After a very cool, wet June, we have had two hot sticky days with no rain. More rain and cooler days ahead, but it has allowed walks without umbrellas or raincoats and being able to inspect my hives for the first time since I installed them. This is a very different experience than last year. The two medium boxes for brood on each hive are bursting with honey, eggs, and brood. So many bees. I added a queen excluder to each hive and a honey super on each in hopes of some fall honey. The sourwood is just beginning to bloom so they will be busy, the fields are full of daisies and since we haven’t had a mower in over two weeks, the lawn is full of white and red clover.

The shelf unit I put on the front porch with houseplants has a Wren nest tucked between pots. I think is was a practice nest as it hasn’t been occupied. I will leave it for a few more days before I remove it.

Walks have had some wildlife to see, yesterday a box turtle who didn’t seem to like the attention it was getting and today a caterpillar that has been parasitized with several eggs on it’s back.

The garlic pulled was brought in to the garage and hung in bundles to cure for storage. The garage smells very garlicy now and will until the leaves dry and the skins dry.

Since we live in a log home, we have had annual problems with Carpenter Bees. They drill holes in the facia boards and lay their eggs. That is less of a problem than once they hatch, the woodpeckers peck at the wood to get the larvae. This year the woodpeckers have been relentless, so we purchased 4 owls with a bell and mylar strip and hung them in strategic places hoping that they will discourage any more early morning pecking and stop the damage they are doing.

The month is fading away, July and August bring harvest and processing, a busy time.

SeeSaw days

Typical spring here, hot and humid one day and chilly and gray the next, but the garden grows. Except for the corn. Out of 4 rows in a 12 X 4 foot bed, only two seeds sent up blades. We were due for thunderstorms a couple of days ago, so the bed was reseeded. This may be the last time I try corn. Year before last, there was nothing, last year some came up, but the harvest was pretty paltry for the space it consumed. The only year that corn has ever been “successful” though marginally was the year of the popcorn.

The seed starts for squash, tomatillos, pumpkins, tomatoes, and peppers were all successful and are doing well planted in the beds. The cucumbers failed on first start, but there are several strong seedlings putting out secondary leaves that are currently being hardened off and soon they will be planted in the last bed.

The motivation for the garden has been hard to come by this year, and since I am currently unable to be out in the sun due to a chemo cream use on my face, I have to heavily cover with mineral sunscreen, wear a huge hat and limit my exposure. Sunburns as a kid camping with family, as a young adult working as a lifeguard, have come back to haunt me. Usually, anything found by the dermatologist is zapped with liquid nitrogen, but this time is wasn’t in a place they want to spray. At any rate, early or late, very protected sessions are being done. As an adult, I wear long sleeves nearly year round and always wear a hat with a brim when we are out walking. Sun damage from years ago revisits as we age.

Peas are heavy with blooms and though they are supposed to be a free standing variety, they have toppled all over each other. Soon, peas will be harvested. One of the varieties of spinach is bolting as is the lettuce. The beans are up. The tomatoes, peppers, basil, squash, and tomatillos have been mulched with clean straw, thanks to a friend that was able to get me a couple of bales yesterday. Part of a bale was used to clean the hens coop, a few flakes as mulch and the rest set back in the dry garage for further coop cleaning and garden mulching.

Now if I can just get the paths under control, figure out how to kill off the smartweed and creeping charlie, I will be happy. As it is upper 70’s today and tomorrow with bright sun, the paths were all sprayed with white vinegar and dish soap. If that shows any level of success, it will be repeated until I win, vinegar is cheap and safe. A truck load of wood chips would be great to have, to put about 4 inches between all the beds. The other frustrating area is the tall grass that grows up the welded wire fence. The line trimmer can’t get under the fence and if it hits the wire, it breaks off the trimming line. I don’t want to use chemicals like Liquid Fence, nor do I want to take down the fence and reset it an inch or two off the ground so I can weed under it. I envy neat gardens with no weeds, no grass in-between beds, no fence needed to thwart the deer, groundhogs (saw one today in the yard), and free ranging chickens. Perhaps the electric mesh type moveable fencing that can be moved away, allow mowing, then re-set would do the trick. I already have the 6V charger. Maybe if the vinegar trick works and I can get woodchips, cardboard can be slipped under the fence wire, heavily mulched on both sides out maybe far enough to keep an edge would work.

The bees are again protected from the resident bear. A new battery for the 12V charger was ordered and installed. Tested on the deck, it showed a strong charge, so it was taken back to the bee yard, rehung, and attached to the electric fence wire. When it was turned on, it showed only marginal charge on the fence. Because it was a new solar charged battery, it was left alone to charge for a couple days and still only marginal. This morning, the piece of line that connects the wire to the charger was replaced and the fence is again hot. Hopefully, 12 V will deter the furry beasts.

Be Local

There are variations of bumper stickers around to remind us to keep our money close to home, to support local businesses, local farmers, local crafters. I particularly endorse this mindset. When we eat out, we try to go to the local restaurants, yes, they do have to purchase some goods trucked from many miles away, but many also support the local farmers and purchase their goods when available. We do a weekly trip to the local Farmers’ Market, where they can sell nothing grown more than 50 miles from it, so all meats, eggs, vegetables, and fruits are grown locally. The meat vendors prescribe to the practice of pasture raising their animals and do not use feedlots to “fatten” them up before processing. The produce vendors practice organic methods of growing, even if they don’t all go through the expensive and arduous process of becoming certified. Many of them do use big hoop houses to extend the seasons, so often, greens, radishes, and pea shoots are available long before and after my gardens can provide.

Every couple of years, I reread, Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, of her family’s one year adventure to only eat what they could grow or purchase from local farmers. It helps me to renew my resolve to try to keep it local. We aren’t as dedicated as they were, continuing to purchase fresh fruit and frozen berries out of season that has been hauled from Mexico or California during the off seasons. But we do have an orchard with 4 different fruit trees and 3 different berries to enjoy in season as well as Wine berries and wild blackberries growing around the hayfields of the farm that can also be picked when the hay is mowed and you can get to them. This year, it was harder to get going on the garden for some reason, though it is now all planted. I am currently rereading her book to jump start my motivation to stay on it. The loss of nearly half my hens in the past few months was difficult, but the remaining 7 are providing enough eggs for daughter’s family and our use.

As I go to deal with the hens in the morning, I walk along the north edge of the vegetable garden and note the first asparagus tips emerge, then the daily or near daily venture in to cut the ones that are 6 to 8″ tall. This allows me to walk past the garlic and see it’s progress, and up past the peas, spinach, carrots, and radishes. The other side of the asparagus bed are the beans. This morning, a large handful of asparagus was cut and the garlic had scapes, so they were snapped off to bring in as well. This sent me back out with scissors to cut the large spinach leaves with the idea that sauteed garlic scapes and spinach would be a delightful addition to dinner. I will also enjoy some of the asparagus (not hubby’s favorite). With an egg for my protein, that will be a wonderful dinner if a healthy starch is added in the form of brown rice, sweet potato, slice of local whole grain sourdough bread, or even a baked or roasted white potato. He will get some meat with his. It doesn’t get any fresher or more local than this.

The asparagus will soon come to an end so they can grow the tall ferny tops to provide the crowns with the necessary food to provide us with stalks next spring. When the weather gets consistently warmer, the spinach will bolt and it too will end until a fall planting can be made. The second crop of radishes is up, the peas are flowering, the beans are sprouting, and all of the starts planted out a few days ago are thriving. It took some self motivation to get going this year, but the garden is providing and will continue on for the next few months. The Farmers’ Market will still be visited for vegetables I don’t grow, meats for hubby and visitors, and an occasional loaf of sourdough bread or chunk of local cheese. We strive to be local, and are thankful for the garden, orchard, and local Farmers’ Market that is the best one I have ever visited.