May – Finally!

We had snow flurries two weeks ago. This week it’s 80 degrees. It’s been a rough spring – cold and wet and dreary. It made it hard to get my garden started. Not strong on patience, I jumped the gun, planted some of the things I had raised in the greenhouse too early – and lost them to the early May frost (even though I tucked them in with warm blankets, plastic tarps and up-side down buckets to help them through the cold nights). But…I guess that’s why I “accidentally” grew 248 tomato plants – I had a few extras.

The gardens  look amazing, the weeds have been (temporarily) banished, and there is still space between the rows. In another month it will look like a jungle out there. Let the growing season begin!

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The squash garden with tomato cages for the vines to grow, and a piece of PVC piping to keep them from blowing over in the summer storms.
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Peas, garlic and tomatoes. This year we are trying to grow them on strings – you wrap the plant around the string as it grows taller – especially since I used the tomato cages for the squash!
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A LOT of tomato plants!
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Corn, rhubarb, peas, carrots and spinach.
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1 Potato, 2 Potato, 3 Potato MORE?!
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Garlic, squash, peppers – all conveniently located by the bee hives – so the bees won’t have far to go to pollinate my garden!
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Raspberries and a few flowers on our “pretend door” to nowhere (it hides the heat pumps).
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And Rice! Why not?!  Do you think two buckets of rice plants will give me two buckets full of wild rice this fall?

April – We dug up a barn and planted carrots

Every year when it’s time to start digging in the garden, we hit rocks – more like boulders, and we dig them out. This year was no different – in fact – even worse.

I bought a broad fork – a pitch fork looking contraption with an ergonomic handle that’s made for gently lifting, fluffing, aerating the soil so that you don’t disturb the soil layers and all those earthworms as much as you would with a tiller. That was the plan.

Last weekend I started with just one bed in my vegetable garden – it’s 4′ x 20′. With the first thrust of my broad fork, I hit a rock so I went for my favorite shovel – the pink one that my sister gave me. It’s narrow, pointy and just the right size for me to get some leverage. I dug down and pried and prodded until I got the rock out. Whew. And then it happened again and again and again and again. I don’t know if the broad fork tines are longer than the reach of the tiller, or if the winter weather had heaved the rocks closer to the surface, but I think we dug up the foundation of an old barn. The rocks ran in a straight line – right down the entire length of the bed.

Chris said I was digging too deep – that vegetable roots only go so far, and the vegetable bed would be just fine if we left the rocks there. But I rotate crops in the garden – and this year – carrots need to go in that plot. And carrots won’t grow if they hit a rock. He pulled out his tractor with the front end loader – and as we dug, we filled the bucket – four times!

And then I started on the next bed… and there were more rocks, more tractor loads to haul out, and one rock in particular that won the prize. It was too big to haul out. We worked for about 4 hours and finally got it upright to take up less space, but now it looks like a tombstone in the garden.

The soil is gorgeous now. All the digging and prying and prodding may have disturbed the soil layers, but we mixed in compost and wood ash and planted the carrots. They better appreciate all that hard work and grow like never before!

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Prying up a rock with my favorite shovel.
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I needed help getting some of these out.
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The broad fork just kept finding more and more rocks
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We filled up the front-end bucket 4 times and hauled those rocks out of the garden. They better not be back again next year!
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This rock got the better of us.
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It was bigger than we could haul out.
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These – we hauled out.
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This one is staying put – right smack in the middle of one of my garden beds. It looks like we buried someone there!

November – Move over Jimmy Carter

There’s a new peanut grower in town. Yep – we grew our own peanuts this year. I bought a small packet of peanut seeds – well – not exactly seeds, just raw peanuts in the shell. We planted them and they grew! Peanuts aren’t really nuts; they don’t grow on nut trees. They grow in the ground – like potatoes. Makes you wonder why no one has potato allergies – they grow the same way.

Our peanuts didn’t produce a whole lot – maybe slightly more than the amount we planted, but this is No Rhyme or Reason Farm. We do things for no rhyme or reason around here. Actually, the reason was to prove we could do it, and to show Arianna where peanut butter comes from (besides the jar)!

Will I grow them again next year? Probably not. But it has given me a new appreciation for where my food comes from too. It takes a lot of peanuts and a lot of space to grow enough peanuts for even one peanut butter sandwich!

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One of our peanut plants growing.
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Drying the peanut plants.
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Picking off REAL PEANUTS!

February – Throwing off the Blanket

We are finally starting to show some signs of warmth around here. The snow is melting, temperatures are flirting with the 40’s some days, and it’s almost time to start my garden!

The blanket of snow on the greenhouse roof was headed south, so I started seeds. It’s  too cold in the greenhouse to give them a good start, so this year we are starting them on a germinating mat under a grow light in the basement. Things are starting to pop already.  By the time they are ready to transplant to larger pots and harden off under some real sunlight – the greenhouse will have warmed up – I hope!

Another sure sign of spring are the blue hoses attached to two of our maple trees. They aren’t sugar maples, but they are maples – so that’s close enough. Last year we started too late and got about one cup of maple syrup by the time we boiled down all the sap. This year I may have jumped the gun, but so far I have three gallons of sap – and the whole month of March ahead of me. Maybe this year we’ll get two cups!

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The blanket of snow is on the move – spring must be on the way.
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If you look REALLY close, you can see some sprouts – spring MUST be almost here.
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How much maple syrup will we get this year?

August – Does size matter?

Things are a little topsy-turvy on the farm lately.  My zinnias are THIS BIG.

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And my eggs are THIS SMALL.

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We’ve had so much rain this year that my plants just won’t stop growing!  It must be helping the granddaughters grow too – because they won’t stop growing either!

And the eggs?  We have six peeps that we got in the spring.  We’ve nurtured them through their teenage years and now — they are turning into real hens.  Their first attempts at laying eggs have been a bit meager, but I guess they will improve with maturity.  An egg that is only 1.5 inches doesn’t quite compare to what we are used to.  I’m not even sure how to use that in baking.  Do two baby eggs equal one normal egg?  Hopefully they will get their act together soon and start laying real eggs.

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March – The First Harvest of Spring

Well, Happy First Day of Spring.  It doesn’t matter that it’s going to snow today.  And it doesn’t matter that it’s going to snow even more tomorrow.  If the calendar says its the first day of spring — then it’s time to get things going in the garden.

In an effort to instill a love of gardening in Arianna — we’ve had a tradition every spring.  We plant jelly beans.  For some reason, this only works in early spring up until about Easter time, after that, the jelly beans just don’t seem to sprout.  We water them and then check on them in the morning.

This year, the garden was muddy, and since I have a perfectly good greenhouse just waiting to sprout seeds, it seemed like the perfect match.  We took a selection of good looking jelly bean “seeds” and a few candy speckled eggs, just for good measure and planted them in the flower pots left behind from my herbs last summer.  And it worked — just like every year!

Happy Spring!

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We carefully planted the jelly beans, watered them and waited overnight.
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Looks like she’s happy with her “crop” of lolli-pops that grew overnight!
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Especially the ones that grew from those speckled eggs!
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Happy First Day of Spring!

March – Starting seeds in a snowstorm

Maybe I’m rushing the planting season given that we’re expecting upwards of 16 inches of snow – but it’s not snowing inside my greenhouse and the pepper and tomato seeds need to get started.  I have a laminated chart that I refer to every year and it says to start peppers and tomatoes before March 8th for my growing zone.  So I’m tucked away in my little greenhouse, planting my Italian red peppers, Amish paste tomatoes, Big Boy slicing tomatoes, San Marzano tomatoes, grape cherry tomatoes and yellow pear tomatoes.  The flurries are just starting and it’s warm-ish inside.  In a few more weeks I’ll start the squash, broccoli and loofah sponges.  The loofahs are this year’s experiment – but it will be fun to watch them grow… if spring ever gets here.  I’m done with this snow!

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Starting the peppers and tomatoes because my chart says it’s time even as the flurries are starting.
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And now it is accumulating – they say 16 inches are coming.  Good thing my tiny seeds are warm and cozy inside the greenhouse.

February – Damn Mice

Bruce – you were right — those damn mice moved right in once we insulated the basement.  We’ve kept traps down there, and we would catch a mouse every once in a while – but it didn’t seem like a big deal.  Until now…

I noticed that they are eating my squash!  Damn mice.  They climbed right into my wood crates, chewed holes, and cleaned out the inside of the squash.  Thank goodness they didn’t eaten them all!  I grabbed the rest of my good squash and rushed them to safety in the house.   I scrubbed them good – with soap and water — just in case a mouse had walked over them.  Then I roasted them, pureed then and packed them into freezer bags.  Hah!  No more squash for those damn mice.

Now, I hope the mice will go for the cheese in the traps – given that their supply of squash has been squashed.

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Damn mice!
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This mouse trap will get more action now that all the crates are empty.

December – The Garden by the Numbers

The 2017 garden was a success – the freezer is full to the brim with a rainbow of vegetables – beets, carrots, green beans, squash.  Our shelves are laden with jars of sauce, jams, jellies, pickles, salsas, chutneys and soups.  The wooden crates in the basement are full of potatoes and squash, and the pantry is full of dehydrated tomatoes, herbs, scallions, onions, garlic.

What did we really get out of the garden?  Here it is by the numbers (rounded to the closest pound):

  • Beans                                     25 pounds
  • Beets                                      28 pounds
  • Brussel Sprouts                    3 pounds
  • Carrots                                   11 pounds
  • Cucumbers                            19 pounds
  • Farm Berries (wild)             4 pounds
  • Garlic                                      1 pound
  • Onions                                    2 pounds
  • Peas (shelled)                        3 pounds
  • Peppers, Green                     8 pounds
  • Peppers, Red                         3 pounds
  • Potatoes                                 25 pounds
  • Pumpkins                              8 pounds
  • Squash, Acorn                       9 pounds
  • Squash, Buttercup                7 pounds
  • Squash, Butternut                35 pounds
  • Squash, Spaghetti                 2 pounds
  • Squash, Zucchini                  4 pounds
  • Tomatoes, Amish                  32 pounds
  • Tomatoes, Beefsteak            45 pounds
  • Tomatoes, Cherry                 35 pounds
  • Tomatoes, Zebra                   30 pounds
  • Tomatoes, San Marzano     44 pounds

That’s 380 pounds of produce!  And that’s not counting the salsify that we’ve just begun to harvest, and all the herbs, and the gourds that were just for decoration, and the smattering of raspberries and blueberries.

What do I want to do differently next year?  I think less tomatoes, beets and beans and more garlic (I’ve planted it already!) and onions.  The acorn squash doesn’t seem to hold up well in the “root cellar” but the butternut, buttercup and spaghetti squash are doing great – so I probably won’t do acorn squash.  I would have expected more zucchini, but the plants got some sort of blossom rot and didn’t do much this year – maybe I’ll try that again next year.

There is a coating of snow on the ground now.  All my gardens are blanketed in white, but I gotta go… it’s time to start looking through the seed catalogues for next year!

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Just a few beets for dinner.
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Lots of tomatoes!
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So many cucumbers, but where are they now?

November – Sour Grapes

Our experience with grapes on this property has been a bit sour.  First, we planted some grapes and they died.  Then we planted some grapes, and they are still alive, but there are no grapes.  Then… I found wild grapes!  I figured that was the solution — free, wild and growing profusely.

I picked bunches of these tiny gems, washed them, stemmed them, ran them through the food mill to remove their seeds, and made grape jelly!  I’ve been making jams and jellies for years — I know how to do it.  This batch was a flop.  It wouldn’t set up, so I ended up with tiny jars of grape juice.

Not one to give in to failure, I popped open all those little jars of grape juice and tackled making jelly — again — with even more Sure-Jell.  It still didn’t set.  It’s a little thicker, but still not like jelly; it’s more like grape pudding – which sounds disgusting.  Sour grapes.

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Tiny little grapes.
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Only half a quart of juice, and a batch of jelly that wouldn’t set.  That’s sour grapes.