Homestead News, Volume 7

There is not a lot going on here right now, just a little bit of this and a little bit of that. We have told you about many of our latest activities, so we thought we would give you a run down of our general, everyday homestead life. I waited until evening chores with the sun going down to take the pictures for this article. Just as we were wrapping up and I was going to take the last pictures of the pigs, the camera batteries died.

And speaking of pigs, our American Guinea Hogs are doing very well. They are pretty friendly, and now come running anytime they here one of us holler, “Come on pigs!” They know that means we are carrying a bucket with something good to eat. The contents of the bucket tend to vary

widely depending on what we’re harvesting from the garden, whether we have whey from making cheese, or just getting rid of some older staples that have sat on the shelf for too long. I’m starting to eye the barrows and think of the future meat and lard they will provide. We really look forward to butchering one of them so we can see how they taste. Lance, the boar, and Liberty, the gilt, like to greet me in the morning with mud on their noses. They have become very adept at putting a nice big nose print smear on my jeans, especially if I have just put on a clean pair. I like to think they are just bumping me with their nose in greeting and not wiping their faces. What is it about pigs and shoes? Why does Lance think he needs to taste or try to bite my shoe when I go in there?

One Stripe. See it right there on her side?

We have been putting two of our does, One Stripe and Cricket, in the ‘boys’ pasture during the day for about a week. Cricket has fully recovered from the scours she had earlier in the month which prevented us from trying this a few weeks ago. Our temperatures have hovered just under or over 100* for a couple of weeks now, and we think that has, and will, prevent them from breeding. We had hopes for them to breed in July for December babies and a winter milk supply, but I just don’t think that will happen. Next year I will breed two does in May for October babies. That will require the does to breed not long after they kid, but then we should be on a more even cycle of once a year again. We will see. It is a real challenge to keep ourselves in milk year round, but continues to be an important goal.

 

We are still picking tomatoes, green beans and cowpeas from the garden. The last of the squash plants have succumbed to the squash bugs, and I have already replanted a few hills. The pepper plants are finally growing well and starting to produce. I will pick a few jalapenos next week to make salsa. Tomatoes are filling up my crispers in the frig awaiting enough company to can salsa for the pantry shelves. We have been out for a while and have missed it. We eat a lot more salsa than canned tomatoes, so it will take first place in the canning process.

 

The cucumbers are gradually growing and starting to bloom quite a bit. There aren’t many plants so I don’t know how many pickles we can make. I’d like to ferment them, so it may be in individual jars. I’m just not sure how well they will keep on the pantry shelves. I’m still hesitant to leave them there instead of refrigerated. We only have one refrigerator, and no other cold storage for jars of fermented food, so I just don’t know what to do. I’ve read that fermented veges will be fine on the shelf after they complete the fermenting process, but I don’t trust that practice yet. Any advice you may have for me would be appreciated.

 

In our efforts to clear the weeds and grass from parts of the garden for fall crops, Frank used the disc on the tractor (like we showed you in a previous post). Well, today we went out to work on it again and Frank got a great idea. Instead of raking and removing the dead grass, he scraped it all together with the bucket on the tractor. It made quick work in the hot sun, instead of using a rake and wagon. That was one of those time and body saving ideas that really paid off. Now after one more session with the disc, the ground will be ready to plant. 

Work on the greenhouse and other slated projects will resume before long when our one man crew returns from vacation. Frank’s list of things he wants to complete grows a few more items from time to time.

I continue to do contract work for the school district we both retired from, and with school starting before long, I will be more involved in that process than I have been for the past few months. I will be attending training on a new computer program that the state of Oklahoma is adopting, then spend a day at the school training the teachers how to use it as well.

Frank’s Ham Radio & Survival Communications class is going very well. They have two more weeks of class before some of the members will be testing for their ham radio licenses. The local county emergency management office has arranged for Volunteer Examiners to come to the class location to administer the tests instead of the students having to go 60 miles to another testing session being offered by an area radio club. This is the first time the local Volunteer Examiners have administered a test in this area. The ARRL requires them to administer four test sessions before they will be recognized as a certified testing group. It’s great that Frank’s request for a local test session has lead this group to start up their own program.

Once the radio class is over, the real work will begin. There are several class members that want to set up towers or antenna poles to begin the process of creating a communication network in our area. This is the whole purpose of this class and we are excited to see the interest that is being expressed. Many of these folks know that there are hard times coming and want to be able to look out for each other when they arrive, and for that, we are truly grateful. So even though we expect the deterioration of our country and world to continue, it’s comforting to know there are those that are willing to create a workable communication network in this area.
 

 

This morning we turned 16 of our eight week old hens out with the adult flock of birds. This gives the 17 or so young roosters more room in their pen to grow a few more weeks before they take up space in the freezer. We look forward to having fresh chicken again. We rationed out the last few from last year and are now out of chicken meat. 

 

The young batch of chicks are now a month old and will soon need both ‘baby’ pens to prevent overcrowding. We will be looking at the hens in this group of birds also to see which ones we want to keep. We plan to keep about 20 young hens to replace the current laying flock. We will also choose two young roosters. In about three or four months, the older bird will find their way into jars once the young hens start laying. Then the cycle will start once again.

Scruffy drinking fresh squeezed milk

 
The heat keeps us inside during the hot afternoons this time of year. Our busiest times outside have waned until the weather starts to cool in September. We will continue to work on our projects in the mornings, or when the heat allows. There is still so much to do, and we feel the time gets shorter everyday. 

Until next time – Fern

The Current Garden

I figured it was time for an update on our garden, especially since the weeds are giving the vegetables a run for their money. When it was too wet and rainy, I couldn’t do much weeding. Now that it is hot, humid and dry, we are really busy with a number of projects, so I still have accomplished little weeding. I get a little done in the mornings when I go out to pick greens for the chickens, goats and pigs. That’s about it for now. The last few days have been in the 90’s with high humidity and intense sunshine. I know, I know, I really wanted some sunshine, and I’m glad we have it, but it sure has turned off hot rather quickly. Here are some pictures of our growing masterpiece, weeds and all.

 Not only are the turnips not a hot weather spring plant, these are having to compete with a lot of grass. I pull as much grass as I pick turnip greens for the chickens in the mornings, but it is still starting to overtake the bed. These pictures were taken around 5:00pm, when the lighting wasn’t the greatest. The wilting of these greens tells me it’s time to water the garden. A week ago I never thought I would be saying those words.

 

Collards, carrots and zinnias. I sprinkled the collards with diatomaceous earth a few days ago and I think it is helping with the slugs and worms.

 

Frank made the perfect DE (diatomaceous earth) dispenser for me out of an old fiber canister. Works great!

We have about 20 volunteer potato plants in this area of the garden where we grew them last fall. Even though we are not eating potatoes right now because of the high carbohydrate content, we view these as our seed potatoes for future consumption on a limited basis.

If you look at the size of the blade of grass in this picture, you’ll realize just how small this pepper plant is. Surprisingly, it is growing. There are a few more that survived the cats and the last flooding rainstorm. I need to plant more seeds and see if they will direct germinate in the garden.

The Buttercup winter squash hasn’t taken off as quickly as I would like, and one hill rotted from the rain, but it is starting to vine out and produce. These are really good, sweet squash that are great keepers. They taste similar to a sweet potato.

 

The tomatoes are blooming and have been worked into the trellis on the right. They are healthy, sturdy plants that are growing vigorously. The Buttercup squash is on the left in this picture, with carrots beside the tomatoes on the trellis to the right.

  

We have lots of zinnias growing here and there throughout the garden.

 This small trellis was supposed to have cucumbers growing on it. Instead, I must have planted some yellow squash seeds that we saved last year. The cucumbers I planted while it was still raining, are still in a tub on the porch. See the empty space on the right? That is where I planted the cucumber seeds I saved last year. Only three of them germinated. All of the plants on the left are from a packet of seeds I bought.

 The planned yellow squash patch is between the tomato and green bean trellises. The grass and weeds are especially happy here.

 Some of the squash is happy, and some are heat stressed and need watering. I applied diatomaceous earth to all of the squash mounds in an effort to impact the vine borer and squash bug populations. I planted nasturtiums around the squash hills this year, which are very pretty flowers, and supposed to be bug deterrents.

 



 The green beans are growing well and blooming, but the heat is getting to them as well. Some of the bottom leaves are yellow today. There are carrots growing down each side of this trellis, in spite of all of the grass and weeds. I’ve been able to clear out parts of the weeds, but there are still more than enough to pull in this area.


The Cushaw winter squash grows very well here. It took off early despite all of the rain and is producing a number of young squash. It is hardy and healthy.

The cowpeas have more than enough grass to keep it company. Some of the seeds I replanted made it and some of them didn’t. There are supposed to be two rows of okra growing in between the cowpeas, but the rain either washed away the seeds, or they rotted. I will be replanting them next week.

 I may be able to harvest a head or two of cabbage after all. They got a hefty dose of DE after it quit raining and since then I haven’t seen much more damage. I’m tempted to harvest the largest head just to see if the worms and slugs are hiding out inside where I can’t see them.
 

The Michilli cabbage has been disappointing. It didn’t do anything besides grow loose leaves that were rather tough, then start bolting to bloom. I have used these as animal feed instead of human feed. Now I am pulling up the plants a few at a time and feeding them to the pigs. I will plant some cantaloupe or honeydew here.

  
The only thing that is planted in the new part of the garden for now are pinto beans on this trellis. As time allows I will till some of this area and plant sunflowers and cowpeas.

  

There is enough spinach for salads, even with competition from the grass.

The beets are doing well. There are some here and there in the cabbage patch as well as some back down by the collards and turnips. But there aren’t enough, and I need to plant some more.

I attended my bug class today and learned a few interesting things I will share in another article. It was geared more towards habitats for pollinators than beneficial garden insects, so in that respect I was disappointed. But, on the other hand, I learned some useful things about beneficial insect habitat that I will be able to incorporate into our garden and landscape environment.

It is 94* today with high humidity and little to no breeze. I hope this is not an indicator of how the rest of the summer will be. After having cool, rainy weather for so long, this quick onset of hot, summer weather has been difficult for gardens, animals and humans. I some ways it reminds me of how the events in the world, and particularly in our country, are heating up. If we’re not all careful, vigilant and prepared, we could suffer heat exhaustion or have a heat related crisis, in more ways than one. Remember to protect yourself from the heat, meaning the temperature and the climate of your neighborhood, city, state and country. It could be a matter of survival.

Until next time – Fern

Gardening Before it Rains….Again

I’m sorry we’ve been MIW (missing in writing) for the last few days. We’ve been working very hard on getting the garden planted before yet another round of rain comes through. It’s springtime in Oklahoma when we have a few days of rain, then a few days of semi dry, then a few days of rain, then a few days of sunshine. It is always a gamble when we will be able to get the garden planted. Well, we’ve had a few hot, sunny days that we took advantage of and did a lot of planting.

I’m going to treat you to some pictures of dirt. There are newly planted seeds hiding under all that dirt, so you will have to use your imagination for now. This is the beginning of the transformation of bare ground to overcrowded, abundantly (we hope) producing vegetables. Our friend Grace recently sent me an email that described her garden as an empty blank slate. That’s what most of ours looks like as well. But her comment got me to thinking, and my response to her was, “It’s waiting to become a master piece.” You know, that is what gardening is. Through the miracle of germination, photosynthesis and the blessing of rain, millions of tiny little seeds each year turn into an amazing abundance of food. I am always in awe of this yearly miracle.

Here is the garden tour for now. Since we increased the size of the garden by almost a third, I changed the garden plan quite a bit. The original plan is now quite scribbled on, but I know what it says, even if no one else can decipher it.

Remember when we told you that one end of the new garden piece kept breaking the tiller shear pin on the tractor? Well, Frank broke out the disc for the first time ever and broke new ground in one of our pastures, that we have called the garden pasture for many years. We have amended part of this pasture many times with gifts from the chicken house and the barn, so it is very fertile. This year is the year. We are going to plant this area with animal feed. It can also be people feed, but our goal is to decrease the amount of feed we purchase for our animals dramatically. Yea! Another dream come true, almost. Of course, we will have to fight some very vigorous weeds and briars, but I think we are up for the battle.

While Frank had the disc on, he also worked over the new part of the garden that the tiller couldn’t handle. There are some tremendous rocks down on one end of this area. It was so rocky, we couldn’t get the last t-post in for a trellis, so we pounded it in with the bucket on the tractor. But, this is what happened to the first one we tried. Now it looks like a boomerang and is useless as a t-post. After we moved down the row three times, we finally got the last one in.

Now for the dirt tour. Here is the trellis with the stubborn t-posts in the new area of the garden. We have planted pinto beans on both sides of the trellis. If the weather wasn’t trying to fire up with severe thunderstorms, we would also have planted two rows of cowpeas on each side of this trellis. We chose these crops for their ability to help enrich the soil, and for the food they can provide both us and the animals.

 Next up is one of the turnip patches that has been planted for a while. The seedlings are coming up, along with plenty of grass. As soon as the turnips are big enough, this will be one of the first places that needs weeding.

This next beautiful patch of dirt is planted with alternating rows of spinach, carrots, collards and beets. The blank area of dirt to the right is still empty. The pepper plants will go there, but for now, they are too small to set out. It will be a week or so before they are ready.

The trellis behind this patch in the middle of the row, is planted with cucumber seeds we saved year before last, and zinnias. And speaking of zinnias, they are liberally planted all over the garden, to discourage pest insects, and encourage predator insects.

The new strawberry bed is behind the cucumber trellis. These are the extra strawberries that had escaped the original bed and moved into the garden. They just got planted today and are ready for a drink. I am hoping the rain that is coming will do that for me. (It did.)

The permanent trellis against this building has hops and clematis growing on it. They are both doing very well this year.

If you use your imagination, you will be able to see some small hills in this area. This is where the Buttercup winter squash is planted. For the past two years we have planted our winter squash in July or so. This has not worked out at all, so I am planting it at the beginning of summer, just like our yellow squash. Not only will these be stored for our use, but they make great animal feed. We will be planting them up in the garden pasture as well. The small trellis to the right, by the building, is planted with pickling cucumbers. I plan to try my hand at fermented pickles this summer. If I understand it right, this will give us crunchy pickles, which we like, along with the benefits of fermentation.

The next trellis will support our Rutgers and Arkansas Traveler  tomatoes we grew from seed. Down both sides of the trellis carrot seedlings or seeds have been planted. It really is true that carrots love tomatoes. I have tried this for several years and they grow very well together.


 

On the other side of this trellis you may be able to see some more squash hills. This is where the straight neck yellow squash will grow. I have tried to separate the squashes simply to confuse the bugs. We are growing quite a bit of squash this year, but instead of putting them all together, I’m experimenting with alternating them with other crops. We’ll see how it goes.

Next is another trellis with pinto beans planted on both sides, with carrots planted down each side about 10 inches out from the beans. We are going to use immature pinto beans for green beans this year. A friend of ours told us about this practice. We can pick them young and can them as green beans, then when we have enough canned for the year, we will let the beans mature into pinto beans and can them as well. Kind of like a dual purpose bean. I will be very interested to see how this works out.

Our last type of squash is planted next to this bean trellis, which is a Cushaw winter squash. I planted the seeds we saved from one of our few mature squash from last summer. We hope they are viable and will produce a good crop.

The next area is another experimental area. I planted two rows of okra with a row of cow peas on either side. Last summer I was surprised at how long and vine like the cowpeas grew. This year we are going to see if the cow peas will grow up the okra plants.

The other end of the new portion of the garden is planted in a similar fashion. We put one row of okra down the center with cowpeas on either side. Then we filled up the rest of the bed with three rows of peanuts on either side. The okra will not improve the soil, but the cowpeas and peanuts will.

Next to the okra/cowpea area in the garden is the portion that was planted previously and we have already shown you. The onions are starting to grow, kind of. The broccoli, green cabbage, Chinese cabbage and beets are growing well. 



Beets
Broccoli
Chinese cabbage

Cabbage

  

 

I planted the new comfrey roots over in this corner. I originally planned to spread them into a larger space, but they were outgrowing their tubs and it will still be a while before the rest of the area is ready to plant.

The salad fixings I planted in front of the herb bed are doing okay. I will be giving them some of the manure tea and whey sometime in the next few days. 

Kohlrabi
Lettuce

Lettuce
Lettuce
Spinach
Swiss Chard

The turnip patch by the herb bed is doing very well. It will be time to thin the plants and pull some weeds before long.

So there you have it, our garden of mostly dirt, for this year. I still need to plant the peppers when they are big enough, put the cowpeas into the stubborn end of the new bed, plant a few more onions, and figure out what I want to put in an empty portion of the new bed in front of the herb bed. And then there is the new garden in the pasture to play with. This is our blank slate awaiting to become a master piece.


I hope spring is treating you well, and you are able to make a dream or two come true in your life. It usually takes a lot of work to realize a dream, but it is well worth the effort.

Until next time – Fern

Lessons I’ve Learned From My Garden

These lessons work here in Zone 7 where we live in southeastern Oklahoma. The techniques we use may need to be tweaked to work in your neck of the woods. There are several things I have learned this year in the garden that I would like to share. It teaches me something every year with every crop. We have also learned a lot from the comments and interaction we receive here on the blog. I have grown rather fond of this small piece of dirt…and weeds…..and grass….

Don’t plant onions too deep or they will not make a nice onion bulb. I have never grown a decent sized onion until this year. When I mentioned this on one of the gardening articles, one of the comments indicated that an onion should basically have only the roots in the ground.

I have always planted them much deeper than that. Then the next day or so, we stopped by Grace’s house and she had a beautiful onion in a tub that barely had it’s roots in the ground, but looked great.

So, I uncovered the base of some of my onions, and guess what? They grew bulbs! Real, live onions! I was very happy and thankful I finally figured out what I had been doing wrong.

We are having the best corn crop this year we have ever had, but I can’t really tell you why. I planted a new variety, Stowell’s Evergreen, an open pollinated, white, sweet corn variety. One difference this year was my planting technique. I tend to plant corn way too close together trying to utilize all of our space. Corn doesn’t particularly

like to be crowded. This year Frank recommended I poke a hole in the ground with the handle end of my hoe, drop in a couple of seeds, then step on them. This worked very well and kept me from planting so close together. The result? Nice full, large ears of corn. And it tastes good to boot!

I planted the green beans in the new part of the garden that hadn’t been fertilized much. In some years past, I didn’t have a very good green bean crop and the only thing I could figure out was the soil was too rich. Because of that  
experience I thought this would be an okay place for the beans this year. They are growing well, just not producing any beans. I ‘watered’ them with some old milk a few times for the calcium. Next, I was thinking of putting on some wood ashes for the potassium. I’m glad we still have plenty of green beans we canned last summer. We’ll just have to wait and see how they do.

 For some reason, I have not figured out why, we also have the best potato crop ever this year. There are many more potatoes, and they are much larger. The only difference I can think of is that we set the tiller a little lower and got the soil loosened up a little deeper. I was able to hill them up twice before Frank’s surgery and the weeds took over. Now that I have mowed down the grass, I am getting them dug up to make room for the fall crops.

 What makes a carrot go to seed? From my reading, if a carrot goes to seed the first year it will not make good seed. Carrots are biennial, which means they need a ‘winter’ or a spell of cold weather to produce viable seed the second year. I am really surprised at the size of the seed stalk this carrot is producing, compared to the regular carrot greens, it is huge. I will still try to harvest the seeds from this plant and see how they do. I will plant them separately in seedling pots and see if they germinate just to learn something new.

 

I have a tomato jungle growing. Since this year in the garden has been hit and miss, I have not been keeping up with the tomato suckers. In years past, I have been pretty vigilant in removing them, but not this year, and it has turned out to be a good

thing. I was taught to remove the suckers to allow the energy to be focused into the main plant. But, this year, with many, many suckers, I am finding I have a lot more tomatoes coming on. Now I need to learn a happy medium between removal and encouragement. Interesting.

The purple hull peas seem to have vined out more this year. I almost think it would be beneficial to plant them along a stock panel trellis the way we do tomatoes. It would make them easier to pick and I would walk on them less. That would be a lot more panels to dedicate to the garden, though, so I will have to ponder that one. Maybe it would do just to plant my rows a little farther apart. They are such a hardy plant and will keep on producing as long as you keep picking. They don’t require near the moisture of other plants, such as corn or squash.

We don’t eat fresh cucumbers, but I do like pickles. Last year I planted too many cucumbers, this year I planted too few. If I want enough cucumbers to make pickles, I need more plants than this. Next year, I will go back to more plants and pull them up when I am finished making pickles.

There is always so much to learn in the garden. No two years are exactly the same. The weather is different, the time I can spend is different, the bug population is different, there are just untold differences to learn about and deal with each and every year. If you believe that extremely hard times are coming to our country and world, and you want to be able to grow your own food, don’t wait until that event happens. It will be too late to learn the lessons of gardening in your location, or the location you plan to go to. Even folks that have gardened all of their lives come up against something new that requires a change in plans when it comes to growing food. Grow what you can. Can what you grow. Enjoy the blessings of the harvest.

Until next time – Fern

How Green is the Garden

The garden is lush and green this year. We have been getting plenty of rain, which is great. In years past, we would be watering a lot by now, but not this year. We have only had to water two times so far. One of the differences this year is the addition of a lot of grass and weeds. Plans don’t always work out the way you think they might and the weeding has been put on the back burner more often than not this year. Nevertheless, we have many things producing, in spite of the neglect.

I want to share another garden with you. Our friends, Grace and Moe Joe, have planted a garden for the second year. They have figured out how to maximize some small spaces, a 10′ by 24′ garden plot, and a ‘flower bed’ by the house, as well as some container gardening. They have grown enough to preserve a variety of items, as well as cook fresh food everyday, and give away the surplus. There are so many different ways to grow food, I wanted to share their examples. 

I am sorry for the brevity of the last two posts, I am publishing this one from the hospital. Frank has decided to invest in a small amount of titanium as a precious metal. So far, everything is going well. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers.

So…..Happy gardening everyone! I hope your harvest is abundant.

Until next time – Fern
 

Growin’ and Pickin’ the Garden

The garden season is well under way here. I picked a bucket full of squash a couple of days ago. Soon we will be into the canning season again. We have canned up one batch of beets, which I will be sharing with you before long. The cucumbers are beginning to bear, the green beans are blooming, and it won’t be long until the potatoes are ready to dig. We have been getting, and will probably get rain just about everyday for a while. I just hope there aren’t anymore high winds or hail to damage the garden. Here is a tour of what is happening so far.

The green beans are blooming.

I planted two small rows of sunflowers by the green beans.

 

The potatoes are doing well this year, at least on the surface. Some of them are starting to die off, so it won’t be long before we are able to start digging them up.

We have canned a batch of beets, and the ones that we left growing are still increasing in size. They will need to be harvested before long.

I think I have figured out why my onions never make bulbs. I plant them too deep. I really hope next year I can grow some real live onions. I wonder if I can grow a fall crop? I have never heard of anyone doing that. It’s pretty hot here until about the end of September. I may just have to try that.

 The cucumbers are blooming and have some tiny little cucumbers to show.

The sunflowers are doing great. They are strong, healthy plants.

A storm semi blew over about half of the corn yesterday. I got most of it standing kind of upright again. Around here folks say it needs to be knee high by the 4th of July. Well, it’s way past my knees, almost to my shoulder.

The purple hull peas have plenty of competition from the grass and weeds, but they are growing well. They should be blooming before long. I hope to get them some relief sometime soon.

The squash is growing very well. We are having to battle a few squash vine borers, so I put some wood ashes around the base of each plant. Surprisingly, we have seen very few squash bugs this year. Last year I was picking leaves with bug eggs on them everyday and feeding them to the chickens, along with squishing many bugs. This year I have squished about five or six bugs and haven’t found any eggs at all. Weird. We have seen quite a few assassin bug nymphs around, and that is good.

The okra didn’t germinate or grow well this spring. We had some late frosts and some cool weather, plus a lot of grass and weeds, but the okra is just now starting to grow. It hasn’t filled in all of the rows and I’m not sure if I will replant the bare spots or not.

The peas are just about finished. It has gotten to hot for them, so we are waiting to pick the last few peas. I haven’t figured out how to get enough peas to freeze a few quarts or can a few jars. Each year so far, we have only had enough peas for about five or six meals. I may not grow any next year and spend the time and effort on something else. It is nice to have something to eat out of the garden early in the spring, though. The tomatoes are doing very well. They are nice strong plants and have started to bloom as they take over the pea trellis.

The carrots are growing, but don’t seem to like this end of the garden as well as the other end, where they grew last summer. The peppers seemed to have grown about six inches overnight. They are very happy with the hot weather we have been having. They are starting to bloom.

Overall, the garden is doing well, despite of all of the weed competition. Lately, we have had other priorities. You see, Frank is getting ready to have back surgery, so we have been somewhat otherwise occupied for some time. For instance, this evening we actually drove 30 miles to town to get some Kentucky Fried Chicken. We haven’t done that for over five years. And, you know what? It wasn’t any good. We talked about it for a while then realized that the chicken probably tastes just like it always has. It’s our tastes that have changed.

It reminds me of when we first moved to Alaska. Before our move we were consuming our own meat, milk and eggs, just like now. After we had been gone for about six months we came back to our family doctor for a regular checkup and blood work. A few days later at our appointment, the doctor asked us what we were doing different because our protein levels were low, which had never happened before. The only answer we could come up with was that we had changed to all store bought meat, milk and eggs. It’s something to ponder, huh?

2013

The time may come, sooner than we would like, when there are no more rides to town so someone else can cook for us and feed us. There may come a time that what we can grow or raise is all there is. There may come a time that the only medical attention we can get is what we can provide for ourselves. I can only say that I am glad that day is not yet upon us. But I feel it coming a little closer everyday. Don’t wait until it is upon us. Get what you need while the gettin’ is still good.

Until next time – Fern

Late Frosts & Working In The Garden

At this stage in the garden, I always want everything to be a little farther along, but it’s not. We had two very late frosts this year on the nights of April 30th and May 1st. Neither one was a hard frost, but it was cold enough to put frost on the windshield of the car, so we wanted to protect the tender garden plants. As the dusk was falling, I got the last of the plants covered with a layer of hay for protection. This was at the end of a long busy day, so there were no pictures of this project. 

I left the hay over the plants for two nights. Now it’s time to uncover everything and see how they fared in the cold weather. I wanted to find a way to do this without a great deal of stooping over, so I decided to try out a new tool that we have had for a while, but I have never used. I thought maybe I could use this three tine cultivator to gently lift the hay off of the plants without damaging them. It worked great and saved my back a lot of bending and stooping.

 I had kind of built a tent of hay over the green beans since they were getting fairly tall. I accidentally bent several of them over too far, but most of them look great. While I was uncovering them I realized that all of this hay I had put out could be moved just to the side of the plants and used for mulch. That wasn’t my plan originally, but now using the hay to protect from frost is turning into the added benefit of mulch, which is an unplanned bonus.

 The cow peas, which are purple hulls, were just starting to come up good when the cold weather was forecast. They didn’t mind being covered at all and are looking nice and healthy. We planted more than twice the amount we had last year to provide food for us, and to supplement the feed for the goats and the chickens.

 The squash is growing very well and a few of the leaves had already started poking through the hay by the time I got them uncovered.

The okra was just barely breaking through the soil when I covered them. Some of them look pretty pale and others already have two nice green leaves.

  

The tomatoes were about the same. Some looked a little pale, and none of them are really showing signs of growth yet. I know they didn’t appreciate the cold weather.

The peppers are sharing the same sentiments as the tomatoes. They’re all alive, but are still pretty small.

The peas are finally growing quite a bit, but still haven’t started blooming. I’m beginning to wonder if they will bloom at all.
 

The carrots are happy and growing right along. This trellis is home to the peas on one side and the tomatoes on the other. I planted the carrots on the east side so they would get morning sun, but be shaded from the hotter western sun in the afternoon. I also tucked the pepper in to the east of this trellis. I’m not sure how well they will like this location, so we will see.

 

The corn is just beginning to come up and is still quite small. I used my cultivator to get rid of some of the grass coming up between the rows. I will let it get about six inches tall, then mulch between the rows to keep the weeds down. That should take care of it for the rest of the summer.

The cucumbers are growing very well on the east side of this building.

  

The cabbage, broccoli, beets and onions are doing very well. I need to do some more weeding and then they will all get mulched.

The potatoes are growing great again after the foliage was killed by a harder frost a few weeks ago. The grass and weeds are giving them a lot of competition, so they are in need of some attention. Hopefully, I can get to that sometime this week, then I will hill them up again.

There are two spinach plants doing well in the strawberry bed. The others didn’t make it. I don’t know if they were eaten or just died, but I am glad to have a few plants we will be able to harvest.

Our new food crops are hopefully on the way to producing this year’s harvest for us. There are always different challenges each year that give us the opportunity to learn and develop new skills. We know you can never learn too much and will continue learning every day as if our lives depend upon it. Because it does. 

Until next time – Fern