Thursday, July 15, 2010

And away we go!

Things are really starting to pick up in the garden. So far I have harvested 1 cherry tomato, 3 snap peas, some raspberries, and 3 cucumbers. It feels like a slow start but so much is ripening as we speak that it's hard to feel bad.
velvet red cherry tomatoes
One cluster out of probably 16 that are getting more ripe every day!
german pink tomato
This was the first German Pink tomato I had but now there are about 12 and they are getting so big so fast!
boy do I know how to grow a pair! My Amish Paste tomatoes seem to only get pollinated in pairs, but I have 6 pairs so it's okay.

I've heard it said that corn should be as high as an Elephant's eye by the forth of July. I'll settle for as high as a Great Dane's eye by the 12th of July.

I have also been doing some weeding

and the potatoes SO need to be hilled

My sweet peppers are growing pretty well also
Tolli's Sweet Italian Peppers

and I have a butternut squash that I swear grows bigger every minute
butternut squash
(since this photo was taken it has lost its blossom and takes more than one hand to hold)

It doesn't seem like I'm getting a large number of any one thing (my okra plant has exactly one okra on it and doesn't seem interested in producing any more) but considering I have had minimal plant losses due to neglect I am feeling a sense of pride. And if nothing else I know I can grow a mean patch of weeds!

PS-I found a GREAT solution to the moles.
sonic spike
It's a sonic spike that's solar powered and vibrates the soil down deep. Within a week of me putting the spike in my garden the mole holes disappeared and my crops were growing again. Green beans, Brussels Sprouts and Pak Choi are out of the question this year, but I'm not going to let the casualties get in the way of me enjoying all the goodness growing around me!

What have you had the most success with in your garden so far?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Groundhogs and Moles

Two respective creatures that are now the bane of my existence
observe exhibit A
brussel sprouts!
eaten brussel sprouts :(

I rest my case

Friday, June 11, 2010

A Sad Farewell

I haven't felt much like posting lately because I have been grieving the loss of a very special member of our family. My wonderful bunny Chester passed away exactly a week ago at the age of 6 years. He had a slew of health issues in his short life, the most problematic being he was diabetic. As a result he developed cataracts in both eyes and was more prone to infections.
Thursday we notice he wasn't eating much and wasn't drinking any water. Friday he was no better so we took him to the emergency vet. Unfortunately his condition worsened quickly and he passed away while at the vet clinic. They ran a blood test and it turned out he was in total renal failure.
Chester was a very special bunny. He was a house rabbit so he was litter trained and wasn't confined to his cage (except at night). He loved to eat loads of fresh cilantro and enjoyed laying across my feet.
Please join me in celebrating the life of my special bunny companion
My Bun!

We buried him in the garden with a brick as a headstone, inscribed with his name. I also planted a Stargazer Lilly at the head of his grave.

How do you honor your animal companions when they pass away?

Friday, June 4, 2010

The funny thing about babies...

sleeping chicks

Is they get bigger
older chickens

And grow up far too quick

This is Olive's "did you bring me dandelions?" look
Olive looking inquisitive

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Great Rhubarb Move

When I first moved into my new home the first neighbor I met was a woman from a few houses down named Kat. She was walking her beautiful puppy Cocoa and I couldn't help but run across the street and introduce myself. Kat is a fellow gardening enthusiast and mentioned that she has two rhubarb plants and was really only able to use one of them and if I wanted to dig it up I could have it.

So one day about a month later I stroll down to her house with a 5 gallon bucket and a shovel ready to dig it up. Unfortunately I seriously underestimated the size of the Rhubarb plant. An hour later I was finally able to pull this beast out of the ground
rhubarb plant dug from my neighbor's yard

There were some casualties (that were washed, sliced and frozen for future use)
casualties of the great rhubarb move of 2010

And when I got it into the ground it was REALLY drooping over so I was concerned it didn't survive the transplant.
rhubarb plant

But as the stalks drooped and died I pulled them out and kept watering and tending it (I also had a couple conversations with it that may have involved some promises if it survived) and this morning when I went to check on it I saw this
rhubarb regenerating

I am so happy to see it growing again! As of late I have been getting frustrated with the grass constantly trying to overtake the garden and the woodchuck and/or rabbit eating everything I have in the cabbage family (pak choi, cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli). I just put down some fox urine earlier today so hopefully that will finally do the trick.

If anyone has any suggestions (besides a shotgun) I am all ears!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Passing the Torch

My grandmother is 82 and unfortunately struggling to find the energy to garden this year. Her breast cancer has regenerated in her spine and her lungs and the treatments have caused her to turn to strictly gardening in containers. For my birthday my grandmother ceremoniously passed the gardening torch to me.
box of grandma's seeds
This is her box of seeds. The containers are various jam jars, baby food jars, etc. that she cleaned out to reuse. My grandmother is a spectacular woman who was born the year the stock market crashed in a tiny town called Cow Creek, Kentucky. In 1950 she moved up to Michigan to find work and started working at the Willow Run assembly plant (the very same plant where the original "Rosie the Riveter" worked during WWII). But I digress...

The point is she came from very humble means and therefore learned to reuse and save everything and only take exactly what she needed. I know that some of these seeds are from a few years ago and so the germination rates are bound to be quite low, but every time something sprouts I will smile and think of my grandma. I can picture her in the garden diligently collecting seeds to save for the next year's garden.
It makes me sad to know that her garden of which I have such fond memories will be no more, but I'm proud to be continuing those traditions for her in her time of ill health. I will hopefully be bringing her a share of my fresh veggies this year.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Handed down/Gifted Items

When we were putting together our home we accepted anything free from anyone looking to downsize. Nevertheless we managed to end up with a few gaping holes in our collection and skant excess money to fill them. Enter wonderful people. Lizzie is a woman I volunteer with at a museum. She donated some lovely dishes to our home and a floor lamp for the living room with no lights in it.
new dinner plates
One of our pretty new dinner plates
gifted floor lamp
New floor lamp

It's always wonderful when someone offers me something I was going to have to buy. What makes it even more wonderful is when it's particularly beautiful and an antique. The lamp I acquired is originally from the 1930s and Lizzie just had it re-wired less than a year ago so it's charming and should work for a very long time.

That's not including the gifted items I've been able to add to my garden. That post will be next.

What do you have in your house that's gifted? Do you prefer to buy things new?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Failures and Triumphs

It's been 20 days with nary a word and I feel that breaking the silence is important.

The garden has been a sight for some triumphs and failures (yes, already!) The main failure being that the grass continues to wrap its slimy roots around my edibles. It's trying to conquer the corn and is gaining ground on my blueberries and raspberries. But enough about the enemy, let's talk about some of the success I've been having!

When I planted the 4 Pak Choi plants, two were thriving and two looked dead. I went ahead and planted the two dead looking ones in hopes that a good layer of compost and a little nurturing would bring them back to life. Frankenstein has his monster and these Pak Chois are mine.
pak choi
I literally did a happy dance in the garden when I saw this beautiful sight.

The Blue Corn and Broccoli both look pretty good as well.
blue corn

I noticed that some of the plants have a purplish tint to them. One of my favorite sources for gardening information, Chiots Run, said that this means the plants are lacking phosphorus. I will have to do some digging to see how I go about rectifying that. Any ideas?

The other success is that the chives I transplanted have started to flower. Call me strange, but I think chives are one of the most beautiful plants in the garden. I love the purple flowers and the mild onion smell and I put chives in everything I cook (okay, except pancakes) so it's always useful.
chive flower emerging

Finally, I will leave you with a moment of zen. As you know from previous posts I adopted two spirited (read: crazy!) kittens. I snapped this rare moment a couple days ago where they played so hard they just couldn't keep their eyes open anymore
a rare sight
In case you're wondering, that's a dining room chair they are crashing out on!

What are your successes in the garden so far this year? Anyone want to admit to a failure?

Friday, April 30, 2010

Making Progress

Our yard doesn't even look organized yet, but it is definitely coming along. For one thing we were finally able to mow the yard. Our lawn mower blew up last time we tried to start it and it took a couple days at the local machine shop to fix it up right.

The backyard looked like a jungle when we first moved in
backyard jungle

But then Mike from the farm came over and tilled it up for us to prepare for planting
freshly tilled backyard

We are lucky to have a nice enclosed porch that gets a lot of sun. Today it was 82 and it was steamy in there. Great for the plants! I originally had the plants all over the floor in there.

But I worried they weren't getting enough light, so hubby donated a shelving unit from his "man cave" (our pole barn) to give the plants some help
the plants getting some sun

I am already seeing the signs of things to come
blueberry flowers
Blueberry flowers are beautiful :)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Our Menagerie

As part of our (mine and my husband's) goals to be more self sufficient we wanted to keep a small flock of laying hens to provide us with fresh eggs. Last week we went to the farm and picked out 5 beautiful young hens to add to our household.
sleeping chicks

Three days later we picked up our two kittens. I picked these sisters out when they were just a day old and I have had the pleasure of visiting them once a week for the last 10 weeks to watch them grow so I couldn't wait to pick them up and bring them to their new home.
This is what they looked like at 3 weeks old
Reese closeup
my litter box is all the way down there

These in addition to my 5 year old rabbit
My Bun!

Our home is FILLED with the sounds of these bundles of joy. I have my rabbit cage in the library, the chickens brooding in a large box in our living room and the cats confined to the upstairs until the chickens are old enough to go outside in the coop
chicken coop

I have these fantasies all day at work of coming home and having the chickens swarm around my hands when I drop some feed into their bowl and the kittens jumping in my lap and purring when I go upstairs to check on them. Instead I get the chickens running away from me

And the cats play fighting (which sounds fantastic over our heads when we are in the living room)
Willow and Reese playing
Willow and Reese on bed

OK, so it's not the fantasy I had. But what in life really is? It still brings me great joy to come home to our Menagerie. Just wait until we bring home our two new bunnies!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A New Beginning

I have been meaning to start blogging for over a week now but I kept thinking I need to have a gaggle of photos ready to post to make it more exciting. While it's true that I'll be using a lot of photos here in the future to chart my progress I decided that a simple introduction doesn't require visual aids.

I suppose I should start by confessing that I am a notorious plant killer. I believe I am on some horticultural most wanted list somewhere and I'm not convinced my plants don't commit suicide just to get away from me. But I am determined to change my reputation.

On February 8th my husband and I took the plunge and bought our first home. The house was vacant for 2 years before we moved in so it has some quirks, one of which is that the yard has been neglected for two years...and it shows.

The purpose of this blog is to document my journey to becoming a successful gardener and a self-sufficient homeowner. With the help of my father, friends who know what they are doing, the internet and even my husband I will become independent.

My goals are to reduce my impact on the environment, turn my crappy yard into a haven while growing my own food, and learn to properly and thriftily maintain my home.

Please read along and offer your advice because I will need all the advice I can stand and then some!