Friday, July 31, 2015

A Good Day Already and It's Only 2:30!

Would you believe this is our THIRD consecutive day of high winds?  Winds so high Painter Guy can't use his paint sprayer?  Yup.  In order to stay (ahlfway) on schedule (he has two really big jobs scheduled for the next nine weeks -- eeep!), he's been doing a lot of brush work for the last two days.  It doesn't go as fast as using the sprayer, but sometimes ya just gotta do the best ya can.

I haven't gotten involved in the painting today, but I have gotten a lot crossed off my list.

~ Filled six trays in the dehydrator with parsley, got it dried and packed away in a sealed jar.

~ Made a batch of cottage cheese.

~ Washed windows in the garage.

~ Watered the (temporarily relocated) window boxes and pots of flowers.

~ Spray painted four shutters.  (I guess I did paint.)

~ Harvested and processed some shell peas.

~ Made a couple of meals, did a couple of batches of dishes, scoured a sink, swept a floor, etc.

I went out to the garden early this morning because I wanted to make the first harvest of our shell peas before they had a chance to heat up on the vine.

Here's something for you to ponder.  These are the peas in their pods that I picked.  This bowl is big, about 12" across and a little over 6" high.  What quantity of peas do you think I will get when they're extracted from their pods?

It took me 20 minutes to shell the peas (which was not nearly long enough since it's one of the few sit down jobs I've had this week!), and I shucked the peas into a quart measuring cup.

Before I started, I guessed it would be about three cups.  What's your estimation?  Did you make a guess?  Here are the peas in the measuring cup.

They measured exactly three cups!  (Considering I've been shelling peas for about fifty years now, I should have had a pretty good idea.)  How close did you come?


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A Day No Paint Was Spilled

My title post is a flippant play on the great book by Robert Newton Peck, A Day No Pigs Would Die.  Although no paint was spilled today, not much of it was applied either.  

Well, okay, the garage people door got a much needed new facelift and two more window boxes are now sporting their matching green house paint, but that was about it.

Sometime in the very early morning hours of this day, a low front moved in with high winds (yes, again) and (thank you, Mother Nature) much cooler temps.  Although the air temperature all day was delightful, the winds made spraying on paint a no-go.  So, nope, the last of the house painting did not occur today.  Tomorrow.  Tomorrow we're hoping for a much less turbulent day, and we'll finish applying the new green paint to the last of the siding.  We hope.

Without a paint brush attached to my right hand for most of the day, I had a chance to get out into the garden.

Because the soft neck garlic was such an eyesore and actual embarrassment to behold, I pulled all of it.  Other than about 12 bulbs that actually look like something you might recognize as a bulb of garlic, these gumball sized orbs made up the bulk of the harvest.

The stiff neck side of the garlic bed looks much better, as it has from the word go this spring, so I'm still holding out hope that I'll get a better harvest from it.

My zucchini plant has finally started bearing.  I think the bed, with the zucchini in the middle, looks especially attractive right now with the blooming nasturtiums on either end.

This picture doesn't show up the pods of the shell peas very well (too much green-on-green), but the vines are more loaded than I can remember them being in years past.  I figure about two more days, and I'll do my first picking of them.  We do love our fresh frozen green peas, and I should be able to get a big bunch of them in the freezer this year.

Also made our first picking of raspberries today.  This may be the last year for this particular planting which we put in eighteen years ago.  One of the three fourteen foot long rows is particularly weak this year, and I know it would be wise to start a completely new patch in a spot in the field garden that gets more sunlight.

Off to bed now so I can get up early to start another day of fun tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Too Pooped To Post -- Almost

It's been a very busy, hot, humid past several days.  Our main push has been the house painting . . . and surviving the summer weather that has finally arrived.  Temps during the day have been well into the 80s coupled with a lot of humidity.  (I can hear many of you saying you'd LOVE to have a high for the day of only the high 80s!)  It wouldn't be making us so grumpy if we were getting our usual cool-down at night, but that hasn't been happening as much as we'd like.  But one or two weeks a season of uncomfortably hot weather is about all we get each year, so I shall stop grousing about it right now.

Bless Painter Guy, his sprayer and no-fear attitude of painting the high up areas for us.  Here Papa Pea is removing the protective coverings over windows on one of the sections that was done earlier today.  The whole job is scheduled to be finished tomorrow!  I can hardly believe it.

That blank spot on the house is where my Virginia Creeper was securely fastened until today when it had to come off the siding in preparation for the last of the painting tomorrow.  The tendrils were already reaching the bathroom window on the left and bedroom window on the right.

We unscrewed the trellis that was fastened to the house, I cut the sets of three strings I always put up on each side of the trellis (fastened to corresponding screws in the siding) for the tendrils to climb on, and we laid the whole thing flat out on the ground.  I have a feeling getting it back up and returned to its happy, creeping position will be much harder than taking it down.

A shot of some of the ladders we've been using retired for the night.  Along with a couple of window boxes and various pots of flowers that needed to be moved from their usual spots.  It just struck me as a tranquil scene after the day we put in today.

We're still trying to make progress on the deck project at the same time as the painting.  We called the lumber yard today to see if our ordered materials were in yet and were informed they were delivered yesterday.  To a location in the county about 20 miles from here.  Ooops.  Then we received a call late this afternoon assuring us the materials would be delivered to our yard tomorrow.  Good plan.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Watching Paint Dry

We've been working on the house painting this week.  It would have been nice to get the deck reconstruction completely done before starting this next big project, but we have to wait until the end of next week for some deck materials to be delivered.

So grab a lawn chair and come watch us paint.

A month or so ago we happened to meet a young guy in the community who is starting his own painting business this summer.  He comes with good recommendations so we've hired him to help us with the painting, mainly on the second story.

He'll be able to use his paint sprayer which should make the work go much faster (much, much faster) than me on a ladder with paint brush in hand. 

Mr. Painter Guy contacted us yesterday morning and said he'd decided to stay home to do some work on his place because of the day's forecast of 50-60% chance of thunderstorms.   It was already dripping at his house.  Okay, sounded reasonable as it was gray and cloudy at our place, too.

Papa Pea then decided to go out and get some lawn mowing done while I mulched the asparagus and a couple of garden beds.  I also snipped blossoms and what seemed like a thousand runners off the new strawberries.  (Vigorous plants they are.)

By then our clouds (and occasional drops of rain) had cleared, the sun had come out and it looked like it was going to be a beautiful day in our neighborhood so the two of us hit the painting project.

This two-story, rather bare, side of the house is going to be perfect for spray painting so Papa Pea did a thorough job of prep work on it.  He also did another second story section around the corner.

After having done some priming the day before, I painted the area around the garage door and then worked on the small back porch entryway.  (Please note, even though working hard, I'm still able to make a fashion statement.  Nuthin' but class when it comes to my wardrobe.)

A couple of people have strongly nicely suggested we paint this porch area a lighter color in contrast to the rest of the house, but I've stuck to my paint brush guns and am doing it in the same color.  Yep, it is getting darker in that little nook the more I paint, but I also think it looks cozy.

Painter Guy is due first thing this morning so I'm off now to fix Papa Pea and me a hearty breakfast so we can get in a good day today.  Forecast is for sun, sun, sun!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Do You Think It's Strange To Be So Giddy Over A Head of Cauliflower?

Yeah, most likely.  Unless you're a gardener who has never been able to grow a head of cauliflower that even vaguely resembles a head of cauliflower.  Yup, that's me!

I feel as though I've won the jackpot this year.  This is the third head that I've harvested, and it's a beauty, no?

I'm sure my new-found ability to successfully grow this vegetable was a fluke resulting from 1) the time I set my cauliflower seedlings out, and 2) exactly the right kind of weather (very cool and wet) we had for the entire beginning of our summer.  (Cauliflower doesn't like to grow in warm weather.)

Needless to say, I am now encouraged and will be trying it again next year.  (Sure hope my balloon doesn't get popped!)

And probably the best part of this all is, as with all the other vegetables you raise yourself, my homegrown cauliflower tastes so much better than any one I've ever purchased.  All three heads harvested so far have been mild, creamy and buttery . . . which all totally reinforces the reason to garden.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

My Garlic Looks Worse Than Yours, Susan!

On her blog today, Susan over at e-i-e-i-omg! posted a picture of what she called her "sad, sad garlic."  Well, I'm here to prove to her that I have the sadder garlic.

I planted one raised bed of garlic last fall, half soft neck and half stiff neck.  (With a four foot row of Gilia down the middle which, I fear, is never going to bloom this season.)

This is the soft neck side of the bed.  Pitiful, isn't it?  Very few of the plants near the end of the bed showed their little green heads this spring.  I still had some nice looking cloves from last year so I stuck them in the bare spots.  Most of them came up, but none ever grew much over 6" tall.  Sigh.

The sprout-a-bility of the stiff neck (other end of the bed) was great but almost immediately the leaves started turning yellow and even the higher, "healthier" leaves are an insipid shade of gray/green.  See, Susan?  I told you yours look good compared to mine.  At least your self-proclaimed sad, sad garlic has some nice green color to it.  Mine?  Bah.

Monday, July 20, 2015

A Picture Would Have Been Worth A Thousand Words

Unfortunately, I didn't think about grabbing my camera when I glanced out the window this morning and saw that the cold frame I had over the cucumbers had been blown clean off its moorings and was on end in another bed. 

So you get the thousand words (hopefully far fewer) instead of the picture.

We've had high winds since we got up this morning and much of the garden has been taking a beating.

The two trellises I have my edible podded peas on are hanging in there but swaying like drunken sailors.  (No offense to sailors as a whole, you understand.)

Some potato vines have been laid flat, but I think will be okay.

The Agribon covering on the Brussels sprouts was loosened at one end and was ready to take flight.

My sweet pea vines have lost their tenuous grip on their trellis and are being whipped about.

Even a couple of garlic stems keeled over.

Luckily, yesterday I used some rebar to stake the tomato cages.  Otherwise, the whipping of the plants would have toppled everything.

The bushy nasturtiums are tipped and showing their skinny stems to the world rather than their lovely, lush foliage.  Three big clumps of them on three separate plants broke off at ground level and are lying dead and withered.

The row of bush beans are being tossed first one way and then the other. 

My pickling cucumbers that I have been trying to talk into grabbing onto and climbing their trellis have decided the way to survive is to hug the ground as closely as they can.  I think they're trying to crawl to a calmer environment.

I'm glad I decided not to plant corn this year as it would have been flattened (again).

We do get the winds in these here parts.  I don't know if it's because we've created this big open space in the midst of the heavy woods or what.

The cold frame that took flight smooshed the ends of a couple of the cucumber vines and mashed down some of the onions in the bed where it landed.  Coulda been a lot worse.  It's not the first time one of my cold frames has suffered this fate, and it's always surprising the tumble doesn't do much damage to the frame. 

Looking on the bright side of this turbulent day, we have sunshine, the temp is a delightful 73 degrees and there's not a bug in sight.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Back At It

We finally got back at the deck deconstruction this weekend.  I'm not sure how we got sidetracked (well, I do know, but it's too complicated to explain), but we're on it again now.

We finished removing 8,334 screws (but who was counting) which held the (rotting) deck boards in place.

Oh, if I could explain how sore my chest muscles were this morning after unscrewing all those screws yesterday.  Who knew the muscles I was using?  I would have thought the stress and strain would have been all in my arms.

Okay, buddy, put down that *&%! camera and get back to work!

Totally stripped and ready for construction to begin. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

A Peek at Part of the Garden

Although we've been having more rainfall than usual, it's nothing like some of you who are nearly to the point of flooding.  I feel so bad for all of you who have lost portions (or all!) of your garden to the excess amounts of water.

When we got up this morning, it looked a little gray but nothing too serious.  A half hour later it started to pour as hard as I've seen it.  Like someone turned on a huge shower head with maximum water pressure.  Now a little after 4 p.m. it's still quite wet out there.  Water is standing the "valleys" between my hilled up potato rows.  Methinks the ground is saturated.

The wood in our big wood shed is starting to lean out again.  Sigh.  We're not had this problem before, and we're beginning to think it must be the ground doing wibbley-wobbley things because of all the moisture in it.

Usually by this time of year, I have flowers in the garden to bring inside.  Nothing close to that this year.  Even the wildflowers seem to be behind their normal schedule.  (Oh, Sunshine, where are you?)

The new strawberries seem happy with the weather conditions though.  These are some of the new June bearing plants we put in this spring.  They're about 12" high and about as wide.

For the last couple of years I've been planting my two zucchini plants on a mounded up hill in the middle of a raised bed with nasturtiums on either side and liking the way it looks.  I should have zucchinis by now but the durn things aren't even blossoming yet.  Not enough warmth, I suppose.

Lots of blossoms on my two cherry tomato plants, but no sign of fruits forming yet.

Can you spot the sunflower inside my tepee trellis that has morning glories planted at the base of it?  The sunflower was a volunteer, and I'm hoping to train the head of it to peek out from within before the morning glories cover the trellis completely.

My loverly purple poppies are just starting to bloom.  I'd cut them for a gorgeous bouquet , but they don't like that, throw a fit and die - kerplop - immediately when cut.

No garden work today, just catch up stuff inside, a trip to the recycling center, post office, bank and co-op to pick up a special order I'd put in.

I worked hard, hard, hard in the garden yesterday.  One reason I like gardening is the good exercise I get when doing it.  But sometimes I do wonder if I'd feel better if I didn't push my body so much.  Nah.  'Tis much better to wear out than to rust out!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Rainy Monday

Yesterday was a cool day with a lovely breeze, so we took advantage of it and put in a whole, full day of wood working.  It was one of those days when in the evening the physical work has left you tired but feeling very, very good knowing all you accomplished.

I think the cool weather yesterday was the rain front working its way into our area.  It started sprinkling after dinner as I was trying to pick the day's harvest of strawberries.  I had to holler for Papa Pea to please come help me.  We got about 80% of them before the rain drove us in.

The precipitation is making the garden grow (I think I could actually see it!) as I watched it from hubby's upstairs office window this morning.  I'd take a few garden pictures to add to this post, but the rain is still coming down, and I'm sure I'd melt if I went out in it. 

Three loads of laundry are done this morning and the second one is in the dryer.  No laundry on the clotheslines outside today.  Besides the rain, my clothes poles on the deck are currently out of commission because of the deck still being in the de-construction phase.

Shortly, I'm off to meet with some special ladies for an hour or so of talking, handwork, visiting, and catching up with each other.  Then on to the farm on my way home for a resupply of fresh, raw milk products.  I'll pick up extra today for making kefir, yogurt and cottage cheese.  The fresh cottage cheese tastes so good with cut up garden veggies on it.  Fresh berries aren't bad either if we have a hankering for something sweet.

This afternoon?  Even if the rain stops, the garden will be too wet to work in.  Or for much of any outside work as far as that goes.  There are three links of sausage leftover in the refridge that will add some zing to a pot of Lentil Soup so I'll get that simmering on the stove.  Beyond that, we'll just have to wait to see what exciting happenings occur.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Summer Has Arrived!

Yes, we have actually had some hot weather the past two days.  Both afternoons gave us a thermometer reading of 80.1 degrees in the shade.  Can you believe it?  Glory be!  And has the garden been loving it!  As my daughter said today, "Your garden is finally growing and looks like a real garden."  No kidding, it made visible growth in the last two days.  Amazing.

Today (in the heat . . . but I shan't complain after our endlessly cool weather) we got all the wood that took the nose dive out of the big wood shed re-stacked and started on the very last tier.  Notice in the picture where Papa Pea placed a couple of old 2 x 4s on the ground to tilt this last tier back?  No way we want it to fall out again!

We also worked on getting some more wood split up.  Sure am glad we have our mechanical splitter to use.  We both had sweat dripping off us during our splitting session, and I can't imagine what swinging a splitting axe would have felt like today.

I got the potatoes in the garden hilled up for the second time.  Out of the three rows, I had one two foot space that has been bare . . . until today when two potato vines poked through.  Guess those eyes just needed the shot of hot weather to start growing.

I've been picking about a quart of strawberries every day.  I don't know how long it will last, but we sure are enjoying them.  So far, we've been eating them fresh, in smoothies and in the Strawberry Shortcake I made.  I'd really be happy to get several quarts in the freezer for smoothies after the season ends, but I don't know if that will happen or not.

We also went out into our little hay field (yepper, more sweating) and picked up what we call "green chop" that hubby cut yesterday.  He cuts it with the cycle mower and lets it dry for 24 hours.  Then we run the lawn mower over it (with the blade set as high up as it will go), and the grass/hay is vacuumed up into the bagger.  That then gets dumped into burlap bags that we hang up high in the storage shed.  During the winter, we feed out the "green chop" to the poultry.  They gobble it up like it's candy.  Must taste pretty good when they haven't seen anything but snow on the ground for months.

'Twas a good day, and now I'm tired.  I was going to go into my quilt room to make a little progress on my current project, but I don't even have the energy for that tonight.  I'm going to grab a book or magazine and hit the couch for an hour or two.  If I don't fall asleep first.

Friday, July 10, 2015


How many times do you have to handle wood before burning it?

Top of second tier is about to go, too.  Sigh.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

There's A Pox On My Peppers

I mentioned a while back that some of my green pepper plants were looking very stressed . . . and one was just about dead.  Because I noticed what looked to be an invasion of ants in the corner of the raised bed nearest the worst looking plant, I wondered if the little buggers were doing damage to the green pepper plants in some way.

I liberally sprinkled the area where the ants seemed to be coming and going with both cayenne pepper and cinnamon which are supposed to be natural ant deterrents.  Papa Pea also dusted all the plants with a mixture of diatomaceous earth and Surround (kaolin) which are both natural bug inhibitors.  Now I'm noticing only a few ants, but the pepper plants continue to succumb.

Although some plants still look okay . . . 

. . . and have tiny pea-size peppers forming on the, most are not looking good at all.

They start out looking a little "off" . . . 

. . . and get worse . . .

. . . until it's all over. 

The only thing I can think of that might be causing the problem is that something bad is left in the soil of this particular raised bed.  Last year it held broccoli which was attacked by downy mildew.  My bad for not remembering this and letting the bed lie dormant (or planting a cover crop on it) this year.  The peppers don't show signs of downy mildew though as far as I can tell.  I know for sure that next season this bed will be a designated composting area in the hopes we can burn out anything that might still be in the soil.

The other thing I need to do is pull up one of the affected plants to see if I can notice anything unusual on the root system.

Let it be a challenge, eh?  Oooof.

* * * * * * * *

To end this post on a good note . . . 

My good ol' geriatric strawberry bed has been giving us luscious berries for a few days now.  Each year, I have to splurge and make one of these wicked good Strawberry Shortcakes.  There's a piece for any of you who can make it over tonight for dessert! 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Last of 'Em

For the last couple of weeks, every time I go into our basement, I've been met with the wafting aroma of onions that have spent the past winter happily residing down there.  The definite onion aroma is coming from onions that now no longer want to be kept in the dark recesses of storage, but ones that think it's time to sprout their little hearts out.

They've kept very well in the 50 degree basement temperature, but now most of those that are left have reached the point where they are not keeping well. 

Although I planted the same amount of yellow onions and red onions in the garden last season as I always do, I had a bumper crop that grew to be bigger than usual size.  So since each bigger onion went farther than a smaller one would, I suppose I used fewer onions.

All this is to say, I had quite a few remaining onions to sort through today, tossing the soft sprouted ones in the compost bin and keeping the ones that still looked good.

Surprisingly, the red onions that are said to not keep as well as the yellow onions seem to have made it through all these long months of storage in better shape.  Curiously, too, it's the onions that were smaller in size (both yellow and red) that seem to have kept better than the larger ones.  I've still got about half a milk crate left after I did my sorting.

Last year's onions still looking good at this date?  Can't complain about that at all.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Staggering Through The Garden

Actually, it was just my usual walk through the garden tonight, but I may have been staggering a wee bit since I'm fairly well p-double-ooped.

Yesterday we hit the wood working really hard.  We put in a very full day of running the splitter and stacking the wood in the wood shed.  After dinner (can't even remember what I made) and a long shower, I was ready for bed shortly after nine.

Along with the wood work, I did manage to strip our bed, wash and dry the sheets and get them put back on.  I did this mainly because my better half had asked me to take the down comforter off the bed and replace it with a light-weight blanket.  Seems Old Hot Body (as I refer to him) has been getting way too warm at night and declared the down comforter had to go.

The result of this change in our bed clothes was that even though I was bone weary from my day of hard labor (anyone feel sorry for me?), I slept very poorly because I was C-O-L-D all night!  I had thoughts of going up into the attic and getting the comforter from where I had packed it away, grabbing a quilt and snuggling under both of them on the couch so I could sleep comfortably.  (There was no way I could convince myself to do that in the middle of the night, of course.)

So today I managed to stall getting out to the wood working area until almost 11 a.m., and we quit right around 4:30 p.m. because of yours truly threatening to collapse if we didn't.

But back to the topic of this post.  The garden.

This morning before the wood working began, I had Papa Pea help me remove the Wall O' Waters from the cherry tomato plants and the two eggplants.

Even though our weather is still too cool for successful tomato growing, you can see the poor plants were getting too tall and spindly to stay in the wall O' Water protection.

Same with the eggplants that need room to spread out and look bushy.

Something else:  For two days now, I've noticed those little lovely (NOT ), attractive (NOT) white butterflies flitting about the garden.  They are the white cabbage moths that lay their eggs (from which worms hatch) in brassicas.  Although I've experimenting planting my cabbage and broccoli late this year to hopefully miss that cycle of the dratted insect, I couldn't do that with the Brussels sprouts.  They need such a long growing period in order to mature that they are prime right now for the moths.

With Papa Pea's help, I covered them with Agribon hoping it will protect them while the moths are in their egg-laying cycle.  Keep your fingers crossed this works.

The last thing I have to report on is the development of our haskap berries.  You can tell in the picture above that the berries are not large.  That's my little finger under the clump for comparison.  Each of our three bushes had a hay of a lot more blossoms than berries that have developed.  I'm not sure as to what to attribute that.  BUT we have noticed several crows in the garden lately (hopping around the haskap bushes) and upon close examination found several berries under the bushes that have big holes in them that could be from the crows pulling the berries off the bushes and having a taste.  Why didn't they eat the whole berry?  I think I know.

We picked a couple of the ripe looking berries for the first time today and tasted them.  Ugh.  Mine was so SOUR I spit it out.  I mean really sour.  Not just a little sour but so sour you couldn't help but make a puckery, eeuuuw-type face.  Even though they're dark blue, are they not ripe?  I suppose we'll give them another taste test in a couple of days (weeks?) to see if they've changed for the better.  If the crows have left any, that is.

Now I'm off to get ready for bed again tonight.  You can be sure I'll be armed with an extra quilt for my side of the bed.

If I can forget about that awful taste of the haskap berries, I think I'll sleep better tonight. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

The Case of the Vanishing Week

Whoa!  What happened to this past week?  Besides seeming like the shortest week I've experienced in a long time, I had my days completely mixed up.  Tuesday felt like Saturday, and I almost convinced myself today was a Monday.  No wonder the week got away from me.

We've been trying to hit the wood working this week, but there are always those "things" that keep coming up that "must" be done, and they've kept us from putting in big chunks of time every day on the wood pile.  But it will get done.  Eventually.  Slow and steady wins the race, ya know.  (Seems like we've been more slow than steady though.)

Took a walk through the garden tonight after dinner.

The potatoes have been hilled up for the first time and are already poking out of the soil.  Lookin' pretty good.  I pulled the top layer of straw off my experimental raised bed of potatoes and found . . . ta-da!  Three (out of 21) potato vines poking through.  Something tells me I should stick to growing the taters in dirt.

Our newly planted asparagus has all "ferned out" and I've filled in the ditches.  Looks like every root planted sent up at least one asparagus shoot.

Isn't this lettuce crowded attractive?  It's Allstar Gourmet Lettuce Mix from Johnny's Selected Seeds.  (Straight out of the camera, no coloration added.)

Look what a surprise I found!  This is in the garden of a person who can't grow cauliflower!  Granted, the head is only about 3" across but you coulda knocked me over with a feather when I saw it.

And lo and behold, what do I see down in the Wall O' Water surrounding one of my eggplants?  A blossom!  I'm starting to really like these Wall O' Waters.

Hope all of you can celebrate the 4th of July holiday tomorrow in the way that makes you happiest.  Being the introverts we are, I think we'll spend it away from the maddening crowds.