Play Hard Work Hard

We didn’t work on the fence this weekend. Saturday was a pretty lazy day since we partied like rockstars Friday night. (The Wilmington trip reminded us how to have crazy fun, so we have been making a point to do that.) But Sunday we did manage to till up the garden some more and I put down a few radish and cabbage seeds (since they were right about cabbages not wanting to be transplanted) and also a bunch of turnip seeds my dad sent me. 

I also got a lot of my main summer garden seeded. Timing is a bit weird since we are going to Florida for a few days mid-April, but I think (hope) I’ve got it figured out. (Except for how the chickens are supposed to fend for themselves,  so I should probably work om that soon.)

And while I was off wildly dating (and then lazily recovering) some cold weather came and killed the zinnias:

Dead as a door nail
And some basil died too. But I’m not going to replant the basil until later. And the zinnias, eh well they probably wouldn’t have liked that ridiculously thick mulch anyway (gotta figure something out in the beds around the house). 

But the mullein and calendula made it alright:

My Sunday productivity also allowed me to transplant several baby dianthus next to the baby forget-me-not around my mom’s tree. 

The dianthus are supposed to be black with white trim. I’m excited to see them.

Hello Monday Morning (sigh)

The Garden!

As of two days ago, my early season babies are in the ground. Gordon and Eddie tore up a pretty big area of the back yard over the last month or so. Then for three evenings in a row, Silas and I shoveled and hacked and hoed until dark, to get a 13×15 area ready for the cool season transplants. We left the few kale and brussels sprouts that are still thriving from our fall planting. (Brussel sprouts are slow mofos! I seeded these in August and now finally have sprouts that are smaller than gumballs.)

88 new plants: Lettuce mix, mustard, baby bok choy, chard, curly kale, and black magic kale.

My first planting of baby bok choy and chinese cabbage bolted in their plug pots (live and learn, right?) So instead of composting them, I offered them up to the chicken garden for: Immediate Destruction.

The new, bigger area is for the summer stuff. It still needs a lot of love before it’s ready to host plants. The area beyond the planted section is our expansion. 

Mapping it out in my pajamas

It needs a fence to protect it from woodland creatures as well as my three dinosaurs and fast furry dragon. We started on it too.

It’s going to be awesome!

Better than last year’s:

Spring Planting February 2016

This weekend I also transplanted about 25 baby herbs and flowers. Some dill, peppermint, zinnias (that apparently don’t like to ne transplanted so we’ll see), forget-me-nots, mullein, and calendula. My whole body is sore. That’s OK, I’ll waste away at my desk all week, exhausting my mind and resting my body instead.

I also weeded around my little memorial tree in the herb garden area with the help of my girls.

When I was ready for them to leave me so I could plant, I used Eddie’s suggestion of how to deal with a T-Rex: hold still or move very slowly. It worked! If they noticed me enough to start moving toward me, I’d just become a statue and soon enough they’d get distracted by something better and would leave me alone. Pretty cool chicken skills!

Only the Brave

To invest in something – your money, your time, your learning, your effort and care – and then to take risks with it, is either stupid or brave or maybe it’s science. Well whatever it is, it happens every single go-round with this gardening thing.  

You do your research, plan your steps, make your purchases, set it all up for success. But once you actually begin and cross that threshold, shit happens. It’s inevitable and so therefore is the risk factor. What to do now? Something or nothing?  It’s a risk either way. And so here you are: weeks into a project where time really matters, staring into the face of a likely failure that could definitely affect everything going forward into the season.

Gardening is not for the faint of heart.

If you gardened your whole adult life, from the time you are 25 to the time you are 75, you would only get 50 practice runs. Imagine that in the context of a musician or an athlete. Nobody would be any good. So here we are, the make it or break it lot, the do or die bunch, the “eh fuck it, there’s always next year” sort. 

There will be failure, death (of the plant sort), trial and oh-so-much error. It’s just how it goes. In order to do it, you have to be willing to lose what you’ve worked for because chances are pretty good that you may.

So here I am. Brave woman. Disturbing roots and replanting seedlings deeply. Hoping my Chinese Cabbage doesn’t immediately bolt when I put it into the garden (I read that was a thing). Hoping my skinny leggy mustard greens and bok choy don’t rot when I bury them better.

I don’t think these floppy guys could continue like this

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But truth be told, I’ve never had any problems with transplanting anything. The good broccoli plants I have now (that did survive the ice and snow, by the way) were initially leggy newborns that I re-planted up to their scrawny necks. So maybe I’m not that risky and brave. Maybe I have a bit of experience on my side. Either way, this old lady gets a feeling that teeters between exhilaration and terror during these dealings. 

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To elaborate on the ice/snow storm frozen broccoli/brussels outcome, we have some burned leaves but that seems to be it. Maybe the ice coating protected my green babies, but we got down to 12 degrees F two nights in a row and everything survived.

(Notice how healthy and green the weeds look. Wtf.)

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Back to my present endeavors.

Three trays now hold various brassicas, herbs, and flowers. Here’s what I’ve got going so far:

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And here is their normal home:

My basement “greenhouse”

I was working with two lights initially and just added the other three a few days ago.  Hopefully it helps with future legginess because I estimate having three more 50 cell trays before spring comes.

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Here Come the Dinosaurs!

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Chicken Garden and the Almost Over Christmas Staycation

I honestly planned on spending most of the day on the couch today. It’s staycation day 4 of 4 and I wasn’t going to cook or anything – maybe just play with some seeds along with cuddling with kiddos. But my brave little chickens have been leaving the yard and when I went to hunt them down, I couldn’t in good conscience waste the beautiful warm weather. So with Silas’ help, I built the chicken garden. 

The chicken garden’s purpose is to beautify the chicken coop / herb garden area while providing a place to grow things the chickens may like to eat. It surrounds the coop on three sides. I used about 120 reclaimed bricks that we are fortunate enough to have lying around, and soil from last summer’s potted vegetable garden. 

I placed the large-holed bricks near the coop, in hopes that I can grow a single climbing edible in each (like a snow pea or nasturtium), to nourish and entertain the girls while they are confined. 

Then, because I’m all into fermenting these days and because apparently fermented chicken feed has magical properties, I mixed up a batch to “cook”.

This concoction is their normal feed crumbles, black oil sunflower seeds, and some flax seeds. I covered it with water and I’m going to wait for it to start bubbling, adding water when it expands. 

And now I’m going to play with seeds. My new journal for 2017 came today, so let the planning begin!

xoxoxo

Hope

It’s been a week since my trees got cut down.  After participating in a good old fashioned Flip My Shit Cleanse, I’ve recovered.  I didn’t commit murder or arson, so I’m considering that a win.  I didn’t even utter many regrettable words.  I just threw a shoe, wailed and bawled, and took a bottle of wine (sans glass) to bed.  And whatever parts to which my sons were unfortunate witnesses will perhaps help prepare them for adulthood, assuming they may marry women who have loud, strong hearts.

Moving forward

On Sunday I finished up the garden prep and seeding for fall.  A few weeks ago I was questioning whether I could or wanted to do all the ripping and soil prep needed, but I ended up getting some plowing help from my guys and I’m very pleased with the results:

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I moved all the plants I could outside of the fence.  There are now beds alongside the fence, three down the middle, and row connecting them on top.  I have yet to transplant my (dwindling) brussels sprouts and broccoli (which will occupy the top connector and the widest center column, respectively) but everything else has been planted. In the garden lying in wait for possibility to crack them open, are:

  • snow peas
  • turnips
  • lettuce
  • baby bok choy
  • curly kale
  • black magic kale
  • carrots: orange, purple & red
  • and two herby things that my dad sent me

Silas specifically wanted purple carrots because he saw them in a community garden on PBS kids (does my heart good).  The carrots did really great in the single bag we grew earlier in the year, so we just did that again, but now we have five!  The carrots were the only way I could bribe that child to come out in the heat with me and when they were gone from the garden, so was he.

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Eddie and Silas planting colorful carrots

 

Back to the trees

The once majestic sycamore, lightning-struck and subsequently rendered a stump, offered up this sweet little glimmer of hope.

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When I took this picture, it seemed like a very sad futility. Just one more piece to kill in a week or two when the stumps come out.  But some time later an idea came to me: Can you clone a tree from a cutting?  Turns out, you definitely can.  By the time I have to harvest this little guy, he won’t be woody enough to be an ideal candidate.  He has very little chance of becoming a tree actually. But maybe with very good conditions and a little magic, the sycamore could survive. So I will try.

Sometimes things look black to me. It’s in my blood and I’m probably too old to truly change that. Sometimes when things are at their worst in my mind I actually see a sort of kaleidoscope of thick blackness hovering around my bed at night. But you know what? Morning always comes and there are always glimmers ready to be seen if I’m ready to look. I have hope. I’m actually relentlessly hopeful.

Me and my tree.

Why dost thou

think thou needest effing light before your first true leaves arrive? And why dost thou still stretch out for the daytime skylights in the mudroom after spending all night under a grow light in the basement?

Why don’t my plants seem to follow the rules?  Little brats. They are cute with their little baby broccoli selves, though. Maybe it’s just because broccoli is a floppy baby anyway? 

Do I have the energy to plant a fall garden? Can I hack up the grass and move my decrepit containers and amend the soil and have a round three for 2016? Is it worth it? Will the slugs and caterpillars demolish all of my brassicas before they’re even much of anything?  Will planting in the actual earth be worse for pests than even my containers were?

My dirt seems way too full of life as I hack it up. Grubs and beetles and random freaky looking guys.  My hamstrings and shoulders get destroyed after only an hour or two. Why the fuck don’t I have a tiller yet? Too lazy to ask for the help in getting one I guess. I’d rather hack, hack, hack.

Except I’m tired and I haven’t been hacking very much. 

Is this going to happen? Motivation is low due to the shitty little harvests following high hopes over summer. I loved it, I did. But is it time to rest now instead of hacking up the earth to meet a seasonal deadline? 

Don’t know. Leggy babies after a half-hearted planting waiting for my broken body to fix the dirt in the heat makes me question it for sure.

Today in the Garden

This morning brought the best harvest so far. A couple of big pink brandywines, two zucchinis, a few small peppers and several golden sunbursts.

Still covered with a bit of dirt and dew

This was our first zucchini and although I initially intended on simmering it with the tomatoes and peppers to go along with our chicken parm this evening, Gordon requested zucchini bread. I couldn’t refuse, since zucchini bread was the reason I grew it at all. Each of my boys made a special request in the garden, and the zucchini was his.  The bread turned out pretty yummy!

This morning also brought news of another lost tomato plant.  Same death as my djeena’s golden girl. Droopy with a rotted stem. I blamed the wobbliness of my supports along with too much moisture. Well, the moisture is right. We’ve gotten a lot of rain. But after doing some reading, I think it’s southern blight.

And I have no idea what this potato-leafed beauty was, since he never produced a tomato. The tallest, most beautiful plant with lots of flowers and no fruit. I began interfering with pollination, but nothing seemed to take.

I wonder if I used djeena’s bamboo stake in this plant’s bag. I really hope so. If not, there is at least one more casualty coming, because I used it somewhere…..

I put him in the burn barrel and am attempting (feebly?) to use solar heat to kill the fungus so I can safely add the soil back to the compost.

And speaking of compost, I have a nice hot pile in process right now. It’s bigger than it looks. (Hehe)

But when opening the pile to rotate and add to it, I unearthed about infinity of these little maggoty dudes. My lighting was too low to get a good shot of the madness. So all I have is a picture of a couple in my gloved hand. What the fuck are they? Are they vermicomposting or are they infesting? Next mystery to solve, I guess.

Spider Webs in the Fog

Foggy morning after last night’s storm

Every morning I destroy the intricate creations of my garden friends. Walking Wendell through the yard, I normally can’t detect the webs until they cover my face or shoulders like some kind of fairy’s veil.  This morning they were breathtakingly visible because of the fog. Everywhere I would expect to see one, instead were two or three! They are hard for me to catch with my camera…even my eyes. So this capture made me happy. I love these fantastic works of art and their creators. 

Micromanaging Spaghetti Squash

A little seedling volunteered itself in my compost pile. So I stuck it in one of the bags and it grew into a lovely vine that I trellised to the fence.

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I got really excited with all the flowers!  So many spaghetti squash were coming!  (Counting the proverbial chickens) I wondered what is the best way to store them?  Decided that I would let them fully ripen and cure them outside until my fingernail wouldn’t pierce the skin and then store them on shelves in the basement on cardboard.  Yea! Got it all figured out – – –  Thanks, Google!

Then the happy hopeful flowers started dropping off with nothing to show for. What happened? But hey wait, there were a few flowers with fat little fruit behind them. These must be my squash. Ok so maybe I won’t have 17 squash that need storage, but there are five squash right here certainly.

Five plump little squash. So pretty. Huh, the flowers dropped off them too. And wait, two days later they seem a bit spongy and yellow? What is happening?! Disease! Disease, I tell you! What have I done? Was it the compost tea? Some mysterious pathogen?!

Help me, Google! What have I done wrong, my fellow gardeners?

Ah shit. Seriously? They just aren’t fertilized?  Fat flowers are girls, skinny flowers are boys…..ohhhhh. Also the flowers are only open for one morning and if a bee doesn’t hop her happy ass from one to the other before noon, the opportunity is closed.

Ok. Time for some intervention.

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Flower Porn

And for a comparison, female flower three days after manual pollination vs. unfertilized and a few days older:

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And six days after pollination:

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Pretty awesome, I think!

However it seems like the vine is working as hard as it can to grow this single lovely squash because the budding sister flowers all wilted before maturing. The males are still blooming, but even the brand new female buds that have emerged post pollination have died.

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I’m curious to see how far along mistress squash will have to be before the female flowers begin to flourish again.

She is kinda too heavy to be dangling off the top of the fence. The vine looked worrisome so I interfered further with some support hose fit for a queen.

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Some Days

Some days the garden makes my heart glisten with joy, some days it makes me say fuck a lot.

Today was a fuck day.

This:

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Some gray wiltedness and brown spottiness caught my eye as I was squishing a few small slugs on the peppers this morning. One tomato plant for sure. Maybe a fungus? I don’t know.

So here’s the strategy:
-Isolate this plant
-Give other tomatoes more room for air circulation
– Apply organic sulfur stuff on Thursday when Amazon delivers it
– Add Epsom salts to soil in case it’s a magnesium deficiency and because it can’t hurt
– Add more compost to soil
– Cross fingers

So luckily it was pizza night at the homestead so I could rush out and use the last two hours of daylight after work.  Eddie came out to help (under duress) and thinned out his corn while I worked on this craziness.

The ability to move my tomatoes around made me happy that they are in bags. However my whole stake system sucks pretty bad, which became quite evident this evening. I used long skinny tree branches stuffed into the bags and propped against each other. Sure they are cute and natural and tall and free, but they are also wide based and heavy and basically want to topple the plants over when the bags are no longer too close together. So, I need to find good old light skinny stakes, but tall ones.

Next year I’m tilling the place up and planting in the ground. And spacing generously.

Here the poor baby is, cropped and quarantined.  Got rid of that shit.

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WTF
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Poor Baby

And here’s my new spacing. Looks so chaotic right now:

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And here’s some probable blossom end rot because I was going to let my plants toughen up by not watering much.  Yep. That worked.

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I think I fucking suck at this.