Friday, June 24, 2016

Garden progress

Planting is mostly done and weeds are under control. We've been working hard on our garden but enjoying every minute. 

The pole beans are reaching for the sky and trellises are going in this weekend. These are Purple Podded Pole beans. I am trialing these because I thought it might be easier to pick beans that don't blend into the color of the leaves.

As usual, I have a pretty poor pea crop. I never seem to get them in early enough, sprouting was poor, and they succumb to powdery mildew every year. I saw a couple of plants going south this week so took raw milk mixed with water (33/66) and sprayed it on all of them. The enzymes are supposed to help the plants fight off the mildew. Last year I tried a baking soda mix with limited success. This year I also selected a variety (Kelvedon Wonder) that is supposed to be mildew resistant. We'll see how it goes. I sprayed the beans and squashes also since they would be vulnerable if the mildew continues to spread.

The peppers and tomatoes are growing well. The larger tomatoes to the rear in this photo are "Black Beauty". I have been astonished at how well they are growing compared to all the other tomato starts I did this year. They were expensive and only 15 seeds to the pack, but wow, have they been terrific so far. I am excited to see how well they produce.

Here are the potatoes you saw us planting a few weeks ago. They were in trenches and have now grown so much they have been  hilled into, well, hills. They look incredibly healthy and strong. These are Kennebec.
I'm growing enough yellow onions to hold us for the year, I hope. Two 45 foot rows. This is my first time growing onions for storage. Every year we try to add at least one more food source to our little farm. This gardening stuff is fun!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Ready for Summer

The garden is in, the pool is finally up and filling, the deck pots are growing their herbs, greens, tomatoes and peppers. We've been eating some fine salads. I grew radishes for the first time this spring and am loving those right out of the garden. I never liked them as a child, but the palate improves with age. 
There are a lot of advantages to older age, I'm discovering, and I don't mind growing older one bit. But I would like to be able to squat in order to better weed my garden. Note to youngsters. Practice squatting so you don't lose the ability. Even if you never seem to need it. Someday you might discover yourself in a lifestyle change that requires squatting.
The chicks arrived this morning. Thirty-five meat birds and twelve for the flock. This year we selected six Partridge Rock which fit well here due to their gentleness, foraging, and mothering abilities. Their brown color also helps protect them from aerial predators. We also selected three Araucana for their beautiful aqua and green eggs and, new to us this year, Whiting True Blue for their blue eggs. It's always fun to have a variety of colors in the egg cartons. 
For our freezer, we chose Murray McMurray's "Cornish Roasters" again this year, as we have had great results with them, and they are capable of moving around, foraging, and living their lives well until the very last when it is time to butcher. We are well satisfied with these beautiful birds which produce a huge breasty carcass for the freezer.

We've still been "harvesting" our 2015 garden from the root cellar. The potatoes are still holding out, and these beautiful "Cosmic Purple" carrots held up better than the "Danvers Half Longs", which began to go south in February/March. These are beginning to lose some of their sweetness and flavor, but are still fine for soups and such. I am trialing a few other varieties this year, aiming for storage ability. 
We hold our carrots and beets in bins and layer them (not touching each other) with damp sand. The potatoes, once thoroughly dried in the sun go into mesh bags and are stored as they are. Any that begin to go bad need to be pulled out so they do not affect their neighbors. And they stink.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Potatoes and Canning Beans

We planted potatoes yesterday. I'm grateful for a strong husband. This year we're using the Kennebec variety. Last year, even though we harvested a whopping 450 pounds, some of the larger potatoes had hollow hearts. My organic gardening book tells me that it indicates a shortage of potassium which can be alleviated for the long term with the application of granite meal. These seed potatoes indicated they were "hollow heart exempt" so we'll see if we can eliminate the issue. We may do the granite meal also.

We planted 15 pounds of seed potatoes into 6 forty-five foot trenches so we're hoping for another bumper crop like last year.

We replanted our Kelvedon Wonder peas as the first planting mostly failed. I did not soak the peas that time and we were hit with a very long cold rainy week. So we're trying again. We also planted 90 feet of onion sets on  Friday. They are a yellow onion, bulk purchased but I do not know the variety.

I canned up 14 quarts of dried beans this weekend. The varieties I canned are some we grew and dried in the last two years, and some were purchased through Azure Standard. I used my tattler re-usable lids with 100% success this time. There is a bit of a learning curve with these lids, but once you understand what's required it's as easy as the single-use lids.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Blossoms and Sheep

I love apple blossom time. The smell is pure delight. This one is a "Sweet Sixteen", a prolific bearer of sweet juicy apples. They are great for juicing or for applesauce. 

The blush white apples and

the pink crabapples. This beauty (Spring Glory) is gearing up for a huge crop this year. We use the juice from these as well. The red cherry-sized apples from this one are so beautiful it is hard to harvest them and lose the view.  

 The "President Lincoln" lilac rarely fails to perform. It is the most beautiful lavender blue and has a wonderful lilac fragrance. I bought it several years ago from a roadside stand. I wasn't sure if it would survive, it was so pathetic looking. But wow, it turned into a treasure!
Aunt Bea and Mavis were sheared today. Tom did the job for me as I was having trouble getting a shearer to come out. It was not a professional job by any means, but the sheep are much more comfortable and I am relieved. They are much blacker underneath than I thought they would be, and I'm happy about that.

They produced a LOT of wool. Most of it is really not suitable for spinning this time, but they will do much better on these warm days.

The rhubarb harvest is going great. This is only the second year for this new patch, a split into 12 from 3 very small plants. I've picked 3 times so far and already made a quart of concentrated juice, 2 desserts, and frozen 8 quarts raw.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Dandelions and Sugar Maples

It's early spring in central Minnesota and gardens are only beginning to be planted with the earliest crops like peas, radishes, lettuce, and cole plants. Cheerful dandelions have sprung into bloom and the little plum trees as well. This is such a satisfying time of year as we re-energize with the now stronger sun. We love the useful dandelions that provide early pollen for the bees, blossoms for wine, leaves for salads, and roots for teas and tinctures.  

We planted Sugar Maples along the east side of the driveway this week. There are 25 of them, planted 30 feet apart and 3 feet in from the existing pasture fence. I've always admired Sugar Maples and am excited to see a line of them finally planted the way I envisioned it 20 years ago when I was buying this land. This planting is also a gift to the future owner of this home who will have an easy row of trees to tap for syrup, as well as a glorious fall display.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Ellie's Warning

Tom was greeted with this note when he returned from work early this morning. Ellie had a dissection unit in her CC class yesterday and elected to bring the project home for further study. I suggested she warn her dad about what was in the refrigerator.

We don't suppose he would have eaten it once he opened the bag and smelled the formaldehyde, but one can never be too careful!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Planting Begins

Isaac waters the peas we planted a couple of days ago. There are two 50' rows of Kelvedon Wonder here. I am trying this variety because my peas (with the exception of field peas) have been succumbing early to powdery mildew. This variety is supposed to be resistant. I sure hope so.  The same day we planted Early Scarlet Globe radishes - a salad variety and Pusa Gulabi radish, a "winter" variety that is new to me. It is supposed to store well if planted late summer and is harvested and used like parsnips they say. I'm trying them out and will replant later this summer if we like them. The orange fencing is protecting fifty new strawberry plants (Seascape) from the sheep, who are temporarily sharing the garden area.

The rhubarb is growing like crazy. almost doubling every two days. It won't be long and we'll be enjoying rhubarb slushies, tea, sauce, crisp, and cake. It's the first fruit of every spring, and very welcome!

Isaac has completed his regular classes for this school year and will concentrate this summer on getting through more math lessons and finishing his memorization of the multiplication tables - we've been a bit behind. He's also tearing through our collection of "Hank the Cowdog" books now that he has more free time.

Ellie is finishing up her last two weeks of classes, and preparing for her "Blue Book" exams which will document what she has learned this year. Some of that will include a large freehand (from memory) drawing and labeling 700 major features of the world map, including countries. She will also be drawing, (also freehand from memory) 9 different human body systems with labels, including the eye, the circulatory system, etc. 116 points of information in all. The rest of the exam will cover latin, writing, and rhetoric, including logic. She's looking forward to a summer of only reading and math, like her brother.

We're all looking forward to eating from the garden though, as the real highlight of the summer!