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.

Corn. Smh…

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?”

Fer reals.

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.

#garlicgoals

We have a massive heat wave hitting us this weekend. Highs will be in the hundred-and-teens. We’re doing everything we can to prepare. We’ve frozen blocks of ice for our rabbits, checked the water levels in the garden (those soakers hoses water deeply!) and have added extra water and shade for our chickens and rabbits.

While we may experience some non-preventable losses this weekend, we have done everything we can to be prepared.

The two animals that don’t seem to be bothered by any of this heat are the Indian Runner ducks and Karen (our St Croix–a heat tolerant sheep). The ducks + ducklings spend the day splashing and lounging. And Karen seems to not mind the heat.

Josh and I did a garden walkthrough last night as part of date night (but it’s also becoming a fun 2x daily tradition). He collected soil samples from four parts of our garden and I planted bush beans where the struggling peas are. We came inside the house, dripping with sweat. This heat coupled with high humidity reminds me of the very small, teeny tiny country of El Salvador. When we check the weather for El Salvador, we can’t complain about our little heat wave. They have high heat and high humidity 6 months out of the year–plus lightning, volcanoes, and organized crime. We just have two out of the three in Portland.

Our garlic is looking so, so good. I’m looking forward to a generous harvest in early July. I want to save a good amount to use as seed for this September when we plant garlic under the grape vines. Can you imagine what life would be like with unlimited free garlic??

Today is June 21st. We got our first two snow peas a couple days ago! And the rest of the garden is looking magical and lush. Here’s a little lookie-loo at what’s happening.

Not pictured: the purple hominy in the pasture and the brand new baby duckling that hatched on Father’s Day!! In the next few days we’ll get a few more ducklings, plus we’ll be planting the sorghum! Exciting times!

We want to be like this guy…kinda. Sipping apple cider and contemplating life. Except this guy looks like he’s drinking alone, which is saaaaaad. So, minus the sad lonely drinkies, we want to be like him.

And that’s going to happen this September!! Last year year when our neighbor shared her windfallen apples with us, we mostly fed them to the sheep. Then as mid summer turned into deep summer, we started saving some of the apples for ourselves. We made some apple sauce. We also painstakingly hand-squeezed a few quarts of apple cider. Basically one for each birthday this year, plus anniversary and Christmas. We knew we eventually wanted a cider press, so we could make more cider.

So we looked at prices then decided we did NOT want to buy an apple cider press. But this week I found simple plans (in a library book) for a DIY Apple Cider Press, and we just happened to have all the supplies (except for some lag bolts, which we picked up yesterday).

The 2x6s came from Jake. The 4×4 pressure treated lumber came from Jalen’s dad. The buckets came from Blaine Jemmet. The extra 4×4 non-pressure-treated came from our neighbor John’s friend’s house. There’s a huge spike in lumber prices right now, so the fact that all this wood was gifted to us over the past couple months is a huuuge blessing.

For the cost of 8 lag bolts we got ourselves a free apple cider press. We’re going to test it out this fall!

I love that we can make apple cider. We’re not huge juice drinkers in our family, but sometimes you just want something special to drink that reminds you of the happy, long days of deep summer.

The corn that Hercules trampled or ate is gone, and that’s disappointing.  Three weeks of growth–gone.  Time is so valuable in late spring.  Everything is getting started, and so many things are time sensitive.  If we don’t get the corn going now, we can’t just replant it in late July.  There won’t be enough time for the corn to mature before the first frost comes.

I replanted several bare spots in the corn row today, then watered the corn with something called Pee Tea or Poop Smoothie. It’s rabbit poop + pee and hay mixed with water. It smells like the bowels of Hades, especially after sitting in a yard cart for a few days, but it’s supposed to be hecka good for plants.

Hopefully that’ll give the corn a jump start and a strong dose of nutrients. I’m hoping it’ll catch up with the other corn within the next three weeks.

And in other sad seedling news, most of the Boston Pickling Cucumber seeds that sprouted in soil blocks last week were mowed down by slugs last night. I had the soil blocks in shallow plastic containers on the ground. Josh suggested propping them up tonight, so slugs couldn’t get to them. I’m going to try that. It’s not fun to have cute little seedlings eaten. Josh expressed sympathy, and I know he meant it because he knows how it feels to have cute seedlings mowed down, and to lose valuable time. It’s frustrating.