An awesome Mother’s Day, pancake cat, soil comparisons and pretty things. :-)

I had a rather amusing start to the morning!

While heading out to feed the outside cats, I heard a noise from an unusual direction.

I had startled Nicky the Nose on the sun room roof!

I always get a giggle out of how he pancakes himself like that when he’s startled. As if he can somehow make himself small. 😀

Our cats never go on the sun room roof, that we’ve seen. They’ll go onto the new part roof, where they can look at the girls through the second floor windows, but it’s quite a leap to go onto the rest of the roof from there. It was a surprise to see Nicky there!

My daughters had a Mother’s Day treat planned out for me. In our tiny little hamlet, we have a small hotel with a bar and itty bitty restaurant. Well, with all the restrictions in place, they’ve had to change things up. About a month ago, the separate bar and restaurant was reworked as a single country style pub, and quickly got a good reputation for their excellent food. It’s a small menu for a small town, but we’re just excited to have options at all.

Of course, the government promptly pulled the rug out from under restaurants again, so they’re limited to take out, only. I guess the government isn’t done killing small businesses, yet. So we wanted to give them some support!

I saw them post a photo on their Facebook page for a platter that is not on their menu, so I had to ask about it. They were able to put together an appetizer platter for us, including deep fried mushrooms, which are also not on the menu yet. It was awesome! Even with 4 of us, by the time we were done, I could only manage one slice of the pizza I got for myself. My daughters ordered their cheeseburger platters, and were thoroughly impressed just by the size. There was enough there for two meals! And yes, they tasted really good, too! It’ll be much nicer to be able to order food from just a few miles away, instead of having to go to another town. Unless we want Chinese food. 😉 I’m glad we were able to order there today. Driving by over the past month, I was always seeing vehicles and people out front and, on nice days, people sitting and eating at the tables outside. Today, with the increased restrictions kicking in at midnight, there was nothing. Just two employees, and me, and I only heard the cook, but never saw him. So we’ll be trying to order food from there as often as our budget allows. Hopefully, lots of other people will be doing the same. Considering how few people live here, that still won’t be much, but it might be enough to keep them going.

In other things…

I had hung on to the soil samples from the tests done in them, and today I finally got some photos before getting rid of them. Here are the jars from the first two tests we did.

The first sample was from the soft soil uncovered when the old wood pile was cleaned up. The water is still very distinctly orange! The second sample is from the new garden soil we purchased.

These are from the third and fourth tests we did. The one that’s more orange and still cloudy is from where we’d planted potatoes using the Ruth Stout method, while the other is from the unamended soil that has never had anything planted there before. I find it interesting to see how clear – or not! – the water became, after letting the samples sit undisturbed for so long.

Later this afternoon, my daughters and I went out to do some watering, and to plant onion sets in the last of the beds in the old garden area. The 2 bags of shallots had only a dozen sets each, so they were planted in one row along one side, while the yellow onions were planted in a three row grid on the other. Later next week, kohlrabi will be planted in between the two. Besides that, there’s still half a bed left that will be planted with carrots. Aside from successive sowing the spinach, that will be it for those beds.

There were still maybe a dozen onion sets left over, so I’m thinking of interplanting them with the beets that will be planted near the garlic beds. Hopefully, they will help deter deer from going after the beet greens. If all goes well, that will be completed tomorrow.

Before heading back indoors and out of the high winds we were having, the girls and I checked on the flowers we’d planted in the fall.

We’re finding more and more of the teeny, tiny crocuses blooming! I know these are not large flowers, but I didn’t expect them to be this minuscule! I suspect, after they’ve had a year to establish themselves, they will come up a bit larger, next year.

I then spent some time tending the seed starts in the sun room. The gourd pots got moved to the sun room awhile ago, but there is still nothing of the Ozark Nest Egg, Thai Edible Bottle gourd, and birdhouse gourds. I am hoping it’s just because they take so long to germinate normally. I probably should have started them earlier. It’s the squash and melons that I’m eyeballing more. They haven’t been in the sun room long, but I was hoping the increased warmth would help. I’m happy to say that I did see a couple of seedlings trying to push their way through, but most show no sign of any germination. I keep second guessing myself about what we used to plant them in and all the things we did differently this year, thinking that maybe I’ve gone and killed them off somehow. :-/ It’s still just under a month before we can transplant anything outside, so there’s lots of time yet for them to germinate.

At least, that’s what I keep telling myself!

Oy. Today has been a really bad day for internet connectivity – as happens every time we have high winds. This post took forever to get done! Time to stop trying to do internet things for a while.

Hmm… I still have lots of my Mother’s Day pizza left. Maybe a late snack is in order? 😀

The Re-Farmer

Soil tests three and four

Well, I finally got around to doing two more soil tests.

You can read how the first two tests went, here, here, here and here. (Links will open in new tabs)

One of the areas I tested was the soil under where we planted potatoes last year. The other sample was from the northwest corner of the garden area, where we will be planting blocks of corn and sunflowers, and where no one has ever tried to grow anything before.

Here is the potato bed soil. We tried the Ruth Stout method of simply putting the potatoes on the ground and topping it with a thick layer of mulch. Straw mulch, in our case, because that’s what we had. In the fall, I had removed the mulch to find the potatoes, turning the soil a bit in the process, then put the mulch back again. Though I’d done nothing to the ground other than put mulch on it, the soil was quite soft and easy to dig into to get the potatoes. It was still very soft when I dug down to get my sample.

As with the other tests, the soil is very alkaline. That green is darker than the darkest green on the scale, which is a pH of 7.5. Like all the other soil samples, our pH is probably 8.

The orange is potash (potassium), and the blue is phosphorus. Both tested at about the medium range; almost, but not quite dark enough to rate a “high”.

The purple is nitrogen, which is as low as it goes!!

Now for the soil that has had no amendments of any kind.

This area gets very hot, with only a couple of hours of shade at sunrise. There is more grass and green at the south end of this area, but in the north corner, even weeds have a hard time growing.

I think we can see why!

As with the other samples, the soil is very alkaline. There is some potash (the colours appear darker in the photo than in real life), but basically nothing for phosphorus (blue cap) and nitrogen (purple cap)! And we’re going to be growing corn there!

Have I mentioned how glad I am we were able to buy so much garden soil?

I think I’ll be mentioning it more than a few times, over the summer! 😀

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: Soil test on purchased soil and tending tomatoes

I finished testing samples of the new garden soil this afternoon.

I was interrupted by scrabbling sounds behind me.

Saffron looks so adorable!

She is also a vicious beast. 😉 Her favourite thing it to suddenly launch herself across the room, onto whichever human is passing by. She typically lands about half way up, and then starts sliding down.

Which can be very painful! She is very sharp, and rather clumsy. 😀

Anyhow.

Here are the test results from the purchased garden soil.

The nutrients are nice and high, all round – and so is the pH! Most of what we are growing recommends a pH of 6 – 6.5, so we’ll want to look into increasing the acidity a little, if we can.

Today, I decided to “pot up” the tomatoes. It feels strange to do that, since they are so tiny, but they are also tiny varieties of tomatoes! 😉

We planted 4 double cups of each variety, but I worked with only three each. Of the Spoon tomatoes, there’s one cup where nothing at all has germinated. Of the Mosaic Medley, one cup as a single seedling in it, and it’s quite small, so I left it.

I’ve never grown tomatoes before, so I looked at a lot of gardening resources before deciding to plant them in a small amount of growing medium in the larger cups, rather than Jiffy Pellets or tiny pots, so as to add more soil as they grew bigger, rather than transplanting them from small to larger pots.

After the soil was added, they got a careful, but large watering. I left them to drain for a while, emptied the lower cups and left them to drain some more. I wanted to ensure the added soil was completely dampened, through and through. I’m hoping this will give them a nice growth spurt. 🙂

The overnight temperatures in the sun room are getting much nicer, so we will be able to move things out of the aquarium soon. Over the next while, we will be starting all the summer and winter squash. We’re going to need the space! 😀

Something else on the to-do list:

Having worked out where we will be planting things (which is always subject to change until the seeds are in the ground!) and, more or less, what dimensions we’ll need, my daughters and I need to start measuring out, marking out and preparing garden beds. Some things, like our two varieties of peas, need to be direct sown well before the last frost date. They are going to be near the corn, which isn’t supposed to be planted until well after the last frost date. So we’ll need to mark out the plots and start prepping them. We’ve decided to make most beds at 3′ x 8′ (roughly 1m x 2 1/2m) for ease of access and denser planting. Ultimately, we have no idea how many of these we will need, until we actually start planting. Some varieties had packets with a LOT more seeds than others of the same vegetable type, and some were packed by weight, so we won’t know how many seeds there are until we open them.

We’re finally getting close to when we can plant things outside! Yay!!!

The Re-Farmer

Soil test; finishing first sample, starting the second

I left our first sample’s water and soil mixture to sit overnight again, and this is what it looked like this morning.

This is with the morning light behind it. Still very opaque, after having more than two days to settle!

Also, very orange with the light behind it! The soil in this area does have a reddish cast to it, overall, likely due to so much decomposed wood in it.

Here, you can see the layers pretty clearly. The colours look wildly different from this angle!

I went ahead and started the tests for nitrogen, phosphorus and potash, then got a sample of the new garden soil started in the water for later.

Emptying those capsules into the test tubes is quite the pain. You’re supposed to be able to just open the gel caps, but they don’t come apart. I ended up having to snip them, but that sends powder flying, no matter how tiny the snip!

This is after just a minute or two after mixing. They needed to sit for at least 10 minutes.

And here they are!

Keeping in mind that this soil sample is from an area that has been buried under wood for decades. The only things growing in it were things that could force their way through the pallets, like the cherry trees, some poplars, crab grass and other weeds. This specific spot included the pallet fence on top on top of it, which has a number of little trees growing through it.

Last year was the only time any amendments were added, and that was in the from of a mulch of grass clippings. I did use some Miracle Gro fertilizer on the garden beds we had last year, applied with a garden hose, but the area this sample was taken from was where we had tried to plant kohlrabi, which did not succeed, so any fertilizer this area got was from whatever mist that happened to blow over.

I’m actually pleasantly surprised. It’s a bit on the low side for nitrogen, more of a medium for the phosphorus, and medium – almost high – for the potash. (Note: the colours show up slightly different in the photos than in real life.) It’s a lot better than I expected for soil that has been in the conditions this soil has.

Here is the second sample, after settling for maybe half an hour. What a difference between the purchased garden soil, with its 5 part blend of compost, manures and sand, and the first sample!

I’m actually going to hand on to these after the next batch of tests is done, to compare with the next sample. I should probably do at least two more tests; one from the beds we used last year, and one from an area that has never had any garden in it, that we will be planting in this year. Those should be very interesting!

I need to find more jars I don’t use for food! 😀

The Re-Farmer

New baby sprrrooots, and soil testing status

We have gourd sprooots!!

Yesterday afternoon, I spotted these.

These are the Tennessee Dancing Gourds, and they are the first of the gourds to sprout!

This is how they looked this morning! So awesome, to see how much they grew in less than 24 hours!

I’m hoping this means we’ll start seeing some of the other gourds sprouting soon, too. 🙂

I also checked on the soil sample that was left overnight to settle.

Hmm.

It looks completely unchanged!

The instructions said that soil heavy with clay could take 24 hours to settle, but… I don’t think that’s clay. I think it may actually be organic material.

With how long this is taking, I think I’ll find another jar and test the next soil sample while this one continues to sit.

But not right away.

My older daughter got a call back from the tax preparer. They can’t log into her file at Canada Revenue. Like with her sister, it’s telling them there’s something wrong with her name. We have no idea what that could be. We’re going to have to call up Canada Revenue again. I’ve found a directory, and the numbers all have wait times listed. The number we need to call has a wait time of just over 2 hours.

So we’ll be taking turns monitoring the phone while on hold.

Again.

The Re-Farmer

Soil tests, first area (with technical distraction)

Before I get into this post, I just wanted to add that this is my first post written using the SeaMonkey browser. It’s also the first time I’m actually using the browser, yet I’m already seeing a HUGE difference while working in the WordPress editor. Everything is loading SO much faster. The image uploads, the block editor, everything. I’ve just opened a whole bunch of blogs I follow in new tabs, and not a single one is showing the weird colours, not a single image has failed to load, and when I scroll the bottom of posts, everything is loaded. Including the “like” button which, frustratingly, was often the one thing that would fail to load, even as the rest of the page would load. I have yet to try and leave a comment anywhere, but I’ve uploaded media, including directly into this post, without a single problem. I had been using Mozilla Firefox for this blog (to keep is separate from my personal stuff), and it’s been really awful. SeaMonkey is like Mozilla Netscape, and it works a dream, so far! Many thanks to The Hinoeuma for telling me about it!

And now, back to our regularly scheduled post…

I broke out our soil tester and began with a sample from the newest garden bed. This is soil that was under the old wood pile. You can read about that massive clean up job, here. Under it was the only soft soil we had!

The soil test kit I have is from HoldAll Decorative Plant Accessories, and this is our first use. It has the supplies to do 40 tests; 10 each for pH, nitrogen, phosphorous and potash.

The test of pH is the quickest; soil gets put directly into the test tube with the contents of a capsule (all are colour coded), shaken, then allowed to sit for a minute. The other tests required a soil sample to be mixed with water at a ratio of 1 part soil to 5 parts water, so I started that first. Though only the pH test could be done right away, I readied the capsuled for all the tests, so I wouldn’t have to go into the mylar bag again.

I had just finished setting the pH sample in the test tube holder when something large and white caught my eye through the window.

It was the tarp over the load of garden soil in the outer yard, blowing around!

A daughter and I dashed off to get it before it blew away.

The wind has only been picking up! I don’t think I’ll be moving soil onto the new garden bed today. 😦

We fixed the tarp, adding more rocks and even a tire rim onto it, to keep it from blowing away.

Then we came inside, and I found three cats on the table, going after the remaining three test capsules!

They were licking them, and the gel capsules were starting to dissolve. 😦 I don’t think any of the powder was ingested, though. They are now sealed in a container.

The pH test had more than enough time to be ready, but the water and soil mixture will need a lot more time! The instructions said it could take anywhere from 30 minutes to 24 hours, depending on how much clay is in the soil.

The soil in the new garden bed came up as neutral. We have a soil meter that is simply stuck into the ground that reads sunlight, moisture and pH. It had been used in the area that now has garlic, and read at about 7.5, so this was pretty much what I was expecting. Most of the things we are planting do better in a slightly acid soil – about 6 – 6.5 – but what we planted in this area last year did pretty good anyhow.

As I write this, the soil and water mixture has been sitting for more than an hour, and is still totally opaque! From the looks of it, it may need to stay overnight.

Meanwhile, I’ve already gathered a sample of the next test I want to do: the new garden soil! I suppose I could do a pH test right away, but I’ll wait until the other three tests on this first sample is done, first.

Testing the soil in the old garden is going to be a challenge. The samples are supposed to be as free of rocks and organic matter as possible.

Ha!

We’ll see how close to that we can manage!

Meanwhile…

As I was working on this post, I got a phone call from my mother. After a while, she asked what we’ve been doing, so I told her about the new garden beds. I tried to describe to her where we put the new bed for the tomatoes, and made the mistake of starting with, “you know where your yellow flowers are?” She immediately launched into “you mean you destroyed my flowers!!” I had to stop her and tell her, “wait, no… you know that space between those flowers and the chain link fence?”

I honestly think my mother forgets that the chain link fence even exists at times! It took her a while before she realized I was talking about the grassy area. Which confused her even more, because nothing was ever grown there, and how can I plant without plowing the soil first? Or at least tilling it? So I described to her what we did with the layers of cardboard, straw and soil. Once she knew our garden soil was delivered, that helped, but she still accused me of killing off her flowers again! Then she brought up the shade of trees, and I told her we only had to take down the one tree that was killing her lilac, anyhow, and that we picked that spot because it will get full sunlight now.

She still had a hard time understanding that we’re planting anything on that side of the house, in the yard, and was all, “so you’re letting the garden go to weeds again”, meaning the area she used to garden in. I told her no, we’re going to be planting all sorts of things there. Without plowing? Yes. Without plowing.

That lead to a whole lot more explaining of things, even though we’ve had this conversation several times, now. She has the hardest time with the concept of no-till gardening. It’s just too wrong! 😀

At least this time, she ended by saying, when everything is in and growing, we need to bring her over so she can see it! 😀 So that’s progress, at least! She certainly wasn’t impressed by what she saw last year, but we’ll see how it goes this year. I’m sure she’ll find lots to be angry about! 😀

I didn’t even try to explain to her about the soil testing, though. Maybe another time. Us planting in an area she never planted in was already pressing her limits! 😀 Which is funny, because she would stick little gardens in, or plant trees, all over the place. Some of them in places that are now very difficult to work around! 😀 So it’s not like I’m doing something she hadn’t already done herself.

One thing that was funny was when we talked about starting things indoors, and I mentioned needing to start squash. She asked if we were growing zucchini, and I told her yes, in green, yellow and a different green, plus the bright yellow round squash (the pattypans) that I’d given her last year. Oh, those are just toys! she tells me. 😀 I reminded her that we find them quite delicious!

Hmm. Now I’m suddenly wondering. Did she eat the fresh pattypan squash I’d given her? Or did she get rid of them, because they were too new for her?

I don’t think I want to know the answer to that. 😀

As we talked more about starting things indoors, she had the hardest time understanding that yes, we already have tomatoes started from seed. I think she was disappointed that she couldn’t chastise me for not having them started already. 😀

Talking to my mother about this place can be very challenging! I don’t think she forgets that she doesn’t own it anymore, but she still wants to control everything that is done here, including things she doesn’t understand (if only because my dad and brothers took care of them for her, over the years). I try to respect her wishes as much as possible, but our job is to take care of the place, not keep it in stasis. It’s slowly working out, though. It just takes a lot of explaining, sometimes! Or, in some cases, not even bringing them up.

Like testing soil. I’ll bring that up only if we have a lot of time for me to explain things in ways that make sense to her. It’s not so much that she isn’t aware of some things; it’s more likely she’s never encountered the terms to describe them before.

It’ll work out. It’ll just take time and patience!

The Re-Farmer