For the last few weeks Josh has been threatening to pull out the kale if we don’t start using it. The truth is that by the time I’m done making dinner, the last thing I want to do is harvest a fistful of raw ingredient, dirty up another pan and prep a side dish–I’m just mentally ready to sit down and relax. Truly, I LOVE having kale with dinner. When Josh comes in from work with a bouquet of kale and pulls out a pan, I am so grateful.

Late last night as we sat around the table with the kids, Josh started looking up ways to preserve kale. (No way I’m canning it–that’s gross) He suggested freezing it raw or blanching it first then freezing it. Less work is better, so I ran out to the garden in the dark and grabbed some to wash and freeze so we could test it out.

This morning I cooked the frozen kale, which didn’t even need to be defrosted. I put a little water in the pan, threw in the frozen kale, steamed it, then quickly and buttered/salted it. It was PERFECT!

Today I picked, portioned, and processed 2 lbs 12 ounces of kale (both varieties that we have). I froze them in 3 ounce chunks, wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in a freezer bag. I was able to get 9 three ounce pouches of washed, deveined and ready-to-steam kale.

Our garden continues to languish while we see lots of things growing around us.

We did a red cabbage pH test yesterday, and I think we found a major problem.

From right to left, the first four are the rows of our garden from south to north. All rows are too alkaline, especially #2 and #3. Next is soil from north of the barn, where we plan to plant blueberries, cranberries, and raspberries next year. It’s also too alkaline, especially for blueberries. Next is the only good news in this test: our well water is pH neutral! After that is tap water, which is alkaline. Then distilled water, our pH neutral control.

We also bought an electronic soil pH tester yesterday. I can’t get any reliable results out of it.

We immediately went to the at store, bought 50 pounds of granular elemental sulfur, and spread about 10 pounds on the garden rows (including a little on rows 5 and 6). We’ll spread the rest in the future berry patch area later this summer.

Fortuitously, it rained last night and absolutely poured today, so that will help get the sulfur into the soil… but it will still take months for bacteria to concert it to sulfuric acid and lower the pH of the soil. In the meantime, Heather is experimenting with a watered down vinegar solution to see if it helps in the short term.

My replanting of beans is sprouting.

Today we canned 33 trout that we got from Josh’s parents yesterday. The fish fit nicely into 14 pint jars.

It’s my first time canning fish, but not my first time canning meat. I canned beef and chicken last month.

Our pressure canner has gotten more use lately because of odd food restrictions and outages due to Covid-19. We just want to be prepared.

Today I planted tomatoes that I received from a Yamhill County Barter connection. Someone was looking for two truckloads of wood chips for their garden paths. I offered to give them some in exchange for anything “farmy” (like plant starts, fencing, cages, chickens, etc.)

Anyway, the woman I bartered with had a ton of heirloom veggie starts–so I asked her to pick out ten tomato plants. Here’s the selection she picked for us:

2 German Pink Tomatoes
1 Green Giant
2 Vintage Wine
4 San Marzano
1 Sunshine Cherry Tomato

…aaaaaand, one PURPLE TOMATILLO!!! I’ve never grown tomatillos before, much less a purple one! I’m super excited and I cannot type this without gratuitous exclamatory punctuation!!!!

One of my goals this summer is to grow enough tomatoes to supply our family’s tomato needs for an entire year. We probably won’t quite make it, but we’ll be closer than we were last year. This fall I’ll put more focus into preserving our tomatoes–most likely in the form of sun dried tomatoes, so that I can turn it into tomato powder, which is endlessly useful.

Heather brought home another rabbit today, so we have one buck and two does. This one might be pregnant.

We planted the rest of the garden today:

  • Row 1: transplanted two tomato plants
  • Row 2: seeded bush beans
  • Row 3: transplanted 2 tomato plants
  • Row 4: seeded corn, transplanted delicata squash, two watermelon plants, and pickling cucumbers

Grant transplanted a bunch of chives along the north wall of the carport.

Trying to keep up on what Heather has been planting…

The carrots she planted on April 11 didn’t sprout. She replanted today.

Half of the beans that she planted on April 17 didn’t sprout. She replanted today.

She transplanted a gypsy pepper plant today.

Miniature slugs have been eating several of our garden plants the past couple weeks. We have been picking them off and they seem to be diminishing, but not before doing a fair bit of damage to my peas.

Heather’s next adventure: raising rabbits for meat. She picked up two New Zealand rabbits today. They’re about two months old. They can start breeding in June or July.

Today was a big day.

The Case tractor was down for a couple months to fix the clutch. The clutch fork partially broke and no longer worked. I scoured eBay and found a replacement. I also scoured eBay to fins replacement oil seals for the hydraulic pump. When we tried to put the tractor back together, we didn’t get the hydraulic shaft splines lines up and warped the clutch pressure plate. After two failed attempted to buy a replacement, I finally got one on the third try for $270. This time, we took the access cover off the side of the torque tube and put things back together very carefully, checking frequently as we went, and it worked. Today, we finished putting all the other pieces back on, and we started it up and drive it around. I considered replacing the clutch disc while we had the tractor split, but a replacement is almost as expensive as the pressure plate, so I didn’t.

Next, we need to replace one of the rear wheel rims, which has rusted out. Our neighbor Jon might be able to find one. We also need to fix leaks in the front hydraulic pump and left brake assembly.

Also today, the bees came. The boys worked hard the past few weeks to assemble the beehive, and today we got the nuc. The nuc cost $120, and we’ve spent another couple hundred on the hive and equipment. We probably won’t be able to harvest any honey the first year.

Heather pressure cooked 50 pounds of chicken and 7 pounds of beef this week. She also dehydrated about a quart of celery, carrots, mushrooms, and onions.

We are considering getting rabbits to breed for meat.

Darla the duck died. Heather propped up a gate panel against the chicken area this morning, and it fell and crushed the duck. Guess we won’t have ducklings soon.

The peas we seeded on March 25 are starting to sprout.

The kale and chard are a bit yellowish but surviving. I think nitrogen availability must be lower when the soil is cold, perhaps due to decreased microbial activity.

The basil got killed by the cold nights, but most of the other herbs are doing well, especially both types of parsley.

The plum tree is done blossoming, the pear tree is in full blossom, and the young fruit trees are starting to grow again.

I transplanted kale and chard, and I direct-seeded Oregon sugar pod peas, which were really productive last year. This time, I only seeded one row, leaving more room for planting beans later.

Heather transplanted rosemary, parsley (curly and flat), sweet oregano, and Italian basil (with cloches covering the oregano to promote growth and basil to protect from frost).

I noticed chives growing next to the well.

The chickens have been quarantined in a small dog kennel attached to the coop. There was no other effective way to keep them in the pasture, and we’re about to plant the garden, so they cannot be allowed to escape again.

A few weeks ago, Jon told us about a U-Haul location that was surplussing moving pods for $5, so we picked one up and turned it into a chicken coop. Jon helped us move to the pasture with his forklift. We’ve already been getting way more eggs from the chickens and duck. Today we finished the roof using salvaged sheet metal that Jon found.

We’re still failing at keeping the chickens in the pasture. We have to solve that problem before we plant the garden.