Thursday, June 30

Two New Plants in the Garden

I am a follower of An American Homestead - a great Youtube channel with practical homesteading advice, stories, how-to's and just general Ozark fun. They are currently producing videos for season 3 so I strongly recommend that you start at the beginning of season 1 and binge. Very entertaining and educational - gardening, homestead chores, projects, aquaponics, livestock, canning, recipes and tons more. 

One of the episodes that I really enjoyed discussed the achocha cucumber that they grow on their cedar trellis. Having never heard of this variety I was eager to try it. Luckily, they were offering seeds for sale from their own plants through their website, and I now have them in my garden for the first time this season. 

Right now they are getting established and sending out their first spiraling tendrils. I am excited to see how it does in our climate and if I can save the seed.

My achocha cucumbers from An American Homestead
They also introduced me to another plant - popalo. It is a cilantro substitute that does not bolt in the summer heat. I ordered this one as well and I have some nice small plants that I will find a permanent home for shortly. I might construct a separate garden bed for this plant as they suggested on their video.

They have a great salsa recipe and they discuss their uses for the popalo plant in this episode.

The rest of the garden is doing well for the most part. The beans have suffered a few loses from my evil resident wood chuck but I always plant extra beans of many varieties so the losses should be minimal. Our harvest so far this season has included strawberries, kale, lettuce, spinach, radishes and peas.

This is the first year I have ever tried beets. The foliage is pretty and the plants seem healthy. Since I am new to growing beets I over planted the seed so I did have to do a lot of thinning.

Also my first year growing kale. Two varieties - Scotch Blue (compact plants with blueish green crinkled leaves)  and Forager (a leafy, stem-less, fast growing variety). The wood chuck prefers Forager.

The sun chokes are about 5 feet tall right now, although you can not tell from this picture. I am amazed every year at how fast they seem to grow after they show their first green leaves in late spring. They are aggressive and take over everything. Right now they are competing with the mint. I am curious to see who will win.

Wednesday, June 29

I am currently unhappy with the state of my peas. They were late to sprout and when they finally did, they were just plain lazy. They didn't want to climb up the trellis systems and they just kind of flopped over and hung out like a lazy teenager. When I finally got them upright and going, the stem base of just about every plant was permanently bent. Much twine and a little cursing later, I have many plants producing a great quantity of pods. But they still look lazy. All the twine in the world can not hide those crazy stem bases and it bothers me.

I am also bothered by the resident wood chuck who stubbornly refuses to vacate his bachelor pad located under my shed. Every night he digs himself out and finds a way into my garden, either by digging or squeezing through a loose patch of fencing. And every morning I find chewed off bean stalks, missing kale and a new hole to fill in by the shed.

I decided to put my trail cam in the garden, near the previously mentioned bean plants, just to see what I would see. I was thinking I would capture some night-vision illuminated wood chuck image, all ghastly white and black. Probably his rear end as he waddled across the garden bed, all fuzzy and our of focus. However, when scanning through the images captured the next day I was greeted with a wood chuck close up. There is was, munching away on some beans, in broad daylight, like he was making a lunchtime selection at the salad bar. Not a care in the world.... Just out for a noon day stroll.... Oh, a camera, well, I shall just sit here as close as I can let you get my best side.......

This wood chuck is smarter than I thought.

However, he has not touched the peas. Maybe he is as put off by the stems as I am. 

Tuesday, June 28

Some mornings when I wake up I would rather just pull the covers over my head and try to block out the noise of my children arguing over who sits where on the couch.

Or sometimes my first sight in the morning is an extreme close up of my cats cold, wet nose which he has just a second ago shoved against my sleeping face.

Mostly, however, it is in the pattern of 'open eyes, look at clock, listen for evidence of other household members already awakened, get up, feed cats.' Which is immediately followed by 'feed myself breakfast'. While I wait for my toast, I like to look out the big back kitchen window and see what the day might hold me me. Rain? Summer heat? What's happening with the chickens? Was that branch laying there yesterday?

On lucky mornings, I see wildlife.

I don't care if you are the worst morning person in the world (which I think I might be) - there is no way that anyone could possibly not smile at what I got to see the other day. A deer with her two little twin fawns exploring the clover by the back tree line. And these fawns were loving it. They were jumping and running around together, running circles around their mom and leaping into the clover. They were playing and having the best time while Mom's radar ears scanned for possible anger.

Later that day I saw this little one in the woods - it was a little startling when I came across this baby since he or she was so close to the path.

I like to think of our property as a place where wildlife can come and feel safe. Our area is slowly being eaten away by developers so I feel it is important to leave as much of the property as possible wild and natural. I have started letting larger sections of fields to grow back where the previous owner had mowed. It is amazing when you just let a piece of lawn go back to field. So many different flowers and grasses appear which attracts the bees and birds and insects, and it is so much more visually pleasing than short, tan, half-dead grass.

Just with this little part of field that I have let go back to wild, we have seen so much more diversity and life. I can't wait to see what else we can bring back as we repair our land.

Tuesday, June 21

The Barn Cats

We have 5 new animal additions living in one of the barns. I have partnered up with a fantastic lady who rescues feral cats from the very worst parts of the inner city and gets them medical care and gets them "fixed". She then reaches out to the animal community looking for farmers with barns, space and a kind heart to take in these little ones and give them a better life.

They are in different stages of "feral" ranging from almost house-cat to very afraid and hissing. The first three have been here since Mother's Day:

This is "Grandma". She was one of the original colony members.

This handsome man is Saruman (the rescue lady is a Lord of the Rings fan). He is very skittish and I hardly
ever see him now. 
Saruman giving me the evil stare.....

And this is "Daddy". He is reputed to be the father of most of the cats in the large colony. When they finally trapped him and had him fixed, they had a party.
Daddy and Grandma are two of the sweetest, most friendly cats I have ever had. They are both small but they are putting on weight and have long been out of there relocation cages. They know that this is there home now and going out to the barn is one of the best parts of my day now. They love attention, and food, and I have put a lawn chair in the barn where I try to spend at least 20 minutes a day just letting them get used to me. I love the quiet time and they need the companionship. Saruman is very skittish and shy and I hardly ever see him. It has gotten to the point where I am hoping he is still around and has not gone off exploring and gotten lost.

That is the nature of outdoor barn cats - to explore and hunt. By having them in the relocation cages for a couple weeks in the barn, they learn that this is 'home' and where the food is, so they should stick around. Grandma and Daddy have become so friendly I may bring them in the house. But they are the feral cat exceptions.

I agreed to take two more of the colony cats who needed barn homes:

This guy is named "Tuxie' since his fur pattern is like that of a little tuxedo. He is feral. Very afraid of people, hissing and not social. The door to his relocation cage was opened this morning since he has been here two weeks and I am going to give him his space. He needs time and quiet to start to trust again. As long as I can provide him with shelter and food, I feel good in that he at least has that in his life now.

And this is "Sonny". He is actually from one of the litters of which "Daddy" is the father. So I have two generations here in the barn. Sonny is still afraid and shy. He is coming around, slowly, but he is still in his cage and will be so for another week and a half. I can see the potential in him to be a very sweet little boy - his eyes are so expressive. I talk to him and he is slowly warming up to people.

Normally, I would not think of adopting 5 cats at once. My husband was not thrilled about this but he has grown very fond of both Grandma and Daddy. I remind him of where these cats came from and that they truly need a safe place to call home. I can not turn my back on an animal in need, especially if they are in a horrible situation. I have the space and I can afford some extra cat food every month and I just want to show them that life can be peaceful with a warm bed and a full belly.

Wednesday, June 1

The Spring Explosion

Every spring I am amazed by the fact that one night I go to bed looking at barely budding tree branches and it seems that by the time I wake up the next morning there has been an explosion of foliage. It happens so fast that it seems like an overnight miracle. All of a sudden the trees are full of big green leaves and the bushes and flowering trees are full of color.

Right now there are so many colors and scents it is almost overwhelming. One summer when I was pregnant I was standing in just the right spot in the yard when a gust of wind carried the scent of bee balm to me. It was so overpowering that it was like being sprayed with 10 different scents at once in the perfume section of Macy's. Although I did not appreciate it at the time, now I can enjoy all these delicious scents that have taken over my property.

I cut lilacs to bring into the house and into little vases in the bathrooms - with two kids and a husband, they are better than any air freshener I could buy.

Every year this flowering tree attracts the bees and the orioles. I have tried to get a picture of them in the tree with their bring orange set against the white blossoms but so far my timing has just not lined up with their visits.

Two new tulip varieties that the kids and I planted last fall.

 Iris and poppies - my two favorite flowers - always bloom at the same time for me. The iris always stay around longer but I enjoy both of them for as long as I can. The poppies, even the larger perennial ones, are no match for a heavy rainstorm which may be hitting our area over the next few days. We have been having terrible humidity which leads to those sudden and heavy downpours.