We had quite a bit of rain last week but temps are creeping up and I think the rain is over for awhile.
The raised bed frames that I posted last month in April are doing well for the most part. As I expected, we had a late freeze and lost some tomatoes that we planted too early. I knew that we were taking a chance but, oh, well, it’s fun to experiment.
The first set of tomatoes that we had planted were two cherry tomatoes and four Park Whoppers. They had time to get established so when the freeze hit, they were still viable below the ground cloth. I cut off the dead tops of the cherry tomatoes and pulled out the Park Whoppers although they probably could have made it, too. The cherry tomatoes came back and have made up for lost growth. We’ve added some more tomato varieties – Pink Brandywine, Celebrity, Fat Mama (a roma variety) and a couple more Park Whoppers. And two eggplants in that raised bed.
The second raised bed has more variety. I planted spinach and two kinds of lettuce. I put some netting over it to keep the cat out of there and that is actually helping keep bugs out and provides some shade. Those greens taste as tender as butter. Then several varieties of peppers, cilantro, basil, and some climbing pea pod vines.
Then I had some space between the second raised bed and the asparagus patch. So it’s bush beans and two kinds of squash. I’ve added cardboard between the rows to keep down the weeds.
I’ve filled flowerpots and weeded. But there is always more to be done. Trimming bushes. Trimming back the lane. Trimming trees. It’s a never ending project but it sure racks up the mileage on my FitBit. I guess that’s a good thing.
In the photography class that I’m taking, we were asked this week to convey a sense of smell that means something to us. Some people composed photos of favorite lotions or perfumes, others of special cleaning products. (Lemon Pledge still brings back memories of my mother.) It was actually a more difficult assignment than you would guess.
I chose a rather eclectic group of images. Sun-ripened tomatoes on the windowsill. The scent of old books will take me back to every library I’ve ever been in. Irises to every house I’ve ever lived in. Homemade bread and pizza. Dusty old barns and outbuildings.
We’ve had an absolutely gorgeous week this spring. Clear, sunny days, temps in the mid 70s. All the dogwoods, redbuds, and other spring flowers and bushes have been putting on a display. And the birds are making nests in every nook and cranny. I have been very busy outside preparing the garden.
I finished assembling the second raised bed kit. Then we prepared the ground for the beds. This is in the location of the former spring garden so the ground has been worked before. After tilling it to loosen the soil, we added peat, manure, and some topsoil. Beneath each mound, I added a layer of cardboard as I’ve heard that this keeps down the weeds. Then I shoveled on the dirt, added the raised bed frames, and leveled everything.
I couldn’t resist buying a few plants although it’s really too early here. We can expect to get a late frost as far as May 10th. And have some years. But I went ahead and added some ground cloth and planted through them.
One raised bed will be dedicated to tomatoes and peppers. The second will have more variety with sugar peas, lettuces, spinach. Later beans, squash and whatever. I only bought a few tomatoes and herbs so far. I won’t fib and say this was easy. It was actually a lot of crawling around but now that it’s done, it looks pretty neat.
Although the tomatoes are a little closer than I would normally plant them, we’ll see if this system works better. It should be easier to maintain. I will buy some more tomatoes later this week. Still too early for peppers. And we set up the solar-powered motion detector lights which we’ve used in the past. This helps to keep some of the critters out of the vegetable patch.
Last year our garden was miserable due to a drought and other issues. But the year before we had produce in abundance. I was trying to remember which were our favorite tomatoes and remembered a posting that I made in August of 2021 where I made comparisons of the variety of tomatoes. If you’re just getting ready to plant, you may wish to check it out at this link.
Anyway, I’ve got a head start on this part of the garden but there’s plenty more to do. I don’t think a farmer’s work is ever done.
Our spring weather has been all over the place. Several weeks ago, we had exceedingly warm weather. Then some cold, frost, rain and storms. Finally, the beautiful weather rolled in and I could tackle some tasks that were waiting.
One thing was to assemble a raised bed kit. I received two for Christmas but haven’t had time to put them together. We decided to cut back on our huge garden this year so we’ll see how this goes. I’m usually pretty good at following directions so it wasn’t really difficult to assemble. The hardest part was bending, stooping and squatting to put all the nuts and bolts in. My knees paid for it the next day. And I have one more to assemble. I’ll file progress reports on how it works.
Then, I had a lamp switch go out a couple of weeks ago. This is my main reading lamp. Frankly, I’m a little skeptical about working on electricity but thought I’d give it a go. After watching four videos online, I thought, How hard can it be? It actually wasn’t. I decided to repair another lamp while I was at it and had both done in about twenty minutes. And they work!
Finally, I took the plunge with another Christmas gift. This is a mini-chainsaw! Yes, really! If you’ve followed this blog for awhile, then you know that we process a good bit of firewood here on the homestead so we’re not strangers to some big, noisy equipment. But I have never operated a chainsaw and didn’t want to learn. (They’re big, noisy, and pretty dangerous.) Anyway, I got tired of asking for someone to cut some brush and small branches for me. So I requested my own mini-chainsaw.
Of course, I read every word of the instruction book. Purchased some safety equipment. And gave it a try yesterday. My husband glanced at it (without laughing) and said, you do this and this and this and you’re good to go. Please repeat that, thank you very much.
But I had my first foray into trimming some brush and fruit trees. It worked great but my muscles were sure sore today. However, this ought to help when I trim the drive later this spring.
So, these were my adventures in new beginnings this week. There is so much to do around here in the spring that I’m sure I’ll have plenty more challenges. Don’t forget those helpful videos online if you want to try something new.
I don’t know how the weather is where you are but this past week here in Southern Indiana, it’s been all over the place. A week ago the temperature was up to 82 per the weather app on my phone. In February! Yesterday, Saturday, it was a chilly 30 degrees with frost on the car windows. Friday we had four inches of rain resulting in the creek bursting out of its banks and over the driveway, storms, winds up to 60 mph, and a tornado warning sending us to the basement for a bit.
The reason we moved here 35 years ago (after ten years in Michigan) was that the winters here were relatively mild (jacket weather) and the summers were endurable. But the past couple of years have been hotter or wetter or just plain off schedule. I’ve counted the tree rings in old trees and could see the drought of the 30s (thinner rings). Maybe it’s climate change; maybe this is a normal cycle.
Spring still seems to arrive on her own schedule. Last week we went for a walk in the woods to find the tallest cedar. We did. I also spotted this tiny orange fungi. And some odd-looking bumps on a sycamore tree. I have no idea what that is.
The crocuses are still pushing up, often in odd places where I know I didn’t plant them. Can they travel? The tulips are still emerging but seem to be on the wane, most likely due to deer and rabbits. Several types of daffodils are blooming despite what Mother Nature is throwing at them. The frost doesn’t seem to affect them at all. Even the pulmonaria is pushing up. The buds are swelling on bushes and trees. We seem to be about three weeks ahead of normal…and I’m not ready for spring yet.
I was outside early yesterday morning to take photos of the golden frosty sunrise. In my robe and boots again. Thankfully we have no near neighbors as I’m sure I was an eyeful.
But I always look forward to spring’s promise no matter how fickle she is. Just no more tornado warnings, please.
What do you think of when you hear the word country?
For some, it might refer to a nation but I’m thinking of a place a little closer. For many it means a state of mind, an attitude not a specific place.
For me the term refers to a rural place, a landscape. An escape from or to. Getting back to nature. A walk in the woods. A bench in the park, or even a geranium on the window sill.
Country is a feeling, an attitude, a breath of air. The first daffodil or garden tomato. Watching a tiny spider try to climb a blade of grass. Or the cute tree frog plastered to the window at night, staring back at me with his big eyes.
I live in the country, or what many people think of when they hear that term. With fields and woods, streams and private places. In a very very old house which still echoes with the laughter of children from long ago and more recently.
The walls are a foot thick and not one of them is exactly perpendicular. And that’s OK; neither am I these days.
The best compliment I’ve ever received was from my great Aunt Catherine who was visiting many years ago. She was sitting in an old wingback chair with some music playing softly in the background. The windows were flung open to catch the breeze and she remarked, This house is just so comfortable. And isn’t that what anybody wants their guests to feel? Comfortable?
No matter where we live now, most of us are only a generation or two from the country life. Fortunately we can still experience a taste of country with that pot of tomatoes on the deck or the geranium in the window. Take a walk in the park. Feed the birds. Just sit in the shade and tune into nature’s sounds.
Frequent visits to my grandparents as a child planted the seeds of my love for the country life. Collecting still-warm eggs from the chickens. Playing with cousins in the hayloft. Giving that mean old sow a wide berth. Living on that little farm in the county was always a dream of mine.
My husband and I realized this dream thirty-five years ago when we actually bought the farm at auction. That resulted in a lot of work to bring the old place up to date. We were much younger then and had watched way too much of This Old House. Ha ha. Not quite so easy. Add a twenty-five mile commute to work (and the grocery). But it’s been fun through the years with lots of rewards (and some trials).
I love the version of country that I’ve been living for the past couple of decades but I also realize that you may have a different version. Do you decorate with simple hand-made furniture and quilts? Or put your green thumb to work on those patio plants? Maybe you can walk down to the ocean shore or river to check out the wildlife? Or are you a birder, waiting in a swamp for the first rays of dawn in order to photograph those cranes that are passing through?
What does your country look like? Is it comfortable?
I always eagerly anticipate the first signs of spring. This year, I was surprised to see a dandelion in bloom on January 4th. That is amazing to me. Now I’ve eagerly started looking for signs.
So far, I’ve also spotted several bushes in bud. Rhododendron, azalea, magnolia. Sometimes I’ll catch a mixed up forsythia in bloom already but then, they often bloom in autumn, too. However, they are easy to force if you just cut some branches and bring them inside. (Put them in water, of course.)
I have a lot of naturalized daffodils in the yard. They are already coming up in several places. Sometimes they’re too early. One year I painted a group of daffodils blooming in the snow so it’s not inconceivable that I might see some soon.
One day last week, I saw three robins in a row in the front field. Sometimes I’ve seen large flocks of them in early spring. Only the males.
And I caught this rabbit in my headlights as I was coming up the drive a few days ago. The little devil was looking for something yummy in the garden but there’s nothing there yet except garlic. A motion-detector solar-powered light is good to chase away night critters.
With the winds, I saw several of last season’s nests which have been blown down. My kids used to bring them to me and I still love the engineering.
These little sketches were done with some very old Osmiroid ink in sepia. (It’s a collector’s item now.) I haven’t worked with ink for awhile so it was fun to get back to an old friend. I used a #4 quill which is also hard to come by these days. There are a number of fine quality pens and inks made in Japan of which I would like to try more. Stay tuned.
I am glad that I live in a climate that exhibits mercurial moods. The past month has been some wild ride. Record-setting heat for winter, up to the 70s. And a blizzard which scrubbed the land with high winds, followed by bone-chilling freezes. No two days were the same, it seemed. I think I would get bored if every day was sunny and warm, say like Florida or Arizona. But ask me about that next month towards the end of February.
One thing that I’ve noticed is that my own mood perks up on sunny days. Thus, I seem to prefer painting outdoor scenes depicting sunshine. So when I woke to a heavy fog a couple of weeks ago, I marched outside (yes, in my robe and rubber boots) to take some photos of the fog. The air was soft and the neighborhood was very quiet. It seemed shrouded in mystery if that isn’t too much of a cliché. One could almost imagine some settlers emerging from the heavy air or some knights on horseback in days of old. Yeah, too much reading with my granddaughter.
But as I was reviewing my photos, I got inspired to try some new subjects. The misty landscapes will probably appear sometime in the next few months. Just imagine the peace and soft footfalls.
Oh, by the way, happy new year. Or at least a better one if the past has been difficult for you. Find a still place to reflect, maybe enjoy the peace of some foggy weather.
Unless you were vacationing in some tropical paradise this past week, you probably are aware of the big arctic event that blasted through the center of the country this past week. After a relatively balmy fall season leading up to the holidays, this is what my little corner of the Midwest experienced this week.
The weather forecasters were urgently warning much of the nation to pay attention and take appropriate action. Which we did. The cellar was loaded with firewood in anticipation of the deep freeze. The fridge was full of the usual supplies. Our son and his girlfriend were rushed to Louisville on Thursday in anticipation of their very early flight back to the west coast on Friday. (Fortunately, they experienced only a small delay.) We made it home by early afternoon before the big blast and battened down the hatches in preparation.
By early evening, the temperatures began to drop, the misty rain turned to driving snow, and the wind cranked up the volume. It didn’t stop until today. The high here yesterday was zero. I didn’t even step foot outside the house until today when I went for a walk and to catch up on outdoor chores.
The sun was out and everything was sparkly. The bird feeder has been popular. We’ve gone through forty pounds of sunflower seeds in the past two weeks. I saw plenty of tracks here and there, especially around the mulch pile. I was looking for another visitor, too. I spotted a mink skulking about last week which was the first that I’ve seen around here. Haven’t seen any deer or turkeys but I’m sure they’re holed up somewhere. Leo the cat has been taking marathon naps and very quick trips to check the weather. The dog doesn’t care and is always ready to play with anyone who ventures outdoors.
We haven’t had a big freeze like this for many years so it’s been an adventure.
Anyway, I hope that wherever you are spending Christmas day that you’re warm and cozy and safe. Enjoy your families if you’re near, or your friends if you’re not. Or better yet, make your friends into a new family.
Let the warmth of your hearts extend to those in need. Stay safe.
As I have mentioned previously, we rely on wood heat to keep our house warm in the winter. Yes, we have a gas furnace but that has a price. The wood heat is free….mostly. Oh, there’s your labor involved and the wood requires a lot of handling. A lot.
Southern Indiana is hilly with plenty of hardwood forests. People often selectively timber their property. That is when individual trees are cut. The logger only takes the primary eight foot log (sometimes more than one per tree). He leaves the limbs and tops for the landowner. This is where our firewood mostly comes from. Saturday mornings are spent in the woods, cutting, dragging, chopping, splitting, moving the wood from one place to another. A lot of handling.
Last winter my husband bought some “sticks” from the neighboring logger. The wood was good but maybe it was twisted, the wrong type, whatever. They delivered it and it’s been sitting there awaiting attention. Unfortunately, as mentioned in an earlier blog, he had a serious health issue this year and can’t handle the wood as he was used to. Which led to plenty of fretting on his part.
So, as I was reading the paper a couple of weeks ago, I saw an article about the local seminary who was looking for families who heat with wood for their annual Project Warm. This is where the seminarians acquire wood from people who donate it off their property, maybe previously timbered, chop and deliver it to families in need. So I suggested to my husband that he give them a call and explain the situation. That he had the wood but just needed some help processing it.
After a few phone calls, they agreed that this would be a relatively easy project for them and came out this week. Wow, what a beehive of activity!
Since the guys were experienced in the process, they were able to go right to work. We have a log splitter and all the logs were staged in one area. They just had to saw the logs into the right stove lengths, then split them. Some used the splitter but most of the young men chopped the wood by hand with mauls. It was like a well-oiled machine. Some were sawyers cutting the wood, some were splitting the wood with mauls and one operated the machine splitter. It is easy to spot someone who has been swinging a maul for years as there is a certain rhythm to it. It’s not a chopping motion. And this was hard wood, almost all hickory, one of the heaviest and densest woods, but which provides the most warmth. At least two of the young men grew up on farms in New England where they were accustomed to handling wood for home heating.
The guys turned those logs into piles of wood ready to keep us toasty this winter.
Of course, we fed them as is our custom in this part of the world. Trays of homemade Italian pizza, pumpkin spice muffins, fruit, snacks and drinks. It was a pleasant afternoon for us as I hope it was for them. We so enjoyed visiting with these young men and learning more about their backgrounds and fellowship. What a wonderful day. The guys are from St. Meinrad Seminary, right down the road from us. Project Warm has been one of their community missions for over forty years. Although we just learned of the program this year, I can’t tell you how much we appreciated the help.
I'm a professional artist, retired director of a performing arts center, bona fide book addict, and enjoy the quiet life...most of the time. I'd love to hear from you or get your ideas for future posts. Come back soon!