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.

Spring in the mountains

Spring is always fickle, this entire winter has been though. It was subzero for a week of nights around Christmas with single digit days, and there have been weeks of late spring/early summer temperatures with nights that didn’t drop below 50f. Flowers and fruit trees bloomed early. Fearing our pear trees wouldn’t produce fruit this year because there were blooms before another week of deep freeze temperatures, as it became time for them to bloom, there were more blossoms. Three of the apple trees are blooming heavily, one lightly, one not at all. There will be no plums, it bloomed way too early and all the blossoms froze.

Seven years ago we awoke to snow. Last night we had our first frost in weeks, but today it will be 60f and by later this week, almost 80f. Friday, though the Hummingbird tracker doesn’t show them here yet, I hung my feeders and yesterday saw our first one of the season feeding on the more popular feeders.

The hens have dug out under their fence, holes filled, hay layered to fight the mud, but today with the Forsythia nearly leafed out, though there were hardly any blooms, I have again given them free range. They will hopefully hide under the foliage of the shrubs or the cedars for their safety. I hope not to lose anymore, but they can’t stay penned up in a run only slightly larger than their coop.

Two of the remaining Marans foraging the front yard this morning.

The yoyo weather seems to have taken a toll on the row of Nandina bushes along the north front porch. Not a single one of them retained any leaves this winter though the one in the protected breezeway nook did. If they don’t grow out new leaves, and that looks doubtful, a decision will have to be made as to how to treat that area. It is not great soil, but the Nandinas had thrived there for about 15 years until this winter. With the chickens scratching up the soil there, growing grass might be a challenge unless I can block them off until it is established. A few large pots with evergreen shrubs scattered along the edge is a possibility or even low growing evergreen juniper planted in the soil.

The other victim of this winter might be my fig. It produced fruit for the first time last year, but I see no sign of life in the form of new leaf buds.

This is Penny, she is a jumper, belongs to our neighbor as one of her herd, and she thinks our grass is greener than the fields on which she lives. She visits in the spring time, leaving her calf for a little while to go over the 4 strands of barbed wire to come graze. She is a welcome visitor, it amuses me to find her munching away on the tall grass that will become hay in a few months.

Her sister was a jumper also and used to visit, sometimes bringing friends.

The tomato, tomatillo, and 2 of the varieties of pepper starts are thriving. This week, they will begin daytimes on the back deck sheltered initially, and later full on in the sun to harden off for planting in about a month. Yet again, I seem to have started them a couple of weeks too early.

Today is Easter Sunday and when we have family here, there is usually an Easter Egg hunt for the kids, even for the teens. Last year, daughter created an escape room sort of series of clues to lead the older ones from hidden large egg with the next clue that eventually led them to small baskets of goodies, mostly of the non edible kind. This is always followed by a meal that has traditionally been ham, au gratin potatoes, asparagus, another green for the haters, deviled eggs, rolls, and some sort of dessert. This year it is just the two of us and hubby will get his favorite home cooked Mexican food fiesta instead.

Maybe tomorrow, we will venture to the plant nursery to check out the herb selection, to Tractor Supply to add wild bird feed and suet cakes and if I can find one, a third Bluebird house. My carpentry skills just aren’t up to building my own.

The peas and radishes are beginning to emerge in the garden, the lettuce in the large pot on the back deck is growing, and I await the asparagus that have yet to show in the garden. Last year about this time we added the 4 hives of bees that did not succeed. Two nuks of bees with marked queens are on order for early May and two hives will be started again, hopefully with more success. While I await their arrival, new excluders for the openings will be ordered and sugar syrup will be fed inside the hives this year. I am really raising them as pollinators and not looking for much honey, but some would be a bonus. There is one capped frame of it in the freezer that survived the demise of the last hive. I really don’t know what to do with it, it may go in one of the new hives as starter feed for them.

Spring is officially here, though the chance for a frost lingers until the first week of May.

Let the Season Begin

With the strong back and strength of a 16 year old assistant in the form of a Grandson, several farm issues have been addressed in the past 5 days. He fortunately is very amenable to and volunteering to help, in the garden or the kitchen. He is being kept busy and well fed.

On Saturday, we attacked the wire grass that was trying to overtake the spot in the garden where the comfrey grows. The grass was so high, finding the sprouting comfrey was a challenge. We didn’t get it all, but the comfrey has a fighting chance now. When he arrived last week, he and his Dad had purchased a large dog crate to control their two dogs until Son2 left on Wednesday. The dogs left with him, the crate put in their RV that is parked on our farm. The box is going to become a weed barrier above the asparagus bed soon.

Yesterday, after the three of us went to lunch, a walk, and to the local nursery to get raised bed soil for one of the boxes, we drove down and around the south field to see the new welded wire fence and how much clearing/damage the neighbor did installing his fence. We discovered a very long strand of high tensile fence wire with a long strand of barbed wire dragged into our hayfield but still attached to an uprooted shrub in the thicket on the edge of the field. Fortunately we discovered it before the hay got high and before the hay guy got it tangled in his equipment. Grandson and I spent a couple of hours winding the wire, tying it off with cable ties, cutting it where it was entangled in the uprooted shrub. We then walked the perimeter of the field to make sure there was no more of it out in the grass.

It is a mystery to me, how farmer’s even work with that stuff. It is difficult to straighten, impossible to bend, and acts like a stiff Slinky toy.

After we finished there, he helped me move a couple barrows of compost to two beds, and spread the bagged raised bed soil into one.

That bed needs one more barrow of compost and it will be ready to plant. Today we purchased 4 more bags of raised bed soil and 6 bags of composted cow manure for the long bed.

This bed received a barrow of compost yesterday and was planted in peas, radishes, carrots, and spinach today. They should have been planted 3 weeks ago, but it is what it is. The long bed had as much Dead Nettle in it as the square bed behind this one.

This afternoon after planting the bed, the weeding of the long bed was begun and the 4 bags of soil and 4 of the bags of composted cow manure were added to it. I need 5 more bags of soil and the remaining two bags of compost added and it will be ready to plant in early May.

That bed is where the mint was a few years ago, it has never had enough soil that was good enough to plant, so hopefully today’s efforts and the addition of a few more bags of soil and compost will make it a healthy bed.

That last little 4 foot bed is being left alone for now as the bees are loving the Dead Nettle growing in it. It will have to be cleared by Mother’s Day to plant peppers and the bed behind it needs a light weeding, but it was covered in old hay over the winter and is in pretty good shape, though it will get fed with the remaining compost. The new pile has been started with the weeds being pulled. The paths will just be mowed or cut with the string trimmer this year. My shoulder just will scream if I try to take on all of that grass and weed pulling.

It was nice to be out in the 70 degree weather to get the garden underway. The garden plan was revisited as I realized there were seed packets purchased of vegetables not worked into the plan. Hopefully, it will be a successful garden and feed us well this year and into next winter. The garden gets more difficult to deal with each year, but I’m not ready to give up yet.