And More Rain

The crazy boomerang storm has alternated between partly cloudy skies and real rain storms with thunder and lightning. When it leaves this time, it will keep going and it is going to get hot, summer hot.

When I went over this morning to free the chooks into the yard, the path is between the garden and the young plum and grapevine. The plum has fruit for the first time, but it also has new deer damage. Since the fence charger was taken down to use on the bees then returned to the garden as a stronger charged one was needed for the bees, it had been sitting by the post on the ground, and not remounted and turned on. After the Saturday morning routine of breakfast, Farmer’s Market, and daily walk, efforts were made to try to deter the deer from finishing off the plum and grape leaves. The charger was remounted on the pole with new mounting screws and new poly wire strung as the old wire was several years old, showed some burned spots, and wasn’t long enough to go around the fruit and the garden. Because the wood pile, uphill from the fruit and garden already had a couple of T-posts set at the ends, insulators were added at a lower height than the garden wire and the fence wire strung to enclose the plum and grapes. This will require relearning to walk above the wood pile to the chicken coop, but may protect the plum tree and grapevine. If it doesn’t deter the deer, a fence will go up around the plum and another bird net purchased to drape over the grapes.

My portion of the sweet potato bundle was planted out in the half barrel and just as water was about to be set up to sprinkle them in, it began raining a very steady, heavy rain. The sprinklers haven’t been needed on the flowers or vegetables for a couple of days which is nice. The only thing left to be planted out in the spring garden are three Thai peppers, but they are still in the hydroponic starter and not large enough to go outside. They could be planted with paper tubes around them to deter the sow bugs, but it is better to let them get some size on them. As there is still about a full quart jar of dried Thai’s from last year, it is no hurry.

The hay is getting tall and deep.

This doe is standing, not lying down.

It is broody hen season, too. One of the Buff Orpingtons has been sitting on an empty nest for two weeks. She would make a good Momma hen as she growls, puffs up, and pecks at me every time the egg door is opened. If she is removed from the nest to the yard, she growls and stays put until the door is closed or one of the other hens pecks at her weird noise, then she runs right back to the nest. No real effort has been made to deter her as past efforts on that front have never worked. A fleeting idea to put fertile eggs under her was quickly abandoned as the coop is already too small for the 13 hens that live there at night. About another week, she will tire of it and return to the laying flock. If not, she will go to freezer camp as a non productive hen doesn’t need to be in the coop.

Her most indignant self.

In anticipation of a bumper crop of assorted hot peppers, most of the remaining hot dried peppers from last year have been started as a hot pepper ferment to make sauce in a couple of weeks. Last year’s sauce is nearly gone. There are still enough dried peppers left for cooking purposes.

That is the spring’s second ferment begun. The asparagus are delicious and a second jar of them will occur as soon as another quart jar of them are available.

For days, the buds on the peonies have been opening more and more. This is the first year that there have been more than a couple and one is full of buds. During college years and when available, a small bowl of a floating bloom adorned my desk. This green glass bowl was hand blown at Jamestown Historical site and was perfect to float two beautiful peony blossoms.

Spring is a wonderful time of the year here in the Virginia mountains. It is great to be able to get the garden in and still cool enough to keep it weeded. The hot, humid summer will be upon us too quickly.

And Then Came the Rain

After yesterday’s errands and walk, the last tomato was caged, two more peppers planted and staked, the blueberries netted against thieving birds, so I can enjoy all of that luscious blue fruit. A stop, no, 4 stops to try to get sweet potato starts were a failure, but the last stop said they had been shipped and should be in today or tomorrow, so today’s check in was a winner and a bundle purchased. It is much too large for our garden or our family use, so the bundle will be shared.

We got our walk in just before the rain began and between showers, the half barrel that will contain the sweet potatoes was moved to the garden on a cardboard layer to deter weeds from growing through the bottom or up around the sides and then filled with fresh soil. The slips are soaking in a pot of water for a few days to freshen the roots and they will be planted out. Herb seed and transplants were also done between showers, but now it is raining in earnest, good for the freshly planted seed and transplanted starts.

In my quest to use open pollinated vegetables and save seed, the small Oui yogurt jars seem the perfect size for seed storeage. A google search produced silicone lids that fit the jars. A dark box will be scrounged and the seed will be stored in the back of the refrigerator between seasons. For several years, flower seed has been saved and replanted each year, beans and peas have been saved without much thought to how they were stored.

The next year or two, the open pollinated varieties may be switched until the ones that best suit us are tried and approved. The beans and peas that have been the spring and summer staples are already on the list. Dent corn varieties will be tried to provide corn meal and chicken scratch. Seminole pumpkins have been favored. Cucumbers are different each year, but maybe the best one has been selected this year. We use a lot of Jalapenos, but often grow several hot peppers, and they will cross pollinate, so that choice might be more difficult. The same with tomatoes. A good paste tomato for sauce and canning is great, but a fresh sliced tomato can’t be beat in the summer and again, there is the cross pollination issue. Lettuce and spinach are planted out repeatedly and not allowed to seed.

The battle with grass and weeds in the paths of the garden has been ongoing. Cardboard and mulch work for a short while. A huge load of wood chips would be ideal and could be added to each year, but it costs an arm and a leg to get it hauled up the mountain. Weed whacking around the beds seems to be the best that can be done for now, and hand pulling those that will come up. Some weeds are so persistent they will go through the barrier layers. It is exciting that the garden is coming together and fresh homegrown vegetables and fruits will soon be on our table and in our pantry and freezer.

Another Stellar Day

To vary our retirement routine today, we went up the mountain instead of down. The top of the mountain is Mountain Lake Conservancy and Lodge. The lodge property is the site of the filming of most of the original “Dirty Dancing” movie. Signage abounds identifying what occurred where, including one that says they spray painted the grass and trees green because it was autumn. We had a very nice lunch on the porch (where Baby first saw Johnny) looking out at where the lake used to be. Unfortunately, within a couple of years of us moving here, it disappeared through a fissure in the bottom of the lake. It has done that before and refilled, but it probably won’t happen in the rest of our lifetime. We were fortunate to have visited when there was a large, full, deep lake. The feeder streams still flow down, but the water disappears into the fissure. A few years ago, attempts were made to plug the hole, the lake partially refilled then failed.

After lunch, we took off on trails through the woods. The Conservancy is about 2,000 feet higher elevation than our house and spring time is just beginning. Flora and fauna abound.

Red Trillium
She wasn’t 20 feet from us and unconcerned.
May apples, past bloom and forming the fruit.
Not many leaves on the trees yet though.

Lots of fiddlehead ferns, violets, tiny white wild flowers. A cool breeze and lots of sunshine.

Once home, it was back to the garden planting.

Sweet corn and Bloody Butcher dent corn fill this bed, then topped with a sheet of fence wire to deter the crows until the corn is 6″ high. Pumpkins will be planted in that bed too, but the third sister was a purchase error and the Pinto beans are a bush bean, so they were planted in a separate bed nearby. The tomatoes were caged, the peppers staked, cucumbers and sunflowers planted, and the sprinkler started on it all. Once sweet potato starts can be purchased, they will be planted between the blueberries or above the potato and asparagus beds. There are a few more peppers to plant out when the starts are large enough and some basils that are in the hydroponic to intersperse between the tomatoes. Hoops were installed over the blueberry bed to support netting which will be purchased on the next Tractor Supply run, maybe tomorrow. The garden is now in maintenance mode until time to begin harvest. Late season beans will go in after peas are done, and garlic and fall greens when the time comes. So far, only spinach and asparagus are being harvested.

Last weekend’s rains are a storm that is boomeranging back to hit us again this weekend with the same storm. That really is a thing according to the local weather blogger for the newpaper. The garden won’t need watering again after today for a while.