Thursday, July 12, 2018

Midsummer

The days pass in a flurry of pea-picking. I pick peas every day, and often spend evenings shelling peas, or getting snap peas ready for the drier or the canner.

C.  got the pressure canner out for the first time yesterday, and did two batches of – wait for it – peas. We freeze most of our shelled peas, but canned (mushy!) peas tasted good last winter, so we're doing a few jars.


We've harvested a couple of small, sweet cabbages (White Moskovskaya), lots and lots of salad greens, one summer squash, and alpine strawberries so far this year. And peas. I love peas.


The huge old lavender bush flowered and we cut and dried a bunch. C. has been drying greens for rabbit hay for a while now, as well as cherries from Emma, herbs for us and greens for dogs.





And Bowie, the rubber boa snake, is still here! We caught him moseying toward the chicken house, looking for some young mice or gophers to eat. I've seen the toad, as well. These two are very welcome here, unlike deer, mosquitos and raccoons. 

It's too hot to garden until evening. I go out and change the water lines, and come back in to the semi-cool to read. I've discovered the online library at opencatalog.org, and use the app Aldiko to read on my cell phone. They have many medieval mysteries, which I'm into lately.

So I'm still here! And will try to post about some of our more interesting happenings soon.



Tuesday, May 22, 2018

A month into the garden

We've been crazy busy getting the garden in – spring came early, and we haven't had a frost in weeks.


Nearly all of the tender plants have been set out, the bush beans are just up, and my watering system (known as Aunt Flo) is working, and wonderful. What it isn't, is beautiful. I figure we can work on that next year. And C. is planning to plant some vines on it to shield it from UV rays, and soften its ugly.

Here is the manifold, Aunt Flo's brain. Ignore the draped pipes and baskets of parts – I'll put those away as soon as I get every little plant on a dripper.




The white pipe and valves are all recycled from my last failed attempt at a watering system, an unglued PVC setup from the University of Utah. On our rough slope, the lines cracked on the rocks and fittings popped apart even after I glued them. It was a mess.

They do work in their new configuration as a manifold, though, sending water off to eight different zones on three-quarter- and half-inch poly pipe. I have patched together parts collected over the last 30 years: all five sizes of half-inch pipe (that is not a joke) in three colors, three sizes of soaker hose, skinny quarter-inch line and plug-in emitters, and my recent purchase of 1,000 feet of drip tape.

It is a crazy quilt of watery goodness. Now C. can say, "The beans look dry – put Aunt Flo on the yellow line," and we have water on the beans, without dragging the hose around. All it took was $300 in new bits and a month of my (slow) labor. It's not quite complete, but it works. That is monumental. We'll make it a little better every year. I'll be looking for parts at estate and farm sales! And I might take some old garden hoses and drill holes in them to get water on the sun chokes for now. Yes, I am proud of finally getting a working system in, and embarrassed that it took so many years. And so much money!

So we've got the garden mostly in, and mostly watered. Next we need to get mulch on everything.


Here are the tomatoes, some on old ladders and some with stakes. We grow the indeterminate kind that get HUGE, so they need to be tied up to stakes or to sticks running between the ladders.


Here is our little field-corn patch.


And here are the guineas in the chunnel.






Saturday, April 21, 2018

Sunny April days

The last few days have been gorgeous and warm, so we've been out in the garden. It feels so great to work in the warm sunshine – back in February I was sure it would never be warm out again. Silly.

Planting Lincoln peas (my favorite). C. places the brush trellis, I add the
soaker hose, and we plant a zigzag row on each side.
Over the last three weeks we got all the peas in. That's three long rows of Lincoln shell peas, and three of Cascadia snap peas. Oh, and there's an 8-foot row of Sugar Hearts, since we had some seed left from last year.

The next day, the chickens and guineas scratched out and ate one whole row of pea seed, so I replanted, and now the birds are confined to the chicken yard. I felt sorry for them, though, and put up a "chunnel" along one side of the garden fence so they can booble around and eat greens and bugs. Not peas, though. I'll get a photo of it. It's just a line of cedar 2x2s from an old deck railing leaned onto the fence and covered with chicken wire.


C. has a row of spuds in, as well as patches of spinach, lettuce, carrots and some other stuff. Some of the tomato seedlings in The Monstrosity (seed-starting set-up) have grown so big she's started potting them up and moving them to the greenhouse. We've got a heat cable out there, so it's pretty warm and they seem very happy. She started some squash seeds and some corn inside today.

I hauled three buckets of alpaca poo over from the barn for potting mix. C. adds compost, garden soil,vermiculite and some commercial potting soil. We've got lots of tomatoes to repot over the next few weeks, plus peppers and tomatillos and... We'll need lots.

Our (optimistic) last frost date is around May 15, and then there will be a mad rush to get everything in the ground.


I've been moving strawberry plants to the edges of the terraces so I can pick them from below. It beats the heck out of wallowing through a big patch of them.

I'm working on the watering system, laying down drip tape, drip hose or soaker hose as C. plants each area. The kids are coming up tomorrow, so I'm hoping they will help me get the irrigation manifold set up on posts, and I can start connecting the lines. I do have a secret fear that, like last year and the year before, my watering system will be a failure, and we'll be dragging hoses around – despite buying 1,000 feet of drip tape. We'll see. It is amusing to measure the beds for hoses – some are 37 feet long, some 43 and 24. We obviously did not lay the garden out on a grid, spaced for standard hose lengths. We just kind of did it. By eye, by golly, like good hippies. So it's a good thing we are doing a custom watering system.

C. is feeling poorly, her knee twinging and her right wrist still in a brace. She soldiers on, though I detect crabbiness on occasion.

Yesterday I ventured into the crawl space to turn the outside faucets on. (Surely, smart people such as ourselves could come up with a system accessible from the main floor, no?) It's complicated, even for those without MS. I drop a stepladder into the crawlspace under the new part of the building (circa 1955), creep down and close up the PEX line. Then I heave myself out, over to the old entryway and down into the old crawlspace (1936), past several beams to turn on the line. Then there is always some kind of problem (usually a frost-cracked line) and I turn it off and crawl back out, over to the new space to fix the problem and back to the old side to turn it on again. It's more tedious than it sounds, and I usually have some kind of meltdown, especially when my helper is listening to loud music instead of my hollers for assistance. Harrumph.

But I did prevail, and now the hoses work. No more hauling buckets of water to the big animals!

It's good. There is much to do. I'm tired.






Thursday, March 29, 2018

Spring fussing



We're keeping busy with garden prep work here. The garden still has a bit of snow and lots of winter detritus, so we're doing our gardening indoors.




I've built a big ugly shelving unit in the dining room for starting seeds. It's covered with quarter-inch hardware cloth to keep the mice out, and is made from pallet wood and scraps, so it is no thing of beauty. We call it the cage, or the monstrosity. It holds 12 flats, and could hold four more if I added a shelf and more lights.

The fixtures are ordinary (cheap!) 4-foot fluorescent shop lights, converted to LEDs (I just ripped out the ballasts and did a little simple rewiring). The bulbs should last and stay bright for years and years, which is good since they are $10 each. I bought four bulbs last year and eight this year from these guys. The bulbs are wonderful, with plastic and metal covers instead of glass. (I'm not a fan of plastic, generally, but if you've ever had a glass fluorescent tube break and scatter thin shards everywhere, you'll appreciate these, too. Be sure to buy 5000K frosted bulbs if you plan to start seeds under them. The fixtures came from yard sales – and I bummed a few from DD Emma. They can be beat up and non-working, as long as the wires and "tombstone" bulb-holders are in decent shape.)

Tiny tomato plants

The yellow hose at left is for watering. It hooks up to the kitchen tap.

So we're puttering. The wood stove is still going, since it's chilly, if not downright cold.

Em is on a five-day road trip, so we're watching her three dogs. I did try to talk her into taking the dogs along, and leaving 2-year-old Liam with us, but noooooooo.

It isn't great fun since Lola, the black shepherd, is well-behaved but can't be trusted with chickens and Arnold, the Basenji/kangaroo, has a hideous bark/howl/chirp that he uses way too much, may run off, and will lift his leg in the house. Bono, the scratchy little Shih Tzu mix, is good as gold but will pine for his person. So Arnie is staying outside with Earl, and we try to be extra attentive with Bono.

I am trying to love Arnold, but it is a hard road.

We went to town yesterday to dig up more of our cottage garden at the Ancestral Home. Our grown boy, who is in the process of buying the place (fingers crossed!), is not a gardener and plans to replace the roses, shrubs and perennials – with lawn.

I know. I know. We tried to raise him right. I blame society. And maybe the public schools.

On the positive side, he is a kind and considerate person, adores his little family and is good to his ancient parents.

So we dug plants, and marveled at our 18-month-old granddaughter who rampaged through the house and climbed onto the coffee table to dance. This made me so tired I had to go home and lie down.

C. is working on putting the rescued plants into the ground. I'm still traumatized at the thought of keeping up with that terrifying and very cute toddler. Sheesh.







Wednesday, March 14, 2018

It's here!

The weather has been beautiful – 56 degrees yesterday – and the snow is on the run. It's spring!

I parked myself in front of the south wall with a cup of tea and just basked in the glory that is the sun. Beautiful.

Then I rushed over and cut up a bunch of old fenceposts into firewood with the reciprocating saw, and hauled 100 pounds of chicken food to the chicken house, and a big bag of oats and one of potting soil into the house. And swept the porch (but not very well, because, despite the giddy excitement of the season, I'm still a slob).

Spring is good. I feel like doing something! which is quite a relief. I thought I might just sit in the recliner and brood forever. And watch bad television. And glower out the window at the damn snow.

Spring is here! I've just ordered a bunch of drip irrigation gear because, this year, we are going to have an irrigation system in the garden. Jump back – it's a giddy woman with a credit card!

Life is good.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Advice

As an older person, I am often tempted to give young folks advice, so that they may benefit from my many years of experience (mistakes, I mean). Even though I know that people can't learn from others' mistakes, and have to go out and make their own versions. I know this because I was never able to learn from my parents' advice (which explains a lot about some early boyfriends).

It's sad. That's why human civilization is stalled, struggling with the same issues, generation after generation. Sigh.

But if I were to give advice, it would go like this:

Never buy a horse named Nipper.

Never pick the puppy called Crybaby.

Don't take the cat named Shit Cat.

There.

What advice do you have to offer the world?




Monday, February 19, 2018

Down, inner gardener!

Just as I was coming back to life with all kinds of projects and garden plans, an arctic system has dumped a foot of snow and sent temperatures plummeting.

So it's back to winter mode, stoking the fire and reading and NOT thinking about spring. That's right, I'm NOT thinking about spring. Furiously. Take that, winter.

I made the rounds, feeding and watering everybody, and hauled a wagon of wood in. That's it for work today.

I signed up for a free trial of Hulu TV, lured by the promise of D.I.Y. shows. We don't have enough wifi bandwidth, though. I'm frustrated by the pauses in every show (though the commercials seem to play perfectly) and by what passes for entertainment these days. It's really gone downhill. I used to watch HGTV, and enjoyed visiting artists' funky houses, and watching D.I.Y. shows that explained how to do all kinds of home projects – laying and refinishing wood floors, designing gardens, building furniture and so forth. Now it's all "reality" competitions that pit teams of attention-starved designers against each other. Oh! the fake drama! The judges are realtors (I refuse to capitalize that word), and the highest appraisal (all hail, almighty dollar!) is the only criteria. Dumpsters are filled – nobody recycles anything. There is crying and bitchiness. Ack. Every interior looks the same (grey is apparently the only color anybody paints anything, including children's rooms), and the women all have horrible Valley Girl voices, or maybe adenoid problems. Homeowners don't do any of their own work. And a big feature is made of "demo day," with dumbasses smashing walls with sledgehammers and howling like drunken fans at sports events.

TV has become (even more) profoundly stupid. Who would have thought it was possible?

Sheesh. I sound like an old person.

So it's back to the bookshelf, until spring, anyway.

Keep warm!