False Spring

After typical winter for weeks with cold, damp, gray days and lots of wind, today is glorious. It is 50f (10c), clear, sunny, and calm. A couple of springs ago, a new metal raised bed was added to the garden with the idea of restarting the asparagus bed in a controlled area. Nothing came up from the crowns that were planted there and the bed was not in a good location. I moved it out of the way last year, moving the soil with it and put the third planting of beans in it that the bean beetles destroyed before they could produce. Where I moved it was also not a good location because it was hard up against the fence, an area with every noxious weed under the fence, and in a position that prevented getting the wheelbarrow to the compost pile. Last fall, Son 1 turned the compost pile for me and as I had moved a non productive bed box over my blueberries and heavily mulched them, he moved my raspberry and blackberry half barrels to where the old bed had been and it created the perfect spot for the raised bed.

Today because it was too nice to stay indoors, I moved the metal box frame to it’s new and permanent location and since I wanted it full, not just a couple inches of soil, it became a Hugelkultur bed. The sunflower stalks and corn stalks from last year’s garden were cut and layered in the bottom on a cardboard base and a layer of wood chips fouled with chicken manure shoveled on top.

On top of that, a layer of straw:

On top of the straw was a wheelbarrow full of the compost from the turned pile.

Then the soil that had been in the box was weeded and shoveled into the barrow and added on top and top dressed with another layer of compost to fill the box nicely and have it ready for early peas in another month or so.

While out there, the bed that had the flying greenhouse in it was weeded, hoping that with this week’s potential snow that it will stay clear, and another 4 X 8 bed that had a layer of old chicken bedding piled in it was turned to help it break down. Finally, the compost pile was shoveled back into a pile, trying to turn it a bit more to add to the bed nearest it when the weather warms a bit and the kitchen scrap pile beside it was fenced off with temporary fencing and top and an opening from the chicken run created to allow them to eat the weeds and kitchen scraps and make more compost in that location.

It didn’t take the hens long to discover the new territory.

As I was coming back in the house, I saw a text from a west coast friend, asking if we could chat as there is no Zoom session today and ended up with a delightful half hour or so on the phone, sitting in the warm sun on the front porch and sharing stories. Such a delightful way to end an afternoon outdoors.

Tomorrow the weather takes a turn back to cooler and rainy with wintery mix, possibly snow mid week. We will see, there hasn’t been any so far this winter.

Success

Though I don’t generally share food after it has been prepared, you often see the results of the garden harvest and canned for storage produce. The success with the three sisters’ garden this year was poor, better than last year, but definitely not successful. The corn part of the long bed was initially planted with Bloody Butcher dent corn on one end, a short season sweet corn on the other end, covered with a long run of welded wire fence several inches above the soil surface to keep the crows from eating more than their share. Since a dent corn field is planted to the east of us, I had hoped they would go for the easy meal. Very little of the corn germinated, so it was replanted and a third white dent corn added, and again, poor germination and the pumpkins never did come up until so late in the season that they had no chance to produce. We got a few, very few ears of sweet corn that was not very full and mature, and this is all of the dent corn that the patch produced.

Once dried on the stalk, shucked and placed in this window sill in the utility room to further dry, last night it was slated to be ground. Years ago, hubby gave me this grinder for a gift at my request.

Until last night, it has only been used to coarsely grind whole corn for chicken scratch and it gives the right arm quite a workout. I thought about taking my few ears of dent corn to the museum with me tomorrow and using the corn sheller, but instead stood over the hopper and hand shelled all but one ear of the corn I grew. Played with the grinder settings and got the grind finer, but not commercial meal fine.

And I cranked, took a break, did other chores, returned and cranked some more until all of the corn had been ground. To my amazement, it ended up being enough to fill two quart jars with a cup left to cook this morning.

Last night, that cup of hand ground corn was set to soak in water in the Instant Pot in preparations to cook it as grits this morning for Son 1’s and my breakfast. Knowing that it would take at least 90 minutes on the stove top, the presoaking and Instant Pot meant it would be ready in about 35-40 minutes instead, including the pressurizing, cooking, and depressurizing. Much to our delight, it made a very good addition to a couple of scrambled eggs from my hens.

We each had a bowlful of homegrown, hand ground, fresh grits with a sprinkle of cheddar cheese and a good dollop of butter. Son 1 ate a second bowlful. The remaining two quarts of meal were put in the freezer to prevent them from turning rancid and more winter breakfasts of grits, and a few pans of cornbread will be enjoyed. So though I rarely show a finished meal, this one was homegrown (and enjoyed with a couple of slices of tomato purchased at the Farmer’s Market yesterday.)

Next year, more dent corn will be planted and hopefully produce more to grind. It is delicious.

It’s Done

The frost bitten garden was visited and cleaned up. Hidden in the burned foliage were a couple dozen more decent sized peppers that were brought in to use up quickly, or be sliced and frozen for later. The peas were left in place so the birds or other garden denizens can feast on the remaining small peas. The garlic bed was planted out with 36 cloves of garlic, hopefully to produce 36 decent sized bulbs to dry for next year’s use. This year as I didn’t plant garlic, all we have used was purchased from the vendors at the Farmer’s Market.

Once planted, it was covered in old hay, some erosion fencing, and two heavy garden posts as the chickens often get garden time in the winter and I don’t want them digging up the bed and garlic. The greenhouse will protect the greens, but the blueberry bed still needs a shield around it before the chickens can get in. If I can get a proper fence ring around the plum, there is enough erosion fence temporarily, but not effectively protecting it to protect the blueberries from the chickens digging out the mulch that has been used to thwart the weeds in that bed. The berry barrels still need to be moved. I haven’t attempted that task yet, but it will be easier now that I can take them through the long bed once the stakes are pulled. The overwintering of the stakes is always a problem. There is a galvanized can in the garage that leaks, perhaps it can be secured in a corner of the garden and the posts and stakes stood up in it until they are needed next year.

The chickens appear to be having pillow fights now. They have more feathers in the coop and on the ground than on their bodies. Molting hens sure aren’t pretty birds, but they will be so clean and fluffy when the new feathers grow out. They start with their heads and necks during molt and that really makes them unattractive.

Crafting this week has been very sporadic. Very little spinning has been done. Some knitting on a hemp spa cloth and on a gift, but little else.

With tomorrow’s day time temperature being very spring like, the hives will be opened one last time for the season, checked for brood, stores, and given sugar cakes. Some sugar was added a couple weeks ago when the orifice openings were reduced and the bottom boards added. With nights in the freezing range, they needed all the protection they could get. Whatever happens this winter, happens, I have done all I can. In the spring, I will take the beekeepers class, so hopefully I will go into next year better prepared.

I continue to go through “stuff” making donation piles, reducing files of no longer relevant paperwork, closing down parts of the cottage business as it dwindles away to non existence by the end of the year. Life needs to be simpler, and as I said before, we need people in our lives, not possessions.