Saturday, December 24, 2016

Yikes it's been too long

Yes, I am alive and well.  The time has slipped away and now it's Winter.  The garden is at rest but the last couple months have whizzed by quickly.  I can't believe it's been three months since my last post.  

I have many plans for the post Christmas months before Spring arrives.  There's 85 days until Spring, 141 days until it's frost free, and 152 days until school is out.  Not that I'm counting.  

Let's see if I can get caught up some.
The potato harvest was fairly good.  I harvested about 20 pounds from eight plants.  For me that's a pretty good harvest.  I'm planting potatoes at Terra Nova Gardens next year so the harvest should be much larger.
The backyard garden and Terra Nova Gardens were cleaned up and put to sleep for the Winter.  The backyard garden always seems to zoom into a weedy mess by the end of the summer.  I think it was four or five yard waste bags of debris to clean out all the beds.  
Half of Terra Nova Gardens has been developed.  Next year four more stone bordered beds will be built.  
The side yard Fall project is half finished.  The was an area that was just a junk, weed, scrub tree infested area.  I finally got inspired and began turning it into a side yard patio.  It will have a twin section built next year to complete the project.  I've wanting to do this for years.

The month of December was spent sending out Christmas cards.  Just printing the letter was a project in itself this year.  Three pages both sides for 90 cards took a lot of ink cartridges.  Every year I say it's the last then through out the year as I run into those that received a card, they say how much they enjoyed it.  So I continue to send them out.  

Have a very Merry Christmas and a 
  Happy New Year

Friday, September 30, 2016

One last gasp of Tomatoes

Finally the Fall weather has arrived.  Last week it was still in the 90s but this week we are back to a normal 70s during the days with 40s and 50s at night.  I had to finally give in and turn on the furnace.  There was a short time for windows to be open at night but now it's too cold and I'm into the sweat clothes for night time sleeping wear.  It's been a funny year for weather and the last week's hot weather gave the tomatoes one last flush before starting to dry up.
As you can see the tomatoes grew up and out of the towers that I built last March.  These were Early Girl tomatoes.  No fertilizer was used and after the dry spell in June no watering was done.  They have produced a huge amount of tomatoes from just seven plants.
 A few days after this harvest about half this amount again was harvested.  I decided to make some tomato soup for Winter dining.
The tomatoes were basically just quartered and cooked down.  The only other ingredients were onions, celery, flour, sugar, and butter.  The recipe is on my blog site under Homestead Recipes.  But for your convenience here's the link.  I cooked them down for about 20 minutes.  Then I drained the liquid into another similar sized pot.  The Nutribullet was used to blend up the soft solids into a puree.  The other ingredients were added and whisked together before putting into canning jars and waterbath sealing for about 30 minutes.
The net result was four quarts of tomato soup and one partial quart for right away consumption.  The procedure from start to finish was about two hours.  Yeah, four quarts doesn't sound like much but I'm the only one that will be eating tomato soup.  No one else likes it.  Tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwich makes for a great lunch in my opinion.

I like the cooler weather to preserve the harvest.  The middle of August for canning is just too hot in the kitchen for me so I'm glad to have enough tomatoes for another batch of tomato soup.  Eight quarts should last me the whole Winter.

I've been thinking about the basement gardening again for this winter.  I have some changes which will be in another post but it should give me more space to grow young tender plants for salads.  I'm not sure what exactly to plant yet but it will come soon enough.  Last year I started in December.  It was such a great success, I couldn't eat it all.  But for now the Fall garden cleanup is top priority.  I have to drain down all my water tanks.  The rains provided most of the moisture for the garden this year so irrigation wasn't needed.  

The biggest success, of course, was defeating the raccoons and keeping them out of the sweet corn.  But now they invaded the pumpkin patch and punched a hole in the side of half the pumpkins.  Nothing but the shell was left of those pumpkins.  Apparently they didn't really like the watermelons but the vine borers did.  Gardening is not for the faint of heart.

That's all for now.  Catch up with you later.  Just waiting for the Mother Earth News Fair in Kansas at the end of the month.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Summer Fast Fading Away

The summer is fast sliding in Fall.  The nights are beginning to dip back in the 60s with regularity.  One night was even in the 50s.  That's not to say that 90s could raise an ugly head a time or two before being defeated for the year.  This year has had more 90 degree days than any summer I can remember.  
The tiny little tomato plants that were planted in the tomato towers have grown considerably.  Since this picture was taken the closest two tomatoes have grown up above the tower by at least a foot and are still climbing.  All I've done for these tomatoes is water them with the natural spring water in June.  There's been no special fertilizer and no chemicals for bugs or blight or fungus.  They are awesome.  I've been harvesting a five gallon bucket full of tomatoes every couple days for the last two weeks.  There's way more than I can use and I don't preserve garden vegetables.  I just like to grow them.  I set up a pallet in front of the garden with a free sign on it.  I put all the tomatoes on the pallet and the next day they have all disappeared.  It's my way of giving to the neighborhood.  I have some small pumpkins and watermelons that I'll be doing the same thing with soon. 

The big thing now that the harvesting is in full swing is weed eradication.  The weeds have become monstrous because of the rains that have been falling on the gardens.  I had a light bulb moment this summer and came to the conclusion that not only do I not really like to preserve the harvest and give it all away but I really wasn't into growing the vegetables this year.  Well, what is it then that draws me to the garden.
Yeah, garden design and structure has been my interest this year.  The tomato towers, the sweet corn fortress, the minit water tower, and now the poor man's brick entrance to the garden.   Oh, contrar, this is not the end of the red brick road.  The formal 30 X 30 foot garden area will have all brick pathways.  Maybe not this year and maybe not even next year but some day it will have all six pathways bricked.  The time needed is too much for one year's project.  

Yes, the sweet corn fortress was worth every minute of construction and finally I got to eat sweet corn until I was sick of it.  It was the best sweet corn ever.  Now I know what it takes to keep the raccoons out of the corn.  I was so glad that no raccoons were harmed or killed in the growing of the sweet corn.  I really do need to see if that old freezer in the garage is still operational.  It worked 10 years ago but seriously, it's 30 some years old so I'm not really expecting that it will.  

How has your summer been?

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The tomatoes are ripening

Way back in February the tomato crop was started by building tomato towers.  Pallets are disassembled and used to build four tomato towers.  They stood tall and mighty.  Neighbors smiled at the antics of an old crazy gardener's version of over engineering a simple tomato support.
Being undaunted the towers were transported to Terra Nova Gardens to be planted in the raised bed used for 2016 tomatoes.
 After four years of watching a very unorthodox gardener, this neighborhood watched as the towers were planted in the garden bed and wondered what in the world would these shelves be used for. 
Then came the day of planting.  Yes, the little tomato with a high tower to climb.  With determination and will power, the little tomato began to grow and grow and grow.  Never mind that neighbors drove slowly by marveling at the massive structure for such a tiny plant.
Ok, who's laughing now.  This growth has been without any additional fertilizer.  Only the natural spring water that's on the property was used during June to keep the plants watered.  It's now August and the tomatoes are starting to ripen.  There are lots of green tomatoes so let the harvesting begin. 

How's your tomato crop doing this year?

Monday, June 27, 2016

Whoa Summer is here

The weather started out in March being dry and warm.  As April passed, the weather changed over from warm to much cooler and rain started falling.  At the end of May the weather was in full rain mode with a rain storm blowing through almost every night.  Terra Nova Gardens went from being saturated to the point of being difficult to plant the seedlings that were past ready to be planted to hot and dry in June.
The sweet corn fortress was completed.  You can see the  chicken wire fence pattern on the rocks and the electric wire and posts as well.  The first planting of corn is in full tassel and the second bed is about waist high.

A lot of improvements have been made this year.  My garden schedule has become early morning.  Now that summer vacation is here, I can be in the garden by 5:30am and work until 8am.  It's a good solid two hours of gardening.  The raccoons invaded the corn patch early this year so I had to fire up the electric fence much earlier than I expected.
The battery powered fencer packs a good shock.  I haven't personally grabbed the wire but I've seen and heard the snap when it gets too close to the chicken wire fence.  I don't think I want to touch the wire.  If the critters try to climb the fence, their tender under belly will hit the electric wire and their paws will be on the solidly grounded fence.  It will be shocking that's for sure.  There's been no evidence of any critter activity inside the corn  patch since the electric fence has been turned on.  Yea!  Could be there will be sweet corn in the pot by end of July.
The mini water tower has finally been built.  The plans have been roaming around in my mind for a couple years on how I would water everything in the garden.  The barrels are free from where a friend works.  The water comes from the natural spring at Terra Nova Gardens.  Eventually, there will be an automatic irrigation system in place.  Maybe not this year but probably by next year.

There are four empty beds that will just be kept weed free and prepared for planting next year.  The garden construction is mostly completed for this year.   With four to five months left in the garden season, expectations of getting more accomplished are high.

I hope that all your gardens have the rains they need and the sunshine required to grow strong plants.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Gardening Abounds

The weather continues to be favorable to working in the garden.  All last week garden beds have been prepared for planting at Terra Nova Gardens which won't begin for another couple months but it gives the weeds a chance to grow and be eradicated at least three times.  First there's the early broad leaf weeds, then comes the grassy weeds, and finally the bind weed vines.  Once all those have been taken eliminated, the weeds are just a pull here and and tug there for the rest of the year.  When the mowing starts, which seems to be in March this year, that will be used for mulching the beds which will allow the rich nitrogen to sink into the soil before planting.  It's good for the plants and helps keep the weeds down.  Everything is shaping up for a good gardening year.  

The four tomato towers are set in place with room for three more.  This is a test year to see just how they will work and perhaps next year I'll build more with some tweaking of course.  The bed on the right is freshly dug and will be where the green beans will be planted this year.  The bed on the left will be green peppers and the one way in the back by the fence will be cucumbers.

This is one of the beds for the sweet corn fortress.  There's a total of three beds.    They have all been lined with rocks and carpet cut to expose the soil beneath.  The corner posts have been set and as soon as the path mulching is complete, the inside fence building will begin.
After one week of early morning gardening, the garden is starting to shape up.  The bed on the right is the strawberry bed that was devastated last year by the deer.  All but just a hand full of plants were killed by eating the berries and the plants right down to the ground.  I replanted this year with Ever bearing plants.  Half of the sweet corn fortress has been mulched and one more load of mulch will cover the rest.  It's been a good week but daylight savings time and Bradley back to school from Spring break will be killing my early morning gardening at Terra Nova Gardens.  

It's really time to start on my backyard raised beds anyway.  Those four will produce the kitchen table fresh tomatoes, radishes, onions, lettuce, cucumbers, and other salad things.  The rain water catch system has to be set up as well before the April rains begin.  So there's plenty of work to do without being at Terra Nova Gardens.

It's time to get outside and do something.  More about gardening in the next post.  Have a great Spring.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Yea! all snow is gone

The weather continues to get warmer.  The last days have been 50s and 60s.  Now the temps are in the 40s during the day and 30s during the night.  I'm not so foolish to believe that all of winter is over.  There can still be a couple of Winter's last gasps in March but the encouraging part is that it's not going to last long.  

I've been busy with garden projects this week.  Every year I grow indeterminate tomatoes.  They are mostly heirloom.  Indeterminate means that they will continue to grow and produce tomatoes as long as the weather permits.  As a result the tomato vines are every where by the end of the season.  They grow so much that even the heavy duty wire cages won't support them.  So my gardening for this week has been to build tomato towers out of free pallets.
Here's enough pallets for at least four towers maybe more.  A business called Basic Body Works acquires these pallets from shipments of exercise equipment that they sell.  They are free to anyone that wants to haul them away.
The first task is to bust them apart.  Last year, I bought a special tool to help with that task.  It was a great investment since I make many things from pallets.    As you can see it was nice weather with all the snow being gone and shirt sleeves could be worn.
Yeah, I have a way of over engineering things.  No one could say that I don't have big hopes for tomatoes this year.  Well about 18 inches of the bottom will be in the ground so it will not be as high as it looks.  I now have three of these made and another ready for assembly.  Hopefully by week's end, I'll have them planted in place and the tomato bed prepared for planting.  Last year it took three passes of working the soil about two weeks apart before planting the tomatoes to be rid of the weeds in the bed.  Maybe this year it won't be quite as bad.  Each year the weed control gets easier.

So now that the weather is warming up the posts will be a little more frequent.  Have a great day outside in the garden.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Spring is here

Last fall I decided to replant my Spring flower bed.  When I planted it years ago I was still in my row crop farming mentality.  The Daffodils and Tulips were planted in nice rows and looked very tidy.  I have since learned that flowers are not planted in rows in flower bed designs.  To have a good display one must plant in groups with odd numbers of bulbs in each group.  I don't know why an odd number makes the group look more like nature but it's supposed to be more of a natural look.
So I set out to follow all the rules of flower bed design the best I could.  Four Spring flower bulbs were used.  Tulip, Daffodil, Hyacinth, and Crocus were all planted according to height.  Tall in the back and shorter in the front was the rule.  

The picture above was February 15th and I think it's either a tulip or a hyacinth.  Each year I'm amazed at the appearance of the Spring flowers.  This is about the right time for the Spring flowers to come up.  I've always read that the flowers know when to start growing because of day length but really?  The ground is still mostly frozen and bulbs are buried under the ground.  How do they know how long the day is.  Besides almost every day this month has been overcast without sunshine.  It's a marvelous mystery of nature to me.

I've been seeing flocks of Robins sitting in the trees.  I'm guessing they're waiting for the ground to thaw out so the worm harvesting can begin.  We are to get three days of 60 some degrees so that should help with melting the last of the snow and thawing out the ground.  It will be good to be back out in the garden once again.

Keep the faith Spring is not far away and soon digging in the dirt will begin.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Time to start those seeds

Thursday December 24
It was looking like Christmas was not going to have snow but starting early this morning, the snow began to fall.  By noon five inches of heavy wet snow was on the driveway and lawn.
The first snow of the Winter is always the best.  It's the first snow since Bradley came back from Texas.  When I was going outside to clear the snow off the driveway, he wanted to know what I was doing.  I told him that I was going to remove the snow from the driveway and sidewalk.  He looked at me sort of weird and said, "What if it snows again?"  With a chuckle I replied, "I'll remove it again."  He was still a little puzzled and said, "Why?"  My response was, "Because it's what we do in Nebraska."  One year staying in Texas and Bradley forgot all about Winters in Nebraska.  He was here for five years before he went to Texas and quickly forgot what Nebraska Winters are like. 

 Saturday January 2

It's time to start thinking about basement seed starting.  Before the tomatoes go into these buckets, I want to plant some radishes and lettuce just to see if I can grow some thing useful in the Winter months.  This will be happening this next week.  I just can't keep my fingers out of the dirt.  The soil is a special mix of two bags of Organic potting mix, one bag of peat moss, one bag of perlite, and a large bag of organic garden soil.  It was all dumped into the wheel barrow that I dug out of snow bank and mixed thoroughly.

Every year Lydia's store discounts all the garden seeds at the end of the garden season.  I have for the last couple years bought them all.  They are good Burpee seeds.  I think there's about 150 packs here.  There's everything from Alyssum to Zucchini and every thing in between.  I've been thinking seriously about growing more flowers in my gardens.  This years seed stash has plenty to grow.

 There was a sale on seed starting cell kits so I bought 10.  The potential is for 720 plants.  I have another 72 left over from last year and another 96 from toilet paper rolls.

Yes, I said toilet paper rolls.  Well the empty cardboard centers.  These trays I can get free from a friend.  I hope to fill this one by April but that's a lot of .... yeah, you know, so I'm not sure it will happen.

Let me know what you're doing during the Winter to satisfy that need to garden.