Monday, June 29, 2015

Good and Bad News

The good news is that we got green beans, summer squash and zucchini planted this past weekend. We also have some blackberries growing! I don't expect a lot this first year, but they certainly look nice so far:

When I planted the cilantro seeds, I wasn't expecting much to happen. The seeds had been saved over two years ago, and didn't look great in the plastic container where they were stored. So I sowed them all, thinking little would come up. I already took a half bushel basket and donated it to the Castlewood Fresh Stop for the last CSA pickup, and we still have a ton growing. I purchased a cheap clothes drying rack yesterday, and my plan is to dry some of it for seasoning, and let the rest seed so we can have more coriander. And the cabbages they were planted around also seem happy - they are beginning to make little leaf balls:

The flowering tree in our backyard (I still don't know what it is) is beginning to flower, too.

We also have half of the two-bin compost system built - the pieces for the other half are perched on top:

And now for some bad news. One morning we went out and noticed that somewhere in the neighborhood of half our garlic bulbs were missing. Somebody had stolen them! So I decided to harvest the rest. I took the little ones out back and tried replanting them there, but that isn't working out very well. I pulled them yesterday. This is the garlic harvest that we got from what was left after the theft:

The box itself is now empty except for two volunteer flowing plants that I have not yet identified. If you look carefully at the picture below, you will see near the left side of the box, toward the bottom of the picture, I have placed a small marker in the soil. That is where I have planted the last of the horseradish roots. The ones I planted in conjunction with the apple trees have not produced any greenery, and I have a feeling they won't. I don't know if this one will make it, either.

And last, but not least, I was sitting in front of the rain barrel on the back porch, filling a watering can, minding my own business, when suddenly there was a catastrophic failure of the gasket holding the spigot into the side of the barrel, and water sprayed out of the barrel at high velocity. Pete rushed over and grabbed the spigot and we stuck it back in, but it clearly was not going to stay. So I held it in place while he got a bigger bucket so we could at least try and save the water and put it on the garden plants. And then we had to change into dry clothes. :)

Now, this barrel had been damaged before. It's not new, we brought it with us from the townhouse and at one point it had fallen over and the original spigot was broken. So this was a replacement spigot. The spigot itself seems undamaged, and we have another gasket as well. I had an idea to fix it in place with some marine grade epoxy, which we had on hand somewhere... When we finally found it, Pete read the instructions on it and it says it doesn't work well with flexible plastics - which the gasket does appear to be. It is certainly flexible, and it may be rubber (hard to tell these days what is petro-chemical based and what is not, sometimes). So he is reluctant to try it. We spent some time at Lowes looking for an alternative, or perhaps some metal or rigid plastic piece that could be an intermediary. But no luck so far. I suggested Pete stop by Chevy Chase Hardware and talk to the guys there. They are usually quite helpful when I have strange hardware problems that need to be fixed, and they are much more knowledgeable than the guys at Lowes (at least in my experience). So hopefully we will be able to solve the problem soon.

If not, that means I will now have three more rain barrels on my "to do" list instead of two (the one on the far side of our garage and the one on the neighbor's garage). The nice big ones aren't cheap, either.

Oh, well. I will post soon on some of the harvesting and canning we have done so far. I also have a small chest freezer for the basement on my "to do" list. I also plan to try some dehydrating. I have a small machine a friend didn't want. I'll let you know how that turns out.

Hope everyone has a fun and safe July 4th weekend!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Making progress, slowly but surely

It seems that the work has gone painfully slow at times, but we are making progress. Here is a current pic of the pear trees, the blueberry and blackberry bushes that we had planted earlier:

We had a scare with the far tree in this pic - one day it lost almost all its leaves and I thought for sure it was a gonner. But we watered it and I said encouraging things to it, and it appears to be on the mend. The close one and all the bushes have fluffed up nicely. We even have a few blueberries and will get a quart or so of blackberries, if the bird don't get them first.

If you recall, to the right of the porch we had used some scalloped concrete dividers that the previous owners had left behind to mark out a future flower bed. I had planted bulbs in those - 4 straight lines that I hope will fluff out and take over the whole box. They seem to be doing nicely so far.

On the other side of the porch, we left the pretty flowering bush and have installed the other front rain barrel. In fact, all four corners of the house now have rain barrels, as well as the porch side of the garage. We had planted tiger lilies which came back nicely. And, I don't know if you can see them very well in this pic, but we have a patch of wild strawberries, too.

Out in the front yard, we have added to the original retaining wall block box.

As you recall, the box nearest the sidewalk has garlic in the larger section and kitchen herbs in the smaller portion. In the box that is parallel to the neighbor's driveway has asparagus in half of the taller portion, and basil in the other half of the taller section. The lower section has two varieties of eggplant. The center box has cilantro and cabbage. The peace tree, as you can see, also continues to do well.

On the other side of the front yard, we have planted two varieties of heirloom apple trees. We got these from Trees of Antiquity:

You may recall the retaining block strawberry bed we had started in front of the back porch off the garage, which is now lush and has produced a gallon size freezer bag of strawberries so far. These will be made into jam in due time.

You may also remember the baby cherry tree, which appears to be doing nicely. Behind it, along the back fence line, two boxes were added. The last of the retaining wall block was used to make a permanent bed for two concord grape vines. When they get tall enough we will attach a cover to the two standing trellises so they can grow across. A friend donated the daylilies currently occupying the center of the box. To the left of that is a cedar raised bed with three small raspberry seedlings. We don't have enough soil yet to fill the box, but we had to plant them nonetheless, as they were beginning to die in the pots.

As you can see, we have a platform for a rain barrel beside the neighbor's garage. But at this time, we don't have a barrel to put there. Also, we have not yet arranged for the new no-clog guttering I hope to get for the house and the garage. At that time, we will recycle some of the garage guttering to catch the rain off the neighbor's garage roof. (With her permission, of course.) In the meantime, both that platform and the one for the other side of our own garage stand empty. It is a little difficult to see, but it is behind the wooden plats:

That area immediately behind the garage we are clearing and leveling in order to use the plats to build a two-bay compost system. We will assemble the plats in a stylized "W" shape: |_|_| and line the interior with hardware cloth.

We have also added to the cedar boxes along the neighbor's fenceline out back.

The larger box is the original first box we built. We have harvested and eaten radishes and a few peas out of it so far, and canned 10 one cup jars of picked radishes. The smaller box is new this past week. It is planted with cucumbers for one trellis, butternut squash for the other trellis, and black beans in the middle. We have two other cedar boxes also planted, and two empty.

The two boxes on the far left are not yet planted, but I hope to take care of that tomorrow. The smaller one will have zucchini and yellow squash on the trellises which we will put up, and pinto and/or red beans in the center. The larger box will have beets and green beans inter-cropped. Of the two that are obviously occupied, the one next to the empties contains pepper plants that are up and parsnips that have not yet sprouted (and may not, I am guessing), and the one to the right of it contains mostly tomatoes, with a few carrots and other odds and ends left over from the original box.

We do not yet have a tilled area, as this requires the removal of a couple of trees that right now is simply not in the budget. We did get a small electric chainsaw, but we seem to have trouble getting the chain to stay on. I am probably going to donate it to Seedleaf. If anybody has any expertise in felling small trees, let me know!

That appears to be all we can do right now, as both finances and the advancing summer make getting anything else tilled, built, and planted seems unlikely until time for fall crops. Next up: Making Jam!