Fall clean up: starting the squash beds, plus… this could be bad!

On my list of things to do today was to prep the squash beds for winter.

Of course, things happened, so I started much later than intended – past 2pm – and didn’t get as much done as I’d planned on.

Here is how it looked when I started.

The first thing I had done we pick up the bricks we’d used to weigh down the plastic we used to cover the beds in the spring, and again under some of the plants to protect the stems or support heavier squash.

You can really see which bed had the most successful plants!

Also, notice the raspberry canes to the left on the foreground? Or, should I say, the bare raspberry canes?

The deer have been nibbling the leaves off those, as well as the sunflowers!

I had brought out both the potato fork and the spade to see which would be better to work on the beds.

It turned out to be the fork. After a year under the mulch, the ground was a lot softer than before, but even with the fork, I had difficulties getting past the rocks. We have only one good spade. I don’t want to break the blade on a rock!

Here is how they looked when I finished for the day.

The bed on the left was still a real chore to dig up. With each section I lifted with the fork, I had to break up the soil by hand. That gave me the opportunity to pull out weed roots and the more in-the-way rocks. The bed on the right was much easier to work, and I had a lot fewer rocks that needed to be pulled out. The squash plants were also buried so they can compost directly into the soil.

I was really happy with how much easier the soil was to work with. To compare, I had pushed the spade into the ground next to the mulched area. After working for a while, I took off my jacket and hung it on the spade. A few minutes later, and a gust of wind turned my jacket into a sail and down it went. So I pushed it into the ground again, this time, standing on the foot supports and bouncing my ample weight on it a few times, then hung my jacket back on the handle. The next stiff breeze, and it fell over again! And I didn’t even hit and rocks when I was pushing in the spade! What a difference, working under the mulched squash beds. Not only was the ground much easier to work, I was finding SO many worms! What a great sign. 🙂

The next area I will dig up will be the long row at the back, and then the pumpkin hills in the middle. The one hill nearest the back row, I might enlarge to create another longer bed, but the other two are so surrounded with crab grass, I’m just going to dig up a roughly 4′ x 4′ area and pull out as many rhizomes from there as I can.

The main reason I had to stop, though, we because I started to feel rather unwell. It took a while for me to realize something.

I hadn’t eaten yet, other than a couple of freshly baked cookies, before I headed outside.

Usually, I do my morning rounds outside, then have breakfast while going over the trail cam files. Today, I was out earlier to make sure the gates were open for the septic truck. (Which still hasn’t shown up.) Then I heard someone in the kitchen and with our kitchen being so small, I decided to wait until they were done.

Then my husband came over and informed me we were almost out of butter. He is having a good pain day today for a change, and was up to making cookies, not realizing we didn’t have enough butter to make them. Normally, we would have done our monthly shop by now, and there would have been a whole bunch in the freezer, but we had to take care of other things. We’ll be going in a couple of days.

So I made a quick run into town to pick up a few things along with the butter. I’m glad I did, because once I had a data signal, I started getting texts from our plumber. I’d sent him pictures of our well pump when I was in town yesterday, as he requested, and he was responding to them


The first thing he noted was that the new pump is 1/2 hp, while the old pump is 3/4 hp. My brother bought this pump and he knows the system very well, so I knew it would work. It’s just not as powerful. After seeing the pictures of the old pump, from various angles, he thought the problem might be in the well itself. This is something my brother and I had talked about, as he thinks the foot valve might be leaking. The problem is, this is a very old system. He has actually worked in there before – about 20 years ago! – and that was probably the last time anyone has gone into the well.

So aside from it getting harder to find parts for it, it’s going to be fragile. If he starts opening things up to see what’s what, we might end up with no water at all. I could go to a company that specializes in wells, but they don’t like these old systems, either, and he said we would most likely be told we need a new well drilled. We could instead replace the submersible pump in the well, along with the pump in the basement, and that would take care of all sorts of potential problems down there. I asked him for an idea of what those pumps cost, but before he could get back to me, I had to leave town and head home, where I would no longer be able to get text messages. I sent him a message to phone me later and headed home.

Once at home, I emailed my brother to pass on the info, since he knows the system way better than I do. We both agreed that we should just get the pump in the basement switched to the new one, then see how it goes. If we still have problems, then it would be time to have someone go into the well and see what’s what. I hope it doesn’t come to that. Over the years, the well cover has been damaged. It’s a concrete circle with bent rebar handles embedded in the concrete. At some point, one of those handles got broken right off, and the other is bent down against the concrete. I’m not sure how we would get it open.

So I ended up calling the plumber back and leaving a message about starting with switching out the old pump in the basement and seeing how that goes. I also called the septic company to see if they are still coming out today, but we’ve had no call back from them, either. Which is really, really unusual for them.

I don’t like have the gate not only unlocked, but open, for so long. At least I can keep an eye on it through the live feed of the garage security camera.

It’s still afternoon as I write this, but it feels like it should be several hours later, right now!

I have such an urge to just go to bed right now.

The Re-Farmer

Morning cuteness, and a sad little gourd

Before heading outside to do my morning rounds, I spotted 3 kittens out the window…

… playing on the roof of their cat house!

Of course, as soon as I went outside, they ran off, but mystery kitten stayed to spy on me.

It was so funny to see her hide behind the frame, pop her head up, hide, peek, hide, peek… watching me as I brought out some kibble for the outside cats.

In checking out the squash bed, I just had to go looking for our one birdhouse gourd that was developing.

The one, sad, squishy little gourd!

The frosts have completely decimated all the squashes, so it’s time to prep the beds for the winter. I don’t know that we’ll plant squash in the same places next year, but we will definitely plant them again. With what we learned this year, I hope to be able to do more to protect them for late and early frosts.

The squash beds will not be cleaned up today, though. After lunch, we will be planting flower bulbs in the maple grove, in areas that are the hardest to mow around.

I’m really looking forward to it! 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Getting bigger

Yesterday evening, while doing my rounds and walking around the back of the house, I startled some babies!

Butterscotch seems to have moved her kittens from the junk pile to under the garden shed.

Her kittens are getting so much bigger and more adventurous, wandering further afield in the yard.

I suspect this has something to do with why Butterscotch as moved them. Wherever they are inside the junk pile, it must be getting a bit tight for her and the 4 of them to fit!

Which means that, with the wasp nest gone and the kittens elsewhere (though they do go back to the junk pile to play), I can continue cleaning up in that area.

Now, if only Butterscotch had been willing to move them to the other side of the house, where the food bowls and the old dog house are!

When topping up the kibble, I put one of the containers in the entrance to the doghouse. Recently, I was noticing a definite skunk smell in there, so yesterday, I lifted the roof, fluffed up the straw and left it open to air out for a while. I am trying to think of other ways to encourage the cats to go in there for shelter, but I think it’s going to take winter temperatures to finally convince them!

As for bigger things, look what I found this morning.

It’s the only one that got big like this!

It seems we had a light frost last night (there were no frost warnings), and some of the little squashes actually look a bit frozen. At this point, I don’t think they’re going to get much bigger. I will check them later today, and might just pick what’s left, then start cleaning up the beds in preparation for winter.

This morning, I got a shipping confirmation for part of the fall plantings we ordered. Unfortunately, the garlic was among the things that are back ordered, so they will be shipped later. Still, we will be able to get started on the varieties of flowers we will be naturalizing in the maple grove. I can also leave the beets and carrots in the ground a bit longer, while we wait for the garlic that will be planted there once they are harvested.

It looks like I’ll be able to accomplish more in a few weeks in the fall, than I’d been able to over the past few months, with this summer’s heat! 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Frosted carnage, and we’re back to 1 1/2

After seeing how great the sunflowers did, after last night’s first frost, it was time to see how the squash beds looked after a day of relative warmth.

You can see how all the leaves that got hit with frost have shriveled and darkened.

There is some hope, though…

For many (not all) of the larger plants, the leaves underneath are looking just fine, as are the little squashes. Even the pumpkins look like they’ll make it.

On the one hand, I’m encouraged. On the other, it shows that if we’d been able to cover them, they probably would have fared much, much better.

Ah, well.

In other things…

Our trip to the cardiac clinic in the city turned out to be a waste of time, but that did result in us coming home earlier.

Yesterday, my younger daughter and I had gone into town. Since she needed to go to the grocery store and I didn’t, I popped across the road to the garage to see about my mom’s car.

It’s done!

In fact, he had stayed late on Friday to do it. However, the car had been sitting there for so long, the battery was dead! He had it on a charger and said it would be ready for pick up this morning. Since we were heading to the city this morning, I told him I could come in tomorrow morning.

With today’s changes in timing, we were able to zip into town before he closed for the day. We were going to pick up something else half an hour before he closed, so we went to the garage first. I paid the bill and got the keys, and we would come back later. It’s a good thing we did it that way, because by the time we were done, the garage was closed!

So we are now, once again, a 1 1/2 vehicle family (since I own half of my mother’s car! 😀 ).

This is a relief, as we now have a back up vehicle if something ever happens to the van.

The guy at the garage did warn me, though, that the car might make some noises for the first while. Not only did the battery die from sitting so long, but the discs on the brakes are all rusted up again! He advised we drive it as much as we can, which I was already planning to do.

I don’t think I’m ready to drive it to the city quite yet, though. I want to take if for a few spins locally, first. Even if it’s just to the post office and back.

So glad to finally have that done!

The Re-Farmer


My husband has an appointment at the heart clinic in the city today, so I was out a bit earlier to do my rounds this morning.

As I write this, it’s still only 1C (33F), with a “real feel” that has warmed up to -2C (28F) since I last checked. Our high today is supposed to reach 15C (59F), which is warmer than the last few days. We’re then supposed to go above 20C (68F) for a couple of days, before dropping back to the mid-teens, which is more typical for this time of year.

We don’t have what we need to be able to cover plants as large as our squash right now, so this morning was more about surveying the damage.

I will check them again, after we get back from the city. Some look like they’re completely killed off, but others might still make it through the rest of the season.

I’m pretty sure the pumpkins are a total loss, though.

This is the largest of them, and you can see where the frost was on the pumpkin itself.

This pumpkin hill is the one that’s the furthest South – which means that it gets more shade from the trees than the others. It isn’t much, but as you can see by the plant, it doesn’t take much, either. This plant still had visible frost on it.

The other two hills were pretty much clear of frost. The developing pumpkins don’t show signs of direct frost on them – but from the state of the plants, I think they’re likely complete losses, too. We shall see.

Remember this little birdhouse gourd, bravely blooming just yesterday?

This is how it looked this morning.


Well, this year was our year to figure things out, and we’ve learned a lot.

We will have to work on finding different ways to cover and protect our plants from late and early frosts. Especially since we do want to keep growing squash, which are more easily damaged by the cold. The beets, carrots and parsley are just fine. Even the cucamelons showed less frost damage than the squash, which surprised me.

Altogether, though, we did far better with our gardening this year than I expected. It really has been a successful year, for the circumstances!

You’d think, having grown up here and helped my mother with the gardening for my entire childhood, I would already know what is needed, but everything is really quite different than the garden of my childhood. Especially with my parents planting or allowing so many trees to encroach into the garden.

While we will continue to have garden plots in this area, my mind is already starting to look at the outer yard, towards the barn, for possible raised beds, polytunnels or greenhouses for vegetable gardening.

But that is still years into the future!

Little by little, it’ll get done!

The Re-Farmer


Today, for the first time since we had produce we could harvest from the garden this summer, I collected nothing at all this morning.

Normally, I would have at least collected a few sunburst squash. With the cooler temperatures, though, the many little squashes out there are growing a lot more slowly. I like to pick them, and the zucchini, while they are still quite small, but not that small!

Amazingly, even though we dipped to almost freezing last night, one of the bottleneck gourds has started to bloom! This is one of the last ones that got transplanted. Of the tray of seed starts, a few germinated well after the others had already been transplanted, so I planted them, even though it was so late in the season.

I suppose I could have harvested some carrots and beets this morning, but they do better in the ground until we’re ready to use them. The potatoes are ready to be dug up, but it’s going to warm up a bit over the next few days, so I might wait a day or two.

I’m really hoping this little cool down is an aberration, and we’ll have a long, mild fall. If the pattern of that last couple of years continues, though, we should have a blizzard right around Thanksgiving in October! 😀

The Re-Farmer

Follow up: frost damaged squash

It’s a good thing we started so many squashes, and ended up transplanting them as such different times. The ones that sprouted later and got transplanted later got missed by that last frost of the season, and have been quite prolific. A couple of frost damaged ones in the first bed, both zucchini, recovered enough that they got quite large and are producing green and yellow zucchini for us.


They’re still working in it.

Some have started bravely blooming, putting out flowers bigger than their leaves!

With the tiniest of yellow zucchini!

I finally remembered to get a picture of the back row. The plants with the bamboo poles marking them are all ones I have been able to confirm as the birdhouse gourds. I put bricks or rocks under some of them, to support the weight of where the leaves are growing out, as the stems are a bit long and gangly.

You can see a pumpkin mound to the right of centre in the background, and way at the far end are the squashes from the second planting that have done so well.

While there were very few squash to collect this morning, there are so many new flowers right now, and lots of pollinators, so I am expecting a second wave of squash to harvest, soon.

I am looking forward to having enough to make more of the quick pickles!

The Re-Farmer


Last night, a massive storm system passed over us. In parts of the province, there were tornado warnings.

Here, we had rain.


It started to rain somewhere around 2am, and didn’t stop until about 7am, and we might still get more, later.

For all the watering of the gardens we’ve been trying to keep up on, it couldn’t match last night’s deep soak, and it really showed!

We now have several of the self-sown, tiny sunflowers under the platform bird feeder with seed heads opening up.

The pumpkins had been starting to bloom for a while, but I was only seeing the odd male blossom here and there. This morning, there was an explosion of flowers and new buds, and…

Our very first baby pumpkin.

This is on one of the first pumpkin plants that sprouted. I found a second one, on the mound that took so long to sprout one of the 5 seeds planted in it, that I had begun to think none would come up there.

We’ll keep an eye on them to see how many more begin to develop, then select one or two on each plant to keep growing. It’s still highly unlikely they will have a chance to fully ripen, but who knows; we might have a long and mild fall this year.

The big sunflowers have been pretty remarkable.

More and more seed heads are developing, which I would expect with these ones that are well above my head.

There are others that are quite a surprise.

This is one of the deer damaged sunflowers. You can see the dark spot in the middle, where the original top of the plant had been eaten off. Two branches have now developed into stems, and have their own tiny seed heads starting to develop among the new leaves.

Which is impressive, but this next one shows resilience at a whole new level!

You can see, lower down, where the original top had been eaten off. Of the two new stems that developed has also lost it’s top, and basically all the leaves have been eaten off – and yet there it is! A seed head, developing among the tiny cluster of new leaves.

How absolutely remarkable!

The Re-Farmer

What shall I do with you, today?

Zucchini and sunburst squash I gathered this morning.

Yesterday, I made a sort of hash, first browning potatoes, cubed small, in butter, then adding leek and frying until softened. I cubed sunburst squash, a green zucchini and a grey squash (the lighter coloured, kinda striped, kind of zucchini; our grocery stores label them as grey squash). Once those were cooked until soft, I added seasonings and maybe half a cup of whipping cream. It turned out awesome!

I’m out of cream, though, so I think I’ll just pan fry them in butter with leek.

The Re-Farmer

How does the garden(s) grow?

I realized I’ve neglected to take progress photos of some of our garden beds, so I got a few this morning.

Here are our two potato beds.

I was shooting blind, because my phone’s screen went completely black in the sunlight. Still, you can see the potatoes among the mulch, separated by a path of grass. Some have bloomed and the plants are starting to die back. We could probably harvest baby potatoes now, if we felt like digging under the layer of straw. I’ve never grown potatoes this way, so it should be interesting to see how they did.

This next photo is the second squash bed.

I just happened to catch a locust flying by in the picture!

We are currently inundated with grasshoppers and locusts right now. Hopefully, they won’t eat up too many of our vegetable plants.

This second bed is the one we planted the day after we were hit with one last frost. The sunburst squash are huge, with many flowers and many little squashes. The mixed summer squash has a couple of plants that are doing well. Interestingly, it seems that plants on the south end of the bed are struggling more than the ones at the north end, rather than any particular type of squash having a more difficult time.

Here is the first bed that got planted.

These are the ones that got frost damaged, even though we had covered them for the night. Some died completely, but a surprising number have managed to survive – with some downright thriving!

This picture is the same bed, from the other end.

The transplants had died at this end, so when some gourds in the seed tray actually germinated, I transplanted them here. Three of them are marked with bamboo poles. Much to my surprise, the one that got dug up by a skunk digging for grubs is surviving. Given how late they germinated and got transplanted, I’m not actually expecting much from them at all, but it will be interesting to see how much the manage to grow.

Then there are the pumpkins.

These were from seeds that were being given away for free at the grocery store near my mother. I had taken one (it even had a sign asking people to take only one), and then my mother gave me two more. Clearly, she didn’t read the sign, because she still had a pack she kept for herself and planted in her own little garden plot that she has this year!

The pumpkin in the above photo is the one from a pack that had 5 seeds in it (the others had 3 seeds). This is the only one of the 5 that germinated, and it came up much later than the ones that germinated in the other two mounds. One mound had 2 seeds germinate.

In spite of such late germination, this one is probably the biggest of the bunch.

It is also the Northernmost mound.

When we started planting here, I’d made a point of planting in the Northern 2/3rds of the area we had mulched. The south side of the area has a lot more shade from the spruces my parents had added to the north side of the maple grove. I didn’t even try planting at that end for that reason. The middle third of the area still gets a lot of sun, but the north third gets basically no shade at all, at any time of the day.

I think that might actually be why I’m seeing differences within the same beds of squash, and the pumpkin mounds.

Something to keep in mind for any future planting in here!

Then there are the beds we made where the old wood pile used to be.

This is the layout of what we planted here.

The beets we got were a collection with Merlin (a dark red), Boldor (golden yellow), and Chioggia (alternating rings of purple and white)

In the foreground, you can see the parsley bed in both photos. It is doing very well. To the left of the parsley bed are the deep purple carrots, with white satin carrots on the right. The carrots could be doing better, but overall, they’re okay.

In the midground of the photos, there is a bed of rainbow carrots above the parsley bed, and beets on either side . Another bed of beets is in the background, beyond the rainbow carrots.

I don’t know how well you can tell in the photos, but there are not a lot of beet greens. The deer have really done a number on them. 😦 We should still have some to harvest, though.

Of the two muskmelon we bought to transplant, one died. This is the survivor.

We planted a lot of kohl rabi, but this is all we have that came up and survived.

The large leaves that you are seeing are from 2 plants.

Yup. Out of all that we planted, only 2 survived.

Actually, there had been four.

It turns out that deer like kohl rabi, too. You can’t even see the second one that was nearby; it, too, was reduced to a spindly stem!

In case you are wondering about the plastic containers…

Those are what I used as cloches to cover the muskmelon overnight, to protect them from colder temperatures after transplanting. The containers used to hold Cheese Balls that we got at Costco. I just cut the tops off, then drilled holes around near the bases for air circulation.

I now have them set up near the surviving muskmelon and the kohl rabi. When watering the garden beds, I fill those with water. The water slowly drains out the holes I’d made for air circulation, giving a very thorough watering to the plants. The first time I’d tried this was with the muskmelon, which was pretty small and spindly. The next morning, it had grown noticeably bigger and stronger! So I put the second one by the struggling kohl rabi, and the difference the next day was just as dramatic.

Until the deer ate the two littlest ones.

This worked so well, I’m trying to think of ways to use other cloches we have, most made from 5 gallon water jugs I’d bought for the fish tank, to set up near some of the more struggling squashes.

This morning is the first time I’ve harvested some of the parsley, along with a few carrots. What I don’t use right away will be set up to dry. Which is what will happen with most of the parsley we planted, as we tend not to use fresh parsley all that much.

And now I’m going to stop struggling with our nasty internet connection, which really doesn’t like inserting photos right now, and start on the scalloped potatoes I have planned for supper. I think I’ll find a way to layer some carrots in with the potatoes, too! 🙂

The Re-Farmer