It looks like it’s going to be a beautiful day. I’ll have to fight the urge to plant seed today. Hard to believe that it was snowing on Monday. Silver dollar sized fluffy flakes. It was awesome to watch. School was postponed for two hours and then canceled altogether. The snow was completely gone by 10:00 though. The kidlet missed a much anticipated school trip due to the closure. She enjoyed her day in front of the computer as always.
Nothing was harmed in the garden. I had the tunnel covered and closed as well as the cold frame. It didn’t seem to hurt the peas either. They’re coming along nicely. There is very little area in the garden not covered or prepared for seeding. Black plastic on a couple of the beds and a very thick layer of leaves on the others. The spinach and chard are doing well in the tunnel. So is the mustard which I can’t seem to pull up quickly enough. I hate that stuff. So much for a nice mesclun ‘mix’. I pulled out all the chickweed since I really didn’t need it for the chickens this winter. Good to know that it works so well under plastic for future colder winters. The girls really appreciate a nice salad once in awhile.
The girls are producing 3 to 4 eggs a day now. Not bad out of seven chickens, four of which are layers and the others just fat old retirees. Mom has her last two that she wants me to take. They aren’t allowed to roam around the farm at her place. Too many starving abandoned hunting dogs loose in the area. Dad, who passed away last month (February 17), really hated chickens and wouldn’t let them out of their yard. It was like a sunbaked concrete prison yard without a single blade of green. Whenever I visited I would get a shovel and turn over the soil so the chickens could scratch, dust and hunt for grubs and worms. Dad didn’t like it because the dirt would run down the hill when it rained. He never said anything but I knew. The chickens were very appreciative though so I did it anyway. They performed a valuable function and weren’t compensated very well. It was like a sweatshop for chickens. Near the end when Dad couldn’t get around very well the chickens suffered a bit. Mom says they got fed but I thought they were awfully thin. I think the only food they got was whole kernel corn. Now they are fat and happy as they roam around my backyard. They’ve just been upgraded to a bigger house with roosts and windows. Life is good.
And finally…There has been a new addition to the family. Kitten Kaboodle. Dad’s little stray who lived in the firehouse over top of the wood. A friendly little cat. Jim really didn’t want her here. I think he caved because she was dad’s cat. We brought her home and I got her spayed last week. Today we’ll spend some time outside trying to acclimate her to the backyard. So far she’s been getting along with Blondie and Callahan but that has been under controlled situations. She needs to learn her way around. Hopefully she’ll be my little garden cat. I’ve got some critters that need getting down there.
My mom gave me her waffle iron. I thought she loved me. The day promised to be rainy and miserable so I thought I’d get some baking done. The bananas for banana bread are beginning to separate and ferment. Perfect for baking. I thought I’d try my hand at making waffles, too. Big mistake. There went the day. It took quite awhile to clean the stuck on “waffle”. Not a bit came off as it should. I used the rest of the batter as pancakes which turned out beautifully. The kidlet inhaled them when she got home from school like she hadn’t eaten in days. I have to say…my pancakes are better than my mother’s. Hands down. She’s getting better though. There was a time when the dog would bury them. Lumpy leaden things chockful of wheat bran and brewers yeast that lay in your gut for hours. But that was back in the 70s when Euell Gibbons was the man and we were going to live forever.
The rain hammered down this morning but then the sun came out. I put a load of whites out on the line to dry as much as possible. I took the cover off of the garden tunnel/hoop house and opened both sides of the cold frame. I’m days away from sowing pea seeds. I’m still working on my seed order to Baker Creek but I have some leftovers from last year.
Greens are growing happily inside the hoop tunnel. Mesclun, spinach, silverbeet, dwarf curled kale, and May Queen lettuce. The only heat source is a black canning kettle full of water. The smaller tunnel to the left covered two zucchini plants which were still producing the first week of January.
The rest of this week looks pretty mild, too. Hopefully I can get another area ready for an early planting.
I baked a ham instead of banana bread. Go figure.
It’s been almost two years to the day since I made my first post on this blog. It was about carrots. I guess it is fitting that I begin this year’s first entry about my garden activities for today. Thinning the carrots. They’re growing in a cold frame with deep loose soil. Just beginning to show some color on the roots. And very tasty. I’m not sure which variety these are. Possibly Danvers Half Long. It was just an experiment to see how they’d fare over the winter in the unheated box. Planted early November. The weather here in Chesterfield, Virginia has been very mild with the exception of a few chilly 20+ degree nights. The cold frame will be moved after the carrots are harvested. Probably against the wooden fence in the background. I grew May Queen lettuce and Swiss Chard in it last year with wonderful results. We kept a few old windows when we had vinyl replacement windows installed so it cost no more than a sheet of plywood. Craigslist would be a good source for building materials for this project. Well worth the effort.
A Caspian Pink tomato straight from the garden. 80 days. One slice makes a sandwich! It has a great combination of sweet and sour flavours that really makes this an outstanding tomato. Well worth trying in the garden.
I just came in from working in the garden. It’s 106 degrees out there. Another day in a string of blistering red hot days. I pumped about 3/4 of a rain barrel on what’s still growing. Most of the plants have shut down production and I’m just trying to maintain them until cooler weather kicks in. It’s time to start my fall garden, too. With these record temps the plants will be bearing seed as soon as they germinate.
I pulled one of the red cabbages to feed to the chickens. I think they appreciate them as much as the worms did. I think I’ll try planting my cole crops in the fall only. Success for a summer crop has been nil.
My most exhuberant crop of the summer? Mini pumpkins that volunteered from last year. They’re about twice the size of the original pumpkin that my daughter brought home from a school trip five or six years ago. They took over the cabbage patch, crawled over the path and wrapped around the Sweet Dumpling fence, oozed through that and crept around the peppers, and began mingling with the lemon squash vines. I wish the produce I planted had taken off with as much gusto. Good thing we’re big fans of pumpkin pie!
It’s been awhile since I posted on the condition of the garden. It’s still going thanks to our system of rain barrels. The cole crops are history. The cabbage is an utter disappointment for me but the chickens love it. Every couple of days I’ll pull a plant and throw it in their yard where they attack it with gusto. The broccoli was tasty but only produced enough for a couple of meals. Mighty expensive. The poona Kheera cucumbers were great for awhile but stopped producing once the temps climbed near three digits. The lemon cukes have finally kicked in though. I’ve been regularly harvesting zucchini, lemon squash, stringbeans, principe borghese tomatoes and my new favorite Black Prince, which has been outdoing itself over these scorching weeks in the high 90s. I found an old beach umbrella in the garage and put it over the zucchini plants during the day. It really helps. When everything else is limp from the blazing sun, the zucchini plants are still erect. I’ve decided to keep the mimosa tree on the corner of the garden to cast some afternooon shade.
Harvested my first Pink Brandywine tomato today from a volunteer plant. None of the brandywines that I started from seed survived. Perhaps next year I’ll just direct seed my tomatoes and see what happens!
I’ve been dragging around all day going from one thing to the next. Not really accomplishing anything. The higher the heat index, the lower my ability to focus. It doesn’t help to have the kidlet coming around every 3 minutes announcing that she can’t wait to go to Grandma’s house. The husband is home as well. Recuperating from a doctor’s visit last week. My brain can’t be still with the constant soccer vuvuzela background or wii noise. He had two tvs going today with the same thing on them. I thought my head was going to explode. I went outside and tried to read for awhile in the swing but the bugs started attacking like lions after wildebeest at the watering hole. There’s just no place in this shoebox house to go to get quiet.
The sun finally showed up for a bit today. It’s overcast now but for awhile it was brilliant. I moved two wheelbarrow loads of decomposed leaves from the front yard to the garden. The potatoes (Kennebec) were showing way too much leg so I did my best to bury them. Looks like the Burpee Stringless beans left over from 2006 are benefiting from the mulch as well. They’ll be producing soon. I’m really looking forward to that. I need to get out there and plant another couple of rows.
Potatoes and beans
I’ll be harvesting peas later today! Two different kinds this year: A short row of Sugar Ann planted 3/25 that really didn’t amount to much. I’m rather disappointed in them. And Sugar Snap peas packaged for 2006 which did outstanding as usual. These peas are great for snacking right off the vine. They have edible pods that are sweet and juicy. Great raw in salads or lightly steamed. They also freeze very well. I still have some packages in the freezer from last year. The husband and kidlet are not fans so more for me. Yay!
Sugar Snap peas
And finally a long shot from the cucumber fence:
Last night I had my first salad from the garden. The lettuce was May Queen, an early butterhead variety from seed I purchased from Baker Creek Seeds. I pulled the whole plant, cut off the root and it was the perfect serving size. The large wavy leaves were velvety smooth, no bitterness at all. A real treat. I added some baby spinach leaves, some swiss chard, a sprig of dill, and a few beet tops. Topped it off with a hard boiled egg from my hard working hens. I enjoyed every bite. I got to sample a couple snow pea pods as well.
For Mother’s day I slept late and then messed around in the garden all day. I laid some more bricks for my path. The husband and I repositioned the water barrel so it was more easily accessible, and I erected the last trellis so the melons will have something to climb. We let the chickens out for a few hours so they could destroy a few areas. They immediately went for the compost bin. I guess they knew where the worms like to hang out. They patrolled the perimeter of the garden but couldn’t find any way to get in. Five minutes with a chicken and my garden would be devastated. While I was working, the bluebirds were busy zipping back and forth to their nest at the end of the grape arbor. Looks like we’ll have a mess of grapes this year if we can get to them before the birds. They seem to know exactly when they are ready and beat us to them every year. It would be nice to make some jelly or even try my hand at winemaking but something tells me I’d have to camp out to make sure I got to the grapes first. I’m really not that ambitious. The blackberries are a different story entirely.
Right behind that big evergreen shrub lies a metal gothic arch. Click on the photo for a larger view. Entwined on both sides is an Autumn Clematis vine, or Silver Lace vine, whichever you prefer. Usually I prune the vine hard, maybe 12 to 18 inches from the ground. Last year, however, birds began nesting in the tangle of leaves at the very top of the arch. The growth is very thick. This morning I watched as several pairs of birds, cardinals, purple finches, sparrows, each fluttered inside the cool green bower to check out possible nesting sites. They’re a bit behind. The other Silver Lace vine growing on the side of the garage has already been taken. A little Titmouse has built a nest, deep under the eaves, sheltered from everything. The bluebird boxes in the garden are occupied by bluebirds. The zebra room at the edge of our patio is occupied by another Titmouse, her babies loud and demanding. I remember seeing a wren checking out the sea grass pocket hanging from the eaves but I don’t know if the tiny birdhouse was acceptable. Birds can be unbelievably picky when it comes to housing. This year they are lucky. Since we got Callahan the cats won’t venture into the backyard. They won’t be sitting underneath the nesting sites waiting for dinner to fall out. They won’t be sitting atop the bluebird boxes trying to reach into the hole like it was a candy machine. This year maybe the babies will have a chance.