Sunday, May 20, 2012

What is up at the Freehold?

Lots of things are up, actually! The two horizontal rows are radishes which desperately need thinning, and this tire also has lettuce in the back, carrots, broccoli, beets, spinach, and green onions. They're all looking perky and happy. So far, I would say that I'm quite pleased and impressed with the square foot method of doing things. We'll see how it goes as we get closer to harvest time, but thus far I have had no problems with slugs (they don't seem to like climbing the rubber), no rabbits or other vermin, and so few weeds that it literally takes me five minutes a day to get the whole garden done. Wow.

This little flower bed is somewhat oddly shaped, but we're very pleased with it. There are three bunches of a plant we're not sure of the name of, which were there before we moved in. To the far right is my new hydrangea, which just got planted today in this lovely weather (and with a good, soaking rain predicted for tonight or early tomorrow). We also planted all our Cosmos in there, because they needed planting and it just looked like a nice place for them. Now, instead of a mucky looking hole with dirt and something that might be a plant in it, we have a nice little flower garden that ought to green up nicely. When we get in the good compost from the dump, I'll add a thin layer of it here, to spruce it up a bit.

This is our new strawberry bed. I had some Martha Washington strawberries that really needed to be in the ground, and there was just no way we were going to get the bed done the way I'd originally intended. This seemed like a nice second choice. Right now, only the outer part is planted with strawberry plants (about 35 of them, though some were so small I'm not sure they'll make it). The center will get filled with compost and I'll plant flowers or a flowering veggie in there that is annual. Then next year we'll put more strawberries in the center. Regardless of whether it's perfect, it's sooooo much better than the big hole that was there before.

This is our mystery flower bed. At the far end are feathery flowers that look like they might be Cosmos, but we're really not sure. In the middle part, there seem to be day lilies of some kind, but the flowers haven't come up. They could also be tiger lilies. The near end contains what looks like more lilies, and a slightly bushy green plant that will probably sprout flowers. We saw something similar today when we were out, so we're thinking maybe it's asters?

Our peas are up! All neat and tidy in their rows, they are stretching for the hot sun. I just hope it doesn't get too hot for them. I wanted to plant them earlier, but... I kept being worried we'd get an end of season snowstorm or something. Maybe next year I'll be able to make cloches to cover them all in that kind of emergency... The beans are also rearing their heads, and everything looks so full of life!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Yogurt Makes Mice Slimmer, Sexier - ABC News

Yogurt Makes Mice Slimmer, Sexier - ABC News:

'via Blog this'

I'm gonna have to get me some yogurt! ;) I've been taking probiotics for a while, and find it helpful on a number of levels. This is just one more reason to consider yogurt and other means of getting them into your diet.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Busy Sunday

Front yard
Today was a busy "day of rest." We worked on some of the partially done raised beds, and mowed the lawn (which had to include removing the many sticks and rocks that had gathered over the winter so they wouldn't hurt our mower). We were out there for several hours. The results are pretty nice, though. Sis likes having a lawn (of the non-edible kind) so this is HER front yard. It's a lovely expanse of grass punctuated with violets and the occasional dandelion. It's quite pretty, if somewhat useless as a food item. Still, it makes her happy, and she doesn't ask for a whole lot.

Side yard
The side yard looks much better, too, although I didn't get it completed. After mowing for more than an hour, my shoulders and arms were aching terribly and I was desperately in need of water. I did remember to wear my sunhat, though, so I didn't get sunburned. I did get quite a few blackfly bites, but I'm dealing. It was worth it, though - the grass looks much better now that it's been mulched down. From now on I'll be gathering grass clippings in the mower bag, for use as mulch on my garden beds. I needed to start with a good layer of mulch on the lawn, though, to help it along. I'm rather proud of what we did. Sis (with a bit of help from the kids, though not enough) picked up the sticks and rocks and I mowed. The result is pretty nice, though if you blow up the side yard image you'll see where I stopped mowing!

Raised tire bed - veg
The first of the raised tire beds is doing quite well. After the lovely rain we got last week, my beets, spinach and lettuce are up! I am liking using the square foot gardening method so far. The lay-out was pretty easy. I suspect I'll have some veggie "bleed over" from one square to the next, though. I'm not sure yet what (if anything) I plan to do about that. Nothing is planted that might cross pollinate with each other, so if they do mix it up a bit, it shouldn't matter so much. I put the root veggies in this bed because it's so deep (about two feet, at least). The loose composted soil will be easy for carrots and beets to grow in. I'm hoping for a bumper crop of carrots, and at least some beets. I never seem to have success with them, although I try them every year. This year I'm doing the raised bed thing for the first time, so I'm hoping that'll mean I get better results.

Beet seedlings
The beet seedlings are my most exciting thing. Some years I didn't even get this much result out of planting beet seed, so I'm feeling like this is very promising. I'm seeing no weed growth at all in the raised beds, either, which is fantastic. I'm hoping that means the beets and carrots and such will have no competition. It's really hard to tell the difference between weeds and tiny seedlings, so I do my best not to weed too much in these early days. Since there are no weeds, this is great! I'm kind of at the "hold my breath and pray a lot" stage with them. Tomorrow I hope to get my watering hose set up (this year, no drip irrigation I'm afraid... we didn't have the money for it). I plan to do a daily water with a very gentle "rain" type spray. I figure evening will be a great time for it.

Lettuce seedlings
These are my wee lettuces. They're coming up too. I'm going to have to thin soon, and I hate that. I always feel like I'm killing plants. Admittedly, I do tend to EAT what I pull up, if possible. That way the guilt isn't so bad. Yes, I am odd, why do you ask?

You can see the soil is quite dry, though. I need to water them, though I won't be doing so until tomorrow (unless it rains tonight). Our water isn't on yet to the outside pipes. Hubs will probably turn it on in the morning for me, if not this evening. The Dollar Store will yield a cheap nozzle, and life will be good. We already got a hose (thank you cheapie Job Lot place).

Spinach seedlings
Spinach seedlings look a lot like weeds, but since I know there are no weeds in the bed, I'm good. It would be odd to see weeds growing in three squares and nowhere else in the bed. They haven't gotten their second set of leaves (none of them have yet). They will, though. Spinach I can grow. Usually I've grown it in rows, but I did a kind of broadcast spread of it on the raised bed.

I still have the bean/pea bed to get ready, which I hope to do tomorrow. It has the compost in it, but because it's from the dump's pile, there are a lot of larger sticks and such in it. It needs to be picked through, raked out, leveled, and then have the "good" soil scattered on top. Still, I'm a lot closer!

The newly set up herb bed
Our 6 year old's raised square foot garden
My happy rhubarb

Friday, May 4, 2012

Around the homestead

Meet Mr. Squirrel. He is a happy li'l critter who lives in our backyard forest (well, the 25 acres that touch the back of our house, acres which we do not own). He and his friends often come to visit us, and I have taken to leaving out stale bread, veggies, fruit, and other items of interest to local wildlife. He and his friends seem to enjoy it, as you can see here. He's become a household name, with our 6 year old girl-twin begging daddy not to hunt him (though it's okay to hunt Mr. Squirrel's friends). I caught these images one afternoon last week when I had an end of bread that had been left out and gotten too stale.

Around the homestead, things are going fairly well. We have one raised bed in (a tire style) with beets, carrots, lettuce and spinach planted. There's room for more, as I'm using the square foot gardening method, but it's still a bit early around here for most items. The bed that will eventually hold the peas and beans is built and filled, but has to be raked out. It's my hope that Sunday will include at least a bit of warm sun so that I can finish it off and get the peas in the ground. The beans must wait for all danger of frost to be gone, but peas never seem to mind a bit of the cold.

The tire beds are cool. I have two tires so far, although I do hope I will get at least two more before the summer hits us. The string bisecting the tire is the beginning of the square foot layout for the garden. I put two nails in on opposite sides, cutting the tire (mostly) in half, and marked it with string. Then I measured out one foot to either side and put another nail in, and another string across, until I had a full grid all over the tire. It worked rather well. I don't think every space is exactly square, but it's close enough for government work, I suppose. I doubt the veggies will care much about an eighth of an inch here or there.

I do love the size of the tire beds. They are high enough that you don't really have to bend to weed or work in them. The sides are solid enough to sit on while you're picking around in it. The grid was incredibly easy to put on. It's all great quality soil, and the bottom third of the tire is filled with branches, twigs, bits of cut wood, and leaves. The leftover sawdust and wood chips from the winter's wood cutting is in there, too. Eventually, it'll all break down and the worms will compost it for us and make it into even more delicious black gold. I'm pleased with how it's turning out. I would do the entire garden in these if I could.

The tires themselves can be painted any color, though you should start with a good coat of primer first. The rubber doesn't actually leach anything nasty into the soil, I found out, so that made me happy. I only remove the top rim of the tire to make the garden; the bottom rim is still curled up underneath, a wonderful place where water can pool and continue to keep the rest of the garden moist during dry times. The center is open, though, which means the garden can't ever get overly soaked. All in all, it's a pretty good deal. I could see myself planting corn in these things, because when you square foot garden you do four seeds per square foot. That means my block of corn would be 64+ plants strong (64 plants in the center full squares, and some more in the side half squares). That's not a bad plot for a tiny homestead!

I am very pleased with the garden, despite it not coming together quite the way I expected. I need to get my strawberries in very soon, and hopefully some asparagus, too. Other than that, I believe I have seeds aplenty for the rest of the garden. They just need warm enough weather to allow me to plant them. I'm thrilled to pieces!

We also got a new toy, thanks to friends of ours. This grain mill, antique and ancient as it is, cleaned up beautifully and required only one bolt to make it work right. We've been grinding up our own corn and flour and making everything from biscuits and cornbread to tortillas. Yum! It's good exercise turning the wheel, too, I tell ya!