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.
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.
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?
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.
Last night I sat outside with the chill falling, enjoying the flames in the firepit. I think we had a frost but it doesn’t seem to have made much of a difference.
Tonight I stood outside for awhile to wait for the rise of the Hunter’s moon over the ridge. As dusk was falling and the dog and I were waiting, a soft shadow drifted into the bean field. A deer. One of many nearby. The dog, of course, took off. Just the love of the chase, I expect. I don’t know what he would do if he caught one but there’s really no danger of that. The deer glided across the field in leaping arcs. He’ll be back.
I try to get outdoors as much as I can this time of year. Took the grandkids to paint pumpkins at the local art fair yesterday. Went plein air painting down at the river with a friend earlier this week. But even a walk through the woods with the dog are pure pleasure. The squirrels sure aren’t leaving many hickory nuts and the walnut harvest is paltry compared to last year. Never mind. Plenty for all.
We had a bit of a drought earlier this summer but with some rain. Crops around here are abundant. The farmers are scurrying to get it all in before the next big rain but I think they’ll be alright. None predicted for awhile.
Anyway, I hope you can get outdoors to enjoy the crispy fall air. I’ve painted nearly everything in the area throughout the seasons, particularly autumn. But I guess that you’ll see more seasonal work as the months go by. It never bores me. I find the rhythms of the seasons comforting. I hope that you are able to enjoy some natural beauty in your area, too.
I wasn’t sure if spring would ever arrive this year. We’ve had weather ranging from sleet and snow and ice, to upper 70s and 80s two days later. Very unpredictable.
But I love the spring greens this time of year. It only lasts a few weeks before the heavy greens roll in, but that bright yellow-green just perks me up. Didn’t we used to have a crayon called “spring green?”
I have been driving around just gathering photos for future reference. One day, I even had my husband drive the little country roads while I took pictures. Have to capture the scenery while it’s here.
However, the beauty just in my own yard has been refreshing also. A cacophony of whites and yellows, blues and purples. The really exciting thing about the spring flowers is that they’re so fugitive. They don’t last for long and I know that I won’t see them for another year. And in most cases, they are pretty much maintenance-free.
Now the real work begins. Planting the garden, preparing flower beds, trimming the lane, picking up winter debris. It’s always something here on the farm. But I love it.
Posted onJanuary 2, 2022|Comments Off on Hello 2022, good bye 2021. A year in review.
I don’t know about you but the past year has certainly been a roller coaster ride, one of ups and downs, good and bad. It seems as if we’re all in a bit of a daze and ready to say good riddance to 2021.
Way back in January, we were all just beginning to fall off the cliff into the realization of the seriousness of the pandemic. Confusion reigned. Many countries were still locked down or were thinking about it. We were getting tired of being confined homebodies. But hope reigned with the news that a vaccine was on the horizon. Some of us were scrambling to make sure we could sign up as soon as possible.
On top of this, the nation looked on with alarm at the mess in the capitol before the inauguration. Most of us had never lived through anything like this but there were some memories of the demonstrations back in the 60s and 70s. Life repeats itself.
Many good things also happened this past year. For one thing, the new Thyen-Clark Cultural Center in Jasper opened. I had a small part in working on that project for ten years before I retired. Others picked up the ball and saw it to fruition. So proud of the town and citizens. What a showplace!
Remember when people were stockpiling toilet paper and bread was hard to get? I reposted my Artesian Bread recipe. My friend Miriam said that making bread was the highlight of her spring. But I was also forced to buy 25 pounds of rye flour when I couldn’t find it in smaller packages. My husband is a great bread maker. Lucky me.
After months of playing hermit, my husband and I sneaked off for a quick trip to Florida. We rented a house so we were still hermits, just with better weather.
My big solo exhibit in May / June at the cultural center went off without a hitch. It was so satisfying to see two years’ of work on the new gallery walls. Loads of visitors, including friends from all over the state. Thank you!
Spring threw some surprises at us. We had some beautiful flowers but I held off planting. Good thing as we had a very late snow on May 10th! I covered up the things that I did plant and everything turned out well.
Then there was the cicada invasion. Thousands of the little bugs, all singing their mating calls at 90 decibels. Very annoying but it passed eventually. The birds and toads were really happy.
Our garden produce was heavy and bug-free this year. We couldn’t even put up all that we grew and tried to give much of it away. All this despite the late planting, and planting fewer plants.
We were very grateful to be living in the country where we could get outside, go for a drive, eat lunch by the river.
September saw the requisite visit to the pumpkin farm. Paintings in three shows. And winding up for the holidays. Overall art sales tripled. Time to set bigger goals.
I hope that as you take time to look back over the past year, that you have some good memories, too. Let us all hope the coming year is much improved.
We’ve had some pretty warm days this past week so I thought it would be a great opportunity to plant some seeds that I’ve collected this past autumn. I had the kids help me collect a five gallon bucket of black walnuts, and I harvested all my bee balm and redbud seeds.
I took a walk up to the big woods to sow some redbud a couple of weeks ago. This is a beautiful understory tree with pinkish-purple flowers in the spring and heart-shaped leaves the rest of the year. You barely even notice the tree when it is not in bloom. It seems to grow well wherever dogwood will grow. We have lots of dogwood but no redbud except in the yard. I collected all the seed pods that I could (a two gallon bucket) and sowed half of them up in the big woods.
This week I sowed the remainder in the second-growth timber on the west side of the property. I crushed the pods by hand and just scattered them as I walked through the trees. I’m sure some will take eventually.
Also, this past fall, I collected all the bee balm seed heads that I could find. I got a coffee can full. I had noticed earlier this summer that the bee balm that I scattered along the road frontage few years ago had made a nice stand of flowers. Our pollinators always need some more help so I thought this would be a good thing. These seeds I scattered in the west second growth timber, along the lane and more road frontage. We’ll see.
The walnuts are a different matter. These are black walnuts and, as I reported earlier this fall, they can make quite a mess in the yard. Highly desired by cooks and very expensive to buy in the store, the trees can be very prolific as they were this year. We had walnuts everywhere. The trees also emit a chemical called juglone which is often poisonous to other plants nearby. Not counting the mess. I thought if I could get some to grow elsewhere on the property, then we might remove the trees close to the house. In past years, local youth groups would come and pick up the nuts and take them to the mill for money. We were happy; it helped them and they helped us.
So earlier this week I took a walk carting a heavy bucket of black walnuts and a shovel. I planted some and others I just tossed out. The squirrels do a great job of planting the nuts. An arborist friend said they do just as well to be scattered as actually planted.
So later this week, I took the remainder of the big bucket of nuts and scattered them in the woods to the north of our house. We have some oak growing there but plenty of room for more trees. We’ll see.
Looks like some cold weather moving in again so I won’t be planting any more bulbs or nuts or seeds this fall. I would be happy if even ten percent of what I sowed this fall comes up. That will make a difference. And help in my fight against the invaders of honeysuckle, multi-flora roses, Russian olives and privet.
It was nice to see that the Virginia pine trees that we planted over thirty years ago are now tall trees. But most of the white pine were eaten by the deer. Well, somebody benefits in the long run.
If you’d like to learn more about planting trees, I highly recommend the book The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohleben. I asked my local library to order this book last year. They were a bit skeptical and thought it would have limited interest. However, I was recently told that the book has been off the shelf ever since they got it in. Now it is in audio format, too.
October has been so busy here on the homeplace. The temperature was in the 80s at the beginning of the month. Now it has dropped to 50s in the day with dips to the 30s at night. Might have had a light frost (which I didn’t actually see) but will definitely have one later this week.
The garden has been picked clean. All of the last peppers, beans, and tomatoes have been gathered. It’s been mowed, tilled, and a winter wheat cover crop has been planted. This will get tilled under in the spring and helps provide needed body to the soil. The flower pots are being emptied and cleaned out. The spiders have been chased from their homes on the porch and all the summer shoes, boots and gardening tools have been rounded up and put away.
We’ve had a bumper crop all summer with the fruit trees being loaded so much we couldn’t pick them all. This trend is continuing into the autumn with an abundance of walnuts and persimmons. You really don’t want to stand under a walnut tree on a windy day. It sounds like gunfire. I’ve picked a bucket of redbud seedpods and have scattered them in the woods. They’re an understory tree so wherever the dogwoods grow, they’ll do fine, too. And I picked another container of beebalm seed heads. I’ll scatter those along the drive and edges of the fields. There is a nice stand of this plant where I sowed the seeds a couple of years ago.
With the warmer weather, some of the plants and bushes have been a bit mixed up. I noticed that one of my lilacs was blooming. That was a nice surprise in…er…October. And the forsythia always seems to get a second autumn bloom.
Fall break meant the grandkids got to come out and spend some country time. A walk in the woods is always fun. We never see any wildlife (due to the dog running ahead) but we spotted a great variety of mushrooms and other fungi. I took the granddaughter to see an especially lovely exhibit of paintings by Louisville artist Joyce Garner.
And I was particularly busy doing arty things. Driving one way to drop off paintings for a show, and the other way to pick up some work. Often in the same day! Recorded books make the time go by quicker.
And finally, went to my class reunion. Who are all these old people?! It had been postponed from last year due to COVID, but it was nice to reconnect with some old friends. It’s a lot of hard work so kudos to the committee who tirelessly kept prodding everyone to sign up, and actually show up. Another long drive accompanied by recorded books. And some beautiful fall scenery.
On this last day of October, celebrate a little. Go out and beat the drums and howl at the moon. Or maybe snitch a piece or two of candy from any little people who may live with you. Or buy an extra bag for yourself. Happy Halloween!
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!