Notes from the Garden

After a slow start, the garden is finally starting to take on a life of its own.  Though we had some pretty heavy rain during the beginning half of the weekend, it cooled things down and brought out enough sunshine to really make the peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers perk up. I think we’ve finally stopped worrying about them (for the most part).

A wide shot of both the regular vegetable garden (25' x 50') and this year's new squash, pumpkin and Jerusalem artichoke garden (12' x 50')

One thing that we’ve really struggled with this year is the amount of rain and lack of early growth (particularly from the cucumbers and peppers).  We’ve also been suffering from an infestation of striped cucumber beetles that we’ve been fighting off with a few well placed chickens every evening (though they can only do so much).  In preparation for next year, we’ve talked with a local farmer about picking up some aged goat manure to spread on the squash garden this fall (and maybe between the rows in the next week or two) because it isn’t performing to our expectations and we think it might be because the soil needs a bit more “enrichment”.  This year, we just turned the soil, dumped in compost and went with it.

Peas, beans, and four rows of tomatos!

What I’m looking forward to most in the upcoming weeks is trying out new recipes for tomato sauce, pizza sauce, salsa and chutney that we can freeze or can and put away for the winter, as one of my primary goals this winter is to try and buy no vegetables at the grocery store – relying instead on home-canned, frozen or root cellared produce that we’ve raised ourselves.

Tonight, we’re riding out to J’s father’s house to pick sour cherries from his trees (the same trees that we purchased saplings from earlier this year, when we found them at the local farmer’s market, grafted onto good, hearty root-stock).  I’m hoping to freeze, turn into jam, and make (my first) cordial out of the cherries, though having never worked with them before, it might be more of an adventure than I’m anticipating.  Check back tomorrow for details, recipes and more!

Confessions

It’s almost August.  School starts again in three weeks, and between graduate courses (working on a second certification to augment my Master’s degree), administrative duties that I picked up this year, housekeeping, gardening, and our ever growing herd of chickens, I haven’t been nearly as active as I’ve wanted to be.

I want to use this space for so many things.  I’d like to continue to build a compendium of simple, healthy recipes made from whole, real ingredients primarily taken from our gardens; I’d like to post bits and pieces about the homestead wedding we’re planning that will take place just over a year from now in one of our hay fields and the reception that we’re planning outdoors in a pair of tents; I’d like to continue to build on the theme of gardening and living sustainably; and I’d love to have a place to talk about budgeting as we move toward putting a new roof on the house and saving for the event involving the big white dress.  Mostly, though, I’d like to get back to writing every day.

So to start out, I’ve decided to come up with a modest list of goals each week to give myself some measure of accountability as I move forward.   These will run from Wednesday to Wednesday with the hope that having a weekend in-between might help me squeeze just a bit more focus into my writing and daily work.

This week’s goals:

  1. Write at least one garden update post and a separate chicken update post.
  2. Finish weeding both gardens and ’till between the rows to encourage further growth.
  3. Put together a realistic budget for the next six months.
  4. Stockpile supplies necessary to can tomato sauce and pickles and freeze peas and green beans (because those vegetables will ripen overnight).
  5. Clean out the root cellar in preparation for the fall harvest.
  6. Assemble materials to finish the curtains in the dining room and make cloth napkins (to help cut out paper towel usage).
  7. Continue 5K training.

Hopefully, between weekly goals and a focus on better homemaking, this will become a much more active place for your reading enjoyment!

As a teaser of what's to come: these are our laying hens and their rooster, separated out from the meat bird flock.