Our 2021 garden: morning surprises

While doing my rounds this morning and checking the gardens, I was pleased of fine a really big Madga squash ready to pick. After being seasoned with cayenne pepper, the groundhogs are leaving the summer squash alone and they are finally getting a chance to grow! There were even a few zucchini to gather.

The few sunflowers that are opening up are, of course, looking gorgeous!

So far, it’s still just the Mongolian Giant sunflowers with seed heads that are opening. Too bad it’s so late in the season, but we’re still enjoying them.

I had my first little surprise while checking out the squash tunnel.

A little, ripe Halona melon, just sitting on the ground! 😀 So of course I had to check the others that were turning colour, and found the biggest one was ripe, too. The only reason it hadn’t fallen of its vine was because it was already sitting on the ground. 😀

Then there was my second little surprise.

The Tennessee Dancing Gourd vines are starting to die back, revealing two “huge” gourds we had completely missed seeing before!

This is about what their full size would be, I believe. Gosh, they are adorable!!

Our morning harvest!

What a difference in size between the two ripe melons.

I am so happy with how these are doing. 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: morning harvest and first potatoes, makes for an awesome breakfast!

I finished off my rounds this morning by doing some harvesting in the garden. The beans in particular had plenty to pick. 🙂

I found a yellow bean, growing on a green bean plant!

It didn’t get picked. It felt completely empty. Any beans it might have had did not develop. I did find one other yellow bean among the green beans, on another plant, that did have developing beans in it, but it was super soft for some reason.

There as a big enough haul this morning to need two containers! 🙂

Among the sunburst squash, we have the one plant that is producing green squash instead of yellow, though some of the developing squash have streaks of yellow in them. An interesting mutant plant! 😀

The yellow beans are pretty much done. We’ll still be picking them for the next while, but just a few here and there.

I found flowers on both green and purple bean plants! Just a few, but still a surprise, this late in the season. We’ll be having plenty of those to pick for a while, from the looks of it. Lots of little ones developing on the plants.

Our first potatoes! We could have picked potatoes earlier, but we’ve been leaving them for now. This morning, I decided to reach into a few bags and dug around until I felt a potato and pulled it up. These are the yellow Yukon Gem and red Norland potatoes. I did not try to pick any of the fingerlings, yet.

That’s a pretty good harvest for the day! There are enough beans there to do another bag for the freezer, if we want. 🙂

I used a bit of everything when I made breakfast this morning. 🙂

I made a hash using all three types of beans, a couple of sunburst squash, a zucchini, and one of each type of potato. I also used onion and garlic that we harvested earlier. Even the oil I used to cook with was infused with our chive blossoms, and the dried parsley on top is from last year’s garden.

It tasted great, too! 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: evening harvest

While doing my evening rounds, I was able to gather quite a substantial harvest from the garden!

The yellow beans are, as could be expected, winding down right now, but there was still quite a lot of them. There were plenty of green beans, too, but it was the purple beans that stole the show! There were so many ready to pick this time!

I picked a few sweet corn that seems like they might be ready, just to see how they were. Though their silks are drying, they are still quite immature. My expectations are on the low side for these, given how nitrogen poor the soil is, but we shall see as time goes by.

I was really happy to have so many sunburst squash and zucchini! I also had to straighten up a lot of the support poles, as the wind had blown them over somewhat. However, I can definitely say it was much easier to find and harvest the summer squash grown vertically! Last year, I was picking sunburst squash and zucchini pretty much daily, but this is the first time we’ve had a substantial amount to pick. They did not get eaten before we could get to them! The cayenne pepper is definitely working!

I applied more over everything after I finished picking things. The rains would have washed it all off by now. We might get more rain today, then off an on over the next week, but I don’t expect to get much here, so I wanted to make sure the garden beds had their spicy protection.

There was enough picked that we could blanch and freeze some more, but this time I’m keeping them for having with our meals. In fact, I’m enjoying some of those beans with my lunch as I write this, sauteed with our Purple Stripe garlic (crushed and chopped) in butter, then braised until tender, then seasoned and stir fried with rice and some of the grass fed beef we got with the package we ordered a while back. It turned out very well!!

It may almost be the end of August, but we’re finally getting to where we can probably eat from our garden every day. 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: back at it

As I write this, in the early afternoon, we have reached 30C/86F, with a humidex of 35C/95F. Our high of the day is expected to reach 35C/95F with the humidex at 40C/104F. Thankfully, this is supposed to be the hottest day for the next while, but it means that we’re back at watering the garden at least once a day.

At least this time, I had a full rain barrel to use in the garden beds by the house, while the sprinkler was running in the furthest beds.

With the upstairs so hot during the day, the girls are still staying up all night, so my old daughter can work on her commissions. They still have to put ice packs around their electronics – and themselves – to keep things from overheating.

Since they were still up during the cool of the morning, they did a bit of harvesting, and this was waiting for me when I got up.

We actually have summer squash to pick! The cayenne pepper seems to be working and keeping the grogs (groundhogs) away. This is the most we’ve been able to gather all summer.

They also picked a single red crab apple for me. ❤

It was delicious.

The summer squash bed now has one of the sprinkler hoses I found by the grog den a while back, so they can be watered from below more easily. I set the other one up through two bean beds, but half of the hose seems to have clogged holes. I think they will clear as the hose is used more often.

I’m rather encouraged by these tomatoes. The wilted one is the branch that broke off in the wind, and that I just stuck into the ground. The leaves may be wilted, but the stem is still strong, and the tomatoes that are on it are ripening.

I found a surprise while watering the tomatoes.

This cluster of seedlings has emerged from the new garden soil we recently added!

My initial thought was more sunflowers from the bird feeder, but these actually look a bit like squash seedlings.

We’ll leave them to see what they turn out to be.

Unless the grogs eat them, first.

The sweet corn may be small, but they are maturing. The middle block is maturing the fastest, while the northernmost block the slowest. The southern block has one half maturing faster than the other. This area gets shade in the morning, but at least 8 hours of sunlight per day. The Eastern side, however, would still have shade longer than the rest, and that is likely why the plants are shorter on that side.

It does not seem to matter as much for the sunflowers.

The earliest Mongolian Giant flower heads are progressing nicely.

Even the ones that got chomped by deer are recovering. These are the Hopi Black Dye sunflowers, transplanted next to the Dorinny corn, where the entire row had lots their heads.

You can see the cayenne pepper on the sunflower leaves. Since we are using the sprinklers to water things, we’ll need to reapply it at the end of the day.

On the garden cam, I spotted a big raccoon headed towards the summer squash. It reached a plant, touched it with its nose, and pulled back its head like it got bitten, then ambled around the squash bed, avoiding the plants.

When setting up the sprinkler on the purple corn, I noticed a cob with husks that looked quite dried up. I took a chance and harveted it.

It’s ripe!! Small, not completely pollinated, but still pretty full, and the deep, dark purple it’s supposed to be. I found one other little one with dried husks and picked that, too.

With only two of them, I went to the Dorinny corn and picked what I could there, too.

It isn’t a lot for four people, but enough for part of a meal!

I’m thinking of moving the BBQ my brother gave us to the canopy, so we can grill in the shade. Corn on the grill would be awesome! We’ve got some sirloin steaks from the meat pack we got thawing out, and the summer squash are prepped for grilling. I don’t know if we’ll be up to grilling in this heat, but if not, the vegetables can be roasted.

Either way, I’m looking forward to an excellent Sunday dinner!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: morning harvest

Oh, my goodness, what a difference a single day of good rain makes! No amount of watering with the hose can compete.

While we have been able to pick a Spoon tomato or two, every few days (there were three ripe ones yesterday, that my brother and his wife to go try. 🙂 ), the Mosaic Medley tomatoes still have a ways to go. Two plants have tomatoes that are starting to ripen, though, with this one being the furthest along.

Though pickings are slim right now, I can see that we will have lots ripening, all at once, soon! They are all indeterminate varieties, and with the Spoon tomatoes alone, we’re probably going to be picking lots, daily.

The Little Gem winter squash, in particular, got noticeably bigger overnight! There is easily several inches of new growth on the vines.

The Teddy winter squash has pretty much doubled in size since I checked it, yesterday morning.

Even the pea sprouts, among the sweet corn, are visibly bigger and stronger – and their stems are barely two inches high right now! 😀 As short as they are, the sweet corn is starting to develop their tassels, too.

There were a few zucchini we were keeping an eye on and leaving to get bigger, but by this morning, some of them were almost getting too big!

Plus, I picked our VERY FIRST beans!!!! Just a few yellow and green beans. No purple beans were even close to being ready to pick, yet. I’m pretty thrilled with just the handful we have now, and seeing how many I could see developing on the plants. 🙂

This morning, I uncovered the beet bed near the garlic. This was the first bed that got major damage, almost wiped out by a deer. After several attempts to cover it, we ended up putting on mosquito netting as a floating row cover, though I had to keep adding more weights around the edges to keep the woodchucks from slipping under and nibbling on them some more. Once the floating row cover was on, it basically remained untouched until this morning. We kept watering it, but that’s it.

It got a thorough weeding this morning, and I picked a few young beets as well. My daughters really enjoy baby beets and their greens. 🙂 The bed is covered again and will probably get ignored for awhile, other than watering. The other beet beds are also covered with mosquito netting as floating row covers, and they’re going to need some tending as well. That’s one down side of covering them like this. It’s a pain in the butt to move all the things we scavenged to weigh down the edges, so they are just being left alone.

In looking back at our gardening posts from last year (this blog is my gardening journal, too! 😀 ), there were posts about the heat waves we got last July. It wasn’t as severe as this year, but it was the most severe we’d seen since our move at the time. By this time our sunflowers – which we’d lost half of to deer and replanted with other giant varieties – were growing their heads and some were even starting to bloom. This year’s sunflowers are nowhere near that stage! We had also been able to do quite a lot of clean up and fix up jobs that were out of the question in this year’s heat. The drought and heat waves have set us back quite a bit, as far as getting things accomplished. We were also harvesting carrots and sunburst squash, regularly, by the end of last July. It’s hard not to be disappointed with how things are turning out this year, but there isn’t much we can do about the weather, and very hungry animals that have lost their usual summer food and water sources.

Speaking of animals…

I had finished up at the furthest garden beds and was making my way to the main beds closer to the house, when I realized I was being stared at by a little furry face on the gravel over what used to be a den! A woodchuck, the littlest of them, was just sitting there, watching me come closer. I started to shoo it away, and it would run a few feet, then stop and look at me, run a few feet, stop and look at me… on it went until I finally got it to run through the north fence and off the property. By then, I was standing next to the purple corn, at the opposite end of the garden area. Since I was there anyhow, I decided to check on the purple corn, turned around and…

… discovered I was standing next to another woodchuck! It had just frozen in place until it realized I could see it, then ran off. I chased that one past the north fence, too!

Thankfully, there was no sign of critter damage in the gardens this morning, but my goodness they are cheeky little buggers!

After their visit yesterday, and seeing some of the issues we’ve been dealing with, my brother messaged me this morning with some photos. There’s a store they were at that had electric fence started kits. The one he showed me uses D cell batteries, but he knew of another store that has solar powered versions. The basic kit he sent me a picture of covers 50×50 feet, at a very reasonable price. It wouldn’t be enough to cover our farthest garden beds, but we could easily pick up the parts and pieces to cover more area. We’d need a second kit to cover the other end of the garden area.

Something to keep in mind. Particularly when we start building our permanent garden beds. We’d still need to find ways to stop the woodchucks, but it would be a good start, and cheaper than building tall fences!

The Re-Farmer

Critter battle update, a mini harvest, and we’re getting poppies!

First, a bit of a follow up from yesterday. After blocking the woodchuck holes by the house and in the old garden area, I headed out a few times to check on the one by the house. Twice, I found things disturbed!

This picture was taken after the second time I found it dug up. The first time, I had started to remove the plastic around the back of the mock orange, saw that things had been pulled out, and started tying it back again. As I was fussing and making noise, I could actually hear little grunting noises coming from under the stairs! I found some rocks had been dug up a bit on the other side, too, but just a little. After blocking the other side, I tried spraying water into the little gaps remaining, to try and pursuade the woodchuck to leave out the other side. We never saw it, but I came back later and it seemed to be gone, so I blocked the opening again. A couple of hours later, what you see in the photo above it what I came back to! After making as sure as I could there was nothing inside, I blocked it off again. As of today, it has not been disturbed again, so here’s hoping the critter has decided it’s not worth the effort.

Later in the evening, I found this in the old garden area.

Much to my surprise, the first den we found was dug into again! It was just a small hole compared to before – the buried sticks seemed to work in preventing further digging. I blocked it off and, when I checked it this morning, it was still buried. Once again, I’m hoping the woodchuck has decided it’s not worth the effort and have moved on.

After doing the watering this morning, I picked a tiny little harvest.

There was one zucchini big enough to pick, and I gathered the last of the garlic scapes (unless I missed one or two). Plus, we have our first peas. 😀 Only two pods from the purple peas. Because the pea plants are so stunted in growth, the weight of the pods were keeping the plants they were on from being able to reach the trellis lines. At least we’ll be able to taste the peas. I’m curious about how the purple peas taste. Reviews on the Baker Creek website were pretty mixed!

Unfortunately, it looks like some of the pea plants are not just stunted in growth, but have been nibbled on, too! Where this is new nibbles or not, I couldn’t really tell. I also noticed new nibbles on the Crespo squash. Any part of the squash that started to grow outside the hoop and twine barrier seems to be getting nibbled. We’ll have to find a way to extend the barrier.

Meanwhile, in the old kitchen garden, I’m happy to see pods developing on the Giant Rattle poppies! These had had such a rough started, I wasn’t sure what we would get, so this is making me very happy. For this year, we might have enough pods to taste them, but not enough for cooking with; mostly I want to save the seeds to grow more next year, and fill the bed. Gosh, this brings back memories! When I was a kid, my mother grew similar poppies in this garden, and I remember my late brother and I picking dried out pods and eating the seeds, straight from the garden. We would later have big bunches of the dried pods (well… big, in my childhood memory!) gathered. The only thing I remember my mother making with them was a special soup she made only for our Wigilia (Christmas Eve) dinner.

I did have another harvest this morning, which will get its own post next. 🙂

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


As we work on clearing, cleaning and reclaiming the yard and planting our first garden beds, I’ve been keeping a close eye on details to keep in mind for the future. Things that will help us decide what needs to be done next, what to change or what to keep the same.

This morning, I found myself making a lot of comparisons.

The cutest one is the cucamelons.

This is the largest one that is developing, with my fingers giving an idea of just show small these are!

Isn’t that just the cutest thing? 😀 This is the first one big enough to start seeing the patterns developing.

The trellis I made for these is just cotton yarn. It is working very well, except for on thing.

The cats.

When I am out there and the boys come over for some attention, they will plow their way through the trellis, pulling tendrils off in the process, then look at me all confused over why I’m flipping out at them. 😀 They also try to lean and rub against the strands of yarn, only to flop over onto the plants. !!!

We already know that this location doesn’t have enough sun for cucamelons. If we grow them in the future, they will be planted somewhere with full sun. Our original intention was to plant them against the chain link fence for them to climb, and the cats are showing us exactly why that’s a very good idea! If not there, then we will have to make sure to have trellises that are sturdier, with strands much closer together. Not because the cucamelons themselves need it, but because of the cats!

Here is another comparison. These two squash plants, with the mottled leaves.

They look pretty much like the same kind of plant, don’t they?

Now look at the developing squash.

They’re completely different!

I’m looking forward to being able to start harvesting these. My favourite way to eat them is raw, with dip. No need for anything else, when they’re at just the right stage. 🙂

It was looking at the chokecherry trees that I am really seeing what a difference even minor changes in conditions makes.

This first one is at the south side of the garden where the squash beds are.

This one gets sun in the mornings, but for most of the day, it is shaded by spruce and maple trees to the South and West of it. It is not crowded by other trees. It has quite a lot of berries that are looking big and juicy (well… as much as chokecherries can be! 😉 ). Even last year, during the drought, it had larger berries. While I do not specifically water this tree, I do sometimes water the little patch of flowers and raspberries on one side of it, and the black current bush (my sister confirmed what it was for me) on the other side, so it does get extra water from that. While is has larger berries, it also ripens later. As you can see, the berries are still very much on the red side of things.

This next one is the chokecherry tree that is engulfed by lilacs.

This one gets full sun for most of the day, though it does get slightly shaded at the end of the day, by the trees my mother left to grow after she moved the raspberries they’d self-sown in between, years ago. This whole area gets quite dry, and we do not make any effort to try and water anything here.

The berries themselves are noticeably smaller than in the previous tree, and there are less of them, but they are also ripening faster.

Then there is this tree, right nearby.

This is the top of a young, small tree that was self-sown and allowed to grow (rather than get mowed over, like all the other saplings) in a grassy band between the old garden area (with the row of trees mentioned previously) and the lilac hedge. It might get some shade towards the end of the day, but otherwise gets full sun. Our first summer here, it did not produce fruit yet, and I wasn’t even completely sure what kind of tree it was. Our second summer, it had a few berries. This year, it has matured enough to produce quite a lot of berries. With full sun most of the day, not at all crowded, and little moisture, the berries are still not as big as the ones closer to the house, but the clusters are dense and ripening quickly.

You can see how this tree is situated in the background of the next photo, below. This next chokecherry is also among the lilacs, but on the edge of the hedge, not in the middle of them.

Here, it gets no shade at all. It has lots of berries that are already ripe. As you can see, though, some of the leaves are turning yellow. Only a few branches are like this, not all of them. It’s not stopping them from heavily fruiting! Like the other two along this side of the old garden, the berries are not as large as the trees nearer the house.

This next one was a surprise find, along with the Saskatoon berries. This area had been full of spirea that I had pulled up. It’s starting to grow back, so I’ll have to do it again, as pulling them up has been a good thing for other trees. The Saskatoons thrived this summer, and we discovered another chokecherry tree among them.

This area is under spruce trees, both living and dead, getting very little sun. In the above photo are the berries on the North side of the tree, where it gets even less sun. As you can see, they are just turning from green to red here.

This next photo is of the same tree, but on the South side.

That little bit more sunlight sure makes a noticeable difference in how fast they ripen!

Again, while I have not really been watering these trees, they are near the horseradish, and with the spirea taken out, wildflowers have come up and I’ve been watering those. So they will have benefited a bit from that, too. Mostly, though, being under the spruces as they are, they don’t get the full heat of the day, so the soil doesn’t dry out after a rainfall as quickly, either.

Then there is this one…

That’s a chokecherry in the middle of the photo. I had cleared a path to the junk pile you can see part of, to try and find useful pieces of wood in it, but that’s as far as I got so far. The tree itself is not crowded by other, large trees, and is shaded only in the morning hours. It’s surrounded by spirea and thistles, so we can’t get at it right now, but it appears to be just loaded with ripe chokecherries.

Finally, there is this one.

This is the top of a chokecherry tree among the cherries. I can get close to it, but not enough to be able to harvest it until I clear away the cherries around it; mostly cherries that had been killed off by last year’s horrible spring, and the bits that are now growing up from the bases. They create a formidable barrier!

This tree also gets shade in the morning hours only. Our last two summers, I don’t recall seeing any flowers or berries at all. Last summer, I’d cleared away the old wood pile, which turned out to be a much, much larger job than I expected. You can read about it in this series of posts (all links should open in new tabs, so you won’t lose your place!); parts one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.

Did I mention it turned out to be a really huge job?


So while there is still lots to clean up to work our way into the spruce grove, what has been done so far made a big difference. I’m thinking that, had the cherries not been so damaged by the previous spring conditions, they would have improved, too. Mind you, the one cherry tree I kept because it managed to actually produce a few berries, and is not at all crowded, did not produce even a blossom this year.

It’s amazing how the same type of tree, while not really all that far apart from each other, are so different based on even minor changes in sun, shade, moisture, etc. When it comes time for us to plant more food trees, the differences among these chokecherry trees is providing us with a lot of information.

Comparisons can be very useful!

The Re-Farmer


With all the lovely rain we had yesterday, I could see the squash really appreciated it!

This is one of the recovering squashes that recovered after frost damage to our first transplants.

We’ve got baby yellow zucchini!

This is the first of the summer surprise squash mix that we can actually see what it is. 🙂

I’m happy that some of the damaged ones have recovered so well. We won’t be getting anywhere near as many squash as I had originally expected, but that’s okay. We’ll still have lots!

The Re-Farmer