Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Surface of the Sun

That is where I live. Seriously. The heat here is intense. Paired with the humidity, work during the hottest part of the day is impossible. The garden dislikes it as much as I do. Or perhaps it is my inattention that is killing it? It depends on when you ask me as to which answer I might give you. I have started and stopped a post over the last month multiple times, and each time it stressed me out so much that I just deleted it and moved on. On the plus side, the shop has had progress made on it. It has a full roof and one wall. I, of course, could get nothing accomplished outside while Brad was working on the shop because I had Liam to attend to and by the time Brad was done working he was too tired to tend to him. It is stressing me out and making me angry just talking about it so I am leaving it at that. Lets just say that my tomatoes are hanging in there, the peppers barely, and nothing else has survived. The shop was worked on though... that is something.

The last 2 weeks have been a complete wash. Not even the shop got worked on. The factors have been:

1- we are running the homestead with no truck. That means we have to borrow one every time we need lumber or anything too big to fit in my little car.

2- Brad's brother is no longer able to help with the shop.

3- Keegan has had Band camp which means 4 trips to and from school every day. He goes in the morning, pick him up for lunch, drop him back off 1.5 hours later, and then pick him up that evening. It makes it difficult to get started on much.

4- Liam has had a double ear infection topped off with some kind of nasty virus. He has had a scary high fever, has been so congested that he can barely breath, and has been dehydrated but refusing liquids or food other than nursing, which thankfully he has still been doing. The poor guy has been miserable, and none of us has had much sleep for over a week. Thankfully yesterday evening his fever broke and started drinking and ate a little bit. I don't think I have ever been so thankful to see a wet diaper. I had almost forgotten how scary having a sick little one was. I didn't miss that part. I'm so glad he is finally on the mend. Now maybe once he can start breathing properly again we will get a good nights sleep. In the grand scheme of things, him being healthy is all that matters.

Anyway... my having a type A personality... Well. I haven't dealt well with seeing everything around here go to pot for simple lack of time to deal with it or ability to walk outside and get it done. Just thinking about it makes my brain tingle, eyes twitch, and chest tighten. Que Serra Serra. I'm letting it go and not stressing about it anymore. I have claimed the next few days as mine to get as much work done as possible. The grass desperately needs to be mowed, the garden rows weed-eated, and the peppers staked and tied.

 The tomatoes have gotten so tall that they are bending over the top of the trellis and growing halfway down the other side. I need to get another picture of Keegan standing in the row to show scale. But, to give you an idea; I am 5'10" and when I stand and reach my hand as high as possible the tallest vines still standing up are at least a foot higher than my fingertips. Who knew that 8ft t-posts would be this inadequate?
 These plants were volunteers in one of my store bought lavender plants. I don't know what they are but they sure are prolific! Liam much prefers the egg yolk tomatoes though. These seem more like store quality grape tomatoes. They keep forever but are tough and don't have much taste.
 My favorite tomatoes! Cherokee purple. They are finally getting ripe. Sadly, they seem to be more at risk of being damaged and half of the ones I have picked have been half rotten already for one reason or another.
 The guineas like to help in the garden. They are the only poultry really allowed in there because they don't damage anything by scratching around or eating any low growing fruit. The chickens have managed to sneak past the fence lately and scratch all of the hay out of the rows though. After I took this I had to pick it up by hand and put it back... again. Someone-who-shall-not-be-named-for-their-own-protection borrowed my rake and used it a bit too vigorously. The handle broke in half. Coincidentally, the same someone also broke my broom handle in half that very same week. Grr....
 Here is a better picture of the tomatoes bending over the trellis. Early blight has started at the bottoms of all of the plants already. Some of the sickly ones and the few determinate tomatoes that I planted are faring much worse than these amish paste. They are troupers for sure!
It is bowing the top of the fencing over. Perhaps another t-post would be good next year, although it seems to be holding up pretty well.
 Here is the shop. It looks small in this picture but it is pretty good sized. 12ft wide by 16 feet long. The windows need to go in next and then the walls can be completed.
Pretty much everything else is dead or dying and the grass is growing out of control. The upside of this is that it is almost time to replant anyway (there is no upside to the grass growing, except of course, that I need the exercise and honestly enjoy mowing). I can still get in another crop of beans, cucumbers, and squash. I also have fall crops to put in.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Boring post and shop progress

Not much has been happening around here. Brad and his brother, Christopher, have been making progress on the shop. As of this afternoon, half of the roof is on. It is looking great! We are excited! It will be nice to have so much more storage space. Progress has been steady, but slow. With temperatures in the high 90's everyday and high humidity it easily feels like it is over 100 every day. It makes doing anything quickly or for long periods impossible. Maybe I will get photos soon.

While the guys have been outside working I have been on "baby duty". Liam is more mobile every day. He has been crawling for a couple of months and is getting better at climbing. He is in to EVERYTHING! I love this age. He is so much fun! He is a handful though. And he doesn't like to be more than a foot from me; preferring me to be holding him and occupying him. So much different than his brother. Keegan was into everything as well, but he didn't want to be held. He wanted to go, go, go. He got mad when I tried to hold him too much because he couldn't explore properly. He was so independent. Liam is far from being independent. He prefers to explore from my arms or within arms reach of me. He is so very affectionate though! He loves to give hugs and kisses. If you ask him where someone is "Where's Daddy?" he stops immediately and looks until he finds them and then gets so excited. He says "dada", "momma", "bubba" (brother), "tantu" (thank you) after he kisses me because I always tell him thank you, and says "awww" when he is being sweet to someone. He loves looking at pictures of babies, including of himself, and at himself in the mirror. Liam has to kiss the baby in the mirror every time he sees him.

Not having free hands (or lap) anytime lately, since Brad has been either outside working or exhausted from being outside working, not much has been getting done around here lately. The house has been cleaned, meals prepared, and every once in a while I will get outside for a short period to do something small. I check the tomatoes and peppers every couple days, but the rest of the veggies have basically gone to seed because or lack of care and attention. Keegan and I have been trying to pick green beans, though it has just been enough to keep them producing and none picked have been usable since they were so big. We have also been taking turns doing some mowing to keep the grass under control. Keegan found another copperhead the other day (2nd this year) so it is a priority. It is frustrating to have everything put on hold and everything planned on the whim of a 10 month old. This is the first chance I have had to write a blog post (he is napping with daddy) because Liam wants to type too every time I touch the computer. And typically when I do get the chance to do something it is housework. Like now... I need to start dinner.

Keegan is starting band camp soon. He is glad to be done picking blueberries. The bushes stopped producing about a week ago. It was his chore to do every other day. I can't believe that school is starting in less than a month.

I love my boys. I love my life. I am so blessed. I need to stop getting frustrated over things that aren't that big of a deal. We can live without pickles and canned green beans (although it would make life much better this winter if we had them put up) but I will never get these moments with my boys back. I need to enjoy them. Anyway, off to start dinner.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Getting Closer!

To building the new shop, that is. Brad burned the pile the day before yesterday. Here it is mostly burned already. It was over 6 feet tall in the center and easily 15 feet across. Now it is nothing but a small pile of ashes. Yesterday we borrowed a truck and went to "the big city" 45 minutes north of here. Trying to farm without a truck is a pain in the you know what. Anyway, we got all the plywood, cinder-blocks, the roof cap, and roofing screws. Today we need to get the treated lumber and roofing tin at the local shop and hopefully tomorrow we can pull all of the untreated lumber we will need from his parent's. After a hurricane years ago they has a portable sawmill come in a cut up all the downed trees on their property and have been trying to use up the lumber since then. We have been a big "help" with that. I am always thinking up some kind of project and very few around here would have been done without their generosity. Bill, Brad's dad, decided we needed "an old fashioned barn raising" and is planning on coming over on Saturday with one of Brad's brothers to help us get it built. They are amazing people and we are thankful.

 Speaking of amazing people, my wonderful Mom bought me a Bing Cherry tree and had it shipped to me. I have always wanted a cherry tree! My mom planted two in our yard when I was growing up. They didn't produce until shortly before we moved so we only got to enjoy them for a couple of years. I hope that we will be around here to enjoy it for many years. Keegan helped me plant it. It is in an area that I had been dreaming of putting bee hives for a couple of years so have kept clear. But I thought, what better thing to locate next to a bee hive than a flowering fruit tree! When my brother was staying here for a bit he had a bonfire pit there, originally to burn a stump out, and the soil there is considerably better than most of the property. It seems to like its new home. I need to buy another to go with it because apparently cherries need to cross pollinate. While we were in town yesterday we stopped by a couple of garden centers to see if we could find any ailing fruit trees late in the season that they would be willing to give us for next to nothing. After talking to the store manager (at a big box store... yes they haggle you just have to ask for a manager) we came home with two apple trees for $6 each (normally over $20 each). I'm not sure how they will do this far south but I'm willing to give it a try! We are beginning to collect quite the little orchard! Our count right now is 3 pear trees, 2 peach, 2 fig, 2 pomegranate, 2 apple (1 yellow, 1 red), 1 cherry tree, and a bunch of blueberry bushes that are bigger than any of the trees (although not quite as tall as a couple of the pears).
 This is a terrible picture and it hardly shows, but some of the tomatoes have reached the top of the trellis. This was 2 days ago and they have grown noticeably since then. The garden gets full sun for most of the day but I always manage to take pictures in the late afternoon when the sun/shade makes it impossible to see anything. I mowed in there the other day so it looks much better. Just take my word for it. Much more mowing needs to be done, but alas I have injured myself... again. Actually it happened a couple weeks ago. Because we cleared a bunch of trees from the property when we first moved in, periodically, a hole will open up where a root had been but has since rotted out. They are usually found by stepping on what appears to be solid ground, which then gives away to leave you thigh deep in a hole. I found a hole while mowing a couple of weeks ago. The leg that went into the hole was fine, buy the ankle on the other leg crumpled under me when I went down. It wasn't that big of a deal at the time, but has been getting worse instead of better. I don't know what I have done to it. I took the "walk it off" approach, which apparently was the wrong one. Since mowing the other day on it I have been hobbling around with an ace bandage on it and have been having to keep ice on it. I feel like I'm still too young to be falling apart already!
 I have been resigned to to a lot of canning, instead of the outside work I really need to be doing. Lots of beans have been put up. More in the fridge to do. I have run out of pint jars and finances after buying shop building stuff won't allow to buy more right now. Beans will have to go in quart jars until I run out of those.
 These are just a few of the jars of sauce I canned from the you-pick tomatoes. I also made some kosher dill pickles. Per my mother in-law's instructions, instead of canning them at a rolling boil I heated the water to 180 F and then processed the pints for 5 minutes and quarts for 10. Instead of getting the mushy soft pickles I usually get these are so crunchy and delicious! I am going to dump the rest of the soggy pickles I made last year out and refill those jars with some of these ones.

It hasn't rained in a couple of days (NOT complaining) so I am off to water my garden, which I hope I can manage without hurting myself... Hope everyone has a beautiful day!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Bean Picking Tips

As much time as I have been spending picking beans, I have a lot of time to think. Many times it is of peaceful things. Or planning what needs to be done. Liam joins me in his sling sometimes when the evil biting things aren't too prevalent. I have learned a thing or two about picking beans while I have been out there. 

1. Unless you would appear to be attempting acrobatics to anyone who should happen upon you while picking beans, you are doing it wrong. Put your basket down and dig in with both hands. Move every leaf and vine, tossing beans in the basket as you go. When you have looked everywhere, bend all the way over, turn your head upside down, and do it again. Can you pick beans while doing a handstand? Try it. Perhaps yoga would be useful. You can look at the same exact place 3 times from 3 different angles and you WILL still miss beans that are right in front of your face. They are elusive little buggers. 

2. If you see a bean, pick it. Immediately. Don't think that you will get that one when you make it to that section. Pick it now or you may not see it again until a week later when it is monstrous and inedible. See the last of the above statement for why. 

3. Pick beans at least every 2 days. Perhaps more. It stinks to spend all of that time and picking only to end up with huge, unusable beans. 

4. Don't try to use those huge beans. I know it is heart breaking and maddening to take all of that time and effort to grow them, tend to them, pick them, and then not be able to use them, but they aren't worth it. I throw them out for the chickens and rabbits and even they won't touch them! That should tell you something. Definitely don't waste time canning them. You will end up with a hard stringy mess, no matter how hard you try to get every last string. Those that are on the edge about liking beans will turn away from them for good and those that love them will still lose their liking for them as much. We spent the winter eating beans like that. 

5. If you don't have enough beans for a canner load or aren't ready to eat them right away snap them, put in a pot of cold water and place in fridge. They will last like this for a couple days. If the beans were left for a day or two without being snapped and are a bit wilted this will also perk them back up. They are wilty because they lost water and once it is replaced they firm back up. Or blanch them and feeze them. 

6. Don't forget to use your beans! That was a LOT of time put into growing, tending, picking, and snapping! If (when) this happens you may go through the 7 stages of grief . It is normal and you will get through it. It will instill a whole new determination to never let it happen again. It will happen again...

7. There will be a new level of appreciation for a jar of green beans that would never be understandable to anyone who buys the limp beans in cans at the store. Like all food grown and/or preserved yourself, that little jar will be beautiful and nearly priceless. While most canned food is stuck in the back of cabinets, these seem to deserve a place of prominence. Perhaps on a shelf for all to see and admire. It is hard to even open them initially after a summer spent working to get them to that point, but once that first taste is had those jars go like the wind. Gifting them to someone is a big thing and should not be taken lightly. Nothing is more insulting, hurtful, and anger inducing than to gift these treasures to someone and then have them cast aside or wasted. Blood, sweat, and tears. Enough said.  

Rainy Days

It has been raining every day here for at least a week. The grass is growing up outside. The garden needs to be tended to. The pumpkins that are taking over the greenhouse need to be planted... somewhere. I really want to crawl up beside Liam and take a nap with him. The dreary skies leave me feeling drained. It probably helps that Liam hasn't went more than 2 hours without waking me up at night since in at least 5 months. He slept through the night as a newborn, but that has long since past. Maybe someday I will get to sleep again. Until then seeing his smiling face and getting baby snuggles will keep me going.

Lots of canning has been happening. All of the tomatoes from the you-pick have been turned to sauce. Last count was 15 quarts and 2 pints, plus several jars and a 2 quart bowl that either didn't seal or make it into the canner. The bell peppers were cut up and frozen. I believe we ended up with 6 gallon bags full. I have been sneaking outside long enough to pick green beans between storms and managed to make a canner load last night. 13 pints of green beans put up. Many more to go. The onions that were put on the back porch to dry were not brought in before the rain started. Major fail on my part. I covered them, but since they were damp I left them out to dry... except it hasn't stopped raining long enough for it to happen. The chickens are helping the situation go from bad to worse by taking bites out of each of the onions. They don't even like onions! They just have to taste them and do enough damage to let the water seep in. Many are getting soft and rotting. Tomorrow it is supposed to stop raining. Once they are dry I will survey the damage. Hopefully most can be saved. I may be doing a lot of dehydrating. I had hoped to be able to do that in our new shop because the dehydrators really heat up the house, which needs no help. And the whole house smells of onions complete with burning watering eyes. Alas, the shop has yet to be built. We need sun for that too. The giant pile of brush hasn't even been burned yet.

So much to do that it is overwhelming if I think about it. I think instead I will be lazy today and not stress about it. I will enjoy playing with my sweet baby, share some jokes with my son, maybe do some planning with my husband, and perhaps even partake in a much needed nap. Or maybe what I really need is a big cup of coffee... or two. Groceries should happen today. Be still my mind.

Saturday, June 6, 2015


Yesterday, Keegan and I spent the morning at the you-pick. Liam and daddy stayed home. Even though it is nice to eat local, hand picked veggies, they are not organic and little man didn't need to be in the middle of all of the pesticides. I washed all of the veggies thoroughly before bringing them inside (and then bathed immediately). I may be paranoid but pesticides scare me and I actually considered not going this year because of them. It isn't any worse than what we get at the store once they are washed though, and I'm always paranoid about the garden not producing as much as we will need so better to be safe than sorry.

We had fun! The onions are on the back porch in the sun drying. My table is completely full of tomatoes waiting to be turned into sauce. A clothes basket of bell peppers are sitting in my kitchen floor waiting to be diced and either dehydrated or frozen. First I need to cook a giant, left-over creating meal and something else to put in the fridge to alternate it with. I'm thinking meatloaf with lots of sides of veggies and Tuna Pasta Salad. Both will use up a ton of veggies and keep everyone full long enough to process all of this stuff! This is when the real work begins. I always get so happy when I am picking and bringing stuff home and then when I see it all piled up and waiting on me I start getting overwhelmed. Well I know how the next few days will be spent. Better get started! Hope everyone is having a beautiful day!

"God Grant Me The Serenity...

 To accept the things I can not change

Courage to change the things I can

and Wisdom to know the difference."

My favorite prayer.

 I finally took the time to give my Serenity Garden a little love a few days ago. Still needs more work, but some weeding and leaf mulch seems to have gone a long way. My plants look happy. I even saw a hummingbird eating from one of the Canna lillies.
Everyone needs a little serenity in their life.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

As the days get longer

 The tomatoes have been tied. It actually happened a few days ago, but I just managed to get pictures this afternoon. I love the way these plants are trellised. It takes a bit to tie each plant but after that it is so simple to keep up. Each plant has a piece of jute twine tied beneath the first set of leaves and then tied off to the top of the trellis. Every few days I just loop the twine around the new growth. As they sprout side shoots I will tie those off too. It keeps them fully supported and allows me to direct their growth where I want it. While it may seem like a lot of work, it really isn't. Especially when you consider that I have to inspect each plant carefully every few days anyway to keep on top of all of the eating things that seek to destroy my garden.
It is so hard to get a good picture in the dappled sunlight. When I tied them I also planted the last of the tomatoes out of the greenhouse that were too little yet to be planted last time. I finished out the rows and replaced a few plants that didn't make it. I only have 4 little egg yolk tomatoes left in case some of these don't make it. I tried to gift them to a couple of people and nobody was interested. That doesn't compute in my brain. They are beautiful heirloom tomatoes, grown from seed. Grown from the seed that I painstakingly saved from the most perfect tomatoes off of the most perfect plants I harvested out of my completely organic garden last year so they are a well adapted to our area. I'd rather keep them myself then give them to people that wouldn't appreciate them anyway.
These are some of the egg yolk tomatoes. The first tomatoes to produce. These aren't even in my tomato rows. I keep finding them sprouting all over the yard! They are hardy little buggers. I only planted maybe 9 of them this year because I don't use the little tomatoes as much. I have an entire row of amish paste. One third of a row of beefsteak tomatoes that my father in-law gave me, most of the rest of the row are Cherokee purple plants, and then there are 6 egg yolk tomatoes at the end of that row. A couple others were placed in spots to replace plants that didn't make it. Some were volunteers like these that I found sprouting.
 These huge tomato plants coming up in the middle of the weeds taking over the other half of my garden are examples of the volunteers. I stuck stakes in the ground to help them but other than that they are just surviving on their own. I have even found them in the front yard and under my shed. I assume that the birds spread the seeds last year. It is really impressive. At some point perhaps I will bring my piglets home to clear this part of the garden. Until then I might get tomatoes.
 This is what the area looks like where we are building the shop. Those logs to the right are designated to replace rotten logs around the small garden beds. It has been too wet to move them with the tractor without damaging the yard. Today was the first rain-free day in over a week. Maybe tomorrow we can move them out of the way and try to burn that pile.
 My herb bed got new border logs too. It looks like an actual garden bed now instead of a dug up spot of yard. Now if I can keep the chickens out of it and find some good topsoil I can try to get some more herbs plants. So far there are only two mint and two oregano plants. I hope the mint spreads like crazy like it is supposed to. Being out in the center of the yard means that I can mow down any runners that escape from the bed.
 The pumpkin plants that I planted in anticipation of a pig-tilled garden to plant them have started to take over the greenhouse. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with them but whatever it is it needs to happen soon. From what I hear, squash don't do well being transplanted so the sooner the better. The lady that has the piglets has reassured me that she has 3 earmarked for me and if they get too big she will bring them to me. She just hasn't had the time for us to come pick them up yet. They are free-range and have to be caught first.
 Liam likes helping mommy in the garden. He likes to taste test the produce. We have high quality standards around here and can never be too careful. He especially likes to taste the sugar snap peas and cucumbers. He gets excited when we get near that part of the garden and starts bouncing in his sling. The cucumbers I wipe the spikes off of and take a bite off of one end. Liam can handle it from there. The peas he chews down to the shell with no help at all.
The bean arches are doing wonderfully. I have to pick beans every other day. I still haven't managed to get enough at once to make a pressure canner load. Now that the vines are spreading over the top of the arches I hope to get more beans at a time. The cucumber bed looks bare. What I thought were huge, vigorous cucumber vines sprouted white flowers. Apparently, despite my best efforts to eradicate the invasive gourds from that part of the garden, they got through my defenses by pretending to be cucumbers. I pulled them all up. Now the cucumbers have room to grow and are doing much better. I wish the same could be said for me poor zucchini plants. They were so big and pretty. Until a stupid chicken managed to hop the fence. A few minutes of scratching caused major destruction. I hope to get a few more zucchini before they succumb to the diseases they are sure to get with all of those open wounds. The chickens should be very very happy that I haven't figured out how to acquire to superpower of shooting lightening bolts from my eyes.

 Do you see what I see? Momma guinea has been sitting on a clutch of at least 20 eggs for over a week. She chose a wonderful location. My wildflower bed. She is really close to the house so the dogs will hopefully be able to protect her at night. And she can enjoy the pretty flowers while she sits day in and day out. I hope we have lots of guinea babies! We are down to 6 adults now. I'm sad to say that I had no luck at all with the turkey eggs in the incubator. When I find Tabby's new nest I will try again.
 The figs are doing great!
 The blueberry bushes are about to explode! I have found two ripe berries this week. Both were given to Liam. Soon we will have more than we know what to do with.
 The strawberry bed has never looked this good! Apparently the chickens did more damage to it than I realized. Just keeping them out has allowed the plants to take off. The berries are tiny though. Perhaps number will make up for size next year.

My canna lilies are blooming. My poor serenity garden desperately needs love and attention. I have been hyper focused on the food producing parts of the homestead, animals, and keeping the grass mowed when I have any baby free time. Baby-free outside work time is very limited. Liam still likes to be attached to mommy at almost every second (including all night long and while he is sleeping during the day). Farm chores are more like a triage. Assess what needs to be done most urgently. All other things get looked over. Flowers are non essential. They make me happy though. I should give them higher priority. I love how different flowers bloom at different times. I have flowers in bloom all year long. Serenity is much needed.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Destruction Zone

Because before construction can begin, destruction must precede. One of the big projects that we have been putting off for far too long is building a shop. We either don't have enough time or enough money. This year money was put up from taxes and was not allowed to be touched in expectation for the summer when Brad and Keegan are out of school. Other big projects we plan to achieve this summer are replacing the floors where we have had water damage in the past, sealing the roof, and fixing the vehicles (both my poor old car and the SUV Brad's parents are being nice enough to let us use once it is running).

We are putting the shop/shed/building in the back just inside the treeline. We have gardens and fruit trees/bushes covering every other spot remotely close to the electric box and apparently the wire to run electricity to the building is very expensive, so close is good. Brad borrowed a chainsaw and spent the day earlier this week cutting down trees in a place where only scraggly weedy trees stood. Only one big healthy tree was downed, and it was a pine that was a danger to the roof anyway. He also took down huge rotten oak that was falling apart and shading the pecan tree we discovered on the property a few weeks ago. While brad cut branches off Keegan stacked the brush to be burned in place.

The big logs were cut in 6 foot lengths so I can use them to replace rotten logs in my small above ground garden this fall. The smaller ones are going to border my herb garden and flower beds. Yesterday while I was stealing some time between rain storms (which have been nearly constant lately) I was cutting and placing some of the smaller logs in the flower beds yesterday. In my infinite wisdom, I was doing it in flop flops. One day I will learn. I managed to drag a log in such a way that I popped the nail completely off of my big toe. After screaming at air for a few minutes I quietly came inside and tended to it since Liam was napping. Now that I don't tear up just thinking about it I find it quite amusing to gross Keegan out with it.

It is supposed to rain for the next week. Thankfully it isn't as bad as it has been other places. I am praying for all those poor people in Texas that are dealing with severe floods right now. Hopefully we will get some work done outside soon. Now off to find some old shirts or something to rip up so that I can tie tomatoes whenever I get a rain-free few minutes to slip off to the garden. So glad I have above ground beds that shed excess water.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Happy Tuesday

Yesterday evening it was supposed to rain. A definite change from the hot, sunny, beautiful (and very dry) weather we have been having. No better time to plant tomatoes! The little tomato plants were starting to get really tall and leggy. Just the way I like them. Any taller and they would start falling over and then get sickly.

Brad took Liam with him to pick Keegan up from school, since he was desperate for a nap and just wouldn't throw in the towel. A car ride is the perfect remedy. As soon as they left I headed outside to plant. Over thee hours later about 100 tomato plants had found their new home. As usual, I pinched the leaves off the sides and buried them in a trench up to their top set of leaves. They look tiny now just barely poking above the hay mulch. Because any part of the stem buried underground will root, the tomatoes do so much better during the super hot summers when planted that way. I finished as the wind was beginning to blow and the sky looked ominously dark. I worried that the storm might actually be too rough and damage the little plants, but I watered them anyway because I know how my luck typically works. By that time Liam needed his mommy so Brad handed him to me and we picked our first mess of green beans just in time for the rain to start falling. It rained... sprinkled, for maybe 5 minutes. And the 100% chance of rain today? Not a cloud in the sky. Oh well.

Since I emptied all of those containers out of the greenhouse, what better to do than fill it back up? I replanted all of the containers with acorn squash, butternut squash, jarrahdale pumpkins, Connecticut field pumpkins, Australian Butter Squash (also a pumpkin), and watermelons. The section that they will go in the pigs need to till and I am having a really difficult time nailing down a time to go get them. I know that I am saving money on feed, and I can't complain when I am being gifted 3 pigs, but I really want my pigs! I need to train them to the electric and let them till the garden before it is too late to plant corn, squash, and melons. It is already, arguably,  too late. Brad says that I should just stop stressing and it will all happen in good time. He is probably right. In the meantime, Keegan and I set up the hog ring on Mother's Day so everything is ready when we finally get the green light to pick up the piglets.

While on the subject of new farm babies, I set turkey eggs in the incubator a little over a week ago. They should be hatching (if all goes well) on the 31st. There are a baker's dozen. I only want perhaps 4 to go in the freezer. Toddlers and free ranging turkeys don't go well together, so I am getting out of turkeys for a while. I will keep yellow and tabby, but all others are destined for the freezer. I may gift any "extras" to the lady I am getting the pigs from if she would like them.

In other baby news, Liam is getting huge! He is army crawling at the speed of light and in to EVERYTHING! I can't believe how big he is getting. He is getting to the stage where nothing is safe. He crawls, climbs (yes he climbs right up the back of the couch!), cruises around on the furniture. He has to touch everything he sets his little yes on and each thing he see he makes the sweetest little "hmmm?" like he is so curious about it. I love this age!
MmMmMmMm Green Beans right off the vine!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

May Already?!

 I can't believe it! This year is going by so quickly. Busy days tend to fly by. Brad is finishing up his finals and all of Keegan's end of the school year stuff has begun. We really enjoyed is spring concert last week and tonight is the band banquet. It should be fun. Hopefully Liam agrees. I don't want to leave him with anyone so he goes everywhere with us. He is usually very well mannered when out and about, but band functions can be quite long. Many things are happening around the homestead as well. One of our peach trees is covered in peaches! Despite the other tree blooming first, it has no peaches. Not sure why?
 The green beans have reached the top of the arch! I saw a couple of ladybugs hanging out on the leaves. Sadly, I also saw some aphids. I guess where you have one...
 We will have beans soon!
 Keegan turned my herb garden plot and amended it with as much compost as we had left after the big garden got most of it. I need to find some more because this soil is terrible. I will be planting herbs soon!
 The tomatoes are doing wonderfully! I want to keep them in the greenhouse for a bit longer. They are much easier to keep up with and water properly when they are all in one little area. A few of the last seeding of peppers in those large center pots are starting to come up. Hopefully the rest will soon follow.
 The zucchini is looking marvelous.
 Elliot looks pretty good herself.
 The above ground portion of the big garden is done and ready to be planted! Two rows of tomato trellises are already up, everything is amended with compost, and the mulch is down. Keegan was nice enough to stand in the row to show size. He is about 6ft tall and standing in the center of the row. Once the tomatoes fill in we will barely be able to walk down this row (if all goes well). The other half of the garden will house the pigs in a few weeks. They will till the soil and fertilize it, then corn, pumpkins, and melons will be planted. I may start some of them int he greenhouse soon.
 My sweet little monster man is checking out the garden too.
The blueberries are insane!
And the flower beds are still intact. Apparently the pine cones are doing their job. Who knew? I will be using this concept for many things now.

The piglets are weaned and ready to be picked up. The people we are getting them from have been working off of the farm but will hopefully be back to let us pick them up in the next couple days. Lots to do. Life is good.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Seedling Fail

Since it rained heavily last night and this afternoon I mostly worked in the greenhouse today. As it turns out, that is where I needed to focus my attention anyway. I failed to pay attention to the fact that the ground the greenhouse is standing on isn't flat. It didn't seem like a big deal. Failure on my part. Water pooled in the dips, which happened to be where my flats of peppers were sitting. The poor little seedlings couldn't take overabundance of water. Very few germinated at all and the ones that did aren't looking too hot. That paired with the fact that I think there is some kind of plant eating insect in there topping the smallest seedlings. Shelves really need to be figured out for the next round of seedlings to keep them off of the ground and allow them to drain properly. Probably in the fall.

I replanted all of the peppers. Mostly, I scattered seeds in large pots rather than planting in the flats again. We'll see if it works better. We use so many peppers that if they don't turn out it will hurt us. The tomatoes are doing well at least. I transplanted quite a few that were seeded too heavily. I'm afraid to put the number of each type in writing for fear that they will be smited for being too sure of myself.

To make room in the higher spots on the greenhouse floor I cleared a bunch of stuff out. I planted the pomegranate trees in larger pots and placed them and the "Hawaiian Lei"  tree on the back porch. All of the "Clearance rack" flowers and ornamental plants went into flower beds. Finally. And I repotted the herbs to hold them over until I can get the herb garden turned over.

I spoke to the lady I am getting piglets from. She said they are weaned and ready to go! I plan to get them this coming week. The pig waterer, feeder, and hog ring need to be prepared. I expect issues with the waterer. There always are. Waterers are evil.

Allergies are also evil. We are all suffering from seasonal allergies. Liam included. He is snotty and wheezy. Not sleeping. Neither are the rest of us as a result. The poor guy has also been dealing with another, more serious allergy. His ear infection was being treated with penicillin, which he apparently is allergic too, like his big brother. He broke out in polka dots. Luckily, I was paranoid about it after Keegan having such a bad reaction when he was little, so as soon as I saw spots I stopped giving it to him and called the doctor. The reaction wasn't very severe. I caught it ridiculously early. His ears aren't better yet, though. I think they are playing a role in the lack of sleep too. We go back to the doctor on Friday. I think I will probably take him sooner if he doesn't act like he is feeling better soon. Even sick, he is such a happy baby. And smart! He learned to crawl and sit on his butt from his belly this week. Walking while holding onto furniture, pulling up by himself, and crawling. Things are about to get real.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Foiled Again

My plans for yesterday were to try to get as much done in the big garden as possible before it starts raining tonight since Brad was home to keep the baby while I worked. That was until my mother in-law showed up with a new wading pool for Liam, filled with plants! She is cleaning out her flower beds to make room for rose bushes and asked if I wanted the flowers she pulled out. Of course! There is no way I can pass up free plants. She is a plant-addict like I am and she has amassed a beautiful collection of flowers. I didn't expect them yesterday though. I suppose that beggars can't be choosers.

So my day was spent planting flowers before they withered up. Of course, I really have no idea what it was that I planted. Most of them she said were lilies. I have no idea what kind. There were a lot of what appeared to be gladiolus and then a bunch of monkey grass. I hope I got everything planted in places that they will be happy. I mostly just tucked them in where every I could find space in my flower beds, a lot of which are pretty shady. That sounds easier than it is since the soil here is rock hard and compacts immediately when water is added. My vegetable garden beds have had a massive amount of work done to them to prevent this, but the flower beds don't usually get the same kind of love. Not enough time or resources. We will see how they do.

While I was finishing up planting the last of the plants, completely exhausted, itchy from mosquitoes, and rushing because Brad couldn't finish his homework while on baby duty, I was watching the chickens scratching around my newly planted beds and thinking about how lucky they were that I couldn't shoot lightening bolts from my eyes right at that moment. Red the rooster ran by to have his way with a hen, getting a pine cone stuck on his toe in the process. He hopped around trying to pull it off his toe with his beak and avoiding the area that was sprinkled with cones from the towering pine trees above and I had an epiphany. The chickens always seem to avoid pine cone strewn areas. They are prickly and unpleasant. Perhaps if I put them places I don't want them scratching they will avoid those places too! So I did. It is just an experiment, but as of this afternoon all of the mulch, plants, and pine cones are still in place. That. Never. Happens... Ever. Anything I plant seems to be the most amazing thing in the world and the chickens just MUST eat it, scratch it up, and destroy it. Immediately. If this works I will be on the hunt for loads of pine cones in the future. Good thing I live in south Mississippi.

Monday, April 20, 2015

We've Made Garden Progress!

Like, actual, honest to goodness progress in the big garden! It rained for a week straight, and I have 4 (now 3) days before another week of rain so yesterday I decided to buckle down and get it done. The problem is, once I cut the weeds the soil will erode unless mulched. But before the mulch goes down compost has to be added. So it has to be all done at once before any rain or not done at all. It was a family affair. Brad and Liam spent the day inside. It was the longest continual period of time I have gotten to work on stuff outside since Liam has been born. Daddy fed him, and changed him, and even got him to sleep! I just popped in to nurse him a few times and snuck back out. It was amazing!

While Liam and Daddy were inside, Keegan and I were outside. In true teenage fashion, Keegan was forced, kicking and screaming... ok fine. Not actually kicking and screaming, but grumbling, and groaning, and whining, and telling me how mean I am for not letting him play video games and watch tv inside on one of only two days off he gets a week. It didn't last too long though. It seems to be a detox withdraw kind of thing when teenagers are extracted from their lair and placed in bright sun away from all manner of bright flashy mind controlling electronics. Luckily he had a "replacement patch" of sorts in the form of his ipod which he used to text his friends at every available moment. Usually having a shovel propped against him as he waved his fingers around on the screen, appearing to be casting some sort of spell on it. How do they type so fast with no keys?! I feel so old. I still refuse to get rid of my flip phone. I would really never accomplish anything if I could carry the internet around with me in my pocket!

Anyway, we finally got some stuff done. After the grumbling is over, I love working outside with Keegan. It is nice to be able to have decent conversations with him and laugh. He is a funny guy. Always making jokes and laughing. My favorite comedian and one of my very favorite people to spend the day with.

Before and after pictures make me happy too. Nothing makes me feel like I have accomplished more than when I have photographic evidence for comparison purposes. Unfortunately, I never remember to take the before picture until after I have started working. Just imagine all of the beds looking like the really grassy one on the left.


 Keegan shoveling the remainder of the dirt out of the paths that I had just hoe'd (is that a verb?) loose. All of the mulch and a lot of the dirt from the beds get scratched into the paths during the winter by interloping chickens looking for overwintering bugs.
 "You better not be taking a picture of me to put on your blog!"... ummm. No? Maybe? I was dead at the time!

Lots of weed eating, hoeing, shoveling, 12 gorilla carts of compost, countless armfuls of hay, and a gazillion ant bites later we have 2 completed and 2 partially completed garden rows. The two in the middle are going to be tomato rows. The trellis in the row to the right needs to be moved over and another one added. The old tomato row will host peppers this year. Still more work to get done in the next few days but this is definitely a good dent in it.

 Preparing the garden instills a strange kind of exhilaration and joy in my heart because I know it is truly that time of year again. Time to garden. To see my hard work and effort in physical form. To nurture and grow plants that in turn will nurture us and help us to grow. It is hard to describe and I feel a bit silly just seeing it written down. I guess you have to be one of the few that feel the same way to understand. It really is a kind of passion.