Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Gibby's Garden Diary 2012

April 20, 2012

What a beautiful spring day in Maine. Temps reached the 80's with hardly a cloud in the sky to blot out the sun. I spent the afternoon putting in a new garden bed. It's my second year planting onion sets and I wanted the soil and sun conditions to be just right for a better crop this year.

I dug out a steep hill on the lawn between a couple of fruit trees. That section of the lawn was a pain if anything, having to be weed whacked because it was too steep to mow. I poured my sweat into my new garden bed digging it up and forming horizontal rows by hand.

The trenches between each row turned out to be more than a place to add compost in a few weeks. They act as mini shelves letting me move between rows with more ease.

I took several water breaks. It made me laugh when the dogs and cat joined me. The cat especially seemed pleased with my new garden bed. She made herself quite comfy between 2 rows and even rolled around a bit. The dogs seemed to like it best when I took my breaks as they sat next to me waiting to be petted.

After the grass was gone, the compost added, and my rows formed I was tired. I decided to wait until tomorrow (Saturday) to put in my onion sets. We're expecting rain Sunday morning so I'll let mother nature water the onions for me. Perfect timing.

April 21, 2012

I put my onion sets in the ground today. It was another gorgeous day, slightly cooler and a bit breezier than the day before. I put in 80 sets each of red and yellow onions. Not all the bulbs were good or worth planting. Some had begun to sprout - those were okay.

I started by hoeing a small trench in each row about 2 inches deep. I placed each bulb from 4 to 5 inches apart and covered them with 2 inches of loose soil. I planted the white onions from the top of the bed down followed by the red onions, then I ran out of room.

The handful of red onions that I had left over, about 10 if I had to guess, I planted with the herbs. Though I enjoyed the cats presence yesterday, I'm hoping she won't disturb my newly planted sets. Expecting rain tomorrow.

April 24, 2012

Ah! I'm going to have to start paying better attention to the weather forecast when planting the rest of my garden. While I thought we were going to get a morning of rain (something we desperately needed cause it's been so dry) we got a Nor' Easter with pouring rain. It started Sunday and and rained most of Monday.

We got over 3 inches of rain. I noticed some of my onion bulbs peaking through the soil so I had to recover them. I hope all this rain won't make them rot before they have a chance to grow. I'll be keeping my fingers crossed. 

Notes: Keep an eye on weather forecast before planting vegetables. 
May 4, 2012

Had a bit of a scare yesterday. Thought one of the chickens had been attacked and turned into dinner for a hungry animal. I'll skip the details but she came out of hiding this morning. I guess she spent the night in the barn with the horses and cows. She's missing a bunch of feathers but other then that seems a-okay. :) 

What a gloomy and overcast week. It's raining again today - feels more like early spring. I guess Mother Nature is giving us the rain we needed so badly last month. I got my Hot Carnivale peppers in the mail a few days ago. I'd completely forgotten that I'd ordered them. I can't wait to try canning my own salsa this year. Now that it's almost time to put in my tomato plants I'm going to research which tomatoes are best for salsa and which ones grow best here in Maine.

Notes: Keep a better list of which plants and seeds I've ordered over the winter. The pepper plants were a complete surprise - I thought I'd already received everything that I had ordered. 

May 7, 2012

I noticed a handful of onion shoots this weekend; very excited! I was worried about all the rain we got after I planted them but I guess they're going to be okay. I went foraging for fiddleheads today but didn't have any luck. Hopefully I'll have better luck later on in the week. 

It's a sunny and warm day today but more rain is expected for tomorrow. I want to get my rotatilling in soon so I can begin planting. Cleaned the chicken coop this morning. 

May 14, 2012

This weekend was beautiful. On Saturday it was sunny and warm. I really sweated making rows and putting in a new garden bed. My father made a loam delivery for me for yet another new bed for my pumpkins and squash. I've expanded my garden this year to cut down on the amount of money I have to spend on vegetables. Besides eating fresh veggies I'll be doing a lot of canning and freezing come fall.

My onions are doing great so far. All but 2 or 3 shot up over the past week. I put cow manure in the trenches between my rows of onions for some added organic fertilizer. The manure was heavy, not because it was fresh but because it was so wet from all the rain we've had recently. 

After putting in a new garden bed and planting my leeks on Saturday I was pretty tired. Sunday I planted my pumpkins and winter squash. I'm waiting for my existing garden bed to be tilled this week so I can put the rest of my plants and seeds in the ground. It's supposed to rain again so I'll wait and see how that goes.

I've already frozen a bunch of fresh chives to use in soups and stews this winter - my first addition to the freezer n 2012. After this week, when the rhubarb is a little more mature, I'll be freezing some of that as well.

May 21, 2012

Ah, Monday, you came too soon. Even so, I had a pretty productive weekend where gardening is concerned. I made a few goals for myself and I followed through on all of them. My main goal was to get the second third of my garden planted and mulched. To keep this enjoyable, I broke down my goal into two smaller ones: plant on Saturday and mulch on Sunday - done!

So Saturday, which reached the 80's and was nice and sunny, I put in my summer squash on the same hill as my pumpkins and winter squash. I had a row leftover so I put in some kohlrabi. I planted the rest of my kohlrabi in the garden bed closest to the house along with my yard long beans (Orient Wonder), spinach, lettuce, pepper and celery plants. I used transplants for the lettuce (Romaine), celery and peppers (Bell and Hot).

Sunday I used the rest of my mulch hay and mulched what I had planted. I mulched around the transplants leaving an inch of space surrounding the main stem of the plants and between rows. I also mulched around where I had planted my seeds leaving a good 3 to 4 inches of open space. When my seedlings emerge and get a few inches tall I’ll move the mulch in a little closer.

The weekend was beautiful and so is today. Tomorrow we’re expecting a little rain which I’m looking forward too to water my garden. It took a lot of sweat and work to mulch but I know it’ll be well worth it when I don’t have to spend hours weeding each week.

Notes: Kohlrabi seeds are pretty small so I saved myself some hassle by making seed tapes ahead of time. This I will do again. I’ve started on my carrot seed tapes and finished the radish tapes - these are to be planted next weekend when the last third of my garden goes in.

Plant List 2012

Red/White Onion Sets: 4/21/12
Leeks - American Flag: 5/12/12
Pumpkins - Connecticut Field: 5/13/12
Winter Squash - Hyb. Argonaut: 5/13/12
Pepper Hot Carnivale: (3 Plants) 5/19/12
Green Bell Peppers: (4 Plants) 5/19/12
Celery - Giant Rascal: (6 Plants) 5/19/12
Romaine Lettuce - Green Towers: 5/19/12
Yard Long Beans - Orient Wonder: 5/19/12
Summer Squash - Black Magic: 5/19/12
Spinach - Hybrid Regal: 5/19/12
Kohlrabi - Early White Vienna: 5/19/12
Peas - Maestro: 5/22/12 - 6/12/12*
Carrots - Rainbow Mix: 5/23/12
Beets - Perfected Detroit: 5/23/12
Radishes - Black Spanish Round: 5/23/12
Cucumbers - Hybrid Miss Pickler: 5/25/12
Wax Beans - Imp. Golden Wax: 5/25/12 - 6/5/12
Pole Bean - Purple Pod: 5/25/12 - 6/5/12
Broccoli - Premium Crop: (6 plants) 6/7/12
Basil - Italian: 6/6/12
Tomatoes: Beef Steak (2)/Cherry (1) 6/6/12

* Normally I put my peas in much earlier because they're pretty hardy but since the ground was so wet I had to wait to till the garden where I planted them.

Note: Next year keep track of germination & first harvest dates.

May 22, 2012

Yesterday I put up the fencing for my peas and formed the mounds for my cucumbers. I was planning on doing this on Sat and Sun but it's Memorial Day weekend and I have plans. I figured I'd work in the garden for a few hours each night after dinner until I finally get the last third of my garden planted and mulched.

I put in half of my peas yesterday and mulched around them. I'll put in the remainder in 2 weeks to spread out the growing season. One of the bales of mulch hay I had was too moldy to use in the garden. I was afraid the mold would eventually spread to my plants - not sure if this would actually happen but I'm not taking any chances.

June 6, 2012

It’s been a busy few weeks and I haven’t made an entry in a while – though I made a promise to myself I would keep up with my gardening journal this year. We got pounded with rain over the weekend so I couldn’t even head outside and weed like I wanted to.

I got outside for a little while yesterday in between rain showers and did my first weeding of the season. Since I mulched with hay I didn’t have many weeds to pull which made me very happy. J Since the ground was so wet they slipped right out of the ground any way.

I have some pumpkins, kohlrabi and squash growing – finally! I was worried they weren’t going to grow since it took a lot longer for them to germinate than I was expecting (almost 2 weeks longer).

I planted 1 cherry tomato yesterday. While I was at my local plant nursery I was looking for Roma tomatoes or another good sauce tomato but they were all out. I’m going to check out another nursery this week and hope they have what I’m looking for. It’s kind of slim pickings now because lots of people have already bought their tomatoes. Besides the cherry I did get a slicing tomato variety.

I also picked up a few broccoli plants and some basil. Due to the weather and other things I had going on the past few weeks I waited to get some of my seedlings from the nursery. I still have to put in my corn and my second crop of peas, carrots, beets and radishes. All this rain has really thrown my planting schedule off while I wait for things to dry up.

Before Memorial Day weekend I did get my first crop of carrots, beets and radishes planted and mulched. I also put in my first crop of beans. If the weather holds up I’ll be putting in my second crop today or tomorrow.

So far my garden is holding up despite the heavy rains. I didn’t have any washouts – the mulch hay really helped with that. I’m still waiting for my leeks to grow, haven’t given up hope yet, though they should have germinated weeks ago.

I’m hoping we’ll get to enjoy some sun for the rest of the week and I can get the rest of my garden in.

Note: Buy seedlings earlier to find the varieties I want. 

June 7, 2012

Ah! More rain yesterday. I was lucky enough to transplant my slicing tomato plants into the ground. I thought I only bought 1 sturdy seedling but it turns out there was a straggler in the pot. It's small but I planted it anyway, might as well give it a chance to grow.

I also added about an inch of loam around the stems of my pepper plants to give them a bit of support. My bell peppers are doing great, though my hot pepper plants aren't growing as fast and aren't as green. I had just begun to add the loam to my pepper plants when it started to drizzle. By the time I was finished, which only took a few minutes, it was pouring once again.

That threw off my plans for putting in my broccoli. I'm bound and determined to get those plants in the ground today. The sky has been looming and grey all day but so far the rain has held off.

All this rain has yellowed some of my plants like my romaine lettuce and celery. Once we have a few sunny days I'm confident things will turn around. I feel like Mother Nature is testing me this year but I'm way to determined and stubborn to give up on my garden.

June 13, 2012

Today I talked to Mr. Jillson, the owner of Jillson's Farm and greenhouses in Sabattus, ME. I was worried about my garden and all the rain we've been having. I told him how some of my plants didn't grow and he said he's lost a lot of plants on his farm too. I guess the whole region is having trouble getting things growing and keeping them from rotting in the ground thanks to the 7+ inches of rain we've had. 

He told me to go ahead and put more pumpkin and winter squash seeds in the ground because they still have plenty of time to grow. One farmer he knows is planting his in the next 5 days along with some corn, which I want to get in this week - finally.

Since pumpkins and winter squash take so long to grow I didn't think they'd have enough time to produce before we start getting heavy frosts. I only have about 3 pumpkin plants and a couple winter squash plants that made it through the rain. I need to pick up some seeds this week and get them in the ground.

None of my leek germinated, half my cukes didn't sprout and my carrots, beets and spinach is no where to be seen. My peas, (I put in my second crop yesterday) beans, lettuce, kohlrabi, radishes, tomatoes, celery, broccoli and peppers seem to be doing okay.

I'm going to put in some more carrots and beets this week and maybe try replanting my spinach as long as the weather cooperates like it's supposed to. Fingers crossed.

Yesterday I harvested some more rhubarb to freeze and added some composted manure around my plants because the stalks are starting to grow thin.

June 20, 2012

Ah! My internet has been on the fritz since last week so I decided to write my journal posts and save them to a disc. This way I don’t forget about what I wanted to say and what I was feeling when I wanted to say it. So, here we go . . .

Last Thursday I had a ton of energy, maybe it was all the coffee I drank in the morning thanks to the new coffee maker I got - who knows? I took a walk around my vegetable gardens to see what was going on, if I had any pest problems or needed to weed and to see what was growing and what wasn’t.

I had some weeds to pull so I yanked those. Then I came to the conclusion that my leeks and most of my kohlrabi was beyond hope since they hadn’t germinated at all. I replanted both and put in some more cucumber seeds because about half of the ones I had planted were no shows.

My yard long beans, a first for me, weren’t doing well either. I had about 4 plants left so I re-seeded that area with some leftover wax and burgundy beans. Let’s just say I’m going to have a ton of those this year, good thing they’re one of my favorites.

I also replanted my carrots cause those were rotted by the rain as well. My beets are nowhere to be seen so I’ll be replanting those once this 90 degree heat passes. I finally got my corn in the ground! Yay!

I planted it yesterday which was a great day for working in the garden. It was slightly overcast and breezy with no bugs. It made me happy to see my dogs laying in the driveway only a few feet away keeping an eye on the field while I hoed my rows and sowed my corn.

I haven’t had such a bad start to my garden in a long time. Every year I worry that what I plant isn’t going to grow - it usually does so I don’t know why I get so anxious about it. This year however, was a test. I wasn’t going to let too much rain keep me from growing my veggies.

Tomorrow I’m going to toss my compost pile cause it looks like it’s starting to settle. Today I added some leftover coffee along with the grounds and the filter. I’ll probably wait until the middle of July to start a second compost pile that I’ll add to through the winter. By late fall I should be able to add some nice compost to my gardens from the pile I have going now.

Today I noticed some of my chives looking a little sad. I had trimmed a bunch to about 3 inches tall last month after they flowered and they have come back great. I left the flowers on the other bunches because I noticed that the bees liked them. Now that the flowers have started to brown I’m going to trim those back as well.

Well, I hope tomorrow’s a little cooler so I can get some weeding done and replant my beets. I also want to put in my second crop of radishes.

June 21, 2012

Today is another humid day with no rain in sight; though it’s not as humid as it was yesterday. My burgundy and wax beans seem to be loving the heat. They’re standing tall and proud in the middle of the garden.

As I write this I’m so anxious so I’ll be heading outside after dinner to yank some weeds for sure. Working in the garden always helps my anxiety which is one of the reasons why I love gardening so much.

Yesterday I saw a piece on the news about Lyme disease being at an all time high this year. I always cover myself in bug spray before walking the dogs or working in the garden but it hasn’t stopped a handful of tics from biting. I’ve had a ton crawling on me that I was able to flick off before they stuck themselves in my skin but just the thought of them being on me freaks me out a little.

All it takes is one tic to make me feel like they’re crawling on me for the rest of the night. I’ve been checking the dogs religiously and giving them their drops to keep the tics away. This morning they both got a bath in the pond and got some swimming in.

What’s nice is as I write this my anxiety is getting better and I’ll actually be able to post this because my internet is working today. Yay!

 June 24, 2012

What a beautiful day! Yesterday, before dinner, I was outside weedwhacking, mostly the trim around my gardens and the lawn, and I watched a thunderstorm creep its way closer to the house. Off in the distance, beyond the field, it turned really dark.

The sky over the house was overcast and for a few minutes I thought the storm was going to sneak by us. It started to rain a little which was actually a relief cause I worked up quite a sweat from weeding. That I didn’t mind, but once I saw lightning over the field I was out of there.

It did thunder for a little bit but we mostly got rain which lasted most of the night. My garden loved it. My broccoli plants have shot right up and it almost looks like they’re reaching for the sky. The new kohlrabi I planted has sprouted along with the beans I replaced.

It made me really happy to see I was going to get some kohlrabi. I’m going to look on the internet for some pickling recipes; there aren’t any in my canning book for kohlrabi.

Today I replanted my beets and put in some more carrots. The day before I weeded the pumpkin and squash garden, despite how little there is growing in there.

The humidity was gone which made working outside much more comfortable but the bugs were biting like crazy. I kept reapplying sunscreen and bug spray. I’m happy to say I don’t have a sunburn but I feel like I’m covered in bug bites.

If the weather holds up I’m going to weed garden number 4 with my cukes, beans, peas and broccoli. The weeds aren’t too bad, which makes me very happy.

July 1, 2012

It’s July already; how did that happen and where did June go so fast? In one way I’m happy the summer is moving along because that means I’m 1 month closer to enjoying the fruits of my labor in the garden. On the other hand, I’m no where near ready for the days to get shorter and cooler and the snow to start falling. Since it is only July first I’m not even going to think about winter for a while and instead enjoy the long warm days ahead.

I had a really productive weekend in the garden, something I’m quite proud of. Between thundershowers and spurts of pouring rain I got a lot done. I got all but 2 gardens weeded and finished mulching around my corn.

On Thursday I noticed my Japanese Popcorn had germinated as well as a spattering of my sweet corn. Seeing what I planted starting to grow always makes me excited and fuels me to keep on taking care of my gardens. Over the weekend about 3/4 of my remaining sweet corn popped up and I expect the rest will germinate over the next few days.

It was really humid this weekend. The humidity, coupled with the rain showers, worked wonders for my garden. My broccoli along with my wax and burgundy beans took full advantage of the weather. The beets and carrots I planted last week haven’t germinated yet.

As I was making more seed tapes with my leftover carrot seeds I noticed the days to germination for my carrots is 8 - 14 so I need to give them more time. Plus, the seed tapes will add another week or so to the time it takes them to germinate. The packet says “slow to germinate” right on it so this will probably be the last year I plant “rainbow carrots” unless they turn out to be incredible or something.

I need to give my beets a few more days to germinate before I start getting worried. I don’t even eat beets; I grow them for my mother. I don’t eat cooked carrots either - they’re too sweet when cooked for my taste. I want to freeze some for my family to enjoy this winter and I’ll snack on some raw, but they’re really for my horses.

I started a new compost pile this weekend. I had plenty of “green ingredients” after weeding a flower garden. My compost piles are in the tree line by the house so I had plenty of “brown ingredients” that I raked up and put in the pile. I also threw some kitchen scraps in the pile.

My first pile is breaking down nicely so I’m going to leave it alone and let what’s in it decompose. Besides the second new pile I started this weekend, I started a third in between 2 of my gardens. Those gardens aren’t close to the 2 piles by the house so I figured I’d start one to collect green garden scraps. I’m going to through some leftover hay in the pile that I used for mulch to add some brown ingredients to balance things out.

I finally have my slug traps set up around my gardens. In all but 1 garden I put the traps outside of the garden to lore the slugs out to trap them instead of luring them into the garden first. In one garden I had to put the trap inside to avoid the lawnmower. The first trap I set out was completely full in less than 24 hours. My rhubarb was over run with slugs. The stalks of the plants weren’t affected but the leaves were taking a beating and I didn’t want the slugs to move on to other plants.

I put my slug traps in the shade where I could to avoid them from getting moldy. This weekend’s humidity didn’t help so I’ve dumped the traps and filled them with fresh beer once already. I think it’s safe to say I’ve put a slight dent in the slug population already.

Now that I’ve given each of my gardens a good weeding I’ll be able to pull the few weeds that continue to grow on a daily basis. This is nice because it’ll cut down on the time I spend weeding which works great now that the garden pests will start to move in. So far it’s the slugs but I’ll be ready for whatever pests come next.

I also want to push up the soil around some of my bean plants to give them a little more support. My plants are getting nice and tall now. I also want to map out my gardens on the computer so I can keep a record of what I planted where in 2012. I’m going to number each garden as well to make it easier on myself.

Until next time . . .

July 10, 2012

Today is such as beautiful day - I’m loving it! It’s in the 80's but there’s no humidity, the sky is blue and littered with fluffy white clouds which are keeping the sun’s intensity at bay. My brother is haying the field below my garden filling the air with the scent of freshly mowed grass - someone should figure out how to bottle that scent and put it into a candle if they haven’t already.

The bad insects are out and about taking full advantage of the weather. The cucumber beetles have moved from my summer squash plants to my cucumber plants. As I was handpicking them from my plants I noticed they were all of the striped variety. (There are spotted cucumber beetles too)

I saw a handful of Japanese beetles on the catnip which has flowered. The garden where the catnip grows isn’t near my vegetable gardens but the beetles will have no problems finding their way to my favorites like my wax and burgundy beans like they do every year. I handpicked the ones that were too slow to fly away hoping to get a handle on these pests before their population explodes, which I’m sure it will later on this month.

As I was in garden #4 as I call it, I was inspecting my broccoli plants and noticed the cabbage worms had moved in. On all but 4 plants (I had 6 but 1 died) I found large worms and handpicked those. The worms must have hatched recently on plant number 5 because they were still tiny. This makes them a little harder to pick but I did my best to get them all anyway.

I’ll admit that I was annoyed that all the pests seemed to move in at the same time but then I saw a monarch butterfly float its way into the garden and it made me smile. All it took was one little butterfly to remind me why I love to garden and grow my own vegetables. It makes me happy to know that I’m giving something back to nature even if it’s something as simple as providing a few more plants for the butterflies and bees to buzz around and feed on.

Yesterday I pulled some weeds in garden #4 and pushed up the soil around some of my wax beans because the plants were starting to lean. I was going to do the same for the burgundy beans but then I noticed the tops were starting to vine out. I didn’t notice I had bought pole beans, I thought they were the bush variety so I’m going to let the plants do what they will and stretch themselves over the garden.

I also added some new mulch in areas that needed it. Some of the heavy rains had washed away some of the hay between my rows of plants - something the weeds had no problem taking full advantage of.

In garden #1 - I really have to map these out - I noticed a few small tomatoes on my slicing tomato plant. The small tomato plant I put in the ground that was in the pot with the big slicing tomato is doing great. I didn’t think it would have time to grow and blossom and produce fruit. It won’t produce until fall but I’m pretty confident that it will get there. I also found a "surprise tomato." It's growing from the seeds of a tomato left on the ground from last year. 

I have a handful of green bell peppers that look really cute and shiny hanging off the plant. The plants have more flowers which means more peppers are on the way. The radishes I planted where the spinach didn’t grow have some up. There’s still no sign of any beets or carrots that I’ve planted so those might be a loss for the year.

There’s a little snake living in the garden where the catnip is. He or she likes to curl up by the rhubarb in the morning. I’m going to try and snap a picture of him tomorrow. I’m not a big fan of snakes so I keep my distance but I know they’re good for the garden.

Well, it’s back to work. Can’t wait to get outside and into the garden after dinner . . . 

July 11, 2012

So far so good today. I got up at 6 so I could head out early to handpick the “bad bugs” from the garden. Of course I didn’t make it outside till 15 minutes later - had to have a glass of my home made iced coffee and wake up a little. Let’s just say I am NOT a morning person, never have been and I’m pretty sure I never will be.

Anyway - I think I did pretty well upsetting the bad bug population. I seem to take it personally when the little buggers move in and start feeding on my prized vegetable plants. (They’re prized to me.) I started in the garden with the catnip, where I planted some leeks that never grew. I only found 1 Japanese beetle and 3 squash bugs - but hey that’s okay with me, the less the better.

Next I moved on to garden #2 where more than half of my pumpkins and summer squash didn’t bother to show up. I do have 4 summer squash plants and 3 pumpkins which I’m quite happy with. Hey, it’s better than nothing. I don’t actually eat summer squash. The only time I did was as a kid and memere “Gibby” would make zucchini bread. My father asked me to grow it for the pigs we should be getting sometime this summer. They go crazy for the stuff. I’ve grown it before and frozen a bunch but most of it ended up with freezer burn and went to feed crows as we didn’t have any pigs or chickens at the time.

I picked a bunch of striped cucumber beetles from my plants. These guys are really destructive and early morning is the best time to catch them. They seem to be more docile - like they haven’t had their coffee yet.

I brought my water bottle with dish soap in it around with me and a glossy flyer I picked out of the recycling bin. I went to each plant and inspected them without touching. I picked the cucumber beetles that were on the tops of the leaves first, then put my glossy flyer under each plant and gave it a gentle shake. I picked whatever beetles fell onto the flyer and put them in my water bottle.

Next I looked at the stems of the plants and under the leaves and picked the stubborn beetles that were left behind. I like to find the ones that are “shacking up.” By this I mean 2 beetles that are stuck together. It’s like getting a 2 for 1 deal at the grocery store.

When I was finished with those plants (I picked a few baby slugs too) I moved on to garden #4 where my cucumbers are. Only about 1/4 of my cucumber plants actually grew this year which was quite disappointing. I think it’s due to the weather even though I re-seeded most of my mounds. I like to make lots of pickles and relish which I share.

I put a good dent in the bug population there and picked a few more cabbage worms from my broccoli plants. I guess I did a good job picking those yesterday as I only found about 4 or 5.

I noticed a new generation of slugs in the garden. I haven’t really seen any big slugs since I set my slug traps out. I have noticed a handful of baby slugs though. I’ll have to stay 1 step ahead of them and re-bait my traps.

Yesterday evening I spent some time in garden #5 where I have my corn planted. This is a new garden, put in pretty quickly and at the last minute in late spring. The area used to be grassy and full of bamboo, which after having been rototilled is having absolutely no problem coming back. I spent a lot of time picking new bamboo shoots from my rows of corn - something I expect to be doing all summer.

My father is going to dig out the area come fall when everything has been harvested. I also have radishes growing in the same area only they’re in a more sandy soil while the corn is enjoying a mix of loam and composted manure. The roots on these bamboo plants are nothing like I’ve ever seen on any other plant. Each shoot is attached to a large root that runs under the ground from plant to plant. I’m going to have to do some research and find out how to get rid of this stuff.

Garden #5 is below garden #4. There are some wild flowers which I left for the pollinators and more bamboo plants separating the 2. There’s also a few trees, a hill and a nice grape vine that comes back year after year. I don’t mind the bamboo plants in that area because they attract Japanese beetles keeping a good chunk of them out of my garden.

While I was handpicking bugs from garden #4 I noticed a woodpecker in one of the trees. He was happily pecking away at a branch. He didn’t seem to mind me being there nor did I mind him. Of course my dog was with me and she happily sniffed around the garden while I went about my business.

Tonight its back outside to weed garden #1. My plan to keep up with the weeding and pull the few weeds from each garden every day fell flat last week with the 4th of July rolling around and not having time to do a good weeding until a few days later. My goal is to get back on track this week and then really keep up with the weeding. I’ve got gardens 4 and 5 done. Now it’s on to gardens 1 through 3.

July 12, 2012

I’m on fire with my entries this week. I not feeling too hot today but never the less I headed out to prey on the bad bugs in my garden again this morning. I found only 1 Japanese beetle which made me happy. There weren’t as many cucumber beetles to annoy me today but there were still enough to reap destruction on my plants.

I grabbed some cardboard from the recycling bin and ripped it into to small pieces. I laid the pieces around the base of my pumpkin, summer squash and cucumber plants forming a triangle. Tomorrow morning I’ll be able to squish the cucumber beetles that spent the night under the cardboard. I look at it as another line of organic defense against the little buggers.

It’s more humid today than it has been the past few days. By 8 am I could feel the air getting heavier and hotter already. I’m glad I cleaned the chicken coop yesterday. It would definitely have made for a stinky and sticky situation today.

I weeded garden #1 after dinner last night. The evening is my favorite time to garden because the sun has moved on and its usually a little cooler. The only drawback seems to be the bugs. I coated myself with bug spray but the mosquitoes didn’t seem to be bothered a bit.

While I was weeding the around the border of my garden, the hay (my mulch) in one spot started to move up and down. Seeing as my hand was only a few inches away it startled me. I slowly lifted the hay and then jumped back. I laughed out loud when I realized it was a toad. I was relieved to see it wasn’t a snake. I think the little guy was telling me he was there so I gave him some space.

Notes: Cucumber beetles, cabbage worms, Japanese beetles and squash bugs are out week of 7/9/12. Cucumber beetles were out at least the week before because I saw the damage on my plants.

Pumpkin Plant 

July 16, 2012

It finally rained last night! You have no idea how excited I was to hear the soft pitter patter when the rain first started. All weekend I rolled up the car windows each night in hopes that the hazy sky would open up and water my garden. Last night, Sunday, it finally happened.

At first it started with a few dainty drops which lasted about an hour and then it really rained and rained most of the night. The best part, besides giving my thirsty garden a cool drink, was the humidity level dropping.

I hadn’t felt well all weekend and the heat and humidity really didn’t help. Needless to say, I didn’t do a darn thing in the garden except pick some peas and some bad bugs. Two weeks ago I had my first peas - yum! They were so good - nice and fresh and crisp.

Anyway, I still wasn’t feeling so hot this morning. It didn’t help that I didn’t fall asleep until after 4:30 am so the few hours of sleep didn’t help. I was pretty nauseous all day. I made sure to drink lots of water to stay hydrated. Due to my lack of sleep I didn’t head out to the garden this morning to wreak havoc on the bugs feeding on my garden - I’ll save that for after dinner when it cools down.

I did do a walk-through of my garden because I was worried I’d have a lot of weeding to do seeing as I didn’t do any this weekend. To my surprise and extreme happiness, I only have a few weeds to pull. The thorough weeding and extra mulch I applied last week really helped and I’m glad I did it.

Most of my wax beans have flowered in garden #4. They bloomed last week and today I noticed I have some baby beans. I can’t wait to eat those and blanch and freeze my bounty to enjoy this winter and hopefully until this time next year.

Where garden #4 is, is too far away to water with the hose or trek water from the dehumidifier to a large bucket for watering. I do have a large tub by garden #1 which is on the front lawn by the house. I secured a piece of blueberry netting over the tub with clothes pins in an attempt to keep the mosquitoes from laying eggs. I thought it was working until this weekend when I went to water the garden and I noticed a ton of dead mosquitoes floating in the water.

When I lifted the net to fill my watering can, a bunch of live mosquitoes flew out. I wasn’t happy, though most couldn’t figure their way out of the tub with the netting on and ended up drowning. Today, I dumped the dehumidifier into the tub and noticed a ton of larvae. Enough was enough so I put a big piece of cardboard over the tub which doesn’t collect much rainwater anyway. Bye-bye mosquitoes.

While I was in garden #4 I noticed a ton of what looked like black mosquitoes in, on and around my broccoli plants. I almost think they may have hatched in the plants. It grossed me out especially when they flocked to my legs. Yuck! I’ll have to see what I can do about them tonight.

My cucumber and squash plants, the ones most affected by the cucumber beetles seem to be bouncing back pretty well. A little handpicking of garden pests, though sometimes tedious and annoying, really goes a long way.

Noticing the differences, even if they are small, by taking extra steps to protect my garden from weeds and pests fuels me to keep doing it. It’s hard work and when it’s really hot not something I particularly want to do, but seeing the results makes me want to do it anyway.

Notes: First crop of peas were ready on 7/6/12. Harvested 1 Romaine lettuce plant on 7/13/12. Baby beans & hot peppers growing week of 7/16/12. Squash plants about to bloom any day now. 

July 17, 2012

Last night I walked the dogs before dusk. I still wasn’t feeling 100% but I wanted to get outside and the dogs love a walk. We didn’t go far. We walked around half of one of the fields that was just hayed. It was hot and humid so I didn’t want to go far.

Normally I would have worn pants regardless of how hot it was to protect myself against tics and other biting bugs, but last night I really needed to stay as cool as I could. By the time I was finished lathering myself with bug spray (I’m on can number 4 so far this summer) my skin was gleaming.

I brought along a small Tupperware dish so I could do some raspberry picking. I knew I wasn’t going to get much seeing as I wasn’t wearing pants and wasn’t about to venture too far into the picky bushes or the really tall grass that outlines the field.

The dogs had fun sniffing around. We stopped at what I call the “watering hole.” Since we haven’t had much rain lately, even though we got some the night before and some today, the watering hole and pond have gone down.

I call it the “watering hole” because its kind of a cross between a puddle and a tiny pond. My father used to use the area for loam before it was a field. He had tested an area to see what type of soil was their and how high its quality was. It left a good size hole at the bottom of a short hill.

Eventually it filled with water and is now home to cattails and frogs. I see lots of animal tracks leading up to and going away from the hole like turkey and deer. There’s a smaller test hole next to the watering hole. That one was dry with lots of tracks in the hard mud.

After the dogs got a drink we finished circling the field. When I walk I always stop every so often to do what I call a “tic check.” Even when I wear pants I’ll stop and check my body for tics. Last night I found one crawling on my leg and that was it.

My plan was to give the raspberries to the chickens. I got a small handful which I ended up dividing among the horses. They didn’t get much but I liked being able to give them a small treat. I put the chickens in the barn for the night and stopped by the pond before walking up the hill to the house. The dogs went for a nice swim.

They’re getting a little ripe but it’s summer and they love to swim. I give them a bath once a week to keep them from stinking up the house. I figure it’s summertime and they’re getting exercise doing something they get so excited about doing, so I don’t mind the occasional ripeness or giving them a bath.

After our walk I went into the garden to pick bugs. Those little black bugs were still there. I was hoping they would have moved on but I didn’t have any such luck. There are hundreds and hundreds of them and they’re not the kind that I can handpick because the second they sense any movement they swarm away. I don’t even know what type of bugs they are - I’m going to have to look that up.

They’re small and black, a little smaller than mosquitoes. They like to hunker down on the mulch and have made themselves at home among my cucumber and bean plants. I noticed a bunch on a young bean, about 3 or 4 and they were doing damage.

I tapped into my frugal redneck resources to come up with a plan. I’m hoping to sticky trap as many of them as I can. I drove some sticks in the ground in pairs and wrapped duct tape, sticky side out, around them. I also sprayed my cucumber and bean plants with soapy water in hopes to knock out the population.

I’ve never had these bugs in my garden before and I don’t like them. I’m convinced they hatched in my mulch because my garden was tilled this spring so I really don’t they were laid before then. I’m wondering if there were eggs in my mulch. I love using hay to mulch my garden but I guess this is one unexpected drawback.

I’m going to research the pests online and see what else I can do to get rid of them. Now that I’ve got a handle on the other bugs these guys swarmed in which is really ticking me off. I work way too hard to have my garden ravished my something smaller than the nail on my pinky finger. It’s on now.

On a side note, the weather was really weird today. The sky was dreary most of the day with the sun peaky through every so often. We got some sporadic downpours here and there which was good for the garden. Tonight the sky looked especially weird. There were lots of low-lying dark clouds and the sky was a salmon color behind them. I thought we’d get a thunderstorm like predicted but we haven’t had any so far today.

The humidity has crept back in. I really felt it as I picked some peas to go along with dinner. I can’t wait to have some fresh string beans, hopefully by next week and I’ll be damned if some bugs get to eat them first.

Until next time . . .

Image: Gibby's Garden

July 20, 2012

What a beautiful day! The sun was shining and there was no humidity in the air - it was great. It’s supposed to be comfortable for the next few days which makes spending time in the garden so much more enjoyable. Another plus, there aren’t as many mosquitoes biting at me. I think the horses and cows are loving the break from the bugs and humidity too.

Normally, when it’s really humid and buggy the horses stay in the barn for most of the day and go out at night to eat. It’s a run-in barn so they can come and go as they please and during the summer the animals have access to the pasture 24/7. The horses were out and about today grazing away with the cows.

I went for a walk last night and tonight. I found lots of raspberries this time, I also had my big girl pants on so I wasn’t afraid of getting tics or getting my legs all scratched up. I was surprised to find some ripe blackberries. There’s going to be a tons of them this year so you can bet I’ll be blanching and freezing some for the winter.

I wish I had my camera with me last night because I like to take pictures of nature. As I was picking berries near where my father screens loam, I noticed a grasshopper sitting on the ground. He let me walk right up to him and bend down to look at him without hopping away. I would’ve liked to get a picture of that.

I walked through a patch of tall vines and grass to get to some berries and when I did what seemed liked hundreds of baby grasshoppers or crickets, they were small and whitish, flew up all around me.  I’ve never experienced that before so it was pretty neat.

Tonight, with the dogs with me of course, I walked a different area picking berries. I didn’t get quite as many blackberries tonight but this area doesn’t get as much sun during the day as the area I walked last night. I found a lot of big, juicy raspberries though. I also spooked a white-tailed deer. I was happy when the dogs didn’t go after it.

My baby, the female dog, was busy sniffing out a bird that wouldn’t keep its mouth shut about 25-30 feet away and the male just kind of sniffed in the air. I wouldn’t have noticed the deer at all if it wasn’t for the flash of the white tail. Maybe he or she was out looking for berries too. It is my secret spot after all with tons of big blackberries which are usually ready sometime in August.

I found a tic stuck in my leg before hopping in the shower. I got the head when I pulled it out and I know it was in there for less than 24 hours so I’m not too worried. I found one on my bed last night, thanks to my baby I’m sure. She likes to snooze on my bed, something I usually don’t mind as long as she’s dry and smells good. Did I mention she’s spoiled rotten? It’s my opinion that spoiled dogs are better dogs.

So the soapy water spray I sprayed on the garden worked wonders. Yay! I’d say I knocked out a good 3/4 of the little black bug population. Why the heck didn’t I use the spray before the beginning of bug season? I will definitely do that next year to get a leg up on the garden pests for sure.

The cucumber beetles are down a good 3/4 as well and the Japanese beetles haven’t made it into my garden yet. They’re usually at their peak during August. I only found 1 squash bug tonight as I sprayed and handpicked bugs. I can see where they've been chewing away at the stems of my cucumber plants. I've also been noticing some brick red eggs on the underside of some of the leaves of my squash and cucumber plants. While writing a blog post about controlling squash bugs organically, I discovered these are squash bug eggs. I've been picking them off as I see them.

Last night I weeded garden #1 and added some extra mulch. I weeded garden #2 today. I’m sad to report that only 2 of my kohlrabi plants in #2 are still alive and 4 - 5 in #1 are trying their best to make it. At this rate, looking at their size, I don’t know if they’ll make it before the frost hits this fall. I will most definitely try again next year with an early variety. Saw one on Parks Seed Co. Website.

My broccoli plants look like they're on steroids. It must be the manure. I’ve had success with broccoli before but the plants have never grown to this size. I love how big they are but where’s the broccoli? I don’t see any baby heads forming yet, but I’ve learned I need to be patient when it comes to my garden growing.

I’ve taken a bunch of pictures of my gardens which I need to upload to my blog and flickr. I have them all on the computer, its just taking the time to organize and upload them.

Hopefully I’ll sleep better tonight. Fell asleep around 3:30 am the last 2 nights which is an hour earlier from the last. This happens to me every so often. I can tell when it’s going to be a bad month of sleep. I’ve never been good at falling asleep, something my mother and her mother both deal with. My grandfather, not on my mother’s side but Gibby’s husband, tells me it’s because I fell asleep on the wrong side of the moon.  Without getting into detail, I can tell each month whether or not I’ll be sleeping well.

Well, time for some TV then bed. 

Image: Gibby's Garden

July 21, 2012

Today is my grandfather’s 91st birthday. He and my grandmother, Gibby, were the ones who really got me into gardening and, as a kid, let me help out in their garden. Most of my earliest memories are at memere and pepere’s on the farm.

Pepere always says not to get him anything cause he doesn’t need it so I brought him a strawberry soft serve, easier to eat when he hasn’t put his dentures in (I’m laughing to myself right now) - sugar free of course due to his diabetes.

He loved it and loved the berries I brought him the night before that I had picked on my walk with the dogs. He too was surprised that there were blackberries out already, but where I picked them, the tree line around one of the fields, gets a good 6 to 8 hours of sun a day.

I picked a handful of waxed beans this morning, that was all that was ready, so I’m going to cook them for him tomorrow and bring them by. If the vegetables aren’t cooked when I drop them off they’ll end up rotting in the fridge and becoming pigeon food. He feeds all his scraps to the pigeons, something I can always remember he and memere doing.

I put up a few bird feeders outside his living room window. He loves watching them come and eat and tells me about the different birds he sees. So far this summer he’s had a lot of yellow finches stop by. When I fill the feeders I always sprinkle a little seed on the ground for the wild turkeys and whatever else stops by.

When I first put up his bird feeders I’d leave the bag of black oil sunflower seeds on the porch which is enclosed, but the door is so warped and old that it never shuts. I came by one day to fill the feeders and half the bird seed was gone and I hadn’t opened it yet. Some little critter had chewed a hole in the bag and helped himself.

There’s a little hole in the porch floor that I’ve seen a chipmunk sneak in and out of. Now I keep the seed in the fridge on the porch and leave the little guy a pile all to himself. I know that’s going to keep him coming back but what the hell, he was going on the porch anyway.

What’s really neat about my grandfather’s house, the old farm house, is that it used to be a bed and breakfast and a rest stop for people on their horses and buggies. This was way before the main road was put in, which would have started out as dirt. Going back on the property are old, stone foundations that are covered with grass and bushes. These lined the old road that existed before the main one was put in.

I want to look up the house and area and see what I can find out about it. Pepere tells me the house is over 100 years old - if only it could talk. Imagine the stories it could tell about the people who passed through there. If someone had kept a diary for the bed and breakfast I would really like to read it.

This entry really doesn’t have much to do with gardening. I spend about every other day in the garden now unless I’m on pest control. The rows where most of the weeds were popping up through the mulch have started to become compacted from all the walking and kneeling I’ve done on them. I’m not complaining. This gives me a little break before I start harvesting, freezing and preserving my bounty.

Anyway, I had a weird encounter at the store today. I went to a little general store in the town next to mine.  I love that place. Anyway, when I came out of the store, some guy I don’t know ran across the street, it’s a tiny town with no traffic on the street where the store is, and came up to the window of my car which I was sitting in.

I had my dog, the female, with me who is very protective of her mamma. I had left the windows halfway down while I was in the store to keep the dog from jumping out and following me in - it has happened so now I don’t take chances unless I’m on the farm.

This guy, over the barking and growling of my dog, kept trying to talk to me through the window. He asked me if I was going to Sanborne Farms, or something to that affect, and I said no. Then I think he asked me for a ride and I said no again. Mind you the dog is still barking and if she could have. she probably would have tried to rip his face off.

It was hard to understand him between the barking and growling - I’m so glad my dog was with me. Then, the guy tells me Jesus will save me if I do go to that famr. Really guy? Get the hell away from me. I told him I didn’t need to be saved. Some guy across the street whistled, like one of those calling the dog whistles, and the guy took off and so did I. - Weird.

Well, I’m looking forward to the weekend. I’m going to enjoy the nice weather, spend some time in the garden, maybe finish my book outside and go to a bonfire. Ah, summers in Maine, there’s no place else I’d rather be.

July 26, 2012

It’s almost the end of the work week - this one seemed to fly by. I had another bad week of sleep. Some nights, or I should say mornings, I only got about 2 - 3 hours of sleep. That’s never fun but I realized something. I’m doing less and less physical work in the garden because there’s simply less to do.

Some nights my mind will be tired but my body feels like it could keep going and vice versa. Sure I have some light weeding to do here and there and then there are the “bad bugs” that are still hanging around that I handpick and spray with soapy water, but that’s about it. I guess I’ll start taking the dogs for longer walks to tire myself out. It tires them out too which is why they’re probably such good sleepers.

Last night I did walk the dogs. We hit the hayed field and I did some blackberry picking while the dogs sniffed around and chased mice. The raspberries are starting to run their course and the blackberries are taking over. That’s fine with me because I can’t wait to pick em’, eat em’ and freeze them. There’s going to be so many this year that it’ll be much easier to pick a bowl full than it is with the raspberries.

There are severe thunderstorms forecast for the day. The newscaster was saying some of them could get pretty bad and we’ll have isolated storms throughout the weekend. I really hope the mid west gets some rain. I feel for the farmers who have lost their crops and livestock and basically their way of living.

I love a good thunderstorm (not wanting anyone to get hurt or anything). I’m kinda like a kid about them because I still get excited when I hear one coming our way. :) The only drawback is that my female dog is afraid of them.

She’s gotten better about them since the summer has worn on. She used to be absolutely terrified and would shake so bad that sometimes I worried she’d have a heart attack and there was no calming her down. Now she hides behind the recliner and eases up a little as long as I’m petting her.

So I was telling some people about that creep that came up to my car the other weekend while I was at the store. I guess he’s not all there mentally. He’s kind of the town loony - ya that’s not politically correct I know. From what people were telling me he rides his bike everywhere and talks about “Sanborn Farm” or whatever it was.

I don’t think he knows any better and maybe someone has already tried to teach him this, but going up to strange people’s car windows is not safe. Who knows how someone will receive him. Not everyone knows who he is or what he’s like - like me. I hope he doesn’t hurt anyone and no one hurts him. With all the bad stuff that happens on the news, like the movie theater shooting, I'm kinda nervous for the guy.

July 31, 2012

There’s nothing like the fresh, crisp taste of vegetables straight from the garden. They have a more pronounced taste and blow away the produce carried at the grocery store, especially during the off season.

This past week my garden has finally begun to give me some reward for all my hard work. I’ve had a handful of pickling cukes ready, not enough to pickle, so I’ve been eating them as snacks and in sandwiches.

I’ve gotten more peas and waxed beans too. The beans are really starting to pick up their production. My burgundy beans have taken over their allotted space in garden and are flowering like crazy. I picked my first head of broccoli and green pepper today. I  had some green pepper in a sandwich and the rest I’m eating raw with a little salt right now.

I eat a lot of cucumber sandwiches in the summer. I rarely eat cukes any other time of year because it’s hard to go from eating them fresh and crispy to anything else. (They’re one of my favorites) After eating the green pepper, I’m thinking I’ll have a hard time eating these when they’re not fresh as well, unless they’re cooked.

My cucumber sandwiches are pretty simple but oh so good. I toast 2 slices of wheat bread, spread a little mayo on each, slap my cucumber slices on one piece of bread, sprinkle with a little salt and then top with the second piece of bread. I did the same with my green pepper sandwich today. Sometimes, I’ll add a little turkey or a slice of cheese.

The other night I made a chicken stir fry with some veggies from my garden. I marinated the chicken for a few hours  in an herb and garlic marinade after cutting it into bite-sized pieces. I cooked the chicken in a little of the marinade from the bottle and added some soy sauce. When the chicken was about half-done I added some waxed beans, onion, broccoli and green pepper, though the pepper and broccoli weren’t from my garden. I hadn’t had any ready when I went to the store a few days ago - should have thought ahead I guess.

I spotted some aphids on one of my cucumber plants so I hit the garden with a little soapy water. One of my cucumber plants was droopy this morning, a sign the aphids are present, but I’m hoping it’ll bounce back.

I’ve been doing pretty well keeping up with my weeding. Today I hit garden #5 pretty hard. That darn bamboo keeps insisting on coming back. There wasn’t as much this time as last and the shoots were younger so they were easier to pull. My corn could be a little taller but it’s nice and green and seems to be doing well.

A porky-pine visited us last night. We usually don’t seem him until the fall when the pears are ready. He’ll sit in either tree and pig out. Needless to say the dogs weren’t allowed out for a while. I didn’t see anywhere in my garden where he would have nibbled. I’m thinking he was interested in the compost and chicken pail sitting on the porch.

I put kitchen scraps in both buckets. Whatever the chickens won’t eat goes into my compost. Any type of onion, citrus or banana peels, things like that, the chickens don’t eat. In the summer I try to empty the buckets every other day due to the flies.

Anyway, the Olympics are in full swing. I’ve been catching some here and there. So far I like diving, gymnastics and volleyball the best. Go team U.S.A.!

August 10, 2012

Rain, rain, sweet rain. It rained last night and we’re supposed to get more rain over the next couple of days - something my garden definitely needs. The pond by the barn is getting really low. There’s a visible mud ring around the water line where the water is supposed to be. It looks about a foot low.

My garden is shifting into full swing. I picked a few gallons of wax beans this week and a handful of burgundy beans, most of which have been blanched and are in the freezer. I’ve picked four heads of broccoli so far, most of which is in the freezer too.

When my broccoli plants were small, I put tomato cages around them so they’d have some support when once they were big. My plants are huge and benefitting from the support, but it’s inhibiting some of the leaves.

Instead of them falling naturally, some of the inner leaves are being held up by the rings on the cages which is effecting some of the broccoli heads. The outside of the heads are maturing faster while the inner heads are still light green and not fully mature. Some have tiny brown spots here and there where they're starting to rot. I cut out those parts and gave them to the chickens. I don't know if you've ever had unripened broccoli, but it's bitter - yuck.

I picked a few cherry tomatoes and a bunch of radishes. Wow were those radishes spicy - a little too spicy for my taste. I think I’ll stick to the red radishes next year instead of the Black Spanish Round Radishes I planted this year. I also picked a few hot peppers which I’ll be giving away to someone who makes homemade salsa.

Note:Next year, forgo the tomato cages and use stakes and twine if broccoli plants need some support. 

August 14, 2012

Today was another hot and humid day. I got off to a late start but never the less, I got what I needed to done. My garden is doing great - the rain we’ve had recently has really helped.

The cucumber beetles and squash bugs aren’t really a problem anymore. All the handpicking and soapy water spray has really helped me get my garden pest invasion under control. However, I did notice that the imported cabbageworms are making a come back so I was out and about handpicking those again today.

I’ve been getting lots of side shoots on my broccoli plants after harvesting the main heads last week. I’m working on filling my third gallon-sized freezer bag with blanched broccoli. That’s not too shabby considering I’ve cooked some as a side dish and in a meal too. With all the side shoots, I should be able to fill the third bag and maybe more by the end of the growing season.

My burgundy beans are coming in full force. They went nuts stretching their vines all over the garden; it kind of looks like ground cover. That makes harvesting harder because, as I’ve mentioned before, I didn’t notice I bought the vining variety.

I picked a few gallons of burgundy beans yesterday along with a bunch of pickling cukes and peas. I sat on the porch at dusk last night shelling peas and drinking my homemade iced-coffee, decaf of course.

A bunch of crows mingled behind the house, something they normally don’t do, and they squawked like crazy. They were so loud. It was just me, the crows and the dog. It was nice to sit outside in the quiet with no TV or other people around.

In the winter when I get sick of the cold and snow, that’s one of the things that I imagine myself doing - sitting outside in shorts and a tank top, listening to the birds and frogs and relaxing in the fresh summer air. I keep reminding myself that I need to do more things like that, the things that I enjoy before the summer slips away.

I weeded garden # 5 today. That @#$%$ bamboo always comes back and I know it will until it’s completely eradicated. It wasn’t as bad this time as it was last time. It felt like it took me half the time to weed which was really nice. The ground was wet under the hay between my rows and around my plant which made pulling weeds much easier.

I pickled a jar of my hot peppers tonight. I had a bunch more ready so instead of giving them all away I thought I’d give pickling them a try. I’ll see how they come out, though I’m not a big fan of hot peppers to begin with.

We’re supposed to get rain again tomorrow but that’s okay with me. I’m in the mood for another rainy day.

August 16, 2012

So we’re getting the rain today that I thought we we’re going to get yesterday. Though I was looking forward to a rainy day, it worked out well for me. We have 3 new steers at the barn along with a heifer. I doubt they’re a year old yet and probably recently weaned.

One of the steers is stressing out, calling and searching for his mother. It’s a natural part of the weaning process but I still can’t help but feel bad. Anyway, this little guy jumped the fence and decided to tour the farm on his quest to find his mother.

I ended up having to walk him back to the barn, about 1/4 of a mile. Of course I was half asleep and literally rolled out of bed, threw on a sweatshirt and slipped into my flip flops not thinking that I was going to get my exercise for the day.

So here I am in my pj’s walking this homesick steer back to the barn - it was probably quite a site but there was no one around to see it anyway. I stayed behind and to the side of him where he could see me from the corner of his eye.

Walking him through the field and back to the barn was the easy part. It was getting him back in the pasture that took some time. The calfs are separated from the main herd for now until this little guy's finished the weaning process. He got to sniff the herd through the fence and they got a chance to meet him - something I think is a good thing.

One of the Herefords who has a calf of her own was most interested. They sniffed and checked each other out and then butted heads - that’s normal too. I finally got him back into his pasture and barn area where he managed to sneak out 2 more times that day.

For now, the new calfs are in the barn until he calms down and they can be let out with the rest of the herd. Hopefully this won’t take too long. I’m glad he hasn’t realized how big and powerful he is yet, though still young and not half the size he’ll be. He stopped a few times, turned to face me and looked at me.

He never dropped or shook his head at me, nor did he snort and blow snot my way. Those are all signs for me that a steer, bull or heifer knows their bigger and stronger and I need to back off for my own safety. He’s a good looking steer, nice and healthy and oh so cute.

Needless to say, I’m glad it wasn’t raining yesterday morning like it is today. That would have made my jaunt through the field an annoying one, though I’ve done it before in the rain and waist high snow.

Before dinner I picked more wax and burgundy beans. Those have already made it into the freezer. I tried freezing some cut up green peppers for the first time too. I cut them into bite-sized pieces, didn’t blanch them and put them on a cookie sheet in the freezer. I wasn’t sure if their water content would be too high to freeze.

When I checked on them this morning they looked good, hadn’t shriveled up or anything which happens if they have a high water content. I tried freezing a cucumber once and trust me that didn’t work. Though frozen, it had managed to shrivel up and look completely unappetizing.

My internet doesn’t want to work this morning so I’m restarting the computer. I have things I can do offline but need to check my email and post a few articles. I’m in the process of switching blog hosts for the business blog. I’ve imported all my posts and posted them but I’m going over all of the posts, almost 200 of them, saving their new links and going back and switching out the old links for the new ones - this is going to take me a while. Come on internet!

August 27, 2012

Monday’s here once again. I spent the better part of yesterday curled up in my chair reading - something I haven’t done in a long time. I’m in the middle of V is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton, one of my favorite authors. I’m pretty sure the series was written sometime during the 80's because that’s when most take place. I’m slowly making my way through her series from A - Z. What I really need to do is find another used book store in the area.

While I would have liked to sit on my butt the entire day, I didn’t. I blanched and froze a ton of burgundy beans. While my wax beans are beginning to peter out, my burgundy beans are at their peak right now. I chopped this batch and froze them using the “tray pack” method.

I froze my beans on a cookie sheet before putting them into gallon-sized freezer bags. The try pack method freezes the beans individually instead of in a clump. This way I can measure a certain amount of beans and pop the rest back into the freezer.

My sweet corn is looking pretty good. I have ears, though they still have some growing to do before they’re ready for harvest. My popcorn is still growing and has yet to produce any ears. My peas are done for the season and my broccoli is on it’s way out. My hopes of filling a 4th gallon-sized freezer bag full of spears are dashed, but I’m very happy with what I have.

I’m going to have pumpkins! The few plants that survived the drowning rains of the spring are really enjoying their space in the garden. The vines grew like crazy and I have tons of flowers. So far I have two pumpkins and really hope the rest of the flowers turn into pumpkins soon.

I’m going to have a few acorn squash as well. I’ll probably freeze those too. I don’t eat squash so I’ll be giving what I have to my parents. My zucchini hardly produced anything this year. Again I’m attributing that to the rain as well - same with my celery which is nice and green but stopped growing a long time ago. I’m going to try and dig them up, pot them and bring them in the house before the first frost. I’ll be doing the same with my basil plants. I harvested a lot of basil and am drying it. Fresh basil is really good in scrambled eggs by the way.

Let’s see, a few of my cucumber vines have died off so I clipped those from the main stem. My onions rotted in the aforementioned dreadful rains in late spring. I was looking forward to having a nice supply of onions to get me through the winter.

I tried one of those hot peppers I have growing in the garden. Wow was it hot - too hot for me. I haven’t tried the one’s I’ve canned yet. Next time I”m feeling adventurous I’ll pop them open and give it a go. My green peppers are charging right along through August. There is nothing like a fresh green pepper. I’m really going to miss them come winter and I have to resort to store bought ones.

I found a nasty tomato hornworm on one of my slicing tomato plants last week. I knew one was there when I saw some of my blossoms and shoots had been chewed off. Then I saw the nibbling on a couple of tomatoes. It took me a few minutes to spot the offender. I pinched off the shoot he was clinging to and put it in a bottle of soapy water.

I can handpick other pests all day but hornworms make me want to scream like a little girl and run away. Sometimes they literally make me nauseated. The one I picked was a good three inches long and nice and fat. I’ve been checking my tomato plants daily since but have yet to spot anymore worms or damage - yay!

The calf I talked about in my entry last week is doing great. He and the other three in the barn were let out with the other cows. They’re getting along great and are happily grazing away and putting on weight for the winter. The weaning process is over!

September 13, 2012

Ah, fall is about to rear its head and I couldn’t be happier. I’m looking forward to cool, blanket worthy nights and days with little humidity. Before the leaves change color and the leaf peepers invade the state, my garden tools will be snuggled into the shed for another long winter. 

For now, most of my tools are still in an umbrella stand turned garden tool holder on the porch. My organic vegetables are beginning to taper off. My beans are slowly producing less as their leaves change color and their flowers are few and far between.

Last week my broccoli saw a spurt of growth and gave me lots of side shoots - enough to fill two quart-sized bags. My cucumbers are busily growing the last of its fruit as their vines dry up and become crinkly between my fingers.

My tomatoes are still going strong as I not so patiently wait for what’s left to ripen. My four pumpkins are continuing to grow. I have three, large green ones and one that has just begun to fill out. My one winter squash looks like it has taken a dose of steroids and my zucchini continues to spit out fruit here and there.

My kohlrabi hasn’t begun to form any bulbs but I’ll try again next year with an earlier variety. My sweet corn will be ready for harvesting in the next week or two and I’m hoping my popcorn will produce ears before the first fall frost kills it off.

My bell and hot peppers are doing well. I’ve used lots of peppers in dishes so far and as they continue to ripen I’ll freeze what I don’t use without blanching first as there’s no need. I’m going to slice and freeze my hot peppers in a separate bag. I probably won’t grow those next year cause I really have no use for them unless I decide to can my own salsa.

I went to the Litchfield Fair last weekend. I love seeing the animals that different farms bring for show. My favorite were these large bulls, I have no idea what kind they were. They were all white and stood almost as tall as me. They were beautiful to look at but I don’t know how comfortable I’d be walking out in the pasture if they were there.

Until next time . . .

September 27, 2012

Here in Maine the vegetable gardening season is coming to a close. I myself don’t have much left in my gardens except my tomatoes, green peppers, broccoli and corn. Despite the slow and wet start to the season, I have a freezer full of organic vegetables to last me through til the next growing season.

I’m not sure if my popcorn is going to produce anything before the first hard frost kills it off. As of last week the stalks had formed some ears and I’m hoping they’ll fill out soon. I picked whatever sweet corn was ready, blanched and froze it.

Speaking of my sweet corn, I had one heck of a bad day last week.(It ties into the corn) The green grass in the pasture is pretty much done for the season after being eaten and walked over by the cows and horses all summer. My brother and father, when they have time after work during the week, have been chopping grass in the field and feeding it to the animals to help supplement the hay we’ve been giving them - trust me they are well fed.

Well, they worked late all last week so the animals didn’t get any chopped grass, only hay which is fine. One afternoon the big bull decided he wanted some green grass and was going to sneak out of the pasture and help himself to some in the field. 2 of his buddies decided to follow.

Needless to say I was the one charged with putting them back in the pasture because my brother and father were still at work and wouldn’t be home until after dark. If you’ve ever had to wrangle up loose farm animals you know it’s twice as hard after dark and leaving them out isn’t an option for their own safety - the coyotes might come calling.

If you can picture what I’m about to tell you, you’ll probably laugh or at least crack a smile  - I know my brother and father did. Our driveway runs parallel to part of the pasture. It’s not your average driveway, it’s long, bumpy and made of gravel. Our only neighbor lives about a quarter of a mile up the driveway from us. At the top of the driveway, the road curves going around a bend and up a hill. At the top is the neighbor's house.

Well the 3 loose cows were slowly making their way towards the curve so I needed to usher them back down the driveway towards the pasture. I tried walking behind them clapping my hands loudly, tapping them on the butt and chasing them but they weren’t having any of it. Once they had tasted that green grass they were not about to give it up and go back into the pasture.

After about half an hour I had enough of trying to coax them in so I turned to a usually fool proof plan - the grain bucket. So here I was in my flip flops running down the driveway shaking a grain bucket with a bull and 2 cows, all three who are almost full-sized, chasing after me. Well, the good cows that had stayed in the pasture heard the grain bucket as well.

Mind you I had cracked open the gate before running with the grain bucket in hopes I could run right into the pasture with the cows behind me, toss the bucket, shut the gate and call it a done deal. Well, that didn’t happen. Here comes the funny part - I’ll set the scene.

About 30 feet before the driveway curves, the pasture curves too and goes into the treeline. There are trees between the pasture and driveway after the curve. The rest of the herd was in the corner of the pasture in the area where it curves while the loose cows were close to the bend in the driveway.

Here I am booking it as fast as I can down the driveway with the bull and 2 cows hot on my heals trying their best to get a taste of the grain. Well, the entire herd was watching and must of heard the grain sloshing around in the bucket. Before I knew it, I’m booking it with 3 large animals on my heals and the rest of the herd running parallel to me on the other side of the fence.

I’m sure I muttered a few colorful words as I dropped the grain bucket and sprinted for the gate. Mind you I’m in my flip flops and there’s a giant mud puddle in the area that the open gate swings over. The gate needs some work and has to be lifted in order to move or the bottom drags through the mud. I thought it a much better idea to close the gate rather than have the entire herd of cows loose. Needless to say the 3 that were already loose remained loose and enjoyed what little grain was in the bucket.

Seeing as I had to babysit for the afternoon, I left the loose cows where they were and went back to deal with them after dinner. It took me about an hour to finally get them in using the Cub Cadet, whip and my mother to open and close the gate for me while I chased them. I thought I had the problem solved and went on with my night.

The Next Morning . . . 

After jumping in the Cub Cadet, I drove past my corn on the way to the barn to clean the chicken coop. On my way, much to my chagrin, I noticed that half my sweet corn had been completely leveled and the ears eaten and low and behold the bull and a cow were loose once again. Now I was mad. Screw the whip and the Cub Cadet - this was personal. I put way too much time and work into my gardens for an animal or person to come along and do what they please. (I don’t hit the animals with the whip, only the ground next to them)

I was pissed. I cracked open the gate over the mud once again and wearing my sneakers this time, ran after that bull like there was no tomorrow. I got him and the cow back in the pasture. I went to the barn to clean the coop and a few minutes later the bull was loose again. Time to fix the fence.

I got a hammer and some U-shaped nail things in the barn, hopped in the Cub Cadet - I found out I really like driving this thing - and headed up the driveway. There the bull stood once again in the center of the driveway just looking at me. In the two minutes I was in the barn, he had walked right back out through the fence where the barbed wire had become loose.

Arg! I decided to fix the fence and then put him back in and that’s exactly what I did. Once it was fixed I set my sights on the bull again. By this time he was in the field across from the barn. As I made my way towards him I noticed the same cow that had been loose that morning trying her best to go through the fence.

Since I had just fixed it she only made it halfway through; she got her front legs through but not her back. She was stuck with the barbed wire cutting into her teats turning them bloody. I couldn’t leave her there so I undid all the work I had just done to fix the fence and finally got her free. This time she stayed in the pasture. I fixed the fence again.

By this time the bull must have had a full belly cause he ventured over to the open barn door that the chicken feeder was sitting in front of in my earlier attempt to clean the coop. He managed to knock the top off the feeder and gobble down all the grain. Eventually I got him in a fenced in area that the animals hadn’t been allowed in since a new steer going through the weaning process had managed to jump several times. (This is in a previous entry)

The fenced in area happened to have green grass. I gave him a bucket of water and there he stayed until my brother and father came home and could deal with him. The cows and bulls have been penned in for the past week. They get hay on week days and chopped green grass on the weekends when my brother and father aren’t working and have time to chop some.

Last weekend my brother went around the perimeter of the fence in the pasture making repairs. This weekend we’ll probably let the cows and bulls back into the pasture until hunting season when they’ll be penned until spring. We’ll see how that goes.

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