Today is the last day of July. This means that tomorrow is…AUGUST! In the past 24 hours we’ve seen the first few Italian Plum tomatoes start to turn red. We thought it would never happen.
Life is filled with the opportunity to make decisions. And it’s not my job to judge you based on the decisions you choose to make.
Howeverrrrrr, if you move to a new home and you decide to chop down a productive fruit tree because it’s inconvenient/too much work/in the way, then you have some of the key traits of a mentally unbalanced puppy-kicker. And I suggest you revaluate your decision to remove the tree.
Fruit trees take many years to become fully productive. When mature, they produce an abundance of food–usually more than one family can eat + process alone. Trees produce oxygen, they stabilize the soil, hold moisture, and provide shade and shelter. Trees are our ticket out of global warming (if you’re into that). Fruit trees are a gift to the future from the past.
So why on God’s green earth would someone chop down a productive fruit tree?
Last night we had oven roasted vegetables for dinner. This morning I took the leftovers of those beautiful gems and cooked them with a chicken egg. It was the perfect breakfast.
In the Standard American Diet, we typically don’t include a lot of vegetables in our breakfasts. Sometimes you see a hash brown or some ketchup. Pretty sure I was the only American this morning eating roasted swedes, beans, snow peas, carrots, and garlic. To be 100% honest, I sneaked a pre-breakfast bite of a stale pastry from yesterday’s run to the Mexican bakery. Regrets, but life goes on.
Today my heart is overflowing–mostly with gratitude, but also with a little aching. I’m just feeling all the feels, and it’s a net positive. Our son just left for a two-year mission to El Salvador as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He gets to teach los gentes Salvadoreños how to find peace in this life through Jesus Christ and his atonement. What a beautiful gift!!
And while Isaac is gone, life on the farm goes on. Nixon (our boy rabbit) will miss Isaac’s daily visits. Karen (our sheep) will miss him, too. Maggie (our mommy duck) will NOT miss Isaac, because he and Grant were the ones who caught her every day and put her back in the pasture.
Regardless of the tender hearts in our family today, we’re getting things done out in the garden. That picture of the overgrown radishes is actually our rutabagas. I harvested them today, and prepped them to be roasted (along with some other garden veggies) for dinner. I fed their tops to the rabbits. Our fridge is kind of overrun right now with beet greens. (A girl can only eat so many!) I wasn’t about to add more root veg tops to the collection.
And here’s our full garden. It looks so bushy and busy. I feel great about this year’s garden, but part of me wants to start planning next year’s garden. And maybe I will! I can observe now and incorporate what I’ve learned into next year’s garden. (My recent observation: Move the squash out to the pasture or the outer edge of the garden. It’s too big for inside a garden row.)
I did a brave and maybe stupid thing today. I lopped off some tomato branches so they would “no me molestan”. I kind of did the same thing with the squash. I’m going to be more intentional about pruning the tomatoes and squash next year. And maybe widen the spacing by 12″. Tomatoes and squash are space hawgs. Or maybe I’ll move the tomatoes to the area where the basil is this year. There’s definitely room to tuck in 3 or 5 tomato plants. I did another dumb thing (maybe?). I decided not to prune off the suckers on the tomatoes back in June. Oh wait, one more dumb thing–I bought all one variety of tomato this year (plus only two cherry tomato plants). Yeah, I made some colossal gardening mistakes, but maybe the Master Gardener and Creator of the Universe will answer my prayers and give me enough tomatoes to can homemade salsa. I neeeeeed it.
I regret planting 4 ground cherry plants.
I should have planted 40.
They are like no other fruit that I’ve ever tasted. Many people compare their flavor to strawberries, pineapples or even a super-super sweet tomato. But they’re all wrong. It’s its own unique flavor.
The texture of the skin and flesh are similar to a tiny cherry tomato. However the flavor is nearly indescribable.
It’s not overly sweet, but it’s filled with intense flavor which is best described as a “burst”. It’s not sour either. It has almost an umami undertone.
Each little fruit is wrapped in a soft papery covering. The protected fruit drops from the plant when it’s ripe and remains on the ground until someone discovers it.
My biggest gardening regret of 2021 is that I only have 4 little plants (and one of them is very stressed). Next year we’ll grow more along the fenceline. They don’t do well being grown from seed, but they do self-seed really well. Or I might try to grow from the seeds I ordered from Baker Creek.
I ate 4 ground cherries this morning without sharing with anyone (or telling anyone). #gardenguilt
Welcome to the world, little ground cherries!
Something magical happens a few days after Independence Day each year. I call it the flush of high summer.
Everything doubles in size nearly every day. Not only do the heat loving plants start producing fruit worth harvesting, but suddenly you’re overrun with multiples of vegetables you used to buy one-at-a-time. The kitchen counter real estate become scarce and the dinner menu becomes hyper-focused on eliminating excess vegetables in creative ways.
The weeds vs. plants competition finally ends as tomatoes, beans and potatoes shade out everything. Daytime weather holds steady in the “hot to hotter” range, with nighttime temps dipping into the “pleasantly cool to light cardigan” range.
At this point in the summer it’s tempting to just revel in the bounty, however I’m already starting seedlings that will go into the garden next month for our fall harvest. We’ll plant broccoli, Asian greens, lettuce, and peas.
At this point in the summer I feel a little catch in my throat thinking about how bountiful and fleeting this season is. (It’s the same feeling I have when I think of my sweet children growing up.) These glorious high summer days are true treasures–each day bringing growth, beauty, blessings, sunshine, and warmth.
These perfect days of summer don’t last forever, but they are guaranteed to return again next year.
One of our goals this year is to keep our garden full. When one crop is harvested, a flat of month-old seedlings will be planted in its place. It requires me to think ahead and plan where to put the next batch of teeny plants. It also means leaving a little margin in the garden just in case things take longer to grow than I anticipated.
This new way of approaching gardening (new to us!) is very fulfilling and exciting. It means that during the most productive months, our garden is running at full capacity. We are harvesting every day. We are making good use of the space we have.
But there’s always more that we can learn or do. I know there are spots under the corn where I could plant lettuces. I could have done a better job of protecting my baby beets from the baby ducks. I could have filled in the herb garden (but no–it will do that on its own). I could have spent more time over last winter prepping the east and west ends of the garden so they’d be as fertile as the central section. I could have planned something to put where the garlic was, instead of leaving it empty (like it still is right now.)
I’m not beating myself up with all my mistakes. I actually get giddy in the garden when I recognize mistakes–because it means that next year’s garden will be more beautiful, abundant, and lush than this year’s garden. I can learn and grow through my mistakes.
I’m going to add one more thing to this post. Actually two more things. First, I love gardening with Josh. I love doing anything with Josh. We share so many interests–some that we discovered as we dated in 1998 and some we’ve developed together since we were married 22 years ago. He brings so much joy to my life as we grow together. Second, Josh is a very organized person, and his sugar snap pea plants did not reflect that at the beginning of their growing season. They were Seussian–and that is not a vibe that jives with Josh. I put up a trellis a few weeks after they sprouted so that Josh’s snow peas would more closely match his desire for order and systems–not in a 1940’s German way, but in more of a Swiss farmer way. Now, as the snow pea season draws to a close, the pea plants which were trellised continue to produce, while the peas which were left to find their own path, wrapping their tendrils around each other, have become withered and spent.
We planted more carrots tonight. I’ve been buying little packs of carrots all summer, with the idea that if I could be successful with the cheap little Danvers half long carrots, I should reward myself with some fancy pants carrots. Something colorful and exotic–not orange.
I’ve been trying all spring and summer to grow carrots in our garden. And I finally did it! The carrot seeds I planted last week have sprouted (under a piece of plywood). That’s success! Now I get the reward!
We planted two varieties of ooh-la-la carrots tonight. One is a rainbow ombre style French carrot called the Longue Rouge Sang. At $3.50 for only 100 carrots it’s kinda a bank-breaker. The other variety is the Black Nebula. It cost $3.50 for 300 carrots. That’s about a cent per carrot. Thumbs up.
We’re slowly getting better at gardening, and figuring out how to grow carrots is a huge next step!!
P.S. Josh turned our compost pile tonight. It was really dry. We’ll try to improve that, too!
Just learned today that you only get one corn cob per corn stalk! That’s a total rip-off!
Good thing fresh corn tastes 10x better than canned corn. It makes it almost worth all the space + resources it’s taking up.
A few years ago Josh asked me “What are the most expensive foods that we could grow in our garden instead of buy at the grocery store?” We came up with a few things like specialty mushrooms and all “organic” produce. Also, cherry tomatoes are pricey when compared to Roma tomatoes.
But the truth is, right now produce is cheap. Carrots are 50 cents a pound. Potatoes are 10 pounds for under 2 bucks. A big bag of spinach that will go bad before you can eat it all is $1.98. So, can we really make a dent in our grocery costs by growing a garden?
That’s why I started my basil garden. Pesto from Costco is around $10 for a 22 ounce jar. If we make + freeze 24 pints of pesto for the coming year, I think we’ve found our gold. That’s $240 worth of something we love, but rarely buy because it’s cost prohibitive. And even if you add in the cost of the olive oil, parm, and a few walnuts, we still come out ahead of store bought pesto.
These are my basil plants (don’t judge!)
They’re struggling a little/lot because the ground where I planted them has never been amended. We’ve just had wood chips + weeds on top of it for the past 3 years. I planted my seedlings anyways. I ended up losing about 15 teeny plants over the past couple months due to slugs. The slugs hide in the wood chips then come out at 11pm. I’m never awake to pick the slugs of my sweet little Genovese basil starts. Anyway, each time I lose a plant, I start over and replant one of my fresh little basil seedlings that are growing in soil blocks.
Most of the basil in my basil garden is Genovese–the quintessential pesto basil. I also threw a few lemon basil plants in there, along with the ONLY Holy Basil plant to survive from my first planting. I put a few other Holy Basil plants in the main herb garden.
I also ordered some African Numun Basil (aka Scent Leaf) which is supposed to have huuuge leaves and taste like a mix of basil and oregano. I started those seedlings last night.
The white rocks around each plant is diatomaceous earth. It’s supposed to deter slugs. We’ll see!
Next year this patch will be amended, pH tested, weeded, dunged (fertilized), and guarded. I’m so excited to have an abundance of basil. It’s an herb that makes me happy.
Every day, something new. That’s why I love our garden.
We’ve got lots going on. When people ask me what I’ve been up to lately, I try to keep it concise, because who wants to spend 30 minutes listening to my stories of farm drama, garden news and homestead happenings? I usually say “I planted seeds today” or “We got chicks today”. I’ve found that people typically have a four word tolerance when they ask you “How is your day?” Amiright?
So our blog may not be interesting to anyone else, but that’s ok, because the details are interesting to us, and we’re the ones who read it and reread it. Is a personal history of sorts.
Here’s what’s happening this week!
Contender and Gold Rush.
These are the names of two bush bean varieties that I picked up today at Buchanan Cellers. I’m happy with Blue Lake #274 bush beans, but seeds are cheap and that’s reason enough to buy a couple new varieties to test in the garden.
While planting, I discovered that bush beans can be planted 4 inches apart. I had previously planted last week’s beans about 8-9 inches apart! I fixed that zoning error and filled in the gaps with Contender. The middle of the row (that used to have the garlic) got planted with Gold Rush, a bright yellow bean. Grant helped me mark everything. Super champ!
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this, but I’ve been getting creative with soil amendments. Thank goodness the soil amendments don’t contribute to the flavors in the produce. But hopefully they contribute to the strength of the plant, the nutritional value of the produce, and the health of the soil.
And before you go to bed, Google “can I use urine on my garden?”
Here are three highlights of today.
Here’s my lunch.
We grew the lettuce and beets, but that’s it. (Although I did brew the apple cider vinegar that the beets were pickled in.) One of my goals is to be able to create more meals that are made up of 50% (or more) of the things we harvest and preserve.
I know we won’t be able to realistically grow our own shrimp, but we are currently growing turkeys and rabbits to harvest. In the future we’ll be able put together salads that have many more home grown ingredients, such as:
- Cucumbers and\or pickles
- Hull-less pumpkin seeds
- Slow-smoked rabbit meat
- Cooked sorghum
- Herbs (not sure why they didn’t make it onto this salad)
- Roasted hazelnut oil
- Yellow beets, carrots (maybe??)
- Cooked dry beans (like our Old Mother Stallard variety)
- Mosto cotto syrup
- All of our vinegars
- Fermented chili sauce
- Sun dried tomatoes
- Hard boiled eggs
There’s something so miraculous about seeing a plant or animal beginning to fulfill its purpose.
Like when you see that first pea tendril form, then grab on to a trellis and begin to climb. Or when a mommy duck takes her ducklings to water and they all instinctively paddle their little feet and dunk their head. Or when baby chicks, just hours after hatching are already scratching the ground, trying to find bugs and worms.
Who taught them how to do these things? It amazes me that they were created with the information to know how to do what they do. It also makes me wonder what information I was given as part of my spiritual DNA. What things was I born knowing how to do because of my divine identity as a child of God?
I don’t want to be insensitive to those struggling with addiction and mental health issues, but I have to be honest– right now our front yard looks like a Portland homeless camp. We have cages, rabbit tractors and chicken tractors covered with blankets, welcome mats, cardboard boxes, chewed up tablecloths, jeans, shirts, towels and sheets. Anything to keep our animals 100% shaded and cool during this “hell week” in Oregon. Today is supposed to hit 112 F, and tomorrow 115 F.
And I am reluctantly grateful for this hot, hot week. As our son prepares to leave for El Salvador, we’re getting a little La Croix of what he’ll be experiencing while there: blistering heat coupled with high humidity. We’ll be able to relate “un poco” to what he’s experiencing.
In about 2 hours we’ll make the rounds to all the animals again, making sure they have cold water, an ice block, frozen fruit, and a sprayed down sheet (evaporative cooling!). If they can survive this heat, it will be an absolute miracle.
We have our very first harvest of garlic! Over the last few weeks I’ve pulled a couple test bulbs to see if they were ready, but today everything was ready!! You can tell that is ready for harvest when the bottom two leaves are dried up and the third is partially dried up. If you wait too long, the bulb will split apart and but preserve as well.
I took the big garden fork (the one I gave to Josh for Christmas last year) and started loosening up the soil around the garlic while trying not to dislodge the corn, salad greens or peas.
Our garden holds water really well, so every clump of garlic I pulled up had about 4 pounds of wet dirt attached to it. No amount of shaking would dislodge it, so I resorted to picking off the clods so that the garlic would dry out faster. I went against all the rules and dipped about half of the bulbs in a bucket of muddy water to get the huge chunks of dirt off. Next year this won’t be an issue because the garlic will be in an area of our property where we don’t water–under the grape vines. I plan to double the garlic next year so that I can give some to friends and family as gifts. Also, I think we can eat lots of garlic in the year 2022. I can guarantee that.
We have a beautiful harvest of 100 bulbs. They’ll be drying in the carport for the next 2-4 weeks. It’s going to be 103-113 over the next few days, so we might end up with roasted garlic. No worries though, they’re shaded and there’s a slight breeze.
My next garden task, after the weather stops having a tantrum, is to aggressively prepare the grape area for growing garlic. We have the chickens out there amending the soil, but we also need to aerate with the garden fork, kill some grass with cardboard and wood chips, then add some fresh rabbit manure. I want next year’s harvest to be phenomenal and massive.