Garden Time

Last week, my spinning friends that were visiting went out to the garden with me to see if they could identify this:

It starts like this and becomes this…

It has a matt of copper colored roots with below ground runners that can go a couple of feet from one plant to the next. It was overtaking the blueberry bed and beginning to take over the adjacent bed that is slated to be the three sister’s bed. After our glorious walk on a beautiful day yesterday, an attack on the weed was tackled. When done, the above bed was clear (for now).

My experience with it is that if you don’t get all of the roots, which is impossible, it just comes back, so I will have to keep at it. The blueberries are full of tiny berries. Bird net may be in order this year as it looks like it could finally be a good harvest if I beat the birds to them.

The two nights of potential frost didn’t get cold enough to freeze and the forecast looks like spring nights have finally arrived, so the tomatoes and peppers that have been in and out of the house for a while, were planted out today after that bed was weeded. The tomatoes spaced out nicely for the number I had and there is room for the Thai and Serrano peppers once they have achieved enough size to transplant them into the garden. The bed is getting a good watering in right now. Maybe later, the second planting of peas and the first planting of beans will be sown. The three sister’s garden will be a day in itself. My garden plan has been altered somewhat so the cucumbers need to find a place to be planted.

Yesterday’s walk was an extension of the walk we do from the end of the Huckleberry Trail. About 3/4 of a mile into that walk, another trail that travels through the Heritage Park, also known as Brown Farm. The farm was a dairy and beef farm and was purchased by the town of Blacksburg under the New River Trust. It has a large pond and trails through the fields and old farm buildings.

Wonderful old buildings and silos. The shot up through the silo was taken by holding the camera through a hole in the side from outside.

Interesting nature finds, a nut shell, an all white daisy like wildflower, and just look at that tree. Hubby is 6’1.5″ tall to give you reference to it’s size. We finished the rest of the usual walk with this side trip.

Tick Season and preparing for new garden

It is only May 1 and already many ticks have made their way into the house on our bodies or on the pups. Three bites already on me. It is going to be a bad year for them I fear.

There is a mowed path to the bees that will stay mowed as the adjacent hay grows, but sometimes you have to walk through the branches of a cedar tree to brush off any hitchhikers and in spite of pants tucked into socks into boots, the bee jacket, veil, and gloves, they are still finding their way in. I dislike chemical sprays even around my pants legs, much less on upper body, especially since most are from going to the bee yard. I’ve had folks suggest wrapping a dog tick collar around my lower pants legs, but that doesn’t stop them from the cedar branches above the lower legs.

They are disgusting, creepy crawlies, disease carriers. We need Guineas, but doubt they would stick around and they are so noisy, but definitely tick gobblers. This will be a difficult year to wild berry pick because of them.

This week, the last of the tomatoes frozen toward the end of the season last year were finally processed into pasta sauce. That puts 11 pints of pasta sauce on the shelf to start this year. Three from last year, 8 new ones, plus 3 in the freezer, 3 pints of canned tomato puree added this spring. There is still a supply of assorted tomatillo sauces/salsas/jams, and a bag remaining in the freezer, so they won’t go in this year’s garden. There are 8 peppers ready to plant in two weeks, plus another variety started from seed that will be a bit later. One of the Farmer’s Market vendors had several varieties of tomato starts so one each of two varieties were added to my purchase to give me 8 tomato plants, 2 more than originally planned. The huckleberries didn’t come up in the starter flat which gives me some space to accommodate the extras. The corn patch will be half sweet corn and half Bloody Butcher so seed can’t be saved, but extra seed of the dent corn was purchased to use next year. The plan this year has two varieties of beans and two varieties of peas, so again, seed can’t be saved. Already, a plan for next year is in the works to grow only single varieties of heritage vegetables and save seed for future planting. This will be somewhat limiting, but our primary hot pepper use is Jalapenos, primary tomato use is sauces, sweet corn is such a short season, the Bloody Butcher will provide corn meal and roasting ears. Though we enjoy bush beans, young Pinto’s can be eaten green and if enough are planted, dried for winter chili and goulash. With peas, we enjoy both sugar snaps and shelling peas, but if only shelling peas are grown like year’s past, seed can be saved. It will be an interesting experiment to see if the lack of variety bothers us or if the variety will just come from Farmer’s Market purchases. Seminole pumpkins are great for stuffing or pies and will be the third part of the Three Sister’s garden. Spinach will be planted, but I have never tried to save seed from spinach or lettuce. Cucumbers of course will be in the garden to eat fresh and to make pickles. Garlic was not planted for this year, but will be added back in for the fall garden to overwinter and provide bulbs next summer.

Here’s hoping for a great garden season and more putting by for the off seasons. I need to start gathering jars for processing vegetables and later for when honey gathering commences, probably not until next year though.

Bees, so many, many bees

The hives owner (Son 2) purchased screen bottoms with slide out boards for the hives. He thought that is what he had purchased initially, but the hives came with a solid bottom base piece. Yesterday, my spinning friend/bee mentor came over to help me examine the hives and install the new screen bottoms with out the slide out boards for the warmer weather. We had the smoker but never lit it. The spring bees are so mellow, but busy. Lots of pollen pants on the girls as they flew into the hives. They are making honey in brooder frames so excluders and honey supers will soon be added. All the hives were active, we found 3 of the queens and evidence that all 4 have active queens. Every hive has a Queen cup or two that require watching. The hives look healthy, a few hive beetles that we smushed, no mites (knock on wood). She again gave me so many suggestions to make life easier for the bees and for maintenance. The bottom slide out boards need a rim to pull them from the slots as they will get stuck in otherwise so that will be done before they are installed late fall. She suggested a small vent slot in back end of the spacer to aid with ventilation. When the supers are added and the spacers are removed to place them, those slots will be cut. It would be nice if I had a battery powered jig saw, but mine has to be plugged in. Also she discussed a syrup feeder style that slips into the brood box like a frame that holds a gallon of syrup so it doesn’t have to be made quite as often. I don’t know what you do when it isn’t needed, I guess replace it with another frame. I am still using quart jars that sit outside the front of the hive.

Just before she came over, one of their hives swarmed, high up into the trees. While she was here, a second swarmed and her husband said it settled on their electric box so he set up to capture and move them as soon as she arrived home.

Before she arrived, one of the overstuffed 2 gallon bags of frozen tomatoes from last year was dumped in a sink of warm water, the skins slipped off and dropped in a big pot to simmer with herbs and seasonings while we worked. Two and a half hours later, there was a nice pot of pasta sauce awaiting. We had spaghetti and salad, a pint was frozen and 4 more pints were canned after dinner and put on the shelf to begin resupplying our canned goods. I have plenty of lids this year and need to begin to gather jars as the honey is going to need jars as well, and my supply is just about what I use to can sauces, salsas, and jams in each year.

The hens are producing about 8 or 9 eggs a day. One of the Marans thinks she is an ostrich and lays super jumbos that don’t fit in a carton and one of the Easter eggers often produces “oopsies” a tiny egg that is only an egg white.

And it is definitely asparagus season, cutting many spears each day to enjoy and share.

This week has brought news of the loss of two of our acquaintances, one was a neighbor who has been in very poor health for a number of years. He was my age. The other from my childhood. He was a son of the director at Shrine Mont when I was a child visiting there in the summer, about 11 years my senior, he was a teen and young adult then, later he became the director that replacing his Dad, and the father of the current director. I was told that he also had been in poor health for a while.

And the news this week included the deaths of two young college athletes, both good students, who took their own lives. Suicide is a topic that demands more discussion. As a retired school counselor, experiencing the suicide of a few students over the years, it is difficult to discuss, but it must to save the lives of people in distress.