Sunday, August 9, 2020

Wrapping up the week

What absolutely glorious weather we had this week. A mix of gentle rains, sunny yet mild days, and cold (56 degrees!) nights. Completely ridiculous for August. 

The garden is doing great. I’ve had to perform more squash surgeries but am now harvesting mini tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, cabbage, garlic, and tomatillos. I’ve got ears forming on the corn too. The greenhouse tomato plant is starting to ripen but the peppers in there have no flowers or fruit. Not sure why as I know pollinators get in there. The peppers planted in the big garden are fruiting though.

Chris finished a gift for friends who are getting married this fall and began rebuilding the cabinet that will be a window seat in the upstairs studio. The rebuild has been complicated by the fact that someone did some really bad repairs sometime in the past. They used a variety of glues (including hot glue?!) that just destroyed the dovetail tenons. Anyway, his progress means I need to get moving on planning a cushion. I’d like to weave the fabric but am not sure I can get that finished in a timely manner. Gotta give it some thought. I worked a bit on the sleeveless top I’m sewing but mainly maintained the household and garden. That seems to take most of my time in the summer. 

I found a couple of small batch canning/fermenting guides and am excited to give sauerkraut a try. I’ve wanted to do this for a long time but the quantities in most recipes were just crazy. Theses books give instructions for a half gallon or less of most things. Shoot, some of the recipes make just two cups. Awesome!

Sunday, August 2, 2020


Sunday-lightly raining, pleasantly cool, a perfect day to cuddle in and read a good book.

 George agrees

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Big garden update

Always fun to capture a snapshot of the garden progress. Mainly because I always complain that “we’re way behind last year’s development” and the photos always prove me wrong. So much for my memory I guess.

I’ve been battling three-lined potato bugs on my tomatillo plants all summer. I think I’ve finally beaten them though. How? By either squishing the slimy, disgusting slug things or cutting the infested leaf off completely and sealing it in a jar to be thrown away. Cutting off the leaf had the added benefit of getting rid of any eggs. So the plants look pretty healthy, I’ve got a decent number of tomatillos, and I’m hopeful for many more as I’ve got tons of flowers yet.
Three plants but fruit on only one despite flowers on all.

The corn is tasseling and it’s really tall this year. Looks healthy too despite being blown over earlier this spring.
Cucumbers up front, corn behind.

My cucumber trellis is a old bed spring frame. Works great as the gaps are large enough to let the fruit hang down for easier harvest. In the fall, any dry vines still clinging to it are easily burned off. Nice!
Spreading nicely.

The first cuke 

My cabbages were planted too close together. Totally my fault. Just messed up.
Crowded but heading up

I’m once again fighting squash vine borers. I got off my schedule of spraying caterpillar killer and they took full advantage. So I’m reduced to performing vine surgery to remove the disgusting things. On the plus side the chickens love them.
Yes, this is post surgery. Ugly but alive,

Despite the vines looking terrible, the plants are thriving. I’m getting lots of zucchini.
They are also putting in new roots so all may be well.

The potato tower is doing well. No bugs, the plants put out flowers, and the leaves are dying back. I’ll be harvesting the top layer soon.
 My potato tower

All the tomato plants are doing well, although I am seeing signs of blight on the lower leaves. I trimmed all those back and we’ll see how they do with the increased air flow. 

I planted many pepper plants. Sweet, mild, hot, extremely hot; they’re all mixed in there. Getting some flowers but no fruit yet.
Sea of peppers

The sunflowers look great. I lost two so have two bare posts but the rest are growing like crazy.

Another shot of the corn field plus two more tomato plants 

My weeping mulberry is looking a bit tall. This was just before we tied water bottles to the branches to train them to droop. I’m getting berries but not enough to harvest at one time. Instead I knocked some off for the chickens. Unfortunately they quickly learned to grab a low branch and jerk it to knock them down on their own. Argh.

Mulberry before training aids were added

More sunflowers, Veronica, and Cooper (and the tall mulberry)

Cherry tomato 

Large cherry tomato? Gotta look this one up in the journal.

The kitchen herb garden is doing great. The adjusted location gets much more direct sunlight. Back row, left to right: cilantro, lemon verbena, parsley. Middle row is basil and lettuce. Front is young chamomile.

I planted a bunch of flowers in one quadrant because they’re pretty. No other reason needed.

I’ve got mammoth dill and frond dill growing in the back right corner, plus marjoram, spicy oregano, thyme, and regular oregano.

That’s pretty much everything. Not pictured was the kohlrabi (almost all harvested now), the carrots (doing well), and the garlic (nearly ready for harvest). 

Hope your gardens are doing well too!

Monday, July 27, 2020

Broadfork, greenhouse, and corn tassels

Chris made me a broadfork! In case you’re unfamiliar, a broadfork is used to break up and aerate soil without actually tilling it. 

Given that “real” broadforks cost way more money than we want to spend, Chris decided to construct one. He took the handles off a broken hand-truck, the tines from a small York rake, and the bar from same. The tines were arched and about an inch wide, too wide to easily cut through the soil. So he was going to cut them into more of a blade until he hit on the idea of twisting them. So out came the mini-forge, the anvil, and the torch. 

Bar and frame from rake

Heating the bar for twisting

Before and after

Once he got it all welded and bolted together I gave it a try.

Before pushing into soil

Tines buried, cat helping

Pulling back to lift
Admittedly, I put it onto fairly light soil, but it worked a treat. I think it’ll be great this fall in the garden.

My corn is looking awesome and I’ve actually got some tasseling. It’s nearly over my head already.

Look closely for the tassel
The greenhouse tomatoes and peppers are growing well. No flowers on the peppers yet, which surprises me. The cherry tomatoes are fruiting and climbing like crazy. I’m training them to the trellis but am not sure the fruit will dangle. It seems to want to head upward. We’ll see.

Tying to the frame
My zucchini plants are now producing full size zukes and we’re getting creative with our use. Chris even made zucchini spears on his own (this is a big deal-he doesn’t usually cook). Just cut zucchini into spears, coat with egg, dredge in seasoned Parmesan, and bake for 20 minutes or so. Came out great.
Good use of that zucchini glut

I’ve got to get out there and take a full photo spread of the gardens. It’s nice to have pictures to support your recollection of what the space was doing. Maybe tomorrow morning during my weeding time.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Carl the Randy Rooster

This is my third flock of chickens, but my first experience with a rooster. I had no idea the shenanigans he would get up to. Nor did I know how quickly he’d start them.
The culprit 
He’s only 15 weeks old. 15! And yet he’s already grabbing the girls neck feathers and trying to mount them. They, also being only 15 weeks old, want no part of this. So they scream. Loudly. The first time I thought a fox had got one. Nope; just Carl.

Oddly, he makes zero effort to woo the older hens that would be all too willing to entertain a strong young stud. At least I assume they’d be willing as they squat and quiver at the least encouragement. Basically, wave a hand over one and she’ll assume the position. Maybe they intimidate him?

I’ve requested a Storey’s book on chicken raising from my library. Hopefully it’ll provide some insights.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

The upstairs railing

We installed a temporary safety railing between what was originally the loft room and stairwell when we first built the house. It stayed that way for a few years until we installed the hardwood flooring at which point we took it down and, um, never bothered to put it back up. Ahem. Please note we don’t have kids! And despite my SIL’s fears, we never wandered off to fall to our deaths during the night.

Anyway. It was finally time to install a permanent railing. Just as with the bottom stairwell wall we used a mix of woods and painted goat panels. Cherry for the end posts with a satin poly finish; semi-solid black stain on the two pine posts and the ash framing; burned ash for the cap (literally burned-we used a propane torch on it). All of the wood came from the original logging of the property. So cool.
Cherry with black resin filled stress lines

Framing installed


It’s hard to see the ash cap. It’s got a live edge and looks great in person. I’ll try for a better photo.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

A Tale of Two Flocks

The big day. A day of portent. A day of trepidation. A day that was surprisingly anticlimactic.

Shortly after Carl announced the coming sunrise (he misses by a good 20 minutes each day. And he’s always early), I scooted up to the coop to let out all the birds. I’d put up a divider and netting so that the old flock could see the new girls but no one could actually interact. That was a full month ago and it was finally time to merge the groups.

I’d done a bit of reading and several people suggested having a good distraction when the two flocks first meet. I figured sunflower seeds would work and scattered a generous helping around the pasture in front of the gate.
Enjoying a feast
It worked well. They all ate and pretty much ignored each other. At least until Carl (barred rock) met Tso (small black sex-linked). A wee bit of chest bumping and Carl retreated. 

Carl and Tso face off
A few more scuffles as the seeds disappeared and then everyone went their own way.
Just before spreading out
Really, it was super calm. Bunty chased a few pullets around the pasture but everyone else just got on with chicken stuff. 

I kept an eye on them throughout the day, letting the old flock out of the pasture to free range while keeping the youngsters inside; closing the oldsters back in so they could get to the nest boxes; just making sure everything was okay. And eventually watching everyone go in to roost at night. The babies are still sitting on the interior pop door stoop rather than using roosts which only matters as that totally blocks the door. Bunty had to force her way through them to get to the roost. Chickens scattering everywhere! Inside! Off the ladder! But it calmed back down, the other ladies made it inside, and all is secured for the night. 

We’ll see how they all do in the morning. I’ve left a bowl of food out in the run and the feed tube in the coop is full as well so they’ll have multiple places to break their fast. Hopefully that’ll keep things calm until I get out there to open up the exterior pop door.