Saturday, June 27, 2015

A Day in My Quilt Room - Not!

It was planned . . . but it's not gonna happen.  But it's my choice, right?  (Please, an intervention that will sentence me to a week locked in my quilt room.)

Last night's forecast said we were likely going to have rain today, so that's why I planned my day of quilting.  Now they are saying the rain won't start until about 11 p.m. tonight.  (Who employs these weather people?  And why?!)  Sure 'nuf, we have an absolutely gorgeous day going out there so already I've harvested a new batch of mixed lettuces, greens of various sorts to mix in our salads and a big bunch of crunchy but tender spinach.  Now they're all washed and stashed in the refridge.

I should be cooking and serving the last of our vegetable bounty left in the freezer from last season, but somehow the beets, peas, Brussels sprouts, squash, beans, etc. (flavorful though they still are) don't seem as appetizing now as the wonderful greens available straight from the garden.

While I was out in the garden a short time ago, I snapped some pictures to share.

What flowering plant could be prettier than chives in bloom?  I know I should cut these four chive plants down so they will re-grow tender, fresh, new shoots I can cut and freeze for our winter's use (I have none put by yet), but I find them so attractive, I keep putting off cutting them down.

I hope I haven't made a mistake by trying to start our broccoli and cabbage from seed in the garden.  The broccoli germinated well and is putting on a little (little being the operative word) size, but the cabbage is still teeny-tiny, and I've even had to replant some of the green cabbage seeds that didn't germinate.

I haven't tried growing cauliflower for years as I seem to have a black thumb when it comes to getting the heads to form correctly.  But for some reason, I did plant a few this year.  The one on the right hand side, in the back, is substantially smaller than the rest of them.  Why does this happen?  I interspersed marigolds with the plants because brassicas like to grow with blooms and also planted a row of dill down the center of the bed because that's reported to help repel insects.

There is still no evidence of growth from the potato sets I planted under straw in this bed.  Yesterday I pulled some of the straw away from the side of the bed to see if I could detect any growth and discovered that immediately below the layer of dry straw on top, all below is absolutely saturated with water.  We've been having a lot of rain recently and even though my raised beds always seem to drain very well, the potato sets may be rotting.  Or rotted.  I must remember:  In gardening there are no failures, only experiments.  :o}

The three rows of taters planted the conventional way in the field garden are up and growing.  It may be the growing is a mite slow because of lack of warmth, but they've made a good showing so far.

Okay, so now I'm going back out to fill in more of the asparagus trenches.  It's time as all of the roots seem to be growing like crazy and the spears have nearly all turned into tiny fern-like trees.

Yupper, I suspect I'll not spend much time quilting today.  Sigh.  But our rain that is now to start late tonight looks like it may continue all day tomorrow (IF those crazy forecasters don't change their minds again) and as Scarlett said, "Tomorrow is another day," (or something like that).  So there's a chance I'll be in my quilt room then.

Monday, June 22, 2015

After Rain Garden Update

We had a day of solid rain on Saturday which really gave the garden a big boost.

I could hardly wait to get out there yesterday morning to see how everything looked.

The beans are up, the beans are up!  Because we have had so little in the way of warm weather, my worry-wart mind started telling me the bean seeds weren't going to germinate, but simply rot in the ground.  I think it was about mid-afternoon during the rain on Saturday while looking out the window that I thought I could see little bean sprouts poking up through the soil.  Sure 'nuf, there they are.  (Doesn't that angle of the picture make you a little woozy looking at it?)

I've planted both broccoli and cabbage from seed in the garden this year rather than started seedlings.  For two reasons:  1) I'm hoping to avoid the cycle of the white cabbage moth when they want to lay their eggs in the brassicas, and 2) I want the cabbage to mature later for better storage in the root cellar.  So far, the broccoli and red cabbage have shown a 100% germination, but the green cabbage are still no-shows.

The green peppers and slicing cucumbers are doing well in the protection of their cold frames, but I seem to have a bunch of medium-sized black ants wanting to build condominiums for all their relatives and close friends within the green pepper bed.  I've dusted them (the ants) with cinnamon and cayenne pepper and that seems to have given them the idea they're not welcome in there.

This is a shot of the old strawberry bed.  A little spotty in a few areas, but the plants are showing lots of blossoms.

The developing berries are only this far along.  Some warm weather would do them a lot of good.  The newly planted strawberries, both June bearing and everbearing, are doing very well.  I've continued to pop off any blossoms they form so all the strength will go to the plants this year.

The thin spears and ferns may be difficult to see in this picture, but our newly planted asparagus roots are coming along nicely.  The bed is an uneven, jumbled mess of dirt because I'm still in the process of filling in the trenches when the spears turn fern-like.

In my never-ending quest to grow eggplants (without a greenhouse or hoop house for protection), I may have finally hit on a good method.  This picture (Almost artistic, don't you think?  If you squint?  No?  Okay.) is looking at one of my eggplants down through the top of the Wall O' Water I put around them.  So far, it looks healthier than any eggplant I've ever tried to grow.  Seems the Wall O' Water is helping tremendously in our cool weather.  Without it, I'm sure the eggplants would have packed their bags and gone south by now.  Way south.

We're getting more rain today.  Too wet to do anything outside so this will be an inside catch-up day.  Being Monday, also, it means laundry and ironing which won't leave a whole heckuva lot of time for much else.  Maybe a little time in my quilt room.  Yeah, now there's a really good idea!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Wrecking Work

A bit of progress made today on deconstructing the old deck.

Papa Pea struggling to remove a rusted-in bolt.

Me struggling to loosen the bolts on the underside.  Next I went to taking screws out of the deck floor.  Seems I screwed around for hours (sorry, I couldn't resist), but don't have even half of them removed.

What fun we do manage to have.

But we did make headway.

That is until the lovely blue sky clouded over and the dratted biting bugs came out driving us in.  Rain is forecast for tomorrow but if that turns out to be incorrect, we'll hit the deconstruction again.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Just A Couple Of Pig Pens

Pens for piglets?  Nope.  Just a couple of really dirty, dusty people.  That would be me and Papa Pea.

We've had a chipper/shredder on our wish and want list for some time.  But we wanted a good one that would be substantial enough to . . . well, do a really good job of chipping and/or shredding.

Our good neighbor has also been thinking about getting one of these handy-dandy machines and a few months ago suggested Papa Pea pick out one he thought would do a good job for what we both needed, and we would split the cost and share the machine.

Before any decision was made, Good Neighbor happened to hear about one in the area that had been purchased new about ten years ago, used only once or twice, and stored since then.  Being very knowledgeable regarding nearly any and all kinds of machinery, he checked into this particular chipper/shredder and was pleased with the shape it was in and the price it could be purchased for.  He brought it home on a trial basis and you can guess the happy ending to the story.  We are now the half owners of one really nice chipper/shredder.

Today Papa Pea and I started using it to work through a pile of brush and birch bark we've accumulated in our back wood working area.  The machine is loud so we outfitted ourselves with ear protection along with goggles because the occasional piece of wood debris can come flying in one's direction.  The operation also creates a lot of wood dust which ends up in your hair, on your clothing and any exposed skin.

When we finished this afternoon and were walking back toward the house, I reminded hubby that neither of us could even think about sitting on a piece of upholstered furniture in the house until we changed clothes and showered.  (We did brush each other off with the a bench brush before coming inside to get a drink of water.)

After that little bit of refreshment, Papa Pea went back out to clean up the machine before returning it to Good Neighbor's shed where it's stored, and I went out into the blueberry patch to spread the chipped up product.

I've had more of a problem than usual this year with weeds growing in the blueberry patch, and I think it's because I didn't use as much peat moss for mulch as I usually do.  Peat moss isn't cheap, so we have been talking about using some other kind of mulch.  So that's where the material we created today with the chipper/shredder went.

The light colored material you see in the background by the raspberries is old straw I used for mulch there.  The light colored material in the foreground in between the blueberry bushes is the chipped and shredded material I spread (heavily) today.

I still need a lot more for the whole patch, but we got a good start on the project.  It's looking like it will do the trick, and I may never have to buy peat moss again!

No guarantees we won't have to take extra showers though to get rid of the wood dust.  Otherwise, I'm sure we'll be walking around doing a good imitation of Charles Shulz's Pigpen.

Monday, June 15, 2015

What's Been Going On?

Nothing terribly exciting to report.  (Okay, nothing exciting at all.)  We've just been plugging away at all that needs to be done in this very short season we call summer.

The weather has been good for nearly a week now.  Temps up into the 70s during the day, down into the high 40s and low 50s at night.

I've been spending most of my time in the garden and wanted to finish the last of the planting today, but the black flies had other plans for me.  Like being so awful they drove me inside.  I should have quit earlier than I did (before I got many nasty, itchy, ouchie welts), but I so wanted to accomplish what I had set out to do.

Before putting in those last seeds in the little bare spaces in the garden, I decided to de-weed the blueberry and raspberry patches.  Got the blueberry patch done before throwing in the (homemade insect repellent saturated )towel (so to speak) and quitting.  Funny, the spray repellent I used today was the same I've used previously when it seemed to work rather well.  Not today.

Papa Pea has been hitting the firewood with a vengeance.  Yesterday he announced he thinks he's got enough wood cut to fill all the remaining space in the wood sheds.  Now all (All?  That's ALL?!) we have to do is split and stack it.  Fortunately, we both enjoy using the wood splitter together and having quiet time to chat while we stack is nice, too.  We hope to get started on that this week.

He's also put a bit of effort and time into designing and then constructing some heavy-duty ramps that will make it easier for him to do the maintenance on our vehicles.  Of course, a pneumatic hoist in the garage would be ideal, but that ain't gonna happen.

Today while I was feeding the black flies in the garden (!), hubby worked on removing the dirt that had been in the flower beds around the deck.  Lots of shoveling, lots of wheelbarrowing.  This all needs to be done before we start tearing off the old deck and begin construction on the new.

We've always had a bad low spot in the yard (that seems to swallow up any fill we've put on it) so that's where he's been putting the dirt.

I sure hope to save that trellising Virginia Creeper by incorporating it into our new design.  I don't think I'd have any luck moving it to another location. 

I finally made a decision as to the color I'm going to use for painting the house.  It's a very dark green and is going to look much different than the gray/beige we have on the house now.  I'm pretty nervous to think about starting on that project.  No, I'm not worried about the actual painting work but rather how this new color will look.  Only one way to find out, eh?

That's all I have to report on this Monday.  Hope you all have a good week with good weather for whatever you want to do!

Friday, June 12, 2015

A Small Harvest But So Appreciated!

Wa-HOO!  I harvested our first salad greens today before breakfast.  And you know how long I've been craving some fresh, crispy, nutritious, delicious greens from the garden!  Not much lettuce in the mix yet, but lots of spinach, mizuna, arugula, kale and Scarlet Frill.

Also plucked our first radishes from the lovely soil.  Even with all our cold, not-friendly growing weather this year, this first harvest is a full two weeks earlier than the first harvest last year.  How did that happen?  Well, I definitely did plant my salad bed extremely early this year, but because it took so long to germinate and then put on some size, I never would have guessed I would actually make the first harvest on this date.  Just goes to show I need to have more patience (and maybe faith!) when it comes to "growing our own."

We actually have had some warm weather the past few days, and the garden shows it.

Our new asparagus has sent up lots of 1/4" round spears which I will mound with soil today.

The new strawberry plants are producing blossoms which I'm dutifully (sob) removing so the strength goes to the plants this first year.

Flowers I planted in the garden from seeds are sprouting.  Most of them, that is.  Red Phlox is still a no-show, and it's past time when they should have germinated.

My carrots sprouted in record time as did the dill and cilantro.

Cherry tomatoes and eggplants are flourishing inside their respective Wall O' Water cocoons.

This is the stage of the garden (when I can actually see the results of my efforts) when I start to get very enthused, excited and make my early daily morning walks through the garden talking to the plants and checking how they are all doing.  Life is good!  

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

My Name Is Mama Pea and I Am A Bug Magnet

I am unhappy.  We have a lovely, sunny, warm (low 70s . . . yippee!) day.  And I am inside.

You see, along with the lovely, sunny, warm day we also have black flies.  Black flies rejoice and do the happy dance when they see me.

I was sure there would be no biting critters to make my life miserable on a day such as this but as of now, at 2:30 p.m., I've tried twice to go out and work in the garden and both times I've been driven in by the black flies.

No, wearing a head net and my (expensive) bug shirt do no good.  They bite me right through layers of clothing.  Always have, probably always will.  Insect repellants don't seem to work on me.  

Currently, I have a small rivulet of blood running down my left calf where I got nailed right through my jeans.  The inside of my right ear is swollen where one of the black devils weaseled his way in.  I have two huge welts on the back of my neck.  And one on my upper arm.  The inside, soft, tender part.

It is humid and there is the threat of severe thunderstorms later today so I suppose those conditions are prime for the black flies.  They're sure not good for me getting anything done in the garden today.

I am unhappy.  And I'm a bug magnet.  And I'm cranky.  And I needed to complain.  Done.  Thanks for listening.

Monday, June 8, 2015

First of a Long String of (Boring?) Garden Reports

There was a short period this morning when the sun was shining (didn't last long . . . sigh) so I ran out to take some pictures of the garden.

How long have I been dreaming of a huge, home grown salad?  Well, this bed of salad greens which was planted on May 4th is finally, almost, sorta, kinda getting to be of good enough size to pick.  Shortly.  Maybe.  (Even "cool weather" crops have had a hard time growing in the frigid weather we've been having.)

This row of little cucumber sprouts (you may need a magnifying glass) is marching down a raised berm in the middle of this bed.  It's under a cold frame or the seeds would never have survived let alone sprouted.  I've already thinned them once, and will do so again.

Here are the green pepper plants starting to put forth a little growth.  Also under a cold frame.

I took a picture of my three rows of potatoes but absolutely not one single sprout of a potato vine has emerged yet.  Then I realized how silly it would be to post it as all the picture showed was . . . mounds of dirt.

Speaking of potatoes though . . . regardless of what Ruth Stout proclaims, I've never gotten but half the crop of potatoes grown under straw compared with those grown the traditional way in dirt.  But, heck, since I had some extra potato eyes, an extra raised bed, and some straw, I couldn't keep myself from planting these eyes under straw.  Sure wish they would produce better; the potatoes are so nice and clean grown this way.

My little patch of old, geriatric strawberry plants (bless their blooming little hearts) has lots of lovely blossoms.  They will produce the only berries we'll get this year as the newly planted ones will be de-budded so all the strength goes to the plant.  But next year . . . whoa, Nellie, we will have strawberries!

This morning over at Ewe's Crazy & So is I!, Lisa posted a picture of her Sweet Peas that are starting to bloom.  Well, to say mine are a little behind hers . . . they are pictured here along the trellis running the length of this bed.  They're about 3-5" high, at the most.  Maybe I'll post a picture of mine blooming in a month.  Or two.  Or three.

I'm using Wall O' Water protectors around my cherry tomatoes for the first time this year.  The tubes aren't fully filled with water as I wanted the tops to stay a bit closed up to protect the tender little plants for a while yet.  I've got two eggplants I still have to set out, and they will be surrounded by their own Wall O' Water mini-greenhouses, too.

This is one of my rows of shell peas.  Coming up strong and healthy.

This one is for you, Sue.  It's the bed of Lauren's Purple Poppies you sent me seeds for a couple of years ago.  (These poppies seed themselves in the fall by way of the seeds they drop, so your bed is perennial.  Sue warned me that once I planted them, I'd never be able to get rid of them.)  Well, my dear husband darned near kilt them off(!) this year.  He was doing such a good job of spreading compost on the gardens early this spring that he did so on the poppy bed before I could remind him not to.  It's not that the compost/fertilizer would be bad for them, but that it would bury the minuscule seeds under too much matter.  And it did.  I had only one small corner of the bed where a couple poppies appeared at the time they should have sprouted.  BUT!  Sue knows of what she speaks, because apparently the wind did a good job of spreading seeds last fall, and I populated this whole bed with transplanted poppies I found sprouting EVERYWHERE in my garden!  For which I was very thankful because I love, love, love these poppies and would have been very sad had I lost the bed.

Had planned on working in the garden today but the rain started before I could get out there.  Then it stopped, the sun came out and I was waiting for things to dry out a bit when the rain started again.  Then fog blanketed us and kept everything soaked but good.  Ah, well.  Maybe tomorrow.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Summer Fantasy

Every summer I revive my fantasy of spending June, July and August (okay, it's my fantasy so I'll throw in September, too) living in a simple, comfortable cabin on a lake.

Cabin must have a sturdy dock going out into the lake.  Big enough for a couple of lounge chairs on the end of it.  (I'm taking that guy I live with along.)  Hitches on either side of the dock for securing a canoe and kayak.

I'll need a small, inflatable raft for times I choose to be a big ol' sloth floating on the water.  (Maybe with a long rope I can tie to that dock so I feel secure I won't drift off to parts unknown.)  I'll also use the raft laid on the dock for a comfortable nap in the sun.  Listening to the soft, hypnotic sound of waves lapping up on shore is one of the most restful sounds I can think of.

But what is the most important part of this fantasy?  Books.  Books and more books.  I wouldn't even take any handwork with me.  (Shock and awe.)  I would read all. summer. long.  As much as I wanted to.  I would read in between leisurely paddles in the canoe or sipping liquid libation on the dock watching the moon come up.  Before and after meals.  Definitely in the evening hours before bed.  In front of a fire to ward off the chill breeze blowing in off the lake on a rainy day.  (Did I mention the cabin would have a small wood stove?)  Ah, guilt-free reading dawn to dusk.  And then some.  Sigh.

There are so many good books I've yet to read.  So little time to do it in my "normal" life.  Would I get my fill of reading if I did it for a whole summer?  I don't know.  But I sure do fantasize about living the dream.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

A Day Off?

I woke this morning at 5 a.m. to the rumbling of thunder.  (Thumbling of runder?)  We were actually hoping for a day of rain (as forecast), and now at a little after 6 with rain pitter-pattering on the roof, the house is softly lit, cozy and quiet as Papa Pea and I sit at our computers (in opposite ends of the house . . . hell-ooo, are you there?) sipping our morning brews.

The rainy day is fine with me because 1) we haven't had any rain in several days, and 2) both hubby and I need a day of "rest."

I put "rest" in quotes because I've already got a list a foot and a half long of things I'll be doing inside to get caught up.  I know my dear husband will be doing the same.

The garden is getting a good soaking (part of it pictured above) which I'm hoping will encourage seeds to germinate.  I am fearful (shakin' in my garden boots, I am) some may not make it because our weather has continued to be so cool, but I knew if I didn't get the seeds planted now, the crops would have no chance of maturing by frost in the fall.

Speaking of frost, we had a frost on the morning May 31st and June 1st.  No damage in the garden as I had tender plants either under cold frames or hot caps.  We did, however, on the evening before the second frost, forget (dang, what lame brains) to take in the three beautiful hanging begonia baskets I had purchased for the north side of the house.  Yes, they got touched, but I'm hoping they will look better again.  With time.

While I've been really pushing getting the garden in, Papa Pea has used these cool days to do (among other things) some wood cutting.  He already has a pile of cut pieces ready to be split that looks to be about the size of Rhode Island.  Soon as the garden is totally planted, he and I will attack that.

Even though the above garden picture looks severely bare yet (come on, you little seeds, come on), I don't have much left to plant.  Crossing my fingers that it actually will warm up soon, as I've still to plant my beans and pickling cukes.

And this year I'm trying something different with the cabbages and broccoli.

To avoid the cycle of white cabbage butterflies that lay their eggs in the broccoli, I'm starting it from seed in the garden sometime this month which should put the broccoli plants at a totally different stage when those dreaded white harbingers of wormdom are looking for a place to lay their eggs.  That's the theory anyway.

The cabbages, both green and red, will also be started from seed in the garden around the same time as the broccoli.  Last year the cabbages matured, and a lot of them split, much too early.  We like to store them in the root cellar but the temp there was still too warm when the heads were ready to be harvested.  So, the theory is that by planting them from seed in the garden, and not started set-out plants, they will mature later in the season and be green and growing (which is what you want for better winter storage) when harvested.  Again, that's the theory . . . famous last words.

And those should be my "last words" for this post because my morning latte is done-gone, and I need to get up and move before gardening-induced rigor mortis sets in.  (Oooof, stiff arms, stiff shoulders, stiff legs . . . )