Category: Gardening (page 1 of 4)

Unexpected Garden Guests

Today the weather was beautiful, and we decided to take our learning outside.

As in, I needed to take advantage of the weather and get some gardening done, and I needed some slave labor to help.

The girls pulled weeds and collected rocks while I got out the hoe and pulled up all the grass and weed cover from the garden beds.  I was working along at a pretty good clip, dragging the top layer of weeds and their roots out of the ground, keeping a steady pace so i wouldn’t think about how tired I was getting.

At one point in the back corner of the front garden I noticed a small amount of fuzz fly up at me, but figured it was either partially composted wool bits or some of the fuzzier chicken feathers.

Then I struck down again, and a HUGE clump of the ground came out with the hoe, flinging lots more fuzz, and prompting a loud squeaking, crying noise from the clump.

In that same instant, I saw what I thought was a mouse laying there, squirming about, and I yelped. No, I am not afraid of mice, but I was taken by surprise and had already been edge worried about those huge monster-sized furry spiders that live in the ground out there.

The girls came running, and by that time I realized that the little creature had longer ears than a mouse, and no tail.

All of that fuzz was rabbit fur, and that clump was a nest of babies; a FLUFFLE of bunnies, if you will.

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The clump.  The outside is composed of leaves, hay, and leaves.  The inner part is all rabbit fur.

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There were quite a lot of them crammed in there, and they all sought the heat of each other’s bodies as we cooed over them.

Emily informed us that rabbits do indeed build nests in the ground this way, and that if you find one you are supposed to gently put it back and leave it be.  The mother will be back at some point for them.

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So that is what we did, despite protests from the younger girls that we should keep them forever.

Either way, I am not thrilled about having rabbits in the garden, but leaving them seemed to be the only option I could live with.  I’ll worry about keeping the vegetables safe later.

Tell Me Something Good Tuesday

Okay, lay it on us! We want to hear what good things are happening to you today!

Tell Something GoodTuesdays

The weather has been glorious since I returned from Seattle to Massachusetts. Although yesterday morning it was so chilly I wondered if I had skipped all of August and moved straight to the end of September! But this lovely weather inspired me to take a moment to stop and smell the literal roses. I wandered my tiny street and took pictures of the neighbor’s flowers.

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This hydrangea bush started it all. It’s changing from this brilliant blue to a dusty rose!SmellTheRoses12 SmellTheRoses13 SmellTheRoses14 SmellTheRoses15 SmellTheRoses16 SmellTheRoses01

We have amazing grapes growing everywhere! There is an arbor, but this bunch is growing off the telephone wires! (And hanging down low enough that it’s at my eye level!)

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You can see the original arbor in the background…SmellTheRoses03 SmellTheRoses04

Here you can see how the grapes are taking over other foliage.SmellTheRoses06

Including this old apple tree!

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Until this year we thought it was dead. It didn’t have very much green and I was worried about it falling into the house. But this year is sprang to life and is producing more apples than the critters can eat.

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I think this is a tiger lily, but I need to check the leaves to be sure!

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What is stopping you from rushing about and reminding you to take a moment for yourself?

Victory Garden + Four Years

Back in May of 2009, I did a blog post about my Mama turning her front yard into a victory garden. Looking back at those pictures, I just can’t believe the difference that four years and a really long growing season have brought.

Here’s the view from the front back in 2009.

This is the view from the front today.

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2013

The transformation has been magical!

As I may have mentioned in a previous post or two (or 10), the strawberries are thriving and fruiting like crazy!

There are three varieties of edible lavender.

And so much rosemary! This isn’t the greatest picture but I need to give you something for scale. That little bit of blue peeking out at the top is a real estate for sale sign. The rosemary bushes are about waist high and there are 8 of them. And to think it all started with a little cutting.

There are blackberry bushes all along the fence. We’re only days away from ripe berries, I think.

Not everything in the garden was a roaring success. The combination of full sun all day and the drought that’s been plaguing Texas for the last few years conspired to kill every tomato plant Mama has ever put in the front garden. (She’s had more success them in the backyard.) But that just left more room for flowers which have thrived.

Turning a front lawn into an edible garden

If you have the desire to transform your lawn, Food Not Lawns: How to Turn Your Yard into a Garden And Your Neighborhood into a Community is a great place to start.

Propagating Lavender

Last Spring I posted here about how easy it to propagate rosemary from cuttings. Today we’re going to use the same techniques with lavender.

My mom always has a few vases of lavender going on her bathroom window sill.

Sometimes they even bloom!

 It’s just as easy to propagate lavender from cuttings, although lavender needs more time to develop a root structure due to it’s less rigid stems. It’s important to change the water whenever it becomes dark, about once a week, to prevent your roots from rotting. I would also advise you to strip away any leaves that fall below the water surface; this keep your water fresher longer.

Once you have developed a strong root system, transplant the lavender to a pot filled with potting soil or (when it warms up!) directly into your garden.

If you want more information on growing lavender, I found this book really helpful:

The Lavender Lover’s Handbook: The 100 Most Beautiful and Fragrant Varieties for Growing, Crafting, and Cooking.

Harvest Sunday

Yesterday the entire Karaz family came over to the farm to check on me (the treatment for my HLA-B27-associated Uveitis has temporarily rendered me about 80% blind) and to spend some time at the farm. While they were here, Amy and the girls, and my other friend Amy, did a little garden harvesting.

This picture of Oona  in her Burberry pants is just for the members of the Oona fan club. You know who you are!

It was one of those lovely afternoons when the weather is so glorious that you can’t imagine why you don’t just live outside. The kids were in a hilarious mood, competing with each other to pick the most tomatoes, the ripest pepper, the biggest parsnip.

Neve took the prize for largest parsnip. The prize? A giant parsnip!

Meanwhile, Paul mowed my lawn and, because he is the nicest man in the world, went home and brought back an enormous backhoe to get all the compost out of the front pasture and make it all level and ready for grass seeds.

I can’t begin to tell you how lucky I got when I moved into the town Amy and Paul lived in.They are just kind and decent people and when I say I don’t know what I would do with out them, I mean that quite literally. I will never be able to repay their kindness to me.

I did, however, send them home with a bushel of peppers and 20 pounds of parsnips as a small token.

P.S. My vision should be restored in a couple days- it’s already worlds better!

Garden Update

The only thing more incredible than all the garden’s changes over the past two weeks is how little I’ve noticed them.

The cowpeas have taken over the whole bed!

The turnips, beets, carrots, and rutabags have all come up and need to be thinned out– it’s also almost time to plant the other half of the bed with the same crops.

The Hungarian Paprika peppers are ripening. We tasted one the other day– the flesh is super-sweet, but the seeds inside are kicky. They might be my favorite new pepper, especially after we smoke them.

Cabbages! Cabbages!

Barely even human!

I planted only two flats of brassicas, but that translates to a lot of broccoli/brussels sprouts/cabbages, especially since each plant requires at least a foot of space around it. I’ve been tucking them anywhere I can find room– the best ones are growing, believe it or not, in the shade of the quite-large pepper plants. It was, of course, a total accident, but I do like when my ideas work out.

A few weeks ago, Zac dug up all the horseradish to make, um, horseradish, for himself. You’d never know it, though, because they’re back, and they’re more and stronger than ever. I think the people who warned us about growing horseradish knew what they were talking about!

In other condiments, we’re also growing a bed of mustard. I have a feeling that it might winterkill, in which case, at least we’ll get to eat the greens!

Some things, however, never change. For instance, Mouse Melon Mania.

The leeks are also doing wonderfully. I made vichyssoise the other day, actually, and felt like the most self-sufficient person in the world (homegrown potatoes, homegrown leeks, and home-milked heavy cream! All we need is a salt mine and we’re set.)

Potting Table!

So, remember how were super-hungry and tired the day we made shakshouka for dinner? That’s because I’d been gardening all day, and Zac had been building this fantastic potting table for the greenhouse! I swear, it belongs in Country Living.

It’s quite shallow, but runs about 2/3 the full length of the greenhouse, and is exactly the perfect height for me. There’s a lower shelf for storing flowerpots, seed trays, and other big things. But the best part is the slatted section for potting, which features a drawer to catch and reuse any extra potting soil. Just another reason to look forward to winter– I’m in love!

Garden Update: The Second Spring

It’s an ironic truth that the late summer– when it’s hottest and driest, and gardening interest begins to flag– is the busiest time of the year in the garden. Not only is there harvesting to be done (although the crazy heat put a damper on some of that), but it’s time for the fall garden to be put in, and there are preparations to be made so that next spring’s garden is as fruitful and floribundant as it is now. It’s a time of year to test any gardener’s dedication, and a time of year that will pay off for the longest time.

We had a couple from Texas stay with us for a farmstay this past spring who joked that the summer was their winter, and that the coming of the cool weather in the autumn was their springtime. I think it’s a pretty fair assessment and a smart way of looking at things to consider the late summer and early fall a second spring in the garden.

As such, we’re doing lots of work to get the garden ready for fall. These are those cabbage seedlings from a few weeks ago:

We’ve thoroughly enriched the old garlic bed with compost for transplanting the seedlings once they get a little bit bigger:

We’ve also got a few beds in cover crops– cowpeas and alfalfa– which will help protect and enrich the soil for the next 8 months:

It isn’t all work and no play, though! The herb garden in the front that Diane helped me plant is doing great!

The sunflowers and German chamomile are worth their weight in gold– I feel so happy whenever I see them. Zac and I are thinking of planting the whole fenceline with sunflowers next year, but I don’t know whether or not we’ll have the energy (or if Jerry will reach his long llama-neck over the fence and eat them all!).

 

The tiny, tiny crop of raspberries is nearly ripe:

and I have a feeling that, in about two weeks, the coronets of blossoms on our second-string tomato plants will be replaced by wreaths of fruit. We’ll be ripping out the beds of tomatoes pretty soon to plant peas– we’re hoping to squeeze in a fall crop– but these plants will stand along the garden fenceline until the frost comes.

And the brave leeks that Emily helped me plant are also doing wonderfully. The super-thick layer of mulch they’re growing in not only keeps their stalks blanched, but also keeps their roots cool and moist.

How is your garden doing in this record-breaking heat? What are you doing to get ready for the fall?

Waiting for Peppers

We’ve got a whole bed of peppers waiting in the wings behind the corn (thank you all for your kind– and very helpful!– comments on that post, by the way), peppers which, by rights, shouldn’t be here in the first place.

Since we lost our first set of pepper seedlings in the Great Tomato Freeze of mid-April, I remember planting the seeds for these guys in early May. During our Spring Shearing party in mid-May, the little overloaded (my fault) greenhouse collapsed, which wiped out a full half of the seedlings– all our jalapenos and most of the Thai chiles.

The plants that survived have endured all sorts of disasters. I remember planting the tiny seedlings in June with Charlotte, and, honestly, I think we half-forgot they were there. With the dramatic and beautiful rows of corn acting as a screen, who remembered to bother looking at some scrabbly little pepper plants?

Somewhere in there, Zac put a thick straw mulch on them, but we’ve otherwise left them to their own devices. Luckily, they love the hot and dry weather we’ve been having.

The large majority of our plants are Alma Paprika peppers, which, the seed packet promises, change from a creamy white through yellow and orange to a cherry red. After ripening, you can either eat them fresh or smoke them to make paprika (guess which one we’re planning on doing?).

The plants are loaded with peppers, glossy, healthy, and still flowering– all there is to do is endure the wait for these I-can’t-believe-we-actually-have-them peppers to ripen.

Once the season’s over (come on, Autumn!) I’m planning on digging up a few plants, in the hopes that I can get them to produce peppers throughout the winter in the greenhouse. If any of you have ever done anything like that before– maybe with an ornamental pepper?– I’d love some tips!

Lessons I’ve Learned from Growing Corn

About a week ago, I tasted one of the most wonderful delights of summer. From our county’s Farmer’s Market, Susan had brought home a half-dozen ears of picked-this-morning corn. They were cooked as simply as possible: grilled, with butter, salt, and pepper. These ears were so deliciously sweet that, I swear, instead of corn, I tasted coconut, and toasted hazelnuts. These ears of corn were outrageous in their perfection, and I was happy, because I knew that our homegrown corn would be ripening soon, and that we’d enjoy days and days of the same delights.

However, there’s something I didn’t realize.

The variety of corn that I had tasted, despite being sold at the Farmer’s Market, was undoubtedly one of the modern-day super-sweet hybrids (not the hybrid feed-corn variety maligned in The Omnivore’s Dilemma, but just as guilty, I suspect, of being genetically tampered-with). The variety that we grew this year, Golden Bantam, is an heirloom variety, suited for those who a) want to avoid GMOs and b) are tired of super-sweet corn, and just want that “real corn” flavor.

As someone who grew up on super-sweet corn– actually, on microwaved packets of Green Giant Extra-Sweet Niblets in Cream Sauce– the taste of real corn was a bit of a shock. I was disappointed in myself when I found that I didn’t like it as much.

The real disappointment came, however, in how the corn looked:

Those empty kernels are places were the corn wasn’t pollinated. A bit of corn pollen has to fall on ever tip of every strand of cornsilk– since every strand of cornsilk leads back down to a developing kernel– in order for the corn to fill out properly. They advise that you plant your corn in blocks, not rows, so that the pollen has a better overall chance of landing on the silk. “At the very least,” they advise, “plant your rows of corn 3 plants deep,” which is what I did, thinking that that would be enough.

There are definitely good-looking ears of corn out in the garden, but they’re not the golden and paradisaical crowning glories that I had been imagining.

It’s disappointing (and embarrassing? But I figured I ought to go ahead and tell my story.). I’ve definitely learned a few lessons about how to plant corn (in blocks!), and a very obvious lesson about which varieties of corn to plant (the kind you want to eat, not the kind you think you ought to grow).

I threw the ears out as a rare treat to Charley & Churchill, who, having no prior experience with corn or built-up expectations, chowed down with a pure and piggy joy.

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