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Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

Spring has sprung, and farm life is busy. It has been busy for a while, really, with calving season now almost finished. It has been a good season, with only three losses so far and well over a hundred calves born. One mama who had twins last year– and nursed both– did it again! We are quite proud of that mama!

Two donkeys, mother and daughter, joined us in January for coyote control. We have them in with the mama cows, in pastures on opposite ends of the farm.

Cocoa, the mama donkey

Cocoa, the mama donkey

The mamas and babies don’t seem to notice the new guardians. They were very curious, however, about me in the farm truck:

Sniff, sniff... got any hay in there?

Sniff, sniff… got any hay in there?

Mamaaaa...

Mamaaaa…

Today I planted the hellebores I bought yesterday, and potted the lemon balm and rosemary so I can bring it inside until well past the last frost.

 

rosemary and lemon balm

rosemary and lemon balm

This afternoon was gorgeous, bright and cool, but this weekend promises more freezing temperatures and possible snow. Seriously? Snow?

spring sky

spring sky

apricot blossoms

apricot blossoms

our wild yard (mint family)

our wild yard (mint family)

 

sunset over the shed

sunset over the shed

Whatever the weather, happy spring!

 

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tomato sauce

The cabinet is filling up, and we have officially moved beyond the simple canned tomato! Brad combined Romas with peppers and basil from our garden and onions and garlic from his brother’s to make this sauce. It’s slow going but we are more than halfway done. I like to have at least fifty jars put up before the season finishes out, plus sauce and salsa. We’ll do another sauce batch this week and hopefully some salsa as well… I’m going to need more jars…

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Halfway between summer solstice and fall equinox, today marks another turn of the wheel of the year with the traditional first harvest festival, Lughnasadh, and we are in full swing canning tomatoes.

pressure canning tomatoes

The pressure canner made its maiden voyage, no one was decapitated, and we now have twenty-something quarts of tomatoes with more to come. Our five-year-old discovered that she loves tomato juice, so we hope to put up a few batches of that as well, and today I aspire to begin cooking sauce.

We did get some crucial rain, our crops continue to survive… we learned this year that when corn tassels during extreme temperatures like we had the first week of July, it won’t pollinate. Our fields are staggered but we’ve seen some of this in the sweet corn we’ve been picking: spotty kernel formation, big gaps on the ears, sometimes nearly nothing at all. We have been more fortunate than many– we’ll still make a crop– but the final measure will be made at the grain elevator in the fall.

The veggie patch may have been saved by its dampness and our delayed planting earlier. Look at the sunflowers!

my happy place

Most still looks good…

veggie patch: eggplant, basil, tomatoes, sweet corn

Melons are just starting to get ripe. Hopefully this means a few weeks of market sales.

melons!

Wishing everyone a happy harvest and more rain as needed!

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Now it is summer!

Dinner on the longest day, all from right outside the door except the tomatoes (from a fellow farmer, ours aren’t quite ready yet) and the dressing ingredients:

summer solstice salad

Cherokee red and romaine lettuces, borage and nasturtium blossoms, and a bit of yellow tomato made this hands-down the most colorful salad I have ever eaten. I mixed up a simple honey yogurt dressing to balance the spicy nasturtiums and the slight bitterness of the lettuce. Vibrant!

We are in a hot-and-dry spell here, making hay and waiting for rain.

walking east toward the hay barn

stacking up for winter

Different patches of corn indicate planting dates by size. The popcorn patch went in last:

popcorn patch in front of the house

The sweet corn in the veggie patch is a bit older:

bicolor sweet corn in the veggie patch

The field corn, planted first, stretches skyward from the veggie patch to the Coosawattee River, obstructing the long views afforded by soybeans in the same fields last year. I wondered whether it may be literally as high as an elephant’s eye, but had no elephants on hand to test that hypothesis.

field corn, this much of it over my head, about two feet

hot, dry sky

around five months old

Corn isn’t the only thing growing in these fields– the calves are getting big, and most of the mamas are bred again. We have been waiting anxiously for the veggie patch to dry out before losing more tomato and pepper plants; now we wait for rain and enjoy the longest day.

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I have made my peace with many invasive species. Kudzu, for instance, bears lovely grape-smelling flowers that can be used to make jelly, its roots ground into flour, its vines woven into baskets, and the sculptures it makes of the lowly yellow pines reminded me as a child of Big Bird’s friend, Snuffleupagus. This invader, however, I do not forgive:

Japanese beetles devouring borage

Japanese beetles emerge in droves in June, seemingly out of nothing, showing preference for the prettiest garden dwellers and turning their leaves to lace. Their shiny colorful shells mock me: I have no need to hide! I am not native! You have no natural predators for me here! Bwa-haha! I grumble and curse at the sight of them and go get a small bucket of water to drown them in before I begin watering the raised beds. I put my gloves on so I won’t feel their prickly, grabby legs as I pluck them off the borage and my lime hydrangea. Yes, I know the borage is delicious, and you may not have it, now die, you wretched pests. I suppose gardening would be incomplete without some casualties…

prisoners of war

In better news, my days-long weeding efforts paid off, and now those raised beds have become the easily maintained wonders I had hoped they would be.

various tomatoes and an eggplant

The Cherokee red lettuce did recover and is thriving. It is reported to be heat tolerant and so far is proving itself worthy indeed of this north Georgia climate.

Cherokee red lettuce between gourds and nasturtiums

The nasturtiums are now blooming, bright yellows and oranges and reds beneath their lilypad-like leaves.

“jewel mix” nasturtiums

The borage is thriving despite the beetle invasion:

borage

And….

blueberries!

At last the blueberries are ripening. Hooray for June!

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much more moisture today

As I write this, long after I should be in bed, wind blows tricycles and scooters across our porch and the farm gets hammered with rain again. The gutter that leaks above the front porch dumps continuously in a loud and constant splatter on the concrete porch floor. The chickens huddle against the house and cluck nervously, while the humans inside cluck just as nervously, wondering what we will find in the morning.

This morning, still clear and hot, found me contending with grass, poke, and pigweed in one of the raised beds behind the house:

raised bed this morning, before weeding

The frequent whims of my youngest two, ever urgent and dire, provided all the sunscreen I needed, as they interrupted me regularly for a glass of water, an apple, a lift down from the top of my car (“Then why did you climb up here?”) or a peace treaty. My gloves caked with mud, I pulled out clump after clump of grass, beating it against the side of the bed or against the soil in the bed to leave behind as much of that hard-earned earth as possible before tossing the undesirables aside. The pigweed’s thorns pierced my fingers through my gloves leaving multiple tender spots. Grass smothered all the Cherokee red lettuce; roots twined together had to be teased apart and the lettuce replanted, with many casualties. I shifted my angle to the sun throughout the morning as each side of me in turn let me know the rays were getting too intense. By morning’s end a fine brownish black dusting covered me head to toe and I had only finished one bed.

finished weeding, with nasturtiums in the foreground and gourds and luffas in the back; Cherokee red lettuce in the middle may or may not recover

I learned the trick of using a tomato cage on its side from my Aunt Camille; if you’ve never tried it, it’s quite clever for vining plants such as cucumbers, squash, luffas, gourds, and others. Keeping them off the ground helps them stay dry, avoiding rotten spots and reducing stress from fungi. It may also help with pests, depending on what type and how you manage them; it certainly makes tending the plants easier as well.

Now the storm appears to have passed and I am tired and sore. The dog has stopped trying to break and enter (he is afraid of thunder). Time to call this day done and rest for the next one.

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hot, dry afternoon

Memorial Day Weekend (in the US) kicks off the season of all things outdoors, with grilling and family time and fireworks and suitably hot temperatures. Time whirls past and my head spins from the speed. Three more weeks remain before the summer solstice, which of course is hardly a double-blink. But I will insist nonetheless, against the voices of advertisers everywhere, that it is not summer yet… 

lavender with white-tailed dragonfly

lace cap hydrangea

late lettuces by the front porch

nasturtiums and iris

chamomile

perusing the fenceline

getting bigger

front walk

 

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