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Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category
Monday, July 18th, 2016
We were hoping for some warm weather so we can get started making hay. You need at least three dry days in a row to do this. So far, the most we’ve had is one sunny day. All the farmers in our area are getting really nervous. We watched the storm front coming in from the west — a big white roll of cloud in front of blackness. And we prayed we’d get no hail out of that storm. Well, we didn’t get any hail, but boy, oh boy, did it ever pour rain. There was about an inch that fell in less than half an hour.
Luckily, the gardens are loving the rain and hot weather. Our first corn is shoulder-high and Will’s Seneca Sunrise sweet corn is nearly that tall. The pole beans have climbed up over head high and are wandering around looking for something higher to latch onto.
We’ve been trying to weed, although we still can’t walk in the north garden for the muck. But the squash, pumpkins, corn, and beans look pretty darned good despite all the weeds. And the third planting of sweet corn in the pig pasture garden is up and looking good. Yep, the ground squirrels took to the trade and are eating the piles of corn I put out instead of digging up the sprouted sweet corn seed. Hooray! (Mittens got two more ground squirrels and Hondo got another.)
On a sad note, one of our heifers turned up missing the other day so we spent the whole afternoon and evening searching the woods on the north forty for her. No cow. She was bred and we were worried she’d hidden to have a calf. Early the next morning, Will took out again and finally found her… dead. She’d been down calving and gotten her head under a fallen log and her hind legs under another. Both heifer and calf were dead. It took us several days to get over that loss; she was one of Will’s favorites. Homesteading is not all sundrops and roses. — Jackie
Monday, July 11th, 2016
It seems that we haven’t had more than one sunny, dry day at a time for a month now! Our North garden is basically white clay and you can’t even walk in there without sinking to your shins in gumbo. And we’ve had enough heat that the weeds are having a field day … literally! Oh well, the garden plants do look good even if they are weedy.
Since Will can’t go haying yet because it’s so wet, he’s been doing odd jobs. One of them was driving down a well on the side of our spring basin. This was a homemade 6″ steel pipe with a welded, homemade point on the end, 10 feet long. First he dug a hole with our little backhoe and buried most of the first 10′ length. Then he welded another 10′ pipe onto that. He used our tractor-mounted post-pounder to drive it down. When finished, four feet was left, two feet of which will be buried. There’s water in the pipe but also silt from driving. So Will has to get our gasoline pump and pump out the silt. This well will supply our new barn, the buried line draining back into the well so it doesn’t freeze in the winter. (We’ll put a big round bale over the well head to make sure, just like we did for our house well.)
Another job was burying the plastic irrigation line which runs along our main garden, below the plum orchard. This was always a “nasty” area because I couldn’t mow it with the lawnmower because the pipe laid in there … somewhere. He built a trenching plow out of junk (of course!) and with it hooked to the three point on our Ford 660, he was able to run a trench quite easily. Now the pipe is buried and I will be able to mow there. Hooray! By the way, this pipe is only buried about a foot and half deep but we completely drain the irrigation line in the fall so there is no problem with freezing.
We had the Cook area garden club out last week and enjoyed about 30 people visiting and asking questions about our garden, orchards, and homestead in general. It was fun for all. (Of course, I wish my flower beds were better weeded…)
But our cat, Mittens, doesn’t mind a bit. It’s her private jungle. She especially likes stalking through my Oriental poppies and hostas. — Jackie
Wednesday, July 6th, 2016
Our health has been wonderful and so has the weather. Will’s been working at getting our gardens mulched and we’ve been weeding ahead of the mulching. But with four big gardens, it’s sometimes a challenge. We’ve got the main garden by the house, the berry patch, the old pig pasture, and the North garden so all in all, we’ve got about 3 acres of garden! Between the rain and heat, the weeds are thriving. Luckily, the crops are, too, for the most part.
The heavy rain drowned out our corn in the pig patch so I replanted it. Then the ground squirrels dug up the sprouted second crop and ate the seeds. So we put piles of grain on the side of the garden for the squirrels and last evening I planted it again, all 10 hundred-foot rows. It’s Will’s Seneca Sunrise sweet corn, which is a short season corn so we just hope it survives and we have a long enough summer without fall frost, so we can harvest it for eating and canning. No guarantees with this homesteading business!
I have to tell on myself. Earlier I planted pumpkins and squash in the North garden. Then I had to have Will come in with the tractor and tiller because the grass and weeds were coming in strong. I pointed out a spot for him to back in to till and he said he thought I’d told him I had planted it in pumpkins already. I couldn’t see any marks so I said “just till it!” He did, after shrugging his shoulders. Turns out he was right. Now we have bean rows with assorted pumpkin plants here and there. I told him I was just planting a three sisters garden (corn, beans, and pumpkins). Oops!
The red hawkweed is blooming and boy, do the butterflies love it! I enjoy watching the yellow swallowtails flit around them. It makes a pretty picture!
Haying starts soon. Will’s been readying our haying equipment and barring unforeseen problems (which there often are!), haying should go pretty fast this year. Mechanical breakdowns are a part of farming. But one can always hope … — Jackie
Tuesday, June 28th, 2016
And we’re getting a lot done, too. We just finished mulching, staking, and caging all 107 tomato plants and are working on weeding and mulching our main garden. Will is hard at work mulching the sweet corn and pole beans right now. With warmer weather, all of our corn is taking off big guns. (Thank you God!) And the beans everywhere look fantastic.
I had to laugh. Yesterday I was going to turn the water on to water the big hoop house and did a double take. “Hidden” on the frost-free hydrant was a pretty tree frog. He was all in camo but that didn’t cut it on a red hydrant. He looked cool though and looked like he had a big smile on his face.
My flowers look fantastic this year. The peonies are blooming like crazy and only two are the same variety. I think there are fourteen … so far. Okay, I’m a junkie.
We are enjoying having our big solar panels hooked up, generating over 10 times as much charging power as the little ones did. Wow! Those batteries charge up SO much faster now. And I know we’ll be saving tons of money in gas for the generator. When such a big milestone comes around we really rejoice. It really happened! — Jackie
Tuesday, June 21st, 2016
And boy are we busy! We couldn’t do any cultivating or anything else, during the rain so we’re hurrying to catch up (as if one ever does!). The weeds loved that warm, wet weather and parts of our gardens look like a lettuce bed. And our North garden and pig pasture gardens, because they’re mostly clay, were too wet to even walk in.
The bad news is all of our pig pasture corn rotted in the ground and never sprouted. Today Will’s going over to help at our carpenter friend, Tom’s, homestead where they’re going to pour five truckloads of concrete — with a little manual help. After that’s done, Will’s going to till up the corn patch in the pig pasture and I’ll replant it, hoping we’ll have a long enough growing season to harvest corn from it to can. (I do have other sweet corn patches that ARE up, however, but we sure hate to lose any.) All the beans and North garden crops are up and lookin’ good as are the crops in our main garden and berry patch. Hooray!
Now we’re working like mad to get the weeds under control before they get big. Will tilled and tilled yesterday, finishing our main garden and then going out to the North garden. He had a setback when our Troybilt’s fuel pump quit. Luckily, Will had another he’d salvaged from somewhere and after an hour of changing over, he was back at tilling. The garden was still damp but it tilled up fine and it looks so much better without the weeds!
The peppers and pole beans in our big hoop house look great. I’ve got six different rare pole beans inside as they’re relatively long season beans. Plus we have tons of different beans outside, both pole and bush. They just POP out of the ground. It’s so cool! Mittens sometimes sits by a bean row and watches them. She’s a homesteader cat and it doesn’t take much to make her happy. — Jackie
Wednesday, June 15th, 2016
Seven inches Sunday and four last night! I’ll swear I saw a bearded man at the lumberyard ordering cubits of lumber for an ark … Luckily, our gardens were well tilled before it hit and there aren’t lakes on them to rot the seed.
We’ve still been planting a few odd things here and there. (No, they’re not “odd,” just kind of leftover stuff we didn’t get around to getting in sooner.)
There’s a mama killdeer with a nest out in the corn on our north garden so we don’t bother her area. The rows need tilling with the weeds flourishing out there but it’s too wet now and we don’t want to disturb her while she’s sitting on eggs. Speaking of eggs, one of our turkeys came off the nest with three babies and another hatched a CHICK — not a poult. One chick. She found a nest with one chicken egg and became attached to it. Now she has a baby to raise up and love. Strange but cool.
Our tomato plants look awesome! Very stocky and dark green. Unfortunately, we have billions of volunteer tomatoes all over the garden; our only weeds this year! Luckily, they’re easy to till up and pull. It’s time to stake and cage the tomatoes and start in weeding and mulching the main garden. As soon as the rain quits, that is.
My flowers look great this year and my Yellow Rose of Texas is blooming its head off. I’ve been hitting one flower bed at a time trying to get rid of the weeds, especially perennial weeds like nettles and raspberries that keep popping up. And it’s working. So far I’ve got four beds pretty well “domesticated” and another bed pretty good. Mulching after weeding helps a lot. I’m using wood chip mulch about six inches deep. The peonies, delphiniums, hostas, and daylilies look great and make me smile as I sit on the front porch. Ah, homesteading! — Jackie
Wednesday, June 8th, 2016
At 5 a.m. I went outside and saw heavy frost on the roof and on the windshield of our Subaru. And this was on top of the ridge; our garden is down below where frost will settle. But our tomatoes were fine because Will and I worked all day yesterday covering our them. A dear friend had given me some larger plastic nursery pots and we had a few others so we used 50 to cover tomatoes. Then I had a bright idea. Gina, a friend of ours, has a greenhouse in Cook and I remembered seeing piles of used pots along their fence.
I drove in and sure enough, Gina quickly helped me load 50 more pots into the car. (I told her I’d return them today.) When I got home, Will and I finished covering the plants then set a cap of hay on each one as they do have holes and we didn’t want frost seeping inside. We had a little corn and beans up, so I quickly hoed a little dirt over each plant.
This morning I walked down and uncovered a few tomatoes. They are in perfect shape! Will is uncovering the rest right now as our temperatures are swiftly climbing and no cold nights in the forecast. Whew! — Jackie
Monday, June 6th, 2016
While it looked like a hot, dry summer weeks ago, when temps were in the high 80s, the last two weeks have brought rain. Lately, it’s been every day. Boy, is it hard to get stuff planted, especially out on the new north garden, where the soil is minimally improved white clay. It sticks to our feet when we walk and soon our boots are carrying pounds that refuse to be shaken or scraped off! Luckily, just before the rains got serious, Will got in with the tractor and planted 3 different varieties of pumpkins and squash; 12 rows each, with 30-foot spaces between, 100 feet long. I’ve hand-planted dozens of hills of pumpkins and squash so far but still have many more to go and it’s almost getting too late to plant. After all, we often get our fall frosts mid-September … or earlier.
In the house, I’ve started many different rare and heirloom beans (folks have sent some to us and we have bought some from various places across the country) that are long-season maturing beans. Some will go in the hoop house while others will be planted outside on each end, hopefully absorbing some heat from the structure. Others will go on our stock panel trellises in the garden.
Meanwhile, Will built a rack for our new solar array and while friends Mike and Dara were here to help, we put it up. We’re really excited as it will increase our charging capability from 100 watts to over 1,000 watts. Huge improvement. We’re waiting now for the combiner box and the cables Will ordered. I can’t wait to have the thing hooked up to our battery bank!
The weather radio forecasted scattered frosts after midnight for tomorrow night. And we have 107 unprotected tomato plants out in the garden. They’re too big for hot caps and too tender to throw plastic over. So we’re going to use thin slices of hay off square bales to make tipis over each one. After the frost danger has passed, we’ll use the hay as mulch around the plants. We harvest our own reed canary grass which is seed- and weed-free so we don’t plant a hayfield in our garden. Been there; done that! Luckily, none of our other crops are up yet except for some onions which don’t mind frost. Homesteading is never easy but the challenges make it exciting for sure. — Jackie