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Quickie Garden Update & Early Bees

We’re up to our eyeballs in garden chores lately so I wanted to jot down a few, quick notes for reference.  Time keeps slipping away on me.

The sunchokes in the front walk raised bed have poke their heads above ground & mulch, as have the orange mint and apple mint planted there.  I gave the mints a wide area to go nuts in and planted several dozen chunks of celery and parsley in the end of the bed that gets a bit of afternoon shade from the porch.  The peppermint & spearmint in the other front walk bed have gone absolutely bonkers.  The lemon balm in the same bed is also very vigorous but much better behaved than the mints.

Charlie has most of his bed planted but has saved room for tomatoes, ground cherries, and peppers.  The other kids’ beds still aren’t built but, with any luck, Steve should get to that this week.

In the backyard raised beds (that I have yet to show you — new this spring) are now filled up.  Bed #1 has walking onions, potato onions, and newly planted Red Welsh onions that I started from seed this year.  Bed #2 has nothing but garlic, garlic, garlic.  Bed #3 has the raspberries I planted a couple of weeks ago, plus the Alpine strawberries from last year (transplanted from the front wheel beds).  Beds #4 & 5 have full size strawberries.  Bed #6 has asparagus, transplanted from back yard wheel beds that I started last year.  Bed #7 has transplanted rhubarb (previously in back yard wheel beds).  Bed #8 has various greens in it (corn salad, mache, orach, French sorrel, kale, Swiss chard, Good King Henry…  I think that is it for that bed.

In the remaining backyard wheel beds are a couple types of oregano, chives, garlic chives, brown mustard seed, dill, sage, green onions, and cilantro.  In the main garden, the broccoli and cabbage have been planted — a wide row of each on either side of the pea/bean trellis.

The tomato, pepper, and ground cherry seedlings are all ready to be separated and potted up.  I’ll have to spend a few hours in the basement doing that this week.  I’ve presprouted the Sugar Snap peas and soaked the spinach seed so will get those planted first thing in the morning.

And… while I was typing up the draft for this, we got the call that our bee packages will be in this Friday.  Way earlier than what we expected and, so, we are unprepared.  That means everything else is out the window while we pull some bee-equipment-building miracles out of our butts.  As you all know by now, that’s just how we roll…

See ya on the other side!

Seed Starting: An Accounting

First, a minor bee note for the records:  Steve got out there and reversed the deeps on the Italian hive and added a second deep to the Carniolans.

I’ve been working on starting several types of seeds the past few days, now that I can scootch down to the basement.  I usually keep track of everything I start but, this year, I’m just having to suck up the imperfections and be content with having gotten things planted.  Still, here’s my attempt at a somewhat incomplete accounting.  Note that all are sown thickly, not just one to a cell or pot.  Each cell of a 6-pack has anywhere from three to a dozen seeds.  Each 4″ pot has dozens of seeds.  I’ll divide them and pot up separately once they germinate and grow a bit.

  • Broccoli, Calabrese Sprouting:  1 flat
  • Cabbage, flat Dutch:  1 flat
  • Wonderberry:  (3) 4″ pots
  • Pink Banana:  12 cells
  • Ground cherries, Aunt Molly’s:  (3) 4″ pots
  • Aronia? (Ilene’s mystery):  13 cells
  • Pomegranate, Orange Master:  14 cells

Sweet Peppers

  • Ancient Sweets:  (1) 4″ pot
  • California:  2 cells
  • California Wonder:  2 cells
  • Chinese Giant:  (1) 4″ pot
  • Colossal Sweet:  2 cells
  • Giant Aconcogua:  2 cells
  • Giant Marconi:  2 cells
  • Golden Bell:  2 cells
  • Golden Marconi:  (1) 4″ pot
  • Gypsy:  2 cells
  • Jimmy Nardello:  (1) 4″ pot
  • Margaret’s Sweet Hungarian:  (1) 4″ pot
  • Mohawk Patio:  2 cells
  • Mystery Bell:  (1) 4″ pot
  • Orange Bell:  2 cells
  • Purple Beauty:  2 cells
  • Red Beauty:  2 cells
  • Red Marconi:  (1) 4″ pot
  • Redskin Patio:  2 cells
  • Sweet Banana:  2 cells
  • Sweet Chocolate:  2 cells
  • Sweet Gourmet:  (1) 4″ pot
  • Tolli’s Sweet Italian:  2 cells
  • Valencia Orange:  2 cells
  • Violet Bell:  (1) 4″ pot
  • Yellow Bell:  2 cells

Chile Peppers

  • College 64L:  2 cells
  • Big Jim Legacy:  (1) 4″ pot
  • Big Jim Heritage:  (1) 4″ pot
  • Cajun Spicy Bell:  2 cells
  • Cayenne:  (1) 4″ pot
  • Chimayo: 2 cells
  • Conquistador:  (1) 4″ pot
  • Espanola Improved:  2 cells
  • Fresno:  2 cells
  • Guajillo:  2 cells
  • Hungarian Yellow Wax:  2 cells
  • Jalmundo:  (1) 4″ pot
  • Joe E. Parker:  2 cells
  • Lumbre:  (1) 4″ pot
  • Pepperoncini Calabrese:  2 cells
  • Pizza Pepper:  (1) 4″ pot)
  • Sandia: (1) 4″ pot
  • Sunset, Sunrise, & Eclipse:  (1) 4″ pot

Tomatoes

  • Absinthe:  2 cells
  • Ace 55:  2 cells
  • Arkansas Traveler:  2 cells
  • Aunt Gertie’s Gold:  2 cells
  • Aunt Ruby’s German Green:  2 cells
  • Azoychka:  2 cells
  • Banana Legs (determinate):  1 cell
  • Beefsteak (hybrid):  1 cell
  • Black Brandywine:  2 cells
  • Black Cherry:  2 cells
  • Black from Tula:  2 cells
  • Black Krim:  2 cells
  • Black & Red Boar:  1 cell
  • Black Sea Man:  2 cells
  • Blue Streak:  4 cells
  • Box Car Willie:  1 cell
  • Bradley:  2 cells
  • Break O’ Day:  2 cells
  • Burning Spear:  2 cells
  • Campbell’s 1327:  2 cells
  • Chapman:  2 cells
  • Cherokee Purple:  2 cells
  • Chocolate Cherry:  2 cells
  • Cowlick’s Brandywine:  2 cells
  • Crimson Cushion:  2 cells
  • Cuostralee:  1 cell
  • Dana’s Dusky Rose:  2 cells
  • Diane’s Landrace, main tomatoes:  (24) 4″ pots
  • Dix Doights de Naples:  2 cells
  • Dora:  2 cells
  • Dr. Wyche’s Yellow:  2 cells
  • Earl’s Faux:  2 cells
  • Egg Yolk Cherry:  2 cells
  • Ernesto:  2 cells
  • Estler’s Mortgage Lifter:  1 cell
  • Eva Purple Ball:  2 cells
  • Galina’s Yellow Cherry:  2 cells
  • Gary’O Sena:  2 cells
  • German:  2 cells
  • German Johnson:  2 cells
  • German Red Strawberry:  3 cells
  • Goji Faranji:  2 cells
  • Golden Jubilee:  2 cells
  • Granny Cantrell:  2 cells
  • Great White:  2 cells
  • Heart’s Delite Black:  2 cells
  • Hillbilly:  1 cell
  • Hoy:  2 cells
  • Indian Stripe:  2 cells
  • Isis Candy cherry:  2 cells
  • JD’s Special C-Tex:  2 cells
  • Japanese Trifele Black:  2 cells
  • Juane Flammee:  2 cells
  • KBX:  2 cells
  • Kang Bing:  2 cells
  • Kardinal Tshyornyi
  • Kellogg’s Breakfast:  1 cell
  • Livingston’s Paragon:  1 cell
  • Ludmilla’s Red Plum:  2 cells
  • Marianna’s Peace:  2 cells
  • Matt’s Wild Cherry:  2 cells
  • Nepal:  2 cells
  • New Big Dwarf (dwarf):  2 cells
  • New Yorker:  1 cell
  • NOT German:  2 cells
  • OSU Blue:  4 cells
  • Out of the Blue Cherry:  2 cells
  • Pink Floyd:  2 cells
  • Pruden’s Purple:  2 cells
  • Prue:  2 cells
  • Red House Free Standing (dwarf):  2 cells
  • Rose:  2 cells
  • Tasmanian Chocolate (dwarf):  1 cell
  • Tigerella:  2 cells
  • Tommy Toes Cherry:  1 cell
  • Hawaiian currant:  2 cells
  • Peacevine Cherry:  2 cells
  • San Marzano Redorta:  2 cells
  • Sandul Moldovan:  2 cells
  • Snow White Cherry:  2 cells
  • Speckled Roman:  2 cells
  • Sungold (hybrid):  3 cells
  • Tess’ Landrace currant:  3 cells
  • Wes:  2 cells
  • White Princess:  1 cell
  • Wisconsin 55:  1 cell
  • Woodle Orange:  1 cell

To those who get seedlings from me, consider this your early list from which to choose.  I seeded enough of most everything so that there shouldn’t be any no-shows.  I tried to note which are cherries and currants.  The rest are mostly slicer sized with a couple of smaller saladettes tossed in.  Only one is a determinate since I just do not care for them.  There are only a couple of hybrids and the rest are OPs so that you can save seed if that’s your thing.  There are some of most colors — green, white, yellow, orange, pink, purple, red, black, and even blue, along with some spotted, striped, and speckled.  Give me a holler if there’s anything special you’d like reserved for you and I’ll mark them as I pot them  up.

Mid-March Garden Update

Most of you already know but, for those that don’t, here’s the nutshell: I boogered up my ankle this past week. I’m hobbling around on crutches right now (thanks to Debbie for the crutches!) but at least I can do that. I’ve been icing & elevating as much as possible. Yesterday morning, I sent one of the kids out to dig up some comfrey so I could make some salve — seems to really be helping. (Simmer a cup or so of finely chopped comfrey root and/or leaves in an equal amount of olive oil until it’s all mushy. Strain and add some beeswax to make a goo. Slather on a few times a day. Easy peasy.)

Needless to say, my personal garden progress has slowed way, way down. But before the drama, we headed down to Stark Bros with Susan again. I had two trees from last year’s trip die so they replaced them. One of the pears was replaced with the same. The other one that died was a Japanese persimmon and I had it replaced with another apple tree, a Grand Gala, I think it’s called. My receipt is in the other room so I’m going from memory here. They also replaced my failed Starkrimson rhubarb. I cannot recommend Stark Bros enough. They are so friendly and they sure held up their one-year replacement guarantee with a smile on their face. So nice to experience.

Also, Susan forced me — forced me, I say! — to bring home 50 strawberry plants (Ozark Beauty and Honeoye) and some citrus. Now, the citrus, I blame fully on Anita. You see, a couple of weeks back, Anita sent me some seeds for Calamondin Orange — and three tree seedlings: Calamondin Orange, Key Lime, and Meyer Lemon. How cool is that? I grew a Meyer Lemon and Key Lime a few years back when some friends from Florida (Hi, Alan & Diana!) gifted them to me. Those eventually died, however, due to the rough environment in our Oklahoma house. Anita’s gift set off some sort of citrus craze in me. When I saw more citrus at Stark Bros, I couldn’t help myself. I bought a Tangerine, a Valencia Orange, a Key Lime (which actually had three in the pot) and a Meyer Lemon (which had two in the pot). My kitchen and living room are now filled with citrus! And it’s all Anita’s fault. ;-)

Steve has kicked butt in the last couple of days. He’s managed to finish building Charlie’s raised bed in the front yard, along with three more beds for perennials in the back yard. I got the raspberries from Stark Bros planted in the first one before the ankle incident. Oh, wait. Did I not tell you about the raspberries? Yeah, I’ll have to think of someone to blame those on… I planted those six raspberries, along with the one surviving one the ones my mom bought me last year, into that first new raised bed. The 100-ish strawberries, I got planted yesterday by crawling around. They include not only the Stark Bros ones but also some WalMart ones: Jewel, Allstar, and Quinault.

I started a few more seeds BA (before ankle) but can’t remember which I planted then and which were from the first seed starting session a while back. Whatever they are, there’s a pile of plants out sunning themselves on the front walk again this year. Potato pulls, TPS, celery, rosemary, parsley, cilantro, etc, etc.

I’m late with the warm season veggie seed starting. All of my seed starting things are in the basement so I’ll have to see if I can crawl down those steps in the next few days to get tomatoes, peppers, ground cherries, and that sort of thing started. Better late than never, right? It’s not terribly late, as far as averages go, but this warm weather we’ve been having makes me feel so late on everything!

Side note on the bees: They’re doing well and enjoying the warm weather along with us. I’m afraid of early swarming before we know it so I was going to get out there and reverse the brood boxes and see if they might want a super on. But then the ankle… (I’m starting to sound like a broken record, aren’t I?) So, along with Steve’s thousand other honey-dos, I’ll have to ask him to get out there and do that soon. Poor Steve. He’s burning the candle at both ends right now plus having to listen to me whine about my ankle. It’s a wonder he’s not yet insane. He does have access to ear plugs — that might be his secret!

One more note: A bunch of the fruit trees are blooming now! So gorgeous!! I tried taking a pic of the peach tree but I kept falling over just leaning on one crutch. Doh. Maybe I’ll get some pics before the blooms are all gone. For now, just imagine a bunch of gorgeous fruit blossom pics scattered throughout this post. :-)

Seed starting, third weekend of February

I got several things seeded this past weekend and wanted to make a quick note of them here for my records.

Potato tubers:  Good gravy, I can’t remember how many I planted now.  Maybe two dozen-ish?  Just a mix of small tubers planted in milk jugs so that I can pull sprouts.

TPS: Land Races, Suytu Vilquina, La Pan, 9 Dings, Yungay, Gold Thumbs, Tollocan Fiesta, Pokhipsie, and Kern Brot.  All of the preceeding were from Tom Wagner’s New World Seeds.  From Joseph, I planted Ella’s and Bountiful.  I’m very excited about Joseph’s TPS because they’re good fruiters.

Onion seeds:  Stuttgarter, Ailsa Craig, Juane Paille Des Vertus, Valencia, Australian Brown, Giant Zittau, Southport Red Globe, and Yelow of Parma.  Also Red Welsh.

Miscellaneous Greens:  Wild Garden Kale mix, Dinosaur Kale, Stem Lettuce, French Sorrel, Orach Aurora, Mache, Corn Salad, and Good King Henry.  GKH went outside in the wintersowing since it needs stratified.

I also planted 40 2″ blocks of Tango celery.

Did I tell you about my new soil blocker?  It’s so cool!  I don’t know how I lived without it this long.  Mega coolness.

Ah, yes, and an addendum to my 2012 Garden Plans:  I’ve ordered a half pound of mangel seeds for the far end of the garden.  They should do a good job of breaking up the horribly compacted ground on that side of the garden and provide food for the chickens (and goats?) through part of the winter.

There’s gotta be a common theme here somewhere…

The excess roosters from this spring’s chicks were finally butchered late one recent evening.  After stuffing the skinned & gutted birds in a cooler for an overnight brine soak, we completely forgot about them.  Oops.  Today, we discovered that they’ve been frozen into one giant chicken ice cube ever since.  Lucky.  Now we’ll have to have one big chicken cooking day and put them in the freezer already cooked.  I’m cool with that.

Wintersowing finally began this past week.  In jugs are landrace tomatoes, cilantro, brown mustard seed, dill, orange star calendula, mystery aronia, Aunt Molly’s ground cherries, wildflowers, zinnias, marigolds, and chard.  Charlie also wintersowed several jugs for his garden.  There’s more to wintersow but I’d better get on it quick.  It’s almost March!

Steve got one of the raised beds (4′ x 40′) along the front walk built.  This one has sunchokes and a few mints in it from last year.  I’m not yet sure what its permanent use will be.  There will be another one between the sidewalk and the house when he gets to it.

Another bed going up, this one the first of six 4′ x 40′ in the front yard.  These will give each of the kids a garden bed of their own to do with as they wish.

So we did a quickie check on the bees a while back and concluded that the Carniolans were toast.  Then the $%@&@&$ snots decided to make fools out of us and come back to life right after we announced our conclusion to several folks.  Really, I just do not get these Carniolans.  Not that I get any bees but still…  Anyway, so I felt sorry for them being such a pitifully small cluster and yet impressed that they’d made it so far into winter.  I decided I’d make them a treat — some Bee Candy!  Only, like much of my cooking since moving here, things went wrong.  Terribly wrong.  Being a heartless SOB, I made the kids take it out and feed it to the bees anyway.  That’ll teach them for faking death

A couple of weeks ago, our homeschool group got a chance to hang with Hannibal’s mayor & city manager in the council chamber.  They even got to do a mock council — very cool!  That’s Charlie there to the mayor’s right and Duke & Isaac to the mayor’s left.  (The mayor is the fell in the center of the council seats.)

And just you wait until you see what I’ve been up to today!  Messes made & pics taken…

2012 Garden Plans: The Rough Draft

This will just be a spewing of swirling ideas as they fall out of my mind.  I’m trying to make sense of the craziness in my head so I can begin seeding & layouts soon.  Here we go!

Random Thoughts:

I’m going heavy on the landraces from here on out, as you’ll notice.

I’m beginning to feel my way around cooler weather crops, such as the hardy greens.  I’m even experimenting with perennial greens a bit this year.

I wasn’t sure how Tomato Henge would end up, if I would be happy with it or not.  I was.  I was thrilled with it.  We were prepared (and still are) to put supports in midway each row but it wasn’t needed.  I thought maybe that nylon would have too much stretch but it was perfect.  I’m really, really pleased with it.  I do want to do something with the ends of the rows, maybe little mini-beds there with climbing somethings up the braces.  And it still needs painted.

Raised beds.  This is still a major work in progress.  We need to redo most of the main garden before we add the permanent raised beds so who knows when/how that will get done.  The raised beds in other areas, where there is grass between them such as for the herbs and perennial beds, are easy to do and will likely get completed in time.

We’re also making each of the kids their own raised beds… somewhere.  They may be in the front yard or they may be  in the back next to the perennial beds.  Need to get that decided.  A few of the kids will be selling produce out of them so it should be a good experience.  Each kid will have complete control of their bed as well as space in the main garden for huge things like watermelon.  I think each bed will be 4′ x 20′.

Since we’re getting goats this year, I need to take their chomping along the fencing under consideration.  I like to plant vining things & various perennials along fencing wherever it is but, obviously, that won’t work alongside the goat fences.  I think, in the end, we’ll end up with one big fence around the yard in which the goats, dogs, and chickens all roam.  That means whatever trees are within the fence will need protected from nibbling as well.

Speaking of fencing for all of this, we need to leave access to the house doors, the water meter in the front yard, the electric meter in the back yard, and room for a roadside veggie stand.  That all plays a part in the garden set up because of the aforementioned fence-planting issues.

Peas:

I’m definitely planting a bazillion peas — but only Sugar Snap or Super Sugar Snap.  I also need to make a mental note to save seed from them this year since they are now a family favorite.

Beans:

I’m going to start a landrace of beans this year.  Only those that work well as green beans — and freeze well — will end up in my final landrace selections.  I’ve only got a small selection this year but, now that I’ve decided upon my goal for these, I can begin collecting other varieties with that in mind.  For now, I will plant Cooper’s Running Snap (our favorite from last year’s grow-outs), Rattlesnake, Red Striped Greasy, and Olde Timey Long Cut.

Runner Beans:

I will plant Insuk’s Wang Kong Runner beans.  This is my first time playing with runner beans so we’ll see how we like them.

Cucumbers:

I’m going to start a landrace of these as well, beginning with a couple of old favorites of mine and adding in a new one.  Double Yield is the new one.  My favorites are Boston, National, and Homemade.  I believe I read somewhere that two of those are actually the same variety but it makes no difference to me.

Spinach:

Again, I want to start a landrace but, as of right now, only have one variety:  Monster of Viroflay.  I may not get around to finding more varieties until next year.

Lettuce:

Another beginning landrace.  I saved seeds from a couple of mixed sections last year to which I’ll add seed from my entire stash this year.  I want a good mix of colors but only leaf lettuces.  I have no use for heading lettuces.

Swiss Chard:

I don’t know a whole lot about chard.  I’ve grown it.  I’ve eaten it.  But I don’t know about the various varieties.  Are the different colors the varieties or does it go beyond that?  Must read on it a bit.  In the meantime, I have a couple of packets I’ll toss out together.

Kale:

Beginning landrace.  I have two separate varieties and one mix with which to begin.  I’m a complete novice to kale.

Miscellaneous Annual Greens:

Stem Lettuce is a new thing for me this year, as is Aurora Orach.  We’ll see how they do before I commit to them.  Same for Corn Salad/Mache.

Perennial Greens:

Good King Henry and French Sorrel are new to me this year.  They’ll each be getting some space in one of the perennial beds.

Herbs:

I’ve got quite a few perennial herbs already out there and will  have to see what has survived the winter.  It’s been a very mild winter so far so I’m not expecting losses.  For annual herbs, I’ll be planting a mix of dills, a humongous bed of cilantro, brown mustard seed, and Orange Star calendula.  Maybe hyssop, too.  Herbs, I never seem to commit to until the last minute.

Melons:

Again, landraces.  My watermelon landrace is teeny-tiny but I’ll add to it each year.  Last year, I got started with Joseph’s (Most Diverse) landraces for both muskmelons and non-muskmelons and was hooked.  In the chaos that is our life, they were mixed so now it’s one big happy melon landrace and I’m cool with that.  I’ll be adding more to that as well this year.

Miscellaneous:

I’m broadening my horizons in the miscellaneous department this year, too.  I’ll be growing out some mystery seeds from Ilene, maybe Aronia but who knows?  Just for fun, I have some Pink Banana and Orange Master Pomegranate I’ll be starting this year and overwintering inside.  Aunt Molly’s ground cherries were a huge hit last year so will be back.  Podding radishes will be making their first appearance in our garden this year.  I’m still not sure on broccoli, cabbage, tomatillos, and Brussel sprouts.  I tried some Wonderberry seed from Ilene last year but it didn’t do well, I’m sure due their poor location (and the fact that Steve ran into them with the skidsteer a couple of times early in the growing season).  I’m giving them a second chance this year in a better spot.

Onions:

I’ve got a variety of OP bulbing onions I’m growing from seed this year.  (I have been buying onions from Dixondale but decided to switch things up this year and learn how to start them from seed.)  I also have seed for Red Welsh (perennial) bunching onions to add to the perennial onion bed with Ilene’s walking onions.

Peppers:

More landraces here.  I’ll be starting landraces of jalapeno types, NuMex types, and miscellaneous chiles, along with a landrace for sweet bells and a separate one for other sweets.

Tomatoes:

I already have a good start on a main crop landrace for tomatoes.  This was my main push for last year.  I’ll add more in this year and likely start one for cherries.  I do think I’ll keep Tess’ Landrace separate because I’d hate to lose that one in the mass.  It’s a different type of tomato and it outcrosses easily, if I remember correctly.  (I crammed too much info into my head over the winter and some things I used to know have been pushed right out.  I hate when that happens.)

Root Crops:

I’ve never been much of a root crop gal but I’m diving in deeper this year.  I’ll have a mix of carrots, plus try my hand at parsnips & rutabagas.  I’ve grown turnips before but only infrequently.  They’ll be back this year to break up some harder ground in the back corner of the main garden.  I’m still undecided on whether beets & radishes will be planted this year.

Potatoes:

I’ve got some tubers that I’ll be pulling sprouts from since I liked that method so much last year.  As for TPS (true potato seed), I’ll be growing them again this year but, I think, I’ll do so in pots this time — or at least some way/place where I have a bit more control.

Ornamentals:

I saved seed from sunflowers, marigolds, zinnias, hollyhocks (both mini and large), and a mix of other flowery things I’ve dubbed my “wildflower” mix.  I’ll pick up a few packs of each as I see them on the seed racks to add to the variety.  I’m am so very jealous of Ilene’s zinnia mix!  My aim is to get a gorgeous mix like hers when I’m done.

Other Perennials & Assorted Stuff:

Sunchokes are still in place along the front walk.  They did well but I need to come up with a place for their permanent home at some point this year.  The garlic is at home in its permanent bed in the back yard.  In the wheel beds in back, there are chives, garlic chives, wild onions, oregano, sage, asparagus, rhubarb (although, I have no confidence it has survived), and whatever else I’m not recalling at the moment.  The blackberries recently met with some good intentions that likely set them back quite a bit but, knowing how hardy blackberries are, I’m sure they’ll end up fine.  The raspberries did not do well so I’ll have to buy some replacements this year.  Most of the fruit trees did fine but a few died.  Those will be replaced for free by Stark’s so no worries there.  While at Stark’s later this spring getting those trees and rhubarb replaced, I’ll also get some strawberries for a permanent bed and maybe some grapes if we have a place set up for them by then.  The mints from Susan have, of course, done well.  My comfrey start from Susan thrived last year but I think I’ll end up moving it this year, from the front yard to the back.  Another gardening buddy gave me several divisions from yellow flag which I planted around the lagoon overflow.  I’m hoping they go nuts this year but I’d also like to put a couple more things in there so soak up the excess water.  It stays pretty soggy in that area so I’ll be on the lookout for water-sucking plants.

_________________________________

That’s the end for now.  I’ll have to do some refining, obviously, but I had to get some general thoughts down on “paper” to get me started.

Double Birthday and First Frost

On the 13th, Tuesday of this past week, Charlie turned 11 and Isaac turned 15!  Can you believe it?!  Crazy.  Of course, Grandma Kaye came for some fun and Grandpa Steve came over for a birthday dinner to help us celebrate.  Grandma Kaye even treated us to a riverboat cruise on the Mississippi.

A couple of days ago, it frosted.  *sigh*  Goodbye, garden.  It’s not like I’ve had time to tend it much but still…  As soon as we have time to breathe, we’ll get out there and put it to bed for the winter.  I did manage to get the walking onions planted out in the new raised bed Steve made a couple of weeks back.  Oh, and potato onions!  (Thank you, Ilene!l)  Steve will get the next bed built before the end of the month so I can get the garlic planted out.

I’m still taking photos here and there but changed computers a few weeks ago and have yet to put something on this new one for photo editing.  My old computer was a Mac and the new one is a Windows so I can’t just transfer the software.  Well, that and I have no idea where it is.  In the meantime, Duke has been taking pics with his new camera (from his birthday) and learning how to edit them on his computer.  I’m not sure I like being on the wrong end of the camera…

No, really.

We’re still alive.  I think.

The new curriculum we got this year is great but we’re still adjusting and it takes a lot of me running back and forth between the kids.  They’re doing great, though, and learning a lot!  This semester is a lot about reviewing basic concepts for everyone and filling in those inevitable holes in their foundations.  Homeschool is no different than public school in that not everything gets covered every year so an occasional overview to cement ideas and find missing info is a good idea.  Most especially after the last, very chaotic year.

The garden is hanging in there for the most part.  Beans are still beaning, tomatoes are still tomatoing, peppers are peppers, melons are meloning, and cukes are cuking.  The rest of it will soon be skidsteered over to make room for the next set of raised beds.  If we get that done in time (or at least one of them), we’ll get some fall lettuce and peas planted.

The stupid meat birds.  *@!^%!#$!!  Steve and his dad are butchering the last of them tonight.  The majority of them are now in the freezer.  ‘Nuff said.

The layer birds are doing wonderfully.  We have a pen full of a rainbow-assortment of birds!  We’ll have to knock off a couple of excess roosters when all is said and done but we’ll have to see how many of what we have first.

Oh, Duke has started a blog.  It’s at DukeWorld, of course.  He’s a goober but he’s a goober with his very own camera.  That’s what he requested for his birthday.  Cool, huh?  Now he’s learning about the camera and editing.  He even volunteered (and was accepted) as the co-photographer for the 4-H group we just joined.

Speaking of groups, the kids have not only joined 4-H but also a homeschool group in Hannibal and the Boy Scouts.  They’ll be taking coop classes with the HS group.  Isaac, Charlie, Duke, and Nellie are all taking choir and art.  Charlie and Duke have also signed up for the American Sign Language class.  All four of them have joined a bowling league as well.  (Some of you know just how much I love bowling.  *barf*)

So, yeah, I’m turning into a soccer mom.

Is that the light at the end of the tunnel?

So, lessee…  What have we been up to?

August has been crazy and chaotic.  We’re switching everything around with our homeschooling this year.  We’ve gone with new-to-us curriculum all around (Switched on Schoolhouse, Teaching Textbooks, Apologia, Funnix, TruthQuest, and Easy Grammar are all new for us this year.) We’re in a new state which means new homeschool laws with much stricter recordkeeping requirements.  I decided on Homeschool Tracker Plus and I’m loving it.  All of the curriculum and sofware has a learning curve that I’m screeching around as quickly as I can.  It will all make our school year smoother in the long run but, right now, we’re making some rather big adjustments.

On top of all that, the kids have joined Boy Scouts & Venturing (a branch of the BS) with weekly meetings.  They’re signing up for 4-H.  We’re joining an active homeschool group.  Then there are the weekly activities at the Hannibal library and YMCA.  It all adds up to a lot of busy, busy, busy.  It will take us (me!) some time to settle into the new routine.

The gardens are mostly neglected.  The back half of the garden is doing pretty good since it’s been mostly mulched.  The front half, not so much.  It’s a jungle of weeds and I’m going to have to dig out the machete to harvest the few remaining onions and potatoes.  I’ve been meaning to plant some lettuce for fall but I’m not so sure it’ll actually get done.  I’ve been doing okay-ish with my seed saving but there are going to be some big changes in my tomato and pepper (and more) routines next year.  For as much as we’ve had to do this year, it’s not been a bad garden year.  Much, much more to do (and already in progress) but it’ll get easier every year.

The bees are still doing their thing.  The Italian hive is still thriving and we added on a honey super a week or so ago.  We’ll probably have to add on another here soon.  The Carniolans…  Well, they’re still there.  I think they’re still improving a bit but I have no confidence whatsoever that they’ll make it through winter.  I just don’t see how it’s possible.  On the upside, at least we’ll have an empty hive for catching swarms should the opportunity arise.  I bet the Italians will be ready for a split in the spring, too.  And you know we’ll want to buy at least a couple more packages of bees next year.  We’re going to  end up with 100 hives, aren’t we??

The stupid meat chickens are still here.  We’re going to start butchering the biggest of them this week.  We have never been so disappointed in our chicken endeavors before.  What a waste of effort and feed.  The layers, however, are doing wonderfully.  They healthy and big and should have us overrun with eggs before much longer.

And, for those who don’t already know, Steve got transferred to day shift a while back and, just a week or two ago, finally got hired on as a permanent employee.  Yay!  It took a year of temp status to get here but now it’s a done deal.  Bennies & insurance, here we come!  Whew.

Up to my eyeballs.

I’m buried in garden chores and getting ready for the new school year so haven’t been on here much.  I thought I’d do a quickie update before I completely lose track of time and wake up sometime next year.

Most of the onions have been harvested & put in the freezer.  I’ll be doing the remaining ones in the next couple of days.  A couple gallons of sweet & hot peppers have joined them, along with a few quarts of shredded summer squash for winter baking.  I also roasted tomatillos that worked out to be a gallon for the freezer.

Speaking of tomatillos, I’m enjoying noting the differences in the plants.  I got the seed, a rather large bag with no variety name, at a farmer’s coop in Oklahoma last year.  The husks on most are normal & rounded while, on a few plants, they’re very elongated.  Most plants are green while a few are dark with purple coloring.  Some are dark green, some are light green.  Some leaves are smooth-edged, some are serrated.  Some are upright, some are sprawling.  Here are two side-by-side plants — one light & serrated, the other dark and smoother.

The “mysterious unknown” plants along the front walk.  Definitely cantaloupe and they’re growing some fruits now.

I finally got around to pulling Ilene’s walking onions from the front walk bed.  I pulled the onions themselves, along with their babies.  Steve’s going to start building their permanent beds in the back this week.  I hope to have them replanted by next weekend but you know how these plans go so don’t hold your breath.

The kids had fun blowing onion breath on each other with the seed stalks from them.

If you pretend to not notice the horribly weedy edges of the garden, I’ll give you a peek.  The Stewart’s Zeebest okra is on the far right (next to the jungle of weeds that is the edge of the garden!).  They’re tremendously thick, wide plants!  The pole beans are climbing the trellis nicely and have been blossoming for a few days but I think they recently came down with something.  Their leaves are quickly turning yellow & spotted.  I’ve not successfully grown beans to even this in a decade or more so I’m unfamiliar with the various disease this could be.  Maybe I’ll get around to looking it up, maybe not.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I about to step way outside of my comfort zone.  I need to reinstall the OS on my computer.  (Thanks, David!)  If I’m not back in a few hours, send out search & rescue.  I’m probably being held hostage by evil forces of Bill Gates or Steve Jobs.

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