Thursday, May 13, 2010

Mulching, Planting, Strawberries!


You should know that a couple of weeks ago I had a discussion with Michael, where I was pretty much ready to quit this huge garden endeavor. I wanted to forget about it, and not try to bring in a big harvest, but just be satisfied with a small garden to get a few things from. Michael actually pushed for the larger garden. He likes the work, enjoys the food, and is looking forward to learning more, doing more, and hopefully being able to sell things at Farmers Markets. So we are sort of cheering each other on through this very busy garden building time.

We are SO proud of this path! The side of that bed is about 18 inches high, and that USED to be right next to the peas, covered in lots of weeds! I hope it stays put fairly well once we get it mulched. I expect some erosion, I've done raised beds before, but never on a hill, so I hope it doesn't turn around and bite me.

First thing after morning chores, we planted melons.

We worked in some holes into the lowest bed that we had mulched.

And labeled 5 different watermelon plantings.

Then it was off to get more rotten hay. Michael does most of this, as I have to avoid the poison ivy.

Which means that in between helping him, I get to find more lovely things to photograph!

Including him.

He's listening to Bible study lessons that he enjoys.

After many trips, and battling an embedded nest of very angry ants in the third round bale we found, we had enough to cover 5 beds.

We also planted the next melon bed toward the house with a variety of muskmelons, including an old fashioned Banana melon.

We were pretty tired - seems to be a theme of ours lately, and we still had office cleaning to do that night.

I thought - HA! - that I could quickly shower and wash my hair while Michael went out and picked a few berries and we might still make it to part of our Bible study first, though.

By the time I was out and ready to go, Michael was nowhere to be found. I saw a bowl of berries in the kitchen, I called inside, I called outside, I went to all the windows and looked in every direction.

Finally, his iPod laden head popped up beyond the tool shed. He was STILL picking berries!

Poor guy. I sent my exhausted child - well, young adult, really - on what I thought was a 10 minute chore, and it turned out to be an hour, while I was enjoying a nice shower! Needless to say, I went out and helped him finish.

Here are 3 gallons of sweet labor. We did not make it to Bible study.

He still loves me. LOL



Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Beds 10 through 12 - of 24?


Yeah, I'm not sure we're going to make it, but we are going to give it a shot.

We waited on so many things with this garden. Here it is, halfway through May, and we've got very little planted.

What we DO have is a good start on some permanent raised beds. Even if we don't get them all planted this year, they will be ready next spring, with hopefully NOT much work to do. I'm really looking forward to a spring that we are not tied to working the earth as much as we have been for the last two years.

The hope is that the hay will be mulched thickly enough to prevent weeds, even from the seeds that will be IN the mulch itself. If not, we are in the same boat anyhow, so it's worth the try.

Here is the first bed we mulched with hay, the lowest future melon bed, which we hope to seed tomorrow.

This is laid down at least 6 inches thick, and it's partially decomposed already.

I found my summer squash being attacked by mangey little striped beetles, which I picked off and squished in my fingers. I didn't used to do that, but the harder I work on this, the more vicious I become in protecting it.

And here is the area we needed to work on for the last three beds on the first side.

This has a really bad area right above the peas. The dirt was turned over, toward the downhill direction, leaving us with a sharp bank heading straight into the pea bed. I was not sure how we were going to level it all out.

But I left Michael manning the rototiller...

... and I went on a walkabout down the meadow way to where we'd been hunting for rotten hay bales the neighbor said we could have.

I was dying to get some photos of this flourish of wild daisies we'd traveled through.

Ooooooooh, look at these!

Here are some of the places we picked up hay from where he'd stored some bales.

And tucked back under the trees and a wild grape vine...

...was this wonderful find!

I hope we can get a chance to eat these grapes. Usually they are so high up in the trees you can't get to them.

We are so blessed to live by this meadow. Can't see the house from here.

Some sort of fiery weed.

A vivid red clover blossom.

Heading back home.

Michael getting his shoes back on after going in for his drink igloo.

While pulling a few weeds I found these sweet potato surprises! They must have very prolific roots, because these were a good 8 feet uphill from where they had been last year. I haven't decided whether to leave them, pull them, or move them, so they are still down there.

We decided to really make the garden straight and neat, so we marked it with string and recut the top border in a straight line to till it in. It was a lot of work, but we are so glad we did it.

Then we needed a shovel. We'd been working with only one shovel, and trying to make do with a spade and a trencher, but our backs have been screaming for weeks. So we took a trip into town to buy a super-duper shovel, and we also invested in a super-duper lopper. We are really going to be blessed by this! Every year I struggle with loppers that barely cut. Now we are set!

Ready to get back at it?


There is a very naughty dog on the end of that chain. Twice he has been caught laying on top of our summer squash seedlings. He's going to be kept from the garden until they are much bigger. He gets to be tied up where ever we are working outside so he doesn't feel lonely.

Three beds marked out and digging begun.

All done.

And look at that beautiful straight top, where we plan on placing the cold frames.


Tomorrow we hope to mulch all the beds we've done so far. Then we can call the garden beds half done.



Melon Beds and Eggplant


After a really nice Mother's Day with my parents on Sunday where I was finally able to give Mom that orchid we'd bought her, visited for a few hours, and ate a meal I cooked over there, Monday was another great work day.

It was nice and cool. Boy have I missed having cool spring days for working. Seems like we went straight from winter to summer.

We won't be able to have as many melon plants as last year but, seeing as we didn't get more than a couple of melons to eat due to the fusarium wilt, having even a few successful vines will be a big success.

We worked on the lowest two beds left at the bottom of the first side of the garden. We made them wider to accommodate larger plants. I suppose the are each about 5 feet wide.

I could not wait any longer to plant the eggplants. They were beginning to struggle in their little pots, and the flea beetles had found them on the front porch anyhow, so in they went, with lots of newspaper mulch and rocks to hold it down.

The smaller peppers are not really thriving. Maybe they need more water. I'm hoping for a local thunderstorm to hit us on Wednesday and eliminate the need to drag a hose, but we'll see.

And it's time to begin tying up tomatoes!

We left to visit friends for a little bit before Michael's gymnastics class. They gave us some scrap wood. But my plan to bring it home in the minivan was overridden by the fact that there was so much beautiful wood to bring home. They loaded it in their truck and brought it out to our place after his class.

I'm really excited about this, as now I have wood to build cold frames!

And Michael's class had a nice surprise. There were two other boys there. I hope they return.



Monday, May 10, 2010

Barn Dance


I thought I'd share some photos of the barn that our friends put a lot of work into. On the outside it looks like so many of the older barns in this area that are still in use.

When they bought this acreage to build their home, it was pretty much bare, except for this barn, which was almost invisible behind trees and forest undergrowth. It took a lot of clearing to get it visible and usable.

The last time we had a barn dance here we had cleared off the new cement floor and enjoyed a New Years Day dance. But this time was going to be different because we were going to be dancing on the new second floor.

Nice lighting for work below now.

And this was an added bonus. To make room for a future car lift, the ceiling is raised here. What do you do with that?

Build a stage, of course! Right in your barn!

Let's head up the stairs and have a look.

Minnie greets you as you enter.

After a few lights are added for sparkle, here is stage!

We spent a couple of hours hanging lights, sweeping, arranging chairs and tables, and doing other preliminary stuff.

The cool 'found' antiques added so much character to this wonderful place.

So on Saturday, we spent a bit of time just resting and enjoying our Shabbat before I make a few dishes to take to the dance.

The crock pot of jalepeno cheese dip and chips was popular last time, so I made that again.

I need to use up the gooseberries in the freezer because gooseberry season is going to be on top of us before we know it.

Here's a nice tart gooseberry recipe that I used. I was wishing I'd taken the time to show the recipe on here, as the directions on this sheet leave something to be desired for beginner bakers.


Then we also got out a huge bag of last year's blackberries and made this triple batch of blackberry cobbler. I used a recipe already posted in this blog last year which you can likely find by clicking on the tags for blackberries or recipes.

While it was baking, I picked a vase full of wildflowers and herbs to take and decorate the table.

I knew the cobbler would take longer to bake, but I did not anticipate a 2 and a half hour baking time. So we were running a little late by the time we got out there to set up that evening.

We enjoyed the drive anyway.

I have to almost pinch myself whenever I go outside. We live in such a beautiful area.

We hurriedly set up.

And Minnie was placed at the top of the stairs to say hello. Apparently you either love or hate Minnie. I love Minnie down here at the barn. I think she fits right in!

Soon, the rest began arriving. And I was so amazed by this barn, I wanted to catch the looks on their faces when they saw it too.

The tables were now utterly laden with good eats, and the music began. Several of our good friends were not able to make this dance, and we missed them. But we met new friends and enjoyed them very much.

The day was mild, and the night grew a little cool, but we were pretty comfortable when dancing or had a blanket over our laps. Perfect.

The lighting was very difficult to photograph with, and most of the shots came out very dark, especially those in dark clothing are barely visible. But here are a few scenes as the night wore on.

We even tried a little dancing on the stage.

Some live music.

Dueling violins.

Lots of eating and a little resting.

A game of musical chairs.

The last two, scrambling for the chair. The gentleman did not battle too ferociously.

Then the young adults came up with double couples waltzing. It was a little stuttered at first, but turned into something beautiful.

Then it turned into something hilarious because, I think for the first time ever we had more boys than girls, two other young men decided to cut in. Then it became a battle of repeated cut ins.

Lots of laughter as they continued to switch partners throughout the long waltz.

We had the most rambunctious dance of the Broom Waltz I've ever seen. I would have taken pictures, except I was in it. Like one young man said, it less like a dance and more like a full contact sport as the guys vied for dance partners.

Some taking breaks and staying cozy.

Thanks so much for the fun evening! Ya'll come back now, hear?