Garden 2011

I should probably be required to write:

I am a bad blogger. I am a bad blogger. I am a bad blogger. I am a bad blogger….

(you get the idea)

At least 100 times on the blackboard.

Sigh.

Funny how completely working and just accomplishing those basic activities of daily living still leave me completely incapacitated at the end of the day.

I makes me REALLY look forward to the day when it won’t be that way. Please, dear Lord, let there be that day one day soon!

Tonight – after dinner, John and I walked out to the garden to see how things are progressing. The remainder of those post is going to pretty much be photos with a few comments.

Enjoy our garden.

We sure are!

…..

The hydrangea is finally in bloom! In August, for heaven’s sake! I love that it blooms right outside the kitchen window.

Here’s a peek at the “new” garden – this is the plot we put in a few years ago and is adjacent to the “old” garden.

I can’t tell you how thrilled I am that my Romanesco Zucchini is finally putting out fruit! HOORAY! These plants were grown from seed saved from last year’s planting. I love it when a plan comes together!

TONS of grey zucchini blooms coming on the plant.

And with John’s brilliant new fencing job around both garden plots – it looks like we’ll actually get to eat the green beans this year – instead of the chickens and the deer! I can’t tell you how much that thrill my heart. J

John found a volunteer trio of sunflower plants in the pathway between the two garden plots, dug ’em up and planted them next to one of the cucumber trellises – it’s about to bloom – I can’t wait!

Look! Pickling cucumbers actually usable size! Hooray!

…and the first burpless cuke – just about ready for picking.

The lemon cucumber has lots and lots of blossoms – just no cukes yet. (They make the best Cucumber and Green Onion Salad. I can’t wait!)

Tomato plants…. Lots and lots of tomato plants…

Cherry tomatoes! Now all we need is enough sun to get them ripened up!

Look! It’s blushing!

Jessica – just in case you read this – there will be fresh green beans when you’re home – AND – squash. J

Can you believe this? I’ve still got lettuce in August!

The peppers are ripening up.

And the potato plants in the potato condo are at least 6 feet tall!

Yes, it’s true – there are actually still a few pea pods to be had.

And…

:sigh:

They’re back…

Did I mention that I’ve got 50 tomato plants planted in my gardens? And – oh – probably that same number of basil plants, too?

Squash and zucchini. Be still my heart.

Holding out hope for lots more sunny days – even if they’re on the cool-ish side, I’m okay with that.

Here’s to another 60 days of summer! J

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Garden?!

[Weed infested excuse for a garden!]

What garden?

Ohhhh… yeah. We did plant a garden this year, didn’t we?

A garden we had high hopes for, in fact.

[One of our most prolific items in the garden this year – thistles! They abound!]

Yeah… sad, sad story.

We’re still kinda pondering the turn of events – the outcomes, as they are at present. Trying to figure out, “What went wrong?!”

There have been factors to consider…

…weather – truly horrible garden weather.

…deer – we’ve fenced in a fairly complex manner – I’m amazed they can still get in!

…soil quality – we’ve begun to feel that this may be our biggest issue at hand.

[Can you believe this is all the corn that’s survived?! So much for knee high by the 4th of July!]

In years past we’ve begun dealing with the soil as soon as the summer’s harvest has been completed. We layer fallen leaves, grass clippings, compost, and organic matter all on the garden plot(s). The past several years the girls have done an amazing job of tilling in all of those things – leaving us with a beautiful soil consistency and composition.

The past two years – at the conclusion of a full year of deep litter coop management – we’ve transferred the deep litter to the garden plots. Last year we did so in January. This year, in April. (It was a crazy year – what can we say?!) Both years the girls did a lovely job of tilling the litter into the soil.

[We will likely refer to this as the year of the green bean – those, we can grow! This is green bean plot number 3.]

We usually till the soil anywhere between 3 and 6 times before we get our garden planted each year. After we’ve got either seedlings in the ground, or items that have been direct seeded have sprouted and grown sufficiently, we go to the next step.

That step involves putting down a layer of DE (Diatomaceous Earth); a layer of newspaper or brown craft paper (i.e., brown grocery bags) – making sure to tear the paper so that the base of the plant is not too smothered; then we put down soaker hoses; and finally, we typically purchase a load of organic compost from the local lumber company, and spread several inches worth over the garden plots. These steps do a number of things: help with pest control, build up the soil quality, reduce the amount we need to water, and help with weed control.

[Two types of green beans here – the ones on the left are Blue Lake Pole beans. On the right, the asparagus beans I was SO excited to try. Yeah… not so impressive, are they?]

[Asparagus green beans.]

[Blue Lake Pole green beans. Planted the same day. Draw your own conclusions!]

It’s a great system – and has worked beautifully.

This year we had some twists in the plot, though. With my illness and prolonged recovery, and the resultant financial strains that accompanied it – we couldn’t afford to bring in the compost; the time I’ve been able to devote actually in the garden has been curtailed due to greatly compromised stamina (not to mention having to work away from the home, as well); and our soaker hoses are pretty much toasted, and we just can’t afford to replace them at this point in time.

[Apparently, I am still able to grow a decent plot of basil, at least! Phew! I was starting to feel a little paranoid!]

The weather has also played a part – and not just in regard to the fact that things got in the ground a solid month later than is typical for us. One of the things that we’ve heard from some old timers is that the very heavy rains we experienced in the Spring could well have washed vital nutrients from the soil.

[Pretty much NONE of the 20 cucumber plants made it. This is a store bought that we broke down and put in the ground when it became apparent that the others weren’t gonna make it. And yes, that’s a straggler at the bottom of the picture…. 6 weeks later!]

Compound that with the fact that our deep litter method in the coop uses wood shavings (but no cedar – which has a known growth inhibitor in it) – well, we’ve begun to suspect that our soil may well just be really, really wacked out.

Cases in point:

  1. We couldn’t even get marigolds to grow!
  2. Zucchini wouldn’t sprout.
  3. Cucumbers wouldn’t move past seedling stage.
  4. Tomatoes – which normally go crazy wild here – have struggled merely to survive. The majority of them have died off. By now, most of them are as tall as I am. They most vigorous ones are merely knee high.
  5. Virtually all of the flower seed that I planted simply did NOTHING. We’ve always had wild success with flower seed!

Needless to say, it’s been pretty discouraging.

[Okay, we may amend it to be called the year of the green bean AND the potato condo! The potatoes are doing nicely.]

For a number of reasons, of course. First – the financial loss. About the last thing we need right now with all of the medical bills and the fact that I’m still in the recovery mode! Second – so much hard work – down the drain. Ugh! Third – we’re scrapping our plans for a fall garden now – if the soil is bad, why even go there?

[Volunteer lobelia… Which is pretty wild, ’cause I haven’t put any in this garden plot, and the one I did put it in, it’s been 3 years since there was any there!]

The plan right now is to see if we can’t get the soil tested. There used to be an extension office in our little community, we’re going to investigate and see if they’re still there and ask how much it will cost.

[Stinking deer grazed right through my lettuce patch!]

We’ve been working hard at getting the battle with the horrible, invasive weed problem won. We’re about 65% of the way there. Once it’s all weeded, we’ll fertilize with fish emulsion, water well, put down the paper, and then mulch with straw. We gave up the newspaper in our cost-cutting measures, so I’ll put a “want” out on Freecycle to see if we can’t get our hands on some. We have the straw on hand, and it’s what we can afford right now.

[Yes, an actual tomato blossom. There may still be some hope for a few tomatoes from this garden. Certainly won’t be the bounty of years past!]

And a dear friend and neighbor has a connection to a farm that will not only will give away manure (as in FREE), but they will also load it for you. Said dear friend and neighbor has also volunteered the use of his truck for said venture – a huge blessing! We will plan to take advantage of this wonderful offer in the fall – giving the manure plenty of time to age and compost down.

[Only one out of 30 of my hard-fought for Romanesco Zucchini seeds germinated and made it past seedling stage. I could weep!]

And – depending on the results of a soil test (I’m really hoping this is an affordable thing!), we’ll plan on growing an appropriate winter cover crop(s) in answer to whatever our soil might need.

Accordingly – the plans we’d made for the yields from our planned for garden have been amended.

The few tomatoes we are lucky enough to harvest will likely go for immediate consumption. If we’re fortunate enough to have some excess, I will can tomato sauce or diced tomatoes.

[The dill has actually done fairly well – at least in comparison to lots of other stuff!]

The dreams I had of pickling all sorts of bread and butter pickles, dill pickles, and dill pickle relish – not going to happen unless we find a good deal at a u-pick somewhere nearby. At least there will be a few slicing cucumbers available for munching on!

[A few struggling squash plants…]

But that’s life, right?

When things don’t necessarily go as well as you’d experienced in the past, or hoped for for the future – you analyze, you prayerfully consider, you seek wise counsel, and you go forward with a new plan.

I will say – one thing that we have oodles of is…. (drum roll please…)

…luscious blackberries!

I ate the first truly ripe and perfect one today.

I’m thinking I may get to harvest the first batch tomorrow, and I’ll probably make syrup with it. Or… if there are enough, maybe a batch of jam!

Such is life.

We’ll move forward.

And count the blessings for exactly what they are – gifts from the hand of our Mighty and Faithful God!

A Rare Day Off…

I had to go back to work at the end of May – after 4 months off for medical leave.

I’ve had few days off – although I have been fortunate enough to be able to work first half-time, and most recently, about 3/4ths of a typical work day.

On an average day I’m at work by 7 am, get home by 1:15 pm – and pretty much crash. Getting over this lengthy illness will take a concerted effort and quite a bit of patience! It’s been pretty frustrating not being able to accomplish the many things that I feel I ought to accomplish.

Over the course of the last week – after a substantial delay due to the very cool, very wet Spring we’ve had – our garden has begun to take some shape.

HOORAY!

Here – let me show you what we’ve got put together so far…

This is the “old” garden. I.e., the original garden plot that’s been here since we moved her 5 years ago.

In the foreground are three rows of squash… they are yellow crookneck (my very favorite in the whole entire world), and Mexican squash – sometimes also seen as grey zucchini. The Mexican squash is a new variety for us – I buy it sometimes at the store, but it’s expensive, and not reliably available. So I decided we oughta grow some!

Next, is a row of dill. I’m relying on it to be wildly successful – I have big pickling plans this year!

There’s a reserved space next (i.e., empty) – right before that trellis. It’s for the trellis that is currently being used for peas. When the peas are done, the trellis will move here, and we’ll get another planting of green beans in. And the trellis that you see here:

On the left side are the old standard – Blue Lake pole beans.

On the right – another fun new option:

In the right growing conditions, these beans can grow up to 36″ long! WOW! The rumor is that they’re fabulous, too. I hope to find out. That would mean, of course, that we NOT the deer get to eat the green beans this year!

To that end, I’ve planted lots of flowers that are supposed to be deer deterrents. Like:

My goal is to edge each plot with plantings that the deer are said to be particularly repulsed by. They include: astilbe, coreopsis, gallardia, chives, lavender, sage (quite a number of varieites), purple coneflower, candy tuft, and bee balm. Here’s hoping it works!

After the green bean trellis are five hills of another new to us planting – Romanesco Zucchini. I think this is the variety of squash that I enjoy so much when I’m in Spain – or at least something very similar to it. I heard so many raves about it – and it was SO difficult to obtain the seed. I’m really hoping for success with this one!

And lastly in the old garden – four or five rows of corn – I can’t remember how many now. We’ll see when it comes up! 🙂

In the “new” garden plot we’ve got…

A potato condo with both Red Pontiacs and White Kennebecs. Here’s to a more successful potato year than last year!

Cucumbers! The trellis on the left has pickling cucumbers. The trellis on the right has slicing cucumbers.

In the foreground you may be able to discern a hill – there are actually 3 (I forgot to get a shot of them!) – one of a variety similar to cantaloupe that we’ve enjoyed in Spain, another an heirloom cantaloupe, and then an heirloom watermelon.

We’ve got forty tomato plants in the ground. A few aren’t looking so great. Gosh – they could sure use a few solid days of genuinely summer weather! They are all – of course – heirloom varieties: Paul Robeson, Copia, TC Jones, Grammy Cantrell German Red, Moon Glow, Dr. Wyches, Grace Lahman’s Pink, Roman Candle, Weeping Charlie Roma, Amish Paste, Isis Candy Cherry, Dr. Carolyn Cherry, and Tess Land Race Currant Cherry.

Separating the two banks of tomato trellises is a row of basil plants. I have some serious pesto plans for those basil plants!

Also in the new garden is my weed-infested patch of cabbages…

As well as my weed-infested patch of peas – which have pea pods on them now!!! Woo Hoo!!!

Aren’t they beautiful?

You may recall this entire plot was completely weed infested – as recently as just a week ago! We decided to just till it all under and start over again – sadly, saying goodbye to the spinach and green onions that had limped along thus far. I need to get out there and weed this little corner – and soon! – but only as energy allows.

Also in this plot are…

Parsley…

Cilantro…

Beets…

…and marigolds.

So far.

We will fill up nearly every spare inch we can.

I still need to get lettuce planted, a new planting of spinach, and a new planting of green onions in, as well. I put those under the trellises – it works out nicely.

John also got two more beds tilled tonight.

The front bed – along the street – will have pumpkins and lots and lots of perennial seeds that I’ve saved up and need to get in the ground!

And a bed where we’ve had great success with green beans in the past, will play host to green beans once again! John will get the trellising up in the next day or two, and then it will get planted. And then immediately thereafter – fenced! One MUST protect the garden from the chickens!

And speaking of chickens…

Buffy and three of the babies… the fourth (the Dominique) is always trailing behind somewhere!

One of the little black sex link chicks. Isn’t she pretty?

And – one of the EIGHT mostly naked chickens I have on my hands right now:

I don’t know if it’s the weather being so cool and yucky that’s caused so many of them to decide to molt all at the same time – or what! But there are feathers EVERYWHERE! Poor things – they look kinda pathetic! At least it’s not as cold as when Crayon molted last year! But has sure put a damper on egg production!

So – while I didn’t get as much done as I’d hoped to on this lovely day off, I’m thankful for every moment I got to spend here at home with the kids and in the garden, and out with the girls. I even threw together a new fun salad, that I’ll post about later this week. I think it’s going to be a keeper!

Oooh! And – Shelly‘s broody again! I think I’m picking up fertile eggs for her to set in the next day or two. More on that as details are available!

I love this time of year…


I was laying down on the couch-y piece of lawn furniture in the yard this afternoon and looked up and saw this pretty cloud formation. It was about 85° F, there was a bit of a breeze, and it was lovely.

Here’s Crayon checking out the new digs. She – along with the rest of the girls – are trying to figure out the new set up. John built new roosts – so that everyone is at the same height when they sleep. It’s really throwing them for a loop – you should hear them squawk when it’s bed time.

See? It’s cool, huh?

Of course, at the end down there – right before the fan, you take a left into the old part of the coop, where the nest boxes are. There will be additional nest boxes soon – John’s working on them. They’ll be to the right – between the door frame closest to us in the picture and the beginning of that roost.

Are those not the cutest little feet? Isn’t it the cutest little butt? And look! Wing feathers! The chicks are going to be 2 weeks old on Monday. There seriously is nothing more precious than watching these three little adoptees follow their Mama Shelly all through the yard each and every day. She clucks when she finds something yummy for them to eat. She’s teaching them that I am the queen of the world because I bring fun snacks. I love it that they are excited to see me! We are SO doing the letting the broody hen set on fertilized eggs again thing!

There have been lots of visiting kids here the past couple of weeks. My neice and nephew have been visiting off and on over the summer thus far – although they’re returning home on Tuesday. I’m going to miss them so! And my best friend – who lives in Mexico with her husband and children – spends the summers here with her parents, who live right down the street from us and go to the same church that we do. So Pepper has been on recipient of oodles of love overload all week long. I think she’s had more kids throwing balls for her to chase the past two weeks than she has in the entirety of her life. She’s really been sleeping well at night!

 

Here’s one of the Blue Andalusians. I think they’re just beautiful. They are great foragers – and so GREAT for a backyard flock that gets to free range. They’re quiet, polite, and are reputed to be excellent layers – of white eggs! Go figure!

Here’s one of the Delawares in the garden – eating weeds. I love it when they eat weeds – and remember to leave my cucumbers alone! Isn’t she pretty? She’s got black tips on her tail feathers, too. Interestingly enough, the Delawares lay brown eggs!

John and I were lamenting tonight about the sad state of affairs the garden is in this year. Well, I did have a major orthopedic surgery – so I’m almost no help. I can weed some – but as you can see here – not nearly enough! Here a couple of the Speckled Sussex are helping me with weeding. Those are lima and bush beans behind them.

But when it comes right down to it – we’re doing the best we can – and were just so thankful that we have a garden to grow things in!

Look – lots of cucumber flowers – woo hoo!

When this cucumber grows up – it’s going to be in my next batch of Creamy Cucumber Salad!

Here’s Caleb – without a nose. When I was out weeding in the garden tonight he HAD to get close – and as I was trying to take his picture he turned away! Stinker!

OH! And look what we have! I actually ate one tonight – and it was perfectly ripe, sweet, luscious, and perfect. It was the ONLY ONE that was ripe, though. That’s okay – I need the week that it will take them to ripen up to get some projects done before I jump in and start canning jams and jellies.

This is our first year to do corn in AGES. We just really hadn’t had success previously. But with the expanded garden plot we decided to try again. It’s actually about as tall as John – and has put tassels on. I love that! That means there will be corn!

The green beans are coming along nicely. Thus far – no deer have obliterated them. I’ve got a couple of tomato plants that have bites out of them – but so far, they’re leaving the green beans alone.

And if this isn’t cause for rejoicing, then I just don’t know what is!

 

I love these tomatoes – even with the couple of little chicken peck marks in them. They’re a green stripey tomato. I think they’re going to be similar to the ones I eat in Spain – I sure hope so. If so – then it’ll be tomato mush for me!

This really has been the weirdest tomato year we’ve had in a long time. Some of the plants are thriving. Some have set fruit literally at the GROUND – what’s with that? Others are just looking like late bloomers – big time. Virtually every plant has some fruit on it – but man, not the bounty we had last year. Of course, it’s still early…

One of the blogs I’ve read in the past – The Shibaguyz – have constructed potato condos. John decided to give the design a go this year. You build this frame, put the soil in the bottom, add your seed potatoes, and then when the potatoes have come up about a foot or so, you add the next row of boards all around, adding more soil. Again, you wait until more growth, and repeat the process. They say you can harvest 100 pounds of potatoes from one Condo. When it’s time to harvest, you unscrew the bottom row of boards, pull the soil out, and there will be your potatoes! Cool, huh?

Here’s a good peek at the expanded garden plot. See all of the blank space? Yep – it’s the stuff we just haven’t gotten around to planting this year. It’s so bizarre. But, oh well!

Here are my sunflowers (three different varieties, if memory serves), nasturtiums, and poppies that are coming up in the little bed along the street. Please ignore all of the weeds that are coming up along side of them. One day I’ll make it there – just not today, or likely this week.

William was so proud of himself – he caught one of the Delawares!

The hammock my sister sent from Mexico back with Jonathan last year has gotten a real workout the past couple of weeks. The kids swing each other about halfway up the pear tree that it’s tied to. I just don’t watch. They have a great time, though!

So – that’s pretty much what’s going on in the yard!

We’re loving summer – and the beautiful evenings that we can sit out and enjoy the cool breezes and the company of friends and family.

We are blessed.

Okay, I admit it…

Getting a good downpour is GREAT for weeding. I can grudingly admit that. I will not however, proclaim my love for October weather in August! But, I can concede that the rain did, in fact, give the garden just the soaking it was needing after our long dry spell.

…but telling when mushrooms start popping up all over the place!
The bush beans are loaded! So we picked a whole bunch of them – 5 pounds of them to be exact. We ate a pound of them with dinner – they were lucious! And canned the rest… see?
We got 9 pints out of the 4 remaining pounds. Not bad, huh?
And – finally! – some ripe tomatoes! It’s a good thing we’ve got lots of cherry tomatoes… I must have eaten about 20 of them while I was weeding!
It’s interesting that the yellow pear tomatoes are so fleshy this year. Their color is so much more profound this year, as well.
And the yellow tomatoes are ripening nicely.


I’m finding that I like the bush cucumbers better this year, as well. They grow very uniformly, and the taste is excellent. My favorite eating cucumber is the lemon cucumber – but this one comes in close second. We harvested 13 cucumbers today – 1 lemon, 4 straight 8’s, and 8 bush.

I know next to nothing about eggplants. Grammy used to grow them in her garden in California and I remember that they were huge and nearly black (obviously the Black Beauty variety). It wasn’t until I was older that I developed a taste for them, and this is the first time we’ve tried to grow them. This is the Ichiban variety – it will be interesting to see how they develop. I’m not even sure how large they should be when they are harvested! Looks like I’ve got some reading to do!


All three of John’s pepper plants are loaded – some of the peppers are actually nearing appropriate size to pick – now all they need is a little more sunshine to start to develop their colors!
The middle girls are growing up! This is Speedy and a couple of her bunkmates – the California Whites. The California Whites are so difficult to tell apart that they’ve never gotten themselves named. Well, they are very anti-social so a few names have been called, but not the kind one should perpetuate!

These “middle girls” are quickly nearing laying age. They will be 18 weeks old on September 1st. It will be interesting to see how they ease into that phase.

And it’s time to pick blackberries again! Couldn’t you just reach right out and pick these and pop them into your mouth?


That would be great if they weren’t ALL THE WAY UP THERE!

I’m thinking we’re gonna have to break out the tall ladder!

There’s so much that I should be doing in the garden today – but it’s Portland CityFest today and tomorrow. So the garden must wait! I mean – seriously – how often is Kirk Franklin in Portland?! Hello! Can’t miss him! And tomorrow night – Toby Mac! We’re really looking forward to the entire event… Hopefully I’ll get some blackberries picked in the morning and made into syrup before we head out tomorrow. We’ll see…

Our Garden continues to grow…

You get busy with stuff and you turn around and bam! they go and grow up on you! Green beans of course! Can you believe how much they’ve poofed? And there are flowers forming all over the place! Woo Hoo!

Yay! An actual zucchini!

There will be squash for dinner tomorrow night! It is a little unfair, I’m afraid. Jess, my daughter, is away for the week – she’s my squash co-dependent, but in her absence I promise to do my very best to savor every succulent bite! 🙂

I hope this picture shows up okay… It’s a picture of a bumble bee – mid-flight – approaching a German Giant tomato blossom. He was so beautiful – I hoped to get maybe a snatch of a little glimpse of him in a photo – but wow – full-sized it’s quite the photo!

We’ve got a tomato explosion going on! There are green tomatoes everywhere! And they’re beautiful. I’ve got lots of plans for these babies!

Aren’t these the prettiest little pear tomatoes you ever did see?

This is a German Giant heirloom tomato – it’s the most unusual looking little start of a tomato – almost flat. With a name like German Giant you gotta wonder what kinda size this little fella is gonna develop into!You should smell the basil. It’s heavenly. I’m hoping to start making pesto in the next week. I make it up, put it in little freezer-friendly 1-cup containers, and then throw it in the freezer for use throughout the year. Even if I do say so myself, it’s wonderful. What a wonderful thing to thaw it out and be returned to the amazing smell of fresh basil in summer!
The cucumbers are getting bigger!

And John got the next bunch of green beans in. This side is a runner bean called Scarlet – I think they’ll be a great addition to our garden. I honestly can’t remember the name of the beans he planted on the other side, but I promise to try and investigate and report soon!

Here’s a better view of the trellis system that John built a couple of years ago. We’ve used them for cucumbers and peas in the past. It will be interesting to see how it works out for green beans!

They say it’ll rain tomorrow. Today is 22 days without rain. I’m ready for a little rain. It only makes sense, of course, I thorughly watered the garden today! 🙂

Cucumbers!

Do you see that? just above the flower (and the pink construction tape that I use to tie plants with) – the little itty bitty cucumber?

Woo Hoo!

I admit it – I was worried. There are green tomatoes galore, even some peppers present, squash coming on like gangbusters – but no signs of cucumbers! I worried there weren’t enough pollinators. I worried that the ones that we’d seen weren’t getting their job done.

Okay – I admit it – I worried it would be another dismal result with our attempt to grow cucumbers. I thought, “Great – I’ve gotten cocky, now they’re gonna show me how much I don’t know!”


But – sigh of relief – the pollinators are doing their jobs… See? There’s a lovely bumble bee about his business – bless his little heart!

I honestly believe that the sight of a yellow crookneck squash plant in serious bloom is one of the loveliest sights there is… feast your eyes…


Hard to believe summer is halfway over. The kids go back to school in six short weeks. It feels like the summer isn’t just passing – but evaporating!
We are on serious egg watch here. Henrietta, Hallie, and Millie are now 18 weeks old – RIR’s typically start laying somewhere in the 18 to 22 week mark. So we’re keeping them in the coop/run area for the majority of the day, only letting them out to free range in the late afternoons – in hopes that when the day comes that they decide to join the ranks of laying chickens that they’ll decide to do so IN the nest boxes! Updates to come, of course!

I hate weeds.

Yet, here you can see how very prolifically I grow them.


Late last August (2007) I had a total right hip replacement. Yes, I’m young – 44 years of age. But it was shot, and the old one had to go and the new one had to be “installed” – so to speak. In my hip class my classmates were blown away that I was “one of them.” Can I just say here and how that I have a WORLD of respect for older people who have a total hip replacement. That surgery can really kick your butt. And it’s not just a little recovery – it’s HUGE. Here I am 11 months since that surgery and I’m still adjusting, figuring out how to deal with the hip and my limitations, and finding myself truly shocked when I have a little season of time when my new hip feels “normal” or “natural.”

That all being said – let me just repeat: I hate weeds. A lot. I hated them before my hip replacement. I hate them now. Maybe a little more. Why? Because my knees both need to be replaced, my ankle is being studied for a possibility of being replaced, and I can cause myself a LOT of pain if I use the wrong body mechanics because of my new hip. And guess what – weeding is one of those “wrong” body mechanics. Yes, folks, if you drive past my yard you’ll see me bent over at the waist with my butt in the air pulling weeds. I wish there were some other way to do it – but there isn’t.

So, since it hurts I let them go much more than I ought to. I’m still trying to find a way to have a much less “weedy” garden. I think more mulch is part of it. Sadly, my supply for this year is dwindling and I’m not going to get another load full if it. We really are committed to organic gardening – so we continue to research and do lots of trial and error. I won’t be giving up gardening any time soon – that is for certain. So I’ve got to find some better weeding methodologies!

Isn’t Jake funny?

Cucumber flowers – woo hoo! This photo above are the Straight 8’s. The photo below is a bush cucumber plant. I think the flower on the bush is prettier, don’t you?

I’m so pleased to see how heartily my basil plants have taken off. It’s time to start using it! Pesto here we come!
The green beans are doing it again – nearly exploding with growth in phenomenally short periods of time. Wow! It won’t be long until we have beans!

LOOK! It’s an actual teensy, tiny yellow crookneck squash. It is actually conceivable that I’ll have squash to eat in DAYS – not some indeterminate vague number of days in the future. I find that so exciting!
Here, my friends, is the definition of pathetic:

Poor Pepper – she’s gotta wear a cone right now. She’s in heat and she’s been tearing her hair out – and not gently – her skin is in distress. So we’ve put this contraption on her – much to her chagrin – and we’re hoping she heals up quickly. She will be a very happy camper when the cone comes off!

The whys and wherefores of cucumbers.

For years I tried to grow cucumbers. I love them, afterall, so why should I not? Well, it seemed that the forces of nature were pitted against me and year after dismal year I’d fail – yet again! – at getting cucumbers to grow. It was quite disheartening.

Then, one year my uncle informed me that his neighbors, who have a bona fide farm and grow a variety of things very well, never plant until Memorial Day weekend. Egad!, thought I. That’s late! But, keeping in mind that we live in cool, often quite rainy, NW Oregon – well, I pondered that there may be some merit to this approach.

A few years ago John and I determined that we should perhaps try several different varieties of cucumbers – maybe the kinds that we’d planted previously just were not working for us based on the type that they were. That was also the year that my Mom’s health was declining rapidly – simultaneous to my Grammy’s final illness and subsequent death, and so we got a very late start on everything. I think it was probably June first by the time we got around to planting everything – and it was late enough that we decided we really ought to start with plants, not seeds. Because of our past failures, we reasoned that we ought to get several plants of several different varieties. We are also wholehearedly committed to planting heirloom – NOT hybrid – everything. We’re just picky that way.

So we got a dozen cucumber plants and got them planted. John built an ingenous trellis to train them on (see picture below), and we made sure to mound the soil up around the plants.

We found that planting when it was warm enough (duh!) and giving the plants a nice trellis were really the key elements to successful cucumber growing. Oh, and remembering to water them faithfully doesn’t hurt either!

Since then, we’ve tried a new thing… it has to do with the fact that we really don’t like wasting water, and that I’m pretty lazy when it comes right down to it. What we do now is this…

First, we make a bit of a hill – a long hilled up row, actually – where the plants will be planted. When it’s warm enough, we get them into the ground. (Some years – depending on how nutty life is – we plant seeds (and if we do, we typically start them indoors first), and other years we buy seedlings.) Once they’ve been planted and watered well and established a few days, then we sprinkle DE (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diatomaceous_earth) on the ground around the plants, then place a layer of news paper around the plants – tearing it so that the newspaper acts something like a skirt, then putting bark mulch on top of that. This process helps with pest control, weed control, and keeping the soil moist longer – so fewer waterings necessary!

Voila! It makes for wonderful cucumber plants, and even more wonderful cucumbers. We use the cucumbers in lots and lots of ways. The kids pretty much just straight up. I’ve got bazillions of recipes that I use them for, as well. As I said previously – there just isn’t any way possible to have too many cucumbers! If I ever find that I’m cucumbered out, then I have lots of friends to share them with until I’m ready to eat them again!

I should also say that my husband made some amazing dill pickle relish the year before last that used a variety of pickles – which is nice, because we typically have a variety of pickles! – and turned out beautifully. It’s about time to make some more!

Sometimes the rain is a happy thing

The occasional showers – well, since the HUGE downpour that came with the thundershowers the other night – have been really quite nice. They’ve done wonderful things for the garden – even if they do have the chicks really puzzled about those strange drops falling out of the sky!

As you can see, the Welsumer babies are growing up! Everyone has feathers on their heads now! Wow – that was fast! Looking us straight on at the center of the photo is the little roo who will be moving to a wonderful farm come later in the week. He will be well-loved there. I’m convinced he’s going to be a wonderful roo – he’s got such spunk and fun personality – not to mention is quite handsome!

On the left is Speedy, BB (which stands for big black) who is in the center, and on the right one of the California Whites – maybe Angel, I’m not sure – not all of them have names.

Can you believe how much smaller Speedy is than BB? And how much HUGER BB is than both the others? Speedy *is* the smallest in the flock – without a doubt, but she is catching up. She’s really made quite a turn around and we’re just so pleased. She is retaining her fun personality – and is definitely the most comfortable of her group (the middle girls) with human interaction. We continue to give her treats daily, hoping to help her catch up on that disparity in growth!

Below is the green bean plot. I walk out the door each day and am just blown away at how much they’ve grown in another 24 hour period of time. Since yesterday tendrils have shot up on the pole beans. We MUST get the trellis in tomorrow! When I look at the Squash patch I just smile – in happy anticipation of my very favorite veggie coming into fruition! We had that conversation again this year – John and I – the one we have every year. In his mind – one or two yellow crookneck squash hills will do us just fine. In my mind – there’s no way it’s physically possible to have too much! I will absolutely, positively eat it every single day that it is available – I never get sick of it. In fact, I’ve been known to eat it with breakfast (it’s wonderful sauteed in an omlette!), lunch, and dinner! Okay, I confess, I’ve also just run out to the garden to snatch a couple of baby-ish sized squash and quickly sautee up some for a snack as well. It won’t be long – and I simply can’t wait! I’m so pleased that they are progressing so nicely.


I also firmly believe that there’s no such thing as too many cucumber plants, either. I tried for YEARS to grow them – and never with much success. When we finally got it right, we really got it right – and it’s been wonderful ever since! They’ve got a lot of growing to do these cucumber plants – but I have faith that they’ll do very nicely. Gosh, I’ve got plans for those cucumbers! LOOK! They’re growing! Lots and lots of blackberries! Yay! The past couple of years we’ve started picking them right around the last week of July. That’s not that far away, is it?!
Here’s another flower that came up in the flower bed with the wildflower mix that got scattered last year and did nothing. I can’t seem to figure out what it is – but it sure is pretty!

The cool weather has been a nice change after the super hot days. But I’m happy to see the coming week’s forcast – in the 80’s and sunny. 🙂