ended up having to put on her corset she made for herself, to use as a back brace just so she could sit upright at the table! She plans to continue with other beds tomorrow, and will likely just wear the darn thing from the start.

Her sister ended up helping me bring the transplants back inside after everything we done. She was up sick much of the night, but was finally feeling better. It was a bit of a juggle, since the chitting potatoes were sitting on the platform the seed trays and most of the bins sits on. Those had to go outside and onto the roof of the cats’ house until all the transplants were brought into the sun room, then we had to figure out how to fit the potatoes back in! Some ended up on the swing bench under the platform. Potato Beetle has lost his favourite bed for now. 😀

I fully expect we will expand our garden again, next year, which means starting more seeds indoors. Having at least a small, portable greenhouse is going to be increasingly a necessity! We almost got one this year, but the funds ended up being reallocated. Mind you, we still haven’t gone into the old hay loft, where my brother tells me there is the frame for a carport. If all the parts and pieces are there, we’d just need to get the plastic, and we’ll have a polytunnel. I can’t get up into the hayloft anymore – my body is too broken to clamber up there – so I’ll have to ask the girls to do it.

Well… that last paragraph got quite the interruption. I hadn’t realized my mother had phoned and left a message while we were working outside. She called again. It seems the painkillers the doctor prescribed for her back pain are not helping at all, and she’s in a lot of pain. Can’t sit, can’t stand, can’t lie down… She’s convinced the doctor gave her the wrong medication. She called the pharmacist, and he assured her she got the right meds. I guess she now thinks the prescription was a mistake? So tomorrow morning, when the clinic is open, I’ll give them a call. Hopefully, either her doctor, or the doctor that saw her in the ER, will be available to call her today and talk to her about it.

My husband is feeling very sympathetic for her. She’s entering his world, and is completely unprepared for it.

My plans for tomorrow may be changing, if I find myself having to drive my mother somewhere!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: light mulching

After finishing my morning rounds, I remembered to check the tracking information and saw that our potatoes were ready for pick up. After picking up the nice big, heavy bag, I made a spur of the moment purchase and got some more wood shavings. We still had a small amount left over from last year, but since we can’t quite use our wood chipper yet, I decided it was worth picking up another bag. I’m glad I did!

One of the issues we have with our soil is that, when it’s watered, it develops a hard crust at the time, which seedlings have difficulty breaking through. One way to reduce that is with mulching – and that’s something we don’t have in the old kitchen garden right now. A straw mulch would be too much for what we’ve got in there right now. We do have lots of the hardwood pellets we use for cat litter, but I decided to use the shavings, too.

For some things, I could use the shavings for a slightly thicker mulch, such as around the irises and daffodils, and that one onion that predates us and keeps coming back, no matter how many times something managed to crunch it. The onions along the retaining wall are super tiny still, so they just got a very light mulch, as did the area we planted poppy seeds in, and the tiny patch with lettuce seeds next to the rose bush. More can be added later, as things grow, if necessary.

I even mulched one of the retaining wall blocks. Last year, we found a mystery bulb lying on the grass. We weren’t sure which of the bulbs we’d planted had lost one, so I just stuck it into this cube to see what came up. Nothing did, so it was quite a surprise to see what looks like a tulip emerging this year!

For the beds that are covered with netting, I still used the hardwood pellets, since they can fit through the net. It was a bit difficult to get it to spread evenly, since they wanted to roll into the furrows seeds were planted in, but those are what we want to protect from crusting, anyhow.

All the mulch got watered, so they can help keep the soil moist, and for the hardwood pellets to break up into sawdust. The seedlings should be able to push through the sawdust just fine.

Over time, the crusting problem will lessen as more organic matter like this mulch, breaks down into the soil. Definitely a long term process, but that’s par for the course! This garden has already been 4 years in the works, since we started cleaning it up and prepping it, our first summer here!

Ah, but what about those potatoes we finally picked up?

That will be in my next post! 🙂 I am really happy with them!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: preparing beds for planting

Last night, I was able to head outside again and work on a couple of the low raised beds. We’d done these in the fall, but they need more work again.

I managed to get a bed and a half done last night.

We definitely need to raise these beds higher. With the constant bending to pull the rhizomes and roots out, by the time I was done, I was feeling light headed and ill. 😦

The garlic hear is doing very well. The other two beds are doing very poorly. Because I planted them in a grid, I could use the few sprouted garlic to figure out where others should be, and gently dug down. I’ve found some cloves with their bit of leaf sprouted, but not at all green. I suspect we may have lost a lot of cloves to the cold, even though they were heavily mulched.

The remaining three beds need to be worked on, but we’ll have to do the pea trellises, first. Those should be planted already, and the purple peas the sprouted from seeds we saved need to be transplanted. They are frost hardy, so we don’t have to wait until past our last frost date, and they’re getting too big for their pots.

Today, however, I was expecting our potatoes to come in, so I really wanted to get that second bed deep mulched. I was very happy to be able to pick up some more cardboard from my new homesteading friend this morning – and get to visit her chickens, guinea hens and ducks! I was very inspired. We so need to get a coop built, so we can have chickens!!

They didn’t have as much carboard as list time, but I was also offered stacks of egg trays, so I went ahead and took those, too. The one downside of this program: it may keep a lot of food waste out of the landfills, but the farmers and homesteaders are left will all sorts of packaging, and not all of it can be reused. Even some of the cardboard has a wax coating on it, can can’t be used as mulch. Stuff is still going to end up in the landfills.

But not the cardboard I got today! 🙂

This is the area that needed to be worked on. This had two layers of black tarp over it!

We are dry enough that I could break out the weed trimmer (and three extension cords!) and use that, first.

I trimmed right into the ground as much as I could, which tended to reveal plenty of surface rocks. I stopped frequently to pick the bigger ones. I’m not sure how much of a difference it will make, but better to remove them while the chance was there!

After this was done, I dug some hoses out of the garden shed and set up. It was very hot (we hit at least 22C/72F, which is higher than forecast) and windy, so I wanted to be able to wet down the cardboard as I worked, to make sure it wouldn’t blow away.

By this time, the post office was open again, so I headed out to pick up the potatoes, only to discover they weren’t in yet! I suppose I should have checked the tracking number first. Ah, well. I needed to get more milk at the store, anyhow! The tracking number now says they should arrive tomorrow by end of day, but the store is open only half a day tomorrow. Hopefully, it’ll be in, in the morning. We’ll see.

Once home, it was back to work!

This is when I ran out of cardboard, including what was left over from last time!

This is where I ran out of egg trays, including some of our own that we’d been saving. They’re laid in interlocking layers, so each row is at least two layers deep.

What to do next?? This is a large area to cover.

I scrounged around the house and found some boxes I could break down. Then I remembered we still had some moving boxes in the basement. We’d been saving them for something – I can’t even remember what, anymore – but the new basement now gets wet where a rain barrel had been allowed to overflow, before we moved here, and the boxes have been water damaged.

Which is just perfect for here.

I used up almost all of the old moving boxes! I think there’s three left, now.

I kept having to pause and use the hose, because they were drying so quickly in the sun. The egg trays, at least, hung on to their moisture a lot more.

Then it was time to start laying out the straw.

This took up a lot of that big straw bale!

Since I had the hose handy, I took the time to wet down the straw every now and then – and the cardboard, so it would still be wet as I laid the straw down. It took quite a while to get it done, but I think it worked out better that way. I hosed down the other bed as well, but it takes a lot to get straw really wet. We’re expecting showers and thundershowers, on and off over the next couple of weeks, but it won’t be enough to really get it soak, so we’ll be hosing it down daily. I plan to chit the potatoes, so we should have a few days to get it really good and wet.

The high raised bed, with its onion transplants and sown spinach, also got thoroughly watered.

While I was working on this, a daughter was back out digging holes for when the trees come in, until the heat became too much for such heavy manual labour. It was bad enough that she had to break out the loppers to cut roots she was hitting, not to mention all the rocks she had to clear out, too! Including both the bison berry and the highbush cranberry, she’s digging two rows of 16, three feet apart. Then there’s just the holes along the lilac hedge for the 5 sea buckthorn, and those will be ready for when the trees arrive. The shipping date for those is scheduled for May 30, with an expected arrival of June 2. Once they arrive, we need to get them in the ground as quickly as possible – and have a way to protect the saplings from being eaten by deer!

For now, we are ready for potatoes. Now that we finally have a break in the weather, the next few weeks are going to see a lot of garden activity! I’m eyeballing the long range forecast, on three different apps, and while they are all slightly different, none of them are suggesting we’ll be getting frost, and overnight lows are looking pretty good. I might have to chance it with some of our transplants. The kulli corn is outgrowing their toilet paper tube pots and need to be in the ground! I’m still not even sure where I’ll be planting them. They can grow up to 8 feet tall, so I’m thinking of putting them along the back of the main garden area, where we’d tried growing gourds our first year of gardening. They’ll be protected by trees from the north, while getting full sunlight all day. They would be planted in two or three long rows, closer together, rather than a block, but I think it will still work out.

This is going to be a very interesting gardening year!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: heavy mulch, and high raised bed cover

I was hoping we wouldn’t get a lot of wind, but it was gusting pretty wildly when I came out to check on the garden beds.

The cardboard did not get as saturated as I’d hoped, but it also didn’t get blown away as badly as I’d feared it might.

The cover on the high raised bed, on the other hand, was all over the place.

I fought with it for a while, using bricks to try and weigh down the edges, and the pieces of garden hose we cut last year as crimps on the hoops. The main problem was how high the hoops were. Ideally, I would have just laid the plastic flat across the top, but I have no way to fasten it down right now.

I did push the hoops deeper into the soil, but they are right along the walls, and the lower logs are thicker than the top ones, so I kept hitting the wood and having to adjust. There wasn’t a lot of wiggle room to avoid the onions.

Thankfully, onions are very hardy.

By the time I finished mulching, though, I just took the plastic off.

The only reason the plastic was being added was in case it snowed (I did actually see some flakes!), but by then, the temperature had risen enough that it wasn’t an issue.

Gathering up and folding that sheet of plastic was interesting. I usually try to use the wind itself to help, which usually works well, but not this morning! The wind kept coming from all directions, and I found myself as likely to suddenly have plastic wrapped around me as having the wind blow it straight out.

The future potato bed now has a nice, deep mulch at least a foot deep. I had wanted to chop the straw first with the shredder chute on the wood chipper, but there’s no way to get the chipper out there through the mud and water.

The straw bale has been left exposed to the elements all winter. Layers of it were sloughing down and, as you can see, it’s wet and starting to decompose. Which is exactly what I want for mulching. Straw takes quite a while to decompose, which is the main reason we wanted to put it through the shredder, first. The wet straw is also not going to blow away. Normally, after laying the straw down, we’d be taking a hose to it, but between how wet it already is, and the rain, it should be pretty moist.

Well, crud. I just looked at the weather forecast, and it’s changed again. We might get rain with snow again this evening! We’re supposed to hit 0C/32F overnight, with the wind chill making it feel like -4C/25F. Then more light rain tomorrow. I guess we should cover the !#$%!$# high raised bed again.


The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: today’s progress

It was a hot and windy day today, and my younger daughter and I ended up making a quick run into town, but we did get some decent progress in the garden.

summer squash, mulched and prepped

My older daughter braved the hottest part of the day and added more soil to the 15 summer squash mounds.

I waited until it was cooler.

I added a stake near each plant. The stakes are some of the smaller poplars we cleared our of the spruce grove, trimmed to about 3-4 feet in length. In the foreground of the photo, there is a metal bar stuck in the ground. It has a point at one end. I can’t remember at the moment, where we found it, but it was a happy find! I used it, and a mallet, to make holes in the ground. Then the stakes, skinny end down, were pushed in as far as I could, beyond what I managed with the steel bar, then the soil carefully stomped down to secure it. As close to the plants as they were, that meant mostly just on one side. Once those were in, the area was mulched with straw. The idea is to secure the stems of the squash to the stakes, as they grow, and pruning the bottom leaves, little by little. We shall see how that works!

Also, I really need to get this area mowed, before the next rains come!

I had found some trellis netting, so my daughter finished the last sections of pea trellis with that, along with adding soil to the summer squash. The peas are getting tall enough to start climbing! The peas I planted later, to fill the gaps left by those that did not germinate, are sprouting, too. I’m really looking forward to having fresh peas! I can’t remember the last time I had fresh-from-the-garden peas.

If you look to the left of the photo, you can see what is a problem in this area: all those tree seedlings! They are spreading through root systems, like quack grass. Usually, I would have mowed over them by now, but we’re going to have to cut them back by hand this year.

spinach beds

My younger daughter, meanwhile, went all out and thinned all three spinach beds.

Yes, this was taken after the beds were thinned!

The furthest one, under the netting, is the one that got the most deer damage, but parts of it are doing well. You can see at the end of the closer beds, the smaller spinach at the ends the deer got at.

With the spinach she gathered, I currently have two trays drying in the oven, and made myself a huge spinach salad for supper. The reason we went into town was to get ingredients to make spinach dips. Both cold and baked versions. 🙂 I’m really looking forward to that!

This last one is just to show how well the potatoes have been doing! At this rate, some of them are going to need topping up, soon! I’m very excited to see how productive these will be at the end of their season.

With today’s progress, my goal for tomorrow is to get working on that squash tunnel. The luffa needs something to climb! 😀

The Re-Farmer

Garden stuff update, and shortened term plans

With this being our first attempt to do any gardening since we’ve moved back to my family farm, we are learning quite a lot.

One of those things is, there are a lot more rocks in the old garden than I remember as a kid!

I had broken up some of the hillier parts that were making mowing more “damaging” than “difficult”, and the girls had a chance to go at some of those spots with hoes, to break them up and flatten them out. They were only able to do a few before the heat drove them inside.

Even so, they managed to also collect these.

When I was a kid, picking rocks out of the garden was a regular and constant thing we did. It kept things manageable. I don’t know how many years ago that particular chore stopped. I know my parents would not have been able to keep it up, and my siblings that were able to go to the farm more often certainly would not have had time to pick rocks, when there were far more urgent things for them to take care of, while they were there.

We are definitely seeing the difference. It’s one of several reasons why I want to go with raised garden beds. Being on the bed of a ancient glacial lake means there will always, always be rocks working their way up the soil with every frost and thaw. It’s also why we are working on using mulch and layers of material to build up the soil. In the old garden area, mulching where we have the squash beds now is the only reason the area is at all manageable.

The squash seem to like it! Here is another type that has started to bloom. Since the other ones turned out to be sunburst squash, that means this is one of the summer surprise variety pack of zucchini. Not a variety I’ve seen grown before; we grew different types of squash when I was a kid, but never one with these mottled leaves. It should be interesting to see what they are!

The cucamelons are now trellised. I did it in stages, adding the bamboo stakes that wouldn’t be needed in one of the squash beds into the openings on the sides of the chimney blocks, then coming back to add the horizontal lines. Finally, I added a vertical line at each of the cucamelons. I didn’t bother for two of the blocks, as it looks like the cucamelons in them are not going to make it. They’re not dead, but they’re not really growing, either.

Once the vertical lines were in place, I placed tendrils around them, to start training the cucamelons to grow upwards. On one side, I added a line up to an overhanging tree branch to keep the whole thing from sagging from the weight. If necessary, the same can be done on the other side.

This is not where we originally planned to grow the cucamelons. I don’t think they can get as much sun as they need in this location, but we couldn’t delay transplanting them anymore. If we grow these again in the future, we will have to be sure to have a sunnier location ready for them.

I am continuing to build up the old flower garden here, and have been adding layers of straw, leaves and grass clippings mostly at the lower end, closer to the retaining wall. Where the soil has been added is where we transplanted the few fennel that came up, and a couple of those have since died. So we have a whole 3 fennel still growing in there! 😀

For all the layers and additions of mulch, things are still working their way through. The rhubarb and some of the flowers, we are good with. Those horrible invasive vines keep coming up, and there’s a type of flower my mother suddenly decided she didn’t want me to get rid of (after I’d already gotten the okay from her and started the layering) that wants to take over the whole area.

What I had hoped for this garden is to use it as a kitchen garden, to grow things like herbs and the like, as well as some flowers. Maybe some lettuces. My mother keeps going on about how she’d planted onions here, and keeps asking me how her onions are doing, then complaining that I killed them all by mulching the area. :-/ The only place I ever saw onions coming up was along one edge, where I’d taken some fencing and car tire planters out, so I’m not sure what she’s taking about. One has actually come up again, this year, but there was never more than a couple, since we’ve lived here. From the state of the rest of the garden, there was no way she had more than those growing, even going back in my memory to what was there when I was a kid. She only ever had onions growing along that south side, but when she talks about it, she makes it sound like most of the garden was onions and garlic.

The ornamental apple trees had been planted to provide shade, I’ve been told. Then there’s the double lilac, the honeysuckle and the roses. One of the roses finally bloomed this year, but being under one of the apple trees the way it is, it’s really struggling. The Cherokee rose, on the other hand, is spreading like a weed.

Those apple trees are going to cause problems for anything we try to grow there.

I suppose they wouldn’t bother me as much, if they were at least an edible apple. How ironic that the pretty much only apple trees we’ve got that don’t show signs of fungal disease, are the ones that we can’t eat from!

The girls and I have been talking about what we’ll do next, when it comes to growing and planting. They really want to start planting flowers. We’re also talking about finding a way to get the nut orchard collection I’d found, earlier rather than later. Trees take so long to grow, that it would be worthwhile for us to start that as soon as possible. The package deal I’d found is for 100 trees, and we were planning to use the old garden area, including the spaces that have always been a mowed border, for that. The package is over a thousand dollars – and that’s with the bulk discount! With that in mind, they will be working to come up with funds to contribute, so we can get it earlier. Maybe even as early as next spring!

Some other things, however, will be ordered for planting this fall.

One of the things we’ve decided to do is use the bed currently filled with the beets and carrots for garlic, after everything in it now has been harvested. We’ll be ordering a collection of 1 pound each of 3 different types.

Aside from the garlic, we will be ordering lots and lots of flowering bulbs.

As much as I enjoy mowing, there are some areas in between the trees that I would rather not be mowing at all! In fact, if we can not mow in between any of the trees, that would be great. It’s really bad for the mower in there!

So I took a bunch of pictures of different areas, then we went through them to discuss what we would be planting and where. The plan is to fill some areas with naturalizing flowers, and other areas will be kept open as paths, with some sort of ground cover that can be walked on, instead of grass.

Next month, along with the garlic, we will order muscari (aka grape hyacinth), a collection of snow crocuses, a double tulip collection, and various other flowers. The muscari and snow crocuses will be mixed together and basically scattered in select areas where we want low growing plants. The taller flowers, the girls will decide on the exact places. Other areas we want to have low growing plants will have things like creeping phlox in them, or hostas in the shadier areas, and even ferns, eventually, but the areas we want to walk on will have things like different kinds of thyme, while others will have mosses. There are some areas we need to keep flower free, so that my husband, who is allergic to stings, can go into them and not worry about bees.

For our zone, once we order our selections next month, we should expect them to be delivered around the end of September.

I bought an auger attachment for my drill with plans to use it when we did the sunflowers. I decided against using it, because of how rocky the old garden area is. It’s actually sold as a tool for planting bulbs. The muscari alone will be 200 bulbs (we’re getting 2 packages), so that thing is going to get a workout this fall! 🙂

At least, that’s what our plans are. I’ve long since learned that no plans are written in stone, so we shall see what we actually get to do when the time comes! 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Back at it

After taking yesterday to recover, I was feeling well enough to continue working outside today.

But first, I got to release the kitties!


They now know they are allowed to be upstairs when I open the basement door, so they and Beep Beep are all at the top step, waiting for me. As they all go rushing up, there’s an equal rush from the adults cats, going the other direction!

For now, we’re still going to keep them in the basement over night, during days when we’re not around to keep an eye on them, or if we have to go in and out of the house a lot. Keith and Fenrir in particular are not happy about the babies, so we have to keep an eye on them.

The kittens have discovered a safe place to chill out, where the big cats can’t get at them.

Well. Almost.

“If I can’t see them, they can’t see me, right?”

They are certainly entertaining!!

Once I was done my morning rounds, I headed outside to continue mowing around the old garden area.

This time, I remembered to wear my wrist brace. Much to my surprise, it was my wrist that was hurting the most, yesterday. I guess stopping to empty that clippings bag so often was just too much for it.

I really ought to get a doctor to look at that. Knowing me, I probably broke something back when I was helping my brother with patching the shed roof. 😀

One of the things I’ve noticed this year is Saskatoon bushes in places I had not noticed them before. This year is looking to be a really good year for Saskatoons. At least it would be…

I found this large Saskatoon bush among the lilac hedge while mowing. There were no Saskatoon berries here in the last two summers.

This summer, the bush is just full of berries!

None of which I’d be willing to pick and eat.

While some of the bushes have their leaves infested with insect eggs that are weakening them, this one actually looks diseased. A few of the berries look great, but most are smaller, kinda wizened looking, and some have the same spots that are on the leaves.

Such a shame.

Still, while doing my rounds this morning, I was able to gather berries from other trees that are just fine! I will have to try and remember to bring a basket or something with me for the next while, to gather them as they ripen. I’ve been lifting up the bottom of my shirt to make a pouch to hold them, which works fine – right up until I need both hands to switch out the memory cards on the trail came or something. 😉

Once again, while mowing, I made ample use of the grass clippings. Since I was working close to them, I worked the clippings around the sunflowers.

The clippings are doing triple duty. For the smaller, late planted sunflowers, it’ll help keep them from being overgrown by grass and weeds. The mulch is part of our larger plan to build up and amend the neglected soil here, but for this area, it’s also being used to help level out the poorly plowed area.

The poor lawn mower. No matter how careful I was, I still ended up hitting lumps of rocky soil, hidden by the grass. Other times, the wheels would slide into ruts, dropping the blade onto furrows, leaving me to manhandle the machine out. I must say, I was very happy to see my daughter coming out, letting me know she had finished work for the day and could take over for me! The old garden area is the most difficult area to work on. At some point, we’re going to have to go out there with garden hoes and break apart the worst of the hills the bad plow job left behind. It would be better to use heavy equipment to level the whole area out, but we make do with what we can.

For now, the inner yard is done. Tomorrow, I’ll be checking the blade on the mower and probably giving it a sharpen, before I start working on the outer yard!

That poor little mower is really getting a workout! 😀

The Re-Farmer


First, I must apologize.

I didn’t get a single kitten picture today, to share with you! I never had the chance.

I did visit the kittens, of course. One of the first things I do in the morning is head down there with fresh water for them. When I opened the basement door, Beep Beep was sitting in the window ledge above the stairs, waiting for her moment. As soon as the door opened, she launcher herself into the air and through the door!

In my hapless effort to block her, the door got left open a split second too long.

As Beep Beep raced into the dining room, five cats exploded into the basement.

The kittens, meanwhile, had come running to the stairs, as they usually do.

Fenrir has been the most dedicated at trying to get into the basement, but she does not like the kittens. As soon as she saw them, she bolted back up the stairs, then crouched in the entry, staring at the door, like a hairy gargoyle.

Keith was quite taken aback by the horde of kittens.

Keith is also a bundle of nerves and anxiety.

Next thing I know, Keith is hissing and spitting at a kitten, in total fear. The kitten – Nicco – was busily making himself look big, hissing, spitting and advancing on Keith.

Who ran away and hid under a table.

Two Face was running around, trying to snag a kitten to groom. Every now and then, one would come too close, and she would grab it, do a barrel roll as she wrestled it to the ground, before aggressively mothering it. It would take a few moments before a disheveled kitten would squirm it’s way out, and she would do it again to another one.

Cheddar doesn’t seem to know what to think of them. He kept going from kitten to kitten, sniffing and staring. Once again, it was Nicco who made himself look big, staring him down. Until Cheddar casually reached out with a paw and smacked Nicco vaguely around his head.

David, meanwhile, is totally chill with the kittens. He kept going around, sniffing and grooming and snuzzling, kitten after kitten.

Beep Beep, meanwhile, came down, then went back up, then came down and beep beep beeped at me with her distinctive meow that gave her her name.

Then her daughter, Two Face, started beeping, too.

She has a much higher voice than her mother.

I tried to cuddle Beep Beep, and she was reveling in the attention, but would soon run off upstairs again.

Eventually, I had to grab a broom to try and persuade Keith to come out from under the table. Then I tried to sweep the cats towards the stairs. I was finally able to grab them, one at a time, and toss them into the entry way, closing the door each time, so none would come back down.

Beep Beep ended up upstairs again, and I found myself alone with 5 kittens attacking my feet and trying to climb my legs.

I finally got their water changed, then took advantage of the situation and gave them a little packet of wet cat food. That distracted them enough that I could escape and find Beep Beep. As I suspected, she was looking around the food bowls upstairs. She was looking for wet cat food.

So I snagged her and managed to get her downstairs, where the treat was waiting for her.

By the time it was done, the whole thing left me feeling like I’d been spun in circles! 😀


No pictures of kittens this time.


Today did turn out to be a nicely productive day. I made a trip into town to check out a place I’d seen ads for, saying they did lawnmower maintenance. If I could find a place I could take the mowers to, instead of having to go three quarters of the way to the city, to the place my brother bought our riding mower, that would be great. I never expected having trouble finding a small engine shop locally! There are probably quite a few, but no one that advertises. This place is connected to one of the hardware stores, and carries a lot of the big stuff, and even has a chipper that can be rented. For the amount of wood we need to get chipped, we’re going to go ahead and hire the company that did our trees for us, instead. This place also carries the garden soil, manure and peat that the hardware store itself just doesn’t have the room for.

Walking into the place is like heaven. Everywhere I turned, there were riding mowers, push mowers, weed wackers, all sorts of tools and…

Was that a chain saw display in the back?

Why yes! Yes it was!

I had had zero luck in finding a new chain for the electric chainsaw that we had checked out, last year. We never got to use it, nor the gas powered one, at all last year.

The first thing I asked about, was the lawn mower maintenance. When I told him I wanted to get some work done on our riding mower, his first question was, is it still working? I explained that yes, it’s running fine, but I just want to get some basic maintenance done and the blades sharpened. He told me that I could just drop it off – no appointment needed – but they are really busy with lawnmower maintenance right now. He said that, since it’s still running (not in need of any repairs), to just keep on using it and give them about 2 weeks before I drop it off.

I’ll just leave it for next month.

I then asked him about chain saw chains. He said he would need to see the chain saw to know if they carried the right chain, but they do have sharpening services, too. So I will bring it over one of these days for him to take a look at, and he’ll be able to determine if I just need to get it sharpened, or if I need a new chain.

I then bought a bale of peat and some bag of soil mix. He came out with me to help load it into the van, which was kind of funny, since the lift gate is still broken, and I keep a pole in the back to prop it open. I joked about it being something else I need to get fixed, as he deftly maneuvered around the pole to load the bags into the van.

That done, I decided a stop at the garage would be a good idea.

I asked about my mom’s car. He told me he was going into the city tomorrow, and going to a wreckers. Among the things he’s looking for is the part for my mother’s car. He’d hoped to head out this afternoon, but had too many cars to work on, already. I then asked him if he serviced AC systems. Our air conditioning was working last year, if not particularly well, but this year, nothing. The cost was very reasonable, so we went to book that on his calendar. Then I remembered to ask about the lift gate. Since we’re going to be hauling a lawn mower in the back of the van, using the nice new ramps my brother bought for us, it would be good to not have a pole in the way. 😉 These aren’t very expensive and don’t take long to install, so that’s going to get done, too.

I also remembered to ask him about the driver’s side door hinge. When we bought the van, the original door would drop when opened, and we would have to lift it to close it. Eventually, the latch on the door snapped. It was actually cheaper to replace the door, and the garage we went to at the time tried to find a second hand one for us, but never did. We spent most of the first year we owned the van with a Bungee cord keeping the door shut. Including the drive across provinces, during the move.

My brother had been able to find a door, but because the driver’s side door has the only key lock, he had to take both of them apart and cobble the two together. The original hinge pins broke in the process, but he’d snagged the ones from the vehicle he had salvaged the door from, so that worked out. The door does, however, still drop ever so slightly, and we don’t want to go through all that again. If we can get it fixed now, before it becomes a problem, that would be good.

The problem is, he would have to take it apart and see, in order to give me an estimate. But there are only two possibilities. One, we need new bushings. Two, they would need to take it apart, precision drill a new opening, and weld things back together.

If it’s one, that’s not a problem.

If it’s two, he basically says it would take so long, it might not be worth it, because it would be really expensive, just in shop equipment fees, never mind the time.

So the bushing kit, which is not very expensive, has been ordered, and he will check it and see. I’ll be dropping the van off on Monday morning, and just hanging out in town until it’s done.

It was a rather short trip into town, but it felt like I’d accomplished quite a bit in the process!

Once at home, we were getting into the hottest part of the day, so we stuck to inside stuff until things started to cool down in the evening. I didn’t even bother unloading the van until then. That wagon we got last month is awesome. I was able to haul the bale of peat and bags of soil, all at once, over to the old garden area. Then I started mowing the old garden area with the push mower.

I am so glad my brother was able to get that thing running for us. There is no way we could do this area with the riding mower. It would break in no time!

Also, that drill attachment sharpener I got for the mower blade has made a huge difference! When I sharpened it yesterday, I found it so bashed up, it was hard to tell which side of the blade was beveled, and which was flat!

I’m also so happy we found that bag attachment for this mower. It isn’t very big, and I had to stop to empty it often, which makes for much slower going. However, I am getting so many grass clippings, I decided to keep mowing into areas I would normally use the riding mower for, just so I could get more!

And since I had all these wonderful grass clippings, I decided to use them to mulch around where we planted the sunflowers.

The areas mulched are two wagon loads of clippings. I stopped after finishing this end of the old garden area, and then had to stop. After two hours, I was pretty knackered!

Also, I really need to remember to keep a water bottle with me when I’m doing this!

Meanwhile, after the girls finished what they were working on inside, they came out to remove the logs that were used to frame the area we chose to mulch last year, and where I am planting the squash this year. They have served their purpose, and now they are starting to be in the way as we go around with wheelbarrows or wagon, hoses and soil mixes.

We will not be able to continue this tomorrow, though. Tomorrow is our day to do the monthly shop in the city.

I am really hoping it goes better than last month. Last time was pretty brutal. 😦 Even on a good trip, though, we’re pretty wiped out by the time we get home, unload and put everything away.

As for me, I am done like dinner! Time for a shower and, hopefully, early to bed!

Oh, wait. I should have supper first…

The Re-Farmer