Hot summer

The world seems hot, wild fires, drought. Our garden hasn’t been watered except rainfall and two other well water sessions, but the weeds don’t seem to care. It was looking terrible yesterday, so the line trimmer was taken over to attack the paths. The deadnettle has been regularly weeded from the tomatoes and peppers and when I see it in the beans, the copy cat weed. As the trimming was being done, there were many blueberries to be picked, a total distraction, but also realization that if weedwacking was done there, it would damage many low branches of those shrubs. That put me on hands and knees to pull all of the grass and the insidious creeping weed that is trying to overtake the garden, but the blueberries are clear for now and the corn bed was done too. Doing that showed that the only pumpkin that came up was gone. Seminole pumpkins take 60-90 days and we have that much time before first frost, so this morning, more were planted.

In the cooler part of the morning, today, the last of the spring peas were picked, providing about 8 ounces of shelled peas. A basket full of green snap beans also picked, a handful of blackberries. The blueberries and blackberries were added to my bag of frozen smoothie fruits, a favorite summer breakfast.

After lunch and our hot walk, more time was going to be spent in the garden, planting the fall peas, fall potatoes, and preparing the bed that will be beneath the little greenhouse for carrots, radishes, spinach, and komatsuma, but just as I reached the back door, we were given a severe thunderstorm warning that produced lots of noise and light close by, but almost no rain. It seems to have passed, so a bit more work will be tackled out there to get the fall garden started. The green beans from the first planting provided 3 more pounds today but are no longer flowering, there are a few more to harvest, and the second planting is coming along nicely and just beginning to flower. The later ones are never as good, but if picked young enough, can be frozen or made into dilly beans for later in the year.

The garden really needs a real compost bin system or compost tumbler. I’m in a bad habit of weeding and leaving the weeds to compost in the paths instead of turning them into usable soil. This morning’s weeding was at least added to the pile, but yesterday’s weeds need to be cleared and put in the pile, and the pile needs to be turned.

This is the time of year when the garden had gotten ahead of me and a few days of work put it back into a friendlier place that doesn’t frustrate me when I see it.

The storm was short lived so another couple of hours were invested, the fall potatoes and fall peas were planted. The spring potato bed was smoothed and the greenhouse frame set in place to show position of the rows for the other fall seed that will be sown this week. As soon as it was done, rain started to provide a heavy shower to settle the seed in. Another shower is expected before dark.

I opened this house while smoothing the bed, to remove old nests and found these feathered little ones staring back at me. That task can wait for another day. I didn’t see Mom so I’m not sure what they are as I didn’t want to disturb them too much. There has been an Eastern Bluebird gathering food lately, so maybe hers.

Though I’m not much of a selfie person, I had to take this photo in front of the tallest sunflower, I can’t even reach the top.

The cleaned up garden. Some weeding along the fence is needed, but that too will have to wait for another day.

The first tomatoes are coming in, the pepper plants all have some peppers on them, the cucumbers are growing, but not producing yet. We will take what we get. The Pinto beans are beginning to dry. It doesn’t look like there will be a great number, but fun to have grown my own bed of them for the first time. Maybe next year there will be a large bed of them and forego the corn that really hasn’t done much.

During all of this, spinning and knitting is still in the works. The monthly challenge is a scavenger hunt with spindle photographed with the item. And some of the spinning from last month and early this month is being knit into a chemo cap as a tribute to my friend that passed from cancer earlier this summer.

The Farm Provides

I am not an off the grid homesteader by any stretch, but in the 16 years in the house, 6 apple trees, 2 Asian Pear trees, 3 peach trees (though only 1 survived), a plum, 8 blueberry bushes, thornless raspberries and thornless blackberries have been added. With this is the vegetable garden, growing potatoes, sweet potatoes, sugar snap peas, shelling peas, bush green beans, Pinto beans, cucumbers, 4 types of hot peppers, 4 types of tomatoes, Seminole pumpkins, and hopefully some corn. There is a grape vine, but for the second year in a row, something has gotten all of the grapes before they ripened for harvest. Last year I blamed the deer, but netted it this year and have found the chickens under the net, so I think they may be the culprits. The fields are surrounded with wineberries and wild blackberries. There is a coop with 13 mature hens. Though the berries don’t produce a lot, there are some to freeze for yogurt smoothies and enough wild berries to make a few jars of jam. The peach tree is full of ripening fruit, the apples and Asian pears also, though the deer keep them pruned fairly high.

Yesterday, the spring planted potatoes were dug and even after several meals worth having been dug around the edges, there were 46+ pounds of Kennebeck and Russet potatoes in varying size from slightly smaller than a golf ball to decent sized ones. The ones that are very small and the ones that were close enough to the surface to be greened with Solanine, will be replanted toward the end of the month for fall potatoes. The rest will be cured then packed in wood chips for storage. Most of the peas are already harvested and some frozen, but yesterday the harvest also provided more than 4 pounds of green beans to be processed into dilly beans or blanched and frozen for winter use. The second planting that was put in late last week are emerging, and there are still many beans developing on the first planting.

The chickens that went through two heat domes and three broodies, are back to providing a decent amount of eggs. Last night there were 11 from the 13 hens, so they will stay and produce until next year’s batch are raised and laying next spring. The molt in the late fall will halt production while they grow new feathers, and by then it will be cold enough that few eggs will be laid.

A fall seed order is being planned and ordered. With the little greenhouse purchased in early spring and the 12 foot fiberglass hoops that are currently holding up net over the blueberries, there will be two areas of protection for fall veggies to supplement the hydroponics that provide winter lettuce. Hopefully, the garden will continue to give until a hard freeze takes it out.

Now with the bees, in a year, we will have all the sweetener that will be needed for us. We don’t hunt, don’t care for wild game, don’t raise cattle, pigs, or meat chickens, so we will never be totally self sufficient, but the fruits, vegetables, eggs, and honey cut the grocery bill, especially with prices rising. With the Farmer’s Market, I can get whatever meat is needed as well as cornmeal, oatmeal, and whole wheat flour, cheese, and any breads I don’t want to bake. This keeps most of our groceries local, keeping me busy, and helping support the local farms. In the fall, when the You Pick blueberry farm near us opens, more berries will be added to the freezer for muffins and smoothies. Even the milk for the yogurt comes from a local dairy, packed in returnable glass bottles.

Today, the potatoes will be spread to cure, the beans processed for later use, and clean up of the dusty footprints from someone with very high arches that chose to dig in sandals last night.

Busy Holiday Weekend and More Bee Lessons

Son 1 returned to spend the holiday weekend with us. The plan had been for both sons to come replace the roof on Son 2’s RV that lives on our farm between trips. On their most recent vacation, the roof had some failure and a “patch” repair, but the roof, vents, and hopefully skylight are to be replaced. The replacement had to be postponed as not all the components arrived here in time, so Son 2 rescheduled. Our garage currently has the new roof material spread out on the floor to relax it. This gave us a weekend with Son 1 without a laundry list of jobs to do, or that was the plan.

He arrived Saturday night and I had purchased a second copper ground rod and clamps so we could run a series of 4 rods 4 feet long each on the apiary electric fence. The original one we could only get about 3 feet into the hard, rocky soil, and we currently have a large, maybe 350-400 pound black bear residing in our area. It was seen 7 times in 3 days last week, including in our lower hay field while the guys were baling the hay down there. Though the electric fence with the 12 volt charger on it was charging, we read that you should have 8 feet of ground rod buried or a series of shorter rods. The rods were cut in half to 4 feet and pounded in with just enough exposed to fasten the clamps and wires. That was the only task for the weekend, or so I thought. While working down there, I spotted this:

Lots of bees and comb being formed below the screen bottom of one hive. A panic text to my beekeeper friend and a reply of “Yikes.” She and her husband came over to see what was going on and help me remove the wax, relocate the bees inside. Thinking it might be honey, or just wax, we discovered eggs and larvae in the cells, so the virgin queen must have missed the opening to the hive on her return and ended up under the hive instead. The brood comb was wired into a frame and placed into the top super without the queen excluder with hopes that she will move down into the brood box below and continue producing brood in a hive that was struggling. She must have come from one of the queen cups we placed in the have about 5 weeks ago. We did a quick inspection of the last hive I hadn’t gotten to during the week, another that we had given a queen cup to and found eggs and larva there also, so it looks like all 4 hives are currently queenright for now. That is a relief to me. I will reinspect the hive we hope we moved her into this weekend to see if more brood has been made, so we know we successfully transferred her. So another new beekeeping skill introduced, how to wire in comb to an empty frame.

During the weekend, Son 2 said he caught a small swarm at one of his employee’s homes, so he now has free bees at his place to give him 3 hives, though the caught swarm is in a nuk as there are too few bees to place in a hive yet.

We did get our walks in both days that son was here with him, cooked out at daughter’s house on the 4th and watched the fireworks from her front yard, and returned home to get a couple hours of sleep before I returned son to the 5 a.m. bus back to the train to get him back to his job. Both sons will be here in 2 weeks to tackle the RV roof.

This is one of the does with twins that frequent our property. These fawns are very tiny, the others we see are much larger. There are too many deer this year, they look very thin and are eating things they normally avoid. This is a recipe for disease unless more hunting reduction is permitted for a couple years. The deer don’t have any natural predators in Virginia anymore as all the wolves and big cats have been eradicated. This is a lesson that has been hard taught to those that removed them because of occasional stock loss. Some red wolves have been reintroduced in an adjacent state, but aren’t seen here yet and the coyotes/coydogs/coywolves tend to go after smaller prey like groundhogs, squirrels, rabbits, and the occasional barn cat.

Though I love seeing the fawns, the destruction and the potential for disease to them and us from the infected deer ticks is a problem.

This week is very hot again, with frequent thunder storms. Before they began yesterday, I did get the couple of acres we call yard mowed on the riding mower. Grandson that will mow for me is away visiting his other grandparents. I do appreciate when he is here to do the job for me.