Category Archives: Gardening

Strawberry fields forever

Fifty strawberries out in the beds a few days ago. You’ll see nothing down the very center of the row: I’ll be putting sunflowers along that line. I have some mammoth gray seed that hopefully the bugs did not get to as it languished int he barn last year to use. Longtime readers of this here blog will have seen those before, towering nine or ten feet above the beds. They are truly impressive (both the longtime readers and the sunflowers, of course).

I cut down some of the cover crop in other rows and threw it into this row to act as a mulching agent. The sides will also be coming off this bed, as with all the others, to make it safe for the kidlets (and sometimes clumsy adults, aka, me, when I slice a finger or hand open on one because I’m not really paying attention).

I have another 25 strawberry crowns that arrived on Friday to put out, but they will go into the next bed (the one with the hoops at the top of the image). We are having a few days of “winter”, which to people in non-southern states might term “fall” or even “spring” because they live in weirdo land where stuff is frozen eight months of the year. I’m waiting for the temps to even out a bit so as to minimize transplant shock, even though strawberries seem not to care all that much. I care, and since it would be me out there in 50 degree temps doing it, what I say goes.

We went with June bearing varieties only in this order, as we like to be able to do the picking and processing all at once for efficiency reasons – because there is enough to pick on a daily basis when the season kicks in without having strawberries be part of that.  I do have some everbearing types still in the rows, so the kidlets – or adults who can eat – will have the chance to find a jewel  here or there and be able to taste a war strawberry, right from the plant.

I’m trying to determine a way to keep the strawberries off the ground that won’t involve spending a fortune on cutesy little plastic bowl type things and that will allow me to remove weeds that pop up. And they do pop up: the weeds had overrun this bed because I’d not gotten down any cover crop in it. Whatever I come up with, I’ll also be putting bird netting over the beds, to stop the birds – who literally have acres of other stuff to eat – from feasting on the berries.

I had the camera rolling while I put these in, but there were no incidents like me lopping off an appendage, so not posting it! All told, according to camera time, it took about half an hour to plant all fifty crowns, pick out the random weeds in the bed, and straighten the irrigation lines from the squirrels and birds walking/hopping through and disturbing the layout.

The above doesn’t look like much, but they now look like they’ve been there forever. Never fear: pics will follow. I didn’t have my phone on me (horrors!) when I was walking through the gardens with all the kidlets that were here the past couple days.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Asparagus

On one fine day, I went to plant, and carried with me six mesh bags,

Full of crowns, just slightly damp, of asparagus, and per their tags,

They were both green and purple, yes, these things exist.

The old ones failed, due to my illnesses, and yet I persist

In tilting at windmills season after season

And must, at times, seem bereft of reason.

 

OK, crappy The Raven homage pounded out in under five minutes aside, I did indeed finish putting out the new asparagus crowns today. I think there was a total of 80, in both green (Jersey) and purple (Pacific). A few of them had already started putting up tiny new stalks while I had them in a bowl, waiting for the weather to get better – we actually reached freezing the other overnight, just briefly. Yesterday,  I did a quarter of them, and today the remainder. The stuff in the row here is cover crop I cut and dropped, to act as mulch.

I worked around the asparagus still in this bed, including this wee asparagus stalk I found forming right at the next 18″ distance from the previous crown I had put in.

This is a purple variety, one of the survivors of two years of neglect while I was having my pneumonia festivities. In a couple of days, it should be big enough to snap off and let someone (mom!) eat it. Yes, we eat (well, they eat) raw asparagus here. Cooked, too, but there’s just something about stuff right out of the garden. Brush off a bit of dirt, and down it goes.

After this, I headed to the back garden to put in snap beans. Pics od that to come.

Tomorrow: 50 strawberry plants to put in beside those survivors, some of which are already putting out fruit. The blueberries started flowering about 10 days ago, so it won’t be wrong before we’re pulling off handfuls of berries from those.

Unless something changes drastically here, we’ve blown past “winter” with, I’d say, probably five overnights where the temps dipped to freeing or below for a significant period of time, and gone right into spring (and even summer, since tomorrow is forecasting a high of 87F).

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Hawking

We have known for awhile now that we have hawks in our area. “Our area” meant somewhere out here in the boonies, and we would occasionally see one flying around, or hear one flying around, as they are quite the chatty cathy birds.

Now, we can say we have hawks, plural, and they must be nesting somewhere very close to us, as we have a visit from one almost every day (and several days ago, I saw two). It/They like to hang around in the trees back by the beeyard. Sometimes, though, they come to the fence by the driveway and hang out for a bit.

I had seen some squirrels running about in the front this morning, and maybe that appealed to this hawk: the opportunity for an easy meal.

Or maybe they were taking a break. Either way, it stayed for quite some time, looking quite stern.

At one point, it hopped off the fence and into the grass.

It examined a clump of weeds I’d pulled out from the berry line along the fence on which it had been sitting. Disappointed that it was just dirt and plant matter, it jumped up back to the fence. A few minutes later, it took off, to go through whatever agenda it had for the day. I don’t think I will ever get tired of seeing the wildlife that has come to the property I have worked so hard to rehab over these years.

After those fifteen minutes with the hawk, the day went right to shit. I didn’t do anything on the list for today, as work beckoned. I got through it, but much of the day was over by then. I did, however, get a few things done: mowed the chicken yard and got their food and water done. Got their tote with sand and DE in it back in the coop so they can do their dust baths. Collected the eggs – we’re consistently getting at least half a dozen a day, and usually seven or eight. We are awash in eggs, and we even gave my accountant a dozen eggs when she came out to do her magic with Quickbooks so we can get my taxes in by March 15 (the filing deadline for biz people like me).

Previously when I’ve planted seed directly, I’ve waited until the entire row in clear of weeds. But last week, i took a chance, and planted green bean seed in the first area I cleared in the back garden. I took a look today, and half a dozen are up. Not bad, and I hope they make it through the weirdness that will be our weather over the next few days.

We’ve been having the best “winter” so far, with only two days below freezing here at the ranch. Tomorrow night through Thursday night, it’s supposed to be in the 30sF, near freezing. I hope it doesn’t, as I’d ate to lose the germination of the first directly sown seeds, but the upside of that is that the seed I’ve put in is cheap and can easily be resown. That “seed is cheap” think is also why I wind up buying a zillion varieties of tomatoes and corn and peppers and such. I refrained from that this year, I’m happy to report, and once I had put in my modest orders to the places from which I get my seed, I trashed all the seed catalogs, so as not to have the temptation in my face.

I still have the beeyard tale to tell, but this is getting long, so I’ll save it for another time. Until that time: be well, peeps.

 

 

 

 

“Violet, You’re turning violet, Violet”

Ah, yes. Violet the gum chewer who did something stupid at Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.

While I might not have a three course meal with blueberry pie in gum form, I do have blueberries here at the ranch. Well, potential blueberries.


One of the blueberry bushes is taller than me.

That’s fine, though. I’ll haul a ladder out to pick them if I have to.

We’ll be awash in berries in the very near future. They freeze extremely well, so we won’t lose any of the harvest. I need to prune these back in the fall. They’ve had a wee bit of lack of management over the past few years, for obvious reasons. The same goes for the blackberries and raspberries: their canes need to be cut back after this season. I also need to run another trellis wire on my posts to train those. one more thing on the todo list!

Speaking of todo lists, I have been putting a dent in mine. I transferred all the “work” work stuff into a journal, and I’m working on getting the other items transferred over.

The only thing on my lists I have not gotten to is the reading. By the time I finish doing the normal daily things and some of the items on the lists, I am dog tired. i’m falling asleep at my desk as I try to get this done, so time to wrap it up. Tomorrow is another day filled with possibility. Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

Spring cleaning

It is not yet spring here, if you go strictly by the calendar. If you go by the weather, however, Mother Nature is telling a far different tale.

This is not to say she won’t change her mind about bypassing winter entirely here. It’s possible she will bring some random freeze and drop it on our doorstep with the same pride a cat has when it brings a dead critter home. Our forecast for the next ten days, in fact, has a random evening with a forecast overnight temperature of 34F. This is mildly concerning to me, as I have directly sowed some things, and if they have germinated and are up, it is possible they could get zapped by a sustained freeze (or even frost, in at least one case).

I’m not going to worry about that, though – I can sow those same seeds again, as they are plentiful and cheap. I sowed them early because that allows me to get them out of the way of when transplant time comes. That’s a very busy time for me, both in the gardens and in the bees. Anything I can knock out of having to do then is a plus.

Right now that means weeding and cleaning out hives that are not in active use. I lost some colonies in 2018, and also have other gear that needs to be cleaned, so I got to it.

Hives to be tidied
Cleanup time!

 

One of the things that happens as you are recovering from a couple of years of constant pneumonia and being in and out of the hospital, and then a year of recovery from that,v is that some things miss the boat as far as getting done. This didn’t rank high on the list, and what happens is that wax moths will move in and start using brood comb for their grossness. I got a late start (in the afternoon, as the rain that was forecast never quite made it) and managed to get three stack done.

As part of that doneness, I picked out some of the larvae so the girls (and Sir) could have some nice extra (live!) protein in their diet.

They loved these. I’m sure I’ll have more for them as I move through the rest of the hives to clean them. The best thing is that when I give them food – this or other food – they transform it into eggs for my family.

The hive cleanup is one of the items on the bees section of attractions on Todo Lake, and while I did not get through all of them today, I got a start, and that is what matters. It isn’t always the doing that is the difficult part. The difficulty is in the starting. Then it’s just a matter of allowing momentum to take over to power through, as many of the things on my list are not things that can be done in one sitting.

Once I get the hives cleaned and the frames and foundation dealt with, I’ll need to repaint a few of these hive bodies. And then, these condos will be ready to be put back into service by some of the new bees I’m getting and from the splits I’m going to have to make from the existing hives, as they continue their population levels. Except for a few packages, the rest are varieties I’ve never had before: Russians, Buckfast, and Carniolan. It is going to be fun learning the traits of these newbees in my beeyard.

The other day, I pulled some weeds in the rear gardens as I continue the race against “No Winter”and schedule my transplants.

One row was infested with lesser swine cress. Nice rosette pattern. Deep taproot, though, so it’s a hard one to get out completely, and if you want it done well, you cannot half-ass it.

Even the baby ones have long roots.

 

Tomorrow – as long as the rain holds off, or at least whatever time I have before it arrives for a visit, I’ll be continuing my bee gear clean up adventure.

That’s it for today, peeps. Until next time:  be well.

Gearing up

Aaaaaannnnnnd we are back. Again.

When I finally got over having pneumonia all the time, I thought, great, now I’ll be able to get stuff done and also start writing. But it didn’t quite turn out that way, thanks to a number of things, one of which is the constant shuffling at the NOC. They’d like it very much if we moved over to Jax2, which is the shiny new area they’ve built out. I’m trying to stop saying “the only problem with that is…” because it sounds rather like I’m valuing problems more than solutions. So, the solution to that would be to physically move all the servers and assorted gear from Jax1 to Jax2. Our racks, the ones we own, cannot go there – we’d be using their racks (for free) and we’d still have a cage to ourselves, just as we do now. We’d remove our racks from the NOC entirely – they would join the ones already in my shed here at the ranch, and would be destined for craigslist, I imagine. The logistics need to be worked out on that.

Circling back to the main point: there are going to be some changes around here. I spent much of 2018 dealing with about a billion things that slipped into Todo Lake while I was busy being sick. That impacted other things, like the bees and the gardens: neither thrived. I also got virtually no writing done.

After this all bled into 2019, I made a decision: either I was going to write – which I’ve wanted to do since I was quite young – or I was not. And if I was not, I was going to stop talking about it and thinking about it, and just go on with the rest of my life. It is not an easy conversation to have with yourself, believe me. But I decided that yes, writing was something I really, really wanted to do: both prose and poetry, the latter of which sustained me through high school boredom.

How do we prioritize writing over everything else I have going on (except the business; that of course has to stay, as it’s what pays the bills)?

By brain dumping absolutely everything that needs to be done in all the non-writing areas of my life, no matter how large or small they are, no matter how much or little time each task will take. And then, going over the lists and knocking out items from Todo Lake. What do those dumps look like? Like this:

This is two pages, just for the biz, of two columns each. I have lists for other areas: bees, chickens, gardens, home. The idea is to run through the lists and start knocking things out: if I run across something that will take five or ten minutes, and I’m in a position to do that something, the goal is to go ahead and do it at the moment, instead of saying “I’ll do it at x time” or allowing that five or so second of decision making pass and allow the chore, whatever it is, to be punted along down the road.

Obviously, not everything will take just a few minutes to do. But if there is something I estimate will take 15 minutes or more, or is a multi-day item (rolling out some administrative scripts to all servers, for instance, would probably be a multi day activity), doing X numbers of servers each day until they are all completed.

I’ve given myself the month of February to cross off as much of this as I can. On March 1, the writing takes priority, regardless of how many items are still floating in Todo Lake. Those will then get done by and by.

There are some things, though, I’ve decided to start early.  One is that I deactivated my primary facebook account over two years ago, and have just a personal facebook profile that now manages my author facebook page (since publishers want you to have a “platform”, ugh) and the biz page. I’ve also kicked myself off my personal twitter account this week: no going on twitter for any reason, including to look at links other people send me.

Two is to post on this here blog every day. I’ve had streaks before, but this particular exercise is to do it regardless of how I feel, what else is going on, if I “don’t have time” (there is usually some kind of block of a few minutes or longer to put something up), or if I don’t have anything in particular to say. Even if I just type in the date and the time, that will be enough. The goal: to simply make sure I can commit to it. After all, writing novels takes that kind of commitment.

Three: read 100 pages of a book every day. Any book, any subject. The goal: to keep up my reading habits. Not terribly difficult, since i love to read. The danger of this is settling in to read and then not stopping to do the other things I want to get done.

Four: meditate for ten minutes a day. The goal: mindfulness and stress relief. The secondary goal for this is to bump that to twice a day. I plan to start small, for five minutes a day to begin, because I know it will take practice to get my brain to stop yammering away when it should be still.

I hope all of you are pursuing whatever it is you want badly to do. Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

Calling the season

It’s official: I’m calling it a season in the gardens.

For the fourth year in a row.

This does not make me happy. On the other hand, in previous years I was going through yet another bout of pneumonia. This year, it was just a sinus infection – but recovering from it took a month and a half. That month and a half is arguably the most important time for the gardens, as it took over May-June. If you get behind right there at the beginning of the real season, it’s likely you will never catch up, and indeed I did not. The plants I’d managed to transplant suffered, the plants I had yet to set out remained in their flats far too long, and the weeds absolutely strangled everything.

So as I looked at the gardens as I mowed today, despite that little voice telling me that yes, I could in fact get that next round of tomatoes planted and have them bear fruit as the calendar season closed out, I realized it simply was not going to happen.

Instead, what I’m going to do is just put the rest of the plants out of their misery and pull them for the compost heap (which, I might add, has a very thick layer of pine shavings and chicken poop on it now). And then: pull the weeds. Go to battle once more with the wisteria, which is well on its way to taking over the entirety of the east to northeastern corner of the front gardens. Take the metal sides off the rows and just have them as regular raised beds. Scoop all the rubber mulch out of the walkways in the gardens (and figure out what the hell to do with it all afterward). Lay down the commercial weedbarrier in the walkways, the same weedbarrier that covers the frames as they are right now, which is effective, although inevitably there will be weeds wherever there are holes in it, like where holes have been cut to do plantings or where the landscape staples puncture it. Get the cover crop seed in place so it can establish before we go into “winter” (I have half a row already germinated and really thick; the buckwheat came up first and has delightful little flowers on its tops.) Check all the grow light fixtures and toss the dead ones, order new ones.

There is more, of course. There is always more. There are still chickens to take care of (and one set to butcher around the first week of October) and bees to maintain. But when the list looks a bit overwhelming, I just take a deep breath and think: one step, then another. It can be done.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Weeds everywhere

And cover crop arrival! 60 pounds of cover crop:

This cover crop consists of: bell beans, vetch, oats, and peas, and I ordered a separate back of buckwheat. This is going into the rows as we pull things out to add biomass/organic matter back to the rows.  If you need cover crop seed, or anything else ag-related, and want a good deal (and fast shipping!) hit up Hearne Seed. They’re terrific, and we’ve never had an issue in all the years we’ve been using them.

I went out and started down one side of a row I weeded last week. While doing that, and looking at the walking aisles, I realized something.

We’re going to have to pull out all that mulch and just go with the commercial grade weedblock. In the picture there is chamberbitter, AKA mimosa weed. It is everywhere – in the aisles, in the beds – and it’s damn hard to get it pulled good to the root in the mulch, Under the mulch is actually some not-commercial landscape weedblock, and these things do not care at all. As I was pulling them, listening to the satisfying rrrrrip  (after I pulled a second time because the first time  the top portion of the stem snapped, grrrr), I realized they had grown their roots right through that not-commercial weedblock, which was part of the issue with the tops snapping off when I pulled.

I saw a homesteader video where some folks put down exactly the commercial stuff I have, and it seems to work really well for them. I was concerned that it might get very hot – it is black, after all – but the woman in the video said she goes out in bare feet on it all the time. They are not in Florida, but this mulch gets really hot anyway, so if it does get really warm, we’ll already be used to it.

I also decided on another major change: taking out the frame on each row and just having a regular raised bed. I decided this for a few reasons, but the main one is: the edges of the metal sides are sharp. I’ve cut myself numerous times, and we can’t let the kidlets in the garden unsupervised while the frames are in there. I think the dirt will all stay where it is – there’s a smaller version of these larger ones behind the asparagus bed, and it’s still there after ten years – mainly because I haven’t shoveled it out of there, since there were still asparagus plants in it. I get the plants out (except one) and into the main asparagus bed, so moving that dirt out is on the fall list of chores.

Speaking of asparagus: it’s in desperate need of weeding (the strawberries, too – they’re just buried in mimosa weed, poor things). I’m the only one who weeds the asparagus, as it’s far too easy to pull an asparagus plant while pulling the weeds.

You can see at the upper center and the left there are asparagus plants completely enveloped by weeds. It takes patience and a sure hand to remove the weeds without uprooting the asparagus. The one at center right is a baby I rescued from the invaders.

This is the asparagus on the left in the previous picture – one of them, I should say. There are several coming up from this little circle.

My sister and I have a deal, and we’ve had it for years: I will pull weeds, because she hates weeding (as any normal person would), and she will bag them up for the yard waste pickup when she’s over at the ranch. I try to make sure she has plenty to do.

There are more piles like this in the north garden. The only problem is that it keeps raining, putting a damper on bagging. We’ll get there, though. Sometimes it all looks so impossible, so disheartening, and I curse getting sick at the most important time of the season. But then I tell myself I couldn’t control that, not really, and now it’s just one step after another after another after another: get it done. And so we will.

Until next time, peeps: be well.