Did I hold?

So….the last time I graced you with my presence, I had been talking about doing some limited gardening this year, to give my raised beds and myself a break.

To be fair, that’s how it started. I got some seed started in flats under the lights in the barn.

Things just snowballed from there. As long as I was growing x, I reasoned, I could just as easily go ahead and grow y as well. So I direct sowed carrot and radishes and cukes and sunflowers and okra and green beans and lima beans and sweet potatoes .  I stuck garlic cloves into dirt  in a window sill planter and put it in the barn under the grow lights. Before I knew it, I had a fully fledged garden operation going. Again.

And while I was at it, I thought, we should get some more meat birds so we could run them in and out before it got brutally hot. Once summer hits, it’s no fun raising meat birds. They’re hot, you’re hot, nobody’s happy.

So we did. I ordered 25 cornish cross chicks.  We lost one the first day, one the next, and I put the other 23 out in the chicken tractor as soon as I could. One of those vanished into thin air, perhaps in the jaws of a rather persistent red fox that’s been visiting the ranch, so at the moment, I have 22 tiny dinosaurs who don’t do much other than eat, sleep, and poop out on pasture.

Then, something got into the main  chicken yard and killed all but one of my laying hens – most likely a raccoon, since one was missing a head and raccoons do like chicken heads. That left one lonely chicken I’ve named Bernice. Despite my mother saying no more laying hens, I ordered six new baby layers. They arrived just before I was able to set the meaties out on pasture. Picture 32 chicks, peeping constantly except when they were sleeping, in your garage.  Now just he six layer chicks are out there, and foremost on my mind at this  very moment is looking for scrap wood tomorrow so I can throw together a small chicken tractor and get them outside –  but still have extra protection, as there’s a red-shouldered hawk that likes to hang out in the trees near the chicken yard, and a not-yet ready layer would fit in its talons nicely. The evening temps should also not be in the 50s again after tonight, although with the weirdo weather we’ve been having, I’ll have to have a contingency plan, just in case.

Two days ago, I got in on a bulk order of vanilla beans, which at retail and even some bulk places is worth more than gold right now. I put dibs on 20 ounces of Indonesian Grade A beans at $12/ounce, and if you know anything about vanilla, you know that is a major deal.

Then I lost my mind and wondered if we could grow vanilla here. It’s hot, it’s humid – those are the kind of conditions it prefers. o I ordered a 9″ vanilla orchid cutting to cultivate here. In the “winter” and spring, when it isn’t very humid during the day and the evenings can dip under 50F, I can either put it in the barn, or (more likely) I can build a small greenhouse for it. It requires hand pollination in the very small window of opportunity it presents flowers. Because what’s one more thing to add to the mix here?

I have four pots of bamboo I’m cultivating so in the future I can harvest and use it for projects around the ranch. I have a meyer lemon, ponderosa lemon, persian lime, and a fig tree in pots on my driveway.

There’s a wisteria in the front garden that acts like it was the star of The Blob. It has swallowed and killed half the blackberries along the fenceline, and is trying to move in on the blueberries (which are taking forever to ripen because of the weird weather).

I put 50 strawberry plants in amongst the asaparagus. There are at least 25 more coming, and I think around 30 more asparagus roots as well. The grapes on the western side of the north garden are beginning to fruit, and it’s a race to see who will get them first: disease, birds, or us.

I now have 12 hives in the beeyard, with one split trying to make a queen. For the first time in a couple of years, we’ll have honey to process again.  I designed an inner cover with ventilation and a place for a feeding jar for new colonies so I don’t have to put feeders at the front of the hives, which can often put a hive at risk for robbing. This way, the feeder is safely inside, covered by an empty hive body, bu the bees cannot get up into the empty space to draw comb that winds up being a pain. Several of the hives are new, and the queens in those hive are absolutely slamming it – if they don’t produce enough honey for m to take some off after the current nectar flow dries up, they’ll surely have some for the fall flow.

As for me: I’ve been out exactly three times since the first week in March. Two of those were to the post office to pick up birds and bees. One was to the NOC. This is not something I particularly mind, as I’d rather be home (although I do kind of miss wandering around the garden center at the two major hardware big box stores).

I hope all of you are well and not going stir crazy from quarantines.

Until next time, peeps: be well. Stay safe.

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