Thursday, June 25, 2015

Mid-June Garden Update

 So, it's 102 degrees lately.  The weather went from cool and rainy in May to hotter than jalapenos in June.  It's not the greatest to plant all the starts we grew from seed, but we had no other choice.  The plants all slumped in shock, but they are looking a little better today.  I'm just glad everything is planted.  The week of hardening off the starts is like trying to feed a new baby- except the plants don't audibly cry when it's time to take them out of the sun.
 Everything still looks so small, but I hope in a month, I'll be able to show you all some tremendous progress.

Oh!  Remember those peas and cold weather crops we planted in the warm of St. Patrick's Day for good luck?  Here's that bed:
 The peas are done.  They've had it with the heat.  The spinach all bolted.  The lettuce is all bitter.  So, it's time to clear them out and make way for other plants.  That was my project today.  I'm planning on cooking the bitter greens to see if they all loose the bitterness like it is rumored that they will.  I'll let you know how that goes in a later post.

We put red plastic mulch down on our tomato bed this year as an experiment.  It's supposed to trap moisture in the soil, produce more fruit because of the spectrum of light it reflects on the plants, and help control weeds.  We shall see.  We are also trying an experiment I saw on a blog that I follow.  We planted the tomatoes with a banana peel at the bottom of the hole and a sprinkle of powdered milk.  I felt really weird doing it, but if it will make my plants happier, I'm willing to give them all the help they can get.
That's it for now.  How's your garden growing?

What To Do When You Find A Baby Bunny In Your Garden

Baby bunnies are definitely nature's most adorable garden pest.  My heart melted when we found this little guy hopping around in our fenced-in garden, cozying up in our strawberry patch.  I almost made him a permanent bed and let him stay, but something inside me urged me against that thought. 

You may remember Peter Rabbit and his run-in with Mr. McGregor.  He was destined for dinner, but that lucky bunny escaped his fate.  As much as Farmer McGregor wanted some rabbit dinner, I wanted to feed and raise this sweet tiny fluffball.  Believe me, those cute dark eyes...
 tiny feet...
  ...and little long ears have that effect on you. 

Despite my daughters' and my initial heart-ties to "Little Hop" (that's what I named him), I knew my garden would not fare well with this little guy around.  We had to do something with him.  But what exactly? 

I did some internet research and got my answer.  I thought there may be someone out there that would benefit from the simple facts that I found, so I'll share the two I found most helpful.

  1. If you must touch it, use gloves and wash your hands thoroughly after.  They can transmit disease to humans.
  2. Although tiny, baby bunnies are on their own after 3 weeks, and they do not need your help.  If he is fully furred, eyes open, ears erect, can hop, and is about the size of a chipmunk, he's ready for the big world.

Those facts helped me introduce Little Hop away from our garden and still feel like I didn't just steal him from his mother and send him off to die.  It was his time to grow up, explore the world, discover rabbit life, and be free- away from my garden. 

I'm not gonna lie, the next morning I was hoping to find Little Hop back in the strawberries.  I woke up and peeked out the back window to discover my7 year old daughter out there already, with her gloves on, searching the strawberry bed, and then scanning the farmers field behind our property for the little guy.  But to no avail.  He wasn't there, and that's for the best.

Follow this link for more advice on What to Do About Wild Rabbits.

Tuesday Garden Party

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Our wild west bunny

Yesterday, we found a baby bunny in our strawberry patch. First we tried to take pictures of it while it was still in the patch, then we stuck it in a box and we took more photos of it. She kept licking her paws and staring up at us. She was shaking like crazy the first 5 minutes in the box, then she calmed down. We held her with thick gloves on. Then we set her free.
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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Chapter 2: No Water, No Fittings, No Time

Click here for Chapter 1 in case you missed it.

With no time to waste, my dad and I went to find proper fittings in our small town hardware stores.  It was no real surprise that there were no brass compression fittings for pex pipe to be found at either store near here.  In the car and desperate, I called a Lowe's 1/2 an hour away and they were confident that they had what we needed.  Dinnertime was upon us, and there was no water to the house and I had a family to feed, so I called my hubby and while my dad and I drove home, he gathered everyone together so we could all go out to eat and go to the hardware store 1/2 an hour away.  We used scrap wood from around our yard to somewhat cover the huge hole and then prayed that no stray dogs or curious kids would venture over to it.  Then we were off.

We were sweaty, dirty from hair folicle to toe nail, tired, and hungry.  When we got to town, we pulled into a BBQ fast food place to wash up (sorta), use the restroom, and eat dinner.  The meal was satisfying, and it was relieving to have water to use again.

We ate quickly then got a move on.  My step-mom stayed in the car with the kids while my hubby, my dad, and I ventured to the plumbing department in Lowes.  We didn't see what we were looking for.  I paged someone who could help us and the store employee couldn't find what we were looking for either, but he was sure that the push fittings that he had for pex pipe would be all we needed.  Skeptical, but at the end of our rope, we spent $50 on push fittings and supplies to get the job done, and headed home.

The goal was now to just get the plumbing in place so we could turn the water back on to the house.

My dad powered through his fatigue and using our new supplies, he successfully T-ed off our water line and got water flowing back into our house, no leaks, and just in time as the last rays of sunshine graced the earth.

Waterline repaired.
We said our goodbyes to my dad, stepmom, and my nephew who came to play with cousins, and thanked the Lord we would get to take a shower that night and rest well, well, sorta well, as well as you can sleep knowing there is a giant hole in your front yard and your main water line is still exposed.  Plus, there was a lot of rain forcasted.  We put scrap wood over the hole and covered it with a tarp and put rocks along the edge to keep it from blowing away.
The recent rain created a personal pond between our yard and the neighbor's house.
The next day was Sunday, and while my family was at church, my dad left a message on my phone. I noticed it and could tell that something wasn't right.  I dialed the voicemail and listened:
"Hey Lani.  Um.  Hey, I got to talking to Darl (his plumber nieghbor), and he was saying... well... you might want to find out from the city... you see, he says pex pipe is not approved for burial underground.  Anyway, talk to you later.  Love you.  Bye."
Pex isn't approved for underground!  What the heck was my plumber doing when we built this house 5 years ago? Why didn't the building inspector catch that huge mistake?  Am I going to have to dig up the entire waterline now and get it fully replaced?  How much is that going to cost?   How long will we be without water?  Oh dear me.

To be continued...

Sunshine, Blooms, Hardening, and Plans

After such a lovely, wet May, it got hot in a hurry.  My spinach is bolting, the weeds are thriving, and the perennials out front are showing off!
The perennials have spread to both sides of the pathway, and the ones that are growing in the rocks, that never get watered, and get to compete with a lot more weeds, are the biggest, fullest blooms we have.  Go figure.
This morning, we took most of our starts outside to start hardening off in the shade for a couple hours. They took it really well.  Now I've got to start preparing the garden beds for their arrival!
Our starts have been housed under lights in the garage.  Our peppers are still there.  I'm going to wait another week before I get those hardening off.  I didn't have any luck with peppers last year that I directly sowed, so I'm hoping that by giving them a headstart under lights I'll actually get some peppers!
I'm looking forward to making lots and lots of salsa this summer/fall because it's so yummy and once a jar is opened, it goes fast. I can eat an entire pint jar by myself in 2 sittings. 

My garden plans for the next week:
-Repair sprinkler lines
-Prepare garden beds
-Stay on top of hardening off the starts
-Plant the pots with flowers

That's what's happening today around our garden.  What are you working on around your homestead?

Tuesday Garden Party 
The Gathering Spot
Tuesdays with a Twist

Friday, June 5, 2015

Growing Under Cover

I lifted the white "harvest guard" blanket a week after I had covered my veggies with it, and was shocked to see the glory my plants had transformed into.  These plants had a rough start to life.  We planted on St. Patty's day back in March for good luck, then the hammers fell.  We had a crazy snow storm, a dry and windy spring break, and a rabbit bandit in April.  I ordered a harvest guard and hoops online, then I replanted some spinach, radishes, and lettuces, as it appeared we had hardly any that survived in April.  Then in May, a harsh hail storm woke the entire house up at midnight.  The next morning I saw that it had ripped holes through the leaves and tore everything up.  All the plants were drooping.  It was the day after the hail storm that I got the harvest guard and blanketed my sad looking sprouts.   They had been through enough, and I wanted to protect them from any more craziness. 
Well, another rainy week went by, the sun finally came out, and as I pulled back the blanket, I could see my peas had doubled in size and were getting flowers.  In fact, everything had doubled in size with the harvest guard.
Then this week, with the introduction of the sudden heat, I removed the blanket from the veggie patch, and I'm glad I did.  As I lifted it, it was really warm under there, which is not the greatest thing for cool weather lettuces (they turn bitter).  I've harvested a nice bowlful of spinach and a few lettuce leaves.  The spinach is so flavorful!  The lettuce was a bit strong, not quite bitter, but not mild either.  The Italian flat leaf parsley is the best parsley I've tasted, so fresh and herby, and even better flavor than store bought.

So, there's been a lot of growing under cover.  Next year, I'm going to blanket those veggies from the get-go.  And as for "lucky" planting on St. Patty's Day in March, it appears these peas are still alive after all the havoc they went through.
Tuesday Garden Party 
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Tuesdays with a Twist

Asparagus Hunting

Where we live, asparagus grows wild along the fence lines of farmers' fields.   I love asparagus, but I don't love paying $3-4 per bundle at the grocery store.  A few years ago, my old neighbors and good friends who are natives to this area, showed me what to look for and how to find wild asparagus growing.  On my occasional walks, I'll go and look for some asparagus, and usually I find a sprig or two, if it's in season, but usually it's mostly already picked off.  Apparently, picking wild asparagus is no secret.

One day when my eldest was at Activity Days at church, I took my youngest out to hunt for asparagus.  She had already gotten dressed in her pajamas for the evening, but she jumped at the chance to go for a ride for an hour while we waited to pick up my other daughter. 
This is what memories are made of.  We drove together down the rural streets, keeping our eyes peeled for the "fronds" from last year's asparagus.  When we'd find some, I'd pull the van over, she'd hop out and investigate, and usually return with a sprig or two or three or maybe even four or five if we were lucky.
I love the unrestrained enthusiasm my daughter gets from things that grow.  Watching her harvest things from the garden and seeing the joy she gets from it truly lifts my heart and inspires me to garden.

In a little less than an hour, we visited probably 10 asparagus plants and came home with a handful of fresh, wild sprigs.  Not bad numbers, but truly we came home with a lot more than that.  We came home with "hunting" experience and fun memories to boot!  

Incidentally, we had so much fun hunting that we had to get the entire family involved, so a week later, we set out for a 20 minute detour from one of the errands we were running, and hunted asparagus as a family.  We came home with another handful, which we washed up, put in a plastic bag and stuck in the fridge until I was ready to use it.  I love to make roasted asparagus with a little olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper.  My kids prefer chomping into it raw, and except the somewhat bitter tips, it tastes a lot like sugar snap peas.

Tuesday Garden Party 
The Gathering Spot
Tuesdays with a Twist