Tuesday, July 9

What's Eating My Hollyhocks?

Reader advice and expertise needed:

I like the black hollyhock from a distance. It is just so dramatic to see something black in the garden.
\When I get close up however, the blooms always look so greasy uninviting.

What is eating my hollyhock?

Monday, July 8

Superstition (dare I say that I am happy with my garden!?)

All this humid and wet weather has been doing wonders for the veggie gardens and I am going to go out on a superstitious limb here and say that I think it is going to be a great year.
As of today my 30' x 40' food garden has given us strawberries, radishes, lettuce, spinach and I saw the first peas ready to pick this afternoon.
Garden roll call, in sections:
Cucumbers, Watermelon, American melon, Eggplant, and Zucchini

Gold rush bush bean, Scarlet runner bean, Green bush bean, and Purple podded pole bean

Peas, carrots, radishes, lettuce, spinach, red and white onions, strawberries

Broccoli and cauliflower

Tomatoes - cherry, sungold, evergreen, red brandywine and yellow pear

Peppers - hot, green and red
Calendula, basil, German chamomile, parsley, sunflowers, thyme and rosemary
The first few tiny tomatoes got my attention today. Since I misplaced the wooden popsicle sticks
that told me which tomato plant was which, I can only guess the variety shown here.

My spinach, carrots, white onions, radishes and some marigolds thrown in
to ward off hungry mammals.

This is our second year growing lettuce. I have mixed feelings about it and I tend to wash it
at least 3 or 4 times before eating it. I don't know what I am scared of - at least I know that there are no
chemicals or pesticides on the leaves. Maybe it's just seeing a wayward snail attached to a leaf that gives me the creeps. 

One of my all-time favorite garden staples. Delicious!
We used straw to mulch the peas, beans and the rows in between this year as an experiment with weed control.
So far, I am ok with the results. I have still had to weed the rows of plants, but not much on the walk way row.
My problem with the straw is that it tends to blow around and you end up getting fistfuls of it when you are trying to grab and pull out a stubborn weed.

I am happy with the runner beans this year even though they got off to a slow start thanks to the
hungry woodchuck. My new garden mantra: fencing, fencing, fencing!!!!

The tomatoes with their bed of weed preventing mulch. I am very happy with the mulch option so far. I have
had to pull a total of 8 weeds from the entire patch of tomatoes so far this season. My only fear is that it will
not compost into the soil well over the winter and we will end up with unexpected soil problems.

Despite massive fencing efforts something made their way through three fence barriers and ate my
broccoli and my cauliflower. Unlike last year, which was a total loss after something ate the plants all the way
to the ground, this year they only ate the top 1/3rd of each plant. I am seeing new growth and I am hopeful that my 4th layer of fencing will deter even the more hungry of bunnies.

This is part of my food garden, and after 10+ years of planning, planting, experimenting with fencing and dirt and
different types of plants, cursing, crying, jumping for joy, sweating, swearing, hammering, digging and weeding, I think I am finally starting to be happy with the design and the output.
But that doesn't mean I can't expand......

Saturday, July 6

Growing Up

My chicks are almost grown and tonight I think I am going to introduce them into the flock. They are still a little smaller than my adult hens but not by much. And they feisty. Very feisty.
The other day I arranged the outdoor run for the hens against the smaller run I made for the new girls so they could see each other up close and personal. There was some interest from both parties but overall they each pretending the other group was not there and went out eating bugs.
I still have no idea what breed of chickens my new girls are. For now I call them "Tractor Supply Mix". I have two that are mostly white - one has some black spots on her lower neck and the other has light brown feathers that slowly turn lighter down her neck and the rest of her body is all white. I have two that are a darker brown - one with white sections and the other with a white 'fin' tail. The last two are 'in-the-middle' brown with white sprinkled throughout.

Tonight is the night. I am going move the girls from the tractor to the separate enclosed area inside of the main coop before it gets dark. Then right before I go to bed I will open the enclosure door and leave it open. My hope is that they will integrate into the flock and all will be well. This is the same approach I used last year and I did not have any incidents, however, last year I waited until the end of July. I may rethink my decision and postpone to next weekend.

In related chicken news, I have brought back the portable grass run. A couple months ago the fox took some of my chickens by gaining entry through the portable fencing - in broad daylight! I feel I have waiting the sufficient amount of time for the fox to lose interest and move on to better hunting grounds and I reinstalled the portable fence so the flock can get to fresh grass. This time, I made it a smaller area and added a light netting top. I have been vigilant about fence and netting inspection and in the daily counting of chickens.

Strawberry Picking

Last week the kids and I went strawberry picking with my parents at a local farm. The kids had a great time, my parents got all the strawberries they could handle for their jam making, and i got to take in the sights, sounds and all around wonderful atmosphere of the place.
Three goats were in a shady pen close to the stand and tractor loading area, munching on grass. The little girl loved them and sat crouched down, nose to the fence, absolutely beaming.


After a tractor and wagon ride out to the fields, we were told where to pick and we were left to enjoy the beautiful weather and the berries. Rows and rows of plants full of red berries. It took Mom, Dad and the little man 6 feet of picking on two rows to get 12 heaping quarts full.

The little man had a great time helping pick the berries and any fears I had of him going crazy, trampling plants or throwing berries we quickly dismissed. Grandpa kept him in line, of course, but the little guy was helpful and picked a few quarts all by himself.

The little girl and I wandered the rows and she watched other people picking and discovered rocks and sticks and other interesting things on the ground.

It wasn't long before we were back on the wagon, heading back to our cars with all the berries.

The jam has been made, canned and stacked in the white metal cabinet at Mom and Dad's. And the kitchen smelled wonderful.

Friday, July 5

Backdated Flowers

Blooms that have come and gone already this season....
PS - please ignore horrible formatting....

The peonies before the rains knocked them flat.

My so-light-pink-they look-white roses climbing up the barn.

This light purple clematis was one of the first things I planted when I started the garden by the barn.
Now it climbs up and mixes in with the pink roses.

I love this light peach iris, especially next to the maroon
foliage of the moneywort plant.