Preserving the harvest: minted

Yesterday, I weeded mint out of the beet bed – one entire end was completely stunted because they were shaded out – then kept on going, harvesting mint from the path as well. The sump pump drains into here, and the growth is absolutely lush! By the time I was done, I had a huge arm full! This is all mint that was here before we moved in, so we have no idea what variety it is. I know it’s not spearmint. I don’t think it’s peppermint, either, but I really can’t say for sure.

Once inside, I took the best leaves off the stems and gave them a wash. Then I cleaned up and dragged in the old window screens we used last year for curing onions, drying spinach, etc. I covered the mesh with paper towels, then set out as many leaves as I could fit onto them to dry.

I didn’t even use half of what I’d gathered!

Yes, this is the drying mint!

I used small glasses and jars as spacers so we could stack the screens on top of each other, but the cats were incredibly interested in what was going on. So we put more little jars as spacers on the top and covered the whole thing with a cloth. We still caught them on top of the stack, but at least the cloth kept the leaves clean.

Then, some time later, my daughter got Cheddar out from under the cloth at one end. *sigh* We tucked the ends under the bottom screen as best we could.

When I lifted the cloth on one side this morning, however, I found the cats had still managed to get under it!

I salvaged what I could and set it up again on the old dishwasher that’s still waiting to be taken out to the junk pile. Since the leaves have shrunk, I was able to fit them closer together on the screens that needed to be redone. For now, we’re keeping the sheet off, so they can get more air circulation.

Drying things on screens like this can work quite well, but protecting it from the cats is a problem!

Meanwhile, I used fresh mint to make a big pot of strong mint tea this morning, and there is still lots left in the fridge. There is much more to harvest in the garden, as we want, too.

The chives are blooming right now and ready to harvest if we want to make infused chive blossom oil or vinegar again. We have the olive oil to do that now, but I won’t be picking up more of the white wine vinegar I like to use until we do our next city trip. I might just harvest the chives, anyway, and freeze the extra until we are ready to make the infusion.

I love that we can already start harvesting things and preserving them!

The Re-Farmer

Wet, wet and more wet!

I am so, so glad the girls were able to get the clogged downspouts cleared yesterday! We had a thunderstorm last night, and are currently under weather alerts for more severe thunderstorms.

This is the one, draining into the north yard, that was causing the most problems. It is under this corner that the most water is leaching into the basement. This basement does have weeping tile, but they are not working as they should anymore, and are probably clogged at this end.

There is another downspout at the south end, but it had only the short piece of eavestrough at the end to divert the water away from the house. For some reason, we’ve got about a dozen or more downspouts in the garage, so I grabbed one for them, and they set it up to extend into the bed where the dwarf Korean lilac is. With how tall the grass is in the outer yard, it was actually a struggle to get through it, to reach the barn!!

I’ll put up with the extension blocking the path along the house. It’s not as bad as the north corner, but we do have water seeping into the basement a bit in the south corner, too. The wall is partly damaged by the roots from the Chinese elm my mother planted for shade in front of the kitchen window. 😦

While they worked on that, I worked on the trellises.

I decided I’m just going to have to buy more of those bamboo stakes once pay comes in. A pair of them was set up at each of the uprights for the two rows that need trellising. That left me with 4 stakes left. I lashed them to the bottoms of alternate A frames, for 2 on each side. To finish the job on both rows, I’ll need 10 more of these 6′ bamboo poles. Then I used the net from last year and set that up, lacing twine along the ends and at the bottom stakes, to snug it up. We need to get more of this type of net. The spacing is large enough that we can reach through to harvest our beans, peas or cucumbers. The other net we have is 1/4 inch mesh.

After this, I also put a simple rope fence around where we have squash, beans and corn planted. At this point, I just want to stop the deer from walking through it. They’re not after anything there – yet. You’ll see that set up in a photo below.

During the night, the skies opened and the rains poured down! I actually slept through it, awakened only by one exceptionally loud peal of thunder. While doing my rounds this morning, however, I could not believe how much water there is, everywhere! It must have been quite the deluge! I’m still holding out hope to be able to mow the west and north lawns, but that’s not going to happen today, that’s for sure! The west lawn is now mostly under water. Most of the north lawn as well. I’ve never seen that much open water in those areas before.

The squash patch is very wet – thankfully, the straw mulch is helping keep that under control. We’ve had paths between the low raised beds filled with puddles before, but not this much around where the grow bags and the small potato bed are.

I’m actually surprised the mosquito netting has held out. Their purpose is to keep the plants from being pounded by rain or hail, while still letting the water through, and it seems to be working. They’re only held in place with wooden clothes pegs!

I’m standing in water to take the above picture. There is even a large puddle next to the remains of the straw bale. The melons are likely good with the wet – they do need a lot of water, normally – but I’m concerned that some of the potatoes might get drowned.

This is the patch I “fenced” off last night. I used some old conduit pipes I found in the barn and pounded them in place as fence posts. They’ve got 2 lengths of twine running around them, far enough apart that we can just bend down and step through to get to the plants. I also dangled lengths of bells in different places, so even if a deer decided to step through, it would hopefully make a noise and distract it away. I added one of the pinwheels we have to the top of a pipe for the distraction. Little by little, we’ll set up more distractions and noise makers around the garden beds. Eventually, we will probably have to put a hardware cloth fence up, to at least protect the corn.

Assuming the corn and beans survive. As you can see, the sprouting corn is under water in places. The north end of the row with the popcorn in it is all under water. Still no beans coming up next to the sweet corn. Will they survive? I have no idea.

Even the area where the trellises are is full of water. This corner of the yard has been notorious for being incredibly dry and baked hard by the sun. Thankfully, the rows themselves are slightly elevated with the addition of garden soil and mulch, and even our digging and weeding before planting means where the plants are growing, the soil has better drainage.

The nearby sea buckthorn is high enough to not be in puddles – and they are finally unfurling their leaves! Nice to see they all took.

The silver buffalo berry is also doing surprisingly well. Moving south, the land slowly slopes downwards, so the last 10 or so silver buffalo berry are in pools of water. At least three of those have been in water for quite a while, and are still okay. They seem to be quite resilient!

The beds in the east yard are almost surrounded by water. Remarkably, the ground cherries are doing all right. I think that grass mulch is acting as a sponge, keeping them from being drowned out completely. There are pools of water right next to the mulch.

The paths between the low raised beds, and the entire lawn in front of them, is full of water. There is basically a pond in front of the outhouse. Thankfully, the raised beds are making a difference. There is increased growth visible in the Kulli corn, and the beans between them are looking very healthy. The tomatoes and onions are also looking strong – and those onions are really taking off! The 6 transplanted garlic at the far end of the third bed may not all make it, but the rest of the garlic is finally looking like they are taking off. I figure they are at least a month behind the garlic in the main garden area.

The other beds in the south yard are all high enough to be out of water. It looks like all 10 of the sunchoke tubers planted are now sprouted; some of the tubers have multiple stalks coming up. The asparagus and strawberry bed are right next to the vehicle gate, which is full of water, but the bed is doing well. Likewise, the beds along the chain link fence, on either side of the people gate, are above water and doing well. Still no signs of white strawberries.

The old kitchen garden has a slightly different situation. We’ve deliberately built it up over the past 4 years and have the retaining wall at one end, so it’s above the water that is in the lawn surrounding it. The house itself also usually keeps parts of it from getting rained on as much, not to mention the ornamental apple trees. However, the sump pump hose drains into the sun room garden, and that pump is going off quite frequently. It drains next to the bed where we’ve got the beets planted. I shift the end every now and then, so it’s either draining straight down a mulched path between the bed and the laundry platform, or it’s draining into the mulch at the end of the bed, and partly down the path on the other side.

These are all areas that are normally drier than everywhere else. Until this year, the sump pump basically never went off, because we’d been so dry. Now, not only are we getting more rain, but there’s all that nice, clear water from the sump pump reservoir being added. There is currently so much lush growth along the house side of the old kitchen garden that the path we made using salvaged cap stones, bricks and rocks along the house is almost hidden. The high end of the beet bed is almost overgrown with mint – and I dug up and transplanted as much of the mint from there as I could, last fall. Then again in the spring, I pulled up more of it when getting the bed ready for planting! The path is also full of mint at that end, along with loads of crab grass. Moving north along the house, it’s more of those invasive wildflowers, some of which my mother planted deliberately, not knowing they were invasive, and some are the same ones we’ve got taking over all over the place. I don’t mind them in the paths too much, but they’re coming up in the L shaped bed, too, and choking out the lettuce.

We have a drainage hose for the sump pump, but it’s currently being used for the washing machine to drain outside (it sounds like whatever is causing the water to back up in the pipes is still a problem). I’d like to add an extension so that the sump pump drains further away. With the length these hoses come in, we could even move the end to different areas of the old kitchen garden that might need more water, if we wanted. The area it’s draining into right now is getting to be too much of a jungle! πŸ˜€

We had already determined that we’ll be building high raised beds for mobility reasons. For some crops, like corn, tomatoes and vining plants, we would still want to have low raised beds. High raised beds are notorious for drying out quickly and needing more water, which is why we are using modified hΓΌgelkultur methods to fill them, with all those layers of wood and organic matter acting as a sponge to hold water. This spring has shown us that even for a wet year, there are benefits to having raised beds, as they are keeping things from being drowned, too. Even a few inches of elevation or a mulch is making a difference.

When we get around to building permanent high raised beds in the outer yard, from what I’ve been seeing so far, water like this will be less of a problem. There are patches with water collecting in them, but where we are planning to build the beds seems clear. We’ll see better once we finally get that overgrown grass cut. It’s about 3 ft high, at least! I almost feel like asking one of our neighbours if they have a grazing animal we could borrow. Otherwise, it feels like such a waste to cut it all!

We’ll figure it out.

The Re-Farmer

The old scythe: checking out the condition

With the ground too wet to mow, it’s time to see if we can restore my dad’s old scythe to cutting condition. Here is how is looks now.

That’s looking really rough. I think we can get the rust off and give it a good sharpening, though.

Interesting that the blade is Austrian, but the handle is American style. I know nothing about where it came from.

I also have no idea what happened to the original handle.

That looks like an old chair leg!

Whatever. It works!

I do like the swoopy, ergonomic design of the American style handle. I took a few test swipes. It’s very light and easy to handle.

Dull as anything, though.

So that’s going to be a pet project, and will likely take several days. Since we’re not making hay, it doesn’t matter if everything is still wet when we scythe it. It just needs to get done. At this point, the grass is so tall and thick in the outer yard, we can barely through it. Plus, there’s all the mosquitoes hiding in there and, I’m sure, plenty of wood ticks, too.

I do wonder, though. We’ve got clouds of mosquitoes, but I haven’t been seeing any dragon flies. They eat mosquitoes. You’d think the abundance of food would mean a population explosion of dragon flies, too!

Perhaps they will show up later in the season.

Until then, we’ll be investing in lots of bug spray!

The Re-Farmer

A couple days break?

We had quite a lot of rain yesterday, with temperatures much cooler than forecast for the first day of summer. The cool was much appreciated! It was nice being able to open up more windows again.

The problem is how wet everything is. Even the new part basement now has water pooling in places. Unlike the old basement, we can’t sweep this into a drain or a sump pump cistern. All we can do is keep a fan on it, really.

We’re supposed to have a couple of days that are warmer and without rain. Hopefully, that will be enough to let the grass dry out enough that I can finish mowing the lawn tomorrow. No chance of being able to get it done today, even if I wasn’t going to be at my mother’s for her home care assessment appointment. After that, however, we’re looking at possible thunderstorms and more rain for several more days.

While doing my morning rounds, I saw a couple of the kittens under the cat’s house again. I’m glad to see them, after they got so frightened by the lawn mower. I caught a brief glimpse of the little calico’s face. Her one eye still seems gooby, but otherwise all right.

The garden plots seem to be holding out all right, though I noticed a lot of pole beans at the trellises seem to have lost their leaves. I can’t tell if it’s because they were eaten by something, or because they wilted and fell off from excess moisture. There are still lots of plants, though, so we should still be good.

I’m pretty sure one of the lilacs at the corner of the storage house has been totally drowned. The few leaves it managed to grow are gone. If it survives, I’ll be amazed. There are others that aren’t quite as bad, and I think they’ll make it.

The Kulli corn seems to finally be recovering from transplant shock, looking more green and actually growing. The bush beans growing with them are progressing nicely. The first planting of spinach and one type of lettuce are getting big enough we should be able to start harvesting leaves and thinning them out.

As much of a problem the excess rain is, after last year’s drought and having to water every day, twice a day, throughout the summer, I’m really happy with how things are growing right now.

Still, it’ll be nice to have a couple of days break from the rain!

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! πŸ™‚

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

Taking a sort of break

I just need to take a brain break for a moment. Writing this is my brain break! πŸ˜€ I have just spent the last hour or so at the local cemetery, with my mother and sister. It went well, overall, but things are always a bit stressful with my mother around.

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

I actually started my day with a telephone appointment with the doctor to talk about my mother. One of the things that he will get the ball rolling on is to have the home care department call my mom for an assessment, so see what sort of help she needs, if any. They can’t do that until my mother deals with her bed bug situation, which she is still treating as a big joke. She will be getting a phone call first, though, and hopefully they will talk to her about it. The doctor had questions about my mother getting infections or rashes from the bed bugs, but there is nothing he can do beyond that; it’s all on my mother to make the call to get her place treated.

At the same time, he had the results of my bloodwork and updated my prescription. It’s handy having the same doctor as my mother! So as soon as I got off the phone with him, I called the pharmacy. My husband called in his own refills to be delivered today, so I told them they would be getting a fax with my updated prescription, and asking them to include it with the delivery. I ran out of mine months ago, but without being able to go in to do my bloodwork, I was only getting 30 day refills. Each time it ran out, the pharmacy would have to contact the clinic and wait for another 30 day refill prescription to be faxed to them, so I didn’t bother calling in anymore. When I mentioned that to the doctor, he was a bit startled and assured me I’d be getting a 90 day prescription. In 2 months, I need to get more bloodwork done to see if anything needs to be changed. Meanwhile, my husband and I will be seeing the doctor in person in a couple of days.

My sister made the trip to my mother, to bring her out to the cemetery. She tries to manage it at least once a year. We met in town to have lunch at our hamlet’s single restaurant. I left a bit earlier, before the store with the post office closed. I’m happy to say, my PAL finally came in! I can now legally buy non-restricted guns and ammunition. Not that we have the money for it right now, but at least it’s an option.

So we had a nice lunch, and I let my mother know about the call she could expect from home care, but mentioned that they can’t come out until she gets the bed bug situation dealt with. She just smirked about that. I don’t know how to get through to her about her need to do this! Otherwise, her behaviour was pretty good, up until we were getting ready to leave, and she called the two staff over and started telling them to take away the “ugly” picture on the wall. There are paintings and photos from local artists for sale on the walls, and this one happened to be a portrait type painting of an old First Nations man, with slightly disheveled hair. She said a few tactless and somewhat racist things – things she gets away with, simply because of her age! My sister and I still called her out on it, so that didn’t last too long, at least. The staff handled it well, at least.

After lunch, I transferred some framed pictures my mother asked me to get out of storage – I’m glad I was able to find them at all! – into my sister’s car, then we headed to the cemetery.

It’s a very tiny cemetery connected with a church that has been closed for years now. It’s off the beaten path and tucked away among the trees. A very lovely spot. It was a bit of a surprise to see vehicles already there, including one I recognized.

It turns out our vandal had volunteered to cut the grass, and was doing it today.

He’d already used the weed trimmer around the half of the cemetery we needed to go into. When he realized I was there, he quickly packed up and left, in compliance with the restraining order. Meanwhile, my mother was there, calling out to him to come over. *sigh* I tried to explain to her that he couldn’t, and not to get him in trouble, but I don’t think she understood. Or maybe just didn’t care.

Since the grass had just been trimmed, it was all over the graves and stones, and he hadn’t had a chance to put things back. So I got a snow brush out of the van and started sweeping around the family graves.

There’s quite a few of them.

My sister, meanwhile, had brought a brush to scrub away the bird droppings, and water and rags to clean off the stones. They’d also brought a whole bunch of artificial flowers, so once everything was cleaned up and decorations returned, we set flowers out as my mother directed. She kept getting mad at us when we would ask her if she liked a particular colour grouping of flowers, but hadn’t finished setting them in place yet, because we hadn’t set them in place yet. !!

It took a while.

Then, after she said some prayers, she wanted my sister to get pictures of her by the freshly cleaned up and decorated family graves.

That was my cue to go. I suggested to my sister that she text our vandal before they left, to let him know I was gone and he could come back and finish what he was doing.

The whole thing went over pretty well, as far as such things go, but I’m mentally exhausted. It’s also the hottest part of the day, now, so I lost my productive time in the garden. I just talked to my daughters about it, and we’ve decided I need to have a “day off” from the garden. I’ve been pushing myself hard, and am in a lot of pain for it, so I really do need to back off a bit. My older daughter is going to do as much commission work as she can today, so she can take a day off work tomorrow. We’ll make a big push to get the last of the garden planted. Even if we don’t manage to get the A frame trellis supports in place, that can be finished after things have been planted. We just need to get the last stuff into the ground! I am just so incredibly tired right now, to the point it’s hard to think straight as I’m writing. Lack of sleep is part of the problem. It isn’t helping that Nosencrantz is determined to have access to the window ledge again, and keeps knocking out the window fan, leaving it dangling by its cord and bounding off the wall.

Usually at around 4:30am

It’s now doubly secured and, when I got home from my outing, I found it shifted out of place, but still on the ledge, so it’s working so far.

So, I think I’ll try and get some rest (and pain killer up!) today, and we’ll make the big push tomorrow.

Once the garden is in, we’ll celebrate with my younger daughter’s birthday pizza. It’ll be early, but her sister plans to get her some celebratory Taquitos and beer, cake and ice cream, closer to her actual birthday. πŸ˜€

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: eggplants, peppers, Wonderberry, and what a long day

It’s shortly before 8pm as I start this, and it’s all I can do not to just go to bed right now!

My day started a bit earlier, as I wanted to get my morning rounds taken care of before making some calls, then heading to the city. My husband and I now have medical appointments for the end of the week. We are both way overdue. Especially my husband.

Once that was done, I headed to the city, stopping to get gas at the town my mother lives in, first. Too early for their fried chicken to be available, so breakfast was a bag of beef jerky. πŸ˜€ Usually, I just get $20 or $30 in gas, but decided to fill. At 197.9/L $20 wasn’t going to get me much. It cost almost $55 for about a quarter tank.

Then I got to the city and the first gas stations I saw were at 207.9/L

That’s USD$6.24/US gallon.

As I got further into the city, I saw stations that were still at 196.9/L but it likely is just a matter of time before all the stations jump up in price.

It’s insane.

I’m sure glad I filled my tank earlier!

Today was our day to do the rest of our monthly stocking up, and I went to The Wholesale Club again for this trip. Ended up spending just over $400 there, and the only things that could be considered splurges were super long metal tongs, and a super long wooden spoon, for cooking over the firepit. Oh, and more 500ml, wide mouth canning jars for the stash. πŸ˜€

There were a couple of things they didn’t have in types and sizes that I wanted, so I went to a nearby Walmart. My splurges there were a heavy duty garden hose, and a fan for my window, to replace the box fan that broke last year. The garden hose was actually a bit cheaper than the medium duty garden hose I was looking at. Normally I’d say, you get what you pay for, but the last time I paid a more premium price for a heavy duty hose, it suddenly burst apart at the tap, the first summer we used it. We’ll see how well this one lasts.

Between the drive and the shopping, the whole thing took about 4-5 hours, but I got pretty much everything on my list – including the highest SPF sunscreen I could find, an more bug spray! After this, we’ll only need to pick up fresh stuff locally, as needed.

I’m glad I remembered to stop at the post office on the way home. Several packages were in, including a birthday gift for my younger daughter. We also finally got the credit from our previous internet provider, which we should have gotten back in February. Since I was there, I also picked up another bag of wood shavings to use as mulch.

Once at home and the girls unloaded the van and put everything away, I headed back outside. We hit more than 20C/68F today, and I wanted to make sure all the transplants – both the ones still in pots, and the ones in the gardens – got a good misting. Happily, there is no sign of transplant shock in anything we transplanted. In fact, one tomato plant that got all droopy right after being planted, has already perked up.

My younger daughter was able to get the Wonderberry transplanted.

We decided to put them around the stone cross. I’ve read that these are good at self seeding, so they can be treated as perennials, and we thought this might be a nice place for them. They are so full of flowers and berries! I would certainly prefer these spreading around the area, instead of those green leafed plants that are taking over everything. They do have pretty flowers but, wow, do they ever invade! Almost every area we’ve managed to clean up among the trees is now covered with these!

Unfortunately, my daughter didn’t get much more done outdoors after this. She was driven inside by the clouds of mosquitoes. I had bug spray on, and it barely kept them at bay. I ended up mowing the main garden area, instead of working on more transplanting or bed prep as I’d intended, because the tall, damp grass is just a haven for mosquitoes. Huge clouds of them would rise up as we walked through! They’re just nasty.

Before I started mowing, my daughter helped me move the row covers we made last year. From the droppings left behind, the deer walked all over them during the winter. They are completely falling apart. When we can, we’ll take them apart and salvage what we can to reuse in other ways in the garden.

I didn’t get all of what needed to be mowed – some areas are still too wet – but the main garden area, and the spaces between beds and trellises we used last year, are now mowed. I also set up the old, patched up rain barrel and filled it with water (which I could now reach without having to steal a length of hose from the front tap, thanks to the new hose I got today) while I mowed, so we can use it to water the silver buffalo berry and sea buckthorn with ambient temperature water. Plus I could reach to use the hose to water the peas.

Once a bare minimum of mowing was done, I went ahead and did some more transplanting.

We had 5 surviving Little Finger eggplants, and they just fit into the middle of the half-bed that had space. They are encircled by spinach and onions. Now that the eggplants are in, we can finish setting up the hoops – they just need cross pieces joining them in the middles – so we can cover them with net. I don’t know of the critters would eat eggplant, but I’d rather not give them the opportunity to find out!

There were 7 surviving Purple Beauty bell peppers. Most were from the second seed start. Only two survived the Great Cat Crush. πŸ˜€ Once they were in, there was still some space in the middle of this bed. Just enough for the last two Cup of Moldova that didn’t fit in the bed that has just tomatoes in it.

This bed is encircled with onions on the outside, while the inside has turnips on one side, spinach on the other. The turnips – all three varieties – germinated a couple days ago, and today I could just see little spinach coming up, too.

With the peppers now planted, we’ll add twine to the supports, and then will be able to put net around the bed.

Tomorrow, we’re going to need to put a priority on transplanting the melons. They are starting to suffer in their too-small toilet tube pots. So they will go into the deep mulch space left over, after the potatoes were planted. I was going to plant the summer squash in there, though to be honest, between the two beds, we might have room for both. Well. Not all the summer squash. We do have a lot of patty pans!

We’re expected to get as warm tomorrow as we did today, so I think an early bed and early rise will be in order again. I want to get more work done in the garden, while it is still cool.

After I pain killer up and slather my dried up hands with lotion! I am in such pain right now. It’s fine if I’m sitting down, except for the joints in my fingers making it hard to type, but every time I get up, I find my joints have completely stiffened up and I can barely walk.

*sigh*

I’m too young to be feeling this old!

πŸ˜€

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: potatoes, strawberries and sunchokes

We had a lovely, warm and sunny day.

That meant, time to catch up as much as possible in the garden!

My main goal was to get the potatoes in, since the beds for these were all prepped and ready.

The first ones were from the 1kg package; Caribe.

There just happened to be exactly 20 potatoes in the 1kg package, so this bed got 2 rows of 10 potatoes. For each one, I dug into the mulch to the cardboard below – which was very wet, from all the rain we’ve had since this bed was prepped! – cut an X into it and pulled it back, added a potato so that it was in contact with the ground below, then covered it with a couple of scoops of garden soil.

For this bed, I followed up with a watering, to settle in the soil, then covered each spot very lightly with some straw.

Then it was time to do the 5kg potatoes.

The first ones I did were the Bridget. They were planted the same way as the Caribe, though it wasn’t as easy, while having to walk on top of the straw mulch! I also didn’t bother covering them with straw after the soil was added. The hardest part was cutting through the cardboard. Some of those boxed were made of a very heady duty cardboard, and even while soaking wet, it was hard to get through. Which will be excellent for weed suppression, so it’s worth the extra effort.

It’s a lot longer doing it this way, then the first time we grew potatoes the Ruth Stout way. We didn’t have any cardboard, so the potatoes were laid out on the ground, then simply covered with straw. They did okay, but weeds got through the straw mulch as well as the potatoes. This time, we have a thick layer of cardboard, so that should take care of that problem, but it does make it more tedious! It would have been easier if I could kneel down. A lot of head rushes from being bent down so much!

This morning, I checked the tracking for our shrubs and trees, and they were ready for pick up, two days early! By the time I finished planting the Bridget potatoes, it was past 2pm, which is when the post office reopens after lunch break, so I headed out.

Wow.

All that rain we’ve been having, and the road is washed out right at the patch from before – and this is after the water has gone down quite a bit. There’s actually 2 washed out areas. Not as bad as before, though, and I’ll be able to get through with my mother’s car tomorrow, when I had to take her to her doctor’s appointment.

What I forgot, however, was that today was Wednesday.

The store the post office is in, closes at noon on Wednesdays.

Hopefully, the order hasn’t thawed out yet, and they’ll be fine. With tomorrow’s appointment, I am hoping to be able to pick them up after I’m done with my mother’s medical appointment, but it’s hard to say right now.

Not getting to the post office wasn’t a wasted trip, since I did at least confirm the roads are passable.

Once at home, it was back to work.

The next potatoes to do where the All Blue.

This time, I had a daughter able to come out and help. With the Bridget potatoes, with the larger potatoes being cut into smaller pieces, there was a total of 67 to plant, so I had 6 rows of 10 and 1 row of seven.

Having the potatoes chitting in egg trays makes it easy to count them. The flats hold 30, and the carton holds 18, plus extras in the lid. There were 81 in total, so I made 8 rows of 10, with two little ones planted together.

Here are both beds of potatoes done. I have bamboo stakes marking where the potato rows end. These beds are the size of the traps that we lay on the ground to start killing off the grass and weeds. The Bridget potatoes took up half the bed, while the All Blue took up just over half of the second bed. That means we have space to transplant into, in the rest.

While my older daughter and I were working on that, my other daughter worked on the strawberries.

This area is where we had potatoes in grow bags, last year. The soil they grew in was used to create this new bed. I was thinking of planting some of the sweet potato slips here, but we’ll put all of them in grow bags now, so this one can be for the white strawberries.

It needed a bit of weeding, then my daughter planted the white strawberries, which had 10 root stocks in the package. They are lightly mulched for now, and will get more mulch after they have grown fairly large.

She also planted the red strawberries.

I’ve read the strawberries and asparagus grow well together, so they went into the purple asparagus bed. This had a heavy straw mulch which got pulled off completely. After finding where the asparagus were (you can see some of them in the photo; the heavy mulch blanched them somewhat), my daugher weeded around them as best she could, then transplanted the strawberries where she could be sure that no asparagus would be growing through them.

One of the strawberries has already started blooming!

The bed got mulched with wood shavings, then some of the old straw mulch got places around it, partly to keep the weeds down, partly to hold the soil in place, and partly because the soil around the bed is so buddy. It will get more mulch later on.

After all the potato planting, I was tired, but I couldn’t help myself. I had to do one more.

The bed next to the asparagus was planted with strawberry spinach last year, but all we got was weeds. I pulled as many of those as I could, then grabbed the package of sunchokes.

It was a package of 10, with some of them quite large, and others being just little nubbings!

Some were starting to sprout already.

These got planted at a depth of 3-4 inches.

They also got a layer of wood shavings for mulch, and the rest of the old straw mulch from the asparagus and strawberry bed got placed around the sunchoke bed. For this spot, not only was the surrounding soil muddy, there was standing water in places!

These beds are planted with things that can be largely ignored. The sunchokes can be treated as a perennial, depending on how we harvest them, and need little care and maintenance. We hope to propagate the strawberries over time but, for now, we can allow their runners to spread a bit, around the asparagus. We’ve got two more years before we can harvest any asparagus, so the whole bed is pretty low maintenance right now.

It’s supposed to start raining lightly tonight, then all through tomorrow. If I’m able to pick up the trees on the way home from my mother’s, we might get them in right away, even in the rain. It depends on whether they’re still frozen or not. We also need to get the grow bags ready for the sweet potato slips, which really need to be planted soon. We might be getting a rained on a bit, tomorrow!

Over the next few days, we are expected to warm up, but the overnight lows are still expected to be just above freezing. That will give us time to prep a few more beds, though we could start transplanting some things, as long as we include something to protect them from the chill nights. The heavy mulch in the beds the potatoes are in will also help protect anything we transplant into them.

There is still so much to do! But I’m glad that we at least had today to catch up a bit.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: peas, carrots, turnips, onions

We got some gardening done! There was a break in the rain and we quickly headed out.

My daughter had the bigger job to get the peas in. We’ll be using the pea trellis we used for the purple peas last year, as we still need to do some work on the other trellis frames. The ground was prepped in the fall, but she had to work through it to pull weeds that were trying to reclaim the space, first.

Now it just needs to have some of the wood shavings, or maybe the stove pellets, added to protect the soil surface from crusting. It’s a light enough mulch that the seedlings won’t have trouble pushing through.

The edible pod pea packet turned out to have very few peas in it. Those are between the two labels on the front left side of the trellis. The rest has pod peas in sown. There are still some seeds left of those, which will probably be planted in with the corn.

This should be the last year this trellis, and the nearby beds, will likely be used for gardening. If all goes to plan, next spring, we’ll be planting food trees here. πŸ™‚

While she worked on that, I seeded the bed that was already prepped and mulched with the stove pellet sawdust.

My priority was to get more carrots planted, as they should have been started a while ago. I marked out short rows (making things more like square food gardening), as well as a perimeter line. I started with the Black Nebula carrots. The packet had a nice amount of seeds, and it filled about half the bed, which is about 14-15 ft long. Next, I planted the Uzbek Golden Carrots, which came as a freebie from Baker Creek. There were very few seeds in the freebie packet, and I was only able to plant 4 short rows. For the rest, I planted the Gold Ball turnip, which we got as a freebie from Heritage Harvest seeds, and the Purple Prince turnip at the far end of the bed. I still have some Purple Prince seeds left, but the others in the bed got used up.

We planted the last of our onions started from seed already, so for this bed I used the onion sets I picked up at the grocery store as back ups. I got two boxes of yellow onions – no variety name is on the box – and it took almost all of them to fill the perimeter at 3-4 inches apart. The bed got hosed down to settle the soil over the seeds and onion sets, then support posts were hammered into the ground to hold the netting, after cord is strung through the holes in the posts, and crisscrossed over the middle. This bed will not be getting anything else added to it, so it can be covered sooner rather than later. The other beds have room for transplants in their middles, so they will get their net covering once that is done.

In planting the onions, I naturally was able to grab the biggest sets, since they tended to be on top, so when the bed was completely surrounded by onion, I had a pile of tiny onion sets left behind.

Well, we can’t let those go to waste!

They went into the retaining wall blocks. Two already have shallots in them. After pulling weeds and roots from the empty blocks (the others that look empty had mint transplanted into them in the fall) and adding the wood shavings, I had 6 blocks ready. I was able to fill 5 of them; 4 with 4 onions each, and one with only 3. That one block at the side is still empty. There is a matching block at the other end that doesn’t have anything planted in it, but it looks like it has chives coming through!

We have one box of red union sets left. Depending on where they end up being planted, if we have any left over, I’ll be finding space of them here, too.

The bunching onions planted in the bed along the retaining wall are still looking wimpy after transplanting. Hopefully, all these onions will make things too stinky for the grogs to want to go after the lettuce and beets. A groundhog could easily tear through the net, if it really wanted to. It’s going to be the big garden area that will be the most difficult to protect, however.

~~~pause for real world interruption~~~

My older daughter and I just finished bringing the transplants in. We have so many strong, healthy tomatoes! It’s going to be a challenge to plant them all, since they’ll mostly be going into new beds. Maybe that’s where those grow bags and fabric raised beds will be the most useful!

We’ve got our work cut out for us, but I don’t know how much I’ll be able to do tomorrow, as I’ll be heading to my mother’s to help her run errands. She is suddenly taking her back no longer hurts – I guess it took that long for the meds to have their effect, but she still says that when she takes them, they do nothing. She feels up to going out for her errands, though. She has her telephone doctor’s appointment, so I will probably go over there early enough to be there for her appointment, in case she needs things explained to her.

The question for me will be, can her car make it through that one muddy spot on the road? I might have to take the van, even if my mother will need a stool to get in and out!

The Re-Farmer

Cheer in the gloom

It started to rain again, while I was doing my morning rounds, but there were some bright colours to make an otherwise gloomy and overcast day a bit more cheerful.

The grape hyacinths are reaching their full maturity. At some point, I hope that they will take over this area, replacing the invasive greens that are already there. I don’t mind them too much in this area, and they don’t seem to be choking out the hyacinths, but they sure do take over when growing among less resilient plants!

Then there was this little bit of sunshine.

The very first of my daughter’s daffodils have finally bloomed! After last year’s failure to thrive, and not being sure they’d survive the winter, my daughter is quite thrilled at how well they’re doing this year.

I got the transplants outside, but for a while there, I thought we’d have to bring them back in. The rain started coming down pretty hard, but it slowed down and now seems to have stopped for a while, so they should be fine. Mostly, we don’t want too much water accumulating in their bins and trays.

Unfortunately, with how wet everything is, that means no progress on the garden. Everything is just too muddy. It’s frustrating, because we have so many things that should already be in the ground, like the peas, the potatoes, and the strawberries, as well as more cool weather things to direct sow. Then there are more beds to prepare for the warm weather crops to direct sow, as well as areas for all the transplants.

One of the things I did this morning was check out what’s in the barn. I’m eyeballing the remains of salvaged and scrap wood, trying to think if there’s enough to start building a chicken coop.

I also popped my head up into the old hay loft, climbing the ladder as high as I dared. My brother says there is a car port frame up there, but I can’t see it. There are still some bags of insulation left behind – there was a lot more, but it grew legs and walked away, along with so many other things. It’s the kind of insulation that’s like a powder and gets blown into the walls. They’re scattered about and I can’t see the corner my brother says it’s in. What I did see, however, was what temptingly looked like a stack of lumber. I will have to come back with a daughter or two, as I don’t dare go up there on my own. With my knees, will have difficulty getting back down again, and parts of the floor up there are rotted out. If there is salvageable material up there, I want to get it out and stored someplace more accessible. Even those old bags of insulation might come in handy at some point. Who knows.

Oh! A daughter just came by. There’s a break in the rain, so she wants to do some gardening. Let’s see what we can manage before the rain starts up again!

The Re-Farmer