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Category Archives: gardening

School’s Out!

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The weather’s hot, the grass is growing, and teachers around the city are beginning to relax.

Yesterday was my last day of school for the year.  Hooray!  I have approximately 10 weeks to sleep late, go to the bathroom any time I want/need (without waiting for passing periods), eat when I’m hungry (rather than only at 12 noon), and do those things I’ve been putting off.

So maybe you’ll see more blog posts from me.  Things have been happening on the homestead — animals born, others butchered, progress on the house-building, fruit ripening.  But I also have a lot to do this summer.  I agreed to develop an orientation program for new teachers at our school, and I need to write curriculum for the second year of my two-year honors class.  There are home chores — cleaning the chicken coop and the rabbit barn, putting a cover on the pool and taking down the fence, reorganizing the guest room closet.  I picked the first strawberries today, and there will be raspberries and blackberries ripening soon.  There are little green cherries and little green peaches on our trees.  Then the rest of the garden will start to be ready to harvest.

I want to write, knit, and draw up plans for a tree house / writing studio.

There is a lot of stuff to cram into 10 weeks.

I hope to make the most of the time.

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The Progress of the First-Year Garden

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Today, I put up two quarts of squash and two quarts of beans.

The corn has little bitty ears on it.

There are tiny cucumbers and teeny watermelons and itty bitty cantaloupes. Even a couple of decent sized pumpkins that we didn’t plant. (The pumpkins we did plant aren’t doing as well.)

But next year, we’ll mark things better. ‘Cause this year, we didn’t mark them and we keep saying to each other, “Do you think this is kohlrabi? Is this kale? Did the beets not come up at all?” And we’ll need to be diligent about weeding next year, too. It’s sometimes hard to find the beans growing in the midst of all the grass.

Still, considering it’s a first-year garden, four quarts of vegetables (plus all those we’ve already eaten) isn’t too bad for the first of August. (Not to mention the seven quarts of black raspberries I put up earlier this summer.)

But next year, I hope it will be better.

Garden Harvest, July 20

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We dug a lot of potatoes, but not as many as Husband had expected.  We think maybe it was too wet this year.  And when we dug them up, we found that quite a few of them had already rotted.  I accused Husband of planting mashed potatoes in the hopes of harvesting mashed potatoes.  Instead, they were just mushy, stinky potatoes.  Still, we got a lot of good ones.

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We’ve had a few tomatoes over the last month or so, but not a ton.  The little yellow sunsugars have been coming at the rate of a couple a week for a while.  This is the first red one we’ve gotten, but it was small.  Still, it was enough to add to our lunch today which was…

rabbit tacosRABBIT TACOS!

That is a new one.  We’ve never had rabbit tacos before.  They were darn good.

Anyhoo, back to the garden.

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We got a couple of squash, too.  There are a lot more yellow squash growing out there.  The zucchini are not growing as fast, it seems (this one being an exception.)  And we had a volunteer squash plant come up and it’s been terribly exciting to try to figure out what kind it is.  We think maybe acorn.  I was hoping for butternut, but I’m okay with acorn.  Or whatever it is.

Oh, and we got a handful of green beans today, too, after I took the photos.

One of the cherry trees is not looking good; its leaves turned yellow.  So that’s sad.  And I accidentally mowed down a blueberry bush, and that’s sad, too.  And the pumpkins don’t seem to be doing much.

But the corn looks okay.  Maybe we’ll have ears in August.

And it is, after all, just a first year garden, planted in newly tilled sod.  Even Pa Ingalls said a first year garden in tough sod can’t be expected to do much.  At least we’ll have enough food to get us through the winter and it’s very unlikely we’ll have to live on potatoes and brown bread and convince Almanzo Wilder to give us a milk pail full of his seed wheat so we can live until the train comes through in the spring!  (Can you tell I’m reading The Long Winter right now?)

And this fall, Husband will till up the ground again, plus maybe a bit more for next year.  And next summer’s garden will be even better.

Out to the Garden

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I step outside and the humidity seems to hinder my progress. Instead of simply walking to my destination, I must push through the thick air, wading through an invisible barrier that collects in moisture on my skin. The warm breeze does nothing to ease the situation.

In the distance, dark clouds gather and thunder rumbles.

I make my way to the strawberry patch to check the progress of the new plantings. Though it seems sad to do so, I pick off this year’s blossoms so that the plants’ energies go to the roots to make sturdy plants for next year. If all goes well, I’ll have strawberries galore next year. And perhaps peaches and cherries, too, if the trees are mature enough.

I mosey past the spot where I hope to put the rhubarb patch this fall, and down the rows of potatoes. They look bushy and healthy. No flowers yet, but they’ll come. The vine patch shows evidence of cantaloupes, watermelons, pumpkins, and squash, but while most of the hills have plants in them, some of them are bare and I wonder if we had some bad seed that will not germinate. In the next section of the garden is the corn, which is small but growing. I wonder if it will be “knee-high by the Fourth of July.”

One little cherry tomato is turning yellow, and another plant is getting so big I had to put a cage around it to support it. Beans are coming up and looking good. Since we did not mark things well when we planted, it is hard to know what each little seedling is, and since some of the seeds were old, it is hard to know whether they will come up.

It’s enjoyable to have the garden just outside my front door. For thirteen years, we had such a small, shady yard that gardening was difficult at home. We tried a community garden and then had a plot at a friend’s house. That was nice, but it’s much handier not to have to drive or bike a mile to check on the plants.

The wind picks up and contains the faint scent of rain. Time to head inside.  I don’t need to be watered like my little seedlings do.

Memorial Day Weekend

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Memorial Day weekend was busy with get-togethers with both our families. In the time I had at home, I wanted to get some things accomplished in the yard and in the house. There is so much still to do, and Saturday morning I kind of wandered around, feeling unable to keep my attention on any one thing. Nonetheless, I managed to get a lot done around the place. I mowed, helped Husband plant all the garden seeds we have (we still want to get carrot seeds and tomato plants), moved all the stuff that we’d stacked on the outside of the pool fence (I mostly just tossed it over the fence – the pool area is a wreck anyway, and at least the fence hides it), cleared out some weeds and small scraggly trees from a couple of places (and got some crazy poison ivy in the process for which I since have been prescribed Prednizone), moved a bunch of river rock and landscape timbers, did several loads of laundry, and cleaned the house.

I foresee a busy summer, but I also think this place is going to really shape up in the next couple of months!

May Update

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When I go for runs, last year’s corn fields are a patchwork of color. This one is brown with remnants of old corn stalks. That one is freshly plowed with green spears of new corn popping up. And the next is covered with yellow flowers – mustard flower or goldenrod or something.

My back yard is green, green, green. The grass melts into the woods behind, and the interstate is finally obscured by foliage. Birds nesting in a hole in the side of the house chatter and chirp and screech at each other as they fly in and out. In the distance, goats bleat, and next door, the horses whinny and snort and gallop. Giant carpenter bees deafen me with their buzzing, and frogs in the dilapidated pool warble and croak, drowning out other night noises.

Though I haven’t checked on them lately, Husband tells me the chickens are getting big and feathering out, and the bunnies are turning into eating machines. Need to get the chicken coop and the rabbit run built.

I’ve seen flowers blooming that I didn’t know we had; daffodils earlier this spring, plus a few tulips. I discovered a peony bush, and I planted some resurrection lilies and some irises around the bird feeders I set up, as well as some echinacea and butterfly weed. Sunflowers will soon make a border along the road in front of our house.

The gardens have been tilled and planting has begun. Potatoes and corn are in. Hills have been hoed for the pumpkins and squashes. One of these days I’ll help Husband to do more planting. It’s hard sometimes after nine hours at school; I want to collapse on the couch and have someone else make me dinner, but the grass is ankle-high so I need to mow, and Husband has been working hard all day, too. Frozen pizza dinners are anything but rare around here.

My summer job list is long, and mostly involves cleaning up things that never got properly done when we moved in last summer. Certain things just got piled as we worked on getting other spaces ready. Husband’s shop is nearing completion, so now it’s time to tidy all the stuff that looks like junk. (And the stuff that actually is junk needs to be hauled away.) Need to pull out landscape timbers and river rock that was meant to border flower gardens but instead just prevents a proper mowing job and gives weeds a place to flourish.

Monday Night Dinners, our weekly tradition for the last eight or ten years, may be a thing of the past, and we look to new ways to show hospitality in a more remote area that seems to discourage regular visitors but may welcome occasional masses of guests for big get-togethers. A friend suggested a quarterly party, and we ponder what that might look like. For summer, it will be basketball and volleyball once we get the equipment ready. Camp-outs are a possibility, especially now that the outhouse is ready for use. We shall see.

I sit on the back porch regularly, enjoying the view and the sounds. Loving this property. Thanking God for what he has given us.

The Swirl

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At 9pm, my eyes get sandy and my energy drops.  Time for bed.  I tuck myself under the covers and drift to sleep.

At 2am, my bladder wakes me and I pad off to the bathroom.  When I return to bed, I snuggle back in, thinking that sleep will return to me.

Instead, a hurricane of thoughts fills my head.  Lessons I need to plan, copies I need to make, a quiz I need to alter.  The research paper I need to write for the class I’m taking.  And when will I get it done with house guests two weeks in a row and a mini-vacation planned after that?  And the refrigerator needs to be cleaned, and I forgot to buy flea prevention for the dogs.  There’s a log cabin show at the state fairgrounds this weekend.  Where will I buy the fruit trees I want to plan and when should I plant them and where?  Do I really want the strawberries where I had originally planned them?  If we buy a tractor, will there be enough money left to purchase the supplies to build an outhouse this summer?

I roll over, hoping a change in position will help.  The cat shifts her weight on my legs, wondering why I’m disturbing her sleep.

I remember I didn’t put away the laundry yet, or vacuum the living room rug.  I wonder if bleaching the well is the best way to get rid of the sulfur smell in the water.

The cat box needs to be cleaned.

I ask God to clear my mind so I can get back to sleep.

Will the research project I thought of for my eighth graders be too hard?  Is it okay if it’s hard because they need a challenge?  Why haven’t we heard back from the meat processor about the deer Stephan took there a few weeks ago after he hit it with his car?

Flip the pillow to the cool side.  Look at the clock.  Thirty minutes have passed.  Forty-five.

Everything I just thought about runs through my head again, this time in a different order.  Trees, tractor, strawberries, outhouse, research, guests, fridge, vacuum, lessons, laundry.

I try to release it all, but mostly it continues to run in the mental hamster wheel.

My eyes droop again, and I hope this time it will be for good.

Soon, it will be time to get up.