Tuesday, May 31, 2016

What's Growing on the Ridge

Just pictures today, from the flower beds:

3 different peonies this year!


Lupine from my friend M's garden

This is a new one for an outside pot this year:  Osteospermum, Spider White.  Isn't it fun?

This lovely little rose smells gorgeous as well.  It is from my friend K's garden.

And from the vegetable garden:
A serpentine asparagus.
Today I brought in a pound of asparagus, a quart of sugar snap peas, and over a gallon of strawberries!
From the neighbor's field, JP & I hauled 2 tractor loads of fresh hay to use in the chicken house.
Planning for new growing things - we replanted the old chicken yard with clover.

While I was outside working this morning, Kali licked the whipped cream off the end of my refrigerator cake that I forgot to stick in the refrigerator.  Bad Dog!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Where's the Bear? #79

The bear has never seen Cicadas before.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

They're Here!

After a break in the rain this morning (1.52 inches fell yesterday), the cicadas began to emerge.

We found them clinging to grass, plants, and fences, and gathered them by the dozens to feed to our chickens.

The hens gobbled them up as fast as we would provide them.  We should have some protein packed eggs for the next few days!

Thursday, May 19, 2016


Everyone got to bed on time last night, including myself.  I was able to read my current book, Howl's Moving Castle, for about 45 minutes before I started nodding off!

This morning the sun is finally shining again.

The birds are making a racket outside.

Everyone awoke in a good mood, and got off to school and work in good time.

Still no cicadas.

Over and out.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Hump Day

Thank goodness this week is over!

What?  Not over?  Well, it feels like I've lived an entire week already, so I'm just going to sigh, and be glad that today is Hump Day, and it should be all downhill for the rest of the week!

The past 2 days have been overwhelmingly busy, and on top of that, I've been struggling with some of the heaviest emotional baggage that I've carried in quite a while.

J  is taking Algebra in Grade 7- a year ahead of half of her class, and was just informed last week  that the only way she can advance to Geometry next year is by getting an A average in the class.  I assumed she must be mistaken - she can only pass with an A?  Come on, that can't be right!  I received verification via email from her teacher yesterday that this was indeed the case, which made me absolutely furious!  Why am I getting this information just 2 weeks before the end of the school year?

J, who has put in AT LEAST an hour almost every week day of this school year doing Algebra homework (and frequently 2-3 hours), will likely be doing it again next year, because she has a B average so far for the year.


I have spoken to the Principal, as well as a member of the School Board about my concerns, and they are "looking into it."

In the meantime, poor J, who feels completely demoralized about the whole situation, had an Algebra exam this AM.  She studied hard last night, and I sent her off to school this morning with a mug of her favorite tea, and a hug.  When I picked her up this afternoon, she felt pretty good about the exam, got 100% on last night's homework, and will be getting some extra credit points for having all of her assignments turned in this quarter.  Apparently the teacher is feeling somewhat guilty?

Tonight JP has a dinner meeting for work, so we girls are on our own for the second night in a row.  No one (miraculously) has home work tonight, so we are having an easy dinner, and watching a movie.  I can't wait to sit down and relax!

First I must go pick asparagus.

It is not doing so well this year, perhaps because the first crop froze.  I picked enough on Monday evening to try a new recipe from Cook's Illustrated, which was delicious:

Thai Style Asparagus
1 1/2 # asparagus spears
1 T vegetable oil
1 T minced garlic
1 T minced jalapeno
2 T fish sauce
1 t soy sauce
1 T water
1 T sugar
1 c chopped fresh basil
9 thin strips of red bell pepper

-Bring 1" of water to a boil in a large pot.  Place asparagus spears in a steamer basket, cover and steam over med-hi heat x 4 min.
-Heat oil in large skillet or wok. Add garlic & chili and stir fry for 15 sec.
-Add asparagus and stir fry until entirely coated with oil
-Add liquids and stir fry until almost evaporated, approx. 30 sec.
-Add sugar and continue to stir fry for 30 sec.
-Add basil and peppers and stir fry until basil is wilted.

It's all downhill from here!

Where's the Bear? #78

I was out for several hours today, and came home to find the bear ordering stuff on Amazon!

Monday, May 16, 2016

They're Coming!

This spring, we expect to see the emergence of the 17 year cicada brood V in our area.  It should happen any time...reports I've read say that the ground temps need to be at 64* for emergence.

photo by Billy Tesh, NBC

These insects are among the strangest ones I've ever encountered:  they are huge, with red eyes, and they make a racket!  In 1999, JP and I witnessed this emergence when we were living not too far away from here.  He was working on an outdoor project, and the sound of his power tools seemed to be similar to the mating call of these buggers, because he got completely swarmed. 

Our little dog thought they were mighty tasty, and would gobble them up until he made himself sick.

They are also LOUD!  Their calls have been measured up to 90 decibels!  Relaxing out of doors may not be so relaxing for a while.

These insects do not do any damage to foliage, but can be extremely destructive to the trees.  The females cut slits into the underside of small branches with her ovipositor to lay eggs.  These openings often cause infection and/or death to the branch.

Yesterday afternoon, JP, L and I headed out to the orchard to try to protect our little trees against cicada damage.  We used mosquito netting and fishing line to create what appears to be a field of ghosts.

Speaking of ghosts, I spotted this gorgeous Luna moth last week.  These beautiful moths do not even have a mouth, so they live only one week.  What a life!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Green Thumb is Broken

I have been avoiding posting lately, because this time of year is normally the time that I wax poetic about digging in the earth and growing things.  That bug hasn't bitten yet this year.  Although I have already spent many, MANY hours digging, weeding, and planting, it hasn't been very satisfying.

I talked with my mom about simplifying the garden this year, as I always seem to get overwhelmed by halfway through the summer.  So, before even putting in my seed order, we decided against potatoes of any kind this year (too much work on the harvesting end), no beans (they never STOP producing, which requires endless picking and canning - I still have enough from last year to keep through this winter), and minimizing the root crops (I planted one bed ONLY of radishes, carrots and beets.)

The things we really enjoy every year are the established asparagus, strawberries and blueberries, as well as fresh lettuce, tomatoes and corn.  Since our tomato crops have been disappointing every year, I started 4 times as many tomatoes from seed, so that hopefully we will get a nice amount in the end.

This weekend, I spent 6 hours broad forking, digging, and working the soil in the garden.  I was in tears at one point, as it was extremely hard labor, and so NOT fun.  On the bright side, I did manage to get that one bed of root veggies planted.

JP stopped by when he was finished with his endless mowing, and I told him that I wasn't enjoying gardening this year.  I thought that the no-till gardening was supposed to be SO easy, but for me, it has been torturous.  We did some research that evening, and discovered that we have been hugely under-amending the beds.  Most things I read, suggested 3-4 inches of manure/compost/leaves/grass clippings/straw twice yearly.  I do put 2-3 inches of leaves every fall, but I think at least 50% blow off during the winter.  I also put about an inch of manure or compost every spring, as well as 1-2 inches of grass clippings or straw for mulch around the plants.  It is making the beds more productive, but the soil remains extremely hard.  I don't know where I'd find enough stuff to put on all my beds twice a year!

Imagine this:  I spend 30 minutes broad forking each of the 14 -  8' x 4' raised beds.  This breaks the soil into clods the size of my head.  Next I spend 30 minutes using the cultivator to break the clods in each bed into the size of my fist.  After that, I use hand tools, and work for close to an hour/bed working the soil fine enough to plant seeds into.  At this point, after nearly 30 hours of hard labor, my hands and back are killing me, and we are FINALLY ready to plant some seeds.  That does not even take into account the fact that the 2 strawberry beds, the rhubarb bed,  the blueberry bushes and the asparagus bed are busy growing an insane amount of weeds.  Oh yeah, there is also the 1 1/2 hours weekly that I need to spend meticulously mowing and weed eating the paths BETWEEN the beds so that the weeds don't move INTO the beds. 

No wonder I feel a bit overwhelmed.

So...new plan:

No more broad forking this year if I can help it.  Most of the remaining things to be planted are transplants, so I can dig holes and add manure/compost to each. 

Also, here's hoping the electric company comes through with those 1-2 truck loads of chipped wood for the garden paths this summer. 

I think I'll feel somewhat differently once I start picking those delicious, sweet & juicy, bright red strawberries in a few weeks.

Any gardening tips for this jaded gardener?

Where's the Bear? #77


It looks like the bear is having a hard time waking up this morning!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Where's the Bear? #76

It is raining today, so the bear is taking the opportunity to decided which seeds to plant in the garden next.