Thursday, August 22, 2013

This week in the garden

(sage, rosemary and parsley doing well - thyme, not so much)
This garden of mine has been erratically productive this summer, mainly because I am an erratic gardener.  I'm always full of enthusiasm in the spring, make big plans and get most of what I planned for planted.  Then it gets hot and humid and I avert my eyes from the chaos as I walk by on the way to the barn every morning and evening.  This summer has been a little better because we've had plenty of rain and very little extreme heat, as opposed to the last several summers of heat and drought.  It's been a banner year for cucumbers and the tomatoes are finally ripe, the onions did well and it's looking as though the watermelons are going to make it.  Winter squash was an epic fail, for the first time ever.  That's a big disappointment because butternut squash is a favorite winter-time ingredient.
(Ivy - the garden thief)
I've spent quite a lot of time in the garden this week, planting for fall crops.  I've planted Swiss chard, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, leaf lettuce, Romaine lettuce, broccoli, pak choi, beets and kale.  I still need to get carrots and spinach planted and hope to construct some row covers or hoops to add some protection mostly from the peacock, but also because of a certain corgi who is near and dear to my heart.  Ivy is an unapologetic garden marauder and nothing is safe if it's within reach from her short little height!

Here's one of things I've enjoyed most in the garden this year.  I planted a patch of marigolds in hopes of harvesting the flowers to use for dyeing and it's been a joy to pick off all the flowers and in just a few days, find that the plants are full of blooms again.  I'm thinking how great the garden would look next year if I planted a row of marigolds right down the middle of each raised bed (and, it would likely discourage some pest problems, too).  The coreopsis I put in, also for dyeing, has done well and I'm planning to expand the selection of dye plants next year to fill out a whole raised bed.

Those towering tomato plants (over 6 feet tall) are producing enough tomatoes that it's time to think about putting some in the freezer for soups and chili during the winter.  That mess on the right is what happens when you don't cage a cherry tomato - it becomes a corgi snack bar!  (Notice the electric mesh fence in the background - works for corgis and chickens, but not peacocks!)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Like Christmas in August -

(So much green grass for August)
Well, maybe not really Christmas, but for me it does conjure up visions of cold, snowy nights outside, with cozy sounds of contented sheep munching hay inside of the barn.  Hay for the coming winter was delivered bright and early this morning.  City folks probably won't get this, but anyone with livestock will understand what a good feeling it is to know that there is sweet smelling hay in the barn to feed your animals through the barren parts of the year.  We've had a wonderful summer for growing grass and it's looking as though I won't have to start feeding hay for many months.  Because we've had a lot of rain, it's been challenging for farmers raising hay to get it cut, dried just enough, baled and put safely in the barn.  We've been buying hay from the same farmer for years and really trust him to bring us good stuff.  The first hay he put up ended up being a little damp and we both agreed that there was a chance it would mold and end up not being safe to feed pregnant ewes.  (I'm truly hoping to have pregnant ewes this year!)  I offered our new ram lamb and big old Buddy (who is stuck with the task of babysitting until the boy grows up enough to get the job done) a couple of handfuls of the new hay and they gave it the ultimate sign of approval by abandoning grazing on grass for hanging out by the hay rack begging for more.  (I haven't blogged about our new boy yet, but hope to get some pictures up soon.)

(and more green for winter)

Totally gratuitous shot - just because she hasn't been on here in a while ;-)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The mysteries of farm life

(The bees need some weed-eating around the hives, but I can't get any volunteers to do that.  Guess that means I'll be suiting up!)
Who knows what our weird Sadie is thinking there?  I certainly don't.  I'm guessing she was scouting for a mouse under the blackberry canes or maybe watching a bird stealing some berries. She sat there for a long time, in the drizzling rain and then just got down and walked away.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Sure enough

(There's no one home.)
Yes, they've gone....sometime early Saturday.  I missed the actually departure scene, but I knew within a very short time that they had headed south.  I'll miss them chattering over me while I work in the garden and seeing them glide about the fields, catching bugs as they go.  The actual departure date is on the calendar for the first time ever.  I can't help wondering how far they've traveled and how many of them will survive the long journey. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Bye-bye birdies

They've not gone yet, but I can tell they'd be packing their suitcases, if they did such things.  The Purple Martins are preparing for their long journey to South America.  The fledglings came out of the nest boxes a few weeks ago and are building up their flying skills to make the long flight.   Several years ago, I gave Mike a Martin house for Valentine's Day and, if I do say so myself, it's been a most enjoyed gift.  We put it up early in the spring close to the date written on the calendar (from the previous year's notes) and wait for the scouts to show up before uncovering the openings to the nest boxes. (The openings are covered to keep the sparrows and blasted starlings from moving in.)  Once we see the scouts, the coverings come off and the rest of the flock shows up in a day or so.  I love the fact that those returning birds are coming home, back to where they were hatched, to build their nests and have their own babies.

This was a good year for the Martins, I think because we've had a mostly pleasant summer, without the heat and dryness of the last several years.  Right now there's a bumper crop of young birds practicing swooping and gliding around over the farm.  The nest box sits high above my garden and I love to hear them chirping and chattering up there and often, in the evenings when I'm coming back from the last barn check, when I walk past the nest box, I can hear them shuffling around inside their cozy rooms.  I'm trying to pay extra close attention this year.  Usually, because I'm so accustomed to seeing and hearing them, I don't notice the exact day they aren't there anymore.  This year I'm going do my best to have a departure date to write on the calendar.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Garden daze

I have finally figured out what my gardening problem has been for the last several years.  It's heat - pure and simple.  I can't stand the heat, so I just don't go out there and spend much time working at maintaining order.  Okay, to be honest, I already knew that.  I have boundless enthusiasm for the garden in early spring and in the fall, and can hardly stand to walk through it in the middle of summer.  I realized this anew last Sunday when I was out there in the lovely 70-ish degree temperature, weeding, pulling out spent plants and preparing some beds for fall planting.  I spent hours toiling away and was so happy to be doing it.  At least for this very moment, the weeds have been beaten into submission.  I'm not delusional enough to think it will last long, but I'm just so pleased to have accomplished it.

Besides the weeding and bed preparation, I've been in the kitchen making pickles (bread and butter and dill), pesto from my basil and several batches of blackberry jam.  Maybe another post on that later.   We are still waiting on the first tomatoes to ripen, so there is much work ahead with freezing those.  Though the peacock has done some unauthorized harvesting and the Japanese beetles are now thick in the blackberries, I'm feeling more successful than I have in many years.