Thursday, May 31, 2007

Yesterday I planted 3 things.. always plant in threes! I planted impatiens around the front of the house, my red morning glories in several locations where they can climb, and then also planted some dill seeds in the holes with my tomato plants. I have read that dill repels tomato hornworms, but also have read that dill and tomato are not good companion plants. No substitute for experience, so I will be finding out for myself.

Today I filled 5 buckets with compost and soil from our compost pile. I used a screen over the buckets as I shoveled them full. My husband made the screen last year from 2x2 lumber screwed together and covered it with rabbit cage wire fence - with 1" x 1/2" holes. I will be planting some tomatoes I didn't have room for in the garden in the buckets. So far I've found five buckets in the garage. He thinks the rest of them are still in the garage. I quit for the day, it is very hot and humid.

We are putting a new roof on the house during our vacation. It is SO HOT. We are working from 6:00 am until 10:00 am on the roof, then knocking off until 6:00 pm and then working again until 9:00. I am really stretching those major muscle groups climbing up and down the TV antenna to get to the roof. (I don't do ladders...)

Good thing the garden is mostly in, because after working on the roof I don't have much energy for gardening. This really makes us appreciate our day jobs!

Monday, May 28, 2007

I went three different places this morning before finding EARLY corn seed. The first was a local garden center/greenhouse that has always carried bulk seed in the past. They had two different varieties of corn, but both were 75 days or longer. Then TSC. They only had two different brands of Silver Queen. I've already got Silver Queen here from last year, but it is 85 days! That's a long time away. Finally went to Target. They had ONE packet of Early Choice. So, that's what I got. They also had two different varieties of mid-season corn (75 days) in addition to the Silver Queen. I looked through the Sean Conway (designer?) seeds as well as the Burpee's. The designer seed was higher priced, but mostly it was the same varieties...
Thought you might like some photos. I've got 5 rows of lettuce in the ground so far. The lettuce seems to be loving it so far, although I worry about heat stressing it. It is SO HOT today, I was planting corn and about 12:30 just had to stop - the sun on that black fabric was really just too much. There's no rain forecast for today, but tomorrow there is a 20% chance of thunderstorms. I think I might go ahead and water the corn I just planted and also the lettuce. I decided to just cut slits in the fabric for the corn - Each slit is 12-18 inches long and I planted 4-5 seeds in each slit. Then 4-6 inches between the slits, to keep the fabric together, then another slit. Far off in th edistance you can see my tomato plants, they are loving the heat. I still plan to plant some in 5-gallon buckets again this year.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Two more rows of lettuce, 3 six packs of cilantro, and a row and a half of sweet corn. I still have 9 six packs of cilantro to go. I need to find some more early corn seed tomorrow. I find after sitting on the ground or bending over to plant I am very stiff.

I planted some Silver Queen (an old hybrid) in the same hole as the zucchini yesterday. In a week or so I will plant some pole beans in the same hole. This is the Native American "Three sisters" method of planting. We'll see how it works.

I looked at my trellises from last year today. I will have to stake the tomatoes somehow. Also I need to fill my five-gallon buckets with compost and plant a tomato in each bucket.

Some mixed flower seed went into the mulch in between the Roses of Sharon. Don't know if they'll grow, but at least the seed packages will stop taking up room in the garage. Any flowers will be a bonus!

Monday, May 21, 2007

So far I have planted 3 rows (about 10 plants each) of tomatoes and 3 rows (about 30 plants each) of lettuce. I put zucchini, yellow squash and cucumber seeds in the ground today. (I bought some fresh seed at the grocery, it was 10 packets for $1.00...) I am cutting holes in the fabric for each plant or hill.

I am still trying to figure out how I am going to plant beans and corn through the fabric.

My asparagus plants, grown from seeds I collected in the wild at the farm, have sprouted. Well, not all of them, but I counted at least 5. Hooray!

I made a black-raspberry/rhubarb pie for this weekend's family gathering.
Dad said it was good, my stepmother said it needed more sugar. hmmm.
I thought it was a little tart, but just what I wanted after a long winter. I also thought maybe I used a little too much flour, as it was kind of thick.

Here is the recipe I used:

Wild Black Raspberry/Rhubarb Pie

2 pints frozen wild black raspberries including juice (frozen with no sugar), thawed
2 cups fresh rhubarb, sliced in 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar (or if you like it very sweet, add another 1/2 cup)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg (optional)
1/2 cup flour (would cut down to 1/4 or 1/3 cup next time, depending on how juicy the berries are)
1 Tablespoon Clear-Jel

Mix together, put in pie crust in deep dish pie plate, top with crust, sprinkle sugar on crust, slit and bake for 1 hour at 350.

The nice thing about this recipe is that the black raspberries really overcome the taste of the rhubarb for people who don't like rhubarb, and the rhubarb fills in between seeds in the seedy black raspberries.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


It is cold out now, a little breezy, and the web site calls for patchy frost after 4:00 a.m. I am SO GLAD I haven't planted anything yet, it will all go back in the garage tonight. No fair, because our last frost date is May 15. This has really been a strange year for weather with 70 degree days in January and late frosts!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The year after Franco died, I spent a year in Segovia, Spain, as a foreign exchange student. One of the friends I made was the "ajero", a young man whose family sold garlic at the market on Thursdays. His life was hard. It's no wonder they call a region of Spain Extremadura (extremely hard) the life is also hard in Old Castile. During my many walks through the town and through the countryside I learned a little about the way farmers live in Spain.

I received an advertisement in my email today from "la Tienda". It wasn't spam, as I had signed up for their newsletter. Today they have a touching story about a man who plows with mules for recreation in Old Castile. He raises saffron, the most expensive spice in the world, in the traditional way in the La Mancha region of Spain. You can read the article here. The tag line? "There is something very reaffirming when you spend a few hours with people of the soil." Well, we knew that!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Finished cutting and layout of the Propex today. I secured it all around with landscape staples, then just to make sure added some paving blocks at intervals. A light breeze was blowing it up and twisting it, so without the pavers I am afraid it would blow away in a thunderstorm.

Planted another tray of lettuce on one side and catnip on the other a few days ago. So far no sprouts. Yesterday my 3-year-old grandson "helped" me water the plants. He is SO PROUD of his watering can. What difference does it make if a few plants get drowned? He is just precious. I hope he is as interested later in weeding as he is in watering!

I planted a flat of Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, Thyme, Purple Basil and Green Basil a few weeks ago. So far very few rosemarys and only a few sages, although everything else came up great. I was hoping for a "Simon and Garfunkel" six-pack for sale at the Farmer's Market this year but that may not work if half the plants from the song are missing!

The weather has been awfully variable. Last night's low was 40, tonight it is supposed to be 58. Tomorrow's high is supposed to be 84! And 80 percent chance of thunderstorms tomorrow night.

Friday, May 11, 2007

I stopped by Home Depot tonight and bought a "commercial pack" of landscape cloth staples to hold down the fabric. It is quite thick as you can see from the photo below. I am sure I will find some previously unforeseen problems with using this as I experiment with this fabric this year. For example, how am I going to plant radishes? Maybe I will cut small rectangles in the fabric for closely spaced crops. Corn might be another problem. I could cut it in strips, then plant the corn seeds between the strips. Or just leave the section of the garden with the corn uncovered. I see it working best for tomato plants and peppers. Just cut an "x" and pop the plant in the ground. Scissors do cut the fabric but I think I will also try a sharp utility knife.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

I called about the Propex fabric from work today. Mary Jane Butters recommended this as a weed barrier for a garden in her book.

The highway construction firm I called does have remnants, and they were willing to sell me one. I took off a little early so I could drive up to Wadsworth, Oh, to pick it up. It is a wonderful thick fabric on 12-foot wide rolls. I finished tilling the garden tonight and then starting rolling out the fabric. That is when I realized my garden is not perfectly rectangular. Hmmm. It got dark before I finished, I will try and take a picture tomorrow.

Tonight it only took me about 10 pulls to start the rototiller... Then I realized that I hadn't set the control to "start"....duh!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The air smells like a storm is coming tonight. It was actually almost muggy when I left work, coming out of the air-conditioning.

I made my rounds after work, visited my 96-year-old grandma, then visited my brother's neighbor who was rumored to have robin's egg-blue Aracuana eggs for sale. She's been giving them to my brother as a "new neighbor" gift. I've been looking for a regular supplier of farm-fresh eggs since the lady I was buying eggs from gave it up, so I was delighted to make her acquaintance. She also raises Komondor puppies and is evidently one of the top breeders of this rare breed.

So, then had to stop by my brother's and admire the new shower stall he and DH are installing in his new house. Drove home and on the way couldn't resist going down the country road a few miles from home to check out how the strawberry U-pick operation there is doing, since my strawberry plants are in bloom. I think the couple who owns the farm are fairly elderly, and I am always afraid some day they are going to give it up. Fortunately, it doesn't appear to be this year! They had irrigation going all over, there were sprays of water all over several acres.

So, turned around and came on home. After checking emails, went out and moved around about 20 things in the garage to get out the push-mower to do some trimming. It is old, old, old, and tired. My father made me mow the lawn 40 years ago with the very same model of Craftsman mower - It's red, and has a row of white "teeth" at the front. DH retrieved ours from someone throwing it away, gave it some TLC, and so now that is our push-mower. It hasn't been used yet this year. It only took about 35 pulls on the rope for me to get it started. I mowed a few places I missed last night on the riding mower, but when I got into the heavy lawn near the road (hasn't been trimmed yet this year) the mower stalled and I could not start it again for anything.

So pushed it back up the hill and moved a few more things in the garage around and got out the tiller, to give the garden a good going-over before planting. The weeds are sprouting. It must really be comical to see me operating this tiller. It is a Troy-Built Junior, and it is just a little bit too much for me. It is fine on soil that is loose and already worked up, but when the tines hit some compacted soil, that tiller just yanks me along like a rag doll, hanging on for dear life.

If I have a choice, I use my Mantis for tilling. It just takes a lot longer because the tines are so much narrower, and it works differently, and I have to make a lot more passes to get as much acreage covered.

My optimum choice is to have DH do the tilling!

I did manage to get 3/4 of the garden tilled before it got too dark to see. Luckily the rain held off. Put the tiller back in the garage and locked everything. There's a 20 percent chance of thunderstorms every day through Friday. If it rains it might be hard to plant on May 15, our official frost date.

Tomorrow MUST follow up on the Propex, I received a call that they did have some remnants after all.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Plant three rows of peas;
Peace of mind
Peace of heart
Peace of soul.
Plant four rows of squash
Squash gossip
Squash grumbling
Squash selfishness
Plan four rows of lettuce
Lettuce be faithful
Lettuce be kind
Lettuce be happy
Lettuce really love one another
And NO garden should be without turnips;
Turnip for service when needed
Turnip to help one another
Turnip the music and dance
Water freely with patience and Cultivate with love.
To finish our garden, we must have thyme;
Thyme for fun
Thyme for rest
Thyme for ourselves.

Monday, May 07, 2007

This post is going to be about as exciting as dirt. Well, even if it's not exciting, it's still going to be about dirt. Well, actually, about soil. We visited the farm this weekend and as you can see, there has been enough rain and snow melt this year to overfill our pond (fondly called Lake Catherine) beyond the normal banks. The ducks are loving all the grassy area that is underwater. Even with all the rain, though, the field where we planted alfalfa, timothy and clover last year still is not green. Perhaps you can see that the field is roughly divided into three areas - the area along the road that is gently sloping (toward the right side of the photo), the area where I am standing that is almost completely barren except for weeds and moss, and a third area bordering the creek, at the bottom of the hill (toward the left side of the photo). We planted the entire field using the same seed and the same methods. I believe what happened is that on the top of the hill, without a lot of organic matter in the soil, the wind and rain has washed away any topsoil there might have been. What is left is a sandy, desert-like area. I did spot a few red clover and alalfa plants in this area, they are quite spread out, however. We are hoping that they self-seed and their roots will stabilize the soil, and add organic matter. It may not be apparent from this photo, but if you look, there is at least one clover plant here. This is encouraging. A few feet farther away is another spot where you can see nothing at all is growing - it really looks like a desert. Hopefully the photo shows the sand and rock. DH suggested that we ask the dairy farmer a few miles down the road to come and knife in some of his excess organic material. I think that would possibly be a great idea. Probably he is not an organic dairy farmer, but if your soil won't even grow weeds, you need to do something kind of extreme. I haven't formally studied the geology of western Michigan, but have visited the beach at Muskegon and seen the signs in the yards of the people who live there - FREE SAND! We are at least 30 miles east of the beach, but over the millenia, I guess the sand has blown away from the beach (unless the coastline of Lake Michigan has shifted!) The deer leave their footprints in the soft sand. They are also making a trail across another field (this field more protected from the wind), heading for the orchard.
I followed their trail into the orchard, and ended up on the other side where our beekeeper has evidently taken away most of his hives to pollinate commercial orchards in the area. Bees are in danger- "During the months of October, November, and December 2006, an alarming number of honey bee colonies began to die along the East Coast of the United States. West Coast beekeepers are also beginning to report unprecedented losses. (see the press release at ). I am hoping that by allowing him to keep his bees in our relatively unpolluted area, without any heavy use of agricultural chemicals, (which may or may not be a cause of this problem) perhaps we can somehow contribute to reducing this concern. At any rate, it was so pleasant to walk along the edge of the orchard on a sunny morning and watch the bees buzzing in and out of their hives. Standing there and listening to them buzzing by is like hearing a symphony. Notice that one of our trees is totally in bloom, the others have only just begun to spread out their petals to the sun.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

It is that awful in-between season - the weather is almost warm enough to trick you into planting... but you just know there's going to be at least one more frost. Or a thunderstorm with high winds, or hail.... Today I put my seed trays outside while I was at work, hoping they wouldn't dry out too much and kill all the delicate little seedlings. It's a terrible choice, leave them inside under lights and let them get leggy, or put them out in the wild world where almost anything can happen to them.

I did have a small tray of tomato seedlings - only six - six packs, 36 plants - they were on the back patio on top of the hot tub. Sure enough the wind whipped something, and they fell off the hot tub, just like a piece of buttered toast always falls with the buttered side down- that's what happened to the seedlings, green side down... I scooped them up and rescued about half, hope they live.

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