19 September 2010

Vegetable Garden

Our vegetable garden did rather better than expected this year. It's been a late, cool summer (which seems to have vaporized already) and I didn't figure we'd get much so I've been pleasantly surprised.

I have a hard time estimating how much we've harvested in pounds since it's trickled in little by little. I have about six quarts of pickles in the fridge (bread and butter, sweet and dill), a good bushel of kale blanched and frozen with more on the way, eleven half-pints of pickled beets (chiogga and bull's blood varieties) and approximately three pounds of beets in the freezer.

I'm still waiting on the tomatoes to ripen - pears and beefsteaks. Those won't be more than a few pounds at most (and I'm keeping my recipe for green tomato relish handy.) I have two softball-sized pumpkins I'm babying along (about halfway ripe) as well as two good sized acorn squash that I'm watching closely.

Our pole beans struggled all summer looking yellow and leggy. Now they are a nice dark green and lush. We've picked about half a pound of those with lots more tiny pods on the vines.

I need to work up the nerve and dig up the Potato Experiment.

I read somewhere that you can plant potatoes and then keep raising and filling the container with soil as the plants grow up. I had some Yukon Golds sitting around that were too old to eat so I built a small box and planted them. I started with two layers of boards, then added two more over the course of about two months. The plants have all died back and it's time to dig. It's been raining like crazy the past week so I hope I haven't waited too long.

The crop I'm most hopeful about is the parsnips. Those have done well all summer - at least the plants looked great. They are a very long-season crop - about six months. I can see the shoulders of the parsnips peeking up and they look like they are getting to a good size. They taste better after a frost so I'm going to let them go for a while longer.

I planted a handful other vegetables - cilantro, parsley, dill, a few different kinds of peppers and Valencia and Walla Walla onions. The cilantro grew great but we left it too long and now it's coriander (tasty but we just don't use that much.) Like the pole beans, the parsley lagged behind but is healthy and productive now. I think it wasn't really hot and dry enough weather for the bell peppers but we did get about six cayennes. The onions didn't do didley this year. They barely grew vertically and the bulbs are still size of pearl onions! These were probably too crowded. I bought a flat, one of those undivided trays) rather than individual starts and I don't think I separated them enough.

I had about six carrot plants that I started inside and transplanted. My friend Alix told me that carrots do not like to be transplanted and get pretty twisty and mangled.

Her theory may be correct....

So not a bad garden this year after all. We have about a month left before any serious risk of frost so we aren't done yet.

What were your gardening experiences this year?

31 August 2010

Vegetable Garden Construction

JD and I opted out of having a vegetable garden last year - which turned out to be a good thing considering our Sturgis adventure. This year I decided to give it a shot. I wasn't sure that the area where JD had had a garden in previous years was getting enough sun so we tried a new location in the middle of the property near the orchard.

The downside to the area is that it's pretty gravelly and in fact, the area in the middle where the old house used to be is thickly covered in large rocks so we decided to build several garden boxes (which we probably would have done anyway). I'm planning to build a greenhouse eventually and I think those large black rocks will be a good base for it - they'll allow for good drainage and hold some heat, too. JD is gradually scraping those back for me to where I want to locate the greenhouse.

Two sides were already fenced well enough but the other sides needed some attention. And all four sides needed something to deter deer. We installed fencing on one side, repaired and supplemented the other and installed extensions around the top. I used several pieces of PVC (salvaged from a duck blind JD had built several years ago but no longer used) and some conduit we found in the barn. I attached these to all the t-posts and fence posts and ran three rows of wire around the perimeter to a height of eight feet.

We rearranged the garden boxes a little, filled them up with lovely new four part compost and started planting.

Clockwise from top left: potatoes, beefsteak tomatoes and cilantro, tomatoes and basil, pear tomatoes

Pickling cucumbers and peppers:

This box ended up being a little crowded with parsnip, dill, carrots, onions, tomatoes and one beet:

Near the back side of the garden is a raised area with a rock wall. In the middle is a hazelnut tree and another unidentified tree. It makes for a nice little shady sitting area. After extensive weeding, I'll plant flowers on the wall and the upper area.

These photos were taken in June. The garden got off to a very slow start but is has picked up in the last month to six weeks. I even got one tomato last week!

01 August 2010

Flower Garden

Since our vegetable garden is only limping along, I thought I'd post an update on our flower garden which is doing a little better.

We built a new row of boxes this year and transplanted some perennials from the older boxes - lavender and rosemary and a couple of ground covers. For the most part, those are doing well. One of the rosemary plants was struggling and getting a little leggy but it seems to be recovering slowly.

Over the years, I have collected a pretty good stash of seeds but they were getting old and not doing me any good sitting in my closet. So in April, as an experiment, I tossed a bunch of seeds into all the boxes to see what would happen. Quite a lot it turns out:

The poppy seeds that my mom sent me several years ago were apparently still quite viable (this was after I thinned them about three times.)

The baby's breath turned out to be a good contrast to the lavender.

And I finally got some bachelor's buttons growing, one of my favorites.

I'm going to have do some transplanting and reorganizing of first box though, since I didn't plan for their height and they obscure the lavender somewhat (the foreground of the first photo). I'll probably move the lavender to the end of the box and let the bachelor's buttons fill the center.

Actually, I'm going to have to do some reorganizing all over, I think. Scattering seeds around the boxes was interesting but some of the colors don't necessarily complement each other. The bachelor's buttons and blanket flowers clash

and I definitely have way too much purple - lavender and campanula, mint and lamb's ear (aka goat's ear), even the bachelor's buttons tend to shades of purple. I'm happy that something is growing but still....

I'd like to have some more red flowers. Right now really all I have is one cinquefoil which has lovely dark blood-red flowers. I'd like to find out the best way to propagate it and start a few more.

The poppies from my mom were mixed but I did get a few red ones which I've marked for later seed collection. My friend Alix suggested Flanders poppies, too.

I'm also getting a better idea of the flowering cycles and would like to replant to have constant color in my boxes. The poppies and columbine were early, then bachelors buttons and lavender and, currently, the cinquefoil and blanket flowers are both coming on.

I'd like to get bulbs in, too, for early color. For Valentine's Day this year, JD gave me two pots of red and orange tulips as well as a hyacinth which I've transplanted into the triangle bed in the middle of the driveway. We have a few more miscellaneous bulbs scattered around the property but I'll have to hunt for them a bit since they've died back.

30 July 2010

Our First Egg!

We have our first egg! We are so proud of our girls - or at least one of them.

JD collected it on Wednesday. On Thursday, we had our second - woot!

And by the way that girl is hollering out in the henhouse, there will be a third today.

We're on our way now! Only 1198 eggs to go and we'll break even on our set up costs. (We realize this may take some time....)

08 July 2010

Tour De Marriage Photos

Part Three

At the recommendation of Schnicklefritz Alix, my good friend who lives in Colorado, we drove along Highway 141. It's a beautiful drive along the San Miguel River through red rock canyons filled with box elders, salt cedars and wildflowers.

There were some pretty amazing rock falls and formations.

We found a side road to access BLM land and thought about stopping but between the threat of thunderstorms and the actual rain, we decided to just scout out the area for future travel purposes and keep going. I couldn't resist the wildflowers against the red, though.

We wandered down the road and visited the Colorado National Monument. We followed Rim Rock Drive and stopped periodically so JD (aka The Mountain Goat) could traipse around the ledges. I, being not so fond of heights, contented myself with the wildflowers on the non-sheer-cliff side of the road.

One benefit to the PNW weather we encountered was a rainbow over Monument Canyon.

After the wedding, we spent a day in Fort Collins visiting my oldest friend, Schnicklefritz. My parents drove up from New Mexico to spend a day with us in Estes Park. We drove around Rocky Mountain National Park for a bit before we had to head back west.

We saw a herd of young elk.

some pretty adorable little chipmonks

We drove through Berthoud Pass which tops out around 11,000 feet and saw several warning signs stating “Avalanche blasting at anytime using long range weaponry”! Those kinds of explosives looked totally justified - just look at the snow overhang!

Although we did drive through a bit of snow in Wyoming,

we had a wonderful trip and mostly importantly arrived home married and all bones intact!

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