Thursday, July 02, 2015

Garden


 This is the only time of year that I believe I could come close to being a vegetarian.  I love me some fresh veggies from the garden!  I will generally serve fresh, raw tomatoes and cukes at every meal also (even breakfast), but I think that's common in the South.  Or at least, it used to be, and still is amongst the older set, which I guess I'm in now.  Ha! 


 The second planting of corn is definitely kicking some butt and making up for the failure of the first planting.  In fact, today we saw where some of it is starting to tassle, so I'm well pleased with how this crop is doing.  I could eat hot, steamed corn on the cob until I just popped!


The tomatoes are still lagging way behind and being puny but virtually every other crop is well taking up the slack.  We should even get some good watermelons this year, something I've never been particularly successful growing.  I have about 6 good size melons on 2 hills now.  Won't be ready for the 4th by any means but they will come in while it's still mighty warm here.
This spring we added the entire contents of our large compost bin to the main garden and that has apparently been a boon for it.  Of course, that contained a large portion of composted chicken poo and that stuff is some great fertilizer.


And the grapes are doing great too!!  I MUST build a better, stronger arbor for them for next year.  What I have now is a true embarrassment, especially for a carpenter and welder. lol!  The dreaded Japanese beetles are hitting the leaves hard but we've been hitting back pretty good.  The chickens have learned to stand right on the other side of the fence as we pick and toss! The beetles that is, not the grapes!  The girls love those little crunchy monsters...kinda like chicken popcorn and I'm happy to fill 'em up!  I wish there was a way to just let the chickens come get them on their own but they could not reach them and they'd tear up the garden trying.


The new bean and pea trellises are working out great.  Not more bending over!  The peas are well on their way of making little pods but I've yet to see many beans yet.  They are blooming however, so it should not be much longer.  I've never grown this variety of beans before so I'm still learning it.  Seems like the Jade bush that I used to grow was a pretty early type.

You can see the blooms all over the peas here and they are much further along now.  It's interesting, in that the garden is growing so well, if I lollygag around about posting pics they are usually outdated within just a couple of days.  And I usually do lollygag.  The peas should be coming in just in time though as I think I only have one more jar of canned peas from last year. 

I've also already canned a dozen half-pints each of strawberry and blueberry jam and started a 2-quart jar of refrigerator pickles tonight.  Hopefully I'll be able to do better on the canning this summer than I did last year.


And the rest is just some gratuitous flower photos. .... Most of my daylilies have pooped out at this point although there are a few still here and there.  


And the Vitex shrub is growing like a weed this year.  It's well over my head and they say these things can get about 20 feet tall.  I love the blooms and it is also medicinal for women.  In fact, I need to gather a fresh batch of the seeds this fall.  I also like having these shrubs because all types of bees love it and anything that encourages those guys (or gals!) is great.
So how does your garden grow this year?

Friday, June 26, 2015

Batdance


Hopefully, the bat saga has now come to an end.  It finally got hot enough this year that the attic louver became too uncomfortable for the clan and they moved out to cooler sleeping quarters.  We set the BIG ladder up so I could reach the louver from the outside and I gritted my teeth to the heat and began the process of screening them out.  First I had to clean the louver because they had pooped all over it and down the side of the house even.  I washed all that, touched up the paint and redid a little of the caulking.  Of course, in the process I managed to poke a hole in the screen that is secured on the inside face of the louver so I had to go in there and patch that good.  I needed to clean up some in the attic anyway, under the louver so it was as good excuse as any to get it all done at once.  It was pretty freaking hot but not as bad as I thought it was going to be.  Regardless, I was soaked by the time I was finished. 

Today was kinda cloudy and I finally had all my materials together and ready so I checked to make sure there were no stragglers up there and started to screen off the front.  Well, of course, there were two bats that had come back so I had to go back into the attic and scare them out.  Wasn't too bad...I just blew on them and tapped the screen until they got mad and left.  So, back outside and up the ladder.  I stapled 1/2" hardware clothe over the face of the louver so nothing (but bugs) can now get into the slats.  Of course, you can't see anything from this crappy photo but it doesn't look bad.  I was afraid the hardware clothe would stick out like a sore thumb but you really don't notice it.  Now, I did spray paint it with a reddish primer so that helps greatly. 


The photo above was taken a couple of months ago and I wanted to show ya'll because....if you click on it to enlarge it, you may be able to see the bat on the far right is in the process of having a baby!!  Jack went up into the attic for some reason and started yelling for me to get the camera and come up.  When I got up there I saw this!  The others (there were more) all had babies under their wings.  Some of them had two!  One under each wing.  I know they were making a mess but this was SO cool!  So, we let the babies grow up and everybody get out before I put the screen up.

The bats are not so easily deterred however.  Of course, they can't get back into the louver but they apparently really like my house, so they just went to the other end.  Now, it's cooler on that end too, so I suspect that's why they went down there, and there is no attic on that end, but they still managed to find a nook to cram into.  I was walking up to the door today and heard all this screeching and such and knew they were up to something.  Bats have a very distinct sound so I recognized it right away.  I looked up just in time to see a dozen bats or more come billowing out of the crack between the regular roof and where the clerestory roof joins it.  I have a (maybe) 16 inch soffit on the sides of the clerestory roof and where it joins the normal roof it makes a large bird's mouth.  They were stuffed in there and maybe even under the metal ridge cap (only about 16 inches of that too).  That side faces the rising sun and I think the metal roof had finally heated up enough to start burning their little furry buns so they came hauling ass out of there.  I kept hearing some others though and climbed up on the roof to see there were still three or four hanging on to the spot.  I don't know if they ever did leave.  That area is not so bad though.  They can't really get into anything there and their poop will just get washed off when it rains.  Besides, that being a pretty much open area, I don't know anyway I could stop them from roosting there anyway.  I am going to put up a large bat house, in a tree, and just hope they find that a more desirable place to sleep.  I really like having the bats around as they are great for pest control and of course, I'm a softie for them because they are often misunderstood.  But I don't want them messing up my house!  I'll build them two houses, or more!, of their own if they'll use them.


And the bats are not the only critters that really like my house!  The phoebes just love the outriggers that hold the verge rafters up.  Of course, I love the phoebes too.  They are really great pest control also, so I don't want to run them off.  I do want to remove their nests as they abandon them though and lay some copper flashing down on the tops of the outriggers so that future nests don't rot the wood.  I don't know that they would now but better safe than sorry.  A lot of people fuss about the looks and think it's nasty to have bird's nest around but I just love them.  I'm glad my house can provide a safe place for the babies and I hope many generations (of bats and birds) will call this valley their home.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Not Much To Say


 Mostly I think I've just been really busy since Jack has been gone.  You don't really realize how much having someone else helping out, is really helping out...until they are not around to do their chores!  Of course, I knew Jack was a big help to me and I've taken care of the place several times before when he's been gone but I think it was always in the fall, when there is not quite as much business. 
I'm still working on getting the garden situated and now some stuff is starting to come in and I have to do something with it!  Blueberry jam is on the agenda this week, for example.  And I still have my pottery to work on also.


 I pulled up those weirdo squash things and got a couple of actual yellow squash to go in their place.  Of course, some of the girls had to check out the carnage.  They did eat one of the fruits that I busted open for them but they didn't seem real enthused about it.



Just more gratuitous flower stuff for lack of anything of more substance to publish.  I'll try to get some more thoughtful posts out soon but my brain has just been kinda blah lately.  Sometimes I actually have so much that I'm thinking about, or might want to post about, that I have trouble sorting it all into one reasonable subject or topic.  Or maybe I just don't think it would be that interesting to anyone.  Ha!

So, I'll try to dig up something interesting soon.  Hope everyone is staying cool out there...or warm as the situation may be!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Carry On


I thought I'd do an update to the last garden post because I may have made it sound as though it was a crash and burn situation and actually, the garden is doing pretty well.  I finally managed to get some recent photos too.  Of course, no tomatoes right now and if I get any this year they are going to be really late coming in but other than that things are doing well.
These are the new pole beans this year; Kentucky Wonder.  Jack built a cool new, permanent trellis system that should help both of our backs out tremendously.  No actual beans yet but it shouldn't be long.


We are very fortunate here in that if something screws up a first planting, our season is long enough to try again.  And try again is what we do until it just isn't going to work anymore.  So, the second planting of corn is doing very well.  Yes, the farmer down the road already has ears tasseling on his corn but we will get a good crop this year.  And the farmer's market will tide us over on corn and tomatoes until ours comes in.


I think I'm going to have a "do-over" on the squash too because those volunteer plants finally produced a product and I'm not sure what the hell it is!  It sorta looks like a squash but it also looks like it might be part something else.  The plants are also kinda funky looking as they are running way more than squash plant should.  I suspect I'll be pulling those up shortly and putting in a couple of bought squash plants.  If I can find any this late.  If not, well, I might plant something else. 
That's the thing with gardening, you have to be willing to go on to Plan B or C or even D sometimes.  I don't stress over it that much.  If my crop doesn't do well I will go to the market or just try something else.  I might not get to make strawberry jam every year but I'll have some kind of jam, and lots of it, every year.  So, you do what you can.
Right now we are harvesting blueberries, cucumbers, a few onions, sugar snap peas, lots of herbs and eggs of course.  We obviously don't try to be self-sufficient but we do try to make a fair dent in what fruits and veggies we buy and preserve.  Later on we should have corn, okra, black-eyed peas, green beans, tomatoes (hopefully), eggplant, peppers, grapes, figs, watermelon and cantaloupe.  Oh, and the wild blackberries are starting to ripen, so I'll gather some of those. 


 And I occasionally harvest a few daylily buds for stir-fry too!  I try not to use my fancy ones but instead, use the scads of the old, standard orange daylily that you find everywhere.  They are very sweet and tender and make a nice addition.  I'll  say this though, if you want to try it, add them at the very end of the stir-fry because it doesn't take them long to cook and they are easily overdone.


I thought I'd share a few of my other day lilies that are blooming right now.  We did not go to that annual sale this year that the local nursery has and where I get my collection from.  I just didn't feel like it.


So, Jack is headed out to Texas right now for the memorial service of a family member and I am unfortunately, stuck here at home.  I feel very bad that I could not make the trip but riding in a vehicle that far would have been virtually impossible for me.  I don't have any painkillers that would have made that bearable!  But, I'll knock around here for the next week and keep everything tended while he gets to go.  It's all you can do. 
The kiln is cooling now and hopefully the morning, or really afternoon, will bring to light a nice firing and I can deliver a new batch of pottery to town.  At least I can get out to do that.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Down With Disease


So, in keeping with the crappy crap going on around here I thought I'd post about the fact that my garden decided it needed to get in on the act.  I've always done pretty well garden-wise and have rarely been plagued with armies of pests or disease the way some other bloggers seem to be, or make out to be anyway.  So I guess my luck has run out.  Ha!  Oh, it's not awful but it can be discouraging.
The first thing I noticed were the tomato plants.  They looked kinda, sorta wilted, but I knew that could not be the case.  Then the leaves started curling up and twisting excessively towards the top of the plant.  The odd twisting is what really told me something was bad wrong.


Later, it was obvious that the plants were stunted and the leaves began to get a purplish color in the veins.  A little investigation turned up that this is, appropriately, "curly top disease."   Apparently, this little leafhopper spreads the virus by only briefly landing on the plant and biting it.  As far as I have been able to determine there is no treatment once the tomato plants are infected.  Fortunately, the little leafhopper does not hang around long, preferring to eat other weeds, so it's common that only a section of plants may be infected and it does not spread plant to plant.  Only the bug can spread it.
So, all of my tomatoes that we bought and planted are infected.  Thankfully, that was not a huge amount this year.  Some of them have still produced a few tomatoes but they say they will not taste very well.  the saving grace in all of this (hopefully) is that I had a LOT of tomato volunteers come up in the garden this spring, apparently after the bug passed through.  And thankfully, I did not rip them all out when weeding!  So...we have been transplanting all those starts to rows and hopefully we will still be able to get a decent tomato harvest.  Now, I only have a vague idea of what variety those starts may be but it will be good enough, as long as I get some home-grown tomatoes.  They are going to come in late...but better than not at all.


I think I also told ya'll about the squash volunteers too.  They are doing really well but I was wondering for a while if perhaps they were sterile hybrids that got in somehow.  I don't plant hybrids but we may have inadvertently bought some in the off season and threw the scraps in the compost.  They are now producing some type of squash vegetable, although it remains to be seen exactly what.  I told Jack though, even if they are not yellow squash, you can't go anywhere around here without people trying to give or sell you yellow squash, so I don't think we'll do without.  And I don't try to can or freeze it so no problem there either.  This picture is old btw, and all the plants there are HUGE now.  I'll try to get some more recent ones.

We've also been attacked by the potato beetles; first time for that too and most of my raspberries have died.  I got the cabbage in WAY too late and it's all gone to chicken feed.  One interesting fact in some of this is that I also noticed that this was the first year I did not plant oodles of marigolds in amongst my tomatoes and such at the same time the crops were planted.  Coincidence??  Maybe.  But I went and bought 2 big packs of marigolds yesterday.   I was trying to get those planted this morning and a thunderstorm came up but they need to go in soon!


And, it also seems my biggest forsythia has some type of gall?  About half the shrub is covered in this stuff with no leaves.  I haven't taken the time to investigate it yet; maybe some of you know what it is?  And if anything can be done?  I was going to prune the hell out of it and burn the prunings.


But all is not lost.  Most of my flowers are doing beautifully this year and we are going to have loads and loads of blueberries and possibly figs.  The second planting of corn is doing great and so are the peas and green beans.  Even my watermelon looks promising.  My cantaloupes did not come up that I planted (old seeds) so I bought enough for 2 hills, so hopefully we'll get a few melons.  The asparagus harvest was not too bad this year and it's spreading and growing.


And the baby chicks are doing really well.  Mama Hen takes them out every day and seems to so enjoy having her babies.  Our new little Silkies are also doing well although they still keep to themselves and are kinda hard to photograph. 

So, I guess all things come and go in seasons and proves the old saying of "never put all your eggs in one basket!".

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Move That Body


Several of ya'll have commented that you are happy to hear I've been feeling more like working lately, and I appreciate your encouragement.  So does this mean I am not hurting much anymore?  No, unfortunately, I still hurt as much as ever.....but a few months ago I just said 'the hell with it.'  I'm apparently going to hurt no matter what, so I could either lay around and hurt or try to get some stuff done while hurting! haha!  Might as well.
Of course, learning to throw standing up has helped a great deal and that's the main reason I've been more productive there.  I also was very unhappy at how much weight I had gained during my real bad flare of 2014 and thought that losing that might help some of the pain, especially in my feet.  I believe I told ya''ll about starting up at the gym and all and making some progress in that regard.  I'm very proud to now report I've lost about 30 lbs.  I can't say that the pain is much better but I think I do have a bit more energy and not as much of the brain fog.  I would truly like to lose another 10 lbs. just to see if it helped the pain any.  I know now days people get all up in arms if women want to lose too much weight (and they should be concerned) but honestly, I am desperate for even some relief and willing to try. 

In a way, I was surprised that the weight came off as easy as it did but I have to confess, it was not all my great determination and such.  Basically, there are many days when I have absolutely no appetite.  I have to force myself to eat.  However, since I have gotten more of a handle on the anxiety those days are fewer.  Someone here had suggested I try magnesium and I mentioned I had been doing that and didn't see any improvement from it.  Then I realized the form of magnesium I was taking was not very good (magnesium oxide) and so probably the reason why it wasn't helping as it's not very readily absorbed.  I have since switched to magnesium citrate and it's working much, much better.


I also mentioned in a previous post that, due to my many matching symptoms, MRIs and research with medical personnel, I am just going to go with the assumption that I have spondylitis, more specifically ankylosing spondylitis.  Now, I realize my opinion doesn't really mean a hill of beans.  It doesn't prove in any way I have this but you know the old saying, "if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck....".  And being that the signs of AS are SO specific (inflamed SI joint being the grand daddy of 'em) I figure I'm very close and besides, one of the main and only reliable treatments for AS is exercise.  Constant, steady exercise.  "Move it or fuse it" as they say.  So again, I said, "what the hell".  It sure doesn't hurt to try that either.  Well, actually, it can hurt a little for a little while as you learn what exercises you can or can't do.  I SO wanted to get back into running and had envisioned myself triumphantly finishing 5Ks and maybe even some half-marathons!!  And then I started out slow and tried for a couple of months now.  I was doing 2 mile runs about 3-4 times a week.  This past week I made it to #3 for the week and had one of the biggest, worst flares I have ever had.  It knocked me down for 2 days.  So, it appears that my joints just cannot take the jarring motion of running or similar sports.  Now, if there was competitive hiking I could kick some ass!  I can do weights though, and yoga, stretching, hiking, swimming and probably lots more stuff.  And building!!  Bending over to weld kinda gets to me now but I can modify that too.

 Over the past 2 years I have learned many things.  A lot of the things I learned was not pretty and I've mentioned this before; people will dump you when you get sick.  Especially if you look like I do in the first photo...like there is absolutely nothing wrong with me, athletic even.

So, let me say a big, huge thank you!! to all of you that have hung in here with me.  I have been told by a few people I needed to stop writing about feeling bad or being sick but I noticed that I don't get that many comments whether I'm writing on that or the garden or chickens or whatever.  Sure, some of my readers dumped me when I got sick but many didn't.  Besides, it's my blog!  Don't like it?  then bite me!  I imagine that there are many others like me out there that might like to have someone they can relate to.  To read about their ups and downs and how they got through it.  'Cuz I can tell you...it has gotten damn quiet around here in the past 2 years.  People I used to see and hear from, ain't there any more.  I know there are some people reading here that can relate to that!

But don't ya'll worry about me...I'm gonna keep plugging along.  And I'm gonna have some more building posts because I'm gonna finish this damn house if it's the last thing I do, and I'm gonna show everybody when I do!! 

Monday, June 01, 2015

Sunshine Babies



After a gloomy start this morning we finally got a nice sunny afternoon and everyone seemed to enjoy it, despite the humidity.  It has rained and stormed on and off here for several days and I was glad to finally see the sun again too.
The bitties have finally gotten big enough that I felt fairly safe in letting Mama take them out into the yard.  They have been having a blast too and Mama is pretty watchful and careful with them.  Several of the other girls probably have sore spots from getting a little too close and Mama launching herself onto them.


They had a pretty good line formation going out across the lawn today looking for bugs.  Very thorough! lol!  Later in the afternoon Mama Hen will take them back to their little run and ask to be let back in.  (We have to keep the gate closed so the others won't go in there and eat up their food.)  Anyway, they go back in then to get a good helping of ration so they won't go to bed hungry.  I noticed last night that she is now teaching them to sleep on the roost also, so they are growing up fast.


The wild hydrangeas are in full bloom.  I love these things because I don't have to do a thing to them.  Except maybe prune one occasionally to help it fill out a bit.  And the flowers last for a really long time.


I don't know if this is chamomile or feverfew.....I think the latter.  It is not a perennial but rather just resows itself freely every year.  I haven't added much to my herb collection lately and need to remedy that.  I definitely need to add borage, comfrey and maybe another mint. 



Some of the girls thought it was a good day to work on their tan. Ha!  They love to lay out in the sun.  It has taken me quite awhile to get used to this though and not immediately think I have a bunch of dead chickens when I come out and see them strewn about the yard.  I tell ya, the first dozen times I saw them do this it really scared the crap out of me.


The garden is doing well although this is a fairly crappy photo that doesn't show much.  The squash plants were some volunteers I just transplanted into a row.  Hey, why buy them if they are just gonna come up on their own?  Honestly, I'm a lazy gardener; I'll let the plants do as much as they can on their own.  Beyond the squash I have cukes (for pickling), eggplant, peppers and some late cabbage that is probably going to get thrown to the chickens.  Beside the squash I have one row of tomatoes.  I think four are for eating and the rest of for canning.  We also planted some watermelon and in the other run we have peas and green beans.  The bulk of the main garden is planted with corn.  Well, maybe just half.  It's a fair amount of corn though.


My grapes are doing great this year so that kinda makes up for the raspberries that have crapped out and the strawberries, which I have let get overran and are not producing much.  Hopefully the figs will do well this year, since we didn't get any last year.  That's one reason I try to have an assortment of fruits planted; you rarely have a year where everything does well and with an assortment you are going to at least have a couple things that produce. 


Of course, seems like the blueberries always do well and this year is no exception.  The bushes have grown at least a foot or more and are loaded down with fruit.  All the fruit is in the border of the main garden and I have various perennial herbs in between the fruits.  In between the blueberries I have lemon thyme, oregano, catnip, sage and another variegated mint.


This variegated mint is not invasive like some peppermints; it seems to behave itself pretty well, and is supposed to be great at repelling mosquitoes and such.  Plus, it's pretty and has blooms on it for the bees.


After I finally had the revelation that I could grow beans vertically (duh), Jack purchased 3 cattle panels and made some very cool trellises the length of the run.  I then planted my beans in 2 rows, one on each side of the panels.  They are doing well and already starting to climb without us having to train them at all.  We did the same with the peas.  They are a bit shorter right now but should come on up and attach to the panels also.  This should help my back tremendously.


This is looking across the okra and pea/ bean run.  If you look closely you might be able to spy 3 little bitties doing bug patrol!  Mama Hen gets a little upset because she cannot get in there with them but she waits patiently until they get their fill and come back out.

Before planting this year, Jack dug out the entire contents of our compost bin and tilled it into the main garden.  It's gonna take a lot more to get this soil to a really good level but it is MUCH improved over what it was when I first came here.  Now when we dig we actually find earthworms and hardly any grubs, which is the exact opposite of my first year or two here!  Of course, we regularly amend with chicken poop too, so it's getting there, albeit slowly.

So, that's the garden update.  Hopefully I'll have something a bit more informative next time.